Collateral Damage

By: Theodore 'Blitz' Leung

theoleung@sprint.ca

Disclaimer: I don't own Zone of the Enders (ZOE). Konami does. I wish I did, it's a good game, albeit short. But the Metal Gear Solid 2 (MGS2) demo was a good addition. Anyway, enough rambling, time to get this fic on.

Leo gripped the controls of the Frame tightly, watching the hovering 'Jehuty' before him, better known as Anubis. The Frame Runner grew anxious and nervous, wondering if he had a chance this time, unlike their previous encounter. The fact remained that Jehuty still was not operating at full strength, much like how it was at the space colony where Leo first found the Frame, not all functions fully installed, not ever close, even after all the upgrades he located during the escape.

"In our current condition, survivability against Anubis is less then 1%," ADA calculated, though Leo didn't really want to hear it. He wasn't going to back down this, or else he would never be able to save Celvice.

The Frame Runner gritted his teeth, letting his friend down once, but not twice, not this time. He wouldn't let her down again.

ADA 'watched' Leo as he analysed the situation, 'tempted' to offer advice but 'decided' to remain silent, 'wishing' for the events to unfold by themselves. The Frame Runner remained silent, expecting taunts or arrogant remarks from the opposing Frame. He was silently surprised when no such remarks came, wondering just who was piloting that Frame now, if not the same person he met back at the colony.

"Who…are you…?" Leo questioned, prepared for anything, expecting an assault at any moment now. He was glad he was prepared too, as Anubis quickly blasted forward, drawing its staff and taking a swing at Jehuty. Leo barely had time to react, quickly shifting to his side and raising the blade on Jehuty's arm, blocking the blow. The Frame shuddered under the impact, though remained intact. The Frame Runner quickly commanded Jehuty away, thus beginning the all too familiar pattern of Anubis phasing in and out of space, appearing and disappearing, unsure when he will strike or not.

"Not this again…" Leo muttered, trying to keep up with Anubis as best as possible. The Frame Runner found himself getting dizzy from concentrating too hard, though he knew he could not relax for a second, or get destroyed when Anubis does attack.

Leo quickly manoeuvred the Frame in a 180 degree spin, raising the blade of Jehuty. The staff came down fast and hard, breaking through the energy blade of Jehuty. Leo gasped, backing away as Anubis went back into the fit of phasing.

"Jehuty's blade has been disabled," ADA reported, though Leo knew it was quite clear. A quick report appeared on the screen on one the panels in front of Leo, though the Frame Runner didn't read it, concentrating more on the battle then at some damage report.

"How can you fight something you can not keep up with…?" Leo muttered, trying to the best of his ability to predict how Anubis will attack, but failing in every single way to determine a pattern. "There just HAS to be a way…" he whispered, a bit louder then before.

"Perhaps…doing the exact opposite of what is expected?" ADA suggested, confusing Leo at first. The Frame Runner was confused on two reasons: one, what ADA meant; and two, that ADA was actually…suggesting something, instead of being precise and accurate about 'plans'.

During this moment of silence, Anubis struck again quickly. Leo quickly activated the boosters, blasting towards his left, the staff of the other Frame tearing some of the plating off of Jehuty's hull. The fragments floated through the gravity less chamber, impacting against Anubis, but doing nothing significant. The opposing Frame continued to bound in and out of existence, waiting for another opportunity to attack.

"Damn, I just can't hit him!" Leo cursed, tightening his grip around the controls. He was getting frustrated with the helplessness of the situation, not expecting to win in such a situation. However, ADA's words dawned on him again, wondering how he could do the unexpected. Then, as the words crossed his mind, a though ran through as well. Leo gasped, finally understanding what he could do, and kicking himself mentally for not thinking of such in the first place. "Alright ADA, let's do the unexpected…" Leo informed his computer companion. The AI was 'curious' about what Leo has thought up, 'watching' again with intent. The computer was 'interested' in Human behaviour, especially being around one such as Leo so long.

Leo relaxed a little, knowing full well his efficiency would drop if he continued to be so tense. It surprised himself he could be so calm now, waiting for the opening he needed for this plan of his to work.

* * * * * *

Elena watched the fireworks on the view screen, wondering what was going on within and around the installation. The outside was quite apparent, with Frames from ships such as this one engaging the enemy while Jehuty went in to complete its mission.

Though it crossed her mind much earlier that Leo might have other ideas, as may ADA, after the two got to know each other better with the experience back at the colony. She wondered how Leo was going to pull this off…even if he doesn't want to kill everyone there, ADA still had her directives to complete, and as such, would lead to conflict.

