Forward: Hello folks. I've decided to try my hand at a Gryps War fic, you can blame RC, Zine and HDS if you want. Here we get to see some of the characters from my CCA Era fic (Wayward Warriors) a little earlier in their careers and yes I know I'm stupid for writing these out of order but when the muse calls you just have to come running.
Latest Forward: Hello and welcome to newly revised version of The Beast. There are a few changes here and there. This is probably a good place to give Special thanks to Redcomet for allowing me to use his 'Forrestal'-type Salamis heavy cruiser design in this fic. And now on with the show!
In the opening stages of the One Year War a horrific battle took place around Side 5. In a desperate attempt to stop the Principality of Zeon launching a second colony drop the Earth Federal Forces committed nearly its entire remaining space forces to the battle. The fighting was fierce and brutal. Despite losing over half its forces the Earth Federal Forces managed to prevent the dreaded second colony drop, but it was a shallow victory as the entire Side was wiped out along with its two and a half billion inhabitants.
Now, years later, one of Side 5's last sons has made his way home.
AEUG 'Forrestal'-type Salamis heavy cruiser Valiant, Shoal Zone, Side 4
17th August UC 0087
Lieutenant James Keffer sat in the right hand command chair on the bridge of the AEUG 'Forrestal'-type Salamis heavy cruiser Valiant. As AEUG warships went the Valiant was part of a rare breed of modified Salamis Kai class cruisers. The set of modifications were named after the first AEUG Salamis Kai to receive the treatment. The bow section was expanded considerably to facilitate a compliment of six mobile suits although, as in the case of the Valiant, it was possible to squeeze a seventh in if it stood on the mobile suit elevator. Although the bow section was not wider and long four of the missiles launchers had been removed to make more room for the mobile suit hanger. While the large mobile suit capacity was a great improvement over the standard Salamis Kai the 'Forrestal'-type did suffer from reduced manoeuvrability because the reactors and engines had not been upgraded and were now driving a vessel with more mass than previously.
Keffer was fidgeting and not really liking the situation he was currently in. Leaning over to his long time friend and commanding officer Alexander Jellico he spoke. "Are you absolutely sure we have to do this here?"
"I know your feelings on this one James," said Alexander kindly. "But there's no other place we can do this without being disturbed by the Titans or regular Federation Forces."
"I'm just not ready to go back home," said James quietly. He stared out of the Valiant's bridge at the approaching mass of debris known as the Shoal Zone. Born and raised at Colony 11 Wothott in Side 5. James lost his entire family during the apocalyptic Battle of Loum, made even worse by being shot out of his Saberfish fighter and forced to watch the battle unfold while floating helplessly in space. James shuddered down to his core as colony debris drifted past the Valiant's bridge.
"Captain we have now entered the Shoal Zone," said Hindly, the Valiant's helmsman.
"All right deploy observers and slow to one third," Alexander's calm voice commanded. He couldn't help but notice James tensing up. Alexander understood this he had helped James over come the demons that haunted him after the Battle of Loum.
"Captain I've plotted us a course that will take use right to the heart of the debris field,"' said the Valiant's navigator, Jameson, as he brought up a display version of the course. "We'll swing in round past the Garden of Thorns and come in from the left. This way we'll be covered by the densest area of debris that is stable enough for operations."
"Very well," said Alexander softly. He only vaguely noted a pair of crewmen being launched off the flight deck to act as observers; attached to the ship by only a thin lifeline they were now the best detectors available. A moment later one of the Valiant's GM IIs was raised on the mobile suit lift from the hanger, if needed it would intercept any debris that might endanger the ship. Like a lot of the Valiant's equipment the GM II was well used with various non-fatal bullet holes scattered over its body. "We'll take your course. Hindly go careful out there, we don't want to scratch the paint work."
"If you'll excuse me Captain I have somewhere to be," said James shakily as he started to leave before he even heard the reply.
"What's wrong Lieutenant? Not scared are you?" Ensign Aaron Terris sneered as he blocked the bridge hatch. Terris was a short young pilot who'd missed out on the One Year War. As with many short men he was desperate to prove himself, willing to pick fights with people he really shouldn't do. "Tell me you don't believe this place is haunted?"
