((This is just the first part. I'll add more parts as I write them.))
Nicholas sighed contentedly as the sun beat down on his face and the wind blew through his sandy-blonde hair. He had left on a cruise to the Bahamas from his home country of Orb just yesterday, along with his parents and younger brother and sister. He was torn, however. He couldn’t decide whether to go to the pool, or to hang out near the arcade to see if he could meet any new people. Just as he was about to make his decision, an alarm sounded, and the captain’s voice sounded over the loud speakers. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been informed that there is a ZAFT submarine in the area. Please return to your cabins and put on your life jackets immediately, although there is probably no cause for alarm. I repeat, a ZAFT submarine has been spotted in the area. Please return to your cabins and put on your life jackets immediately. There is probably no cause for alarm.”
The moment the captain finished speaking, panic broke out on deck – as it always will when people are told not to panic. As Nicholas watched, four mobile suits of a kind that he had never seen before took off from the submarine, and docked with platforms, allowing them to fly in Earth’s atmosphere. They began to head towards a large, gleaming white ship that was flying above the waves. The White ship released a smokescreen, obscuring everything around it. Two fighter planes – they looked like Sky Graspers, but it was hard to tell at a distance – took off from the fog-shrouded ship. As the fighting began, the cruise ship rocked from the shockwaves of the explosions, knocking Nick off his feet. Nick decided it would be wiser to follow the captain’s directions and get his life jacket on. After getting back up on his feet, he headed for the door that would lead him below decks to his cabin, where, hopefully, the rest of his family would be waiting for him.
On the Bridge of the Vosgulov attack submarine, another blip had just been noticed on the radar screen. “Captain! There’s an unidentified ship spotted in the vicinity!”
“What?!” the captain shouted. “Shoot it down! They could have arrived to back up the legged ship!”
“But, Captain, we don’t even know what kind of ship it is!”
“I said shoot it down!”
“Yes, sir! Fire torpedoes at the unidentified vessel!”
The captain smiled as two torpedoes were sent towards the ship.
Nick saw the streams of water formed by the torpedoes moments before the ship was struck. Two loud explosions racked the ship, and two balls of fire erupted from the ship’s port side. Nick was sent flying towards the railing, and the ship seemed to tilt sideways. Realization dawned on him. The ship was sinking! Another explosion racked the ship, sending Nick over the railing and into the frigid water. After he surfaced, he saw that the ship had cracked in two. Several smaller explosions occurred as the engines and the boilers exploded. Debris floated on the water – some of it human. Nick spotted a familiar figure floating among the bodies. “Dad!” He cried. He grabbed a floating piece of driftwood, and swam towards his father’s figure. The moment he got there, he turned his father face up, and pulled him over the board, looping his arms underneath the scrap of driftwood. His father erupted in a fit of coughing. He had a large gash across his head and horrible burns on his left arm.
“Nick…” His father coughed.
“I’m right here…” Nick said, tears coming to his eyes. “Mom, Anna, and Cole, are they…?” He let the question hang in the air.
“They died when the first torpedo hit the ship. Nick… There is something I need to tell you. I –” his father was interrupted by another violent coughing fit.
“Don’t talk, Dad. Save your strength.”
“No. This has to be said now. I’m not long for this world, Nick. Nick… I’m not your real father.”
“Wh-what?” Nick stuttered, in shock.
“Your mother married me after her first husband was killed – he was a coordinator. He was killed in a bombing by the organization Blue Cosmos. All of this happened before you were born, of course. After his death, your mother knew that she would need to re-marry. You would need a father. We met when I was on a business trip, and fell in love. I married her, and a week later, you were born.” Nick’s dad stopped, and turned to look at Nick. “For two Naturals raising a half-coordinator, I think we did a pretty good job. You’re a good kid… Nick…” His father went into another coughing fit. When it stopped, Nick’s dad let out a sigh as his soul left his body.
