MS GUNDAM: THE LOST CENTURY Season 2
|Written by:||John Nigel|
MS GUNDAM: THE LOST CENTURY Season 2
Episode 1 – Rambling Skies
THE WAR OF THE PRIDE… the collective skirmish that dragged on for almost two decades and at the cost of several millions who perished at the closing part of the war mostly due to the simultaneous colony drop that the Royal Zeon Empire orchestrated. It was written in the history books that the war was caused by trying to instate equality by both spacenoids and earthers. But the more popular reason for it was having two giants who refuse to take the noble path as they are consumed by pride. The war ended without a victor. The only gain was territory and the thirst to avenge for those lives that had been lost. And the thirst was far from being quenched.
LC 0050. Six years had passed after the recent war between the Earth Federation and the Royal Zeon Empire. The flames of war are far from being doused since hatred, intrigue, revenge, and indifference continued to grip the hearts of the people that helmed the destiny and future of mankind.
Entailing the War of the Pride, the conflict erupted due solely to excess weapons and ordinance leftover from the previous war. The accumulation of mobile weapons on both sides came to a point where testing these weapons means provoking the other to a skirmish. And soon enough, the peace treaty that ended the previous conflict is violated as a civilian space colony became a victim of one such battle.
Thus, after the declaration of ceasefire, the law on unauthorized weapons development had been implemented by both forces. Though the casualty during the Second Great War was more than double in a much shorter time period of the previous one, but by just hearing the words "mass colony drop” often sent chills to individuals who have witnessed the devastation it had caused not only on the surface of the Earth but also to the populous space. The recent war was now known as The War of Conceit, where the empire almost succeeded in inflicting enormous environmental and military damage to the Federation through what the higher-ups called “OPERATION: Newton”, the dropping of six mega-sections of a weaponized colony named Heaven’s Fist, which the Federation assembled to use against the Empire’s colonies. However, the battle outcome was reversed, and the Federation ended up receiving damage more than they bargained for.
Several colony sections succeeded in colliding with earth: the fourth section fell on North America, particularly in the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, where the seat of Earth Federation government was housed. The explosion yielded two million kilotons of destructive power, wiping out the entire area with almost around a hundred kilometers in diameter, devastating the surrounding environment.
Another fell into the western Pacific Ocean. Due to the slight entry angle change, the section did not reach mainland China. But the tsunami that ensued wiped out the rest of Earth Federation’s reach of territory and influence, especially in southeast Asia.
The fifth section, which fell into Africa, virtually destroyed the continent, where the Federation mostly mined their raw materials for mobile suit manufacture. The destruction caused by Operation: NEWTON left the earth government with little to no chance of reorganizing themselves effectively to stage retaliation against the Zeon Empire.
* * * * *
A security personnel head was having a boring time in his cubicle when the alarm blared loudly and broke the mundane silence that depicted his everyday work. Below him were the personnel that he was supervising.
This time, his work was different.
“Inter Gate level 7F breached! ALERT! Inter Gate level 7F breached!”
A colleague sat up straight and groped along the buttons before him. “Elias, we have an intruder!”
“I can see that!” retorted the man, who was fitting his headpiece in place. “What’s the status?!”
They were eyeing layers of monitor screens before them. They saw three people moving along a darkened hallway. One by one, their closed circuit cameras were taken down.
“Where is THIS?!” Elias demanded.
“It’s in block 8, sir. Guards have already been dispatched.”
They’re aiming for the port! the head thought. “We must capture them, whoever they are.”
Suddenly, their computer displays started to turn red and fluctuated. “Sir, virus intrusion in defensive barriers. Infection spreading! Enemy probes have breached the outer defensive wall!”
“WHAT?!?” he exclaimed. “They’re good, if they managed to do that. Reinforce allocations to peripheral defenses. Cut the infected sectors loose and use them as decoys. Start analysis protocol stat!”
Few minutes later, one technician confirmed, “Virus analyzed. Mutual destruction in process. Fourteen variants neutralized. Two variants active. One variant unidentified.”
“What do you mean unidentified?! Get me verification!”
“Sorry, sir, but our operating systems cannot catch up with the hacker’s speed. But preliminary scans show it as inert and unresponsive. It seems to be a decoy.”
“Who are these people and what do they want?!”
His colleague remarked, “Probably Federation terrorists. Kensington has always supported the Empire ever since.”
“But this doesn’t make sense! What good will it be for them to start terrorizing here when this colony just houses refugees?”
Another man manning the security detail reported, “Sir, the hacker is taking over our system controls! He’ll be able to –!”
He was stopped short when they felt a strong jolt as the lighting system fluctuated on and off. Soon, they found themselves starting to float in mid-air. “Crap! He disabled the centrifugal spin!”
The head of security barked, “Send two squads of ZAKU Nightmares to the space port entrance. Give order to shoot down any vessel that attempts to exit! Shut all maintenance hatches and ports.”
He then turned to his computer technicians, “Change the protocol of our defenses. Don’t let the intruder spot our response protocols!”
“Too late, sir! The intruder has begun to gain control of proxies. We’re unable to disconnect circuits. First defense line is 60% eliminated.”
An angry fist slammed on the console. “Deploy root array along all axes. Have all attack barrier variants stand by.”
* * * * *
Side 3 colony Carphatia
High Council member Claude Ashram boarded a transport shuttle en route to Asgard, the Empire’s seat of power, as he was preparing for a meeting with the Empire Council. There had been disturbing reports recently about the information of Operation: NEWTON and what caused its sudden mysterious collision into earth orbit. Unknown to the rest of the Empire, the hidden intention of Operation: NEWTON was to drop the colony into earth, which was orchestrated by Ashram himself. He conveyed it as a covert and level 8 mission order from the Council. The original objective as enforced and authorized by the High Council was to capture the colony weapon and use it as a deterrent against any uprising attempt by Earth Federation as well as the renegade factions. To save face, the High Council declared that it sanctioned the act of genocide.
Now, Ashram would have to give full report and be subject to the Council’s inquiry and evaluation based on the latest report, since several High Council members had been gathering reports and evidence that would eventually link the colony drop to Ashram.
Finally, the meeting went underway. Ashram went and stood by the council’s rostrum.
