"I'm unsure of… this," Reese, captain of the Earth Alliance's new warship, Archangel, intently eyed the face displayed on the monitor.
"What brought this doubt about?" Despite his pleasant smile, Muruta Azrael had such a… malicious air about him -even all the way from Earth- that it was difficult for Reese not to turn the console off. "I'm very assured of my decision. After all, isn't Halberton's pet project short a couple pilots? I just figured he wouldn't mind a… helping hand."
Reese narrowed his eyes. "Is Admiral Halberton aware of this?"
Azrael's eyes held a mischievous glint, though it was off-balanced by his malign aura. "Not quite yet. I figured I'd surprise him. After all, everyone likes a surprise."
Everyone…except Halberton, especially on this issue, Reese mentally replied. Admiral is going to wanna' skin Azrael alive for this.
It didn't take a Coordinator to realize that Muruta Azrael was a supporter of the fanatic group Blue Cosmos. Halberton and Reese both hated them with a purple passion. Men who pursued the ideals of destruction and death of others were not fit to be called humans. Both men wanted this war to end; Cosmos wanted it to escalate until genocide was wrought.
Which is why this meeting stung Reese so badly.
Ever since the G-weapon project began, Halberton kept a careful eye on it, making sure no outside groups put their hands in where they shouldn't. Especially Blue Cosmos. The admiral himself carefully hand-picked the crewmen, the pilots, and the officers manning the hidden project so that no anti-Coordinator sentiment touched the ranks. However, Reese never expected for Azrael to discover the project and make such a deft maneuver, especially right under Halberton's nose.
Thank God, though, that Azrael only knew about six of the ten weapons. Reese couldn't imagine five of those… people.
Across the screen, Azrael frowned. "You shouldn't grimace. Not good for the face, you know?" Translation: Is there something wrong with my idea, subordinate?
"Sir, I…" Reese carefully chose his words, his posture straightening as he did, "…question the... ethics behind both your choice and the program from which the pilot hails from."
"Ethics…?" Muruta smirked. "I see no problem with the ethics. I agree that the training was a little intense, but you shouldn't be so quick to judge the program."
"But, sir, that's a human-"
Reese stopped at Azrael's pointed glare. "I see no human." Muruta sighed, leaning against his hand as if bored. "I don't see why you're complaining. I want this war to end as well. I'm only doing what I believe to speed up the process. This is the end of the conversation. Oh, and I'll personally inform Halberton; I'm sure he'll understand."
The captain of the Archangel sighed as the screen went blank, rubbing the side of his face to vainly relieve stress.
Looking down at the file on his desk, Reese took a seat and flipped through it, his outlook saddening more and more as he read on.
They didn't even consider the pilot human.
"Monster, thy name is Azrael," Reese muttered, stashing the file away in his desk.
"Azrael, are you sure this was a wise decision?" came a voice from a nearby screen, a higher ranked member of the Blue Cosmos. "The First Stage Extendeds haven't even been tested, and yet we're placing a Second Stage Extended within Halberton's project? The Biological CPU you intend to send into this hornet's nest hasn't even been properly conditioned yet!"
Muruta sipped his wine before answering. "True, it is a little soon to even hint at the project, but we need to get a grip on the G-weapon project. I chose a second generation over the first because they were more stable –albeit weaker. It'll keep Halberton from getting too nosy."
"But they haven't been perfected yet!" the man's voice sounded flustered, much to Muruta's amusement. "Although the particular CPU you've chosen has completed the physical enhancements, it still hasn't undergone the mental training. It could become rebellious! There are so many variables and yet you still wish to follow through with this hare-brained scheme?"
"It is a risk we have to take for our blue and pure world."
"This mission is stupid, with a capital 'S'!" groaned Rusty Mackenzie as he pulled on his flight suit. "Isn't Heliopolis neutral? I mean, what if the information is wrong and we end up looking like a bunch idiots? Not to mention pissing-off Orb."
Yzak Joule had enough, pausing preparations with his gun to reprimand his squad mate. "Will you shut up! I'm sure the information they gave us was accurate!"
Another voice interrupted, belonging to one Dearka Elsman. "Besides, it makes sense they'd build new weapons; they're getting pretty desperate to match us."
It did make sense. Mobieus units –no matter the design- were several years out-of-date (like the stale chips Rusty mentally reminded himself to remove from his bag). In the long run, ZAFT outmatched the Earth Alliance through sheer quality of weaponry and people, and given enough time the war would end in ZAFT's favor. But if the Earth Alliance developed a means to match ZAFT's GINN series, the working horse of their military, then the war would hit a stalemate.
"I've got a question," Yzak said, turning his attention to Rusty. "How the hell did you become a red-coat and a member of our squadron?"
Rusty mocked-thought about it and then shrugged as if the answer was nowhere in sight. "Maybe it was through hard work… instead of having a parent on the council to suck up to."
"Why you…!" Yzak growled, preparing to let his fists do the talking.
Dearka shook his head at the sight of Yzak's notorious temper, and the laid a hand on the white-haired youth's shoulder, calming the boy if only for the moment. Rusty chuckled, tasting the satisfaction of getting under Yzak's skin.
"Seriously, Yzak," Rusty said, this time carrying a friendly smile, "you might want to consider taking some anger management classes. The high blood pressure might get to your head."
Yzak instead turned back to his gun, mumbling something about 'stupid redheads'. Dearka sighed, glad that their playful bickering stopped an hour short of what it normally went on to.
