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Battle Cry, страница 1

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Battle Cry
 

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Battle Cry


  Battle Cry

  By Jack McKinney 1987

  For Carmen, Carlos, and Dimitry Mamaroneck’s Robotech Defense Force

  CHAPTER ONE

  If there was any one thing that typified the initial stages of the First Robotech War, it was the unspoken interplay that developed between Captain Henry Gloval and the Zentraedi commander, Breetai. In effect, both men had been created for warfare-Gloval by the Soviet GRU, and Breetai, of course, by the Robotech Masters. When one examines the early ship's log entries of the two commanders, it is evident that each man spent a good deal of time trying to analyze the personality of his opponent by way of the strategies each employed. Breetai was perhaps at an advantage here, having at his disposal volumes of Zentraedi documents devoted to legends regarding the origin of Micronian societies. But it must be pointed out that Breetai was severely limited by his prior conditioning in his attempts to interpret these: even Exedore, who had been bred to serve as transcultural adviser, would fail him on this front. Gloval, on the other hand, with little knowledge of his ship and even less of his opponent, had the combined strengths of a loyal and intelligent crew to draw upon and the instincts of one who had learned to function best in situations where disinformation and speculation were the norm. One could point to many examples of this, but perhaps none is so representative of the group mind at work inboard the SDF-1 than the Battle at Saturn's Rings.

  "Genesis," History of the First Robotech War, Vol. XVII

  Zor's ship, the SDF-1, moved through deep space like some creature loosed from an ancient sea fable. The structural transformation the fortress had undergone at the hands of its new commanders had rendered it monsterlike-an appearance reinforced by those oceangoing vessels grafted on to it like arms and the main gun towers that rose now from the body like twin heads, horned and threatening.

  What would the Robotech Masters make of this new design? Breetai asked himself. Even prior to the transformation, Zor's ship was vastly

  different from his own-indeed, different from any vessel of the Zentraedi fleet. Protoculture factory that it was, it had always lacked the amorphous organic feel Breetai preferred. But then, it had not been designed as a warship. Until now.

  The Zentraedi commander was on the bridge of his vessel, where an image of the SDF-1 played across the silent field of a projecbeam. Breetai's massive arms were folded across the brown tunic of his uniform, and the monocular enhancer set in the plate that covered half his face was trained on the free-floating screen.

  Long-range scopes had captured this image of the ship for his inspection and analysis. But what those same scopes and scanners failed to reveal was the makeup of the creatures who possessed it.

  The bridge was an observation bubble overlooking the astrogational center of the flagship, a vast gallery of screens, projecbeam fields, and holo-schematics that gave Breetai access to information gathered by any cruiser or destroyer in his command. He could communicate with any of his many officers or any of the numerous Cyclops recon ships. But none of these could furnish him with the data he now desired-some explanation of Micronian behavior. For that, Breetai counted on Exedore, his dwarfish adviser, who at the moment seemed equally at a loss.

  "Commander," the misshapen man was saying, "I have analysed this most recent strategy from every possible angle, and I still cannot understand why they found it necessary to change to this format. A structural modification of this nature will most assuredly diminish, possibly even negate, the effectiveness of the ship's gravity control centers."

  "And their weapons?"

  "Fully operational. Unless they are diverting energy to one of the shield systems."

  Breetai wondered whether he was being overly cautious. It was true that he had been caught off guard by the Micronians' unpredictable tactics but unlikely that he had underestimated their capabilities. That they had

  chosen to execute an intraatmospheric spacefold, heedless of the effects of their island population center, was somewhat disturbing, as was their most recent use of the powerful main gun of the SDF-1. But these were surely acts of desperation, those of an enemy running scared, not one in full possession of the situation.

