Soldier of OZ: Walker's Account

Chapter 1 Prologue

When they spun alive and firing, the two rotary cannons inside the chest cavity of the red-and-white attacking Gundam were unbearable—whether it was the sound they produced or the actual, obvious danger they presented to the closing squadron wasn't clear to the engaging pilot, but it was like some masochist had thrown Walker into washing machine with a half-dozen cement blocks and set it to permanent press. When the enemy pilot finally ran out of ammunition for both them and its arm-carried gatling gun, and the cannons' report died down, he felt like he could think properly again.

He wanted to let off a list of curses, but all he could force out "Damn it, maybe one-twenty-five caliber? One-thirty?" It mostly came out as unintelligible mumble—he was so tense, it felt like his jaw had frozen. That was the engineer in him, coming out at an inconvenient moment.

"He's…he's out of ordnance! We did it!" One of Walker's wingmen, Arrow 1-4, cried out.

Either his jaw finally unfroze, or he overcame his self-imposed mental block, and he responded over his headset. "Stay on guard! Don't assume anything!"

Did it work? Walker checked his port and starboard display monitors. With the Gundam having expended all its ammunition, and only joined by another Gundam that carried no range weapons as far as he knew, the Aries troops formed a perimeter within a dangerous hundred-meter radius—a deliberate choice, it seemed like the best distance that their chain rifles would puncture that damnable Gundanium alloy rather than bouncing off uselessly. At this distance, we're going to worry about shooting through him at eachoth-…

"I'll show you what the Speciali are made of!" Arrow 1-4 screamed, breaking formation and diving at the red-and-white Gundam.

"Fool! You think we can afford a mistake now?" he yelled back at him. It took less than a second for him to realize this mistake actually hadn't amounted to much—the whole unit had made a fatal mistake anyway—as points lit up one of his multi-function displays.

"Contact!" Arrow 1-3's pilot screeched, panicking.

As soon as it had worked, the operation promptly fell apart. Enemies raked their position with cannon fire from the ground, unconcerned with friendly fire hitting the Gundams on the ground. "All callsigns, regroup and…"

His voice was drowned out by the sound of Arrow 1-4 exploding at his 7 o'clock. A high-caliber cannon shell, probably APFSDS, punched through his machine's cranial compartment, passing cleanly through. Another shot punctured through the thinner armor on the machine's back, triggering an ammo explosion, showering the Gundam he'd stupidly charged with harmless shrapnel.

"Regroup!" he screamed again. "Arrow Actual to Raptor Actual, we're taking suppressing fire from heading three-five-two, I repeat, taking fire and need assistance."

The high-power zoom lens in his main camera brought the enemy within vision. Years of studying every design he could get his hands on paid off, and he recognized them immediately: they were Winner Corporation models, in brown and tan colors. The Maganac Corps.

Loud radio static responded, telling him his antenna had been hit already and that calling for help was useless. At their most vulnerable from below, his flight was getting shot down one by one. Their promised ground cover, Raptor Flight, was probably wiped out by the Maganacs already.

Damn it all, if we're all dying here, Bonaparte better give our sacrifices some bloody meaning! He gave one last glance at General Bonaparte's escaping command ship, an armored zeppelin of all things, as it managed to vanish in the heavy clouds of smoke rising over Corsica Base. A few minutes earlier he'd promised Bonaparte he fully intended to give anything, including his own life, if it meant securing the ranking officer's safe escape, and he meant it!

If a 'Specials' soldier can't do his duty to a general officer of the United Earth Sphere Alliance Army, he's not worthy of that name, right? With a flick of the switch, he reversed the thrust of his twin turbofans, then leaned on the throttle until he hit emergency war power and rapidly put some distance between him and the second black-and-white Gundam. He then switched to an open frequency. Bonaparte, if you don't take this opportunity, you'll join me in hell.

Bowing to his emotions, mostly rage and fear, he gave one last defiant scream over the short-range backup antenna. "Come and get me, you monster!"

The new plan was simple and desperate: if he made the Gundam come to him, it wouldn't be going after the zeppelin. With his enemy lacking any range weapons, he'd have to put up a chase, letting Walker exploit the Aries' legendary maneuverability in the air. Then, he'd hoped to live up to the Aries' name, ramming the pursuing Gundam. One last plan: I think I have just enough fuel and ordnance left to crack through the armored shell around the cockpit compartment, and through just one tiny hole, flood it with super-heated gas, exploding shrapnel, burning jet fuel and even my own cindered guts if it means killing that damn pilot!

Or not. With unbelievable speed—perhaps the defining trademark of those damnable Gundams—the enemy pilot caught him between his two massive heat shotels, the curved blades actually cutting through the titanium alloy that made the Aries.

Every alarm in his cockpit went off simultaneously, as the glass of his displays cracked, shattered and showered him with glass. Even with the goggles, he blinked instinctively as his machine was crushed from outside.

How close I was to taking him with me? He found himself barely holding back a terrified chuckle as the most crucial alarms rang. "I…I wanted to see what this machine was capable of…" he admitted to himself as a wayward electrical current went through the systems behind his seat and into his arms and legs. It was the worst electrical shock he'd ever experienced, worse than anything a career as an engineer at Corsica Base had thrown at him, and it was just a symptom of what was probably cooking his insides.

Walker had prepared for this. He was waiting for his life to flash before his eyes, for the familiar scenes to dance by before he descended into nonexistence, scenes from his childhood in North America, his adolescence at Lake Victoria. When that didn't appear, he waited for the specific faces of those close to him—his mother, his younger sister Aretha, the many faces of those who'd most left the great impression on him. His master during his apprenticeship at the Corsica Mobile Suit Works, his instructor at Lake Victoria, his old commander, the Lightning Baron.

But none of them came. And then everything there was went white, then black, and he faded into nothingness. Flight Officer Walker could have sworn, as ridiculous as it was, that the last outside stimuli he registered was a unfamiliar voice earnestly telling him, "I'm sorry."

I'm sorry too.