April 21st, AC 195. Curtis LeMay Forge,Ohio. Federal States of America
"What the hell do you mean OZ is cancelling the Leo?!" Shouted Flight Lieutenant Marcus White. Had he not been inside the office of his superior, Alliance Brigadier General Shawn Parker, with doors closed, White would've created a disturbance on the floor of the forge where OZ was in the process of manufacturing dozens of Leos and Ares for the Alliance. Directly across from White and sitting at his desk, General Parker, a middle-aged black man in his fifties who had served from the height of the Alliance to its current decay, sighed in sympathy of his younger OZ subordinate.
"Flight Lieutenant, the decision is beyond my authority, one that was decided primarily by your direct superiors on the Military Council along with Romefeller, Field Marsha Noventa agreeing in full." 'Damn Pacifist.'Thought Parker. In the previous years Noventa's calls for demilitarization made some amount of sense considering the hundreds of billions of Alliance credits poured into the world's largest armed force with only scattered guerrillas and terrorist movements providing the only real threat. The CLA, the Alliance's supposed main enemy, barely had enough resources to match the ancient Al Qaeda organization of the early 21st century. Yet Noventa was a radical in advocating for total disarmament, calls that he still made out even after the Gundam attacks which had claimed tens of thousands of lives within the past few weeks.'The fucking traitor doesn't deserve to wear the uniform.' Treasonously thought Parker.
"You should be happy to know though that the illustrious Treize Khushrenada along with General Septim gave their all in fighting for the Leo, but it seems that Duke Dermail has his mind set to the issue. Not that I claim blame the man, ever since those damned Gundams landed on Earth, the Speciali have been getting their ass whooped by those five machines, cutting through hundreds of Leos and Ares as if they were made of paper. Makes me wonder what the hell we've been working on for the past twenty years if this model is supposed to be the frontline unit for the Alliance." Parker paused in his speech and looked to White standing in front of him, his eyes lowered down to the ground in shame. It was only then that Parker realized that White was a member of the Speciali, and he had just insulted them right in front of him. Parker cleared his throat, "I apologize for my words Flight Lieutenant. You've been working with me so long that sometimes I forget that you're part of OZ and think of you as fellow Alliance. I didn't mean to disrespect the dead, those boys and girls were fine soldiers who should've never lost their lives to those demons. It's just that it's been two weeks and so much has been lost without a single casualty for the enemy. We lost the entire Middle Eastern just four days ago."
Unlike most other OZ officers that Parker had encountered, White never assumed himself with an air of superiority and arrogance that was typical to the men and women under the leadership of Treize Khusrenada. He was a polite and diligent young man who worked hard into each project that went his way and had an incredible work ethic when he set his mind to something. Still, even if Parker thought lowly of OZ much like the rest of his fellow Alliance Generals, he never once believed they deserved such tragedies at the hands of the Gundams.
"I know you didn't mean it like that General. I'm frustrated too, just thinking about everyone we lost for their wretched crusade makes my blood boil." Said White, curling his fingers into a fist upon relaying images in his mind of the video footage of the Gundams taking out multiple Leos with little effort. "I know that our current Leos can't possibly match the Gundams, I don't think anyone ever thought of this kind of scenario when designing them. But I know with the Leo-X, our boys can have at least somewhat of a fighting chance. The Gundams will be taken down soon and both OZ and the Alliance need a grunt worker to continue its job of protecting the Earth. It's not like we're going to face a whole army of Gundams."'Then again, no one thought that we'd be facing off five Gundams until just two weeks ago. And look at what our efforts gotten us.'
"Do you at least know what's going to replace the Leo? I know that the Taurus is going to be our primary space suit, and presumably we're still going to use the Ares for air combat. But surely we've got something in the works for a ground unit?"
Parker shrugged his shoulders in response, "How should I know? I'm just the manager for this plant after all, no one sends me designs to approve, I just make sure they go into production. In reality I should be asking that question to you White, OZ is responsible for creating all of our suits after all."
White slightly blushed red in embarrassment at forgetting his place. With so much of his time primarily spent around the mobiles, White often forgot that he was the highest ranking Speciali on site and the most senior MS engineer. Something that he never bothered taking much pride in as his work was far from prestigious compared to some of his comrades in the Speciali. "That may be true sir, but I'm not a Lieutenant Colonel or even a Squad Comm. Even if I'm an engineer I mostly take part in fixing flaws and making improvements, I've never designed my own suit before. I'm mostly kept out of the loop unless there's a specific project required."'How the hell is it that people like Walker can gain His Excellency's attention and patronage, yet I'm still at the bottom of the totem pole?'
Parker nodded in understanding, "I wasn't told much, mainly that the Barton Foundation has it taken care of for now and we'll get an update on the situation within the coming weeks. The good news is that Leo production will still continue, they probably won't roll out the new suit until late 196 at the very least, so we'll still be in business moving forward."
