This is something I wrote out on a train journey to try and break my writer's block... but now feel like developing further! So I'm posting the first chapter here to test the waters, see if anyone likes it, and so forth. Anyway, here it is!
Stage-1: Awaken Alert
Vristech Corporation Factory Site #7, Outside Antwerp, Belgium.
April 18, AD 2264. 1701 Hours CET.
An explosion rang out close to the factory’s defensive perimeter; before he even realised he was doing it, James Pryce ran for Hangar #5 as if his life depended on it. It did.
As a plume of thick black smoke rose up from the burning remains of one of the factory block’s perimeter beam cannons behind him, Pryce barely had time to think. How in God’s name did the Standies get here?! It was the same question dozens of people around the factory had in mind. It seemed impossible that the Standard Army’s mobile suits could get close enough to attack a factory belonging to the Allied Forces’ leading MS manufacturer, but clearly it had happened. Just inside the perimeter, armoured hatches opened to reveal massive elevator platforms, each carrying a pair of Guardian Plus MS, the current standard Allied combat vehicle; as products of Vristech, they were now defending their own home.
Standing sixty-four feet tall, with well-placed armour across its angular, robotic body, the P171+ troops defending this Vristech site were all carrying 75mm automatic coilrifles, with a 125mm pistol and sonic sabre latched to hip hardpoints; either there hadn’t been time to fit them, or the expected combat range was too short, but none of them had any kind of missile pod on their shoulders. Seeing an enemy Pryce couldn’t with their powerful sensors, the Guardians opened fire, spitting slugs into the Belgian evening with a fury – or desperation – the young test pilot was slowly beginning to understand. Running for Hangar #5, a new set of explosions screamed in the night behind Pryce, and he knew by the size and the howling noise they made that several ark reactors had just been breached; the Guardians were falling prey to whatever MS the Standard Army had sneaked into Allied-held Europe.
The ground shook underneath Pryce’s feet; a pair of Bulldog MS had made a powered jump right into the facility, landing next to Manufacturing Block C – right next to Hangar #5. Pryce had been vaguely aware of why the Standies would attack Vristech’s Site #7 since the attack began, but when he saw the two Bulldogs touch down right in front of Block C, the jump jets that had propelled them into the facility cushioning their landing, he knew exactly why they had come.
They were here for the Gundams.
Pryce was torn between fear and dark amusement – destroying the Gundam MS and their production site would be bad, but capturing them would be a disaster for the Allies; fortunately their intelligence must have been lacking, because the two machines still in the manufacturing block were incomplete, in essence just empty MS shells waiting to be brought to life. In that moment, he knew he had to get to the hangar where the one completed model was, and get onboard. Not for a test flight, but for a real fight. With adrenaline filling his veins, Pryce could hardly wait to board the Gundam MS he knew was waiting for him.
In the cockpit of her Bulldog, pilot Maria Caldeira was tense with anticipation. It was her duty to break into the facility where the latest Allied MS were being developed and attempt to capture one, destroying the other. If capture was impossible, both new models were considered expendable. Being dismissive of the Allies’ engineers, Caldeira didn’t overly care whether her team captured one or not. Having seen off their current-generation MS without breaking a sweat, the Brazilian pilot-officer had her doubts that the new models were as impressive as their intelligence had made out. Even if they are, she mused, there are only two of them and eight of us!
It was hardly a fair fight, in her opinion.
Having burst through a personnel door into Hangar #5, Pryce ran as fast as his legs could take him toward the Gundam that dominated the cavernous space – being, as it was, the only MS in there. Laying on its back on a flatbed trailer, the giant robot seemed to be at rest, as if it hadn’t a care in the world. It almost seemed a shame to wake it from that peaceful slumber. Almost.
Climbing up the trailer to the cockpit hatch just below the Gundam’s neck joint, he dived in, immediately finding the switches which closed the hatch and brought the MS online. Sat there in the cockpit, Pryce marvelled once again as its systems came online, displays winking in and out of existence on its main monitor panels as each component was awakened.