  In any straightforward military exercise, this unpredictability would have posed no threat. It had been Breetai's experience that superior firepower invariably won out over desperate acts or clever tactics. And there were few in the known universe who could rival the Zentraedi in firepower. But this operation called for a certain finesse. The Micronians would ultimately be defeated; of this he was certain. Defeat, however, was of secondary importance. His prime directive was to recapture Zor's ship undamaged, and given the Micronian penchant for self-destruction, a successful outcome could not be guaranteed.

  With this in mind Breetai had adopted a policy of watchful waiting. For more than two months by Micronian reckoning, the Zentraedi fleet had followed the SDF-1 without launching an attack. During that time, he and Exedore had monitored the ship's movements and audiovisual transmissions; they had analyzed the changes and modifications Zor's ship had undergone; they had screened trans-vids of their initial confrontations with the enemy. And most important, they had studied the Zentraedi legends regarding Micronian societies. There were warnings in those legends-warnings Breetai had chosen to ignore.

  The SDF-1 was approaching an outer planet of this yellow-star system, a ringed world, large and gaseous, with numerous small moons. A secondary screen on the flagship bridge showed it to be the system's sixth planet. Exedore, who had already made great progress in deciphering the Micronian language, had its name: Saturn.

  "My lord, I suspect that the spacefold generators aboard Zor's ship may have been damaged during the hyperspace jump from Earth to the outer planets. My belief is that the Micronians will attempt to use the gravity of this planet to sling themselves toward their homeworld."

  "Interesting," Breetai replied.

  "Furthermore, they will probably activate ECM as they near the planetary rings. It may become difficult for us to lock in on their course."

  "It is certainly the logical choice, Exedore. And that is precisely what concerns me. They have yet to demonstrate any knowledge of logic."

  "Your decision, my lord?"

  "They have more than an escape plan in mind. The firepower of the main gun has given them confidence in their ability to engage us." Breetai stroked his chin as he watched the screen. "I'll let them attempt their clever little plan, if only to gain a clearer understanding of their tactics. I'm curious to see if they are in full possession of the power that ship holds."

  Henry Gloval, formerly of the supercarriers Kenosha and Prometheus and now captain of the super dimensional fortress, the SDF-1, was a practical man of few words and even fewer expectations. When it came to asking himself how he had ended up in command of an alien spaceship, 1,500,000,000 kilometers from home base and carrying almost 60,000 civilians in its belly, he refused to let the question surface more than twice a day.

  And yet here was the planet Saturn filling the forward bays of the SDF-1's bridge, and here was Henry Gloval in the command chair treating it like just one more Pacific current he'd have to navigate. Well, not quite: No one he'd encountered during his long career as a naval officer had ever used an ocean current the way he planned to use Saturn's gravitational fields.

  The SDF-1; spacefold generators, which two months ago had allowed the ship to travel through hyperspace from Earth to Pluto in a matter of minutes, had vanished. Perhaps "allowed" was the wrong word, since Gloval had had his sights on the moon at the time. But no matter-the disappearance remained a mystery for Dr. Lang and his Robotechs to unravel; it had fallen on Gloval's shoulders to figure a way back home without the generators.

  Even by the year 2010 the book on interplanetary trav
el was far from

  complete; in fact, Lang, Gloval, and a few others were still writing it. Each situation faced was a new one, each new maneuver potentially the last. There had been any number of unmanned outer-planet probes, and of course the Armor Series orbital stations and the lunar and Martian bases, but travel beyond the asteroid belt had never been undertaken by a human crew. Who was to say how it might have been if the Global Civil War hadn't put an end to the human experiment in space? But that was the way the cards had been dealt, and in truth, humankind had the SDF-1 to thank for getting things started again, even if the ship was now more weapon than spacecraft. All this, however, would be for the historians to figure out. Gloval had more pressing concerns.

  Relatively speaking, the Earth was on the far side of the sun. The fortress's reflex engines would get them home, but not quickly, and even then they were going to need a healthy send-off from Saturn. Engineering's plan was for the ship to orbit the planet and make use of centrifugal force to sling her on her way. It was not an entirely untested plan but a dangerous one nonetheless. And there was one more factor Gloval had to figure into the calculations: the enemy.