"Sir, can I at least implore you to save the X and keep it from being scrapped? If given enough time I can make something workable and hopefully present it to the Military Council as a more feasible solution. The Bartons aren't really big fans of OZ anyways so I have my doubts on any deal being finalized through that end. I promise it won't take up too much time and I'll shift focus if demands need to be met. I beg of you sir, at least give me until June." Pleaded White.
Parker rolled back his chair in contemplation for a few seconds. The men and women under Parker's command at LeMay had spent much of the past eight months working on the Leo-X and to completely give up right now would be an extreme waste. Plus there was the fact that most of the concerns about the Leo were due to fearmongering surrounding the Gundams, if the Gundams were defeated soon then the Supreme Military Council might change their mind. "All right White, I'll give the go-ahead. Corsica did keep the Tallgeese in storage for two decades and it hasn't done a damn thing but collect dust, I'm sure they won't mind if we do the same with the X, with the intent of actually achieving results instead of becoming a museum piece. Why don't you go ahead and have your lunch break, I'll break the news to our crews shortly. Just remember to not slip up on our other demands. With all the losses taken, orders for Ares and Leos are as high as ever, and we can't afford to not play our part for the war effort. Dismissed."
"Sir!" Saluted White at attention, turning at the brisk of his heels and proceeding outside of Parker's office. White then proceeded along the gangplank on the third floor where he looked to his left to see the aforementioned Leo-X sitting in place, its maintenance crew absent for consuming their lunch break. The Leo-X was a variant of the current Leo with a much bulkier appearance thanks to the addition of 95 cm thick titanium plating on the joints, limbs, and cockpit of the Leo. The head was more round in a manner resembling the Aires, and its boosters were complimented by an additional jump pack with four funnels on its back. Ever since coming back to LeMay after his brief stint at Lake Victoria with the Taurus, White had dedicated plenty of hours into ensuring that the X was a success. The thought of seeing it all go to waste saddened and frustrated the young Speciali. 'Treize better get his act together and get rid of those damned Gundams. We're running out of pilots at this rate and OZ might collapse at the end of the year if something isn't done.'
Shaking his head off the current somber thoughts, White tried to put on a brighter mood and proceeded with a fast pace towards the tele-conference room. While usually he would eat by himself in the mess hall and read a book or some other activity, White had other plans for today. He had an important call to make and he didn't want to miss it.
After a few minutes traveling White entered the room, with few other occupants besides a mechanic and an Alliance MP. Ignoring their activities, White found an open spot and situated himself in front of the monitor. He typed in a number and waited for a few seconds to respond. Suddenly the machine came to life and the black screen was replaced with the image of a young Californian teenager with dyed blond hair tied in a ponytail and a smile on her face to match her sparkling eyes. She was dressed in the cadet uniform that was provided by the Lake Victoria Academy, OZ's premier officer candidate school.
"Hey Big Bro! I thought for a sec that you ditched me. Probably got a lot of cute co-workers that you'd rather be having lunch with than your little sister."
Marcus laughed at the remark, "The women here are alright Lizzie but there's nobody who's caught my eye. Besides there's no one that I'd ever ditch you for. Not even Treize."
"Careful Marcus, that sounds like insubordination." Said Elizabeth White, Marcus' younger sister. Both Whites gave a light chuckle at the comment. Unlike most sibling relationships that he knew, Marcus was extremely close with his younger sister and both had loved each other highly. Ever since she was born, Marcus has a soft spot for Elizabeth, or 'Lizzie' as he liked to call her, and made sure to be there for her and become the best older sibling he could be. While both had grown some distance apart since Marcus had joined OZ, they kept in contact regularly and he spent most of his time on leave with her. Marcus in many ways was a major reason why Lizzie even decided to join the Speciali cadets in the first place, graduating in just a few weeks.
"How are things at the Forge? You seem a little tired?" Asked Lizzie, noting the slight stress on Marcus' face from his earlier revelations of the status of the Leo-X.
Marcus sighed in slight irritation, wishing for the umpteenth that the Gundams never landed on Earth. "I'm fine, production's increasing thanks to all the demands for replacements because of those fucking Gundams..."
"Language!" Lightly taunted Lizzie, "I can understand why you feel that way though. That's all everyone talks about on campus these days. Miss Noin even has us running simulations on what to do if we face them."
'God, is it that close already? Will she be thrusted into the front-lines so soon after graduation?' Marcus wished dearly that Lizzie would never have to face a Gundam in her life, and that by the time she was combat ready at all that the Gundams would be dealt with for good. She had good grades in her combat practice, though he didn't have nearly enough faith to think she could take one down on her own.'At least she's at Lake Victoria where she'll be safe and away from the fighting.'
"As I was saying, productions been increasing to max levels and everyone's busting their ass off to keep the lines rolling. I also got some bad news in relation to a prototype project today, though I can't share anything with you yet. Things could be better but they're okay for now. How about you?"
