It is now the distant future, within the Galactic Century. Through the ages, mankind has developed upon a multitude of worlds and eventually spreading across the galaxy, colonizing numerous star systems in distant planets and artificial colonies. Each world and colony would vary in characteristics between civilizations; some are highly developed in technology and order, while others are generally lawless and decrepit. It has been said that the total number of inhabited planets and systems in each sector would be the same as that of the stars in the night sky.

And yet, in spite of this advanced, prosperous age, humanity remains divided by ideology and aspiration. Amidst the various star nations, two prominent alliances have taken form: the Inner Powers, a line of Inner and Middle Rim nations led by the republican Earth Federation, and the Outer Powers, a line of Outer Rim nations led by the eugenicist Zeon Empire. Since their respective alignments, these worlds would become increasingly adversarial toward one another other, such that many would see war – a great, terrible war yet unseen in all history - in the not too distant future. Only through the efforts of the certain leaderships – namely the Daikun Dynasty, which had had ruled and instilled passivity throughout Zeon for centuries - would peaceful coexistence be ensured.

Then, on June 7, GC 364, everything would change with but a single spark. Zorin, the last Emperor of the Daikun line, would be assassinated by a terrorist attack alongside his Chancellor, Degwin Zabi. One of the assassins would be apprehended before he could commit suicide via intoxication, and according to the planetary police force's official report, this man would be identified as a non-augmented offworlder, as well as an anti-Zeon fanatic, vigilante and potential Inner Powers agent. This would cause great belligerence throughout Zeon and the rest of the Outer Rim, with many calling for blood.

In the midst of this tragedy, a mysterious will would denote Zorin's successor as Degwin's eldest son, Gihren, who would immediately take the throne with little opposition. After establishing himself Emperor, thus ending the Daikun line of rulership, Gihren would then alter the government so that his family would become the ruling monarchy, and his brothers and sisters Sasro, Kycilia, Dozle, Garma and Alicia would all gain positions of power shortly after assuming the titles of Princes and Princesses. To make sure none would challenge his power, Gihren would then secretly purge all members and followers of the Daikun Dynasty. Only Zorin's son and daughter, Prince Casval and Princess Artesia, would escape the slaughter, disappearing thereafter.

The Inner Powers would be quick to take note of the new Emperor and his actions, which were in major contrast to the Daikuns' peaceful ideals of coexistence. From this, a period of arms making and militarization would emerge as both Inner and Outer Powers built up their respective military strengths as well as researched upon new means of combat. All knowing that it would all come down to a single cataclysmic event, one that would shake the very foundations of the galaxy.

An event that would come to fruition upon January 3rd, GC 377, when the Outer Powers, following under the banner of Zeon, officially went to war, launching invasion forces upon multiple fronts. However, through one of Emperor Gihren's power plays, no war declaration would be delivered, allowing Zeon and its allies to attack or harass all garrisons and installations within proximity, well before any warning could be received. Much would be lost from the defending nations, thereby allowing Outer Power forces to drive deep into their respective theaters, embroiling the whole galaxy into a war of conquest. Thus would begin the First Galactic War.

The war, which would last for seemingly time innumerable, would become both the first ever human conflict to entail the whole of the Milky Way and the single largest, most devastating conflict of the era in number of military casualties, civilian deaths and destruction. During the first few years, the Outer nations' war machine would remain unchallenged. Planets would be conquered and subjugated quickly, or wiped out through the indiscriminate usage of weapons of mass destruction. And for all their preparation, the military forces of the Inner nations would prove unable to respond effectively to this great blitzkrieg. Their forces would only be able to hurt, not defeat.

During this period of fighting, billions upon billions of humans, both civilian and soldier would be killed, wiping out a large percentage of the human population in the galaxy. A toll that would only grow larger as the war continued. And continue it would, devastating world after world, civilization after civilization.

Two years into the fighting, the Outer Powers have ruthlessly pressed their advantage by staging further invasions on key worlds, utilizing both superior battle tactics and technological advances to force their enemies into submission. Fortunately for the beleaguered defenders, the civilized galaxy remains a vast realm, such that the Outer war machine, while far from exhausted, would at least be slowed down considerably, allowing the Inner Powers to regroup and retaliate. Earth would be the first to take advantage of this, through which it would launch the top secret Project V.

A weapons development operation that would forever revolutionize war itself…

"It is an essentiality that every great tale begin with and center around the most unlikeliest of heroes."
- Gwadan Von Daikun

Chapter I: Gundam Rising

Shangri-La, Durga System
June 18, GC 379

The Durga System. One of the multitudes of star systems that had become known to the human race as it collectively expanded its reach across the Milky Way Galaxy. Located in close proximity to the Middle Rim of the populated galaxy, the system itself was made up of the yellow dwarf star Durga and seven planets, all of which were gas giants. Because of this fact, along with the large amounts of gravitational waves and radiation that ran rampant across its borders, the Durga System had never been fully colonized by humans despite the potential natural resources that were speculated to dwell within the gas giants. But in spite of the dangers, there were still more than a few humans that were willing to set up shop within the system to gain access to its natural treasures. As a result, it wouldn't be long before a colony came to orbit the farthest planet, Durga VII.

This mining colony, dubbed Shangri-La by its population, was a relatively old design based around the ancient O'Neill Island 3 concept of space colonies from 1970s AD Earth, in that it consisted of a cylinder surrounded by several solar panels which drew much needed sunlight in to power the colony, but revamped and modernized to fit in with the more advanced technology of the Galactic Century. Beyond that, Shangri-La's interior consisted of a small city or two and several rural areas reserved for farmland and artificial forests, and then some industrial areas dedicated to the colony's mining operations. Its population, which numbered just under one million, were mostly comprised of miners and engineers, although there had also been more than a handful of scientists and astronomers who had become attracted to the scientific finds of the Durga System; hard workers to be sure, but overall did not stand out among the rest of the galaxy. Thus, as far as the rest of civilized space was concerned, Shangri-La was little more than a sleepy mining colony that was at the far end of the galaxy, a place where life went on but very few things happened, which was precisely what those who settled in Shangri-La's metal confines wanted.

At least, that would have been the case had it not been for the Galactic War. Not too long ago, for reasons that were unknown to the civilian population of the colony, the Earth Federation had chosen to establish a base in Shangri-La, which was properly defended by a small garrison. For the most part, the Federation's occupation went smoothly; the Federals did well not to abuse their welcome and left day to day administration of Shangri-La to the local government, and although the military facilities were integrated into the community, very few incidents had occurred under the Federation's watch. But in spite of that, many citizens were still concerned with the idea of the Federation being so-close to their homes, as not only did many believe the Federals were there to stay, but there was also the possibility that the Zeon would take notice and choose to strike.

And it was precisely on that June of the year 379 of the Galactic Century that those fears became truth. The day had started out like any other, as both the Federals and the civilians went about their businesses without hassle, and operations across the colony proceeded as they were intended. But as the day continued on, certain events began to unfold, starting with what appeared to be three silhouettes moving in space toward the colony. Upon approach, the silhouettes, appearing humanoid in design, corrected their positioning so that they could touch down on the colony with what appeared to be feet, before one reached down and opened a nearby access hatch. The three phantoms subsequently descended down the shaft into the colony…

1200 hours. Though it wasn't exactly the midpoint of the day, like it would have been in the Sol System where all of mankind had originated from, it was still the collective "lunch time" for those who lived in the colony and worked for their individual livings. The inside of the colony had even been "brightened" to signal this, with Shangri-La's interior "sunlights" turned to high levels to simulate what would have been a midday setting on any other planet. Thus, the streets were crowded with vehicles, restaurants were filled to their walls and there was not a single isolated spot in the local parks.

But for Lieutenant Junior Grade Amuro Ray of the Earth Federal Forces, this was a moment where he could at long last let himself relax. For what had felt like hours, he had been chewed up one side and down the other by his superior officer over a certain incident that had happened that very morning. As a mobile suit test pilot for Project V, the Federation's most ambitious weapons program as of late, as well as the son of the project's head Professor Tem Ray, Amuro enjoyed a fair amount of liberties that any other of his profession and rank would have killed for. But unfortunately, even he couldn't have gotten out of the dressing down he had received for totally destroying a drone target mobile suit, which were as vital to a weapons project as environmental suits were to people who worked outside the colony's walls. As long as the drones could be repaired by some means, Amuro was free to do whatever he wanted to them in combat simulations, but this time he had accidently obliterated one by shooting its fusion reactor, and so when it detonated it took the rest of the unit with it as well as created a fairly large crater in the test range. Since then, Project V's military overseer, Lieutenant Commander Jean-Paul Bouchard, had instilled upon him the "importance of available resources" and how Amuro's recklessness was unacceptable to Project V or the Federation as a whole, and that the next time he screwed up that way he would end up piloting a construction pod from then on.

