Gundam 0079: Desert Flash

XXXXX

Everyone had heard about Zeon's triumphant conquests of the Earth Sphere. Operation British, the effortless raid on Side 7, the conquest of most of Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as the majority of North America. But the nitty gritty details didn't seem to make it all the way back to Zeon itself. They never talked about Mexico. Or rather, when they did talk about Mexico they had a tendency to simplify it. They talked about how the Earth Federation had lost almost all of it, how Zeon was only a day's march away from Mexico City. They didn't talk about the bloody stalemate it had become.

Dalton felt his fingers twitch. Even on the inside of a Zaku he didn't feel safe in this arid wasteland. A mere month ago, the Federation had started deploying their own mobile suits. Zeon had lost their monopoly on it. Of course, these GMs, or Balls, or whatever they were called seemed a little quaint. The Federation had finally gotten a model out, while Zeon had already deployed the Gouf and Dom. Still, it had caused an overall shift in the approach to battle.

Before, the Federation had been force to rely on antiquated means of combat. Combat that had done little to catch up with modern technology. With the combination of mobile suits and Minovsky Particles, Zeon had had the key to victory over vastly superior numbers. They had steamrolled through Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as most of North America and Northern Africa. Lone men like Char Aznable could devastate entire flotillas by themselves with the advantage mobile suits gave them.

Now though? Their battles weren't the overwhelming, easy victories that they had once been. Ever since the GMs had entered the battle, Zeon's victories had become much more costly, and never guaranteed. Over the past month they had been gaining ground in Mexico, but it had become a slow crawl. Before they could take dozens if not hundreds of kilometers in a day. Now they were lucky to get a few meters.

He sighed as he adjusted his Zaku's sensors, giving the area a good sweep. He hadn't been expecting this. Although, truth be told, he wasn't certain what he had been expecting. He had joined the armed forces of Zeon practically as a joke. As something to kill time between high-school and college. With the way the war had been going, he had expected it to be over before his training would even be completed. The few half baked thoughts that he did have about his service involved sitting in the safety of a Zaku while making sure the people of the former Federation didn't try anything.

Instead, he was on the front lines, as part of a five man unit, patrolling the outer perimeter of the forward base. He was at the back of a straight line formation, two Zakus at the front, two at the back. The suit in the middle was a Gouf, piloted by his CO, Lieutenant Jayedn. She was nice enough, but something about her put Dalton on edge. No, that wasn't fair, it wasn't her. It was her mobile suit.

He swiveled the view on his Zaku as far to the right as it would go. He and his unit were slowly moving through a very rocky, very arid area. The blinking lights of Mexico City were visible just over the horizon in the fading light of late afternoon. And in that direction was the burnt out husks of a couple dozen mobile suits. Some of them were still smoldering. The results of the last failed offensive. Two thirds of them were GMs, their white and red armor turned to smoldering black, a grand total of twenty-four. The rest were Goufs and Doms, who had apparently gone down fighting superior numbers. Unlike the rest of the war, however, these suits had not lived to tell about it. They had shown one thing, Zeon had technologically superior mobile suits.

So why weren't they getting more of them? Dalton had seen at least fifty more mobile suits being delivered to the main base for another offensive on Mexico city. Every last one of them had been a Zaku, each the same ugly green color as the last, all of them armed with M-120A1 120mm machine guns. The mobile suits and weapons that were already being rendered obsolete by Zeon's own design, and even the Federation's design to some extent.

Dalton could vaguely remember there being more advanced suits when he had first arrived here. There had been entire squads of Goufs that were patrolling the base then. But the days had trickled by, battles had come and gone, and they had all seemingly vanished. "No," he whispered to himself. "That's not true. They didn't just vanish. They're out here in the desert. Rusting in the sun."

"You say something Corporal?" Dalton jumped at the sound of Lt. Jayedn's voice. He had completely forgotten that they were maintaining open communications for this patrol.

"Sorry ma'am," he said hastily. "Just thinking out loud."

Although he couldn't see her face, he could tell she was frowning in disapproval. "Well, keep it quiet. Don't clutter up the communication lines." Dalton couldn't claim to know the Lieutenant very well. After all, he had only been assigned under her command a week ago. His last CO had been killed in a Federation counter-attack. The Feddies had been beaten back, but not before a beam saber had cleaved his Gouf, and him, in half.