"Oh you know, same old same old. Kicking butt in the simulators and making high A's all around. Things have been getting interesting on campus for the past few days though. Miss Noin is preparing your the Taurus for transport later today and some of the other cadets and I took part in prepping them for flight." Lizzie said, referring to the Taurus units that Marcus briefly worked on, though never got to see it finished. Lizzie knew all about the Taurus due to her time at Lake Victoria and the campus' rather lax attitudes towards information in regards to the Speciali Cadets, With secure comms they could share this sort of information and it wasn't exactly too much of a secret inside OZ and the Alliance. "Oh and you'll never guess what happened today. Zechs freaking Merquise came today! And he's even hotter in person!" Lizzie said, squealing in a high pitch tone and blushing like a fangirl.
Lizzie's actions amused Marcus slightly, though it made him curious why Zechs of all people was at Lake Victoria. "What's the Lightning Count doing at Victoria? Is he delivering a seminar, taking care of the Taurus?" Asked Marcus.
Lizzie merely shrugged her shoulders in response. "Beats me, probably the latter I assume. After all there's no one better to handle security than the man who took down Zero One. If only I could ever be half the pilot as him." Lizzie said, sighing in jealousy.
"Come on Lizzie, you're a damn good pilot and you're far better than I ever will be. Heck I bet you could outfly in circles around most of the Speciali in an Aries." Marcus said, Lizzie slightly blushing in the praise.
"Yeah right, I know I still got a long ways to go. I'm fine in an Aires or Land Leo, but space warfare is still something I'm trying to perfect. It always makes me wonder just how the hell the CLA and the Space Forces can put up a fight in a vacuum with hundreds of kilometers for an open battlefield. Back on Zechs though, I did manage to get to speak for him for a few minutes and he's just as much as his reputation makes him out to be. The man just radiates awesome and he's so handsome with that cape and mask. He gave me a few tips on space combat and overall leadership in the field. It's a shame though he probably sees me as nothing more than some schoolgirl, though to be fair even if I was around your age I don't think I could compete with Miss Noin."
"What are you talking about?" Marcus didn't really want to indulge in his sister's crush on Merquise, knowing it was just a passing fade and something that Lizzie would eventually grow out of like most of the female along with a few male members of the Speciali. Marcus though had always heard rumors concerning Zechs and Noin and he didn't want Zech's presence to affect Noin's behavior. She was looking after the safety of Lizzie along with a couple hundred young men and women who would become OZ's finest.
"She always denies it but it's pretty obvious that Miss Noin has it bad for Zechs. And I'm talking real bad, like what you had for Janice Kurowski bad."
"I told you we'd never discuss about her again!" Marcus snapped back, though Lizzie seemed not to care.
"She always finds a way to talk about him on a daily basis, usually in lessons where she lectures us on what Zechs would do and how he wouldn't screw up like how some of us do occasionally, putting him on a pedestal even above Treize. The only pictures I've seen in her office of those with her and Zechs, and when I saw them together she was glued to him the entire time and always seemed happy when she was looking at him. I think Zechs cares as well, he just doesn't want to show it in front of the rest of us. It's pretty cute!"
"That doesn't seem like very professional behavior of your commanding officer. Maybe I should report her."
"Oh come on bro, she's not that bad. At the end of the day she always manages to watch over us and take care of every one of our needs. She may seem harsh sometimes in training but that's only because she said so herself that she doesn't want any of us to die in the field. Heck I wouldn't have done as well as I am today if Miss Noin didn't tutor me and teach me the art of mobile suits. In a lot of ways she's like the big sister I never had!" Lizzie said, her face beaming with pride on her teacher. Such a remark though hurt Marcus on the inside as it only served to remind him of how little direct time he spent with his sister in these past few years. "Plus it's not like she's unjustified with her praise of Zechs, he is practically the best Ace that we have in the entire Earth sphere. And he managed to take down a Gundam when so many people couldn't even make a scratch." Said Lizzie, her face slightly crestfallen from memories of reading numerous reports of OZ's fallen soldiers to the Gundams.
The mention of the Gundams again brought up a very real fear that Marcus had been having for the past few weeks, one that he believed might come true in the near future. "Lizzie, about the Gundams...when you graduate please promise me you won't be a hero and try and take them down."
Lizzie's face after that remark was one that bore hurt feelings at his request, like Marcus had just told her that she was a no-good worthless pilot. "What are you trying to say? That I should just run away from my comrades when the times comes?! Let them die and not even fight back against the terrorists?! What the hell have I been doing in Africa for the past four years if you want me to abandon my training and not do my duty? What right do you even have to say such a thing? You're a career non-assegnatti and barely have any combat logged in!" Lizzie said, her face scrunted and red with anger to show her frustration. A few seconds after she let her mind off, she instantly regretted upon seeing the shame in his eyes and looking down at the console in absolute guilt and embarrassment.