  Unseen in full force, unnamed, unknown. Save that they were thought to be sixty-foot-tall humanoids of seemingly limitless supply. They had appeared in Earthspace a little more than two months ago and declared war on the planet. There was no way of knowing what fate had befallen Earth after the SDF-1's hyperspace jump, but some of the enemy fleet-or, for all Gloval knew, a splinter group-had pursued the ship clear across the solar system to press the attack. The SDF-1's main gun had saved them once, but firing it had required a modular transformation which had not only wreaked havoc with many of the ship's secondary systems but had nearly destroyed the city that had grown up within it.

  For two months now the enemy had left the ship alone. They allowed themselves to be picked up by radar and scanners but were careful not to reveal the size of their fleet. Sometimes it appeared that Battlepods made up the bulk of their offensive strength-those oddly shaped, one-pilot mecha the

  VT teams called "headless ostriches." At other times there was evidence of scout ships and recon vessels, cruisers and destroyers. But if the enemy's numbers were a source for speculation, their motives seemed to be clear: They had come for their ship, the SDF-1.

  Gloval was not about to let them have it without a fight. Perhaps if they'd come calling and asked for the ship, something could have been arranged. But that, too, was history.

  There was only one way to guarantee a safe return to Earth: They had to either shake the enemy from their tail or destroy them. Gloval had been leaning toward the former approach until Dr. Lang had surprised him with the latest of his daily discoveries.

  Lang was Gloval's interface with the SDF-1; more than anyone else onboard, the German scientist had retuned his thinking to that of the technicians who had originally built the ship. He had accomplished on a grand scale what the Veritech fighter pilots were expected to do on each mission: meld their minds to the mecha controls. There was suspicion among the crew that Lang had plugged himself into one of the SDF-1's stock computers and taken some sort of mind boost which had put him in touch with the ship's builders, leaving him a stranger to those who hadn't. Gloval often felt like he was dealing with an alien entity when speaking to Lang-he couldn't bring himself to make contact with those marblelike eyes. It was as if the passionate side of the man's nature had been drained away and replaced with some of the strange fluids that coursed through many of the ship's living systems. You didn't exchange pleasantries with a man like Lang; you went directly to the point and linked memory banks with him. So when Lang told him that it might be possible to create a protective envelope for the SDF-1, Gloval merely asked how long it would take to develop.

  The two men met in the chamber that until recently had housed the spacefold generators. Lang wanted Gloval to see for himself the free-floating mesmerizing energy that had spontaneously appeared there with the disappearance of the generators. Later they moved to Lang's quarters, the only section of the unreconstructed fortress sized to human proportions.

  There the scientist explained that the energy had something to do with a local distortion in the spacetime continuum. Gloval couldn't follow all the details of the theories involved, but he stayed with it long enough to understand that this same energy could be utilized in the fabrication of a shield system for the SDF-1.

  Since his conversation with Dr. Lang, Gloval had become preoccupied with the idea of taking the enemy by surprise with an offensive maneuver. With the main guns now operational and the potential of a protective barrier, Gloval and the SDF-1 would be able to secure an unobstructed route back to Earth. And Saturn, with its many moons and rings, was ideally suited to such a purpose.

  Rick Hunter, Veritech cadet, admired his reflection in the shop windows along Macross City's main street. He stopped once or twice to straighten the pleats in his trousers, adjust the belt that cinched his colorful jacket, or give his long black hair just the right look of stylish disarray. It was his first day of leave after eight weeks of rigorous training, and he had never felt better. Or looked better, to judge from the attention he was getting from passersby, especially the young women of the transplanted city.