Rusty was the glue that held the group together. Though he may butt heads with his teammates, he held closely to his squad. When everything seemed monotonous or dark, Rusty would pipe up and ruin the atmosphere; if one of them was upset, he'd be upset with that person; if there was someone you could trust, it was Rusty. Without him, they weren't sure how things might've become. It definitely would've been duller without the redhead's carefree, rebellious, and joking personality.
"I see that you guys are getting along nicely," a voice noted from the doorway.
The three turned to find Athrun Zala at the doorway, already prepped for their mission.
"What makes you think that?" Rusty asked as he returned to his gun, the false innocence in his voice countered by his smirk.
"Besides the fact that you were giving Yzak a hard time," Nicol said as he moved past Athrun, "I'd say you guys are doing fine."
Rusty snickered. "He makes it way too easy."
From across the room, Yzak tossed his screwdriver at the redhead, earning several choice words to his satisfaction. With a smirk, he ducked under Rusty's retaliatory flathead, earning another string of curses.
"Enough with the antics, you two," Athrun ordered, holding a hand to his face despite the lighthearted smile on his face. How exactly did he get stuck with this band of hooligans?
And to believe they were about to go out to battle… Such were the wiles of war.
Ever since the Bloody Valentine Tragedy, the Naturals –people born without tampered genes- and the Coordinators –people born with superior, manipulated genes- have fought a long, bloody war. Originally, it was predicted that the Earth Alliance would come out victorious with their superior numbers. How wrong they had been… ZAFT, with their mobile suits and superior soldiers, put a stopper on the Earth Alliance advancement, thereby bringing the war to a long, bloody crawl. The scale had yet to tip, but with their new mission, it was now possible.
Athrun looked around. "We're missing someone."
"Indeed," agreed Rusty, taking in the group. "We're one card shy of a full deck."
"We'll, we're now a full deck," a new, feminine voice said, catching everyone's attention.
Shiho Hahnenfuss floated into the room, taking a seat next to Yzak. Rusty shook his head at the sight. If only Yzak wasn't such a dense blockhead…
Although the mission originally only required five people to infiltrate Morgenroete, Inc. one more had to be selected. A week before final preparations could be made, there had been an update to the information received, and thus required another member. Although there'd been many options, Shiho had been the number one choice for a variety of reasons.
Despite being the only girl of the group, Shiho got along well with her peers. She was quiet, and had a no-nonsense attitude (making her a choice target of Rusty's brand of humor), but at the same time, she wasn't above giving the boys a hard time. To the more perceptive members of the group (Athrun, Nicol, and Rusty), Shiho's secret crush on Yzak wasn't such a secret. All in all, she was well-received.
Athrun nodded. "Now that we're all present, here's the information we received…"
Murrue Ramius sighed as she flipped through papers on a clipboard. Today was going to be a long day. How she knew that was beyond even her, but somehow she just knew.
Oh, what she'd give to have her old life back as a teacher with a boyfriend that piloted mobile armors… War would be nothing more than pictures of distant lands with unsolved issues. She'd then turn the channel and worry about mundane issues. In a day, though, her world crashed, and now she was here at Morgenroete, Inc. making prototype weapons. How could Life, with its twisted sense of humor, land her a job at a weapon's factory on a 'neutral' colony? It was amazing how irony could be such a bitch.
She looked up from her clipboard, watching as the workers refined the prototype G-Weapons. There were ten in all, amazingly. Originally, only five were slated to be created, but the higher-ups had such high hopes for the project that they ordered five more to be made. In just several months they finished four and were currently on the finishing touches of the last.
Her eyes traced over each one. Lying in their own respective holding containers like bodies inside unfinished caskets, the mobile suits were almost ready for loading into the Archangel, the warship made specifically to launch such weapons.
They were truly quite the works of art, Murrue thought to herself. Compared to the standard GINN, these weapons, in the right hands, could easily turn the tide of the war. Each one was built differently, all bearing their own unique abilities and weapons.
"At least I'm not one of the guys piloting these things…" muttered Murrue as she turned back to her clipboard.
Even with how powerful the machines were, the pilots were subpar. Many believed the problem lay within the OS system itself, which Murrue could believe. Naturals were new to using mobile suits of any kind, and as such had yet to build a Natural-friendly OS system. What they had, though, was the best they could offer.
"Hey, Lieutenant Ramius!" a worker called out. "I could use some help over here!"
Murrue rolled her eyes. "Alright, just give me a second."
Maybe it wasn't the OS. Maybe they were the stupid ones.
Lingering in the back of her mind, though, was the dreadful feeling that today was going to be a very long day.
Heliopolis… The air still smelled of peace. Everyone confined within its hourglass-like structure held a carefree attitude, the wiles of war nothing but a special on the news. Like a lighthouse in a stormy night, its beacon of peace attracted people like moths to a street light. Even the PLANTs, known for their lush landscapes, could not compare to the paradise that was Heliopolis.
But that didn't mean Shinn Asuka had to like it. In his personal opinion, Orb was far better.
"Come on!" Mayu squealed excitedly. "We have so many places to visit! The shops here have so much stuff compared to home!" She took off ahead of him.
Shinn groaned as he hefted Mayu's bags of newly purchased clothes and articles.
At least in Orb, this wouldn't happen.
"Hurry up!" his little sister urged.
"Will you give me a minute?" Shinn retorted, adjusting the bags for easier carrying.
They walked on for several minutes, Mayu enjoying the atmosphere while Shinn grumbled incoherently. Not even several minutes later, Mayu rushed into another store, leaving her older brother outside.
Shinn sighed. Free of his little sister for a short time, he sat on a bench and placed the bags next to him. It was the pattern he followed since he started this expedition (that's what it certainly felt like) –shopping never was his thing.
