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Prologue - "24 Hours Ago" for Elinor "Bruce Leeane" Hall


Kaerri's Man. =)
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24 Hours Ago...

"ZAP!" "POW!" "BLAMMO!" Those were among the excited words used by the Southern Cross Research and Development team when asked to describe their latest invention, the Anti-Missile Veritech Protector otherwise known as the AMVP. Inside the Army of the Southern Cross Eglin Testing and Design Facility, backed by their three-dimensional computerized presentation, the quartet of young engineers sat with confident smiles on their side of the wide, oaken conference table, but across from them, the middle-aged officer wore no such smile.

Colonel Hiram Sharp had served in Iraq and Afghanistan in his younger years. As a tank commander in the U.S. Army, one of his fields of study was military history and its application on the modern battlefield. He had a reputation for being quite adept at using the lessons of leaders long-dead to give any advantage to his tank teams. He also had tested tank technology before it reached the hands of his front-line tankers. Sharp was a Tennessee-born West Point Graduate, RDF veteran, and ASC lifer. Now, in his mid-fifties with the Earth still in nightmarish conflict, his experience was being put to the test almost daily. That experience told him never to discount a reliable piece of equipment. Whether the tanks were M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, or Spartas Veritech Hover Tanks, each had its place and value. He knew well their abilities and limitations first-hand being an able pilot of each. But as second-in-command of Eglin base, Sharp did not have the luxury of specialization, focusing only on his beloved tank crews and tanks; he had to know a lot about everything.

So when his commanding officer and commander of Eglin base, Brigadier General Steele, ordered him to attend this rushed meeting despite his already punishing-schedule, he went knowing why. Sharp knew Steele had great confidence in Sharp's judgment if not his overall combat experience. Still, Sharp felt out of his area of expertise and that made him uncomfortable. Yet, if he could supply new life-saving technologies to the Army of the Southern Cross, he would. He just wished he had someone next to him who knew this aircraft-related technology half as well as he knew his tanks, but there had been no time to grab any such people. This youthful R & D team was very eager for his approval, and therefore, his signature on their T31-C Permission For Active Testing Form lying on the table between them. With his signature, testing would move forward, and if successful, fame and funding for more of these AMVP devices, or as he silently called them, "Buck Rogers anti-missile Zappo Cannons." His pen remained in his crisp uniform shirt pocket.

The first engineer leaned forward. "Hey, you mecha people like sports, right? Well, in sports terminology, our AMVP is a real MVP (most valuable player) on today's modern battlefield. Its rapid-fire particle beam cannon combined with our best combat-accuracy software will nullify missile threats up to and including Female Power Armor units! With it, the Valkyrie will be the undisputed queen of the skies!"

"Fame is not my top priority," Sharp folded his arms. "The safety of pilots and soldiers is. Just how reliable is this thing?"

"Super-reliable!" said the second engineer. "Oh, we've checked and rechecked every possible simulation. The system is fully automated. So much faster and more accurate than any pilot we have! Plus, our AMVP knocks down incoming enemy missiles without any pilot intervention, allowing the pilot to fully focus on the mission, while the combat software watches the pilot's back, so-to-speak."

"And that," broke in another, "equals less casualties both in the cockpit and on the ground. Think of the lives you'll be saving."

"Heck," the fourth snapped his fingers. "Given time, you know, I be we can probably make a tank-compatible version to protect ground forces from similar assaults. If we're given funding for this project of course..."

Sharp sat back and thought deeply. He could not help but think they had a valid argument and he needed every possible advantage he could give his people against the monstrous invading Zentraedi and Meltrandi. What if R & D's latest toy worked? If it was all as advertised, how could he not give it a try?

Colonel Sharp reached for his pen.

Almost an hour later, the engineers were still laughing and clapping each other on the backs when they met up to brief the fighter jockeys involved in the testing. Colonel Sharp had been called away and now the engineers found themselves with new strangers to work on a deal of a different kind. Now that the R & D team had the signature they so badly needed, they returned to their true form - putting their faces into their smartphones and playing Pokemon Go. Delivering the AMVP prototype to the test pilots was the last link on the chain. As far as these engineers were concerned, the "Top Guns" had but one purpose - to go up in the sky and make R & D look great as they now deserved.

This did not mean providing answers to the ignorant Valkyrie jockeys' questions - the engineers felt these military flyboys and flygirls already had far more than their fair share of the spotlight and now it was this team of engineer's time to shine.

So one might well imagine the uncertain looks between 2nd Lieutenant Elinor "Bruce Leeanne" Hall and Captain Cody "Wild Wolf" Loper. Question after question was answered with, "That's classified," "Don't worry about it," "It won't be a problem," and "Do you always fret so much before you fly?" It soon became obvious to the pilots that the R & D team considered this test flight to be as good as done. With their bored looks and glances at their smartphones, they seemed to want this part of it over with so they could get back to finding their imaginary Pokemon.

At one point, Captain Loper became rather fed up with the charade and pressed them. The West Virginian-born veteran of the Zentraedi Control Zone had had enough. He had survived many dangerous conflicts in Brazil and had returned to the former United States to pass along what he knew while filling any niche he was needed to fill, from teacher to flying taxi. While the Wild Wolf was well-known for his habit of cursing like a sailor, he was equally respected for his bravery, daring, and professional approach to every aspect of flying, especially to the people doing the flying. "Look," he told them pointedly, "how are we supposed to fix any problems if you guys won't tell us how the damn thing operates?"

"There won't be any problems, Captain," came the reply, "not unless you make any. Don't overcomplicate this, all right? Just go up there, do your thing, and the AMVP will make us all look good." With that, the four of them grinned and took their leave. "Ooh, there's a Charmander nearby!!" Hall and Loper heard them say as they walked away.

Loper stared at their receding figures, clenched his fists, and snarled. "You've Gotta Be Shittin' Me," he invoked the ultimate statement of military pilot disbelief. "These fucking pricks are dicking with our lives. Hall, I know this is your first time testing at Eglin, but believe me, this is not the way testing is supposed to go." He looked over to the Georgian-born farmer who had given up so much of her youthful years in intense study and dedication to the Army of the Southern Cross. Hall had come from a hard-working farming family that went back for generations. Her family had not only survived this war but, rumor had it, they went so far back they had even survived the American Civil War, including the burning of Atlanta. The Hall family was as tough and generous as they came and here Hall was willing to risk her very life to push high technology past its limits. And here the creators and developers of that technology were being a big bag of dicks. Loper sighed and hoped that this poor first impression would not stain the newly-minted lieutenant's view of the ASC.

Loper reached for his own smartphone and contacted the control tower where he hoped Colonel Sharp was. However, the call did not produce the outcome he was hoping for.

