Darkness of the Unknown
A MechaTalk Fanfiction Competition Entry

Corregidor Shoal Zone
12th December 0079
Twelve days before Operation Cembalo

Lifeless. That was the only word that could describe this place. A lifeless graveyard. A scar that had never healed. Leftovers from the beginning devastation of the war.

It was almost impossible to believe that the shards had once been domains for millions of humans. They weren't even as notable dwellings as say, the colonies that made up Side 3, they were just part of another corner of the Earthsphere that humans had come to know as 'home'. But after nuclear fire had transformed these colonies into radioactive debris, they would forever be marked as casualties of the One Week Battle, and the death place of countless soldiers and civilians alike. Only the death tolls of Operation British and the Battle of Loum surpassed the numbers that were killed here.

After the Battle, the collective debris of colonies, warships, fighters, mobile suits and human bodies had collected into one general area, close to the cluster of Side 3. Added to the large amount of Minovsky particles in the zone, navigation was all but impossible, and the still active radiation levels made it so no human being could ever dwell here again. Now known as the Corregidor Shoal Zone, what had once been filled with life was now little more than a debris field and a sorrowful memory.

Is this what the end of the world will look like? thought EFSF Lieutenant Junior Grade Ares Silver. Maneuvering around the remains of a Zeon Musai-class light cruiser, his silver-blue tinted RGM-79SP GM Sniper II seemed to be as hesitant as its pilot, constantly remaining aware of its setting. Even with the debris and the high density of Minovsky particles, almost nothing escaped the Sniper's advanced sensors, a fact that Ares himself appreciated greatly. He couldn't imagine flying through this place blindfolded, but then he was never truly "blind".

His eyes, which were cold and hardened from the War and the tragedies that came with it, continued to look over the cockpit instruments and the main monitor. Although there were no signs of enemies present, Corregidor was still in close proximity to Side 3 and was thus enemy territory, so Ares never ruled out the possibility someone was watching him. But if there were stalkers, they were keeping for the time being, thus Ares signaled the rest of his team to move forward.

Behind him, two RGM-79GS GM Commands piloted by Ensigns Maxwell and Anthony Carter and a RX-77D Guncannon Mass Production Type under the control of Ensign Hilda Schrodinger lurched forward on their thrusters to join him. They were all noticeably painted in the same silver and blue tones that of the GM Sniper II; this was the signature color scheme of the 12th Mobile Suit Team, which was coincidentally and appropriately known as the Silver Team. Besides their colors, each MS possessed an insignia, which depicted a silver eagle holding a downward pointed sword in its talons painted over a purple diamond, to symbolize their allegiance.

Much further back, the team's mothership, the transport ship Antietam remained stationary along with her single escort, the Salamis cruiser Endeavour. Since she was little more than a Columbus supply ship redesigned to function as a mobile suit carrier, the Antietam herself would be little use if combat were to arise. Although the Antietam could hold up to twelve mobile suits and launch them just as quickly with her six catapults, it only carried the Silver Team for this mission. The reason for that was the Earth Federation Space Force was still regrouping at Luna Two in preparation for Operations Cembalo and Star One, and thus most of the mobile suit squadrons were also held in reserve.

This fact frustrated Ares to no end; sure his team had some of the best mobile suits the Federation had to offer, but that didn't change the fact they were only four in number. And High Command expected them to somehow make their way into Zeonic territory without further support?

Ares immediately banished such thinking from his mind. "Concentrate on the mission for now." He muttered to himself.

Despite the risk, the Silver Team's mission was a simple one. In the last few weeks, newer and deadlier Zeonic mobile weapons had been encountered on a day-to-day basis, starting from that aquatic mobile armor the White Base encountered over the Pacific. High Command had taken this as a sign of the Principality's desperation, that they were sending weapons whose blueprints still had fresh ink into battle to somehow halt the growing Federal threat; not that the Federation was much different with its GM line.

However, the smarter commanders, particularly Tianem and Revil, knew better than to pass such things off, and none of them wanted any of these new weapons to show up during the attack on Solomon. So when reports came in about testing of a new kind of mobile suit in the Corregidor, the Antietam along with Ares' team were deployed to search it out.

Basically, the Silver Team's mission was to patrol the Shoal Zone, search out this phantom mobile suit, then acquire data and if possible destroy it. A textbook search and destroy mission, although as Ares knew, the textbook became virtually useless when combat broke out.