“Lord Claude Ashram,” said Lord Marduk Fakir, the High Council president. “This council is called into session due to the recent evaluation of the intervention against the Federation. With the empire’s foreign policy in effect, it has been reported that there have been violations against rights of humanity in the way our forces occupied the Federation-held nations on earth sphere. In relation to that, protests and disapproval are voiced by several colonies, especially Side 5.”
Lord Fakir took a display module and read several pages from the fact-finding committee that he ordered to review the events from the recent war.
“The report of the fact-finding committee is quite, how should I say this, ‘disturbing’?” Fakir cleared his throat for a moment. “Here’s one of these disturbing finds. ‘The mysterious purging of the colony weapon, Heaven’s Fist, could not have been performed by Captain Magnus Alexandersson, who would not have in any way knowledge of the necessary codes of the Earth Federation to put the purge sequence into action. Furthermore, the Frontal Squadron’s initial report coincides with many finds in reference to the committee’s conclusive report.’”
Lord Selvyn Tan spoke up. “This report on the Earth Federation’s top official who, according to Captain Alexandersson’s defense report during the squad’s inquisition , who ‘displayed the distinct red halo brilliance in his eyes prior to enacting the purging sequence of the colony’. Any comments on this?”
“Is this all about THAT?!” Ashram reddened and said, “If I may, my lord, it’s been almost five years when this came up. Captain Alexandersson does not have any evidence to support his claim. How do we know that this is true? Surely we can’t exhume or find the body of this Federation official.”
“Anyhow, do we resolutely know that he was not one of our men from Sixth-Day Protocol? If this clears up and there’s a water-tight argument on that possibility, I’m sure as hell gonna choke you to death, especially when I find out that there’s an explanation why the colony weapon eliminated Lord Piotr Heimlich on the battlefield!!”
Lord Fakir sharply reprimanded Tan. “Order! We shall have order! Lord Tan, I advise you to regain your composure or else I will have you held in contempt of court!”
“Apologies, my lord,” said Tan, glaring at Ashram, then sitting down.
“With all due respect, my lord, but the remonstration is a mere black propaganda by the citizens who are sympathetic towards our enemies. These scums that choke the earth with their existence and abuse on mother earth deserve to be wiped out and erased from our history and memory.” Ashram gripped the rostrum’s edge, as he bravely voiced his dissension.
“May I remind you, Lord Ashram, that we are not murderers. Our leaders and ancestors did not take arms for atrocity’s sake. Royal Zeon was not established on such irrational ‘ideology’ of yours.”
Ashram growled. “Side 5 has always expressed their censure and condemnation of Zeon’s foreign policy. It is high time that we check these people’s intention and –!”
He was rudely interrupted by Lord Viktoria Geiger, another council member. “Side 5 colony cluster is Royal Zeon’s business sector! We cannot dare do that with this issue being raised up.”
“I won’t be surprised if THAT comes from you, Lord Geiger,” Ashram sneered. “You were a refugee from earth. Naturally, you’d feel –!”
“I OBJECT ON HIS STATEMENTS, LORD FAKIR!” The lady member stood in fury.
The council president addressed Ashram, “Please let us discuss civilly, all of you! Have some respect on the Zeon crest before you today!”
“Apologies, my lord.”
Another one put in, “The citizens living in that cluster are mostly earth-borne spacenoids. It is only natural for them to feel that way towards their place of naissance.”
For a moment, there was silence. Obviously, they were waiting for Ashram to speak up.
Finally, Ashram pounded an angry fist on the rostrum. “It has been five years since the War of Conceit! What more do you want? We have won the war! Look at these lowlife earthers. They finally succumbed to their knees, where they deserve. With the war’s outcome, we have upheld Royal Zeon’s ideals!”
“But not at the expense of becoming slaughterers in the process! Have you seen the reports of the evaluators from the empire’s different sectors?! Air strike on a refugee camp in Southeast Asia. POW’s condition in the concentration camps. The deployment of ZAKU squads in a Pakistani village and killing women and children in the process. The 6DP soldiers performing vicious acts of violence in the name of pacifying the uprisings. Are you aware of all this, Lord Ashram?”
Before he could answer, another member butted in. “Following the death of Lord Piotr Hemlich in the battle, you inherited his position in the Ministry of Collective Science Research, particularly the 6th Day Protocol. Your so-called experiments, as far as our guiding principle as a sovereign empire is concerned, are absurd and… rather suspicious.”
“You were entrusted with the task which obviously you’ve taken advantage of. What are your intentions, really, Lord Claude Ashram?”
Ashram bowed his head.
“This is war, for god’s sake, my lords!” Ashram furiously said, raising his voice. “I have invested my life and work into all this! If you think that I will not fight for this with due process of our law, then you are mistaken!”
He stormed to the door, which slid open. He stopped abruptly and turned.
“This is not the end, my lords.”
He faced one of the sentry on duty stationed on either side of the door inside the conference room. His eyes glowed blue in a blink of an eye. The Zeon soldier did not say anything but his eyes glowed faint red.
* * * * *
Diko Sidhikoro, Zyann Nigel, and Amber La Flaga skimmed through the weightlessness as they went deeper into the hallway. At the end of the recent war, the three were separated from the rest of the RED ARROW and survived the ordeal of keeping a low profile from the Empire’s probing eyes. Using what remained of the Gundams Achilles and Astraeus, they managed to reach Kensington and stayed underground until they deemed it safe to move. Achilles was destroyed beyond practical use. However, several components of Astraeus were salvaged by the three.
They started their move months earlier after ears of keeping a low profile when help finally arrived at the colony. It was from his comrade back in his 77th Strike Team days, who responded to his message. The plan was to rendezvous in the coordinates which his comrade had mentioned. They painstakingly managed to sneak the salvaged parts into an old transport ship inside the colony. Finally the day came.
Amber ducked from a wall corner as bullets ricocheted against steel and concrete. Small debris lurched on her direction.
“Zyann, get down!” Diko shouted in warning. The girl immediately cradled her head low and crouched. “Amber, here!”
He handed her a flash bomb and said, “This is the last one. Make this count, okay? We’ll reach the hangar soon.”
Amber nodded and stayed flat against the wall. She waited until the security guards spent their loads before throwing the bomb.
Tink, tink, tink! BAM!
