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MS GUNDAM: THE LOST CENTURY Interquel: Episode 11 - Star-crossed
Written by: John Nigel
Suggested soundtrack for reading: “LIGHTYEARS” by Eraserheads

MS GUNDAM: THE LOST CENTURY Interquel

Episode 11 – Star-crossed


Space

In the vast darkness, constant blinking lights from a small Federation shuttle could be seen, an indication that something was up. Not far from it was the Magna Carta, which was slowly following behind.

“Minovsky concentration is above average, Captain. Currently releasing communication relay modules and raising the transmission power to offset interference. Establishing connection via infrared now.”

Ah, she’s a beauty, admired Captain Litzner Edge on board the shuttle. Before him was the Earth Federation’s orbital bombardment weapon, Heaven’s Fist. He said through the commlink, “This is Kiritengu contacting Apeldoorne Control via secure line 8-1-6. Confirmation code protocol Lima, Echo, India, Foxtrot, 2, 0, 1, 1. Requesting clearance.”

The reply was prompt. “This is Apeldoorne Control. Identification confirmed. Welcome to Heaven’s Fist facility, Captain Litzner Edge. Your shuttle may proceed to docking bay no. 8.”

A small shuttle directed towards a pathway clearing ahead of it, along a space minefield. The space mines on its path lit their green lights, indicating disarmed mode and granting the shuttle carrying Edge a safe passage. Fifty kilometers away, Magna Carta was positioned together with the Earth Federation’s space forces, currently on standby. Days ago, a significant number of Federation forces on earth had been deployed into space using the recently captured mass driver in Surabaya. The Federation was preparing for a massive strike against Royal Zeon’s capital colony, Asgard, which is situated in Lagrange 3, using the orbital weapon to shoot a powerful single but continuous blast, making a swift strike against the empire and potentially crippling it.

As the shuttle neared the facility, it was dwarfed by the sheer size of Heaven’s Fist. A type-4 colony-sized and cylindrical shaped, it was 19.79 miles in length and 6.25 miles in diameter. It followed a variable orbit around earth to avoid detection, but was capable of leaving its existing orbital path to relocate when a mission order stipulates. The basics behind the concept of the weapon were that an empty shell of an orbiting space colony was secretly converted by private deep space companies which were Federation sympathizers and made it into a large laser for the purpose of either defense or attack.

As Edge disembarked the shuttle, he was met by three officials assigned in the facility. They gave a Federation salute to him.

“Senior Officer 1 Desmond Mendoza, head of engineering department.”

“Senior Officer 2 Svetlana Kurdovkova, in charge of Heaven’s Fist’s absolute defense perimeter.”

“Chief Senior Officer Nazzir Moin, overall in charge of this facility. We are glad to have you on board, Captain Edge.”

Edge returned the gesture and said, “At last, this has been a lifelong dream-come-true. So how’s the overall preparation going?”

The group started to skim through zero gravity toward the facility’s control hub. Since the colony weapon was making a shift of orientation, artificial gravity was disabled for the meantime. Kurdovkova handed over to the captain a slim computer tablet that contained the progress of the federation’s planned offensive against the empire.

“Captain, what you are viewing now is the inclusive layout of the Heaven’s Fist, with its defense system composed of shield projectors, ion cannons, and laser cannon battery turrets, ready to go ‘weapons hot’ condition in a short notice. Within the fifty-mile radius of our vicinity are the electromagnetic pulse bombs which our system can detonate manually or automatically in the event when the enemy units manage to get close.”

As the entered the control hub, she went on. “But I doubt that they would because within the seventy mile mark is our first line of defense of space minefield, followed by our second line of defense composed of four hundred Jugho Space Type mobile suits and forty Luftwaffe-class battle cruisers.”

Moin butted in, “In addition to that, our elite mobile suit attack squadrons granted with AMURO Status are also separately deployed to add pressure to the enemy. As you have initially requested, the Active Denial System is all prepped up as preemptive measure.”

Edge reviewed the layout and grinned, “Good, good; as efficient as ever. Give out the initial notification, level 1.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Mendoza, start the change of vector to ODB-18. Kurdovkova, procure target coordinates and designate as top priority. Target, Royal Zeon colony cluster in Lagrange 3.”

“Yes, sir!”

Turning to Moin, Edge said, “I will be taking the helm for the overall operation, with Magna Carta as our flagship. Relay all pertinent information to all assets. Declare Alert Level 1 Status.”

“Sir!”

* * * * *

Hours before dawn would break, Earth Federation mobile suit squads composed of thirty Jugho units and five GM IVs took off from their Europe base in Norway and covertly zipped along the border of Iberia and kept a low-level altitude to avoid detection from Royal Zeon’s constantly scanning radars. The GM IV was a new line of mass-produced mobile suits for the federation. Nicknamed as “Mustang”, the mobile suit was developed from a GM III, with a significant change of weapons and armaments. Armed with single hand-held particle gigacannon, it was designated for long-ranged preventative attack, to inflict tremendous damage to the enemy before they can organize and retaliate. Inclusion of this was a single pod containing medium-range missiles. The design of the new GM unit was to sacrifice mobility and close quarter battle in exchange for particle-based weapon akin to battle cruisers in terms of firepower, but with better mobility. The gigacannon was mounted on the right side of the unit’s rack when not in use, and could be extended forward, deployed on the shoulder for a more solid force. Its leg assembly was devised to provide stable leverage, clamping claws into the ground upon deployment.

The group suddenly divided into five squadrons composed of five Jughos and 1 Mustang. A gruff voice relayed a command over their secure commlink. “This is Shadow. Report upon reaching assigned rally points.” Few minutes later, everyone called in and was accounted for.

“W Team, in position!”

“S Team, ready and waiting!”

“H Team here, we’re good to go.”

“D Team, locked and loaded.”

“N Team, awaiting orders.”

“Yoshi!” the gruff voice responded. “Upon my command, salvo at 100% output. You are to continue the bombardment and fire at will.”

“But, sir, you’ll be directly within our line of fire.”

“That’s for me to take care of. No matter what, we cannot afford that these bastards send their reinforcements into space!”

“Understood, sir!”

Shadow, over and out!”

After a while, the man sent a long-ranged encrypted transmission. “Apeldoorne Control, this is Shadow relaying a message to Kiritengu over secure line EF1979. Nephilim team’s operation is currently underway.”

* * * * *

Back at the orbital weapon colony, Captain Edge was very pleased at how things turned out. Turning to Senior Officer Moin, he said, “Open a communication line to all our forces including the Nephilim team.”

As the line was established, Edge grabbed a communicator, and said, “Hear this, Earth Federation soldiers! Rule by conquest will again bring about the start of struggle for power and continue the recapitulation of a history of warfare. Nevertheless, we cannot allow these Zeon bastards to win! We will show our determination to win! In this fight, Heaven’s Fist must be defended at all costs! So I hereby give you these standing orders, invoking AMURO Status!

‘Out of commission, become a bomb. Out of ammo and energy, become a bunker. Out of time, become heroes!’

I pray in behalf of your mission’s success. Ikuso!”