"See anything, Lieutenant?" Hilda asked with hesitance, her thick German accent failing to hide it. Ares could literally feel the uncertainty in her voice, but he couldn't tell if it was directed toward their potential enemies or to himself.

"If I did, I would have told you by now." Ares replied in his usual cold tone. He had little patience with such an obvious question. "Maxwell, Anthony, spread out a little more. Schrodinger drop back and cover our rear. I'll remain on point."

Without a verbal response, the three mobile suits did as they were told, with Hilda pulling her Guncannon back and the Carter brothers moving further away from the GM Sniper II, which was at the front and center of the grouping. The new formation wouldn't help much in finding enemy units, but it would allow the team to pass through the debris much easier than if they were close together, and the Guncannon was the ideal suit for rear defense. But the main point was to keep his squadmates focused on the current mission, which was the first reason Ares gave that command, if only just so they would hear the sound of his voice. Unfortunately he could not give himself the same reassurance.

As they journeyed deeper into the zone, the feelings in the back of Ares' mind grew stronger. It especially grew when he came across a peculiar object floating amidst the debris: a teddy bear. A ragged children's teddy bear, which came just meters away from his GM's visor camera. Ares didn't understand himself, but curiously, he felt himself drawn to the object for a brief moment, his eyes scanning it as it moved past his mobile suit. And almost right off the bat Ares felt as though something were out there that wasn't the Zeon.

He he he he…Ares "heard" the giggle of a child as the bear floated away. Along with that sound, he could "see" the image of a little girl sitting at a swing set, playing with her bear while the parents were at a bench watching her. There were also sounds of cars and people passing by, going to whatever destination in their day to day lives, paying no attention to the girl on the swing. As well, Ares saw that in the distance he could see the land curl upward to form a loop, meaning this was all inside a colony cylinder.

As if noticing Ares' gaze on her, the girl turned around. She appeared barely six years old, clothed in a green dress with a white hat, with rich brown hair coming out from underneath the hat. She gave a warm smile toward his direction, her eyes shining at the spectrum only a child's eyes could. And that was the last thing Ares saw in his mind, before he saw the image be encompassed by white, followed by the agonized screams of people.

Gritting his teeth, Ares shook the image and everything else out of his mind. "Damn it…!" He snarled, bowing his head down and reaching his hand up against his helmet. He found himself panting, as if he were tired, and it took more than a moment to calm himself. Thankfully that was the only negative effect Ares felt on himself, and he knew it could have been a lot worse. Like it was during the aftermath of Operation British…

"Something wrong sir?" Hilda spoke up again, having noticed a slight change in the GM Sniper II's flight pattern.

"No, I'm alright." Ares put simply. "Just concentrate on…"

Then something else made Ares snap his head up. A sharp, warm feeling that ran through his head, as if alerting him to something dangerous. We're not alone. He realized, looking around for targets. The next moment, the feeling increased and had his mind center to his left, toward the wreck of a Chivvay-class heavy cruiser. He immediately saw the tell tale flash.

"Scatter!" Ares commanded, hoping he made it in time. He kicked the GM Sniper II into action, launching it out of the line of fire, as did his team mates with their MS, just as a 360mm bazooka shell sailed past and into a chunk of debris.

"Rick Doms!" he heard one of the Carter brothers call out; Ares was to busy to tell which one.

Ares looked back to the left to see a trio of MS-09RII Rick Dom IIs flying out of the wreckage straight towards his team. Two of them were armed with the 360mm giant bazooka that had become hallmark of the Dom series, while the third was armed with a new type of machinegun that had been appearing on Zeon MS as of late.

"Return fire, and don't stop moving!" Ares ordered, as he moved to attack.

Pulling up the long-range beam rifle, he took quick aim at one of the bazooka toting Rick Dom and fired a beam shot. The Rick Dom II saw it coming and banked to the right to avoid the shot, then returning fire with its bazooka. Again, Ares put power into the thrusters of his suit, making it fly over the 360mm round, and the ones that followed it.

The other two Rick Dom IIs went after the Carter twins and their GM Commands, while at the same time Hilda moved her Guncannon to take cover on a piece of debris to provide fire support with her twin 200mm shoulder cannons. However the Rick Dom IIs easily dodged the mixture of beam and shell fire, and Ares could see that neither Hilda nor the brothers were doing much damage to their targets. These pilots weren't amateurs, but they could still be exploited.

