Author's note: Others own the rights to the G-Gundam characters.  All other characters are my creations.  Please do not use them without my permission.

Shadow Life – Part 1

By:  Diane Maher

          Somewhere in Neo-Poland, not very far from the border of Neo-Germany, a gundam fight is about to take place.  Schwarz Bruder had left Shinjuku to return to Neo-Germany to train harder than before now that he had seen the tremendously huge power of the Dark Gundam.  The last leg of his journey was through Neo-Poland and he happened to come across these two gundams about to fight.  He stopped on a nearby plateau to watch.  Night was rapidly falling and he decided to rest here for the night.

          As the two gundams squared off in the forest clearing below, Schwarz watched intently.  He recognized the Midnight Gundam of Neo-Austria and recalled that it was very similar to his Shadow Gundam in many respects, but this was the first time he'd seen it in action.  From what he'd heard, its pilot had won against all of her opponents thus far.  On the other hand, he knew that Neo-Poland's Gundam Magnat was nothing to be taken lightly.  Beneath his mask, Schwarz's lips curved upwards ever so slightly as he anticipated witnessing an interesting match.

          The two gundams charged one another.  The sounds of their fists meeting drifted up to where he stood on the plateau.  The fighters traded fierce blows and Vulcan gunfire back and forth for several minutes.

          Suddenly, he sensed something nearby.  What the? Schwarz wondered as his body automatically tensed for battle.  His attention was drawn to the wooded area behind Midnight Gundam.  His keen vision picked out the glowing pink eye of a member of the dark army.  His sudden sharp intake of breath and wide eyes were the only indication of emotion on Schwarz's masked face.

          He turned and climbed into his gundam's cockpit.  He hadn't suspected there would be trouble here tonight.  The Dark Gundam and its army was last seen in Shinjuku in Japan; halfway across the planet.  Once he was settled inside the cockpit, he noticed that he could hardly pick out Midnight Gundam from the night sky.  "Interesting..." he said.

          Neo-Austria's fighter Karla Geist was holding her own in her battle against Gundam Magnat.  Its Vulcan guns fired and as she blocked the barrage of bullets, something hooked her ankle.

          What the? She shouldn't be able to see me any longer! Karla thought.  Looking down, she saw that Neo-Poland had hooked her leg with a chain.

          "Damn you!" shouted Karla.  "Midnight swords!" Two black swords flipped out and forward towards her enemy from their hidden compartments on the outer part of her forearms.  She swiftly sliced the beam chain from around her leg.  Another chain flew to take its place before she could jump away.

          Karla's monitor lit up with her opponent's triumphant face.  Chelsea Walesa laughed evilly.  "Those won't help you!" She launched a flying kick that knocked down Midnight Gundam.  With a ferocious yank on the chain, Walesa pulled hard on Midnight Gundam's leg.

          Inside the cockpit, Karla howled in pain.  The black mobile trace suit she wore had her entire left leg lit up and she found that she couldn't move it.  She refused to give up and as Walesa approached to deliver the final blow to Midnight Gundam's head, Karla moved so quickly that she was a blur.  She rolled over, pushed up on her arms, and swung out her other leg to trip Walesa.

          Her leg made contact and Gundam Magnat tumbled face first to the ground.  Over her gundam's speaker, Karla heard Walesa screaming, "I'll get you, Geist!"

          Karla shouted, "NO!!!" She fired her Gundam's booster rockets and was able to rise and stand on her good leg.  Gundam Magnat hadn't yet moved and Karla saw her only opportunity to win the match.  She leaned forward, swung her right arm and its blade at Magnat's head, which an instant later was swiftly severed from its body.

          Midnight Gundam fell and rolled away from the now headless Gundam Magnat.  The impact threw Karla against the mobile trace system and it shorted out, shocking her into unconsciousness.

          Schwarz looked over towards where Midnight Gundam now lay in a heap; he saw several more of the dark army gundams in his monitors.  They were slowly surrounding the two combatants.  He saw the beheaded gundam lying on the ground.  He flew over to Midnight Gundam and as the dark army gundams came into the clearing, he gathered the damaged Neo-Austria gundam into his arms and took off once more.  He didn't know the fighter's name, but he couldn't leave her as food for the dark army.  Looking around, he saw that the cockpit hatch on the other gundam was open and assumed the pilot had escaped.

          "Hey!" Schwarz called to the pilot of Midnight Gundam.  There was no response.  A moment later, a picture of the other gundam's cockpit appeared on his screen.  It looked like it was in pretty bad shape.  He heard a moan from its pilot and decided that talking could wait until later.  She needed medical attention.  He landed on the far side of the dark army and started running towards the Neo-German border.  The Neo-Austria gundam was in need of repair and he would tend to the pilot as best he could.  "I'll help you as soon as I can, Neo-Austria."

