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 Post Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 2:24 am 
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OMG Doomsday Laser
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Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:56 am
Posts: 1427
Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
In the era of After Colony, peace was achieved with the formation of the Earth Sphere United Nations. Heero Yuy, a primary player in the wars of yesterday, finds that he is suddenly a civilian and struggles to find peace within himself. However, Relena Darlian's efforts for cooperation and her Terraformation Project go awry as mankind's first interplanetary war breaks loose. Leaving behind a life of hard-won contentment, Heero once again throws himself into battle with a new generation of mobile suit at his disposal, but what is there left for the Perfect Soldier to learn in war? As a new age of mobile suit pilots enter the war, they realize for themselves what it truly takes to pick up The Sword.


Story Index:

Act I: Fragile Peace
Chapter 1: Episode I - Past and Present
Chapter 2: Episode II - Jen's Story
Chapter 2.5: Episode Plus - The Heart in Solitude
Chapter 3: Episode III - Death at One's Door
Chapter 4: Episode IV - The Restless Dogs of War
Chapter 5: Episode V - An Olive Branch in One Hand, A Shield in the Other

Chapter 6: (Act Special - Red) Episode I - Rebellion

Act II: The Conflagration
Chapter 7: Episode I - Forging Swords

Now being hosted at The Lost Citadel.

Notes:

7.11.08 - edited ch. 1
12.22.08 - revisions and overhauls posted for ch. 1,2,3
- posted first edition of ch. 4
- official title change
1.18.09 - revisions and additions to chapters 3 and 4
- creation of chapter index
- "The Author's Thoughts Thus Far"
8.22.09 - beginning another level of revisions for all the chapters
5.24.12 - revised Episode Plus and beginning revisions for ch.3 and 4
5.9.13 - ch.5 posted
5.12.13 - edits to chapters 3 and 4
5.16.13 - edits to ch.5
8.3.13 - ch.6 posted
1.20.14 - ch.7 posted

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


Last edited by Seraphic on Mon Jan 20, 2014 11:09 pm, edited 19 times in total.

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 Post Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 2:28 am 
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OMG Doomsday Laser
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Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:56 am
Posts: 1427
Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing, and for those seeking legal action, I have only debt to give you. It’s just a harmless story. Enjoy.

New Mobile History
Gundam Wing: The Sword

Act I: Fragile Peace
Episode I: Past and Present


After Colony 197

Peace has returned to the people, and from this point on in history, weapons called mobile suits—including the Gundams—were never to be seen again in the Earth Sphere.

However, not all of mankind was able to attain this same peace, and so, tranquility will once again be slain by the sword.



After Colony 200

It was that misplaced calm before the storm—the same sense of clarity and focus one feels in the face of death. Beyond the bright moon, pilots were gathering their mobile suits into formation: line checks, system checks, ammo checks, fuel checks. It was an intense and painstaking state of mind. And throughout all of it, a profound quiet enveloped everything and everyone. They saw a cosmic band of sparkles that appeared from the deep reaches of space. From out of the darkness, it had come far to touch the ends of the Earth Sphere. Every man and woman knew that each shimmering light was only a mask for a star that foretold great ruin. They were mobile suits—enemies coming to snuff out life as they knew it. A small portion of the band, composed easily of a thousand units, had branched off to face their formation—a living wall made of metal and human valor placed adamantly between the Earth and its invaders.

The soldiers of the Earth Sphere United Nations were anxious with dread. They took in uneasy breaths, fighting off the overwhelming feeling that somehow expressed itself as quiet and calm. Some meditated on nothingness, trying not to lose themselves to the frenzy of battle. Some focused back on their training, praying that in some way it would keep them alive. And others thought back to their families who waited for them. ...Those who waited.... Soon would come the one thing—a single instant—that would transform all of them and begin a new chapter in the war torn history of the human race.

And yet to join the formation was a feathered mobile suit, an incarnation of hope that seemed to exist outside of normal reality. It drifted unguided through the silence of space like a feather plucked from an angel’s wing. The pilot inside, isolated from all reality by the obscure darkness of his control chamber, was reading again a message addressed to him.

…You are so far away now, and I am unable to learn where you are or how you’re doing. I don’t even know if you are standing on this same earth that I am. Even so, know that I am behind you and that my heart goes out to your cause. I believe in you, because that is the most I can do from where I stand. My greatest hope is that you return to me.

When thoughts of you weigh heavily on me I find myself in the garden. Even though I know you could be worlds away on the verge of life and death, I feel that I can be closer to you here. No matter the distance between us, what’s certain is that the memories and the life in this earth connects us. Please be safe through your trials and return to our home so we may live up to our promises.

With my deepest love and wishes....



Hesitantly, the message’s window was closed as the panoramic monitors of the cockpit began to flicker to life, and he was surrounded with the image of a battle about to commence. His hand had moved involuntarily, cutting off the words before his eye could pass over the name of the one who had written him with such warmth and devotion. The Gundam righted itself as it took its place within the formation. It floated with an austere elegance, laying its piercing gaze on a particular crested suit in the distance ahead. The veteran pilot began to speak, with a link to the suit he was observing.

“Have your eyes open to what’s in front of you. These people came to defend a peace that rightfully belongs to them. No one has the right to take that away.”

The pilot in the crested suit replied gravely. “Is that what you believe? Your peace is but a falsehood and a mockery. We will see which of us has the justice to earn the right to a world at peace.”

At length Heero let out a long soft sigh. “Yeah….”

The feathered suit’s engines whirred as a soft glow grew at the tips of its otherworldly silhouette. Hurled forth by metal wings, it charged forward into the sea of mobile suits ahead with white feathers trailing behind it.



December of After Colony 197

A light snow drifted down onto a frozen pond surrounded by leafless trees. The black bark of the trees contrasted the heavy white powder that had bent the branches down into arches and bows. The ice-covered pond was vast and pristine, and at its center stood a shrine dedicated to a red-faced war god who brandished an imposing long-handled sword. Behind it was another that contained a goddess of compassion, the one who hears the cries of the world. The porcelain statue captured the immaculate beauty of a goddess cradled in flowing white garments; her image eased the suffering in even the most tortured of hearts. Hidden in the trees was a shady, crested bird which raised a forlorn melody to keep itself company. The lone creature puffed up its feathers to keep from succumbing to the frigid colds.

It was the first winter in a long time that he didn’t find himself fighting for his life. At the edge of the frozen waters was a stone bench on which sat Heero Yuy. He was a sharp young man, mature through the trials of his harsh life, and bore a striking appearance. The world was frozen and quiet. All that lay before him was ice, snow, and stillness. It was all encased in white—the trees, the shrines, and the home which stood off in the distance behind him. This was his garden, icy and stilled by winter, and it was a place Heero was often found to spend his time. He sat unmoving on the cold stone of his seat, lost in thought, letting the snow continue to fall on his crown and shoulders.

He was thinking over his lifetime as a soldier and what he had done afterwards. Dr. J…The withered, half-mechanical man replaced Heero’s childhood with years of training and harsh lessons. It was all done to transform him into a weapon—a symbolic perfect weapon and nothing more. To change the world and save its people, he had forsaken his own sense of humanity. It was not a decision he made for himself. But the deal was done, and the trade was all but fair. It was a ruthless way of life, but he knew it was the only reason he could bear sitting in the piercing cold of the snow for hours. His conditioning was a hard-lived existence filled with terror and regrets, regrets like the deaths of a young girl and her dog, and countless more afterwards. By my own hand. But still, it was Dr. J who had given him the only two things which he had of value: his name, Heero Yuy, and his Gundam mobile suit, the Wing Gundam.

Heero’s mind conjured up the countless battles he fought within that suit, and eventually the Wing Zero and its ZERO System program. They were monstrosities—devils. But only with a demon’s strength could they ever hope to tear though the pains and tragedies of the past. He could remember the blank, piercing stare of that cold and ruthless machine and the system that had driven many to the point of insanity. Through combat the Wing Zero had given him so many answers, but none of which he found to be worthwhile to him and his anguish. How many times am I supposed to kill that girl and her dog? It was hopeless to find such answers. A Gundam is not God. He was supposed to die in one of those battles—to end his miserable existence, but as fate would have it, through the might of the wrathful Wing Zero, Heero saw through an end to the battles.

A moment of calm was the fruit that mankind had reaped through its countless battles, but this would be tested time and again. A little girl named Mariemaia shattered that peace Heero had ushered in with metal wings. Though that precious victory was earned and created by the whole of humanity and not Heero alone, it was his final act in battle that allowed the seeds of peace to take root and bear fruit. And because of this role, he had felt a sense of responsibility to look after the world without war. When rebellion struck against the newly formed government, again Heero would take up arms. It was the last battle for him and the Wing Zero, and in the end he had taken one more innocent life. He would never have to kill ever again. Never again…he told himself.

Caught up in all of this was a beacon of peace, a young woman Heero crossed paths with time and again. Relena Peacecraft, despite all odds and the threats of evil regimes, forsook her ordinary ordinary life and rose to seats of great influence. She had the makings of greatness. In her there was strength and nobility. She even once looked Heero dead in the eye even when he had a gun pressed to her neck. It was a different sort of strength. She says she gets it from me.... Through his experiences as a soldier, Heero had developed expectations for mankind to be weak and foolish. People were cowards, and in times of plight could only act in ways to ensure their own survival, whether that be bending to the will of dictators or oppressing those weaker than themselves. She was the only one to prove otherwise to him. However righteous she was, Heero could never come to completely accept or agree with her ideologies. A soldier is a mere piece of trash in the world of Pacifists. Still, he fought tirelessly for those ideals. Giving her the benefit of the doubt was the most he could do, for it was not the soldier’s place to change the world.

And it was Relena’s world of total peace to which Heero could never fully adjust. There was no place for a weapon. The world had given those up. He was a soldier—one without a war to fight or a cause to die for, and being a civilian was the furthest thing from normal to him. After the Mariemaia incident, he had gone back to his home colony to begin his trials as an ordinary man. He lived quietly, as best he knew how. Heero found himself renting a humble apartment in a small neighborhood. He would do odd jobs over the Internet, occasionally doing some hacking for business that required a little more finesse. It would be a shame to let those skills go to waste.

Heero’s move into civilian life was awkward and difficult. He rarely came in contact with other people, and those he did meet were startled by his intense demeanor. His neighbors must have been afraid of him, avoiding eye contact and shooing their children inside whenever he happened to meet them. At times, he went for weeks without uttering a single word, and when the need to speak arose, he found his voice to be rough and dry from prolonged silence. This anti-social behavior was not forced or intentional, but simply was how things have worked out for Heero. He knew in the back of his mind that living this way could only lead to obscurity, and so he went one step at a time to work his way towards being what may be called normal.

In life, there are things that are nonsensical that one does to feel normal. They were things that piqued his interest and he tried for the hell of it—for the experience and for the sake of knowing if nothing else. The alcohol was a bad idea. Heero didn't know how to drink and his forays were terrible, leaving him buzzed, drunk, and hung over for long periods, with memory lapses here and there. The Perfect Soldier was a light-weight, and despite a heightened metabolism, couldn't hold a drink. Perhaps some things were better left untouched, since he felt he had no reason to keep up the habit. His short-lived foray into alcoholism was quickly forgotten. It was a habit that robbed him of his lucidity, and he refrained from drinking since he needed to be in the right mind if he was to enjoy his other newfound hobby. The two did not mix well at all, and such occasions often went like this:

Heero’s customized Core staggered about in the Arena, clumsily toting a behemoth of an energy rifle in its wake. The Core flew recklessly to the right and looked on as rockets rained upon the area it just left vacant. Another Core, the Arcadia, dropped from the top of the Arena dome, swift with its sniper rifle, letting fly three hot bullets at “Zero”.

“Who the hell do you think you are, Mr. Ace?” Heero criticized his computer opponent drunkenly, his words slurred together incomprehensibly. “Slingin’ around that sniper rifle like you’re king of the flippin’ world…”

Zero returned fire with its Karasawa. The glowing blue round hurtled towards Ace who leaped to dodge, but the round clipped his foot part and exploded in a ball of hot plasma. Heero snorted as he watched Ace’s Core recoil from the attack. The Arcadia didn’t have many armor points left then, and Ace retaliated against the drunken madman with more ferocity than ever. Ace let his rockets fly at the Zero who was strafing counter-clockwise around him. A rocket hit the ground and exploded to the right of Heero’s Core. It never made contact with him, but he strafed directly into the explosion, resulting in a loss of 23 of his 8975 armor points.

“What!?” Hot smelly air rushed out of Heero’s throat along with his outrage. “You dare to damage me? That ZOINKS before you made the same mistake. You know what happened—” Heero’s sentence is interrupted by a hiccup, “—to him? I killed him! That’s right…sent that ZOINKS to Hell!” An odd silence passed. Heero swigged another gulp of Wild Turkey and messily manipulated his game controller to cause his Core to eject its back and extension parts. He is going to need to be swift and light for “The Finisher”.

Heero activated Zero’s powerful overboost thrusters, a crazed grin stretching his lips. The entire back of Zero’s core part opened and from it burst a flurry of white-hot flame that hurtled him towards Ace’s Core. His opponent was unloading rockets at Zero at an insane rate, but Heero’s overboost allowed him to zip right and left to dodge the rockets, and still drive ever closer to Arcadia. Now frantic, Ace took to the air to escape the drunken loon’s mad dash, but was shot down by the Karasawa. Ace’s Core fell from the sky, leaving a trail of smoke on its way to the cold, hard Arena floor.

Zero’s energy was drained down to the redzone, but the monstrous Core was finally upon Ace. Heero unleashed his Moonlight saber and whipped it across Ace’s cockpit, the energy wave that came from it ripped away at his armor, and the primary slash depleted the last of the Arcadia’s armor points.

Ace’s Core fell down to one knee as Heero watched it smolder and crackle in flames. Heero’s shoulders shook with a low chuckle that continued until he threw his head back into a mad cackle. The Arena’s new first ranked pilot watched the replay of his championship bout time after time, still shaking with mad laughter and drowning himself in liquor until he passed out and collapsed onto the clinking bottles strewn all around him.


Heero had a modest collection of mecha and simulation games, all of which he mastered very quickly. They felt very familiar to him. It was comfortable. Lately, he found himself even tweaking them with self-developed programs to give him more of a challenge. He smirked somewhat, relishing in the simulated chaos and devastation he wrought with his Karasawa rifle. But it was all very hollow in a way. Why was he deluding himself with these games? Though amusing, it was not genuine battle, nor even anything productive. It was the machines and the combat that drew him in. But what kept him from stopping altogether? The real battles were over and done with, but still, Heero could not simply stop fighting so suddenly. The simulations were nowhere close to the real thing, but he would not be breaking his word or harming anyone, either. The Perfect Soldier’s head was still rattled by war games.

Those were his pastimes and musings, but outside of that he had the initiative to start a legitimate business, which was based online of course. “Heero’s Protection Service” was its name and the motto: “I’ll kill them before they kill you.” Clients would visit the home site and contact him through electronic mail, and then they would proceed to negotiate a contract. Heero did not discriminate on who he worked for, taking jobs from the likes of company presidents, government officials, and sometimes young women who merely wanted him to rough up their ex-boyfriends a little. Some jobs would pay well, but others he took on out of boredom or duty. It was all haphazard and almost reckless, but it was a change that was welcomed. Heero was glad he could be in a business where the skills he acquired as a soldier would be an asset.

Making ends meet was difficult with business at a slow start, but then a certain client turned things around: Quatre Winner, a former Gundam pilot like himself. Heero was never sure whether he was actually needed as another member of the Winner family security staff. The entirety of the Maganac Corps was not enough? Maybe he just took the job for old times' sake. The situation was that Quatre was in danger of being lynched by the citizenry of the L4 colony cluster, many of whom blessed his home with flying rocks and graffiti. In his enthusiasm, the Winner boy had donated an entire resource satellite and all of its various revenues to the cause of Relena Darlian’s Terraformation Project. The people were infuriated because, before it had been given away, all profit earned by the resource satellite was used to fund local projects about the colony cluster. They were angry even though the satellite’s assets were in complete ownership of the Winner estate and those aforementioned funds were free gifts from the magnanimous family.

Heero kept him from mobs of businessmen and swarms of angry citizens until Quatre was able to abate their anger by diverting funds from other satellites. The Winner boy learned once again how difficult it was for the general public to give selflessly and unify behind a cause. Though it was over, the two of them felt they still had suffered another loss. There is only so much a lone individual can accomplish. As former Gundam pilots, they knew it all too well. They made their names fighting losing battles. When it came time to close the contract, Quatre sent Heero away with a check before he could open his mouth—he would love nothing more than to host old friends, but there was a pile of paperwork that needed to be worked through. For Heero, the job was at least a welcome change from days spent alone just milling about his apartment.

Maybe Quatre didn’t pay attention to the number of zeros he wrote down on that check. It didn’t bounce at least, so one couldn’t complain. Intentional or not, Heero rationed the modest fortune very carefully. He spent only enough to get by, but on rare occasions indulged in a luxury or two—maybe some tool to make things go easier, or perhaps something interesting to take home. It was the first time in his life he was able to do something like that—the first time he ever did anything for himself. With a bit of financial freedom, Heero eventually decided to move to the Earth, living humbly in a home he had built in a quiet rural area using the money he had gotten from Quatre. The facilities and garden were just something extra to add and give him projects to work on. Heero’s Protection Service had picked up a bit with his base of operations moved to the Earth where, unlike the colonies, the people aren’t completely reliant on each other to survive. That sense of community absent on the earth created a place of greater uncertainty. With his life settling down this way, the former soldier came to the realization that he earned his peace time through the insecurities of others. It was not much different than before.

Heero opened his eyes and gazed out before him. The coming winter had frozen the sparkling pond completely solid. In warmer seasons, he would have to take a small boat to make his way to the shrines, but in the winter the ice was firm enough to run and jump on. It was normally filled with red-ear slider turtles, all of which were put inside an indoor tank. Rushing to nab all of them with a fishing net before the winter freeze was quite the experience. The shelled creatures were charming in their own little way, and Heero felt they made his garden just lively enough when the waters were thawed, and that was why it was so unfortunate when he caught sight of one he didn’t quite save. Near the shrine, there was a turtle frozen in the water only inches from the surface. Its eyes were wide and mouth agape. He gave it a bit of a dry stare. Shouldn’t animals have better survival skills than this? How shameful. Heero lamented quietly to himself over another useless loss. Maybe the shrine’s goddess would find mercy for this creature.

His moment of silence was interrupted by a shrill laugh of excitement that rang in the cold air. Heero looked up, disturbed from his quiet mood, but let nothing bubble up to the surface. A young woman in a white winter coat slid across the iced over pond on her back at an impressive speed, her red scarf trailing behind her. She came to a spinning stop in front of the stone bench and went into another fit of laughter.

Of course…then there was her....

By Seraphic
7-11-08
8-21-08
11-28-08
12-8-08
8-22-09


**Author's note: Yeah, that was AC3. =p

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


Last edited by Seraphic on Sun Aug 23, 2009 12:55 am, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 2:30 am 
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OMG Doomsday Laser
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Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:56 am
Posts: 1427
Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
God, I hope I don't kill the character limit. There will also be something in here mentioned several times that doesn't make any sense at all. It's actually an inside joke from the humor pages of the late Gundam Wing Analysis site.**

Act I
Episode 2: Jen’s Story


Captured on the frozen water was the reflection of a snow covered garden. There was stillness in everything, and that stillness was the patience to be born again with new life. He looked down at her for the longest time. The bitterness in Heero’s Prussian blue eyes was gone. And looking deeply in that young woman’s eyes, he saw a soldier.

She blushed, feeling unsettled from the way he gazed at her, and spoke softly. “Heero?”

He pulled his eyes away from her, saying, “Jen. You’ll ruin your clothes playing around like that.”

“I think I tore a hole in my trousers,” she stated matter-of-factly, being at once both candid and silly.

Heero’s head and shoulders slumped somewhat in reaction. It wasn’t easy to stir a response like this from him. “Let’s go inside,” he said, figuring they had been outside long enough as it was. Without another word, he slowly rose up from his seat and left for the house, treading silently through the snow. He did not look back, letting her go along at her own leisure.

Jen did not move immediately, lying at the foot of the stone bench. She was staring upwards at the sky as the white powder drifted down to earth, relishing in the expanse of this frozen garden. The sky was vast, swallowing her up, and the earth underneath her seemed to vanish, leaving nothing but this curious feeling inside. She was in wonder at where life had taken her—at how she could have suddenly been thrust into these rare circumstances. Where else in the entire Earth Sphere could she have found a place where her heart felt as open as it did then? It was a small and quiet happiness she valued to be worth a hundred lifetimes.

Jen unwound her scarf and slipped out of her coat as she came through the doorway. A mild flame was stoked in the fireplace, kindled prior to her arrival. The hot wisps danced hypnotically, throwing a warm orange glint onto the room. She stood in the entrance for a time, drawing into herself the warmth of the room until her skin stopped tingling from the cold. Kicking off her boots aside the door, Jen left to her room to change into another pair of pants.

Heero had since turned on the television, but simply for the background noise. He was busy preparing a light snack for them to have: two apples cut into slices and mugs of hot chocolate to keep them warm—with a marshmallow in hers. Things were kept simple for his sake. Heero looked again at the apple slices with some discontent. They were crudely peeled and cut into large chunks. The sight of them frustrated him somewhat. If Jen had done it herself, she would have peeled the apples with a single cut, leaving the skin as a long corkscrew-shaped strand, and then the apples would be sliced into neat little wedges. Heero was supposed to be good with a knife, being a soldier with years of training in close quarters combat and knife techniques, but something about peeling an apple with such extravagance simply escaped him. Combat could only take one so far.

The apples, too, had been grown in his garden, harvested before winter drained the plants of life. Many other sorts of fruits and vegetables were cultivated in the garden as well, and Heero was almost convinced to plant a rice crop before he realized how ridiculous he would look planting and harvesting the grains. The last suggestion was only half-serious to begin with. And she was the rhyme and reason behind all of it. He was astounded by how she transformed everything around her. When Jen first came to the house all she found in the kitchen was a can of beer and a spot of mold, and Heero was simply living off of powdered military rations. The packs were deemed so reliable that they didn’t carry an expiration date, to which Jen did not know to be glad for quality or fearful of old age.

Heero knew he could not expect another human being to eat (let alone live) day to day the way he did, and so he allowed himself to be convinced that his gardens should be used to grow food. Not only would they be beautiful, but they could be a source of sustenance and work for him as well. It was another idea he was open to in his attempts to settle into a more ordinary life, but even then he was no one to judge what was normal or not. There was little motivation for him beyond the fact that it was all slightly more productive than doing absolutely nothing. Between contracts for his business, all Heero had was time to kill. It was not as though gardening was a bad thing at all, so he tried it out much like a hobby in which he could invest his energy. Working alongside Jen, putting in time and ideas, Heero eventually grew quite attached to the land and his home.

But starting to cook was a different undertaking altogether. Heero lived in a worrisome manner, to put things simply. Although he enjoyed a reasonably high standard of living, he did very little to care for his own well-being, as though tomorrow would not be missed if it never came. It was not his health to be concerned about, but his state of mind. Who needs to cook well when survival was enough? His life was very mechanical. There was little joy or self-fulfillment in his days—only work and time left to burn. Jen could not help but worry for her gracious host. Seeing Heero’s haphazard and self-destructive way of thinking only convinced her more that underneath all of it, Heero needed something more in his life to hang onto. She did not feel she had very much to offer, but she felt obligated to do some good and pay him back in whatever way she could. And so she started small, and he would cook for them once in a while.

Heero Yuy would be a terror to have in the kitchen. He liked to skip steps and was impatient. It was a ruinous mood for cooking. Pressure cookers erupted, oils burst into flame, and the countertops would be covered in blood when he fumbled and cut himself. All of this would cause Jen to dive for cover or go into frenzied dashes for fire extinguishers and bandages that weren’t there, but Heero never did as much as blink. He merely grunted at those little "set backs". But as mercy would have it, he was a good learner, understanding recipes quickly, and had solid retention and execution. But still, he kept things simple, his ingredients lacking refined cuts, and the recipes stayed rigid and lacked experimentation. He had cooked their dinner just the night before. She deemed his meals passable, but it was more than just the food to her. Heero Yuy was cooking. For her of all people. He’s never thanked her out loud, but they both knew he appreciated the good she had done for him. It made him feel normal.

Jen was already settled in front of the television when Heero came with the apple slices and her hot chocolate. They drank from their mugs in slow gulps and chewed on the fruit thoughtfully as they watched a documentary made about the Eve Wars. The presentation of the events seemed too condensed and melodramatic to Heero, and even then the role of the Gundams remained a spotty, misunderstood mystery. Bothered, he would sigh lightly or clear his throat quietly from time to time while watching this. Jen noticed this uneasiness, her eyes shifting slightly between the screen and Heero, but she found herself unable to do anything for it or bring it up in conversation. She knew in the back of her mind it was one of the things she would be unable to fully empathize with, and she felt her throat tighten a little from her lament. Those who didn't fight simply could not know.

The program continued with an interview with a man who was a Tragos pilot during the wars, and years after, he still appeared to be dumbfounded by his close encounter with a Gundam. He proceeded to explain that the monstrous suit, later to be identified as 01, had jumped off of his Tragos like a springboard, crushing the head part, and went on to completely obliterate the base he was defending.

“I remember that,” Heero said thoughtfully.

“I guess you didn’t scare him enough so he wouldn’t embarrass himself on TV?” Jen inquired jokingly, making best of the situation by trying to keep their mood light. Heero huffed to stifle a laugh and gave a small smirk in response.

They turned back to the screen when the signal suddenly cut and a reporter appeared. “Further development on what appears to be a terrorist bombing on the Preventers mobile suit facilities. In a damage assessment, it appears that all of the mobile suits inside the hangar were either disabled or destroyed by high grade explosives. Several groups have claimed responsibility for the bombing, including radicalist peace factions that call for the elimination of all mobile weapons, but the legitimacy of these claims has yet to be determined. There is still no official word on the number of casualties, but several dozen workers are already being treated for injuries. Investigation continues, so please tune in to your local news station for further coverage. We now return to your normal broadcast.”

“…so I charged at it from behind with a beam saber. Ho boy, that was a mistake!”


Heero’s brows immediately furled. Did they get the Tallgeese? Even if it was for the sake of eliminating all weapons from the Earth Sphere, crippling the Preventers, our first line of defense, could turn into a disaster.

This was the first the two of them had heard of the situation, being rather isolated from the rest of the world where they lived, and even then, they made little effort to keep up with current events. In the old days, Heero would have had the entire situation figured out two days ahead of time, and would have had the perpetrators at gunpoint by now, but in recent times he became largely withdrawn from that kind of involvement. Heero Yuy wasn’t the same man he used to be. It wasn’t his responsibility anymore.

But he could sense the inner turmoil that this news had created in Jen. She seemed as though she wanted to say something, though nothing came out after several moments. In her thoughts she wanted to know what Heero was going to do, now being aware of the situation. Would his sense of duty come before everything else? Was he going to run off, to fight, to go kill someone? Could he die a sudden and senseless death? What if he meant to leave her on her own? Jen became entangled in many thoughts like these, unable to sort through them on her own. She wanted desperately to keep him where he was, but Jen could say nothing because she had no reason to excuse that selfishness. She couldn’t justify protecting her own wants and needs when there were people being hurt. Who was she to stop him?

“I won’t go,” Heero said suddenly. Jen turned and looked at him in near astonishment, but after a moment he just pulled her close and rested her head under his chin. “They won’t need someone like me,” he assured her. “Not yet, anyway.” They sat together like this for a time, not speaking again. Under his embrace, she did her best to believe in those words he spoke, but understood also the lack of assurance in his promise.

Uncertainty haunted him. Today’s fragile peace could dissolve at any time, and the world would return to its history of fighting and bloodshed. It was all too imperfect. The burden of maintaining peace rested entirely on the people, but he had chosen to isolate himself and live in a manner that was completely separate from the world. How much longer can he afford to ignore reality, and even then, would he even have the ability to make any difference?

In his thoughts, Heero’s eyes drifted to the empty mugs and the plate they had finished with. There was still another load of tableware untended in the kitchen. The sight reminded him of where he really was. He laughed on the inside, thinking how he could afford to live so casually and frivolously, free from responsibility. It wasn’t very soldierly at all.

“Jen,” he started carefully. “We’re done with these dishes, and there is still the mess I made from cooking the other night. Ignoring them any longer won’t do much good. How about you clean them up for us?”

She had just gotten comfortable as he was holding her, but she pushed him away, playfully but firmly. “You did cook for us, but I don’t know why you insist on me cleaning them every time. I really don’t like cleaning plates!” Really. The grime, the soap, the splashing water! “Isn’t there any other way?”

Naturally he knew that she hated it. He only insisted every time to get a rise out of her. It may be somewhat mischievous, but it amused him greatly to poke fun at her. Even with her pleading, Heero looked completely unfazed by the young woman’s argument. Her eyes got really wide.

“Fine!” she huffed, finally breaking under pressure. “But only if you can beat me in the simulator and best my machine! If that happens, I’ll wash the dishes for a whole week!”

A devilish smirk curved his lip as he heard those words. Just as I planned.

She was doomed.

The machine she was referring to was Rekka-Kimi, Prince of Raging Flames, the combat mech Jen used in their home simulator (which was a simple home console that was self modified to ridiculous lengths.) Though it was only part of a game, she always spoke of it proudly like a favorite son, having invested a lot of time and practice into it. Heero’s frame was unnamed, but it was the prototype for the Rekka-Kimi—they just happen to use different weapons. The two used the same frames because as a base, this design was the quickest and most efficient one produced by the simulator, but mostly because they insisted on challenging each other on an even field. Their fingers worked the controls furiously but fluidly as they both set up, checking over weapons and tuning in the parts. It was formal procedure that had become an effortless process over time. As soon as their systems were fired up, the living room became a war zone.

The Rekka-Kimi used a pair of twin pistols and had a blade tucked away in its holster. Though they lacked the punch of most other weapons, the handguns were light, fast, and accurate. When used in close assaults, they could dissolve an opponent’s armor in only a few passes. Heero’s nameless frame used a pair of arm-mounted energy blades—one to each arm. They limited him severely in range, but transformed him into a complete monster in close combat. It was the mark of an ace.

Heero used his thrusters in short bursts. The high accelerations and sudden stops were just enough to evade the hails of bullets and still leave him in position to strike. Jen tried to match his movements, using a similar thrusting routine, but on top of all that, she had to keep close enough to acquire locks with her pistols, but still stay out of her opponents striking range, and this was an extremely narrow margin. It was a lot to juggle all at once, but piloting was all about multi-tasking and micro management. The two machines weaved and danced around each other, trading blows that the other strained to dodge. Jen could keep up this pace for a time, but it was pushing her to her limits. Soon enough, her pistols were spent and Jen dropped them for her blade. But as soon as she had a weapon to defend herself properly, Heero had closed the gap and delivered a slash from his left-arm blade, then the right, and finished his assault with a soul-crushing cross slash with both blades. Jen clenched her teeth as the simulator delivered her message of defeat.

PWNED.

Heero sat at the kitchen table and sipped his tea from a mug as he watched Jen stand over the sink. She would be stuck with this for a week now. He could tell she was irritated from the way the young woman’s arm jerked as she toiled. What a ridiculous way to say it. Why not just have it say “Lose”? The plates squeaked terribly as she attacked a spot that refused to dissolve under the sponge. Didn’t he ever go easy on her and let her win? Even though it was all fun and games, it would be unlike the Perfect Soldier to be dishonest in that way—to give a person false hopes. Jen understood this well. In the hundreds of tries she had made, she was yet to best him. It became like a nonsense ritual between the two of them. She would always challenge him and be hopelessly crushed, but that was all why Jen admired his honesty.

Heero admired her determination. He wondered why any girl would be foolhardy or hard headed, let alone, aggressive enough to challenge him in this manner. As unnatural as it seemed, he figured it must have been for the bragging rights. Anyone who could best the Perfect Soldier, even at something like a simple combat simulation, could go on bragging for the rest of history. And hell, it was fun. With these musings in mind, his gaze passed over her carefully. It was not that he had been raised to have an eye for such things, but Heero found her beauty to be quite remarkable. It was not something that was overly obvious, but something that grew more apparent with time. He followed the lines and shapes of her slender frame, seeing how they seamlessly blended together to become that memorable figure…to become Jen. Somewhat breathless, Heero thought back to how life came to be this way.


It was early spring of After Colony 197. Heero had left his “transportation” a few blocks away from his new client’s home and was making his way there on foot. It was the only way he could avoid causing any glaring commotion or attracting unwanted attention. His pace was steady as he made no haste, enjoying the crisp spring weather. He was clad in a navy blue dress shirt with dark slacks, Italian shoes, and a tie. Over this Heero wore a Preventers jacket that Sally Po had given him in a fruitless attempt to entice him to join their organization. He shamelessly wore the jacket as a gift even though he declined to provide his help. In one hand he also carried a briefcase that contained his laptop and paperwork. Yes, he cut quite an impressive look, but no one who caught a glance of him knew he had a pistol hidden away on his person.

The client was a young woman who got in contact with him by e-mail. Heero’s services as a bodyguard were requested. A man who had assaulted the client was released from prison not long ago, and a surprise encounter with him left her paralyzed with fear. It was the kind of situation that left a bad feeling in his stomach. Heero agreed to meet with her to flesh out the details of the case and make a contract. It wasn’t the most exciting job in the world, but he figured it would be putting his time to better use than lounging around at home waiting for a larger contract.

Jen sat motionless on the edge of her bed, her senses and memory becoming numb and blurred together. She was beginning to grow too exhausted to even think. That bodyguard was supposed to arrive to talk today. How in the world could this be happening to her? Everything was coming together nicely, and then suddenly there he was. That sicko was just sitting there at one of the back tables at her work, watching her with a crooked look in his eye. What the hell was the meaning of this? The police let her know that the little stunt he played was a direct violation of his parole, and they would be on the lookout for him, but it was rather obvious to her that this wasn’t one of their higher priority items. Ever since then, Jen had been ducking out of her work shifts at the shop to avoid the possibility of anything happening. She had been missing out so much that she was, in reality, fired some weeks ago. She would have explained her reasons to her employers, but it just felt too degrading to talk about. Only about a month or more before her bills eat up the rest of her meager savings.

It had to be then of all times. It had to be her of all people. She was beginning to think she was finally on top of things. Though Jen did not make much money and her work was difficult labor, she had finally paid back all of her debt. She did not owe a thing to anyone, and there was nothing to hold her back from doing anything she wanted. Though exhausted, she was satisfied with her accomplishments. But she wasn’t done being tested. Jen was greatly shaken when she was taken victim. Despite getting away unhurt, the event left a terrible impression on her mind. And now that man was on the loose again, free to do what he would with her. Jen did not know what she could possibly do in this situation. She had absolutely no power. Never before had she felt so weak or fearful, and because of this fear, everything was beginning to unravel. How could she be such a coward that she could not go on working and living like anyone else could? She was too scared to make a move. Jen despised her inability to gain control over her fear. She hated this weakness that consumed her.

