Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: False Dawn

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Black Knight
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Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: False Dawn

Post by Black Knight » Sat Nov 10, 2007 6:12 am

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: False Dawn

9 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
EFS Swiftsure
11:47 Hours


Commander Igor Makarov frowned at his communications panel. "Very well, Commdore Keram," he said to the man on the screen, "our orders are received and acknowledged." Swiftsure's commanding officer gave the man on the other end of the communication link a salute, and killed the circuit.

"New orders, sir?" Lieutenant Commander Alec Marshall-Tombrine, executive officer of the ship, asked.

"Yes, Commander," Makarov said without looking up. The Commander was not a tall man, about 172 centimeters, but disproportionately thick, and with a sickly, pale complexion that was not at all helped by his high, sloped forehead, large nose, or the thin, dull, pale yellow mess which was his hair. "But I can't decide whether to scream in frustration or jump for joy." He sighed. "We've been ordered to the perimeter, to guard against possible incursions by this Delaz character."

"Sounds good enough to me, sir," the exec said with a confused look. Marshall-Tombrine, though better looking than his superior, was also not the type of person who made women swoon. He was a dozen centimeters taller than Makarov, but too thin. He looked delicate and fragile next to his thickset commander. His face, in keeping with the rest of his body, was also too thin, and though his face had a bit more color, his hair had the same dull yellow sheen as the Skipper's and looked good only in comparison to Makarov's. The XO's eyes were blue, but too small, and set too close together. "What's the frustrating part?"

"The problem, Commander, is that Wyatt is still going on with his foolish Naval Review," Makarov said in his raspy voice.

"Well, of course, sir. After all, we've not had one since '79, and it'll be good for morale."

"Oh, shut up, Commander," Makarov grumbled. "If you can't see the dangers of gathering the vast majority of your forces where anyone with a nuclear warhead can blow them up, I'm not going to bother explaining them to you. Call the mobile suit pilots."

"Nuclear warhead?" Marshall-Tombrine laughed. "Sir, we're the only people with nukes these days, and, besides, using them would violate the Granada Peace Accords."

Makarov looked up. "Commander, I know you were here last week. You were standing right by the helm when that diehard Delaz gave his pretty little madman's speech. You saw the mobile suit behind him, and heard that it had been built to use a nuclear warhead."

"Oh, yes, I heard him, sir," the junior officer said dismissively. "But that was pure propaganda, sir, no one in the Federation would be stupid enough to build a mobile suit armed with nuclear weapons. What would be the point of such a machine? Delaz merely made that up to make us look bad, sir, anyone can see that. Besides, if he really wanted to cause the Federation damage, and had a nuke, why would he waste it on the military forces? Hitting, say, Jaburo, or the new HQ at Dakar would be far more effective, don't you think?"

"No, Commander, I don't." Makarov rubbed his temples. "Unfortunately for me, however, the Flags back at Jaburo subscribe to your thinking. I think that this man is a soldier. And soldiers generally focus on killing other soldiers, not political leaders. I think he'd like nothing better than to use that nuke -- which I, at least, am quite sure he has, Commander -- on the biggest military target he can find. If he wanted to hit Jaburo or Dakar with it, why would he have bothered to bring that machine to space? The report I got about the Torrington incident leads me to believe that if they had planned to hit Headquarters, the submarine which took that Gundam away from Australia would have gone straight there and not bothered to drop it off in Africa. It's not like Jaburo's location is secret any more."

Marshall-Tombrine shrugged. "Perhaps, sir. But that doesn't matter, since all this talk about a nuke is just that, sir, talk. No one in the EFF would really arm a mobile suit with a nuke."

Makarov glared at his subordinate for a moment, then looked down, closed his eyes, and went back to massaging his temples. "Whatever, Commander. Now get me the mobile suit pilots."

-------

Chief Reactor Technician Simon Mullet – as was normal at all times other than when he was flying, preparing his mobile suit, or eating – was sleeping in the mobile suit pilots' stateroom. Well, closet might be a more appropriate name for the compartment, as it was barely large enough for the three personnel who lived there to float in it at once. The Swiftsure was roughly 33% larger than the pre-war Salamis type, which was the only reason it had mobile suits to begin with, but even at nearly twice the size of the more recent post-war Salamis variants, there wasn't a lot of room for the personnel. And given that most of the volume that had been gained from the expansion had been filled with new power and weapon systems and the mobile suit area, there was very little room to berth the extra crewmembers the additional equipment required.

Indeed, most of the crew was forced to 'hotbunk', with multiple people assigned to a single bed. It was only by virtue of their near-godlike status as mobile suit pilots that Mullet, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Melanie Doherty, and Giles Hampton had three beds between them, rather than merely two. Of course, normally, enlisted persons weren't berthed in the same compartments as officers, but space was quite tight, and Mullet was one of the few non-commissioned officer pilots in the Federation Forces, and The Book didn't bother taking into account minorities such as he. He'd been sleeping in that room since Swiftsure had been commissioned during the war against Zeon, and back then all of its mobile suit pilots had been NCOs; neither he nor Makarov saw any reason to move him elsewhere.

Mullet's immediate superior, Lieutenant Doherty, didn't exactly like his penchant for ignoring any work not directly connected with mobile suits, but she was too afraid of her quiet, cynical, and ruthless subordinate to force him to attend to other duties. He had seen far more combat than she, and though she felt his actions often undercut her authority, she was too much in awe of, and afraid of, his combat prowess to force him to comply with her wishes.

But if someone else wanted him, she'd be only too happy to wake him up and put him to work.

That was the case today when Doherty heard that the skipper wanted the pilots on the bridge. When the message reached her, she and Hampton had been overseeing the maintenance on their personal mobile suits in preparation for the next day's naval review. Mullet had finished early, as always. Doherty had sent Hampton up to the bridge to inform the skipper that they were coming, and then headed forward to interrupt the Chief's nap.

Upon opening the door, Doherty found exactly what she expected: Simon Mullet tied down in his bunk, snoring softly. He wasn't a large man, nor quite a small one. He was medium sized, and quite plain, if taken on looks alone. He kept his brown hair cut short so that it wouldn't interfere with his eyes in zero-gravity, and though his eyes were large, and of a rich, warm, brown color by nature, the chief habitually kept them ice-cold. On the rare occasions when he smiled in mirth, rather than as a mocking sneer, he seemed a nice enough person. But Lieutenant Doherty, in the nine months she had been attached to Swiftsure, had judged him to be a cynical bastard, with little to no respect for officers, particularly junior officers who lacked much combat experience.

The Lieutenant pulled off her normal suit's helmet, and tossed it at her subordinate's stomach; it hit precisely on target, and the gentle rhythm of Mullet's breathing abruptly ceased, replaced by a sharp expulsion of air. The enlisted man opened an eye and immediately fastened it upon his commander.

"I see all that noise they make about officers being gentlemen and ladies is just talk," Mullet said darkly. "You got something for me to do? Other than becoming the newest target for you to miss no matter how close you get, that is."

Doherty's hand flashed out, backhanding Mullet before either of them realized what was happening.

Mullet glared at his superior. "If you don't need me for anything ‘cept target practice, I'm trying to get some sleep. Why don't you go lord your commission over someone who actually thinks it counts for something."

The officer's face turned beet red in anger, and she nearly smacked him again. "No, I don't need you, Chief," Doherty said with all the sarcasm she could muster. "But the Skipper might be a bit put out if I tell him that you were too busy sleeping to come when he calls you to the bridge!"

"Oh, so that's it," Mullet grumbled. "You could have saved yourself some embarrassment if you'd simply said so in the beginning, ma'am," he made the final word more an insult than an honor. "Then you wouldn't have had to suffer a mere spacenoid being insubordinate to you."

When Doherty's hand flew this time the Chief was prepared and dodged before the blow connected.

"What's this?" Mullet asked in mock surprise. "Now you can't even hit a poor noncom? I thought the class on how to strike subordinates was mandatory back at the Academy," he said sarcastically. "Did your Earthnoid family buy off the instructors? Or," he continued, looking her up and down, "did you do it yourself? You're all the same," he sneered, not even bothering to try to hide the contempt in his voice. "You think that because you're born down there you can come up here and rule the people you exiled before; think you can do whatever you want to them because, after all, they're just spacenoids . . . just scum." He stared at Doherty. "You say the Skipper wants me? Fine, I'll go. Unlike you, the Skipper knows how to lead people." Mullet turned to his locker, pulled out a uniform, and climbed into it, ignoring the seething form of his superior.

Neither one spoke during the trip to the bridge, either. Upon entering, they found Hampton lounging against one wall, the exec fussing over the helm, and Commander Makarov deep in thought.

"What gives, sir?" Mullet asked without preamble. "You interrupted a nice dream: I was killing a bunch of generals."

Makarov snorted in amusement. "Well, Chief, I'm sorry to inconvenience you," he said dryly, "but we've just been ordered out to picket duty."

Mullet frowned. "We're a bit big and powerful to waste as a sentry, aren't we, Skipper? And with our speed, wouldn't we be better left in reserve until such a time as it becomes apparent where an enemy attack will be made?"

"That's what I think, Chief," Makarov said with a sigh. "But as Deathgod might put it, ours is not to reason why . . . Personally, I think Wyatt just wants us out because we'd show everyone how small his toy cruisers really are. His Birmingham and the Albion just arrived, reporting increased Zeon Remnant activity in the area. Seems they killed the Albion's mobile suit commander."

"Poor bastard. Shoulda just let the Zeeks off Wyatt. Woulda done us all a favor."

"Chief!" Doherty warned.

The enlisted man ignored her. "Did that tea-drinking bastard pass any other good news along, sir?"

The skipper shook his head. "No, Chief, but Albion's skipper sent over what information he had on these particular Zeeks. Based on the insignia on the mobile suits, Birmingham was attacked by members of the old Zeon Marines."