"Yo, Molly," Elinor heard Cody say. "He's not there? What? When? Dammit. Thanks for the heads-up, Moll. Yeah, you too." Cody hung up and faced Elinor. "The colonel isn't there for me to take this up with, but on top of that, there's a tornado warning southeast of us with bad winds coming our way in a few hours." Elinor knew what that meant, but Cody brought it up anyway.

"There's no time to track down the colonel. If we're gonna to do this, we've gotta go up now."

Up they went.

In less twenty minutes after noontime, they were encased inside their pressurized cockpits, streaking through the early afternoon skies faster than the speed of a fired bullet from a rifle. Elinor flew in a modified VF-1A carrying the AMVP mounted on her Valkyrie's head. The AMVP replaced the head-mounted laser turret. Cody soared through the sky in his Ajax dubbed "Liberty Belle." High up at 25,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico, the sun was a glowing ball of light hidden behind a fortress of titanic white and gray clouds. The gulf was a mass of deep green and blue bordered on the north by the Florida panhandle and its patchwork quilts of sandy beaches, miles of green brush, and wind-blown trees. The broad, open skies and easy currents around Elinor were terrific for a test run, at least for the time being.

At 12:24 p.m., Loper's voice came over the radio. "Longbow One to Longbow Three." He paused long enough for Hall to copy, then resumed. "Allow me to introduce you to Longbow Two. Captain Maria Gonzalez-Rodriguez. Goro? Meet Bruce Leeanne. You'll be firing on her on this lovely afternoon."

Hall received a transmission from a person with a Hispanic accent who sounded easygoing. "Hey, new girl," Gonzalez-Rodriguez said, "don't go all Kung Fu crazy on me if I 'shoot you down,' O.K.? It's nothin' personal, amiga."

(OOC translation)
"Amiga" = Spanish for "female friend"
Loper came on the comm and chuckled. Thus far, he didn't think Hall was the blaming type. In fact, he didn't think any of the true test pilots were. While Goro and Wild Wolf had long been comfortable in their roles as combat pilots, they knew they owed their very livings to test pilots like Hall. Combat pilots tended to be absolutely confident, ice cool, and sometimes carefree, at least on the surface. Test pilots had to be just as cool except the thing threatening their lives was not an outside enemy force, but the very aircraft their butts were saddled into and they knew it. For this reason, combat jockeys and military test pilots tended to get along like estranged cousins in the same crazy family. They only really didn't get along with non-military test pilots, who they believed often acted without discipline and as if the military always owed them something. Up here, Loper was happy not to have any civilians involved.

Prior to their take-off from Eglin base, Cody had explained to Elinor how the AMVP test was going to take place. Elinor with her Valkyrie in jet fighter mode would fly northward at low speeds and slightly higher altitude toward Florida's coastline. This took her in Goro's direction. Goro, her VF-1J hovering in gerwalk mode, would act as an airborne missile platform, firing on Hall one missile at a time in rapid succession. If those worked, then in small volleys. The AMVP would presumably perform its automated duty to shoot down the incoming missiles before they came into contact with Hall's aircraft. Goro was carrying modified armor-piercing missiles without warheads; if they made contact, they would scratch the paint and possibly put a football-sized dent into Hall's aircraft. During live-fire, at about 3 miles out, Hall would slowly bank her aircraft westward keeping her VF-1A's belly exposed to Goro to allow the AMVP a clear shot at the incoming missiles.

If all went well, the AMVP would take out 20 missiles all on its own while, nearby and under Hall, Loper would act as a camera-man, his Ajax gun-cameras recording every last detail of the test. Cody insisted that a second radio system with its own power source be installed on both his and Hall's aircraft to keep them in communication in case of emergency.

"O.K." Loper sounded winter-cool. "Longbow Three, activate AMVP. Give me a check when you're in position. Longbow Two, copy when you're hot and locked." With the AMVP active, the checks came in. Almost instantly, bright red lights on Hall's holographic heads-up display began to calmly flash. Goro had a missile lock on her from 5 miles out.

"Copy." As Hall sped toward Goro, she heard Goro speak the catchphrase for which she was known for, "I got you, babe."

"Light her up."

"Fox two," called Goro. A moment later, "Fox two and... fox two." Now the lights on Hall's display were anything but calm as Hall's radar and early-warning system picked up three short range missiles coming straight at her from the north in rapid succession. Beeping sounds filled Hall's helmet adding an audio element to the warning. Off in the distance, Hall could see three small objects. They looked like small flaming red rings, but Hall knew she was looking at missiles that were flying directly at her. Still, something in her knew she was not in any serious danger and so things remained calm as the missiles closed the distance. It wasn't like it was The Elephant or anything. On Hall's heads-up display, she could see the AMVP was perfectly locked on the closest missile and was waiting for it to enter the range of the AMVP's particle beam cannon. She had not directed the device in any way; its sensors had picked up the missiles and had aimed on them with the seeming patience of a wildlife hunter.

"ZAAM!" At about 2,000 feet from the lead missile, Elinor heard the AMVP open fire all by itself. A very bright blue beam of light lanced out from underneath her VF-1A and struck the lead missile. The missile exploded brilliantly. "ZAAAM! ZAAM!" came the report of the cannon. Two more near-blinding beams of light blue shone and two more missiles burst into fiery pieces. The effect was spectacular, but all three pilots had seen their first problem.

Goro was the first to give voice. "Hot damn, I can see those beams from way out here an' it's broad daylight. Talk about giving away your position, no?"

Loper was the next to chime in. "You think it's bright now. Imagine that during a night mission."

"Oh, hell no." Goro winced. "I'd be blinded. Everyone nearby would. My wingman. Everybody."

"Right. Let's finish this up before the tornado warning reaches our area. Longbow Three begin your bank." He did not have to tell her; Hall had already begun her turn westward. She heard the roar of her twin engines obey her every command as she gained a terrific view of both the Gulf of Mexico and the horizon. Like a lonesome puppy, Loper's "Liberty Belle" followed right behind and under Hall's VF-1A, recording everything and staying about a half-mile from Hall.

"Okay, Leeanne, I'm upping the stakes, baby. Here come five more." Again, Hall heard Goro sound off "Fox two" five separate times. Sure enough, Hall's VF-1A's holographic display lit up with a beautiful display of five incoming objects straight at her. Again, the AMVP saw them coming and again it opened up. Blinding blue flashes crossed the sky ending with terrific explosions and smoking trails of debris. It didn't miss once.

"Damn, that's beautiful," Goro said and Loper had to agree.

"O.K. Unload on her."

Again, Goro casually clicked off one missile after another and watched them speed away. "Fox two... Fox two..." she repeated until all twelve missiles were in flight toward Hall. Goro thought out loud. "Longbow Three, wow..." she smacked her lips and thought about her own AMVP-less Valkyrie. "I don't know if I could take all that."