"So, what are you going to do, Frame Runner?" Elena wondered silently, keeping an eye on the view screen. She knew Leo would somehow become reunited with ADA during this time, but didn't expect such circumstances to occur. Even so, she left a present for Leo inside Jehuty, and ADA knew it was there. If anything, it would grant ADA 'another life'.

The engineer sighed, closing her eyes and imagining the outcome of today's mission.

* * * * * *

"Can I really do it?" Leo thought, doubt beginning to linger in his mind even after such a short time. He kept an eye on Anubis' movements throughout the chamber, but made no move to anticipate anything. Instead, he would rely on his reaction and wits, hoping to strike at the crucial moment he needed to attack with.

ADA, as though 'bored', was posting all the locations Anubis phased in at on one of the heads up display panels, though Leo didn't pay attention to it, much like the damage report beforehand.

"Leo…" ADA spoke 'softly', more like her audio speakers reduced in sound. Her word was followed by a soft hissing sound as something appeared over his shoulder behind him. A small platform shifted out, as bracer-like object hanging on it. Leo watched the item in surprise, wondering if this had to be done at this moment. Even with that thought, the Frame Runner took the item, keeping a hand on the control. He eyed the item, a bracer with a computer attached. The platform returned to whence it came, as Leo took both his hands off the controls for an instance, placing the bracer on. He then returned both his hands to the controls.

"A gift, from Elena," ADA explained, 'wondering' if she would ever get a chance like this again. "It was hidden within Jehuty, and all Frame Cockpits are universally fit to any Frame."

"Just…what is it…?" Leo questioned, keeping his guard up for the opportunity he needed. Anubis continued to jump around, though ADA discontinued her report of locations. He admired the bracer for a little, before turning his attention back to Anubis, who, at the moment was right before Leo. "WOAH!" the Frame Runner exclaimed, flipping backwards and down below, the staff passing slightly over Jehuty's head. Leo huffed, missing the opportunity he had, but he knew more would be coming, as Anubis re-entered his standard strategy of remaining 'un-hittable'. "Continue…" Leo spoke, the words slipping through his lips, though he knew ADA would here in the cockpit.

"It is…my second life…" ADA tried to answer, through the initial remarked confused Leo. "Within that bracer is a record of all my…'memories' since I was created. Even if Jehuty is destroyed, I will remain on that bracer's computer."

"I…see…" Leo remarked, feeling relieved about that one fact. He was glad of such an idea, though wondered why no one thought of it before, to save AI who do missions like this. "I guess no one…cares…"

"It was Elena's idea," ADA informed Leo, as though reading his mind. "She saw a…'bond' between us, and decided, that this should not be the end for me…" Leo nodded, keeping an eye on Anubis' actions as he appeared and disappeared.

"Thank you," Leo spoke silently, grateful for Elena's genius and initiative in the matter. However, that gratitude was short lived as Anubis attacked once more. "Oh no, not this time," the thought said, crossing through Leo's mind extremely quickly. The pilot mentally grinned, watching Anubis' staff coming towards Jehuty.

In response, and completely intentionally, Leo raised the right arm of Jehuty, taking the full force of the staff into its one arm. The entire Frame rumbled and screeched as massive force impacted against Jehuty. Leo gritted his teeth, looking up at the HUD and watching the damage report for that one part alone. It was clear that arm would not be very helpful anymore, though Leo was sure he wouldn't need it at the moment.

Once the vibrating stopped, Leo glanced back up, seeing Anubis still there, obviously confused, or that he just wasn't able to warp without being clear of his foe. Either way, the stall gave Leo all the time he needed to strike now. With as much power as he could muster from Jehuty, he sent a punch right into Anubis' stomach with the other arm. The Frame Runner thought he could hear metal grinding metal as Jehuty's punch made a large dent in the Frame of Anubis, definitely causing some harm as the Frame floated backwards, 'stunned' by the blow.

Leo was taken with surprise at his bold manoeuvre, even more surprised that it succeeded. The Frame Runner relaxed, though that changed when Anubis quickly recovered, obviously angered by the blow. However, he didn't phase out of existence again.

"How come he's not entering the same attack pattern he always uses?" Leo inquired, keeping an eye on the Frame he was at a stand off with.

