Kira wiped off the sweat off his eyebrows using the sleeves of his mechanic uniform, not really caring that he was smearing some grease onto his face. He put down the spanner that he was carrying and took a deep breath. "Let's try it out," he said to himself as he pressed the switch on the machine in front of him. The machine belched some smoke and started making coughing noise. Just as he was about to suspect the worse, the machine came to life.
"How is it?" a man behind him asked. "I can hear the generator making some sound."
"The generator is okay," Kira turned toward the man who was blind and announced, smiling in satisfaction.
"God bless you, Kira. Having you come here all the way from Orb… I wish we can repay you for…"
"It's okay, Father Malchio. I'm always happy to help."
Three children ran past the two of them, playing tags.
"Unlike these orphans I was lucky to be adopted by my parents," Kira said wistfully. "So I never knew the pain of being alone. However, that doesn't mean I can't play my part as a human being." He gazed skywards. "I wish people would be more understanding of each other."
"Then, please don't let yourself lose that hope," the blind priest said.
Athrun stared at Dearka who was on a hammock, strumming a guitar. "Aren't you on duty right now?"
"Well, yea but I got someone to replace me."
"Being a redcoat doesn't mean you can run from your duty, Dearka."
"Nor does it mean you should flaunt your authority, Athrun," another person said.
"You really enjoyed rubbing it in our face that you're our leader, don't you?" the silver-haired man asked.
"Athrun, Yzak, don't fight," Nichol broke his silence.
"That's quite pointless, Nichol," Rusty said.
"Once they started, there's no stopping them," Dearka said as he continued strumming his guitar. "But even though Yzak resents Athrun's position, he, as a rule would never disobey an order in battle unless it is necessary. Athrun may not like Yzak being a hothead but I think he knows Yzak's value to the team. All in all, I think the two will be fine."
"So, let us just enjoy the show."
It was Cosmic Era 71 and four months had passed since the war between Earth and ZAFT had started. The trigger to the full-scale conflict was the surprise attack on Junius section and the subsequent capture of Junius Eleven and Junius Twelve by Alliance space commandos who managed to force their disconnection from the rest of the colonies. Efforts to recapture the colonies were frustrated by the risks posed by such operation.
As a result of the battle, Alliance had around half a million hostages who didn't know that their life could be forfeit at any time. However, despite the capture, Alliance allowed humanitarian aides to flow into the two colonies. On the Alliance's side, even though the anti-Coordinator's sentiment was quite strong especially after the deaths of United Nation's Representatives in a bomb attack blamed on ZAFT, attacking civilians outright would never be received positively because it would be seen as an invitation for ZAFT to do the same. While Patrick Zala wanted to use their capture as a rallying cry despite Siegel Clyne's protest, he didn't do so because it would reaffirm PLANTs vulnerability and subsequently caused some to press for peace.
So, the two colonies that were the trigger for the war remained just that as the war shifted away and away. ZAFT, in a tit-for-tat respond organized a staging base in the Gulf of Carpenteria and use it to attack other parts of Earth. While it managed to capture few Alliance territories, hoping to use them as bargaining chips, the gambit failed because the Alliance was a rather loose coalition and thus no consensus could be gained from it.
Instead of negotiating, Alliance propaganda used the capture to illustrate the danger of 'insane invaders from space,' stopping short of fully referring them as Coordinators but the subtext was still there. The war escalated to the point that it was a simple war of attrition where ZAFT's technologically superior mobile suits were pitted against Alliance's overwhelming amount of ground tanks and mobile armours.
While doomsayers and few military pundits had predicted the use of nuclear weapons, it didn't happen because both sides were wary of mutual assured destruction in which the use of a nuclear weapon by one side would result in the escalation of nuclear warfare which in turn would cause the destruction of both sides. No anti-ballistic missile was deemed satisfactory enough to defend against such calamity. Even though ZAFT had the N-Jammer technology which theoretically would defend against the nuclear attacks, Alliance had developed Cyclops missiles that would use that very same technology against ZAFT. On the other hand, PLANTs being located in space would allow it to easily launch any nuclear missiles at any city on Earth with less fuel and energy consideration.