"That's what she said." The Wild Wolf grinned.

Off the radio, Goro suddenly burst into laughter. She grinned too and had to stop herself from facepalming. "Ai Dios mio... Loper, you sonnova bitch. I'm'a get you for that."

(OOC translation)
"Ai Dios mio..." = Spanish for "Oh my God..."

"Yeah, yeah. Promises, promises," he goaded.

The dozen missiles soared through the air right at Hall's Valkyrie. The AMVP kept locked on the first missile until came into range. Faithfully, the AMVP opened up in a rapid-fire blaze of blue light. "ZAAM! ZAAAM!" That's when Hall noticed her altimeter and speedometer dim and fade. The first missile exploded and then the second. Hall's ears felt funny for a moment. Then it came to her; she wasn't hearing any of the dim background electrical noise from her headphones, she wasn't hearing static. She wasn't hearing anything at all from her main radio.

"ZAAM! ZAAAAAM!" The third missile erupted into a flaming ball of twisting wreckage. Then the fourth. All around Hall's Valkyrie, lights began to suddenly flicker and die except for the AMVP which just kept going full power. The warning lights, the early warning system, the control gauges, one by one they just stopped functioning. Their lights faded quietly away. All the while there was a fantastic display of metal explosions to her right as the AMVP kept firing and firing turning missiles five and six into violent black and red clouds of twisting metal.

At 25,000 feet above the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico, Hall was running out of options... and fast...

Resorting to her training, Hall knew what few options she had left. Those options are:
1. Turn on auxiliary power (the Valkyrie's power source lasts for years and years; turning this on could buy Elinor time).
2. Increase power to the engines and attempt to land (the Valkyrie, believe it or not, can float if landed properly - this is seen in Macross the Movie).
3. Turn the blasted AMVP off (this should shut the system down and immediately restore power).
4. Punch out (the canopy ejection system is powered solely by hydraulic systems in case of emergencies just like this one; this should save Hall's life).
5. Anything else she can think of.
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Loper stared at their receding figures, clenched his fists, and snarled.  "You've Gotta Be Shittin' Me," he invoked the ultimate statement of military pilot disbelief.  "These fucking pricks are dicking with our lives.  Hall, I know this is your first time testing at Eglin, but believe me, this is not the way testing is supposed to go."

Hall shook her head at the scientists' backs.  "I'd think not, sir.  Have those guys even been in the air, do you think?"  She shook her head, clearly not expecting a response.

Hall received a transmission from a person with a Hispanic accent who sounded easygoing.  "Hey, new girl," Gonzalez-Rodriguez said, "don't go all Kung Fu crazy on me if I 'shoot you down,' O.K.?  It's nothin' personal, amiga."  

"No'm," Hall replied.  "You shoot me down, I'm thinkin' it's the fault of those poké-brained groundpounders.  So you just have at, I'd not mind seein' 'em down a peg or two."

Goro was the first to give voice.  "Hot damn, I can see those beams from way out here an' it's broad daylight.  Talk about giving away your position, no?"

Loper was the next to chime in.  "You think it's bright now.  Imagine that during a night mission."

"Oh, hell no."  Goro winced.  "I'd be blinded.  Everyone nearby would.  My wingman.  Everybody."

Hall flinched from the sudden light, shaking her head.  "On the bright side..." heh heh "...it might just blind the enemy, too.  Still, I hope that's somethin' they can fix."

Again, Goro casually clicked off one missile after another and watched them speed away.  "Fox two...  Fox two..." she repeated until all twelve missiles were in flight toward Hall.  Goro thought out loud.  "Longbow Three, wow..." she smacked her lips and thought about her own AMVP-less Valkyrie.  "I don't know if I could take all that."

"That's what she said."  The Wild Wolf grinned.

Off the radio, Goro suddenly burst into laughter.  She grinned too and had to stop herself from facepalming.  "Ai Dios mio...  Loper, you sonnova bitch.  I'm'a get you for that."

"Yeah, yeah.  Promises, promises," he goaded.

Hall grinned, but didn't join in.  The humor somehow underscored the vast mass of metal heading her way.  Even knowing they were inert, seeing that many missiles locked onto her was a little unnerving.  Her smile widened as the AMVP continued to do its job.  Until...

At 25,000 feet above the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico, Hall was running out of options...  and fast...  

"What the hell...?"  Her eyes flicked to display after display, humor all but forgotten now that each was going dark.  "Poké-brained desk jockeys..."  Her mind searched rapidly for options.  "Longbow Three to Longbow One.  Don't know if you can hear me, sir, radio's out, and near enough everything else on main power is going dark too.  Except the AMVP, which you know."  She paused, but not hearing anything in reply -- not that I expected to, be surprised if he could hear me -- she just went on.  It was like talking to herself, but less lonely, and hey, maybe they could hear.  If nothing else, the flight recorder ought to be picking it up still, and if the worst happened, at least the next poor sod they shoved this onto would know what she had tried.  "Switching to Auxiliary Power."  It might not fix the problem, but it sure would give her time to find a better solution.  If there was one.
(Good o' Billy Idol and his energetic music helped me write this scene. Call it... atmosphere? =) )
"To Be A Lover" by Billy Idol

The Elephant

"ZAM!" "ZAAAM!" "ZZZAM!" The AMVP blasted away, its radiant bolts of energy streaking across the sky. One by one, the missiles exploded like rapidly-blooming flowers made of black smoke and showers of fiery steel.

Hall went through the procedure to activate auxiliary power with the quickness of an expert. Having drilled and drilled in practice, going through these motions were second nature. Yet as she did so, the AMVP continued its merciless barrage. "ZAM!" "ZAMM!!" "ZAAAAAM!" It was like Hall was in a race against the AMVP and the machine was winning. She flipped on the last switch to activate auxiliary power right as her holographic heads-up display died. Suddenly, the heads-up display gleamed to life again, filling her vision with technical data. As her engines roared behind her, the shooting continued. And continued.

It was right then that Hall's brain began to knock on the door of her consciousness. It was like her instincts were trying desperately to tell her something. "ZAAM!" "ZAMM!" went the shining blue blasts again and again. And that is when it dawned on Hall...

The AMVP had fired more than twelve times. It was still firing. Any remaining missiles should have hit her Valkyrie by now. As her auxiliary power kicked in, the AMVP blasted away and less than three heartbeats later, the holographic display died again. Hall was flying blind. And the AMVP was still firing.

Loper's voice came over the radio. Not the main radio which was as silent as Lincoln's tomb, but the secondary radio with its own power source Loper had demanded be installed in both their vehicles. His voice was stressed but still kept its cool edge. "Longbow Three, shut the AMVP down now."

Hall flipped the switch. Nothing happened.

"What the fuck, over? The damn thing's firing at the debris from the missiles!"

