Gundam Seed: Wolves of War
Disclaimer: GS is not mine. Kenneth DiFalco and his Gray Demons and subsequent relations and other characters are the creation of Solid Shark, who is made of epic. They are used with his full permission and he will be my correspondence for future chapters involving them. There will be twists with them, once again, done with his permission. Needless to say, its got his own gears turning . . . so expect some great stuff. Now on with the show.
Prologue: Battle of Endymion
On the darkened side of the moon, inside the Earth Alliance satellite base Endymion, a young man in his mid-twenties walked down the halls. Many personnel halted to salute him as he passed. Finally arriving at his destination he entered, promptly making his way to his seat while ignoring the looks of contempt and prejudice.
"You're late Wing Commander Wallachia." The base commander pushed up his glasses and glared down the bridge of his nose at the young high ranking officer. Said Wing Commander shrugged.
"There are times when being late is a boon. What's the situation?"
The young woman he took a seat beside nudged him in the ribs. Getting the message, he quieted down and took a serious countenance. The better part of him didn't want to anger his Admiral. The base commander coughed to clear his throat and turned everyone's attention toward the display board behind him.
"We have detected a significant ZAFT force en route to this location. Intel provides us with the statistical data of several Nazca and a select few Laurasia Class vessels supported by their contingent of Mobile Suits."
The chart of the surrounding space of Endymion enlarged to reveal the moon and its northern hemisphere. The estimated spread of the force made several members of the gathered officers lift an eyebrow.
"That force is just barely a full fleet. Do these people really take us that lightly?"
The map froze and shifted to the southern sector of the planet's moon. Another fleet approached from that area at about the same estimated speed. That image moved aside to show a third, significantly larger force incoming from the far west of the base. Each of the officers gave room for pause with the advent of this third cluster of ZAFT vessels.
"A three sided front? We only have the Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Fleets here."
The woman sitting beside Wallachia cleared her throat and glared daggers at the frustrated officer across from her. Her eyes bore into him for a moment before he regained his wits and pointed at her accusingly.
"You don't have a fleet as far as I'm concerned. Why would a space monster like you be here unless it's to kill us?"
Marisa Wallachia Sokolov Tepes stood from her chair utterly infuriated. Before she could spout off anything peculiarly vile, a hand rested on her shoulder to calm her nerves. Looking up and over her shoulder, Wing Commander Alexsander Wallachia Tepes stood to his full height with steady eyes.
"That sounds like a Blue Cosmos member speaking up. You do remember the Stalingrad Butchery do you not?"
Everyone in the room tensed at the mentioning of the violent spectacle that was the failed Blue Cosmos attack in Russia nine years ago.
"Do not test my good graces. I have nothing against Coordinators in general and I will not tolerate such degradation of their people, much less my wife. If you would excuse us."
Extending his hand to the Admiral, she accepted his offered arm and they exited the tense room. As the door shut behind them, Marisa sighed heavily. She was a First Generation Coordinator of the Russian Sokolov line. Her parents lived on Earth, and thus, she stayed with them and her elder brother. Alexsander was a Natural, but he was her best friend ever since that cold November day.
The truth was, they hadn't been romantically involved with each other at that time. The Stalingrad Butchery had thrown them together that tragic day. She had lost her brother and he had lost his fiancé at the time. The bloodbath slaughter that followed had scarred them both deeply and forged a cold steel resolve to find and put an end to Blue Cosmos. The two of them entered the officer's academy for training and to begin gathering power to carry out their plans. Now they possessed that power . . . at least in theory.
The Bloody Valentine Tragedy would derail half of the carefully laid plans and set them back two years. Now, they were nearly celebrities given their marital status and personal backgrounds. ZAFT knew the couple and their fleet as the Indestructible Legion due to their constant resurfacing after every significant battle, including Yachin Due, Yggdrasil, and the Grimaldi Front. Alex had garnered a personal fame as an Armor pilot over the course of the many battles they had fought in.
The Immortal. Many ZAFT and EA alike were beginning to believe the moniker to be true. He had faced every ace ZAFT had deployed and returned to the fleet alive. Granted the same thing couldn't be said of his Armors, but they were replaceable unlike his person.
Marisa turned and graced her husband with a smile.
"Thank you Alex, but remember that we're military officers at the moment."
His stolid gaze made her frown.
"After this battle we will no longer officially be an Earth Alliance fleet." Holding up a hand in order to forestall her question, he pressed onward. "I had the Sanders twins do some snooping around the base over the past few days and they uncovered a Cyclops underground."
The brunette woman covered her mouth with a hand in horror. Looking down at her feet, she shivered at the revelation of the MOD under their very feet. She also knew what this meant for the rest of the forces here at the base.