A look of dangerous fury sprang into being on Mullet's face. "In that case, I hope this bastard Dellesse has the balls to attack us here; I'll enjoy shoving a beam saber up his ass."

The Skipper smiled grimly. "I hope you get the chance, Chief. That's all." The pilots drifted to the door. "Oh, Lieutenant Doherty, could I have a word with you?"

She looked back. "Of course, sir."

When the other two pilots had moved out of earshot, Makarov spoke again. "I see you hit Chief Mullet again."

"Yes, sir," she agreed matter-of-factly. "He was insubordinate, sir."

"Of course he was, Lieutenant," Makarov replied, taking care to keep any hint of censure from his voice. "Do you have any idea why he is constantly insubordinate to you?"

"Because he has a problem with authority, sir," Doherty answered promptly, "stemming from a lack of discipline."

"Almost, Lieutenant. His lack of respect comes from a dearth of officers he feels are worthy of his respect. Such as ones who must constantly hide behind their rank," he continued blandly, "or ones who can't handle their own jobs." He held up a hand, silencing Doherty before she could object. "I'm not saying you are a person like that, I happen to think you'll be a damn good mobile suit commander in a few years. But that's not the way you appear to him, Lieutenant. To him you're just another Earthnoid and Academy grad, come out into space so you can boss around all lowlife and generally boost your ego."

"Sir!" she interjected, all righteous indignation.

"Shut up and listen, Lieutenant," Makarov said sternly. "I'm trying to give you a bit of advice. He's not going to respect you until he sees how you handle a fight. That's how veterans look at new officers, because new officers are an unknown, and unknowns can get a person killed."

Makarov paused, fixing his subordinate in his gaze. "Oh, sure, you saw a little action, too, fending off the occasional raid at Luna II. The Chief and I waltzed into Side 3 itself. Four times. There's a reason he has that spiffy GM, and it's the same reason I've got this badass cruiser. We paid for them.

"Yes, he's got a problem with authority. But then, what have those with authority ever done for him? He fought through the whole war, and only performed the job he was trained to do for the first two weeks of it. After that, he got tossed around from one unit to the next, none of which were happy to see him. By the time September rolled around, he was finally sent back into orbit. What did he find? Another group of people who didn't want him, and another job for which he hadn't been trained. To make matters worse, he was also expected to penetrate Side 3 and disrupt the Zeon military/industrial machine.

"He did all of that, and did it damned well; that's why this ship still exists and I'm still alive."

"Sir," Doherty began.

“I'm not finished, Lieutenant!" Makarov barked. “Have you ever tried to place yourself in his boots? You've had enough time to learn that it's impossible to force him to respect you, but there are ways to earn it. Respect is a two-way street, as you know," he continued, “you might try respecting him instead of assaulting him.

"There's an old saying, Lieutenant: before you criticize someone, walk a klick in their shoes. If you can't understand why he's turned into a cynical bastard, then let me know, and I'll get you a transfer; keeping you in charge of a man you can't understand hurts everyone's performance."

Makarov paused, and turned thoughtful for a moment. “You might consider the Chief to be a leadership challenge, Lieutenant; there are a lot of hardcases in the world, and Mullet's a prime example. But he's not as close-minded as you think; if you can change, so can he. The two of you have the potential to be an effective team, but you've spent so much time being at loggerheads with each other that you can't focus on what's important. Fix that. Quickly.

"Any questions?"

"No, sir," Lieutenant Doherty said, very quietly.

Makarov looked into her eyes, and saw the unspoken truth behind her statement. "Get the hell out of here."

When she was gone, the Skipper waved Major Marshall-Tombrine over.

"Yes, sir?" the exec asked, a frown on his face.

Makarov didn't meet his eyes. "I want an undated transfer order for Lieutenant Doherty awaiting my signature by noon tomorrow."

"Sir?" Marshall-Tombrine asked, confusion evident across his face.

-----------------------------------------

9 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
13:39 Hours


"Sir, we've reached our assigned patrol area," one of the bridge operators reported.

"Very well, put us on the planned flight path," Makarov answered, then picked up his phone. "Launch the suits," he said into it.

Behind and below him, the three GMs deactivated the electromagnets on their feet and used thrusters to gently nudge themselves away from their mothership. Doherty's GM Kai took station above and in front of Swiftsure, Hampton's identical machine moved into position below and to the ship's right, while Mullet's RGM-79SC GM Interceptor Custom stayed level with the cruiser, but off to the left.

Doherty was fuming inside her cockpit. The Commander's dressing down had been bad enough, but just before they had left the Swiftsure, she had pulled Mullet aside.

"Look, Chief," she had begun, trying to sound friendly, "I know you've got problems with me, but I'm still your superior officer, and you will obey me."

Mullet had managed to look bored, annoyed, and disdainful all at once. "All right, Lieutenant," he had said, turning her rank into an insult, as he always did. "I'll obey every order I receive from superior officers."

She had nodded, grateful that, for once, he seemed to behave reasonably. She had then started floating off towards the MS hanger just forward of the aft main guns.

"If I'm feeling good," he then called at her receding form, "I may even obey intelligent orders from people who aren't my superiors, but merely possess a higher rank than me. Assuming I receive any good orders from such a person."

The Lieutenant halted her movement, and then kicked off the bulkhead back towards Mullet. She slammed into his torso, throwing both of them into the opposite bulkhead. After untangling herself, Doherty slapped the Chief, the motion propelling her slowly away from her subordinate.

Mullet glared at his commander, a dangerous light appearing in his eyes.

Then Doherty had realized that there were no other people in this part of the ship, remembered stories of officers killed by their own subordinates during the war and grew very, very afraid. "If you touch me," she said, fear clearly evident in her voice, "I'll have you court-martialed and put in the brig for the rest of your life! The Skipper won't be able to protect you there!"

The noncom had shaken his head in disgust. "You just don't have a ****in' clue, do you? ZOINKS officers," he spat. Without another word, he had kicked off the bulkhead, down the corridor to the mobile suit hanger, leaving Doherty to herself and her questions.

Now, twenty minutes later, she was no closer to understanding why Mullet had left her alone then when his normal suit had disappeared around the corner. She knew he had a reputation for violence, and was honest enough with herself to realize that she had provoked him beyond all justification. Why didn't he respond to that provocation….

"Ma'am," Hampton called over the radio, "Ma'am, I think I've spotted something, but I'm not certain what it is."

"What's its position, Ensign?" Doherty asked, turning her mobile suit so that its best sensors were pointed at Hampton's patrol zone.

Before he could answer, a fireball blossomed across the starry background.

"It just blew up, ma'am!" Hampton said loudly over the communications system.

"What the hell is going on here," Doherty wondered.

"Mullet to Swiftsure," the chief's disgruntled voice said over the radio, "I've just destroyed an MS-06F2 inside the Restricted Zone. Target was presumed to be hostile. No survivors, no friendly casualties. Mullet out."

Doherty swore bitterly, and keyed her radio. "Mullet! If you fire without orders again, I'm going to ki-"

"Shut up, Lieutenant," the chief interrupted, disgusted. "If there are any other Zeek bastards out here, they might pick up the radio transmissions."

The shock of needing to be reminded of such elementary truths of combat jarred Doherty into pensive silence.

An uneventful hour later, a message came in from Swiftsure asking for one of the mobile suits to return to ship to be refueled.

"Hampton, you return to base," Doherty commanded. "When you have been resupplied either the chief or I shall go back. It looks like the Skipper wants to keep at least two of us out here as long as possible, so we'll probably be on a constant rotation from now on."

"Yes, ma'am," Giles Hampton replied. "Returning to Swiftsure. Watch yourself, Lieutenant."

It took a few minutes for Doherty to realize that he might not have been referring solely to danger from Zeon mobile suits.

---------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
02:12 Hours


Doherty tried to stifle a yawn as she floated into Swiftsure's bridge; the three mobile suit pilots had been flying two out of three hours since the ship arrived on it's patrol station, and she had started feeling the effects of fatigue several hours before. She found herself envying the crewmembers still on the ship; everyone save Cavour's mechanics was on watch-and-watch, four hours on duty and four hours off.

The Skipper, however, was not allowing himself that luxury, and Doherty knew it would be useless to ask for the pilots to be given a period of rest. As long as he was working, Makarov rarely saw a reason other people couldn't continue to perform.

Swiftsure's mobile suit commander floated towards the command chair, latching the magnetized soles of her normal suit's boots to the deck on one side of the chair.

"You wanted to see me, sir?" Doherty asked tiredly.

Makarov looked up from the readout he had been studying and looked his senior mobile suit pilot over, taking in such details as the strain in her voice, the traces of red which were starting to appear in the whites of her eyes, and the dirty, crumpled look of her outfit.

"Yes, Lieutenant, I did," the Commander replied, his voice sounding very normal, but somewhat distant to Doherty's tired brain. "I've a few things to discuss with you. First, I want to congratulate you on the job your team has been doing."

Doherty merely nodded acknowledgement at this compliment as she was too exhausted for anything more polite.

"Second, I wanted to let you know that I've requested reinforcements from Konpeitoh, and I expect them to arrive in less than four hours. So if your pilots can hold out that much longer, I'll be able to bring all of you in for a few hours rest."

"That would be . . . most appreciated, sir," the pilot managed to say.

Swiftsure's commanding officer smiled, a gesture that only served to enhance the less visually stimulating aspects of his face. "I'm sure it would, Lieutenant. I also wanted to let you know that Ensign Hampton and Chief Mullet sighted a Musai-class cruiser a few minutes ago, and we are moving in to intercept and destroy it."

"Sir?" the young woman asked, somewhat confused. "A Musai out here?"

"Indeed, Lieutenant. Sergeant-Major Cavour is prepping your mobile suit as we speak. I anticipate entering firing range of the cruiser in less than thirty minutes."

