Mobile Battalion Gundam Wars

Chapter Synopsis: Operation "Sakura Zensen" is outlined, and the Izumo crew prepares itself to take the field once more. Shin and Stellar argue, and both realize Stellar's limits.

The multimedia Gundam franchise is an original creation of Yoshiyuki Tomino, Yasuhiro Imagawa, and many other creators. It is the intellectual property of Sunrise and Bandai, who reserve all rights to these original characters. This story is fan-created and is not authorized or endorsed by Sunrise, Bandai, or their subsidiaries. Sunrise and Bandai retain all rights to the characters and machines that appear within this story.

The Beyonder was created by Jim Shooter and is the intellectual property of Marvel Comics. His appearance in this fan-created story is not authorized or endorsed by Marvel Comics. This being said, the Beyonder has been adapted somewhat from his original appearances in Secret Wars in order to make him feel like a more integral part of the Gundam universe. These adaptations are non-canonical and may be wholly attributed to this fan-work's author.

Special thanks to friends, family, lovers, and everyone else who helped make this story possible.

Brief annotations that may be of interest to readers and die-hard Gundam fans follow this chapter of the story.

-X-X-X-

The preparations at Anaheim were finished. The Mobile Suits were resupplied and finely tuned, currently being loaded into the great HLVs that would carry them down to Earth. The HLVs were also being loaded with the shuttle boosters that, if things went poorly, the survivors would need to retreat back into space. The Izumo would tow the HLVs to just above their intended landing site, where they would act as dropships to carry their passengers down to the Brussels military installation that was their destination. A skeleton crew from Anaheim was being taken aboard the Izumo, so the ship would not be left abandoned during the operation against Devil Gundam.

Most of this work was being handled by Anaheim's laborers, leaving the Izumo's allied pilots with little to do besides prepare themselves for the battle that, hopefully, would decide the Gundam War in their favor. Right now, all hands were supposed to meet for a final combat briefing in one of Anaheim's spacious lecture rooms. The Izumo's coterie of younger pilots was lagging somewhat behind schedule, hotly debating how to deliver the crushing news that had fallen into their collective laps.

"Look, just give them the note and let them figure out what to do about it," Shin said. "Heero's long gone by now. It's not like we've got MPs to send after him."

"There's gotta be something!" Garrod all but exploded in rage. "Heero does not deserve to get away with this crap!"

"Heero's note said he was going to come back..." Kira said. "Maybe it's a secret mission?"

"Or maybe Heero's a liar!" Garrod snapped. "Come on, Kira, I thought you were going to start listening to me!"

"Heero doesn't have any reason to lie to us," Al said. "Heero's may not be a kind or warm person, but he believes in this mission. If he left, then it was because he thought it was the best course of action."

"He ditched us right before the final boss fight!" Garrod's anger was stubborn, but slowly fading into a tantrum, as he realized no one else was going to side with him. "It's at least gotta go on record that this was a complete dick move, you know?"

"You're not wrong," Shin said. "You're not wrong at all, Garrod, but what's the point? There's nothing we can do that matters."

"We can call him a dick!" Garrod fumed. "We can put it down in our official records, to be passed down through the eternity of the Dark History, that Heero Yuy is a ninety-kilo bag of dicks who turns his back on people!"

"What's a ninety-kilo bag of dicks?" Stellar's tiny voice filled the corridor.

"It's, uh..." Kira stammered.

Al shot a silent, one-eyed glare of disapproval at Garrod, who had paled in mortification.

"It's what Garrod says when it's time for him to stop talking." Shin's voice strained with the effort of keeping his temper in check.

"Oh." Stellar seemed to have no difficulty believing this.

-X-X-X-

Heero Yuy's final note to the Izumo faction's pilots was written with pencil on notebook paper in a neat, tight hand. All it said was, "I must go. I will return."

Rondo arched an eyebrow at the terse missive, but did not seem surprised. Her expression was otherwise cold and neutral, her imperious stance unchanged. Most of the other pilots weren't taking the news even half so well.