“NOW!!!” Diko ordered, as the three scrambled forward. He immediately disabled the six guards while they were dazed. He picked up a rifle and some load magazines and a radio transceiver. “Let’s go!”
Up the hallway, they reached a door.
“Locked!” Zyann said in dismay. Pretty soon they felt that artificial gravity was restored. “Maybe they managed to put back their defenses up.”
The man just smiled. “Don’t let your hopes down just yet, Zyann.” He motioned the women to hide behind him. He took the rifle and shoved the butt against the door panel, creating a crack. Pointing the barrel inside the opening, he pulled the trigger and unloaded the whole magazine clip.
Amidst the smoke, Diko flexed his muscles and leaned against the sliding door. “HRG!!!”
The two women joined him in pushing the door aside. Finally, they succeeded, only to be met with heavy fire from the other side. As bullets showered upon them, Diko gasped and by instinct dived to shield the women. Loud thuds were heard.
“Diko, no!!!!!” Amber screamed. The thuds were the telltale sign that Diko took the bullets.
He succumbed onto the floor, while the two women dragged him behind a huge container van.
“Mr. Diko! Don’t die!” Zyann kneeled in horror as the man was seemingly unconscious. Amber pored over his body but she saw no blood dripping nor pooling. Finally he opened his eyes.
“You idiot! You have us worried back there!” Amber admonished but relieved. “But… how –?”
Diko flexed his right arm, with the flesh torn. Underneath, a shiny build was revealed. Zyann was utterly surprised. “A – a metal arm?!”
Amber looked at him. “You mean, you’re a –?”
“No, not like that. I lost this right arm back in the old days, but those wonderful people from UN Medical Center reconstructed a semi-cybernetic arm for me. Blood and nerves are still there but the movement is purely mechanical.”
They heard footstep movements. “Heads up, here they come!”
The guards positioned themselves on the other side of the container. They were gesturing hand signals to coordinate their moves. Oblivious to them was that the container started to tilt dangerously on its mount until it fell over the guards.
Luckily Zyann saw a control panel for the container hoist nearby. A little nudge on the bulky metal did the wonder. They checked the pinned men. They were all alive, since the container was empty.
“Sorry,” the young woman said. They then hurried further ahead until they reached the transport ship. Immediately they donned normal suits.
Amber volunteered, “I will navigate. Zyann, man the radars.”
Diko released the mounting arms and closed the bay doors. That should hold them back for a while. Turning to Amber, he said, “Let’s get out of here. I’m opening the port exit.”
As the port opened, they were met with a barrage of beam fire.
“ZAKUs!” Zyann exclaimed, looking at her display.
Diko immediately boarded the ship. He looked into the console feed. “Three mono-eyes. Persistent ones!”
“How shall we get out?”
“We still have a trump card. If they thought that IT was a decoy, then they should have thought otherwise.” Diko clicked a button on a contraption strapped on his wrist. It activated the unidentified virus variant that the security personnel deemed as a decoy earlier. The virus was programmed to immobilize the power distribution of the colony to induce power failure for five minutes. It was the perfect opportunity for the trio to make their escape.
The port lights shut off immediately. Amber immediately brought the retro boosters to raging life and the ship catapulted away. Few seconds passed before they were again under fire. They made several close calls until one hit on the starboard side shook the whole ship. “Auxiliary engine has been hit! Jettisoning it now.”
Diko turned to Zyann and said, “Well, I guess it all boils down to this. Sacrifices have to be made.”
Zyann frowned. Finally, she conceded, “Okay, I will do it.”
She hurried to the cargo bay, where the red Gundam Astraeus’ remains were stored. Despite its condition, the Gundam’s systems were still operable. She entered the cockpit and started the operating system. She nudged several buttons and contacted the bridge.
“All is set.”
Amber replied, “You be careful back there, dear. Opening the rear hatch now.”
The ship pitched hard to avoid the attacks from the pursuing ZAKUs. Another shudder was felt.
“Zyann, if you’re going to follow through, you have to do it now!” Diko called.
“All right, here I go!” Zyann replied. Her eyes turned blue. “Aletheia System, activate! BLAZE Weapon, engage!!!”
Three remote modules mounted on the Astraeus’ HiMAT pack detached and zoomed out. For a while, the ZAKUs’ attention was focused on the funnels. Zyann immediately called to Diko, “Mr. Diko, inform me when all ZAKUs are within the effective range.”
Astraeus’ BLAZE weapon emitted an electro-magnetic pulse shockwave that can affect a 20-kilometer radius and had an effect for approximately 10 minutes. The ZAKUs suddenly became immobile and stalled. The transport ship did as well.
Zyann then started the boosters of Astraeus’ other remote weapons, the Mjollnir and Gungnir that were salvaged and integrated into the ship’s fuselage. This enabled the ship to move even when the EMP shockwave rendered it static and stationary.
Few minutes later, the ship managed to move farther away from the EMP range. Amber restarted the controls and maneuvered the ship to a determined direction. “Diko, hopefully that friend of yours will make good of his promise.”
“Of course, he will. Nate Archer is a good man. Let’s just do our best to reach the extraction point.”
Zyann rejoined them later. Apparently she was sulking. Diko went to her and cheered her up. “You did well, Zyann. Thanks for saving us.”
She responded with a sigh. However, she managed to smile to the man and answered, “Sometimes I really despise having these powers. That way, the responsibility would be less.”
“You know what? I would trade anything from my life to have that power of yours,” Diko said, looking into her eyes. “That way, with the great power that I have, I can protect many lives as I can. Maybe you should start looking at it that way and be grateful with what you have.”
“But what if I fail? Like… like the colony section which I failed to destroy… The tsunami killed…” Her voice trailed off.
He patted her head like a little girl. “You can move on if you strive to live on. Then you must live every single day to make amends, not because of guilt, but because of your resolve to save others. You cannot save them all, Zyann. We are not God. We can only do as much as we can.”
With that, Zyann forgot the horrific memory that she had to endure during the War of Conceit. In jest, she punched the man on the shoulder. “But I really wanted those modules!”
“Let’s see what Mr. Archer can do for you.” Upon hearing that, Zyann beamed and smiled.
The ship was to reach the coordinates along the moon’s orbit. They had to be cautious lest they would be caught by the Royal Zeon.
* * * * *
Back in Kensington, power was restored five minutes later. The pursuit team report finally reached the command center.