He wondered why they were bothering to fight on this front. The main bulk of the invasion force was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Did Mexico City really have enough resources to bother spending this much time and blood taking it? No, that wasn't it, they had already captured the most vital parts of North America. They were taking Mexico to get to Central America, and then South America. They were trying to secure a land route to the Federation's main HQ. Jaburo.

He took another look at Mexico City. Somewhere on the other side of that was the heart of the Federation. The key to ending this war. And they couldn't even get to the right continent.

"Hey, Dalton. You there?" Dalton hissed in annoyance as another voice filled his cockpit, breaking his train of thought. "Come on, I know you're listening. You were muttering over the main line. Come on, quit playing the silent game. Two knocks means you're there."

Reaching above him, Dalton hastily spun a dial that would reduce the sensitivity of the microphone for the main line. It wouldn't affect his conversation here, as it was a private, suit to suit line. "Now is a really bad time Rence. It's one thing when we chat back at base, but these private lines are gonna get us both thrown in the brig. I mean seriously, when we're on patrol? Are you out of your mind? I'm shutting you off, tune back into the main line and don't call me until we're back to base."

True to his word, Dalton reached to shut off Rence's private communication. "Dalton, this is important. It's about a major battle going on in orbit. Apparently the Feddies are making a move for Solomon." Dalton hesitated. Solomon? He had heard rumors that the main offensive in Asia was collapsing. It was to be expected with the death of Garma Zabi, but had it deteriorated that much? To the point where the Federation was able to go on the offensive?

"You're lying," Dalton whispered. Disbelief weighed heavily on him. Things couldn't be getting that bad, someone would've noticed, would've told him. Then, uncomfortably, he began to think of the lack of quality mobile suits that they had been receiving. Was that why? Was Zeon on the retreat, and they had to scrounge what military hardware they could? It made a cruel kind of sense. It explained why they were getting so little support, despite aiming directly for the heart of the Federation.

"Dude, would I freaking lie about something like that?" Rence asked, sounding offended. For Rence, that was a first. "I overheard one of the generals talking about it. But he sounded excited. Apparently there's something waiting for the Feddies at Solomon. Something that's going to turn the war around. They're just waiting for the Feddies to throw all of their forces at the station. That way we can wipe out the tip of their spear in one fell swoop. Hell, I hear Char is involved with this somehow. Maybe." Rence sounded less certain now. "One of the generals called bullshit on that one, so I'm not sure."

"The Red Comet," Dalton muttered to himself. If anyone could crush the Federation, it was Char. But as good of a pilot as he was, he was only one man. Where did they go from here if Solomon fell?

"Will you two cut it out?" a third voice said over the communications in a soft but vicious hiss. "The LT will chew you out if you don't keep it down."

"I love you too Arien," Rence said, a mocking but playful tone to his voice. "I won't tell Dalton important things about the state of the war if it'll keep you happy. I-"

"Arien, I'm so sorry," Dalton blurted out. "Rence said something about the Red Comet being reassigned to Solomon and I got caught up in listening. You're right, I'm cutting this communication right now."

Arien gave a sigh. "Well, I'm glad to see that one of you two has their head screwed on straight. Dalton, you really shouldn't listen to Rence if you can help it. You're a good kid, and he'll be the type of person who'll lead you down a bad path."

"Hey!" Rence shouted, sounding annoyed. "Lady! I take offense to that!"

Arien snorted. "Let me remedy that. You'll take him down a stupid path. I still haven't forgotten how you tried to buy him a prostitute back in San Luis Potosí. Trying to make him a father before he's even twenty? The hell is wrong with you? At the very least, get him a condom the next time you do that! Better yet, don't do it at all!"

"Oh come on, I'm just trying to help the kid live a little. He's never even kissed a woman, let alone touched one. If he's killing people for the safety of Zeon, he's earned that much. A hundred or two Pesos isn't that high of a price to pay for something like that. This is-"

"I'm cutting this line right now," Dalton said. "This is getting out of hand. Arien, I'm sorry for bothering you…and I was never going to go through with it! I was just humoring Rence." Rence let out a roar of laughter as Dalton killed the private communication channel, turning his attention back to the surrounding area.

