A BRIEF NOTE: This story follows the continuity established by the 85 episode series. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in this story that is explicitly contradicted by the anime. However, the story only PARTLY follows the Jack McKinney novels, and in some instances will be very different. In the first episode of Southern Cross, Supreme Commander Leonard omitted Vanessa's name from the list of the SDF-1 dead. Personally I think she was killed with the rest of the crew, but it got me thinking. what if? Thus this fanfic was born.

* * *

January 2014

Lisa Hayes strode through the double doors into the critical care ward of Monument City's army hospital. Only moments before, a chopper had flown in from New Macross City, carrying the survivors of the SDF-1.

It had been one day since the fateful battle of New Macross City. In that conflict, Khyron and Azonia had rammed their Zentraedi battlecruiser into the SDF-1. The United Earth Government had immediately ordered the quarantine of New Macross City and the evacuation of its citizens. Salvage operations on the destroyed SDF-1 were begun at once. Captain Lisa Hayes, the lone survivor of the SDF-1 bridge crew, had supervised the search for survivors. Lisa had entertained little hope that many survivors would be found. She had believed that the entire bridge crew had been killed.

Now, as Lisa entered one of the rooms on the critical care ward, she gasped in shock. Lisa had known what to expect, but the reality that now confronted her still overwhelmed her.

On a hospital bed, a young woman lay unconscious, intubated and hooked to a respirator. IV lines snaked into her arms, nourishing her. The woman's forehead was bandaged.

"She's alive," Lisa murmured in wonder.

Vanessa Leeds was alive.

* * *

April 2014

Three months passed, and Vanessa remained in a coma. Lisa walked into Vanessa's hospital room. She had visited Vanessa every week for the last three months. Sometimes Rick came with her when he was off duty. Tonight Lisa came alone.

She was not the only visitor, however. The three former Zentraedi spies, Rico, Konda, and Bron sat vigilantly at Vanessa's bedside. Lisa found herself admiring the three Zentraedis' devotion toward Vanessa. In the time that Vanessa Leeds, Kim Young, and Sammie Porter had known the three Zentraedi, they had been an inseparable group. They had found a natural affinity toward one another.

Lisa remembered how devastated the three Zentraedi had been when she had informed them of the deaths of Sammie and Kim, and of Vanessa's condition. Now, Rico, Konda, and Bron clung to Vanessa, hoping against hope that she would come back to them. She was the last surviving member of the infamous Terrible Trio. The Zentraedi clung to the hope that one of their friends would return to them.

"How is she?" Lisa asked Bron, the swarthy, brown-haired Zentraedi.

It seemed to Lisa that Bron felt something for Vanessa that went beyond friendship. It was a feeling that Bron himself could not put into words, but which Lisa knew all too well.

Bron gave a weak smile and gestured at Vanessa's sleeping form, as if to say that nothing had changed.

Lisa took a seat on the other side of the bed and watched Vanessa sleep.

At that moment, Vanessa's eyes blinked open, and she stirred in her bed.

"Look!" Lisa said to the three Zentraedi. Everyone in the room rose to their feet and stood at the edge of Vanessa's bed.

"Vanessa," Bron whispered, taking hold of Vanessa's slender hand.

Vanessa slowly looked to Bron, Lisa, Konda, and Rico, and she smiled.

* * *

Not yet strong enough to walk, Vanessa was temporarily confined to a wheelchair. A week had elapsed since Vanessa's recovery and release from the hospital. The two women decided to pay a visit together to the graves of the crew of the SDF-1.

A memorial park had been created in Monument City to honor those who had died in the First Robotech War. A large granite sculpture of the SDF-1 was at the center of the park. It stood proudly in the midst of a circular reflecting pool. The grave stones of the heroes of the First Robotech War, including Roy Fokker, Henry Gloval, Claudia Grant, Sammie Porter, and Kim Young were positioned in close proximity around the circular pool.

"Do you remember what happened that day?" Lisa asked softly, referring to the final battle of the SDF-1.

