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MS GUNDAM: THE LOST CENTURY Interquel: Episode 9 - Friend
Written by: John Nigel
Suggested soundtrack for reading:

“HOLD ON” by Stellar Kart

"YOUSEI" by May'n (Thanks to Diko Sidhikoro)


MS GUNDAM: THE LOST CENTURY Interquel

Episode 9 – Friend



Space

A luminous green haze shrouded an area right within the vicinity of planet Jupiter. In the haze, a mobile suit-like silhouette appeared and started to move its head to earth’s direction. It was then followed by a tranquil-sounding voice.

“It seems that humanity has not learned its lesson. Primitive cravings have taken deep roots in every human heart. Have they not known that even if a small drive to fight still grips their hearts, it is enough to throw the world into an infinite chaos?”

Two green eyes suddenly lit brightly.

“Winning a single war doesn’t prevent the future of humanity to commit the same mistakes over and over again, like a never-ending cycle. Something must be done and it must be final…”

Greenish particles of light started to disperse densely in the zone.

“I guess human nature cannot be changed after all. Inherently violent and destructive...They must be extinguished...”

The silhouette started to move.

“…they must be pacified.”

* * * * *

“A-another Gundam?!”

Adrian Zowih Frost was genuinely surprised by the appearance of an unknown mobile suit. He was currently pursuing the beaten down Gundam Achilles that saved the destroyed Moebius Adelphe pilot and was about to deliver a final blow but he stopped short.

Just who are you, butting in without being invited? I’ll just have to kill you then! He gave out a voice command, “Disengage safety lock. Set Einherjar to gigaburst mode! HASHA!!!”

A highly concentrated red energy orb formed in front of the Valkyrie Cyclone and sped against the Gundam that emerged. Since its shield buts were surrounding the damaged Achilles, the Gundam was left vulnerable to the forthcoming attack.

“I’m not gonna let you have your way, you jerk!” the Gundam pilot screamed. He brought all thrusters into life and rushed backward but the energy orb followed it.

“Are you kidding me?! This is insane!!”

Immediately the Gundam reached for its huge sword mounted on a special equipment rack on its back and with two hands, it held on to the weapon tightly.

The Gundam pilot screamed, “Activate G-Adrenaline!” He brought the mobile suit forward, fearlessly facing off the energy orb from the mobile armor. The Gundam slid a special beam saber hilt into a slot on the sword’s side, powering it up.

“Time to play the hero’s role! CRESCENT BEAM OMNISLASH!!!”

Five crescent-shaped beams took off from the Gundam’s sword as it slashed through the air. As the beams collided with the energy orb, a massive explosion took place in an instant.

W-what the –?!? Frost started the charging cycle again. “This can’t be!!”

As more crescent beams came, he brought the Cyclone up and maintained a safe distance from the Gundam’s range and attacked from afar. Meanwhile the Gundam brought forth its beam cannon and poised for a full power ranged attack. The Gundam was forced to crouch.

“Trying to keep clear, huh? But I can do long range as well!!”

The Gundam nimbly dodged the incoming attacks, leaving off an afterimage. The pilot pressed several buttons. “Particle limiter system shut off! Barrel and chamber coolant released!”

Zooming in the targeting camera, he muttered, “You’ll never know what’s coming next!” When the explosions cleared and diffused, the Gundam let out its cannon shot. “ULTIMA BLAST, MAXIMUM OUTPUT!!!”

A steady stream of green beam energy flowed out from the cannon and aimed directly to the mobile armor. Frost deployed Cyclone’s absolute protection system, or APS, Aegis du Ciel. He gave out a mental command, Dense hexagonal array! Channel all available power to the Aegis generators!!

The cannon continued to stream out energy against the Cyclone but its defense system held up.

“What a solid defense!! Even my cannon’s prolonged discharge can’t go through?!? What kind of system is that?!” the Gundam pilot exclaimed in awe. He happened to look at the console monitor before him and was alarmed with the warning displayed.

A synthesized female computer voice alerted, “Cannon barrel temperature beyond critical level. Barrel integrity compromised. Safety system override, automatic G-Adrenaline power cut in three, two, one! Powering down!”

“Avast!! G-Ad’s still imperfect?!”

* * * * *

With electric charges crackling around him, Frost began to feel the pain of the system overload due to the prolonged use of the APS. Electric current flowing through the neuro-probes along his spine caused his to jolt uncontrollably. He took a quick look onto a small power level display reserved for the shield and a timer measured that the Aegis du Ciel had been engaged longer than it was designed for. A caution caught his attention in an instant.

“Warning! APS generators approaching overload status!”

Frost shouted in amazement, “Thirty seconds and counting?! What kind of weapons system is that Gundam using? At this rate, I’d be draining the entire energy reservoir!”