It was not long before Jen’s friend could no longer stand to watch her remain in such misery. Jen was told she should do what she could to take power into her own hands, and the suggestion to find a bodyguard was made. It was an awkward idea at first, but with no where else to turn, Jen finally consented. The search for a protection service was long and filled with misgivings. It was difficult to find reliable information or to know who was trustworthy. Eventually, they came in contact with a man who said he was willing to take a job with them. His resume included contracts with company presidents, government officials, but also small cases with families and everyday people. Jen and her friend had little saved up between the two of them, but were curious to ask about the fee for the service. They were written back simply with a message that said, The money is not so important. When the job is done, you can pay what you feel is fair. This man’s job history and means of selecting cases seemed rather eccentric, but however, Jen sensed he was trustworthy and agreed to meet him for a contract. Still, she was not completely confident in her instinct at the moment, but all she can do at this point was wait to see how things unfold.

Heero came up to the steps and rapped lightly on the door. He had to check himself and make sure he wasn’t wearing a face that was too severe on whoever answered. A pretty girl opened the door a smidge and poked her head out to meet Heero face to face. She had violet eyes and her raven hair was cropped very short.

“Are you Jen Aoki?” Heero inquired. The girl did not answer but opened the door further and looked the young man up and down, causing Heero to raise an eyebrow with a puzzled look. She took him by the hand and pulled him inside, pushing him down onto the sofa. Before Heero could understand what was happening, she had straddled him with a bit of a contented laugh and began undoing his tie with her teeth. Heero was beyond surprise or confusion, and could only manage to curse to himself. The hell is this?

A voice called out from the other room, “Ramone, was there someone at the door? Oh…!” she cried out of shock, seeing what was unfolding. The young woman shielded her eyes from the sin. “What are you doing!” Ramone jumped to her feet, wide eyed and embarrassed.

Heero stood up as well and fixed his tie neatly. “I’m here to see Jen Aoki about a bodyguard contract.”

“Oh!” Ramone burst out in a nervous laugh caused by her embarrassing realization. “It’s my birthday today, you see, and I thought you might have been here for a little play-date!” She received a fierce scowl from Jen that caused her to flinch. “But I was wrong! Dead wrong. Really really really wrong. So, I want to apologize for the confusion and the whole violation of your comfort zone there, Mr. Bodyguard.” Ramone pushed Heero’s arm playfully to further demonstrate that she was just fooling around, but it just came across awkwardly again as he stared back at her blankly. She was hiding her panic behind an uneasy smile, backing slowly away from the other two. “I just thought that since it was my birthday and all Jen here might have arranged a little surprise for me. Very wrong. But I ought to be on my way now—I gotta go. Really sorry. Bye!” The door slammed abruptly and the girl was gone.

And all this time Heero was thinking civilian life was supposed to be filled with people that were less eccentric. His first instinct was to lock the young woman’s arm behind her back and toss her across the room out of self defense, but he had strained himself greatly to suppress that urge. Jen let out a sigh after Ramone had completed her escape. “I’m sorry about my friend. She’s not exactly the shy type, and probably not the best person to have around at times like these.” She shook her head, still uneasy and vexed by the earlier debacle, and extended her hand. “I’m Jen Aoki.”

He took hold of the young woman’s hand in a firm handshake. “Heero Yuy. It’s a pleasure.” Heero got his first good look at his client. Her hair was a very dark brown—nearly akin to black—and it fell down to the small of her back. Though she appeared tired from her ordeal, her eyes were still very bright. They had an incredibly dark color that was brilliant in the way it completely absorbed all the light it did not reflect.

After exchanging the usual pleasantries, Heero got out his laptop to begin his work, and they sat down to go over the case. The man who was now clearly stalking Jen was released from prison, and his original arrest happened after he had pinned down the client and attempted to have his way with her. He was sentenced due to his continuous record. Jen explained that he was an eerie regular from her workplace. Heero agreed to stay until the man was captured again, and in the meantime would be conducting his own remote investigation. That left one thing to question.

“He’s got his freedom now. What would compel him to go after you again and risk another arrest? What happened during the first incident?”

Jen was uneasy having to summon a memory she had willfully forgotten, but was able to formulate her thoughts with some time. “I left work alone that night. He grabbed me and…well, you know why. I fought him off and maced him when he dropped his trousers.” Heero coughed uncomfortably, but tried his best not to be rude. She continued, “When I got to my feet I just lost my mind and started kicking him. I couldn’t stop. He wasn’t able to get away by the time the police arrived.” Her listener nodded gravely. “When the guy caught sight of me the other day I was sure he was insistent on hurting me from the way his eyes were. He was mouthing words to me across the way, and of course I couldn’t hear them, but they felt cold and sharp like daggers. It was horrible. I’ve told you before that I reported what happened, but it could take a while before the police find him, if they ever come around to it. He has a forgettable face.”

A forgettable face? Heero pondered.

The two signed a contract, and Heero stayed there with Jen for some time. At first the days were uneventful. Heero kept his distance from the client, busying himself with tireless investigation via his laptop. Jen was astonished because he appeared to never eat or sleep. She also received regular calls from Ramone who insisted on visiting, which was more than likely just an attempt to catch another glimpse of the bodyguard. The client burned away her time in the kitchen trying new recipes or cooking techniques, though what was truly on her mind was getting her job back or finding new work. Ever since she was laid off, Jen took up cooking to try to busy her hands and ease her mind. She was no great chef, nor was she all that passionate about cooking, but she simply needed something to devote her energy into, and in the least it seemed slightly more productive than doing nothing at all.

Ramone was invited over on some occasions to try out some of the cooking as she had been doing even before Heero had arrived, but she joked that she was going to become morbidly obese if she kept it up. Jen would also invite her bodyguard to eat with them, but he would decline out of modesty and professionalism. Still, she insisted upon treating him until he agreed. He did so to avoid all the commotion. To support her efforts, Jen and Heero would on occasion risk a few ventures outside the house in order to find ingredients for recipes.

Heero got to wondering how a young woman like Jen would be living by herself, in a house, no less, at such an early age. She was no older than he was, after all. She was apparently a very intelligent person, and could have gone places if she were to apply herself, but with no schooling or formal study of anything in particular, she wound up seemingly ordinary. He learned that when Jen was younger she was orphaned when her father was killed in an Alliance campaign. Her mother had already passed on in her early childhood. She had lived with a foster family for a short time, but as soon as she was old enough, she took up the small inheritance left behind by her parents and struck out on her own. Admittedly it was a brash decision, but a feeling compelled her to leave her past all behind, and eventually she wound up living in this house. Jen told him that these were far-away memories that no longer burdened her. But even as she said so her eyes seemed distant. Heero never imagined that in meeting a seemingly ordinary young woman that he would again find another person scarred by the wars of the earlier era. War truly was harsh--its reach knowing no limit.

The client’s state of mind seemed to be improving in the next few days. With Heero Yuy present she no longer needed to feel anxious or be on constant guard. Jen was not completely relaxed around him either, but she began to recover the peace of mind she needed to concentrate on what she would do for the future. She did her best to be friendly around the man, but did not want to pester him and distract him from his work, either. She was unsure of the proper etiquette to have around one's bodyguard. On the last night, however, this ominous feeling took hold of her. It was so unusual. Her skin was beginning to crawl, and desperate to shake the feeling, Jen took a shower to try to get a handle on things. Maybe the water would calm her nerves.

Heero was far away in the living room, behind his laptop again, and his intense research was beginning to show promise. By now he had pulled up every known document on the man: driver’s licenses, schooling records, medical papers—the works. Heero pored over the files carefully in the hopes of finding a helpful detail. Apparently he often got in trouble in grade school for picking his nose. And the felon certainly did not remain inactive. He was difficult to track, not having a registered address, and stayed at the homes of friends.

In constant contact with other known criminals and thugs, he probably owned a small arsenal of weapons, which was high-profile where the modern day government was trying to get rid of weapons altogether. The Perfect Soldier almost worried that he could be outgunned. Not only that, but it seemed that the man was ex-military as well. Was the man violent enough to retaliate with such brutality? Heero couldn't rule out the possibility. This was getting more dangerous than he thought, and he was likely ill-equipped to deal with the situation as it was. And then by chance Heero was able to hack into some personal communication that was going through the man’s circle of contacts. Breezing through the recent messages, there looked to be some kind of payback hit being set for... Tonight?

He came through the door in a flash. “You have to get out of here. They’re going to come after you tonight.” Jen looked up to find her bodyguard whose eyes were suddenly fixed on her. She had leaned to the side to let the water drip out of her hair, and her bath towel was wrapped around her and tucked in like a little makeshift dress. The intrusion was so sudden and his expression so serious that she still did not understand what was happening and was oblivious to being caught at a bad moment. Heero’s heart skipped a beat and then began to race. Though his painstaking training as a super soldier was supposed to allow him to willfully regulate his heart rate and grant him extraordinary mental acuity, he found that he suddenly could not check himself. The unexpected loss of control was both infuriating and frightening to him.

And they both turned as they heard it: a car coming to a screeching halt, a fit of shouting, and the sound of a half dozen guns being cocked. Heero’s reaction was instantaneous. “Get down!!” He leapt forward and tackled his client to the ground, cradling her head. The next moment of time stretched into whole ages. Everything was splintering apart. Lead and shrapnel was flying every which way. The noise overwhelmed them so greatly that it was not so much heard as it was felt in their bones. Her eyes were shut as tight as they could be, and she could only hope that the bullets would not find their mark.

The gunfire ceased as suddenly as it came, and the roar of bullets left behind a silence so intense it was unreal. Bits and splinters skittered to the floor as the dust finally began to settle. Opening her eyes cautiously, Jen came out of her shock to find Heero still pressing her to the floor. She wanted to speak up, but the intensity she could sense from him kept her silent. He was completely still; eyes locked straight forward, ears listening for the slightest movements.

The Perfect Soldier stood up, grains and dust rolling off of his shoulders, and shot a death glare through the wall full of bullet holes. Now it was his turn. The car broke out in a hurry, leaving behind one man possessing a menacing presence. He stood with an air of invincibility about him, returning a glance, then turned and leisurely made his way around to the side of the house. Heero drew his pistol and exited the room leaving Jen with one order: “Hide.”

Heero came into the garage and raised his weapon. The man was covered head to toe in body armor and had a military issue machinegun slung around his shoulder. Ever confident in his overwhelming advantage, he did not even bother to raise the machinegun back at his opposition. He was definitely the one.

“Excessive if you’re just after the girl. Why all the trouble?”

There came a slow disturbing snicker. “She humiliated me…ruined my reputation and destroyed my pride as a man. It doesn’t even work any more….” Heero cringed at that extra bit of information but tried not to let it distract him. He continued, “but that bitch is gonna get what’s coming to her.”

“That doesn’t explain the body armor.” Heero smirked sarcastically. “She couldn’t be that dangerous, could she?”

“It’s not just about her anymore. You stand out in a crowd, Gundam Pilot. I recognized you when you were with her. This place isn’t too hard to find.” He definitely had Heero’s attention now. “You and I were both on X18 last season. Your buddy lobbed a grenade at me.”

He was with Mariemaia? Heero thought. That explains the forgettable face.

Heero waited for further explanation from the other man. “You’re a Gundam pilot, that I’m sure.” He huffed, “I’ll kill you and earn back the repute I lost, and I’m going to take my time with the girl once you’re out of the way. I’m gonna torture that piece of trash until she wishes I had killed her the first time around. It’ll be fun. Then I’ll be the only one laughing.”

“Gundam.” Was that word all that is giving this meaning? “This is a waste of your time. I left that title behind a long time ago.” Even as he spoke, Heero was looking for a way to somehow overcome his opposition. “Asides from the two of us standing here, no one else would recognize me as a Gundam pilot. It wouldn’t prove much to anyone. Killing me would mean nothing.” There was no way a handgun could stun him enough for Heero to move in. The machinegun would only mow him down the next instant. Then, he saw it, but his eyes did not waver to betray his intentions. “All I know is that you’re not going to get your hands on her.”

The man took his machinegun in hand now. “You won’t stop me. You won’t talk your way out of this either. You’re done for.” His finger tightened over the trigger on his weapon. Over the other man’s shoulder Heero could see a tank of pressurized propane. If it were shot open and ignited Heero could have a chance of knocking out his opponent or at least a chance of creating enough of a shock to make an opening. However, if the explosion was too much they could both be killed, or if the tank does not ignite Heero would waste his opportunity and be wide open for a punishing volley of machinegun fire. It was quite a gamble for the Perfect Soldier. He laughed under his breath, amused at the odds, and pulled the trigger.

***



“You blew up my house!!” She was kicking and screaming. Heero was dragging the man away from the burning abode by the man’s foot, and he had Jen slung over his other shoulder.

“I blew up your garage. The rest caught fire on its own.” She screamed at him again.

That was a long night. Firemen scrambled about the property. Emergency workers cut the wretch out of his melted body armor before he was sent back to prison, several more charges being added to his record. Heero filed the report with the police officers and argued with insurance agents. Jen sat alone on the curb, helpless. She was still wearing the same bath towel, though Heero had given her his Preventers jacket to put on over it. She had nothing to change into. She never imagined that she could lose everything so quickly. Not a thing was left. The fire destroyed it all. How was it that she came through this with another loss?


Heero came by and sat down with her. “It’s over now," he said in an apologetic voice. "I guess my contract’s complete.” He looked at the poor girl for a moment. In the darkness, the fire gave her complexion a soft melancholy glow. She looked pitiable and lost. “What are you going to do now?”

Her eyes were downcast, her voice quiet. “I don’t know. I don’t have anywhere to go.”

Heero tried his best to think of some solution or consolation. “What about staying with your friend?”

She laughed some at that. “That’s not such a great idea. There is only so much space at Ramone’s place. And being around each other too much may not be good either.”

“I can pay for the repairs to your home. Insurance won’t cover the damages because the fire was somewhat intentional on my part. I’ll do it. It’s the least I can do.” Jen turned to Heero, finally responding to his efforts. “It won’t be too long before they rebuild it. This is going out on a limb, but I suppose you could stay with me in the mean time, if that’s what you want. You can do that if there is nowhere else to go.” She gave him another long look. “There’s a lot of space there. I’ll stay out of your way.”

Jen Aoki thought for a long time and considered the young man’s unusual gesture of hospitality. It was striking to come across someone so straight forward and sincere. She nodded meekly. “Where?”

Unable to borrow a pair of shoes from anywhere, Heero was forced to carry her most of the way, while she held his suitcase for him. He did offer to give his shoes to her, but Jen didn’t agree with Heero having his feet torn up, either. It was very humiliating. She was a grown woman, not having been carried like this since she was a child. What it gave her was some time to think. Perhaps they should have seen Ramone before leaving, but events prior had already been draining. Her friend likely would have objected due to uncontrolled envy, or may have even decided to go along. The night had already been long enough.

As soon as they came to a lot of soft grass, Heero let Jen walk on her own to save some face. He gestured towards the tree-line which he explained they would need to go through to find what he referred to as their “transportation.” Maybe he had a really terrible sense of humor. She didn’t even have a pair of pants to wear, and he expected her to follow him into the woods in the middle of the night? Heero seemed somewhat vexed, having not thought that part of the situation through, and was a little embarrassed to think that it all made him come off as some creepy pervert. What he did was let Jen hang onto his handgun, which was the most direct solution he could ponder, and even went as far as showing her how to check the safety and make sure it was loaded.

Heero lead the way with his suitcase in one hand and a pen lamp in the other. It was surprisingly bright for such a small gadget, but lit their path very well. Jen was just thinking that he must have had in his possession all sorts of neat gizmos, but as soon as they reached a small clearing, she knew she had spoken too soon. What lay ahead of them was a Leo mobile suit with stunning white armor. It rested on one knee to keep its head below the tree-line, putting off the impression of a powerful and chivalrous knight. This was the first time Jen had come this close to a mobile suit. The sight was awe-inspiring, but she soon came to the realization that there would likely be all sorts of trouble for being associated with a person in the possession of a mobile weapon. Looking back at him, she wondered what he would do.

Approaching the Leo casually, Heero noticed a pink slip tacked near the cockpit hatch. Picking the slip from the mobile suit’s armor, he examined it with an air of tedium. “‘Parking violation’?” he wondered aloud, and flicked the piece of paper away. “It doesn’t even have a license number….” Heero opened the hatch to the cockpit, which unlocked with a hiss, and looked back at Jen. “Let’s go.”

At that moment, she knew that Heero Yuy was different. He was above the influence of the ordinary world, a man who forged his own life and made his own rules. Following him would mean she, too, would take control as he had done. Locking eyes with him, she could feel the confidence he exuded. Jen nodded firmly and stepped forward. Not long after, a Leo appeared above the tree-line, and rising into the sky, disappeared into the night.

***

Jen sat down at the table across from Heero, the back of her hand pressed on her forehead as she exhaled a sigh of relief. Behind her a stack of plates and pans sparkled, all of them set neatly into organized racks. He offered her a mug of tea; she took it mouthing a “thank you.” They sat together for a while, enjoying each other’s silent company.

He was thinking again before he collected the proper words to convey his thoughts. “Jen, the reconstruction of your house was finished some time ago. Why didn’t you ever go back?”

The young woman smiled softly, looking into the mug of tea he had offered her. She remembered what life was like before she ever came here. There was hardship, isolation, and sorrow. Life was so directionless and obscure. Surely, if she had continued walking that path, Jen Aoki would have simply faded into oblivion. But from the simple chance of meeting him, all of this was turned around. In a fragile world of uncertainty, Heero Yuy offered the weak and the innocent a fighting chance. It was that simple fact that assured her, and she knew what she would say. Still, Jen was shy to give her answer. “I’ve grown to like it here, Heero. Would it be too much trouble if I stayed here with you?”

The young man was quiet for some time, understanding the gravity of this seemingly commonplace conversation. Before now, everything had just been happening without need for rationality nor definition. It was just the two of them, alone in this house, set apart from the world. Neither of them had questioned it, being lost in the hours, relishing in uneventful days, doing what felt right. Things were what they were, and no one had stopped to give it a name or define what it was. But the answer Heero would give now will make it official.

“Do as you please.”

By Seraphic
2-17-08
8-22-08
11-30-08
12-8-08
8-23-09

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


Last edited by Seraphic on Sun Aug 23, 2009 8:13 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing. It’s just a harmless story.

Act I
Episode 3: Death at One’s Door


The white Leo was a frame salvaged by Heero. It was kept hidden in an underground hangar not so far from the house. When Heero came across the mobile suit, it was abandoned and hopelessly crippled, missing a hand and its other arm, legs and body riddled by machinegun fire, but its cockpit hatch was left ajar and the chamber intact. Though it may have fallen in battle, it still somehow managed to carry its pilot to safety. It was a rare show of resilience and loyalty that struck a chord with the Perfect Soldier, and so he opted to give this pitiful Leo a second chance.

It was a quiet hobby that kept him busy at home, and it helped him make use of the skills he learned through his training in his youth. Heero meant to realize the full potential of this mobile suit. He labored on this ongoing project in the time between his contracts, investing most of his time and the small fortune he acquired from Quatre into this machine. Though Heero had no ill intentions, Quatre would certainly disapprove of him if he knew.

Heero’s contradictions were never out of mind whenever he was working—perfecting a war machine after fighting so hard to end the wars. This was not an act of rejection upon the era of peace, Heero thought. Before, there was only fighting for him. Day after day. Past, present, and future. That was the life he led, and he thought without a doubt: that was all there would ever be. But the world changed so incredibly, and the wars that gave Heero Yuy purpose all ceased.

He needed time to settle into a different kind of existence, and for him it sometimes seemed to be an existence where death was no longer familiar and came to him all too slowly. Life was vague, and in truth he had not yet left the battlefield. His investments in this mobile suit were an urge much like his interest in warfare books, technology, games, and battle simulations. There was a need to continue to evolve—to become faster, more powerful, and exceed the competition. But there were no enemies left for Heero Yuy. He was still a soldier—one without a war or a cause, and consequently, a reason to exist.

Still, the Soldier lived on, even without purpose, and his war was one of his own creation—one within himself. Slowly, that battle crept outwards, from his heart, through his hands, and surrounded him again.

Its greatest presence was in the mobile weapon that consumed Heero’s time and resources. The new frame of the Leo, which very well could have been considered a new mobile suit built from the ground up, was more or less complete, so all efforts went toward creating an operating system apt to handle the advanced mobile suit. Since most operating systems of the past were created out of necessity rather than opportunity, Heero wanted to program from scratch a combat computer that allowed the pilot and machine to operate as though they were extensions of each other--of one mind and one body. There are things a soldier cannot accomplish on his own. There is a level of elegance that machines could never achieve. What Heero wanted was to combine the strength of each and approach what one might call the perfect combination of man and machine.

It was a daunting goal to realize, even for a computer genius as capable as he. Instead, Heero opted to use an artificial intelligence to program the operating system while ZERO system was used to interface with the pilot and collect data. With ZERO system's mind-machine interface, he analyzed and created code directly with his thoughts. The method was incredibly faster and much more thorough than reading over code and typing by hand could ever be. Even though the finished product would not use ZERO system, a capable pilot using the new operating system would be able to push his mobile suit to a level of performance comparable to if he were using ZERO. The combat computer and the new frame working together was the key.

It was a grand scheme without precedent, and even Heero Yuy felt some enthusiasm for this astounding leap in mobile suit design. The first phase of his programming project would be to collect pilot synchronization and combat data, and to do that, he set up throughout the house several devices with which a ZERO system interface was possible. Interface units would be active at all hours to analyze the subject in as many aspects as possible. Complete synchronization could only be achieved with a total analysis of the subject.

There was even a level of convenience to this, because Heero also linked the house’s security to the mind interface so that he could be alerted instantly of any situations. To record data on synchronization conditions, he ran simulations often, using a computer console he modified into an outright military grade simulator. Results have been pleasing by far.

When Jen Aoki came to the house, however, Heero had to rethink his operation in consideration for her safety. After all, he knew first hand what ZERO system could do to a person’s mind. However, the affects of the system on someone outside of battle were still unclear. Jen was made aware of the devices throughout the house, and the artificial intelligence was reprogrammed to never interface with anyone other than Heero. She gave her enigmatic host the space he seemed to require, and so the two kept their distance from one another. In this way the project progressed without any drawbacks, but as time wore on, Jen became more and more interested in his work. As the two became closer, Jen joined Heero's project as his apprentice. Assisting him in running combat simulations was one of her favorite pastimes.

The moral implications of involving her in his personal struggles with war and violence troubled Heero greatly. The rest of the world was pacifying and ridding itself of weapons, but the two of them were moving backwards. Jen, however, viewed it more like an engineering project and a chance to learn useful skills. It was very true: mobile suit engineers often had fulfilling and successful careers. Even with current policy halting the production of combat enabled mobile suits, nearly all the mechanics and developers were flexible enough to move onto other kinds of work. Industrial and labor type mobile suits were in full swing, especially with colonies now recovering from old damage and expanding. Such opportunities did not come to Jen in her old life. Heero knew her goals were innocent enough, and it was what she really wanted, so all he could do was guide her along the way and hope she would never make the same mistakes that he did.

Jen ran combat simulations with herself as the pilot so she could understand what she was working with, but the system was programmed to not record her combat data. Heero figured such numbers would be completely invalid coming from someone as green as she was in comparison to the sort of data already taken on himself, and so most of the help Jen provided was in overviewing the software and tweaking it where need be. Fascinated with their work, she would constantly be discussing what to try next, adding this or that to the program, or fine-tuning something to find the most efficiency. Whenever Heero worked directly with the Leo, Jen could often be found sitting on the cockpit platform with wires and screens pulled out, reading over system code. They were happy working together. Unfortunately, this all would not play out the way Heero had thought.

By now, enough data had been collected so that trial versions of the combat computer could be written and tested in simulations. Heero had compiled the data into a mock combat computer to see how well it performed when programmed with his own battle data. Though a disparity existed between the mock system and the actual perfect soldier, results were promising. And the rough program with Heero’s data was more than a match for Jen. To test its worth, she set out to overcome it herself, but hours went by and Jen still lost, impressed by their work but still motivated to win. She had been fighting with it using the simulation setup in the living room, and Heero dropped in from time to time to check on her progress. It was no walk in the park either. She would hold her breath, gnash her teeth, perspire, and work the controls so forcefully they might even slip from her fingers. Jen was pushing herself very hard.

Heero stopped and peered in over her shoulder as a particularly intense clash unfolded. An entire minute and a half had passed, both she and the mock Heero Yuy had expended all munitions, but neither one had taken serious damage. It was a truly grueling battle, to go on more than a minute in a skirmish where either of them could slip only once and be down in flames the next moment. The two charged each other with their laser blades—slashing, evading a swipe, and counterattacking—and in a fight such as this, all three of these actions could occur in the span of a single second. Heero was impressed. It took a lot of work and experience to hit this kind of groove in combat. He was beginning to wonder how Jen would fare in an actual mobile suit, but he quickly shook his head and dismissed the terrible thought. She wasn’t in this so she could be going off to fight.

The game suddenly changed when Jen ended the exchange of blade attacks and retreated to the other side of the battlefield, standing with her back to her opponent. Like the real Heero Yuy, her opponent charged after her relentlessly with no hesitation, but she still did not turn to face him. Tearing through the air at full speed, the mock opponent’s deadly blade lashed out for her, but in the blink of an eye, Jen’s combat frame shot out of the way abruptly and then back to the same position the next instant, dodging the attack in that moment and then setting herself up for a counter. Her blade lashed out and tore through her attacker’s back in a violent searing flash. That certainly made Heero blink.

“Not bad,” Heero approved, thoroughly surprised. Not bad at all. The match went on, and he thought nothing more of the last move. But soon enough, Jen landed another hit, then another and another; she was beginning to outdo the mock system. How could she have improved this much in a matter of only hours? The system suddenly screwing up wasn’t likely, either. It simply wasn’t natural. Heero looked over to Jen, seeing that she was in a cold sweat and completely absorbed into the screen. There was something familiar in her eyes and he knew instantly what it was.

A jolt of horror shot through him like electricity and Heero leapt across the way and smashed the ZERO interface device in the room. With the system out of commission, he took Jen by the shoulders, kneeling down next to her, and shook her out of her trance.

“Jen. Jen!! Are you alright?” She blinked and took her spinning head into her hand.

“Yeah. I’m okay,” she said at length. “I’m so sorry.” What was she apologizing for? Not exactly catching on to what she meant, Heero looked back at the destroyed machine behind them.

“Damn it,” he hissed, cursing himself for being so thoughtless. “I should have put all this to a halt the second you came here. Stupid....”

To his surprise, Jen protested, “No, don’t do that. Your work is so important! This only happened because of me.”

Heero let go of her shoulders and gave her a hard look, knowing what was coming could not be good. “You need to start explaining yourself.”

She looked grim, and at first no words came when her lips parted. “I know I’m not supposed to be able to use ZERO system. I started noticing it a while back. I’m not sure why, but suddenly I was able to interface with the system, so I’ve been using it.”

Jen didn’t know what to think. Her mind was racing. Should she really have kept such a secret? It was exactly what Heero feared most could happen, and Jen let it go on for this long. She felt very small and fearful of what may happen. Heero was a man who once carried orders to kill if someone simply did as much as learn his name, and now she had gone and tampered with one of his secrets. She could only think of the soldiers that, too, had opposed him and were destroyed by him. Still, there was the lost of trust Jen feared even more.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Heero’s gaze was locked dead onto hers, and it made her weak in the knees. There was a definite anger behind the granite look in his eyes, but it didn't feel harmful or threatening. Jen could not sense that it was directed at her.

She had to intentionally make herself inhale before she could manage another word. “You’ve told me many times how dangerous the ZERO system was, but really, I thought that if I used it I could get better, like you. I thought that if I learned how to use it well enough you’d be okay with it. I know I should have listened. I’m sorry,” she pleaded remorsefully. “Please, I’ll do anything to make things right.” Jen was so apprehensive of Heero's coming response that she felt she could pass out.

Nothing was said. Heero took his gaze from her and his hands fell to his sides. Jen couldn’t tell what he was thinking and was left in suspense. He would not even look up at her. Heero felt distant, and it terrified her more than anything else could have. She was expecting hell, but he didn’t express one ounce of anger towards her. He stood up, leaving her there, and left upstairs for his laptop.

***

It was completely dark in the room. The dim light of the screen cast a ghastly glow over his surroundings. Heero had been looking over code for three days, a page or so scrolling by in a single second, and he had not even stopped for food or water. Jen had been sitting outside his door ever since, but she was too afraid to knock. She just couldn’t bring herself to do it and maybe interrupt whatever he may be thinking. The dissonance was too great. Jen felt she had made a grave mistake, but there was not the slightest stir of protest from Heero. Surely she must have deserved at least something from him. He kept it all to himself this time. It was impossible to reach someone who could shut himself away so perfectly.

Jen certainly put herself in danger by using the system without Heero’s knowledge, and she knew that must have caused him to worry considerably. But because Heero did not express any of it, she was sure it was wreaking havoc inside of him. His trust and confidence in her was shaken, and she didn’t know what could be done to undo the harm. And what’s worse, Jen couldn’t imagine what it was like for Heero having someone deceive him. She was one of the few people in which he had ever come to have such confidence.

The system was locked on safety mode, which meant it could only activate upon some kind of breach in security. Heero didn’t know if he would ever start up the program again. Artificial intelligence that overrides commands is no small problem. It didn’t take long for him to find the hidden data the system had collected on Jen, and what he uncovered was quite unusual. In a remarkable turn of events, it seemed to be that the data collected on himself was determined too consistent by the artificial intelligence, so it decided to observe other subjects to attain more variables. That was the only reason. It was only because he was too perfect as a soldier that she became directly involved.

He discovered this in the first few hours of his search and, upon finding Jen’s combat data, moved to delete it. But something stopped him. He hadn’t given it any thought before, but these readings weren’t exactly normal, and a feeling inside of him wrested his hands incapable of scrapping his findings. It was not something he wanted to be true, but the facts were there, sitting right in front of him. She had the talent of an ace, but it was something unneeded in the era they had come to live in. There were no battles left, and this part of her should remain untouched. For the last few days Heero had been in isolation he was debating with himself if he should delete the data. He fought with himself again and again over how he could allow such an immense screw-up. It was a violation of the ideals he held most important. Whether he realized it or not, Jen Aoki had earned from him the legacy of a Gundam pilot.

Heero felt a sudden spat of guilt that cut him deep, and he was so ashamed that all he could do was laugh, his lips twisted with pain and absurdity. Here was Heero Yuy, a man trying to shed his life as a soldier, and yet, he was so obsessed that he had tainted an innocent girl with the flames of battle. He did not know if he could ever forgive himself for such heavy sins. His head hung low as his remorse became a terrifying sinking feeling and his chest tightened with an unfathomable restlessness. He just wanted to die.

A sudden sense of alarm floated into his mind. It was ZERO’s security detail. Heero quickly forgot himself and switched over the function on his laptop to get a visual. No more time for such self-absorbed thoughts. He double checked to see where Jen was. She had gone to her room again. More importantly there was someone walking the trail towards the house. For a time, Heero watched the figure intently, considering what could be done to receive this sudden guest, and before long, with a wave of his hand, signaled for a security drone to move.

Duo strolled up to the door and rang the bell. He was quite disappointed and scratched his head in frustration. He had worked up a lot of energy coming here and all in vain. During the entire trek along the trail he was half-expecting some land mines to detonate or at least some gun turrets to appear and shoot him to pieces. Duo was beginning to think he had the wrong house. What was taking so long to answer the door, anyhow? Duo’s foot tapped in nervousness. Was he finally going to find one of his old buddies again? Distracted by his thoughts, he never noticed what sounded like the chirrup of helicopter blades coming up behind him.

On the other side of the door, Heero waited patiently as he heard his guest scream in holy terror. He was caught completely off guard, the surprise of it scaring him fully out of his wits. The silhouette Duo cast on the window curtains showed him flailing about as he frantically tried to fight off the drone. It was another half a minute before Heero decided that was enough and the drone withdrew as the door was opened. Heero’s gaze passed over Duo whose mane was completely frazzled in the struggle. He looked like he was about to cry.

Duo blubbered, “It was all in my hair…!”

***

There was a dull clunk as Heero set a mug of hot tea in front of his guest and went to sit across from him at the stone table.

“Thanks!” Duo chirped. He was in absolute glee. Heero is serving me tea in his garden. This is SO cool!! Duo took his mug carefully and sipped at his beverage. It had an exotic taste and a pleasant burning heat as it washed over his tongue. He breathed in deep as he looked about himself curiously. It was one of the most impressive gardens he had ever visited. Spring was in season and everything was splashed with tones of light and color. The pond and plant life in the garden glowed radiantly, resonating with the blessing of nature’s embrace. The land was astonishingly beautiful, and with the image of the garden reflecting off the surface of the water, its splendor was amplified a million times over.

The structure at the center of the pond caught Duo’s eye. “What’s that over there?”

“A shrine for a god of war and a goddess of mercy.” Heero looked up to see a large smile on Duo’s face.

“You’ve found religion, Heero?” He seemed genuinely delighted asking this, big-eyed and smiling wonderfully.

“Not exactly that. It’s more of something to think about,” Heero stated coolly.

Duo’s smile was gone, but he rolled with what was just said, shrugging. “Ah, I get what you mean.” He searched for something else to say, visibly knitting his brows as he concentrated, and his eyes lit up again once he collected his thoughts. “This place is really amazing. I’m surprised a guy like you is capable of cultivating a garden like this. It’s almost poetic.”

Heero waited wordlessly for Duo to explain what he meant. “Like those blue flowers over there, and how the water has a reflection of their color? It’s almost unthinkable that you were the one that did that.”

“You mean the irises? Jen planted those. I’ve never had as good of an eye as her.”

Duo had to stop to register what Heero said. His comment had been so nonchalant that Duo felt he completely missed something. He opened his mouth to ask for an explanation, but something in the corner of his eye caught his attention first. They both turned as Jen emerged from the sliding door of the house. She was cradling a cardboard box in her arms, and was surprised to see that she and Heero had a guest. She had been too preoccupied earlier to notice the door bell. Jen approached them and set down the item so she could greet the guest properly.

“You must be Duo,” she said with a pleasant and casual smile, shaking his hand firmly.

“Oh, you’ve heard about me?” Duo inquired, remembering his buddy’s antisocial mannerisms.

“Of course! You just have to know how to ask him the right questions.” Heero looked away as the other two glanced at him. “I’m glad you came here. I really like your braid! It’s very cool.”

“I know! Braids are the coolest. You should try it some time. It’s nice to meet you, Jen. I really like your…er…your box?” Duo fumbled. He let out a flustered sigh and tried his best to recover. “What’s in there, anyway?”

Jen laughed a bit. “Oh, this? Well…” She turned over to Heero, taking on a serious expression. Duo sensed how Jen’s mood changed drastically. She seemed touched with a deep sadness. Did something happen between them just before? “Heero, I finished the cockpit simulation program. The boards are in here. If you install them you can run tests directly in the Leo. I’ll leave this here for you.”

Heero knew exactly what she meant. It was something she could not bear to speak directly, and so she said it in this figurative act. This was the software for second phase of his project, when enough of the combat computer was finished to test it in a mobile suit. Once a simulation could be run in the cockpit, Heero wouldn’t need to do synchronization testing with the household array anymore, and he could complete the project with no more need to involve her. With this gesture, Jen was telling Heero that she would leave him if he wanted.

But what Heero felt was that he had no say over what anyone did. What right does a fool have to decide? He may have fought and won peace for the world, but that peace belonged to the people, and they could do whatever they wished with it. Jen was free to do whatever made her happy, even if that was choosing to stay with a person like himself who could not exist naturally in a time without war. It was never his choice to begin with. How unworthy he was. He looked upon her with a strange mix of affection and pity. Why did she end up choosing a wretch like him? Jen waited anxiously for what he’d say, unable to look up to meet his gaze.