"ZAAM!" "ZAM!" Auxiliary power had failed as quickly as it had been brought to life. It should have brought Hall more time; it didn't. Like a starving energy vampire, the AMVP seemed to consume every bit of power it could get its circuits on.


All of a sudden, Hall heard a sound that would shake the core of any test pilot. It was not so much a new sound as it was the lack of a sound - quiet from behind her. Her left engine had just shut down. The silence it had created caught Hall's attention as if God Himself had laid His hand on her shoulder. Her Valkyrie began to spin to the left and plummet in a deadly downward spiral through the afternoon sky. G-forces took hold of her body and pressed her up against the right side of the cockpit. Pulling on her stick and pressing her pedals changed nothing. There was no power to work the systems. Without warning, Hall was treated to a majestic view, not of the afternoon sky and horizon, but a spinning panorama of deep blue everywhere she looked. That blue was the Gulf of Mexico. She was headed right at it from less than 25,000 feet. The only thing she had left was her right engine.


Then the right engine died.

No thrumming from behind her, no familiar and comforting reverberations flowing through her aircraft. Just dead silence except for the sound of the wind whipping violently past the glass of her cockpit and the ever-so-loud sound of her own breathing in her helmet.

"Longbow Three!"

Hall quickly realized that she was no longer really in the most complex fighter ever built by humanity. With no power the Valkyrie was now a 100,000,000 credit coffin, possibly the most expensive coffin ever designed. Perhaps, being mega-damage, the Valkyrie would survive the near five-mile drop to the water below. One thing was absolutely certain - Hall would not.

That is when, at 20,000 feet and dropping like a rock in an uncontrolled free fall, 2nd Lieutenant Elinor Hall of Georgia met the Elephant.

Real Life author and veteran F-16 fighter pilot Dan Hartman describes the Elephant like this:


Four of them that I could count. Even as I watched, they began to arc around in our direction. I glanced at my warning display and saw several big "3" symbols overlapping each other in the middle of the scope. A sharp, cold spear shot up from my belly, through my chest, and I tried to swallow but couldn't. I had just caught my first glimpse of the Elephant.

Seeing the Elephant, a symbol of combat since Hannibal crossed the Alps, is looking Death in the face. Your first real glimpse of your own mortality.

It hadn't really sunk in until that moment that all of this was very real. The distant black smears against the pale sky had been aircraft with men inside, a few moments ago. Those smoke trails coming up at me were live SAMs. High-explosive warheads traveling at three times the speed of sound and coming directly at my butt. . .

My skin felt prickly and, as time slowed down, my awareness increased. I noticed that the cockpit smell like a wet dog -- we had sheepskin covers over the ejection seats, and this one had gotten wet and mildewed. The big engine vibrated through the floor and I felt it throbbing against my heels. There was a fly crawling across the HUD. I had just seen the Elephant. No amount of training can prepare a man for that first realization that other men are actively trying to kill him. Hopefully, you don't freeze; ideally, you just react.

I did.*

(*Page 69 from Dan Hampton's Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat)

What does Lt. Elinor Hall do?
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"Longbow Three, shut the AMVP down now."

Hall flipped the switch.  Nothing happened.

"No response from AMVP."  Her voice remained steady; clearly there were problems, but they weren't unmanageable...

Auxiliary power had failed as quickly as it had been brought to life.

...yet.  "Auxiliary power gone.  The AMVP's just eatin' it all."

Her left engine had just shut down.

Hall's face froze into expressionlessness.  She probably should have expected this; no power meant no power for anything, but somehow it was more real when the G-forces were pushing you into an unwanted view of the water below.  "Longbow One, left engine has just cut--"

Then the right engine died.

''--fuck."  That last word was hardly more than a whisper, not meant for the radio really, but it came across anyhow.

What does Lt. Elinor Hall do?

Hall stared at the sea more-or-less filling her view.  More or less, because the spin hadn't quit with her engines, but she was still heading almost straight down.  She swallowed hard, or tried to, her mouth suddenly dry as cotton.  Death waited in those deep blue-green waves.  For a moment she could only stare.  It seemed forever before Loper's voice roused her to action once more, but when it did, she discovered an interesting thing: while her heart and soul had been coming to grips with impending doom, her backbrain had been working on its own, and now it presented her with what it had decided.

A) You can always eject.  It's got its own power source, just for times like this.  No need to panic.

B) A reboot of the whole system might fix the problem.  But it'll take a while, so if it doesn't, you won't have time to get out.

C) The damn' AMVP's still firin' at missile bits.  It could decide you're a target once you're in the air away from the Valkyrie.

Hall nodded to herself, and spoke to the only other person (well, human, anyhow) who could hear her.  "Both engines 're out an' that AMVP's suckin' any and all power like there's no tomorrow.  Going to shut down the whole flamin' thing an' punch out myself.  Damn, but you tell Goro she wasn't really s'posed to shoot me down, eh?"  She didn't wait for a response, but started right in, sending all systems for a complete shutdown.  Hopefully that damn' gizmo will go with it!  She checked her harness, grabbed the secondary radio and held it close to her chest.  OK, Lord, let's get this right the first time, please?  She reached for the ejection controls, trying to time it for a moment when the spin was on the way up rather than on the way down.
(GM Note: This music helped me write this scene. =) )
"Mighty Wings" by Cheap Trick for the Top Gun Motion Picture Soundtrack

The high-powered walkie-talkie in the secondary communication system came alive again with Loper's voice, but he did not sound excited anymore. "Copy all, Longbow Three. Hang tight, I'm coming," said the Wild Wolf in smooth tones. "Yep, shut her all the way down. When you punch out, I'll catch you."

Elinor was beginning the shutdown sequence of the VF-1A when...

I must destroy all the things.

It was a thought, voiceless and colorless, that suddenly just appeared in Elinor's mind. It seemed to come from nowhere. The thought was definitely not her own. It was an experience jarring enough to make her pause in mid-shutdown.

Then, a rushing blur then raced between the Gulf of Mexico and her canopy, about the size of an aircraft not 100 yards away from her spinning canopy. Something in Elinor's mind pulled her attention to the one thing she has not needed to look at since this incident started - the AMVP's rapidly-moving gun camera on her holographic display. Somehow, with the rest of her heads-up display gone, this one electronic image remained untouched and undimmed. Hall knew that the AMVP's camera was effectively the electronic eye in which the device sought, selected, and attacked its targets. But Elinor saw that it was not locked upon an incoming missile; there were none left. Nor was the screen following missile debris; all of that had since fallen down and away in smouldering, smoking chunks.

The AMVP was tracking something large, something bearing a bold drawing of the American flag and the words "Liberty Belle" proudly painted across its hull.

It was locked on Loper's Ajax.



There was the sound of an explosion where Hall could not see.