* * *

"Brace for collision!" Lisa cried amidst the tumult of the SDF-1 bridge.

There was precious little time left. Within seconds, Khyron's cruiser would crash into the SDF-1, and it was very likely that everyone would be killed.

Vanessa and Kim exchanged a brief but meaningful look as they both sat at their consoles. It had always seemed as if the three friends, the Terrible Trio, would make it in the end. They had been through so much together, years before the Zentraedi had first attacked the Earth. Was this the end? Was this goodbye?

The collision rocked the bridge, and everyone cried out in alarm. In the confusion, Vanessa dimly perceived shouting on the bridge. Henry Gloval was shoving Lisa into the only remaining escape pod, and Claudia was strapping her in, while struggling to remain upright as the SDF-1 began to tilt.

"Let go of me!" Lisa cried out, still struggling.

"It has to be you, Lisa," Claudia shouted as Gloval yanked the lever that sent Lisa's ejection module into the sky.

"No!" Lisa screamed.

Just as Lisa was ejected from the bridge against her will, an explosion rocked the bridge, tearing through Gloval and Claudia.

The SDF-1 shook again and tilted at an even more precarious angle. A bulkhead collapsed, crushing Sammie.

"Sammie!" Vanessa cried as she was thrown against the wall, striking the side of her head. At the same time, Kim's control console exploded, forcibly throwing Kim out of her seat and onto the floor. As Vanessa slipped into unconsciousness, the last thing she saw was Kim's bloodied face. Kim's eyes were open, and amidst the chaos on the bridge, her eyes looked into Vanessa's for the last time. Kim was trying to say something. Her lips were moving, but Vanessa could not hear her. Struggling to stay alert, Vanessa tried to say something, but the words failed to come. After a few seconds, Kim lay still, her mouth unmoving, her eyes remaining open. The image of Kim looking into her face across a distance of a few feet as they lay on the floor would remain with Vanessa and haunt her for the rest of her life.

* * *

"I wonder what Kim was trying to tell me," Vanessa said as she and Lisa pondered Kim Young's grave.

"What do you say to your friend when you're both about to die?" Vanessa said.

"Claudia was my best friend," Lisa said as she stood behind Vanessa's wheelchair. "And the last thing she said to me was, 'It has to be you.'"

"You were to command the SDF-3," Vanessa mused, "You had a big mission ahead of you. And you had someone who loved you."

"I guess it means I was the one who had the most to live for," Lisa said sardonically.

"I would have done the same thing, if I had been in Claudia's shoes," Vanessa said, turning to face Lisa.

"How can you say that, Vanessa? You have so much ahead of you. You're young, smart, and beautiful. You have just as much to live for as I do."

"But I've lost my best friends," Vanessa said, gesturing to the graves of Sammie and Kim. "They were like sisters to me. We did everything together. How is it that I'm alive, and they are gone? It wasn't meant to happen this way. I was supposed to die with them. It's not fair!"

Vanessa wiped away a tear at the thought of Kim and Sammie. Lisa knelt on the ground beside Vanessa's chair, and she took Vanessa's hand tenderly.

"Maybe." Lisa said, "Kim believed that you would be the one to survive. Maybe she knew we would be here at this very moment, wondering what might have been, what should have been. Maybe she was telling you to live. Against all odds, you made it. There must be a reason you survived."

"I can't imagine what kind of reason it could be," Vanessa said tearfully.

"Neither can I," Lisa consoled her friend, "but I believe in you, Vanessa. We all have to let go now, let go of the past, and look toward the future. We have to honor the friends who died by doing the things they believed we could do in this life. I believe that you will make a difference in people's lives wherever you go."

As they sat together in the memorial park, the two friends contemplated the future in silence for a long time.

* * *

July 2014

In the living room of the home owned by the Sterlings, Rico sat on the living room rug and made funny faces at Dana Sterling. Still on one and a half years of age, Dana clapped her hands in delight and laughed at the wiry Zentraedi.

"Hi there, little Dana," Rico said.

"Hi," Dana said. Dana was only able to say a handful of words.