Of course, it wasn't the Commander's voice that hurt Amuro. Rather, it was his prosthetic fist that left a mark upon the young Lieutenant when he did not immediately answer one of the man's rhetorical questions. Even now, Amuro could still feel the bruise that had been left behind, as well as taste his own blood against his cheek. Fortunately he had not lost any teeth from the exchange, and his cheek had not swelled at all, although there was a distinct red mark where the steel knuckles had made their impact. At that point, Amuro would have loved to go at the man himself, but the gulf between their ranks was too much for him to get away with. So he took the blow, answered Bouchard's question, and left when he was ordered to like a good little soldier.

Arrogant bastard. Amuro thought with disgust, trying to ignore the dull pain in his cheek. Not wishing to think any further about Bouchard or Project V for the time being, he decided to concentrate on a pair of children playing with a Haro robot toy. The two children, likely a brother and sister, were laughing and giggling as the little green ball rolled across the ground and spouted random phrases in a high pitched electronic voice. Amuro himself couldn't help but smile inside at the display; he himself had a Haro when he was a kid, which he played around with and tinkered with its inner mechanics, the born engineer that he was. Good memories all around.

However, he wasn't so distracted that he hadn't detected something was flying at him at great speed. For reasons Amuro couldn't explain, even as a child, he had a certain quality to him that allowed him to "see" things that his other five senses would otherwise not have detected. While it occurred only at random times when Amuro was feeling extreme stress or was in imminent danger, he was somehow able to tell what exactly was going on around him or near him without having to see it or hear it. In fact, there were times where he saw things before they happened. Some people called it a "Sixth Sense"; he preferred to think of it as being more "aware" than the norm.

With a deft motion, he raised his hand up and clenched it around the cold, flying ceramic beer can before it hit his face and caused him even more pain. He then turned to leer at the person responsible, who was standing a few meters away. "I've already been hit in the face enough times today, Fraw."

"Confucius say 'give cool drink to man with hot head.' Or something like that." Fraw Bow replied with a bright smile. Without waiting for a comeback from Amuro, the young brunette walked over and sat down right next to the test pilot on the park bench, also putting down a sack lunch between them. "I brought enough for two, since you probably forgot to get lunch again."

"Thank you." Amuro said, taking a sandwich out for himself. As he did, he looked her over at least once, if only subconsciously. Like him, she was in casual clothes, being a dark green minidress with designer boots, topped off with the yellow ascot that she always seemed to be wearing wrapped around her neck. Combined with her short brown hair and amber colored eyes, Fraw was definitely a sight to behold for most men, although she could handle herself easily against those who didn't take "no", as Amuro had seen.

"Like what you see?" Fraw smiled once more, having noticed Amuro looking her over.

The pilot rolled his eyes. "Green's not your color." he said plainly.

Fraw reacted as though Amuro said something distasteful. "What, on top of being a pilot, and apparently somebody's hitting boy, you're a fashion critic too? By the way, that bruise looks terrible. You should let me have a look over it."

"It's nothing to worry about Fraw. Tomorrow it will be all healed up anyway." Amuro justified.

"Then don't come complaining to me when you wake up tomorrow to your mouth bleeding from the inside." Fraw said, taking a sip from her own beer. "Look, at least let me give you some pain pills that will limit…"

"I said I'm fine Fraw! You don't need to give me anything." Amuro insisted.

The look Fraw gave back was something that resembled a pout, but showed no anger despite the outburst. "Alright, alright. No need to get all huffy about it."

Amuro allowed himself to calm down a little, realizing that he was about to put it all on Fraw just for trying to help him. "Sorry. It's just been a rotten day so far. I know you're just looking out for me."

Fraw nodded with satisfaction. "What kind of a doctor would I become if I didn't look out for my friends' health? You really should learn to appreciate it; you have no idea how many times I've dragged your butt out of a fire."

"And now you sound like an older sister." Amuro replied, taking a drink from his can, which earned a small giggle from Fraw. That was pretty much the gist of their relationship since Amuro had come to the colony several months ago. Having far greater skills with machines than with other people since childhood, Amuro met Fraw literally after a bar fight with some of the anti-Federation crowd of locals. The young woman managed to keep Amuro from getting arrested with her statement to the colonial police and, being a doctor at one of the local clinics, also patched up his wounds with a fair amount of skill. After that event, they had formed something of a unique relationship in which Fraw looked out for the introverted technophile that was Amuro Ray as well as help him develop his badly needed social skills.

"Well yes, I do feel some responsibility for you, since you've never been so good at taking care of yourself." Fraw summarized. She then thought of something else, which caused her face to draw into a frown.

"What?" Amuro answered, inwardly cringing at Fraw's sudden change of expression.

"I heard about the ship that just came in…" Fraw asked, a little concerned about his answer. "The Federation really is calling you back to Earth."

The pilot closed his eyes before he replied. "You knew this was going to happen eventually. The Federation sent me here in the first place to test out their new mobile suit in open space. But now that we've got a fair amount of field data on the prototypes, there's really no reason for me or my unit to stay here."

"I can understand that, but it feels so… sudden." Fraw explained. Amuro thought he saw something else lurking behind her answer, but he decided not to try prying it out of her. "I was really hoping you would be able to stay much longer."

Amuro eyed her for a moment. "Me too. But at the very least we can still write each other, assuming the Zeon don't invade and occupy the colony."

"Heh, I doubt that will happen. What use does the mighty Zeon Empire have for an sleepy mining colony like this one?" Fraw stated with a flat expression. She thought of another question. "When you get back, are you going to remain a test pilot once you return to Earth, or will you actually go into real combat?

That took Amuro back a little. "I will remain a test pilot of course, and move onto whatever new mobile suit the Federation wants me to try out before production."

"You sure?" Fraw implied. "I know I'm not supposed to know anything about what you're doing here, but people talk, and I've heard a lot of things about what you can do in a mobile suit."

The pilot eyed her carefully. "So?"

"So? If there's anything the Federation needs now, Amuro, it's good pilots fighting the Zeon. You could be doing a lot more for this galaxy than simply testing new toys for everybody else." Fraw stated.

"I disagree." Amuro answered. "What I'm doing now is just as important to the Federation, and besides, while I'm a great test pilot, I'm nothing compared to the real professionals. No, all I would be doing out there is giving the Zeeks another target to fire at."

All Fraw could do was sigh at that. "I really get the feeling you're missing your calling."

Amuro decided to change the subject at that point. "What about you? I can't imagine you want to stay on this colony for the rest of your life."

"Not sure to tell the truth. My mom and dad still want me to stay at the clinic, but I don't think I would be satisfied with that." Fraw answered. "I really wouldn't mind travelling the galaxy at large for a while."

"The galaxy's overrated." Amuro replied stoically before taking another bite of his sandwich. "Unless you travel far into the Outer Rim, most of the worlds look the same after you've been to five of them."

"Well, maybe I should follow you back to Earth then." Fraw said with a smirk.

Amuro stopped chewing as he contemplated those words. A second later, he answered with the only thing he could think of. "Do what you want."

Fraw laughed lightly at that.

Federation Lexington-class fleetcarrier Ark Royal
Shangri-La Harbor 01

There were times when Commander Bright Noa wished he had remained a bright-faced Ensign that served as the helmsman of a Federation cruiser. And since, as the commanding officer of a Federal vessel he had to remain behind on his current ship to prepare for departure in the next few hours while his crew enjoyed some much needed shore leave, this was one of them. But Bright had no way of changing the ways of the universe, much less where the course of the war had taken him, so he decided to accept his fate and go with the flow of things. After all, with luck he could always find a way to get some leave himself once the Ark Royal was back in Federation territory again.