“Sir, the perpetrators have escaped.”
“Escaped?!? How in the world did a rickety ship slip out from ZAKU hands?!”
“They had some kind of weaponry which they deployed. It induced an electromagnetic pulse –!”
The security head cursed.
“Contact the Empire. We don’t know who those were and what their intentions are.”
* * * * *
Lord Fakir massaged his temples and sighed after Claude Ashram walked out of the room. He motioned the rest of the council to order.
“The committee has laid out its conclusions, and it’s up to us on how to act on this… this mess.”
The female member emotionlessly said, “We all know that Ashram is not popular among us, but however we act upon this will be for the betterment of Royal Zeon.”
“Agree on that. I propose that we review our policy about our forces’ occupation on earth and act in a more diplomatic way to resolve the conflict with the Federation.”
There were nods and mumbles of approval among the members.
“Now that all this has come to light, we resort to the only rational thing to do. Who shall make the move?”
Lord Geiger stood and said with conviction. “I move to oust Lord Claude Ashram from his position as a Royal Zeon Empire High Council member. I move to strip him off with his civil liberties and subject him to the full measure of Royal Zeon law.”
The others nodded in agreement.
Lord Tan spoke up, “I also move for seize and desist order from the High Council to the Ministry of Collective Science Research. All experiments done and data shall be destroyed and the budget be repealed.”
Fakir then said, “All in favor of the motion, please signify by saying ‘Aye’.”
“Those who object, say ‘Nay’.”
“So shall it be under the dignity and honor of our belief and principle as Zeon.”
Oblivious to them was that one of the sentries was hearing their very words. As the meeting ended, the High Council members boarded the transport ship that would bring them to Royal Zeon’s capital colony, Asgard.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, in a different level in Carpathia, Claude Ashram entered his office. He was utterly furious. They will not humiliate me like this!! They will not dare!!
Suddenly, two silhouettes emerged behind him. Two pairs of red eyes glowed in contrast of the dim-lit room.
A male voice declared, “What is your bidding, my lord?”
Ashram glanced over his shoulder. “Not yet, my children. But bring the captive inside.”
“As you wish,” the female responded. Promptly, she returned with a male prisoner, who was restrained with electromagnetic cuffs on his wrists and heels. His mouth was gagged with a head assembly that had several probes extending to his cranium.
“Your worth will be tested, prisoner. I will have you to do something for me.”
The man, unable to reply, showed his anger by resisting the restraining hold of the man and the woman. While squirming away, the prisoner heaved his arms and attempted to smash Ashram. But before he could connect, Ashram’s eyes glowed deep blue. Suddenly, the prisoner shivered violently as he struggled against a certain kind of pain that no one could imagine.
Few seconds passed before he dropped to the floor, gasping and inhaling for air.
“How does it feel that your mind is being messed up? You are actually my lab rat right now. Just for you to understand what this is all about, I can fry your brain and kill you if I induce an Oldtype with brainwave feedback. I believe you have heard of Mindscar Phenomenon, right?”
The prisoner closed his eyes in pain, wringing out his tears.
“If you defy me, I can kill you. What you have just experienced isn’t all that there is to it. Trust me.”
Ashram signaled the man to help the prisoner up. “Now, are you going to cooperate? Or do you still want to feel your reins?”
Finally, the prisoner nodded, gasping.
“Good. Just as promised, your mobile suit will be returned to you.” Turning to the others, he commanded, “Sarael, Sigrid. Take him to the port now. You know what to do next.”
Before the prisoner was taken away, Ashram called after him, “Oh, and yes, you will be given a flute.”
* * * * *
The High Council members were being escorted toward the space port en route to Carpathia colony. They were still discussing the recent meeting.
“We should have decided years ago about this, Lord Fakir.”
Fakir sighed and said, “Everything has its own timing, Lord Tan. But it’s not too late to do so.”
They entered the transport ship and settled into their designated seats. Five minutes passed but the ship did not take off. Impatient, Lord Geiger made a gesture to the sentry inside the cabin. “Why aren’t we taking off?”
“I will inform the pilot, my lord.”
The sentry guard contacted the bridge, “Captain Fitts, our passengers are on board. Shall we take off?”
There was no answer for a whole minute. Then a voice answered, “We are just waiting for clearance from Control Tower. We will be taking off in a minute.”
Little did they know that Captain Fitts and his co-pilot succumbed on the floor lifeless. A long-haired man took the helm and started the ship. He had a metal module extending to his cranium.
The ship continued on its course as it departed the colony. Seconds later, the boosters kicked off and the spacecraft started to gain speed. There was nothing unusual with the travel, until Lord Fakir noticed that the ship just missed Carpathia.
He then stood upright. He turned to the sentry guard “Soldier, there must be some mistake. We just missed our destination.”
The soldier looked outside the cabin porthole. “I’m on it, my lord.”
The two guards hurried to the bridge access and tried to contact the pilot. “Captain Fitts, we just missed Carpathia! What’s going on?!” They banged the door but there was seemingly no response inside.
Within the control room, the man on the helm grimly muttered, “I have no choice. I am sorry, but this is between my life and yours. And I cannot give my life away until I get my hands on your adversary.”
He flicked a switch that sent smoke inside the cabin. The High Council members scrambled around in panic, urging the soldiers to barge in the cockpit. But before they could do something, they were overcome by the smoke, rendering them unconscious.
He turned the ship to the opposite direction towards the earth. Gripping the controls, he dramatically increased the ship’s velocity and disabled the IFF transponder so that it would not register to any radar. He hurriedly released the restraining belts and grabbed a gas mask. Arming himself with a handgun, the man opened the door to the cabin.
Seeing that everyone was down in the ground, he skimmed along the hall towards the rear hatch. Back there, a small escape shuttle was prepared for disembarkation. He went inside and locked the hatch.
“I’m sorry. Inasmuch as what I do is not to my liking, I have to do this…” The shuttle ejected and sped into the opposite direction.
He opened an encrypted commlink signal. “I’ve done my part. Honor yours.”
“All right. Proceed to the designated point.” It was Sarael’s voice.