"Alex, what do we do then? There aren't really many places to go to when this fight is over with."
The raven black haired pilot gave her a puzzled look and cocked his head to the side.
"Didn't you get Halberton's message? He relayed it to us this morning via tight beam."
The woman sheepishly took out her palm computer and opened her classified message folder. The inbox noted a single new message. The chuckle that escaped Alex's lips didn't help her embarrassment any. Turning, she swatted him hard on the shoulder before reading over the text within. Chocolate brown eyes scanned the contents and grew wide as she reached the meat of the mail Halberton sent their way.
"Heliopolis? Are they serious?" The nod she received made her swallow. "They're trying to develop their own Mobile Suits at last. I can't see this ending very well for anyone involved."
"I've sent Jessica ahead to the colony to do some meddling around with our contacts in Morgenroete. Of course, her family name should help with that as well."
"You do realize that lowers your squadron's strength." This time it was Alex's turn to huff.
"It's a little late to be pointing that out don't you think? The other pilots know about it already and will be flying more conservatively for this, our final battle as members of the EA."
She nodded in acceptance as they proceeded back to their ship.
Meanwhile on a Laurasia Class with the southern tertiary strike team of ZAFT's attack force, Shiho Hahnenfuss was floating in her quarters with a crimson twined sword in hand. The blade was elegantly crafted and laser engraved with its name upon the side of the blade.
"Boss, I'm sorry, but I couldn't stay away from this battle. I may not be able to directly support you and the other Demons on the front lines, but I'll do what I can from here."
The ZAFT redcoat sheathed her sword in its matching sheath before looking to a photo of herself in the midst of the infamous Grimaldi Falcon and his Gray Demons. It had been awhile since she'd left the group proper, but she'd always be one of them if the katana forged by Tom Delaney was any indication. Picking up the framed picture, she gasped when the protective covering suddenly cracked, leaving fissures over several of its members.
"Matt Russo, Alicia Sharpe . . . Commander DiFalco . . . what could this mean?"
The ZGMF-X project test pilot didn't have any time to ponder over the ominous omen as the announcement for battle preparation sounded over the PA system. Heading out of the room, she launched herself in the direction of the hangar bay. Swiftly suiting up in the locker room, she darted out to her cobalt blue CGUE. The technician at the cockpit hatch gave a thumb up for her to board. Giving him a quick, salute, she eased herself into the pilot's seat and began to run through her start up sequences.
"Everything seems in order, now it's time to see what those Naturals have in store this time. Nothing much I'll wager."
'Then again though, that time we fought the Indestructible Fleet and the Immortal with his Wolf Squadron, we got off lucky with just major damages. Damn Victor's stunt. Though I can't complain since he got killed by the Boss.'
"Where would that group of soldiers be now?"
The hangar of the Wallachian fleet was rampant with activity. Men and women rushed about in a flurry of motions as they finished loading supplies and began to board their respective ships. A man only slightly older than Alex rushed over and saluted the ace. Acknowledging his presence with a return salute, Alex bade him speak his mind.
"What are we to do about the Cyclops system sir?"
"You needn't get so worked up Major Sanders. This too will pass and we will press onward. Be more concerned about our adversaries. The Cyclops will give itself away as it begins to charge its power. We will be far out of its range by then."
Another pilot met them just inside the entry bulkhead with a concerned look on her face. Her auburn hair floated slightly as the artificial gravity dissipated for the ships to weigh anchor. Marisa smiled inwardly, the fleet operated soundly even without the personal order from her to deploy.
"How can you be certain we'll be clear of the blast range?"
Marisa pushed off of her husband and smiled sardonically. Seeing her commander's other half so smug, she raised her hands in defeat. Whenever the Admiral got that look on her face, it was best to just go with whatever crazy scheme she concocted.
"Forget I asked." Alex allowed himself a mirthful laugh before smiling wistfully and making his way to the hangars with two of his squad mates in tow.
"Rachelle, do you really believe Marisa would let us get caught in such a trap? We will be handling either the northern or southern battle line. That reminds me, has there been any additional news from Halberton?"
Rachelle Di shook her head negatively to both counts. If Marisa could lead the fleet through Yachin Due, Yggdrasil, and the chaos of the Grimaldi Front, then she could handle this one as well. Alex's skills were also top class as both a pilot and a leading officer. Not just by word, but by example, Alex inspired many of the crew members and other pilots on the other ships. His personal squadron consisted of Evan and Allen Sanders, Jessica, who was off on another assignment at Heliopolis, and herself. The other two members of the squad had died in the line of duty against ZAFT - more specifically the by the hands of the Gray Demons.