In any other age, Bright Noa would have been the last person anyone would have handed command to, much less command of a ship like the Ark Royal. Time and the war had changed that however. Originally starting his career as a young and inexperienced helmsman, Bright had gone up the ranks in a traditional pace, eventually making his way to a full Lieutenant by the time the war started. Unfortunately, his battlecruiser had been one of the first victims of the Zeon, having been struck by enemy forces before it could realize a war had even begun thanks to the Zeon never making a war declaration, and so Bright effectively lost his first ship before ever gaining command. As luck would have it though, someone back on Earth thought Bright was a promising young officer (he graduated fourth in his class at the Academy) and so landed his next service on the Ark Royal, serving as XO under Captain Paulo Cassius. Naturally, Bright had been foolish enough at the time to believe it would have been smooth sailing from there.

The Battle of Arcturus proved him wrong. It had been one of the bloodiest engagements of the war at this point, as the Arcturus system's proximity to the Sol System, and therefore Earth, made it an attractive waypoint for the Zeon to move against Earth from, forcing the defenders to intercept. The Federation had won that battle and forced the Zeon to give up their attempt to take the system for themselves, but at a great cost.

Both Bright and the Ark Royal had survived that battle, but only due to a decision that Bright knew would have marked an early end of his career. At the least he figured he would have been at best transferred off the ship and to a desk job somewhere on Earth, while at worst faced a court martial for cowardice, if not a full dishonorable discharge from the bat. Instead, much to his great surprise upon his return to Earth, he was given a promotion, thus making him a full Commander, and the Earth Cross for "valor in combat". And because most of the experienced ship handlers had perished during that battle, thus leaving very few talented ship drivers to replace Captain Cassius with, Bright was given full command of the Ark Royal instead. Bright wasn't sure at the time whether to feel proud or sick for his unprecedented luck and bolstering career in the face of a second disaster.

Many die, and those that survive get promotions and pay raises. Bright surmised as he walked down the corridor from the bridge, subconsciously straightening the commissar cap on his head alongside the grey greatcoat he wore with his uniform. Reality was vindictive like that.

But now back to the present. While Bright wasn't sure he deserved her, he could not have gotten a better command than the Ark Royal. The thirteenth of the Federation's Lexington-class fleetcarrier line, hull designation CV-13, the Ark Royal was one of the rarest, most powerful and overall finest vessels in the galaxy. As a carrier, she was designed to be a transport and command vessel for mobile suits as opposed to a standard direct combat ship, although she had more than enough armament to fill that role if necessary. Much of the ship's hull was converted to make use of several hangar and launch catapult decks, while the space left behind used weaponry, which rounded out to eight beam cannons for long-range bombardments, forty standard beam phalanx for close-in firepower and forty missile launchers which could fire a variety of projectile types.

Despite her impressive function and armament however, what made the Ark Royal, and the rest of the Lexington-class, so vital was arguably her defining feature: her Combat Direction Center. For most modern ships, the role of combat direction could be carried out on the main bridge alone, but because Lexington-class carriers held a larger number of suits than average, full CDCs like those from old AD era warships became necessary. This would pay off in the long run more than any of the Lexington's designers had intended, as it allowed the fleetcarrier to take command and control of hundreds if not thousands of mobile suits at once. And with that centralized command, mass tactics would become that much more efficient to implement, granting the Federation an edge that no other nation, not even Zeon, could match. Such that many of the Ark Royal's older sisters had long been sunk in an attempt to deny Earth that capability.

And finally, there was the fact she, despite being a warship, was rather lavish and comfortable by military standards, a factor Bright and many others within her crew appreciated to no end. Since the hull was large and heavily armored, the carrier could afford larger and more elaborate living spaces for the crew, thus making it look like a cruise ship compared to other Federation vessels. Combine all of these things together into one single vessel, and the Ark Royal was a dream come true for any captain to command.

Taking all this in, Bright once again wondered why they had sent this ship and her crew on what was essentially a glorified delivery run. While he imagined that Project V had produced one of the most powerful weapons for the Federation yet, or at least some sort of advantage over the Zeon, was it really worth sending a whole carrier for? Fortunately Bright had become experienced enough since taking command to know when to ask questions about the mission and when not to ask questions about the mission, and this was the latter. Thus, all he could do was follow his orders and hope it would be a milk run, although he himself was prepared for the worst to happen. At least he thought he was.

"Could you have a worse expression Bright?" a new voice interrupted Bright's thoughts.

Bright didn't turn to face the man that moved up to walk beside him, instead continuing on his trek toward the turbolift. "I thought you of all people would have gone into the colony Sleggar."

"Nah, colonies like this are boring. Besides we're not going to stay here for long, so no time to get a date with a local girl." Commander Sleggar Law, CAG (Commander, Assault Group) of the Ark Royal's 13th Carrier Assault Group and CO of the 105th Mobile Suit Squadron "Shrikes", said upon entering the turbolift with the captain.

"You should go anyway. We have a long trip home ahead of us." Bright suggested, still facing the turbolift door while he was talking.

"I'm sure we'll make a few stops along the way." Sleggar said as he drew a corner glance to study Bright's posture. He sighed inwardly when he saw that his friend, who he had known since first coming aboard the Ark Royal, was still on edge. "And please, for as long as I have to stand next to you, relax. You look like you're going to a meeting of the Admiralty or something."

"I'll relax once we're back in friendly space. The longer we stay out here, the greater the chances a Zeon unit will detect us." Bright replied sharply to drive the point home.

"I won't deny that assessment, but you'll give yourself the universe's worse ulcer at this rate." continued Sleggar, unconsciously running his hand on the grey and black jacket of his own uniform, as if rubbing away invisible lint. "That aside, when do we start loading those mobile suits?"

"1400 hours. Commander Bouchard said he wanted to go over some final data checks before transferring them." Bright answered.

Sleggar eyed his friend carefully after a short moment of silence. "You think these Gundams are really going to even the odds against the Zeeks like everyone says they will?"

"I wouldn't know." Bright admitted, shrugging. "Mobile suits are your area of expertise, not mine; I only know how to utilize them on the tactical level. But Fleet Admiral Revil seems to think these mobile suits are further ahead of anything the Zeon have, and I've never had reason to doubt his judgment."

"Well, if they can at least fight a Zaku on equal terms, I have no complaints. The Guncannon was never good at that." Sleggar replied.

"From what I understand, one of these things is supposed to be worth twelve Zakus if not more." Bright added, making it sound that was established fact.

Sleggar whistled at that assessment. "Nice. Maybe I should try one out before we get back to Earth."

"You'll have to take it up with Commander Bouchard, since he's Project V's administrator here. But considering your skills and reputation, I don't think he will refuse you." Bright replied.

"You think he'll paint one in my choice colors too?" Sleggar said with some amount of sarcasm.

"I wouldn't go that far." Bright answered quickly and matter-of-factly.

At that point, the turbolift reached the deck, and both Bright and Sleggar were about to disembark after the doors opened. However, before they could, the door opened to reveal another officer waiting, a woman of oriental descent dressed in a uniform with Lieutenant Commander rank markings. She stared dumbfounded at the two for a moment, before managing to regain her senses.

"Excuse me, Captain," Lieutenant Commander Mirai Yashima, Executive Officer of the Ark Royal replied as she stepped out of the way to allow their exit.

Only then did the two male officers walk out of the turbolift while Mirai walked in, and just before the door closed again, she cast a great scowl upon Sleggar. Bright was quick enough to catch that, and he sighed in frustration. "Don't tell me you two got into a fight again."

"It's nothing I can't handle myself." Sleggar stated, this time a little more serious.

"If it gets to the point where I have to transfer one of you just to keep order on my ship, you know I will." Bright said with a threatening tone.

"Look, Bright, she's my fiancée…" Sleggar began to speak.

"Ex-fiancée." Bright corrected quickly.

"Whatever. The point is any problems we may have, I assure you it won't get in the way of our duties or how we interact with our subordinates." Sleggar explained, making sure to not get further on his friend and captain's bad side.

Bright eyed his friend for a moment with a stern glance, but after it had passed he nodded. "Very well, I'll leave it at that then. In the meantime, I suggest we take this conversation to the mess, since it's lunchtime on the colony."

"As long as I can get some decent protein this time," Sleggar stated, visibly gagging. "To hell with Petty Officer Watson's veganism; that ideology died out with nuclear fission."

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes in response, Bright simply tapped the lift control panel, causing the doors to shift close.