* * * * *
Captain Magnus Alexandersson entered an auxiliary strategy room of Royal Zeon’s Iberia Base. Earlier, he received an encrypted mission order to intercept an unknown spacecraft which was, according to reports, en route to earth. The order was not given out via the usual chain of command but it bore the highly confidential status. It also had the level 8 clearance and authorization, which meant that the mission order came directly from the Royal Zeon High Council.
After checking the protocol concerning the mission, he summoned the remaining soldiers of his squad known as the Frontal Squadron. One by one, the five elite squad members came; Shiro and Shinn Amadasuka, Aya Creuset, Marko North and Gustav Seven.
They saluted the captain and sat around a circular table.
“We received this top secret mission order from the higher ups concerning an ‘unknown’ en route to atmospheric entry,” Magnus started. He flicked a button which displayed a hazy image. “Our assets intercepted a signal during a routine scouting at Lagrange 3.”
The display showed a silhouette of a transport ship against the brilliant backdrop of the sun.
Shinn then added, “And they wanted us to check this out, huh?”
“Hmmmmm. There’s one thing that bugs me, Captain. Why the level 8 mission order if this is a simple search and destroy mission?” It was Shiro, Shinn’s twin brother.
“My thoughts exactly. For now, I cannot answer that. There must be a pressing reason why the Council wanted us to check it out. Most likely, it’s part of the uprising attempt by the Federation remnants. In the past two years, fragments of what was left of their forces tried to perform takeovers against our military installations, especially in Europa. In any case, we don’t have to take chances.”
“Does General Trueno know about this?”
“I’m not sure but I doubt that he does.”
Marko pondered for a while. He said, “This is creepy. Lately, Royal Zeon seems to be disseminating orders in such manner. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day, we’ll be fighting each other. So, how do we do this, Bossman?”
“I’m beginning to hate the empire-sanctioned actions after the war,” Shiro said. “Somehow, that Chitz did have a point back then about his dissension of the colony drop. Did the High Council really give out such order? Or was the whole thing just HIS idea?”
Your allegations are not far from mine, boy, Magnus pondered. Nevertheless, until we have the proof, we have to keep our heads low.
The Crimson Striker gestured to Aya, who then explained the prearranged tactics. “Based on our ‘eye in the sky’, this unknown is travelling at a combat level speed. In 1300 hours, it is expected to perform reentry on this hemisphere.”
“Atlantic Ocean, huh?” Gustav inquired. “Then there is no delay.”
“All right, men,” Magnus said. “Prep up your mobile suits. Battle order for everyone. North and Seven, you will accompany me to carry out phase one by ambushing the ship in space. Equip the Arondight units with the Stürm boosters and sniper packs. Amadasuka twins, you will assist Creuset in intercepting the ship if it manages to equivocate us and when our first phase fails.”
“Heh, as if it’s needed, Bossman,” Marko retorted.
“I do believe in your abilities, but as I have said, we don’t have to take chances.”
Magnus turned to Aya, “How many hours have you spent in the sim?”
“Nine hundred hours on simulation, three hundred on mock battle.”
Aya knew what was in Magnus’ mind. The events in the last war had left a physical and emotional scar on her. After their fateful reentry into earth, Aya ended up in a coma state due to the injuries she sustained. Compounding her ordeal was to find out that her love interest, Special Operative Richard Testarossa known as the Silver Fang, died in an attempt to save her. She came into consciousness after a year of recuperation in Iberia.
The captain looked at her silently. “You don’t have to do this if you are not ready.”
“With all due respect, Captain, but I am determined to do so. Besides, my life…I can’t move on if….” She stopped.
Shinn, who had been fond of her and treated her as an older sister, quipped, “She is called the Crimson Shadow for nothing, Captain.”
He did not budge for a while. Finally he conceded and said, “All right, that is settled, then. The DOM Schnitters will have to use the Dodai III sub-flight system and assist Creuset’s DINN during phase two.”
Following the events of the War of Conceit, Royal Zeon started to develop a general purpose mass production unit that was designed to exceed the overall performance of the ZAKU Nightmare. The Arondight was based on the Anaheim Electronics Black Wing Division's high performance mobile suit technology. Unlike the Earth Federation's mass production mobile suits, the GM III Mustang which focused on raw firepower, Arondight's design focused on agility and precision with the general rule in mind that firepower is nothing unless it can hit its target. Its head unit consisted of four main sensors as opposed to the standard Royal Zeon mono-eyes, plus a version of the Earth Federation's compound eyes, and Gundam-grade unit's two main sensors. Due to this, the unit offered greater accuracy and reconnaissance capability. A new frame which was based on Axiom's and Keradjur's frames, was also incorporated to the unit's design thus giving it improved agility and fluid movement compared to the ZAKU. The unit was also installed by pilot support system to aid pilots who lack experience. Its development was started just before the first Heaven's Fist bombardment incident resulting to its production being put into “on hold” status to give way for battle preparations during the recent war. Its production was resumed months after the end of the war.
Aya was issued with a DINN High Maneuverability Custom mobile suit, a replacement for her GINN which was damaged beyond measure. Magnus’ Keradjur was also destroyed but the remains were nevertheless recovered, as requested by the Crimson Striker to General Tigo Trueno, the figurehead of Zeon’s Iberia Base. For the moment, Magnus used a commander-type Arondight.
Minutes before the appointed time, the Squad had already stood by their units. Upon getting the clearance from Iberia control, both teams went to their respective rally points. The three Arondights blasted into space to intercept and if possible, destroy the ship rendered as hostile. Thousands of feet below, the DOM Schnitters and the DINN would engage it into battle and deliver the decisive blow if it managed to escape into earth.
The squad was granted exclusive clearance. Prior to their take-off, Magnus contacted General Trueno via dedicated commlink. Although it was against the protocol, he mentioned to the senior officer several details of their top secret mission. But upon the records of the base, theirs was but a scouting and reconnaissance routine.
“I regret to say this, Magnus, but I am hesitant over this whole thing.”
“As I am, too, Tigo. But we have no choice but to follow through.”
“I will, General.”
“Thank you for your concern, though you know my beliefs.”
“That’s okay. Nonetheless, you might need every help you can get.”
* * * * *
The Arondights were brought into orbit by an atmospheric exit capsule. The mobile suits immediately lit their Stürm boosters and flew forward.
Magnus’ Arondight led the formation. He established a contact link with them and commanded, “Lock and load, men. Keep your eyes peeled. Inform me of anything you’ll see or sense.”
