As Minmei prepares for her sixteenth birthday, the SDF-1 continues to orbit Mars. Operating on auxiliary power, the battlefortress is under a constant barrage of fire from alien ships and battle pods. With its main engines damaged and the fold system inoperative, the SDF-1 is unable to escape. Khyron and his Zentraedi troops press their advantage at every turn, despite Breetai's orders to the contrary. The commander wants to capture the ship intact.
To his chagrin, Rick Hunter finds that he's not he only man invited to Lynn Minmei's party. The popular girl has requested the presence of almost every fighter pilot on the ship. While he finds her natural enthusiasm and innocence pleasing, Rick can't help but wish Minmei would focus her attention on one specific individual – like himself! Before he can press the case, Rick is called back to headquarters, where he is presented with the titanium Medal of Valor for distinguished service for his rescue of Lieutenant Commander Lisa Hayes. He is also promoted to the rank of lieutenant and introduced to the members of his new squad, Corporals Maximillian (Max) Sterling and Ben Dixon. The three young men go to Minmei's party only to be called back to duty when Khyron begins another accelerated assault. Yet Because Khyron has attacked against Breetai's order, the Zentraedi commander orders a manual override that pulls the battle pods away from the space fortress – just as Khyron is about to defeat the SDF-1.
Max distinguishes himself as an excellent fighter pilot. Unfortunately, Ben Dixon is a more enthusiastic than effective combatant. Rick is more concerned with the fact that he's all but missed Minmei's party, not to mention the fact that he's been too busy to get her a present. When he returns, he gives her his Medal of valor. Minmei is delighted.
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