Alone in the safety and relative comfort of her personal quarters, Lieutenant Junior Grade Sayla laid back in her bed, her eyes closed and her ears completely adjusted to the silence - not entirely asleep, but far from overly awake and alert as well. Off duty and with little else to do, she, like the majority of the crew decided that now was the best time that she would get a break from the war. However, unlike others including several of her fellow pilots, Sayla had no desire to go into the colony and explore, as she was perfectly relaxed and composed remaining on the ship. A good portion of her life had been spent around space colonies, and as such she grew to dislike their confined living spaces, especially when compared to the openness of a planet. This was of course ironically contrary to the compactness of a Federation warship, but thankfully a Lexington-class carrier held a much larger interior than standard, something that the mobile suit pilot found most comfortable. In the end however, it wouldn't matter so much when the shooting began again and Sayla would have to go out into open space to fight.

Just as she was regarded by several of her peers, Sayla was something of an oddity amongst the standard regulation crew of the Ark Royal. She was a mobile suit pilot, but at the same time not the usual breed; Sayla was a prodigy by the very definition of the word, having graduated from the Academy just a little over a year ago at the top of her class and gaining entry into Shrike Squadron not long after, in which she served as Shrike Two. Several had contested this in the past, but upon seeing what she could do with a Guncannon, critics would immediately become silent and spectators would only look on in awe. She was one of the few pilots in the Federation who could take on a Zaku in one-on-one combat and win in spite of the Guncannon's bulk and lackluster mobility, and she was just as gifted when it came to taking down heavier craft such as capital ships. Aboard the Ark Royal, it was said her skills were second only to those of her command officer, Commander Law, who managed to best her three times out of five in the simulator; while Sayla was considered gifted, Sleggar Law was outright phenomenal if not plain more experienced. And even then, Zeon had aces that would give both of them a run for their money, something Sayla did not appreciate in thinking.

But perhaps what made people the most mystified about Sayla Mass was her mysterious background. Though Sayla had very clear goals and motivations when it came to the war and fighting the Zeon, she did not share any of it with others, not even those in her squadron. In fact, she didn't even share her background or where she had been before joining; her official record claimed that she was born on Earth, specifically in Paris, to a pair of bankers who travelled to just about every corner of the galaxy for potential business, and as such Sayla had grown up always on the move from one planet or space colony to another. While this was far from the darker truth of Sayla Mass' origins, there was one thing that was accurate: she spent a good portion of her life moving from one place to another, something that never changed when she joined the Federal Forces.

Then, all at once, the tranquility was broken. Without a word or warning, in the midst of her relative slumber, Sayla suddenly felt a flash of electricity had shot through her head, followed by an image she could not identify. Such was the feeling that she immediately shot up into a sitting position, eyes opened and slowly blinking into focus. At that, she looked up and around her room, trying to search for the source of the pressure that she had just felt. However, as she searched for its origin point further, she felt that the pressure wasn't coming from the ship or in the colony. Instead, it felt as though it were coming from the space outside, a long distance away from the colony, almost at the edge of the system; a single presence in the depths of space, like a specter in the shadows, waiting in darkness. And in that darkness, she thought she "saw" the silhouette of a man, one that she could not discern but felt oddly familiar.

This pressure… Sayla thought as she tried searching further for the feeling's source. I've felt it before, somewhere else…

The beeping of the intercom in her room suddenly broke her trance. "Hangar five to Lieutenant Mass. You there Sayla?"

Again blinking back into focus, Sayla reached over and tapped the side panel. "I'm here. What do you need Astonaige?"

Chief Petty Officer Astonaige Medoz, chief mechanic of the Ark Royal's mobile suit force, just laughed from his side. "Nothing, just following up on your request; you wanted me to contact you when we put your Guncannon back together. Well not only have we done that, but we managed to up its drive output by about five percent."

"That's still not enough to keep up with a Zaku, but all the same I'm grateful Astonaige." Sayla replied simply.

"Hey, don't look at me! If you want complain about the design, take it up with those idiots at Anaheim." Astonaige shot back with some amusement.

Sayla gave a flat smile before replying. "I may just do that when we get back to Earth. Sayla out."

With that, she signed off, leaving her alone in the relative silence of her quarters. But even though she was no longer interrupted, her concentration was now broken and she could no longer feel the pressure in her mind. The more she tried to look for it the more she simply found a void.

That only contributed to the chill that ran down Sayla's spine and reached her heart. The Federation was not alone in this area of space.

Zeon Rewloola-class battlecruiser Ralmel
Durga System

As Shangri-La was the only point of civilization in the entire Durga System, space was very much open throughout the area. Though there had been several attempts to create other mining colonies around the other gas giants, there were very few people in existence that desired the life of a gas miner and so there was equally little reason to follow on those projects. Because of that fact and many others, commerce to and from Shangri-La was few and far between, as aside from the trading convoys that came every so often to provide the colony export goods from other worlds, the system could have been likened to a "galactic ghost town", long abandoned and forgotten by civilization. Thus, space was very much open indeed, but not entirely open.

To the casual onlooker who managed to catch sight of them, the Zeon taskforce, made up of three Musaka-class cruisers Mharne, Marom and Muskor, and the Rewloola-class battlecruiser Ralmel, were little more than ripples in space, their Mirage Colloids active and bending the light and radiation around their hulls to keep them invisible to both sensors and eyesight. Mirage Colloid technology had been one of the most innovative inventions Zeon had achieved, as even to this day there were very few countermeasures to use against it. But if one looked closely enough, one could see the dagger shaped outline of the Ralmel and the slimmer outlines of the triplet Musakas against the backdrop of space. It would have been an eerie sight had there been anyone around to see the four ghostly silhouettes.

On the bridge of the lead ship, the Ralmel, there was something of a tense atmosphere. Though the ship was cloaked, the crew felt no less uncomfortable being close to an enemy base, especially when they didn't know just how aware its garrison was. As such, each one of the operators were on full alert, anticipating the worst to happen while hoping for the best. Amidst all those gather however, there was one that seemed to be at relative ease despite the proximity to the enemy outpost, showing no sign of weariness or discomfort in his prominent form. That very same man had just now exited the turbolift and was making his way toward the front of the bridge, notably dressed in his trademark crimson uniform, which held rank pips that designated him as a Commander in the Zeon Imperial Forces. And while no one was capable of reading his eyes, as they were hidden behind a silver mask/helmet, it was apparent that this man was gazing over the colony with the eyes of a predator stalking the kill.

"Quite the operation they have out here." Commander Char Aznable stated as he came up to the bridge's central monitor, not once looking away from the image of the metallic cylinder. "Very isolated, easy to set up a defense around and above all else unnoticeable. The perfect settlement for a top secret research facility, wouldn't you agree Ilia?"

Lieutenant Commander Nanai Miguel, the Ralmel's executive officer, nodded in agreement. "Just as you said sir, but how could the Feddies have set up a base here so quickly? Intelligence claims Project V began only months ago."

"That's more than enough time to make a new installation as long as nobody's watching." Char replied, stroking his chin while the eyes of his mask nearly shown in the dimmed bridge light. "What is the colony's reported garrison strength?"

Nanai took a moment bring up the report on one of the bridge monitors. "Aside from the standard sentry units for a Federal installation, at least four squadrons, operating both Guncannons and older Guntanks, perhaps even Balls."

"Approximately forty-eight mobile suits and automated drones then." Char rounded out in thought. "Are we sure this report is accurate?"

"No, it's two months old." Nanai replied, shaking her head slightly. "Perhaps we should have sent more than three Zakus for this recon mission."

Char only smirked at that. "They'll be enough. Even if they're detected, the initial response will be no match for them, especially if the Federals are using antique Guntanks and Balls to make up their numbers."

Nanai just shrugged. "If that's what you believe sir, then I have no reason not to as well."

"As you should Nanai." Char replied. He then reached into his uniform jacket and took out an antique pocket chrono, looking over the present time.

Just as he read it, the Commander thought he felt a sudden flash of energy enter and then leave his mind, causing him to subconsciously grit his teeth slightly and reach a hand up to his face. For a few brief moments, Char felt as if he had just "sensed" something far away, something that seemed familiar to him yet still couldn't be identified. All he could see was the brief silhouette of another human, one that had the outline of a woman…

Nanai was quick enough to notice. "Is something the matter, sir?"

That was enough to snap Char back to reality, and he shook his head. "I'm fine." he said, waving Nanai off and then correcting himself to his previous position. Who was that? And why did she feel like someone I should have recognized…?