"I...I'm sorry Marcus. You're a good officer. I didn't mean any of that, I swear!"
Marcus smiled bittersweetly at the remark, "I know, I should've phrased myself better. Everything you said wasn't wrong though. In many ways I don't have a right to speak to anyone about combat. The only reason I managed to graduate Lake Victoria and become a Speciali was due to my skill in repairing and improving mobile suits, even though you'll only advance in OZ by flying them. I've always known that you have the potential to be a much better pilot than me Lizzie. Whenever I talk about how you're going to become an Ace and rise through the ranks, I'm not lying or just trying to flatter you. I actually believe that you have what it takes. However here's the thing, in the Speciali it's a general rule of thumb that you'll be the best of the best, MS pilots that few can ever compare to. Average pilots like me are the exception, not the standard. Yet despite the fact that there are hundreds of veterans who have near equal skill to you or are superior, they all died within the past few weeks. All because of five Gundams that nobody can seem to get a scratch on. Even Zechs himself couldn't kill it, he just disabled Zero One and took it to the bottom of the Atlantic, and yet if reports are to be believed it still managed to come out there unscathed thanks to Zero Two. Something big is going to happen to OZ in the future, hell probably the whole Earth sphere, I just know it. With how ugly things are getting out they're not going to baby you guys and transition you into active duty, they'll send each and every one of you to the front lines. And if you face one of those...one of those things, I don't think you can come out on top."
Marcus let out a long sigh after his soliloquy, then taking a deep breath to compose himself and prevent his fears from overtaking him. Whatever the Gundam's goals were it was a known fact that it included the complete and utter destruction of OZ. Marcus didn't care so much about if the Gundams took him, the thought never even occurred to him too much as he had few regrets in life overall and he didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. But Lizzie, she deserved better. She deserved to live.
An awkward pause lay between the two siblings who were separated by half the world. Eventually Lizzie chose to break the silence, "Marcus, I know all of those things. All we've talked about for the past two weeks is the Gundams, and our own mortality was a frequent topic. Pretty morbid if you ask me." Lizzie said, laughing awkwardly. "Yes I could die from the Gundams. But I can die from a lot of other things. Diseases, accidents, murder, natural disasters; there have been plenty of veterans in the past who survived the most brutal conflicts, only to die of the stupidest and most mundane causes. If I go out in combat then I at least want to go protecting my comrades and fighting for what I believe is right. I didn't come to Lake Victoria just to be like you. I knew what was going to happen when I signed up, why I'm going to have to do what's necessary. If I do face the Gundams, then I'm going to face them head on and stop their actions with everything that I can. That way I can make a better future. For the soldiers of tomorrow." Lizzie finished, a large smile forming on her face and her eyes shining brightly with courage and passion in her future work.
On the other end Marcus couldn't help but smile to, proud at everything his sister said. "Lizzie that's incredible. I..." Before Marcus ever got a chance to finish the stream cut off and static remained on the monitor. Consuming it for several seconds until the monitor went back to the screensaver with the Alliance flag.'What the hell?'
Marcus looked around, only to see the few others at their monitors continuing their conversations as normal. 'Did Lizzie's computer break?' Marcus exited out of the booth and went over to the others. "Hey guys, is everything alright? I was just talking to my sister when the connection broke off. Something wrong with the Wi-fi?" The response that came was a series of negatives followed by questions of what happend and if everything was alright. In response Marcus thanked them and made his way back to his station, trying to see if he could reconnect. And if that didn't work he would probably contact the Main office at Lake Victoria and see if everything was alright.
Before he got a chance to do so however, he heard a yell in the far off distance that would forever haunt him to this day.
"HOLY SHIT EVERYONE! LAKE VICTORIA'S BEEN ATTACKED!"
Everyone who was within the room paused what they were doing and the air became dead silent. The exclamation must have been heard throughout the whole forge as not even the sound of servicemen conversing or the production of mobile suits could be heard. Those who were within the conference room all turned their eyes towards Marcus, the only OZ personnel within the room and the one who was probably affected by it most due to himself being a Lake Victoria graduate. However Marcus was hit harder than probably every other OZ and Speciali member onsite. For he had something more personal at stake, the possible passing of his kin.
For what seemed like an eternity, Marcus stood still like a statue. His body in total shock of what had just happened. Within his mind he began connecting the dots, how Lizzie's connection broke as soon as said attack must have took place. The fact that the screen automatically cut out, and no sounds of an alert siren were heard, then that could have only meant one thing, they attacked the Student's barracks first.
Marcus dropped onto his knees on the ground. Head held low and arms stretched across as if he was in the middle of a pushup. Hot tears began to roll down the young Flight Lieutenant's eyes. 'Who the hell would attack Lake Victoria. It's one of OZ's most secure sites and has a whole battalion of mobiles? Who would go after...the Gundams.' In a cruel and ironic twist of fate, the same Gundams who they had discussed the possibility of taking Lizzie's life in combat, had just killed her at that same moment.
