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As far as I’m concerned [Gloval] has already disobeyed his orders; I’d urge the council to proceed with a court-martial if I could only come up with someone to replace him. What do you think, [name withheld], perhaps I could talk [Admiral] Hayes into accepting the position and kill two birds with one stone? . . . This issue of the civilians aboard the SDF-1 has turned into a real mess. Personally, I consider them expendable—along with Gloval, along with the whole ship, if you want to know the truth. Let’s face facts: The thing has already outlived its purpose. You and I are where we wanted to be. Why not give the aliens their damn ship and send them back to where they belong?
Senator Russo, personal correspondence (source withheld)
There was something new in the cool summer night skies of 2012 . . . You remember sitting on the backyard swing, hands tightly gripping the galvanized chains, slender arms extended and head tossed all the way back, gazing up into the immeasurable depths of that black magic, teasing your young mind with half-understood riddles of space and time. All of a sudden, your gaze found movement there where none should have existed, as if an entire constellation had uprooted and launched itself on an impromptu journey across the cosmos. Your heart was beating fast, but your eyes continued to track that mystery’s swift passage toward the distant horizon, even though you were watching it upside down now and in danger of toppling backward off the swing. A screen door slammed, its report a signal that your cries had been heard, your father and his friends beside you trying to follow the rapid flow of your words, your shaking forefinger, pointing to unmoving starfields. “Past your bedtime,” your father said, and off you went. But you crept down the wide carpeted staircase later on, silently, invisibly, and heard them in the library talking in low tones, using words you couldn’t fully comprehend but in a way that proved you weren’t imagining things. You’d glimpsed the fortress, a heavenly city returned from the past, massive enough to occultate the stars . . . savior or harbinger of dark prophecies, your father’s friends couldn’t decide which, but “a sign of the times” in either case. Like blue moons, unexplained disappearances, rumors of giants that were on their way to get you . . . And on the front page of the following day’s newspaper you saw what the night had kept from you: a mile-high roboid figure, propelled by unknown devices twice its own height above a stunned city, erect, straight, arms bent at the elbow, held out like those of a holy man or magician in a calming gesture of peace or surrender. It reminded you of something at the edge of memory, an image you wouldn’t summon forth until much later, when fire rained from the sky, your night world annihilated by light . . .
In direct violation of the United Earth Defense Council dictates, Captain Gloval had ordered the SDF-1 airborne. It was not the first time he had challenged the wisdom of the Council, nor would it be the last.
The dimensional fortress had remained at its landing site in the Pacific for two long months like an infant in a wading pool, the supercarriers Daedalus and Prometheus that were her arms positioned out front like toys in the ocean waves. And indeed, Gloval often felt as though his superiors on the Council had been treating him like a child since the fortress’s return to Earth. Two years of being chased through the solar system by a race of alien giants, only to be made to feel like unwanted relatives who had simply dropped in for a visit. Gloval had a full understanding of the Council’s decisions from a military point of view, but those men who sat in judgment were overlooking one important element—or, as Gloval had put it to them, 56,000 important elements: the one-time residents of Macross Island who were onboard his ship. Circumstance had forced them to actively participate in this running space battle with the Zentraedi, but there was no reason now for their continued presence; they had become unwilling players in a game of global politics that was likely to have a tragic end.
There had already been more than 20,000 deaths; how many more were required to convince the Council to accede to his demands that the civilians be allowed to disembark?
The Council’s reasoning was far from specious, it was crazed, rooted in events that had transpired years before, but worse still, rooted in a mentality Gloval had hoped he had seen the last of. Even now the commander found that he could still embrace some of the arguments put forth in those earlier times—the belief that it was prudent to keep secret from the masses any knowledge of an impending alien attack. Secrecy had surrounded reconstruction of the dimensional fortress and the development of Robotech weaponry, the transfigurable Veritech fighters and the Spartans and Gladiators. This was the “logic of disinformation”: There was a guiding purpose behind it. But the Council’s current stance betrayed an inhumanity Gloval hadn’t believed possible. To explain away the disappearance of the 75,000 people of Macross, the military had announced that shortly after the initial lift-off of the SDF-1, a volcanic eruption on the order of Krakatoa had completely destroyed the island. To further complicate matters, GIN, the Global Intelligence Network, spread rumors to the effect that in reality a guerrilla force had invaded the island and detonated a thermonuclear device. Global Times Magazine was then coerced into publishing equally bogus investigative coverage of a supposed cover-up by GIN, according to which the actual cause of the deaths on Macross was disease.