“Jen, why don’t you take this and install it yourself? I would be a mess without you here to lend a hand. Duo and I will catch up and see if we can help once we’re done here.”

She blinked, taken aback by what he said. It had been said so curtly, so coolly, but she understood what he meant. He recognized her skills and wanted her to stay with him and continue using those skills to their benefit their work. He very well wanted her to simply stay with him. What it meant about her using the system she didn’t know, but it didn’t matter at that moment. Being with Heero was enough. Suddenly all was right again. At length, Jen nodded, smiling tearfully. Duo was shocked to see her crying, having no idea as to what had just transpired, but he was glad that at least to see her smile return.

“I’ll go on ahead then. See you in a bit, Duo.” She blinked her tears away and bowed curtly before the two of them, giving Heero a light peck before she disappeared with the box of circuit boards. Heero wished she wouldn’t have done that in front of the guest.

Duo and Heero remained standing, still no words transpiring between them, their eyes still fixed where they lost sight of Jen.

A grin came over Duo again. “Well, well! My Heero’s all grown up.” Heero gave him a questionable look, fearing what would come next. Duo went on, “Man, you’ve got a beautiful girl living with you and you’ve even got her making mobile suits and programming systems for you. You must be some kind of genius! How did you do that??”

Heero was reluctant to respond to a potentially disastrous question but answered flatly. “I blew up her house—I mean—I blew up her garage. The rest caught fire.” Duo was taken aback, no words coming to him, and he stood mouth agape for an awkward moment. Heero could only return his blank stare.

“My god, that’s brilliant! Why didn’t I ever think of that? That has got to be the fastest and least expensive way to get a girl to move in with you.” Duo scratched his head. “It really is the quiet guy that ends up doing things in the flashiest way.” And with that, he could not keep himself from succumbing to fits of laughter.

Heero could have fallen over from embarrassment, but merely waited for his guest to recover from his loss of self-control.

Duo managed to compose himself but was still somewhat tickled. He sat down again at the stone table, Heero following suit. “But seriously, I’ve been meaning to ask about that mobile suit you’re rebuilding—”

“—it’s Leo-G, or Grand Leo,” Heero asserted.

“Right,” Duo affirmed in all seriousness. “I know it’s not my place to be asking, but I wanted to know why you’re keeping a mobile suit and have all this work going on here. I thought we were all supposed to be done with this kind of stuff?” The conversation suddenly took a grave turn.

“I can’t be sure,” Heero started. “You work with scrapped mobile weapons, Duo. You don’t keep so far from it yourself. Everything has changed so quickly, but a lot of us are stuck in the past. For me, this mobile suit is a reminder for how things used to be. It’s not so easy to let go so suddenly.”

Seeing the parallels in his own situation, Duo felt he could sympathize, but there was one thing he could not let go. “That may be it, but you…your Leo-G is not simply a reminder, is it?” Duo’s eyes narrowed at him. “You’re working to make it stronger, like if there was still fighting going on. What’s keeping you from putting down your weapons?”

Duo’s words struck him well, and Heero recoiled. “I'm not doing this to hurt anyone. This Leo won’t ever see combat. It’s not equipped with weapons I can use to wage war. No one will be harmed.” Duo took a moment to hear this correctly, but Heero knew his words were fruitless. Any vessel capable of wearing weapons could be turned into an implement of massacre at the drop of a dime. It mattered not that his Leo was not dressed for battle, because therein still laid the potential to destroy. Only with an unrelenting faith in mankind could such a machine remain unstained by blood.

He got a hard look from Duo that did not pass for a long time until he let up and his usual demeanor slowly returned. “All right then, Heero. I trust you. Although, I don’t know what Miss Peacecraft—or is it Darlian now—would have to say if she knew about you, even with the soft spot she seems to have for us Gundam pilots. She is having enough trouble these days handling her terraformation project.”

Heero remained in a thoughtful silence, waiting for his guest to bring up what he had been expecting to hear the entire time. Duo’s mouth was set in a hard line. “Her work isn’t running as smoothly as it should be. There have been…complications and accidents having to deal with Mars.” And then Duo added grimly, “we may not be able to continue keeping gardens and drinking tea.” Heero nodded in solemn agreement.

“Maybe you were right to be doing what you are…,” Duo lamented.

A thought from deep inside boiled over and screamed in Heero’s mind, No, it’s unforgivable.

Moments passed in silence as the two sat together, and slowly they lost their grip on their present. They were swept away into darkness, and the feeling was claustrophobic and dizzying. Their minds once again teetered on the brink of destruction with the thought of having to return to battle. There were flames and screams and brightly glowing eyes that promised death. …I’ve been fighting longer than anyone else.... Perhaps a dismal future better suits the God of Death....

The heat of the vision was stifling them when suddenly, a cool and sweet-scented breeze washed over them, and they were reminded of where they actually were. They both looked up to see the world that surrounded them—the scent of fresh water and blossoms carried on the wind, brilliantly colored plants growing strongly every which way, as far as the eye could see. It very well could have been the last moment of peace they would ever have, and they sat in stillness to do their best to take in what precious tranquility they were fortunate enough to experience. What precious tranquility was left….

“Anyway,” Duo broke the silence, many moments later, in a reluctant, jovial tone, “you’re way too depressing to talk to! We should go check to see how Jen is doing now, yeah?” Heero slowly agreed, showing him the way to go, and they got up to leave. The two made small talk as they traversed slowly through the garden to their destination, feeling the wind sweep over them and the springy grass giving way underneath their feet.

“So what was the explosive you used?”

“Propane.”

“Ah…,” Duo sighed thoughtfully.




By Seraphic
8-22-08
12-8-08
1-17-09
5-12-13

I know what you’re thinking, but please do not try it for yourself. Explosions are dangerous. It won’t happen the way you expect it anyway.

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


Last edited by Seraphic on Mon May 13, 2013 12:43 am, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject:
 Post Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:49 am 
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AEUG Slapping Boy
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Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2007 8:19 pm
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Location: Colony 01
No one likes Gundam Wing Fan fics. >:

I actually like all this. Keep it up.


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 Post subject:
 Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:37 am 
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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
I didn't want to make some kind of cheap bump, but I wanted to say that I went back and re-worked some things about chapter one. It was a bit difficult to "get" or read beforehand, so I hope that was all fixed up. I had a tendency to simply declare very dramatic or important things without giving reason or support, so it seemed somewhat awkward then.

If anyone was scared away by those problems before, please give me another chance this time around. Of course, it still can't be perfect, but it's closer at least. =)

To let you in on something, I am prepared to start work on the fourth chapter. I have art done for it already, actually, and pretty much have the whole damn thing worded out in my head. All that's left is finding some good time aside to work on it. Of course, it'll probably go through something like seven stages of re-edits and re-writings just like everything else, haha. It should show up in the next few weeks, but if summer ends and I don't finish this chapter, then someone please kick me in the balls.

Anyway, happy reading. I would be more than grateful for reviews or comments. (YOU OWE ME! Kidding, haha.) Seriously, though, have a good read. =o

Oh, and thanks again, Dustin! I'm glad that you like this and yet somehow no one likes Gundam Wing at all, and all this at the same time. Paradoxes!

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


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 Post subject: Ch. 4: Act I Episode IV
 Post Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:07 pm 
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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
12.16.08
Act I
Episode IV: The Restless Dogs of War


Duo breezed down a cobblestone path, his fingers interlocked behind his head, and his braid swayed back and forth slightly as he went. The walkway was lined with rows of cherry trees on either side, each just beginning to grow heavy with rosy pink blossoms. It was certainly a rare sight for a space colony, normally drab and gray from concrete and utilitarian construction. He had arrived at the space port not just a short hour ago, and was greeted by an attendant who walked alongside him now. Duo glanced sideways to catch her eye, and she smiled back at him respectfully. She wore a mandarin long blouse colored a soft red that complemented her form very well. The silk dress had a tall collar and short sleeves. The hem of the skirt just reached her knees. Her hair was black, cropped above her shoulders, and she wore a dragonfly hairclip made of gold and crystal. She must have been a year or so younger than him, and perhaps quite a good catch, Duo thought.

“‘Mao,’ is it?” Duo inquired again.

“That’s right, Mr. Maxwell. But everyone here calls me ‘Bubbles’—well, except for my brother and Lord Wufei,” she answered cheerfully.

“…That so…?” Duo wondered aloud to himself, but he got no sort of reply. “And just ‘Duo’ is good,” he asserted coolly. She nodded to oblige him. He began to speak again. “It’s strange. I thought Wufei was doing pretty well with the Preventers. What’s he doing way the heck out here?”

She laughed charmingly. “He’s retired early and decided to build his estate close to where his home colony used to be,” Mao replied. “We’re coming close to the entrance now.”

That jogged Duo’s memory. “That’s right. That colony was destroyed way back when….” His mouth was set in a hard line. Wufei's entire home and family was destroyed in the blink of an eye. Duo could sympathize with such hardships, but he went on further. “I understand being homesick and all, but what’s he doing with himself? I mean, retiring already? We’re all still awfully young!”

She tried to look serious for a moment, but cracked under pressure. “I don’t know!” Mao admitted apologetically. “I haven’t been here very long.” Duo looked at her in surprise. “There’s so much going on around me…!” She began to scratch her head a bit in thought. “But last I heard it, Lord Wufei has been trying to revive his Dragon Clam….”

“‘Dragon Clam’!” Duo exclaimed, perplexed. “What the heck is that!?” He scratched his head, trying to construct what it could be, but could only rough a sketch of what appeared to be a large bivalve with frilly lips and two pronged horns.

Mao’s eyebrows were knitted as she racked her brain to figure it out also, but all there was to offer was what looked like a crude crayon drawing of a serpent-like creature with a shellfish for a head. It flicked its pronged tongue out lewdly like a snake. “I can’t really say,” she frowned dejectedly.

“She means ‘Dragon Clan,’” someone cut in with a rather serious voice. A man had come to meet them at the entrance of the estate. With the knuckle of one hand, he knocked once on Mao’s skull to see if it was as hollow as it seemed. “As its head, Master Chang is here to revive the Dragon Clan to its former prominence. Don’t confuse our guests, Mao.”

She took the small blow as if nothing had happened. There must not be any feeling up there. Mao perked up, showing her surprise by throwing her hand out. “Brother! What are you doing here? I thought Lord Wufei sent me instead. (And, Fong, I keep saying you can call me ‘Bubbles’ like anyone else!)”

“…‘Bubbles,’” he mutters at length. Though he was dreary and sarcastic with Mao, Fong’s voice was deep and commanding. He was tall and thin, and he carried himself very well. His eyes were narrow and calculating, accentuated further by his eyeglasses. He was exceptionally well-groomed, with his black hair pulled back into a small pony tail. Fong was a prime example of intelligence and gentry, and seemed almost like the leader of a wolf pack. Duo was beginning to wonder how these two could possibly be of the same family when Fong suddenly turned to him, causing him to jump a bit. “Duo Maxwell? Master Chang has been expecting you. You should head on in.”

Duo was about to comply, but a small curiosity stopped him. “Hey, Fong. This might seem somewhat strange, but why do you refer to him as ‘Master’ while Bubbles calls him ‘Lord’?”

Fong fixed his glasses, pushing them up some with his finger, and gave a straight-forward reply. “Our family has had ties with the Dragon Clan for many decades. The two clans merged not long ago. The terms are almost interchangeable, but I call him ‘Master’ as the clan leader. Wufei is my brother-in-law.”

“Really? And that means—”

“Yeah!” Mao interjected. “He’s my husband!”

Duo immediately recoiled, alarmed by his earlier intentions. A married woman! How would Wufei react? He might kill me! Duo froze, and a look of terror on his face betrayed his thoughts. He pictured the powerful martial artist delivering a fatal karate chop to the side of his neck; an obvious cracking noise resounded on impact. Duo’s knees shook a bit underneath him, and there was a distinct twitching pain in his neck from the imaginary blow.

Fong raised an eyebrow at Duo, not being sure why the man’s teeth were suddenly chattering. “We’ve dawdled for long enough. Let’s not keep the master waiting.”

“I don’t know,” Duo began to protest, “I—OOF!”

Mao pushed him along into the gates. “Hurry up!” she urged with a laugh.

He stumbled past the outer walls of the estate and regained his footing. Upon looking up, Duo was caught speechless. The Dragon Clan estate was vast beyond his imagining. Enclosed by the outer walls were a dozen giant buildings styled in Chinese architecture. The courtyard was very expansive, plotted with soft grass and intricate cobblestone walkways. There were many trees and massive stone sculptures of mythical figures and beasts. Duo could see that the estate was relatively new, as well. Many of the buildings were still under construction, with a few men moving to and fro to work on their completion.

In the distance ahead, a group of martial artists trained together. The practitioners moved in unison, hitting stances and making strikes, their combined shouts giving power to their movement. Duo squinted, able to make out Wufei who happened to be observing the group from the side. He jogged on ahead to greet his old acquaintance when Mao and Fong nodded their approval.

Wufei turned around, noticing Duo’s approach. His hair had since grown a bit in length, and he was dressed in a long robe threaded from white silk. He wore a welcoming smile and motioned for the students behind him to cease their practice. “You’re looking well.”

Duo blinked a bit, seeing Wufei’s relaxed attitude. It was such a stark contrast from all the time he spent with the man on the Peacemillion. Tense and strong, if troubled, was how he knew him back then, but now he no longer seemed to carry that bad energy about him. Not openly, anyway. The man in black jogged to a stop, putting those thoughts aside. “And you’re one to talk!” Duo retorted with a laugh. “Look at this place!”

He nodded in agreement. “Well, it has been a long couple of years….”

Duo’s eye looked about, and then passed over the group of students behind Wufei. It was an assemblage of a dozen or so people—mostly men, but notably a few women among them as well. They ranged from young to middle-aged, and looked like a gathering of serious and dedicated practitioners, all vibrant and healthy. “Interesting lot of people you have here,” he commented to his host.

Wufei beamed proudly, “These are all students who have come to study our clan’s unique style. I was one of the few remaining who could teach it, so it’s important to spread our technique! Here, let us demonstrate….”

Duo did not want to trouble them. “No, that’s not—”

“Liao!” the master called.

“SiFu!” A young boy stepped forward from the group. He couldn’t have been older than 7 or 8 years of age. Duo was surprised at the child’s intense demeanor.

“Demonstrate the set from this morning,” Wufei commanded. Too late to stop them, Duo supposed.

“SiFu!” the youth acknowledged. Everyone stepped back on cue to give the boy room. Liao started into his routine. The form utilized very low stances and far-reaching strikes, calling for much balance and strength. He made potent shouts where necessary. His timing and technique was immaculate, but his movements were somewhat slow and flaccid, lacking the snap and intensity that an older and more powerful student would have. Duo was very well impressed, but, unable to appreciate the form fully. He was more distracted by the boy’s small stature and how serious he was in spite of it. Liao finished his demonstration, bringing his hands together and bowing before his observers. Everyone else nodded approvingly.

“That was adorable,” Duo gushed with some laughter. The others gasped, not knowing how Liao might react to the stranger’s comment. They could only watch.

The boy’s fist was clenched into a tight ball, his eyes closed. Duo was unsure why everyone around him had fallen silent. Wufei looked on carefully. Without warning, the boy turned around and launched himself into the air. Duo could hardly react, “Holy s—” before Liao’s foot came crashing directly into where Duo’s pelvis met his thigh. Being hit in his center of balance by the child’s surprise attack, the grown man tumbled backward violently onto his butt, his world sent into a whirl.

The others were in a state of shock, but a moment later Master Wufei spoke out in a calm yet proud manner, “Very good, Liao. The strong must not be underestimated!” He seemed more enthused about the lesson at hand than for the wellbeing of his fallen comrade.

“Yeah, I’ll remember that…,” Duo grimaced from off the ground. Mao came to help their guest to his feet, dusting him off carefully. Meanwhile, another of the students, a young woman, came forward in a concerned manner and put her hand on Liao’s head. She was quite striking; her hair was put up to keep it out of the way while she practiced, and her eyes were youthful and full of vigor. She was dressed in a loose-fitting robe like the other students. It was quite comfortable for practice.

“That was a very rude thing to do, Liao. What self control that was! Go wash yourself off and come back once you’ve calmed down,” she ordered. The child stuck up his chin, indignant, and marched away into one of the buildings. She couldn’t help but sigh at his behavior. Turning to address Wufei, she said, “SiFu. I think it would be best if you see to your guest now. I can take over in the meanwhile.”

She and Wufei seemed to share a strong bond of respect. “Yes, you’re quite right, Lin,” Wufei answered. “Please do.” Lin nodded firmly in turn. Wufei casually stepped away from the gathering and began making his way into the main hall. “Come this way, Duo.” Duo hobbled after him, having to walk off the hurt, though his host was not giving him much choice. Mao followed them into the hall while Fong stayed to observe Lin and the class.

Inside the entrance of the main hall was a heavy air of burning incense. The ambient atmosphere was profound and quieting. There was a magnificent altar on the far side of the room that took up almost the entire wall. Before it, a woman stood in prayer, eyes closed, two incense sticks pressed between her hands. Notably, she did not look like the others. She wore a blazer with a business skirt, and her hair was long and elegant. Curiously, a long blue ribbon was wrapped around one of her graceful locks. She did not stir from the entrance of the other three, occupied by her prayer, wishing for good luck and fortune to come in the future. Wufei stopped in front of the altar to let Duo observe, knowing that his friend would not often encounter such glimpses into this part of his culture. It was decorated with reds and golds, and many candles, incense holders, and offerings lay upon it. There were photos and statuettes of deities and saints, one or two of which Duo thought looked familiar.

On the center of the altar were a few black and white photos placed in frames. They were Wufei’s predecessors and ancestors, many of which had passed away in the tragedy several years ago. The event was so sudden that Wufei could not recover enough items for everyone, and not every person he had wanted to honor had even had such a photo taken. It was a shameful loss he regretted deeply. Front and center was a photograph of a young girl that stood out from the others who had otherwise lived long and fulfilling lives. Duo was quite taken aback by her presence at the altar and wondered at her identity. In the photo, she appeared stoic, but peaceful and beautiful.

Wufei knew Duo might want to ask. “That is Nataku,” he offered, his voice quieted by a sense of profoundness that overcame him. “She is the reason I became a Gundam pilot.” He stood silent for a moment, letting his guest understand his words. Duo never expected such a story from the other man, but there wasn’t anything he could say at the time. Wufei supplied no further explanation and continued on to leave into a hallway. Duo and Mao followed him shortly, leaving the other woman to pray at the altar in solitude. Perhaps it could be something they could discuss in the future.

The hallway was very long, connecting many large rooms together. There hung in the air the distant sounds of a piano, and it grew as the three of them drew nearer. The piece was soft and sweeping, full of heart and emotion. The notes came with a light touch and danced upon on the air to one’s ear. It was music that enraptured both the musician and the listener. Coming across the room containing the instrument, Duo found a simple beauty seated at the piano. Her hair was short and graceful, and she wore a simple dress that complemented her elegance. She took notice of the three out in the hallway, but her hands continued to move upon the keys. Wufei smiled upon her approvingly, and she closed her eyes happily, accepting his silent praise. He moved on, not wanting to interrupt her, and the piano grew quiet as he paced onward. Duo wanted to listen longer, but hurried forward to keep up with Wufei. He pulled Mao along with them who also marveled at the melody.

At the end of the hallway was a library. Before they entered, Wufei turned to Mao, saying, “Bring some tea for our guest, please.” She obliged and went off in another direction.

It was probably one of the largest rooms in the main hall. Bookshelves covered up all of its walls, and they were filled top to bottom with texts, documents, and binders. There were large and heavy wooden tables set up in the center of the room. Wufei and Duo entered the library, finding another occupant inside with them. A woman stood at the far shelf with her back turned to them, breezing through a set of binders. Her hair was long and wavy, reaching down past her hips, and she wore a white laboratory coat. The two men approached, but Duo jumped when she turned around to meet them. She was an older woman in her mid to late twenties, and under her lab coat she wore a leather miniskirt and a top that she left partly unzipped. The sight of her dazzling figure surprised Duo greatly.

“Whoa!”

She crossed her arms, offended, and removed her eyeglasses to look at him. “Who the hell are you?” Duo realized the rudeness of his outburst and averted his eyes apologetically when Wufei came forward.

“Ah, Chi Fong. This is Duo Maxwell, a guest of mine. He was a pilot like myself, and we’ve fought a number of battles together. All that should make him interested in what we’re doing here.” He turned to introduce her. “Chi Fong is an engineer sponsored by the clan. She and I often collaborate on projects. She’s an excellent worker with a resourceful mind.”

“Charmed…,” she greeted him, still somewhat detached.

“No, pleasure’s mine,” Duo answered, still with some embarrassment from before. Wufei gestured for him to have a seat at one of the tables, so he pulled out a chair, and the two sat together. Chi Fong chose to remain standing aside Wufei. Mao stumbled into the room, hurrying with their tea. Duo stopped himself from laughing at her near-mishap. She set the pottery in front of the two men and poured a cup for each. Duo offered his thanks before taking a sip, being careful not to burn himself. After finishing his drink, he picked up the conversation again. “You sure have a lot going on here, Wufei. It’s surprising how well you’re doing after all that’s happened.”

“Well, I’ll have to agree with you. I enjoyed my work with the Preventers, but things quickly grew quiet as ESUN’s policy made progress. I suppose I decided to pick up where I left off before the war, and of course there’s the matter of reviving the fallen clan!” Wufei’s answer seemed simple, but these past years had been complex and burdensome on him. He was a man carrying a lot of internal conflict, especially during the war. Torn by visions of a past filled with destruction and tragedy, he had only begun to pick up the pieces. But now, what he sought was change. Real change. To make amends for his terrible memories, Wufei worked to cultivate and support everything and everyone around him. He did not put his past behind him, but carried it along, strengthening himself with that burden. It was this hope of progress that calmed him and gave him strength.

Believe in the world we live in today. Those very words Wufei did his best to honor.

“No kidding!” Duo retorted. “It looks like you’ve got a lot of interesting people around you, too. Not a bad looking bunch, if I might add. And Bubbles is quite a lucky girl, being your choice of all of them. You must be very happy!” He smiled genuinely at the two of them.

Wufei looked somewhat surprised. “Oh? Has no one told him?” Mao shrugged in response. He began to answer, “Well, Mao is not the only wife.”

Duo gave him a weird look, incredulous. “What?? Come off it!”

Chi Fong spoke, “Bubbles is only Lord Wufei’s most recent marriage. He and I were wed more than a year ago.”

“You…?!” Duo questioned, jaw dropped.

“Then there’s Xia Mei whom you saw in the hall,” Wufei began. “Lien Hua was the one at the altar. And Tao Lin in the courtyard earlier.”

“FIVE!” he exclaimed, bug-eyed. Mao laughed, amused at Duo’s shock. Recomposing himself somewhat, Duo clarified, “You’re not hiding any more around here, right?”

Wufei laughed and answered him, “No. No one else. It’s actually kind of odd that you came at a time when everyone is here at once. It’s pretty rare.” He went on further to explain. “I know it’s highly unorthodox for this day and age, but reviving a clan alone would be impossible to do. It’s a highly complicated matter, you see: there’s establishing ties to other clans with Mao, teaching the Dragon Clan technique where Lin is my best student and assistant, and having financial ties with Lien Hua’s family. Then Xia Mei is a renowned musician whose family approached me to establish bonds with the clan. Chi Fong and I share interests in our research, and I personally fund our work when possible. And I suppose there’s the matter of bearing sons to continue the clan….” Wufei trailed off.

Chi Fong broke the ice. “I don’t think any of us mind so much,” she offered with a wink. Duo laughed, feeling more comfortable, and Mao smiled absently.

“Unbelievable….” Duo mumbled, shaking his head. Christ, Wufei. All of them?! Then there’s that oddball Heero and his little lady…. Am I the only one that’s not mackin’ the honeys? Duo sighed roughly, “Well, now since that’s out of the way….” Wufei and the other two chuckled. “…what’s this stuff you keep mentioning? What kinds of projects do you and Chi Fong have going on here, Wufei?”

“Yes, that’s right!” Wufei recalled. He turned to Chi Fong, “Bring us the binder for the project from two months ago, if you would.” She paced away, putting on her glasses again, and found her way to one of the bookshelves. She looked over the documents until she fingered the binder she was searching for and removed it casually. She crossed her arms again after handing it to Wufei. He reached into a pocket and withdrew a pair of reading glasses. Wufei looked unusually natural in them. He smiled, pressing a palm on the document proudly. “You might be surprised to know, but before I became a Gundam pilot, I was somewhat of a scholar. I guess I’m more versed in research and theory, so Chi Fong acts as my engineer.”

“And I thought us Gundam pilots all had a little know-how just from playing the part. I never imagined….” Duo related. After checking the files himself, Wufei handed over the document. It was enormously heavy, being a five-inch binder with nearly all of its space used up.

Wufei addressed Mao and Chi Fong pleasantly, “Thank you both for everything. Can we be left to talk alone?” Mao obliged, leaving the tea for them, and exited with the carrying tray. She waved goodbye to Duo who waved back. Chi Fong whispered something into the master’s ear with another wink and left soon after with a book in hand. Wufei gestured for his guest to go ahead and look through the documents. Duo in turn opened the binder curiously, reading the titles methodically, and then breezed through the reports and diagrams. His grin grew ever wider the further he went.

Duo began to shake his head. “Wufei…you crazy son of a bitch….” He made a kind of pretend wince, playing that he didn’t know. “Miniaturized a particle drive for a mobile suit? Now what kind of crazy person would have a use for that?”

Wufei grinned knowingly, but also played along. “I don’t know, Duo. But if someone ever wanted to….”

“Really!” Duo exclaimed. “Can you even picture how fast that thing would move?!” They both began to laugh as their imaginations ran wild with the idea. Duo casually flipped through the pages again, still tickled and shaking his head, just to verify that what he saw there was true. His laughter eased off, but his smile was still there. “You know,” Duo started, “this actually reminds me a lot of Heero.”

“Is that so?” Wufei questioned, more seriously.

Duo still wore a soft smile, but his eyes looked conflicted. He was terribly pained inside. “Yeah, it does. You would think he is trying to move on like anybody else…but if you really look, you can tell he’s stuck.” Wufei was silent, understanding the grave nature of Duo’s insight. “But I suppose we’re all a lot alike. It’s hard to live so harshly for a purpose like that and then suddenly have it gone. We hardly have any idea what to do with ourselves.”

“So, even he is still fighting. We all are….” Wufei realized.

“Yeah,” Duo agreed. “We can try to outgrow it, and live and build ourselves up as much as we want. I would like to think that we’ve come very far—that we’re doing well for ourselves. But the world is changing again…or should I say, it will stay the same as it always has.”

Wufei nodded solemnly, able to foresee the purpose of Duo’s visit.

Duo spoke once more, “I hate to depend on him again…, but he’s the only one we can trust to be prepared for it….”

***

The Vice Foreign Minister put up a hand to shield her eyes from the sunlight. Despite her close ties to the area, she did not often visit the Sanc Kingdom, usually having to make frequent flights between the Earth and colonies as part of her work instead. New Port City was especially beautiful this time of year, with the invigorating sea air being carried on the wind. Relena stood at the steps of the Peacecraft palace, now a dedicated school and a center of government activity. Though she was invited several times to take her place as ruler of the country, she turned down the offers, and the Sanc Kingdom was now overseen by a democratically elected prime minister (who happened to be plenty qualified, she supposed). Relena thought back to several years ago, recalling that this city was a battleground many times, twice burned down.

Lady Une came up the steps behind Relena, glad to be outside for a change, and in such beautiful weather! Being a high-rank officer in the Preventers, she was normally stuck behind a desk coordinating people and paperwork. And of all things she could be doing, it had been arranged for her to escort the Vice Foreign Minister. It would also be a chance to visit Mariemaia, who had since enrolled into the boarding school at the prestigious Peacecraft Academy. Relena had arrived to give a lecture on the development of pacifism to the students at the academy. It was rare for her to be among people so young; most of the attendees were women around her age and younger. Today would not be the usual conference on policy while being outnumbered by tired old men.

“Are you ready for today’s lecture, Princess?” Lady Une asked endearingly.

Relena laughed quietly. “Of course,” she answered with energy. “But I am more worried about other things.”

She was certainly right to be. This lecture was only a small affair she had promised to friends in the school’s administration, and she held on to her agreement in spite of other matters. Lately she had been very concerned about ESUN’s Mars Terraformation project. Representatives from Martian space had been behaving strangely in the past month. Though they spoke of cooperation and aid, they never held up their end of the bargain, and then feigned innocence and negligence. Communication was difficult to begin with due to the extreme distances, but those men on the other side could not be counted on to answer seriously. Just in the past two days, talks seemed to have ceased completely, with no response of any kind from Martian delegates. What could possibly be going on over there? Though she had others investigating, Relena was just about ready to hop onto an interplanetary shuttle to get her hands on some answers.

Lady Une faced difficult situations of her own. Some months ago came that bombing inside the Preventers’ mobile suit facilities. They were a puny force to begin with, numbering no more than eight units, but the sudden attack left them completely crippled, and the ESUN had no units outside of that small squad. She had been petitioning for funds to reconstruct the facility and its mobile suits, but she was turned down time and again. The administration saw it as a chance to further dissolve any military presence, even if it was in their own hands. They were too hopeful, and did not care to see the dangers it presented. Relena was personally conflicted on the issue, but generally supported Lady Une’s call for self defense. Worst of all, did the administration really mean to let the terrorists have their way? Perhaps they were far too eager to forget about the wars of yesterday.

She was just opening the front doors for the Vice Foreign Minister when they both heard it. The sound was faint, but it was undeniable: the distant searing hiss of thermonuclear jets. The world seemed to have gone into slow motion when they both turned around in horror only to witness the stuff of nightmares. A mobile suit approached the quiet capital from the air, armed with a rifle. They both watched apprehensively as the machine made a recklessly hard landing on the outskirts of the city, destroying layers of concrete underneath. It was not a model Lady Une had ever seen before, and its design principle was highly unusual compared to anything she had studied in the past. It was lightly built and colored completely grey. The fuselage was lined with thruster rockets in the shoulders and skirt areas. Large diamond-shaped plates made up the armor for its shoulders. Most unusually, the unit had no feet, and it stood on small pedestals that extended from the ends of its legs. She looked fearfully into its face, an emotionless and enormous camera eye.

To their shock, the unit began to pace through the streets, and a voice resounded from it. The speech was pre-recorded, spoken in the voice of a young man who sounded ambitious and strong.

“This is a declaration of war….” Those very first words were devastating, and the Vice Foreign Minister nearly fell to her knees. It continued, every word sharper and more painful than the last, “The people of the Earth Sphere have grown pompous and complacent. You speak of policies of peace, calling it a victory for all mankind. Yet you trample over and neglect those you find insignificant. You seek control over all of space without considering the rights of others. We cannot allow such tyranny, and hereby declare the formation of the Mars Space Republic….”

“A new republic! Mars!?” Relena exclaimed in disbelief. “How did this happen…?”

“Mars is our planet—pure and untouched by the corruption of the people of Earth. This is a direct challenge to the Earth Sphere United Nations: in a year’s time, Mars and Earth shall come close enough for us to send our mobile forces to your planet. We shall be the ones to lead mankind into the future of space. We will not be swayed by talk. Be prepared. This is a declaration of war….”

With those words, the mobile suit lifted its rifle and fired into a nearby building. The entire structure was leveled, killing nearly all the people inside. Horrified, she held back a scream and tears began to fall from Relena’s eyes. The heartless machine moved the gun again in another direction and fired, destroying two more buildings. And another time—again and again. It was firing indiscriminately upon the citizenry of New Port City.

Lady Une wasted no time, grabbing Relena and rushing inside the doors of the palace. She shouted for everyone within earshot to go into the basement. Une whipped out her phone and dialed the emergency line at Preventers HQ. She called for an evacuation order: everyone far enough should escape the city, and others should move underground or seek battle shelters. All vessels and transports approaching by land or water should turn away. Suddenly Relena tried to pry herself free from her escort, frantic.

“We have to do something! Let me go!” Her voice was desperate and pained. Une only hugged her close until she stopped struggling.

“Relena, keep calm. We have to make it through this. My priority is that both you and I survive to do what we can. There is nothing you and I can do to stop that monster outside….” The Vice Foreign Minister nodded at length, feeling defeated. Everyone around them was already rushing downstairs. They followed suit, while Une stayed in contact with headquarters.

On the surface, the mobile suit continued its rampage. A half an hour had passed and it had stopped firing its rifle, conserving the rounds. Instead, it casually strolled through the streets, running its hands through the buildings as they crumbled like ash under its touch. As it went, the recording of the voice played, repeating the message over and over. Casualties still grew, but were limited with the people securely sheltered. News teams came to film the monster in its childlike rampage, and their copters flew over the city. Those that came too close were shot down. Outdated attack helicopters had scrambled into the Sanc Kingdom from nearby nations, but they were too few in number, and were picked off easily by the mobile suit’s rifle. Its thunderous footsteps shook those who hid underground.

At last, the mobile suit raised its rifle again, training it upon the palace of the Peacecraft family. Its giant camera eye glowed softly, lifeless and remorseless. Its hand began to pull back on the trigger when a missile suddenly shot up from below and blew the weapon out from the mobile suit’s grip. The rifle crashed to the ground below as a piece of twisted metal, rendered useless as a weapon. The suit’s computer quickly triangulated the path of the missile and found its point of origin. The main camera turned and set its gaze upon the assailant, a lone man sitting upon a motorcycle, a spent one-use anti-MS rocket launcher pressed in his hands. Trowa Barton stared back at the monster with a calm but fiercely determined look in his eyes. He tossed the spent launcher tube aside and revved the engine on his bike. With a terrible screech, the motorcycle charged straight for the mobile suit at incredible speed. Trowa slipped underneath the giant machine, driving between its legs, and disappeared from sight as the suit turned around trying to keep track of him.

Trowa sped through the streets, weaving between buildings quite easily. It was simple, considering that everyone else in the city was hidden indoors. He kept one eye trained on the suit, able to see it as he zipped past gaps between buildings. It was wandering quite hurriedly, looking left and right in search of him. He had one more anti-MS rocket launcher strapped to his back. It was the most he could manage with such short notice. He would have to make the most of it, and hope he could disable the entire mobile suit with a single shot. He only had one chance. Trowa throttled the bike, tearing his way through the streets with even greater speed.

The mobile suit stepped into the large clearing of a wide street. Not since it first disappeared has that motorcycle been spotted again. The suit was wide open, standing in such a large space. Trowa skidded in on his bike, stopping directly in front of the mobile suit. In a fraction of a second, he had steadied the launcher and fired the missile directly at the suit’s main camera. To his shock, the machine reacted and turned its waist, blocking the missile with one of the large diamond-shaped plates on its shoulders. When the smoke cleared, Trowa found the mobile suit’s head undamaged, and its shoulder barely had a scratch. The armor was surprisingly resilient for such a frail looking mobile suit, and he had not expected the machine to be able to react so quickly.

That’s when the machine lifted its arm and reached for a weapon bolted onto its back. It drew forward what looked like a long cylindrical rod with a handle. The shaft suddenly grew red-hot, searing the air around it with immense temperature. It was a heat saber—effectively, a hot stick—that made for a crude but effective armor cutting weapon that had not been seen since the early years of mobile suit combat. Though it was vastly inferior to a beam saber, Trowa knew that it was more than enough to completely incinerate him and everything else in this city. He recoiled in panic as the machine drew its arm back to strike.