Suddenly the cannon stopped its stream of energy shot seconds before Cyclone’s APS went into forced disengagement. Frost took hold of a weapons joystick and pulled the trigger. A missile bay opened below the mobile armor and spewed cluster-type missiles and sent them against the Gundam. On the other hand, the pilot recalled the shield bits and spread it out to form a barrier wall, which functions like a particle blanket that set off system malfunction. However, a single cluster managed to pass through and automatically sent off several warheads into a spread shot all around the Gundam.

“Oh, crap!!”

Luckily, Achilles managed to stand upright and fired it CIWS at the incoming missiles.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

Meanwhile the Cyclone made its exit as the cluster missiles were released. Upon reaching supersonic, Frost sighed in relief and muttered, “I guess I live to die another day…” His eyes displayed the unmistakable red halo and made contact with Richard Testarossa, his comrade who piloted Gundam Axiom.

Mission failure. An unknown Gundam unit interfered and covered for the escape of the targets. Status, RTB.

* * * * *

Miles away, Testarossa responded in the same manner.

Very well. Rescue squads are coming as we speak. We’ll debrief General Trueno with the outcome of this mission. However, we successfully destroyed the Moebius, so this mission is not an utter failure, Frost. See you at the base.

Calling Aya Creuset, who had gone on a sortie with them, he said, “Better release the signal flares, Creuset. It’s a race against dusk. In a few minutes, darkness will shroud this entire area, and will make the rescue operation difficult.”

Their units, the Axiom and a GINN high mobility custom were damaged badly by the recent combat. Testarossa went into the Axiom’s cockpit and analyzed his unit’s black box. Creuset released the flares that sent trails of orange smoke to catch the rescuers’ attention.

“Why not take a breather for a while, Testarossa?”

“I must find out more information about that golden Gundam. But what I am more concerned about was that pilot, Diko Sidhikoro. I tried to make contact with him using brainwaves but there was no response. It only meant one thing: he’s an oldtype ace, but with a skill like that…”

“Yeah, but you were able to critically damage his suit as well.”

Could it be that he’s my rival?

A voice synthesizer notified, “Converting the data log into an analytical matrix. Data saved.”

* * * * *

Mediterranean Sea

Aboard Magna Carta

“WHAT?!?” Admiral Carlos Zeiss angrily demanded. He was trembling in fury by what one personnel said.

“It is confirmed, sir. The mission order was unauthenticated. I am afraid that we’ve acted upon a bogus message relay that was not sanctioned by the headquarters,” said a liaison officer.

“T-That’s… but that’s… i-impossible!!!”

Later that day, in the admiral’s room, ice splattered onto the floor, wine splashing everywhere as a hurled wineglass shattered and splintered against the metal wall. Zeiss received earlier a very harsh and shameful reprimand from his superiors for acting without proper protocol from Earth Federation supreme council. He was dismayed to find out that the mission order that he thought came from headquarters was a fake one. The issue of the indiscriminate use of the EF orbital bombardment weapon, Heaven’s Fist, against the Royal Zeon was also brought up.

This disgrace was somehow being made known to the rest of the Federation’s armed forces and among their ranks. Luckily, no other sanction was ordered aside from this incident that had blemished his unsoiled track record.

“This is unacceptable!!!!” Zeiss cried, bringing the wine bottle to his lips and drank straight up. He leaned over to his desk and opened a drawer. Inside was a metal case that bore the words, “Calico semi-automatic, circa 1999 AD.”

* * * * *

Royal Zeon Iberia Base

Debriefing Room

General Tigo Trueno had a debriefing session with Frost, Creuset, and Testarossa. Joining them were the base’s mobile weapons department heads, and a corps of tactical designers.

Trueno stood and faced the trio, “I commend the three of you for successfully destroying that renegade mobile armor. Though it is a pity that we did not manage to capture it but nonetheless, the actual mission served its purpose for determining the overall combat ability of the Cyclone, of which I am very well pleased.”

Creuset spoke up, “I am sorry that I didn’t do well during the combat, General. My unit’s repair and maintenance added excess concern to you instead.”

“That’s nothing, Ensign. It’s a combat; sometimes we win some, and we lose some.”

“If I may, General,” Testarossa said. “I would like to raise my concern over the unknown mobile weapon. I am referring to the golden Gundam type mobile suit, Achilles. I have already filed my report concerning the combat data.”

“Oh, yes. Another renegade group of an unknown intent.”

“It seems that someone is backing up these mobilizations and out-of-the-blue engagements. The question is who.”

Frost added, “I continued the pursuit of the golden suit and I was almost with reach of that goal to capture it but another Gundam type mobile suit came into its assistance, most probably reinforcement.”