* * * * *

It was yet to break dawn but many of the Royal Zeon soldiers stationed at Iberia Base were already up and about. They were preparing for deployment as Operation: Newton was already in progress. The Empire deemed it to be in their best interest to destroy the orbital bombardment weapon which had been used by the Federation as a deterrent for them, including threats to other neutral sovereign nations both on earth and in space. The plan was to overwhelm the Federation’s space forces defending the colony weapon by simultaneously attacking in two separate groups: one from Royal Zeon colonies, and the other from earth. Upon completion of the first phase of the plan, second phase would commence, that is, to take over Heaven’s Fist. At 0800 hours, numerous gigantic jets would simultaneously transport the earth forces into low earth orbit, where mobile suits would be deployed to join the empire’s main space fleet. Little did they know both the empire and the federation that the current situation would take a dramatic and disastrous turn of events.

At the south concourse of the base’s main building, Captain Magnus Alexandersson was composed and calm but inside him a raging turmoil was invading his thoughts. He muttered, “This operation will rehash the events of the War of Pride. I wonder how these young idealistic lives would fare through. Damn it!”

“Lost in thoughts again, eh, Crimson Striker?”

Magnus turned around and saw General Tigo Trueno. He immediately saluted and the high-ranking officer obliged. “No, sir. Just doing a lot of contemplating, actually.”

“About what?”

Magnus let out a shallow sigh. “The cause and effect of the war. Humanity is always after the expansion and evolution, to live better lives, to rise above its current state. By instinct, these have become man’s fundamental goal in any given society. But when more and more of humanity have the same desire, that’s when competition and conflict arise.”

Trueno shrugged and said, “You really are intellectual. I believe that you’d rise even higher into the Empire’s ranks. But you see, idealism will get you nowhere. For humanity to ensure its existence –!”

He was interrupted by a man in white suit with the distinguished Royal Zeon Supreme Council vestment. “For humanity to ensure its existence, for humanity to protect itself, some humans must be sacrificed. To ensure humanity’s future, some freedom must be taken away.”

Both of them saluted immediately. Lord Claude Ashram gestured the proper protocol. He continued, “There’s no such thing as absolute freedom, Crimson Striker. It would lead to anarchy. Order must and always be established to bridle humanity from being savage and uncivilized. As the oldtypes in the past put it – deculture.”

Magnus kept a straight face.

“General, I will be in the battle forefront. Can’t let Heimlich and Bartram have their way, can we? Have the Unicorn Specs loaded into the third transport ship along with the Keradjur and the rest of the Frontal Squad.”

At this point, Magnus interjected, “With all due respect, my lord, but my squad is already ordered as the advance team to…”

“If that’s the case, captain, then I issue a countermand under the Supreme Council authority and assign the squad under my direct command.”

“So, the real Operation: Newton will instigate, at the cost of million lives…”

“I warn you, Magnus! Insubordination has its own punishment. You will be dealt with in accordance to the rule of Empire laws if you keep this attitude up.”

Trueno pleadingly said, “Magnus, just drop it.”

“That was uncalled for, my lord, and I apologize for my impertinence. But to set things straight, I will not back down. I will see to it that Royal Zeon’s goals are achieved, not because I have to follow orders, but because I want to.”

Ashram, clearly incensed, brusquely replied, “Have your team report to runway 3’s hangar in 0730 hours.” With that, he left.

“You son of a gun. You’re out of your mind to do that,” the general said.

Later, Magnus met with his squad’s “Twin Scythes of Death”, the Amadakusa brothers, and instructed them concerning Ashram’s countermand. “We will be doing a special operation in this battle. Have the rest of the squad change the ZAKU configuration beforehand to comprehensive high acceleration response mode. That way, everyone can match Keradjur’s speed when needed.”

Shiro replied, “But our DOMs are not compatible with the CHAR mode, so we can’t possibly keep up with the three-fold speed increase.”

The captain said, “In that case, have the tech support equip your suits with sturm boosters.”

Shinn inquired, “Will Ensign Creuset finally be reassigned with us Captain?”

Magnus kept silent.

* * * * *

Puerto Rico

NEU base

Diko Sidhikoro was tinkering and checking with the recently repaired and upgraded golden mobile suit named Gundam Achilles. Being a suit based on an old technology, its frame had been given a radical upgrading in terms of the mechanical and hydraulic parts, further improving its movement speed and performance. Its technological additions were the AMBAC system and a HARO terminal that would temporarily take over movement controls via artificial intelligence during long-ranged shooting where the pilot’s concentration is high needed.

He stepped out of the cockpit and moved the platform higher until he was level with Achilles’ head unit. There, he connected a CPU terminal to the suit’s computer mainframe. Whispering, he said, “Like I promised, my friend, I will give you a proper honor. But you and I will not be alone anymore.”

“Now, talking to your mobile suit is weird.”

He saw Freed Melendrez climbing up on the second platform. He was bringing a box. Diko smiled and said, “But not as weird as you are. Is that the unit?” He eyed the object the youth was carrying.

“Yeah. I was just about to equip Hero Gundam with additional energy capacitors, as ordered by the old man. Now get out of the way and let me show my prowess with quantum computers,” Freed gamely said. Opening up the box he was carrying, he took out a golden HARO artificial intelligence unit. He pressed a button and a CPU terminal was reveal beneath it. Hooking it up to the computer mainframe, Freed said, “Now, Diko-senpai, it’s your choice; would you like it to be male, female, or neuter?”

Diko was silent for the moment. His thoughts were carried away back in time during his 77th Strike Team days.

* * * * * flashback* * * * *

Two golden mobile suits were up next for launch on the single catapult deck.

“Lieutenant, I have a bad feeling about this mission. You might as well as not participate.”

“Are you kidding me? We are a team, we stick together, and we leave no one behind. We made a pact to watch each other’s backs. If I were not to sortie, who’s gonna watch yours?”

The man remained tacit. His instincts scream inside him not to let her launch.

“Diko, no one’s going to die,” the pilot said, softly this time.

Erika… Erika… His thoughts were disturbed when a mobile suit launch was announced.

“Zimbraw, 1st Lt. Erika Cadillac. Launching!”

* * * * * flashback ends* * * * *

“Senpai! Diko - Senpai!”

“Wait, what?”

“Don’t space out on me, will you?”

“Maaf. Make it female; name, Erika.”

Freed continued to work on the software. “You need to input a voice sample, for the AI to recognize. If you want, you can activate the HARO through voice command and let it control Achilles.” The computer bleeps. “You may speak now, senpai.”

“Hello. I am Diko Sidhikoro, your partner in this Gundam-type mobile suit named Achilles. From this time forth you shall be referred to as Erika.”

Freed mumbled and grumbled, “All you have to do is just say one word. One word. Now we don’t know if the AI system would recog –!”

The HARO suddenly responded, “Identity input saved. Acknowledging Diko Sidhikoro’s voice command, saved. Routine compatibility scan started… analyzing… no issues found, saved. Checking overall Gundam Achilles systems, complete. Erika, all set!”

Diko was overwhelmed with emotions. Heroes never die, they just fade away… Erika…

Freed was about to say another word but when he saw Diko’s eyes brimming with tears, he chose not to. Yet he smiled and turned to the younger man, “Thanks, Freed. This means a lot… a lot.”

Freed laughed and replied, “I look forward to fight alongside with you.” To which Diko gave a thumbs-up sign. “Well, I have to add a whole energy capacitor cluster to Hero’s equipment.” He jumped back to the other platform and moved it toward the other Gundam. Later they were joined by Drake Howling and Amber La Flaga.

