Mobile Suit Gundam: The Path of the Comet
A Mobile Suit Gundam fanfic by Preventer Void and the GameFAQs Gundam MB.
Chapter 1: The Red Comet of Loum
The cargo bay doors opened, and a ray of sunlight streamed through the small crack, falling upon Casval Rem Daikun's face. Partially closing his eyes, he waited a few seconds until the photosensitive cockpit glass and helmet visor all but negated the light before reopening them. As techs floated almost aimlessly in their orange normal suits, he began a final examination of his FF-S3 Saberfish. The sleek aerospace fighter was in perfect working order, completely fueled and all its ammunition loaded. As he looked back towards the speckled curtain of space, he allowed himself a small grin. Normally, the Federation was quite stuck in its ways. But after exhibiting exceptional skill, he had been allowed to customize his Saberfish. Normally, the fighter was painted white with orange on the nosecone, the front of the main fuselage, and the wings, with commander units using blue instead of orange.
But Red Leader, also known as Edward Mass's personal Saberfish, was predominantly colored light red, with the accents highlighted with a bloody crimson and some of the minor details painted a smoky black. This had caused a stir among some of the higher-ups, since the practice of custom paint jobs for ace pilots was common among Zeon pilots like the Black Tri-Stars, and almost anything associated with Side 3 had become taboo in the months since its rebellion began. But Casval had argued that if ace pilots among the Federation were celebrated the way their Zeon counterparts were, it would have a noticable effect on the morale of their allies. And so he got his custom machine, as had several other pilots. He remembered hearing about an ensign having his Saberfish painted in mostly blue, while another had his done in black. Reflecting on that, Casval shrugged. It didn't matter if they wanted their machines painted mauve and puice, as far as he cared, just so long as it made the other soldiers fight harder.
"Casval, are you really going through with this?"
The young blonde man turned around to look at his sister Artesia. She was several years his junior, but she had the same subtle beauty and nobility that their mother had had. As his few memories of her returned, Casval almost smiled. But remembering what he was about to say, he resisted the urge.
"I am. Artesia, I don't believe for a minute that our father just contracted some disease all of a sudden. It was too convenient for Degwin Zabi. I'm not sure if he ordered it, or if it was that conniving Giren, but I'm absolutely sure that our father was murdered so that the Zabi family could take power at Side 3. And you know me well enough to know that I'm not going to sit on my hands while they get away with it."
Artesia shook her head, as if it would change his mind. "But you're going to take revenge yourself? You're not that kind of person, Casval."
"I don't know what kind of person I am anymore," he said as he looked up at the late afternoon sky. "But this has to be done."
He turned around and put a gentle hand on his sister's cheek. "I'm not asking you to give your permission, Artesia. I don't even expect you to consider me your brother after I leave. But please understand, I'm doing what I believe in my heart to be right. I expect you to do the same."
She closed her eyes as tears began trickling down her snowy white face. "I don't want to lose you. You're the only family I have left."
Now allowing himself to smile, Casval pulled his little sister close and leaned her head on his shoulder. "You're such a gentle woman, Artesia. You remind me so much of Mother... You would do well to forget about me and go on with your life. Become a doctor, or do something else where that generous heart of yours will be satisfied. But I swear to you, as your brother and as a man, that I will not allow myself to die out there."
Leaning back in his seat, Casval sighed. That conversation had taken place a little less than five years ago, and marked the last time he saw Artesia. But the pragmatic side of his mind told him
that it was the best; he didn't need to contaminate her purity with the bloody path he had chosen. He was the one who had chosen the way of the sword, and it would be his alone.
"Attention, Red Squadron. You have been cleared for take-off."
Snapping back to the present, Casval started up the systems in his Saberfish and gripped the control stick. Reaching over to his right, he pressed a button on his comms panel. "This is Red Leader, acknowledged. All units, scramble and follow me in standard formation."
A chorus of voices chimed "Yessir!" into his helmet-mounted earpiece. As much as he would have preferred to eschew the use of a space helmet, it was a foolish notion to do without when only a few inches of reinforced glass stood between you and the vacuum of outer space. In such small ways, logic won out over personal preference, but it didn't stop Casval from having a red normal suit to match his Saberfish. In that way, he was happy with the compromise.
Engaging the rocket engines, the red Saberfish jetted out of the cargo bay of the Colombus-class ship "Asama", which served as the mothership for Casval's Red Squad and another team, lead by the veteran instructor South Burning. As his Saberfish pulled up nearby the older man's, they waggled wings in a salute.
"So, hotshot, you ready for some real combat?" Burning teased over the radio.
Casval smiled. "You shouldn't sound so sure of yourself, old man. I just might go and make you look foolish out there."
"Here's hoping," said Burning, now sounding deadly serious. "Those giant robots the Zeons are fielding have the fighting power of an entire squadron of fighters. Odds are we're going to encounter some serious resistance."