The second he did, he wished that he could have continued to talk with Rence and Arien. Without their voices to distract him, his attention was turned back to the mobile suit graveyard. Had all of them been destroyed in a single battle? Or was it the accumulation of multiple clashes between two armies. Some of them certainly did look rustier than others. Heck, a couple of the GMs looked like they didn't a patch of rust on them at all. Now that he really looked, some of them looked utterly undamaged.

He stopped, his full attention turning to the battlefield. Sure enough, some of the GMs looked utterly untouched, to the point were they looked factory fresh. "Dalton, what's the problem?" Jayedn asked. "Why aren't you-" before she could finish her sentence, there was an explosion from the very front of the formation. Dalton's Zaku was buffeted, even from this distance, and forced to one knee. Attempting to recover, he saw three of the GMs that had apparently been destroyed getting to their feet, their pure white armor flashing in the setting sun. Their new and advanced beam rifles in hands, bright pink streams of light arcing through the air as they fired.

"They were playing dead!" Dalton roared, bringing his rifle to bear and returning fire at the GMs. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the forward most Zaku in their formation had been blasted to pieces. Only a few, smoking pieces of it were left, scattered around a gaping, cracked hole in the ground. It looked like the suit's reactor had gone critical, most likely from multiple beam rifles hitting it at the same time. Dalton had had no idea what the name of the person in the front Zaku had been. They had only just met today. He was a scrawny fellow, with a rather gaunt face and a thin beard who had always looked a little dead on his feet. And just like that, he was gone.

Forcing his attention back to the ambush force, he continued to open fire. With a jolt, he spotted the rapidly decreasing ammo counter on the right hand side of his display. Swearing under his breath, he flipped a switch at the very bottom of his cockpit. Just above his ammo counter, a bright green AUTO flickered off, replaced by the word SINGLE. Taking careful aim, he fired a trio of shots at the nearest GM. However, by this point, the GMs had taken cover behind many of the destroyed mobile suits, the mechanical corpses soaking up the bullets.

Dalton swore under his breath. Beam rifles would've been able to punch through the fallen suits with no problem. They would've only taken a couple of shots before they became worthless as cover. His rifle was officially out of date. At the beginning of the war, it would've devastated everything the Federation could've thrown at him, but now that just wasn't the case anymore. "Everyone, take over!" Jayedn barked. As she did, her Gouf did the opposite, charging forward. Uncoiling with a powerful flourish, her Heat Coil flew forward and tightened around the neck of one of the GMs. A powerful surge coursed through it, causing the head to violently explode, taking off a good portion of the GM's upper body.

The damaged GM staggered about, its beam rifle firing randomly about, blasting several of the downed suits and nearly hitting its allies more than a few times. The two unharmed suits continued to fire, one aiming directly at Jayedn's Gouf, while the other aimed at her retracting heat coil. Bringing her shield up, she managed to block a couple of the shots that had been aiming directly at her suit's head. However, as she was busy doing that, one of the GMs' beams tore through her Heat Coil. The heavy, metal coil flopped to the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust, now utterly useless.

Jayedn's Gouf bent its legs mid stride before making an impressive jump, Jayedn roaring over the communication lines as she did. Clearing the enemy fire and their makeshift cover, she aimed downward and fired at the damaged GM with the machine-guns embedded in her suit's fingers. Piercing the GM's weakened armor, the bullets shredded the inner mechanisms of the suit. Weakly stumbling forward, it collapsed to the ground, not moving.

The remaining two Federation suits aimed upward at the airborne Gouf, but it was too late for them to do anything. Grabbing the heat sword that was sheathed in her shield, Jayedn began to descend. Her sword blazed brightly at a temperature several thousand degrees Celsius, the Lieutenant thrusting downward as she fell, aiming directly at one of the GMs.

There was a deafening sound of groaning metal, as well as the high pitched shriek as Jayedn's sword was buried up to the hilt in the chest of the GM. If Dalton had to guess, it had directly pierced the cockpit. The GM had desperately been reaching for its beam saber, but now limply slumped against the Zaku it had been taking cover behind.

"Hell yeah!" Rence roared over the radio. "Two for two! Jayedn, frag that last son of a bitch and let's go home!" Dalton couldn't tell if their XO was listening to Rence or not, but she certainly was thinking along the same lines as him. She charged directly at the last Federation suit, drawing her sword out from her previous victim at the same time.