“Hmmmm. Aside from the Earth Federation, we are currently monitoring the most potential threat, a renegade group known only as NEU. For now, the only information that we know is that it is an arms dealing black market group, making deals for weapons development. But it seems to be a paramilitary organization with plenty of loose firearms and mobile weapons, aiding small governments resisting control from either the Federation, or from us, like the Kingdom of Davao.”

Trueno showed on display a series of satellite-fed images. Continuing on, he said, “It is highly probable that these illegally manufactured mobile weapons are part of this group, considering the fact that a significant number of Gundams and mobile armors have appeared. The High Council however, believes that this is part of the Earth Federation’s desperate attempt to gain the upper hand. In connection to this, there will be a gathering of high ranking officers in Asgard for the subsequent courses of action against the Federation, including these threats to our Empire. I believe that the final preparation for the OPERATION: Newton will be settled and disseminated. Meanwhile, you are put on standby for the moment. Rest while you can, catch some recreation if you must. It may be in a blink of an eye before you’re back to fighting.”

As Creuset, Frost, and Testarossa stepped out of the room, Trueno turned to the rest of the group and said, “We will go on with the initial plans. Commence upgrading today. Modify the GINN unit to make it capable of wielding beam-based weapons, and equip it with a power plant with a higher output rating. Improve all of Axiom’s joint points, and develop further the repulsor rifle to allow it to be configured into a normal beam rifle. Provide multiple particle condensers to the Valkyrie Cyclone and upgrade the power conduits connected to the absolute protection system. That way, Aegis du Ciel will be much stronger and can be deployed longer. IKUSO!!”

* * * * *

A loud gunshot reverberated in the living quarters of Magna Carta. People started to investigate the incident and were horrified to see Admiral Zeiss’ lifeless body on the desk seat, his head thrown back. A handgun was still positioned with its barrel shoved deep into his mouth. The shot caused a bloody gaping hole on his skull. His eyes were still dilated, and blood was dripping to the floor.

Shock and depression was evident among the people due to the Admiral’s unexpected suicide. It was deduced that because of his recent humiliation and disgrace, it was all too much for him to bear. He took his life unhesitatingly.

It was Lieutenant Litzner Edge, the commander of Magna Carta’s mobile suit squadron, Zeiss Disciples, who reported the whole incident to the Earth Federation supreme council. In an emergency meeting, after much consideration, the council recognized Edge as the next in command of the battle cruiser, since there was no one else who was of a higher rank than him. Inclusion to this decision was his exploits in previous battles.

Edge was astounded by the commendation but he managed to reply, “I accept the responsibility with the best of my knowledge and ability.”

A council representative continued, “Furthermore, you are promoted to the rank of captain. You will also inherit the privilege granted to an elite few among our forces. Henceforth, you, Captain Litzner Edge, are bestowed with the Autonomous Military Unit for Remote Operation status, or A.M.U.R.O status. Designated to you is the identification protocol Kiritengu. All data will be forwarded to you in a moment. The supreme council anticipates your unconditional service.”

“SIR!!” Edge saluted.

After his confirmation, edge sat on the former admiral’s control seat and made out an evil grin. This time, I’m gonna kill HIM for sure! Taking a picture from his coat pocket, Edge crumpled and dropped it to the floor.

He was about to leave the bridge when a military advisory disseminated to all Earth Federation forces arrived.

“Lieute –! I mean, Captain! A retaliation attack has been conducted against our Pacific Advancing Regiment! They are currently in a level three battle status!”

Edge’s eyes grew wide. “WHAT?!?”

* * * * *

Atlantic Ocean, Puerto Rico trench

28,232 feet below sea level

A lady lying on an infirmary bed started to stir about.

“W-where am I? What am I doing here?” Amber Leigh La Flaga weakly said as she tried to sit up. Suddenly, she was overtaken by an intense pain that gripped her whole body. She shrieked involuntarily, “AHHHHHHH!!!!”

A young man who was sitting meters away from her rushed to her side and motioned her to calm down. “Take it easy, you’ve been through hell and back. You have to stay still for a while. But don’t worry; you’re in good hands now.”

“W-who are you?”

“I am Freed Melendrez. You don’t have to introduce yourself since I know who you are already. I don’t mean to brag but it was I who saved you and your boyfriend who was in that golden mobile suit. Had I arrived sooner that day, both of you wouldn’t be alive.”

“T-thank you,” Amber managed to say. “But he’s not my boyfriend… I don’t even know who he is. Al I can remember is that a red and white mobile armor attacked me. It was followed by an explosion and everything went black.”

“Hmmmm… You sure did survive from such a horrible experience. Are you a Catholic? Maybe Saint Patrick Colasaur was watching over you and kept you alive.”