Whose idea was it again to take a vacation at Heliopolis? Ah, yes, his parents.
"'You should go,' they said," Shinn grumbled. "'It's nice and peaceful!' Mom, I'm beginning to think you're liar."
It wasn't that he didn't love his little sister, but, good God, she could shop!
He'd been the equivalent of a pack mule his entire time here. Carrying the luggage, carrying the shopping bags, carrying everything else… Where was the relaxing part, exactly?
Something caught the corner of his eye. Shinn turned towards it, his eyebrows raising as he watched a girl his age dancing in front of a store window, tracing her reflection's movements and smiling without a care. Intrigued, Shinn cocked his head, carefully following the girl's movements. The bag hanging from her side bounced as she twirled about.
But then she stopped. She turned towards him, her vivid magenta eyes narrowing at Shinn. It took a minute for Shinn's brain to catch up and realize the glare was directed towards him, igniting a blush on his cheeks. The strange blond took off before he could move.
"What're you doing?" Mayu asked, breaking Shinn out of his daze.
"Oh, uh… what?" asked Shinn dazedly, his face still flushed.
Stella Loussier decided she really liked space colonies. They were so colorful! And there were so many people. She didn't know people could make so much noise, either; and they were just as colorful, wearing all those different clothes in various shapes and styles. Everything was a new sensation for her, all the noise, all the people conglomerated together liked the flocking birds she watched at base.
It was so unlike the dull and colorless -emotionless and lifeless- base she lived at. There, they were soldiers – living, breathing weapons. There was nothing but the mission and their opponents blocking their way. But here, all of that seemed so… distant.
As distracting as her first experiencing in public was, it didn't detract from the principles they pounded into her head. The mission came first.
It was simple: she was to head to join Archangel's crew where she'd proceed to deliver the schematics of the suits and keep tab on the pilots and crew. Though, the higher-ups never gave her anything beyond that. But she wasn't about to question orders (another ideal they pounded into her head).
Until she met up with the other pilots, though, she wanted to at least act like a civilian. It wasn't everyday anyone from the base got let out! Stella even got a chance to purchase a cute blue dress to wear as she traversed through civilian territory.
The experience overall -and the freedom her fledgling wings felt- was like a high. And she didn't want it to end.
She looked at the watch wrapped tightly around her wrist. Pressing a button, she was relieved to discover she still had a few hours before she needed to switch out her 'medicine'. Without thought, she pressed a hand against her bag, as if to reassure herself that none of 'it' was going to disappear.
Being an Extended had so many limitations…
Reminding herself that she had certain obligations, she skipped away to find the factory.
She stopped long enough to stare at a gazebo where a teen with a toy bird was typing away at the computer. The bird looked at her and cocked its head, Stella repeating the gesture without thought.
Shaking her head, she continued onward.
Even among Coordinators, Kira was above gifted. Though, even he didn't quite understand the scale of that difference. Some of what he could do was subtle; other things were more obvious.
Kira, having an exemplary mind, had skills in computer programming that made it a practical art form. Hacking the Earth Alliance database? Child's play! Hacking ZAFT's military database? The Rubix cube was harder! (And it took Kira only thirty-two seconds to find the answer to the damn puzzle his first time round while his friends had toyed with it for almost a month.) Needless to say, Kira easily won the bet, whether or not he could hack military databases... simultaneously.
However, today Kira was cursing his abilities as he typed away at his laptop with the same skill and adeptness a protégé piano player displayed (though, none of the flair). Professor Kato dumped enough work on him that a Natural computer program would've broke down and cried by now; he didn't know what his teacher's issues were, but the guy was a serious slave driver.
"Tori!" chirped Birdy, landing lightly on Kira's shoulder.
"Kira!" shouted a familiar voice.
Said teen turned towards the source to find two of his close friends, Tolle Koenig and Miriallia Haw coming his way.
He gave them a light wave. "Hey guys!"
"You know, the professor's been trying contact you for a while," said Tolle.
Kira groaned. "Again? I haven't even finished the stuff he dumped on me yesterday!"
Tolle glanced at Kira's laptop. "New developments in the news?"
"Yeah," Kira said, sobering. "Taiwan."
After listening to the week old report about Kaohsiung, the group of friends headed towards the lab, where Kira was sure he was about to get dumped another workload.
The maintenance hatch opened. They were in.
Six redcoats glided inside, followed closely by their four green-coat escorts.
Athrun was relieved that everything was going so smoothly. Although they hadn't found any trace of these supposed EA mobile suits, he was sure something was up.
Like any good soldier, Athrun still kept Murphy's Law in mind: If everything was going smoothly, they might've overlooked something. And for some odd reason, he had a sinking feeling they did just that.
Kira and his friends were admitted into Professor Kato's lab.
The first person to greet them was Sai, looking past his own monitor. "Ah, Kira, you finally made it."
"Who's that?" Tolle asked as he walked through the doorway, pointing towards a slim boy with a brown coat and hat.
"A guest of the professors, who was apparently told to wait here," Sai answered, holding up a disk. "Anyways… Kira, this is for you. It's extra stuff."
Kira groaned as he plopped down in a seat. "Great… Extra stuff he says…"
Cagalli slowly inched towards the professor's door, jiggling the handle when she got close enough. Much to her luck, it was locked. Biting back a curse, she returned to her original position.
She heard rumors. Cagalli hoped beyond hope that the rumors were just that: rumors. If they weren't, the entire country of Orb would be in peril of losing the neutrality they struggled so much for. She needed to see everything with her own eyes.
Unfortunately, until Kato got back, she was stuck here…
The Orb princess watched as Tolle pulled Kira into a headlock, elicting laughter from all around. Cagalli didn't laugh, though.