"I knew he wasn't happy with the Mobile Suits we found for him, but I didn't think he'd do something like this..." Amuro was clearly shocked.

"Stone-faced or not, a kid's a kid," Kincaid said with a shrug.

"I have a great difficulty imagining Mister Yuy acting like a 'kid,'" Johnny frowned. "No, I think he knows something we don't."

"Then maybe he should've told us instead of just disappearing?" Selene did not attempt to disguise her petulance. Sven was silent next to her, obviously uncomfortable.

"I do not understand," Domon bowed his head, brows furrowed. "This is the act of a coward, but the man I fought in Epyon showed no sign of such weakness."

"Gentlemen. Ladies," Gato spoke up. "We can speculate about Mister Yuy's motivations for an eternity, but ultimately, we do not know anything."

"The Lieutenant's right," Rondo said. "If Heero is as good as his word and returns, he will face the consequences of his actions. If he is not... then he was never going to be of any use to us."

"OH, COME ON!" Garrod exploded. "There's gotta be SOMETHING-"

"The matter is closed, Mister Ran!" Rondo snapped. "We have no more time to spare, as you well know."

Garrod was clearly not happy, but fell into an obedient silence. Kira and Al seemed relieved, while Shin tried not to look as smug as he felt for correctly guessing how things would turn out.

One by one, the younger pilots went to sit down in a knot in the upper rows of the room.

"Tight ship you guys run here," Kamille muttered, his disgust unconcealed.

Shiro cast an annoyed glance Kamille's way. "Hey, lucky for you it is."

"So let's get this started, shall we?" Rondo addressed the room. She had a weather map of Orb projected on a forward screen. As warm fronts passed over the island nation, stylized pink flower icons followed them in an uneven line.

"In spring, the "Sakura Zensen" moves from south to north across the face of Orb, as the cherry trees blossom in accordance with the rhythms of the season. We shall defeat the Devil Gundam by imitating the cherry blossom front, and becoming a force that blossoms in fire." The map of Orb became a map of the area around Devil Gundam's impact crater, as observed by one of Earth's surviving communications satellites.

"So you're suggesting a strictly tactical approach to the battle?" Johnny asked, crossing his arms.

"I fail to see how the battle can be approached otherwise, given the large number of unknown variables. The only rational course of action is to prepare a flexible strategy, which can be modified as conditions on the battlefield evolve," Rondo said. "Does anyone here disagree?"

The room was silent for a moment. Kamille finally broke out in cold laughter. "Come on, how could we? This 'Sakura Front' stuff is just a fancy way of saying that we're going to fly by the seat of our pants."

"It is my pleasure to point out that you are quite wrong, Doctor Bidan," Rondo said. A series of icons appeared on the Devil Gundam area map. "While our information is not complete, we know a great deal more than nothing. These symbols indicate the relative position of Devil Gundam's command units. As you can see, each patrols one of the cardinal points around Devil Gundam's core, which appears incapable of movement."

A violet icon representing the Qubeley was arrayed to Devil Gundam's south. A red icon representing Neros Gundam lay to the west, and a yellow icon representing the Alvatore to the east. To the north was a white icon, representing the GuAIZ.

Domon nodded at the icons. "The directional guardians, Devil Gundam's Four Kings of Heaven. They will cut off any attempt to approach the Devil Gundam directly."

"Observation indicates that these units do not leave their assigned positions for long. We can reasonably expect to find them, arrayed as you see here, when we reach our destination. So our strategy is simply a matter of deciding how to best deploy our forces. First, we station a rear guard to watch over the HLV and shuttle boosters. Lieutenant Amada, Doctor Bidan, this will be your task." Icons representing the Ez8 and Zeta's heads appeared at the touchdown base, which- at MS speeds- would be a few hours away from the target area.

Shiro grinned. "Taking the defensive, huh? I've got some ideas for that..."

Amuro leaned forward, peering down at Kamille in his seat. "- you're going with us?"