Amber was getting confused by now. “What do you mean?”

Freed pointed at her torso. “See those bandages? Nine metal fragments were extracted from your body, but none of those punctured a single vital organ. Can you imagine that? Besides, you’ve been asleep for almost a week now. But don’t be troubled, you’ll be fine. Our doctor on board also administered to you a regenerative treatment for your eyes. With enough rest, you’ll be on your feet in no time.”

“I see.” She touched her eyes and said, “Thank you. What about the other guy?”

“Oh, you mean, Sidhikoro? He’s in his temporary quarters. His Gundam is undergoing repairs and upgrades, since it was almost totaled the last time.”

Amber closed her eyes and replied, “Who are you guys? A bunch of good Samaritans?”

“That doesn’t matter this time. I mean, you’ll find out soon enough. For now, just take some rest because you need it most.”

With that, Freed stepped out of the infirmary.

* * * * *

Madrid, Iberia

Frost, Testarossa, and Creuset were on board a sleek black Peugeot, spending time out after the recent action. Driving the car was Aya, who by being a Chilean could speak fluent Spanish. Richard was sitting at the passenger seat, while Adrian was sulking in the rear.

“I should have stayed back at the base.”

“Come on, Frost. Everyone needs a breather every now and then. You should give yourself some slack.”

“Whatever.”

Upon arriving at the city, Frost gruffly said, “I’m taking off here. Stop the car, Creuset.”

Aya asked, “Where are you going? Will you be okay alone?”

He snapped, “That’s none of your business. I can handle myself perfectly well, thank you!”

Richard motioned Aya to stop. “Let him go. There’s no point in fussing over this.”

Aya stopped the car and Frost got out, slamming the car door behind him. Testarossa cautioned, “Don’t take any chances, Frost.” His eyes glowed red.

“I understand.” With that, Frost started to walk away.

After a while, Aya asked, “What’s with him anyway? When I first met him, he was different… a more cheerful person. I’m not sure what exactly happened to him. It’s like…he’s a different person… somehow at least.”

Richard just shook his head. “You can’t judge him as he is, you know. He’s been a lot of rough times since he was a kid. I first met him at Asgard, too. We came from the same program of the Empire, the Sixth Day Protocol, though from a separate division. He’s an enhanced newtype while I am a super soldier. But we have a lot in common than you could ever imagine.”

“But how does that explain the change in him? When I met him, he’s already an enhanced, right? It doesn’t make sense that one could change personality so easily.”

“When Heaven’s Fist fired against Solstice, he was on board. He barely escaped alive. By the time the Phobos and Deimos Squad arrived and found the aircraft that he used for getaway, he was clinically dead. General Trueno and Lord Heimlich did everything, including what an average person would perceive as abominable and inhuman, just to revive him.”

Aya could not believe what she heard. “Are you trying to pull my leg here?”

“You know that I’m telling the truth. I’ve been genetically augmented. But he…” Testarossa looked away. “…he’s been significantly altered. Genetically, physiologically, neurologically… even his memories were erased and he’s been bioengineered… And when you say that he’s different, that’s actually an understatement.”

She murmured, “Poor guy…”

“I remember his words clearly. He felt that he was a mere weapon that takes away lives. It seems that he abhors his own self, and the ironic part is that he unquestioningly serves that which made him what he is right now.”

Silence. Finally, Aya spoke up, “I didn’t know that Frost is…”

Richard sneered, “An abomination? I for one am the same as he is. The difference between me and him is that I chose to be what I am…to be a lesser evil so that I can destroy a greater one. But Frost didn’t even have the chance to make that choice. He was forced to.”

They stopped for lunch in a fast food chain store. While eating, Richard continued, “This is what I believe. I don’t say that Royal Zeon is completely right, but I don’t mean that the Federation isn’t wrong either. In times like this one, you have to make your own stand on what you believe, to find your own justice and act accordingly to it. That way, you don’t become anybody’s dog. True, that I fight for Zeon but when the time comes for me to stand for my own justice, I’ll do what is necessary. But for now, I’ll fight…to find the reason why humanity is so effing twisted.”

* * * * *

Atlantic Ocean

Sidhikoro decided to meet with the person in charge of the ship that he was on. He learned that the ship was a multi-configuration vessel named Dharma. He entered the bridge and spoke with a man known only as Drake Howling.

“Thank you for your assistance to us, though we’re complete strangers,” Sidhikoro said. “But how did you find us?”

Howling replied, “There are things that are best kept secret, Mr. Sidhikoro, though I don’t want to give an impression of being rude. What’s important is that both of you and the lady are safe. Upon your request we’ve repaired your mobile suit’s basic structure, and we took the liberty to tweak its power plant a little for a higher output rating. It is my regret, however, that the weapons and other equipment are yours to worry.”