"Out of my way Ensign," said James darkly. James found Terris to be an incredibly annoying person. The younger pilot's overly pugnacious attitude towards his own comrades and to the enemy really bothered James. Although he wouldn't admit it Terris reminded James too much of himself during the One Year War. "I don't have time to play games with the likes you."
"Well perhaps you should make time, Sir," demanded Aaron. "I want to know if we're being led into battle by a coward."
"You've got no right to speak to me like that!" roared James. He dashed forward and, while grabbing the younger officer's collar, forced him onto the bulkhead. "You're nothing! You hear me? When you've seen as much as I have then you can pass judgement."
"James! Stop it," commanded Alexander as he jumped off his command chair and put a hand on the older pilot's shoulder. "He isn't worth it and you know it."
James looked back at Alexander as he hesitated, contemplating what he should do. Both Hindly and Jameson had left their stations and were hovering nearby obviously ready to attempt and restrain him if the need arose, only once before had they needed to do that. Slowly he let go of Aaron but not before shoving the younger pilot off to one side. "I'll be in the hanger," he muttered as he kicked off the deck and floated off down the corridor, not bothering to use the guide rail.
Floating near aimlessly along the corridor James cursed himself for the lack of control he'd displayed. What the hell is wrong with me? he thought I've only just returned and already I've nearly beat the crap out of Terris. If this goes on I'll end up doing something stupid again. He put out a hand to stop himself as he reached the end of the corridor and forced his feet onto the floor, letting the slightly magnetic soles of his boots to get a grip. Unexpectedly the elevator door opened before he pressed the call button. Standing in the lift was a rather rough looking Commander Kyle Walker, the Valiant's executive officer. Grunting vaguely in James' direction the Commander slowly walked off towards the bridge. He turned to watch the haggard officer before entering the lift and pressing the button for the hanger deck.
Kyle Walker stepped onto the Valiant's bridge in time to see the end of Alexander berating Aaron Terris over being a total idiot. Sighing gently he lifted himself onto the left hand side command chair. A quick scan of the crew stations in front of him revealed that everyone was in their place.
"I take it you didn't sleep well," said Alexander as he dropped down onto his own command chair. "You look like hell."
"Thank you for noticing Captain," Kyle croaked. He brought his hands up and rubbed his eyes. "Why is it that during this war all I seem to do is paperwork? I've was up half the night."
"Some poor bugger has got to do it," replied Alexander taking a sip of tea from the carton he had been given by a crewman. This was hardly his favourite way of drinking tea, but it wasn't practical for a tea pot and cups to be used in zero gravity. "And I delegated it too you."
"Delegation my arse," grunted Kyle taking a sip of his drink and munching into a sandwich. "You just don't like doing it, Sir."
"Don't worry Commander," said Alexander finishing his drink and standing up. "I'm sure this watch will be nice and quiet so you can rest up a bit."
Titans cruiser Perseus, Shoal Zone, Side 4
Far across the decimated Side a lone pair of Titan ships, a blue-grey Salamis Kai cruiser escorting a modified Columbus transport, slipped unnoticed into the swirling mass of debris. Upon entering the debris field both ships slowed right down and deployed observers to help them navigate through the chaotic area.
On the bridge of the Salamis Kai, named the Perseus, Lieutenant Commander Franz Graser paced up and down. Not a happy man at the best of times Graser was thoroughly fed up with his current assignment. Captain Bask Om had personally assigned him to oversee the field testing of the Titan's latest prototype newtype mobile armour, an attempt to mass produce a unit used on Earth to fight Karaba, this irked Graser considerable since he loathed mobile suits and mobile armours. Franz Graser had been an ace fighter pilot even before the One Year War started; his treasured fighters were out classed by mobile suits and he became incredibly bitter towards them and those who piloted them. He could only surmise that he must have annoyed Captain Om in some manor and that this was one great joke, he didn't find it funny at all.
"How long until we reach the target area?" he barked at the ship's helmsman, his accent betraying his central European ancestry.
"Approximately six hours Lieutenant Commander," replied the helmsman. "It is difficult to navigate a debris field this intense."