To allay negative public reactions, both sides reaffirmed their adherence to Nuclear Proliferation Treaty which also limited the use of nuclear power on military vehicles smaller than a warship to prevent nuclear attacks by detonating mobile suits or mobile armour. Even the nuclear warships were required to have fully shielded generators to prevent nuclear explosions should they were destroyed.
Thus the war had been fought using conventional means and while in the beginning Alliance had an edge, ZAFT had developed five new prototypes dubbed as 'Gundams' the name being derived from the operating system they were using. Matched with ZAFT's best aces, the redcoats, the Gundams proved to be dangerous adversaries.
Coordinators or not, Gundam pilots were humans and Dearka had admitted himself as a lazy and laid-back person. He would fight when time comes but before then he would like to take it easy. "Yo, Nichol."
"Yes?" Nichol asked, turning away from the still arguing duo.
"Have you heard the rumor of a special force being formed to fight against us?"
The other man nodded. "My father did talk about it. Alliance propaganda."
"From what I hear," Rusty added, "the special force name is Fairy"
"Fairy?" Dearka said with disbelief. "What kind of nerd-sounding name is that? What, Alliance is so scared that now they're getting the tooth fairy to help as well? How ridiculous."
"I heard that the special force comprises of women only."
The blonde ace grinned. "Wow, talk about using distraction as military tactics. In that case I can't wait to meet those beauties."
He didn't know it at the time but eventually Dearka would be forced to swallow those words.
As Earth continued to spin on its axis, a plan was nearing completion. Alliance had determined to bring war to ZAFT's footstep and the way to do that was by attacking Carpenteria base. Three disguised ships had been stationed 500 kilometers above Earth in an orbit that would eventually bring them directly above the base in two weeks time. Their almost stationary movement had been construed by ZAFT's remote sensing systems as nothing more than mere space debris and even though a ZAFT technician had mentioned about them to his superiors, his concern was dismissed as being unfounded and borderline paranoid.
Inside the ships, there was a flurry of activities as final preparations are made for the mission. Tension was everywhere and the mission commander, sitting inside the bridge of capital ship was also affected by the intense pressure.
"Relax, Murrue," a man said to the mission commander. "You have to keep calm despite those things."
Murrue looked at the man. "I didn't remember allowing you to call me by name, Captain Mwu La Fllaga."
"Ouch. How cold of you. Come on, you have to admit being called 'Colonel Murrue' makes you feel old."
"I guess…" she conceded. "How's the preparation on your side?"
"Done. As planned, the Mobiuses would launch to protect the ships after the operation starts."
"Good." Murrue was quiet for a while. "In the end, we're the villains, aren't we, leading those poor girls to their dooms."
"I don't know… but what I do know if not you become their commander, someone else will and that someone wouldn't probably treat them with kindness as you did. Someone like Sutherland, for example."
She closed her eyes. "That bastard…"
"You know that Admiral Halberton opposed the Extended program so he had to come forth with a viable alternative. That why we have PIXIE program in place of that other one."
Physiologically Improved eXpanded Interaction Emulator program, in short, PIXIE. The program to produce pilots that could keep up with Coordinators through mentally and physically exhausting training programs as well the developments of electronic interface and operating system for the mobile suits that would piloted by such pilots. The initial stage of the training program selected only woman pilots due to their natural ability to multitask compared to the man's capability to concentrate on a single objective. While the rival Extended program allowed creation of many biological CPUs through the use of drugs and implants, the PIXIE program had the advantage as being a morally acceptable alternative.
"So we have to prove that PIXIE program is viable, huh?" Murrue asked.
"The propaganda machinery will be milking this for all its worth if the attack succeeds."
"Yeah. It's for the best, isn't it?" Murrue asked rhetorically.
"You got it.
"You're kind, do you know that? I asked the PIXIEs and they said that not once you're trying to take advantage of them and instead you played the role of an older brother."