“Let’s get moving, you two. Dharma will be fitted with atmospheric exit boosters in an hour. Have your suits tightly secured in the racks before that happens, okay? There will be a mission briefing before we embark.”

A blue and white mobile suit had just been loaded into the second MS platform inside their ship. Amber asked Drake, “Mr. Howling, that Rauwolf is rather an old suit. Will that be able to handle the battle stress? I am just worried for your safety.

“I’m quite confident that it will at least hold up decently. It might be old and outdated but that’s a unit from which five Gundams where heavily based on. Most of its original parts have been replaced, of course, especially its weapons which are high-end ones, thanks to NEU’s Tiberian Weapons department.”

* * * * *

Sidhikoro was later assisted by Amber in securing his suit. She was fascinated by the new feature in the golden Gundam – a gold HARO unit. Then out of the blue, she gave out a sigh.

“What’s wrong?”

She gave out a weak grin. “How I wish I could do something, like, join you in battle. But there no spare mobile suit around. If only Moebius wasn’t…” Her voice trailed off.

Diko peered through the cockpit hatch and frowned.

“It’s just that… that I want to help! Every one of you are preparing for a battle that would determine earth’s fate.”

He stopped what he was doing and said, “Miss Amber, maybe it’s for your good. Maybe it’s better that you stay here on earth and keep safe. Besides, you are yet to meet Knight again.”

She shook her head. “I have given up hope in meeting him again. Lue and Dre, I don’t know where they are right now… It’s just that…” Tears welled up on her eyes.

He put a comforting hand on her left shoulder. “Listen, Miss. I don’t think that a ‘god of war’ like him would die that easily. Likewise, I know firsthand that he will come for you, even from the grave. From what I know, there’s no other woman besides you whom he’d want to be with. Not to mention that women like you pretend that they don’t know, even if they are fully aware of it.”

This somehow cheered her up. Amber managed to flash a smile though teary-eyed and said, “Arigato…”

“So stay strong. He is yet to prove what he promised, so don’t give up hope. Not yet.”

* * * * *

Opposite to the bay where the ORACLE crew was making preparations, Keith Newman was watching from an observation window. Overlooking his view were NEU’s ships, Nightfall, Exarch, and Utopia docked into their respective platforms, though cramped in the base’s small facility. Due to the need, NEU had to clear most of their space in order to accommodate the four ships refitted for atmospheric exit.

As he watched ORACLE’s mobile suits loaded into Dharma, he thought, What are your thoughts, you old man? And why are you asking questions about Zyann? I will soon find out, but for now…

Nouveau Gardien, Newman’s most trusted personnel and a close friend of his came into the room and said, “Keith, the Tiberian guys successfully solved the compatibility issues with Gundam Alex’s OS. The Giga Zange’s heat pincers are now equipped on the Gundam’s left manipulator. The only quirk is that Alex’s beam rifle will need a longer time for recharge, since a significant percentage of power outflows are directed to the pincer.”

Keith pondered for a moment and replied, “Hmmm… Better tell the boys to prepare the Type-29 energy capacitor cluster assembly and equip the Alex with it on hardpoint B-52 of the right shoulder armor. That way, charging issues will be compensated.”

Gardien used a communicator terminal and contacted the weapons department. After doing so, Newman spoke up without turning to him.

“Nouveau, what do you think of those people?”

The other man joined him at the observation window. “Honestly, I was wondering why you welcomed them in the first place.”

Keith smiled and said, “Something’s gotta give sometimes, my friend. Besides, thought they are but a small organization, they are a formidable one; still, nothing compared to us. For now, we need their support.”

“But they are yet to prove their worth,” Nouveau coldly said, and walked out of the room.

Keith said to himself, “I must make some necessary preparations.” He went to his workstation and reached for a communicator and placed it on his left ear. He contacted an unregistered receiver to which he said upon contact, “Yes… This is Neman. There will be slight changes in the plan… The red Gundam will sortie this time… No, no, just have her online. I will be the one to tell her.”

After a while, he resumed the communication. “Hi. It’s good to hear from you, child… Yeah, I know, but what can we do? The empire’s still looking for you… Right, but anyway, you and your unit will assist us in this operation this time… The EMP will be our trump card… But I have to warn you, there’s someone who’s been asking about you… Not necessarily, but when worse comes to worst, you must fight him. I don’t know clearly what his intentions are but I’ll soon find out, and I am determined to. Keep safe for now, Zyann.”

* * * * *

Persian Desert

The wind brought up a swirling storm of dust and sand. Not a trace of life could be detected for miles, except in a ravine that crossed the wasteland. Cleverly concealed among the recesses was a large hangar opening. Inside was the abandoned Royal Zeon Persia Base, which was destroyed years before. A man walked along the catwalk of the hangar bay, his path leading down to where two other people were working on a support fighter designed to attach and combine to an attack unit, either a mobile suit or a mobile armor. As the man reached the others, he heard them talking.

“Why can’t we complete our work on the Fuhrer first? Besides, the dead Zeon has been removed from the cockpit.”

“We’re out of time, lad. This support fighter must be completed at all cost, or we’ll be too late.”

The man softly said, “Thanks for your dedication guys. I’m sorry that I have to place you under a burdensome obligation, but we will have our revenge, I assure you that.”

Later, the three men were joined by a much older man who said, “Guys, bad news. Some activity has been detected in Iberia. That means Operation Newton is already underway, but the snag is that Federation forces somehow knew of their intention. Some mobile suits have already been deployed for an offensive so that Zeon can’t launch. Still, I can’t find any information concerning the orbital weapon’s movements, but I found out that the Southern Giants are advancing from Sierra Madre base going south to the Caribbean.”

Caribbean?!?

The first man exclaimed, “What?!? Could it possibly be that they have found THEM out?!”

“I fear that it seems so.”

“Then there’s no need to delay. We must make haste before it’s too late. Hoist this thing up. I’ll bring the mobile armor here.”

The youngest one of them butted in, “Why can’t we just contact Eagle Eye directly?”

The first man replied, “At this point, we can’t take any chances. Dorough might be monitoring all incoming communication via Achilles’ secure connection.”

“I hate it when you mention that name…” said the old man, Raijin Oleg.

“And to think that Nadia would even…” Tinker’s voice trailed off.

“What? Betray us? That would be an understatement!” Lexxis, also known as Grease Monkey, angrily said. “They literally handed us over to Federation hands and now he’s made an arrangement with the Empire…”

“I suppose he’s going to develop Dyaus Vajra for Zeon’s use,” Oleg added.

BANG!

Lexxis could not help himself but smashed the huge socket wrench that he was holding against the machine.

“Let’s focus on what is at hand, guys. Then we can have our revenge. For now, we need to help taking that weapon down.”

As the group attended to their responsibilities and tasks, the man went to the inner portion of the hangar where a dusty tarpaulin was covering a mobile weapon underneath. He pulled several ropes and revealed the blue and white Valkyrie Gust.

I must see Amber… There’s no time to lose!

* * * * *

Adrian Zowih Frost lifted his pack, hoisted it over his shoulders and joined Richard Testarossa in the lobby.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” replied his friend. “Have you received the ‘heads-up’ this morning? Squad 6 will be one of the advance teams.”