Graser scowled, he wanted to get this down quickly. "Radar is there anything on the scopes? There could be AEUG lurking out there."
"It's nearly impossible to say Lieutenant Commander. There is so much scrap left over from the One Year War it's very hard to get an accurate fix on anything," replied the Radar operator. "I'll try my best but the debris is acting very erratically."
"Your best had better be good enough!" declared Lieutenant Commander Graser. "If we stumble into a trap you will be held personally responsible. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes Lieutenant Commander," replied the Radar operator in a slightly worried tone. He had the distinct feeling that Lieutenant Commander Graser had no idea just how difficult it was to operate radar in this kind of environment. Never the less he kept his eyes glued to his screen in the hopes of picking up something. To his relief the scowling Lieutenant Commander's attention was dragged away by the latest arrival onto the bridge.
"Ah, Doctor Mooro," said the Lieutenant Commander dryly. "How long until iiti is ready to start the testing."
Doctor Mooro looked over his gold rimed spectacles at Lieutenant Commander Graser, contempt glistening in his eyes. "If Lieutenant Commander you refer to the Psyco Gundam test unit then it will require a further four hours of fine tuning," said the grey haired Doctor. "However if you were referring to Ensign Farris, he is ready to begin right now."
"It had better be Doctor, I do not wish to hang around for your freak boy," snarled Lieutenant Commander Graser. If there was one thing that Graser hated more than mobile suits it was newtypes. Unlike many of his peers in the Titans he knew that newtypes were very real and very dangerous. He'd seen first hand just how dangerous they could be during the One Year War a few days after the Battle of Solomon his ship had been sunk by one of Zeon's freakish mobile armours. The idea that he now had to watch over the two things he hated the most really appalled him but orders were orders and had to be obeyed.
AEUG heavy cruiser Valiant, Shoal Zone, Side 4
James drifted down the cramped hanger floor; he'd changed out of his uniform and into a pilot's normal suit. The hanger was a hive of activity as technicians and mechanics went about their work of maintaining the Valiant's mobile suit squad. A GM II was being raised up to the launch deck via the central elevator James mentally noted it had Ensign Frank Baylies' insignia on it.
"Hey Chief what are you doing?" asked James as he came up to where a group of mechanics were dismantling the backpack of Lieutenant Junior Grade Jason Raynor's Nemo.
Bernard Scott, the Valiant's head mechanic, nicknamed 'Chief', grinned. "We spotted a banged up GM Cannon II outside so I sent Baylies to go pick it up for us. If it's in good enough nick I thought we could take the cannons off it and mount them on this Nemo," Bernard Scott was a rough and ready sort that was from Scotland, charging off into his forties he showed no signs of slowing down. If anything the conflict with the Titans had brought him into his element, his skills of getting things to work no matter how battered they got was vital to the Valiant.
"Do you think they'll be compatible?" asked James slightly sceptical of the idea. "And now the heck do you plan to fit a GM Cannon II in here? We're already overloaded thanks to Terris' Nemo."
"So what if the parts aren't entirely compatible, my mallet will get them to work," declared Scott. "I only need the backpack anyway we can strip that off outside and just float the bits we need down the elevator. When I'm done we'll have a nice little fire support mobile suit. Heck I might even send the specs over to those dunderheads at Anaheim."
"Don't get carried away okay Chief," said James. He knew that once Scott had gotten an idea into his head there was no way of making him change his mind. "How is the Full Armour Gundam Mk II doing?" He cast his view down towards the corner of the hanger where the bulky bluey-grey mobile suit had been squeezed in. There wasn't actually enough room to move it without moving most of the other mobile suits in the hanger.
"That thing? Oh it'll work alright." said the Chief scornfully. "But I reckon we'll find tons of bugs in it. Always happens with prototypes, and I hear they rushed through this model."
"You know it is our job to find those bugs," said James leaning against a pile of crates. "That's what field testing is for."
"No lad, our job is to fight and kill the Titans," said Scott harshly. "It's their job to give us weapons that work with no problems."
"Let me just get this straight," said James. "That's not one of the Gundam Mk IIs the Argama captured from Gryps right?"
