Robotech: Rise of the Shadow

Chapter 23: All for Aluce

Lieutenant Marcus Rush sat in the cockpit of his newly requisitioned Alpha fighter, awaiting launch directions. The battle plan was simple, according to Lieutenant Commander Sterling, engage the enemy and remain engaged until they the Haydonites were defeated or he was defeated. This was going to be a last stand effort. That fact did not bother him at all. He, like all the others in Skull Squadron, felt betrayed by their former ally. Not to mention, he could exact some revenge for his best friend's death.

"Marcus," a familiar female voice stirred him from his thoughts. "We received our battle assignments." Maia Sterlings helmeted visage appeared on his communications display. "We are going to spearhead the defensive line since we have the most experience fighting them."

At least he did not have to wait long before he met their foe in combat. He hoped he did not have to wait and watch. Not to mention, the Expeditionary Force had only mustered a handful of capital ships. The bulk of the defensive effort was going to be mecha. The fighting was going to be brutal, but since all the Shadow technology was stripped from the force, the fight was going to be fair.

"What about your sister?" he asked.

"They had a squad of hover tanks collecting dust in one of the bays, so they are giving them to her unit. They are going be fighting along the Cyclones when the Haydonites breech our lines," she answered. "A final perimeter or sorts."

Marcus did disagree with her belief that their lines will not hold. Like every member of Skull Squadron, they knew they were outmatched.

"All right Skull Squadron, we've just been given launch clearance. Let's get out there and show the rest of REF how to fight these robotic rust buckets," Sterling commanded. "Happy hunting and good luck out there."

Lieutenant Rush waited for his turn to launch and assumed his position in the formation on his Commanding Officer's right wing. One by one, the squadron formed up and proceeded to their designated coordinates. Seven capital ships and two hundred nine fighters made up the first and only defensive perimeter before the responsibility fell upon the ground forces at Aluce.

Sera sat in the familiar surroundings of her Royal Command Battliod cockpit, her Invid mecha, as she flew in tight formation with Lancer and Scott Bernard. She had retrieved only an hour before and hastily marked it with REF symbology to help distinguish her as a friend and not a foe. Not to mention, she knew its presence on the battle scope would enrage some of the Haydonites into pursuing her more than her friends.

Being bait so Lancer and Scott could easily take out a single-minded foe seemed like their best chances at surviving this onslaught from the Children of the Shadow. Her only fear, the Haydonites would not take the bait. In that case, Sera was prepared to slug it out with her people's most hated enemy. This was a fight she was looking forward to. It was a fight she knew if she survived she would be able redeem herself in her mother's eyes for betraying the Invid and abandoning them for the love.

Sera, she heard Ariel's words in her head. Her sister had wanted to fight as well, flying with Scott. But, he refused to allow it. He insisted she stay in the Tactical Operation Center with the human general, Reinhardt. However, Ariel accompanied Sera to Earth to retrieve her mecha in hopes to find other Invid who had stayed on Earth or at least an operable mecha of her own. I have one that is fully functional. However, I have not found its owner.

Sera replied without saying a word. If you are going to take it, take it and get up here. We are about to engage the Children of the Shadow. Her sibling did not respond. She hadn't expected her too.

What Sera did not anticipate was Scott's reaction when he saw a second Invid mecha materialize beside him.

"What the hell!" he called out over the comms channel. Then a few moments passed as he had to realize Ariel was piloting the mecha. "Ariel, what are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay with the General."

"Scott, this is my fight as much as it is yours," her sister responded.

But, before Ariel could continue, Sera interrupted them, "It doesn't matter now. They are here!"

Sera began making violent dodges to avoid incoming enemy fire. She knew this mecha better than anything else she had operated. It was like a second skin to her. She also knew, without looking, her sister felt the same way and was performing exceptionally well under the circumstances. Being bait was working well for her and her wingmen. The Haydonites have clearly identified the two Invid princesses and have decided to expend more resources to ensure the princesses would meet their death.