As well as she could remember, that battle had been strange from the get go. The two squadrons would never have exchanged fire if it hadn't been for one of the Grimaldi Falcon's men recklessly charging their line of defense. Likewise, the hot head of their own squad had charged to meet the challenge head on. From then on out, the rest of the battle went to hell. The five minute furball that resulted from those two charging each other had earned the title, "The Dogfight from Hell."
Alex had lost Travis Page, the 'hot head' that had answered the challenge of the Demon and rushed out of formation. The other who had rushed after him to bring him back and was the first of the two to die was Lingshen Tao Lan. The Demons had gotten away with all their members, though they all certainly returned to their ship battered and bruised. Their mobile suits came away from the scrap just as bad if not a bit worse than their Zeroes had. The units were missing legs, arms, heads, some were missing multiple appendages. Alex had reported seeing one of the Demons' faces from the gash he left in the cockpit hatch. The spectacle had sent chills down both sides that witnessed the clash of squadrons.
The truly frightening moment during the fighting was the exchange of fire between the Falcon and the Immortal. The two men fought like supernatural beings. Mobile suit and armor both lost parts simply from the sheer stress on their frames from the maneuvers both pilots pulled off while trying to shoot the other down.
It had taken both the Grimaldi Falcon and the Immortal calling a simultaneous truce in the fighting before the pointless violence claimed a Demon or another Wolf. Lingshen had been vaporized without any time to scream when she'd dived between Travis and the Demon who'd lined up the fatal shot on him. Travis had died shortly afterward when he charged the pilot who'd killed Lan, only to be skewered in the back by the renegade Demon who provoked the whole incident. When Travis died, Alex had called for defensive formations considering they'd lost the two pilots they had dived in to save. After seeing two of the slate gray machines subdue Tempest, a single gray CGUE, the Falcon himself placed himself before Alex with the proposal to withdraw at the same time. Alex had been grateful for the objective mindset of the ZAFT ace and held a great deal of respect for the man even now.
It wasn't too terribly long afterward that news came to them that the Gray Demon Victor Tempest had died after a falling out with the Falcon that culminated in a death match with live blades. They all swiftly deduced that Victor had been the one to start that entire pointless shootout. The exact circumstances were unknown, but Alex didn't give it too much thought. After the battle he had delved deep into the Moebius Zero blueprints, working for days bent on improving the design.
Ultimately what happened as the result of his tireless research was a more streamlined and deadly machine. The mobile armor was slim; the gun barrels were far more aerodynamic despite their lower munitions supply. This made them harder to target than their orange barrel counterparts. Each of their armors now totted twin linear guns instead of one cannon and the thrusters covering the entirety of the ship had gone through a massive overhaul. Alex's personal machine had been reinforced after the engineer's had taken a good look at the Zero that had nearly broken apart on its own under his flying.
Rachelle looked at Alex as they finally entered the hangar.
"Commander, are you taking the field today?"
The man nodded as he approached his personal machine. It appeared no different from their modified units, but the inside was utilizing an experimental system in the cockpit that would drastically improve a pilot's survivability if used properly.
"I would advise you and the Sanders twins to suit up and standby. We could meet the enemy at any given time."
As they left to do so, he placed a hand on the side of the cockpit hatch. Alex sighed heavily before taking a deep breath to calm his nerves.
"Today will see another pointless slaughter of unsuspecting souls. When will our time come to announce the curtain call on this blood soaked opera?"
Up on the bridge Marisa was making conversation with her crew over the next few moves they would make before meeting the ZAFT forces once again. Her helmsman Ritcher Occan knew the ship better than the average bridge crewman. The man's father was the chief engineer of the flagship and it was the envy of nearly all ship captains in the EA. The RAM-FAS – Romanian Armor Masters Flag Assault Ship – Stiletto was a sleek ship with a total length just under four hundred meters. The weapons that decorated the hull were a different caliber from that of typical ship borne weaponry. Isabella Wilder in CIC knew that all too well.
"Isabella, set the weapons to peripheral tracking and keep the main gun offline unless I say so."
"Ma'am." She didn't have to be told twice. The main gun was unstable as it was. Risking firing it was something that Marisa was hesitant about. The test theories were sound, but Marisa insisted on waiting until certain technological advances were made first.
Ritcher guided the Stiletto out of her docking bay as the other ships of the fleet formed up around her in a wide spread rhombus formation. Setting their course due south, members of the communications lines were verifying that all vessels were accounted for. Marisa opened a broad band channel within the cluster of the fleet's ships.
"Attention all vessels of the Romanian First Space Fleet, this is Admiral Marisa Wallachia. It has been an honor to serve alongside such fine men and women in this struggle. I ask you all to hold your heads high in this final battle as members of the Earth Alliance. Upon the conclusion of this engagement, the Stiletto will change vectors to Heliopolis as a part of the next phase of our true mission. All other ships will proceed to back to the homeland and prepare for our return with the tools needed to take the next steps against the true enemies of mankind. I believe it goes without saying to play this battle conservatively. Do not make foolish risks in this battle of survival. We cannot afford major losses."