"Like they'd let you have one of them," replied Scott with a short laugh, "When Anaheim got their hands on the Gundam Mk II's moveable frame they built a few testbeds of their own. Then the started a design process to improve the performance and firepower of the Mk II. Someone came up with the bright idea of building a full armour suit like they had in the last war. So they dusted off one of the mobile frame testbeds and built our very own Full Armour Gundam Mk II."
James sighed again. "Right you are then Chief," Kicking off the deck James floated over to where the Valiant's oldest mobile suit was resting. It was a battered old GM Sniper Custom piloted by Lieutenant Marcus Cole. Cole had been one of the Federation's top snipers during the One Year War. James had lost touch with Cole after the war but the sniper reappeared with some timely assistance that saved the Valiant from capture during the early weeks of the AEUG rebellion.
"Do you like the new toys Marcus?" called James up to where Marcus was working in the GMs cockpit.
Marcus stuck his head out of the cockpit and peered down at his commanding officer. He was a scruffy looking fellow, yet still managed to command an aura of respectability. "It's certainly interesting and a bit more powerful than the old rifle. I'd like to give it a test run though," The engineers at Anaheim had acquired a beam launcher which they enhanced with addition senor equipment. Declared to be a new style of sniper rifle it was shipped to the Valiant to be tested properly. "Do you know where they got it from?"
"Not sure I heard Karaba nabbed it in a raid on a Titans supply base," said James. "I'll ring up to the bridge and get them to authorise you to go out on recon. You can give it a test while you're out there."
The Valiant's mess hall was painted in an mustard yellow colour the exact reason behind this choice of colour was beyond Lieutenant Junior Grade Jason Raynor, as he sat idly filling in a crossword puzzle in an old copy of the Granada Times. Off duty and with little else to do Jason, similarly with the rest of the crew, wasn't really in the best of moods. In the wake of the Titan's Operation Apollo and the news that the Federation Assembly had passed legislation to expand Titans power had broke not so long ago. Despite some of the early successes Jason was beginning to think this war was impossible to win. He sighed; he knew that if James ever caught him thinking like that the older officer probably would have beaten him up. Jason had known James for a few years now; they'd both joined the Titans a few months after its forming.
The pair had been something of an oddity to start with since both of them were actually spacenoids. James' vast experience as a mobile suit test pilot ensured that he'd get in but Jason had had to lie about his place of birth and it was only his excellent marks that ensured he stayed in the Titans. The Titans started out a fairly decent organisation but they quickly changed their ways radically and James and Jason were shunted around until they ended up being attached to 56th Cruiser Squadron operating out of Luna II and to the Valiant which was commanded by Captain Jellico and was also James old ship from the One Year War. They both heard about the Colony 30 incident at the same time. What made the matter even worse was that Colony 30 was Jason's home colony. That soul shattering discovery cause Jason to automatically quit the Titans and Federal Forces, it was the running joke that he and James were in the AEUG before the AEUG even existed.
Probably the only thing that kept Jason going was the fact that he knew he had nothing to go home to anymore. Other pilots, other crewmen they had families and loved ones waiting for them to come home. But now Jason his family was already dead, had no loved ones waiting for him. It seemed almost cliché but the only family he had was the crew of the Valiant and he really wanted to know who the hell picked mustard yellow for the mess hall because it was really beginning to get on his nerves. Looking back down at his crossword he resolved to ask the captain whether or not they could get it repainted next time they were in port.
The relative quiet of the mess hall was shattered as a gaggle of the ship's female crew burst in and started to chat loudly about nothing particularly interesting. Not a very social animal Jason folded up his paper and got ready to leave.
"Lieutenant JG can we ask you something?" asked one of female crewmen. She and her fellows were clustered around a table in the middle of the room, right in between Jason and the door.
Trying not to look annoyed or uncomfortable Jason could only oblige. "What do you want to know Chief Petty Officer Larez?" Jason vaguely recognised her as one of the deck handlers who organised mobile suit ordinance. He also noted she seemed a little miffed by his formality.
"We were wondering if the rumours were true," asked Chief Petty Officer Larez. Her tone was serious, if a little scared. Jason's blank expression compelled her to continue. "You know Sir, about the Titans' giant mobile suit that attacked Hong Kong."