Adrenaline began to flood Doherty's system, helping to negate the mental slowdown her fatigue had caused. "I assume Mullet isn't mistaking an old wreck from the war for an active ship, sir?"

"No, Lieutenant, he is not," Makarov replied calmly. "This particular Musai, though hiding in the battle debris from the war, is unmistakably moving under its own power. It's also got a trio of Gattle fighters and a Jicco assault boat as escorts."

"I see, sir. Is there any information about how many mobile suits it is carrying, sir?"

Makarov shook his head. "Nope, there's not, Lieutenant. Figure that any mobile suits it's carrying are waiting safely in the hangar until needed."

"Very well, Commander. I'll make my plans under the assumption that it carries a full compliment, sir," Doherty said determinedly.

The older officer nodded.

Doherty came to attention, saluted, and left the bridge, trying to decide if she should plan on fighting Rick Doms or Zakus.

---------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
02:39 Hours


Doherty watched as the Musai and its attending small craft floated past the lifeless remains of a '79 Salamis-class cruiser, admiring the skill the various helmsmen and astrogators obviously possessed; she had been watching the small squadron for several minutes, and had yet to see the telltale flicker of engines being fired.

However, in another couple minutes the Zeon warships would enter the range of Swiftsure's main armament. The Federation ship was just ahead of the Zeon craft, and Doherty hoped that the Musai's spotters would mistake it for another victim of the war.

Hampton and Mullet's GMs, as well as her own, were perched behind debris from the old 2nd Combined Fleet's final assault upon the asteroid now known as Konpeitoh, letting only the heads of their machines look at the enemy.

"Almost there," Doherty said to herself within her cockpit. "Just a litt-Damn!" she yelled as one of the Gattle fighters ignited its engines and zoomed ahead of the other ships. She queried her mobile suit's computer for the projected course of the obsolete fighter and swore as it confirmed what her brain already suspected; the frail little craft was moving to take a closer look at Swiftsure.

Doherty toggled her radio, inhaled . . . and stopped, surprised when she noticed something move from the corner of her eye. It was Mullet's mobile suit, launching itself away from the bits of metal cover it had been behind, moving directly towards the hostile warships.

"Damn you, Mullet," she roared into her radio pickup even as she ordered her own mobile suit to approach the Zeon machines. "Can't you wait for orders at least once?" She didn't bother waiting for a reply, going on to shout for Hampton to break cover and follow them.

The Zeon craft fired their own engines and began to spread out. The two fighters remaining to the squadron and the Jicco assault boat moved in front of the Musai, providing it some measure of protection against any attack from the Swiftsure. The third Gattle wildly launched its missiles at the Federal cruiser and exploded, hit by Lieutenant Turner's light weapons.

"All right, people," Doherty called over the radio after regaining her composure, "the plan remains unchanged; we're to distract the larger ships as much as possible so Swiftsure can hit them, and destroy any mobile suits that Musai carries. But if you get a shot at one of those Gattles, feel free to kill it."

In front of her GM, Mullet's machine aimed its beam rifle and fired a single pinkish-white mega particle blast. Doherty glanced at the line of mega particles and was astonished to see them connect with the Jicco, hitting one of the large spherical fuel tanks. The resulting explosive decompression spun the small warship off course in a series of large spirals.

"Is it okay to shoot the bigger fish, too?" Mullet inquired.

"Wha . . ? No! Concentrate on the--"

"Mobile suits launching!" Hampton interjected. "I count two, no, three!"

"I see them, Giles," Doherty responded, trying to remain calm as more adrenalin coursed through her veins. "All Zakus," she said, her voice exhibiting just a touch of relief, “they shouldn't cause us too much trouble."

"Fourth mobile suit launching from the KoMusai," Mullet calmly reported. "I can't quite make it--" His voice suddenly died. There was a pause. "SHIP KILLER!" he bellowed just when Doherty was going to ask him for more information. "Swiftsure, one of these mobile suits is a cannon-toting bastard from A Baoa Qu!"

Doherty tried to locate the mobile suit in question, but couldn't see anything but the plume of its exhaust with her standard GM's sensors. "What is it, Mullet? I don't know what you mean."

"It's one of those Kelgoos, the last suit the Zeeks deployed in large numbers," Mullet said while changing his mobile suit's course to intercept the new arrival. "Only this one is nastier than most because it packs an anti-ship cannon in addition to the standard rifle. The only time I went EV because of damage during the war was after encountering a dozen of those bastards before Star One; wiped out more than a dozen of our suits, and several ships, too. I was lucky, my suit was merely turned into scrap. There was only one other survivor from that group."

"Acknowledged, Mullet," the voice of Swiftsure's communications tech said over the radio. "We'd appreciate it if that machine doesn't get within firing range of us, Lieutenant Doherty."

"All right. Chief, you get that mobile suit. Giles and I will keep the Zakus and fighters from interfering."

"Roger, ma'am," Mullet replied, changing his mobile suit's course to intercept the advanced Zeon model, which was flying at the Federal cruiser as quickly as its thrusters would take it, easily outstripping the Zakus and other craft.

---------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
02:43 Hours


Makarov watched the tactical display and visuals as his mobile suits began engaging their targets, hoping that his face still remembered how to look calm in even the most stressful moments.

Mullet was first, as both his own mobile suit and that of his quarry outperformed those of the other pilots. The Zeon pilot apparently opened fire from extreme range, because Mullet's mobile suit suddenly began performing minor twists, turns, and jinks. The short Commander quietly exhaled a breath he barely remembered holding; apparently the advanced Zeon mobile suit wasn't equipped with the beam rifle other machines of its type had carried during the war. The chief held his own fire.

Probably concentrating solely on getting close without getting shot, Makarov thought with approval. "Don't you have a firing solution yet, Lieutenant?" he growled at the attractive woman manning the fire control console.

For a moment it looked as if she hadn't heard him. "Firing now, Skipper," Turner said at last, pressing a single button on her board. Five brilliant pink lines leapt from Swiftsure's forward turrets.

Makarov turned his attention to the telescopic view of his ship's second target of the day and watched as three of the mega particle beams penetrated the previously damaged Jicco-class assault boat. The ship quickly disappeared in the fireball common to a machine that has had its Minovsky reactor hit by mega particle weapons.

"Switch targets to the Musai, Lieutenant." Makarov ordered, returning his attention to the mobile suit conflict; he was confident of Turner's ability to out-shoot any Musai ever launched; he found himself wishing he had the same confidence in his mobile suit team.

-----------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
02:44 Hours


Hampton was drifting slightly away from Doherty's GM, hoping to divide the approaching Zeon forces. Even if all the enemy machines concentrated upon one GM, the other pilot would be able to attack without too much concern for enemy fire. At least, this had been Doherty's reasoning when she had ordered her wingman to get more distance between their machines. Now she wasn't sure if that had been a wise decision or not, as all three Zakus turned towards her, the two Gattle space fighters changing their vectors to close with Hampton's mobile suit.

Gritting her teeth, and quite conscious of the fact that what little combat experience she had was nearly four years in the past, under much more favorable circumstances, Doherty armed her weapons, grateful that she had sortied with both a 90mm sub-machinegun and an old Beam Spray Gun Sergeant-Major Cavour had mysteriously produced, and even more amazingly assured her would work with her GM Kai.

"I hate waiting," she said quietly as the distance between her and the Zeon mobile suits decreased. Making one last check of her monitors before devoting all her time to the enemy in front of her, she watched the small lights denoting Mullet and his quarry, and wondered why neither one appeared to be firing.

A beep sounded in her cockpit, and Doherty redirected her attention to the three Zakus bearing down upon her. All three appeared to have the powerful 90mm machinegun deployed by the Zeon forces near the end of the war. They were in a loose triangle formation and none of the enemy machines was significantly closer to her than any of the others.

Just before she entered firing range with her 90mm, flashes appeared on all three Zeon machines, and Doherty instinctively maneuvered her shield in front of her mobile suit, cursing herself for failing to remember that the enemy weapon had a longer effective range than her GM's less powerful 90mm.

Through the small rectangular vision aperture in her shield Swiftsure's mobile suit leader watched the three Zeon mobile suits stagger their firing so that at least two were always shooting while the third reloaded or fired its thrusters. It appeared that whoever was in charge of those mobile suits intended to have Doherty's GM pass through the center of the triangle, and thus be caught in a three-way crossfire which wouldn't run the risk of friendly fire.

Doherty had to change that.

Slowly she fired her verniers until her mobile suit was angled in a way which would give one Zaku a shot at little more than her machine's feet when it passed, while the other two Zeon mobile suits would be firing at opposite shoulders.

Just before they passed, all three Zakus stopped shooting, and that was when Doherty acted. She rolled her shield between her machine and one of the Zakus 'above' her GM's head while bringing the Beam Spray Gun in her right hand to bear upon the other machine, hoping that the narrow end-on profile she presented to the Zaku at her feet would protect her for a few moments. She fired three shots from the BSG, two of which impaled her surprised target. The second and third Zakus fired, but one could hit only her shield and the other could not lock upon the small cross section Doherty's GM presented from that angle.

The distance increased once again between the mobile suits, but Doherty, hiding again behind her doughty shield, fired her thrusters in an attempt to reverse her course and come upon the two remaining Zakus from behind.

Once again she had a little time in which to survey the space around her, and the progress of the other units in her squad. Mullet's mobile suit was invisible; apparently he was no longer firing his thrusters. Hampton was just reaching his closest point of approach with the two Gattle fighters, and as Doherty watched one of them exploded.

Her shout of joy died before it escaped her lips as the second Gattle fired three missiles at Hampton's mobile suit; the first one missed, the second battered his shield out of position and the third one scored a direct hit upon the GM's torso.

---------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
02:48 Hours


"Firing now, sir!" Lieutenant Turner announced without looking at Makarov.