Shangri-La, Durga System

Commander Aznable was right, the Feddie pigs have been busy. Lieutenant Walter Denim thought as his Zaku's mono-eye camera continued to scan over the target area, providing the visual data back to the cockpit's panoramic monitor for its pilot's eyes to see. Currently his mobile suit, along with those belonging to Ensigns Gene Haufmann and Erik Slender, was perched on a nearby mountainside, facing down into the city below.

From his vantage point, Denim was able to observe several key things. First and foremost was that while the rest of the city was alight with activity due to the current rush hour, the areas around the Federal base were vacant, aside from military vehicles of course. He also saw that around the base's hangar area was a trio of transport vehicles, each one holding trailers large enough to carry a single mobile suit from one place to another; it didn't take much on Denim's part to realize that whatever they had been testing here was about to be moved to a ship in the harbor, and that there were apparently three of them as well. Naturally, the base itself seemed to be on high alert, as an escort group was being mobilized around the transports, which included mobile suits in the form of Guncannon and Guntank types.

We came just in time it looks like. Denim thought grimly, making sure he had set his camera to record the images into the Zaku's black box system. All we have to do now is wait until they bring the new models closer in…

"This is getting nowhere Lieutenant!" Gene spoke up, breaking the communications silence. "I say we move in and strike, before they know any better!"

Denim could feel his face grimace with annoyance, shifting his eyes over to the video window that appeared at his side. "I thought I said to maintain comm. silence Gene. You want the Feddies to hear you?"

"I wish they would, so I can kill them all." Gene shot back. "Why are we sitting here taking pictures anyway? Look, they're using Guntanks for crying out loud! That's practically begging to get wiped out!"

"Commander Aznable specifically stated that we are not to engage unless necessary. Now shut up and stay down." Denim replied once more.

"If the Commander were here, he'd be ordering us to attack while we had the chance!" Gene countered, now speaking with a tone of anxiety now.

"Even if I did believe that, which I don't, he's not here to do that anyway. So for the last time, boy, stick to our orders and shut up." Denim stated with finality, breaking communications with Gene's Zaku and reestablishing silence.

No sooner than Denim had done so did the worst happen. In little over a second, Gene's mobile suit stood up from its kneeling position. And as Denim's monitors indicated, Gene was reestablishing power to his suit's weapons systems.

"Gene, what the hell are you doing!?" Slender let out in pure shock, as he and Denim both realized what their comrade was about to do.

"Idiot, you're going to get us caught!" Denim hollered now, trying to find some way of stopping his wayward subordinate without having to sacrifice his own cover. "Stand down, damn it!"

As if to do just that, the mono-eye of Gene's suit shifted so that it stared at where Denim's suit was kneeling, as if the suit itself were reflecting the smirk of its pilot. "I'm about to get myself a Zeon Cross. If you guys want to join me, go ahead, but if not, stay the fuck out of my way!"

At that, the Zaku's backpack thrusters ignited, projecting a stream of exhaust. With such power and propulsion, the green mobile suit took flight and flew at the enemy base like a bird of prey, heedless of the fact that the Feddies were about to notice its approach. Both cursing, Denim and Slender had no choice but get their own Zakus into the air, if only to keep their comrade from getting killed. Like it or not, they were committed now, and so all that could be done was to make sure no Feddie remained breathing.

Federation Research Facility White Base
Shangri-La, Durga System

After entering the code into the electronic touch pad, the magnetic locks on Amuro's storage locker unbolted with a short banging sound, allowing the test pilot to open it up. With that, he began to stuff his clothes in and personal effects in, not caring where they ended up in his nearby duffel bag or what state they would be in when he came to retrieve them. It was obvious from this procedure that Amuro Ray was not known for his cleanliness.

Among the random things he began storing however, there was an item he treated with a little more respect. It was an old photograph of himself and his father, Tem Ray, standing in front of the Academy on Earth, both dressed in their grey uniforms. That had been Amuro's graduation day from the academy, a day that had prided his father greatly. This was only natural, as his father had been the one who had been the driving force toward joining the Federal Forces; to this day Amuro never understood why that was, nor why his father had been so adamant about him being one of the test pilots for Project V when there were arguably better candidates out there. However, like most things Amuro took it in stride and went along with it, since it wasn't the worst post he could have received and to top it off he was given one of the most advanced mobile suits in existence to play with. As much as he chafed under the military, the life he led wasn't a bad one.

Exhaling a sigh at the photo, he stuffed in with the rest of his effects, closed the duffel bag and shut his locker. It was now time for him to head back to Earth, and he imagined his mobile suit was already prepared for transport, waiting to be taken to the Ark Royal. All he had to do was make sure it got there in one piece, as well as be ready to take it out if necessary.

"Finished up yet?" a deep, hardened voice spoke up in the locker room.

Feeling the urge to close his eyes and wish he were somewhere else far away, Amuro turned around to face the speaker. There at the entrance of the room stood a large, hulking officer with messy blonde hair, tanned skin and narrowed hazel eyes, dressed in a grey uniform with the rank pips of a Lieutenant Commander. Other than that, the most notable feature of this man was that his entire right arm was prosthetic, evidenced by the metal fist that came out of his right sleeve.

Amuro resisted the urge to sneer in the man's presence, as Lieutenant Commander Jean-Paul Bouchard was not a man known for his patience or tolerance. Though Amuro had hoped to avoid him, his superior officer had a knack for appearing when he was least wanted, and today he was succeeding brilliantly in that endeavor. Especially when Amuro could still feel pain in his left cheek from the day's earlier "disciplinary action".

"Captain Noa is expecting you and Unit Alpha on the Ark Royal no later than 1400." Bouchard stated in his booming voice. "Be ready to move out by that time."

"Yes sir." Amuro replied simply, managing to keep the derisiveness out of his voice.

Bouchard seemed to regard him for a moment, as if he were waiting for Amuro to say something flippant. When he didn't, the Lieutenant Commander tried baiting him, flexing his metal fingers to drive the meaning of his words further. "In the meantime, you're still under my watch Lieutenant. I hear of any more screw ups like this morning, I will personally rip you apart piece by piece and throw your remains into the nearest black hole."

Fortunately Amuro was bright enough not to fall for the trap, though he didn't give an atypical response either. "There will be no more screw ups sir. Unit Alpha and I will be onboard the ship at 1400 as stipulated."

The superior officer once more regarded Amuro after his statement, and then turned around shook his head, muttering something incoherent about Amuro's maternal ancestry. Amuro himself glared after him as he left, before exiting himself. Can't wait to get that dirtbag off my back…

Soon after he found himself making his way toward the hangar where his mobile suit was located, and sure enough he could see three transport hovertrucks lined up with three individual hangars, their contents fully loaded into their immense cargo beds, along with a group of soldiers and engineers for each. The beds were all covered by a fine metal casing, so that no outside eyes could see what they were carrying, as well as to make sure some protection against enemy firepower was provided. As he began following the truck assigned to Unit Alpha's hangar however, he felt a sudden "flash" of warning come across him.

What the…? Amuro thought stopping in his tracks, an image of three Zakus coming in for the attack. From that image, he looked up into the sky to see, in the far distance, three green colored objects flying toward the direction of the base at high speed, much to his shock and wonder. That's impossible…!

Moments later, a shrill alarm echoed across the base and people began running to and from in preparation for defense. Almost in panic, Amuro again looked up toward the sky for his eyes to confirm what his extra sense was telling him; Zeon had found them and three enemy mobile suits were moving into strike, their silhouettes barely visible in the sky of the colony.

Beside him, Amuro could see a pair of Guncannon Troopers and a Guncannon Commander, both variations of the Federation's central mobile suit line, take off into the sky to intercept while a Guntank Defender and its cousin Guntank Destroyer hovered across the ground to provide rearward support, their archaic hoverbed mobility systems making them incapable of flight like most modern day mobile suits. Further away a Guncannon Hellfire marched across the ground before taking off itself along with several other mobile suits.

Even in the distant future, the central law of Edward A. Murphy continued to ring true, as put lightly, things had officially gone wrong. At that, Amuro could not remember when he started to run.

