|Speed of Life
Author: Annwyd PM
In another world, Sergei and Holly Smirnov are left together, but apart. This is how they fight Celestial Being, and this is what they discover. AU.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Sergei - Words: 1,376 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 02-24-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6773472
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
People called them Papa Bear and Mama Bear, which was a cruel thing to do to a couple who had lost their only child. But the names were inevitable. Colonel Sergei Smirnov was a bear of a man, tall and broad and scarred. Those who had served under him spoke of the slow but unwavering way he commanded, as if he knew he was more powerful than those around him, and all it did was humble him. Lieutenant Colonel Holly Smirnov could hold her own with him, and she followed him unhesitatingly despite the silence that stretched between them. That was enough to earn her the right to the name as well, or would have been had the way they both fought not been worthy of the titles in its own right.
They always fought as a pair. Their mobile suits were one of a kind: the Tieren Smirnov Custom Koschei and the Tieren Smirnov Custom Firebird. Papa Bear's Koschei was the heaviest Tieren in existence and armed in every imaginable corner of its bulk with heavy artillery. It was a long- to medium-range mobile suit, and it relied on support from the front to clear its way. That came in the form of Mama Bear's Firebird: a slim and agile thing, less bulky than the average Tieren, almost streamlined. It was built with speed in mind and equipped with stronger melee capabilities than average to disable the enemy, but its real purpose was to catch its opponent off guard and clear the way for the Koschei's brutal onslaught. To do that, Holly fought like a mother bear protecting the cub she no longer had, swatting and tearing with heavy claws and no mercy until she could peel off abruptly and leave the distracted enemy easy prey for Sergei's heavy guns.
Some people whispered about how this always put Holly at more risk than Sergei. But it never seemed to matter to the two of them. They were soldiers. They had learned to pilot after their son was lost, and they did what suited their abilities best. It was that simple. And if Sergei fought as if he'd left his heart behind somewhere else, no one could fault him. It made him a better soldier. Whatever else it made him was up to Holly to tell, and she wasn't speaking. She was only fighting.
The Human Resource League did not have an ace. It had a king and a queen.
The third Gundam was the most maneuverable. It was not meant for close-range combat like the first, or long-range like the second; it was not slow and powerful like the fourth. It transformed, and it flew back and forth from melee to mid-range. Its pilot, too, was more flexible. He seemed to have mastered every technique, as if he had training and abilities above all normal human capacity.
From the start, it was the HRL's favorite target. The Koschei and the Firebird were uniquely suited to attacking it, with their gainful combination of decoy speed and strong fire. Where before others had been skeptical of them building their top pilots such a specialized pair of mobile suits, now the use was clear.
Papa Bear and Mama Bear went into battle regularly. It became known, in an infamous way, that they never said goodbye to each other before a battle. This was seen as brave or as confident, or sometimes as sad and foolish. Few people stopped to think that maybe they didn't say goodbye because ever since their son had disappeared, they rarely spoke much at all outside of combat.
Holly opened communications between the two Tieren Smirnov Customs. "Fifty seconds until I give you an opening," she said, and she struck at the Gundam. Before, it had always managed to evade the worst of the Koschei's attacks no matter how hard Holly fought to prepare for them. During the last battle, with a channel open, she had called to it in frustration, demanding to know who it was who could escape the Wild Bears of Russia. Sergei had reproved her for that later, in his steady but sharp tones. This time, though, the Gundam was slower. She might even be able to disable it so they could capture it without destroying it under the rain of the Koschei's guns.
"Acknowledged," Sergei said over the channel. Holly hesitated at the controls, instinctively waiting, even after all these years, to hear him say more. But he did not. She only paused at the old memory of a military family that was once as much family as military.
She stabbed out at the Gundam, and it just barely swooped to the side in time to avoid the blade. It was hesitating. She was not. She flew in closer again, and that was when one of the Gundam's hands clasped the shoulder of her Firebird and held her steady. That was unexpected, but she would take advantage of it. She drove a knife into the Gundam's shoulderblade with her mobile suit's free arm. She started to twist the blade. The Gundam shook, and it began to sag down to the ground, still clutching the Firebird.
"—Smirnov." The pilot had opened a channel to her this time. "Is your name Holly Smirnov?"
It was a young man's voice. She froze at the sound of it.
Sergei warmed up the Koschei's guns to take down the Gundam. Thirty seconds now, if Holly had been accurate, and she always was. Except something had gone wrong. The Gundam had hold of the Firebird, and it was falling. Holly was making no effort to get free. Was this it, then? Was this where he lost her the way he had lost Andrei? He wanted her to at least go down fighting. That was who she was.
But there was a voice now coming over the channel, Holly's voice, distorted and barely audible. "Sergei—it's—don't—" She didn't sound like she usually did, cool and calm. There was real emotion in her voice, and something hurt in him at the sound of it. It had been so long, though, that he couldn't tell what emotion it was.
He watched as the Gundam and the Firebird brushed the tops of the waves, then sank hard into the sand of the island they'd fallen to. He didn't know if he should go to rescue Holly, or simply alert his superiors that the Gundam was down and they had an opportunity to capture it. He wondered what Holly would want. She would want him to do his duty as a soldier. It was all they both had left. Not even each other anymore. Just that: their duty as soldiers.
But he thought then of her fractured voice in his ears just now. She had been trying to tell him something. How long had she been trying to tell him things, and how long had it been since he'd listened? He didn't contact his superiors. Instead, Sergei guided the Koschei to a landing on the sand, and he climbed out of the cockpit.
Holly was already out of her mobile suit, bruised and a little bloodied around the face but otherwise unharmed. She was staring at the Gundam as its cockpit opened. She hadn't even drawn her gun. He would admonish her for that later.
A young man, barely more than a child, climbed out of the Gundam. He stared back at Holly. "It is you! I still remember, Mother. I still remember."
"What's happening?" Sergei called. He wasn't sure whether things were happening very fast now, or whether they'd been happening very slowly for a long time and had only now returned to the speed of life.
There was recognition in Holly's eyes, and an old spark. "Andrei," she said. "Andrei, how did you get here?"
Sergei stopped cold and stared at the unfamiliar boy now scrambling across the Gundam to reach Holly. "Andrei?" he said. He didn't recognize him. "What have they made you into?"