Kamille tried to look more comfortable than he felt. "Beats twiddling my thumbs up here. I never said I'd do anything but pilot the HLV, though."

Rondo ignored Kamille's barb. "Next, there's the matter of who will escort the Gundam X to the Devil Gundam while the Kings of Heaven are distracted. Beyond the possibility of the Devil Gundam offering resistance, satellite data indicates a significant number of mass-produced units in the area..."

"The Death Army." Domon's voice was grim.

Rondo arched an eyebrow. "How forthright."

Demon continued on. "They are the Devil Gundam's foot soldiers. Individually, they are no match for a Gundam Fighter. But they are much stronger than Mobile Suits... and given enough time, Devil Gundam can produce them in overwhelming numbers."

"... if I may, Mister Kasshu," Johnny said. "Two thoughts spring to mind. One, a Mobile Fighter is a duelist's machine. It is designed strictly for one-on-one combat, if at extremely high specifications. Two, the Future Century has abandoned conventional warfare. So, to be frank, I cannot imagine whatever Mobile Suits that are in production in you era are on par with even the One Year War's Mobile Suits."

"If you are saying the Death Army is of no concern..." Domon began.

"I'm not. That would be foolish," Johnny agreed. "But I am saying that most of the Mobile Suits in our number were designed to deal with exactly this type of threat. We both know that your world has no reason to build machines like ours."

Domon paused for a moment, sobered by the realization. He slowly nodded to Johnny and, for the time being, said no more.

"So we would have the element of surprise when dealing with Devil Gundam's troops, Commander Ridden?" Gato asked.

"I absolutely believe that to be the case," Johnny said.

"So the Death Army are drones?" Kira asked. "Because it doesn't sound like they have pilots..."

"I cannot say," Domon said. "There are things shaped like men riding in the Death Army's chests, but they are not human anymore. I do not think they are truly alive."

"Dude! They're zombies?! We're gonna fight zombie Mobile Suits?" Garrod asked. He sounded almost excited at the prospect. Shin shot him a dirty look, but Garrod was oblivious.

Selene wrinkled her nose. "That's disgusting. Why would anyone-"

"I cannot say anything more!" Domon's voice rose in irritation, silencing the chatter.

Rondo took this as an opportunity to continue. "Given what we know, and the importance of Gundam X's role in the mission, I wish to assign the Freedom and Kyrios to be its escorts. Make sure the Gundam X makes it to Devil Gundam and has sufficient time to target and activate the Satellite Cannon. We will be approaching well after nightfall, and conditions should be clear. Hold off any enemies who attempt to intercept, and if necessary, cut a path through the Death Army. Is that acceptable, gentlemen?"

"I like the sound of that," Garrod said. "This'll let us square things up with you guys after our screw-up with Treize."

"It's an ideal mission for Kyrios. I accept."

"What about Rau?" Kira asked. "I thought you'd... well, I thought you'd want me to..."

"I think that would be an inefficient use of our resources. My plan was to assign the Crossbone X-1 and Turn-A to engage Le Creuset."

Kincaid started in his seat. "That's the first I've heard of this..."

"I don't understand. Wouldn't it make more sense to deploy Turn-A with the Gold Frame? They've both got cloaking abilities."

"It's a lovely thought, my dear Captain, but I think our tactical goal here should be the application of overwhelming force. If Rau Le Creuset is indeed some sort of Cosmic Era Newtype, then we simply deal with him by deploying stronger, better Newtypes."

Kincaid's eyes darkened. "Newtypes fighting Newtypes is missing the point, Lady."

"Are you saying you don't think yourself capable of handling Le Creuset, Mister Nau?" Rondo asked.

"That's beside the point! Newtypes aren't weapons-"

"People aren't weapons," Amuro interrupted. "But in a battle, we have to think differently. If it frees Kira up to do something more important, then this assignment makes sense."

"You guys probably would do a better job of fighting him," Kira said. "I don't think he'd be ready for... well, even just for Turn-A..."