Suddenly, there was the sound of shearing metal and an earth-shaking crash, followed by an enormous rush of wind that almost picked Trowa off the ground. The mobile suit’s arm had been separated at the joint that connected it to the main body, and the severed limb crashed to the pavement below. The immense energy of the still burning heat saber melted the cement as it hit, causing the stony gray soup to simmer and pop. The weapon eventually de-rezzed, being detached from its main power source, and cooled back down until the blade became a charred gray color.

Hardly one to believe in a miracle that caused the mobile suit’s arm to come off on its own, Trowa whirled about to find a white Leo crouched a distance away, a razor-sharp curved blade extended forward from its hand. Attached to its back was an immensely large rocket system that was a long-range flight pack that had carried the mobile suit here. It came from outside the country, propelled here at impossible speeds. The still ignited jets eventually died out, and the pack was ejected, shaking the ground terribly as it hit. The grand machine stood up and about-faced, its splendid white armor glistening obscenely in the sunlight. It was the Leo-G, and it had cut through the mobile suit’s shoulder from behind as it passed by for its high speed landing.

The Leo-G’s combat computer quickly scanned the enemy mobile suit, evaluating its entire performance potential with a single look at its frame. It was definitely a new model, but its weapons were all low cost production types. Notably, the computer analyzed a low-heat signature for the unit.

“A mobile doll…,” Heero realized. He quickly checked for any signs of Trowa, but the man had long since sped away on his motorcycle, quite smartly. Heero turned his attention on the main matter at hand. The Leo-G stood its ground and thrust its blade forward with one powerful arm, training the point directly toward the mobile doll, promising absolute destruction. The other suit stared back menacingly with that giant eye, and a part of the recording played again as a final message.

“Be prepared,” the voice warned ominously. “This is a declaration of war….”

The mobile doll’s fuselage began to glow threateningly, and Heero saw a spike in its temperature readings. It was going to self-detonate. He reacted without an instant of hesitation. The Leo-G dashed forward and, in a single fluid motion, cut off both of the doll’s legs in one slash and caught the frame by its face using the Leo’s free arm. With a great lunge, the Leo-G leapt into the air with the other suit in tow, and fired off its rockets at full power, hurtling them both towards the bay. In an instant they crossed the beach, and Heero attacked the frame again with the blade. With intricate flicks and turns of the wrist, the Leo-G made a series of mid-air slashes that cut away at the mobile doll until all that was mostly left was the core and reactor, now beginning to reach its critical state. With the mass other mobile suit mostly sliced away, Heero then threw his mobile suit into a powerful twist, lending momentum to an earth-shattering kick that sent the reactor sailing into the air over the water where it finally exploded.

The Leo-G retreated as an intense light bathed the area, shielding its main camera with one arm and shutting the protective visor. An intense fireball roared as it burned the air, creating a fierce wind. Shockwaves hit the water, causing violent waves to crash against the beach. After a few intense moments, Heero had the Leo lower its arm once the light subsided. If he had let that reactor go critical in the middle of the city, there would be no telling what damage it could have done. He could not stop the reaction, but could only do what he could to limit the damage done by the explosion. Thankfully, there were no ships in the harbor, credit going to Lady Une’s earlier evacuation order. Still he found it strange that the reactor did not make a larger explosion. Were all Martian reactors of that low caliber, or was it only because it was a mobile doll reactor? There was no telling at this point. Heero sighed roughly with that ordeal settled. He knew things were far from over, however. Now onto the hard part.

An hour passed by. Heero had left the Leo-G to rest before the palace, down on one knee, and with its one blade secured into the holster on its hip. The sun was setting, throwing a warm glow over the white frame that awed those who beheld it. He had long since taken the data on the mobile doll created by the Leo’s combat computer and handed it over to Preventers intelligence. As soon as the doll was destroyed, emergency and rescue teams scrambled through New Port City in search of the fallen. News teams worldwide were in a frenzy. They rushed the palace, learning what they could, getting video of the white mobile suit, though they were kept distanced by lines of policemen. Most desirable was an interview with the pilot, but he was nowhere to be seen, and no one had access to the palace.

Heero entered a private room in the palace where he found a gathering that consisted of a few posted guards, their administrator Lady Une, Trowa Barton, and Vice Foreign Minister Darlian, the three of which were seated at a large table. He traded glances with everyone, but did not say a word. Relena stood up, anxious to address him, “Heero…”

But he shook his head, stopping her. “Don’t even say it, Relena. If I had gotten here sooner, I could have stopped the attack. If we had gotten word out sooner, we could have prevented all this damage. If we had known sooner, everything that happened could have been avoided entirely….” He closed his eyes, regrettably, angrily. His words were harsh, but they were true. Though the Gundam pilots were the main force that stopped the mobile doll’s attack, they had moved too slowly. The Preventers had their defense squad destroyed, and let their detection networks fall out of working order. Then there was the Earth Sphere United Nations itself, which had somehow allowed the establishment of the Mars Space Republic occur right under its nose. Heero continued, even more indignant. “And then there’s the hypocrisy of my even being here!” Everyone else looked on in shock. “For all these years I've turned my back on the pacifism that saved this world. All I can do is fight, hanging on desperately to these weapons. What I’ve done is a contradiction of the world you want to build, Relena. It’s criminal.”

Perhaps it was something that could have been left unsaid, but talking about it was something that Heero needed desperately. It had been eating away at him for years. She looked him right in the eye, and spoke very honestly. “You did everything you could to protect us. That is more than I could ever hope for, Heero.” With those words, she hoped to reach out to the conflicted man, but he still seemed dissatisfied. A feeling of dissonance hung in the air. That was when the video-phone at the center of the desk began to sound. Lady Une answered the call, and the cherubic visage of Quatre Winner appeared on the screen.

He addressed them curtly, “I’m sorry to keep everyone waiting. We should get started right away.”

Lady Une moved immediately onto her report on what the Preventers were able to learn. The biggest matter lay in the message carried by the mobile doll. The declaration was actually broadcast worldwide, and even through the colonies via a network of orbital satellites. And the transmission carried not only the audio that they all heard, but video footage as well. Une put on a recording for those who had not seen it. In it, they saw a person in a spacesuit planting a flag into dusty red soil. Apparently, the MSR (Mars Space Republic) had already sent their first man down to the red planet, claiming it as their own. Other parts of the feed demonstrated mobile suit assembly lines controlled by the MSR. Shockingly, the video evidenced that they had already produced hundreds and hundreds of units. It was needed to back up their claims of attack in the coming year. And such productivity was feasible, since Mars had ready access to the resources of the asteroid belt. Though considering the weak economy of the Martian space colonies, they would have had to retool their entire work force as a war machine.

“That’s pretty much all the footage there was to the message broadcast from the Leolion,” Une summarized. “The feed just keeps looping after that. We’ve managed to identify at least three different models present in their mobile suit line. We can also be pretty sure now that the attack on Preventers Mobile Ops would somehow be coordinated with this plan in order to give mobile doll a chance to attack without resistance.”

“Hold on,” Heero interrupted with a raised eyebrow. “‘Leolion?’ Who decided to call it that?”

“It's a strange name, but that’s what Duo called it when he contacted me,” Trowa offered. “I figured it could keep us consistent.”

“Maxwell.” Heero rolled his eyes a bit.

Lady Une assured him, “It’s just a codename, Heero. We’ll figure out the unit’s real name once we learn more.” He simply shrugged in response.

A patrolman from outside the room stepped in and approached Lady Une. “Lady, there is a matter you should see to outside.”

She scolded him, “Can’t it wait? We are in the middle of this….”

He apologized, “I’m sorry, Lady. We need you specifically.”

Lady Une sighed, a bit flustered. “Please excuse me.” She left with the guard, and they shut the door behind them.

Even with her gone, Trowa carried on the discussion. “So we know that much. What shall be done?”

Relena came forward quite forcibly, “We have to reason with them, of course! What could possibly cause them to want a war so suddenly? We have to go there and figure out what is going on!”

The others were quiet at first, but Quatre offered his opinion. “Relena, we would love nothing more than if that was possible, but the Republic has already shown hostile intentions, even telling us directly that they would not accept talk. Why do you think they chose to attack the Sanc Kingdom directly instead of the ESUN capitol?”

“This country is the symbol of peaceful relations in the Earth Sphere, and so by attacking it, they challenged our ideals directly,” Heero filled in. “And besides, Mars would obviously be in a state of war right now. Anyone who approached would probably be killed without a second guess.”

“So that begs the question,” Trowa began. “Shall we meet their challenge?”

“We may not have much choice,” Quatre answered bleakly. This set off alarms for Relena. But the discussion hurried along before she could speak.

“Suppose we do actually have an entire year. Is that enough time?” Heero wondered.

Relena tried to interject, “Hold on…,” but her voice was too weak for the others to hear.

“I don’t see it happening,” Quatre shook his head. “The entire infrastructure for developing mobile suits was deconstructed by ESUN.”

“But…,” she tried again.

“And we have no Gundanium,” Trowa added.

“No, that’s….”

“Will the people be willing to fight again after all that’s happened?” Heero questioned seriously.

“I….”

“That’s a really important matter,” Quatre recognized. “What will you do, Heero?”

“Can’t you….”

“What I’ll do…?” Heero wondered profoundly. He answered, giving the same answer he’s given all his life. “I’ll do the only thing I can do….” Those words were heartbreaking for Relena, and it was the last straw.

“PLEASE!!” she cried out to them, red-faced. The other three turned to her, aghast. Relena could feel angry tears welling up in her eyes, but she ignored them and continued, “How can you brush us aside so easily? Is fighting all you can think of?! Are there really no peaceful solutions? How can you know without even trying?! There is always more we can do!”

The former Gundam pilots were mauled by her words. They were quiet, put to shame by the Vice Foreign Minister. She looked at each of them indignantly, waiting for a proper response to her call, but they had none. Suddenly, Heero stood up from his seat. When the others looked up at him, the expression on his face was like if he had just seen a ghost. They had never witnessed him in such a state. That was when they realized he was looking at the doorway. When they all turned in that direction, they saw a red-headed girl that had opened the door.

She saw Heero, too, and her eyes flared up once she recognized him. “You…!” Mariemaia forcibly pushed the door completely open, letting it strike against the wall with a crash. She was a part taller, having aged two years since last seen, and her hair had grown out longer. She entered the room, supported by a cane, and walked straight for Heero. Her injuries from the incident still have not completely healed. Lady Une rushed into the room again after her.

“Mariemaia! I told you that you should wait outside. What are you thinking to barge in like this!” She put a hand on the girl’s shoulder, but Mariemaia pushed her back with her free arm.

“Don’t stop me,” the girl ordered quite seriously. She had taken shelter in the palace like many of the other students in the boarding school, expecting to see the Vice Minister’s lecture. She came to this room when she heard her guardian Lady Une was present.

“Who do you think you are to show your face around here?” Mariemaia questioned, directing an attack at Heero. He was shocked to see her because he always thought she had died two years ago. In his delirium during the incident, he believed he had really taken her life, and wanting to forget the affair, he avoided any mention of Mariemaia, never learning that she survived. She continued her assault, saying, “You’re just a dangerous maniac! Running around with those weapons and beam cannons! Why, back then you nearly killed Miss Darlian here, and you certainly meant to kill me! How is it that someone like you is running loose?”

Heero turned away with a hard look on his face, his own guilt growing quite apparent. She got right up to him and stared keenly. He was unable to meet her eye. But Mariemaia’s face suddenly brightened into a smile. She had only been teasing the poor man, but the feeling was quite real for him. Taking his hand into her own, she smiled at him genuinely, catching him off guard.

“Thank you,” she said. “I never got to thank you! Thank you for stopping me when I lost my way. I don’t know what would have happened without you there for all of us.” Heero was taken aback by her words, having lived a hard and thankless life up until now. The others were moved by her gratitude. Mariemaia looked to each one of them, knowing that in spite of their differences they each would be important to the coming future. In their own way, they each had something vital to contribute. “Don’t worry,” she told Heero, looking him in the eye with an encouraging smile. “I know we’re in good hands.”

Heero squeezed her hand back, grateful for her words. He could only nod firmly, assuring her that she was right to depend on them, returning her confidence in full.


By Seraphic
12.22.08
1.18.09
5.13.13


Codename Leolion (full production version)
Leo-G

Named one of them Bubbles just like Zap asked. The codename “Leolion” is credited to Ascension.

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


Last edited by Seraphic on Mon May 13, 2013 11:50 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post Posted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 2:33 pm 
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I'm loving these chapters, Sera. They're very long reads; just what a chapter should be. You also seemed to capture Heero very nicely.

As you can see, I'm still a Wingy.


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 Post subject: My thoughts thus far
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:32 am 
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A show of hands: who was disappointed when they found out it was just me posting in my own thread? And who became disappointed in reading this very sentence where I announce that this post is not actually a new chapter?

(Yes, I found that to be extremely funny. Welcome to my world of corny and over-complex humor.)

You know, I'm not exactly sure why I am making this post. I've been up all night trying to figure stuff out for here and I think the sun is coming up right now. I'm probably not right in the head. (Not that I'm feeling tired at all. I feel fine. But that also means that my sleep cycle has gone to hell.) I suppose I'll make a few announcements and updates.

I've made some minor edits to Chapter 3, and Chapter 4 also got its first level of revision. It was more of an addition, really, and it bumped the word count to 8,743, making it the longest single body of text I've ever written. I think I could have subdivided all of my chapters into shorter segments, especially Chapter 4 since it was written in two distinct halves. But I suppose there is a sort of reason for me to keep each chapter at such a length:

The entire story is divided in 5 acts, like a play, and I divided each act to five episodes originally. So, all that plus an epilogue would have given me a clean 26 episodes--a convenient two seasons. But since then, I have added additional episodes to create more space for development, so that number has grown to 39...uh...40. Each individual episode also should contain enough material to animate into a literal episode, I think. That's the main reason for the length. I'm not sure if I can keep that kind of elaborate structure and level of substance in later episodes, but we'll find out as we get to them.

I also made an index for the chapters since I've learned how to link to individual posts. It's found in the first post. The only weird thing is that it opens chapters to new windows, but I guess that's not all bad. It'll help my readers navigate better. The so called "master index" will be on the first post. And once the thread spills over to a second page, an early post on that page will have a "page 2 index" as well. A neat organizational trick.

Earlier I was going through some old accounts and documents, and I found that I must have written the first draft of the first chapter back in 2003. And there's evidence that suggests I was already working on ideas for the story since 2000. So...that might make my project a good 9 years in the making. That's quite shocking, isn't it? Nearly an entire decade of my life.... That's quite a level of dedication. I can only hope I can see it through to its end. "Sucking hard" would be an understatement if I were unable to finish for any reason.

Let me tell you what I think of things so far....and no, this is not an excuse for you to not leave me a proper critique....

Thus far, the story has yet to reach any of the "moments" that I first envisioned. Nor has it gotten as far as to reach something that I consider to be extremely exciting and momentous. You know how it is. There's always a few scenes or moments you have planned that you know will take every one's breath away. So far, the first four chapters have served as a logical and developmental base for those coming things.

But the strange thing is, though I wrote these current chapters "only because it is necessary" I have found that I have surprised myself a great deal. Though I'm just hammering things out, the amount of work I have poured into the writing has molded it into more than just a necessary chore. I had not planned it this way, but really, there were moments in the narrative that really reached out to me, and moved me. I often forget that I was the one that wrote all this, especially in those moments. But this thing hasn't even gotten off the ground yet. If all those little things can do that, then how about the bigger moments I have in store? I suppose this is what happens when you truly pour your heart into something. A real labor of love.

It doesn't come easy, I'll tell you. Let me just tell you about some of the work I've had to do. In the earlier overhaul on the entire story, what I had to do was go back and actually tone down the language. It sounded too serious or melodramatic, and sometimes that came without any reasoning to back it up. Hopefully the tone is more quiet now, and less draining on the reader.

The second chapter was probably the post difficult for me. I had to setup a situation I was completely unfamiliar with. And I would have to fully introduce and develop this character I probably couldn't handle right. Sure, I understood her well enough, but understanding and translating that understanding into words are two completely different animals. The first draft of it was pretty awful (the version that didn't show up here), and it was really full of holes. It actually cracked a lot of jokes, but the tone changed completely when I had to do the overhaul, though some hints of that humor still remain. I ended up adding a lot of segments, and I think it more than doubled the length of the original version. That's a ZOINKS load of fixes! My most recent fixes, after the overhaul, refined the interaction between Heero and Jen with a few key additions. Earlier it seemed somewhat strange, and that she might have just been a nosy lady in his business. But now I feel that they have a sort of genuine connection--that they really can care for each other. I hope you guys can feel that, too.

I think that with all of that work, the second chapter has actually become my favorite of the first three, and still my favorite of all four. It's a very calm and down-to-earth chapter, and it demonstrates best my understanding of Heero Yuy. He may be a strange or a dangerous person that doesn't necessarily understand himself or what he wants, but inherently he is a person that has a very powerful influence on everyone around him. He is a catalyst of change for the better. He allows things to happen. He naturally draws good people to him. And those people believe in him, and have hope for themselves as well. You can depend on him no matter what. It was a very wonderful experience for me to be able to explore how his influence has affected a single person, and in the future I hope to be able to explore how that one person may also influence Heero Yuy.

This theme also carries into the third and fourth chapters, especially pronounced by Duo's visits. (I also think of these parts of Chapters 3 and 4 as "Duo has a hard time fitting in," haha. I think Duo's a great person, but in my observation he's always the butt of the universe's cruel jokes. I like to keep things consistent. And besides, he somehow helps a story to be both brighter and darker at the same time.) These scenes depict an interconnectedness with all the pilots, and a sort of reverence for Heero as a whole, as the other pilots seem to look up to him as a person that sets an example and shoulders great burden. My development of Heero's internal conflicts has been very wearisome, but perhaps that is a good thing. I think the third chapter has a rather beautiful ending. And did anyone catch the (clever) pun in its title?

The most recent entry of Chapter 4 has been a pleasant surprise to me. Really, I felt it was an obligatory part that probably would have wound up pretty boring. I had no idea how funny it would be, and how deep it goes, or how great the action turned out. (My thought, at least.) Quite a nice piece of work, but to this day I still can't explain how it got like that. Is it just me? I honestly don't have any talent, right? This chapter was a long time coming, though. If one has taken notice, hints and allusions for it are found in all three of the previous chapters.

While entertaining to read, the one thing I dreaded about this chapter was trying to write the character of Relena Darlian. This might sound like an annoyance to any other GW writer, but for me it was something else entirely. I know this writer by the pen name of Zapenstap. She's a professional writer by trade, has spent a year teaching, and was the webmistress of the long-dead Gundam Wing Analysis website. Really, I don't get to chat with her more than a few times a year, but she's a person I really look up to. It's strange what sort of good advice and worldview changing ideas crop up in our conversations.

Zap has done a lot of GW fiction work. A lot of REALLY GOOD GW fiction work. I mean, I could have cried at a lot of it, witnessing work of such merit. And Zap's center focus is often Relena. Really, I think her portrayal of this character is the most masterful of any other Wing material, perhaps even better than in the series itself. In Zap's hands, Relena, read correctly: Relena feels so absolutely human and sympathetic. Understanding her thoughts in the story comes as easily as having my own thoughts. It's not possible for me to put correctly in words. And here I have gone to try this character also, and I feel that I have failed miserably. Quite a shameful attempt in the shadow of Zap. I feel as though I should be yelling my throat sore and banging my head on a wall for doing so terribly.

Even so, she and I are not the same person. We'll never write the same. While I feel I will never match her level of skill and grace or understanding, I know that I must have my own useful qualities, as insignificant or unpolished as they may be. But I can work hard. At least try to do so. And I can only hope that these eyes and these hands will hold out long enough for me to finish, so that I might impress myself, and hopefully make an impression on others as well, in the same manner that Zap has influenced me.

This fifth chapter will be a long time in progress, as it's another one of those chapters difficult for me to construct. I hope I can pull it off. It may not come until the summer, but hopefully I'll figure out some other workable system to do things better than I have before.

But in the meantime, I have a bit of a distraction prepared. Yes, a bit silly, especially compared to the tone of rest of my post (sorry), but some choices for opening and ending sequences. At least it gives you some insight to some of the music I listen to. I struggled for a few hours to construct the playlists on multiply.com. It used to just let me link stuff that will automatically play things for you, but nowadays you have to sign up to listen to anything at all. But it's free, with no sorts of strings attached. Just give the login a whirl, and forget about it later when you don't need it anymore. It might be useful for your own purposes, anyway.

I suppose that, outside of OST stuff, I listen mostly to guitar music and electronica. I...get really confused by electronica and its many subdivisions, but I know the non-rock pieces I'm presenting today are all breakbeats, a genre that actually originated in the area I'm from. It's a pretty interesting style that most of you might not encounter outside of my samples here. Give it a shot. :wink: Of course, what I'm showing here is probably the best of the best....don't expect every breakbeat producer in the world to be good. >_>

(Also, multiply didn't let me order the tracks in the proper order for some damn reason. Just bear with me.)

OP Choices:

1st OP: "Loop & Loop" by Asian Kung-Fu Generation. They did an OP for FMA, but I like this song much better. It's pretty chilled, and is an easy listen. Very good guitar work. This song makes me sleepy for apparently no reason at all. My sister agrees that it has the same effect on her. Probably the weakest of all my choices. I might drop it for something else.

2nd OP (be careful that you're on the right track): "What to Believe" produced by Daiki Kasho. Just an absolutely excellent song. I think the lyrics and vocals are great. I will have a hard time trimming this one down.

3rd OP: DJ Loopy's Volume J - Track3, "Take Control". Make sure the volume is pretty high before this track starts, since you don't want to miss out on the great opening. Just in the first five seconds of the song, you can tell how good it's going to be. Great piano and vocals, and a masterful mix overall.

ED Choices:

1st ED: East Clubbers - "It's a Dream" (clubhouse edit). A pretty simple mix with very very pretty vocals.

2nd ED: DJ Stevengotremix - "Take My Heart" (single version). Make sure you have the volume up before this one starts! A really really cool mix with a neat guitar line and very good vocals. I think Steven is my favorite DJ. It's quite a passionate song.

3rd ED: DJ Hybrid vol. 4 Reflections, Track 11. An unknown title. For the love of god, someone find out what it is. It has a rather typical opening, but as soon as the vocals hit, you know that this is something special. It has beautiful, beautiful lyrics, and a non-vocal melody that makes me tear up a bit. I've never heard another mix of it anywhere else. Quite a mystery, but a real gem.

Anyway, I'm sorry for this sudden outpouring of thought/emotion. It just happened. =/ But yeah, I happen to be self-analyzing, though that doesn't mean all the work has been done for you already. I might be scaring off a lot of people with all this, but I think some in-depth reviews or critiques could do a lot of good for me. I could use the help. A 9-year project is difficult without good encouragement.

Yeah, congrats on reading through this entire strange and disorganized post. You're a real trooper. Take care, everyone.

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


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 Post Posted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:17 pm 
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Cool a good Gundam Wing fic on this site.

You're doing good here. The only problem is the one that pretty much all Wing writers run into, the end of Endless Waltz. We always have to go around that annoying ending with the Gundams getting destroyed. Also we try to have to avoid the generic "shadow faction comes out of the woodwork and the Gundam Pilots have to stop it" routine. you seem to be getting around this fairly well.

Keep up the good work.

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 Post Posted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 4:39 pm 
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MBF-06/ZGMF-X12A Arbiter wrote:
Cool a good Gundam Wing fic on this site.

You're doing good here. The only problem is the one that pretty much all Wing writers run into, the end of Endless Waltz. We always have to go around that annoying ending with the Gundams getting destroyed. Also we try to have to avoid the generic "shadow faction comes out of the woodwork and the Gundam Pilots have to stop it" routine. you seem to be getting around this fairly well.

Keep up the good work.


There is one thing that was left unexplained though; the remains of Wing Zero. If I seem to recall, it wasn't COMPLETELY destroyed at the end of Endless Waltz.

Just... scattered everywhere


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 Post Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:16 am 
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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
A new reader...and he says it's good...! *tries very hard not to cry*

I do really appreciate your comment. =o Yeah, like many others I was pretty weirded out by the last line in EW, but if you notice, the narrator's line is repeated at the beginning, and I managed to retcon it in only two words. Pretty skillful, if you ask me! =p The second line I added is just an expansion to lead things into The Sword.

You know, I was so caught up in the details that I never actually realized that The Sword falls into the same formula. Hopefully, the pacing and the approach makes the story stand out more than others. I happen to think it's well focused and doesn't jump the gun just to get into the action. It's just too bad that I haven't gotten to read many GW fics myself. Fics with actual MS in them seem pretty rare for whatever reason. One of the few that I found and liked was one that was hosted on GWOnline (which has died long ago.) The Wing Gundam was rebuilt into this Wing Apocalypse thing. Not a very subtle name, but I thought the story wasn't bad.

Alternatively, from the way The Sword was developing on Heero's internal struggle, the story could have gone to him just wreaking absolute hell in the Earth Sphere by himself with the Leo-G. It'd be hard for me to twist his character in that direction, but believe me, Heero would make for the sickest villian you've ever seen. (This is how I know. Despite the looks, this is some of the best humor I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Give it a shot.)

Dustin, the Wing Zero will have its place. I just thought that mentioning whatever happened to it during the first four chapters wouldn't be much more than a distraction. And you know, the Wing Gundam was never completely destroyed at the end of GW, either. :wink:

I've begun thinking out the next parts. I think I'll actually try to do a dual chapter release. The bad news is I usually have to think out the chapters almost entirely word-for-word before I write them. Don't hold your breath, guys, since it'll probably be summer before much of anything shows up. Still, I welcome new discussions or questions. I'll be happy to answer anything you're curious about.

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


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 Post Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 4:32 am 
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OMG Doomsday Laser
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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
The hell is this?! A new chapter?? That's impossible! >=o

You may want to read the headlines for his one, as it's an optional chapter possibly not in your taste, so you may choose to skip it until I post chapter 5.

Also, I'm going to host the story at The Lost Citadel instead. While the black background at MechaTalk makes the story look sexier, there is no swear filter at The Lost Citadel. I suppose I don't use language too often, but when I do, I choose the words carefully, so it sucks to have the filter block it out.

Hotlinks don't seem to be working for me at The Lost Citadel for the moment, but whatever. Here it is anyway. Just scroll down if it doesn't work right.

link

I'm going to post updates in each thread, so you can choose to discuss the story at either forum. I don't really have a preference.

=o

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


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 Post Posted: Thu May 24, 2012 8:04 am 
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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
Oh god, I'm on one of those editing sprees again. Here is the edited form of Episode Plus, an optional chapter which was previously only found on The Lost Citadel. If you are wondering about it chronologically, it takes place directly after the flashback in episode 2.


Act I
Episode Plus: The Heart in Solitude


Everything faded together as she woke. She was rested on her side, eyes open, but it was all still a blur. Jen laid still on the bed, not wanting to strain her eyes, and let them come into focus on their own. There came the realization that she did not know where she was, but she was calm, gently turning onto her back and looked about the room. It was moderately sized and functionally furnished, but the white walls were somewhat barren. For a bedroom, the ceiling was quite high, giving the place a grand and spacious feel. Growing more wakeful, Jen sat up in bed. She was still wearing that Preventers jacket, though the bath towel once pulled around her body had fallen loose underneath her in her sleep. She quietly pulled the bed sheets to herself as she sat in contemplation.

The smell of smoke was still on her. Jen’s house had burned down the night before, and the bodyguard she had hired escorted her here in a mobile suit. They had touched ground just as the sky was becoming gray this morning, but being so exhausted, she had fallen asleep right away, not even remembering how she made her way to this bed. Jen quietly looked up again, finding a digital clock on the desk across the room. It was already evening. She slid out of bed and onto her feet, holding the sheets to herself. In a chair she found a t-shirt and a pair of shorts that he must have set out for her. Holding them up, she found them to be a bit big for her size, but they were likely all he had to offer at the time. Jen dressed herself, but put the jacket on over the shirt again.

She made her way over to the window, putting a hand on the pane of glass as she looked through it with careful eyes. The room was apparently on the second floor, but much to her surprise she did not see a single building outside. There were only trees as far as she could see. They must have been miles away from any populated areas. How far could we have gone in a single night? Am I really going to stay out here? She contemplated again her host's offer to have her stay with him while her home was being rebuilt. It was an impulsive decision made in chaotic circumstances, Jen knew, but she at least needed to find Heero and talk to him. She'll have to keep a cool head until then.

Jen turned away from the window and made her way out of the room. A short hallway greeted her, lined all with closed doors. She was curious, but not enough so to peek into the rooms. She crept quietly through the hall and down the stairway.

The bottom floor was surprisingly luxurious, as the rooms expanded across wide spaces with the same high ceilings. Again, the rest of the house seemed to be appropriately furnished, but still appeared quite barren. There were no paintings, decorations, or framed pictures to be seen. Many of the rooms seemed too organized and clean as though no one ever walked into them. A few places like the kitchen and the living room showed signs of life with someone neglecting to set something in place or to clean off a dish. So far she had not come across a single soul. It was all so quiet. She began to wonder where her hired bodyguard could have been. Did he live alone in a place like this? Jen made her way to what must have been the back doorway and slid the heavy glass door aside.

Jen was met with a sudden gust and turned away with her eyes closed, keeping her hair back with one hand. When the wind died down, she looked up to find the expanse of a lush garden that stretched all the way from the house to the forest of trees in the distance. The air was clear and invigorating, carrying the scent of spring foliage and a slight mist picked up from the pond across the way. The sun hung low, but the sky was still blue, though twilight would come soon. She looked about again before walking barefoot onto the cool and springy grass. Venturing out further Jen found her host seated at a stone table near the pond.

Heero Yuy was quietly reading a book--some old thing from before the colonization of space. Jen strolled by him casually and smiled, not saying anything. He lowered his book and returned a casual glance. She silently gestured at his jacket that she was still wearing, inquiring if he needed it back from her.

"Hold on to it for while," he answered simply. Well alright, she acknowledged with a thoughtful nod and continued away on her stroll. Heero returned to his book, not wanting to interrupt her. She seemed well enough, and the formalities could always wait.

Feeling at ease, Jen lead herself on a tour around the garden. The Spring was beautiful, though it was much too early for the flowers to be blooming. She didn't understand what it was, but she was greatly invigorated and renewed by the nature she experienced. Back home in the city, the air was heavy, and it was crowded and noisy everywhere. There simply wasn't any time to go outside and let one's hair down.

But where she stood now there was so much life and so much space! She walked with her arms outstretched and with a spring in her step, standing atop large stones that sometimes came up through the grass or stopping to examine an interesting plant once in a while. One might even dare to say she was frolicking through the garden.

Eventually she made her way completely around the pond, coming by Heero again. She curiously observed a couple of red-ear slider turtles perched atop a rock in the water. Jen shouted suddenly, trying to scare them. "Blah!!" They ignored her, but she only laughed, feeling silly. Jen knew it was weird to be playing and prancing through her host's garden, but she paid no mind to how she looked to others at that moment. She came up closer to the water, wanting to feel it, but she stopped and called out to Heero over her shoulder out of respect. "Do you mind?" She smiled beautifully.

Unconcerned, he looked up from his book. "Go for it," he answered, nonchalant. The man returned to his reading again. People can do whatever they want.

With his consent, she took some steps into the clear water. It was very relaxing, and the cold, soft mud crept up between her toes. It felt squishy and wonderful. Jen walked in a little deeper. The turtles took notice and left their perch, slipping into their underwater hiding places. She taunted the reptiles boisterously, "Oh hoho! Not so smug now, are you!" Jen laughed once more. She felt like a kid again. Whatever happened to all of this?

Heero stole a glance of her over the top of his book. Wading through the pond, she looked like a random mishmash of clothes in her jacket and shorts. She was both at once covered and exposed, her long, graceful legs reaching into the sparkling water. Jen was a sight to behold when her guard was down. Out here among the woods, on the water, she seemed cheerful and free of concern.

It was different from before, when terrible things loomed in her future. She seemed miserable and nearly lifeless back in the city, working herself to nothingness and enduring tragedy and disaster alone. Perhaps he had done some good, Heero thought, by enabling her to change her surroundings. When the time came, she would be ready to leave and return home with renewed vigor. Though for the moment, having some company wasn't terrible. Maybe it was the right thing to do.

The sun had now set, and several stars made their brightness known. As the light of dusk faded away, the entire night sky became painted with points of glimmering light. As Jen stood in the water, she saw the surface of the pond reflect all of the starlight in the heavens. She was astonished at how many of them appeared far away from the city lights, unable to decide if the sky or the water was more beautiful.

But her wonder was interrupted by a terrible sneeze. The night had grown cold very quickly; now she knew why Heero had made her keep the jacket. Jen made her way back to land, making sure the water had cleaned away all the sediment from her feet. Heero had come up to meet her, his book clasped loosely in one hand. He was just visible under the starlight.

"Ready to go?"

"Mhmm," Jen consented, and together they made their way back indoors.

They had both washed up for dinner when Jen began looking through the kitchen to assess her living situation. It was utterly devoid of anything asides from one can of very old looking beer, what looked like a spot of mold (though she did not care to investigate this thoroughly), and a small smattering of cook- and dishware. There was no food stocked anywhere as far as she could tell. Jen had no idea what they were supposed to eat, but sat herself down at the table, trying not to look worried.

Heero came by and set a tray in front of her, and she blinked twice at it. The food looked hot, tendrils of steam curling up from the trays, but it had no distinguishing smell. Heero took the moment to apologize for not having any "civilian food".

She smiled curiously, trying extremely hard not to sound ungrateful, but asked, "What is it then?"

"A military issued ration pack. It's sort of all I have for the time being." He explained that he had not anticipated having a guest so suddenly, and this was all he cared to have for himself. She pardoned him, claiming to be a burden, and thanked him again for going out of his way to help her. She insisted with emphasis that it was rare to know such hospitality. Heero could only again apologize and insist he was making up for what happened to her. This went on for several more turns until they each convinced the other to eat before their food was cold. It amused them to test how formal and self-belittling the other could be.

Jen at last took hold of her fork and had a taste of what must have been some sort of steak. She was quite confused at what her taste buds were telling her, but finally confirmed the food was absolutely flavorless. With no exaggeration, the food just did not have a discernable taste. Honestly, she might have had a better experience if the food was actually bad. At least then she might still be able to call it food.

Jen looked up at Heero, a little reluctant, and saw he was merely focused on his own tray. He ate quickly with an almost mechanical efficiency. This must be how soldiers eat in hard times, she thought, and wondered if this was really how he ate every day. Heero seemed perfectly capable of feeding himself well, so why the lack of care or effort in cuisine? Who would torture himself by eating like this every day by himself?

She just didn't know what to think of this. After a moment, she was able to set these thoughts aside and followed Heero's example, clearing her tray quickly. In the least, she could not complain of going hungry. It was different than what she knew, but it felt much like times where just getting by was difficult. Was this how Heero was living? Just getting by?

Heero cleared away the table in silence and washed the dishes, leaving Jen feeling awkward at the table because she had no way to be useful. When he returned he placed a credit card in front of Jen and sat across from her.

"What's this?" she asked, not understanding.

He looked serious, his elbows on the table, hands clasped in front of his mouth like he was in some sort of formal business deal. "Use this to order what you need to be comfortable. Clothes...furnishings...that kind of thing."