"That's because it would insulting to them and myself if I tricked them." Mwu said. "Besides, I don't want their older sister to be mad at me," he continued and smirked at Murrue.
"I don't understand what you're talking about."
"Yes, yes." He looked at the watch. "Time to go now," Mwu said as he left the bridge. "ZAFT wouldn't appreciate what we're about to do to its precious base." He stopped and smiled at the commander. "A date when we got back?" he said as the door in front of him opened.
"I don't date mobile armour pilots," Murrue replied.
"Well then, glad to hear that; less competition for me since I'm a mobile suit pilot now," he remarked as he resumed his movement. "See you later," he continued before the door closed behind him."
Murrue watched the closed door until she felt that everyone's eyes were on her "What?" she snapped.
"You're blushing, Commander," Neumann, sitting at the helms commented.
"Wha… what… what? Blu… blushing? I don't… kn… know what you're… talking about. I… I'm not blushing," the normally unflappable Murrue stuttered.
"Whatever you say, Commander." The helmsman said evenly that it was hard to determine whether he was being sarcastic or not.
"Approaching drop zone in T-minus one minute!" Abby, the CIC operator announced, breaking what would be an embarrassing moment.
Instantly, everyone in the bridge turned serious. Immeasurable resources have been allocated for the mission.
"T-minus forty five seconds!"
Months and months of planning each objectives and goals, with each activity that would be carried out being measured by seconds instead of hours or even minutes.
"T-minus thirty seconds."
Weeks have been spent anticipating what would be the turning point of the war between Alliance and ZAFT.
"T-minus fifteen seconds."
ZAFT would be caught unaware and at the end of the day, the future would be determined by this mission alone.
"Commence 'Operation Shooting Star'," Murrue said.
More than a hundred of conical-shaped things began their slow reentry with the wider side facing downwards. The arrangement would create a very big drag that would eventually cushion them against shockwave and heated shockwave layer. This in turn would reduce the heat enough for the units' heat shield consisting of fiberglass layered with asbestos textolite to cope with. Their entry would be detected; there was no way of mistaking their numerous presences.
However, that was also predicted, along with ZAFT's interception capabilities. Having technological superiority, ZAFT opted to install mostly beam-based air batteries around the base with only few missiles interceptors. While such arrangement would allow rapid engagement of any normal hostile targets, they wouldn't work against the units because the beams would be stopped by the heat shields. Few of the units would be destroyed by the missiles interceptors but it wouldn't matter much.
In response, ZAFT would launch its mobile suits squadrons to destroy them. However, by the time it begun to launch its first mobile suit, some of the units had reached the 8000 meters altitude above the sea-level. One by one the units would then had their skins peeled of via explosive cutting charge, revealing the submunitions inside them. A centrifugal dispenser inside each of them would eject the submunitions in a way to ensure maximum coverage of firepower. Each of the submunitions would scan the area beneath them using a combination of heat detection and contour difference imaging to determine their targets. They would then fire off the explosively formed penetrators attached toward the designated targets.
At this stage, attempts by the beam-based air batteries as well as airborne mobile suits trying to shoot down the penetrators were, at best inconsequential. In fact some of the mobile suits, in their zeal to protect the base by shooting down the penetrators would ironically succumb to them.
Multiple fireballs began appearing all over the Carpenteria base as the phase one of the 'Operation Shooting Star' had been concluded.
Athrun kept quiet as the whole place trembled and the ceiling light began blinking. The trembling continued for another twenty seconds and when it stopped, he turned his attention at his team. "Alliance is stupid if it attacks this place, huh?" he asked sarcastically.
"We have no reason to be scared," Yzak scoffed. "Our barracks as well as hangars are located underground."
"Come on!" Athrun said, leaving the room and began making his way to the hangar amidst announcement that the base had been attacked. Yzak was mistaken. Despite being underground, they had a lot of reasons to be concerned. They were fortunate that whoever attacking them wasn't using bunker buster bombs. While the hot tempered man would have attributed the omission of such weapons in the attack as part of Alliance's oversight, Athrun begged to differ. Normal military doctrine stated that having entrenched fortification was an advantage against conventional bombing which is why the presence of the underground complex below the base. However normal military doctrine also stated that anti-fortification weapons must be employed in order to destroy such fortification; hence it was rather strange that they weren't used.