The GM frantically backed up, blasting away at the advancing Gouf with increasing rapidness. Jayedn zig-zagged as she advanced, making herself a harder target, keeping her shield up all the way. One lucky shot managed to find its mark, Jayedn's shield just barely taking it. Already weakened from previous assaults, the shield crumpled, shriveled and smoking. It didn't matter though, Jayedn was right on top of her prey, her sword now held in both hands. It scrapped the ground, dislodging car sized rocks as she went, ready to swing up at any second. Dalton watched with excitement and waited. Waited for the blow that would bring this skirmish to an end.

Jayedn was about to bring her sword up when it happened. A beam tore through the lower torso of her Gouf. Not one fired from the enemy in front of her, but one from behind. Her suit stumbled, attempting to keep a grip on the heat sword, when another shot ripped through her, followed almost at once by a third. Jayedn's Gouf desperately attempted to keep moving forward, taking a few more painfully awkward steps. All the momentum was gone though, and even if it hadn't, her arms didn't seem to be working. They jerked at the shoulder, trying to raise her sword, but it nothing happened.

"LIEUTENANT!" Dalton shouted before he could stop himself. His eyes moved instinctively to where the shots had come from. Situated behind a small outcrop of rocks, directly opposite from the mobile suit graveyard, was another trio of GMs. All of them had the same load outs as the first team, and were opening fire.

"Damn cowards!" Rence roared, turning his attention away from Jayden and returning fire at the second enemy team. "Only feel safe shooting someone in the back? It's because you know what'll happen if you fight them from the front. THEY KILL YOU! LIKE THIS!" The GMs ducked down as automatic machine-gun fire streaked overhead, Arien joining in with semi-automatic fire.

"Dalton, we've got them pinned!" she barked. She was mad too. Not the open and outward mad that Rence was, but Dalton could tell that she was only just barely keeping her rage contained. "Flank them from the side and hit them in close quarters combat!"

"B-but!" Dalton stuttered, looking back in Jayedn's direction. "What about-" his question died in his throat. The GM that Jayedn had come within a hair's breadth of killing had drawn its beam saber. With a vicious and frantic swipe, it cleaved the Lieutenant's Gouf in half. A straight line that cut through everything from the helmet and down. Dalton thought he saw the two separate pieces of the suit begin to fall apart before the Gouf's reactor exploded. A ball of fire raced outwards, consuming the blue suit and hiding its killer in smoke.

"DEAD! ALL OF YOU ARE DEAD, DO YOU HEAR ME!?" Rence bellowed, so loudly that it made Dalton's ears throb. Even if they weren't connected, at least one pilot in the GM would have needed to hear that. Despite this, he was distracted. Without thinking, he raised his suit's machine-gun and opened fire, not aiming at the full strength team, but at the one who had killed Jayedn. He squeezed off five quick shots as the enemy suit scrambled back for cover. Most of them went wide, but one of them managed to hit the hand holding the beam saber, which disappeared in a ball of fire.

"Dalton, ignore the small fry!" Arien shouted. "We've got three on this side, they take priority! Get around them and flank them for Chirst's sake!"

"Forget flanking them!" Rence said, his voice a roar. "I'm putting a bullet in every single one of them personally! Come on you damn feddie cowards! Put your head up for half a second, see where it gets you!" His machine-gun continued to blare, so much that the muzzle was beginning to glow a dull red.

A horrible thought occurred to Dalton as he watched. "Rence, stop!" he shouted, panic racing through him. "You're using too much ammo! If you keep this up you'll-" but before he could finish his sentence, it happened. Rence's gun ran dry. The head of his Zaku lowered and looked at the weapon. Dalton could almost see Rence's actual head tilt in confusion as he tried to figure out why it wasn't working. He never got a chance to put the pieces together.

Arien's semi-automatic fire was nowhere near enough to keep all three GMs pinned. The rightmost one popped up from behind cover and fired a single shot at Rence. The beam hit dead center in the chest of the Zaku, piercing directly through. It staggered backward under the pressure of the shot before falling backwards. The majority of the suit seemed to be intact, with the reactor not having being breached. The overall damage from the shot seemed to be minor. Unless Dalton was mistaken however, the Federation pilot had not been aiming to destroy the Zaku.