"It doesn't matter to me if they're using giant robots or space aliens, I'll fight the Zeons all the same. If we let them do whatever they want, there won't be an Earth left to return to."
Burning laughed. "Now that's the kind of attitude I wish all our boys had. Good luck out there, Mass."
Looking to his left, Casval made a salute towards the instructor. "And may the glory of victory be yours!"
The mind, Casval thought, is an incredible thing. Even though he was in the middle of a pitched battle, he still had the presence to keep an eye on his team members as well as think about personal matters. As his Saberfish straffed a Zeon Zaku, he reflected on his words to Burning. His expressed desire to defend the Earth was a half-hearted cover for his real intent. But if opposition to the Zabis brought himself and the Federation onto the same side, so be it. As they said, the enemy of...
"McGovern! Your tail!"
Pressing the button on top of the flight stick, Casval loosed a missile at the Zaku that had trained its machinegun on his wingman. The small projectile streaked through open space and impacted with the Mobile Suit's right elbow, ripping the arm in half. Another member of the team came in from the front and launched a missile at the right side of the Zaku's chest, right in its cockpit. The drab olive cyclops lurched as it began slowly spinning, permanently frozen in place with its right arm missing and its left clutching the grip of its giant weapon.
"Nice job, Gilder. Everyone, eyes open." As the words left his mouth, Casval felt an odd sensation run through his body. It almost felt as if something had pierced his very consciousness and was pointing to something. In that second, he could feel the hostile intent of the Zeon pilot behind him. Moreover, he instantly knew that it was an old model Zaku with a bazooka. Stomping on the pedals, Casval sent his Saberfish into a barrel roll, just as the mammoth rocket shot through the space he had once occupied. Performing a sharp U-turn, the red fighter came up facing the Old Zaku's right side. The Mobile Suit fired again, but its aim was off, as if the sudden response of its enemy had thrown it off.
"Quit fooling around!" Casval cried as he pulled the trigger on his flight stick. Flames spurted from the Saberfish as the four twenty-five milimeter vulcans in its nose came to life, bright red tracers marking the flight of the bullets. The young pilot instantly aimed his fire down the barrel of the Zaku's bazooka, where they struck the chambered shell and set off a chain reaction that tore through the Mobile Suit, leaving it a smoking ruin. Casval didn't even bother making a second strafe; he knew the pilot was dead because he sensed the life leaving his body.
Through the Minovski particle-induced static, CPO Mark Gilder's calm voice streamed into Casval's cockpit. "That was incredible, sir. How'd you know?"
Casval pressed the comms button and, half-joking, replied, "I guess I'm just psychic." That got a laugh out of his squadmates, but he didn't bother thinking about it too much right now. His indicators let him know that he was running low on ammunition and propellant. After squeezing off his last few rounds and scoring another kill, he ordered the squad to return to base for resupply.
Casval looked over at his Saberfish as the mechamen restocked its vulcans. It would take two or three minutes for them to complete the resupply, and then it would be another flight into the breach. Leaning against the wall of the bay, he mused on the just-past battle.
"Here you go."
Looking to his right, Casval saw Mark Gilder offering him a drink pouch labeled as some kind of Columbian coffee. Taking the pouch with a nod of thanks, the blonde man unscrewed the cap from the drinking spout and started sipping.
Gilder rubbed the back of his head nervously, making his long, light brown hair fan out in the gravity-less space. "Sir, what did you mean about that comment out there?"
"You mean that thing about being psychic?" Casval asked between sips.
"Exactly," Mark said with a nod.
"Nothing in particular. Just shooting the breeze, I guess."
The Chief Petty Officer frowned. "That's dangerous talk, sir. The Federation is very unhappy with the Zeons for starting this little rebellion. If you go around saying things that sound like they came from the mouth of Zeon Daikun himself, you're just asking for a court martial."
"If the Federation is fine with throwing away a perfectly good soldier as part of some witch hunt, that's their perogative," the son of Zeon commented. "But if they court martial everyone who makes a joke like mine, they'll find their ranks a little thin. Besides, this isn't just a rebellion anymore. It stopped being one the instant they gassed a colony full of civilians and used it to turn
Sydney into a crater."
"I see your point." As if he were conceding something greater, Mark slumped against the wall near Casval. "But if I may ask you something?" He waited for his CO to nod before going on. "Do you really put any faith in Daikun's idea that living in space makes you develop supernatural abilities?"
"I put my faith in very little," Casval said definitively. "But what I do know is this: there are times when I sense people long before I see them, times when I know who's coming before they get
anywhere near my quarters. Just now, that Zeon machine attacking me at my Twelve? I sensed the pilot's desire to kill me before my sensors even registered his machine. That was why I was able to avoid an attack that came from behind like that."
The younger man nodded slowly. "I think I've had moments like that."
Before they could go any further, the klaxons started blaring. Kicking off the wall, Casval headed for his Saberfish as the mechamen finished their work. After getting strapped in and suited up, he hit the comms button. "Red Leader to bridge, what's going on?"