But he filed that away for later consideration as at that moment he had a more important issue to settle: defeating the invaders. "Rusty, equip Strike with Aile Striker for aerial engagement."
"Got it," Rusty said
"Yzak and I would also engage the enemy from the air with our Guul units and Dearka would provide fire support from below since the recoil from its gun would affect smooth targeting."
"How about me?" Nichol asked.
"I want you to engage Mirage Colloid and wait for targets of opportunity."
"What?" Yzak asked. "You're telling him to play possum?"
"It is not 'play possum'. It's finding out what the enemy is after. Besides, I did say Blitz is to take out targets of opportunity, didn't I?"
"ALERT!" the siren blared. "WE DETECT THE SECOND WAVE OF ENEMY ATTACK. ALL GUNDAM UNITS ARE TO LAUNCH IMMEDIATELY."
Twelve drop modes disengaged, revealing a mobile suit inside each one of them. Observers would later identifie the mobile suits as Daggers though they would be mistaken as they weren't Daggers that would debut in another battle a month after that. The mobile suits were GATX-03 Spitfire. Armed with a beam rifle held in the right hand and A52 offensive shield type E, the mobile suits were also equipped with Glide-unit that allowed them to fight in the air. Inside such unit's cockpit, the helmet-mounted panoramic display allowed the pilot of almost unrestricted view in all direction. However coping with the added sensory information provided by such system required a Coordinator or a PIXIE pilot.
Miriallia Haw always had an optimistic view of live. However, she more or less accepted the fact that the squadron of PIXIE pilots she was leading had a very slim chance of surviving the upcoming battle. Even in the briefing it was laid bare to all of them: the squadron would drop onto the base and engage the famous or rather infamous five prototype mobile suits known for destroying 2nd Fleet in Asteroid Belt battle. There was no mention of the squadron's retrieval and she expected such as Alliance, in its infinite wisdom had committed the result of its PIXIE program into destroying the highly advance mobile suits.
"Incoming interceptor missiles!" one of her subordinates announced.
"Four chaff!" she commanded. "Activate ECM!"
As she commanded, four rockets were fired by the squadron toward the interceptors. The rockets then burst, spreading clouds of small, thin pieces of aluminium and fiberglass, creating radar echoes that would confuse the sensors on the interceptors as well as their ground controllers. Even though the interceptors were equipped with secondary infrared sensors, the use of electric propulsion on the Glide units created so little infrared emissions that duping them with flares was quite simple.
However, one missile managed to get through the chaff cloud and strike the mobile suit belonging to Nina Barnrose, Miriallia's first friend since she joined the PIXIE program. A moment the airwave was filled with her frantic voice and a moment later she was silenced forever as her mobile suit was engulfed in a giant fireball.
There was no time mourn, only time to fight.
"Battery packs had landed on the ground," Miriallia's second-in-command reported.
"Good. Remember to replenish the energy supply as needed. The rest of the flight will provide cover while the battery is being replaced. Once we destroy the prototypes, we're to fly to the neutral ORB water and jettison our mobile suits there." Despite the fact that there was no escape plan for her squadron, she took it upon herself to come up with one.
"They're good," Dearka said in awe at the eleven hostile mobile suits attacking the base.
"This is not the time to be impressed!" Yzak shouted over the com-line.
"But to think that they can pull of something as daring as this, it's unthinkable," Nichol said as his already visible Blitz tried to attack one of them unsuccessfully. His mobile suit had to disengage the Mirage Colloid system as the chaff cloud that engulfed the base had disrupted the colloid's wave bending properties, rendering it visible to enemy radar and optical cameras.
"I heard you're talking about those so-called beauties just now, didn't you?" Yzak taunted Dearka. "Now, are you satisfied?"