Stella frowned. She was late getting to Morgenroete. So caught up in the sights and colors of the outside world, she lost track of time. By now, she should've met with the other pilots! Would Captain Reese harshly berate her like the trainers-
She suddenly lost her balance as the ground shook.
Righting herself, she frowned as she looked about, the people around her as confused as she was.
This wasn't normal… Everyone acted as if their day-to-day lives were suddenly interrupted. What was she supposed to do now?
Wait… She recognized the aftershocks! they were a tell-tale sign of-
"Attention citizens, please proceed to the nearest shelter in calm and orderly fashion," announced a nearby intercom.
Stella tuned out the rest of the message, gunning towards the source of the shaking, a hand on her knife.
She could recognize the aftereffects of sabotage –it was one of the many skills they trained her in, among computer programming and hacking, espionage, and assassination. Something was going on, and she had a feeling it had something to do with the project.
"I can't believe this!" Shinn whined. "Our vacation is ruined because of some stupid technical difficulties."
"I hope all our stuff is okay back at the hotel…" Mayu muttered as she closely followed her brother into the crowds heading towards the lifeboats.
Shinn sighed, rubbing the back of his head as he did. "I wonder when we'll be able to meet with Mom and Dad again."
"I think we're being attacked," Shinn overheard from a passing couple, particularly the girlfriend. "Does ZAFT have anything to do with it?"
"ZAFT…?" muttered Shinn, his eyebrows knitted together.
Wasn't Heliopolis neutral? Orb always kept its hands out of the world's affairs, so by extension Heliopolis followed. It was downright insane that ZAFT would attack a neutral nation. Maybe the citizens were over-exaggerating… Yeah, that was probably it. There's no way ZAFT had that kind of stupidity!
Hopefully the mess would clear up soon. Shinn was sure that his parents were suffering heart attacks by now.
"That's it!" said Yzak smugly as he looked through his binoculars. "There they are… just like Commander Le Creuset told us."
"What? That if we prod them enough, they'll crawl out of the holes they were hiding in?" asked Dearka with humor.
"Of course," replied Yzak in a cocky tone. "After all, the Naturals are stupid and pathetic."
"ACHOOO!" Rusty's sneeze came out nowhere, breaking everyone's line of thoughts.
Everyone turned towards the redhead, finding his glass face-plate covered in saliva and mucous, much to his embarrassment.
"That's nasty," Dearka commented with an amused grin.
Yzak was openly laughing while Shiho bit her lip to prevent it from coming out, though was failing miserably; Athrun simply face-palmed –count on Rusty to ruin the atmosphere.
With a grumble, Rusty took off his helmet and began cleaning it.
Nicol interrupted everyone's amusement. "Guys, there's only four suits." Everyone quickly turned serious. "The other two must be in the warehouse."
"How long until Miguel and the others arrive?" Shiho asked, looking downward.
Athrun answered: "They should arrive after they're done cleaning up the outside. Afterwards, they'll land inside and destroy any unnecessary equipment. After they've done their sweeps, it'll be our job to steal the suits."
"Who'll be the lucky winners to steal the ones inside the factory?" Dearka asked –he was aiming for the one with the large guns on its hips; hopefully he wouldn't be chosen.
"I'll go," Athrun said. "I'll take Rusty with me."
"Dammit!" Rusty cried, his helmet back on his head –complete with smear marks. "I was going to call dibs on number four over there!" It earned a glare from Dearka, since that was one he wanted.
Athrun rolled his eyes. "Now's not the time for jokes. We have a job to do."
Rusty muttered another curse, but seceded to the fact he was stuck with the short end of the stick. There was no doubt that the Morgenroete employees weren't going to hand over their precious mobile suits without a fight. Because they were cooped up inside the factory, Miguel and his team wouldn't be able to sweep them out.
"What's the hell is up with this day?" Rusty asked, more to himself than others.
"Get over yourself!" Yzak almost shouted.
"That's enough!" Athrun intervened, silencing both before they could argue. "Now is not the time! Rusty, let's go!"
The moment the bombs went off, everything became a blur for Murrue. On instinct alone, she dove for the nearest rifle. After gaining a weapon, Murrue perched herself atop the GAT-X105 Strike, which lay comfortably between the GAT-X 104 Maul and GAT-X303 Aegis. She looked beyond the Aegis, finding the GAT-X207 Raid nearby, the GAT-X106 Reach just beyond it, and GAT-X304 Estoc at the farthest distance.
They couldn't let these machines fall into ZAFT hands. Murrue would be damned before she let them. The G-Weapons were just too vital to the Earth Alliance!
"Everyone!" she shouted. "Get ready! We can't let ZAFT have these machines!"
There were several agreements as workers ran to and fro, finding a comfortable spot where they could fight back. Things were about to get ugly.
Murrue spared a second to wonder if the Archangel was okay. She then relaxed, realizing that such a machine wouldn't fall prey to such tactics, not without an extremely lucky hit; it'd almost take an act of God to sink that ship.
Gunfire erupted, followed by six ZAFT soldiers bursting through the doors like bats out of Hell –four green-coats and two redcoats. With agility only a Coordinator could display, two of the greens scrambled to higher ground while the other two supported the reds.
Murrue took aim and fired.
Shinn and Mayu followed the stream of people towards their destination, hoping to reach the lifeboats before they filled and were required to head elsewhere.
As they were coming up the stairs, Shinn couldn't help but let his eyes wonder, curious as to what could cause everyone to panic. He still believed it to be a false alarm; so far, Mayu or he had yet to see anything that would warrant any safety precautions.