“Dad? Dad!” Nick shouted, crying. His father’s only response was to slip off of the board, down into the ocean. Nick grabbed onto the piece of Driftwood his dad had been floating on. After a moment, he realized the extent of his own injuries. He had a cut on his forehead that was just as bad as, if not worse than, his dads. He had bruises down his side where he had landed after the first explosion, and his shoulder felt like it had been dislocated. Blackness crept into the edge of his field of vision. He passed out, grateful for the relief…
For a while, the only memories came to Nick in flashes. He remembered waking up on a small island’s grey, gravel beach. He barely noticed the pieces of destroyed machinery – a mobile suit? – That littered the ground around him. He remembered the sounds of the Orb Recon Helicopter flying overhead, followed closely by M-1 Astrays. He vaguely recalled the helicopter landing, and the sensation of being lifted off of the ground. He definitely remembered a girl with dark hair and glasses – pink glasses.
The first solid, coherent memory that Nick had was of waking up in a hospital. He blinked a few times, getting used to the light.
“It’s about time you woke up,” a female voice beside him said. Nick tried to sit up, but bolts of pain shot up and down his side.
“You shouldn’t try to move,” the girl said, gently easing him back down. She leaned over him, so that he could see who she was. Nick recognized her as the girl with the pink glasses. “You were hurt pretty bad when the cruise ship you were on went down. Even apart from the gash on your forehead and the bruises all along your sides, you also dislocated your left shoulder and cracked two ribs. Add to that a fever of over 110 degrees, and you’re pretty lucky to be alive.”
“Wh-who-” Nick started, but his throat was to dry to speak very well.
“Here,” the girl said, pressing a cup of cold water to his lips, “drink this.” Nick gulped greedily.
After Nick had finished his water, the girl began to explain. “My name is Juri Wu Nien. I was the pilot of the Astray that spotted you. So, naturally, I felt kind of responsible for you. That’s why I’m still here,” She said, shrugging her shoulders.
“When the ship exploded… Were there any… Survivors?” Nick asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
Juri looked down and shook her head. “No. You were the only survivor that we found.”
“I see…” Nick said. He felt hot tears come into his eyes as he thought of his family. His younger siblings, Cole and Anna, were both only two years younger than him. He cried as he remembered all of the time that they had spent playing together in the backyard, underneath a large Oak tree. He cried as he remembered the faces of his parents, and as he remembered his father’s last words, before he had slipped beneath the waves. Warm tears ran down his cheeks. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and opened his eyes to see that Juri was crying as well.
“I... I’m so sorry, Nick…” she sobbed. “We weren’t able to save anyone else. We found other survivors, but they died of their injuries soon after we got them here…”
Nick took a deep, shuddering breath, calming himself. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, “my family was dead long before the rescue team ever got to the wreck. I don’t have any living relatives left, now…” Nick shook as sobs racked his frame again. He felt Juri wrap her arms around him, and he cried harder.
A week and a half later, Nick was released from the hospital. Juri was waiting in a car for him outside the hospital doors. She didn’t look at him as he climbed in through the passenger’s side door.
“There’s something I have to do first,” she said, “but then I’m going to take you to the courthouse. Since you’re only seventeen, chances are you’ll live at the orphanage for about a year, until you turn eighteen.”
“Right,” Nick said, looking out the passenger’s side window. He didn’t notice the sad look on Juri’s face.
As they drove, Nick began to notice more and more security guards. They drove up to a large metal gate with the words “Morgenroete” painted in large, white letters. A uniformed security guard stopped them. “I need to see your ID,” he said calmly. Juri flashed her ID card. “Alright. What about him?” The guard said, pointing at Nick.
“He’s with me,” Juri responded. “I’m supposed to take him to the courthouse later… both of his parents were killed on the cruise ship that went down. He’s probably going to live in one of the orphanages.”
“Alright. He’ll have to wait in the lobby area, with a security guard, until you are finished.”
“Of course,” Juri responded, and the guard waved them through the gate.
Juri and Nick drove down a well-lit, concrete tunnel, finally arriving in a spacious parking area. Juri opened her door. “Come on,” she said, quietly, “The facility and the lobby are both underground.”
They headed over to a large elevator. The doors slid open, and both of them stepped into the chamber. Juri pushed a button, and the lift began to descend.
“When we get to the lobby,” she said, “a security guard is going to stay with you. You are already in a restricted area, so please don’t try to wander around…”
“Right,” Nick said, nodding slowly.