"Rence? Rence!" Arien shouted over the radio. "Tell me that shot missed the cockpit! Tell me that it was just a grazing shot! Rence! I…GOD DAMN IT!" with a roared, she returned fire at the GM that had killed Rence. Her weapon setting had evidently been changed to automatic, because before the GM could move, a dozen rounds had slammed into it. Most in the chest, but a couple pierced the head, cracking the bright green visor. It tumbled backward, out of sight, before an explosion rocked the area behind the rocky outcrop.

"Arien…Arien," Dalton said, feeling dazed. He couldn't collect his thoughts, they simply flew through his head, random and disjointed. Rence was dead. Jayedn was dead. They were outnumbered and exposed. He and Arien were on their own.

"Dalton, keep it together!" Arien replied, keeping her weapon trained on the ridge where she knew two GMs were hiding. "I can't take both of them on by myself! We've only got one shot at this. Like I said before, I'm going to keep them pinned, and you need to hit them from the side. Can you do that?" The camera on her Zaku slid to the side of its visor, looking directly at him. "Can you do that!?" she repeated.

"I…yes!" Dalton said, straightening his Zaku out. Reaching for the back of his suit, he drew his Heat Hawk. With a flick of a switch, he activated the axe, the edge beginning to glow with heat.

"All right," Arien said, not sounding particularly confident. Turning her attention back to the ridge, she took aim. "Firing in three. Two. One. NOW!" Her machine-gun burst to life, the fully automatic fire once again skimming the tops of the rocks. The tip of a GM's head poked out from behind cover, only to immediately be forced back down.

Holstering his rifle, Dalton took his Heat Hawk in both hands as he charged. Hoping that Arien's weapon was making more noise than the heavy footfalls of his Zaku, he reached the rocks and hugged them as he began to move around to the back. Hesitating, he peered around. Both GMs were pressed up against the very edge of their cover, beam rifles at the ready. They were glancing upward at the fire, and looked ready to pop out the second that Arien ran out of ammo.

Realizing that that moment was no doubt very close, Dalton charged. Fear and desperation took over as he tore around the edge, thrusting the controls of his Zaku forward and burying the blade of his Heat Hawk into the back of the nearer GM. The armor of the GM buckled and melted under the strain of the blow, a good portion of the torso caving in. He could've sworn he heard a scream of agony that was quickly snuffed out. Wheeling around, the second GM opened fire at once. Dalton lunged to the side, but even then the shot managed to graze his Zaku.

There was a blinding flash of light and a wave of heat that felt like it would sear the skin off of his bones. Dalton blinked, and realized with a pang of horror that the left side of his cockpit was gone. It had been pierced by the enemy shot. The GM hesitated, seemingly having thought that it had scored a fatal blow. Realizing its mistake, it continued to fire. A random impulse hit Dalton and he did the only thing that he could think of at that minute. Taking a hand off of his Heat Hawk, he grabbed the GM he had destroyed by the throat. Heaving it upward, he held it in front of him like a shield. It took the shot from the beam rifle just in time.

Throwing his full weight into the controls, Dalton forced his Zaku forward, Heat Hawk in one hand, GM husk in the other. The still functioning GM managed to get off a few more shots before Dalton reached it. Not aiming at the Zaku's protected core, the Federation pilot instead aimed low. Alarms blared all throughout the cockpit as a beam rifle shot pierced the suits right knee. Dalton lurched forward in the cockpit, nearly smacking his face on the display, but he had already reached his target by the time he had been shot. With a wild, vicious blow, Dalton buried the Heat Hawk in the white and red suit. It carved through the shoulder and through to the cockpit before the strike lost its momentum.

Dalton heavily panted as he looked at the view screen in front of him. His Zaku had overbalanced with the damage to its right leg. His attack on the GM had been just as much his suit tripping as it had been a forward offensive. The end result was an almost comical three mobile suit pileup. His Zaku, the GM he had used as a shield, and his latest target.

Feeling physically drained, as if he had personally been swinging the axe, Dalton slumped back into the seat of his cockpit. A pleasant breeze tickled his brow, the desert air having cooled down with the setting sun. He sat there for a few moments, his heart hammering in his chest as he let the wind flow in through the hole in the cockpit.