Back at the interrogation room in Buenos Aires, whatever presence of calm and control that Marcus had while speaking his story broke completely. The man was on the table bawling and letting loose a tsunami of tears, staining his uniform with tears and snot. While some would find the scene pathetic, Squadron Commander Henry Westfield would strongly disagree and beat the crap out of all those who thought of such a thing. While OZ had been viciously under constant attack by the Gundams since April, no battle was as brutal or heartbreaking as Lake Victoria. At the time of the attack out of all the Speciali who were on active duty, about 90% were graduates of the famed institution. Even Treize Khusrenada himself hailed from the class of 187 as their valedictorian. To almost every Speciali it was as if a piece of their soul had been ripped from them by the Gundams. Even Westfield himself had broken down into sadness and depression upon hearing the news, something which was an added tragedy to the loss of his friend Mathew just days before. Yet everything that Westfield went through at that time paled in comparison to Marcus. In a way the Flight Lieutenant had watched his only sibling die right in front of him. He lost his sister to the Gundams before she even graduated from the damn school, not even being able to receive the honor of dying in the line of duty. Just another victim of a senseless massacre thanks to the Gundam's mindless vendetta against OZ in their warped crusade.
For several minutes Marcus sat their bawling his emotions out, suppressed memories all coming back to him. At one point Doctor Sanchez came in and looked as if she wanted to end the proceedings, however with a wordless shaking of his head and halt of his hand, Westfield told her not to. Marcus had to get this out of his system if they were going to move forward in the debriefing. Based on how everything connected with the Gundams causing his sister's death, Noin failing to save her students and then switching to helping the Gundams without a care in the world, and Zechs leading the whole fiasco even though he was right there at Lake Victoria when 05 reigned its death and destruction; Marcus would most likely see this to the end. Henry Westfield would do everything he could to make sure that Marcus was avenged.
Eventually Marcus managed to calm himself and stopped his sobbing. Wiping his face with his sleeves and taking several deep breaths to calm his nerves. "I'm very sorry Squadron Commander for you having to see that. It was very unprofessional of me."
Westfield reached his hand towards Marcus' grasped it in affirmation. "You have nothing to be ashamed of Flight Lieutenant. I'm sure there are hundreds of men and women within OZ who had similar experiences to you. Hell, I lost my best friend at Corsica. The fact that the Gundams chose to attack your sister on campus, when she was a noncombatant and didn't have a chance to defend herself, is absolutely disgusting and pure cowardice of the worst kind. The Gundams took something from all of us, in your case it was very personal."
Marcus nodded slightly in affirmation, "You know it's pretty damned funny. Everything that happened to me after Daybreak, turning against the Alliance, killing several of our former comrades, having to take part in the New World order that Romefeller's making, it didn't bother me a damn bit. Some people formed PTSD, yet I hardly gave a single damn about those I killed. Yet Lizzie, her being slaughtered by that piece of shit, it haunts me. Every single goddamn night I dream about her, watch her die from the Gundams and I'm powerless to do anything about it. It'd be one thing if it was just the Gundams. But Noin, that fucking whore, she watched my sister die. She let all of her students die at the hands of the Gundams, and didn't do a damn thing to stop them. Even though she watched Lizzie and the others die, THE CADETS WHO SHE SWORE TO PROTECT, she didn't give a damn. She didn't pledge her life to take down the Gundams and avenge her students, instead she just quit OZ and joined some fucking Scandinavian Hippie, proclaiming that it's all OZ's fault and the Gundams are righteous in their quest. If Noin were right here right now, I'd kill the bitch. I'd strangle her and then take a knife and chop her into pieces, then feed her to the dogs like the trash she is.
But then again it might not be her fault, after all helping the Gundams wasn't her idea. OH NO! It was all her precious Zechs' master plan. He gave safe harbor to those monsters. Fucking kids who committed mass murder for no reason at all. He sheltered Zero One and Zero Three and repaired their Gundams. All so the lunatic could have A FUCKING JOUST!" Marcus said, frequently shouting in his speech and causing his skin to turn light red, breathing faltering and eyes bloodshot from his anger.
Marcus collected himself for a couple of moments, then continued talking, "Now you know why I hate the Gundams. Why they, Zechs, Noin, and every single one of those bastards I worked with at Antarctica deserve to be put in front of a firing line and shot! Now that, that's out of the way, I'll skip ahead to what you really want to know. How I came to Antarctica, and how I made myself a part of this conspiracy, and eventually killed Zechs."