That thought in mind, Ares weaved through the debris, using maneuvers he learned as a fighter pilot while taking advantage of the GM Sniper II's mobility. In the midst of this, Ares reflected at how he had been skeptical of the suit at first since he wasn't a sniper kind of pilot, but since then he saw why his superior personally requisitioned the suit for him; its sheer mobility made it more of a fighter pilot's suit than even the famed RGM-79L GM Light Armor.

At the moment he preferred to literally fly circles around the Rick Dom II; he took the occasional pop shot with his beam rifle and his vulcan pod, but they were quick shots that were meant to keep his opponent frustrated rather than destroy him. Such a maneuver made enemy pilots lose their stability, and sure enough the Rick Dom II's green mono-eye flashed angrily in response. The enemy pilot then quickly charged at Ares, now intent on using the bazooka at point blank. A costly mistake.

Once more moving at a speed that even Rick Dom II couldn't hope to match, he shot to the Dom's left side and fired a pair of pot shots from his beam rifle, both of which went right through the Zeon mobile suit's left hip and out the other side. No more than milliseconds later, the Dom exploded into shrapnel.

Ares turned back just in time to see that one of the Carters, he believed Anthony, had managed to riddle the other bazooka carrying Rick Dom II with a beam rifle burst. The burst took off the mobile suit's bazooka arm and punched a large number of holes into its gut, disorienting the pilot long enough for Hilda to send a pair of 200mm shells into its cockpit, finishing the Zeon suit off.

The final Rick Dom II, seeing that it was all alone now, suddenly beelined away from Maxwell Carter's GM Command and shot straight toward Hilda's Guncannon. "Watch out Schrodinger!" Ares called out, knowing what the Rick Dom II was going to try to do.

Hilda hurriedly fired her beam rifle and cannons, but the Rick Dom II was too fast for her to get a decent hit on, and its continuous barrage of 90mm shells threw her off greatly. The Carter brothers attempted to support her, but they didn't have much better luck; apparently this was the best of the three Dom pilots.

Seeing that she was at a disadvantage, the German pilot abandoned the piece of debris she had been using for cover so that she could get a better shot in, but that was what the Rick Dom had intended. Before the Guncannon could let loose another barrage, it fired its scattering beam gun right into the artillery suit's visor camera, easily blinding the Federation pilot. "Scheiße!" Hilda called out, while shielding her eyes from the intense light. All that she managed to do was fire a beam rifle shot that went very wide, as the Rick Dom II closed on her with its heat saber drawn.

To her great fortune, however, the Dom was so intent on her that it forgot about the GM Sniper II, much more failing to notice Ares closing in to intercept. When Hilda's vision recovered, the first thing she saw was the Rick Dom II looming over her with a magenta beam saber blade piercing right where its cockpit used to be. Her eyes naturally widened as Ares withdrew his beam saber and placed it back in its recharge rack, and then kicked the now officially dead Dom away. Immediately its mono-eye dimmed to signify the suit's demise.

"Are you still alive?" Ares asked, still as cold as ever.

"Ye… Yes sir." Hilda managed to stutter, having a hard time looking up at the GM Sniper II's visor.

"Next time keep your distance." He told her simply. He then turned to the GM Commands. "What about you two?"

"We're alright. I think Maxie took some ninety mike-mikes in the arm." Anthony reported.

As if on cue, Maxwell moved his mobile suit's right arm up and down. "Arm's fine, but I lost my beam rifle." He gestured toward the remains of the GM Command's beam rifle, which had taken a shot in its beam cartridge during the battle and exploded.

"I see." Ares observed. Without any further words, he edged his suit over to the Rick Dom II and stripped its unscathed machinegun out of the left hand, then nudged it toward the GM Command. "Will this do?"

Maxwell took the machinegun and looked it over. "Not bad, I always wanted to try out a Zeek autocannon. But isn't it ass low on ammo?"

"Then make as many shots count as possible." Ares replied sharply as he retained his long-range beam rifle, which he had placed on his GM's waist armor to switch with the beam saber.