Gene Haufmann was on a high that he never thought was possible. Yes, he was disobeying orders by abandoning the recon mission and going straight into combat, but he didn't care at this point. He had been looking over that base for what seemed like hours, and from the data collected, Gene concluded that the Feddies had a fair amount of defensive power with their mobile suits and sentries, but they wouldn't be a match for his skills and his Zaku. And most importantly, the Feds didn't know they were coming, thus giving the element of surprise to Gene and his comrades. Thus, the opportunity was too good to miss, and would have been well worth the dressing down Commander Aznable was going to give him upon his return. Eh, screw him. If I pull this off right, I'll get promoted and never have to take his crap again.

Interrupting his thoughts, Gene heard his sensors beep in warning: Federation mobile suits were incoming, around twenty in all. Zooming in with his main camera, he saw that they were Guncannons, all painted in the standardized Federation grey with dark blue highlights. He expected as much, but still couldn't help but feel disappointed that the new prototypes were not among them. For now however, he would make do with these older models, and from there make his way to the base itself.

"For the Glory of Zeon!" Gene roared as he pushed his Zaku to top speed and charged towards the Federal mobile suits, the other Zakus following behind to engage as well.

Immediately the Guncannons responded to his advance by unleash a collective barrage from their beam cannons, and although one shot would have been enough to destroy a Zaku entirely, the three Zeon pilots had no trouble maneuvering around the passing neon magenta blasts. This was the biggest difference between the two units, as the Guncannon had been designed to fight against larger capital ships or armored vehicles, and so focused on offensive power primarily, whereas the Zaku was made to be an all around fighter, favoring mobility the most yet retaining enough firepower of its own to destroy whatever it came across. As a result, for all of its firepower, the Guncannon was just unable to match speed with a Zaku, much less shoot it down without extra effort.

When he was close enough, he brought up his mobile suit's beam machine gun and targeted the nearest Guncannon Trooper. Once he had his prey where he wanted it, the Zeon let loose with his main weapon, spewing rapid fire yellow beams across the Feddie mobile suit, which tried to evade the onslaught at first, but was too late. The beams tore through the grey mobile suit's right arm, the unit's heavy armor doing little to prevent damage, before continuing up into the torso and striking against the unit's fusion reactor. The Guncannon disappeared in a brilliant flash of white while Gene continued on for his next target.

The Guncannon's wingman didn't take kindly to its comrade's death, and so leveled its beam rifle at the direction of the Zaku. Unfortunately for it, Gene saw the attack coming and evaded neatly, flipping upside down and firing a beam machine gun spray at that Guncannon Trooper as well. In a matter of seconds, holes blistered across the grey mobile suit's surface, but by sheer grace its fusion reactor did not detonate. Instead, with its pilot apparently dead or its control systems destroyed, the Guncannon went into a dive and fell toward the ground below.

Gene knew the chances of it hitting a civilian building were pretty high, but he didn't care. Shangri-La only reaped what it sowed; for allowing Earth to come in and set up a base here, it was only by their fortune that Gene didn't turn his attention toward wiping out the colony's populace alongside the Feddies. And it was only by their special fortune that the Zeon higher command had chosen to simply make a recon run of the colony rather than destroy it in such a way that it would serve as an example to Zeon's enemies, a fate that had occurred with so many other planets and colonies.

With a swift hand movement, Gene replaced his machine gun with the Zaku's melee weapon, its beam axe. Bringing the crude but effective instrument out, its blade shown with a bright yellow edge once activated. And it was then Gene chose his next target, a lone Guncannon Commander. Figuring it was likely the team leader for the other two Troopers, Gene closed the distance to the Guncannon, bringing the axe about for a quick slash. However, instead of an instant kill, the Guncannon darted backward and avoided the slash entirely, before moving at such a distance it could launch a burst of beam fire from its shoulder mounted cannons. Growling in irritation, Gene darted away before any of the shots could hit, then swung around and moved to strike against the Guncannon's side. This time he managed to a slash in, cutting from the right hip all the way to the thruster laden backpack, causing the Commander to detonate just as he flew away.

Too easy. Gene thought with a grin. I'll beat Commander Aznable's record in no time…

"Gene, behind you!" Denim's voice called out in warning.

Before Gene could question what his team leader was warning him about, he had his Zaku drop in altitude just as a spray of projectiles shot across the sky. He quickly realized that those were not beam shots being used against him. Those are missiles!

Turning around, Gene took quick notice of the missiles' origin: a lone Guncannon Hellfire missile support mobile suit that had somehow targeted him without his computer warning him. At that, he switched back to his machine gun and fired a burst of yellow beam shots at the fire support mobile suit, but it managed to duck away before any damage could be done. Then Federation mobile suit then took aim with its shoulder launcher pods and fired a full swarm of missiles at the Zaku.

Shit! Gene thought as he let loose the full fury of his machine gun into the swarm, causing multiple explosions to erupt across the sky. Rather than fly away from the flashes however, Gene did the opposite and flew through them, quickly closing the distance between his suit and the Hellfire. As they were too close together for the Fed suit to use any more of its missile arsenal, Gene's opponent switched over to its beam rifle and vulcans, firing multiple magenta beams across his path. Just like before however, Gene evaded each shot with ease, and in turn fired a full burst into the Guncannon at near point blank range, destroying it entirely.

"You Feddie scum!" Gene yelled at the flaming remains of the Federation mobile suit, before he rejoined his comrades in fighting the rest of the Guncannons off. "You're not going to stand in our way!"

Federation Lexington-class fleetcarrier Ark Royal
Shangri-La Harbor 01

"What do you mean the colony is under attack by Zeon!?" Bright wasted no time in shouting as he and Sleggar entered the Ark Royal's enlarged bridge. Even before he had entered, the present bridge crew were already hard at work trying to assess the situation.

At her station, Ensign Kikka Kitomoto rummaged through the information that was coming in over the communications wave before being forced to answer her captain's question. "White Base reports three Zakus inside the colony and advancing toward them. They've already mounted a defense, but their mobile suits are getting wiped out!"

"Sound for Level One Battlestations and prepare our own mobile suits for combat!" Bright ordered as he sat down in the captain's chair. He then turned back to Sleggar. "How many of your pilots are still onboard?"

"Six, including Lieutenant Mass." Sleggar replied with all seriousness. "That should be enough, assuming the Zaku pilots are average grunts. On the other hand, something else worries me…"

"I know, their carrier." Bright sighed in frustration. It had been a relatively easy trip up to this point. "We'll deal with that later. For now, just take out those three."

"Got it." Sleggar stated before rushing back to one of the entryways, intent on getting his mobile suits into the colony before everything the Ark Royal and her crew came out there for went up in smoke.

Once he was gone, Bright looked back at Kikka. "Call Ensign Hawin to standby on the helm."

"I can't sir!" Kikka shook her head frantically, the suddenness of the attack threatening to overwhelm her. "He was among those that went into the colony…!"

"Calm down Kikka." Bright replied with a mellow tone to sound reassuring, though he knew that would do little. "Get Commander Yashima then. She has piloting experience from her time on the Suzuya."

"Captain, if I may ask…" Ensign Letz Cofan, the Ark Royal's navigator began hesitantly. "We're not just going to leave Commander Law and the others behind, are we?"

Bright looked back at his subordinate with a cold, serious glance. "As captain of this ship, it is my responsibility to see that she is not captured or destroyed. We all must be prepared to do what is necessary, should the worst occur."

That wasn't exactly the best speech he had ever given, but it was enough of an answer for Letz to get back to work. For that moment, Bright allowed his eyes to close and hope against hope that he would not have to give that order. But just as he had said, should the situation turn for the worst, Bright was ready to give the order for their immediate departure, even if it meant facing down the Zeon fleet that was undoubtedly outside.

Federation Research Facility White Base
Shangri-La, Durga System

It had not taken long for the sound of explosions and beam fire to reach the ground below. And it only took a little more amount of time for the raining mobile suit remains to do so as well, along with the casualties to pile up. Just as a fiery Guncannon arm slammed onto the ground no more than a few meters away from him, Amuro dove right next to the trailer truck that he had been running toward. He was breathing heavily now, as the destruction threatened to overwhelm his senses and his psyche, and it was only by his own willpower that he managed to keep a relatively stable state of mind. It was bad enough that the attack came out of nowhere, but what made the whole situation worse was one simple fact: this was Amuro's first battlefield experience.