“That’s all right; I can manage to do the rest. By the way, may I ask where your next stop will be? I need to get off, the sooner, the better.”

Drake stood and went to a navigator. “What’s our current location, Talbot?”

Talbot replied, “We are currently running along the Magnificat Trench en route to Puerto Rico. Estimated time of arrival is 1300 hours.” Turning to Sidhikoro, he continued, “if you like, you can disembark there.”

“Thank you; that would be grand.”

Howling sat back to his commanding seat. He started to ask Sidhikoro with some questions. “I would like to hear from you, Mr. Sidhikoro. What do you think of this war?”

Sidhikoro did not reply immediately. He contemplated and answered, “The War of Pride? It’s the same as any other war. I always thought that the flames of war are unquenchable because this “kebarakan” rages from the inside of the human heart. Having wars suck, because it’s the same thing when you fight fire with fire; you ignite other things as well.”

“Well said. But have you any desire to douse this “kebarakan” in any other way aside from pulling the trigger?”

“I don’t seem to see your point.”

Howling put a hand at his chin and responded, “This is what I see. Man is reduced to just striving to become strong at the expense of the weak. It has become a ‘dog eats dog’ kind of existence. That is why basically, the flames of war remain unquenchable because we don’t properly put it out.”

“Most of humanity has hoped for it to end. But since true peace has been elusive, most of us just wait in the sidelines passively uttering a silent prayer that one day, peace will come at last. And by doing so, we have become weak, vulnerable, and unable. We have allowed ourselves to be fooled, overrun, and devoured by the strong that has gone corrupt.”

“That’s true. But it seems that man has forgotten one vital truth. To desire some results, one must take action. However, the action that you choose will also lead to the denial of other things.” Howling took a portable tablet computer and showed to Sidhikoro some images from history.

“These are the pictures of some primitive mobile suits that shaped our history. What does it tell you? How do you perceive our ancestors’ efforts in quenching the flames of war?”

“That it cannot be quenched.”

“You’re right. Even since the first ignition of this war during our ancestors’ time and all the succeeding eras, wars continued to break out. Eras like the Universal Century, After Colony, Anno Domini… humanity tried over and over again to stop the wars, even to the expense of countless lives. They may have enjoyed a moment’s peace but somehow the cycle comes around, like that most horrible event of multi-colony drop that almost wiped out humanity from the face of the earth.”

“One may come to believe that wars will cease when all of humanity dies, when humanity is exterminated,” Sidhikoro pointed out.

“But we missed the most important thing.”

Sidhikoro looked intently at the man before him.

“What do you think that is, Mr. Sidhikoro?”

Suddenly, a hiss sounded as the sliding door to the bridge opened.

“That our ancestors kept on trying to attain peace.”

Both men turned to the voice’s direction. It was Amber.

“Ah, you’re up and about, Miss. That’s a relief.”

“Thank you, kind sir, for all that you’ve done. But how did I end up here, exactly?”

Howling smiled and declined. “No, no. You must thank this man over here.” He pointed at Sidhikoro. “He saved you from that red and white mobile armor.”

With a grateful look in her eyes, she said to Eagle Eye, “Arigato gozaimasu.” Extending her hand to him, she put up a smile.

Sidhikoro shook hands with her and asked, “How did you end up being chased by the Royal Zeon?

She shook her head. “I have no idea. I was looking for a certain guy that my father’s friend told me to find. But I always end up being in trouble.”

“Trouble magnet, huh?” he commented, chuckling.

“Yeah, but really, I am grateful to you, Mr.…”

“Diko Sidhikoro. I am a comrade of someone which has been your acquaintance. His name might ring a bell: Knight.”

Amber was surprised. “Oh, is that so? This is a great bolt from the blue for me. How is he?”

“He’s… he’s gone MIA.”

“W-what?!? Why?!”

“He piloted the Valkyrie Gust, of which you already saw, but he was ambushed by Earth Federation forces, which resulted to such plight. I tried to conduct a search and rescue, but I ended up rescuing you instead.”

Amber worriedly said, “He’s gone missing… The Isle of Man explosion?”

They did not notice but Howling was listening intently at them. Hmmm, I wonder if this certain chap, this Knight is…

Sidhikoro went on, “I’m planning to disembark in Puerto Rico. If you want, you can come with me and we can look for him. I’ve been hearing a lot about you and it’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person, Amber Leigh La Flaga.”

LA FLAGA?!?

* * * * *

Testarossa’s phone rang. “Testarossa here.”

After a few moments, he said, “What?! Okay, just keep us informed.” He pressed the disconnect button.

“What was that about?”