          Karla opened her eyes some time later and saw the starry sky overhead.  She tried to sit up, but was still dizzy.  "Ohhh," she moaned.

          "I see you're awake," a male voice calmly said from her right.

          Karla turned her head and saw a masked man wearing a trench coat, black pants and jackboots sitting on a blanket a few feet away.  With one hand, she whipped out her dagger and brandished it at him; with the other, she checked to make sure her own mask was still in place.

          "You are safe here," he continued softly.  "And don't worry; I didn't remove your mask further than above your mouth to make sure that you were still breathing.  What's your name?"

          The firelight lit his eyes with a sparkle and there was something in the tone of his voice that reassured her.  As she slowly replaced her blade to its sheath, she asked, "What happened to me after the fight and who are you?"

          The man regarded her silently for a moment before replying, "I am Schwarz Bruder of Neo-Germany."

          She recognized his mask as being made up of the colors of the Neo-German flag and answered, "My name is Karla Geist; I'm the Neo-Austria fighter."

          Schwarz nodded and said, "As far as what happened to you, I'm still trying to sort out what I saw while you were fighting.  I watched your match with Neo-Poland from a distance."  He took a small pot from the grate over the fire, picked up a cup containing a spoon, poured the hot water into the cup, stirred the mixture and handed it to her.

          Karla sniffed the liquid and watched as he poured himself a cup.  She asked, "Why did you help me?"

          Schwarz stared into the fire.  "I have my reasons."

          She looked at Schwarz suspiciously and then at the tea he'd given her.  He slowly lifted his black, yellow and red mask far enough that he could sip the tea.  It was then that she noticed him watching her intently over the rim of his cup.

          "The tea is safe to drink or else I wouldn't be drinking it," Schwarz said evenly, evading her question.

          Karla nodded and raised her red, white and red striped mask up such that she too could drink the warm tea.  After taking a couple of sips, she held the cup to warm her hands.  A brisk breeze blew from the north and she felt a shiver run through her body as she realized that she was still wearing her mobile trace suit.  Finishing the tea, she pulled down her mask over her chin and looked around the area.  Midnight Gundam was being held in an embrace by his gundam.

          Closing her eyes and smiling beneath her mask, Karla wryly commented, "You have an interesting sense of humor, Schwarz."  When there was no response from him, she continued, "Did you examine the damage to my gundam?" She suspected that he had and despite what the Neo-Austrian government would think, she really didn't care.  Anything so that she and her gundam could get back in the fight.

          "Yes," replied Schwarz.  "I didn't examine the cockpit, though.  I know that's off-limits.  I was only in there long enough to get you out."

          Karla climbed into the cockpit of her gundam, opened a small compartment in her core lander and pulled out her clothes and sword.  She looked around and saw that the damage was extensive, but repairable if she had access to the right equipment.

          The cockpit door closed behind Karla and she changed clothes before securing the cockpit once more and returning to where Schwarz sat by the fire.  She now wore black, loose-fitting pants, a black shirt and a black leather coat and gloves.  She looked like a shadow, except for her mask.  As she sat down on the blanket again, she said, "Thank you for helping me, Schwarz."

          He looked towards her and replied, "You're welcome.  Get some sleep.  I'll keep watch for a while."  Karla lay back and pulled her coat's lapels close and the blanket over her.  It wasn't long before she fell asleep.

          It was an uneventful night.  Schwarz ran the events of the night through his head as he kept watch while Karla slept.  When he climbed into the cockpit of her gundam to get her out, he had taken notice of some of the damage.  Karla was unconscious when he found her.  He cautiously pushed aside the dangling wires and lifted her still form.  By the time he jumped down to the ground, she was still out cold.  He had some medical training, but if it weren't enough, he would seek help elsewhere.

          Schwarz carefully placed Karla on a blanket and covered her with a second one while he got the first aid kit and a small pillow from his core lander.  He turned on the med scanner and checked her vital signs.  They were stable, but she had sustained a strong electrical shock from the mobile trace system.  With rest, she should be fine by morning.  If she wasn't, then he would have to contact the Neo-Austria people.

          He wondered what she looked like beneath her mask and why she wore one.  She had her reasons, just as he did.  She rolled over and a soft sigh escaped her lips.  He had heard rumors that this woman was a ruthless fighter.  Watching her fight, Schwarz saw her true fighting spirit come out even after her gundam was put to a severe disadvantage.  Refusing to give up, she had turned the match in her favor and won.

          Right now, his main concern was the minions of the dark army that he had seen in Neo-Poland.  How had they gotten there so quickly from Shinjuku or was the Dark Gundam merely sending its troops worldwide to engage him and the members of the Shuffle Alliance? Was Karla somehow connected to the Dark Gundam?