It was at that point another flash entered through his mind, and Ares suddenly found himself very alert. What is it…? Another enemy…? He thought, looking around through space, to the various debris. Yes… Definitely an enemy… And it's close…

Quickly, his mind centered in an area of space that was fairly open. He ignored the surrounding debris and concentrated at the center of the abyss, where he saw an object laying in wait behind a piece of colony. Hiding, watching, waiting. Although he couldn't make out the shape of it or what it was, he did notice one thing: a bright red mono-eye, flared like a star in a narrowed, glaring headpiece.

Without any words, Ares brought up his beam rifle and took aim toward the direction he was feeling this new adversary; whether by the minovsky particles or all the debris in the area he wasn't picking anything up besides his teammates so he was essentially shooting blind. But that was good enough.

"Lieutenant…?" Maxwell Carter spoke up, just as Ares fired a shot.

At first it seemed like he shot the beam at nothing, but as it blasted straight through some debris, everyone noticed that something had moved away from the said debris, via thruster flare. The same object then angled out and shot at them, flying at seemingly impossible speeds, all the while flashing its bright red mono-eye.

"Damn, another one!" Hilda realized, as she immediately aimed her cannons and fired several shots along with Ares, intent on striking this new menace down before it came into range. But again, the 200mm projectiles and long-range beam rifle shots hit open space, and the enemy machine quickly retaliated by firing its own weapon as it charged.

Both Ares and Hilda quickly moved away from their firing spots, letting the machinegun-esque barrage fire past and slam into more debris. At this point the enemy weapon had come enough to make it out in detail; it was definitely a Zeon mobile suit, but not one the Silver Team had seen before. It was red in color, and notably very large in size and stature, to monstrous proportions even. It possessed flared shoulder armor, enlarged legs and an angular fin topped head that were all far cries from a Zaku or a Dom. But the details that really stood out were the amount of thrusters that were strung throughout the suit's frame, as well as the machinegun it held in its right hand, which Ares compared to the ancient German MG42 in design.

That's definitely the target. Ares thought, taking aim with his beam rifle.

As it came in for the attack against Ares, it again let loose its machinegun at the GM Sniper II. Ares knew it was too close for him to evade, but he tried anyway, and in the process raised his undamaged shield. He had expected the shield to absorb the enemy fire, but as the bursts impacted both the shield and his right shoulder, which it took a decent sized chunk out of, he realized that machinegun wasn't firing kinetic rounds.

"A beam weapon!?" Ares called out in surprise. He had heard of certain Dom types that could use ship grade beam cannons, but he never thought the Zeon would be able to make their own type of beam rifle this soon. He returned fire with his own beam rifle, but the red mobile suit managed to evade his shots with ease. "Maxwell, Anthony, flank this bastard!"

The GM Commands did as they were ordered, with Maxwell adding his own beam rifle to Ares' and Anthony letting loose his Zeon 90mm machinegun. And of course, Hilda continued to fire her cannons and her own beam rifle. But even with the concentrated fire, the enemy mobile suit weaved and banked through it all with ease, and returned fire with its large beam machinegun.

Anthony was the first victim of the barrage, as beams literally rained over his GM. His beam rifle was the first to fly off, followed by his other arm, then his legs and head. And finally he took several beam shots into the torso.

"No! Anthony!" Maxwell called out as he saw his brother's mobile suit get totaled. Instead of waiting for a response, which he wasn't sure if he'd receive, he shot at the enemy mobile suit with his 90mm blazing away.

But the Zeon mobile suit ignored him, instead launching toward the Guncannon. Hilda, realizing that this was the second today a Zeek centered her out for whatever reason, lowered he cannons and fired off two more shots in an attempt to break the mobile suit off from its attack run. A valiant attempt, but the Zeon mobile suit simply pulled up and avoided the shells, and then rained beams upon her like it did to Anthony. The first blew took out the Guncannon's 200mm shoulder cannons, the shock causing the Guncannon rock back violently. The Zeon then took out the Guncannon's beam rifle before Hilda could retaliate, followed by the arm holding it, then the other arm and then one of the Guncannon's right leg.