As his heart started to slow and the adrenaline in his body begin to think out, he realized a pain pulsing through him. Looking down at his side, he felt his blood go cold. Before, when his Zaku had been hit by an enemy beam rifle, he thought that he had felt the heat from the blast. It turned out that he had not gotten off that easy. His flight suit had been seared away around his left arm and leg, revealing bright red burns that coated both limbs. Even some of his torso had been bared and scorched. Now that he wasn't under the influence of fight and flight, he was slowly starting to realize just how much those burns hurt.

Hissing as his wounds began to throb, he reached out and slowly began to manipulate the controls with only one hand. Eventually, his suit pushed off of the destroyed GMs and into a kneeling position. Its leg was thoroughly fried, not unlike his actual leg. He attempted to force his suit to stand up, only for his stomach to lurch as the supports in the leg began to splinter under the strain. His Zaku had been effectively crippled.

"Arien," he said wheezily. "Both of the GMs are down, but I've got a bum leg." He winced as his burns throbbed again. "Mechanical and physical. "I'm going to need a pick up. We may need to scuttle my Zaku if we can't get a tow. Don't want to give the Federation something that they can salvage. Can you get up here and get me out of here? I'd rather not ride in the palm of a suit, but it's all I really got." There was no reply. "Arien, are you there?" Still no reply. Dalton was starting to get worried. "Arien, say something!" With some difficulty, he had his suit grip onto the rock ridge and pull itself up, peeking over the edge.

He had half a second to take it all in. He saw Arien's Zaku lying prone on the ground, half a dozen different burn holes in it. He saw its missing head, the shattered remains of her rifle, and the smoke coiling out of it. He just barely took all of this in when a GM with a single hand vaulted over the ridge, slamming directly into his suit.

Dalton's head hit the top of the cockpit as both suits went tumbling back, crashing into the wrecks of the GMs Dalton had destroyed. His burns inflamed and his head swimming, both magnified by the nausea in his stomach, he seized up in pain. Trying to fight through it, trying to think of a plan , he barely noticed giant metal fingers sliding into the hole in his cockpit. With a terrible screech of tearing metal, the front of his cockpit was torn off. Idly tossed into the air, it flew a couple hundred feat before crashing into the rock formation.

The now exposed cockpit was flooded with light as the hand of the GM reached in again. Blinded, still paralyzed by pain, and rattled by nausea and a swimming head, Dalton wasn't able to do anything as the mechanical hand closed around him. The edges of his seat were torn out as he was effortlessly lifted from his machine. Standing up to nearly its full height, the GM lifted him up hundreds of feet.

The fist it made pinned Dalton's legs and arms to his side, doubling the pain in his burns and causing him to writhe in agony. Through his torment, he was able to just barely make out that he was being held in front of the GM's torso. With a hiss, the Federation cockpit depressurized and slowly slid open.

Inside was a woman in a Federation pilot suit. She was a mess. Shrapnel dotted her side, blood leaking freely where they left her mark. Her helmet was heavily cracked, to the point where it didn't seem possible for anyone to actually see through it. To top it off, she was shaking like a leaf, futilely attempting to staunch the flow of blood from her injuries.

Now that he looked closer, he saw that her GM, the same GM whose hand he had taken off near the start of the fight, was badly battered. It was coated with bullet holes, to the point of near total full coverage. That, combined with several large and noticeable dents that looked like the result of heavy blunt voice, suggested to Dalton that Arien had not gone down without a fight.

"What?" he hissed, glaring at the woman. She was going to kill him, there was no way around it. Whether she wanted to look him in the eye when she crushed him, or if she wanted to personally shoot him with a pistol, it didn't matter. There was no way that he was getting out of this alive. The one silver lining was that, with those injuries, there was a very good chance that she wouldn't be walking away either. "Going to brag before you kill me? Wouldn't surprise me. That does seem to be how the Federation does things."

"How we do things?" the Federation pilot asked through gritted teeth. "Oh sorry, clearly I should be doing things the Zeon way. I would if I could, but I don't seem to have any colonies to depopulate before I drop them on population centers." Like Dalton had suspected she might, she drew a service pistol from her side. Aiming it directly at him, she continued to speak. Her voice wavering in pain, but still powerful. "Don't you dare act like you've got the moral high ground, or like you've somehow been wronged. Are you even capable of comprehending how many innocents died because of you?"

