“I don’t need you anymore, Dana.”
“I’m not going! I’ll bet I’m good at building machinery, even better than you are!”
“Your motivation is self-centered, not like a true genius.”
“Listen, Louie, you’re not much better than I am, you know.”
“Ah, but you see, Lieutenant, I just like machines, period. Machines can be made to do anything that humans can’t do. Someday I’ll make a machine that enhances life by supplementing all human inadequacies, thereby creating an ideal society.”
“Well, what do you know! You’re such a romantic.”
As the Robotech Masters detect an Invid Sensor Nebula scanning for Protoculture, Rolf Emerson orders the ships of the second attack wave to stand by in first alert position. They cannot reach the moon without getting dangerously close to the enemy fleet. Back on Earth, Louie Nichols loses two chocolate bars over a bet; he assured Dana Sterling he could beat her score on a robot-blasting video game he programmed, but he proves to be a poor shot in simulated combat. In space, the fleet passes through the Sensor Nebula and past the Masters’ ships without incident. Louie returns to the game with a computer cartridge and a visor. He plugs them into the game and starts racking up such an impressive score that it catches the attention of a pair of Robotech researchers. The visor and its control circuits track and record eye movement, resulting in greater firing accuracy; he calls it “Nichols’s Special Vision Track Firing System,” a.k.a. VTFS, a.k.a. the Pupil Pistol. Major Cromwell of Robotech research offers his staff to upgrade this system; he claims it will help with simulation training. Emerson’s Tristar enters lunar orbit and prepares for a landing when a number of unidentified objects appear on radar. The Robotech Masters have them surrounded! As the Tristar tries to break through, the Masters launch their Bioroids. AGACs are launched to counterattack. The battle swings in the Southern Cross’s favor until the Bioroid Transports begin bombarding the fleet with a lightning-like energy weapon that tears through their ships. In the barracks of the 15th Squadron Dana and Louie have been working day and night to upgrade the Pupil Pistol. With the final check completed, Dana is given the honor of the first real test. As the Pupil Pistol helps Dana annihilate her simulated foes, the Tristar is losing to the real thing. Given their position, General Emerson thinks they may be able to use a molecular vacuum, warping the space within two kilometers of the ship and atomizing everything in that space, to destroy the enemy. He orders all forces to lead the Bioroids within the affected zone before 2300 hours. With only minutes to spare, he orders all ships to then evacuate that area. The warp blast commences. Energy radiates from the Tristar and the Bioroids are turned to space dust. Two transports remain and begin attacking the scattered AGACs, but when the Tristar reemerges from hyperspace the space warp tears them apart as well. Back on Earth, Cromwell congratulates Louie and Dana on a job well done and reaffirms his commitment to using the Pupil Pistol only for simulations. He then calls Supreme Commander Leonard’s office and tells Col. Rudolph that they’ve begun mass production of the Pupil Pistol for space combat. Shortly, Dana briefs the 15th on their new orders; they’ll be invading the enemy flagship the day after tomorrow, and for this purpose their Hovertanks have been upgraded. However, when Louie checks out his Hovertank’s computer system he recognizes his own handiwork. Horrified, he leaps from his mount and grabs a flamethrower: “This system wasn’t designed for murder and I won’t let it be used for murder!” he shouts. While Angelo tells him to stop, Dana offers to do it if he won’t. Zor Prime stands in her way; he understands her position, but he also understands that the new system is their best hope for defeating the Robotech Masters. While she turns off the flamethrower, Louie runs away. In space, the Clonemasters reveal to their Masters their latest achievement: the Bioroid Invid Fighter.
Like the previous episode, we have multiple memorable threads running simultaneously: a spotlight on Louie Nichols as he espouses his utopian view on the place of technology in the world and has his heart broken by the high-ups in the chain of command, and Rolf Emerson’s desperate struggle to survive the Robotech Masters’ blockade by an unorthodox use of the Tristar‘s fold drives.