The Commander was caught by surprise; he had been concentrating upon the running duel between Mullet and the cannon-toting Zeon mobile suit as they moved ever closer to his ship. Glancing at the targeting screen, Makarov was grateful to learn that Turner was shooting at the enemy Musai. He grinned, a disturbing expression on his ugly face. Swiftsure's forward flank turrets had originally been built for a Magellan-class battleship, and therefore both outranged the weapons upon the Musai and packed a more powerful punch.

"A hit, sir," the petty officer at the observation station announced. "Two beams have holed the target's bow."

"Carry on," Makarov said, returning his view to the two closest mobile suits. "How close is that Gelgoog?" he asked, remembering the type's proper name, something he knew Mullet never bothered with.

"Nearly within its estimated firing range, Skipper," the operator whose job was to watch for enemy mobile suits replied. "Intel claims it won't be able to shoot for another minute or two."

"How long until we can shoot at it?"

There was a short pause. "Hundred eighty-seven seconds, sir."

Makarov only nodded in reply.

A few moments later, Mullet opened fire with his beam rifle, the pink-white beam easily visible against the stars.

"Firing main battery," Turner said again.

Makarov's eyes flickered to the targeting display again, but no hits were scored upon the Musai this salvo.

"Gelgoog is within estimated firing range. GM Interceptor still in pursuit," the operator noted, using the informal name for Mullet's Sniper Custom.

A yellow-white line, its origin invisible, intersected with Swiftsure's forward hull; one of the twin main gun turrets disappeared, obscured by a small fireball. Atmospheric gases rushed out from the hole in the cruiser's bow, slightly turning the ship until automatic counterbalance thrusters kicked into action.

"Get me a damage report," Makarov calmly ordered, not even bothering to take his eyes from his magnified display of the two advanced mobile suits coming closer to Swiftsure.

One of Mullet's beams struck the backpack on the Gelgoog, which immediately ejected the damaged apparatus, thus saving the pilot's life as the backpack exploded, but, Makarov knew, it also deprived the mobile suit of its main anti-ship weaponry, and a good deal of its thrust.

Makarov breathed a sigh of relief as reports came in from his damage control teams. The main mobile suit threat to his crew had been averted.

"Continue firing upon the Musai with the remaining twin turret, Lieutenant," Makarov said distantly, still watching the mobile suits. The Gelgoog had just turned 180 degrees and was now moving directly back towards Mullet's GM.

As he watched, the Interceptor's thrusters cut off, and Mullet's machine coasted towards the Zeon mobile suit. The Commander punched a question into his console, and the answer was displayed on a small screen built into his chair. They're on a collision course. This'll be decided with sabres. Mullet's making it easy for the Gelgoog, he's given his machine the same up-down orientation as the Zeon.

Practically on cue, a blue-white line extended itself from one of the Gelgoog's hands. The GM pointed its feet at the Gelgoog and fired its thrusters. Shortly before the two war machines collided a red-white line extended from Mullet's right hand, but it was held low and behind the GM while the Gelgoog had lifted its beam naginata above its head and slashed down, attempting to open the GM from shoulder to opposite hip.

The Interceptor raised the inverted shield upon its left arm in an instinctive, if foolish, block which should not have hindered the Gelgoog's beam weapon in the slightest. As the naginata sliced towards the GM, a red glow bathed the left shoulder and head of Mullet's mobile suit, and the descending Zeon weapon stopped just after encountering the shield.

Makarov smiled again, anticipating the end of the Zeon mobile suit as the beam sabre in Mullet's right hand thrust up, the point piercing the Gelgoog's skin directly upon the circular cockpit hatch.

Mullet's GM brought the right hand down, the blade having been extinguished before the hilt was removed from the Gelgoog, and kicked the derelict machine away.

"H-how did he do that?" one of the sensor techs asked, astonished.

"There's a beam sabre rack built into the left forearm," Makarov stated, "with the blade-forming aperture pointed away from the hand. Chief Mullet disabled the circuits preventing it from being activated while in the storage rack shortly after he received the machine, having just such a situation as this in mind. It's a useful gimmick, if a bit rough on shields."

-------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
02:49 Hours


Doherty cut off her thrusters to conserve fuel after gaining enough velocity to slowly close the distance between her and the remaining Zakus. She was more cautious about engaging them closely; the readouts on her GM having belatedly informed her that she had not, in fact, escaped her first brush unscathed. Three 90mm rounds had amputated one of her GM's feet; a fact the computer realized only when the thrusters mounted there failed to ignite.

She had seen the beam cannon shot which damaged Swiftsure but was too distant from Mullet's mobile suit to see the destruction of the Gelgoog; it didn't matter, she was too far away to help. Instead, she concentrated on locating the Gattle fighter that had killed Hampton; she had lost track of it when the damage lights flickered within her cockpit, informing her of her missing limb.

Eventually she discovered its location; it was heading directly for Swiftsure.

"Well," she told her cockpit, "the ship ought to be able to handle a single stray fighter; but I'd really like to kill that bastard myself!"

--------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
02:51 Hours


"Entering range of remaining main battery weapons now, Commander," Turner reported.

"Very well, Lieutenant. Helm, execute ninety-degree yaw to starboard. Turner, fire main battery at your discretion."

When Swiftsure completed the turn to show its broad side to the enemy cruiser in order to bring more of its main weapons to bear Lieutenant Turner fired, sending five new mega particle beams in search of the damaged Musai. Four found the target and turned it into a collection of derelict scrap, losing oxygen and without power.

"Nicely done, Kelly," Makarov said before burying himself in damage reports.

-------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
02:53 Hours


"Yes!" Doherty yelled when she saw the Zeon Musai get hit. "Good job, Lieutenant Turner!"

She was almost too busy celebrating to notice the two Zakus begin decelerating towards her.

"Oh ZOINKS!"

In the few moments she had before the two mobile suits entered effective firing range Doherty checked her weapons systems. The Beam Spray Gun still had most of its energy charge, and the 90mm machinegun in her left hand had a full magazine. After that was finished, Doherty maneuvered her mobile suit to hide behind its shield again.

She winced as the Zakus' 90mm shells impacted her mobile suit's shield, and wondered how she would survive this encounter, since the enemy pilots would doubtless be expecting a maneuver similar to the one she had pulled before.

"Doherty, move your ass!" Mullet's voice roared over her communication systems.

Startled, the Lieutenant rolled and fired her thrusters, abruptly taking her out of the Zakus' lines of fire. As she was attempting to reorient herself upon the enemy mobile suits one of them was touched by a pink line and erupted into an enormous fireball.

Seizing the moment, Doherty pulled the targeting sight from behind her seat, aimed, and fired both hand weapons as well as her head vulcans at the remaining Zeon machine. It quickly succumbed to the blizzard of projectiles and stopped moving, but it wasn't until she exhausted the last of her ammunition that Doherty stopped firing.

"Not bad, Lieutenant," Mullet radioed, a hint of approval in his voice. "But you might want to think about moving more and hiding behind your shield less. The best way to keep from getting killed out here is to not get hit; hiding behind a shield only protects you from one direction; there are others."

Doherty barely heard him, and nothing he said registered in her mind. She was looking at the motionless Zaku, but not seeing it. "Ha-Hampton's dead," she forced herself to say. Then she broke down.

Mullet's mobile suit matched velocities with her GM, closed, and wrapped its arms around Doherty's mobile suit. "C'mon, Lieutenant, time for us to go back to the ship."

---------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
03:27 Hours


Makarov looked up when Chief Mullet floated into the bridge. "Where's Doherty?"

"Cavour had someone put her to bed, she was at the end of her endurance. This wasn't quite the same as the other skirmishes she fought."

The Commander nodded in understanding. "Get some rest, yourself, Chief. Cavour's preliminary estimate says he'll need at least four hours to effect repairs. I've sent in contact reports and a request for reinforcements to Squadron and Fleet, so as long as none of our dear flags gets a stick up their ass we'll have some help soon."

Mullet raised an eyebrow. "You really believe that?"

A snort provided the answer.

"S'what I thought. We ain't had an admiral with an ounce of brains since Tianem got toasted, and there are limits to what Keram is allowed to do."

"Get out of here and get some rest, Chief," Makarov said, trying to stifle a yawn. "There isn't much else for you to do at the moment."

"Sure thing, Skipper," Mullet replied before coiling to launch himself towards the exit.

"Chief?"

Mullet paused, looking up. "Yes, Lieutenant?"

Turner smiled at him. "Thanks for taking care of that ship-killer; I'd have never gotten a clean lock on it."

He smiled back. "Any time, ma'am. I like the ship to stay in one piece as much as you do."

---------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
08:19 Hours


When Doherty woke up it took her a few moments to figure out where she was; it felt like fog had engulfed her mind, and a severe headache did not help. Wearily she unfastened the straps keeping her in her bed and began looking for something to wear. Eventually she floated crazily out of the pilot's closet in a pilot suit that she hadn't been able to seal properly, with the gloves and helmet trailing behind her.

It took her some time, and a lot of unplanned bumps with bulkheads, to arrive at the hangar. She attempted to move to her mobile suit, but misjudged the jump and ended up floating aimlessly across the room. One of the mechanics caught her before she smacked into anything.

"Th-thank you," she mumbled to the crewman.

"ZOINKS, ma'am, what are you doing here?" The young mechanic flagged down Sergeant-Major Cavour and handed the lieutenant over to him.

"C'mon, Lieutenant, this isn't the place for you," the head mechanic said softly as he pulled Doherty out of the hangar. "You weren't supposed to be up for another couple hours."

"St-status?" she mumbled.

"Don't you worry about that, ma'am, everything's just fine. The Chief is out patrolling again and I'll have your machine fixed up within the next couple hours."

"Hampton?"

Cavour didn't answer at first, causing Doherty to ask again.

"He's dead, ma'am; there's nothing you can do for him now."

The mechanic pulled the dazed mobile suit pilot into the wardroom, where he found Lieutenant Turner and one of her assistant gunners going over data from the engagement.