Confirmations poured in from all directions as vessels activated weapon platforms and readied mobile armor launch catapults. The radar officer glanced over her shoulder at Marisa.
"Admiral, first ZAFT vessels are appearing on scopes now. Four Nazca's and two Laurasias."
"Well Elenore, have they launched mobile suits yet?"
Elenore Baker shook her head lightly. Taking another look at her screens and signals, she swallowed the words she was about to say.
"They're hiding in under their parent ship signatures. Someone's a cunning devil to employ that tactic."
"Relay the order to the entire fleet to launch armors and get Alex on the line."
Down below, Alex was finishing suiting up when the bridge hailed him. Answering the device, he kept his voice even.
"Wallachia here." Isabella appeared on the screen with a light bow to his position. Nodding in quick acknowledgment, Alexsander reached for his helmet. "Yes Isabella, what's the situation out there?"
The brunette spoke in professional tones.
"Sir, the Admiral's giving the order to deploy."
"So it begins again." A confused look crossed the woman's facial features as he silently confirmed Marisa's orders. The screen cut off as he made his way across the hanger from the locker room. "We're go for launch, get moving soldiers!"
Left and right, crew members hustled to get armors into launch positions. The Sanders twins and Rachelle came up to him and saluted as a single entity. Waving them to an at ease status he looked to their Moebius Zeroes.
"There will be no deviations from the standard procedures. Stay formed up on me and keep an eye on each other. Wolf Pack Strategy Two."
They all nodded and shook hands before departed for their individual machines.
The stars appeared ominous to her as she sat in her CGUE just outside the Laurasia class vessel to her starboard side. The time spent just before the lead started flying was always tense. Giving her systems one last check, she cycled through her options.
"The machine gun with two spare magazines, along with the shield vulcan cannon and the heavy sword. The battery's fully charged and there aren't any mechanical issues . . . at least there better not be. I guess I'm good to go."
On board the Laurasia, the captain of the ship was getting a radar report from his crewmen.
"Sir, we're getting readings of a single fleet with a very large central ship in the core of the formations. They're launching mobile armors sir."
"Feh, armors, pathetic. Which fleet is that?"
The screen enlarged to show the fleet before them. Most of the ships didn't affect the crew until the central ship came into clear view.
"That's, that's the Indestructible Fleet."
Several swallows went around the bridge of the ship and its captain was certain that the rest of the men and women under his command on the other ships were doing the same.
"Sir, we're being hailed."
The captain nodded to reveal a voice-only communication broadcast.
"This is Admiral Marisa Wallachia Sokolov Tepes of the Romanian First Royal Fleet on board the Stiletto. Is this the commander of the ZAFT tertiary strike force?"
"I am Captain Francis Altrouge."
A slight, flitting laughter took the ZAFT soldiers off guard. It was light and ethereal, taunting and lilting.
"Well then Sir Francis, would I be inappropriate in asking that both our forces stand down and chat for a bit over tea?"
The crew glanced back and forth at each other incredulously. Francis shook his head quietly in disbelief. He'd heard tales of the Tepes lineage, but never thought much of it. Now he wished that he had paid slightly more attention to his classes.
"My apologies, but I think as members of military forces we know that would be heavily looked down upon."
"Oh?" the voice was more amused than offended. "This is quite a shame. At least you've some respect to humor a lady's request. Alex, did you get all of that?"
The face that suddenly appeared on screen appeared just as humored as his female counterpart sounded.
"Sir Francis, you have my respect for your display of manners before my wife. Though, as she said, this is unfortunate. I much rather have preferred talking over tea. No matter. Knowing hostilities will not end with more mere words, en garde!"
The sudden flurry of activity from the Romanian fleet caused temporary disarray among the ZAFT ranks as volleys of starship fire lanced through space. Francis swiftly recovered and ordered his CIC to return fire. Green spears of positron cannon fire spewed forth in the direction of the infamous EA fleet.
All over the surrounding vacuum, mobile suits closed on mobile armors. Many of the new greencoat pilots hesitated seeing the Wallachian fleet's armors. Multiple units were heavily, yet universally modified. GINNs and CGUEs shot toward fleet vessels as Moebius pilots defended their home ships with vicious tenacity. One Agammemnon carrier lucked out, lancing a Nazca's guns, rendering it incapable of fighting any longer.