When they reached the lobby, they walked in on an argument between Erica Simmons, the chief Mobile Suit engineer, and Lord Uzumi Nara Attha, the leader of Orb.
“Repairs aren’t the issue!” Erica exclaimed, “We’re short on pilots! No one is available to pilot the mobile suit!”
“I see…” Lord Uzumi said, stroking his graying beard and furrowing his brow.
“Ma’am, Lord Uzumi,” Juri greeted them, saluting.
“Oh, hello, Juri,” Erica replied curtly. “You’re here just in time. We need someone to test pilot the re-constructed Blitz, and both Asagi and Mayura are out on training exercises right now.”
“Right,” Juri said, nodding curtly, “I’ll get right on it.”
As Juri, Erica, and Lord Uzumi began to head towards the elevator that would take them to the testing facility on the lowest level of Morgenroete, an idea struck Nick.
“L-Lord Uzumi!” Nick called.
“Hmm?” Lord Uzumi said, turning, “What is it?”
“My name is Nick. M-my family was killed on the cruise ship that got attacked by ZAFT, and I found out that I’m really half-coordinator, and – “ Nick took a deep breath, “I want to volunteer for the Orb military!” Both Erica and Juri wore shocked expressions on their faces, but Lord Uzumi remained calm.
“Oh, really? And why would you want to do that?” Lord Uzumi asked Nick. “Is it for Revenge against ZAFT? Or to avoid having to live in the orphanage?”
“No, sir,” Nick said, looking Lord Uzumi in the eyes. “I want to join the military so that I can protect people and keep them from having to experience the same pain that I did!”
Lord Uzumi studied Nick’s eyes a moment longer, and saw the fires that burned there. “Very well,” he said with a sigh. ‘Erica, find him a flight suit. And please don’t argue. You just said that you were short on pilots, and I’ve just found you one.” Erica shut her mouth, which had been opened, as if to complain.
“Right. Come with me, ensign,” Erica said briskly, resuming her journey towards the elevator. “We’ll see if we can’t get you fitted for a flight suit.”
Nick followed after Erica, but was stopped as Juri put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey,” she said, beaming, “Welcome to the Orb military!”
Nick, Erica, and Juri crowded into an elevator, and began to descend into the lower levels of the Morgenroete facility.
“The mobile suit that you are going to be piloting is the upgraded version of the one we found destroyed on the island where you were found – in fact, most of the same parts were used,” Erica explained. “We upgraded the battery, allowing the suit to maintain power for far longer than it could have originally. We added to large engines to the back of the Mobile Suit, enabling it to fly through the atmosphere and equipping it for air-to-air combat. You’ll be the first pilot to fly it, so we’ll need your input on how well it flies.“
“Understood,” Nick replied, his face serious.
“Good. We’re here,” Erica said as the elevator doors opened. The group walked to a door at the end of a long hallway, where Erica pulled a key card out of her pocket and swiped it through a slot by the door. A light on the lock turned green, and Eric, Juri, and Nick passed into the main Mobile Suit test facility. Against both walls, M1-Astrays were lined up like soldiers on guard, and at the far end of the room, a grey mobile suit stood, two great, conical wings extending from its back. Nick thought that he recognized the Mobile Suit from some of the news reports that he had seen – It looked like the Blitz, one of the suits that had been stolen during the attack on Heliopolis, but the Blitz didn’t have wings…
“This is the Blitz Wave,” Erica began. “We kept the old Trikeros weapons system on the shield” – she gestured towards one of the arms on the mobile suit, where a shield sat, bristling with missiles. “It contains three Lancer darts,” Erica pointed towards the missiles, “A 50 mm high-energy beam rifle, and a beam saber. On the other arm, The “Glepnir” claw has been improved. Before, it sat in a fixed position. Now it moves on a lever farther up onto the forearm when not in use, allowing for greater mobility. It also allows for easier use of the MMI-M7S 76mm heavy assault machine gun, mounted on the rear hip of the Mobile Suit.”