“Yeah, I read it over earlier. But nevertheless, I will fight them. I will wipe out every Federation soldier, come dark cloud or high squall, if that’s what it takes to achieve peace in this war-torn era.”

Testarossa shook his head and thought, Here we go again.

“I don’t know, man, but I have to disagree on that, if that enthusiasm of yours results to recklessness, you’d easily get killed. And that would be the end of everything for you. You’d bring unnecessary pain to those important to you. I think you must value your very own life.”

With a stern voice Frost replied, “I have nothing that is of any importance to me, dude. If you cling to those things you become weak. Your enemy can now exploit you. Only weak people die in the battlefield. I want to be strong! I want strength so that I won’t be hurt no matter what happens.”

“With that train of thought, Frost, you’re losing your humanity bit by bit. You must fight off your rage, your irrational desires that you know will lead to your own death! To go against primal instinct, to hold back desires; only humans can do that.”

This time, Frost became emotionless. “At this point, I don’t care, Testarossa. I’ve lost my humanity years ago… Right the time when a certain Soren Frost was smashed to death right before my eyes. For years I have suppressed my anger, my rage, as to who was responsible for my father’s demise, waiting for the moment to unleash it in an outburst. Sometime ago, I found out who it was, and the irony of it all, I discovered that the one who authorized his death and the one responsible for giving me my power is the same person.”

He gave out a sarcastic chuckle and continued, “Can life be more unfair to me than it is now? So you see, nothing is of any value anymore. Nothing, except peace.”

It was at this time when Ensign Aya Creuset joined the two. She overheard what Frost said. Butting in she started, “I understand how you feel, but if you live in hatred for your own battle, then I won’t let you pilot your Cyclone.”

Frost snapped, “Cut your yappin’, Creuset! You even would go to heights just to protect your ‘beloved’ Crimson Striker. You certainly wouldn’t hesitate to put your life on the line for him!”

She turned red-faced as Aya saw Richard’s reaction to Frost’s statement. Testarossa chided, “That’s enough, Frost! You and I know that she’s doing her duty as a soldier!”

“No, Richard, he’s right,” she replied, placing a restraining arm on his. “But let me get this, straight, Frost.” She poked his chest with an index finger.

“There’s a huge difference between me and you. I am willing to put my life on the line protecting other people’s lives, while you die for no reason at all. You can’t get any more pathetic than that!”

This seemed to knock some sense into Frost, though he managed to say, “Whatever.” Picking up his equipment, he said, “See you in space.” Then he walked away.

There was a momentary silence as Testarossa and Creuset did not know where to pick up a conversation. Richard noticed that Aya wore a Zeon uniform with the Frontal Squadron insignia sewn on the left forearm. On the right was her epithet “Crimson Shadow”.

Aya followed Richard’s eye and she said tenderly, “Richard, I’m sorry… I would have told you sooner.”

Calmly but with obvious disappointment, Richard managed to say, “Is this your answer? If so, then I can’t do anything about it… But I fully understand you.”

“No, no,” she tearfully said, unable to hide her sympathy. “Until I get a clear answer from him, I can’t give you mine… I’m so selfish, am I not?”

He smiled and answered, “I understand fully well, but till then…”

It did not take long when Captain Alexandersson met up with the two. Creuset and Testarossa saluted.

“Ensign Creuset, ready to join the squad’s ranks again, Captain.”

Deeply hurt, Testarossa barely put up a faced. Excusing himself, he said, “Permission to leave, sir.”

Magnus, sensing the other man’s feelings, said, “No need for that, Testarossa. There’s a sudden change in the marching orders that my squad received. Frontal Squadron will be under the direct order of Lord Ashram for a very important assault during the Operation. It will be very risky and dangerous. So as of this moment, Ensign Creuset, you are officially relieved from your role and inclusion to the Squadron as per my order.”

Aghast, Aya stammered, her mixed emotions flowing uncontrollably. “B-but… why am I…? H-have I done any wrong, captain? Tell me! So that I may give a defense for myself! T-there is obviously a mix-up!”

Magnus eyed Richard, who was listening and answered firmly, “No, I find no fault in your zeal of service and skill, but it is not in the best interest of the squad that you participate in its operation henceforth!”

She shook her head in disbelief. “I d-don’t… I don’t understand,” Aya sorrowfully argued. “Is this really, what you want, Magnus?! You’re such… I’m so… IDIOTA!!!” With that, she hastily left the two.

It was Magnus who broke the silence. “I don’t expect you to understand my words, my actions… But it was all to protect her. I want to spare her from the heavy burden that I and the rest of the boys are about to face, so I am entrusting her to your capable hands.”

Richard, disgusted by the captain’s actions, challenged, “Why me, of all the people? You know what it means for her to be with you!!”

“Because I know that you love her! That alone will suffice!”

Silence.

After a while, Magnus placed a hand on Richard’s shoulder. “I am not giving you an order as a high ranking official. I am talking to you as man to man.”

* * * * *

PSHOOM!! WEEEZZZ!!!

The black and grey ReZEL Shadow Blitz Custom made a sub-sonic pass among the rise and fall of the southernmost part of Iberia, where Royal Zeon’s base is situated. The five bombard squads of the Federation had already reached their rally points as initially planned. Ismail opened a commlink line and gave out a command.

“All teams, this is Shadow. Get in position.”

Simultaneously the GM IV Mustangs positioned itself on a solid foundation along five strategic locations, enabling them for a multi-vector attack. They began hoisting both gigacannons and the missile pods.

“All weapons hot, Commander!”

Ricardo Ismail ordered back, “All Mustangs, disengage safety locks. Create an omni-directional siege using point epsilon as the center. They will definitely be forced to stop their launch! Jugho units, adopt pattern Aegis 303. Prepare for support fire. Maintain barrage on all incoming enemy units! Do not let them reach the Mustangs!”

“ROGER!!!”

“Awaiting authorization, Captain Edge.”

* * * * *

Back at the Iberia base, Claude Ashram had been sitting in a dim-lit room, his eyes glowing. Etched on his face was a child-like but at the same time an evil smile. He muttered, “At last, deculture will start… and YOU amuse me a lot! Now, give the order to attack… just about… NOW!!!”

* * * * *

Captain Edge’s voice was heard over the commlink, “DO IT!!!”

Ismail immediately responded, “Yes sir!!” To his team, he ordered, “Nephilims, we are green light status! I repeat, green light! Weapons hot, deluge order, good to go!”

As soon as the order was given, five streaks of red energy zipped along the sky and hit their random targets at the Iberia base. The blast was not set to pulse shot but instead began to sweep its infernal beam onto the perimeter. Buildings burned and collapsed, the tarmac heaved and buckled, mobile suits exploding around; it was chaotic. A minute later, 30 missiles armed with ultra-high explosive warheads followed through the attack, targeting the transport ships full of liquid fuel. Detonations simultaneously took place all over the base, with people running all around, burning alive. Royal Zeon was caught unaware.

* * * * *

Captain Alexandersson was cursing under his breath. “Dammit! Failure of intelligence, of all things!!!” He ran along the pathway towards the entrance to an underground linear catapult, to the ship where his Keradjur was already hoisted. As he got nearer to the building leading to the facility, he saw a particle beam right before him. He felt intense and searing heat even if the beam was at least fifty meters away. Everything melted on its path as it wreaked havoc in the vicinity. Since the gigacannons were shot at a distance, a minute adjustment of the barrel would greatly affect the beam’s angular path, and one of them was randomly aimed towards the Crimson Striker.