June 23rd, AC 195. Midway Base. St. Louis, Missouri. Great Plains Confederacy
It was late in the night for OZ's Midway Base, a facility named so for being the center of North America and the hub of all military traffic in North America, at least for OZ and those nations who swore their allegiance to Romefeller. The place had once been a strong center of Alliance operations, being jointly run by both them and the Army of the Great Plains. Since Daybreak the Great Plains had assumed direct ownership of the base, leasing it to OZ and letting them use it as one of their centers of operation for the ongoing war for North America. The mobile pilots stationed there had seen their extensive amount of conflict, taking part in the ongoing Utah War and the increasingly frequent skirmishes between the various Great Powers of North America; primarily Canada, the Federal States, Great Plains, and California. For now however most of the base was quiet, their flights done for the day and the men and women of OZ turning in to gain some rest for the flight tomorrow. Most were either asleep, training, or conversing in social activities with their comrades. Flight Lieutenant Marcus White did nothing of the sort, instead sitting on his bed in his room with the lights turned off, just staring at the ceiling for what seemed to be hours.
Since Lake Victoria, Marcus had never really taken the loss of his sister well. There were several nights were he silently cried himself to sleep, only to be consumed by nightmares of her loss. If it wasn't for the fact that Marcus was one of a limited number of MS engineers, and that his combat performance during Daybreak seemed to excel than ever before, than his unit's doctors would've declared him unfit for duty and pulled him off immediately. Unfortunately these were desperate times and with a huge number of OZ's veterans having perished at the hands of the Gundams, they needed every warm body they could get their hands on. Especially someone as talented in engineering as Flight Lieutenant White.
Whatever Marcus was thinking of, if he was thinking of anything at all, stopped when his computer monitor began to flash with a message. Marcus sat upright and was confused at what was happening. Very rarely did he ever get any calls, most of his calls during his time at OZ being ones to Lizzie, something which didn't happen anymore for rather obvious reasons. The last time he had even talked on the computer was a few days ago with his mother, and neither of his parents would call this late at night. Getting up from his bed, Marcus lazily walked over to his computer and began to respond to the message, rubbing his eyes of the exhaustion. The image that came on the screen shocked him greatly, for the man infront of him was none other than one of the most powerful individuals in the Earth Sphere, Treize Khushrenada.
"Flight Lieutenant White, I apologize for calling at what appears to be a bad time. It's early morning here in Luxembourg and it appears that I forgot to notice the time differences." Introduced Treize, his voice being spoken in the rather suave tone that he was well-known for.
Marcus immediately sat upright and at attention. "Your Excellency, it's an honor! I do have to ask though why are you calling me? Don't you have more important things to do? Like planning for the war in Space or taking care of the brushfire wars all around the planet?" Marcus was immensely confused at the sudden social call. He had rarely spoken with Colonel Khushrenada in the past, nothing beyond some polite conversation about the ongoing production of mobile suits whenever Treize conducted one of his regular visits at OZ's production facilities. Marcus couldn't possibly fathom why Treize would contact him.
Treize gave what appeared to be a light chuckle of amusement. "My job Flight Lieutenant is one that includes numerous responsibilities. With the recent victory over the Gundams in Siberia, the war has been going rather well for OZ aside for a few isolated incidents. Lady Une along with others underneath my command are overseeing the greater day-to-day affairs, giving me some rather free reign to attend to other matters. As for the purpose of this particular call, I have an assignment for you that I would personally like to see done."
'The hell does he want, for me to go to space? Take part in producing the new Taurus lines?' "What would you desire for my services Your Excellency?"
"Flight Lieutenant, while OZ considers all of those who serves under our banner to be equal brothers and sisters in arms, there are a select few who are perhaps more equal than others. The Mobile Suit Engineers. You select few are exceptional individuals who hold the greatest knowledge within the Earth sphere that is essential to modern warfare, the theory of mobile suit creation. Our Mobile Suits are what gives us power. The monopolization that OZ has on these gallant knights gives us the greatest edge on the battlefield that few can dare to match. It is because of this that Daybreak is a success, and we have been able to install a new age for mankind. Sadly men and women like yourself have become rare and precious resources in these recent days. Many have lost their lives in the Gundam attacks, some have died valiantly in honorable combat against the Alliance, while others have quit OZ due to disagreements with the Foundation's plans for the future. Engineers such as yourself are like a Koi in a pond full of goldfish, a very valuable breed."
'Can you stop with the boring speeches and get on with it?'
"In short, your skills as an Engineer shall be required for an important task in the future, the creation of a new mobile suit. The events since Operation Meteor have brought a new light on the state of our Mobile Suit Troops. Along with the rather pitiful performance of the Leos against the Gundams, our aquatic mobile suits, the Cancer and Pisces units. These two mobile suits had the worst performances of any of our classes against the Gundams, not even offering a shred of a proper fight. This has been something that the Supreme Council has been complaining since their introduction, and recent events after Daybreak have only affirmed their resolve. On that end we are going to cancel both Cancer and Pisces production to focus on the Taurus. In the meantime we'll need a new aquatic mobile suit that can replace their jobs. Combining the functions of the two and creating a grand knight that shall rule the waves uncontested. This is a task that I would require of you Flight Lieutenant."