"The last and only attack towards Anubis destroyed his ability to phase," ADA informed Leo. The Frame Runner swore he heard a hint of sarcasm in her voice, but decided this was no the time to pursue it, as now he and Anubis were more on equal grounds now, albeit, not much more equal. Anubis still held a distinct advantage, being more prepared then Jehuty, and much less damaged considering the past few exchanges.

"We're still out matched, but at least we have a chance now…" Leo commented, wondering how he could engage his next attack with little to no damage to himself, especially with a very unresponsive arm at his disposal, part of the trade off from the previous and only exchange of damage. Also, on that note, Leo hoped that Anubis had no form of projectile weapons, and if so, that the Frame Runner was too arrogant and/or confident to use them in combat against a much weaker 'version of their Frame'. "But…now…how to continue?" Leo questioned out loud, confronted with the next problem in this combat.

"Perhaps a continual pattern of 'unexpectedness' would be the best course of action," ADA suggested, again surprising Leo that ADA could suggest something with uncertainty. However, that idea was sound, considering what happened during the last course of 'unexpectedness' from the Frame Runner and Jehuty. Leo just couldn't see anything wrong with that train of thought, however unorthodox it may seem. Though it did strike Leo at the moment that he didn't know how he could strike in some strange and relatively insane manner that would throw Anubis' Frame Runner off balance.

The thought had to come soon, as Anubis quickly launched another assault after the Frame Runner regained his balance and composure, the staff ready to strike once more, probably foregoing any form of distance combat. It confused Leo, as he quickly evaded to the side as the staff came down in an upward slash, the follow up came as a crosscut towards his direction, forcing Leo to lower his altitude.

"Geeze, doesn't he believe in keeping back and firing?!" Leo exclaimed, pushing the boosters to its limit for a moment, putting distance between himself and Anubis.

"Anubis was designed to be more close combat oriented then Jehuty," ADA informed the Frame Runner of Jehuty, ablating his curiosity.

"Hence, the more close combat oriented role he takes, as well as the larger weapon…" Leo analyzed, watching Anubis come again, boosters full, slowly closing the gap between the itself and the retreating Jehuty. Leo knew his back would hit the wall of the core chamber soon, so he needed a plan, and soon. Just like before, it dawned on him, continuing to boost backwards, leading Anubis towards the wall. "ADA, upper left HUD display, distance between us and the wall behind," Leo ordered, getting the reading instantly on display. He made a quick calculation mentally, 'watching' the wall getting closer as Anubis pursued.

"Let's end this," Leo hissed, manoeuvring Jehuty into a roll, directing the Frame's legs towards the wall he was approaching. The Frame Runner could feel the grinding of metal from the wall as well as from Jehuty, the knees of the Frame Bending, and it was quite clear what was going to happen. Anubis continued to pursue, however. With one powerful thrust, Jehuty 'leapt' off the wall, boosters on full, rushing towards Anubis. The opposing Frame swung its staff to destroy Jehuty in one fell swoop, but Leo quickly grabbed the staff with the undamaged arm of Jehuty, nearly destroying that arm as well, but forcing the staff away enough to not interfere with his attack. Jehuty shoulder tackled Anubis with full force, crashing into the already damaged chest armour of Anubis, breaking through. Metal of both Jehuty and Anubis blasted out from the collision of titans. The armour pieces and shards floated into the gravity-less space in the facility, littering the area with damaged parts. Leo held his breath in, the enire Frame round him shaking and rumbling from the impact, lasting for a full minute before subsiding. Leo quickly looked up, seeing the immobile Anubis float slowly towards the distance, towards the core.

"Anubis has ceased to function," ADA informed the Frame Runner of Jehuty. Leo relaxed a little, but was still alert, not trusting ADA's readings as of yet.

"That was almost too simple…" Leo commented softly, watching the lifeless Anubis float towards the core of the facility, wondering if it was by coincidence or not that Anubis was floating in that direction.

"Good job kid," a voice boomed through the speakers, and through his comlink. Leo gasped in surprise, recognizing the voice as the same Frame Runner of Anubis in their first encounter. "I didn't think you'd be able to do it, but you did…too bad you didn't kill me…but, that's besides the point."

"B-But…who's piloting Anubis then?" Leo gasped, watching the lifeless Frame beside the core now. As if on cue, the screen for the cockpit faded away, revealing a form.

"I was, by remote control," the other Frame Runner informed Leo. "I knew one of those two Frames would be destroyed in this mission, and I was curious to be which one," the other continued, mocking Leo. "Of course, I wanted to raise the stakes a little…I wonder how you'll handle it." Leo peered into the cockpit, seeing the form of someone he knew very well.