"I'm hit. It's minor. But the hell with this."

A moment of cold silence passed. Another bright burst of light flashed somewhere outside of Hall's canopy. Then suddenly, Hall's Valkyrie shuddered as if it had struck something solid. It was not the Gulf of Mexico; she could still see that. She continued the shutdown sequence.


"Hit again. Left wing. Minor." The Wild Wolf's tone was unconcerned.

Elinor found her hand on the ejection switch. Then somewhere in the depths of Hall's mind came the words again.

Destroy the thing! Destroy the--

Then came another tremendously huge blast of radiance. Immediately, Hall's Valkyrie trembled violently as if gripped by some great hand and shaken. A startling explosion had rocked Hall's Valkyrie. Suddenly, the canopy came to life as the VF-1A's holographic heads-up display beamed to life. The silence disappeared as her twin engines roared and shook the aircraft with their power like twin gods entering battle. Power flowed once again through the Valkyrie as all systems became active, if disjointed and confused.

Immediately, a woman's voice, thick with worry, excitement, and Hispanic accent, came yelling over the primary radio in mid-transmission. "--kay? Ai carajo! I forgot her damn name! Lissen! Bruce Chica or whateva you call yaself! You gotta eject, honee! Get da hell outta--"

(OOC translation)
"Ai carajo!" = Spanish for "Oh dammit!"
"Chica" = Spanish for "Girl"

Then Goro's voice simply disappeared replaced by the Wild Wolf's in Hall's helmet. His tone was ice cold and unhurried. "Break. Longbow Three, pop Guardian, give her full thrust. You need your legs under you with everything you've got to stop your descent."

Descent. It was not like Hall had forgotten she was descending. Far from it. Still, her eyes glanced at her altimeter. The digital readout read 5,000 feet and falling fast. The same readout showed damage to her vehicle. Many of her sensors were going haywire. As her hand left the ejection switch and returned to the flight controls, she entered the command. In the blink of an eye, her transformable aircraft sprouted legs and arms. Her Valkyrie's right arm held her GU-11 Gun Pod. Using her rudders and stick, she righted the aircraft. All there was left to do now to restore safety was stop the descent. Yet, all around her her VF-1A was alerting her to lost sensors, disrupted targeting computer, and system damage. Her VF-1A seemed to think it had no head sensors anymore.

"Ignore your sensors and smoke, do not transform into battloid, and keep the gun away from the fire. Now give her everything."

With a motion on the controls from her left hand, Hall put the "pedal to the metal." The Valkyrie's twin afterburners screamed as tremendous gusts of flame and power roared out from underneath Hall. It was like her entire aircraft was being throttled by giant hands. Immediately, the G-forces hit her from below. One of her instructors had described this sensation as the Incredible Hulk grabbing her entire body and squashing her down into her seat. The instructor was not wrong. Hall could hardly move. She heard a strange sound coming from Gold-knows-where only to realize it was the sound her own body involuntarily groaning from the incredible exertion. Unable to do anything else, her eyes glanced around.

She saw smoke. Thick black smoke rapidly trailing upward. It was coming from her aircraft.

She also saw an Ajax in jet mode pointing downward just off her starboard side descending alongside of her at the same rate. Hall's keen eyes noticed it had two fresh blast marks on it.

Hall then gained one hell of a headache as all of the blood in her body rushed upwards from her feet and legs and into her chest and brain. Her entire world was one loud, flashing circus of lights and alarms until finally... finally.... there was a blessed release. The hands of Fate had gently released Hall and with them away, the downward forces of gravity had given up control on her aircraft and body as her Valkyrie hovered, smoking, just 2,500 feet above the shining blue of the Gulf of Mexico.

Following long, long hours of drilled practice, Hall's left hand gently let up on the throttle, her feet eased up on the rudders lest she spill herself and create a new incident. Instead, she trusted the aircraft to keep her alive now by simply allowing the wounded Valkyrie to hover there in place above the water.

Long moments passed as her body slowly recovered. Again, her eyes flicked starboard. There was the "Liberty Belle," facing her, hovering with her in the shape of a helicopter, its rotor blades spinning rhythmically - Hall and Loper seemed just like two friendly birds floating less than half a mile above the shimmering rush of soft blue waves. Hall noticed her hands hurt. Ached, actually. She realized then that she had both her stick and throttle control in death grips. She told her hands to relax. At very first, they would not listen any better than her lungs would not stop sucking in air in rapid gulps. On the inside of her flight suit, she was covered in sweat. It took what felt like minutes to finally restore calm to her mind, but in other people she knew the same effort might have taken years. It is not easy to see Death.

Somewhere in the twisting, psychic channels of her mind, Hall could see an image in the sky before her Valkyrie. She knew it was likely her mind playing tricks on her. She had just experienced a great deal of stress and the human brain often had very strange ways of dealing with that. But there... in the deep clouds of the tornado warning far off to her west, she could swear she could see the receding hind end of some gigantic animal casually strolling away into the clouds. And not just any animal. It was an elephant. But just a moment later, there came from the north a second Valkyrie screaming out of the sky in jet mode toward Hall. Hall knew who it was. Goro. But when Hall looked back to the cloud, it was just a cloud.

"Hey, Hall." It was Loper. Hall could sense a smartass smile in his voice. "Got a present for you. Got the colonel on the line. He wants to talk to you. I imagine you got a few things to tell him? Here."

Hall had never met Colonel Sharp face-to-face. As second-in-command of Eglin base, Sharp was too busy an officer to keep in one place for long. Still, she knew him by reputation.

"Longbow Three, Zeus Two. Come in." The colonel sounded calm and professional, but yet there was the unmistakable hint of compassion in his tone. When Hall returned, the colonel continued in a way that gave one the impression that he chose all of his words carefully.

"Longbow One has informed me you've just experienced some serious... issues with R & D's latest invention. Firstly, are you all right? Secondly..." there was a concerned sigh, "...is there anything you want to tell me about what just happened?" As if to sweeten his request, he added, "You have permission to speak freely, flight lieutenant."

As Goro joined the scene, Loper guided the trio of veritech aircraft back toward Eglin base in a wide, easy formation. There was no rush - there had been enough of that for one day.
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There was the sound of an explosion where Hall could not see.

Uh-oh.  Hall didn't speak aloud; there was too much going on for that and in any case she wasn't really talking to anyone, on the radio or otherwise.  Wasn't she?

Destroy the thing!  Destroy the--  

No, you stupid, that's a friendly--

Then came another tremendously huge blast of radiance.


Power flowed once again through the Valkyrie as all systems became active, if disjointed and confused.

...huh.  Loper must've taken it out. Boy, am I gonna tease him about firing on me later...

"Break.  Longbow Three, pop Guardian, give her full thrust.  You need your legs under you with everything you've got to stop your descent."