Just as he turned back to the stairs, a familiar head of golden hair caught his eye. Quickly turning towards it, he watched as the girl he saw several hours earlier ran past the flow of people and turned abruptly, running down a long corridor and taking a right.
"Wait… the lifeboats are this way," Shinn muttered. "What is she doing?"
"Hmm, what?" Mayu asked, barely catching her brother's question to no-one.
Shinn tried his best to ignore what he saw, but he wasn't getting very far. Maybe she tried to find other less crowded lifeboats. Or she could be lost. Or… Oh, damn it! Why am I even worried about her! He tried to ignore the fleeting image, but it buzzed through his mind. Screw it!
"Mayu, get to the lifeboats," Shinn ordered and then ran off towards the direction he saw the blond girl take before Mayu could voice her objections.
"Hey, wait!" his sister tried to order, only to for it fall on deaf ears.
When she saw her brother disappear around the corner, her nose wrinkled in anger. With as much impulse as her brother had a habit of displaying, Mayu disobeyed and trailed after.
"Here they come," muttered Yzak.
A loud roar echoed through the colony. The citizens of Heliopolis looked up and watched in horror as three GINNs soared through the skies. In a span of several minutes, the machines terrorized the convoy sprawled across the main street, destroying all unnecessary equipment. The undersupplied Morgenroete employees were wiped out within mere moments.
"That's our cue," announced Yzak, jumping off his perch and dashing for his chosen Mobile Suit.
Shiho followed her crush's example and sprinted after him. Dearka and Nicol followed closely behind.
"Our targets are in those trailers! Ignore everything else!" ordered Yzak over the comm. line. "Destroy anything you can't carry!"
"Don't worry, kiddies; we know our job," came the amused response from the GINNs.
Hitting the bridge, the group let their guns blaze, tagging the stragglers that Miguel's group missed. One pulled out a grenade and lobbed it into a freight truck, catching it ablaze. Another threw several grenades at once, immediately silencing a large group surrounding one of the Suits.
Shiho broke off from the group, gunning for the first MS of the line. With her equipment, it didn't take long to reach the cockpit. Falling inside, she immediately went to work, activating the systems. Within seconds, the screens came to life. She turned towards the computer screen, watching as it flashed through its initial setup.
"GAT-X209 Siege," Shiho muttered. "This machine is actually quite impressive."
Being supposedly Natural-friendly, Shiho expected many things when she accepted this mission. But, she may've over-imagined the differences she expected to find. It was impressive over all.
"How did the Earth Alliance develop beam weapons before us?" Yzak wondered aloud in astonishment. "Considering all things, this is actually… impressive. Even if they were developed by Naturals…" He mumbled out the last part.
Just as he flicked the comm. link on, he watched as Shiho's mobile suit rose out of its cradle.
Yzak always thought that GINNs and CGUEs were impressive, state-of-the-art machines, the next great advancement to warfare. However, it was eclipsed as he took in the sight of the mobile suit before him. It was slightly taller than the GINN, sporting a longer skirt than its other rising brethren; two wing-like projections extended from its back, and looked as if they could split down the middle; the machines armor looked slightly thicker than the others as well.
Joule flipped on the comm. link. "Shiho, what's your opinion?"
It took a moment to receive a reply. "When I first entered the cockpit, I was impressed. Now… I'm awed."
"They're that good?" Dearka questioned over the line.
Shiho's voice carried a note of excitement. "These mobile suits are more advance than anything we have in development currently!" Her voice trailed. "I wonder how… Wait, they were developed at Morgenroette, which would partly explain the developments; no doubt that the design team composed of both Coordinators and Naturals. Nonetheless, these are some impressive pieces of hardware."
Yzak couldn't help but agree.
Nicol interrupted everyone's appraising. "What about Athrun and Rusty? With these new machines we could-"
"Don't think so little of them," Yzak interrupted, taking leadership of the group. "They can take care of themselves. We have to get these machines out of here."
"Yeah, and it's not like we can do anything with operating systems like these," there was awe in Dearka's voice, though it was for just how pathetic the OS looked.
"No kidding," Shiho interjected –she, on the other hand, sounded insulted by the audacity the Naturals had for even creating the OS.
"Let's get out of here," Yzak suggested/ordered.
The four machines activated their thrusters and took off.
"Wait, come back!" Kira yelled as he chased after the professor's guest.
He managed to grab the person's hand, but behind them an explosion rung, destroying their exit and making them both topple to the ground. Much to their discomfort, Kira landed on top. Embarrassed, he pulled himself off, grabbing the person's hand.
It was then he noticed the missing hat. Without it, he could get a clear view of what he determined to be a female's face.
"Hey, wait, you're a girl?" he asked, sounding stunned.
"Yeah," she bitingly shot back as she stood. "What else did you think I was?"
"Uh…" was his smart reply.
After his brain finally rebooted from the shock (even Coordinators were prone to brain malfunctions), Kira decided to file her as a 'tomboy' in his mind, since she definitely didn't act like any other girl he met so far.
Shaking his head, Kira grabbed her wrist.
"Hey, what are you-?" the girl tried to question, only for him to interrupt and begin dragging her along.
Kira answered her unfinished question: "I know where some lifeboats are from here."
With reluctance, Cagalli followed his lead. It wasn't like she had many other options anyways.
Shinn saw a trace of a blue dress as he turned another corner.
Just barely was he able to keep her in his sights. The blond was fast, and evidently knew where she was going; Shinn didn't, and continued to follow with hopes of getting out of what he determined to be a factory.
Where is she going? Shinn questioned with a frown.