As a test pilot tasked with Project V, Amuro had been kept far away from the frontlines of the war, as his service in the trial and development of the Federation's newest mobile suit made him quite invaluable in the eyes of the Federation. He had been in the military for some time, but he had never experienced the carnage of war nor the perpetual destruction, neither had he ever seen the death of another man nor drawn close to death himself. His worst experiences had to do with overly temperamental commanders, idiot mechanics or malfunctioning parts; he was no more a battle hardened soldier than the audiences who watched the war unfold on holovid, from the comfort of their homes no less. And now, with just one sneak attack, everything had changed.

But in the midst of it all, Amuro looked at the battle above, and everything seemed to go into slow motion from that point on. As he watched the Zakus slaughter the valiant but futile defenders, he could a sickening feeling slowly bubble over his despair like molten rock under a planet's surface; a feeling that felt so foreign to him along with the constant sensations that were occurring in his mind's eye. He couldn't explain what this feeling was: it was as if he were feeling death itself descend onto the colony, striking random people down one by one. He could hear their cries, he could see them crushed under falling debris, and he could feel their skin burn away from flames.

Looking over to the side, he saw as a beam shot blasted into the base's control tower, showering wreckage across the compound and onto nearby soldiers. He watched as a piece of the shrapnel shot through the gut of a fleeing soldier, while two others were caught in another explosion from nearby power cells. Amuro could only gaze as he saw the ruined and still forms of the latter two, lying on the ground, their bodies alight and missing several limbs, while the odors of blood and burnt flesh lingered around them. And just as he watched, Amuro could "feel" their final moment within himself, the horror that they felt and the lingering thoughts as they realized they were about to die. Then slowly but surely, everything went black in his head, as if a light had just flickered out from power loss.

Upon that sickening thought, Amuro once more looked up toward the sky as the Zakus flew circles around their prey. He could hear the laughter of one of the pilots as he mercilessly ripped apart a Guncannon with its beam axe, completely oblivious to the terror of his opponent and taking great delight in the carnage. He taunted, jeered as he took the life of one, and then the other, fully confident is his superiority to the "Feddies" and wishing nothing more than to see them burn along with the rest of the colony.

That realization cumulated into one single desire: to send those Zeon bastards to Hell in the most horrific way he could think of. And with that desire came a palpable rage that Amuro felt run deep, overcoming the sickening feeling from before. Those Zeon rats…!

Without a second thought he bolted into the truck with newfound energy, pushing aside the chaos inside him long enough to reach the cargo bed section and get to his mobile suit, the same one that he had been testing all this time, as well as the very same mobile suit that his father had placed him in charge of. He soon reached the cockpit, opened it, and threw himself into the gyroscopic pilot chair before sealing himself inside the giant.

Project V wasn't for nothing! Amuro thought with intrepidness as he went through the power up sequence, keeping his nerves stable by focusing on each detail. These bastards have no idea what they're in for…!

In a matter of moments, Amuro heard the hum of the mobile suit's power system come to life, a sound that was quite familiar to him, but never had he been so adamant about hearing it than now. Following this, the cockpit instruments lit up one after the other. The panoramic monitor lit up to display the interior of the cargo bed, as seen through the mobile suit's optic sensors, followed by the HUD display and the sensor displays that was now warning him about nearby Zeon mobile suits and the control console in front of him. Diagnostics showed all systems were in the green.

And right upon the monitor just as it came to life, the following display readout:


With a thunderous boom, a Guncannon head slammed down right in the middle of the research facility, by some miracle managing to miss any buildings. Following right along was its killer, whose foot smashed the head into metal shavings upon its landing, creating a large indention in the ground at the same time. With a clear and well deserved aura of superiority, Gene brought his Zaku's mono-eye around the scan across the basin; now that he was right in it, he wanted to take a closer look at it, and the panic he was causing. He was especially enjoying the sight of fleeing Federation personnel, so much that it brought a malevolent smile to his face. Heh, look at 'em run…

He was half-tempted to actually step on one of them, as they really did look like insects from his position, but before he could even bring his Zaku around to do so a warning flashed across his board. Swinging his left arm up, he activated the beam shield just in time, as a pair of beams smashed straight into the yellow energy field. Looking up, he saw a Guntank Defender hover up to take another shot from its enlarged beam cannons, at the same time pelting him with fire from its arm mounted beam machine guns. Irritated that an inferior machine was making a daring attack against his Zaku, Gene retaliated quickly with a beam burst into the Federation machine's torso. Soon enough, another Guncannon Trooper moved in to avenge its fallen comrade, but was dispatched quickly enough by Denim's Zaku, which landed nearby.

Seeing that most of the mobile suits were taken care of, Gene let loose the fury of his machine gun once more, raining fire across the base facilities with gleeful vehemence. One after another, buildings exploded in open flame, and with them he was sure at least one Feddie went down with it. At that point another Guntank, this one a more advanced Guntank Destroyer, moved up and lined up its massive arm and shoulder guns to strike the Zaku, but it only took a moment and a second long burst to kill. In a matter of minutes, the entire basin was turned into something akin to the works of Dante Alighieri, as fire and carnage were rampant and charred remains of mobile suits and human bodies were littered as far as the human eye could see.

But then right in the middle of his mayhem, Gene felt his Zaku shake as Denim smashed his mobile suit's metal hand across its back. "Damn it Gene, you're going to hit the civilian centers at this rate!"

"What's the difference?" Gene stated with venom. "They're our inferiors and Feddie appeasers; putting them out of their misery would be generous." And as if to prove his point, he targeted some nearby housing across from the base and fired a burst, sending them all up in smoke.

"You son of a…!" Denim growled as his patience finally snapped. Pushing his Zaku forward, he slammed the butt of his machine gun into the side of Gene's mobile suit, causing it stumble backward from the shock. By the time Gene's stabilizers took hold, Denim had taken proper aim, leaving his subordinate no way of countering. "It was bad enough that you botched this mission Gene, but now you crossed a line!"

Gene could only glare back while trying to find some way to bring his own machine gun up. "You don't have the guts. Otherwise you would have been the one to charge in and kill Zeon's enemies, not me."

Suddenly, their sensors alerted them of a nearby power startup, and that it was of Federation origin. Before either of them or Slender, who was just about to intervene in the confrontation, could think or question what it was, a burst of beam fire erupted from within the bed of one of the nearby trucks. From the twin synchronized streams, it was quite obvious that the burst was vulcan fire.

"What in Zedan's Shadow!?" Gene stated, just as he and his comrades took aim and fired into the truck. It didn't take long for the vehicle to erupt in flames as well, but the signal did not die down. And in that moment, the sound and rumble of a metal foot stomping onto the ground soon reached the Zakus and their pilots, who instinctively made their mobile suits take one step back. Through the flames of the wreckage, all three watched as a silhouette emerged, its yellow eyes shining brightly as it moved.

And then, after what felt like an eternity, the mobile suit exited from the flames and revealed itself. Compared to a Zaku or Guncannon, this unit was surprisingly slim in chassis, making it appear closer to the human body than any other mobile suit to date. The armor was colored in the Federation's grey scheme with dark blue highlights, which in spite of the explosion appeared unmarred. Its head was also human like, featuring a mask-like faceplate with a mouthpiece and twin eye camera sensors, which shown with the aforementioned yellow glow, and topped with a V-shaped fin over its head like that of an ancient samurai warrior from Earth. The only other distinctive traits was a stylized sigil of the ancient Earth letter Alpha on its left shoulder, colored in blue. But above all else, it seemingly shown with power; even when it was faced down by three Zakus, this mobile suit did not seem effected in the least. Whereas other mobile suits would have fled from such opponents, this one merely stood before them, as if challenging them by its defiance.

"This is the Federation's new model?" Slender let out, a slight quiver in his voice. As if responding to that inquiry, the mobile suit open fired with its head mounted beam vulcans, forcing the three Zeon suits to evade.

"Gene! Slender!" Denim started to command while returning fire with his machine gun, though the Federation mobile suit merely shrugged the attack away with a left arm mounted beam shield. "We don't know what this machine is capable of! Fall back and cloak, we're retreating!"

"Like hell!" Gene exclaimed as zig-zagged toward the Federation mobile suit. "I'm going to bring this bastard down just like the rest of the shit!"

"No, Gene!" Denim hollered, but to no avail.