"I'll play along, but something about this really stinks to me," Kincaid said.

Amuro could feel glances shooting up his way, and was trying not to look as embarrassed as he felt. It was perfectly Rondo to be offhand about her intentions toward him, but it had to look terrible suspicious to everyone else. "What are your plans for the Gold Frame, then?"

"I intend to send assign the Gold Frame to deal with Haman Karn's Qubeley, backed up by the Stargazer. I've nearly defeated Karn on my own. Back-up from a unit that can shield itself from beams would let me completely neutralize her."

"With all due respect, Lady Rondo, I must object." All heads turned toward Gato in surprise. His back was ramrod straight, his posture one of perfect military deference. He was even saluting. But his eyes burned with an intensity that the Izumo's veterans hadn't seen since the days before Garma Zabi's death.

Rondo was taken aback. "Lieutenant?"

"If this is indeed the battle that ends the Gundam War, this will be the last chance for Haman Karn to answer for her actions here. She has wronged the Izumo, that is true, but those crimes pale in comparison to the blow she has dealt the cause of Zeon. By rights, Haman Karn should answer to Commander Ridden and myself."

Johnny glanced up at him, startled. "Lieutenant, this is the first I've heard of this..."

"You don't want to do this. Haman Karn's close to unbeatable, even for a Newtype," Kamille said.

"It's true that she's survived duels with myself in the Turn-A and Rondo in the Gold Frame. At the very least, this is not a woman who's going to die easily," Amuro added.

"I've studied the Qubeley extensively. It's a suit designed for space combat. In gravity, her mobility will be reduced and she will be unable to deploy her bits. The Marasai and Geara Zulu would have a significant advantage in both power and mobility," Gato said. His eyes narrowed. "And, with all due respect, I have never believed in the myth of the Newtype's complete superiority when it comes to Mobile Suit combat."

Rondo glanced at Johnny. "Commander Ridden?"

"It's an audacious plan, but it's completely sound. I suppose I should expect no less from a man of the Delaz Fleet," Johnny exhaled. "I am willing to do this. It is the only way, in this world, that Haman Karn can be made to answer for Lord Garma's murder. But there's one question I want to ask you first, Lieutenant."

Gato glanced down at him. "You may ask, Commander."

"In our last sortie, you refused to entertain the notion of fighting Haman Karn personally. It seemed to me you still viewed her as your rightful commanding officer, regardless of what she might have done. What's prompted this sudden change of heart?" Johnny asked.

Gato lowered his head. His voice was thick with emotion. "Haman Karn is not the woman that I... that we believed her to be. We thought she and Axis would be the bulwark of Zeon's ideals. We thought she spoke for Lady Mineva and felt as we did." There could be no doubt that "we" meant, at the very least, the men of the Delaz Fleet.

"But... no, that's not possible. Not after the things I've seen the woman do here. It was surely never possible... she played us for fools!" Gato's voice rose, his face flushing with rage. "A woman who loved Zeon wouldn't have cursed us with the Devil Gundam! She wouldn't have, have..."

"She wouldn't have sold her soul to the Devil." Domon's voice was cold and brooding.

"Yes... yes, that's it exactly! The Haman Karn I have seen here is a woman who could never have loved anything but power. She has betrayed everything Zeon ever stood for... she used us! Her crimes can not, will not go unanswered!" Gato struggled to bring his voice down from a zealot's roar. His enthusiasm for his painful new cause burned with a terrifying ferocity.

"... if it were any other, asking for this, I would deny it," Rondo said. "But you are both outstanding pilots, Naturals or not. If you want Haman Karn, then I suppose you have more right to her than I do."

Rondo still looked a little wistful as she updated the forward screen. Icons of the Marasai and Geara Zulu's heads appeared near the Qubeley icon. "All I will ask is that if something goes wrong, if you are feeling overwhelmed, that you call the other field teams for back-up."

"Of course, Lady Rondo," Johnny agreed. He tried not to betray how utterly Gato's outburst had thrown his thoughts into disarray.