AT THIS RATE, I’M GONNA –!!”

In an instant, a ZAKU Nightmare unit with an anti-beam coating shield landed between him and the nearing beam. It quickly hoisted the shield against the energy, deflecting it away from the captain. On the PA system, the pilot shouted, “Get out of here, Captain!! I can’t hold off the beam much longer!!”

Magnus needed not to be told twice. He hurdled without difficulty over a high concrete slab and ran to safety. Seconds later, the mobile suit exploded into a humongous ball of flame.

POOR SOLDIER! Your life will never be forgotten!

He was met by a group of Zeon soldiers who were gathering the casualties and the injured. “You must go now, Captain! This area’s gonna blow in any moment!!”

“I’m okay, so far! There are others who are injured over there!” Magnus pointed from where he came from.

“We must secure you first, Captain. Breton, Salman, Hartinger! Get the Crimson Striker into the facility below!!”

“Affirmative, Lieutenant Sakai!”

“Heads up, here comes the beam!!!” Cowering against a concrete debris, the group huddled together.

Sakai said, “We’ll make a run for the entrance! You three will assist him below. The rest, close the entrance gate as soon as they have entered! Got it?!”

The group ran into the building toward the elevator entrance. Suddenly a whistle of an inbound missile was heard.

“INCOMING!!!!”

Hartinger shoved the captain into the entrance just before the missile struck. There was a loud explosion that followed.

BAM!!

Magnus got up from being knocked over by the blast. He groped amidst the smoke and dust. By the time the area cleared, he saw the soldiers, their dead bodies mutilated.

My god!! This is no longer a war, this is a one-sided massacre!!!

Outside the building, two more mobile suits exploded as they took off. Many mobile suits had been already placed and secured inside the shuttle transports. All other available units had already sortied. All of a sudden, a different kind of beam shot attacked the other ZAKUs, this time much smaller albeit a powerful one, packing a destructive punch as it easily penetrated a ZAKU armor.

That was an attack from close range!! Could it be –?! Magnus thought.

Abruptly, a grey and black aircraft zipped past over Magnus and continued attacking. He was surprised to recognize that it was in a waverider mode.

A ReZEL?! That’s the Federation’s Militaire Corps mobile suit! But THAT corps had been destroyed along the Federation’s Caucasus Base!! What is the meaning of this?!

* * * * *

At the moment, Ashram had been watching from a building, obviously amused by the situation. After a while he said, “It’s time.”

Reaching for his communicator, he gave out an order, “Control Tower, this is Lord Claude Ashram. Prepare my transport shuttle to take off immediately. Advise the Frontal Squadron to prepare to embark ASAP! We will utilize the rocket assisted linear catapult. Give the clearance to transports 3 to 11!”

Good, good. All participants are doing well! Now, to the final showdown in space! Meanwhile, these worthless lives are expendable and will serve as bait! Ashram amusedly thought.

* * * * *

As the waverider flew by over the area, it dropped grenades and covered a wide area with a carpet of raging flames. Then out of nowhere, a mobile suit went after the ReZEL, engaging it. Magnus was alarmed with what he saw. “It’s the GINN!!! That idiot!! She can’t handle a pilot of that caliber!!!”

He went back to the elevator entrance. Aya!

* * * * *

“You’ve done enough, you Federation bastard!” shouted Creuset over the commlink. She opened fire using the heavy assault machine gun. Equipped on its left arm was a launcher pod with twelve missiles.

Dadadadadadadada!!!!

On board the ReZEL, Ismail was fully aware of the aggressive mobile suit that was after his tail. A pest retaliates?! This is good!

He increased the speed and pulled the control stick, bringing the ReZEL skyward. It made an inverted loop maneuver that sent it darting to earth, towards the hovering GINN. Ismail pressed a button integrated on the stick and screamed, “I’m gonna blast you to kingdom come!”

The ReZEL released several incendiary grenades above Creuset. Her scanner gave an advisory, “ALERT! Projectiles deployed overhead. COUNT: 7!”

¡No, ho loharas!” Creuset screamed in Spanish. The GINN took hold of its machine gun with both manipulators and took a shot against the projectiles.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

One by one, the grenades exploded in midair, causing a haze of smoke dispersing at the area. Ismail smiled and said, “Now, for the Blitz Attack!”

As the ReZEL made a high speed steep dive, he performed his signature move: sudden transformation from waverider mode to mobile suit. This maneuver worked in such a way that the enemy does not anticipate the change of battle tactics and was often caught off guard. Ramming four foot pedals at the same time while simultaneously pulling two control sticks at each of his side, Ismail attained complete transformation in spite of the breakneck speed in atmosphere. However, this placed a serious stress and pressure on the pilot. He momentarily held his breath and anticipated the physical strain.

“Hrgh! Ungh!” He eyed the monitor before him. Displayed was the following: transformation time, 0.52 seconds.

He muttered, “Hmp! I almost broke my current record this time!”

Meanwhile, Creuset was cautiously looking up, expecting the waverider to emerge from the black smoke in any moment. “Minovsky concentration is high, my scanners are going static! There!!”

To her left was an area where the smoke started to clear but she was surprised that before her was a grey and black mobile suit, wielding two beam sabers, its thrusters roaring to a hover. The ReZEL immediately dashed forward for a twin saber strike.

On the commlink, Creuset heard the other pilot screaming, “Blitz Swift Attack!” Upon impulse, Creuset reached for the GINN’s heavy sword from the left skirt armor. She was just in time to fend off the incoming attack.

“That's quite a strategy, busting right through the middle!” Aya shouted. Suddenly another beam saber shoved in, a forward thrust toward the GINN’s cockpit. She gasped in surprise. Grabbing two control levers before her, Creuset tilted them to the left, bringing the binders to redirect their thrusters to the opposite direction. This maneuver caused the ZEON unit into a mid-air somersault.

“I’m not done yet!” Ismail shrieked as the ReZEL sent its right leg violently kicking the GINN in mid-somersault.

CLANK! BANG!!

“ARGH!” Creuset screamed.

* * * * *

Space

Dark side of the moon

Meanwhile, a fleet of space ships moved into a distinct wedge formation. They were the Empire’s 1st and 2nd space regiment that came from Asgard Colony cluster, where the seat of Royal Zeon Empire’s power rested. They were moving into position to rendezvous with the empire’s Earth Forces for the joint strike against the Federation’s Heaven’ Fist. The space force was led by Commander Phobos Bartram aboard his flagship, Punishment, a battle cruiser.

Seated on the bridge with him was Lord Piotr Heimlich who would oversee the operation. The fleet was waiting for the anticipated contact from Lord Ashram together with the empire’s earth forces to make the final synchronization of battle plans for the Operation Newton.

Heimlich said, “I am putting my faith in you, Commander Bartram, and we expect no mistakes.”

With sheer arrogance reflected in his voice, the commander replied, “Perfection is my middle name, my lord. We will overwhelm the Federation with our own 6DP Strike forces. These enhanced soldiers will show their prowess in this battle, which will make all other battles meaningless.”

“We’ll see about that.”

Turning to the CIC officer, Bartram said, “Is there anything from the reinforcements?”