As the Zaku opened fire again, the enemy mobile suit revealed a right arm beam shield and ignited it to repel the attack. Gene figured it would do that, but at the least it stopped its vulcans for the time being. He used the opportunity to close the distance and bring out his beam axe again. "You're mine, FEDDIE!" he roared as he maneuvered around the shield and was about to bring the axe down

So focused on the potential kill that it greatly surprised Gene when the mobile suit's left hand suddenly reached out and grabbed his axe wielding arm in midfall. It surprised him even more when he felt his Zaku struggle against the enemy's grip, while his diagnostics warned that the armor around the right arm's wrist was beginning to buckle from the pressure. And then, it terrified him beyond comprehension to watch as the hand closed its grip and tore off the Zaku's arm from the elbow, along with the beam axe it was still holding.

Before Gene could do anything else, the enemy mobile suit's opposite hand reached up and grabbed onto his Zaku's head, specifically the "snout" at the base. At that, the Zeon pilot attempted to back away from the mobile suit, but it did no good as his unit was completely frozen in the monstrosity's grip. With a hard pull, the enemy mobile suit brought its arm back and ripped the snout and attached extension cables clean off the Zaku's head, just as Gene cried out in horror. From this, his Zaku toppled backward, "looking up" at the Federation mobile suit even though its main camera had been disabled.

"Gene, get out of there!" Denim voice shouted over the speakers. Just as Gene managed to bring his Zaku up and back, both Denim and Slender's units let loose with their beam machine guns, once more forcing the enemy mobile suit to hide behind one of its shields.

When Gene's unit landed next to Denim's, it shifted its mono-eye toward its wounded comrade. "Can you make it back to the ship?"

"Ye…yes, I think so!" Gene said, looking over his diagnostics. "I lost my right arm and main camera, but everything else is working!"

"Then run! Slender and I will keep this thing occupied!" Denim said, before sending his Zaku forward with Slender beside him.

As Gene's Zaku launched into the air, the remaining two blasted forward with their assault. For a time it seemed that they had the mobile suit pinned down under their duel fire, as it was unable to dodge and could only repel the fire with its shields. And yet, even as the assault continued, the suit's yellow eyes never left the third retreating Zaku, as if reflecting its pilots own hatred toward that machine.

Just as the two Zakus were about to close in for the kill, the enemy suit's eyes suddenly flashed and in the next moment, it shot up into the air, blurring as it did. Before Denim could utter a confused "Wha-!?", his sensors showed the suit moving directly behind Gene's position and quickly overtaking him.

"Gene!" Denim yelled in a desperate warning, but it was too late.

As the Feddie mobile suit shot through the air after its prey, it quickly drew one of the two cylinders out of its back, and in the next moment, a bright magenta colored beam blade emerged from its end. In an act of panic, Gene shed his cloak and gunned his Zaku's thrusters to their limits, quickly achieving the mobile suit's maximum speed, but his efforts to escape were in vain. Eventually the Federation mobile suit closed the distance and effortlessly slashed its weapon across the Zaku's torso through the cockpit, dividing the Zeon machine into two across its center, the upper half exploding soon after. Gene died screaming.

Amuro could only sneer with hate as he watched the Zaku explode behind him. It had been the first time he ever killed a human being, but after everything that happened around him, he didn't care about that fact. If he had any regret about it, he couldn't feel it now, which was probably a good thing. There were still two more Zakus out there, and they were now charging after him to avenge their fallen comrade.

Rather than attack with their machine guns again, the Zakus fired their hip mounted missile launchers in sync, causing a trail of sixteen missiles to streak towards Amuro's unit. Immediately putting his thrusters in reverse, Amuro fired his vulcans into the missile swarm, causing a few of them to explode but not enough. Cursing, Amuro attempted the evasive maneuvers he had been forced to learn over the course Project V, successfully evading the incoming projectiles but at the cost of expending much energy. Taking that opportunity, the Zakus closed in and began to circle while raining fire upon him.

Amuro grunted as he had to simultaneous deflect two barrages from two different sides. "I'm not going down that easily!" he howled, putting his suit into a dive. The Zeon mobile suits pursued quickly, but by that point Amuro was able to maneuver up behind one of the Zakus. Bringing his left hand forward, he slammed the palm against the backpack of the Zaku. A moment later, the palm mounted emitter, or beam gauntlet, shot a single burst through the backpack that went straight into the cockpit and out the other side, killing the pilot instantly as well as causing the fusion reactor to go critical. Before the explosion took place, Amuro reversed and veered away. Just one more…

Just as he was able to process that thought, the aforementioned Zaku flew in and shoulder slammed into Amuro's suit, hard. The result sent Amuro and his unit flying downward to the ground below, which the young test pilot was just able to keep from making a crash landing. But just as he was about to reoriented himself, the Zaku was upon him again, this time with its beam axe ignited and ready.

This guy's different from the other two! Amuro thought as he brought his beam sword up, deflecting the slash. Upon contact, he saw an image in his head depicting the pilot inside, who was now bellowing incoherently and infuriatingly about how he was going to make Amuro pay for killing his two comrades. That made Amuro leer back, and with great force he pushed the Zaku backwards. But the Zaku pilot remained belligerent, and kept charging forward to slash Amuro apart, despite any of the latter's attempts to defend with his vulcans.

"DAMMIT, GIVE UP ALREADY!" he swore as he deflected another slash with his left arm shield.

If the Zaku pilot heard Amuro's outburst, he either didn't understand it or outright ignored it, as the mono-eyed suit just kept charging at him. Once more it shoulder barged Amuro back, then a second time, and then a third, obviously trying to disorient his opponent. On the last attempted, Amuro jumped away and fired another vulcan burst, but at that point the Zaku ignited its thrusters and leapt into the air, its beam axe raised high.

It was then that Amuro saw his opportunity. In that instantaneous moment, he brought his still ignited beam saber upward and upon the Zaku's descent impaled it straight through the cockpit. And in that same instant, before he threw the dead Zaku back from him, Amuro saw the pilot disappear in the flash.

Zeon Rewloola-class battlecruiser Ralmel
Durga System

Char felt his lips twist with distaste as he suddenly saw that image in his mind, the image of Denim's Zaku being impaled on the energy sword of a mobile suit that he had never seen before. It didn't take much from his intellect to realize that the recon mission had failed, and in a big way. However, he didn't let that expression last long on his face, as he felt Nanai standing behind him, wondering what seemed to have come over his commanding officer.

"Nanai…" Char spoke in what appeared to be his usual tone, but if one listened deep enough they could sense an underlying force. "Send word to the other ships: we attack now."

"Commander…?" Nanai sputtered, clearly confused.

"The recon mission has failed and Denim's team is gone. Worse, the Federation knows we're out here." Char explained in that same tone. "Therefore, it is time. All ships are to disengage Mirage Colloids and advance on Shangri-La at combat speed."

Nanai was confused, but knew better than to press the issue. "As ordered."

As Nanai started calling out orders to the bridge personnel, Char once more turned to gaze back at the colony in the distance. Knowing that he had greatly underestimated what they were fighting in that very colony, Char visibly frowned. One never cares to acknowledge the mistakes of one's youth, but this time I have no choice

Federation Research Facility White Base
Shangri-La, Durga System

It had come out of nowhere and ended just as quickly. In one fell swoop, what had once been a top secret Federation base had been transformed into a makeshift ruin, while most of its defenses had been wiped away and its occupants had been slain in equal fashion. The three Zeon suits had failed to escape, but the damage they had caused had more than been done.

From the cockpit of the advanced prototype mobile suit Gundam Unit Alpha, Amuro had a pretty good perspective of the surrounding devastation. From the bodies to the mobile suit parts to the building wreckage, it seemed as though the hand of God Himself had descended upon White Base and laid it to waste the same way it would Sodom and Gomorrah. And that was not accounting for the destruction that had been done to the surrounding city, both inadvertently caused from falling wreckage and deliberately caused from when that one Zaku turned its gun onto the nearby houses. It was so overwhelming, Amuro found himself breathing again, feeling as though in spite of his efforts, his lungs seemed to fail at drawing in oxygen.

Even the sight of Commander Bouchard's remains, which was his mechanical right arm lying out from under a destroyed Guntank, failed to calm him or make him feel better about the situation. The same was for the image of the dead Zaku, which was laying on its back with a fresh hole cut into where its cockpit once was. In fact, Amuro felt no force in the world could change the feelings of dread that had overcome him now.

And in that same dread, Amuro muttered a question that would haunt him for eternity.

"Is this…war?"