“Wait,” Nick interrupted, “Isn’t that kind of machine gun the kind used by – “
“ZAFT?” Erica finished, sounding irritated. “Yes. Most commonly on their DINN mobile suits. We have a friend in the junk guild – his name is Lowe Guele. He pilots the prototype Astray Red Frame – Juri tried to steal it from him once.”
Nick looked over at Juri - she had looked towards the ground and appeared to be blushing.
“In the end, we agreed to let him keep the Astray prototype, as long as he agreed to help us. He has gotten several parts for us on several occasions – including this gun. Now, then,” Erica continued with her explanation. “The OS in this system is still partially designed for coordinators – Our technicians haven’t quite been able to totally erase it. However, you’re part coordinator, so that shouldn’t be a problem. That’s really all you need to know about the mobile suit.
“If you’ll come this way, we’ll get you outfitted for a flight suit.” Erica finished, walking through a side door.
“Right!” Nick replied, hurrying after her.
Moments later, Nick sat in the cockpit of the Blitz Wave, waiting for Erica to start the training drill. He looked over all of the controls – Erica had explained them all to him in great detail after they had found a flight suit that fit him. His suit was standard Orb design, except that it had a black-and-silver color scheme instead of a red-and-white color scheme.
Just then, Erica’s face appeared on one of the three communications monitors lining the top of the cockpit. “Alright,” she began, “We’re ready to start the drill. Targets will be provided for you to attack. None of your current weapons are functional – they are training weapons, all designed to operate through radio waves. However, this is the closest you will get to a real battle in a simulation. Please try to take it seriously!”
“Yes, ma’am,” Nick replied.
“Right. Beginning the battle simulation!”
Nick hit the switch that activated the Phase Shift armor on his mobile suit. The gray color scheme changed to black and red – the wings were the only part of the Gundam that remained a gray color. Now, Nick had to wait.
He tensed as he waited for his first “enemy” to appear. He looked around, checking each of his cockpit monitors for a few seconds before moving on to check the next one. There! He saw something move to his left. He manipulated the controls, using the engines on the rear of his Gundam to assist him in a backwards leap. He turned and fired his beam cannon at the enemy. A red light was emitted from the barrel – as opposed to the green light of a functional beam cannon - and the Remote-controlled Training Unit that had fired at him was deactivated. He barely had time to celebrate his victory when yet another Training Unit appeared behind him. He leapt to the side, pulling the machine gun out from its holster behind the hip of his Gundam, and fired a round of blanks at the new attacker. Another unit was descending from above! Moving quickly, he brought up his shield and ignited his beam saber, deactivating yet another enemy.
“Wow… He’s really good!” Juri remarked. She, Erica, Lord Uzumi, and the other Morgenroete Engineers were watching Nick’s “battle” from behind a large shatterproof glass window.
“Yes… His skills are fantastic!” Erica replied as Nick deactivated yet another Test Unit. “How many has he beaten now?”
“Four of the ten units, ma’am,” one of the engineers replied.
“Already? And he’s still going strong! The most any of our pilots have destroyed in their first simulation has been five!” Erica exclaimed.
“The boy has power – that much is certain,” Lord Uzumi remarked calmly. “But whether or not he knows how to use it is a different question entirely…”
“Amazing…” Juri repeated dreamily to herself.
Nick continued fighting – Now more than one unit was attacking at once! He fired his Beam cannon at one Unit, while shooting his machine gun at another on his other side. Both Training Units were deactivated. Another Training Unit appeared directly in front of him. He focused both of his weapons on the new attacker – it, too, was deactivated. Just then, his radar detected tow more suits behind him, and one descending from above. Nick turned, but seconds too late. All three of the new Training Units opened fire on his Gundam. All of his screens went black. “SIMULATION OVER” flashed in bold, red letters across his main screen.
“Damn!” Nick swore, pounding the arm of the chair. A few moments later, his suit re-activated, and he walked back through the doors from the “War Room” and back into the main mobile suit hangar.
He docked his mobile suit, and opened his cockpit, dejected. He had failed. Much to his surprise, however, he was greeted with a fair amount of applause as he descended from his cockpit.
“Congratulations!” Juri shouted, running up and throwing her arms around him.