Then the main powerplant came online, with a whoosh Pryce could hear and feel at once. In most Allied MS, with their energy coming from a single ark reactor, the ignition felt like a mild vibration from under the cockpit floor, like the giant robot’s stomach was rumbling. In this new model, the sensation was more like a plasma-burst bomb going off under his feet. Powered by twin ark reactors feeding a single plasma regulator, the synergy of both reactors produced more than triple the power of a Guardian, even though each reactor was only slightly more powerful than the one in its predecessor.
With all systems active and ready to go, Pryce took the Gundam’s control joysticks in his hands, put his feet on the pedals, and with a burst of energy the Gundam Unit #1 stood up, ready for battle.
To his annoyance, Pryce couldn’t find the new MS’ main weapon in the hangar. Thanks to the excess energy produced by its twin drives, the Gundam had a purpose-built plasma beam rifle, powered by a plug in its forearm. Unfortunately, the weapon was nowhere to be found. Pryce suspected it was on one of the hangar’s underground levels, but didn’t have time to find out. In that case, he reasoned, I’m relying on the beam sabres.
Praying the element of surprise would be on his side, Pryce steeled himself and began walking toward the hangar’s blast doors. As he did so, he remembered the Gundam’s new defence system, until now untested. With a nervous grin, the test pilot reasoned that this would definitely surprise the enemy.
Maria Caldeira was inventing new obscenities to describe Standard Intelligence with every passing second.
In the assembly building she and her wingman had entered there were two new Allied MS, stood in restraining fixtures as if they were on an airborne aircraft carrier. But unlike the mobile suits aboard one of the Allied Air Force’s enormous flying machines, these ones were missing half the armour plates from their chests, with a screaming gap where its powerplant should have been. Put simply, they were useless to Caldeira and her team, with two unpowered and half-armoured MS worthless as far as their capture objective was concerned. She knew that in their incomplete state they would still be useful to the Allied Forces, though, and raised her Bulldog’s oversized 120mm rifle, taking aim at one of the enemy MS. Her wingman did likewise, lining up his rifle with the torso of the other prototype, the one with “02” painted on its right shoulder armour. The one in Caldeira’s sights lacked the angular shoulder armour, but it seemed to safe this was “01”.
Opening fire almost in unison, the two lanky Bulldogs began emptying their coilrifle ammunition drums into the unprotected chests of their targets, explosive slugs tearing through incomplete internals before they could be put to use. Eventually, both machines were torn from their fixtures as their legs could no longer hold their weight, collapsing in ruined heaps, mere husks of combat MS.
With both targets destroyed, completing her team’s secondary objective, Caldeira began walking her MS out of the manufacturing facility, ready to send her team the signal to withdraw, Intelligence failings having made their mission pointless before it even started. She barely knew most of the pilots under her command, having been drafted in as team commander specially for this mission; despite that, she hoped none of her pilots had died for this futile operation.
She didn’t expect to see a completed model waiting outside the hangar, its body glowing blue.
In the Gundam, Pryce could feel his nerves rising. He still had surprise on his side, but it was now dawning on him that these two MS no doubt carried combat veteran pilots, while he was a test pilot for Vristech who had flunked out of the Allied MS Pilot School at Nijmegen – though for disciplinary reasons, not for piloting ability.
A realisation struck him like a bazooka round. He hadn’t drawn the beam sabres! His only saving grace was that neither Bulldog pilot was prepared either; the distinctive ammunition drums were missing from the tops of their rifles. They had probably emptied them into Units 2 and 3, the uprated prototypes demanded by the Allied Forces. Taking advantage of their empty rifles was critical right now, if Pryce and the first Gundam were going to survive.
Activating a macro he had personally designed, the Gundam’s two forearms popped open to reveal the tube-like beam sabre hilts within, which would make or break his counterattack. Grabbing hilts from opposing forearms, Pryce activated the blades, energy immediately coursing down each arm to form twin blades of ark plasma held in the Gundam’s hands.
