Originally published in Emissaries Vol. 1 #6, Spring 2003
"Battle Scars"July 2054
"Who does he think he is? Batman?!"
Lieutenant Commander John Lawrence Scott couldn't help but laugh at the comment, despite his feelings concerning the person in question's situation. Scott was sitting in his quarters at Robotech Expeditionary Force headquarters on Tirol, sipping a vodka on the rocks as he looked across the dimly lit room at a seated, long-legged and smiling blur that vaguely resembled his close friend Elisabeth Saotome.
Of course, she appeared as a blur because his glasses were sitting, folded up, on his desk. To tell the truth, the years had been quite kind to Lt. Colonel Saotome; her features were still delicate as ever and her long hair, tied back in a ponytail, still jet balck -- which was more than could be said for the haggard-looking and graying Lt. Commander Scott. Years of being the sole survivor of Destroid squad after Destroid squad had a tendency to do that to a person. Where Saotome had been first officer aboard the SDF-10 Alexander
for three years now, Lt. Commander Scott had just now been assigned to the same position on the unfortunately-christened light warship Hellhawk II
. That appointment was only due to the determination of the ship's captain: Colonel Jacob Gerard Derrick, the very topic of Scott and Saotome's conversation. If not for Derrick pulling some strings, John Scott would probably still be clutching a cross necklace in the hold of some landing ship, glistening sweat dripping from his forehead, as he prayed silently from the confines of a Tomahawk cockpit and wondered if this time he
would be among those not returning home.
So to be sure, he did laugh when Elisabeth made her quip about their old friend and his new commanding officer's personal drive, but if not for Jacob Derrick and his determination to become captain of his own starship, Scott wouldn't have been sitting around to laugh at Elisabeth's quips; he'd be on the front lines of the REF's current war.
After a prolonged silence and a sip of his drink, John finally decided to correct Saotome. "Actually, I don't believe Jacob thinks he's Batman. I believe he realizes he's just another son whose father never came home one day thanks to some alien invader's idea of a good time."
"Really?" Elisabeth asked, crossing her legs and leaning back in her seat.
"Happens all the time," John said, setting his drink down. "Look at the anti-Zentraedi sentiment that rose up after the First Robotech War, and the anti-Invid sentiments that propogated after the Sentinels' campaign. How many bombings has Optera been through in the past twenty years? And I'll grant you, those wars weren't exactly about the enemy having a good time, but this new war, these new Zentraedi ... nobody really knows what their motives are, and I doubt the people who lost loved ones to them really care."
Elisabeth let out a sigh. "You're right, John; you're right." She stood, the image of her seat flickering away; she wasn't in the room, but rather a hologram of her was. Elisabeth was actually aboard the SDF-10, in her own quarters. "It's just, I worry about him. It's like he hasn't been himself for ten years now. I miss the cranky, opinionated bastard we used to know and razz. Now he's so ... so bitter, so dark." She folded her arms and turned away, looking off into the distance. John presumed she was looking out a window aboard ship, staring into the void.
"Who hasn't gotten bitter or darker in the past ten years, Liz? Lord knows I have." John took another sip of his drink and turned to his desk to pick up his glasses.
"Just a shade," Elisabeth said, half-smiling. "After all, you always had a little case of 'brooding guy' syndrome even when we were kids. I remember going over to your dorm and finding the lights out and the windows shut in midday as you sat there, so serious-looking."
John laughed again, grinning as he rubbed his eyes beneath his glasses. "Yeah, that sounds right. I assume there was some sort of bad synth organ music being cranked out of the stereo to set the mood."
"Oh, but of course," Elisabeth replied with a chuckle.
The two laughed for a moment, then John took another sip of his drink. "So, where is your intrepid crew headed today?" he asked.
"Can't report that on an uncoded frequency, John. You know that."
He frowned and let out a sigh. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Just can't think of any other small talk to make without rounding back into trips down memory lane or talking about our friend the Colonel."
Elisabeth nodded, then glanced up as though she heard something. Faintly, John could hear a muffled P.A. message. "Sounds like the senior staff is being called to the bridge," Elisabeth said, "so I guess I'd better get going. See you later," she remarked with a smile.
John nodded back and raised his drink in response. "Later, Liz."