"Don't blame him," Athrun said while being engaged in melee combat with what seemed to be the enemy's squadron leader. "Uggh!" he growled as the enemy landed a kick on Aegis' torso. While his appraisal of the enemy mobile suits being inferior to his unit was on-spot, they made up for the deficiency through close teamwork. Even Yzak was being pressured back with Duel lost its left hand. "Damn!"
"Piece of cake, Commander," Mwu reported to the ship's bridge. "They only sent a Nazca and one shot to the aft engine and it's not a threat anymore."
"How about the mobile suits?"
"Taken care off even though only two Mobieus part from myself remained."
"Commander," Abby reported. "We're receiving an encrypted transmission."
"Return to the ship." Murrue told Mwu. "Tell your wing mates to return to theirs as well."
"Roger," the man acknowledge before signing off.
"Transmission from who, Abby?"
"I think… it's from Admiral Halberton, ma'am."
Murrue couldn't believe what she was hearing. For the admiral to be contacting her, something big must have happen. "Put him through."
The admiral came on screen and Murrue saluted. The man saluted back.
"How can I help you, sir?"
"What is the progress of the operation?"
"It's proceeding as planned, sir. Right now our squadron is engaging the five mobile suit prototypes."
"Good. However, there's a change of plan."
"Change of plan?"
"Yes. Archangel is to land in Cairns near Carpenteria to recover one of our operatives." The admiral smiled a bit. "Of course while in the area, recovering our pilots is an added bonus."
"If I can ask sir, who is the person we're supposed to recover?"
"I'm sorry," the woman said as she knocked a man's head against the wall. She then pushed his face toward a console at the wall, holding one of his eyes open. Once the console verification had been completed, she smashed his head against the wall again, this time rendering him unconscious. "Even though we worked together and you always help me with my troubles, in the end, I betray you and everyone. Well, I don't expect your forgiveness for this."
A door opened, revealing a squad of soldiers armed with silenced weapons.
"How's the situation?" the woman asked.
"We took care of everyone," the squad leader reported. "How's on your end?"
The squad leader pointed toward few bodies strewn on the floor. "They're still alive," he commented while pointing his rifle toward one of them.
The woman pushed the barrel of the weapon down. "Are you questioning my decision, sergeant?" she asked coldly.
"No, ma'am," the man said while pulling away the rifle. "I'm sorry, ma'am."
"Good. Destroy the security system," she handed him a disk. "download all information that using this key and then wipe out all records. Afterwards your squad is to clear the whole place immediately."
Few minutes later, she was inside a cockpit, entering a few commands and the main screen came to life.
"A 'Ψ' model? What the hell is that? I thought it's supposed to be an 'A' or at most 'S'. How can we prove that ZAFT is developing nuclear model?" she said to herself in frustration. When she infiltrated the research group as an administrative assistant, she was ordered to find out the development of new 'Gundam' by ZAFT purported to be nuclear-powered. However, what she was seeing at the screen seemed to prove that the info was wrong.
"Huh?" she uttered as the whole cockpit began to glow. She began twiddling with the controls only to have her chair moving backward and safety straps kept her in place.
"Psychoframe at operational level. Synchronizing with designated pilot's key. Standby for initial synchronizing," a metallic voice announced as a helmet behind the seat covered the woman's face. Instantly she felt her body assailed with unfathomable pain.
"Our orders have been changed. We're to rendezvous with Archangel in Cairn," Miriallia announced to her squadron or rather what remained to it. She had lost seven comrades but at least one enemy mobile suit had been destroyed while the other two heavily damaged.
"Roger!" all except one of her compatriots acknowledged the order.
"Stellar, do you hear that?"
"Stellar heard. We're going home?"
Miriallia didn't hesitate at all. "Yes, we're going home."
She let loose a couple of shots at the float unit the red prototype was on, forcing it aground. Seeing that none of the prototypes were in any position to chase after them, she joined the rest of her squadron.