In return, one GINN made its way within range and tore into the ship's port side launcher. The 76 mm slugs from its machine gun ripped through the machinery. Two Moebius charged the suit only to be blown into dust by the ZAFT pilot's wingman. No more than a second passed before his ally was riddled with shots from another Moebius that began a deadly game of tag with the surviving GINN.
The defense turrets of the Stiletto blazed with their auto-tracking, targeting missiles and mobile suits alike. The capital ship's 70mm gatling interceptors could fire off over a thousand rounds per minute. In the void of space they looked like streams of molten orange. The secondary cannons on the ship, designed to resemble twentieth century battleship main guns, fired their deadly volleys into the ZAFT fleet. The weapons were the latest in the Romanian technology, with their barrels being eighteen inches and instead of solid munitions, they fired energy beams. A single volley wrecked a Nazca and a pair of mobile suits unlucky enough to get caught up in the mix.
Allen Sanders whistled as the Midnight Wolves squadron zipped past another group of mobile suits, leaving fragmented remains as the four units unleashed rains of gunfire from their gun barrels. The dark violet machines made them harder to visually acquire unless they were firing full force. Sure, the bright orange paint schemes of their fellow Zero squadrons made it easier for allies to see them, but it also made them bright targets for the pilots of the Plants.
"Boy, the Admiral's just letting them have at it isn't she?"
"They're lucky she doesn't risk firing the main gun on the ship."
His twin brother Evan sent his gun barrels spiraling out as he answered his sibling. The streamlined pods sped out to meet a CGUE pilot who'd become preoccupied with another armor in their fleet. Surrounding the suit, he opened fire, peppering the unfortunate coordinator with eight barrels of hot lead. The volley shredded the gun, shield, arms, and head of the suit. To add insult to injury, he rammed the suit with one of his wired units before having it return to his ship. The useless mobile suit tumbled back in the direction of the ZAFT fleet.
"I feel sorry for that pilot, I bet he's struggling not to lose his lunch in there."
Rachelle skewered a GINN with a positron cannon that was lining up a shot on the Stiletto with her linear guns, the first of the tandem rounds took the energy pack of the weapon, the second made direct contact with the power supply of the unit. Needless to say, the resulting explosions were more than expected.
"That's enough you three. Concentrate on the task at hand. One of those Laurasia class ships is getting too close for comfort, we're making an assault run, form up on me and don't let your guard down."
The members of the Wolves responded with the universal pilot's double click as they vectored in on Alex's position. Tracers from mobile suit guns and bright green fire from capital ship guns honed in on the four Zeroes as they sped through space. Sixteen gun barrels spread out among their four masters. Slugs shot from their barrels in rapid succession as they acquired targets and opened fire. Each of the Wolves made their pod movements erratic as possible to keep shots from taking out their advantageous weaponry.
All of the fire from thirty two barrels plus the combined fire of eight linear guns turned four armors into a charging spectacle of bloodthirsty hunters homing in on prey that wanted nothing of the sort. GINNs and CGUEs desperately evaded or brought up shields only to have the onslaught of lead rip through machinery. Some pilots lucked out, floating in space with no means of continuing the fight. Others who weren't so fortunate were caught in bright orange-red fireballs as their suits exploded.
On board the Laurasia, Captain Altrouge grit his teeth at the incoming cluster of Moebius Zeroes. He never imagined the armors of the EA could become so dangerous. Then again, he'd only heard stories of the squadron that could match Kenneth DiFalco's Gray Demons in skill. Seeing them first hand even with men down, was downright frightening. He could only define their combat style as an overrun style.
"His pilots take on single targets as a coordinated group and progress to the next nearest target in the area. Those wired gun barrels don't help the poor victim in their sights either."
The ship was firing on all cylinders trying to knock the Immortal and his Wolves out of the fight, but the guns were just too large and slow compared to the speed and skill that the Romanian soldiers were showing. As the displays only continued to show the Zeroes incoming, Francis Altrouge could only come to a single bleak conclusion.
As the units poured into firing range, a burst of machine gun and vulcan fire scattered the Wolves with several bright balls of fire. Alex took stock of the situation they suddenly found themselves in. Allen and his brother had already paired off with each other and Rachelle was sticking to him like glue. Glancing over at her unit, he was slightly surprised to see her without a pair of her gun barrels.
"Rachelle, report damages."
"Just the gun barrels, but wow, that pilot tagged me and Allen. He's got three missing himself."
The heir of the Tepes line lifted an eyebrow at that information. Glancing over to where the twins fought off a trio of suits that grew more confidant with two of his wolves down gun barrels, he could see Allen having to compensate for his losses to the best of his abilities. Evan was giving his brother all the support he could, but he was still only one person.
"Allen, can you stick around or not?"