Within his room Marcus was simply dumbstruck. For the first time in his career, Marcus White was being given a highly prestigious job that would shape the future of mobile suit warfare to come. He would be the head of this project and would create a brand new machine, one entirely of his own design.'Lizzie, she would be happy to see this. She would love nothing more than to pilot a suit that I had made. I hope you're watching sis, cause I'm going to do this for you.'
"Sir, I'm honored that you would make such a request. I gladly accept! What are my orders know Your Excellency?"
On the monitor Marcus could see Treize smile, "I'm glad to hear of that Flight Lieutenant. You shall be transferred to our station at Antarctica tomorrow where 'Project Neptune' as I call it shall be completed. The necessary resources are already being put in place and you shall have full autonomy to work in any way you see fit. Flight Officer Vladimir Zhorkov is currently in command and shall report to you when you arrive. Good luck Flight Lieutenant."
New Castle. Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Inside his own personal office in the labyrinth that was the center of OZ's power, Treizer Khushrenada turned off his computer, having finished his conversation with Flight Lieutenant White. Reaching out to his desk, Treize grabbed a glass of fine French wine and took a deep sip, savoring in the sweet flavor of the drink. The Count of Zurich moved his glass in a swirled motion, contemplating what he had just done. "What a time we are in, when OZ has to rely on scraps in order to get the job done." Treize said out loud, only to realize that he was all alone at the current time. Usually Lady Une would be at his side and offer her personal counsel and advice. Alas, the dear Lady was currently in space at the moment, fulfilling her duty by acting as OZ, and by extension Romefeller's ambassador to the colonies. While she had done a rather admirable job in swaying the colonials to the side of Earth, Treize missed her presence all the same. Though he would never admit it, Une was a dear companion that had a special place in the Count's heart, her absence having formed a small vacuum in his life.
Back on the matter at hand, while Marcus White was by no means a bad engineer, actually performing admirable results in his previous assignments, he simply wasn't qualified for the job at hand. The creation of a brand new class of mobile suits was a precious and delicate process that required the brightest minds on the subject. When Treize had said that OZ was low and in desperate need of men like White, he was not kidding, far from it. OZ's personnel had been hit hard by the Gundam attacks. While on the outside they maintained an image of strength and invincibility, several critical blows had been dealt and numerous tens of thousands of experienced personnel with valuable skills had been lost, virtually priceless soldiers gone. The Engineers were no exception and they were dwindling with each month, most of them in OZ's employ having been snatched by Romefeller and out of Treize's personal authority.
'Ironic that in the end OZ's hoarding and selective breeding of elites with knowledge of mobile suits could prove to become its downfall.'
White wasn't Treize's first choice for the matter, in fact if he could the Colonel would've selected Flight Lieutenant Oswald Walker, a brilliant young man with an exceptional mind on mobile suits. Having taken part in the restoration of the Tallgeese and the early design and creation of Epyon. However Walker had become a rather busy man since Daybreak and had taken part in numerous operations in Eurasia to help cement OZ's control over the Earth, his unit having had incredible success against the enemy. Similar to Walker, there were numerous soldiers with similar skillsets who likewise were occupied in their respective roles in helping to wrap up the ongoing territorial conflicts on Earth and the emerging War in Space. Then there were men like Tubarov who were solely coveted by Romefeller and were put to work on the Foundation's latest weapon, the Mobile Dolls. An abomination to the chivalry of war and the honor of combat in Treize's mind. In short Marcus White was not selected because he was the right man for the job, rather he was one of the remaining few who was free to do so.
"Oh well, it matters not. Aquatic suits were never really where the strength of OZ laid behind. I'm sure Sir White will get the job done and create adequate results." Treize said, once again talking to himself. Treize then proceeded to slowly empty his glass, then set it down and exited his office to check up on the ongoing construction of Epyon, the Suit that would become his valiant knight on the battlefield and return war to what it was meant to be.
In the following weeks Treize would come to immensely regret the decision that he had made just minutes ago. For by doing so he set in motion events that caused the death of his dear friend, Milliardo Peacecraft.
July 14th, AC 195. Barclay Kamb Naval Staion. Antarctica.
Within his personal office that he had just moved in weeks ago, Marcus was for the umpteenth time going over the blueprints for the new mobile suit he was creating. What would hopefully be eventually christened as the OZ-14MS Poseidon. The suit was just entering its final drafts and was looking to be of design similar to the Pisces, one with a thick and large cockpit area along with numerous thrusters along the backside, built in beam cannons in the arms with its hands forming large claws that would be far deadlier than those featured on the Pisces. Lastly would be shoulder-mounted torpedoes that could be switched with a missile package for attacks against ground targets. Currently Marcus was trying to figure out how exactly to add a sort of backpack that be used as storage for portable mines. Something he was nearing success with.