Checking his ark-reinforced armour was still active and giving the Gundam its glow, Pryce charged.
In her cockpit, Caldeira was horrified. The Allies have an MS with beam swords?! ran through her mind even as her reflexes kicked in, causing her MS to jump backwards with thrust from the jump-jets in its legs. It was a coward’s move, she knew, but if it bought her time to reload her rifle then so be it.
Unfortunately for him, the evasive move put Johnny Fields’ Bulldog right in front of the enemy’s charge. He had frozen, Maria knew, despite all his training and combat experience, so terrified by the glowing beam sword-wielding MS his mind was paralysed by fear. She could see him desperately pulling the trigger on the Bulldog’s rifle even though it had no ammunition drum, hoping against hope the imaginary slugs he was firing would tear apart the nightmare advancing on him.
Two beam sabre blades plunged through his Bulldog’s abdomen cockpit ended the life of Johnny Fields, his nightmare finishing his waking existence.
Pryce was holding back his pride at the precision with which he disabled the “rear” Bulldog, vaporising its cockpit; a less precise attack with a beam sabre could have split open its ark reactor, and in such a confined space the effect would have been fatal even for the Gundam with its ARMOUR engaged. As it was, the ark-boosted armour was holding at 94% according to a readout on the main monitor.
Even as he stared at it, the number started to drop, counting down from 94% to 91%, which snapped the young test pilot back to reality. The “lead” Bulldog, adorned with a commander’s horn antenna above a single blood-red main camera, had reloaded its rifle and was emptying the large ammunition drum at the Gundam; the explosive slugs were slowly but surely wearing down the ARMOUR. Pryce felt vulnerable without his main ranged weapon – or even one of the Guardian’s – so resorted to using the 20mm Vulcan cannons in the Gundam’s head, spraying low-calibre explosive point-defence rounds at the Bulldog, aiming for that main camera sat in its squat head. The Bulldog replied by raising its left arm, the folding shield wrapped round its forearm snapping into place to protect its head. Having ceased fire for a moment, presumably waiting for secondary cameras to come online, the Bulldog resumed firing; as he tried to shift the Gundam out of the line of fire to preserve its defences, James Pryce longed for a shield of his own.
Hoping his fortune held out, the Gundam pilot charged again.
Maria Caldeira was never so sure she was going to die as she was in that moment.
She had fought and defeated more than her fair share of Allied MS over the years, her confirmed kills spread across four different models of angular, ugly Allied mecha. But none of them had a beam sword in each hand. And none of them glowed. Without a plan, with no idea what strategy would work against this seemingly invulnerable mobile suit, Caldeira had to think on her feet, trying anything and everything. She wondered if the other six pilots in her double-sized team had finished their diversionary operations; she supposed there was only one way to find out.
“All units, converge on my location! I am engaging a powerful new enemy MS!”
Orders issued, Major Caldeira waited for six acknowledgements to appear on one of her side monitors, either coming to her aid or too busy fighting their own battles. For some reason, she couldn’t help but wonder if her Rio accent was as strong as it used to be.
Dropping her again-empty rifle, Caldeira’s Bulldog reached for its left hip, drawing its superheated short blade from its mounting latch with its right hand, preparing to duel as best she could with this enemy. As it approached, it fired its head-mounted guns again, forcing Caldeira to position her shield ahead of her cockpit; while she knew its armour was more than tough enough to repel the Vulcan cannons of most Allied MS, she was taking no changes with this one. As it swung down with the beam sabre in its right hand, Caldeira blocked with her own blade; it lasted almost four seconds until the glowing blue blade cut right through her white-hot one.
The enemy MS attempted to stab through her cockpit with its left-hand beam sword, but the Bulldog quickly sidestepped, dropping the remains of its blade as it did so. Forgetting her enemy’s raw power for a moment, Caldeira threw a punch with her MS’ right hand, connecting with the enemy machine’s cockpit hatch even as its terrible blue “aura” began to melt the Bulldog’s knuckles.