As each Wraith fighter exploded which was only moments before trying to kill her, a sense of satisfaction overcame the young princess. It felt like redemption for her, for her people. In the end, however, she knew it would not return her people's home world to them. Though she held out hope that her actions would gain her some form of absolution for her betrayal of her mother.

Another Wraith was destroyed and less were pursuing her so vigorously. Yet, that could not be said for her sister who was being swarmed by no less than a dozen enemy fighters at any one time. To Ariel's credit, she was dancing her own mecha around Scott's fighter clumsily, yet effectively, allowing the human to engage the Wraiths with his guns. "You have one on your tail, Sera," alerted her love, Lancer, as he dove hard to get behind the latest victim of their ploy.

Maia Sterling directed her fighter in and out, side to side of a furious battle as she dodges blast and burst of enemy fire. With each passing second, she gained a greater advantage upon a Haydonite Wraith that she was trying desperately to kill. Like others, she knew they were outnumbered ten or more to one. Though she never gave up in her pursuit, she also did not lose her situational awareness of her squadron and in particular, Marcus Rush.

"Got a lock," she called out as she released a volley of streaming death, ripping a Wraith in half.

"Two more joining the chase, Maia," alerted Marcus. She glanced over her shoulder to see two more enemy fighters joining the six already on her tail, firing wildly.

"Just add 'em to my dance card," she responded as she guided her fighter into a tight turn to rejoin Marcus briefly before both fighters pulled away, dividing the eight Haydonites between them. As she leveled her fighter, her crosshairs lined up perfectly on one of Marcus's pursuer. She took the shot and scored another kill.

Quickly, she lined up on a second while avoiding fire from her pursuers. "That should take care of them," she heard a familiar female voice over her comms. She turned quickly to check her six to see two Invid Battliods and two Alpha fighters joining her on either wing.

Commander Sterling knew Sera was piloting one if the Royal Command Battloids and assumed Ariel was in the other. "Commander Bernard, I see you have an insubordinate wingman," she joked as she and her new wingmen cleared Marcus's tail of all hostiles.

"Yeah," came the response. "I'm use to it though. The entire group has been insubordinate since day one. From Rand to Annie and Rook to Lunk, Lancer and Ariel. The only one who is not a habitual offender is Sera."

"Don't worry, Scott. She will be turned," Lancer was quick to point out.

Maia allowed a faint smile to crease her lips as she took a mental count on her squadron. One fighter missing. "Anyone have a report on Timkins?"

"He's gone, Commander," came the quick reply from his wingman. "Damn Haydonite kamikaze rammed him from the side."

She cursed quietly under her breath with a silent prayer following. Losing a pilot and comrade was never good. And now it is worse with the overwhelming odds and a battle that seemed to have only one assured outcome.

Nevertheless, the Skull Squadron leader shook off the sick feeling and refocused. She checked her sensors and realized that the Haydonites had broken through their lines. They had suffered nearly ninety-six percent loses. And the Haydonites continued to press the attack.

"All remaining fighters break engagements and return to the final defensive perimeter," echoed the voice of Sparks in her ears. "Haydonite forces have breeched the outer perimeter. I say again, all forces fall back to the final defensive perimeter!"

Maia checked the status of her mecha. She was out of missiles. "Alright everyone, give me an ACE report," she commanded.

Marcus was the first to respond with the ammunition, casualty, and equipment report. "Skull Three, ten missiles, zero casualties, minor damage. I'm still battle capable," he said confidently. At least that was good news.

The rest of her squadron reported in as they made their way back to Moon Base Aluce's final defensive perimeter. All, save Marcus, were out of missiles. Their fighters were mission capable. At least her defenders would be ample to make a valiant last stand.

"Red alert, unexpected fold operation in progress!" alerted an obviously nervous Sparks.

Maia looked to see the flash of light and gasped...