“Nothing as of the moment I’m afraid, Commander.”

Damn that Ashram! Bartram angrily thought. He looked at the monitor console that displayed the countdown for operation commencement. Five more minutes!

Time passed by without any contact from the earth forces. In frustration, Bartram slammed his fists on his seat’s armrest. “We will commence Operation Newton with or without our reinforcements! All mobile suit units, prepare to sortie. 6DP initiative, authorized. ZAKU Nightmares, launch! Maintain the current orbital path until we converge with the weaponized colony’s trajectory!”

Heimlich said, “I hope you know what you’re doing, Commander.”

Bartram wanted to lash out at the old man but he refrained. Instead, he contacted the ship’s mobile suit bay.

“Hangar, have my mobile suit on combat status standby.”

Few moments later, a call came from the other ship. “Commander, what are your orders?”

“You will join the fray with me if the situation calls for it. How’s everything in your end?”

“The suit is currently synchronizing with the new operating system. Earlier, Manifest seemed to be a heavy load to the unit’s computer. But it will be accomplished in no time. Manifest Destiny is good to go.”

“All right, maintain standby status.”

Something’s up, but I can’t lay a finger on it.

* * * * *

The plan for Royal Zeon’s dual ambush had already arrived from the Federation’s Israeli Reconnaissance and Surveillance sector relayed to Captain Edge. He reviewed their counterattack plan.

“Are we on schedule?”

“Yes, Captain,” Kurdovkova replied. “Our own forces are currently deploying a blockade line at the moon’s outer orbital path. The intel info confirms that Zeon’s space fleet will take formation at the dark side of the moon while coordinating their movement arc with the moon’s orbit in relation to earth. They will supposedly show up right before us at coordinates golf papa - 0, 1. Furthermore, our blockade line is composed of independently deployed rail cannons directed at their calculated path. The cannons will automatically scatter mass bullets directly against the enemy’s orbit. If it does not hit them, it will obstruct their advance and cause their formation to collapse.”

Edge smiled. “Status report, Mendoza.”

“Heaven’s Fist has started its rotation sequence at its axis with marginal error rate due to mass at 0.0611 units. They will never know what hit them.”

The captain turned to Moin, “we are so damn lucky to have intercepted such classified information and at a sensitive level as that!”

“It wasn’t intercepted, sir. Our intel guys said that the info was voluntarily fed. So far, it seems authentic and legitimate, since the report concerning the Iberia forces to provide reinforcements was substantiated.”

“Hmmmmmm.” Edge pondered, Who could have given us such information? Could it be that there’s a serious dissenter within the empire’s ranks?

* * * * *

At the Iberia base, Ashram had already boarded he shuttle. With his eyes gleaming blue, he muttered, as if talking with someone. “No, clown. Someone’s using you all.” His attention was called for by a shuttle personnel.

“My lord, the Frontal Squadron has embarked. We are ready for launch.”

“Let’s go.”

He was later joined by the squadron in the cabin and Alexandersson had to sit beside Ashram. The captain leaned over to the window porthole and saw all other Zeon soldiers running to and fro, obviously terrified and disoriented, while a number of others were trying to perform damage control.

Ashram said loudly, “It’s a regret that Iberia falls.”

Angrily Magnus replied, “We should have sortied and defended the base while we can, my lord, instead of abandoning our comrades.”

“And leave our space fleet on their own? Obviously, Magnus, you do not see the whole picture. This present time needs to undergo deculture on a massive and grand scale, not just on people’s beliefs, nationality, or morality. Deculture based on human evolution, like you and me… Newtypes. Unless this war is won, it won’t take place. Royal Zeon will bring forth deculture that humans need, even if Zeon will have to fight another Zeon,” Ashram said coldly, implying heavily on his last sentence.

Finally, the cabin lights turned red. The shuttle captain gave out the notice. “Shuttle, ready to launch. Diagnostic computer, initiating controls. Ignition in 3, 2, 1. Shuttle lifting off!!!”

* * * * *

The GINN landed flat on its back from the solid kick. Excruciating pain gripped Creuset’s body, as she was violently shaken in the cockpit. Meanwhile, Ismail was about to deliver a slash toward the downed mobile suit when suddenly a tremendous rumbling was felt, followed by a blinding flash of light from the base’s northern side.

“NO!!!! It can’t be!!” he cried in frustration.

Nine plumes of smoke were visible, making a lengthening streak against the morning sky. Royal Zeon Earth Forces somehow managed to send reinforcements into space.

Ismail’s instincts inside him raged on, knowing that the Harbinger of Death was aboard one of them.

“DAMN YOU, ASHRAM!!!”

Immediately, he reverted the ReZEL to waverider mode and started to pursue the transport shuttles. With thrusters blazing, he lifted off. He opened a commlink line to the Nephilim Teams.

“All Mustang units, target the transport ships at your 9 o’clock! NOW!!”

“But Commander, we’re defending ourselves from the retaliating Ze –!”

“I don’t care, just fire!!!”

The GM Mustangs calibrated their scopes for the newly acquired targets. As soon as one Mustang prepared to fire, a whip rod slithering in midair instantly twined onto the gigacannon’s barrel. As the pilot pulled the trigger, something tugged the whip rod, causing the cannon to fire against two Mustangs instead. They ended up exploding.

BOOOM! BOOOM!

“What was that?!” Ismail demanded.

“Commander, a cable of some sort grappled to my cannon and –! AHHH!!!” It was followed by a static noise.

“What’s going on out there?!” Ismail was forced to change course.

“Our situation’s been compromised!! A cloaked mobile suit is attacking the others!” Another explosion was heard. “Commander, this is H Team Mustang unit!! All others were destroyed!”

“What’re the Jugho units doing?! They are supposed to protect you!”

“Suppressing fire from the enemy! A red and white mobile armor is currently engaging them!”

Damn you, Edge! You literally sent me as bait!!! Ismail had no choice but to call an abort mission order. “Get your ass off there, now!”

“Escaping to rally point GN-X. Wait, wha –! Huh?!”

“What’s wrong soldier?!”

“I-it’s a G-gundam!! The beam claws are –! AHHHH!!!”

Ismail winced in anger and infuriation. Just like back on that day at Caucasus!

“I must live through this, and mete revenge on Ashram… and that bastard, Edge!” He ran his fingers on the keyboard console and the ReZEL started to change direction. Suddenly, his radar detected an energy released towards his perimeter. Doing a spinning dive, he tried to dodge the beam orb and tried to pull away. He was surprised that the orb instantly exploded and released a violent force, sending the waverider to shake and veer away, knocked out of control. The shock was so great that the ReZEL’s G-dampers were engaged.

Over the commlink, he heard, “Don’t think that I will just let you go away easily, after what you’ve done to Aya!!!”

* * * * *

“Commander, we have arrived at our first rally point,” declared the Punishment’s navigator.

“Good! Give the go signal for Phantom, Enigma, and Visage to proceed,” replied Bartram. “Commence releasing of Minovsky particles.”

The three ships started to move ahead of the fleet. Their mobile suit squads advanced in to make an on-sight reconnaissance. Pretty soon, the advance team reported in, choppy and full of static.