Not waiting for the mobile suit to take off Hilda's other leg or the cockpit, Ares put his GM Sniper II into a dash and fired beams at the mobile suit, drawing its attention toward him now. Just as the Zeon mobile suit was about to pull away from the tattered Guncannon and come after him, Maxwell took his cue and fired a full burst of 90mm rounds from the left side of the adversary, striking its large beam machinegun and causing it to explode when it hit the energy cap, ironically mirroring what had happened to Maxwell's beam rifle. The mobile suit responded by throwing away the remains and firing a wrist mounted autocannon in its right forearm at the GM Command, effectively disabling it like the others.

With all three of his squadmates taken out, Ares knew now was the time to kill his opponent in one fell swoop, so he took quick aim at the cockpit and pulled the trigger on his beam rifle. CLICK No beams came out; the beam rifle's e-cap was drained.

Of course. Ares thought in dismay, tossing away the now empty beam rifle.

The Zeon mobile suit, realizing his opponent now had no firepower beyond vulcans, opened fire with its autocannon again. However, Ares was much faster than his team mates and evaded the barrage in a full dash, deflecting the bullets he couldn't avoid with his shield. In the midst of the dash he drew his beam saber and attempted to repeat to this Zeon what he had done to the Rick Dom II, but just as he slashed at the massive mobile suit's waist, the Zeon pilot backed away several meters.

Instead of firing with its autocannon again, the Zeon reached back to its waist armor and drew a pole shaped device with its right hand. A second later, two yellow energy blades shot out of the pole, revealing the device to be a twin beam naginata.

"Interesting." Ares exclaimed, both at the weapon and his perplexity at how the Zeon pilot wanted to go for a straight duel rather than take advantage of gap in weapon range.

Still, not wanting to waste the opportunity, Ares charged at his opponent for an opening slash, with the Zeon bringing up its twin beam sword to parry. Both energy weapons clashed, with minovsky particles sparking between them. The Zeon mobile suit threw Ares back, spinning its naginata and going on the offensive against Ares. Fortunately, Ares managed to bring up his shield, which the beam blade easily cut through yet still didn't reach anything else. Jettisoning the remains, Ares fired his vulcan pods to force his adversary to back off from the attack, then kicking on his suit's thrusters and shooting right into the debris field.

Naturally, his adversary followed, but unlike the Rick Doms, this mobile suit easily kept up with the GM Sniper II. The fight soon became a running battle, with either mobile suit crossing swords with the other for one moment, then flying away before crossing swords once more. Ares even tried throwing a piece of debris at the red mobile suit, but it easily slashed the impromptu projectile away and flying after its Federation target unheeded.

After flying some distance, Ares kicked in his GM's apogee motors and made the GM Sniper II "flip" over the Zeon suit. The idea was to score an opening on the enemy's back, but the Zeon pilot was fast enough to respond by shoving the opposite end of his beam naginata behind to intercept the GM Sniper II's blade. It then twisted around and slashed at Ares torso, but fortunately the Federation pilot managed to turn his suit away, and the naginata merely into off his left leg, leaving a nice sized gash behind. Fortunately it didn't hit any of the thrusters that were mounted in the calf, but it came close.

In his counterattack, Ares managed to get a hit in, piercing into the red suit's left side, then proceeding diagonally. The red suit kicked him away before he could cut into the minovsky reactor, but the damage had still been done. Ares followed up by firing his vulcans again, right into the tear he had made. This caused a secondary explosion that knocked the Zeon suit backward, with Ares flying forward to deliver the killing blow.

Just as his beam saber was about to hit the cockpit, again the enemy suit managed to pull its beam naginata up to deflect Ares' blade. The Federation pilot gritted his teeth at the fast reaction time of this pilot, it certainly wasn't making things any easier for him. He decided to make it even by slice into the autocannon on the Zeon suit's right wrist, disabling the weapon.

This enticed the ferocity of the enemy pilot, as his slashes and cuts became faster and better placed. Ares found himself being pushed back; he was able to predict the attacks and movements of the pilot, but the mobile suit's great speed kept him from going on the offensive. He briefly wondered if Amuro Ray ever had this kind of trouble against the random ace piloted prototypes that he continually came up against.

Knowing that the battle would only be drawn out if the enemy pilot kept up, Ares decided to pull a stunt that had worked once before. When he was pushed back, he had his left arm pulled back over where his second beam saber lay, unhooking it from the waist armor but not activating it. He kept the arm there and attacked the Zeon suit like a fencer would, its pilot apparently failing to notice that Ares had not brought the GM's arm out again.