She obeyed instantly, as she had throughout.  You had to trust your chase pilot in test flights, especially the ones like this that had gone all to hell.  It wasn't about rank; it was about experience (and boy, did Loper have experience!) and knowing your partner could see things you couldn't.

Her VF-1A seemed to think it had no head sensors anymore.

That got a chuckle out of her, soft and shaky but definitely sincere.  Poor baby, we'll get you fixed up again.  Just need that nasty parasite off you first.

"Ignore your sensors and smoke, do not transform into battloid, and keep the gun away from the fire.  Now give her everything."

"Y'all just clear my headspace so I don't hit you.  You know I can't see up there real well just now."  Her hands moved even as she spoke, wasting no time.  That gulf wasn't getting any softer by looking at it.

She saw smoke.  Thick black smoke rapidly trailing upward.  It was coming from her aircraft.  

That was about the last thing any pilot wanted to see, topped only (or maybe just equalled) by dozens of missiles flying at her.  The which she'd also experienced this flight.  She grinned to herself at the thought, trusting in her comrades to know the severity of this particular smoke-causing injury to her Valkyrie.

"Longbow One has informed me you've just experienced some serious... issues with R & D's latest invention.  Firstly, are you all right?  Secondly..." there was a concerned sigh, "...is there anything you want to tell me about what just happened?"  As if to sweeten his request, he added, "You have permission to speak freely, flight lieutenant."

"Yessir, I'm fine, but my mecha and Captain Loper's 're gonna need some shop time."  She paused, considering her words.  "Well, sir, good news is, it did what they said it would.  Didn't miss a single missile.  Bad news is, their little gizmo is gonna get people killed if they don't teach it to keep its hands off our mechas' operatin' power.  Damn thing sucked up everythin' it could, including auxiliary, and didn't leave any to run the Valkyrie with."  She paused again, then continued.  "And sir, with all due respect, but damn if I think you oughta let them send me up, nor any other pilot for that matter, until they've been taught some manners.  Treated me and Loper like we were just button pushers, wouldn't tell us a thing about the AMVP or how it was installed or anythin', nor even offered a manual, which I'd'a read if they had.  Said we were 'frettin'' and just refused to answer any and all questions.  I don't like goin' up ignorant of my aircraft, sir.  And maybe there's somethin' they could'a told me that would've helped better than Loper shootin' the damn thing off my head so it would stop shootin' at him.  Sir."  She frowned at the radio, wondering if she'd gone overboard despite the colonel's "speak freely," then shrugged.  "Maybe takin' their cell phones away durin' preflight might help."  She smiled, but the smile faded as she went on.  "Sir, it was pretty clear they took their games more seriously than our safety.  Even if they didn't think there'd be any problem, that still isn't right."
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There was some silence over the radio as Hall concluded. Then the colonel's voice came over in the tones of a man who was considering quite a many things. "I'm seeing a lot that isn't right, but I still think there is a solution."

"No shit?" Loper asked.

"None. Longbow team, land those aircraft. I'll meet you on the field and we'll find that solution. If you'll excuse me, I have a meeting to cancel."

With that, Colonel Sharp signed off and the Eglin airfield tower contacted Longbow Three directly with directions to a landing zone. The tower's radio operator had a down-home Southern accent every bit as thick as Elinor's own, though it sounded like it came from a lady twice Hall's age. "Longbow Three, you just keep on three-five-zero at five hundred. Don't you go over two hundred knots now. Nice an' easy-like. Yer in range, sweetie." That confident voice, whom later Cody would identify as Molly's, guided Hall back to Eglin base and to her landing zone.

The landing zone was easy to see. It would be pretty hard to miss seeing as half a dozen red and white Eglin Fire Department vehicles with their lights flashing were waiting for Hall and her smoking Valkyrie. Set in a wide semi-circle, Eglin's Fire Emergency Services were ready for action as Hall touched down in Guardian mode. About a dozen firefighters, some clad in yellow, others in a bright silvery chrome, were at the controls of their various trucks and equipment. The moment Hall set down, the foam started to fly generously under her cockpit. Following the instructions of the tower as provided by the Fire Department, Hall shut her Valkyrie down all the way, opened her canopy, and was swiftly and courteously led down the mechanical bridge and stairs provided by one of the fire trucks. There, she was checked out by a trio of paramedic-trained firefighters. After being given a large bottle of Powerade to restore liquids and electrolytes lost by her body's incredible amount of sweating, Hall looked up and saw an older, average-sized man dressed in green camouflage fatigues with no small amount of pins and embroidery. He was sturdily built with wide biceps and the patient stance of a leader. He wore a field cap and peered through round bifocal glasses that only added to his stately presence.

He watched over Hall wordlessly, trusting the firefighters to do their duty. Above his left breast pocket, Hall could read the word, "Sharp," and he looked every bit the name.

After seeing for himself that Hall was indeed in good shape, he grinned and asked the lead firefighter. "Do you think she is going to make it?"

"Yeah," the captain replied with mock-worry. "We told her this is a non-smoking airfield, but noooo, she had to go and smoke up the joint anyway. Test pilots these days..." Both the colonel and the captain shared a chuckle. "How are you, sir?"

"Huh. If I were any busier, I'd be a private all over again." Colonel Sharp nodded to Hall with a good-hearted chuckle that sounded true. "Flight lieutenant, I recommend you follow the instructions of the firefighters. The sooner you quit smoking, the healthier life you'll live."

Then he indicated her damaged aircraft. With the fire out, the firefighters escorted Hall and Sharp around the truck and there Hall saw the real extent of the damage to her Valkyrie - her head and sensor array were not damaged; they were gone. The entire head assembly had been destroyed. What was left was a foam-filled, black-scarred nightmare of open circuitry. This meant, had she transformed into the human-like battloid form, she would have had not only a smoking, burning, headless Valkyrie, but an entirely new threat to her life as all that dripping, blazing debris would have had nowhere to but straight down on her, thanks to the ever-present power of Earth's gravity.

"Ladies, gentlemen," the colonel indicated every firefighter within distance of his bold voice, "keep up the good work. I am proud of you." One by one, they smiled and saluted him - an honor he immediately and wholeheartedly returned. It was likely quite clear to Hall by this point that Colonel Sharp had a reputation here at Eglin ASC base, and it was a good one.

"Let's meet up with your partners in crime, shall we?" A good distance away from the fire department vehicles stood an M-770 staff car painted in camouflage colors with clear markings and license plates depicting the vehicle's belonging on Eglin base. Sharp had no driver; he was his own driver. He opened and closed the passenger door for Hall first before rounding the car and sitting in the driver's seat. The ride was short. The hangar where the Wild Wolf and Goro had parked was not far. Both captains stood chatting in their flight gear just outside the hangars where their veritechs waited for service. As the colonel's car came to a halt, the captains clambered in. Like Hall, they smelled of sweat and warm flight suits. Like Hall, they also had bottles of Powerade.