Jen's eyes were wide as she frowned at him incredulously. "I can't do that! There's no way I--"

"Don't make this difficult," Heero pressed. The hard look on his face kept Jen quiet. "This isn't any special favor or gift. You just need to replace the things you don't have. People need what they do to live comfortably. Consider it as an apology for everything that's happened."

She was quiet for a long time, reluctant, before she consented. "Alright."

"Don't spoil yourself, either. The money in that account doesn't come from nowhere."

Jen shook her head earnestly. "I wouldn't dare."

"And there's one more thing," Heero started.

"Yes?"

"It's a bit much to explain all right now, but there's something you should be aware of while you are here. You know how I was a pilot during the wars. I'm running some thing of an experiment in the house. It could be dangerous for you if anything ever happened, but I've arranged it so you don't have to worry. You won't even notice." Heero was referring to his ZERO system research, but he knew making her understand everything right away was impossible.

Jen looked concerned, not even knowing what to say or ask, but simply nodded to let him know she acknowledged his warning. Heero did own a mobile suit after all even after they had been outlawed, so who knew what other secrets he kept? She would simply have to learn more later on.

"Now," Heero began in a different tone, "that should settle everything for the time being. You should go clean up. You still smell like smoke." He sounded serious, but from the small smirk that cracked his facade Jen knew he was just making a friendly jab.

The following days were uneventful as Jen grew more accustomed to staying in Heero's home. She respected the secretive man's space, but often was his company in the library or the exercise hall. Thankfully she had more to do when he loaned her one of his old computers and once her shipment of cookware arrived. Her friend Ramone often called to check in on her, but otherwise Jen spent most of her time studying various subjects or trying to find ways to be useful.

Heero minded the young woman's space but conversed with her often to make sure she did not grow to feel friendless. After all, they were in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors or places to go. At first they conversed mostly about their old contract together and the custom mobile suit Heero had stowed away. This naturally led to talking about being a soldier and Heero's days as a Gundam pilot.

He told a lot of stories he didn't know he even cared to remember. The ex-soldier never thought he could share those things about himself, but Jen's genuine interest and probing questions brought it out of him. Eventually he even began showing her a bit of the Leo-G in its hangar and a few of the smaller experiments he was running with it. It was somewhat dangerous information to share, but intriguing in an engineering and intellectual aspect. He doubted Jen could do much to jeopardize him, anyway.

One day Heero approached Jen formally, not saying anything at first. Her face lit up, offering her attention. "It's work. A new contract," he said. "I'll be leaving in the morning."

"Oh," she replied with some surprise. The thought hadn't occurred to her that Heero might need to go out on another assignment. "Well, how long will you be out?"

"Can't be sure. The contracts don't run on any time constraint. It could be days or weeks before I'm off. The longest I've had was over two months, but that's rare."

She frowned a bit. "Okay." An awkward moment passed. Jen almost asked if she was supposed to go with him, but stopped herself realizing what a stupid idea that would be. He's a professional body guard! People could be dying out there!

"What are you going to do?" Heero asked suddenly.

"Huh?" Jen blurted, caught off guard.

"I mean, what are you going to do while I am away? It could be strange for you to stay here by yourself. You could always go on a trip or hang out somewhere else for the time," he suggested.

"Oh!" Jen caught on. "Well, I suppose I don't mind staying here. I don't really want to inconvenience you by trying to travel here or there." Heero gave her a long look, tacitly asking if she was sure. Jen nodded seriously.

"Alright then. Just don't feel pressed to stay if you change your mind. Be careful while you are here by yourself. No one's really around to help if you get into any trouble."

"Of course. I'll be careful," she promised with a sure smile.

Jen saw him off the next day, wishing him luck. She stayed alone in the house. Nothing was different at first. It just felt like she had all the time in the world, and she took care of herself very well. She kept herself busy and productive, accomplishing things she never dreamed she would have the time for, but soon it settled that she was the only person within miles. It felt more invigorating or empowering than it was lonely, like the world was hers. She had lived like this before.

But over time the days began to drag. She mostly read or slept, and her thoughts wandered away to other things. Her voice grew soft and her movements slow and meditative. Jen reflected on herself and Heero and how her life was like at this house. She grew restless underneath, wondering quietly how much longer she would be alone. As soon as she realized this, she worked harder to keep herself busy, trying to not think too much, but ideas and feelings kept creeping back.

It was hard being alone with him...all the times she stopped herself from reaching out and touching him...all the times she stopped herself from leaning forward into him. He was an honest person, but incredibly hard to read, with a poker face that would put a sphinx to shame. He was incredibly controlled, offering no hints of any affection. But that didn't necessarily mean he did not have a want to be closer to her. Maybe they were the same, not wanting to make a move and fail and make things awkward, so they worked their hardest to be formal and businesslike. They were still contractor and client after all, right? And they were stuck with each other for a while regardless of how things could turn out.

Jen sighed longingly. The two of them were not children. Surely he wasn't so naive to think that he could invite a young woman to live with him without some implication. It was a complicated situation that forced his hand, and she knew he did not create this arrangement to be alone with her, but maybe he was open to such opportunity. She was just so unsure of what he thought. Jen was terribly afraid of betraying his hospitality by potentially being forward and making things awkward for them both. Her reluctance had kept her silent for so long. Maybe there was a way to bring the answer out of him.

***

Heero stepped through the front door and exhaled a long breath of relief. He mechanically hung up his jacket and set his suitcase down after locking the door behind him. Walking over to a secured drawer, he reached behind him and pulled his handgun from its holster. He routinely removed the magazine from the weapon, but stopped to stare at it for a moment. How was it that I hit five people with only three bullets? Heero turned the gun over again to see if he could find anything strange. No, nothing. He scratched his head in resignation. Maybe we'll just call it "skill" and leave it at that....

After putting the weapon away, Heero stepped into the kitchen, loosening his necktie with one finger as he entered. He picked up a glass and approached the faucet for a drink of water but stopped unexpectedly when he saw something he didn't recognize out of the corner of his eye. There was a water cooler sitting cozily in the corner of the room. Jen must have ordered it while he was away. She has good taste, he thought as he uneventfully took his drink from there instead. It was cold and soothing to his parched throat. He set the glass down with a dull thunk and started looking around for other incongruencies.

There were handy trinkets here and there and a new decoration or piece of artwork in a few rooms. On one counter he found a picture frame and picked it up to examine it closely. It was a crude crayon drawing of himself scowling. He frowned back at it, knowing Jen must have had a good laugh at his expense. He set it down with a defeated grunt and began walking elsewhere at a tired pace. Just where was she, anyway?

Heero eventually pushed the back door aside and stepped out into the backyard. He found Jen kneeling nearby the pond's edge, planting some blue flowers he didn't know well enough to name. She greeted him warmly but didn't stand up from her work. He watched her continue to set the plants into the soil. "What are these?"

"Irises," she smiled, still not paying much attention to him. She was too caught up in the moment.

"What kind?" Heero asked awkwardly.

"BLUE," she stressed with a bit of a laugh. "I don't quite remember the species name," Jen admitted. She turned to him finally. "Care to help?"

"Uh...sure." Still in his dress clothes, he knelt down next to her and rolled up his sleeves.

"Hand me that one?" she asked politely.

"Yeah." He gingerly took hold of one of the stalks and passed it to her.

Jen set the young plant into one of the holes she had dug and pushed some dirt over its roots, patting down the earth. They continued working like this for some time, not really talking much. There was no need for it really. They understood how it went.

Heero grew as focused as Jen was, minding the irises gently. The calm air and the smell of the earth told him how much he had actually missed being home. Then there was Jen who seemed to be treating him a bit strangely. He stole a quick glance of her. She merely smiled quietly to herself, not looking up. It was as if she were aware of some kind of inner satisfaction that she kept secret from him.

A strong wind suddenly blew over them, and they turned away from its violent gusts. It chilled them and ruffled their hair. Heero opened his eyes after he recovered. A moment later he heard Jen groan in protest. She was turned away, the back of her hand pressed to her eyelashes.

"What's the matter?" Heero pressed with some concern.

"I think I have something in my eye," Jen complained unhappily.

Heero touched a hand to her shoulder, persuading her to turn around. "Let me have a look."

He leaned in close as she eventually complied, but blinked as soon as he got a good glance. Though Jen had turned to face him, she sat with both of her eyes closed, her chin pressed a bit forward, lips parted ever so slightly. Heero hesitated, unsure of what was going on. He couldn't possibly check her eye if they were closed as they were. Was she trying to...? Jen was always teasing him by playing these little games, though now Heero was beginning to catch on. He paused, a bit overwhelmed at the sudden sight she presented.

He was on guard, frowning a bit. "Is this some kind of trap?"

Jen was still for a moment, not yet opening her eyes to him. With them still closed, she asked secretively, just managing to conceal a smile, "Is it going to work?"

The young man did a double take, flabbergasted at her bold admittance. But on the surface he stayed cool, being aware of the game. "No." He countered staunchly. He wasn't one to fall prey to anyone's devices.

Jen opened her eyes and turned away from him like before, the same quiet smile concealing her secret from him again. She reached for another iris. "Well, I'll just have to try again later."

Heero looked on again in disbelief. It was a feint the entire time. She's kind of a weird one! he exclaimed in his thoughts. But it was sort of what made her company so unique and lovely.

"Hand me that one?" Jen gestured for one of the plants like before.

"...Yeah...." Heero complied.

They finished planting the irises together when they heard the sound of a distant rumble. Looking up they saw a mass of dark storm clouds rolling towards them.

"Let's go before we're caught up in that," Heero advised. Jen consented calmly, her eyes still set on the billowing clouds. They put away what they could and retreated indoors.

Heero dusted off his hands with a cloth. The world had grown dark suddenly as the storm clouds covered every inch of sky. He found Jen still standing at the back door, one hand gently touching the pane of glass as she stared out at the garden. She seemed detached from everything, focused on something he couldn't read. Was she worried about the irises?

"Heero?" she asked suddenly, not pulling her gaze away from the garden. "What are those statues in the middle of the pond?"

It certainly wasn't the question he was expecting. "Do you mean the shrine? Haven't you been there?" he asked.

"No," she replied simply, her voice a bit low. "Will you take me there when the weather is better?" The first drops of rain began to fall, growing steadily in strength.

The man was quiet for a moment. "Yeah. I'll do that." They didn't speak again for a long time, listening to the heavy downpour together.

***

Heero slumped down into his desk chair--something he hasn't done since he left on his assignment. He missed it: the old broken leather and the aged fragrance that smelled most like home. The man sat alone with all the lights off at his computer as he often did. It must have been bad for his eyes, but it helped him focus, and there was still some documentation from the job to finish up. Pulling up the files, he started typing away at them. His hands worked the keyboard mechanically with him not putting much attention into what he was doing, but eventually his thoughts began to drift.

Everything seemed usual, just like before he had left. He and Jen talked over dinner like they always did, sharing and joking openly like friends. She asked a lot about his time out working and he answered what he could. He apologized for completely losing contact with her, but she understood with that simply being the nature of his work. Otherwise they caught up with what she had been doing at home, and it was almost too much to hear all at once. Her stories were so corny it was magnificent. She could be a real busybody when she wanted to be. It was good to know Jen was well off while he was away.

Heero sunk deeper into his chair. But what brought on that strange behavior in the garden earlier today? He couldn't figure if she was hard to read or being too obvious to be real. Did she really want him to...or was she just playing a joke on him? She often teased him about everything she could find, like being anti-social or his fondling weapons the same way a normal person might caress a newborn child. Carefully, he would tease her back, like her being a mooch or a helpless dork. The two kept one another on their toes like friends.

What did she want? Was Jen teasing him for being too aloof? Living out in the middle of nowhere was rather extreme, after all. He was reluctant to face what he always suspected. Was she lonely without him? He didn't know she sought after his company so much. Maybe it wasn't about him. Being alone in the middle of nowhere could cause any normal person to start acting strange. But that wasn't right, either. She could have chosen to go away and do other things while he was out. But she didn't. She stayed here by herself and waited for him.

This isn't right. Something inside refused the possibility that the two of them could be any closer than friends. This isn't what I wanted, he told himself. When he had offered her shelter in his home he meant it as another way to help one of his clients--nothing more to it.

No, there was something dishonest about that thought. It would have been difficult, but they could have arranged for her to live in a hotel or an apartment instead. That would have been more professional. Staying with him was simply the most convenient arrangement. But that wasn't normal at all. Two strangers don't just agree to live together on a whim. Why did he even offer? On some level, was that his intention? Did some sick part of him mean to isolate a helpless girl in the middle of nowhere with him?

Dammit, this is all crazy. It was a misunderstanding. The entire situation wasn't fair to Jen at all, and she was in no place to protect herself from him. She was stuck in the middle of nowhere with a crazy person, and she was insane for agreeing to it. Heero shuddered at the thought of an innocent girl like Jen chaining her heart to a nightmare of a human being like himself.

It was too much. He was a monster born out of lost souls and spilt blood, and now a poor damsel had willfully thrown herself into a dungeon with him. Though times had changed, the lives Heero forcefully sacrificed never left him, and he often ached with the knowledge that he had taken the lives of those people for granted. He swept them away like dust. He couldn't let go and move on. Jen did not know what she was asking for if she wanted to be close to him.

It was a life of regret that no one else deserved to suffer through, and with the world now free of wars as it was, it was finally possible that no one should ever have to. Heero was determined to let that bloodshed and pain should die with his generation. That was the only right thing to do.

The ex-pilot sunk even deeper into his chair in a near catatonic low. Jen Aoki, he knew, had a fighting chance in this world to be normal and be happy, and he'd do anything to protect anyone else from suffering through the life he lived and becoming the monster he had become. For her, no good could possibly come from giving herself to Heero Yuy. He would accept nothing else.

***

They stayed indoors while the storms loomed overhead, relaxing and passing the time. Jen and Heero were together often, though no more advances came from her end, and he never found any need to confront her. Maybe he made a mistake and was just imagining things, but his mind was still made-up. Regardless, the two acted normal and friendly towards each other, though Heero became more guarded than before.

It rained nonstop for three days, though when the weather cleared they found that the garden had grown lush and vibrant in that time. Everything glowed and sparkled under beads of dew when the clouds had retreated. Heero and Jen prepared their boat as planned and rowed out towards the middle of the pond where the shrine was erected on its own small island. She admired the depth and the clarity of the water. The red-ear slider turtles sunbathing there scattered as soon as the small vessel met land. Heero stepped out first, lending Jen his hand to help her onto solid ground.

The small island was 10 feet across, covered in white and grey gravel. The center had a large marble pedestal where two porcelain statues stood back to back. Heero stood out of the way, looking up at them, while Jen circled the shrine, her hand on the cool porcelain, admiring the fine sculptures. Even atop the pedestal, each of the porcelain figures stood 7 or 8 feet tall, exuding a truly godlike presence to the two people who admired them from below.

Jen recognized the two figures, having seen them in her childhood, but was never familiar enough with them to recall their names. She wondered at their significance as she looked up at them. One was a fearsome warrior dressed fully in armor. He brandished a long-handled sword that looked tremendously heavy and powerful. The other was a beautiful goddess in long, flowing robes. In one hand was a vase with a willow branch, an elegant image of life in her grace. It was both a warm and hair-raising feeling to be in the presence of such a goddess.

"Who are these two?" Jen asked finally.

"A god of war and a goddess of mercy," Heero answered simply, still in a quiet mood.

How fitting for an ex-soldier, Jen thought. "Is that what you feel the world needs the most?"

"No. There's no god for me. These statues are just part of the garden--a gift fashioned for me by an old client."

"Hm. You are a 'do-it-yourself' kind of guy, I figured. Still, they're both very wonderful sculptures," she said admiringly. "The garden wouldn't be the same without them." It was strange, Jen thought. He knew enough to pick these two specific deities, though he likened them to mere decoration. It was as though he knew exactly what he needed but had no faith all the same. Despite what he said, she bowed with her hands together and offered a small prayer. Please grace this kind man and bless him.

Jen stood up again and looked over to Heero with a quiet expression. "I'm satisfied now. Let's get outta here."

She hung out quietly as Heero complied and prepared their boat. They were hushed, not speaking again, relishing in the good weather and the feeling of being surrounded by the crystalline water. Heero helped Jen into the boat first, pushing it into the water so they could row back to shore. Before he could step into the boat, he found that it was already drifting away. Both he and Jen were suddenly alarmed, and she stood up to reach out for him, her sudden movement jeopardizing her balance. Heero made a small leap into the vessel to try to catch her, but the boat slipped under his weight.

First he swayed backward, threatening to tumble into the water, but Jen grasped his hand and pulled him in towards the boat. Their vessel rocked dangerously as Heero fell forward onto his knees, but it didn't capsize and eventually regained its steadiness. When everything became calm again, the two of them found that Heero had knocked Jen onto her back as he fell on top of her. He had caught himself mere inches away from touching her, his knee landing high between her thighs. They both laid still for a time, not knowing what to do.

She seemed astonished but unabashed at their sudden proximity. They gazed into each other for a length of time, and she trembled underneath him, but each was too stunned to move. Though they didn't touch, this close he could feel her warmth, and there was a tingling magnetism that paralyzed them. Jen closed her eyes and came up delicately for a gentle kiss, though she found that she had only met with the corner of his lips. He had turned away, not letting himself embrace her affection. Her kiss lingered with him for a moment, but she pulled back quietly, a little hurt and unsure of why he did not reciprocate.

Heero had averted his eyes, looking ashamed. She gazed at him in wonder, not knowing what he would do. Eventually, he slowly pushed himself up and helped Jen sit up as well. They both sat quietly facing each other, not looking one another in the eye, dreadful of what could possibly happen next. The boat had drifted along on the pond's surface, the stillness of the water reflecting their silence.

"Jen," Heero spoke at length, still not meeting her gaze, "I'm sorry. I think this has been a misunderstanding." Her chest immediately sank with disappointment, but she remained quiet so he could continue. He laughed a bit at himself, "I'm terribly flattered by you, but I never meant for you and me...." He stopped again for better words. "When I offered to have you stay here, I meant it as a way to help you, a way to make amends for mistakes I caused. This--you being here with me like this--was not what I meant it as, and I realized it was wrong to keep you to myself."

"What is so wrong with it?" she asked solemnly.

"It was wrong to take you away from everything you had. It was wrong to have you all alone with me. I understand how people can become attached to each other when they are alone together often, but I think your feelings are misplaced. I'm not a person who should have anything to do with you. My life is dangerous and abnormal. You are better off staying away from people like me. If you are feeling lonely, it would be smarter for us to find more suitable living arrangements for you."

They still avoided each other's eyes. "I'm not sure I agree. Is that really how you feel?" Jen asked. Heero was silent, not denying it. "Okay," Jen exhaled at length. "I understand what you said," she admitted, finally turning her gaze to him. "Can you take us home now?" Heero nodded solemnly, seeing things were becoming resolved.

Taking hold of the oars Heero asked, "Are you hurt?" Jen blinked at the bluntness of the question. "From the fall, I mean."

She suddenly inhaled deeply, being spurred back into reality, and looked side to side to check herself. "No," she breathed. "I'm not hurt."

***

Jen sat down on her bed and slumped onto her side, letting her head fall into her pillow, burying half of her face in it. She laid with her eyes partly open to the dark room, awake, but she was emotionally spent. Her body felt lethargic and sore all over. She was just numb.

They went on about their day like normal when they returned indoors. She and Heero still talked and ate together, though quieter than before. He acted a little too kindly towards her, knowing she must have been fragile at the moment. She hated it. She didn't want to be treated any differently. The rest of the day was dull and uneventful, and she didn't want to talk anymore.

Jen reached out and took hold of a part of her bed sheet, hugging the bundles tightly to her bosom like she were trying urgently to stop some terrible wound from bleeding out. And now it was the middle of the night. She was alone in the dark, unable to sleep. What a loser.

My feelings were misplaced? I only felt that way because we were alone? Am I so easily waved off? So predictable, Heero?

Jen had never been with anyone before they had met. Her busy work and troubled life never allowed her to mind any boys. She had never developed these feelings for anyone before Heero. She buried her face deeper into the pillow, trying to drown out the things that were stirring up inside her. Her throat and chest had become tight with a terrible ache.

If what he said about two people being together was true, why didn't he have feelings for her as well? Was Heero really that guarded and detached? She didn't understand. The fact of the matter was: he had a woman living alone with him in his house with no one else around for miles. He could have easily taken advantage of her. She wouldn't have minded in all honesty, if it was him. They were both adults, and she liked him well enough--admired him, really.

Dangerous and abnormal? True on all counts, but was it really enough to refuse nearly all human contact? And a girl that offered herself up to him? That was the part she didn't understand, and the part that he never let her get close enough to know. Wasn't he human? Jen groaned into her pillow, frustrated. Maybe she should just get the hell out of here and leave him alone. She laid face-down into her pillow for a long time, trying to stay devoid of thoughts. She sighed heavily several times, huffing hot breaths of air into the pillow, quite literally venting her frustrations into the cushion. The cotton might have turned black from all the hurt and confusion she breathed into it.

Jen turned her face to the side again, one eye gazing into the darkness, the other pressed into the pillow. She can't just up and leave. She owed him far too much: her life...her well-being...her happiness. And there was nothing she hated more than being indebted to someone. And Heero was absolutely impossible to top: what opportunity to save his life in turn could possibly present itself? He was so selfless and masochistic it was enough to drive anyone up the wall. She couldn't perform outright miracles the same way he did, either.

"Noble jerk...." she mouthed to herself angrily. Heero was so unfair--unfair to both himself and to her as well. Jen's eyes closed in focus and fatigue. If she can't get even with him, then she will never be satisfied. She'll figure him out, she swore indignantly, sleepily. And she'll pay him back...do some genuine good for him...even if she's the last friend he has on this earth.....

***

A week or more passed, and the uneasiness and awkward silences between them slowly evaporated away. Jen at first seemed somewhat angry for reasons she never made bare. That ill will was never fully directed towards the man who refused her advances, however, but Heero figured he deserved it in one way or another, so he took it in stride.

The subject of Jen leaving the house to stay elsewhere was never brought up again, so it never became an issue. In fact, the two grew fairly comfortable around each other since now they knew what lines they could not cross, and neither had to fret over previously unknown boundaries.

They were getting along again, so they each hoped the past episodes were behind them. Heero's latest contract had paid well, so he stayed home, not concerning himself with more work for the time. He devoted most of his waking hours to working on the Leo-G, though Jen came to him wanting to learn how to shoot a few of his guns. Her favorites were the machine pistols, though Heero scolded her for wasting bullets and spraying them around like garden hoses. Jen could not think of another place in the world where she was free to learn what he learned there with Heero.

One day Jen came looking for Heero with a proposal, making her way down through the hangar. She walked along the ground floor, able to hear him fiddling with something on one of the suspended catwalks high above that enabled access to the mobile suit's cockpit. She looked up at the gigantic machine, seeing its godlike stature and how its white armor gleamed under the bright ceiling lights. It was something that shouldn't exist in this day and age, she knew, but it was kept alive by one man's passion. Somewhere in there was Heero's heart and soul. She was almost jealous of how much time and attention he put into it. The other woman.... she thought with a respectful ambivalence.

Jen climbed up onto the platforms and approached Heero from behind, though he noticed her presence right away. He was huddled over a box of random circuit parts, sifting through it for things he needed. Jen waited, and Heero eventually stopped and turned around to address her.

"Did you need me for something?"

She decided to be direct with it. "I want to learn how to work on mobile suits."

He was taken aback and frowned a bit. "What brought this on all of a sudden?"

"I know you can teach me, and I can't learn to do this anywhere else. Maybe with this training I can go off to do better things. And I know mobile suits are out of fashion, but this is what you're best at, isn't it?"

A dark thought crossed his mind. No, Jen. I'm far better at destroying people. He turned away from her and started digging through the box again. "No." He answered firmly. "Mobile suits are illegal outside of construction and service types. You won't be finding much work."

"You'll be training me in engineering practices, so I'm sure I can adapt what I learn into other things. Besides, I don't really care if the industry is small."

He answered, still not looking up, "You're not being very smart. I still don't think it's a good idea."

"Could you at least teach me so I can help you with this big clunker?" Jen questioned, knocking on the Leo's armor with several metallic clangs. "It must be lonely being holed up in this musty hangar day-in and day-out. At least it would go slightly faster with two people."

"I don't need any help," Heero muttered.

"At least let me work for you. I want to feel like I am earning my keep while I am here. I don't like being a free-loader," she scowled.

"You're a guest. That's not necessary." Heero was more stubborn than she imagined.

Jen was quiet for a long time, seemingly accepting defeat. She watched him with a small pout as he continued looking for parts. "Can you at least tell me what you're doing?"

Heero's brows furled a bit, trying to focus. "I'm looking for a circuit breaker, but I can't seem to find one in good condition."

"You wanted to protect one of your new boards before hooking it up for a test, right? It'd be a shame if all that hard work got fried," she commented matter-of-factly.

He looked up at her in surprise, unsure of how she could have just told him that. She hadn't taken any circuiting classes, as far as he knew. "How do you know that?" he demanded curiously.

"My father was an electrical engineer. He worked on mobile suits for the old military."

Heero's eyes narrowed. "That doesn't explain why YOU should know anything about it."

Jen averted her eyes sheepishly. "Well, when I was a kid he always told me about work when he came to tuck me in. I guess he just didn't know any bedtime stories, so he managed with what he knew.... I know that doesn't go anywhere near qualifying me as competent, but it's more than nothing...."

The young woman looked embarrassed, fingering the collar of her shirt pensively, but Heero just returned a dry stare.

She pouted defensively, "Hey, don't look at me like I'm weird!" Heero suddenly averted his eyes apologetically. "Things were hard for us, alright? He didn't know much about raising a girl on his own, but he tucked me in every night he was around."

Jen looked at Heero indignantly, to have him be judgmental of such a tender memory, but Heero was quiet, his mood seemingly changed. "He sounds like a good father," he spoke respectfully.

"Yes," Jen agreed quietly, deep in nostalgia, "he was...."

They were silent, one caught up in the past, the other contemplating the future. Heero stood up unexpectedly and approached Jen, offering a hand. She looked back at him, not understanding the gesture. "I'll take you on," he said. "Just don't expect too much out of this."

Her face lit up. She grasped his hand professionally and gave it a firm shake. "You don't know how much I appreciate this. I won't be any trouble, I swear." They both looked at each other, trading confident smiles.

"Okay," Heero said. "Can you go to the ground floor and find a breaker? At least 1500 amp," he clarified. The two of them laughed a bit, and Jen waltzed away gleefully, excited over their new partnership.

That was the start of Jen's apprenticeship under Heero Yuy.

***

The two of them got along very well and grew to be especially good friends. It was a bond that worked excellently. Now, whenever Heero was excited about anything he was working on, he could find the closest person around and tell his story without worry of scaring or confusing them. Though he knew a good amount of mobile suit design and maintenance from his days as a solo Gundam pilot, Heero's real strengths were programming and software design. Jen was sharp and intuitive, and although her lessons slowed down Heero's personal goals at first, he eventually became very reliant on her help. She was constantly spot-checking and troubleshooting his work, though her favorite part was running simulations with him.

They each still harbored memories of how they had failed to become anything more than friends, but those were memories far away in the past. In spite of that, their friendship had become fulfilling and productive.

One day, they were installing a complex module Heero had been working on for months. He sat on the open cockpit platform of the Leo-G, wires extending out from the internal computer and attaching to his laptop. Jen sat close behind him, looking on from over his shoulder.

"This component calculates minimum and maximum values for evasion distance when dodging enemy attacks," Heero explained with some energy. "It'll need to be tweaked as we play with it more, but if it works right it might increase combat efficiency by more than forty-five percent." Jen leaned in closer, mesmerized by the brilliant code she saw on the computer screen. Heero smiled with some satisfaction. "It's a bit of a monster, but can you see the parameters that I used?"

As he said that, he turned around to see if he had Jen's attention, but he didn't know she had leaned in so close. He was caught off guard, suddenly gazing into her intensely dazzling eyes, and his heart stopped altogether, the dark pools stealing all sense from him. The sudden sight was too much for him, and he paused, unable to think or breathe. But it was only for an instant. He quickly turned away, his eyes cast down in shame, and fumbled some words about their work. "This component will overwrite some of the older parts, so we'll have to be sure that happens properly...."

Jen didn't register those last words. Something else had her attention. What was that just now? It was only an instant, but she noticed it. Her expression softened, and she trembled a bit. She had seen that expression before: the last night at her house...and when they were on the pond. There was a wall that made him untouchable, but at those instances, and now, she had caught a glimpse through it.

Why? Why was he always standing behind a barricade where no one could reach him? What was he afraid of? She looked upon him with a tender eye, searching herself for a way to understand the man who had saved her in so many ways. She realized it now.

He was lost in the world, unable to overcome the past. He suffered through an entire war alone, expecting nothing for himself but death. He protected the peace of the entire world, being beaten and broken in the process. He carried with him the weight of all the lives he had taken. And now he was protecting her from himself, unwilling to share his suffering.

But who was ever going to look out for him? Hasn't he endured enough aching and loneliness? Each painful realization smashed into her, breaking her apart into smaller and smaller pieces.

Terribly pained, she reached out and buried herself into his shoulder, hugging his middle to herself as tightly as she could. She held him like this, barely able to control her tears, until all time ceased to be.

She told him with all the kindness she could muster, "You have such a good heart, Heero. Don't keep yourself from me."

He could not believe that she cared so deeply despite knowing the kind of beast he was. He was completely paralyzed under her embrace, his lonely secrets now plain and bare. Her feelings were too intense and too great to fight off or run away from. Already he could feel the walls begin to crumble, and the terrible pain and suffering in his heart began to melt and bleed away. He felt so small and so undeserving of something so blessed and wonderful that it hurt to witness. Maybe there was hope for him. And maybe, away from a world that had no real place for them, these two misfits could manage to save each other.



Seraphic

***
Artwork: In case you're wondering what Aoki looks like.

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


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 Post Posted: Fri May 10, 2013 1:53 am 
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OMG Doomsday Laser
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Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:56 am
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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
Start 9.6.12

Act I
Episode V: An Olive Branch in One Hand, A Shield in the Other



"Aren't we there yet?" Duo stretched back and clasped his hands behind his head.

At the captain's chair, Quatre smiled apologetically, "We've already been cruising through the asteroid belt for several hours, Duo. Didn't you notice?" He was at the helm of an interplanetary rig. The ship had been en route for nearly a week. Duo and several leading members of the Maguanac Corps accompanied him in the bridge.

"No kidding!" Duo exclaimed, learning forward. "I thought we'd be running into more asteroids by now. We haven't seen even one!"

Quatre politely stifled a small laugh behind a hand. "Despite the name, the asteroid belt is still mostly empty space. I thought this is something a fellow person from the colonies would know?"

Duo tugged at the collar of his normal suit which had been growing more stifling. "It's common knowledge to the Winner family, maybe. Do I look like a satellite miner to you?"

"I suppose not," Quatre smiled.

"Still," Duo began with a worried look, "I've never been this far out into space. We've even gone past Mars' orbit. I'm grateful we haven't run into any of their patrols."

"I agree. It's a shame we had to approach in such a roundabout way," Quatre lamented. "All of our other envoys who had directly approached Mars had either failed or been shot down. Every scouting unit had been destroyed, leaving us with little information as to what military power the Mars Space Republic commands."

"I still don't think it was wise for Relena Darlian, of all people, to be on this ship with us. The MSR has already made their intentions clear. What more can we do now?"

"Miss Relena still has hope for peaceful resolutions, but more than anyone else, she understands the difficult position she is in. You mustn't discourage her, Duo."

Duo apologized, "That's not what I'm trying to do, but I don't think I can be as hopeful. ESUN can be willing to talk, but if the other side is unwilling to listen, there's nothing that can be done by our diplomats. And when they've failed, we'll be the ones stepping in. That's why we're here now."

"Yes," Quatre agreed with his eyes closed, "we can have hope, but we'll do all we can to avoid unnecessary tragedy."

The voice of a tall Arabic man cut in, "Master Quatre. We've confirmed the location of MO-VIII. We should be approaching it in 300 minutes."

MO-VIII was a resource satellite known to hold deposits of Gundanium ore. It was prepped to be moved to Earth during the Eve Wars, outfitted with interplanetary pulse thrusters and the accommodating fuel, but the sudden end in the conflict made the satellite's transport unnecessary. It had been left abandoned since, but now with mounting tensions and a dearth of Gundanium in the Earth Sphere, a dual-purposed mission was launched to either make contact with the MSR for negotiations or retrieve the resource satellite MO-VIII.

"Thank you, Rashid. This will be a difficult mission. If Miss Relena's efforts to make peace go unheeded, we will have to secure that entire resource satellite deep inside enemy territory. I am glad to have you all aboard with me."

"I'll take all the help I can get!" Duo exclaimed. "I never thought I'd see so many of us gathered together again. It's a shame Wufei decided not to join the mission."

"Yes, Wufei stayed behind to prepare his people. Trowa and you volunteered to be part of this ship's escort. Trowa must be with the crew in the hangar. We likely wouldn't be able to properly defend this ship without Heero's contributions. And of course there is Miss Relena."

Duo scratched his head. "Just where is Heero, anyway? He's been a practical ghost around here."

"I haven't seen much of him, either, Duo. I know he'll be ready when the time comes. We're depending on him."

***

In another part of the ship, Relena was working from her desk in a room set aside exclusively for her. She was used to traveling for her duties, but never had she been in flight for a week's time. Living and working in a zero gravity environment was a challenge. The room's ceiling lights were off, and Relena wrote by the light of a desk lamp. Her pen tapped thoughtfully at her papers, but no strokes were yet made, ideas still swirling in her mind.

"Where is your assistant?"

Relena jumped. It was Heero leaning in the doorway, arms folded.

Half-composed, she stammered, "My assistant? Oh, you mean Sara. She must be asleep. Being on this ship has been hard for her. She was brave to come along with me."

"I always find you working alone."

"Sara is very helpful, if young," Relena offered, "and having all of you behind us gives us courage."

Heero was direct about his visit. "Do you know what you'll say once we make contact with the Mars Space Republic? They've made it difficult by shutting down their interplanetary channels."

"Knowing what we'll say to them is easy. The problem is back home." Relena exhaled and leaned back in her chair. "All those sacrifices for peace and all that talk.... Now we find ourselves divided again. On Earth, the people are ready to fight to defend themselves, but the Colonies remain reluctant to take up arms."

"That's quite surprising considering the number of attacks by the MSR after the first in New Port City." Heero made his way over silently and sat down at the edge of Relena's desk, his hands on the flat of the desk behind him. "Our people are already being killed. What use is clinging onto pacifism when the enemy is poised to slaughter us?"

Relena remembered the massacre at New Port City. She and countless others would have likely been killed if not for the intervention of Heero and the other pilots.

"All of the attacks were made directly on Earth. No incidents were reported in the Colonies. We don't entirely understand their intentions, but perhaps the people of Mars feel a kinship with the Colonies, being colonists themselves. Or maybe they've done this to intentionally divide us. They may still attack the Colonies in the future and only want us weakened." Relena's observation was thorough.

Heero added, "The Colonies are reluctant to fight because they stand the highest chance of damage from battle. They are afraid because life in space is still fragile, and they stand directly between Earth and the Martian Colonists in this interplanetary conflict. They are hoping that by taking a pacifistic stance the Mars Space Republic will spare them. What would you have them do?"