Louie’s point of view is interesting to dissect; I take it he’s compartmentalized his roles in life. When he wears his soldier hat, he’ll take a life, as it’s his duty, but when he wears his technology hat, he’s all about improving lives — not taking them. He wants his legacy to be as someone whose discoveries and developments changed mankind for the better, but now he’ll be remembered as the guy who developed the Pupil Pistol, a means of more easily killing the Bioroid clones of the Robotech Masters. Character-wise, it’s actually somewhat surprising to see him in THE SHADOW CHRONICLES after the military betrayed him in such a major way; his freelance role in Tim Eldred and Bill Spangler’s INVID WAR and Daley & Luceno’s THE END OF THE CIRCLE seems more his speed post-15th Squadron.
Cromwell fits neatly into the Southern Cross under the triumvirate of Leonard, Seward, and Rudolph. He lies repeatedly to Louie’s face and when he’s not being friendly he’s played as sort of creepily emotionless. That’s really the big crime here: Cromwell lied. The end result will save human lives and help them win the war, but in order to reach that point Cromwell had to lie to a pair of idealistic young people who were so broken up by it that they were nearly willing to lash out and destroy all that work. Zor, a man who once piloted the sort of craft they’ll be destroying with this Pupil Pistol, had to stand in front of them and their flamethrower and tell Dana and Louie that trashing the tanks was a bad idea. That’s how badly Cromwell burned them. Mind you, I’m with Angelo when he tells Dana she’s being a terrible role model. As the commanding officer, she needs to learn to keep a cool head and do what’s best for all of her men. What’s best for them is using these tools, as much as it pains them to know they were implemented through cold, calculating subterfuge.
The delivery of Rudolph’s line to Cromwell, “That will PLEASE him,” referring to Supreme Commander Leonard, always makes me chuckle. Almost as good is Cromwell’s aide’s robotic delivery of the line, “This device could be very useful in the plan.” No, they’re not slightly sinister and not to be trusted, no sir!
Meanwhile, the battle in space is all good eye candy, and more importantly, unlike all those early aerial assaults on the Robotech Masters’ flagships, they feature characters we actually care about: Rolf Emerson and his two trusted advisors, Rochelle and Green, and, most of all, TASC squadron leader Marie Crystal. Beyond that, as I’ve said before, I really enjoy watching the AGACs dancing through space in Battloid mode — or, as Marie calls it in this episode, “cosmo attack configuration.” I would quibble that the solution to the problem of the blockade comes out of the blue; there’s no setup for the Tristar‘s warp system before Emerson mentions it as a possible way to get rid of the swarm of Bioroids, but at least in the context of ROBOTECH it’s not a total shock that the ship has such a system on-board.
At the end of the last episode the Clonemasters and the Robotech Masters made a really big deal about the Triumviroid being a suitable solution to the problem they had in “Clone Chamber” that the clones were becoming unreliable. However, at the end of this episode, they make a big deal about the Bioroid Invid Fighter, which is … just another Bioroid, which has to be piloted by those same unreliable clones. I do like how ROBOTECH works in the whole bit about the Invid Sensor Nebula and gives the unit the “Invid Fighter” name, tying threads together and building setup for the third generation.
FIRSTS OF NOTE:
First appearance of Major Cromwell and the Pupil Pistol, first named appearance of Rolf Emerson’s flagship, the Tristar. Also the first appearance of the Bioroid Invid Fighter.
DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL:
A six or seven. It wouldn’t be so bad, just some friendly taunts and some pouting when Louie dismisses her, until she offers to take Louie’s flamethrower and torch the tanks herself.
DOES BOWIE SULK?
Dude wears a phony smile all through this episode and can’t do anything but pick at piano keys. His objection to the Pupil Pistol wasn’t even that Louie and Dana got hoodwinked — it was that they’re going onto the Masters’ flagship, where there are people who could get killed. Gee, who’s he thinking of? Certainly not his teammates who have a duty to perform. He’s got Rolf’s dismissal into space and Musica both on his mind, and it’s making him distracted and anti-social.