"'S'cuse me, 'Tenant Turner," Cavour began, "but could you look after Miss Doherty, here?"

Kelly Turner looked up from her work. "Why, certainly, Sergeant Major."

"Thank you, ma'am," he said as he strapped Doherty into one of the seats. "I found her wandering around the hangar, but she's not even supposed to be awake yet. Still isn't, really. Only partly awake."

"We'll watch her," Turner said graciously, “you're doubtless needed back in the hangar. Thank you for taking care of her."

"Indeed, ma'am; it was no trouble; he'd kick my ass if she got hurt in the hangar."

Doherty stayed where Cavour left her; she was too weak from fatigue to even try to free herself for now.

Turner went to her side carrying a drink, sticking the straw end into the other Lieutenant's mouth.

"Drink up, Lieutenant; it's coffee, it'll help you wake up," she gently said, looking the younger officer over. "You're a mess," Turner sighed, "I hope you know that. Here, I'll at least make you look somewhat presentable," she said, letting the drink float around Doherty's head as she straightened the pilot's outfit. When everything was sealed properly and in the correct place Turner maneuvered herself into a chair beside Doherty's.

"Ma'am?" the other officer in the wardroom asked.

"Hmm? Oh, go get some rest, Lee, we can go over the rest of that stuff later," Turner said, her composure momentarily cracking, revealing her own enervation.

"As ordered, ma'am," the man said before he left.

Eventually the caffeine from the coffee got into Doherty's system and her mind began to clear. She spent a few minutes figuring out where she was this time, and wondering what day it was. Slowly memories of the previous day returned to her. She was on Swiftsure, they'd had a battle, and one of her subordinates was gone.

Doherty looked around, finally noticing a dozing Turner in the next seat. The pilot freed herself from her chair's restraints and moved to the food dispensers along one of the walls.

"Oh, I see you're awake now," Turner said groggily from behind her.

"I think so," Doherty replied tiredly, "but I wish I wasn't. I've one hell of a headache."

"Stop by the dispensary; I'm sure the corpsman can give you something for that."

"I hope so," Doherty replied. "Do you know our current status?"

Turner yawned. "Last I heard the damage was under control, we'd asked for reinforcements, and both suits were under repair. But that's several hours old."

Doherty nodded. "Thank you, ma'am."

"My name's Kelly, you know," Turner said, stifling another yawn.

Doherty blinked. "Ah, yes, ma'am, I did know that."

Turner smiled through her weariness. "Oh? You don't use it. You should."

"I'll, ah, take that under advisement, ma'am," the pilot replied, somewhat flustered.

"You did well out there, Lieutenant."

"I lost one of my pilots, ma'am," Doherty said quietly.

"And I lost one of my turrets and several of my gunners," Turner replied seriously. "People die in a fight. It's not easy to deal with, and no one likes it. But that's what the job is all about. We risk our lives out here where the slightest mistake can kill us all so that all the silly fools back home can live their lives however they want. Sometimes we lose people, mobile suit pilots more often than anyone else. We went through six pilots during the last two weeks of the war."

"How did the team leader deal with that?"

The older officer looked away. "The first one went crazy, lost his cool in a fight and got killed." Turner looked back. "But the second one we had could accept the casualties, because the people died for a purpose. Just like Ensign Hampton and my gunners."

Doherty didn't say anything for a while. As she moved toward the exit she said, "Thank you, Kelly."

---------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
10:10 Hours


Makarov floated into the hangar, located Doherty near her newly repaired GM and went up to her.

"How are you, Lieutenant?" he asked.

Doherty turned around and saluted. "Fine, sir. I'm ready to begin my patrol."

In the few moments before he replied Makarov looked her over. "Excellent; Chief Mullet has been out for more than two hours; it's past time for him to refuel."

"I'll be relieving him shortly, sir."

"Are you certain you're up to this, Lieutenant? You haven't had much rest. Mullet can take your mobile suit out while his is being refueled."

"I've had more sleep than the chief has, sir," Doherty pointed out, somewhat heatedly. "I can handle a simple little patrol, sir, and the chief needs to take some time away from a cockpit."

Makarov shook his head. "Mullet is used to this, Doherty; you're not."

"I can do this, Commander," Doherty said stiffly. "I have to do this."

Swiftsure's commanding officer scowled. "Then get going, Lieutenant," he said. Then he launched himself across the hangar to the exit that would take him towards the bridge.

---------------------------
Last edited by Black Knight on Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Black Knight
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Post by Black Knight » Sat Nov 10, 2007 6:25 am

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
12:29 Hours


Doherty launched on her second patrol since her mobile suit had been repaired and began searching for Mullet's mobile suit. When she located it she set a course to rendezvous with his machine.

"Aren't you a bit out of position, Lieutenant," Mullet asked as soon as Doherty's machine touched his.

"Yes, I am, Chief," she said, pronouncing his rank with the same loathing with which Mullet routinely verbalized hers. "Might I inquire why you always act without orders?" Doherty asked sharply.

"Because I can," Mullet returned listlessly. "Because if I wait for orders, we'd all get killed. By the time you figure out what you're seeing, " he continued, as if explaining something to a child, "the enemy will see you. And then he'd have had a chance to fight back. But my mobile suit has better optics than your model, much less anything the Zeeks threw together during the war, and my rifle can shoot just as far." He sighed. "I may not like you, Lieutenant, but you're still a member of the Federal Forces, and I'm not about to let some Zeek bastard have a good day by killing you."

Doherty felt her jaw slacken. "What?"

"Oh, did I destroy the whole image you'd built of me as a person who simply hated officers because they're officers," he said sarcastically, "and I'm not? I'm terribly sorry, Lieutenant. But I happen to be a professional. I don't let personal feelings get in the way of my duty. Zeeks are a hell of a bigger threat than Earthnoids. The Federation only stifles spacenoids; the Zeons murder them like vermin." A warning tone sounded in his cockpit, and shortly afterward in Doherty's.

"ZOINKS," Mullet said, "look what your ZOINKS stupidity has done!"

As Doherty was coming out of the shock caused by Mullet's words, his customized mobile suit pushed off from her machine, breaking the radio contact. Looking at her monitors, Doherty discovered that a pair of Rick Doms had spotted them and were now less than two kilometers distant. Panic temporarily set in, and it was a moment before Doherty acted.

Even as the Lieutenant's GM hit its thrusters and readied its weapons, Mullet fired his beam rifle, having taken aim at one of the approaching mobile suits while his superior paused.

Both Rick Doms dodged the beam and continued to charge in as quickly as their thrusters would push them. One was armed with a 120mm machinegun normally carried by Zakus, while the other had the more dangerous 90mm assault rifle which had begun to appear late in 0079.

"ZOINKS," Mullet observed over the radio.

"I'll distract them, Chief, you pick them off when they concentrate on me," Doherty ordered as she fired a few rounds from her own 90mm machinegun.

"You'll get your head handed to you that way!" Mullet snarled. But he launched his machine at an angle to the Lieutenant's, still approaching the Rick Doms but opening up room between his own mobile suit and Doherty's.

Both Rick Doms concentrated on Doherty's GM, perhaps expecting to destroy it quickly and easily, leaving both of them free to work on Mullet's more advanced and dangerous machine. Standard divide and conquer procedure.

As the two Zeon mobile suits closed with her, Doherty maneuvered her shield in front of her, and trailed the rest of the GM's frame behind it. Had she been fighting a single opponent who was content to stay directly in front of her, this would have provided her with excellent protection.

However, she was up against two enemies, and while the 120mm-armed Rick Dom obligingly fired directly into her shield the other mobile suit moved off at an angle to gain a vantage from which it could shoot behind Doherty's shield.

But the Rick Dom pilots were concentrating too hard on Doherty, forgetting the presense of Mullet and his long-range sniping weapon. The second Rick Dom only got off a few ranging shots with his MMP-80 before a single blast from the Interceptor's beam rifle vaporized its right arm and rifle.

Doherty, realizing at last that her method hadn't been the wisest, at least had the sense to bring up her 90mm weapon for a six-round burst at this second Rick Dom, destroying the left shoulder and mono-eye. Mullet finished it off with a rifle shot through the reactor, causing the mobile suit to explode in a violent fireball.

The first Rick Dom pilot, after seeing his partner's demise, realized that he would shortly be rejoining him in the afterworld, but also that he still had a chance to take Doherty with him due to the closing velocities of the two mobile suits. The machine reached back with its left hand to ready the heat saber, though it continued peppering Doherty's shield with 120mm rounds.

"Lieutenant, he's going to use his saber on you," Mullet warned, attempting to get a lock on the enemy mobile suit. "Damn it, I can't get a clean shot! Forget that gun, you'd be better off with a saber, ma'am."

Heedless of his advice, Doherty threw her GM's shield at the Rick Dom in a move of desperate distraction, and fired her thrusters to move below the enemy's line of fire. Rolling through half a somersault to point the GM's lower legs in the direction of the incoming fire, Doherty aimed her machinegun between her mobile suit's legs and emptied the magazine into the Rick Dom even as her opponent corrected his aim and sent a hail of 120mm shells at her.

Both machines hit, but while the Rick Dom's fire impacted only the legs of Doherty's mobile suit, her rounds stitched across the bulky torso of her enemy's machine, destroying both the rifle and the cockpit.

"Ballsy move," Mullet observed as the still form of the Rick Dom floated past Doherty's GM.

"Well, Chief," Doherty said, trying to keep her voice steady despite the fear only now starting to leave her body, "œI would have taken your advice, but I thought I'd stick to my guns. My saber-play is pretty bad."

"You've got a point, Lieutenant," he returned calmly, without his normal mocking tone. "But if you try to pull stunts like that too often you're going to wind up on the KIA list. Especially when up against those skirts. If they'd had the bazookas they typically employed during the war, you'd have been killed in two shots, maybe three, charging after them that way."