Relena closed her eyes. "If we cannot avoid a war, we stand the best chance of surviving only if we are united. We sacrificed for this peace, and now it is our responsibility to defend it."

Heero interjected, "That's surprising to hear from the daughter of King Peacecraft."

Relena looked wistful. "Lately I have been hearing that sort of criticism from the ESUN delegates all too much. Some even propose that we do not fight and let Mars have whatever they want. They say it could be bloodless."

"It hasn't been bloodless," Heero said with narrowed eyes.

"The problem is that we do not know what will happen once Mars is in control. They could make peace impossible by slaughtering and enslaving the people in the Earth Sphere. Ideals will not save us from that, but the Colony delegates are insistent," Relena admitted.

"Without the manufacturing capabilities of the Colonies, it will be incredibly difficult to build our defenses. It will also be extremely difficult to organize our troops in space without the Colonies as a platform. We may even end up defending the Colonies from attack while they maintain their pacifistic stance. They should be able to see that we'll be massacred without their help," Heero added coldly.

"Yet they still cling to the ideals of the past," Relena continued. "The people of the Earth Sphere must be united. I have to convince them that talk will not work on those who hold our chains or those who have already plunged their knives into us."

"Is that not what you are here to do now?" Heero questioned.

"We are not in a war yet," Relena insisted with a sad smile. "We should give one more legitimate try to reaching out to the Martian colonists. Martian leaders are clearly militant, but we have yet to find out what is the public opinion of the Martian citizens. They have been very careful to close down communication between Earth and Mars, and if we can reach them now, it will be worth the effort."

"You know what it means if we fail here today." Heero pressed, looking away.

"Yes," Relena said, "I am not afraid to fight. But I will do it in my own way. It gives me courage to have you pilots here with me. I know you will see us through."

She saw Heero's hand resting in front of her. He was a symbol of strength that once supported her, and here he was again. Though he was not looking, Relena reached out for his hand, hoping to grasp that strength, but Heero suddenly stood up, falling out of reach. She did not know if he had avoided her intentionally or if the timing was just unfortunate. Relena was disappointed that Heero seemed more distant than how she knew him in the past.

"It's nearly time," Heero said and drifted away from her desk under the lack of gravity. "You and your people should be ready in your normal suits. This could get messy."

***

"Trowa." Heero called out as he entered the rig's busy mobile suit hangar. Mechanics darted back and forth through the zero-gravity environment. Some others directed work by waving and shouting through the din of heavy machinery manipulating equipment for mobile suits.

"Heero," the other man confirmed. Trowa Barton, the director of the ship's mobile suit operations, returned a steady gaze.

"How are preparations?" Heero asked as he looked up at the towering, metal giants.

Trowa looked up to the mobile suits as well. "Everything is ready to go. The Maguanac pilots are already standing by in their mobile suits. The refurbished Tauruses from the Preventers are also ready. Our suits have been prepped, but I figure you'll want to look at them yourself."

"Thanks, Trowa," Heero said staunchly. "You've been a big help."

"We'll be in a tough situation, Heero. We're deep in enemy territory, and the first thing that will happen is that Vice Foreign Minister Darlian is going to give away our position."

"I know," he affirmed gravely.

Heero pushed off the hangar floor and floated off to this mobile suit. He twisted mid-air and landed back-first in the familiar seat of the Leo-G--or rather, it used to be the Leo-G. Trowa's mobile suit was an exact duplicate of it, albeit with an alternate weapons loadout.

Immediately after the first incident in New Port City, the Preventers had sent resources and personnel to the mobile suit maintenance compound Heero kept underground. It was one of the only remaining facilities left in the Earth Sphere that could still function as a mobile suit plant, and so the very first mobile suit constructed by ESUN was produced practically in Heero Yuy's back yard.

It was a difficult period. In that time, Heero Yuy was off with the Preventers to repel subsequent attacks perpetrated by lone MSR mobile suits across the globe. And at home, Jen Aoki suddenly found herself to be the head advisor for the construction of the Leo-G's twin mobile suit. While it was exciting to have an influx of resources and personnel, she sorely missed the intimacy and the efficient rhythm of when it was only Heero and herself working together in the hangar. He was seldom home, and when he appeared, he was preoccupied with repairing the Leo-G or assisting in the construction of its twin.

Eventually it was decided that the two mobile suits would need to be fielded with heavier armaments if they were going to be taking part in larger operations. This essentially meant that they would be going to war.

Heero remembered one of the moments he last spent with Aoki. The two of them stood side-by-side, looking up at the machine they had created together. The Leo-G was a mobile suit built to embody strength and test technological limits; it was not a weapon of war. It was pure and beautiful, and its pristine white armor reflected this ideal. Heero had lamented out loud that from then on its bright armor would grow dull from the taste of blood. With that thought they had both looked upon their child with unhappy eyes. A future of violence and hardship awaited them.

"Well then," Aoki had said, "what do you think about red?"

***

The interplanetary rig approached MO-VIII. Fortunately for the crew it appeared to still be abandoned, either unknown to or ignored by the MSR. The ship had gone all this way undetected, though there were signs that patrols had been in the area and were likely still nearby.

A tense atmosphere mounted in the ship's bridge as the interplanetary rig deployed its long-range broadcasting antenna. Quatre clenched his fists and the pilots on stand-by squeezed the handles of their mobile suit controls. Relena leaned forward into her microphone and spoke.

"Dear citizens of the Mars Sphere, this is Vice Foreign Minister Relena Darlian speaking on behalf of the Earth Sphere United Nations. We wish to open a dialogue between the people of Earth and Mars. Though acts of violence have been committed against our citizens, we wish to avoid armed conflict and seek peaceful resolutions. As fellow human beings, we ask that we be allowed entry to Mars to discuss our future coexistence..."

She repeated this message several times over the open channel when suddenly the face of a man in a helmet appeared on the video monitors of the ship. He was wearing an astrosuit and appeared to be transmitting from inside the cockpit of a mobile suit.

"Earth Sphere United Nations ship, this is Cpt. Hawkins of MSR Patrol Unit D33. Cease your broadcast immediately. No unauthorized transmissions are permitted in Martian territory."

Relena was fervent. "Please, you have to let us speak with your delegates. We've come to avert a military conflict! We beg of you."

The captain answered coldly, "Our leaders are not interested in talk. You Earthlings are below us, and it's time your influence in space is put to an end once and for all." Relena and the other crew members recoiled in shock. The captain continued, "My orders are to shoot down all foreign craft trespassing in MSR territory. My patrol unit is already en route to your position. Surrender will not be an option. I am now closing transmission. Have a good day," he ended with a slight smirk.

The last thing they saw was the captain's frigid gaze as the monitors flickered off. Relena slumped back into her seat, her eyes wide and her hands trembling. She hadn't imagined they would be shunned so curtly. The situation was much worse than they thought possible, and her mission had become a bewildering failure.

She looked up as a comforting hand grasped her shoulder. It was Quatre who said, "I'm sorry, Miss Relena. Things didn't turn out as we had hoped, and we're all equally disappointed. This was inevitable, so I don't want you to blame yourself for what's happened. We'll all do our best to get you home safely."

Relena turned away and grimaced in her pain. "Thank you, Quatre."

***

I'm such an idiot, Quatre cried in his own head as he raced down a corridor, an assault rifle cradled in his arms. Several Maguanac members in astrosuits followed closely behind him. The corridor was pitch-black, illuminated only by the spotlights on their helmets. If I hadn't been so stubborn, we wouldn't be in such danger...!

Quatre blamed himself for their unfavorable circumstance. The Martian patrol unit was now bearing down on them, and they were nowhere near ready to escape back to Earth with MO-VIII. He had insisted that they not capture the resource satellite ahead of Relena's broadcast because it could be seen as an aggressive act against Mars. Risking that danger was worth the slim chance that Earth could maintain peace with Mars, but now that things have fallen through, he knew everyone would have been better off the sooner they could escape.

Now, Quatre and the Maguanac crew infiltrated MO-VIII in order to activate its main generator and ignite its nuclear pulse thrusters. Relena and the interplanetary rig waited outside the resource satellite, but the ship could not safely dock until power was restored to MO-VIII's ship hangars and the bay doors could be opened.

"Quatre!" Duo suddenly called over the radio. "CONTACT!"

***

Duo and the other four Tauruses scattered as they were met with a wall of heavy machinegun fire. Rashid and the Maguanac suits returned suppressing fire with their beam rifles, but they were far outnumbered by the patrol unit's mobile suits.

They were mobile dolls with near-skeletal bodies, stripped down to the bare essentials and produced in large numbers. Specialized for high-mobility space combat, they were stripped of all armor and extra weight, their heads resembling hand-held cameras and their legs lacking feet of any kind. The unpainted dolls were apparently cheap, but highly effective in numbers. The swarm of mobile dolls darted back and forth in dizzying arrays.

One of the dolls quickly closed distance and engaged Duo in his refurbished Taurus. It opened fire with the large machinegun it gripped with both hands. The weapon was obviously strong enough to cripple a Taurus with a short burst, but the recoil was somewhat stronger than what the doll's weak frame could handle. It had to stay closer than usual to attempt to be accurate.

Duo pitched right to avoid the spray of bullets that the mobile doll liberally doled out for him. He returned fire with his beam rifle, but the doll's thin frame was difficult to hit, and one of his shots, frustratingly, passed harmlessly in between the doll's legs. Duo was not sure if he had become terribly rusty these past years or if these mobile dolls presented a genuine challenge for a skilled pilot.

The doll then began firing its thrusters wildly, changing directions in break-neck patterns. Duo fired blast after blast in an attempt to down it, but no shots landed. It had become obvious that the mobile doll's drastically low weight allowed it much greater speed and mobility than a Taurus. Duo also began to notice, however, that it was not dodging his shots as much as it was just changing directions as much as possible to make itself difficult to hit.

Duo waited for an opening and transformed his Taurus to its fighter mode and retreated at maximum thrust. The mobile doll gave chase. However, Duo's retreat was just a feint, as his Taurus suddenly transformed back into mobile suit mode and nailed the doll in the chest with a single beam rifle blast. The beam punched the doll's vitals out from its middle and out its back, resulting in an explosion that rended the frame into mutilated scraps.

No sooner had the heat of the explosion dissipated that another two dolls set their sights on Duo's Taurus. He had nearly red-lined his beam rifle taking out just one, and now there were two more after him at the same time. Duo began to seriously doubt his survival in this battle, but he knew he had to at least protect their ship and its passengers until it could dock with MO-VIII.

The Maguanacs and other Tauruses had similar difficulty fending off the mobile dolls, but they were not positioned as far forward as Duo. With teamwork, they were able to eventually take out two waves with a net of beam rifle fire. The Taurus armed with a beam cannon had the most success due to the weapon's broad impact radius. However, the pilots were beginning to grow worn out, and there were still many mobile dolls left, not to mention no sign of the patrol's commander yet.

***

Quatre and his crew spilled into MO-VIII's control center and rushed to take command of the computer consoles. The lights in the room flickered on as the resource satellite's nuclear generator was activated and power and life support was slowly restored to the satellite's facilities. Quatre impatiently waited for the ship hangar to come back to life. The sooner they could dock the ship, the sooner their pilots could focus on defending themselves.

The other crew members began work on getting the satellite's nuclear pulse thrusters online in preparation for their retreat. The satellite would first have to be turned around for their calculated trajectory. Leaving Martian space as soon as possible was their best hope.

"Okay!" Quatre called out through the radio. "Hangar 4 is open. Pull the ship in! Pilots retreat once MO-VIII is in motion!"

One of the Taurus pilots suddenly cut in, "Crap, I wasn't expecting anything like this!"

Duo shouted back, "Don't let it through!!"

***

A mobile suit blazed past one of the Tauruses and hacked off both of its legs in one motion.

The pilot inside the Taurus cried in horror, "I'm down! Get me out of here!"

It was a Grief Gemini, an MSR mobile suit specialized for close combat. Its armor overlapped to conceal joints and weak points in the frame. This particular Grief wielded a heat sword in one hand and held a round buckler shield in the other. The heat sword did not have a pointed tip, but ended in a square shape, technically making it a three-edged sword. It turned around to make another pass at the crippled Taurus.

"Like hell!" Duo intercepted the Grief with a kick from his Taurus, but the Grief blocked with its shield and threw Duo back. It proceeded to pepper the other downed Taurus with the micro-gatling in the center of its shield, ignoring Duo completely.

Duo redlined his beam rifle trying to take out the Grief, but it evaded the beams and continued to concentrate on the incapacitated Taurus. It was all Duo could do to tackle the enemy mobile suit and try to push it as far away as possible. Duo's Taurus locked its hands around the Grief's waist as the two began to struggle. The Grief reversed its sword and plunged the blade into the back of Duo's leg. With one of his main thrusters destroyed, Duo and the other mobile suit began to spin wildly out of control, and Duo knew he was going to be sick if he survived this horrible circumstance.

As these two were locked in their struggle, two other mobile dolls broke through the defensive line and barreled down on the hangar where the interplanetary rig had just completed its docking sequence. However, the bay doors were still open, leaving the bridge of the ship completely exposed. Duo gasped as he saw the two dolls level their machineguns and open fire.

No mobile suit came to intercept, but the bullets seemingly bounced off an invisible wall, wisps of electricity crackling through the space in front of the open hangar. Duo squinted, seeing several glowing planet defensers deploying a barrier to protect the ship.

A red blur roared toward the two dolls like thunder. A momentous kick sent one doll flying into the other and both of them were then slashed completely through with one attack. It was the Mercurius-G piloted by Heero. Its armor shimmered like fresh blood and the beam blade of the crash shield in its left hand flashed gold.

Heero deployed another group of planet defensers to aid Duo. They flung themselves into the Grief Gemini, the first crashing into its face and knocking it away from Duo, the second hitting it in the face from the other direction, and the others pummeling the mobile suit in a similarly brutal fashion. The suit was left a crumpled mess, more or less destroyed.

"Get that damaged Taurus out of here, Duo," Heero ordered.

"You don't have to tell me twice!" Duo's one-legged Taurus swung around and grabbed the other damaged Taurus, towing it back into the ship hangar with the interplanetary rig.

"Heero!" Quatre called over the radio. "We're going to redirect MO-VIII to match our trajectory now. We can make our getaway as soon as we're on course. Just buy us some time."

Heero narrowed his eyes and wordlessly advanced ahead of the defensive line. He was met by a group of three mobile dolls which began to dart about in a complex formation. The Mercurius-G flew directly into their midst and matched their erratic movements, closing distance with each breakneck turn, for Heero had already figured out their seemingly random pattern. The Mercurius-G suddenly snapped in a different direction and skewered one of the mobile dolls on its beam blade, going on to similarly destroy the other two.

Another Grief Gemini arrived to challenge Heero, lunging with a strong sword attack, but it was outclassed by Heero who pivoted under the blade and slashed through the Grief's back and torso with one motion. The suit lurched forward awkwardly before losing its balance and exploding.

Four mobile dolls took this opportunity to slip past the Mercurius-G to attack the Tauruses directly. Just as they made their approach, a massive golden beam swept through the battlefield and skewered all four of them. Outside of visible range, a mobile suit in deep blue armor raised its targeting visor and lowered its long beam cannon. It was Trowa Barton in the Vayeate-G.

Trowa regrouped with Heero and the Maguanac unit, the remaining Taurus pilots relieved to see both of their aces with them. Trowa spoke over the radio, "I've spotted the main body of the scouting troop and its commander. They seem to be preparing to send all of their remaining units to attack in one wave to overwhelm us and take MO-VIII. We'll be outnumbered quite heavily by their mobile dolls."

"That would be their best move," Heero affirmed. Everyone looked up as their sensors alerted them to a wave of enemy units. "Stay on the defensive. I'll head through the middle to draw their fire. Retreat into MO-VIII once it begins accelerating. We'll have to thin their numbers as much as possible."

With the Vayeate-G and Tauruses behind it, the Mercurius-G drew the white Leo Saber from its hip, now wielding a beam blade in its left hand and a solid blade in its right. "Let's finish this."

Heero deployed his remaining twelve planet defensers to protect Trowa and the Tauruses before flying headlong into the enemy, both swords ready. Trowa took the Vayeate-G far right in order to flank the enemy and gain distance. Before long, the two lines became entangled with explosions and gunfire.

The Taurus pilots held their own, shielded by the planet defensers, and the seasoned Maguanac pilots fought efficiently. Heero drew most of the enemy fire as promised, attacking and defending simultaneously with both of his swords. Trowa dealt heavy damage with the external reactor-powered long beam cannon, so a large group broke off to attack him exclusively.

At such long range, only a few machinegun rounds could hit Trowa's mobile suit, but the planet defensers deflected them handily. Trowa retaliated with several beam cannon shots, but the mobile dolls were expecting the attack and evaded. He was quickly surrounded by enemy mobile dolls.

A Grief Gemini came alongside the dolls and charged at the Vayeate-G with its sword, hoping to win with its advantage at close range. Unexpectedly, Trowa jabbed the Grief right in the belly using the muzzle of his long beam cannon and sent the other mobile suit recoiling backward. It was instantly flash fried by a short burst from the beam cannon.

From behind, a mobile doll attacked the Vayeate-G, thinking it would not have time to turn its massive beam cannon around in time to defend itself, but the doll suddenly found itself staring straight down the long beam cannon's barrel. The cannon's muzzle had a defenser-like magnet attachment that aided the weapon's movement. It drained a lot of power, but not only did it completely eliminate recoil, the magnet also allowed the Vayeate-G to sweep and redirect the cannon very easily. It was the one limitation that disadvantaged the original Vayeate. With the weapon already leveled, Trowa fired a single blast that smashed into it and seared off the doll's head and chest.

The seven remaining mobile dolls now attacked Trowa simultaneously. In response, the Vayeate-G deployed two pods which were attached to the sides of its backpack. They were independent attack units similar to planet defensers called funnels. Each one was equipped with a beam cannon similar in power to a Virgo's arm-mounted beam cannon.

Controlled by the Vayeate-G's HYABUSA combat computer, the heavy funnels fired on the enemy mobile dolls along with the long beam cannon, destroying most of the remaining targets which were caught by surprise. The last two dolls evaded continuous attacks from the heavy funnels, but Trowa was using the independent units to lead the enemy units into his line of fire, and they were both demolished by a single shot from the long beam cannon.

The three Tauruses made good use of the planet defensers deployed to shield them and were able to destroy the last few mobile dolls with precise teamwork. With all their targets cleared, the Maguanac pilots regrouped and awaited further orders. That only left Heero who took on most of the enemy on his own without any planet defensers to cover him.

***

Back on MO-VIII, Quatre and his team had just finished securing the interplanetary rig and brought Relena and the remaining crew members into a secure bunker on the resource satellite. MO-VIII had completed its aligning maneuver and was ready to begin its acceleration toward Earth.

Quatre contacted the pilots outside over the radio, "Everyone, MO-VIII is ready for its final acceleration! Please fall back immediately."

"Roger!" The Taurus pilots answered back. They transformed to fighter mode and retreated to MO-VIII, docking in one of the open hangars. The Maguanac pilots made one last check of the field before they fell back, as well.

The satellite's powerful nuclear pulse thrusters ignited, slowly urging the giant space rock into motion. However, Trowa had yet to return from the field, and there was no answer from Heero.

***

The Mercurius-G savagely dispatched several more mobile dolls with its blades. It destroyed the last mobile doll by plunging both swords into it and tearing it asunder by pulling the blades apart while still buried in the skewered machine.

All that remained of the MSR unit was Cpt. Hawkins in his Grief Gemini and two more Griefs. Hawkins was out for blood, humiliated by the destruction of his party and the deaths of his men. He saw the raw brutality of the blood red mobile suit, but he no longer cared. The man could no longer return home and face his people with dignity, so he and his allies threw themselves at their enemy in one last-ditch effort to slay the foreign mobile suits and repel the intruders.

Heero was attacked on all sides by the three Griefs. They were clearly no amateurs, attacking with strength and precision, coordinating all their motions perfectly so that one never interfered with the other. Heero stood his ground and used both his blades to repel the attacks in rapid succession.

Hawkins attacked with a kick. Heero stopped it with the flat of the Leo Saber and pushed him back. Heero then blocked a sword attack from another direction with the crash shield and stopped a blade coming from behind with a back parry with the Leo Saber. Hawkins leveled his shield's gatling to fire, but Heero knocked the shield away with his beam blade, immediately flipping upside-down to divert another Grief's kick attack with the Mercurius-G's own kick.

Heero continued this intense defensive form, planted in a single position and defending himself from the omnidirectional assault. Each and every blow was potentially fatal, coming within inches of the Mercurius-G's face and chest before being deflected. Heero's blades flew front to back, side to side, near and far, and over and under to intercept enemy movements, narrowly avoiding a fatal blow with each parry.

From a distance, Trowa was trying to find an opening to give Heero supporting fire from his long beam cannon, but the four suits were so entangled that even a master marksman like himself could not risk a shot. Moreover, Trowa was completely mortified, not by Heero's perilous situation, but by Heero himself.

On this mission, Trowa was worried that the former Gundam pilots and himself had become shadows of their former selves, but here was Heero who had seemingly transformed himself into a monster, his strength multiplied explosively. He was dueling with three aces simultaneously, deflecting all of their attacks with a sword in each hand. It was more than inhuman, the sight of it chilling to the bone. Was this the result of Heero's HYABUSA combat computer? Or was it Heero himself who had tapped into the darkest part of himself in times of peace?

"Trowa!" Quatre called over the radio. "MO-VIII is accelerating. If you don't board now, you'll never be able to catch up!"

Behind the Vayeate-G, the MO-VIII began to accelerate past the battlefield and out of the area. Trowa hesitated for a few more moments, watching Heero tangled in combat. Before long, he painfully turned away and retreated to the resource satellite.

Duo screamed over the radio, "Heero, are you stupid or something?! If you don't catch up you'll be drifting in space forever!!"

Heero gritted his teeth. He knew that very well. It would be a slow and painful way to die. But these three MSR pilots were too far gone. If he let a single mobile suit go, it could potentially attack the resource satellite and destroy their only means to get home. He had to kill them all.

The three Griefs slashed at the Mercurius-G relentlessly. It had gone far beyond skill or planning. They fought with such speed and ferocity that they moved on pure instinct. The red mobile suit continued to parry their attacks, but it would have to falter eventually, and a single mistake would be fatal.

Out of nowhere the Mercurius-G turned around and bashed one of the Griefs in the face with an upward swing of the crash shield. The Grief was hit with such strength that it was launched upward, completely stunned. The Mercurius-G dashed after the Grief and juggled it with four rapid draw slashes from its Leo Saber before putting all its weight behind one final draw slash and splicing the mobile suit in two.

Incredulous, the other two Griefs continued their assault, but they were not able to apply as much pressure as before. Heero leg swept Cpt. Hawkins' Grief and threw him off balance, then taking the opportunity to attack the other mobile suit. The Mercurius-G attacked with several jabs with its beam blade, but the Grief skillfully deflected them as it boosted backward.

Heero triggered the crash shield's hidden weapon. Three more beam blades ignited, emitted radially around the center beam, the shape resembling a bouquet of beam swords. The Mercurius-G thrusted once more with the array of blades. The Grief attempted to defend itself, but it could not properly deflect the unusual weapon, getting skewered by all four beams. Heero ripped the beam swords out of destroyed mobile suit which fell away and exploded

Cpt. Hawkins was just beginning to re-engage, but the Mercurius-G was already on top of him. The man looked up in terror as the blood red mobile suit lifted its beam swords over its head and brought the weapon down on his Grief. All four blades tore through the Grief Gemini, head to toe, obliterating it completely.

The resulting explosion scattered the mobile suit's remains through the region. All of the enemy units were destroyed, but a maddening intensity still surrounded the Mercurius-G, the mobile suit still clutching its swords. He was out of time.

Heero turned his mobile suit around in a snap and raced for the resource satellite MO-VIII, which was now leaving the area. He didn't recall his planet defensers and discarded the crash shield, for the extra weight would hinder the mobile suit's acceleration. The Mercurius-G rocketed forward with its thrusters on full burn.

***

On the MO-VIII there was an audible sigh of relief as the party watched Heero destroy the last MSR scout and begin catching up to the resource satellite. They were hopeful, but still unsure if the mobile suit could make it on its own. The resource satellite's nuclear pulse thrusters could not easily be shut down to allow Heero to catch up, and any extra time they spent behind enemy lines could spell death for the entire crew. Surely even greater numbers of MSR troops would be sent after them if they did not escape in time.

"You're almost there, Heero," encouraged Quatre. "Don't give up!"

"We can't lose you!" Relena called out. "Please make it!"

The Mercurius-G came within a stone's throw of the resource satellite, but everyone gasped as it began to lose speed. The giant flames behind the mobile suit fell dark as the suit ran out of propellant. Heero lagged behind, falling further away from the crew, destined to drift forever.

Quatre slammed his fist down on the console and tears began to well in Relena's eyes. They never thought they could lose Heero at such an early stage.

Quatre radioed, "Don't give up, Heero! We'll send help for you right away!" But he only said this because he couldn't accept their loss. Everyone knew there was no way a ship could arrive from Earth or Mars in time to rescue their lost comrade. Several moments passed in silence, no one able to speak.

Heero's mobile suit fell quiet as it drifted further behind. He was coming to terms with the lonely and agonizing death that awaited him. Perhaps he should just self-detonate his mobile suit right then to spare himself. No, he should at least wait until he was outside of the MO-VIII's sensor range, so the others did not have to see. Or maybe he should just consciously drift and suffer like he was meant to....

The Mercurius-G coasted motionlessly and alone. A large metal surface rose up from underneath and gingerly connected with the stranded mobile suit. No one knew what was happening. It was Duo who had launched from the MO-VIII in the interplanetary rig.

"Don't worry, buddy," he called out over the radio, beaming, "I've got you."

The entire crew cheered and roared with cries of relief. Relena clasped her hands together and thanked the powers that be.

The ship, being much smaller than the resource satellite, could launch to retrieve the stranded mobile suit and then accelerate back to re-dock with MO-VIII. Duo had the sense and timing to use the ship to rescue Heero in case his mobile suit could not catch up.

"You owe me one now, huh?" Duo prodded.

In the Mercurius-G's cockpit, Heero had his head leaned back, his eyes closed. He spoke in an exhausted voice, "No, Duo. I saved you a while earlier. That makes us even."

Duo laughed, "Damn, I forgot about that." He muttered to himself, "Sheesh, I'll never get this guy into my debt...."

He let the radio fall silent after that, knowing that Heero must be spent. Duo was simply glad he didn't have to lose anyone that day.

***

As Duo piloted the ship back to MO-VIII, Heero reflected on the last battle from inside his mobile suit. It was strange. For years he was afraid that there would be more war and he would have to fight again. He was afraid to lose the life that he had made for himself and afraid to lose the peace that he sacrificed his entire life to create. But now that it has happened, and the first battle was over, Heero felt an unexpected sense of relief. He no longer had to deny that part of himself that he suppressed for so long. In the frenzy of battle he forgot everything else and became what he truly was. He was free to be a soldier.

At the same time, Heero deeply regretted this realization. Had he truly turned his back on a world that desired peace? Or did he never truly accept it to begin with? Was he destined to live and die by The Sword?

Heero felt a deep pain within himself. And what did this mean for those who waited for him?

***

In two week's time, a relief party from Earth rendezvoused with the MO-VIII partway on its journey. Thankfully there were no signs of interference from the MSR, but they could still attack at any time. The new crew included staff to man the MO-VIII and a new squad of mobile suits and pilots to protect the resource satellite. The ESUN relief party brought with them ships that could transport Relena Darlian, her staff, and the other crew and pilots home quickly, since the enormous MO-VIII would take several more months to complete its flight to Earth and enter orbit.

The original crew was happy to be relieved from their successful mission and gratefully accepted their transportation back home. However, Heero declined the offer and stayed to escort the MO-VIII the rest of the way in case there were subsequent MSR attacks. He would be away on this assignment for many more months.

Heero knew he had a home to go back to, but he was coming to terms with the fact that a full-blown war was at his doorstep. Never before had he been away from home for so long, but Heero felt he had to stay away. He wanted nothing more than to fly to Aoki and take her into his arms, but Heero had taken The Sword back up again, and she would have to learn to live without him.


Act I: Fragile Peace

End



A boy and his comrades infiltrate an Alliance base, their struggle reflecting the cries of an oppressed people. Can Mars break free from the Alliance's tyranny? Next time on New Mobile History Gundam Wing: The Sword...

Special Episode I: Rebellion


-Seraphic
5.9.13
5.16.13

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


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 Post Posted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 3:30 am 
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OMG Doomsday Laser
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Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:56 am
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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
Content Warning: graphic violence, language, intense atmosphere, and adult situations. Reader discretion advised.

Act Special: Red
Episode I: Rebellion



The year was After Colony 193, and Isaac Winters was spitting up a mouthful of his own blood. Another rifle butt cracked him in the face, blasting him with a white-hot pain that left him completely senseless. He fell face-first onto the ground, the three Alliance soldiers standing over him repeatedly kicking him in his sides and stamping on his back.

One of the soldiers picked the boy up by his dark gray hair and glared into the boy's one eye which had not swollen shut. The soldier was met with a barely conscious gaze. With an air of disgust he spat into Isaac's face and tossed the boy to the ground where he laid motionless.

"Stupid rust monkey. I don't know how you got onto the base, but if we find you here again, we won't hesitate to shoot you on the spot. Now you better disappear, you piece of garbage!" The soldier and his two comrades slung their assault rifles back over their shoulders and returned to the confines of the Alliance base, leaving Isaac to lay silently on the concrete.

Rust monkey. That's what they called the Martian space colonists. Isaac knew it made no sense. None of the colonists had ever been down to the red planet, its vibrant red soils rich in iron oxide. But he hated it all the same--being called an animal that would roll around in such filth. He didn't know how many times he had been called that.

Isaac's body somehow picked itself up. He cradled his stomach which had been abused with particular prejudice. He began to walk forward, his battered body barely able to keep itself together. He may have been beaten within an inch of his life, but he found what he came for.

He crept along slowly through the colony city, using walls to support himself. The journey was agonizingly long and numbingly slow. And worst of all, it was lonely. The colony day lights shut off with a distant echoing clap, and the street lamps hummed into life, simulating night. It was near-desolate inside the colony. The Martian space colony population had been in a steady decline for more than a decade. Those who could leave did, and those who could not stayed to tough it out.

He walked through the shadow of another half-finished building. Many buildings were like this--completed bottom floors with nothing but bare support beams at the top. The city skyline was jagged and wiry because of it. They were meant to be business offices or apartments, but when the economy crashed there was not enough reason or funding to finish them.

But they made for convenient hideouts. Isaac struggled up the stairway of one of the abandoned buildings. It had no electricity, but a lazy city worker had left the water line open after the building had been abandoned. There was enough to drink but not enough pressure to bathe or clean his clothes regularly.

Isaac was an orphan. He was now about 12 years in age, and he had been on the streets for several long years. The crashing economy at Mars created many like him. When Isaac was young, his father had joined the Alliance colony militia in hopes of earning more money, but he was never heard from again. Isaac liked to think his father never contacted him because he had died as a hero to protect the Martian colonists, but Isaac knew better than that. After his father had vanished, his mother worked herself to the bone to provide for Isaac and herself, but her health declined as she toiled, and she eventually succumbed to illness.

The colony government put Isaac into several foster homes, but he was returned each time when raising a foster child proved to be too straining for an already tight household budget. Isaac had run away on his own before the government ended up cutting funding from its foster program entirely, setting whole bands of orphans loose to wander the colony. Some were orphaned by violence perpetrated by the Alliance occupation, and all were victims of poverty.

The colonists treated the Martian orphans with derision. In the colony's closed artificial environment, the street orphans did not have to fend for themselves in any sort of extreme weather, but resources and food were extremely scarce, and the colony citizens were not ones to be generous or wasteful. The street orphans had to survive with thievery, burglary, and muggings. Isaac had lived like this so long he sensed that he was becoming an animal, and any sort of feeling that stirred inside passed unnoticed by him or anyone else.

Isaac made his way up one last stairway and hobbled through a doorway, expressionless. The room was lit by a single battery-powered camping light. Several other children stirred at Isaac's arrival, gawking at his various injuries. Another boy, Richard, hurried over and supported Isaac by the arm.

"Crap, Ike. What the heck happened?" Richard set Isaac down on an old, beaten beanbag chair, the only furnishing in the entire room.

Isaac did not answer right away, his head and arms hanging limply from the beanbag chair in his exhaustion. "You know how it is, Ricky. Those Earth bastards beat the hell out of me." He felt around his mouth with his tongue, pushing around loose teeth and bloody gums. "I finally found it, though. I found the storehouse where they stash their rations."

Ricky and the others gasped in delight, chattering among themselves excitedly. Isaac continued, "We'll have to lay low for a while, but we can definitely get some food and supplies from there. Who's gonna come with me?"

Everyone in the room immediately grew quiet, their eyes falling to the floor. Nobody wanted to risk sneaking into the Alliance base. But Richard stepped forward, puffing up his chest. "I'll go with you, Ike!"

Of course it was Richard. He was not the smartest or the most courageous among the lot of them, but he was fiercely loyal. He was a year younger than Isaac and supported him in nearly everything he did.

"Well, you two make sure to bring back a lot and share with the rest of us!" an overconfident voice nagged. It was Suzy who was older than the rest of them.

Isaac did not like her, and they butted heads frequently. She was better off than everyone else. She took advantage of the soldiers that occupied the colony, often going home with them at night. They took care of her and showered her with gifts. She need only lay still and spread her legs, and she ate and bathed every day while everyone else struggled and fought. Every moment she bragged about how the men would drool over her beauty and claw at each other to win her affection. Suzy only came back to care after her younger sister who was gaining an attitude as well. The two of them often used their size and age to nag and beat the other orphans into submission.

Isaac shot her an icy glare. "And why exactly should I share with you?"

Suzy stuck up her nose and sang, "Because girls are delicate, and we have to be taken care of!" Her sister stuck up her nose, too, and smiled the same self-absorbed smile.

Are they honestly trying to sell that crap? Isaac did not think such privileges existed in their circumstance of being left to live on the streets like animals.

"You can't have any unless you help," Isaac said staunchly.

"Are you kidding?" Suzy retorted. "Stealing from the Alliance base is suicide. I'm not doing anything that crazy. Just look at what they did to you!" Isaac was afraid, too, but his hunger was too powerful.

"The risk comes with the reward. Come with me if you want part. Just stay here if you don't, but I'm not giving anything to you."

Suzy got nasty. "You better give us some, or I'll kick your ass, you little ZOINKS!" Isaac glared back at her. Everyone else shrunk back from the sudden spike in temper.

"Whatever." He relented hatefully. The last thing he needed was two beatings in one day.

"Don't worry, Ike! I'll have your back," Richard assured. "When are we going?"

Isaac grimaced from his injuries. "Just as soon as I'm better," he groaned. "Then we'll go."

Richard nodded excitedly, pumped to be helping his friend provide for the lot of them. "Those Earth pigs have gotten fat for long enough! We're gonna take it all back." The other children cheered them on and commended their bravery. Before long, the lights were put out and they all rested their eyes before another hard day.

***

The rapid cracking of assault rifles rang in the air. Richard and Isaac ran for their lives. Bullets whizzed by and made sharp thuds all around them as they struck the ground. They cradled packages and cans of food in their arms, but most of them fell loose as the pair ran. Isaac did not think the base occupants would be agitated enough to open fire on lowly food thieves.