“It was an advisory about a gathering of Federation forces in southeast Asia. The bigwigs are currently looking it over. They are guessing that it looks like an invasion, but the question is where.” Richard slapped the table a little too hard, that some diners turned to his direction. “When will this end?”

Aya gloomily said, “I guess there’s no change in circumstance. The only thing that changes is people. People can change, depending on their will. That’s what I learned.”

Testarossa looked at her but said nothing, as if to coax her to say more.

She obliged and continued, “It was during a mission some time ago, when I felt disgusted about everything in this war… Kill or be killed, not to hesitate to pull the trigger at another human being. In time, all those things unconsciously have made me reckless during battles, as if I’m not afraid to die. Indeed, I wasn’t scared but I realized that I came to a point where life has no value to me anymore, whether it’s my enemy or me who dies.”

“I see.”

“It was the Crimson Striker, Captain Magnus himself who gave me a reality check when during that mission, the Frontal Squadron experienced its first mission failure where half of our team was killed by the Federation. He said to me, ‘Don’t die until you learn to survive. Live on, Creuset.’”

Testarossa gulped a whole goblet of white wine. “Hmmm. It seems that we all have our own kind of justice. That’s a good thing, though.”

Creuset pondered, My own justice.

* * * * *

Aboard Magna Carta

Middle East, Persian Gulf

Captain Litzner Edge received an alert concerning the uprising that has started in East Java against the Earth Federation’s Eastern Hemisphere Fleet. In the past, both the Federation and Royal Zeon tried to invade East Java because of the mass driver that was situated in the city of Surabaya. To the locals, Surabaya was a stronghold of their independence, which was known as “the city of heroes”. For years, they withstood all invasion attempts up to this time.

Edge cursed, “Damn, these neutrals! What is the current status of the operation?”

“Our Eastern Hemisphere Fleet has suffered 30% heavy damage on its entire units. The invasion attempt was somehow foiled. It seems that the Majapahit Front is holding up pretty strong.”

“Curses!” Edge clenched his fist in sheer anger and stood.

Someone suggested, “Captain, if we go full speed, Magna Carta will be able to arrive in East Java within eight hours maximum.”

“But that would be too late. If reinforcements do not come soon, as much as 50% loss will be anticipated. Where’s the nearest reinforcement support located?”

“Aside from us, there’s the Australian Advance Force heading there but their ETA is at least an hour.”

“Commander Collins’ forces, huh? That won’t work. Contact headquarters,” Edge grimly said. “Inform them that Kiritengu will perform a retribution attack. Have them notify all allies now!”

“Sir, we’re still thousands of miles away! How can –!”

“Just do what I say, dammit!”

The bridge personnel hurriedly contacted the Federation nerve center. By the time everything was accomplished, a notification message was relayed to Magna Carta.

“Captain, a message from HQ has arrived. It says, ‘Be advised, all assets notified.’”

This time, our might will be feared! “All right! Contact Apeldoorne Control!”

All heads turned to Edge, faces shocked. “S-sir, do you mean…?”

There was a moment’s silence, which was broken by Apeldoorne’s reply. “Apeldoorne Control online.”

“Apeldoorne, this is Kiritengu. Confirmation code, Lima, Echo, India, Foxtrot, 2, 0, 1, 1. Requesting authorization override as soon as possible.”

The response was prompt. “Proper protocol is not followed. Confirmation code is in restricted status. Unable to comply.”

“WHAT?!? That is ridiculous!!” Edge exclaimed. “All right! In that case, I order authorization override under the intercession of A.M.U.R.O. status. Name, Litzner Edge!”

There was a quiet static on the other line. It took a whole five minutes for Apeldoorne Control to confirm Edge’s license. “Captain Litzner Edge, confirmation code LEIF2011, granted unrestricted access. A.M.U.R.O. status confirmed. Authorization override control transferred to Kiritengu. Have a nice day, Captain Litzner Edge.”

“HMP!!! So much for the red tape! Hear this, people! If we don’t act now, our comrades’ lives will be for nothing!” Edge griped. Turning to his personnel, he ordered, “Calibrate the orbital bombardment weapon, Heaven’s Fist, input coordinates one, eight, seven, Tango, three, five, five, Sierra. Target, Majapahit Front stronghold, Surabaya!!”

“All necessary calibration complete, Captain. You may fire when ready.”

Edge reached for the unusual gadget which was the trigger.

“Primary and secondary artillery bank, contact. Raise output to 200%. Disengage safety lock. We’ll raze the whole area in one full and continuous shot! Begin sweeping!!! FIRE!!!”

* * * * *

Caliente Bar

Madrid Red District

“One more!” Frost shoved back the small shot glass to the tender of the bar.

“But señor, you have downed too much spiked tequila.”