  Rick was always reasonably fit-years of stunt flying had necessitated that-but the drill sergeants had turned his thin frame wiry and tough. "Nothing extraneous, in mind or body." Rick had adopted their motto as his own. He had even learned a few new flying tricks (and taught the instructors a few himself). Planes had been his life for nineteen years, and even the weightlessness of deep space felt like his element. He wasn't as comfortable with weapons, though, and the idea of killing a living creature was still as alien to him as it had been two months ago. But Roy Fokker, Rick's "older brother," was helping him through this rough period. Roy had talked about his own early misgivings, about how you had to think of the Battlepods as mecha, about how real the enemy threat was to all of them inboard the SDF-1. " 'The price of liberty is eternal vigilance'," Roy said,

  quoting an American president. "There's no more flying for fun. This time you'll be flying for your home and the safety of your loved ones." Of course Roy had been through the Global Civil War; he had experience in death and destruction. He'd even come through it a decorated soldier. Although why anyone would have sought that out remained a mystery to Rick. Roy had left Pop Hunter's flying circus for that circus of global madness, and it wasn't something Rick liked to think about. Besides, as true as it might be that the war was right outside any hatch of the ship, it was surely a long way off for a cadet whose battle experience thus far had been purely accidental.

  Rick was strolling down Macross Boulevard at a leisurely pace; he still had a few minutes to kill before meeting Minmei at the market. The city had managed to completely rebuild what the modular transformation had left in ruins. Taking into account the SDF-1's ability to mechamorphose, the revised city plan relied on a vertical axis of orientation. The attempt to recreate the horizontal openness of Macross Island was abandoned. The new city rose in three tiers toward the ceiling of the massive hold. Ornate bridges spanned structural troughs; environmental control units and the vast recycling system had been integrated into the high-tech design of the buildings; EVE engineers-specialists in enhanced video emulation-were experimenting with sky and horizon effects; hydroponics had supplied trees and shrubs; and a monorail was under construction. The city planners had also worked out many of the problems that had plagued the city early on. Shelters and yellow and black safety areas were well marked in the event of modular transformation. Each resident now had a bed to sleep in, a job to perform. Food and water rationing was accepted as part of the routine. The system of waivers, ration coupons, and military scrip had proved manageable. Most people had navigated the psychological crossings successfully. There would soon be a television station, and a lottery was in the works. In general the city was not unlike a turn-of-the-century shopping mall, except in size
and population. Remarkably, the residents of Macross had made the adjustment-they were a special lot from the start-and the general feeling there was a cross between that found in an experimental

  prototype community and that found in any of the wartime cities of the last era.

  Nearing the market now, Rick began to focus his thoughts on Minmei and how the day as he imagined it would unfold. She would be knocked out by the sight of him in uniform; she wouldn't be able to keep her hands off him; he would suggest the park, and she would eagerly agree-

  "Rick!"

  Minmei was running toward him, a full shopping bag cradled in one arm, her free hand waving like mad. She was wearing a tight sleeveless sweater over a white blouse, and a skirt that revealed too much. Her hair was down, lustrous even in the city's artificial light; her blue eyes were bright, fixed on his as she kissed him once and stepped back to give him the once-over.

  Inside the cool and crisp cadet Rick was projecting, his heart was running wild. She was already talking a blue streak, filling him in on her eight weeks, asking questions about "spacic training," complimenting him, the uniform, the Defense Force, the mayor, and everyone else connected with the war effort. Rick, however, was so drawn to her beauty that he scarcely heard the news or compliments; he was suddenly quiet and worried. Minmei drew stares from everyone they passed, and she appeared to know half of Macross personally. What had she been doing these past eight weeks-introducing herself on street corners? And what was all this about singing lessons, dance lessons, and an upcoming beauty pageant? Rick wanted to tell her about the hardships of training, the new friends he'd made, his unvoiced fears; he wanted to hold her and tell her how much he had missed her, tell her how their two-week ordeal together had been one of the most precious times in his life. But she wasn't letting him get a word in.

 
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