Now! Ares he heard a voice call out in his mind; whether it was his own thought or his apparent sixth sense was unknown. He just followed through with that voice: knocking the beam naginata away so that the torso was now open, Ares put the GM Sniper II into a semi-horizontal spin. When he finished the spin, he instantly swept both arms out, simultaneously activating the second beam saber blade. Both blades easily cut into the adversary mobile suit's torso, right through the breast armor.

Energy sparked from the cross shaped cut in the mobile suit's torso and the blades on the naginata shorted out, signaling that Ares had scored a cut onto the minovsky reactor. By instinct alone, he threw his GM into reverse and shot away as the reactor exploded, taking the Zeon mobile suit with it in a great flash.

Breathing heavily, Ares watched as the glare of the explosion slowly began to fade from his cockpit monitor. The mission was completed, with both objectives accomplished. That thought in mind, he brought up his team's frequency. "Silver Team, report in."

"We're all alive sir, that Zeek didn't hit our cockpits. Our mobile suits are shot to hell though, so we will need pick up." he heard Hilda report on the other line.

"Roger, I'll radio it in." Ares replied, switching to the Antietam's frequency. He wasn't sure if he could a straight line with the Minovsky particles in the area and all the debris, but it was still worth a try.

"Silver to Antietam, mission complete. One Zeon prototype obliterated. Three for pick up in sector Charlie-Omega." he called out, then waited for a response.

"Come on Ares, you have to make it sound cool, like 'scratch another Zeek bastard child.'" He heard the voice say on the other line, referring to the Federation slang for Zeon prototypes.

Ares found himself cringing; instead of the Antietam's flight controller, the respondent was the Antietam's commander and his superior, Lieutenant Commander Samuel Trent. Trent was well known in the Space Force for being cocky, arrogant and light hearted, possessing a cynical and amusing nature that was seldom seen in the Space Force. This of course, chafed against Ares' ice cold personality, and the only thing that made Ares respect Trent as a superior was that with those traits he was also a very cunning and intelligent officer who was able to manipulate his way through Space Force bureacracy like a puppet master.

That being said, he was a commander that not even Ares wanted to make an enemy of. For Trent himself, he didn't really care what his mobile suit commander felt toward him; he still seemed to personally like Ares as a human being, which was why he went out of his way to get Ares and his team their high end mobile suits and equipment.

"It all means the same, sir." Ares replied in monotone. "I'm low on propellant, so I'm unsure if I can return myself. You may have to bring the ship in directly."

Trent chuckled on the other side of the line; this was just how Ares asked for help while not admitting it. "Well as long as that prototype is gone, we can enter the Shoal Zone safely. But with your team down, you're now our only protection against any other Zeek mobile suit attacks, so don't relax yet; not that you can relax Ares."

"I know that sir." Ares shot back, aggravated at the chiding.

"Good. Then stay put until the Calvary appears. Antietam out."

The signal was cut from there, so Ares began to make his way back to his team. But for a brief moment, he turned back and looked at the space where the enemy mobile suit used to be, remaining silent as he thought about the battle today. Four more humans had gone to join the ghosts that lingered here, whether they were at peace or not, Ares didn't know.

All that Ares cared about though, was that he had survived, and so had his team. And with his sixth sense not picking up anything else, it seemed that the fighting was officially over for today. So with that in mind, he turned away and eased his mobile suit toward his intended destination.

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Author's Notes: This story was made for the MechaTalk Fanfiction Competition, as said above, and is thus a one shot. For other details:

- The title of the story originates from the final boss theme of Kingdom Hearts II.

- Yes, Ares is a newtype. Pretty obvious, huh? He's not as powerful as Amuro Ray of course, but he's high enough that he can see/hear/feel people dying horrid deaths like Amuro did with the Solar Ray. He also has the standard newtype traits like precognition and a high action/reaction rate, which goes nicely with his combat style.

- Also yes, that "mysterious" Zeon mobile suit is a MS-14Jg Gelgoog Jaeger, evidenced by the "MG42" beam machinegun and extremely high speed. At this point it should be four days after the first Gelgoogs are distributed into the Zeon forces (mainly the Chimera Corps), so this particular Jaeger is a prototype going through final testing. And I know the usual Jaeger doesn't have a beam naginata, but I added it on anyway.