"Perhaps, Chief," Doherty said with a smile she didn't realize was there. "But as we plainly saw from the start, they didn't have bazookas. Only machineguns. And my tactics were perfectly sound for engaging an enemy equipped with automatic weapons."

Mullet paused to consider that. "For one enemy, maybe," he said skeptically. "But with two, you nearly got you ass whipped." He maneuvered his mobile suit around hers, surveying the damage. "From my angle, it looks like you took a pair of 90mm rounds and three to five 120mm ones."

"How can you tell the difference?" Doherty asked, surprised.

The Chief's snort was transmitted with perfect clarity by the radio. "From which side of your machine the hole is on, of course. The 90mm shells came in from behind you, relatively speaking, while the one-twenties hit from the front. Looks like you'll need a new right foot, or at least new thrusters down there, and the fuel tanks in both legs are exposed. Hey, look, one of those bastards even hit your beam saber!"

"Oh?" she asked with a frown Mullet could hear, but not see. "My diagnostics show it as completely functional."

"Yeah, that happens sometimes, if the whole assembly gets shot off," Mullet said. "Sar-Major Cavour's gonna be pissed as hell over what you did to your machine. 'Specially since he just fixed it up."

Doherty laughed, though without much mirth. "Well, at least I'm alive to be yelled at." She paused, reflecting. "What I did really was foolish, wasn't it?" she asked quietly. "I was lucky to come out of that alive."

"Yes, it was foolish, and yes, you were lucky," Mullet said seriously. Respectfully. "But you were also good. I don't know many pilots who could have pulled that roll 'n fire off as smoothly as you just did. And as for luck, it's often better to be lucky than good. That's how I survived my first few weeks and months as a pilot. Luck, " he said gravely, with a tinge of sadness, as he remembered, "and the dedication of others."

Lieutenant Doherty frowned, realizing that though she had been with Swiftsure nine months, she actually knew very little about her subordinate and his activities during the war, other than the bits and pieces which had made it into his file. "Chief," she started, "could--"

"Ma'am," Mullet interjected, "I think it's best we got back to our patrol pattern, don't you? Who knows when more of these Zeek bastards will show up? Though," he mused, [/I]"you should probably head back to the ship, so you can get those holes patched."[/I]

Doherty shook her head, forgetting that such non-verbal communication was useless when talking via the radio. "No, I've still got plenty of fuel; more than enough to finish my section of the patrol. I'm staying."

"I think that's a mistake, Lieutenant. Damned foolish."

"I can't leave you out here by yourself, Chief," she objected.

Mullet switched from the low-powered short-range radio to the long-range one used for talking to more distant allies. "Swiftsure, this is Mullet. The Lieutenant and I have discovered and destroyed a pair of cross-dressed suits. No enemy survivors, but the Lieutenant's machine has sustained light damage to both legs."

"I'm not going back," Doherty said vehemently before anyone aboard Swiftsure could reply, "there's no one to relieve me! It's too dangerous out here to leave the Chief alone."

"Stand by," the comm tech manning Swiftsure's radio said.

"Doherty," Makarov's voice called, "you are to return to the ship. Chief Mullet has been on sentry duty alone before."

She keyed her radio, ready to tell the Skipper exactly where he could stick his orders, but reconsidered. Pausing a moment, she eventually replied, though her voice still informed all listening exactly what she thought of Makarov's orders. "Very well, sir, I'm returning to ship." She paused again, then continued. "Sir, it appears my thrusters may have been damaged, too. I can't develop full power from them, which will delay my return."

It was a moment before Swiftsure answered, and, again, it was the Skipper on the radio. "Get back as soon as you can, Lieutenant," he said with a sigh. "We'll be expecting you."

"Yes, sir," Doherty said, still plainly unhappy with her orders.

"Thruster damage?" Mullet asked skeptically over the short-range radio.

"Yes, it's quite bad," Doherty returned regretfully. "It seems it'll take far longer for me to return to the ship than if my engines were at full capacity. Chief, shall we continue with the patrol for awhile?"

-----------------------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
13:21 Hours


"Isn't it ready yet, Cavour?" Doherty called at the Sergeant Major who oversaw the maintenance and repair work on her mobile suit team.

"Not quite," the short, wiry, dark-haired man yelled back. "We're still trying to figure out what's wrong with your thrusters."

"ZOINKS it, there's noth-" she started, cutting off when she realized that all of the mechanics were clustered around her mobile suit's legs, not the back-mounted thrusters, and that Sergeant-Major Cavour was grinning hugely at her.

"My, my, Lieutenant, you nearly gave yourself away there," Mullet put in from where he was hanging with his feet hooked through several of the 'overhead' pipes and electrical conduits. He had returned to the ship half an hour before, out of fuel. "Giacomo does have a bad habit of needling officers, but at least he's nice enough to officially look the other way at whatever it is you've done that's against The Book. But then, that's how he gets away with poking fun at pilots. I wonder if he likes to laugh at officers and so lets them skirt the rules so he has something to laugh at them about," the Chief mused, "or if he doesn't care about the rules, but figures that if you're breaking them and he's not telling, he might as well poke fun at you since there's not much you can do about it without getting yourself in trouble."

Doherty hoped that Mullet couldn't hear her teeth grinding, and that she didn't grind them to bits. "Chief," she said in a polite, though obviously forced, voice, "has anyone ever told you that sometimes you talk too much?"

The Lieutenant could feel Mullet's grin, even though she didn't look up at him.

"Only the Hunchback, ma'am," he replied, using the nickname Swiftsure's crew affectionately gave their Skipper because of his given name, his less-than-appetizing looks, and his brusque personality.

The two of them watched the mechanics in silence for a moment.

"Lieutenant," Mullet said slowly, "when we sortie, I'm going out fully loaded."

"Well, yeah," Doherty answered, a bit confused by the non sequitur. "We always launch with a full load."

"No, ma'am, I mean I'm taking every weapon I can cram onto my suit. Beam rifle, 90 mike-mike, beam spray gun, and a hyper bazooka." He looked down at his commander. "There's too much activity out there for this to be just long-range reconnaissance or patrolling. Something's going to happen. The only thing I can come up with is that this Dellesse bastard is going to attack Konpeitoh." He shook his head. "Sounds foolish, yeah, I know. Half the Fleet is here for Wyatt's beauty pageant, and if he comes at us he should get his ass kicked like an Assembly member at a 'Space for the Spacenoids' rally." He paused. "But if he comes after the Fleet here, it's because he thinks he can win, not to commit suicide. And Dellesse may be psycho, but that doesn't keep him from being a good fighter."

"Damn straight, Chief," Makarov's gruff voice said from behind the two pilots. "But it gets worse," he went on, even as Doherty tried unsuccessfully to about-face and salute, only to have inertia play its tricks on her. "You recall Delaz's broadcast last week? Squadron Intel just forwarded us a report that they've finally ID'd the guy who was with Delaz. Anavel Gato."

"A-anavel Gato?" Doherty stammered, shocked. "The N-night-m-mare of S-"

"Nightmare of Solomon, yes," Mullet said disparagingly. "He's bad news, I suppose," the Chief said judiciously, "but at least it's not Matsunaga or Ridden; I was never impressed by Gato's abilities. Matsunaga, on the other hand, nearly had my ass a time or two."

Doherty stared. "You fought Shin Matsunaga," she asked incredulously, "and lived?"

Mullet did his best to shrug. It wasn't easy, as he was upside-down in relation to those being shrugged-at. "Sure, I fought him. But I don't think I ever so much as scratched the paint on his machine. He, on the other hand, repeatedly dismembered my mobile suits. Decapitated me, too, once. 'Twas a nasty fight, as I recall."

"But you were in a Zaku the first time," Makarov pointed out.

"And he always was," Mullet shot back. "But that's all in the past. If we've got to go up against Gato, then we can expect a fight. With an ace like him, Dellesse will pull damn near every surviving Zeek in the Dirt Circle to fight for him."

"How many Zeons can be left, four years after the war?" Doherty asked.

"Mobile suits? Hundred-fifty to two-hundred wouldn't be surprising," Makarov announced. "And I'd expect Delaz to muster at least half that figure. For ships, oh, call it one or two Chivvays, same for the Zanzibar-class, with at least twenty to thirty Musais. Maybe 12 to 16 supply ships. But those are just totals for unaccounted Zeon warships. The real question is how many of them have signed on with Delaz and Gato."

"I'd bet on at least half," Mullet murmured. "And if Dellesse has Gato, he's likely managed to recruit a couple other unaccounted-for aces. Ridden, Chow, Hardenberg, and half-dozen others I could name were listed as MIA. Hell, I might even run into Matsunaga again."

"Not likely, Chief," Makarov said. "Delaz was a staunch supporter of Gihren Zabi, so he's likely to attract only the crazier, less moral, soldiers. Shin Matsunaga, however, was one of Dozle Zabi's henchmen."

"That would explain why the Marines showed up," the Chief said with an edge on his voice. "I hope they show up here."

The form of Sergeant-Major Cavour floated over to the group. He nodded a greeting to Makarov, and then turned his attention to Mullet. "Simon, your machine is ready, all weapons loaded and checked."

"Thanks, Giacomo," Mullet replied while unhooking his legs from the ceiling. "If you don't mind, ma'am," he said to Doherty, "I'm going to launch now, to get my machine out of the way."

"What?" she asked, clearly surprised. "Oh, of course," she said quickly, trying, unsuccessfully, to hide her shock at Mullet's sincere-sounding deference. "Sergeant-Major, how much longer do you think it'll be until my suit is ready?"

The mechanic chewed on his lip for a moment, looking off into space, then fixed his gaze upon the MS squad commander. "Not much more than fifteen minutes, Lieutenant. Ten to finish the legs, and then another five to get you whatever extra weapons you plan on carrying."

"What spares do we have?"