At that, Elisabeth faded from view. "Lights up," John said before finishing his vodka. As the room grew brighter, John turned his chair back towards his desk and looked at the vast array of paperwork spread across it: last-minute requisition forms, personnel reports, dossiers, and more, all of which had to be dealt with before the big day. He set his glass down and frowned.
"Too much paperwork."* * *
"Today is the day," Jacob Derrick said to himself, lifting his knife from his table. He repeated the sentiment as he turned the knife in his hand, examining the blade, focusing on the way the light glinted off of it. Derrick stroked the flat edge of the knife against the scar on his left cheek as he smirked, turning in his chair.
Derrick was sitting in his sparse quarters at REF headquarters on Tirol. The room had, until recently, been better furnished than that of his old friend John Scott, and unlike his soon-to-be first officer, he had the lights turned all the way up, which one might assume to be an indicator of a slightly friendlier atmosphere.
On the other hand, John didn't have a Zentraedi Cizion
-- the traditional insignia of the Zentraedi fleet -- set up across the room to practice throwing knives with.
In a split-second, Jacob's knife had spun through the air, stopping as it pierced the black center of the Cizion
. Alongside the knife were several other holes in the V-shaped platter; none touched the yellow part of the insignia.
Just as Jacob stood to retrieve his blade, his door buzzer rang. "C'mon in, the door's open," he shouted as he stepped over full boxes containing the debris of his life towards the opposite wall.
The door slid open and the familiar monotone of the Haydonite Veidt greeted Jacob. "Good afternoon, Captain."
"Oh, it's you," Jacob said, yanking the knife out of the Zentraedi insignia. With the other hand he removed the insignia from the wall and turned back to Veidt with a half-frown. "What do you want?"
"Liftoff of the Hellhawk II
is in exactly five hours. Shouldn't we be starting preparations?"
Jacob sheathed his knife on his belt, though he didn't remove his hand from it, then gave Veidt a suspicious look. "What do you mean, 'we?'"
"We. You, me, and the rest of the ship's crew."
"Since when have you
been a part of my crew?" Jacob tossed the Cizion
atop the nearest box and scowled.
"Since this morning. I'm your new communications officer."
"Communications, eh? A bit of a waste for a Haydonite, wouldn't you say? Shouldn't you be a science officer or something?"
Veidt scoffed. "An alien science officer? So cliche. Besides, this is a vessel of war. A well-maintained communications network is key in battle. I assumed that, in order to prevent any mishaps aboard this Hellhawk
, my data processing ability would be invaluable. Admiral Davidson agreed."
"Right. What's your angle here, Veidt?" Jacob asked.
"Angle? What do you mean? I live only to assist the Expeditionary Force in any capacity that I can, since they have been so kind to 'adopt' me in the wake of my exile from Haydon IV."
"Neither you nor I--" Jacob's accusation was cut off by a sudden siren. Emergency lights began to flash, and a message over the P.A. system ordered the senior staff of the Hellhawk II
to assemble in the main situation room immediately. All animosity was set aside as the two rushed out the door towards their common destination.* * *
Five minutes prior, on a remote planet in a long-forgotten sector of space, Tolarin Skylar chewed on his thumbnail and clutched his sword as he sat in a dirty, rodent-infested control tower, staring at a cracked and silent monitor. He doubted that it was inoperative; more likely that, in fact, the planet was, in fact, as forgotten as he had been led to believe. This bothered him, because he had long been told fantastic stories of his heritage, of the glory of battle. Alas, due to his location he had a feeling that he was never, ever going to see one as long as he lived.
Or so he thought.
In human terms, Tolarin appeared to be in his early twenties, with long blue hair that spiked a bit in front. He wore a battered old officer's battle armor with a torn makeshift cape over it. The armor signified his heritage; he was the son of an officer and certified ace, and despite the wear and tear, the look of his uniform reflected it.
One of his subtly pointed ears twitched as a small flying insect landed on it and, as he maintained his focus on the blank screen, he slapped his ear.
He missed the bug.