“Wha -?” Nick wondered, confused. “Why? I got defeated…”
“Oh, please, everyone loses their first battle simulation,” Juri replied. “You just set a new record!”
“Wha – Really?” Nick looked over at Erica.
“Yes. Before you, the most mobile suits ever destroyed by a beginner pilot during their first simulation was five… No one had ever managed to pass that number.” Erica replied.
“Until now!” Juri added.
“Yes, until now. I had my doubts before, but they’re gone now. You’ll make a fine addition to the team.” Erica said, extending her hand.
“Yes. I believe you will do splendidly,” Lord Uzumi remarked, extending his hand as well.
Nick shook both hands in turn, grinning widely.
A week and a half later, Nick was quickly becoming accustomed to life in the Orb military. He had made amazing progress, both in the virtual simulator and in the “War Room” – The room where he had fought against the training units on his first day in the military. Between time training in the simulators, he went through basic training for any soldier. The workouts were strenuous, and he was almost always sore, but he kept at it. Juri helped, too. Her smile always lifted his spirits. She was one of the main reasons that he worked so hard. He had met her comrades, Asagi Caldwell and Mayura Labatt, the day before. The three of them had sparred with him in the “War Room,” making a wager that the person who won the battle royale would get the day off. After Erica and several military commanders had approved, the match was on. It had been close, but Nick had won, and now he was determined to enjoy his day off.
Nick wore a military jacket casually, with the front unbuttoned and a T-shirt and Jeans underneath. The end result complemented his tall figure rather well, he thought. He ran his hand through his hair, and wondered what to do first. He finally decided to go and get a soda from a nearby snack stand. He would decide what to do for the rest of the day from there. He began to whistle a merry tune, but was cut short as he heard tires squealing on the pavement. He turned to see what the commotion was about. It was then that he saw the old man only moments from being hit by the speeding sports car!
Acting quickly, Nick ran into the street, grabbed the old man, and threw him over his shoulder in what was known as the “fireman’s carry” before pulling him back to the sidewalk. If Nick had been a natural, he wouldn’t have made it.
“Are you alright, gramps?” Nick asked as he set the old man on the ground.
“Oh, yes, quite alright, quite alright thanks to you,” the old man said, nodding. It was then that he noticed the military jacket that Nick was wearing. “You a soldier, sonny?” the old man asked, peering up at Nick.
“Umm… yes, sir.” Nick responded, unsure of how to answer.
“My son and my grandson were both soldiers as well. They signed on with the earth forces together. They were so eager to go and fight… Now, they’re gone,” the old man said, tears glistening in his eyes.
“I… I’m sorry,” Nick replied, feeling more and more awkward by the minute.
“Everyone wants the war to be over, but nobody is willing to stop fighting,” the old man continued. “That’s why I came to Orb. A neutral country like this one has the right ideals. Occasionally, fights must be had to protect what one cares about. However, killing begets only more killing. So, ask yourself this every time you pull the trigger in that fancy machine of yours: Why am I pulling the trigger? Is what I am fighting for really worth killing another man? Never forget those questions, or you will forget yourself.” The old man said, nodding sagely.
“Umm…right,” Nick replied. “Are you sure you’re okay, gramps?”
“Yes, just fine. Just an old man, thinking about the past. Well, have a good day, sonny,” the man finished, hobbling away down the sidewalk.
“Right… You too, gramps,” Nick replied softly. He was lost in thought. The old man’s words had made him think. If the ZAFT submarine had asked itself those questions, his family would still be alive… “I’ll never kill if I can help it,” Nick said softly to himself. “I’ll promise you that, gramps…” Nick shook his head, and continued on towards the snack stand.