"They're gonna kill us, Ike!" Richard cried fearfully between labored breaths.

They desperately ran through an open field to escape from the Alliance base. Richard stumbled and dropped everything he was carrying.

"Forget it!" Isaac cried back. "Just keep going!"

Just then, a scorching heat sliced through the side of Isaac's neck. He stumbled from the shock of it and fell, losing all the items in his arms. He pressed a shaking, uncertain hand to his neck which bled liberally.

Adrenaline coursed through his veins. Time slowed down. The sound of gunfire seemed so distant. He was shot, yet he could feel nothing. In slow motion, he looked up as his friend ran toward him and three bullets tore into the boy's leg and back.

Everything sped up again, and Richard hit the ground with an unnerving and unnaturally flaccid collapse. In an instant he had gone from sprinting with all his life to being face-first in the grass in complete stillness. Isaac's eyes widened when his friend did not stir.

"Ricky!? NO!" The gunfire stopped, but he could see nothing but the bloody form of his friend in the grass. Isaac crawled forward and shook Richard in desperation, finally turning him over. Isaac scanned over him fearfully, assessing the damage.

Richard coughed as he struggled to breathe. "S-sorry, Ike.... I dropped the stuff."

Isaac was so afraid he was shaking. There was so much blood. "Don't try to talk," he ordered as he draped Richard's arm over his shoulder. "We have to get you to a doctor...!"

Painfully, Isaac lifted and secured the other boy over his back and started running. He never thought he had the strength to sprint with the weight of an entire other person on his shoulders, but he had never looked Death in the face before, either. There was a hospital on the Alliance base, but he could not go back there.... Anywhere but there....

***

Sage Schneider turned a page of the 2-year-old magazine in his hands. Baking casseroles normally would not hold his interest, but he was stuck here for at least another 45 minutes. He was trying to figure how to adjust the proportions on the recipe. At least his brain could play with the numbers during the wait.

He wore an OZ military uniform and looked out of place in the quiet waiting room of the neighborhood clinic. Across from him was a portly woman with her fidgety 4-year-old. They sat next to a very pregnant young woman and her attentive husband. Sage admitted silently to himself that he was rather envious of them. And in the corner was an old engineer who came for medical examinations, waiting in the clinic with his son.

They all carried on in their boredom when two boys burst through the clinic doors and collapsed onto the ground. Isaac gagged and rasped, his lungs burning and raw from running miles with his friend in tow.

"Help him," Isaac choked. "He's been shot...!"

Everyone in the waiting room got up, concerned murmurs creating a din in the clinic. The old engineer's son ran to grab one of the nurses. They all gawked at the two boys, each one soaked in blood.

Isaac crawled over to his friend, still wheezing. "They're coming, Ricky. You'll be okay...." He gasped for a few more moments. "Ricky, did you hear me?"

He turned the other boy over, but Richard was limp, his eyes empty and lifeless. Isaac shook him again, feeling a deep sadness squeeze his throat and well up in his eyes. "...Ricky?"

No response. Isaac's head quietly fell onto his friend's chest, and he began to weep. He was already dead. He carried him all this way to save him, but he was already dead.

"No, Ricky. How could you die?" Isaac choked, stabbed with guilt. "Why did you have to go along? You were so stupid to go with me.... You were always such an idiot...!"

The others in the room watched the scene unfold in horror. Their first instinct was to go help, but the two homeless boys were filthy, and their noses curled from the stench. So they looked on with both disgust and morbid curiosity, like watching rats drown.

Sage, the man in the OZ uniform, stepped forward and knelt down next to Isaac. He put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "It's alright, son. You did your best." His words did nothing to ease Isaac's suffering, so with a heavy heart, Sage merely let the boy cry and mourn his friend.

He stepped aside when a nurse and doctor came running into the waiting room. Sage pulled Isaac back so they could examine Richard. They confirmed that he had already died. The nurse stood up and took off her gloves.

"This boy's been shot, too," Sage informed her. "He needs to be treated."

The nurse hesitated. "I don't know how to tell you this, mister, but these boys are homeless. They can't pay for treatment." She was taken aback when the other man shot her an icy look.

"I'll pay for him," he said almost threateningly.

"...Okay." She nodded her head fearfully and led Isaac into the back of the clinic.

***

Isaac sat in silence on the patient bed. They had taken his dirty clothes and put him in a patient gown. A heavy bandage graced the side of his neck. His eyes were swollen and red, but he did not cry, only staring into the wall with unfocused eyes.

Sage looked on quietly from the chair in which he was sitting. He did not want to disturb those in mourning, but he was too familiar with how survivors often wasted away, forgetting themselves.

"Did you want anything to eat?" Sage asked. "I could go find something for you."

No reply. It was his hunger that had caused this tragedy. Isaac did not know if he could ever bear to eat again.

Sage let that topic pass. "The nurses told me your name is Isaac. Is that right?" No response, but no denial, either. He continued, "My name is Sage Schneider. I was just passing through here on my flight home. I was in the clinic for a checkup, since I just came home from Earth." Isaac listened, but did not answer, still staring into the wall.

"You have canuchromia," Sage smiled, pointing out Isaac's solid gray locks of hair. Sage himself was a normal blonde, if somewhat handsome.

Obviously, Isaac thought. It was Latin, describing a condition where people are born with hair lacking some pigments, usually ranging from white to dark gray in appearance.

"My sister has it, too," Sage continued, "though her hair's got more of a silvery glint to it. I haven't seen her in several years, so I don't know if she's decided to dye it or not." The older man thought out loud while stroking his chin, "I think you two would get along. They say it only occurs in children born in the Mars sphere, but we don't know the exact cause yet. Don't you find that fascinating?"

I'm not exactly a man of science, Isaac retorted silently. He recalled how he was teased and bullied by others for looking different, though his mother was especially protective of him and loving while she was still alive. And then there were people from Earth who called him a freak or an alien.

Isaac laid back on the patient bed, tired, and looked up at the ceiling lights. A moment passed as he rested.

"Does it hurt?" Sage asked, referring to the boy's wound. "I've been shot before, too." Isaac turned to look at Sage, the other man having captured his attention.

"Well, not me directly," Sage admitted. "It was my mobile suit. I was a pilot." Isaac sat up quietly, wanting to hear more.

"I was drawing fire away from my squad and--BLAG--one of 'em got me. I was hit by a 100mm machinegun. Do you know how big one of those bullets is?" Sage asked with a raised eyebrow. He scanned the room for what he could use as an example, but he ended just flattening one of his palms. "Like this," he showed Isaac. "The bullets were this wide. And they came at us 500 rounds a second!"

"Wow...," Isaac breathed in amazement. "So you were a mobile suit pilot on Earth?" Sage smiled a bit, finally being able to elicit a response from the patient.

"Yes, that's right. I was born on a Martian colony, but I went to Earth to become a pilot. I was tapped for the OZ Specials and made friends with some guys named Zechs and Treize, though they were WAY more ambitious than I ever was. In fact, Treize recently took command of the Specials. I could never keep up with them, so after I got shot down, I figured it was time to come home."

Isaac frowned, "Why would you want to come back to a dump like this?"

"It's precisely because of that that I decided to come back. Mars is my home, and my family is still here. I knew that if I came back I could try to turn everything around."

"You won't change a thing while those Earth pigs are still here."

"Do you mean the Alliance military?" Sage inquired.

"They keep everything for themselves and make us work like dogs. Every day they kill Martians and spit on our graves," Isaac said with clenched teeth, a hot rage welling up in his eyes.

"I understand," Sage responded knowingly. "Even if it takes a lifetime, I want to bring peace and prosperity to Mars. Even if I never succeed, it is an endeavor I need to undertake. And I know I can't do it alone."

*****

The year was After Colony 195, and Isaac Winters was dislocating an Alliance soldier's cranial fluid onto the facility's walls with a rifle bullet. The young man ducked into another hallway for cover, reloading his automatic assault rifle. He pushed in the new magazine and pulled back the rifle's action to chamber the new round, each movement creating the satisfying sound of precise mechanisms locking perfectly into place.

He stepped out from behind the corner and squeezed the trigger, his weapon lobbing hot metal down the corridor at a staggering rate. As the Alliance soldiers ducked their heads, Isaac's teammates ran past the hallway behind him and advanced to their objective. Isaac halted his attack and followed his team, warding off any would-be pursuers with a fragmentation grenade.

It had been more than two years since Isaac last stepped foot on this colony, and the first thing he did was kick in the back door of the Alliance base and murder everyone in the room wearing its uniform.

After Richard had died, Isaac left his home colony to join Sage Schneider and form a resistance group against the Alliance military occupation of Martian space. He trained and studied under Sage during those two long years, traveling to many different colonies to find the same violence and desolation inflicted upon the Martian colonists by the Alliance. And today they had returned with another four members to make an assault against the Alliance base at Isaac's home colony, the beginning of their fight for freedom.

They all wore normal suits and were armed lightly for greater mobility. The team made its way to the elevator that would take them to the core of the base which existed in the colony's central block. The central block of every colony was a microgravity environment that housed its hangar bays. This elevator was the most exposed part of their plan, and they would not survive without countermeasures.

At the other end of the elevator, a group of Alliance soldiers were lined up with machineguns trained on the elevator door, waiting for the cable car to arrive with its cargo of violent Martian rebels. They tensed up and laid more pressure on their triggers as the elevator doors opened.

Two open palms flew forward, and a panicked voice urged them, "DON'T SHOOT!"

The soldiers were aghast to find one of their commanding officers at gunpoint. They hesitated and started to lower their guns. Isaac, who had the C.O.'s arm locked behind him, immediately stuck his gun under the other man's shoulder and opened into the soldiers in front of him, walking forward with the other man as a human shield. Sage and the other team members fired their rifles, too, and mowed down the remaining soldiers in the room.

Startled but unharmed, the captured officer screamed at the team in outrage, "You rust monkey bastards will never get away with this!!"

"And you don't seem very attached to your internal organs," Isaac answered coldly, pushing the muzzle of his assault rifle into the officer's back. A searing stream of lead tore into the man from behind and pushed his guts out his front. Isaac tossed the body aside morbidly and continued his advance. The bodies of the dead Alliance soldiers floated about eerily in the microgravity environment as the rest of the team followed suit.

The base grew unusually quiet as they went forward. Isaac and another man named Marcus took point. They cleared one room together and waved the team ahead. An Alliance soldier in hiding came out from cover and fired on the team. Most were able to clear the way, but Marcus had lost his footing without the aid of gravity, and he was assaulted by a hail of gunfire.

Marcus screamed and gagged in awful pain. He was left gasping for breath, choking on his own blood. More soldiers flooded into the area and pinned down the team with machinegun fire. Isaac got up to help Marcus, but Sage grabbed him by the arm and stopped him.

"The last thing we need is TWO casualties, Isaac," Sage told the younger man. Isaac resisted at first, but eventually made the hard choice to leave their friend behind. Sage lobbed two grenades toward the general direction of the gunfire as his team backed into their objective point.

Isaac entered the mobile suit hangar and lowered his assault rifle. He marveled at the row of Space Leos in front of him, seven in total. A large area of the hangar was left vacant. Behind him, Sage and the others were holding off soldiers as they tried to fight their way into the hangar. Sage looked behind him and noticed that part of the mobile suit squadron was missing.

"Isaac," Sage called out behind him, still laying down suppressive fire. "I want you to board a mobile suit and launch outside. There are Leos out on patrol, but they've likely been called back. I need you to hold them off until we can join you. If we have to fight those suits on foot, we're finished."

"But why me?" he answered back, incredulous. "I'm not the veteran pilot here. I only have simulation experience!"

"You're more than ready," Sage assured him. "Besides, we have to cover your take-off. We'll join you once the hangar is clear."

Isaac slung his rifle strap over his shoulder. "Alright. Just call me back if you need support." With that he went off and boarded the closest Space Leo.

He strapped himself in and urged the Leo forward, the titanium giant making slow and colossal strides for the hangar door. The Leo took hold of the hangar door operator and spun its closed fist around several times. Air rushed out into the vacuum of space as the bay door receded and Isaac's Leo propelled its way out by its backpack vernier jets.

Once he was clear of the hangar, Isaac immediately scanned his surroundings. "It's just as you thought," he confirmed over the radio to his team. "The patrol party is on its way back."

There were eight Leos returning from patrol, all of them the same pale blue as the one he occupied. Isaac was armed with only a Leo rifle--not exactly what he needed to even the odds. His Leo waved down the patrol suits as they came close.

"What the hell's going on here?" the patrol leader demanded. "The com line's been utter chaos since you called us back!"

"They've taken control of the hangar," Isaac answered over the radio. "One of them might have launched in a mobile suit."

The other man was taken aback. "What are you saying...?" Before his sense of alarm could fully overtake him, the patrol leader's Leo was impaled by a beam, Isaac's rifle having torn into the head and chest of the mobile suit.

Immediately the rest of the Alliance patrol unit scattered. Isaac pitched right hard to avoid the ensuing firestorm of bullets that came his way. He strafed around the enemy as he assessed their formation.

There was none. They had simply retreated into random directions. Most of the Leos also seemed to be using 100mm machineguns which required much less accuracy than Isaac's weapon. Now he was greatly outnumbered and practically surrounded, but the enemy was headless without their party leader.

Keeping their distance, they fired on Isaac with their machineguns. Isaac's Leo spun past a stream of gunfire and closed in on one of the enemy units. Isaac was too close to one of their allies, so the other patrol Leos were reluctant to provide covering fire.

The defending pilot threw everything he had at the stolen Leo--anything to keep it off of him. At that close distance, Isaac's evasive maneuvers were hard to track, and the pilot emptied his machinegun into nothing. Isaac's rifle punched into the suit's chest and pelvis, causing it to explode.

Waves of bullets came for Isaac's Leo again. He strafed around the enemy and aimed carefully, keeping his cool. His rifle sent a bolt that decapitated one Leo. Another shot in its middle destroyed it.

Isaac was beginning to realize that many of the Alliance pilots were amateurs. None of them could shoot and maneuver at the same time. Very few outside of OZ had experience in anti-mobile suit tactics, just as Sage had told him. They were just a slack-jawed occupation force sent to the backwoods of humanity's frontier in space. Isaac felt fortunate to be trained under an experienced veteran, but also irritated to know that his life had been made miserable by a pack of reject dogs.

He closed in on another Alliance Leo, but this one retaliated with a beam saber. Isaac did not have one of his own. The Leo swung wildly with the super-heated blade until Isaac unexpectedly charged forward and blocked its saber arm with his Leo's own forearm. The enemy suit pushed forward to follow through with its swing, but Isaac pivoted to the side, causing the other suit to stumble forward off balance. Two shots into its backpack put it out of commission.

The remaining four suits from the patrol unit fell into formation and focused fire on Isaac's Leo. He did his best to avoid the assault, but his mobile suit was too slow, and the concentrated fire was beginning to trash the legs of the Leo.

From the colony, two more Leos were launched, one after the other. Isaac did now know who they were, but they soon joined the skirmish. They fired on the patrol unit and destroyed two of them. Another broke away to escape, but it was picked off by one of the newly arriving mobile suits.

The last patrol Leo tossed aside its weapon and signaled surrender. Isaac sent three bolts of murderous intent into it and destroyed it outright.

"Coward. I'm not taking any prisoners today," he scowled. The other Leos lowered their weapons and approached quietly.

"Are you alright, Isaac?" It was Sage on the radio.

"Yes. This suit's a bit damaged, but I'm unhurt," Isaac answered. "How did you know which one was me?"

"You were the one that was hard to kill," Sage replied simply.

"Makes sense, I guess."

"Let's head back."

"Yeah."

Sage connected to an open channel for the colony. "This is Sage Schneider of the Mars Liberation Group. Today we have defeated the Alliance occupation of your colony. Today is the first battle of a long fight to come, but henceforth you can consider yourselves free. May peace and prosperity come to you and all Martian people."

The team celebrated as the three stolen Leos returned to the hangar.

"I can't believe we pulled this off!" The third pilot exclaimed. "We beat those bastards into the ground, and now we have control of their base."

"Marcus would have been proud," one of the others lamented.

"Right?" Isaac chimed in. "We have everything we need to fight the Alliance now: mobile suits, supplies, and a base for the resistance. How do you like our new headquarters, everyone?"

"No, Isaac," Sage interrupted. "We can't stay here."

"What? Why not?"

"If we stay here, the Alliance knows exactly where to find us. They'll just send reinforcements from somewhere else and take the base back."

"I see," Isaac said with disappointment. "Then what do we do?"

"We have to go back into hiding, but at least we should destroy this base so the Alliance can't use it in the future." Sage issued his order: "Prep the remaining mobile suits here for transport and gather all the supplies you can. Isaac, I want you to use that Leo to destroy the base. Make sure there's nothing left."

The team took everything they could onto a pair of carriers. They had 6 Space Leos, some weapons, fuel and ammo, and other supplies. Isaac, in the seventh Leo, waited for them to clear out before taking his beam rifle into hand.

He tore the base asunder from the inside out, blasting apart walls and equipment. His fight was far from over, but he unleashed his hatred of the Alliance and of the Earth at that moment, inflicting all of his pain back on these things in full force. He had suffered so long, and here he could finally take his first steps to freeing himself and his people. Amid all the violence, Isaac could not help but think back to the day he and Sage first met.

"How did you get that wound, Isaac?" Sage asked.

Isaac put a hand over the bandage on his neck, staring vacantly away. "We hadn't eaten in days," he answered. "We were desperate, so I wanted to steal food from the Alliance base."

Sage continued to listen quietly. The gray-haired boy continued, "They told me I was crazy--that it was suicidal. Richard said he wanted to help me. So we went. We screwed up, and they saw us. We tried to run...."

Isaac could not hold back his tears any longer. He cried openly. "They killed him, Sage. Those Earth bastards killed him because he was hungry! They killed him because I wanted him to help me. It was all my fault. It was my fault he died!" He clenched his teeth and sobbed, possessed by a deep sadness and regret.

Sage looked upon the child sadly. "I won't tell you not to blame yourself. Your friend chose to follow you, and he paid the price for it. If you make a mistake, people die. That's what it means to be a leader."

Isaac became quiet and accepted this reality. Sage continued, "But you did not deserve what happened to you. No one deserves to live in such cruelty and desperation. The Alliance did this to you. It inflicts this evil on all of our families. I long for a day when we can live without fear of violence or have to go on without hope. Martians, too, deserve to stand in the sun and be proud, but this cannot happen so long as a corrupt and foreign evil controls us."

Sage was surprised when the young Isaac sat up from his patient bed, a fierce fire burning in his eyes, emanating from the embers deep in his soul.

"What are you going to do?"


Isaac's mobile suit stood among the flames of the ruined Alliance base. He took off the helmet of his normal suit, a scar visible on the side of his neck. He was no longer the same helpless child who cried for his friend. The conflagration cracked and pulsed all around him, as if bending to his will, beckoning him forward. He recalled the words he said in answer to the question Sage had asked of him that day.


"I will bring justice to this world."


Act Special, Episode I: Rebellion, End

-Seraphic
8.3.13

A man throws away a life of peace to lose himself in the horrors of war, and a new generation of pilots steps forward to face the greatest threat the Earth has ever seen. Next time on New Mobile History Gundam Wing: The Sword,

Act II, Episode I: Forging Swords


Reference Materials:

GW: The Sword, Martian Timeline (Incomplete)

AC 120- Relay stations are constructed on Deimos and Phobos, Mars' moons. Space colonies are established in orbit around Mars, populated mostly by engineers and laborers.

AC 130- Resource satellites are sent into orbit between Earth and Mars as relay stations between the two planets.

AC 133- The United Earth Sphere Alliance is formed.

AC 140- The space colonies of Earth relinquish the right to self-rule under the Alliance. The Martian colonies are conquered within a few years.

Civil unrest exists in the Earth space colonies for several decades. Martian colonies are slowly developed and populated, put to work gathering resources and "wrangling" asteroids from the nearby asteroid belt to convert to resource satellites.

AC 165- Heero Yuy is elected as representative of Earth's space colonies. His influence does not spread to Mars, and Martian citizens continue to labor under the Alliance without hope for independence.

AC 173- The Romefellar Foundation begins developing mobile suits for use in combat.

AC 175- Heero Yuy is assassinated. The Organization of the Zodiac (OZ) is formed. The scientists disappear from the MS project.

AC 182- Sanc Kingdom falls.

AC 187- The Martian Colony economy is crashing rapidly. Little to no aid is sent from Earth due to internal conflicts and limited resources.

AC 193- Treize Khushrenada takes command of OZ. Sage Schneider returns to Mars after retiring from OZ.

AC 195- The Gundams are sent to Earth.

The Alliance is destroyed on Earth, but its Martian arm still exists. It becomes desperate and isolationist.

Martian rebels fight back against the Alliance occupation.

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 11:07 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:56 am
Posts: 1427
Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
Start 12.2.13

Act II: The Conflagration


Shh-sh shh-sh shh-sh.

Shh-sh shh-sh shh-sh.

Brushes shimmied back and forth across white porcelain. The cold, sterile room was near soundless if not for the slow and painstaking work of the tiny brush heads.

Shh-sh shh-sh shh-sh.

Shh-sh shh-sh shh-sh.

The two crouching men labored in silence, their arms working mechanically. Their faces were uninterested and tired as they toiled away for the umpteenth hour of this brushing.

Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh.

Shshshshshshshshshshsh!

Fuji finally tossed down his toothbrush and hung his head. The little plastic brush clattered against the bathroom floor. He groaned in agony, "Aren't you sick of this, Uncle?"

The Sergeant continued to brush the urinal in front of him, resigned to his fate. "I am," he answered in a low voice, "but nothing we do will make this go by faster. Let's just bear it until it's over."

An unhappy frown pulled down the sides of Fuji's mouth. Unsure of how his uncle could endure this torture with such dignity, he reluctantly took up the toothbrush again.

Shh. Shh. Sshh.

How did he end up like this, Fuji wondered. Like other people his age, he grew up during times of constant war. He believed that the fighting finally ended years ago, but that was naive. It was always hard to believe war was at their doorstep, and they were readying themselves for it now.

Relena Darlian's face was constantly being broadcast on television these days as she managed relations between the Earth and colonies of the Earth Sphere. Fuji and many of the other soldiers had a terrible crush on her. But how did he go from joining the military to defend the honor of Princess Relena and the Sanc Kingdom to scrubbing urinals with a toothbrush?

He deserved this, in a sense, Fuji reasoned to himself. When Fuji first enlisted to be a mobile suit pilot, never in his wildest imaginings did he know he could be such a screw-up.

In his very first time starting up a mobile suit, Fuji had accidentally left his suit's drive mode on "SCRAM!" instead of "walk". One moment he was gingerly feeling the accelerator pedal, and the next he was on the ground, on the other side of a concrete wall, with every engineer and his brother crying bloody murder. Thankfully, the mangled suit and Fuji's pride were the only victims.

But that was not the reason he was sentenced to cleaning the stalls with a toothbrush for the next month. During last week's training exercise, his mobile suit became completely caked with paint rounds in the first 40 seconds. Fuji and the mechanics were cleaning paint out of the suit's joints for days. The color green now caused him to fly into frothing fits of rage.

The one who did that to Fuji was the man laboring next to him, the Sergeant of Fire Team 2. He had been sentenced the same punishment as Fuji after a long lecture on conserving ammunition. On one hand, the other pilots knew their instructor was just being anal like usual, but on the other, they could not conceive of how a reserved man like the Sergeant could be so aggressive as to unload an entire magazine into a single target.

Many pilots feared the Sergeant for his skill, having annihilated a target (his nephew, by chance) within the opening seconds of an operation, but at the same time, they felt he was unknowable. He was often distant and kept to himself, but spoke and acted with competence when directing his team.

Fire Team 2 was one of ten firing squads, each one made up of five pilots. Altogether, the fifty pilots commanded the entire fleet of the Earth Sphere Defense Force's new mobile suit, the Serpent-V. It was a medium-build, transformable variant of the OZ-17MS Serpent. They were to function similarly to a paratrooper division, capable of moving behind enemy lines and fighting while completely surrounded. There were rumors that the flight technology of the Serpent-V came from the fabled Unit 01: the Wing Gundam.

"Do you think it's true?" Fuji pondered.

"What is?" His uncle responded. He was often perturbed when people spoke without context.

"That there is a Gundam pilot collaborating with ESDF? The design of our Serpent-Vs line up so closely with the records of Unit 01."

"I suppose it's possible," the Sergeant surmised. "Our training regiment isn't exactly normal, either. But from where we're standing, it's hard to tell who is pulling the strings. Our mobile suits might be a little better than some, but we're still just grunts with wings."

"Do you think the Gundam pilots have anything to do with the special test at the end of our training regiment?" Fuji continued.

"I don't know." The Sergeant answered honestly. "But the nature of the program has been kept highly secret, even from officers. I'm guessing it could be a selection program for specialized team of some kind--elite...maybe even black-ops...."

Chills ran up Fuji's spine. "Hearing that is really making me nervous. I wish I could spend my off time practicing more, but I'm stuck cleaning every stupid bathroom on the base with a freaking toothbrush...!" Fuji ground the brush into the porcelain with all his might, clenching his teeth.

The Sergeant shared Fuji's frustration but did not say so in words. He could only scrub away further, feeling his own life dull as the urinal became brighter.

The bathroom door slammed open, and a strained voice shouted, "Move it!" Another soldier stampeded in, nearly trampling Fuji and his uncle, and unzipped his trunks in front of one of the urinals. The other two men were aghast at the faucet-like outpour that came out of their teammate.

"All of our hard work!" Fuji lamented. "What the hell, man!"

"Watch where you're splashing...." Fuji's uncle added.

A heavy sigh of relief pervaded the room. "Sorry, boys. Some things just can't be helped." Matthew Ichabod Larson zipped up his pants and went to wash his hands.

"Are you going to help us clean this?" Fuji pressed, clearly upset.

"Pfft. No!" The blond-haired rebel was already leaving. "I wasn't the one that messed up so bad. Have fun with your toilets." The door closed behind him.

Fuji muttered under his breath, "Jerk.... Some team player!"

"Enough of this." The Sergeant finally put his foot down. "Let's just pack up and go. This will have to do for now."

The young ensign was elated. They gathered up their brushes, soap, and other paraphernalia, but as the Sergeant picked up the bucket filled with their things, it slipped from his hand and crashed into the bathroom floor, splitting the tiles to pieces.

"This thing weighs a ton.... I'll never get used to this gravity." He lifted the bucket again more gingerly, thinking of how he would have the tile repaired. Fuji propped the door open as the two men exited into open space of ESDF's elite training colony, the buildings wrapping all the way around the expansive inner torus, the open air busy with energy, marching, and combat drills.


Episode I: Forging Swords


Searing lungs. Aching legs. Delirious mind. That was the daily experience of the Sergeant of Fire Team 2. It was the lot of anyone who trained on Base Morning Star.

He urged himself onward, his legs threatening to give out with every step. His delirious state often made him wish he could breathe through his skin like an amphibian. His lungs screamed, overtaxed, unable to keep up with his body's unholy craving for oxygen. Physical training on Morning Star was torturous.

The colony's simulated gravity was greater than that of the Earth, created by rotating the colony structure at a higher speed. The Sergeant had once calculated the increase using a bathroom scale. For the duress he experienced, the ratio was much smaller than he expected. But it was enough. It was enough to make every endeavor a struggle. And it was enough to make him want to quit and die every time he was ordered out to physical training.

But that was not the entirety of their regimen. There were the numerous lectures: combat history, physics and materials courses, mobile suit design theory, mobile suit tactics, and more. Combat training was full-contact and brutal. Mobile suit exercises were fast-paced and unforgiving. There was nearly no time for sleep. But above all, Morning Star pilots were expected to be dedicated to physical training.

The Sergeant excelled in the lectures. He was an intellectual by nature. He was young and had never piloted a mobile suit before, but his intuition and his brilliance made him formidable. It was why he was selected to lead his team. The others understood this well. But he was never an athlete.

His ensigns had begun to acclimate to Morning Star's gravity. The Sergeant had acclimated, too, in a sense. Even though it was difficult for him, he was happy that he was in the best shape of his life. But even as he ran now, he was soaked and blinded by perspiration. The other members of Team 2 jogged ahead by 20 or 30 feet, the gap ever increasing.

This was a regular occurrence. He was meant to lead them in all aspects, but over time, they had stopped expecting him to keep up during physical training. Fuji felt bad. Matthew and the other two were somewhat ashamed, bearing ridicule from the other teams about their "wimp of a sergeant". The Sergeant, too, was embarrassed, but all he could do was continue to push himself.

Adam Farberow jogged to a stop having reached the end of their assigned run. He was accustomed to physical training, having been the only one on the team with previous military experience. He was slumped over for a minute to catch his breath but stood up to welcome Matthew to the finish line. Next to arrive was Shouta, the youngest pilot on Team 2. Fuji arrived after, having intentionally controlled his pace so he could keep an eye on both his uncle and the rest of the team.

The four of them breathed heavily as they watched their commanding officer half-jog half-stagger in the distance.

"Jesus...." Matthew muttered. "How's he supposed to lead us if he's always falling behind?"

"We're pilots, though," Shouta responded. "Is any of this going to matter inside a mobile suit?"

"It'll make a difference," Adam interjected with a critical tone. "Believe me."

They were quiet as the Sergeant stumbled in at long last. Fuji started to greet his uncle, but his words were stolen from him when he saw just how deathly pale the Sergeant was. The man staggered about, tremoring, his eyes wide. He seemed to be reaching for something when he finally collapsed face-first on the ground, motionless.

***

He straightened the necktie on his uniform. Alone in front of the mirror, his gaze saw only the formal ornament around his neck and not the man it adorned. The man in the reflection had not been seen for many years.

The Sergeant left the mirror and went to arrange the papers from his desk. It had been a little more than two weeks since his heart attack. He was still a little weak and short of breath, but the medics had taken good care of him, teaching him many techniques to control his breathing and stress. Heart attacks were an inevitable result of training in high gravity, and it occurred with some frequency in Morning Star's population, but the Sergeant never thought it would happen to him.

He was on his way to meet with the director of the program, a sense of dread looming over him ever since he received the summons. A knock came at the door to his quarters. Fuji and Shouta appeared in the doorway.

"What can I do for you?" The Sergeant asked in a formal manner, still busy at the desk.

"We wanted to see you, Sarge," Shouta said, a little hesitant. Shouta had never spoken with his commanding officer very much. They had all been assigned to Team 2 by a random lot and did not always get along well. Still, they treated each other with a professional courtesy as adults often did.

"How have all of you been?" The Sergeant asked in kind.

"Good," Fuji answered. "We got absorbed into Team 3 for the mean time. Those guys kinda suck, though. Sgt. Mallory is a half-wit. Muscles for brains, you know?" The Sergeant smirked a little, but continued to fiddle with the documents in his hands. What Fuji was trying to say was that he and Shouta missed their sergeant, but only an uneasy silence passed.

Unable to bear the tension, Shouta came forth with his feelings. "We're sorry, Sarge! We're sorry to see you go. And we're really sorry you got hurt...." He looked at the other man unhappily, sad to see him fall as far as he had.

The Sergeant returned a hard gaze. "Don't look at me like that. It pisses me off." He hated being pitied by others. A sense of quiet came over him. The Sergeant started to leave, walking past the other two. "I have to meet with the director now. You two take care of yourselves," he said sincerely. "Thank you for not making my job difficult."

***

Footsteps echoed as the Sergeant paced down the empty hallway. He had never met with the director before. The Sergeant had seen the man on the base from time to time observing the teams from afar or meeting with an officer, but he seldom spoke, and the Sergeant had yet to ever hear the director's voice with his own ears.

The director was unusually young for a man of his position, possibly the same age as the Sergeant or younger. Even Morning Star's generals seemed to tread lightly around him, though the director had no true military rank. He carried the informal title of Commander.

Though the Sergeant had only seen him from afar, he was afraid of the director. There was an unexplainable intensity in the man's eyes, and his movements exhibited a gravity which seemed capable of extinguishing countless lives in an instant. It was unsettling to know such a person came and went freely about the base.

The Sergeant came to a stop at a heavy wooden door and knocked soundly. "Director of Mobile Airborne Division - Commander Heero Yuy," the plaque read. He was already sweating.

"Come in," a strong voice directed. The Sergeant opened the heavy door gingerly and stepped inside, all efforts going into holding his composure. The Commander sat behind a large wooden desk. "I've been expecting you. Close that door behind you."

A full salute was given by the Sergeant. "Be seated," Commander Yuy instructed.

When the Sergeant became settled, the Commander began to go through the files in his desk in silence. The Sergeant tapped his fingertips over his knee, a nervous tick that he had. At last the Commander produced a set of documents and pushed them across the wide desk for the Sergeant to see.

"These are your medical discharge forms. I was told you refused to sign them."

"Yes, sir," he answered firmly. "That's right."

"Care to explain?" The Commander leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk, intent on listening.

The Sergeant answered, "I do not wish to leave the team, sir."

Commander Yuy narrowed his eyes for a moment. "Don't make light of your injury, Sergeant. It would be harmful to your health to stay. If you sign the medical discharge, you won't have to fight, and the military will compensate you. I suggest you take the opportunity to leave."

The young officer was steadfast, meeting the Commander's gaze without any indication he would give in. Heero leaned back in his chair and picked up a folder.

"I've been reading your profile," he said. "Educated men like you don't often join the military--especially the divisions which will be on the front. Why have you volunteered to fight?"

The Sergeant was obviously bothered, but he was honest: "I have nowhere else to go."

Heero Yuy furled his brows. "I have a hard time believing that." He skimmed over the documents in the Sergeant's profile again: graduated at a young age and entered university, participated in research and completed a rather difficult degree. However, his grades were poor, and he published no research papers. Then, some years of unemployment. What could have happened?

"You could have done other things with your education," the Commander started. "Why waste it on the military? You were unable to find work?"

"No, sir. I was unwanted. I have done my best, but there was always someone better or more qualified."

Heero felt a bolt of guilt hit him squarely in the chest. He, too, had several candidates ready to replace the Sergeant as soon as he was discharged: one man was a veteran who lead pilots through several combat tours and the other had a highly advanced degree from a military academy. Of course they would be more qualified than the Sergeant, but Heero felt the urge to hear the other man out.

"There was no place you were willing to settle?"

The Sergeant reviewed his thoughts for the right words. "No, sir. I am in an unusual position. I've always been good at whatever I did, but I have never been the best at anything. The world is not very well defined for a person like me:

"People who are incapable receive help from others. People who are competent find a place to be and are happy. People who excel are praised and are desired by others. But people who could be great and fall short do not belong. Such people strive to do great things, but are outshined by those who are gifted. At the same time, they are unwilling to settle for less, knowing they are capable of more. And so, they do not belong anywhere.

"All a person can do is improve himself, and at some point, others must decide whether or not they want him. That is the nature of society. In my experience, that decision made by others has always been 'No'. I have been very dissatisfied and came to a point where I also had to make a decision. I only have one thing left to lose.

I understood that the world does not revolve around me. In fact, the world we all live in is now in danger of annihilation by war. There is still some part of me that wants to save the world. I decided to give myself to the military so I can know if there is anything I can do."

Heero was quiet for a long time as he heard the other man's words. He understood what kind of person the Sergeant was now: he was a man who knew what it was like to give everything to his efforts and still fail. Life was harsh to him at every turn, but it has yet to kill him. And here he was, sitting across the desk from him, facing a medical discharge, a stern expression on his face.