"Celvice!" Leo screamed out, anger seething in his body and mind. Her body was bleeding with multiple wounds, probably caused from the combat again Jehuty.

"No life signs are detected within the vicinity," ADA continued, 'sadness' in her voice.

"No, no, no!" Leo continued to scream, pounding at the controls of Jehuty, wondering just what he has done, what he did to the one person he was trying to rescue. "How can you!?" the Frame Runner exclaimed to the person on the other side of the frequency.

"You'll be joining her soon enough, don't worry, boy," was the last words of the transmission, before it was cut. ADA quickly detected a reading from Anubis.

"Anubis' is accumulating a large amount of energy within its core," ADA 'quickly', yet 'calmly' informed Leo. "Despite a cease in function, a self destruct mechanism must have been triggered," ADA spoke, though it was clear that the information wasn't reaching Leo.

"Celvice…I killed her…" Leo wept and sobbed, taking over for his previous anger, knowing it was full well he did the deed, not the one who kidnapped her in the first place. ADA, seeing the deteriorating mental state of the Frame Runner now, opted to take control again, activating the boosters of Jehuty and flying towards the closest exit of the facility, hoping to clear the distance of the explosion…

* * * * * *

Leo slowly awoke to a soft and light touch against his forehead. His eyes slowly fluttered open, a hand slowly stroking his forehead. Focusing his vision a little, he was surprised at what he saw.

"Celvice?!" he exclaimed in surprise, rolling away from the female, and falling right off his bed with a resounding thud. "Oow…" he moaned, catching the attention of the other occupant in the room. Elena quickly walked out form within the infirmary, seeing the now awake Leo. "What…happened?" Leo groaned, standing up, seeing Celvice across the bed from him, standing up now as well. Then, he remembered the last few events that occurred.

"The facility was destroyed with the self destruction of Anubis," Celvice started, making it clear this wasn't the Celvice Leo knew from before. "I piloted Jehuty away from the imminent explosion, but was unable to escape fully. In an attempt to keep you alive, I ejected the cockpit. You barely survived the ordeal."

"Just…who…are you?" Leo asked, pointing towards 'Celvice', though it wasn't her. "And…how long have I been out for?"

"Almost a week now," Elena informed the Frame Runner, approaching Leo to make sure he was all okay. "You were lucky Jehuty didn't explode when the blast caught up with it, or else you wouldn't be here."

"I'd rather be dead," Leo muttered, remembering what he did to Celvice. The feeling to repent for his deeds were strong in his mind, and he believed the only way to do such was to die. That thought revolved around his mind before he noticed the bracer still on his arm. Retracing his memories, he recalled something, glancing back towards 'Celvice'.

"…ADA…?" Leo questioned, getting a nod from the mimic of Celvice. She pointed towards the bracer.

"There is a projector on there, reflecting the image of what you see right now," ADA informed Leo, bowing her head lightly.

"It was ADA's idea to install something like that, and she specifically requested Celvice as her form," Elena told Leo, filling in a few excluded details from the previous sentence.

"I…thought it would help you recover," ADA spoke, stuttering for one thing, helping someone else for another.

"She was by your side for the whole time you were unconscious," Elena continued, filling in omitted details of ADA. Leo looked up at Elena, then towards 'Celvice', blinking in surprise, the thought of suicide not so much wrapped in his mind anymore. In fact, he seemed calmer then any time after the colony incident when he was first acquainted with ADA.

ADA smiled at Leo, looking genuine, as Leo was expecting something…artificial, but it wasn't. He wondered what was going through ADA's 'mind' right now, and what provoked her to do such a transformation. Nevertheless, Leo was grateful to ADA for trying her best.

The Frame Runner sat on the bed again, turning his back towards 'Celvice'. ADA approached him, however, taking a seat beside the disturbed and wounded boy. Unknowingly, Leo lay his head on ADA's shoulder, closing his eyes. He whispered a name:

"Celvice…"

ADA smiled once more upon hearing the name, glancing up at Elena, who was now leaving the pair in private.

Completed: 02/12/02

Author's Note:

Well, it's done, that ends this series of fics, which took me a while to do, but it's done now. I don't know what sparked me to write such events taking place, and I know I'm probably out of character, but I guess it's my nature to lose track of what's going on sometimes. I hope you enjoyed it, though it might be possible for a sequel to emerge, I have not decided yet. Probably not, but one never knows. Well, Blitz signing out now. Bai…