He turned one last time, only to skid to a stop as the sound of a gunfight echoed in his ears, not unlike firecrackers exploding irregularly.
Despite his wariness, Asuka was curious. Did ZAFT really attack a neutral colony like the rumors suggested? There was a lot of shaking since he entered the building…
"Shinn!" Mayu shouted, gaining said teen's attention and looking none too pleased.
"Mayu?" Shinn's surprise was written all over his face. "I thought I said to get to the shelters!"
"You're not my boss!" she countered, her glare intensifying. "You're the one that ran off!"
"Yeah, but…" he couldn't refute his little sister. "Damn it…"
Mayu sighed, walking ahead of her brother. "Come on. I'm sure there are some lifeboats ahead of us."
It was Shinn's turn to sigh, but he didn't allow words to escape. His mind was still on where the strange girl ran off to. And the guns that were blazing intensely ahead of them.
"What's going on?" Mayu questioned aloud.
"Isn't this quite the can of worms we've gotten ourselves into?" Rusty yelled from behind a computer desk, ducking as a bullet almost hit its mark.
"How could the information be this off?" Athrun yelled in frustration. "There were supposed to be only six machines, not ten!"
Rusty jumped up and threw a grenade, killing four more workers hiding near one of the machines. Both then moved forward, inching ever closer to the prizes. Even as they got closer, enemy fire seemed to increase two-fold.
"What do we do?" Rusty asked above the cacophonous sounds of battle.
"We have no choice," Athrun answered. "We'll have to detonate the others."
The team's redhead hopped up and began pouring rounds into the crowds. Two engineers were killed, but two others took their place, much to Rusty's irritation.
"Sounds like a- OH SHIT!" Rusty ducked, barely dodging the bullets meant to kill him. Instead, the bullet ricocheted off the metal plate of a G-Weapon.
"I'm just one lucky son-of-a-gun today, aren't I?" Rusty announced good-heartedly, though he was noticeably sweating on the inside of his helmet.
"Don't do anything stupid!" Athrun reprimanded, glaring at his partner. "I don't want to have to bring you back in a body bag!"
"Only because you don't want to tell the others how it happened," Rusty shot back. "Thanks for the concern, though."
Athrun roared as a he ran across the floor, killing the mechanics that had aimed to kill his friend. Not only that, he was now near one of the new Mobile Suits.
The duo stopped as they heard the sound of gunfire ringing through the hall. Cautiously, they moved forward until they entered the large warehouse. Coming up to the railing, they watched the battle for the G-Weapons unfold before their eyes on the floor below. A small group of ZAFT soldiers were battling against a much larger force of workers and engineers. Although three of the ZAFT soldiers had fallen, the defenders suffered a tenfold of casualties.
But that wasn't what caused Kira to gasp in shock; it was the six machines lying silently in cradles… machines of incredible design.
"Whoa…" Kira breathed. "Those are…"
Cagalli's eyes widened too, even more shocked at the sight than Kira. There were six weapons in this room alone! The rumors had been true; her father did approve of building these weapons.
She fell to her knees from numb shock. The edges of her eyes stung from gathering tears, the stabbing pain of betrayal coursing through her chest. If ZAFT questioned Orb and its involvement, would Orb be able to maintain the neutrality they fought for?
"I knew it…" Cagalli collapsed to her knees. "The Earth Forces prototype mobile weapons. Father, I knew you betrayed us all!"
Her outburst garnered the attention Kira knew was bad for the health. He jumped back, pulling her with him and dodging several bullets.
"Come on!" he ordered, dragging her with him.
As the fighting raged, Kira and Cagalli dashed for the lifeboats, keeping their heads low to avoid stray bullets. Each pushed harder as they came to the elevators leading to their salvation and escape from battle. Only one was lit up with a green light.
Kira pushed the call button and a voice came over the intercom. "Is there someone out there?"
"Yes. My friend and I need to get in. Please open the door," Kira answered.
"Sorry but we're full to capacity as it is. Try the shelters in the left block."
"Please, at least take the girl," Kira pleaded.
"Alright, but we can't take anymore." The elevator door opened.
Kira quickly shoved Cagalli in, but the blond wasn't making it easy.
"What are you doing?" she asked in shock.
Finally, Kira's genetically-enhanced strength prevailed. And before the girl could come up with a counter, he shut the doors and sent her down to the lifeboat, much to her chagrin.
One mission accomplished, Kira quickly formulated a 'plan B.' He turned towards the only remaining exit.
Just as the Coordinator reached it, a young boy with dark, tousled hair and vivid crimson eyes skidded to a stop in front of them. He was followed closely by an even younger girl.
"Hey!" messy-hair greeted, sounding urgent.
"What are you-!" Kira tried to question, only to be interrupted by the newcomer.
"Hey, I'm looking for a lifeboat! Are there…" He trailed off as he took in the devastation around him.
The young girl was quick to identify the aggressors. "Z-ZAFT?"
"Quick, follow-" Kira ran ahead, only to be blasted back as the corridor exploded. The air displacement sent the three flying the other way.
"Ah, my head…" Shinn groaned as he rubbed his temple.
"W-What just happened?" Mayu muttered dazedly as she recovered.
Murrue lowered her gun at the sight of the three very lost teens. She could see their exit had exploded, cutting them off from escape.
Why they were here escaped her thoughts, but, nonetheless, they were in battle zone. Maybe the reason was because they got separated from the main group. Unable to get back, they headed towards the nearest lifeboats, which happened to be here-
Murrue was cut from her thoughts as the boy yelled: "Look behind you!"
She did as told and immediately pegged the last ZAFT green-coat before he could pull the trigger.