At the end of the day, Nick found himself in front of his old family home just outside of the city. He unlocked the door, and walked in. He hadn’t been here since his parents had died. He was fortunate that it was a home that had been in the family for a while, otherwise the banks probably would have re-possessed it. It stood just as they had left it, however. Nick walked through the familiar rooms of the house, running his hand gently over various objects – the table where they ate dinner together every night, the desk his father always worked at, the couch where Nick and his younger siblings would sit and watch TV…
Nick ascended the stairs to the hallway that led to all of the bedrooms. He entered Anna’s room, and saw everything untouched – all of her stuffed animals still sat on her bed, waiting for a friend who would never come back. Nick walked over to her bed, and picked up a brown teddy bear that Anna had named “Honey.” Honey had been Anna’s favorite bear, and she had always asked Nick to come and play with him. Nick’s eyes began to water as he thought about all that they had done together. He looked back at the bed and thought, for a moment, that he could see her sitting there, smiling up at him. Nick broke down and cried as he remembered her and the rest of his family, all of them killed within minutes of each other, leaving him…
The sound of the doorbell shook him out of his dark reverie. Nick got up and set Honey down exactly where he had found her, and went down to answer the door, wondering who on earth could possibly want to come to this house other than him. He was surprised to see Juri on the other side.
“Umm… hi,” she said, sheepishly. “May I come in?”
“Uh,” Nick responded, “Yeah, sure.” Nick stepped aside to allow the girl through the door. “What brings you out here?” he asked.
“After we got finished training for the day, Erica, Asagi and the others wondered where you were. We checked most of the spots in town where people usually go on their days off, and when you weren’t at any of those places, we began to get worried. I had the idea to come here to look for you. I saw your car out front, and decided to ring the doorbell,” Juri replied. She quickly changed the subject. “So, this is where you used to live, huh?” she asked.
“Yeah…” was all that Nick could say in response
Juri realized what she had said. “Oh, I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean to…”
Nick shook his head slowly. “It’s no problem. It’s kind of sad, but I don’t think that the rest of my family would wan me to sit here and mope over it. My dad would definitely say something like ‘Stop crying! No self-respecting man like yourself should spend the rest of your life crying over something you can’t change! If you need to do something, get up off your butt and change things for the better!’ and that’s what I’m going to do. That’s why I joined the Orb military…”
“Nick…” Juri said softly, reaching up to brush a stray tear from his cheek. “Can I tell you something?”
“Yeah, sure,” Nick replied, “What is it?”
“Nick, I… I love you…” She leaned up onto her toes and kissed him gently on the mouth. The kiss was quick – Nick felt like their lips had barely brushed when she pulled away again. “I want to be with you, to help you…. I’ll never leave your side. I promise.”
“Juri…” Nick responded softly, and leaned in to kiss her again. She leaned up, and their mouths met again, and this time they remained together longer. Nick wrapped one hand around her waist, and ran his other hand through her dark blue hair. She placed one hand in the small of his back, and the other on his shoulder. They kissed tenderly, as new lovers do.
As they pulled apart, Juri looked into Nick’s deep, chocolate-brow eyes. “Never let go,” she whispered softly.
“Never,” Nick replied, and they kissed again, this time far more passionate than the last.
The next day, Nick returned to Morgenroete. He had enjoyed his day off, but now it was time to return to work. He stepped into the war room, determined to uphold his promise that he had made to the old man. As the enemies came at him, he targeted only the main cameras or weapons and movement systems – never the cockpit area. He did fairly well, all things considered, but his performance still fell – he was aiming for smaller targets, so his accuracy was off. He managed to survive the entire battle, however.
After repeating the exercise several times, he climbed out of the cockpit, and rode the elevator cord that extended from his cockpit down to the floor. It was then that he noticed another large machine standing in a corner.
“Whose Machine is that?” he asked, walking over to Erica.
“That machine is the GAT – X 105 Strike,” Erica replied, “It belonged to Kira Yamato. Now, however, it seems that Kira has acquired a new machine, thinking this one was destroyed during his battle with Athrun Zala. So, we’re currently installing the Natural-friendly OS program that he wrote the last time he was in Orb. We’re hoping to find a pilot for it soon. Speaking of Kira and the Archangel, you need to go and get cleaned up. I’ve just received word that they will be returning to Orb soon.”
Juri, Asagi, and Mayura overheard Erica telling Nick this. “What?” One of them asked, “Why is the Archangel returning here?”
“We don’t know yet,” Erica replied, furrowing her brow, “We just received word that they are returning. Now, go and get cleaned up! All of you!” She barked.
“Yes, ma’am!” The four soldiers snapped to attention, and then scurried out of the room to go and get changed.