There was the tiniest ping of guilt deep within Dalton. Guilt that was quickly drowned out by rage. What was she talking about? Operation British had been aimed at a major military installation, not a population center. Typical Federation propaganda, they were the victims in everything. "Because the Federation never did anything bad," he snarled. "Remember all the people you killed on Zeon? Just because we wanted independence? Remember how you assassinated Zeon Zum Deikun? Just because he floated the idea?"

Dalton knew that he was being stupid. That all the Federation pilot had to do was flick a single switch and he would be crushed like a rotten tomato. He didn't care though, he had stopped caring a long time ago. This woman had killed Arien, her friends had killed Rence and Jayedn, and now she was pretending that Zeon had somehow wronged the Federation. He wasn't going to just lay down and take that garbage.

Through her cracked helmet, the pilot glared at him. "Just because you want independence? And invading half of Earth and taking it over, Asia, most of North America, Australia, Northern Africa, where does that factor into independence? Where does slaughtering people who are defending their homes? Where does killing four billion people factor into your goddamn independence?"

Dalton wanted to laugh. Was this woman really that deeply in denial? "I imagine they didn't tell you the truth if you're in the Federation. We hear all about how you kill your own people to keep your infrastructure out of Zeon hands. Biological weapons, nukes, you name it, you've done it."

The Federation pilot tightened her grip on her pistol. For a second, Dalton thought she was finally going to shoot him. Instead, she continued to talk, the weapon shaking in her hands. "We're nothing like you. The Federation wouldn't ever target its own citizens, no matter how bad things got!"

Dalton let out a bark of laughter. "Tell yourself whatever lies you have to. It won't make a bit of difference when we finally win this war. We'll make Earth right. We'll uproot everything that's corrupting it, and-"

The pilot interrupted Dalton. This time, it was her turn to laugh. "Win this war? WIN THIS WAR!? Oh, I guess you didn't hear what happened. I get to be the one that tells you? Lucky me." She adjusted herself in her seat, leaning forward despite the apparently pain it was causing her. "We're taking control back of space. Solomon fell last week, Dozle Zabi died during the battle. The Federation is moving to make the final push in a couple of days. We're due to smash the last of defenses before we take Zeon itself."

Her laughter died down. Her gun began to shake, along with the rest of her body. She was furious. "You're going to lose. Billions of people died and for what? Nothing?" She glared at Dalton. "I hope it was worth it. I really hope that it was worth it. You making believe that you were some kind of heroic freedom fighter."

"If you're going to kill me, just kill me already," Dalton said, practically spitting at the woman. "Don't lecture at me like you think you're better than me when we both know you're going to crush me like a bug. And don't LIE to me." Vice-Admiral Dozle dead. What a load of garbage.

"Oh no. No, no, no," the pilot said, leaving back into her seat. She kept her gun pointing at him before looking down at it. Slowly, as if it was taking her a massive effort, she slid it back into its holster. "Consider yourself a prisoner of war. The Federation will want to know how many suits its amassing for its next assault on Mexico City. After that, you can just rot in a cell until the war is over. After that, we can see if there are any war crimes that we can try you with."

Dalton tried to let out a snarl, but it didn't come out as very convincing. He had been caught up with anger at the death of the rest of the patrol. He had been able to hold onto it while arguing with the enemy pilot, blocking everything else out. Now though, it was slowly slipping away, to be replaced by fear. He wasn't sure which terrified him more. The idea of being killed, or the idea of being given over to a Federation interrogator.

"Now then," the pilot said, pulling back on her controls. Her GM took a step back before it began to stall out. There was a vicious grinding, the sound of gears on gears, before her legs began to viciously smoke. "No. NO! God damn it!" Reaching into the depths of her cockpit, she began to flip switches. "Hello, HQ? Requesting assistance. The ambush team is all dead except for me, but I've got a prisoner. My GM is badly damaged and I need an extraction. Hello? Hello?" She pounded the inside of her cockpit in frustration. Slumping back into her seat, she glanced at the ceiling in frustration.

"No one coming to pick us up?" Dalton asked smartly.