"So what is the Stargazer's assignment going to be?" Sven asked.

"Yeah, I don't mind helping, but I'd rather my life's work stay in one piece," Selene added.

"I still want the Stargazer's back-up," Rondo said. "But I think we'll swap assignments with what I had intended for Lieutenant Gato and Commander Ridden. I was going to send them to scout out and assess the abilities of the unknown enemy unit, the Alvatore."

"You want us to fight the thing we don't know anything about?" There was undisguised dread in Selene's voice.

"If it lacks a GN Drive, I don't think it will pose any threat to your Mobile Suits," Al spoke up. "And if it is using some sort of GN Drive, then the Stargazer's energy shields will most likely work against any GN particle weaponry it's using."

"I'm not exactly a pilot trained for combat..." Selene began.

"I am," Sven's voice was soft but firm. "I'll protect the Stargazer."

Selene was startled. "Could you...? I mean..."

"I take no pleasure in saying this," Rondo said, "But Phantom Pain's reputation is well-earned."

"Stellar's friend will do good!" She shouted from the other side of the room, utterly oblivious to the ominous mood.

"I understand that Stargazer is very important to you. I trusted you... so you can trust me now." Sven did not look directly at Selene as he spoke, instead his eyes toward the floor. His pale face was flushed, though.

"I guess I don't have a choice... which I guess makes us even," Selene laughed to herself.

-X-X-X-

There was a pause, like the room collectively exhaling. Domon's voice cut through it. "So that leaves us to face Michelo Chariot."

Rondo nodded. "Perceptive, Mister Kasshu. Yes, I intended to deploy Shining, Destiny, and Gaia to deal with Neros-"

"Wait," Shin said. "Does Gaia really need to deploy? Couldn't she stay at the landing base?"

Rondo had no time to answer. Stellar thrust her head forward at Shin, pouting furiously. "Stellar is a good pilot!"

"I know you are! I know! It's just..." Shin fumbled for an excuse. "... the other teams are teams of two, and... protecting the base is important?"

Stellar's furious pout was now simply fury. "Stellar is a good pilot! Stellar wants to help her friends fight! Why doesn't Shin want Stellar to help?!"

"It's not that! I just don't want- you know, I don't want to worry about you-" Shin glanced around the room, desperate for help. He had the sinking feeling that everyone present understood what he was trying to do, except Stellar.

Garrod gestured furiously at Shin from his seat behind him, mouthing the words "STOP TALKING" as if trying to convey the idea through sheer force of will. Domon was avoiding eye contact with the quarreling couple, this battle far outside the realm of his expertise.

It was too late. Stellar rose from her seat, voice vehement. "Stellar does not want to worry about Shin! Stellar wants... she wants..." Stellar's face began to contort with effort. Her mouth moved soundlessly. It was painfully apparent what she was wanted to say, but the words were denied her.

I want. I want to be with you. The silent words were written on her eyes and the tears that welled up in them.

"Why?!" she shouted, hands shaking. "Why can't Stellar... why can't she say what she wants?! Isn't Stellar like her friends?"

Of course she wasn't. But who would want to tell her that? Especially now, when she stood before them wild-eyed, chest heaving, her psyche smashing against the walls the Alliance had built there.

"Miss Loussier, that is enough!" Rondo's cry was sharp with authority. "At this rate you're going to d-"

She never quite got the words out. Shin and Stellar's friends erupted into a perfectly synchronized shout. "DON'T SAY IT!"

Rondo was, for once, openly startled. "Don't say-"

"The D-word!" Kira said. "You can't say the d-word around her!"

"The-" Rondo paused. "D-I-E?" She spelled it out.

"That one!" Garrod said. "Don't say it! She flips out..."

"We sure found that out the hard way..." Al grumbled.

"It was Heero's fault!" Garrod protested. "He said it!"

Al frowned. "It's Heero's fault you were being obnoxious?"

"Guys, come on," Kira muttered. "Not now."