"Thanks!" she yelled back, then turning her attention to the last remaining ZAFT soldiers: the redcoats.
The four green-coats that accompanied the redcoats weren't nearly as skilled as their superiors. Despite their deaths, the green-coats still laid waste to the coworkers defending the machines. The only remaining workers were pinned under the Aegis by the red duo.
She turned back towards the teens watching from above. "Run!" she ordered, gathering their attention. "The factory is about to explode! If you want to live, you'll have to get inside the cockpits; you'll be safe insider there!"
"Come on, Mayu!" Shinn ordered. "It's our only ticket out of here!"
"But-" she was cut off.
"There's no other way!" Shinn roared.
He took off, followed shortly by his sister.
Kira, though, hesitated, unsure of what to do. Rather, he was hoping an escape route would miraculously reveal itself.
"How many do we have left?" Athrun asked, holding his gun to his chest as he hid behind the foot of the Aegis.
Rusty looked underneath the large transport. "I spy fifteen. Betcha' I could get them all in one attack."
Rusty pulled out his last two grenades and held them between his fingers. In one swift motion, he pulled the rings and rolled them under the transport, right on target. The employees looked down in horror, and before any could react the grenades exploded, killing everyone in range. The redhead gave one last look before he sighed in relief.
Both then rolled out of the way as gunfire peppered the ground near them. The two hid behind whatever cover was nearby, Athrun behind a barrel and Rusty behind an upturned desk.
"I thought we killed them all!" Athrun yelled.
Rusty barely looked up from his hiding spot, only to duck as gun fire peppered his defense.
"It's only one person," Rusty told Athrun. "The problem is her positioning. She's right on top one of the mobile suits."
Athrun began circling through plans in his mind. Because the enemy was at a high point she had the advantage; while they were pinned, she could move about freely. He then looked at his ammo, noting how little he had. That was a problem.
"Hey, Rusty! How much ammo do you have?"
The cursing was all Athrun needed to hear. "I'm out! How 'bout you?"
"I've got several shots left."
"Well, you got a plan coming along, or what?" Athrun didn't need to know how much Rusty was now relying on him. Out of the entire group, Rusty was a real on-the-wire thinker, but he could plan about as well as he could play the piano –it was an ugly experience that day; Nicol looked at his friend like he committed blasphemy.
"Alright, I've got an idea," Athrun began to explain. "I'm willing to gamble and say she's almost out of ammo. I'll have her waste the last of it, and then you'll sneak around while I attack from the front. Sneak up from behind…"
"…And stab her in the back," finished Rusty, though frowning. "Not my style, but it'll do."
Athrun rolled out of his cover and began unleashing what bullets he had left.
Shinn, with Mayu nipping at his heels, clambered to the nearest machine. His desperation to leave this proverbial hell was so great he almost swan-dived into the cockpit when it came into sight. His sister, on the other hand, demurely climbed downward, landing next to him. The older Asuka was quick to get comfortable in the cockpit while his sister hung from behind the seat.
"Okay, where's the button to close it?" Shinn asked, the stress of the situation easily coloring his voice.
Just as he identified the large button with 'cockpit' displayed over it, Mayu almost smashed the button in an attempt to close it. Within seconds, the cockpit closed with a hiss.
Taking a deep breath, Shinn concentrated on their situation. Now out of immediate danger, the next step was to get the hell out of the factory. Unfoturtunately, they were stuck in this cockpit-
Shinn was impulsive, almost nigh infamous back at home. It got him into a lot of trouble. His parents kept telling to 'use his head' until they were blue in the face, but of course he never listened. Other days, it worked for him.
Today might be one of those days.
Though, whether this decision was going to be a smart one was going to be a hot debate. For later, of course.
"Hey, Mayu," Shinn asked, doing his best to keep the excitement out of his voice, "what do you think about going for a test drive?"
Now to consult the owner's manual!
Stella's fingers raced across the keyboard at a lightning pace, using every programming trick in the book to get the OS to a suitable level of use. The straps were already buckled in, the screens were active, and the suit was humming to life.
While everyone fought outside, Stella used the distraction to sneak into the machine farthest from the fight. Given some peace, she immediately went to work.
Being an Extended was similar to being a Coordinator, and thus the OS was subpar to what she needed. Compared to some Coordinators and their abilities, it was slow-going to create a customized one for her specific taste, but not overly so. Given a couple more minutes, she'd be ready for combat.
She just hoped the GAT-X304 Estoc lived up to the hype her superiors gave it.
Murrue quickly pressed herself against the G-Weapon, dodging the bullets from the ZAFT soldier. She quickly jumped up and fired a stream of hot lead at the soldier, but the enemy just ran ahead of her attacks and slid behind a desk. After a second, he leapt up into the air and landed atop the G-Weapon. Murrue backed away as she pulled the trigger, only to find, to her horror, she was out of bullets.
Tossing the gun aside, she pulled out her pistol and took aim at the charging ZAFT redcoat as he pulled out his combat knife. The weapon in her hands blazed, but the soldier nimbly dodged her attacks with timing that could only be expected of a Coordinator.
Unbeknownst to Murrue as she attacked Athrun, Rusty was quietly sneaking up behind her, pulling his knife from his shoulder.
Kira didn't know why he reacted so strongly to what he was seeing. Looking back on it, he thought it was a stupid decision.
But it was still one of a number of decisions that shaped the future.
He leapt from the rail, all the while shouting for the lady to look out. It was enough to startle everyone.
Rusty was the first to react. "What the hell?" The lady turned and fired at him. "Damn it! Not again!" He leapt away before another bullet tried to make claim on his soul.