It took a moment for him to respond. The pilot swerved to evade a positron shot from a GINN before sending it packing with his remaining gun barrel. Evan shot the two other units going for the kill at close range with a volley from his linear guns on one suit and the wired units on it partner. When Allen did respond, it was scratchy and filled with static. It was plainly obvious that he'd taken the surprise attack much worse than Rachelle.
"I got off much worse than Rachelle sir. That burst of gunfire . . . argh!"
The machine gun and vulcan cannon fire burst into the pair, shredding the last gun barrel off of Allen's machine and putting a hole in one of his main thrusters. Evan jinked and spun, but lost a linear gun and gun barrel. Rachelle and Alex supposed that was better than if he hadn't. The hungry onslaught would've torn through his cockpit if he hadn't have gone evasive. Alex and Rachelle's eyes darted around the space surrounding the twins and spotted the perpetrator at the same instant. The two pilots frowned, it was the first time either of them had seen that coloration on a suit.
"A blue CGUE? Must be a redcoat. Rachelle, get the twins out of this area and back to the Stiletto. I'll hold this one off."
Rachelle responded with a double click affirmation before jetting off to help the siblings as Alex zoned in on the ZAFT unit. Spreading out his gun barrels so a single burst of fire wouldn't knock out more than one, he fired in a criss-cross spread that would skewer from multiple directions. Shooting his linear guns into the mix, most pilots would have turned into space dust. To his surprise, the mobile suit pilot backpedaled, avoiding the first burst while turning to face him. The two following strings of fire were sidestepped as the shield vulcan was brought to bear to catch the fourth gun barrel's fire.
Alex couldn't help but whistle lightly when the pilot used the force of the bullet impact on the shield to back flip underneath the linear gun shots and return fire with a dual burst of the machine gun and vulcan cannon in opposing directions in an attempt to skewer his gun barrels like it did his squadron's.
'I've seen that maneuver before . . . granted this pilot's not quite as good as he was, but that makes me wonder.'
Sliding his independent units out of the way, he smirked and licked his lips. Taking quick stock of the status of his squad mates, he nodded to himself as they made their way out of the combat zone to the Stiletto.
"Good, they should be fine now that they're back inside the Stiletto's defense sphere." Switching his frequency to an open channel, he hailed the pilot who'd oddly stopped firing at him. The two faced off in a frozen staring contest. "I would know your name. You're a higher class of pilot even among ZAFT's aces."
Inside her cockpit, Shiho grit her teeth but couldn't help but feel a strange urge to relish this upcoming confrontation. She did feel slightly bad at using a fair amount of ECM to get the drop on the other three wolves, but she was surprised and impressed with their reaction times. She'd made it through Alex's barrage of fire because she'd watched DiFalco's video real of their battle with the Wolves several times over and noticed a slight pattern in the way he fought, though after Kenneth had gone into his Berserker state, all of that went out the window.
"You may not know me Alexsander Wallachia, but you've faced me before when our squadrons went at it. You fought the Boss to the point of breaking your own machines. No offense, but I shot down one of yours during that fight."
Alex gripped his controls slightly at that reminder. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath remembering that fight. He thought he'd only have to worry about the project success of Hibiki, Kira Yamato, but facing the Falcon had shocked him to the core and put him on edge. Kira was a neutral civilian with nothing to do with the war, DiFalco was considered ZAFT's ultimate ace and leader of the most feared mobile suit squadron among their numbers. Alex knew what he was facing now.
"You're a Gray Demon. How quaint, I'm not about to get riled up over the loss of Lingshen or Travis – I am a soldier as much as you are, and this is war. I will admit that this is rather fitting though. You've been watching reels of my battle with your commander, the Grimaldi Falcon. Still, it would be rude for you to know me and leave me without knowing you."
Shiho knew what he was getting at and had to hand it to him, he sounded like a sword buff just like the Boss. Exchanging names before fighting was an old tradition in the world of lethal duels. To die not knowing who killed you in single combat was a personal affront.
"Shiho, Shiho Hahnenfuss. Gray Demon and ZGMF-X Project test pilot."
In his cockpit, Alex twitched.
'Hahnenfuss? Where have I . . .' He thought on that for half a second before slumping in his seat and sighing. 'Oh yes, now I remember. This will not do at all. I wonder what Mother and Father would say when I get this information to them? I already know what Marisa would do. Not that I can exactly avoid this confrontation.'
"Very well Miss Hahnenfuss. Give it your best."
"You as well. Anything else would be an insult."
The two charged each other with weapons blazing, though inside his machine, Alex frowned in dissatisfaction. Keying a private line, he called the bridge of the Stiletto.