"Isn't she cute?" Vanessa said as she watched from the sofa. Bron, Konda, and Miriya stood nearby and watched with endless amusement. Miriya excused herself and went to join Max in the kitchen, where they were preparing dinner for everyone.

Five minutes later, Max Sterling, wearing his "Max and Miriya" apron, walked into the living room to announce that dinner was served.

"All right, I'm starved!" Bron said eagerly.

Soon, everyone was seated at the dining table, enjoying Max's curry beef stew.

"Well guys, what do you think? Is it all right?" Max asked as they began eating.

"It's excellent," Konda said with his mouth full.

"I'm so amazed by you, Max," Vanessa said admiringly, "you do everything well."

"Aw, shucks," Max said, blushing.

Miriya nudged Max's elbow and winked suggestively at him.

"It's true," Miriya said, and Vanessa laughed.

As the group of friends talked and laughed well into the night, each one of them tried not to think of the inevitable. Soon, they must say goodbye, at least for now. The Zentraedi malcontents were creating trouble in South America, and Max and Miriya Sterling would soon depart for the region to quell the unrest. Tonight was a farewell dinner of sorts.

Finally, when it was nearly midnight, Rico, Konda, and Bron prepared to leave. They all had to go to work the next day-delivering pizzas. Vanessa decided to stay a little while longer.

"See you tomorrow, after work?" Bron asked hopefully.

"Sure," Vanessa said, smiling. "Good night."

Later,Vanessa and Max sat alone on the steps of the Sterlings' front porch. Miriya, after putting Dana to bed, had decided to go to sleep as well.

"How's work going? Is everything really okay?" Max said.

"It's fine, but it's nothing like the SDF-1," Vanessa said, referring to her position as a radar operator. She had returned to military life, working in the control tower of the main RDF airfield of Monument City.

"I know what you mean," Max said. He could close his eyes, and at once the ferocious air and space battles he had participated in flashed across his memories. It was exciting and horrific all at once.

"Lisa offered me a spot on the SDF-3 bridge," Vanessa said, turning to Max.

"What did you tell her?" Max said.

The SDF-3 mission would not commence for several years. The current timetable estimated the launching of the SDF-3 in six years. It would be a long and dangerous mission, and there was no guarantee that anyone who left on it would ever return. Did she, Vanessa, want to be a part of it?

"I told her I would think about it," Vanessa said.

But deep down, she knew what her answer would be.

"You don't want to leave," Max said.

"I traveled the solar system in the SDF-1," Vanessa said. "I was on the bridge when we took on five million enemy warships. I watched my best friends die. I've seen and done enough for one lifetime."

There was something more. Vanessa was finally starting over again, trying to get used to life without Sammie and Kim. She had friends who cared about her. She still had Bron.

"I'm tired of war," Vanessa said. "I just want to settle down with someone and have a normal life, if that's possible in this world."

"He cares about you," Max said, voicing the hitherto unspoken thought. They both knew he was talking about Bron.

"Do you love him?"

"I'm not sure yet," Vanessa admitted.

"I don't get it," Max grinned. "What do you see in him that you didn't see in me?"

Vanessa playfully shoved Max in the arm.

"Remember when we first met?" Max said softly.

They sat together on the porch in silence for a while, admiring the starlit sky.

* * *

May 2009

Max Sterling nudged Ben Dixon as they stood in line at the SDF-1 cafeteria. It had nearly been three months since the initial Zentraedi attack and the disastrous fold of the SDF-1 to the orbit of Pluto. The two pilots-in- training had recently enlisted in the RDF, and they had gotten to know each other. Sometimes, they ate and hung out together. But today, Max had other ideas as he eyed the pretty, brown-haired girl sitting alone at a table with her dinner.

"See that girl sitting at that table?" Max said.

"You mean the one with the glasses?" Ben said.

"What do you think, Ben? Do you think I have a chance with a pretty girl like her?"

"Oh, I don't know," Ben said, screwing his eyes up, "she looks a little older than you."