While Hall had met Loper, she had certainly not met Captain Maria Gonzalez-Rodriguez a.k.a. Goro. Goro turned out to be about five feet of explosive Hispanic energy. Tough-looking and well-muscled, Goro had a stare as if she were looking at everything at once. Right now, that stare was all over the luxuries of this well-kept, leather-clad sedan. Now that she was out of the Valkyrie cockpit, she spoke differently than when Hall had heard her on the radio.

"Hey, Colonel Papi! I wanna sweet ride like this one! How I get me one'a dese?"

(OOC translation from Spanish)
"Papi" = "Daddy"; a playful term usually used by women to a man of respected status.

Sharp could not help but chuckle again. "Don't get one of these, Goro; they'll make you use it. All of the time."

"Hall," Loper nodded, "this is Goro. Goro, Elinor Hall from Georgia."

"Heeeyyy, Bruce White Girl! Como esta, chica? You O.K.? You nearly took a sweem in da gulf!" She reached her hand out to shake Elinor's own.

(OOC translation from Spanish)
"Como esta, chica?" = How is it going, girl?

"Yes, let's talk about that near-swim." Sharp said as he pulled the car around a hangar that seemed to lack prying eyes. There, he kept the engine running and the air conditioner blowing under the afternoon skies. Sharp's eyes were all-business now. "Hall, I had time to watch the Wild Wolf's video a few times before you landed. Loper and I have come to an agreement. However," he turned to Goro, "I would like to hear what you have to say, Goro."

"Oh, Colonel Papi, don' get me started!"

"That's exactly what I want you to do. Yours is the only perspective I lack."

"Colonel, those motherfuckers, I mean, them R & D people almost kill Bruce Chica! You saw da footage! The more I think about it, the more loca I get! I telling you!" Goro looked around the car with wide, expressive eyes. "You see? I'm starting to lose my English! That's how bad it is!"

(OOC translation from Spanish)
"Loca" = Crazy (feminine)

Sharp turned directly toward her. "Then tell me in Spanish."

"Tu habla Espanol, Colonel Papi?!"

"Si, capitan. Adelante."

"Ai Dios miooooo, Paaaapi! Miiiiiiidaaaaa! Those motherfuckers..." and then Goro rocketed off into a blistering, heartfelt ten-minute tirade in Spanish in which the only two words in English she used were "those motherfuckers." And she used them often. Her hands were in motion non-stop and her face was full of surprise one moment and worry the next. She seemed to shift from fury to confusion to joy then back to fury all in one sentence. She only paused when Colonel Sharp, in impeccable Spanish that did not quite sound like Goro's, asked questions. When listening to her answers, he just let her go off full blast without interruption. It was as respectful and rapid-fire a conversation as Hall had likely ever seen. And when Goro was done, she was not even out of breath. Loper looked out of breath just listening to it all.

(OOC translations from Spanish)
"Tu habla Espanol?" = You speak Spanish?
"Si, capitan. Adelante." = Yes, captain. Go ahead.
"Ai Dios mio..." = Oh my God...
"Mida!" = Look! (a Puerto Rican term often used to request someone's immediate attention, not just visually, but in conversation.)

Colonel Sharp looked to Hall and Loper. "All right. Do either of you have anything to add?"

Loper leaned back in the seat with his hands behind his head and replied, "I think Goro covered it all." He closed his eyes. Then he exclaimed. "Ow! What the fuck, over?"

Goro was grinning mischievously. She had used those muscled fingers of hers to pinch his buttocks once he closed his eyes. "Remember, Codee? Remember what'chu said on da radio? 'Dat's what she said!' I tol' you I was gonna get you back, didn't I?"

"Aw fuck!" Cody's smile was wide. He knew he'd had it coming.

"Im'a woman of my word, amigo!"

Looking satisfied, the colonel clapped his hands together. "And I am a man of mine as R & D will soon learn."

The leather seats creaked noisily as Loper and Goro suddenly got serious, leaned forward, and listened.

Colonel Sharp drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. "R & D's problem is that they are not invested in the situation." He glanced at Hall and gave a thoughtful smile. "That needs to change and thanks to an idea Hall gave me earlier, I think I know how to go about it."

With that, he drove each of the pilots back to their quarters. Over the car radio, Hall overheard Eglin's weather reporter give the all-clear sign for the tornado warning west of Eglin. As Colonel Sharp made his stops, hearty handshakes and farewells took place. Hall was the final pilot to be dropped off. The last Hall saw of Colonel Sharp's staff car that day was the unrushed turn it made in the direction of Research and Development's test facilities.

The next morning was a beautiful morning. Hardly any clouds were in the sky as if the tornado warning from the previous day had swept them all away. Hall was up when her smartphone rang. It was odd to get a call so soon after sunrise and this call was marked urgent.

As Hall answered, her smartphone came to life with video. "Happening Now" it reported. Someone was transferring current real-time video feed straight to her screen.

It was Captain Loper. He was in the cockpit of a Valkyrie wearing the biggest, most-satisfied grin a man could have. The cockpit was in motion. In fact, it was moving extremely fast. Behind the Wild Wolf, Hall could see, not the near-cloudless sky and the orange of the rising sun and horizon, but instead the multitude of colors and unnatural shapes that made up Eglin ASC base. It was as if Loper had the nose of his aircraft pointed straight upward with the Eglin airfield's runway directly underneath him.

Then Hall heard the air-shaking roar of blasting afterburners in the otherwise still morning dawn. Looking out above the airfield, she saw a single Valkyrie in jet mode, going balls-out blazing toward the heavens, riding on a golden-red pillar of fire. It was unmistakably Cody.

And then she heard the screaming.


Cody was smiling wide for it was not him screaming.


Cody winked at the camera. "Hey, Leeanne! Check out the video in the back seat!" Cody pressed a button. Hall had a perfect view of the back seat of the Valkyrie including the tall young man plastered to the seat by the immense amount of G-forces stressing onto every part of his body. Hall recognized the guy as one of the R & D engineers in charge of the AMVP who had refused her and Loper information in order to instead chase Pokemon.

"Hey! Is everything O.K. back there?" Cody yelled with the greatest of sarcasm. "You're not having any problems back there, are you?"


"Leeanne? We're doing test runs for the next AMVP and, well, each one of the engineers involved with the AMVP gets to have a ride each time we go up! If any of the engineers fail to ride with us, the colonel has sworn to take back his signature, cancelling the program! I think they're fully invested now! What do you say? Ha ha ha ha! Hey, buddy! You're not gonna hurl back there, are you?!"

"HAAAAAALP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!" screamed the flattened, hapless engineer. For he knew his ride into this new AMVP testing was just beginning...