The two Arondights reached for a supplementary barrel assembly that was attached to their mobile suit’s standard beam rifles. It had a power cable snaking back to its binder, which was directly connected to the power reactor. With the attachment, the unit was able to perform preemptive measures.
Gustav’s Arondight released a metallic module that unfolded and formed a disc-shaped reconnaissance detector. It was then released to drift along the area.
They waited for an hour until Gustav alerted, “Got something.”
* * * * *
The transport ship zipped along the vastness of space. Up ahead was earth. Amber checked the ship’s gauges. “We just spent all our propellants. Fortunately we are not far from the extraction point. Your friend better come, Diko.”
“Yes, he will. You’ll see.” After a while, Diko shot back. “What is it with us Anaheim people that you despise so much?”
Amber was taken aback. “Sorry. I didn’t intend to make it look that way to you. It’s not ‘despise’, it’s more of uneasiness.”
“It’s okay. I guess you’re just being yourself. I remember very well your disposition with Knight…” Diko paused. “I am sure, Amber that he is still out there.”
Amber just gave out a weak smile.
Suddenly their conversation was cut short when two streaks of beam energy zipped by the ship.
“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?”
Diko turned to the radar scope. “Three bogeys at ten o’clock! Don your normal suit!” He re-checked the values on the consoles. “They must have cloaked themselves anyhow!”
“What shall we do, Diko?”
They were joined by Zyann, who was sleeping at the back room. “What’s going on?!”
Both ignored her. Amber tossed a normal suit towards her. “Let’s move, Amber! Zyann, can you use the Mjollnir from their mountings?”
“I’m not sure, but I guess I can.”
Zyann skimmed back to the cargo hold and entered the Astraeus. She called back to the bridge, “Tita, you’ll have to point the ship to the enemy’s direction and tell me when to shoot!”
“Okay, let’s do this!”
Zyann turned the Aletheia System once more. Even though there was no information display inside Astraeus’ cockpit, she could feel the remote weapon as if it were a part of her.
Amber, on the other hand, was trying her best to control the ship from being hit by the long-ranged barrage of the enemy. Adrenaline rush made her peripheral senses widen their scope.
I must protect Zyann! I cannot put her life into jeopardy. Not now! Not ever!
Suddenly, she heard Zyann’s voice. Or so she thought.
[I hear you, Tita! We’ll be able to pull this together, I know!]
Zyann?! You can feel me?!
[Yes, Tita. I don’t know how but here we are.]
Diko was staring at Amber. Her eyes.
* * * * *
Three Arondights sped toward their set locations and waited for their target to arrive at the interception point. “Captain, target acquired 100 clicks. Within sniper range in five seconds,” Seven reported.
“Eyes peeled, gentlemen.”
“…three, two, one. Got the bogey inside my scopes, Captain. It’s speeding within combat speed limits.”
“Take the shot, North.”
Beam energy streaked along the space toward its target. However, it just managed to scratch the fuselage. Seven joined in the barrage.
PSHOOOM! PSHOOOM! PSHOOOM!
“ARGH! I missed!”
“Scopes of the sniper beam rifles are not calibrated for Arondight’s visual cameras! Those stupid mechanics!!!”
Magnus responded, “I’m on it!”
The commandeering unit sped forward and hoisted the sniper gun. The two tailed behind. Magnus called to his wingman, “What’s the scope discrepancy?”
“Plus minus 20 degrees, Captain!”
“All right!” the Crimson Striker responded. “Charging complete.” He then pulled the trigger.
Suddenly, his commlink came alive. “MAGNUS!!! STAND DOWN!!!! HALT YOUR MISSION, NOW!!!”
Magnus turned to the display monitor. It was General Trueno’s encrypted line. “WHAT?!?”
But it was too late. The shot that the captain took flawlessly hit the target right on. What ensued was the transport shuttle bursting into a huge ball of fire.
“MAGNUS!!! You are intercepting the High Council transport shuttle!!! I repeat, you are intercepting the High Council transport shuttle!!! Stand down!!!”
Cold sweat broke under Magnus’ normal suit. What have I done?!
“Too late, General! Target has already been destroyed! Can you confirm its IFF?”
Several minutes passed before Trueno replied.
“It’s already been confirmed. Apparently, the shuttle was hijacked and was left on its trajectory, probably to intentionally crash into earth.”
This cannot be!! There must be some mistake!
Trueno’s voice trailed off. “Magnus, this just came in. An order has been issued to capture your team. Currently, five earth-deployed squads have taken off from here.”
Horror filled the Crimson Striker.
“Magnus, you have to know something. The Crimson Shadow was also issued the same order, including the twins.”
He then contacted the others. “North! Seven! You better get away now. There’s some mistake that we have meted out friendly fire!”
“Against whom, Captain?!”
“The High Council members.”
“WHAT THE HELL?!?!?! HOW?!? Its code did not confirm anything!”
“There’s no time to discuss this. We are being targeted by our comrades.”
The three Arondights jettisoned the boosters and started to descend into the atmosphere. Each deployed its ballute system then the ride back to earth started to get rough.
As if to make things harder for them, they were quickly intercepted by attacks coming from their comrades below. Magnus sent a text only message to North and Seven, instructing them to scramble and to avoid engaging the forces.
Finally, the forward squad composed of ZAKU Nightmares and several Arondights took an offensive against the three. However, since the Frontal Squad’s units were initially equipped with space packs which they jettisoned earlier, they lacked maneuverability and sustained flight in the atmosphere. A bombardment menacingly threatened them.
“Captain, behind you!!!”
Magnus could not make out of the situation, unlike before. He was capable of thinking things through even in the tightest combat situation, of which he successfully outlived. But this time, it was different. No matter how hard he tried to, he could not forget the fact that he pulled the trigger that had slain his superiors. He struggled with his conscience and the possible error within the chain of command in the battlefield.
He was momentarily taken back to reality when he heard North’s warning. “What?!”
It would have been too late for him to act in response. A rapid succession of beam shots saturated the whole area. A loud blast followed.
Seeing that his captain was about to meet his death, Seven rammed his Arondight against Magnus’ unit, receiving the attack instead.