Max was not intimidated. It was his turn in the dinner line, and he loaded his dinner tray as quickly as he could.

"I'm going to go over and talk to her. Wish me luck."

Having barely started eating, Vanessa looked up from her plate and saw a young man in uniform heading in her direction. He was an unassuming fellow with blue hair and aviator glasses. He was kind of cute, actually. This would be interesting, Vanessa thought to herself.

"Hi, mind if I join you?" Max asked.

Vanessa smiled politely, and Max took a seat at the opposite end of the table. They introduced themselves to each other. Max told Vanessa that he was training to be a Veritech pilot.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Max gushed enthusiastically.

Vanessa, in return, explained that she was a member of the SDF-1 bridge crew.

"Really?" Max said, amazed. "What's it like up there?"

"Stressful," Vanessa laughed. "But bearable, thanks to my friends on the bridge."

Vanessa looked over Max's shoulder.

"Here come two of them right now!"

"Huh?" Max said, turning to come face to face with Kim and Sammie.

"Hey Vanessa," Kim said cheerfully.

"Who's the boy?" Sammie inquired.

"This is Max Sterling. Max, these are my friends Kim Young and Sammie Porter."

"Pleased to meet you. Max," Sammie winked.

Max blushed.

"What took you so long to get here?" Vanessa said.

"We were on our way here for dinner, when Sammie had to hit on some guy on the street," Kim smirked.

"Oh, hush," Sammie said, annoyed. "He was just an old friend from high school."

"Sure he was," Kim insinuated.

Sammie turned on Max.

"What are you smiling at?" she demanded.

"Nothing," Max insisted.

"Well, I can see you're occupied with your new boyfriend right now," Kim said, grabbing Sammie by the arm. "Come on, Sammie, let's leave the two of them alone."

"Hey!" Vanessa protested. Sammie and Kim walked off, ignoring her.

Vanessa was a little uncomfortable at being left alone with Max, especially after Kim's embarrassing remark. It was obvious to her that Max was more than a little attracted to her. Sure, he was cute and nice, but he was shy, awkward, and. well, nerdy. He was just a young kid in her eyes.

When the two of them had finished eating, Vanessa got up to leave.

"It was nice meeting you, Max," she said, eager to beat a retreat back to the bridge, even though she wasn't due back for another hour. "I have to get back on duty now, so if you'll excuse me-"

"Wait," Max pleaded. "Do you have to leave so soon? Care to go for a walk? Maybe I can buy you a drink or something."

"Sounds nice. Sorry, I have to go. Talk to you later, Max," Vanessa said, hurrying away.

Max watched her leave, dumbstruck. Boy, did he royally screw that one up.

"I never even got to ask her number," Max said, shaking his head.

Ben came up to Max's table.

"Struck out, buddy?" Ben asked.

"Sure seems that way."

"I'm telling you, Max. These older women, they'll eat you up and spit you out."

"Can we not talk about it, please?" Max said, annoyed and unwilling to discuss the matter with Ben.

"Hey, I've got an idea. Let's go to the arcade. I challenge you to a game of Valkyrie. I'll kick your butt this time!"

"Oh really?" Max said skeptically. Ben had never beaten Max in a videogame, ever.

"Hey, I've been practicing." Ben said as the two of them got up to leave.

* * *

Vanessa affectionately squeezed Max's shoulder as they sat peacefully on Max's front porch, thinking of the events of five years ago.

"I'm sorry if I was rude to you that day," Vanessa said. "You know I've apologized for it. what, a hundred times?"

"I'm sure my becoming a war hero had something to do with that," Max joked. "Anyway, I never was much good with women."

"But you found Miriya," Vanessa said wistfully, perhaps wishing that she could experience the same kind of deep, loving relationship that Max enjoyed with Miriya. Max looked at her and could tell the depths of her loneliness. Your time will come, Vanessa, he thought to himself.

"She's so wonderful and sweet," Vanessa said.

"Not to mention a great pilot," she hastened to add.

"Isn't she something?" Max said lovingly and with a sense of wonder.