Shin felt like he should say something, but nothing would come to mind. The sight of her in tears and wild-eyed tore at his heart. He wanted to protect her, but in this moment, the fact that he did not truly understand what she was weighed heavily upon him.

"Stellar, it's time to rest." It was not clear when in the disastrous conversation Sven had quietly made his way down to the front of the room, and the way he forcefully intruded was far from characteristic. The aura of authority he carried himself with seemed to have an immediate effect on Stellar. The black of Sven's Phantom Pain uniform was never more conspicuous.

Her breathing slowed, heaving sobs becoming sniffles. "But Stellar- Stellar has to-"

"It is time to rest," Sven repeated. His eyes locked with hers. Stellar finally slumped, defeated. It was impossible to know if she was really tired, or if some insidious obedience programmed into her by her Alliance handlers was asserting itself. Either way, the tension in the room was finally diffused as Stellar and Sven began to move toward one of the doors.

"I'm going with him," Kamille announced, to no one in particular. He rose to follow Sven and Stellar out of the room. Shin flexed his hands, glancing down at them. He felt thoroughly useless and unworthy at the moment. No one spoke until the trio was clear of the room, doors sliding shut behind them.

"Awkward, huh?" Kincaid said. He was smiling, an obvious attempt to lighten the mood. The other pilots were not even slightly receptive to it.

"... would it be fair to say that you all understand and accept your assignments?" Rondo asked. Even she sounded wearied by events.

A chorus of assent rose from her audience, who all seemed to be in a hurry to be somewhere else. Operation: Sakura Zensen would soon begin. Now there was only the matter of killing time until the mission began, in true military fashion.

-X-X-X-

TO BE CONTINUED...

-X-X-X-

You know what's not a Gundam series, but has a great Gundam-esque soundtrack? Attack on Titan. It's an anime and manga I'd highly recommend to any fan of Gundam at its most brutal.

-X-X-X-

- ACTIVE PILOTS / ASSIGNED UNITS

- IZUMO White Faction

Johnny Ridden / AMS-129 Geara Zulu (Royal Guards, Johnny Ridden Custom)

Anavel Gato / RMS-108 Marasai (Zeon Colors)

Shin Asuka / ZGMF-X42S Destiny

Rondo Mina Sahaku (Commander) / MBF-P01 Astray Gold Frame Amatu Rondo Mina Custom

Amuro Ray / SYSTEM (Turn-A)-99 Turn-A Gundam

Domon Kasshu / GF13-017NJ Shining Gundam

Shiro Amada / RX-79(G) Gundam Ez-8 Kai

Garrod Ran / GX-9900 Gundam X

Stellar Loussier / ZGMF-X88S Gaia

Kira Yamato / ZGMF-X10A Freedom

Allelujah Haptism / GN-003 Kyrios (undergoing repairs)

Kamille Bidan / MSZ-006 Zeta Gundam

Kincaid Nau / XM-X1 Crossbone Gundam X-1

Selene McGriff & Sven Cal Bayang / GSX-401FW Stargazer

Heero Yuy / ?

- KIA / DESTROYED

Lowe Gear / Astray Red Frame

Quattro Bageena / nu Gundam

Ed "The Ripper" Harrelson / Sword Calamity

Witz Sou / Airmaster Burst

Christina Mackenzie / Gundam NT-1 Alex

Loran Cehack

Garma Zabi

White Base

Dogos Gear

- DEVIL GUNDAM Black Faction

Michelo Chariot / Devil Neros Gundam

Haman Karn / Devil Qubeley

Rau Le Creuset / Devil GuAIZ

Alejandro Corner / Devil Alvatore

Kyoji Kasshu / Devil Gundam

- KIA / DESTROYED

Cima Garahau / Gerbera Tetra

Paptimus Scirocco / Messala

Shagia Frost / Virsago

Olba Frost / Ashtaron

Clotho Buer / Raider

Treize Khushrenada / Tallgeese II

Flay Allster

Epyon