Captain James Brannigan's gruff voice came over the radio, mostly free of the Minovski effect. "A group of Zeon ships and machines are advancing on our flank. It looks like they're attempting to catch us in a pincer. We need you to launch as soon as possible and cover us."
"Understood." Releasing the button, Casval slid the visor up and called out to the mechamen. "We need anti-ship missiles, now!"
The Musai-class cruiser, Casval thought, looked oddly familiar. He couldn't quite explain it, but for some reason its profile seemed to strike a cord within him. The whys of it weren't important right now, he told himself. What was important was the fact that several of the cruisers were bearing down on their division, mega particle cannons blazing, and he had been ordered to do something about it.
The four large missiles strapped to the Saberfish's wings did a little to improve Casval's mood in this situation. What didn't was the large number of Zakus doing their damnedest to kill everyone with Federation markings on their hulls. With the men in his squad fresh from their brief respite, they were more than ready to take on the enemy before them. As he shot the mono-eye out of one Zaku, Casval observed the others zipping in and out of combat with the green giants. Though the Mobile Suits had greater fighting power than his entire team, the Saberfish were doing what they did best: using their agility and speed to harass the stronger foe. In effect, they were playing David to an entire army of Goliaths, but the members of Red Squadron were more than up to the task. That made Casval smile.
Returning his full attention to the fight, he launched a missile at an Old Zaku, hitting its backpack thrusters and setting off a much larger explosion as its reactor went up. Looking left, he saw Red Five being chased around by a machinegun-wielding Zaku and turned to aid his wingman. The Saberfish's vulcans didn't do more than scar the Zaku's super-hard steel armor, but he at least caught the pilot's attention and got some heat off of Sarkus.
Before he could reply, Casval felt the heat of an explosion on his back. Checking the rear monitor, he saw Red Three, Mark's machine, come out of a fireball with burn marks scarring the red and white paint. Its left wing was missing, and the engines on that side were smoking. He depressed the comms button. "Mark, are you alright?!"
"Just a little banged-up," the CPO replied. "That bastard managed to hit the missile on my left wing, but I nailed him with the one on my right."
Casval nodded. "Good, just get yourself back to the ship before something else happens. We'll handle things from here." Turning back to the battle, the young man grimaced; things were not looking good. Discounting Mark, one of the other Red Squad members had been shot down by a Zaku, and another was badly damaged. As for the Zeons, while they had lost some Zakus and one of the Musais was missing a mega particle cannon turret, they were basically none the worse for wear.
Controlling his anger, Casval darted between two Zakus and made a beeline for the Musais. His "danger sense" went off several times, allowing him to dodge the hail of bullets and the roaring bazooka shells. One Zaku came up in front of him, only to take a missile in the cockpit. Another tried the same, but Casval rolled and fired his machineguns, blowing out the camera eye and the left shoulder before darting right past him.
The pilot of that damaged Zaku must have been panicked, because he had accidentally pressed the button that sent out his communications on a general circuit rather than a Zeon-exclusive one. "He moves so fast...he's like a...a red comet!"
Casval laughed, then pressed his own general communications button. "Thanks for the nickname."
The Musais ahead turned the brunt of their attention on the cocky Feddie, intending to teach him a lesson. But while they were powerful, the cruisers lacked for speed. Before the first one could even open fire, Casval fired off one of his anti-ship missiles at the long "neck", finding the reactor and setting it off in a humongous fireball. Turning himself towards the next Musai, he rolled between the pink streams of mega particles and loosed another missile, striking it in the same place. He burst through the resulting flames, momentarily looking like a demon from Hell, and attacked the next ship with the same result. By the time the fourth ship went up, the Zeons had turned all of their weapons on him. While he simply evaded their attacks, the remaining members of Red Squad picked their targets off at their leisure.
Then he came upon the last of the Musais. With an enraged roar, Casval aimed his Saberfish right at the bridge and gripped the trigger as his thumb repeatedly stabbed down on the top button. Vulcans and missiles pumped into the glass-walled compartment of the Musai, not caring if they hit glass, metal, or flesh. The bridge exploded as Casval flew past it, lighting up his vision briefly. He could see the few remaining Zakus attempting to cover each other as they fled, contending with the other red Saberfish. Releasing the last of his missiles, Casval took another Zaku down as he headed back towards his team.
The captain's voice came over the radio as the Zakus retreated. "Five ships down...unless I'm much mistaken, Ensign, they'll be singing your praises in Jaburo tomorrow morning."
Casval smirked to himself. He didn't care what the Federation brass thought, so long as his own plan came to fruition. But at the moment, that wasn't the topmost thought on his mind. Looking at the rearview monitor, he saw the bridge-less Musai and realized that, if turned upside-down, its profile looked extremely similar to the ship from that science fiction show he had watched as a child...