Disclaimer: Robotech New Generation is the creation of Tatsunoko Studio and Harmony Gold Ltd USA. All of the characters who appear here or are mentioned are the property of their
Her grip on the weapon is white-knuckled yet steady. There is hardly any time in which to analyze the situation or dwell on the possibility of whether she is more furious
at him or at the situation because her life is on the line. As are the lives of those she has come to care for, to trust as they have come to trust and care for her in turn.
She has been hurt before when the crunch time came and hurt others but Rook Bartley is nothing short of fiercely independent and resilient, and in the back of her minde
she told herself that, "No matter what happens she will not allow any more people to get hurt, if she can help it.'
On the heels of that comes another, perhaps unbidden perhaps not, "that the man could not really be held responsible for his actions, not after the aliens did to him.
But you only get one go at this thing called life, choices made, right or wrong, you had to learn to life with and move on. Otherwise, really, what was the point?'
Rook squared her shoulders and fixed Dusty Ayres with her best level gaze. "You damn bastard," she managed to spit out even as she flicked the barrel of her laser rifle
and then thumbed the safety setting on the weapon.
"Rook, you, more than any of the others should understand what I have to do," Dusty sighed, "What I've had to do. I told you what happened to me, because, well you
reminded me what it was to be alive, to be part of a group. And because, I've been dead inside for a long time." Dusty shook his head and glanced up on the hillside where
Scott Bernard, Lancer and Lunk in the driver's seat of the jeep with Annie just slightly farther back were waiting, facing off against an Invid scouting unit.
With a toss of her head Rook replied: "I understood, really I do."
The hot sticky air of mid-morning sent subtle patterns through her mane of strawberry blond hair which lifted and tossed down the ends of Ayre's worn poncho.
Rook had refused to look too closely at what the poncho failed to adequately cover even though when they had first met and she had convinced the others to welcome
the engimatic, unusual and undeniably talented fighter into their tight-knit resistance unit.
The grafted-on metal bits and pieces had been haphazardly attached to various parts of Dusty's body, face and torso. "I understand," she repeated.
"Understand what? The need for revenge, the need to gain a measure of closure? Sure, hell, I betrayed you, but reallly, did any of us really have a choice in the
matter?," Dusty yelled.
"Don't patronize me," Rook exclaimed and before she could think better of it or wonder if she should thumbed the trigger on her weapon and fired; it was all done and
over with so quickly that she had to wonder if she had gone numb.
She could hardly feel the smooth barrell of the rifle in her hands or the sound of the wind roaring through her ears. It was not as if this were her first battle;
even before she had met Scott, Rand and the others, Rook had always been a fighter, and she had been in some tight corners . She could still vividly recall the time
she and Dusty had come roaring in to the rescue like the proverbial calvalry when Rand had radioed for backup. In the back of her mind she realized that in hindsight
perhaps she not have gone chasing off after Ayres on her own but her need to either confirm or deny her growing suspicions about the man had been too overwhelming to deny.
The fighting had been fierce even before their arrival and if this trap proved to be the one that they could not escape two more additional fighters would make a very
"Nice of you to join the party," drawled Scott in the clipped formal tones that showed just how much strain that he was under at that moment, during a momentary
lull in the fighting.
"Wouldn't have missed it," replied Rook.
Rand turned to her and grinned but the grin melted into a scowl upon seeing Dusty Ayres in her company. Rand had learned a long time ago to trust in his own
instincts and they had served him well over the years, especially when he had been on his own. And right now his instincts were screaming several rather confusing messages
at him that made his nerve endings tingle and the delicate red hairs at the nape of his neck stand on end. "Something is very wrong with this picture, and for the life of
me I just can't tell what the hell it is," he muttered under his breath.
Rook noticed Rand's gaze lingering on her and his fond but irritated expression on both her absnece and sudden reappearance turning to dwell on Dusty. She could
understand, but this was hardly the place or time to discuss it. "He's here. I asked him to come. End of discussion. Okay?"
Rand shook his hand but he knew Rook too well and he also knew that particular tone in her voice and she was right about one thing: there really was no time to talk
Several hours into the fight and they had become extremely fatigued and worse the charges in their energy weapons would not last forever. Their original position on
top of the hillside was gone and they had been forced to retreat farther down onto the flat plains below.
Dusty suddenly abandoned his crouched defensive position and with one hand on her shoulder he nodded and in a hoarse whipser meant for Rook's ears alone he said:
"Thanks, Rook. For everything."
"Huh?" she said.
And then before she could blink Dusty Ayres ran on ahead of the group entrenched there on the plains and threw himself directly into the enemy line of fire.
The harsh metallic smell of ozone mingling with the other smells of sweat, fear, and blood and metal, and adrenaline mingled in the hot air. And when the thud of
the man's body hit the hard-packed ground Rook could not even smell her own sweat which made her jacket worn inside of her battle armor stick to her skin. She simply
could not feel a thing for those few terrible seconds. Unbelievably, the Invid patrol seemed to lose interest and withdrew, leaving them stunned and exposed on that patch of ground.
"It was all over so damn quickly," Scott muttered. Only peripherally could Rook hear Rand shouting her name and some other things that she simply could not register at the
moment and then the numbness in her mind spread to the rest of her body and she slumped to the ground.
Then Rand was there beside her, holding her hand and comforting her and in that instant Rook allowed herself to be comforted. She suddenly realized that she needed this
far more than she could ever say.
"I canna believe he did that!" Lunk exclaimed.
"Sometimes when you feel that you have nothing left to lose; it makes you do things you never imagined were possible," Scott said.
"I don't know about that," replied Rand unsure of his own feelings in the aftermath of Ayres' sacrifice.
"I guess heroes come in all different shapes and sizes," remarked Lancer, stoic as always.
"I imagine so," whispered Rook with a heavy sigh and stood up. "I imagine so," she repeated more firmly than before.