"Ow!" Tolarin snapped, looking away for a second. He put the sheathed blade he was clutching onto the floor and stood to stretch. Tolarin had been sitting in that hard, rusting old chair for what felt like days, but was probably only around half of one. He yawned, then removed the Cizion
from his bandolier and pressed a button in the center. "Brekkot, is it time for a shift change yet? I'm starting to feel a little weary here, and it's not like anything ever --"
At that word, a siren wailed. "Macek's bloody eyes," he half-whispered as he returned to his seat. Tolarin looked down at the radar screen with a mixture of shock, fright, and joy. He pressed the button on the Cizion
again. "Brekkot, notify the troops! We've got an unidentified vessel entering Kashra
orbit! I repeat, an unidentified vessel is entering Kashra
"What?!" a booming voice replied from outside the tower. A giant hand appeared on the tower, and behind it a giant head faced Tolarin; it had a shock of dark blue hair on top, slightly tanned skin, and a makeshift bandanna around obviously scarred eyes. "Are you positive?"
"I'm sure that's what all the ruckus is about, and that's what the radar seems
to be telling me! Looks like the repairs I made to the array actually worked!" Tolarin said with a smile. "But what are we going to do?"
"You know well what we're going to do, Lord Skylar."
A look of gleeful anticipation crossed Tolarin's face. He nodded. "The Conqueror
is ready."* * *
On the bridge of the SDF-10, Lt. Colonel Saotome was the last to arrive. From his command station, Commodore Scott Bernard smirked. "Slacking off, Saotome?"
"No, sir," she said, saluting. "You just caught me in the middle of a personal call."
Commodore Bernard nodded. "To your station, Saotome."
"We are entering planetary orbit," a bridge tech said. "Looks pretty barren down there. Records recovered from the Robotech Masters' old empire said this was a colony planet called Sprendol."
"Looks like the Invid must've done a number on it before taking on the Local Group," Bernard said, grimacing.
"No," the tech said, adjusting her glasses, "the very same records indicate this planet was laid waste to by the Masters themselves just before the search for the SDF-1. It appears --"
A klaxon wailed. "Commodore, I'm reading a major build-up of energy on the planet's largest continent," another tech shouted.
"Some sort of weapon? An enemy ship powering up?" Bernard asked.
"Commodore Bernard, incoming call from Admiral Davidson's office on Tirol," the first tech called out.
Without any further warning, a massive blast of energy tore forth from the planet's surface, parting its thick cloud cover and ripping through the hull of the SDF-10 like so much scrap paper. The bridge shook violently, but through it Bernard held his resolve. He'd seen worse, after all. "Damage report!"
"We've completely lost the starboard body! Emergency force fields are up, but -- oh God, another buildup of energy!"
"What the hell is going on, Bernard?!" Admiral Davidson's voice rang out over the P.A.
"Not now, Admiral!" Bernard snapped, throwing protocol to the wind. "Saotome, get us out of here!"
"Routing power to fold system," Saotome said as she tapped commands into her console.
"No, just get us out of the --"
Another blast burst through the clouds and struck the SDF-10's port body, annihilating it. Bernard didn't have to be told what was going on this time; he seethed, and then rose to his feet, despite the ship's tremors.
"That does it! We're going down there!"
"WHAT?!" Saotome asked. The rest of the bridge crew turned to their captain as though he'd grown a third eye, or had turned bright lavender. "With all due respect, sir, I don't know if the ship will be able to take that considering we've just lost about a third of our mass and most of our structural integrity to that unprovoked nut taking pot-shots --"
"We're going down!" Bernard snapped. "Rhea, find out where those blasts are coming from and return fire. Saotome, Cross, and Talis, follow me."* * *
"So, the Commodore decided to make planetfall with just over half a ship?!" Jacob Derrick asked, standing alongside most of his to-be senior staff on the large balcony-like structure overlooking the Robotech Expeditionary Force headquarters situation room.
"Actually, it appears they are going to try to separate the lower deck from the ship and take that
to the planet's surface," Alan Fredricks corrected. Currently the head of the Interplanetary Military Police, a division of the Expeditionary Force founded when the charter was rewritten five years prior, Fredricks was still a lean, hawkish man with a nasty-looking switch in his hand. The only apparent change from his days with the Southern Cross's Global Military Police seemed to be the color of his hair, silver instead of blonde.
"It's likely the main ship is going to be destroyed shortly," Veidt intoned. "They're not going to be able to get off that planet once they go down there. I suggest sending a rescue party."
"Just what I was thinking," Admiral Davidson said. "I'm calling back the SDF-9 Napoleon
and the Pluto Division; they should be back --"
"The Hellhawk II
will suffice," Veidt interrupted. "Give us the order, Admiral."