Jason paused before answering; he had heard the rumours and even discussed the issue with James. "It's true the Titans did build a giant mobile suit, but it was destroyed by a pilot off the Argama." Satisfied he'd given a suitable answer he started to leave again.
"You don't think there are more of them do you?" asked another one of the group.
"The chances of us running into one of those things out here are very slim," replied Jason confidently. "We're just here to let Lieutenant Keffer test out the new Gundam parts and have a rest. It'll be a breeze, so don't worry."
As he left Jason hoped he'd done a good job at reassuring them. He was unsure about the Titans giant mobile suit, he desperately want there to be only one and that it was on the Earth. However he knew that with the Titans just about anything could happen.
The acceleration effect from launching pushed Marcus Cole into his seat. Once clear he brought his GM Sniper Custom around in a lazy arch before snapping off a series of sharp turns ducking and diving through the debris field. The GM's original two tone blue paint scheme had long since been replaced by the greens used by the AEUG Nemos but some of the older scheme could be still be seen in placed where the new one had chipped and flaked off.
As his GM continued on its erratic and unplanned course Marcus fiddled with one of the control panels in his cockpit. The GM Sniper Custom dated back to the One Year War but it had been fitted the new panoramic monitor-linear seat combo. The Sniper Custom should have been refitted to the standard of the GM IIs however Marcus had been stationed in a real backwater and the equipment was allowed to stagnate. Marcus didn't really like the panoramic monitor system it made him feels like weren't really in a mobile suit at all. In his opinion the old cockpit style was superior.
Marcus would have loved to spend hours just dancing around the debris field having a bit of fun, but that was not to be as he had a job to do and that was to test his new sniper rifle. While not technically a sniper rifle the beam launcher had been given improved sensor equipment and possessed both a long firing range and powerful punch. For the equipment hungry AEUG everything was a process of make do and mend.
Checking that he was far enough away from the Valiant so as not to give her position away Marcus randomly picked a damaged Zaku II from the debris field. From the looks of the damaged it appeared that this particular Zaku II had been a bit too close to a Federal cruiser when it exploded. Giving the Zaku II a push to simulate a moving target Marcus dropped his GM off a little and took aim. He held the Zaku II in his sights for a few seconds before pulling the trigger. The beam shot out of the barrel and struck the Zaku II just off centre sending it spinning out of control before it smashed into a large chunk of ship debris. Marcus checked his cockpit readouts and noticed that the targeting software was off by two points. He manually made the changes and started looking for another target.
There was only one other Zaku II in his immediate area so Marcus sent his GM over to grab it. It wasn't until he closed in the on the Zaku II that he noticed something a little odd. "Funny." he thought. "I don't remember Zakus ever having heads like that," Taking in the Zakus strangely large, flat and round head extension it wasn't until after the mobile suit started firing its machine gun that he realised what it really was. "Shit! Eye-Zack!" he yelled desperately trying to manoeuvre his GM out of the way. A hail of bullets smacked into the GM Sniper penetrating the torso armour and damaging the left arm. In the cockpit the left side monitor exploded sending a shower of broken glass across the enclosed space.
In a snap shot Marcus fired the beam launcher, only vaguely aimed the beam missed by several meters and sliced its way through a derelict Musai. The EWAC Zack's pilot not exactly wanting to push his luck quickly turned about and shot away at full speed. The pilot showed great skill at managing to avoid the debris while travelling at such speeds. Finally bringing the GM back under control Marcus pulled the beam launcher about and tried to get a clear shot. The Eye-Zack was doing a good job of making itself a difficult target by dodging in and out of the debris. Not able to get a clean kill Marcus was forced to take a pot shot. The beam lanced out and a few seconds later there was an explosion, but Marcus never actually saw the beam hit so he couldn't be entirely sure whether or not he got the kill. Not that it mattered really; he was more concerned about the deep gash in his side that he'd received from a shard of glass. Clamping one of the totally inadequate dressings from his emergency med-kit to the wound he swung the GM Sniper II back around and headed towards the Valiant. He had to warn them. He had to notify them about the presence of Titans nearby.