"Shut up," the woman growled. "I don't suppose the radio on your is Zaku working." She turned her attention to it. "Knowing my luck, I probably ripped it out."

"You did," Dalton said. He was fairly certain he could see it lying on the ground, far away from the rest of the suit. "So now what?"

The Federation pilot didn't say anything, looking off at something behind Dalton. She waited a fair bit before replying. "Are you sure that Zeon Zum Deikun was assassinated? The official report was that he had a heart attack."

Dalton was taken aback by the question. He hadn't expected the pilot to care about something like this, let alone bother to ask him questions about Zeon in the first place. Part of him wondered why she wasn't trying to find a way to take him back to her base. Thinking about that made him feel rather uncomfortable, so he instead decided to answer the question. "He was a healthy man in the prime of his life. There was no way that that heart attack was natural. The timing can't be a conscience, not when he was pushing Zeon's independence so heavily."

He paused. His mind wandered to Operation British. It must've been aimed at the Federation main HQ, there would've been no reason to do anything else with it. It being aimed at a city had to be a lie. And yet, there was a nagging thought in the back of his head. "The colony that was dropped. Where did it hit?"

The pilot twitched before she replied. "Sydney, Australia. It took out the whole city and a chunk of the continent. You were originally aiming for South America, I know. But it ended up hitting Sydney when it was knocked off course during the battle." Dalton looked directly at the pilot. He wasn't sure if she was telling the truth or not. He wasn't even sure why he was bothering to listen to her. She was still the woman who had killed Arien. As he remembered that, some of his anger came back to him.

"How do I know that you're not lying?" he asked, his voice a hiss. "You still haven't admitted that your people killed Zeon Zum Deikun!" The woman didn't reply. She leaned back in her seat, looking up at the roof of her cockpit. He panted as he continued to look at her. He didn't feel very well. He could feel the hot sun still shining on him, but he felt oddly clammy. What was more, his breath was coming in short, sharp bursts, and his mouth was unpleasantly dry.

"I'm talking to you!" he snapped. The pilot was still looking upward, not responding to him. "What!?" He was getting impatient again. What was wrong with this woman?

"What's your name?" she asked, her voice rather soft. "Mine's Somora."

He glared at her for a second before he responded. "Dalton." Just barely, he was able to spot Somora smiling through her helmet.

"God. I just…God," she whispered. She slumped in her chair, her arm falling down to her side. Dalton continued to watch, doing his best to keep breathing. For some reason it was getting harder and harder to do so. He was about to ask her what was wrong when it hit him. Her chest wasn't moving, and the blood from her wounds was still pouring out of her. She was dead.

He blinked. He hadn't expected to be so lucky. Arien may have ended up saving him with her dying actions. He started to feel a little excited. If he could just weasel his way out of the GM's hand, he could get to one of the other Zakus, find a working radio, and call for help. He shivered. When did it get so cold?

He began to twist and turn in the GM's hand, trying to get himself lose. He only managed to get an inch or two before he had to stop. His burns weren't hurting as badly as he thought that they would, but those were the least of his worries. He was getting colder and colder, and now his eyelids were getting heavy. Slowly, they drooped. He didn't know why, but he suddenly felt deeply tired.

Gripping the fingers of the mobile suit, he tried to push them away. It ended up being a waste of time, not that he had truly expected any different. He was now having trouble keeping his eyes open. That little exertion had drained the last of his strength. For what felt like an eternity, he hung there, doing what he could to keep his eyes open. He was freezing and shaking in the grip of the giant hand.

Finally, he gave up and let his eyes slid shut. Some rest might do him good. Slowly, unconsciousness took over him. Before he faded away, he wondered how much of what Somora had told him was true. He would have to check when he got back to base.

His body was found the next day by another Zeon patrol.

XXXXX

Author's Note: Sorry this took so long, it ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would. I actually went through a lot of ideas on this one. First I thought about Dalton being the sole survivor, only to learn about Zeon losing the One Year War. I thought of Dalton and Somora letting go of their hatred and them dying side by side, holding hands. I even thought about Somora just killing Dalton and ending it here. I feel like this was the best place to leave it though.

I'd like to thank my Patrons SuperFeatherYoshi, xXNanamiXx, and Ryan Van Schaack for their amazing support.