Kira and the other soldier, though, were both looking at each other with unbridled shock.
There, behind the visor was Athrun Zala, Kira's best friend.
"A-Athrun?" Kira shakily asked.
The redcoat leapt away as he spied the worker spinning to deal hot lead through his head. It was then the factory began to destabilize, knocking everyone off balance. Explosions rocked the building while fires erupted.
Before Kira could recover his thoughts from his chance encounter, the lady pushed him into the cockpit and dived in after.
"Notgoodnotgoodnotgood!" Rusty said himself into a mantra as he rushed towards the nearest machine.
It didn't take a class-A Coordinator to realize that the factory was about to blow sky high. With that knowledge, Rusty booked it.
Just before diving into the cockpit, he spared a glance to make sure Athrun would be okay. To Rusty's relief, his squad leader high-tailed it the other way and found his own machine.
Taking a deep breath, Rusty cannon-balled into his cockpit.
Kira couldn't hold in the wonder as he watched the mobile suit come to life.
Murrue reached out to various buttons, each bringing the mighty weapon closer to life.
Looking at the start up screen, he murmured out one word: "Gun…dam?"
Finally, the cameras came to life. On the screens, Kira watched as four other machines broke their cradles, each slowly rising like fashioned titans awakening to the call of battle. The fire shadowed the machines, giving them an almost majestic look as they fully stood.
"Here we go!" Murrue roared as the Strike finally stood.
Author's Note: Yes, I'm at it again! I have finally extended my insanity to the Gundam SEED archive! I'd insert an evil laugh, but it's not my style. Truthfully, I'm posting this to test the waters of the SEED section of the sight. If all works out, I'll continue writing here; if not, well, I'll turn my attention elsewhere.
Premise of this story is 'Ten Gundams, No OCs.' I'll tell you right now, it's not an easy premise to run off of. I originally intended to keep Destiny characters out of this part of the story, but it was too mind bending; I was pushed to my creative limits just to get this idea sketched out, and that's after getting a couple of second opinions. So, I at least brought in a couple of Destiny characters to fill in some slots. Besides, what stories have Shinn and Stella in the SEED storyline early and are well written?
Yes, I know, I'm working on several other stories. However, I can only move as fast as my beta reader will. As this story has no beta-reader (I'm debating whether I'll need one or not), the updates will be fairly quick. I already have chapters two through seven completed and a halfway completed chapter eight. However, I still have to go through and reread the chapters for cohesion, grammar, and to keep my vision in picture.
With this story, inspiration for the MSs will come from a variety of sources. Including –but not limited to- the Universal Century, After Colony, and Anno Domini timelines; other sources will primarily include Code Geass (I'm surprised as hell nobody has borrowed ideas from this particular one yet, as far as I know!), Zoids, Armored Core, Lost Planet, and some real world tech. Because Gundam 00 was so awesome, I'll give a tip of hat to my favorite one (and no, it's not Exia, though its badassery was so great that Chuck Norris couldn't pilot it).
I'm going to answer some questions I'm sure are going to pop up.
Pairings: These will most likely be traditional. However, with Shinn I'm arguing between Lunamaria and Stella; I'm depending on the story's evolution to answer this burning question.
Mayu Asuka: Yes, I've kept Mayu alive for the moment. As for her computer programming skills, Kira is sixteen at the start of the story and is in college and is a master of the computer. Also, I've known a modern day fifteen-year-old hacker. Saying a thirteen-year-old Coordinator is capable of CP is not far-fetched. Her skills are still far below what Kira can do; he managed to create a fully operational, complete OS with perfected calibrations and energy dispersal in under two minutes while Mayu only managed to fix the controls so her brother could win. My plans for Mayu also extend long term.
Shinn Asuka: He may seem OOC, however, his personality is actually more along the lines of what it was before his family's death. He's still hot-tempered, impulsive, and overly-protective of everyone he cares about, but he doesn't have this dark outlook on life his older Destiny counterpart has. His hatred of war will develop over time as his character evolves. And with Mayu being alive (and compensating for his lack of computer literacy -hey, I hated those classes too), it's definitely going to present some changes.
Stella Loussier: Like Shinn, Stella has some changes. She maintains her whimsical and easily distracted nature; however, because she never underwent the Extended Human mental conditioning and memory erasure, her psychotic side isn't present. Instead, her psychosis is replaced with a much more robotic and quiet demeneor. Her thanatophobia is also still maintained. I have some serious plans for her.
Shiho Hahnenfuss: She was a natural choice for the ZAFT crew. As a pilot experienced in the use of the experimental suits, I figured she'd fit right in. She's also a popular character, so I knew people would like to see her.
Rusty Mackenzie: Well, this one was kind of interesting. I originally chose Rusty under the premise that nobody has tried to experiment with this character (until recently when I found a story with him in it, amazingly). Looking at his profile, he was described as the glue that held the ZAFT crew together before his death, so I gave him a class-clown-type personality with this thought in mind. I'm kind of glad I did as it gives this otherwise stale story some comedy backup.
Lacus Piloting an MS: Just watch… No guarantees, but watch...
Deaths: Can't tell you.
Other Destiny characters: Hein Westenfluss will appear and become an integral part of the story –I've always like Hein and thought he shouldn't have died, personally. As for Sting and Auel, I'm very iffy on their appearances; it's possible they could appear later in the story, though this isn't set in stone. With recent information given to me, Lunamaria or Rey are likely to appear; Meyrin might not since she's much younger than Luna. I'll also see if I can squeeze in Durandel and Talia, but no promises there.
And as personal tradition dictates: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.