North pushed his control sticks and positioned his unit in front of the Crimson Striker. “Captain! You must live through this! For our sake! And to mete revenge on whoever turned us in!”
“North! Stand down!! That’s an order!”
“I will clear a path for you!!!!”
That was the last that Magnus heard from North. Bravely, his Arondight lunged forward against the other Zeon units. Since they were deemed as hostile targets, North did not last more than ten seconds till his mobile suit exploded into a raging inferno.
Magnus came to his senses. That’s right! I have to live through this for your sake!
His Arondight reached for a beam saber and started to speed downward. Magnus reckoned that his best bet would be to outrun his pursuers. Using gravity, he allowed his unit to accelerate further. It was such at a breakneck speed that he felt the G-forces exerting pressure on him physically. Despite the system warning, he continued on.
Further below, the support squads came together into a defensive formation. They started to simultaneously shoot at the Crimson Striker. A commlink line was then opened. “Captain, we deeply regret to do this, but we’re doing our duty. Beyond this, we can no longer do anything.”
“So stop your attacks, commander!”
“Captain, I put my hopes on your proficiency and combat skills. Please dodge our attacks and quickly make a clean getaway! We don’t fully understand the situation, and I believe that there’s something between the lines. So please live through this! Good luck!”
The rain of beams started to spread, allowing Magnus to make his way along the shots. However, some shots were too accurate to dodge.
The mobile suit trainers have done a great job! Magnus thought as he found it difficult to dodge every shot. At length, he had broken through, sustaining massive damages. The Zeon units then started after the renegade Arondight. Several units easily caught up with him.
Two Arondights closed in, armed with beam sabers. The commlink crackled, “Captain, we are pretending to take your life! Please live this out!”
Try as he might, Magnus could not properly fight with the condition of his unit. At the last moment when one Arondight closed in to deliver a blow, a light fuchsia mobile suit crashed into the Crimson Striker unit. Immediately, it swept the damaged unit away, speeding up.
Jarred by the impact, Magnus glanced at the main monitors. He saw the Crimson Shadow emblem. “The DINN?!? Aya!”
Using the contact communication, Magnus said softly, “Aya, you don’t have to go on to great heights to save me.”
The reply came, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Captain. I’m giving you the window that you need to escape. I am sorry about this, Magnus!”
The DINN used its thrusters to change vector and land a solid kick, sending the Arondight crashing into the forest below. Aya then sent a “text only” message.
Magnus strained hard against the crash landing. He immediately opened the encrypted message. It read, “You have thirty seconds to get out of the cockpit, Captain. The DOM Schnitters will then release a salvo in the perimeter. We need to pretend as such so that we can get to the bottom of this and clear your name. Until then, stay safe, Magnus.”
Smoke trailed from what remained of the downed Arondight. Aya gave the signal to Shiro and Shinn, who were standing by. Finally, the DOM Schnitters armed their weapons and executed a wide area blitz, enveloping the whole area into a uncontrolled firestorm.
Shiro whispered, “You better got your hide out of there, Captain, or else I couldn’t ever forgive myself.”
Shinn remained glued to his monitor screen, silent and apparently overwhelmed by the situation of their leader.
Aya was tearful. “Magnus…” She did the sign of the cross. Finally, the pursuing units arrived.
* * * * *
Amber managed to keep the ship intact despite the sustained direct hits. Suddenly, the ship stalled and stopped dead on its tracks. Zyann’s voice blared on the intercom.
“The boosters have been hit! We’re sitting ducks here!”
Amber pressed several buttons that released a blanket of anti-beam particles. Suddenly, some of her console instruments started to crackle with electricity and failed.
“My panels are disabled!”
Diko helmed the next seat. “Just keep your vision of the earth parallel to the ship’s bow!” He then opened the missile bay doors on the ship’s underbelly, releasing the missiles in rapid succession. However, the mobile suits were too quick for the laser guided missiles to make their mark.
Finally, he recognized the attacking mobile suits as they came into visual range. He thought, There’s no mistaking it! Those are Zealots!! That means –!
Diko ran his fingers over a computer keyboard and rattled on to try decrypting a communication protocol so that he could establish a direct transmission to their attackers. “WHAT THE –?! They’re using a different protocol?!”
Suddenly the ship was surrounded by three slim-framed mobile suits. One of them, distinguished due to a crest apart from the rest, positioned itself in front of the bridge and pointed menacingly a beam knife. Amber and Diko scrambled to the rear part of the ship for safety. The beam energy pierced through the metallic fuselage as easily as a hot knife would to a bed of butter. The whole bridge exploded thereafter.
The ship slowly started to disintegrate while a chain of explosions took place.
Inside the cargo hold, the two reached where Zyann was, with the detonations following behind. Finally, Diko screamed, “Zyann, get off the ship immediately!”
The young lady obliged and quickly grabbed an electronic module from the underside of the cockpit seat and exited the Astraeus hatch. Using the retro-rockets on their backpacks, the trio drifted into space, trying to keep a safe distance from the doomed transport ship that exploded eighteen seconds later.
The commandeering mobile suit noticed the survivors drifting freely. It moved toward them while wielding the beam knife. When it had come nearer them, Diko immediately grabbed his wire-gun, took a shot and established a direct physical contact with the pilot. Furious with the fact that they were almost killed, he shouted via the commlink, “JILL RAVENHEART!!!”
There was silence for a few seconds, as the mobile suit paused on its tracks. Then a voice said, “There’s only one man who’d know that!!”
As the hatch opened, Diko then reeled back the cable, catapulting him towards the mobile suit’s torso. As the pilot emerged, they gripped hands.
“Nate Archer,” Diko said in relief. “You almost got me killed back there.”
“Eagle Eye. Still the same old Diko. I bet the huge difference would be that your moves need refining. You didn’t prepare the Black Wing IFF, did you?”
“How could I when I didn’t know that Black Wing had already used a new protocol?”
Archer sighed. “Things are no longer the same as they used to be, Diko. Ever since Dorough…”
“Save the drama for later, man,” he replied. “You better have nice accommodations in store for us. You have shaken these women out of their wits!”
Archer glanced over Diko’s shoulder. Amber smiled sheepishly while the younger one glared at him. “Oooops! No harm intended. Come on, let’s get you fixed up.”
Archer went back inside the cockpit and typed in several commands into the computer, which in turn caused the two other mobile suits to move, each picking up Amber and Zyann.