“This is Penetrator Team leader. There is some kind of interfere –! Bzzzzt! …can’t verify the… Bzzzt! Wait, there’s something up ahead in…. Bzzzt! Bzzzt! HUH?!? EVADE! EVADE! ALL UNI –!”

“Something’s wrong!” Bartram exclaimed.

All that remained was static line. Suddenly the personnel manning the radars and scanners shouted, “Commander, multiple explosions confirmed in point 97! It’s dead ahead of us, could be our –!”

Red lights suddenly blinked insider the Punishment’s bridge. They knew it meant only one thing: ambush. “Evasive maneuvers! Dip 10o to starboard! All hands, brace for possible direct hit!!” Bartram declared. “Normal suits mandatory!!”

Thousands of solid projectiles were automatically shot against the Zeon fleet. The ships located at the front of the formation were the most badly hit. The bullets penetrated the ships’ armor, causing a sudden depressurization among some. Others were hit at the bridge; others instantly exploded as the power plants were compromised and destroyed. Mobile suit squadrons broke formation, even as many units went off as well. The Punishment managed to survive the onslaught but not without sustaining damage.

“Status report!” the commander demanded.

“Commander, the ambush wiped out all our advance team. Phantom and Visage were utterly destroyed while Enigma has suffered systems malfunction. It’s out of commission, sir!”

“And the Punishment?!”

“We sustained up to 30% physical damage! Bullets penetrated up to the third armor layer!”

“DAMN! DAMN THESE FEDDIE BARBARIANS!!!”

“The fleet is forced to break formation, Commander.”

“Spread out! They are targeting us as a group!!!”

In exasperation, Bartram cursed. He looked at Lord Heimlich who remained composed and seated. I will not be made a fool out of this!!!

“Send out our mobile suits! We will overrun them with our own forces! All remaining ships will advance upon my command! Release the Darkseeker missiles!!”

* * * * *

“Captain, our rail cannons fired upon the enemy automatically. An initial estimation of damage sustained would be around 20 – 30% of their total number, based on the comparison of heat signatures.”

Tense and carried over by the situation, Edge eyed the monitor displays carefully.

“Warning! Heat sources detected approaching the first lien of defense perimeter. Count, twenty. Judging from the current velocity, they’re not mobile suits, Captain!”

Edge muttered, “Nukes. As what the intel has provided, they’d resort to vicious tactics!” Turning to Moin, he said, “We must not let it reach our border! Calibrate the Heaven’s Fist. Set nuclear cartridges to detonation position! Disengage safety locks!”

After a while, Moin responded, “Heaven’s Fist ready to fire. Output adjusted to 45%of maximum.”

“FIRE!”

A bright flash of light built up from the orbital weapon’s diffusion chamber and blasted a huge particle beam. The shot went on target, instantly causing the Darkseeker missiles to detonate and explode as well.

“All missiles obliterated, Captain.”

“Okay! Commence nuclear recharge cycle! Hurry it up! We’ll fire again as soon as we are ready! It’s time to wipe out all these Zeon scums off for good!”

Another personnel reported, “Sir, enemy units at 20o off the port bow! Their number is indistinguishable. Estimates up to forty mobile suits.”

“What?! They countered too soon?”

Kurdovkova went up to the CIC console and worked her way for diagnostics. “Minovsky particles have been densely dispersed, most likely by the enemy. Laser jamming is also in effect, and so intense. At this point we’ve got nothing but our eyes and instincts.”

“Send in AWAC probes,” Moin commanded. “All Jugho units, stand down. ADS in effect.”

Edge cursed. His plan to take a single shot at Asgard had been derailed. After an outburst, he reverted to his taut composure. “These bunches of low life are getting under my skin!! I shall then give them the pleasure of dying a painful death!” Turning to the female officer, he commanded, “Get the Active Denial System into position! Set the power level to gauge 3. What’s the recharge status of the Heaven’s Fist?!”

“Currently at 43%, sir.”

“That’s good enough! Display any visual that we can get!” Before them, a huge monitor displayed a hazy and pixel-shrouded image. Moin commanded, “The visual analysis is lagging behind. Initiate a computer generated enhancement.” They saw squads of ZAKU Nightmares.

“Wait for their mobile suits and ships to be in our direct line of fire. Disengage the mines, to encourage them to come in deeper. Activate the ADS when they enter firing range. Fire the colony weapon after a 30-second interval with the ADS.”

* * * * *

“All Nightmare units, engage all possible intercepting enemy mobile suits! All ships advance! Breach enemy airspace at maximum combat speed!” Bartram barked.

Simultaneously, the Royal Zeon ships gained momentum as their thrusters roared violently. After a period of time, Bartram said, “Engines off! Begin inertial coasting! Re-channel power to all ships’ main cannons!”

As the ships were powering up their main weapons, a mobile suit squad called in, “Wh-what’s happening?! I’m suddenly feeling dizzy… and… t-this headache!! ARGH!!!”

“My head hurts!!! GRRRKGRWKK!”

With confusion etched on his face, the commander questioned, “What the frack is going on out there?!”

“Sir, our pilots are experiencing dizzy spells and nausea! Their vital signs are escalating, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing… something’s wrong with them!”

“I can see that, idiot! I’m asking what’s causing all this?!”

“Microwave,” Lord Heimlich replied. “The beam will irradiate all matter in the targeted area, including everything behind it that is not shielded, with no possible discrimination between pilots or objects. You’ve been tricked, Commander Bartram, I’m afraid.”

“DAMN!”

* * * * *

“Captain, the ADS is working! The radar shows that their ZAKUs are stopping in their tracks.”

“Maintain the microwave emission. Start the colony weapon! Primary energy bank, contact. You may fire when ready, Moin.”

The officer pressed a button.

BZZZT!!! PFFFOOOOOOOMMMM!!!!

The Heaven’s Fist unleashed a wide particle beam that engulfed all the advancing mobile suit squads. The perimeter instantly became a sea of violent explosions. But the shot went through and hit many ships that were right behind the ZAKU squads. Some were able to evade in time but the rest disintegrated.

Bartram’s ship luckily escaped the array of the shot but in his surprise, he was left standing and mouth gaping.

Heimlich took over the control. “Soldier, give out a status and damage report. Calculate the magnitude of loss!”

“My lord, all our ZAKUs’ laser signals are terminated! Laser contacts from nine ships were lost! We can’t pick it out from all the debris!”

“Navigator, withdraw this ship from this area. Relay to all remaining ship to regroup!” Heimlich said.

Bartram was lost in his thoughts. I’ll be demoted at this rate! I must grab my victory right here, right now! Turning to Heimlich, he said, “This calls for drastic measures! I’m gonna sortie myself!” Turning to a personnel, he instructed, “Have the Fear and Manifest ready to launch!”

* * * * *

Ismail cursed as he struggled for gaining control of his ReZEL which was violently knocked back by Axiom's repulsor blasts. I must transform, but I’d be vulnerable… but hten…

Less than a second, the waverider transformed into a mobile suit. Reaching for its beam rifle, the ReZEL sent a barrage of rapid shots at the Gundam. Nimbly, Testarossa dodged the incoming attacks with no difficulty, as Axiom’s multi-thruster system and overall internal structure had been greatly improved to make it move faster and more agile, but at the expense of a much sturdier armor. This was by Testarossa’s decision of which he believes that any weapon would be useless of it cannot hit its target.