Taking advantage of her enemy’s distraction – Caldeira optimistically hoped the shock of her blow had knocked its pilot out cold – her Bulldog ran for the manufacturing block’s hangar-style doors, signalling her team to retreat as she began her first powered jump toward the recovery point.
Pryce was still conscious, but shaken. The enemy commander had punched him! It was hardly a common move in MS combat, that was for certain; battles were rarely fought at ranges close enough to put the Gundam’s beam sabres to use, let alone throw blows like that. The boxing Bulldog had fled, no doubt ready to retreat with the remainder of their team. Out of a sense of obligation to the Guardian pilots who had died here, Pryce decided to give chase, avenge the Allied Army pilots who had given their lives for this Gundam.
Stood in the hangar, Pryce let the ARMOUR that protected his MS slowly recharge, even as the Gundam picked up the command Bulldog’s rifle, before taking a spare ammunition drum from the downed Standard Army MS laying prone on the hangar floor. Reloading the heavy rifle, oversized for an MS like the Bulldog, and checking the ARMOUR was at 98% and still climbing, Pryce ventured out of the manufacturing block.
As soon as he stepped out of the hangar-style doors, two Bulldogs opened fire on him.
Neither was the commander; Pryce wondered if these two were here to cover their superior’s retreat, with their lives if necessary. Whatever their motivations for being here, the Vristech pilot controlling the company’s latest product knew that taking them down would deprive the Standard Army of two more pilots, and would hopefully avenge the fallen Guardians and their pilots. Pryce wondered if the Gundam would have any empathy for its fallen “cousins”.
Raising the Bulldog rifle, Pryce opened fire, a quick burst smashing through the sensor-filled head of the left enemy; he had been aiming for its cockpit, but without the datalink codes necessary the Gundam couldn’t automatically align its optics with those of the rifle. It would have to be “best guess” aiming, with that in mind. Continuing to fire for suppression rather than for effect, he drew a recently-replaced beam sabre hilt in the Gundam’s left hand, igniting the blade as a burst of fire toward the non-blinded Bulldog smashed its stolen rifle, leaving it useless. As the left one fired, a katar flipped out on the rifle-less right Bulldog’s gun arm, locking over its knuckles, its edges superheating as the hilt made contact with the knuckles. It had the classic Standard Army “punching blade” – as Allied pilots called them – ready to go.
Both Bulldogs advanced as Pryce’s stolen rifle ran empty, the blade-armed advancing faster as its wingman sprayed precise bursts of fire toward the Gundam. Pryce knew that despite their obvious experience and numerical advantage, his MS had the advantage in raw power – so he took it.
Surging forward, the Gundam swung its empty rifle into the path of the blade Bulldog’s katar as it closed in on the gunner, using the beam sabre in its left hand to thrust through the gunner’s cockpit and end the pilot’s life – and threat. The remaining Bulldog, having torn the rifle from its blade, charged toward the Gundam, aiming to avenge his fallen comrade and destroy the newest Allied machine. Its aura was terrifying to the Standard pilot, like that of a demon, but he knew he would either die on his feet or die on his knees, and he had no intention to bow down and admit defeat.
In one fluid motion, however, the Gundam sidestepped the Bulldog’s stabbing attack, positioned to face the Bulldog’s left side, the beam sabre in its left hand cutting the Bulldog in half at waist height.
A quick long-range sensor check pegged five remaining Bulldogs in full retreat, too far to catch up. Regardless, one Gundam MS with a test pilot in its cockpit had survived, downing three Bulldogs and damaging another in the process, and most of Vristech’s Site #7 facility was intact. To James Pryce, that just about counted as a win.
So that's that... any and all feedback will be much appreciated!
_________________"Trust me, I know what I'm doing."
- Sledge Hammer
A Wind Raging Through
, a Destiny