Just how any of these stories could have functioned to alleviate worldwide panic was beyond Gloval: the Council might just as easily have released the truth: that an experiment in hyperspace relocation had inadvertently ended with the dematerialization of the island. As it stood, however, the Council was locked into its own lies: 75,000 killed by a volcanic explosion/guerrilla invasion/virus. Therefore, these thousands could not be allowed to “reappear”—return from the dead was an issue the Council was not ready to deal with.
The 56,000 survivors had to remain virtual prisoners aboard the SDF-1.
And if the Robotech Defense Force should win this war against the Zentraedi? Gloval had asked the Council. What then? How was the Council going to deal with the victorious return of the SDF-1 and the return of the dead? Couldn’t they see how misguided they were?
Of course, it was a rhetorical question.
Gloval’s real concern was that the Council didn’t consider victory an acceptable scenario.
Which is why he had taken it upon himself to launch the SDF-1. He was going to focus attention on the civilians one way or another . . .
There was panic on the ground and panic in the voice of the Aeronautics Command controller.
“NAC, ground control to SDF-1 bridge: Come in immediately . . .NAC, ground control to SDF-1 bridge: Come in immediately, over!”
On the bridge of the dimensional fortress there were suppressed grins of satisfaction. Captain Gloval put a match to his pipe, disregarding Sammie’s reminders. He let a minute pass, then signaled Claudia from the command post to respond to the incoming transmission.
“SDF-1 bridge to NAC, ground control, I have Captain Gloval. Go ahead, over.”
Gloval drew at his pipe and blew a cloud toward the overhead monitors. He could just imagine the scene below: the eyes of Los Angeles riveted on his sky spectacle. He had ordered Lang and astrogation to utilize the newly revamped antigrav generators to secure and maintain a low-level fly-by, and so the enormous triple ports of the foot thrusters were scarcely a mile above the streets. There would be no mistaking this for some Hollywood stunt. And not only were people getting their first look at the airborne SDF-1, but also of the formerly top-secret mecha that flew along with her—fighters, Guardians, and Battloids hovering and circling a mile-high bipedal Robotechnological marvel. Forget the majestic colors of thoses sunset clouds, Gloval wanted to tell them. Here was something really worth photographing!
“Captain Gloval, low flights over population centers have been strictly prohibited except in extreme emergencies.”
Gloval reached forward and picked up the handset. “This is an emergency. We must maintain a low-attitude holding pattern. Our gravity control system is not perfected, and the lives of our 56,000 civilian detainees are in jeopardy.”
Lisa Hayes turned from her station to throw him a conspiratorial wink.
“But sir, you’re causing a panic down here. Increase your altitude and fly out over the ocean immediately. It’s imperative.”
I have them where I want them! Gloval said to himself.
“I will comply with your order if you can give me permission to disembark these civilians.”
The speakers went silent; when the controller returned, there was incredulity and urgency in his voice.
“Sir, that’s impossible. Orders from UEDC headquarters state that no one is to leave your ship. We have no authority to countermand those orders. You must leave this area at once.”
It was time to let some of the anger show. Gloval shouted, “I will not rest until those orders are changed!”
He slammed the handset back into its cradle and leaned back into the chair. Vanessa had swiveled from her screen to study him; he knew what was on her mind and granted her the liberty to speak freely.
“Sir, isn’t it dangerous to be making threats while we’re on the aircom net?”
Claudia exchanged looks with Gloval and spoke for him.
“This fortress is a symbol of the Council’s strength,” she told Vanessa. “If it gets out that the captain is resisting orders, the Council would lose face—”
“And there’s a chance,” Lisa added, “that our communication was being monitored.” She turned to Gloval. “Isn’t that true, Captain?”
Gloval left the chair and walked over to the curved bay. The cityscape was spread out beneath the ship; Veritechs flew in formation, and great swirls and billows of lavender and orange sunset clouds filled the sky.
“I’m prepared to keep the SDF-1 here until we are monitored, Lisa.” He turned to face Claudia and the others. “I don’t think there’s much chance that the Council will reverse its decision. But politicians can sometimes be helpful, and it’s possible that someone in the government will get wind of this, see an opportunity, and step in.”
“But the Council isn’t going to like your tactics, sir,” said Vanessa.
Gloval turned back to the bay.
“Even if I face prosecution, this is something I must do. Civilians have no place onboard this ship. No place in this war.”