He mocked through the commlink. “There’s no escape, you ghost of Earth Militaire!”

Ismail angrily shouted back, “Even when my back’s against the wall, I’ll fight!” He opened the grenade launcher hatches. Maintaining a distance from the Gundam, ReZEL continued to shoot at it. Suddenly, in a blink of an eye, Axiom dashed forward and it did not take long for it to be right in front of the ReZEL. Ismail released grenades in a successive manner, adjusting the detonation time variably. The grenades started to explode at random. Testarossa was forced to slow down for a while but he brought the Gundam to a high leap. As it got to a certain altitude, Axiom gave a full power thrust, closing in on the ReZEL, with its stinger ready to be deployed.

“Don’t act as if your head is in the clouds when your feet are still in the pit bog!” Ismail screamed. He was waiting for the other unit to close in from the air. The ReZEL’s mega beam launcher had been hoisted into firing position. By the time Testarossa was aware of the beam launcher, Axiom had already closed in, about to be shot at point blank.

“DIE!!!”

PSHOOOM!!! BOOOM!!

For a good measure, Ismail released additional grenades that caused secondary massive explosions. Expecting the unexpected, he brought the ReZEL to a hover and reached for the beam sabers. As the smoke cleared, he saw the Gundam unscathed, bearing a huge and wide sword gleaming against the sun.

Testarossa smiled inside his cockpit, as he glanced at the monitor. The laminated armor…

Without warning, the Gundam dashed toward the ReZEL, swinging the enormous sword for an attack. Ismail held his breath, unsure whether the beam sabers would hold up against the sword. Nevertheless, he crossed the sabers into an X to catch the blade. As the sword came in and connected with the sabers, energy sparks flew and scattered everywhere. The impact was so great that the ReZEL was shoved backward. Threatening it were the sabers and the sword being lunged against the ReZEL’s torso.

“I won’t… I can’t die here!!!” Ismail screamed. He reversed the ReZEL’s thrusters and let go of the beam sabers. Somehow, the Angel’s Cleaver managed to lacerate its chest part. Desperate, he brought his suit ramming against the Gundam. As Axiom was thrown off, the ReZEL grasped its left foot tightly. Finding enough leverage, Ismail tried to fling the Gundam away. He succeeded since Axiom was designed to be lighter than most mobile suits. Using the rifle, he sent a follow-up beam barrage. ”Take this!!”

It may seem to be Axiom was done for but as the mobile suit was seemingly flung out of control, a stinger suddenly launched and clamped forcefully onto the right manipulator. Axiom twisted in midair, managing to land on both feet. Instantly the stinger was reeled back in such speed and force that the attack was reversed. ReZEL was violently dragged toward the Axiom.

“That’s impossib –!”

As the mobile suit clumsily moved forward, axiom held the cleaver with both hands in an inverted fashion. One swift strike could potentially slash the other suit into two. Seeing the impending attack, ReZEL turned into a waverider and blasted away to safety. Somehow, Axiom succeeded in slicing off the whole right arm which exploded eventually. The beam rifle fell on the ground.

This might be my only chance to escape!! Ismail thought. He salvoed all the remaining grenades onto the perimeter and blasted away.

BOOM!!

Testarossa was forced to instantly back off, giving the ReZEL the chance to escape with plenty of head start. He knew that Axiom could not match ReZEL’s speed.

A red halo shone on each of Testarossa's eyes. “AFTER HIM!!!”

* * * * *

“That was a shabby performance, you fool!!” Ismail cursed at himself, frustrated that he lost the battle and was forced to escape. “But I must not die, not just yet until I get my hands on Ashram and Edge!”

He was disturbed by a beeping sound. “What?! A bogey on my tail?! Dogged bastard!” He immediately went supersonic but the blinking dot was still closing in on him. “This is absurd!”

Suddenly his radar flashed a warning. Beam shot! The waverider went into an upturned swan dive and corkscrew, ending with bringing its cone rising up. He blasted the thrusters to full power and rose into the sky. At this point, he reached for the helmet and secured himself. I can’t believe that this battle is dragging on! Confident because his unit was customized and properly equipped enabling it to perform atmospheric exit, he sped on.

He eyed the altimeter. 185,000 feet. Stratosphere! But the blinking dot was ever closing into him. Then it flew by. For the first time, Ismail got a visual on his pursuer. A red and white mobile armor!!!

“I won’t let you mock me!!” He brought forth the mega beam launcher which was also deployable in waverider mode. “Take this!!”

The path of the beam went directly toward the mobile armor known as the Valkyrie Cyclone. He expected it to explode but instead, an array of hexagonal-shaped green barriers deflected the beam.

If I can just exit the atmosphere, I’d be fine! Let’s see if the pilot would dare follow me!! Ismail changed course by a fraction of an angle and continued to rise. As the oxygen grew thinner, ReZEL shifted its propulsion system. He eyed the Cyclone, which was flying side-by-side with it. He was amazed when the two huge pods on its tail suddenly unfolded and opened, exposing four rocket thruster nozzles bursting into life. Labeled on the pods were the words Milliardo. Its wings and stability flaps on its rear folded in. As it rose further, it also broadened the gap between them.

* * * * *

The Cyclone went ahead, finally reaching the exosphere. Frost pivoted the mobile armor around, waiting for the ReZEL to catch up. Suddenly, he heard a voice in his head. FROST, WE NEED YOUR HELP!! HURRY!!

He exclaimed, “Lord Heimlich!”

* * * * *

Puerto Rico

Drake was sitting still inside Rauwolf’s cockpit, checking its systems and at the same time contemplating over what will happen next. His thoughts went deep, undaunted by the hissing, computer bleeps, and powering up noises around him. Remembering a prayer he heard as a child, he whispered softly, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to tell the difference."

“But what if there’s no god in this world? What then?”

Keith’s head showed up from the open hatch. “Oh, it’s you,” Drake said.

“We’ll launch in this succession: Exarch first, then my ship Nightfall second followed by Dharma. Utopia will be the last.”

“That’s fine by me. We’ll launch in fifteen minutes.”

A loud roar was heard when Exarch, propelled by its boosters, ran through the linear catapult. The launch operator of the base announced, “Nightfall is cleared for takeoff in a moment. Wait! Something’s on the radar!!”

There was a momentary silence followed by an earsplitting explosion.

TAGOOOOOOMM!!!

Outside, the Exarch became a ball of flames, plummeting to the ground. Keith took the communicator and shouted, “What was that?! What happened?!”

Exarch was hit by an attack from an unknown source!”

That could have been us!! Keith thought. “WHAT?!? Look it up!!”

Over the commlink, Drake asked, “Keith, what’s the problem?”

“We’re under attack, Drake! Someone doesn’t want us to go in space!!”

After a while the base control announced, “Keith, we have a visual of the enemy at point HG3 north northeast. Adjusting the opticals… GM suits!! It’s the Federation!!”

Both Keith and Drake could not believe their ears.

* * * * *

What will happen next, now that the focus is the heaven’s Fist? Will Royal Zeon, NEU, and ORACLE work together to achieve their common goal? What happened to Black Wing? Two mobile suits are introduced: Fear and Manifest Destiny. Where will this lead to? Find out in the MS GUNDAM: THE LOST CENTURY INTERQUEL Episode 12 – HOPELESS. You wouldn’t want to miss it.


LWC

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