(Game Master note: This concludes the prologue for Elinor "Bruce Leeanne" Hall. Kaerri, while you are welcome to reply to this in-character, providing Elinor's thoughts and feelings, I believe the next time we roleplay Hall will be in Chapter One. =) )
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Colonel Sharp nodded to Hall with a good-hearted chuckle that sounded true.  "Flight lieutenant, I recommend you follow the instructions of the firefighters.  The sooner you quit smoking, the healthier life you'll live."

Hall grinned.  "I will if the Valkyrie will, sir!  That way we're both healthy."  She reached out and patted the nearest, non-damaged part of the mecha as they walked.

The entire head assembly had been destroyed.

Hall winced and shook her head.    "Poor girl, but she did her best for me."  She reached out again, but thought better of it as she wasn't sure the area they were closest to was safe to touch.  Instead she shook her head again.

"Heeeyyy, Bruce White Girl!  Como esta, chica?  You O.K.?  You nearly tooka sweem!"  She reached her hand out to shake Elinor's own.

Hall grinned.  "Hey yourself, Miss Goro!  Nice to meet you when you're not shootin' at me."  Her handshake is firm but not too hard, the grip of someone who's confident in herself and doesn't have anything to prove.  She meets Goro's eyes the same way, confident but not prideful, and genuinely pleased to make the other pilot's acquaintance.

And when Goro was done, she was not even out of breath.  Loper looked out of breath just listening to it all.

Hall just stared, having looked back and forth like it was a tennis match instead of a conversation.  Except that she knew tennis, and wouldn't have a clue what was being said here except that, well, she'd lived through it.

Colonel Sharp looked to Hall and Loper.  "All right.  Do either of you have anything to add?"

Hall shook her head.  "Nossir.  Video plus what I said earlier, plus whatever Goro saw from outside, that's probably everythin'."

"Aw fuck!"  Cody's smile was wide.  He knew he'd had it coming.

"Im'a woman of my word!"

Hall grins cheerfully, but otherwise stays out of this one.

"Leeanne?  We're doing test runs for the next AMVP and, well, each one of the engineers involved with the AMVP gets to have a ride each time we go up!  If any of the engineers fail to ride with us, the colonel has sworn to take back his signature, cancelling the program!  I think they're fully invested now!  What do you say?  Ha ha ha ha!  Hey, buddy!  You're not gonna hurl back there, are you?!"

Hall outright laughs, though her eyes show just the teensiest bit of sympathy for the engineer.  "Sounds like a great idea to me, sir!  A little hands-on experience is just what they need."  She sprawled out on her bed (she did have a few minutes of free time just now, after all) and watched the video with glee.  "And maybe field testin' will get them a good grounding while they're at it!"
(GM mood music)
Flamenco guitar by Don Cortes Maya

(During the car drive back...)

Hall grinned. "Hey yourself, Miss Goro! Nice to meet you when you're not shootin' at me." Her handshake is firm but not too hard, the grip of someone who's confident in herself and doesn't have anything to prove. She meets Goro's eyes the same way, confident but not prideful, and genuinely pleased to make the other pilot's acquaintance.

Goro's handshake was strong and warm like her heart. "Wasn't my idea, chica. Mista Wild Wooolf over here said he needed somebody to do it! I didn't wanna go shootin' at no new people, but noooo!"

Loper rolled his eyes and smiled. "Oh yeah. That's just the way it went. 'Hey, Goro! Come shoot down our latest recruit for me, would ya? I'm too busy to do it myself.'"

"You see how he is?" Goro pointed first at Cody then at Elinor. "See, I'm glad we met, Elly-nor! You're nice! You know, if it wasn't for you, I might start thinking all white people were like Codee!"

Hearing this, Colonel Sharp could not help but chuckle. "Does that go for me too?"

"Oh no, Colonel Papi! Your Spanish is too good to count you as one'a them. I'm thinkin' you must be Puerto Rican like me, right?" Goro grinned with great confidence and winked. "Tha's why we get along so well, see? We come from where people keep it real. Not like Mexico, right? Only burritos and bitches come outta Mexico. Ain't tha' right, sir?"

Colonel Sharp stared at Goro with such incredulousness that Goro knew immediately that she had made some horrible and dire error.

"Captain," he stated with pride. "My mother is Mexican."


"My mother taught me my Spanish."

Goro became fearful and exasperated. "Wait, wait... You mean..." Her voice went up an octave as she squeaked. "I just called your momma a puta?"

(Translation from Spanish)
Puta = bitch.


"OHHHH NOOOOO!" Goro wailed and looked upon her hands as if she had blood on them. "I'M AN ASSHOLE!! NOOOOO!" She reached for Cody's uniform and began pulling on it in desperation. "Codeee! You gotta help me!"

Cody writhed. "He's a colonel! I'm a captain! What do you want me to do about it?!"

Goro's hands were as expressive as ever. "You gotta do somethin'! I called his momma a puta! Now he's gonna be like General Steele an' take away my super-fast Valkyrie, Codeee! He's gonna turn me into one'a his dumb tankers and make me putt around in one'a them silly little Tonka Truck Veritech tanks all day!"

Colonel Sharp's eyes became wider and wider with Goro's every word and though she could not know it, for she was not facing him, the colonel was trying not to burst out laughing. It was not easy.

"I getta 'nuff short jokes as it is, Codee! You think I wanna be stuck in one'a them useless dinky stupid G.I. Joe-lookin' trash cans? I mean all they do is go around da battlefield an' look funny an' don't hit anything! You gotta help me!"

Cody tried. "Sir, I really don't think she meant to call your mother anything."

But the colonel had already made up his mind. "There, there, capitan," he said reassuringly. "I won't make you drive one of my slow, beloved, history-changing tanks..."

Goro's face was full of relief. "Oh, THANK YOU, sir! That's a fate worse than death, you know. From now on, I'll put your momma right up there with the Virgin Mary, sir--"

"Besides, I'd much rather instead see you behind the wheel of one of my MAC II Monsters..."

"OH NOOOOOOOOOO!! Colonel Papi!! Noooooo!" Red-faced and out of breath, she began to cry.

"I don't mean it," he chuckled.

"Whaaaat? You really don't?!"

That's when the hover car pulled to a stop right outside her quarters. "I don't mean a word of it, Goro. Vaya con Dios, capitan."

(Translation from Spanish)
Vaya con Dios = "Go with God" (a common Mexican farewell and prayer)

So she punched Cody in the stomach because he was there and made her exit.

"Hey! What the fuck, over?!"

"You could'a done a better job helping me! See you tomorrow!"

"Not if I see you first!" Cody turned to Elinor. "You see that?"

He tried to get the colonel in on it, but the elder officer just smiled and kept on driving.
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