The flagship of the Royal Fleet was giving ZAFT everything but the proverbial 'kitchen sink', with said appliance being the main gun of the ship. Marisa had fallen into her usual style of commanding her forces, standing in front of her Captain's Seat instead of sitting in it while brandishing her ceremonial sword about as she barked orders.
Isabella in CIC made a double take at her console before turning in her chair to look at Marisa.
"Admiral, Wolf squadron with the exception of the Wing Commander are requesting emergency landing clearance. They're all heavily damaged."
The bridge crew looked in her general direction is shock. Everyone swallowed while they waited for her next words. The brunette woman looked at Isabella out of the corner of her eye.
"Specifics?" Her icy cold tone made the officer swallow before going into details.
"Rachelle is missing two of her gun barrels. Evan Sanders lost one of his own and has taken damage to the main fuselage and is slowly losing pressure inside; in addition he's lost a linear gun. Allen . . . Allen has lost all gun barrels, his main thruster, and half his life support systems."
Before anyone could say anything a screen opened up to reveal Alexsander. His facial expression was not pleasant.
"Marisa, it's time to pull out of this battle."
"What happened to your pilots Alex?!"
The man began to answer when he grunted as he spun in a high G maneuver that pinned him to the seat. He gave her a look before firing his linear guns and evading a burst of machine gun fire.
"I'll explain later, this pilot's a bit too skilled to divide my attention for much longer. Just give the order and then let me know when you're in position."
The communication line closed leaving Marisa to chew a thumbnail. Whatever Alex was facing, he was doing it alone and he was in to his neck. Bringing the sword up and slashing down in a swift stroke, she put on a stern, frustrated face.
"Isabella, get the order to the fleet and all her crews to initiate Operation Rapture. Mr. Occan, place us on course to Heliopolis immediately." The two members of her crew hurried to carry out her orders. Marisa then turned to the combat camera and battlefield analyst of the crew, Nicholas Lancaster."
"Lancaster, connect with Commander Alex's cameras. I want to know exactly what the heck he's doing."
Nicholas scanned his controls and began working furiously to create a link with the Immortal's combat cams. When the syncronization rate reached optimal levels, he transferred it to the secondary screens. The images that began playing in real time made Marisa grit her teeth.
"A single CGUE?!"
Both Alex and Shiho weaved in and out of each other's fire, trying to land a solid hit to no avail. Any mobile suits that tried to help the ZAFT redcoat were promptly turned to scrap by Alex's faithful gun barrel guardians. The thruster trails of the two combatants flowed throughout the ZAFT fleet, creating pandemonium as Shiho chased him.
Alex lanced the closest Nazca in the bridge with a pair of double linear gun shots before wasting three GINNs seeking revenge. Shiho couldn't believe his skill. All throughout his assault, he was always a step ahead of her, dodging shots by fractions. The dark colored machine was a specter on the battlefield and she was almost out of ammo in both her firearms.
"Damn, what is with him? At first I was keeping up with him and keeping the pressure on. Now its like he's a transcended being."
Her assumption wasn't terribly off the marker. Inside his cockpit, Alex was pouring with sweat. His dark crimson eyes nearly translucent as his consciousness was as clear as glass. The Seed factor inside him had manifested after Hahnenfuss had nearly killed him with the sudden arrival of additional forces trying to aid her. The combination of three GINNs and two additional CGUEs had forced his hand. Alex grit his teeth and pushed the machine into a hard reverse stop while about-facing his barrels behind him and firing at Shiho.
"This is my only way to fight this entrenched in enemy lines. It's not the proper way to dance with a lady, but this is no ordinary waltz."
Firing a rocket anchor, he latched onto the wasted Nazca's turret and ducked his Zero behind it. Taking a deep breath to regain his bearings and loosen his nerves, Alex set about recalling his units. Shiho remained static on the other side several meters away doing the same recollecting he was.
"That's a trap and I'm not stupid enough to try going around that cover he's using from any direction."
A floating container just beside the slagged turret caught her eye and she couldn't help but grin a bit. Zeroing her aim on the object, she pulled the trigger only to find that the machine gun was out of bullets.
"Oh, good grief. It figures he has the luck of the devil. At least the vulcan still has ammo."
Opening up with a short burst, the slugs rammed into the rectangular object. The resulting explosion made her squint her eyes. As the debris and smoke scattered, she saw fragments of gun barrels. Deep down inside, she knew that something was very, very wrong.
"Amazing, you got him!"
A trio of suits formed up around her as they congratulated her achievement. Shiho ignored their chatter and focused closer on the two gun barrels.
'Something's just not right. He's too skilled and experienced to let something like that take him out.'
A sudden chill ran up her spine and she pushed her machine up above the trio as she turned around.
"You idiots! He's behind us!"
The three men didn't know what hit them as two barrels popped out of cover from an opposing turret and spat lead death. Three balls of fire and suit parts rewarded the units and Shiho frowned.