The short mechanic grinned. "Just about anything you want, 'cept one of those new 90mm Rifles the N-type uses. I've got half a dozen spare machineguns, three or four spray guns, a couple bazookas, two MMP-78s, and another pair of MMP-80s. I'd offer you the spare beam rifle," he said apologetically, "but your machine can't handle it."

"What's an MMP-80?" Doherty asked, frowning at the unfamiliar designation.

Cavour's grin grew larger. "The 90mm rifle the Zeeks started using in the last few months of the war, the nasty one."

Doherty stared, and had there been gravity, her jaw would have dropped. "How on Earth did you get those?" she asked incredulously.

"Not on Earth, but out here," Cavour said with a wink. "Mullet spent most of the war using captured equipment, and he never bothered breaking the habit of despoiling vanquished foes. So he brings me back whatever he can salvage from the enemy for our own use."

"And a good thing, too," Makarov put in wryly. "That was often a more dependable source of ammunition than our logistics train."

Doherty turned to where Mullet had been floating, to discover he had slipped away during the conversation. Right about then the buzzer warning that the hangar would be depressurizing sounded, and the Lieutenant turned to see Mullet's mobile suit preparing to leave the ship.

"I better be getting back to the bridge," Makarov commented. "Good luck, Lieutenant. You've done better than I thought possible thus far. Try not to blow it now."

The mobile suit pilot barely had time to salute him as he left. Cavour didn't bother.

"I'm not sure if I was just complimented or insulted," Doherty said while pulling on her helmet. Cavour, who was going through the same process, took the time to give a short laugh.

"Well, Lieutenant, when you decide that he complimented you, let me know. But I'd really like to know what weapons you want."

She considered that for a moment. "Give me another beam spray gun, and a pair of ninety millimeters."

"That all?" Cavour asked with some slight disapproval in his voice. "Well, you're the pilot." He looked back towards Doherty's GM. One of the other mechanics, noticing his gaze, flashed him an 'OK' sign. "Well, ma'am, your machine'll be ready shortly. I'll have a couple people bring out the weapons you requested."

"Thank you, Sergeant-Major." She readied herself to kick off in the direction of her mobile suit, but Cavour put a hand on her shoulder.

"And Lieutenant, don't stress too much about him. He's warming to you. Do well today," he said with a big grin, "and he'll probably start thinking of you as a worthwhile human being."

Doherty stared, taken aback. Before she could think clearly enough to reply, however, the mechanic with the Cheshire grin had launched himself towards the weapon-storage section of the hangar.

---------------------------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
EFS Swiftsure
13:44 Hours


"What the . . . sir, I've just spotted what looks like a green flare in the distance," one of the sensor technicians reported.

"A green flare?" Turner asked. "Isn't that-"

"Battle stations!" Makarov barked into the public address system, interrupting his gunnery officer. "All hands, prepare for mobile suit combat." He replaced the phone in its holder. "Communications! Send this message: 'Swiftsure to Flag. Have intercepted enemy communications. Attack imminent. Request reinforcements. Signature, Makarov.' I want it sent out five minutes ago." He turned towards the fire-control console. "Kelly, we're alone out here at the moment, and there will be mobile suits coming in shortly."

"How terribly normal," Lieutenant Turner replied with her warm smile. "Just like old times. I'll keep as many of them at bay as I can, Skipper."

Makarov nodded at her, knowing that despite her light attitude and skill some mobile suits would get through. They always did. He turned back to his command console, picked up his phone, and dialed the engineering section.

"Rick, we've got enemy suits incoming, but we don't know how many or what type. Have your damage-control parties prepared for business. I don't expect to run into anything more dangerous than a bazooka shell, but they might actually have some of those beam-toting suits, and I want you to be ready." He paused, listening. "Good, Rick."

Marshall-Tombrine came rushing onto the bridge, still adjusting his normal suit. "We're being attacked, sir?" he asked lamely.

"That's right, Commander. I want you to get down to the sub-bridge, in case we're killed up here."

"Th-that won't happen, w-will it, sir?" the exec asked, starting to panic at the mere thought.

Makarov glared at him. "For your sake, Commander, I hope not. Now get down there."

As Marshall-Tombrine was leaving, Makarov's orderly rushed in carrying the Skipper's normal suit, three stewards trailing behind with the suits of the remaining bridge crew. Makarov accepted his spacesuit, nodding his thanks to the man who had brought it. Unhooking himself from his chair's restraints, he proceeded to climb into the protective garment.

"DuQuesne, have you gotten that message off to the flagship yet?"

"Affirmative, sir," the communications tech said, struggling into his own normal suit. "I sent copies to Konpei and Fleet HQ, also."

"Good. Get me Doherty."

"Already on the line, sir."

Makarov paused in his frenzied dressing to pick up his phone again. "Lieutenant, I want you and the Chief to be extra careful; we just observed what seems to be a green flare in the distance."

"A green flare, sir?" Doherty asked over the radio. "I don't under-"

"So Dellesse is attacking," Mullet put in dryly. "Nice of him to warn us like that."

"I don't like it either, Chief. HQ's refusal to send us reinforcements will cost all of us if this ends up being a major attack."

"Sir! Incoming mobile suits!"

"What?" Makarov asked, surprised. "That's too soon, it should be at least half an hour before any of those enemy suits can get to us!"

"These machines aren't coming from the direction of the flare, sir."

"More irregulars, then," Mullet commented.

"We'll take care of them, sir," Doherty said. "And any other mobile suits which come out this way."

-----------------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
13:50 Hours


Doherty could see the enemies on her own sensors now: three new mobile suits, all of them Zakus.

"What do you suggest, Chief?"

"You're asking me, Lieutenant?"

"Yes, damn it, I am!" Doherty replied.

There was a pause, and then Mullet's voice came over the radio again. "I say we let them get close, so they have to worry about both us and Miss Turner. We can stay on the far side of the ship as if she's normal Salamis."

"Then we can surprise them once they're too close to get away. I like it, Chief," Doherty said. "I'll clear it with the Skipper."

"Don't bother," Makarov's voice said. "We can overhear your transmissions when you're this close to the ship. Plan approved."

The two mobile suit pilots positioned themselves behind their cruiser and waited. Nearly ten minutes later Swiftsure opened fire with its mega particle guns.

"How much longer do you think we should wait, Chief?" Doherty asked.

"About five seconds," Mullet replied.

"Fine with me."

Nearly simultaneously the two mobile suits came out from behind Swiftsure and accelerated towards the Zeon mobile suits. Doherty pulled the targeting screen to her face, locked onto the Zeon machine closest to her and emptied a magazine of 90mm shells at it. The Zaku never saw the attack coming and more than a dozen of the rounds hit it, blowing off one arm and doing considerable damage to the remainder of the mobile suit.

A fireball showed the status of Mullet's first target, and Doherty began looking for the third Zaku, but with no result.

"Mullet, do you see the third one?"

"Good work, Lieutenant," Makarov radioed. "Turner got the third with a long-range shot. Nothing they fired at us penetrated our armor."

Doherty sighed. "Good to know, sir. We'll go back out to our patrol stations."

"That won't be necessary, Lieutenant. We've begun picking up distress calls from several outlying defense positions. Hook onto the hull, we're moving out to do what we can to help."

"Aye, sir."

--------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
Restricted Zone
14:27 Hours


"Doherty, we've got mobile suits inbound, three more Zakus; launch now and watch your ass!" Makarov's voice said from Doherty's speakers.

Swiftsure's mobile suit leader disabled the magnets in her feet and tapped her thrusters to move away from the ship; Mullet was already moving at full thrust towards the new contacts.

"Lieutenant," Mullet's voice said, "we're going to have to slug this one out; two of these Zakus have bazookas. Hide 'n' seek won't cut it."

Doherty swore. "Okay, Chief. Why don't I go first to distract them, like with those skirts?"

"You got a death wish or something, Lieutenant? Remember what I said about your life expectancy hiding behind a shield when those in front of you have bazookas?"

"Oh, yes, that's right."

"All I can suggest, ma'am, is that you move around a lot. It's much harder to hit a moving target."

"Right." Doherty checked her equipment. Everything was ready.

In the corner of her eye Doherty saw Mullet's GM preparing to fire his beam rifle, but a split second before the pink beam left his weapon the three Zakus started evasive maneuvers, spoiling the Chief's aim.

"Damn! These fuckers aren't the half-trained amateurs we've fought before," Mullet snarled. "Watch your ass, Lieutenant, I won't be able to." His mobile suit's thrusters flared into life again, pushing his machine ahead of Doherty's.

One of the Zakus, the one without a bazooka, angled towards the GM Interceptor, the other two continuing their run at Swiftsure. Doherty changed course to intercept them, pulling down her targeting scope and raising her machinegun, cursing the designer who hadn't equipped her mobile suit with a long-range weapon.

She was dimly aware of a few more ineffective shots from Mullet's beam rifle, and then she was close enough to the Zakus to begin firing at them. She fired her first twenty rounds without getting a single hit, so adept were the Zaku pilots at evasive maneuvers. Then they were past her, and she had to reverse her thrust in a nearly impossible attempt to catch them before they hit the cruiser.

"Lieutenant!" Mullet yelled. "Nine o'clock!"

Doherty spun around and found Mullet's mobile suit coming at her with the third Zaku close behind and firing rapidly. She saw several flashes on Mullet's suit. Without bothering to use the targeting scope Doherty brought up her beam spray gun and fired. Her third and fourth shots connected, changing the Zaku from a dangerous enemy to an expanding ball of gas and plasma in the blink of an eye.

The Lieutenant turned back to the two Zeon machines that had already gotten by her before in time to see another fireball exhaust itself.

"Thanks for the help, ma'am. I got one, but my rifle's done for and that bastard was lucky enough to hit my 90mm sniper weapon, too." Mullet said angrily, his machine tossing the useless weapons away. "The last one's going to have a free shot at the ship."