That’s not for you to decide, chico!”

“I beg to disagree. As a bartender, it is my duty to –!”

“JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN SHOT!!! NOW!!!”

The bartender turned aside. “Bruno, Pablo, echarlo fuera.”

Two heavily built bouncers came and held each of Frost’s forearms. “Let us go, señor.”

“Take your hands off me.”

“NOW, señor!”

Resisting back, Frost stood from the bar stool and pushed the man at his left. He then landed a sickening roundhouse kick on his jaw, sending the man crashing into the nearest table. The other one grabbed Frost by the shoulders and locked his right arm around his neck into a steel-like choking grip. Pretty soon, Frost’s face became bluish as he struggled for air. Suddenly, the bouncer lifted Frost, turned around several times and threw him against a concrete wall.

BLAG!!!

Frost bounced against the impact and landed on the floor, seemingly lifeless. All other customers started to exit the place one by one for fear of the trouble. Pablo moved toward Frost and tried to kick him. ¡Te voy a devolver el favor, idiota!”

However, his foot was stopped short by Frost’s hand, taking a firm grip on it. He then tackled Pablo and sent him crashing down the floor.

“WHAT?!”

Frost got on his feet and menacingly grinned, eyes glowing red. “I told you to keep your hands off me! Now, you’re gonna regret what –!”

Suddenly, a newtype flash came upon Frost, but it caused a head-cracking ache to him. He instinctively held his temples and screamed, “W-WHAT’S HAPPENING?!?! What’s this painful sensation?! Help me! I see people burning, people dying!!!! HELP!!!”

* * * * *

At that same time, a lady in her late teens was walking at an overpass in a busy street at downtown Jerusalem. The same newtype flash phenomenon came upon her, eyes glowing off a bluish halo. She sensed a mental pressure that made her stop in her tracks.

This isn’t headache! Is this a premonition?! Or something else? I can hear people screaming in pain!! What’s happening!?

* * * * *

“It seems that Frost chose to have fun on his own. I checked the terminal; he’s not back yet,” Aya said to Richard as they entered the building lounge in the base.

“So it seems,” Richard replied, chuckling. “He need not be cross just to ditch us. I’m sure that he’s somewhere in the red dist –!”

The same thing that happened to Frost occurred in an instant. With an intense pain, he heaved forward, clenching his fist, eyes glowing red.

“S-Something’s up! I can… I can feel them…!!! Horrible death!!”

* * * * *

More than a thousand miles away, aboard Dharma in the Atlantic ocean, Freed cried for help via an intercom. “This is Freed! Call for Dr. Crell!! Something’s happening to Amber-dono! Hurry!!!”

The other end of the line responded, “This is Talbot. Crell’s on the way. What happened?!”

“She just screamed all of the sudden and dropped dead on the floor!” came the answer.

An alarm caught Talbot’s attention. He turned to another man on duty and said, “Blau, help me process these messages popping up. What’s the meaning of this? The source is not recognized. What’s more, I am not familiar with this type of encryption.”

Binder accessed the information on his workstation. “Processing and decoding message. What’s this?!? This came from a former Earth Militaire base! This is a relay warning! Who could have sent this information?”

“Nani?! What does it say?”

Binder’s eyes widened. “An ultra-high energy source has been detected descending into the atmosphere in coordinates 187 T, 355 S! Better call Drake to the bridge.”

* * * * *

“Attention! Calling Drake to the bridge! Attention! Calling Drake to the bridge! A situation is at hand.”

Howling immediately hurried to the bridge, with Sidhikoro following behind. “This is just a lucky day, isn’t it? First, Miss Amber; now, this?”

Upon entering the bridge, he impatiently asked, “Talbot, what is it?”

“A relay warning came from an indentified Earth Militaire base. But this base has been abandoned!”

It must be HIM, Howling thought. “What does it say?”

“We detected an energy source descending onto earth, Drake.”

“WHAT?! Could it be the Heaven’s Fist?! Where?”

“Coordinates 187 Tango, 355 Sierra.”

Sidhikoro felt the blood draining from his face. “That’s… that’s my homeland!” He hastily went to Binder’s workstation and shoved him aside.

“Hey, man! What are you doing?! You’re not authorized to –!”

“Just shut up!!!”

Binder watched the monitor and was surprised by what he saw. “That’s… that’s Anaheim’s network!! But… but how did you –?”

Sidhikoro ignored him instead. He immediately accessed the real time information and saw a live video streaming from a dedicated satellite feed of Surabaya. He was horrified to see that the city was almost wiped out. Fires broke out everywhere; thick black smoke rose from all over the city. The image he saw was like a lake of fire.

“A-apa ini?!” He let out an angry scream in frustration and desperation. “Two million lives… snuffed out… ARGH!!!”