"Where is he? Wait, the wires . . ." Her eyes traced faint shimmers of light from the two barrels and their glimmers climbed upward. Shooting her attention and her vulcan upward, she drew the heavy sword. "Above!"
The two opened fire at the same instant as Alex came down from above her position out of the sunlight. Her fire grazed his machine as he yelled. Opening up with his gun barrels, the two remaining units claimed her shield vulcan. Shiho swung with the sword as he passed, shaving off a foot of the starboard stabilizers. Spinning on her heel, she slashed through one of the remaining gunpods that got too close. Alex made a bee line to the Stiletto in the distance.
"Retreating? Not on my watch . . . argh!" She winced as she was slung around in her harness. Alex continued to zoom away.
"Sorry Hahnenfuss, I'd rather not have used such a tactic, but now is not the time to pursue me or my fleet. Get your forces out of here. Maybe next time."
Shiho coughed at the smoke in her cockpit. He had rammed his last gun barrel into her and destroyed it with a shot from his linear guns. The explosion wasn't much, but it did do enough damage to make her have second thoughts about pursuit. After the smoke cleared off a bit, she noticed the sudden energy spike at the EA base. Trying her communication equipment, she grunted in annoyance as none of the devices worked.
"The comm's fried. Don't tell me that's the weapon we'd been hearing rumors about." Her mind flashed back to the cracked picture of the Gray Demons and her jaw slackened. "No . . . Russo, Sharpe, guys!"
A huge spherical blast engulfed the base, greedily consuming both ZAFT and EA alike. The Indestructible Fleet was splitting apart as they retreated.
"What are they doing? Where is that flagship going without its fleet?" Her mind wandered back to Alex's warning. "He knew about that and they were keeping us away. What's his plan?"
In his damaged Zero, Alex made his way back to the Stiletto with grim expression on his face. He silently hoped Mu La Flaga got out of the conflagration in time. He also had to wonder about Shiho Hahnenfuss's appearance on her own.
'Did something happen to make her pull out of the Gray Demons? I certainly hope that group wasn't here, but somehow, I doubt it. It goes against the grain, but I'd be pleased if they made it out as well.'
It took him a second to realize he was being hailed by the ship. Acknowledging the transmission, he winced when Marisa yelled over the line.
"Alex! You crazy idiot! Fighting in the middle of the enemy alone?"
Shucking his helmet as he docked in the hangar, he sighed heavily.
"Marisa, I encountered one of the Grimaldi Falcon's Demons out there. A certain, Shiho Hahnenfuss . . . ring any bells?"
Silence met his inquiry before the line abruptly closed. Taking that as his cue, he popped the hatch and disembarked from the Zero. Down below, the remaining members of the Midnight Wolves formed up around him. Evan tossed a towel his way. Grabbing it out of the air, he wiped the sweat and grim from his face and neck.
"That was one heck of an engagement Commander, who was that?"
"A Gray Demon. Though now that I know the pilot's name, taking her down is out of the question. I'll explain some other time. For now, we've got bigger things to worry about. Has any word come from Jessica?"
Allen nodded and handed him a data pad and portable computer. Activating the device, Alex opened up the documents and swallowed. The three pilots huddled around him and looked at the screen. Rachelle paled a bit.
"That can't be. Not just Mobile Suits, but an assault ship? Commander, what are we going to do about this?"
An evil smile crossed his features, making his followers flinch and trade glances.
Up in the bridge, Marisa clutched her chair's armrests in apprehension.
"Hahnenfuss, I'd never thought about hearing that name on the battlefield, much less as a ZAFT ace. We'll need to be more cautious as ever now. Ritcher, ETA on docking with Morgenroete's Heliopolis branch."
"ETA six days and eight hours. Orders Admiral?"
She sighed and slumped down in her seat.
"All hands are to stand down and get some rest. I don't believe ZAFT is crazy enough to engage anyone after this battle. Also, notify all hands that we are converting to Royal Guard Regulations. We are no longer EA."
The crew stood from their posts and faced her as a single unit. Placing their left arms across their chests and bowing slightly, they answered her in unison.
"As you command Milady." Marisa rolled her eyes.
"That's going to get some taking used to."
The group chuckled at her reaction to her title as the wife of Romania's heir. As they returned to their duties, she gazed out into the star speckled space before them. Now their real mission would begin. Confrontations would occur that they'd never imagine, but for now, all she wanted was to sleep.
Well, there's the Battle of Endymion. Keep reading and you just might see what happened to a certain set of Solid Shark's characters during the battle. Let me know how this is dear readers, and you'll be seeing more of minor characters like Shiho and others.
Ciao for now!