Doherty watched, helpless, as the final Zaku effortlessly dodged the defensive fire put up by the cruiser and pump three rockets into the hull near the engines. Then she heard Mullet swear over the radio and suddenly flip his mobile suit, thrusters firing to decelerate his machine.

"Skirts incoming! Keep after that Zaku, Lieutenant, I'll slow these bastards down."

"What?" Doherty asked, checking her sensors. She couldn't see anything. "Mullet, what are you talking about?"

"Two skirts coming behind us, from the same place these Zakus appeared. I'll get 'em, ma'am, you keep that last suit from doing anything else to the ship."

Doherty watched Mullet recede in her rear scope. He had tossed away his hyper bazooka and was raising a 90mm machinegun in one hand with a spare magazine in the other.

As her subordinate's machine dwindled on her screen she saw several tracer rounds fly near his mobile suit while he attempted to keep from taking damage.

Then she, too, reoriented her mobile suit and fired her thrusters to decelerate. Finally, two Rick Doms appeared on her sensor screens, each with both a bazooka and the fearsome 90mm assault rifles deployed near the end of the '79 war. She watched, dumbfounded, as Mullet actually rammed one of them shield-first, grabbed the larger mobile suit, and spun to interpose the bulk of his enemy between his GM and the remaining Zeon mobile suit. That Rick Dom had raised its bazooka and fired twice, but Mullet's crazy maneuver grabbing the enemy machine caused the rockets to blow apart the other Zeon machine, spraying Mullet's machine with fragments in the process.

"Bastard!" Doherty yelled, firing her 90mm at the surviving Rick Dom, which easily dodged her wild shots, pointed the arm holding its assault rifle at her and put five shells into her GM's torso and repeatedly-damaged legs.

Doherty watched, helpless, as the Rick Dom continued its run on the Swiftsure. Slowly, carefully, it took aim and opened fire upon the cruiser. It's first round destroyed the remaining twin mega particle cannon turret, and the second took out the forward anti-MS weapons. As the Rick Dom flew past the ship it sprayed the midships anti-MS weapons, knocking them out, too. Then it was beyond the Swiftsure, but as Doherty watched the mobile suit began to slow, finally turning to a new vector that would bring it near her ship again.

The Rick Dom approached the cruiser more slowly this time, but dodged the weak defensive fire with ease. It fired two bazooka shells into the engines, completing the destruction begun by the Zaku earlier. Finally, as it swept by the bridge, the Rick Dom fired a fifth shell directly into the forward windows, peeling back the bridge tower's surfaces like the top of a sardine can.

The Rick Dom was just slowing down from its second pass on the beefed-up but beat-up Salamis when a vast sun-like light came into existence in the direction of Konpeitoh, like the explosion of a Minovsky Reactor when hit with a mega particle beam, but infinitely more powerful.

The single remaining Zaku aborted the run it was starting against Swiftsure, formed up on the wing of the Rick Dom and both Zeon mobile suits flew away.

"What . . . what just happened?" Doherty asked herself, rediscovering her voice.

When no answer came Doherty finally returned to her senses and began rechecking her mobile suits diagnostics. After several minutes of creative rewiring among the cockpit systems she managed to coax some power out of her thrusters and looked through the debris of what had until a few minutes before been a Zeon Rick Dom and Federation GM. She found the Interceptor Custom missing its head as well as part or all of both arms, but the torso was only superficially damaged. The cockpit door was open, and a figure was sitting upon the door, staring into space.

Doherty equalized her velocity with the derelict remains and opened her own cockpit just as Mullet arrived near her machine.

The Chief Reactor Technician pressed his helmet against that of his superior. His face was burning with anger. "Did you see that?" he said through the helmets. "Those bastards used a fucking nuke against the naval review! I'd kill every last one of them if my suit could move! And then I'd kill the rear-echelon perverts who decided to put a nuclear weapon on mobile suits again! They used our own nuke from our own mobile suit against us! Those ZOINKS!"

"C-calm down, Chief," Doherty said, frightened by the passion, rage, and disgust the normally controlled enlisted man was showing. "We've got other things to take care of first. What shape is your mobile suit in? Chief? Are you listening to me?" She shook Mullet a few times, or tried to; zero gravity made it difficult.

"My suit's out of it," he said at last. "Shock damage knocked out my computers, I couldn't get them restarted."

"All right, I'll tow you back to the ship."

"What ship? That last skirt made it past us, didn't it? It should have toasted Swiftsure and everyone aboard."

"The hull was still holding together the last time I saw it, Chief, though that Rick Dom did put half a dozen shells into it. There may be people still alive on board. We've got to check."

"Oh, all right," Mullet replied sullenly. "I'll be in what's left of my mobile suit if you need me.

--------------------------

10 November UC 0083
Konpeitoh, L5
A-3 Sector, Restricted Zone
15:02 Hours


As Doherty closed on her ship more and more details of its situation became clear. The two Zeon mobile suits had known their business; only two mega particle turrets looked intact, the armor plating over the engines was buckled, scorched, and penetrated; the bridge tower was completely missing.

After locking her mobile suit's feet against the hull and ensuring that her machine's grip on Mullet's GM would hold Doherty exited her cockpit, aiming for one of the airlocks built into the cruiser's hull. Mullet was already inside the confined space waiting for her.

Surprisingly the readouts showed a stable atmosphere on the other side of the interior door, and after shutting the outer hatch they cycled the lock, filling the tiny room with oxygen, and opening the inner door.

"Ah, you both survived," Cavour said while floating in the corridor beyond the door. "Good. Skipper's in the secondary bridge dealing with the damage. How are your machines?"

Doherty stared.

"Mine'll need a heavy overhaul, Giacomo," Mullet said, "œhers needs the legs fixed again. How's the ship?"

"Far as I know, she'll hold together. The way I heard it, when they saw that second suit get past you two the Hunchback evac'd the bridge and engineering spaces, so we didn't lose more'n a couple dozen to them rockets. We also shut down the engines, voided the ready fuel tanks and double-checked the inner compartmentalization. Engines 're are out, radios 'n' radars 're out, and observation reported a big freakin' nuclear explosion around the Naval Review, so I suppose the Fleet's out, too. Otherwise," Cavour finished with a grin, "we're fine."

"My God," was the best Doherty could manage.

"Take us to the Skipper, Giacomo."

"You got it, Simon," Cavour said, pushing off down the passageway. He led them through the ship on an indirect path to the secondary bridge, missing sections which had been damaged or depressurized in the attack.

Makarov looked up when the three of them entered. "There you are," he said gruffly. "I'm glad to see you two; this makes two less 'missing person' reports and 'request new personnel' statements I have to file."

"Nice to see you, too, Skipper," Mullet put in. "Glad I could ease your paperwork for a change."

"Chief, I want you and Giacomo to report to Lieutenant Rickover near the engineering section; he'll need all the trained help he can get repairing the engines and power systems."

"Sure thing, Skipper," Cavour replied. "Let's go show the new kids our awe-inspiring array of skills, Simon!" The two men floated out.

The Commander looked for a few moments at the leader of his mobile suit team. "Well, Lieutenant," he said at last, "what's your opinion of the Chief now? Still think he's got a problem with authority?"

"Sir? No, I . . . I wouldn't say that, sir," Doherty stammered. "He's a great pilot, sir, and never loses his head in a fight."

Makarov nodded. "I was going to have you transferred soon. Now it looks more like we'll all be sent off to new posts. I was wrong about you, Doherty; I didn't think you'd get past your preconceptions."

Doherty was stunned. "I . . ." She looked down. "I can't say that I blame you for wanting me transferred, sir. I'm sorry I couldn't protect the ship better."

"You did better than I expected, Lieutenant. A lot better," he emphasized. "œYour combat instincts are as good as I've ever seen, and unlike the Chief, you're not just a pilot, you're a leader. If, as I expect, this ship ends up getting sent to the scrap yard, I'm going recommend you for a company commander's post."

Doherty blinked, at a loss for words.

"First, however, we need to survive the next few hours. Internal comm lines are out, so I need you as a runner. Up for it?"

"Y-yes, sir!"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

NOTES:

If you're wondering how the Swiftsure is a Salamis-class in 0083 but still has mobile suits, it's because it's not a "0083 type Salamis", but rather a OYW 'Pocket Battleship' Salamis, designed by Zinegata and featured in his OYW epic "The Forgotten Fleet". It carries three MS, had boosted reactors and a pair of Magellan-style twin main guns on the bow in place of two of the single main guns normally carried by Salamis types.

All Zeon mobile suits save the last five encountered by the crew of EFS Swiftsure were not actually part of the Delaz Fleet, but Delaz-supporters who attacked Konpeitoh on their own before Gato's squadron made their diversionary attack. The Newtype 100% Collection states that roughly 40 MS (the same number Gato had for his diversion) made attacks in this manner; several of them can be seen engaging EFS Albion's mobile suit company in the early minutes of 0083's episode 7.

The Rick Dom pilot who single-handedly disabled Mullet and Doherty (and then delivered the knock-out punch to Swiftsure) is none other than Markus von Hardenberg, star of His Divine Shadow's In Course Reciprocal. HDS was one of my prime editors, and felt that Mullet's performance warranted the attention of one of the Fifteen. Poor Mullet, eh?

Redcomet was another major editor, and Mark Simmons, over several years, helped considerably with the background information I used to slip this Side Story into the events of Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory. I'm quite thankful for all their assistance.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like my Gundam 0085: Wargames
Last edited by Black Knight on Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ragormha
Creepy Bishonen
Posts: 209
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Post by Ragormha » Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:04 am

Wow, this is really good!
I hadn't thought for much, not to be offensive, but it very well written and well-paced.
"I don't CARE if the mechanaught can't handle it, I want Wings of Light, the few seconds it'd last and the pilot mortality would be worth it." -me, eXteel closed beta.

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