A light knock on the door interrupted Marcus' thoughts. Sighing, he set aside his blueprints for the moment. "Come in." in strode FO Vladimir Zhorkov, a tall and well-built Siberian who served as Marcus' second in command. "Sir there has been a sort of development." Said Zhorkov in his thick Slavic accent.
"A development, what do you mean? Has there been an accident in the workplace?"
Zhorkov shook his head, "Nothing of the sort. However a Tupelov just arrived, bringing numerous equipment and personnel. At the head of it is Flight Lieutenant Lucrezia Noin, with her are several men, some OZ, some looking like civilian contractors."
"Noin, what the hell is she doing here? I thought she retired just a while ago. Rumor has it she's serving as the bodyguard for some Princess." Marcus said, chiding himself for not paying more attention to the recent gossip and ongoings of OZ.
The thought of raven-haired Italian brought much conflicting thoughts to White, many of them dark. Noin had led the Defense of Lake Victoria when Unit 05 attacked. With almost her entire unit getting wiped out and 05 getting away scott free, Noin reportedly failing to shoot the pilot while he was on foot and being given mercy by him due to the pilot's rather sexist (and some would say misogynistic) viewpoints. Part of Marcus blamed Noin for Lizzie's death ever since that day, that she was to blame for everything that transpired. 'Calm yourself White. You're acting irrational. She's not to blame, the Gundams are.' Marcus took a deep breath to calm his anger and put away whatever feelings he had about Noin.
"I'm unsure myself Flight Lieutenant. She does have her uniform on and is claiming to be acting under Lieutenant Colonel Zech's orders. She also asked for a meeting to be arranged in the Conference Room. I know it's rather unorthodox, but I did oblige and..."
"No need to worry Flight Officer. These are rather strange conditions but I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of this. Go ahead to the Conference Room and I'll meet up with you in a minute. For now let's entertain Noin and see what she has to offer."
"Sir!" Zhorkov saluted and then turned his heel to head to where Noin was gathering the base's senior personnel. Deep down Marcus didn't like what was happening. It was as if Noin was calling the shots even though they were the same rank and Marcus had senior command over Barclay. Then there was the fact that she was under orders from Zechs. 'Am I being replaced? The hell's going on?'
A minute later Marcus walked out of his office and proceeded to the conference room. He found the place to be jampacked with most of the NCO's and senior mechanics on the base, along with several new faces who White had never seen before today. Front and center in front of the podium where Marcus had given a few speeches stood Lucrezia Noin, wearing a thick white coat over her uniform, looking as stunning as she usually had.
Marcus decided to walk up her and confront Noin directly. "Flight Lieutenant, just what exactly is the meaning of this?"
Noin turned her attention away from the PC she had on hand and turned to face White, her face letting on a warm smile at his presence. "Flight Lieutenant White, how nice to see you! I must admit I was rather surprised to hear that you're running the shots around here. Seems you're moving up in the ranks these days."
Marcus coughed and fidgeted slightly at the praise, something he didn't usually receive. "Oh don't think much of it. Just doing my duty. Not like Aquatic suits have ever been OZ's priority in the past. I'm surprised though that you even bothered to remember my name at all."
Noin lightly giggled at the statement, "How could I forget the man who helped to make the Taurus units operational at Lake Victoria, you did an amazing job in helping to get them functional. We even implemented the theories for the airborne version that you came up with. Besides I wouldn't forget the elder brother of one of my favorite students, Elizabeth would go on and on about you for hours. You were an idol to her."
The mention of Lizzie only helped to sour Marcus' mood, "Thanks for your kind words. She really liked you, you know. She even said you were like a big sister to her."
Noticing Marcus' grief, Noin put an arm around his shoulder. "She was a bright kid, one of the best students I ever had. I'm proud to have gotten to know her before she passed. I know she would have made a good officer, if there is ever such a thing for a pointless organization." Before Marcus could raise a question at that last statement, Noin motioned him to sit down, "Why don't you take a seat and I'll get started. I have an important mission from Zechs. One I'll need you for in these coming days." Simply wanting to get his curiosity sated, Marcus complied and sat down in the front row. 'Good officer in a pointless organization, what did she mean? Does she still even work for OZ?'
Before Marcus could gather the conviction to confront Noin, she began her presentation. "Thank you for coming ladies and gentlemen. I know this is rather sudden and improper, but I promise it's for a good cause. I've come here directly at the request of Lieutenant Colonel Zechs, in order to fulfill a duty and help him complete his mission that he failed to complete in Siberia. With me are a couple dozen workers along with the remains of what used to be Unit 01, Wing Gundam. In the coming days we shall restore the Gundam to its former state, and give it back to its pilot so that Zechs may finally take it down with honor."
A/N: The Characterization of Oswald Walker along with other certain lingo such as ranks and non-assegnatti are taken Synthesis' work, "Soldier's of OZ: Walker's Account." This story is heavily based and inspired by said work, go check it out.