"COWARDS!" Yzak shouted, unable to open his right eye to the blood trickling down from his forehead. Duel had crashed after the its Guul unit was taken out, damaging it as well injuring him. But that wasn't what caused him to be angry; it was the death of one his friends, Rusty Mackenzie who died when Strike was destroyed by a melee attack by three mobile suits. He slammed his fist against the screen to his left. "Damn it! Athrun, this is your fault!"
"I told him not to underestimate his enemies," Athrun replied quietly as Aegis stood up, relatively undamaged. "And I reminded you not to give in to anger when Strike was destroyed. I also reminded everyone day after day not to let our position get to our head," he said while looking at smoke bellowing out of Buster's cooling unit. Only his unit and Blitz were lightly damaged. "Let this be a lesson to us."
"Damn!" Yzak cursed, knowing that the other man was right. It was a lesson indeed.
There were tapping sounds as Murrue rap her fingers against the hand rest. "Where's the operative?" she said out loud. While Archangel had managed to recover the PIXIEs, the ship was yet to make contact with the operative the admiral had told her about. The longer the ship lingered in the area, the bigger the risk it would be facing as ZAFT would launch an attack.
"Commander," Abby announced, "detecting ZAFT submarine in our long range sonar."
"We'll be in a pinch," Mwu said, "since only I can sortie in a Skygrasper right now.
Murrue hated the decision that she was about to make. "We'll retreat."
The dawn was just breaking over the horizon when Kira decided to walk along the beach. He always liked sunrise and since he was at the orphanage on the Marshall Island, he might as well see how the sunrise looked like from the place. Maybe he was being pretentious but the serene atmosphere made him forget that there was a war going on at that time. A war between PLANTs and Earth; a war between Coordinators and Naturals.
It was then he noticed a body on the beach and he ran toward it. It was a body of a woman with long ruby hair. "Hey, are you all right? Miss, hey!" he asked while gently shaking her.
The woman opened her eyes, revealing the dilated grey orbs inside them. She was semi-conscious. However, with great struggle, she moved her hand to point in direction. "Please…" she murmured. "I beg you… destroy that thing…" she finished before she became unconscious once more.
Kira looked at the direction the woman was pointing and saw a silhouette of something partly submerge in the nearby water. As the sun began to rise slowly over the horizon, it cast light at the silhouette. If Kira was to be asked regarding what he saw at that time, he would have said that it was beautiful. The mobile suit that he saw as simply beautiful. However, it was the same mobile suit that would inevitably change his life.
For a sixteen-year old Kira Yamato, life was very simple. He would study, and then enter university before working and eventually settling down. Because he didn't destroy the mobile suit as the woman had begged him to do due to his interest in it, his life would be twisted beyond redemption
And the future of mankind would change as a result.
Author's note (27 February 2010) (appended on 5.3.2010 with some mistakes corrected)
1. I always wanted to write an alternate beginning to Gundam SEED where without having to recycle the same Heliopolis concept. As you can see from the chapter, it explained why the mobile suits were battery powered and why N-Jammers weren't deployed in the first place. It had always bothered me why Alliance needed to wait until it got its paw on the N-Jammer Canceller technology before deciding to attack PLANTs when it clearly possessed something just as destructive in the form of Cyclops. All it needed to do was modified the system to be launched via missiles and such missiles would damage if not destroy the colony altogether.
2. Also, since Fukuda mentioned that SEED was closer to 'reality' than other Gundam series, I wonder why he didn't consider the MAD doctrine in SEED. I mean, even though the Alliance was being controlled by Blue Cosmos, I don't think that the Blue Cosmos didn't consider the possibility of ZAFT responding in kind, i.e. launching its own WMDs when it attacked Junius Seven. Rather strange, really.
3. I also wanted to explore the idea of Mir piloting a mobile suit and being the leader of her own squadron.
4. This is a one-shot because I wrote it without having any end planned. I always write my story with the end planned out and all events would lead to that ending. But… not this short story. It may change but right now, and in a forseeable future, it remains as a oneshot because I don't know how to proceed from here on.