Howling closed his eyes. This is… this is unforgivable!!!

* * * * *

“It is finished,” Edge said, sitting down.

Everybody present in Magna Carta became silent.

Edge turned the intercom and relayed a communication to all personnel in the ship. “Hear this, all you people! Remember this day that I, Captain Litzner Edge, has made myself a stench to people’s nostrils through this intervention. But listen! Even when I am the one responsible, I am left speechless in front of this unbelievable devastation. I believe that the pain experienced is deep and sorrow is endless. But I will do what is indispensable and vital for the Earth Federation to rise from mere survival to triumph and ultimately, win this war for ourselves!!!”

A resounding cheer rang through the halls of the Magna Carta.

* * * * *

General Trueno looked at his watch. Twelve till midnight. These Feddie people have crossed the line!! Just you wait, you scums!!!

He reviewed the information gathered concerning Surabaya displayed on his monitor. In his hands were papers bound into a brown folder. On the heading, the words were written in bold: Classified information. Top secret, A-1 Priority. OPERATION: Newton Initiative.

* * * * *

Two days passed, and the talk aboard Dharma was all about the devastation of Surabaya. Amber sought Diko, whom she found sitting alone in the dining hall. She went toward him and sat across the table.

“How are you holding up, Diko?”

He exhaled deeply and replied, “I have made up my mind, Miss Amber.”

Just as I thought, she thought. “I see. But are you okay with that? I mean, your team…”

“I have thought about it. For now, I might not be able to take you to Knight. This is something that I must do. I hope you’d understand.”

They left the hall and went to the bridge. Upon arriving here, they saw Howling poring over the data regarding the recent incident.

As he saw them coming in, he announced, “That is settled, then. We will mobilize with our own forces and push with the initial plan as soon as possible. Send the blueprints to NEU and contact the professor immediately.”

Turning to the two, Howling said, “We will be arriving in Puerto Rico in forty minutes. I will have your mobile suit ready for disembarkation but I am sorry that at the turn of events, our hands are full. Yet I’m sure you can find your way on your own.”

Sidhikoro said, “You said to me before that regardless of failures, our ancestors never ceased in trying to attain peace. I want to join you.”

Howling raised his eyebrows and challenged him, “Oh?! And why should we let you?”

“I have been a soldier for most of my lifetime. I’ve seen wars, I’ve taken countless lives, I have seen it all. Somehow the horrors of war have been desensitized inside me, I’ve become a god of war myself… And… and it took an appalling reality to wake me up. So please, let me join you.”

Howling asked without battling an eyelash, “Why now? All has been lost and you can’t do anything to bring Surabaya back.”

Sidhikoro chuckled irritably and said, “You’re a hard man, you know that, Howling?”

“Reason, Mr. Sidhikoro. You have to give me a reason for you to fight.”

“This world will be lost forever if no one feels any sense of duty to others. I have decided to take responsibility in fulfilling the sense of duty to innocent lives.”

“Fighting to protect, huh?” Howling shook his head and gave out a hearty laugh.

“What’s so funny, Mr. Howling?” Amber irately asked.

Talbot butted in, “It means that Sidhikoro here is already one of us!”

Everyone broke into a cheer, patting Sidhikoro on the shoulders.

* * * * *

Desert of Pakistan

A man wearing a cloak hurried along the desert dunes, gasping as he ran. Behind him were columns of dust caused by his pursuers aboard four Royal Zeon "Widowmaker" hovertanks.

Earlier he was aboard a truck full of gypsies but somehow his cover was blown. Suddenly one of the tanks attacked them and fired a volley, causing an explosion that sent the truck turning over into the sand. Injured and afraid, the man immediately got out of the vehicle and ran away. Suddenly another volley shot sounded.

“Incoming?!”

BLAM!!!

The truck burst into flames, instantly killing any remaining survivor inside. The man ran away as fast as he could, clutching a miniature computer. Suddenly, a rapid gunshot sounded.

DADADADADADADADADADADA!

The bullets rushed all around him until one slug hit his back, sending him to the sand face first.

“GAKKK!!!”

His vision suddenly turned blurry and hazy but he felt the ground shaking, as if something underneath was forcing itself to emerge.

Raising his hands to show the object he was carrying, the man said struggling, “P-professor, I finally g-got the –!” His hands fell down, seemingly lifeless.

* * * * *

Who is this Drake Howling and which side is he on? Why was he surprised to hear Amber’s last name? Who is this certain “professor”? What will happen next, now that Heaven’s Fist was deployed arbitrarily? Find out in the MS GUNDAM: THE LOST CENTURY INTERQUEL Episode 10 – CHOICE. You wouldn’t want to miss it.

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