“Drones? The great Nate Archer uses drones? Whatever happened to the team player Strike Blanc pilot?” Diko pointed out, as the mobile suits followed a trajectory towards the mother ship.
“Long story, bro.”
It’s a sad, sad world, he thought.
* * * * *
Towards the open sea fifteen kilometers away from the explosion where the commander-type Arondight met its destruction earlier, a small boat bobbed over the water. There was one man wearing a brim hat to shield himself from the sunlight. He reeled back his fishing pole and took the bucket containing his catch. He then fished his side pockets and took a portable GPS navigator. Seeing the numbers registering, he then scanned the whole area and discerned the smoke wafting beyond the forest.
“Ah, black smoke. A telltale sign. This is the place, all right.”
He started the engine and pushed the throttle gently and brought his boat moving forward. Pretty soon, the cell phone rang.
The man grabbed it and said, “Talk to me.”
“It’s the empire, based on our assets’ reports. They must have a sort of exercise in this area, or this could be a legit battle.”
Interesting! the man thought. He then replied, “Anything more?”
“My monitor confirms that it was an Arondight.”
“The empire’s recently rolled-out mobile suit?”
“Yeah. And would you believe me if I tell you that is was a commander-type?”
The man’s eyes beamed. “You don’t say.”
“That’s all there is to it. You better check it out.”
“All right, Eckhart. I’ll recount anything back on you.”
The voice crackled over the phone. “Where’s the usual generic ‘Ciao’ response?”
The man pressed the end button. Pretty soon, the boat approached the beach. Suddenly, the man saw something moving behind the tree line. He cocked his gun holstered on his back and got off the boat. Calmly, he walked along the shore, pretending to be hauling his catch.
Come out now, he coaxed.
Along the shadows cast by the foliage, a red silhouette could be made against the dark backdrop. The man muttered, “Red, huh? Who on earth would wear a red pilot suit aside from anyone from Zeon?”
He then loudly exclaimed, “It’s fruitless if we continue to play hide-and-seek. Eventually, one of us will drop dead, so let’s get over with this now.”
To his right, a man wearing a red pilot uniform emerged from the bushes. He had a gun pointed at the other man, its laser sight leaving a bright red dot on the other man’s temple.
“Let me guess. Them mechanics forgot to put some bolts?” He chuckled, of which the Zeon soldier did not find it amusing.
“No, you didn’t crash-land. Judging from the patch on your suit, you are no less than the famous Crimson Striker himself! Ace pilots do not crash, or so the saying goes.”
Magnus kept silent. The other man started to move toward him, of which he immediately took a shot from his gun. But this time, he purposely hit the bucket of fish, causing the contents to spurt out. Blood and seawater drenched the man. Instinctively, the man jerked upon impulse, his hat blown away.
“My, my, what a trigger-happy person you are.”
This time, Magnus retorted, “I intend you no harm. It is unfortunate that you’ve seen me but I have no time for this.”
“You meant no harm, huh?” the man sarcastically let out a laugh. “You are part of the entity that grips the whole world and humanity by the throat, causing the people to fall on their knees. And you meant no harm.”
Great! Magnus complained, but he did not audibly answer.
“In any case, it is obvious that you have been shot down by your own, so you have a story to tell. So let’s calm down and disarm, because obviously you need help.”
Magnus calmed down. He cautiously watched the man coming closer. Then something familiar drenched him deep down.
Wait a minute! I swear I have seen this man’s face… somewhere. Where was it?
“Did you have a quarrel with someone powerful among your ranks? Good thing you weren’t toast to crisp.”
Vaguely, but I am sure I saw him somewhere…
At last, his memory fell into place.
Persia Base! He’s THAT MAN from the security video feed prior to the base’s destruction!!
The other man smiled. “You couldn’t have this day any worse, right?”
THIS IS THE MAN WHO SHOT JEHU POINT-BLANK BACK THEN!!!
Magnus re-cocked his gun and started firing, emptying the whole magazine. The other man did a backflip and crouched on the sand. He immediately reached for his He noticed that two bullets almost got him as he felt the searing heat. I’m singed!!
“What do you think you’re doing?! Getting cocky and all!”
“You’re that man from before!! You shot my friend mercilessly while getting right under his nose! And this time, I will take revenge for him! You’re that Anaheim guy named only as Knight!”
The other man felt his blood rush over.
* * * * *
In a dimly lit room, smoke trailed from a cigar playing precariously between Ashram’s fingers. He just finished reading the report from Iberia Base concerning the recent crackdown operation of the Crimson Striker, who had been accused with treason by killing the High Council members. Ashram had Sigrid release the needed propaganda for his next step: to be elevated into power.
“I have fulfilled what you asked, my lord.”
“Hmmm,” Ashram replied. “Good work. We will expect that the empire will undergo polarization phase from this time and henceforth, but this, my child, will be a trial by fire.”
He stood up and approached the woman. He caressed her cheeks and softly said, “And you, my child, will help me, together with your brother. We will ensure that humanity will emerge superior over its own differences. Let the blame fall on us… No, on me. You and your brother will join the rest of the people, whether earthers or spacenoids, to enjoy the greater good, which is single idealism.”
The young lady looked up to him in admiration.
The door slid open. It was Sarael.
“My lord, the prisoner has demanded that his mobile suit be given back to him.”
“Hmp!” Ashram grunted in disgust. “It seems that he has proved his usefulness after all. Stall him. Use the same persuasion if he dares to go against us.”
Sarael obliged and slipped out.
"Now that every last of the members and the greatest leader of the High Council are gone, humanity is only filled with third-rate idiots with no real power. From this time on, deculture will smoothly follow suit. By that time, all conflicting ideas will become extinct. Then humanity can move forward to its next step."
Ashram plunked the cigar back into his mouth, savoring the menthol aftertaste as he contemplated his plans being put into action. Some ashes fell onto the floor, embers glowing brightly. It perfectly pictured the brewing conflict and the ramblings of humanity’s hearts.
What will become of the Crimson Striker, now that his ties with Royal Zeon have been severed? How can Nate Archer help? Why did Ashram indirectly mete fatal act on his own co-members of the High Council? Find out more in the next episode of MS GUNDAM: The Lost Century Season 2.