Commander Yuy breathed in deep and exhaled. He reached across the desk and took back the discharge papers.

The Sergeant was confused. "Sir?"

Heero looked the officer in the eye. "I'm going to give you a chance, Sergeant." The other man listened quietly. Heero continued, "I understand you are hurt, so you will have to take it easy. At the same time, I expect you to work hard, even harder than the others. I hope you understand what I am saying."

"I understand," the Sergeant answered, forcing himself to hold his composure.

"I expect you to complete your combat training. If not, a discharge will be inevitable, but do what you are able. We'll end this meeting now," Heero said. "I will contact the instructors."

The two men stood up and saluted each other in parting.

"Thank you, sir, for hearing me out."

"Look after your men. Take care, Sergeant."

***

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


Last edited by Seraphic on Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 11:08 pm 
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Location: Inside the barrel of Wing Zero's left Buster Rifle.
(chapter 7 continued)

***

A Serpent-V crept through the dense forest, hugging the trees for cover. The emerald glow of its visor could be seen around the ancient redwood as the suit checked its surroundings, advancing ever carefully. It was painted in earthy browns and tans like its standard Serpent brothers.

The mobile suit cradled a semi-automatic Serpent Rifle in its arms, a battle rifle that fired armor-piercing rounds. A long, pointed shield was mounted on its left arm. This Serpent-V had two bladed ear antennas--a commander's unit.

Four more Serpent-Vs followed in the careful advance. They moved close enough to keep each other in sight, but were spread out in order to avoid being crowded in the event of an attack.

A bead of sweat fell from the Sergeant's jaw. He was focused intensely on the image projected on his monitors. Infrared, ultraviolet, audio, and motion sensors picked up nothing, but as he stared into the depths of the forest, he could not help but feel that death was staring right back at him.

"Uh...Sarge?" A quiet voice came over the radio. "I have to pee."

The Sergeant twitched. "Shut up. I said we were on radio silence."

"I am not kidding. We've been strapped in for over 30 hours now...!" Matthew complained.

"I'll signal when we can dismount. Just be silent for now," the Sergeant ordered.

"And when the hell will that be?" Matthew objected. "It's already been three whole days since the operation started. Everyone else has probably left already."

"Just be quiet, Icky," Fuji chimed in. "We have no way to tell if that's true."

"Don't call me that!" Matthew hissed back.

"What is your middle name?" Fuji asserted flatly.

"...Ichabod."

"There: we're calling you Icky," Fuji concluded. Matthew only muttered.

"I do agree that this is taking too long," Adam Farberow started.

"...Radio silence...." the Sergeant repeated to no one.

Adam continued, "We're in transformable mobile suits with an aerial fighter mode for godsake. What are we still doing in the forest?" Adam's previous military service was in an air force, so he was used to flying above mach 2 during operations. Shouta only listened in on the argument with mixed emotions.

"We don't have any intel on what sort of enemy could be in the area," the Sergeant answered in a sharp tone. "The last thing I'll have us do is fly out in the open as obvious targets. I don't care that it is taking us longer to reach the target point. I'm going to keep us alive."

Fire Team 2 had already completed training, and its members were fully enlisted in service. However, the ten Serpent-V teams were then enrolled in a post-training exercise of the following details:

The operation took place in an undisclosed location in California. Each team was air dropped in a random location 200 kilometers from an abandoned city. The first team to reach the city and occupy it for one hour would be crowned victorious, and the exercise would end. However, no information was given on what enemy could be in the area or if there were any enemy at all.

It sounded simple enough, but what frightened the Sergeant the most was that it was a live-fire exercise. Their weapons were loaded with real ammunition and their beam sabers set to ignite on full heat. They could very well die.

When his team was initially dropped into the zone of operations, the Sergeant made a scan of the entire area. A winding river ran through a redwood forest--trees three or four hundred feet tall. He had his team first submerge their mobile suits and travel under the river's surface, following the current closer to their objective point. The river actually ran straight through the middle of the city, but the Sergeant had the team exit the river partway, finding that approach to be too obvious. They next advanced through the forest towards the city, keeping an eye out for possible enemy units. There were signs of the other teams' movements at first, but they had long since lost touch with any of them.

"This is taking incredibly long," Matthew said. "How do you even know where you're going? Didn't you have us shut off our navigations?"

"I'm using a compass," replied the Sergeant.

Matthew nearly choked on his own words. "A compass?! You're in a mobile suit with a combat supercomputer, and you're leading us with a compass?! Why don't we have GPS on?"

"It would be too easy to use against us. We could be tracked easily if we used GPS. Or our navigations could be hacked and we would be fed false information."

"Seriously?" Matthew blubbered. "What could even do that?"

"It's called the Deathscythe," his commanding officer answered. "Look it up."

Matthew was quiet after that. He was scared.

The team neared the edge of the redwood forest, staying far back from the opening to keep their mobile suits concealed.

"Radio silence," the Sergeant reiterated. "And I mean it as an order. One sound and I will ZOINKS shoot you in the face."

He motioned for Shouta's Serpent-V to come forward next to him. Shouta's mobile suit was equipped with a high caliber sniper rifle designed to destroy heavily armored targets from great distances. The Sergeant's Serpent-V knelt down and touched its fingertips to Shouta's suit, allowing their machines to communicate safely via electric currents.

"Use your scope to look as far as you can. Tell me if you see anything in the distance or in the city."

"There is a 3 kilometer clearing from the edge of the forest to the city," the younger pilot said. "No cover. No signs of hostiles in the open ground. No signs of occupants in the city."

The commanding Serpent-V used hand signals to give orders to the other four: Disengage safety. On my lead: Transform. Fly low. Max speed. Destination: city. Assume cover. Scan area.

The Sergeant's Serpent-V stood out from cover, its four teammates at its back. Leaves and dust kicked up and foliage rustled as the vernier thrusters on the mobile suits' legs, backs, and wing binders warmed up.

Boosting through the tree line, the Serpent-V commander twisted mid-flight into a streamlined form, entering its fighter-like bird mode. The atmosphere shuddered as all five engaged maximum thrust and tore across the landscape.

They flew low to the ground to avoid possible radar detection and anti-air fire, the pilots watching the land rush past them at a thousand feet per second. As they entered the edge of the city, the Sergeant's craft transformed to its mobile suit form, facing backward while still carrying the tremendous momentum of its flight. The suit landed hard on the ground and skidded backwards to a stop, immediately leveling its rifle behind itself into the open city to ward off any potential threats. Nothing.

As the rest of the team touched down the next moment, the five mobile suits hugged the buildings for cover. The pilots became hyper-aware as they scanned the environment, scrutinizing every detail. The desolate city seemed undisturbed for many years, its pale white buildings and gray streets devoid of life signs.

The team advanced towards the center of the district with a hardy mix of haste and caution, always checking corners, blind spots, and sensors. Ordering them to a stop, the team leader contacted the other pilots over short-range radio.

"We're not finding anything.... Regardless, we need only hold the city for an hour to end the operation. I still want to find out if anything is here or not." The Serpent-V commander looked around. "Shouta: find the highest point in the city and set up a nest. Stay in regular contact."

"Got it," Shouta confirmed as his mobile suit stomped away.

"Matt. Adam. We'll split into pairs and scout the city. I want you two to go east. Fuji and I will stay center-west. Do not exit your mobile suits under any circumstances. We still don't know if it's safe."

"What!" Matthew protested. "I'm gonna die of a bladder infection!"

"Stop bitching, Icky," Adam said. "At least you're not partnered with an idiot like I am."

Matthew responded to the insult tactfully. "Just cover me, you douchebag."

Their two mobile suits advanced east, disappearing behind the cityscape.

***

Matthew's Serpent-V kicked over some fallen rubble with disinterest, almost entering an alleyway before meandering away in another direction. The mobile suit lugged along a large ammo box and belt. The Serpent Rifle it carried had been modified to fire on full automatic as a squad-automatic-weapon. It had only been half an hour since he had started his scouting assignment, but it felt like days. He was terribly irritated and impatient.

Adam could hear Matthew grunting through clenched teeth over the radio and said, "Try to relax a bit. There's only half an hour left on the clock before the mission's over." His mobile suit searched behind a building before continuing on. Adam's Serpent-V was armed with a standard Serpent Rifle, but he was a very accurate shot with it.

"I know, but don't you find this stupid? We made so much effort just to complete a ridiculously easy objective...! The Sergeant can really be a dumbass sometimes."

"I guess so," Adam offered. "I'm not entirely sure why I wasn't selected for team leader in his place. I've got more experience than everyone else, after all."

"More experience being a douche, maybe," Matthew retorted against the older pilot. "It's hard to believe how full of yourself you can be all the time."

"Whatever."

Matthew left another empty street. "God dammit. Nothing's here! What's the point of this scouting mission if we're not finding anything?"

"I feel the same," Adam said. "I don't even see any signs of the other teams. Maybe they really did all go home already, and we're just wandering out here like idiots because we're being punished for taking so long...."

"That's what we get for taking orders from such a tightass. Not even the jaws of life could loosen that guy up...." Matthew had been feeling that something was looming close behind him for the past few minutes. "Hey, could you not follow so closely?" Matthew complained. "You're crowding me, here."

Adam raised an eyebrow. "What are you talking about? I'm in front of you."

"What?" Matthew's Serpent-V turned around to see a bright red mobile suit standing directly behind it.

Before he could understand what was happening, the mobile suit snatched him by the face, cocked its arm back, and rammed him through the side of a building.

***

Moments earlier, the Sergeant and his nephew Fuji were also on their own scouting mission.

"It's very quiet, Uncle," Fuji commented over radio.

"Yes, I agree. I was thinking we would find something here by now, but the hour might pass without incident." Their two Serpent-Vs continued to pace through various sectors.

"Shouta," the Sergeant radioed for their hidden eyes. "Anything?"

The radio cracked. "Nothing yet."

"Can you see Adam and Matt?"

"Yeah. They look bored."

"Figures," Fuji said. "Short attention spans." He himself had the attention span of a gnat.

"Can you scan north and south for us?" the Sergeant asked calmly. Maybe he could start to let his guard down.

"Roger that."

Fuji was beginning to feel let down. He was glad that nothing unsafe had befallen the team, but he had also hoped that after all this training, he would be able to put his skills to use.

Just as he was having this thought, a loud crash could be heard to the east. Almost instantly, the Sergeant's Serpent-V transformed and took off in a single motion and rocketed towards the source of the commotion.

Fuji was astounded to see the Sergeant was able to transform his mobile suit so low to the ground, but he was already being hailed over the radio. "Fuji! Let's move!"

He tried to take off quickly, too, but he couldn't keep his craft stable mid-transformation, and he crashed to the ground. Fuji cursed through his teeth as he tried to recover, falling desperately behind the Sergeant's mad pace.

"Shouta. Where are Adam and Matt?"

Shouta grunted. "I can't find them!"

"Cover us," he ordered.

The Sergeant's craft transformed and landed east with its battle rifle ready. He discovered Matthew's downed Serpent-V incapacitated inside of a ruined building. The Sergeant called out to him, but there was no answer. He was either knocked out or dead. If only he could get out to check on him, but it was unsafe.

He searched the area quickly for the enemy, but came across nothing. The Sergeant used the radio to call for Adam, not able to find him.

"Where the hell is he?!" Adam shouted fearfully. Suddenly Adam screamed and his radio cut out with only static on the line. The Sergeant cursed under his breath and accelerated his search.

The next moment, a red mobile suit rounded the corner in a slow walk, revealing itself to the young officer. It dragged the headless, limbless remains of Adam's Serpent-V behind it, holding one of the remaining wing binders in one free hand, a round shield held in the other. Its red armor glowed like fresh blood, its gleaming yellow eye infinitely piercing.

It was the Mercurius-G.

Shots rang as the Sergeant immediately opened fire with his battle rifle. The Mercurius-G snapped right and dove behind a group of buildings, leaving the mutilated torso of Adam's mobile suit in the street. There was no response.

"Fuji, where are you? I've confirmed an enemy unit: it appears to be a variant of the Mercurius. Matt and Adam are down."

"I'm almost there," Fuji responded. "Hang on!"

"Shouta. Where is it?"

"I can't see him--No, watch out!"

The Mercurius-G came up from behind the Sergeant and swung the beam sword on its crash shield down in its target. The Sergeant side-stepped the attack, gained distance, and retaliated with his rifle. The Mercurius-G charged forward through the gunfire, deflecting the bullets with the A.S. defensor function of the crash shield. Suddenly, more rifle fire came from behind, so the red suit abandoned its charge and dashed behind cover again.

Fuji finally arrived on scene, immediately going to the Sergeant and stood back to back with him. They scanned their surroundings for the enemy, rifles at the ready.

They were blind-sided when the Mercurius-G suddenly attacked from their flank. It brought its beam sword down between the two, causing them to instinctively dodge and separate from each other. With its free right hand it drew a curved Gundanium blade from its hip and slashed at Fuji in one motion. The attack left a gash in Fuji's shield, but he was able to escape.

The two pilots stood their ground and unloaded their rifles on their attacker. The red suit sprinted through the street too quickly to keep up with, bullet holes in its wake.

The Sergeant's rifle magazine auto-ejected when it was empty, and the Mercurius-G attacked him in the same instant, seeing the spent magazine as a cue that he was vulnerable. Put on the defense, the Serpent-V took into the air above the buildings. The Mercurius-G pursued with its two swords ready.

This was the moment Shouta was waiting for. With his target out in the open, he lined up his shot from miles away and fired his anti-armor rifle, the massive recoil of the weapon causing the buildings to shudder.

Expecting the enemy to be destroyed, the Sergeant fell back, still mid-air, but the red mobile suit spun around and deflected the massive slug with its Gundanium blade.

"What the hell!!" The power and mathematical precision the mobile suit exhibited was baffling.

Chills ran up the Sergeant's spine when the red suit looked in the direction the sniper bullet had come from and dove back down to hide in the buildings. He and Fuji rained suppressing fire on the area until their magazines were spent. There were no signs any of their bullets had hit.

"Dammit," Fuji cursed. "Where did he go?"

The three Serpent-V pilots searched desperately for the rogue mobile suit, but it was all too quiet. Fear overtook them as the seconds passed, knowing their target could come from anywhere. All of the sudden, Shouta's shaking voice came over the radio.

"He's here!!"

Standing at the base of the tower, the Mercurius-G looked up the heights of the structure to where Shouta had set up his sniper's nest. Shouta picked up his heavy rifle as his mobile suit got up from its prone position, and the Mercurius-G jumped into the air.

Halfway up the tower, the Mercurius-G ignited all four gigantic beam blades on its crash shield and cleaved the building in two.

The structure fell apart, crumbling to the ground as it collapsed under its own weight. Rubble and debris rained down all around Shouta as he fell with the building, activating his thrusters to escape the collapse. He was nearly free until the Mercurius-G came from above and crashed down on top of Shouta with both of its feet.

Fuji and his uncle arrived on scene as the two mobile suits crashed to the ground, the Mercurius-G standing on top of Shouta. He was shaken from the fall, but tried to get up, finding himself pinned down by the red suit. Shouta saw his two teammates and cried out to them.

"HELP ME, GUYS!!"

But the two were paralyzed with dread as the Mercurius-G lifted its Leo Saber up, point down, and plunged the blade into Shouta's Serpent-V.

"Aahhhh! Aaaahhhhhh! AAAHHHHHH!!"

The young pilot screamed and screamed, impaled by a sword. The red suit twisted the blade with a snap, and suddenly there was only a sickening silence. There was no screaming. The pinned mobile suit lay motionless.

The Mercurius-G yanked its sword out from its victim and stood up, still looming over the fallen pilot. A dead breeze washed over the area, kicking up dust as the three remaining mobile suits stared each other down.

"You bastard!" Fuji cried as he charged, firing his rifle repeatedly. Unexpectedly, the red suit dashed forward and slashed through Fuji's gun, destroying it completely.

Fuji dropped the remaining handle of the destroyed weapon and drew a beam saber from his shield. "Don't think you've won," he declared. "Close-range combat's my specialty!"

His Serpent-V lunged forward and put all its power behind a saber attack. One of the Mercurius-G's blades lashed out, the movement so quick it was nearly invisible, and knocked Fuji's saber out of hand.

Fuji was relentless, not even stopping to recognize the disadvantage, and threw a punch right for his opponent's face. The Mercurius-G stood its ground and blocked Fuji's fist with the cutting edge of its Leo Saber, causing Fuji to splice his own arm in half.

He was bewildered, having been disarmed twice and then once literally in mere moments. The red mobile suit offhandedly kicked him to the ground and rushed the Sergeant.

Boosting backward to maintain distance, the Sergeant laid pressure on his attacker with rifle shots. He was accurate, but the red mobile suit sprinted and twisted through the gunfire, blocking several shots with its shield.

In the back of his mind, the Sergeant was reevaluating his chance at destroying his opponent. It was obviously made of Gundanium from the way it moved. Their Serpent Rifles stood a chance of destroying it with sustained fire, but now that he was the only pilot armed with one, the odds were extremely low. On top of that, the A.S. defensor shield in its left hand used an electric field to deflect attacks, making it nigh indestructible.

The Sergeant's last rifle magazine was spent, so he discarded the empty weapon. The Mercurius-G closed in and attacked with its beam sword. Deflecting the slash upward with his shield, the Sergeant drew his beam saber and lashed out in one motion. The Mercurius-G blocked the blow with its Gundanium blade as the two suits rushed past each other. The red suit immediately spun around and swiped at the Serpent-V's back, but it boosted forward out of reach.

"Don't count me out just yet!" Fuji shouted as his mobile suit barreled down on the Mercurius-G, shield first, planning to ram into it at max speed. The other mobile suit assumed a low stance as Fuji crashed into it. Using the flat of its shield and a powerful lifting motion, the Mercurius-G redirected Fuji's momentum harmlessly up and over its head. His thrusters still on max output, Fuji flipped wildly out of control through the air until he crashed into and bounced off the top corner of a building.

Pulled down by gravity, the Serpent-V bounced destructively off the pavement twice and rolled to a stop, leaving the suit a crippled mess. It didn't move again, its pilot having lost consciousness in the violent collision.

The Mercurius-G turned away from the wreckage and saw the Sergeant's Serpent-V still brandishing its beam saber. Instinctively, both mobile suits took off in a sprint, running parallel to each other as buildings rushed by between them. They caught small glimpses of each other in the gaps, looking for openings.

As he ran, the Sergeant could not help but wonder how all this could happen. How could the ESDF train them for months and equip them with advanced mobile suits only to throw them to the wolves like this to be murdered?

He retrained his thoughts as he realized he had lost track of the red mobile suit. The Sergeant looked up to see the Mercurius-G drop out of the sky and bring both swords down on top of him. He intercepted the powerful attack by raising his large shield, but the powerful blow cleaved two gashes into the shield and caused his mobile suit to stagger backward.

Having thrown the Sergeant off balance, the Mercurius-G began a relentless assault with its two swords. Various slashes and thrusts came rapidly from the blades, accelerating in speed and power. The Sergeant did his best to let his shield absorb the storm of deadly impacts, having to place his shield back in front of him every time it was knocked aside.

The Mercurius-G paused as the Sergeant lost more ground. The shield had been slashed to pieces, so he tossed it aside. He was expecting another onslaught, but the red mobile suit stood poised with its beam and solid swords, waiting for him to make the first move.

The Sergeant controlled his breath. The Serpent-V readied its beam saber in both hands and inched forward. He opened with a quick thrust aimed for his opponent's face. The Mercurius-G deflected it and instantly riposted with its beam sword. The Serpent-V leaned backward out of range.

Another pause.

He inched to the side. They circled each other in microcosmic movements. The Serpent-V pivoted into range and lashed out with multiple attacks aimed for the chest. The red mobile suit blocked them all and whipped one of its blades outwards at the Sergeant's face. He deflected it up and countered. The Mercurius-G deflected its opponent's blade downward and stepped back out of range.

Another pause.

The Mercurius-G advanced with both swords. The Serpent-V blocked the two blades, one after the other, but the attacks continued. The red suit's movements accelerated into a frenzied sword dance. Put on the defensive, the Sergeant could do nothing but give ground and block an attack to save himself where he could.

A momentous thrust from the beam sword threatened to skewer the Serpent-V's face. Unable to dodge in time, he deflected the beam blade narrowly to the side, but the attack came close enough to burn through his mobile suit's right ear blade antenna.

The Sergeant started a frantic counterattack, but he was interrupted when the Mercurius-G flicked its wrist to cause its Gundanium blade to spin freely in mid-air. The sight of the unusual movement caused the Sergeant to move back out of instinct, but the spinning blade still managed to cut a gash into his chest before the other suit caught the weapon again by its handle.

He stumbled far back out of range, chest thumping, gasping for air. He was afraid his heart could give out again.

He wasn't good enough, he realized. What he faced was not merely a powerful and unique sword style. It was art. The other pilot was not only skilled or only experienced--he had the ability to create. The Sergeant knew he could train all his life and never reach the same level.

The red mobile suit stood poised with its swords ready, its one yellow eye glowing like a demon's, the red armor possessed with death.

All this time I thought I was fighting for my life, the Sergeant reflected, closing his eyes, but the fact is: I've already been killed. I was dead the moment that monster laid its eyes on me.

He hesitated for a moment, but alas he cast aside his regrets as the Serpent-V bolted forward to commit to one last attack. The Mercurius-G shot forward at the same time. In the last moment the Sergeant took his beam saber into both hands and drew it back, ready to commit a full-bodied thrust.

The two mobile suits blew past each other.

The Mercurius-G landed on both feet and grinded to a halt, both swords together in front of it. The Serpent-V, still mid-run, went limp suddenly and fell to the dust.

Silence.

The red mobile suit turned around and gazed down upon the fallen soldier as a howling wind blew over the city. The winds spoke to them and sprinkled dust over their fallen forms.

***

The mechanics collectively cried bloody murder as Team 2's recovered mobile suits were delivered to them. Banged up or outright mutilated, the remaining scraps could hardly be recognized as the former proud and advanced Serpent-V team. The Serpent-Vs were supposed to be one of highest performance mass production units employed by the ESDF, but all 50 of them were destroyed practically overnight. It was bewildering to know they were all destroyed in a training exercise before they were officially sent to sortie in battle.

Inspecting all the damage, it was miraculous that none of the mobile suit cockpits were destroyed and that all the pilots survived with only bumps, bruises, and concussions. Still, the mechanics had a lot of work ahead of them to completely rebuild the fleet of Serpent-Vs, and hopefully they could do it before the Martian military came knocking at their doorstep.

"Why's this one smell like piss!" One of the mechanics cried in horror, inspecting Team 2's wreckage.

"God dammit...."

The pilots were gathered in a nearby conference hall for their debriefing. The crowd was collectively quiet, having been shamed by their enormous defeat at the hands of a single mobile suit.

"Attention!"

The 50 pilots and officers stood up to greet the arrival of the Director of the Mobile Airborne Division. Commander Heero Yuy entered and took to the podium in front of a large projector screen.

"At ease." They sat down again, but they were anything but relaxed around the Commander. It would never be stated explicitly, but they all had some sense that it was that man standing at the podium who defeated the entire Serpent-V fleet single-handedly. And he did it without even having a single firearm, at that.

"Welcome back," he started. "As you recall, your last operation was a competitive mission to see which team could capture the city and occupy it for one hour first. It is disappointing, but none of the teams were successful in that objective. We will begin a debriefing on what unfolded during the operation:"

He referred to the large projection behind him which displayed a map of terrain and designated icons with numbers for the teams. The projection evolved in real time to show the movements of the teams.

"The operation began as your mobile suit carriers entered the designated airspace at 0500 hours. At that time, the carrier for Team 1 was attacked and destroyed. The carrier pilots parachuted to safety, but the mobile suit pilots were unable to recover from their carrier being destroyed and were subsequently disabled.

"Teams 4 and 7 transformed and made a bee line for the city as soon as they were air dropped at 0530 hours. Team 4 was subject to an anti-air attack and engaged in an aerial dogfight to defend themselves, but they were destroyed in several minutes. Using Team 4 as a distraction, Team 7 advanced towards the city, but the enemy unit caught up to them using its over booster attachment and destroyed them as well.

"The other teams took cover in the forest. Long before sunrise, at 0630 hours, Teams 6 and 10 were ambushed under the cover of darkness. In the confusion, the two teams attacked each other as the enemy disabled them one by one.

"At 1200 hours Team 9 was ambushed in the forest and subsequently disabled.

"3600 hours into the operation, Team 8 approached the city via the river. They were electrocuted by the enemy unit's planet defensors and destroyed in underwater combat." The Sergeant of Team 2 felt his hair stand on end, realizing that the Mercurius-G did not even wear its planet defensors when he eventually engaged it. The planet defensors would have made him completely invulnerable to their rifles, and his team could not even lay a scratch on him without those electric shields being used.

Commander Yuy continued, "At 4800 hours into the operation, Team 3 lead by Sgt. Mallory wandered out of the zone of operations and was disqualified."

"So they made it out without fighting like the rest of us?" one of the officers asked out loud.

"No, they were followed outside the zone of operations and destroyed." The 50 pilots in the conference collectively turned to Sgt. Mallory who had gotten lost and got his team shot down. The man ducked his head low in embarrassment, hoping nobody would notice him.

"At 7200 hours," the Commander explained, "Team 5 was discovered sleeping in the forest, their guard on post having succumbed to exhaustion and fallen asleep as well. Their mobile suits were disabled by the enemy pilot and were no longer functioning when the team attempted to launch again at daybreak. As a result, Team 5 was also disqualified.

"Team 2, the final remaining team active in the operation, was the most difficult to track. It was reported that they disabled their GPS and varied their approach as they advanced on the city, traveling along the river bottom and then through the forest. They entered the city at 8600 hours and subsequently engaged the enemy in urban combat at 8630 hours. The team was divided to conduct surveillance and subsequently destroyed one by one in close range combat.

"All ten Serpent-V teams were disabled in the operation without completing the mission objective. Due to damages incurred during the operation, it will be a long time before your mobile suits will be ready for combat and you can join the front. Officers, I suggest you take that time to continue training with your pilots. I hope this has been a learning experience for all of you. This concludes the debriefing. Dismissed."

The soldiers in the conference hall dispersed slowly, a bad taste on their palates. The Sergeant was still slumped forward in his seat, still exhausted from the ordeal. His team eventually found him and gathered around.

"How is everyone?" he asked, not looking up.

"Well, we got the ZOINKS kicked out of us, but we're still alive," Adam replied.

"Sorry, guys," Shouta apologized. "I couldn't land a single shot on him...."

"The Commander is piece of work, isn't he?" Matthew complained. "I can't believe what a show-off that man is."

"He kicked YOUR ass, too, Icky!" Fuji exclaimed. "I don't think you're in a position to talk. And besides, the mechanics are probably livid that you pissed yourself in your mobile suit."

"Hey! Sometimes a man can't help what happens when he gets rammed through a building at a hundred miles an hour...!"

The Sergeant contemplated in silence. Yes, it could be seen as show-boating in some sense. But he also saw it as a valuable lesson. When the Commander spoke, he never referred to a single mobile suit as his own opponent. He destroyed entire teams in minutes and did it without killing any of the pilots. It may have been the most humiliating defeat, but it taught them that there were monsters out there like the Commander, and if they were to ever meet one, lives would not be spared. If they were to run into another pilot like Heero Yuy, they would never survive without immense skill and coordination.

"Sergeant." Commander Yuy called from directly behind him.

The other man nearly jumped out of his own skin in fright. He shot up from his seat and spun around. "Sir!"

Heero raised an eyebrow at the sudden outburst of anxiety, but continued, "Sergeant, have your men report to my temporary office in an hour. There is something we have to discuss."

"Yes, sir!" They all saluted. The Commander turned away and disappeared from the conference hall.

They were all silent for a moment.

"Oh god. What the hell was that about?" Fuji blubbered in fear.

Adam had a pained look on his face. "My guess is that we're gonna get chewed out for failing the objective so badly." An uneasy silence passed.

"Well," the Sergeant started, "regardless of what happens, I will defend you. You all know where to go. See you in an hour."

***

The five pilots of Team 2 entered the office after knocking on the door. They lined up and stood at attention in front of Commander Yuy who sat at his desk, putting away papers. It was hard to believe that it was this quiet man and not a wild devil frothing at the mouth who beat them all down in battle with such brutality.

"Thank you all for coming. At ease." The five pilots collectively assumed the more relaxed posture.

"You may have guessed the recent exercise had a competitive objective, because it was being used as a selection program. I am disappointed that none of the teams completed the objective. However, I realize I may have made things too challenging.

"I needed to select the best team from the Mobile Airborne Division, because the ESDF has granted me the option of forming an elite autonomous unit. The unit will act under my direct command and will be under orders from no other part of the Defense Force. The Mobile Airborne Division's 2nd Fire Team has exhibited many of the piloting and leadership qualities I find vital, so I've decided to re-designate the team as Zero Squadron under my command."

The tension in the room broke all at once as the five pilots realized they were there to be praised and not to be decapitated.

"Does anyone have any objections to this?"

The five pilots collectively answered, "No sir!"

"Good," Commander Yuy stated with strength. "The first thing I want you to do is forget everything you have learned. I will retrain you, and you'll find that no other soldier can hope to defeat you. We will begin in one week, so you will be put on leave until then.

"I suggest you take that time to say goodbye to your families. Under my command, you will be dead to them. I also suggest you take that time to drink and screw to your heart's content. From here on you will no longer be men, but swords to be wielded in battle and discarded when broken. But in return for your humanity, you will be given great power, and we will use that power to do all we can to end this war. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Welcome to Zero Squadron. I will be in touch. Dismissed."

The five pilots saluted their Commander. He saluted in return.

As they turned away to leave the office, the young pilots experienced mixed emotions. Some were excited at the prospect of power and prestige. Others were afraid, knowing they would be put through the meat grinder and put in the highest level of danger on the battlefield. And still, some accepted the turn as an opportunity to affect change in the world.

They chatted vigorously and congratulated each other as they left the building, but the Sergeant was quiet. Fuji threw his arm around the other pilot.

"Aren't you excited, Uncle? We're special ops! And we could have never gotten this far without you!"

"Yeah, Sarge," Matthew said. "We really ought to thank you." Shouta nodded in agreement.

"I didn't do anything special," he answered.

Fuji scoffed. "There's a difference between modesty and being a liar, you know." He gave his Uncle a friendly jab in the shoulder, and the man finally returned a small and humble smile.

"So where should we go to 'drink and screw to our heart's content'?" Matthew asked.

Adam laughed and answered confidently, "I know a place."

***

Heero Yuy sat down at the desk again. It was very quiet in the large, empty office. He leaned back in the chair and stared up at the fan blades slowly churning in silence. It was very lonely: his work, and his place at the top. There was no one to support him or anyone to give him company. They all feared him--even his allies, but perhaps that was the only way things could work.

Staring upward, he reminisced about a time when his life was not so lonely and about the moment when all of that changed.

***

It was first light. A red mobile suit knelt in the distance, its bloody armor gleaming obscenely in the soft light of morning. They stood several paces apart from each other, out of reach. A year had passed of doing nothing but being in each other's arms, but now they had to stay away, afraid of being close again.

They had fought harshly a dozen times about the same topic, but now they had grown sick of the arguments and only wanted to be peaceful with each other.

She was afraid he would be killed in battle and die alone.

He was afraid to turn his back on the world and on those who depended on him.

Why should that be his responsibility alone?

It was always his responsibility.

Why could he not run away and stay with her?

He had never once run away before, even when there was nothing keeping him from fleeing.

She wanted desperately to keep him safe and to keep him for herself. She would have held him close and protected him even if death and hellfire were to rain down on her. But his life was not hers to keep, she realized. He belonged to the world, and it now needed him more than ever.

As selfish as he wanted to be, he could not bring himself to escape the war and hide away with her. He could not bring himself to choose a single life over billions of others. They both knew it was the right thing to do.

He knew she would be better off without him. She would no longer have to bound to a broken soldier who could never give her what she deserved. So long as he was bound by these invisible chains, the two of them could never be happy.

Perhaps it was possible he could change, but it would be the equivalent of turning night into day, of raising mountains from the oceans. He wanted desperately to be different for her sake, but he knew he could not change overnight, or perhaps, not even in a lifetime. To change, he would have to suffer and bleed away all the things that constantly caused him to hurt her and be a slave to The Sword.

She stood there, numb with hurt and loneliness, waiting for him to leave her behind.

She gasped as he came close and held her hand. She trembled at his sweet touch, but did not want to succumb to her weakness and believe they could go back on their decision.

As she closed her eyes, he gently pressed his lips to her hand, and then kissed her cheek, and lastly kissed her forehead. A single tear fell from her eyelashes. They were three blessings: the kiss on her hand gave her his trust, the kiss on her cheek--his admiration, and the kiss on her crown--his hope for the future.

She stood in silence for a moment, her eyes closed, not knowing how to reciprocate such a gesture. He lifted her chin gently with one hand and looked directly into her eyes.

"When I come back," he said, "the war will be over, and I won't be a soldier anymore. No more fighting. No more weapons. I'll just be a man, and all I'll have left is you. That's the least you deserve."

Her tears fell freely then, unhindered by any pretense of strength or indignation. She never once thought she would be witness to such sad and beautiful words. She wept at the overwhelming relief of being understood and at the sad truth that he may never return to her.

He embraced her one last time. She wished she could stop blubbering like a fool so she could hug him back properly. He let her go, much too soon for her liking, and put his hands on her shoulders.

"Take care," he said. She could only return a sad smile.

He turned away and walked to the red mobile suit. Mounting the grand machine, the giant suit of armor rose up in the light of morning, a quiet breeze stirring the garden.

Her hair was blown on the breeze as she watched the red mobile suit take off into the air and carry him away, disappearing into the sky.

"Take care," she whispered into the wind.

***

The slowly churning fan blades came back into focus.

That was more than eight months ago, Heero surmised. That time and distance had helped him to focus on the war effort, but he could not help but feel lonely at times.

If Aoki had any wits about her, she would have left that old house and moved on with her life already, but some small part of Heero still hoped that she would wait for him. He did not understand how he could wish such a sad and lonely existence upon such a kind person, however.

At times he struggled to keep himself from writing or contacting her. He had to keep his own existence a secret as he would lead a black-ops team in the near future. And at the same time, he wanted to give her every opportunity to move on with her life and be happy. That was the sacrifice he was making in this war.

Heero got up from his desk and drifted toward the window, staring out at the busy quarters and the soldiers below. He could see the young pilots recently recruited for his squad, rowdy and full of life. He wondered what sacrifices they, too, would have to endure to bring this war to an end.

One could only pray that no harm would come to those young men, but since he did not believe in God, Heero knew that the responsibility of keeping those pilots safe in this war was his own.


Act II, Episode I: Forging Swords - End

-Seraphic
1.20.2014


Mars begins its full-scale invasion in space and the special ops task force Zero Squadron makes its debut in battle. Next time on New Mobile History Gundam Wing: The Sword,

Act II, Episode II: Battlefront



Reference Materials:

Definition of Sergeant-

Sergeant (normally abbreviated to Sgt) is a rank used in some form by most militaries, police forces, and other uniformed organizations around the world. Its origins are the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term sergent.

_________________
"Red particles are bad, they mutate you into... dead? But green/blue particles are good, apparently, for reasons and for purposes yet to be determined. Isn't science sometimes nicely color-coded?"
-Antares

GW: The Sword . Sera's Art . Gameplay . The Lost Citadel


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