Actions

Work Header

Super Robot Wars GQ

Chapter Text

Super Robot Wars GQ

The world had once almost gone into destruction. However, there is one prophecy since the mythical age that the world shall divide into multiple different worlds.

12,000 years ago, humans were harvested by Shadow Angels for their prana as though they are cattle. This would have continued if not for one Angel who betrayed his own kind. Apollo, the Solar Wing, fell in love with Celiane, the human heroine, and together with a human noble called Scorpius, they rode a Mechanical Angel and triumphed.

Thousands of years later, the Earth was suffering from global warming and the seas were starting to rise. Even with construction of artificial islands, there was still a shortage of living spaces so they turned their attention to outer space. With their spacefaring, the humans established colonies in space, the moon, and nearby planets. However, unrest among the nations of the Earth and the colonies led to what will be known as the Calamity War that wiped out a quarter of the human population. Gjallarhorn was formed after the war and influenced most of the nations of the Earth to form the United Earth Sphere Alliance with four blocs:

The African-European Union (AEU), consisting of Africa, Europe, and majority of the Middle East;

The Human Reform Federation (HRF) formed from Oceania, most of South, East, and Central Asia, and Russian territory to the west of the Ural Mountains;

The Strategic Alliance Union (SAU) with the lower half of North America, South America, and the Japanese Archipelago;

And Arbrau, comprised of Canada, Alaska, the larger Eastern half of Russia, and Greenland.

Thus began the transition from Universal Century to After Disaster Era.

Barring Arbrau which has no equatorial territory, the economic blocs built orbital elevators for transportation and gathering of solar energy. Instead, Arbrau relies on methane hydrate for source of power and partly so does the AEU because their orbital elevator is still incomplete.

Some degree of autonomy was granted to the colonies in space and Mars but each one is still effectively under control of one of the four Earth blocs and the colonists' desire for independence only grew.

Among the military forces of UESA, a special task force named Organization of the Zodiac (OZ) formed with the maneuverings of the private supporter Romefeller Foundation.

In A.D. 308, a disaster referred to as the "Great Catastrophe" shifted the Earth's magnetic field, devastating many parts of the world and changing its climate. Along with this incident is the awakening of the Shadow Angels imprisoned in the South Pole and ascent of the Dinosaur Empire which was forced underground far even longer for millions of years. It is also at this time that Dr. Hell began his attacks and the Mulians appeared in their floating cities.

Led by a man named Gen Fudo, humans believing in the legend of the Machine Angel set out to find it, resulting in the discovery of the three Vectors; machines that combine to form Aquarion. DEAVA (Division of Earth Vitalization Advancement) was formed from the support of rich corporations to manage these machines.

At the same time, Professor Saotome discovered a new power source called Getter Energy and to harness it, he designed a robot with a combining mechanism similar to Aquarion's. However, when a Getter Robo self-detonated in the island of Manhattan in a three-way battle with the Dinosaurs and Mulians, Getter was deemed dangerous and restricted. Yet, Manhattan was not destroyed but was enveloped within a spherical barrier and since then was referred to as "Manhattan Jupiter" because of its resemblance to the planet.

In A.D. 318, the enigmatic paramilitary organization Celestial Being challenged the economic blocs and UESA. With their Gundams, the term taboo since the Calamity War, they conducted their armed interventions to almost subdue Earth's armed groups. Only when their technology was stolen and deciphered that the odds turned against their favor.

In A.D. 322, another set of Gundams from the discontented Lagrange colonies attacked but OZ used the turmoil to seize administrative control of the Earth from the UESA, with the Romefeller Foundation forcing Gjallarhorn to recognize and share management of its replacement Earth Sphere Federation. A-Laws then formed through the efforts of military officials from AEU, HRL, SAU, and Arbrau, beholden to none of the other existing political or military entities but leveraged by their monopoly on GN Technology.

Soon afterwards, an alien race called Balmians contacted the ruling factions of Earth to negotitate purchase of territory for immigration after their homeworld was razed by invaders called Skruggs. It was a big gamble for these aliens as they knew the Earth was already beset by internal conflicts. Negotiations took place but perhaps to no one's surprise, Balmians and humans are soon at war. To make matters worse, the Skrugg also found its way to this little blue planet.

The year is A.D. 323. What future awaits the Earth as powerful entities contend to shape it to their own liking?

Chapter Text

Chapter 1: Go, G-Unit!

Location: MO-V Space Colony, Asteroid Belt

Residing on the far side of the Asteroid Belt, MO-V is farther from Earth than any other colony. It has a population of 100,000; mostly miners, engineers, and their families. Persuaded by Lady Une's speeches to the colonies as part of OZ's effort to enlist them in the battle for independence, MO-V’s leaders almost immediately joined them and agreed to lend their resources.                                                                                             

At present, engineers and miners are going about their usual work but little do they know that for the first time, their peaceful, little colony would be embroiled in the war...

“That’s good. Keep it up! Keep it up!” A worker signaled with a light stick as cargo is being loaded to the colony’s ports from the asteroids. “All right. Okay!”

“Hey, you’ve gotten pretty good, Rookie,” the worker that was signaling said to the operator of the machine unloading the cargo as they both make their way back to the locker rooms.

“I’m new to this place but I’m technically not new to this job,” the operator responded. “And would you stop calling me ‘Rookie’, Mr. Miyasaka? Call me Saji Crossroad.”

“Alright then, Saji, what brought you to this faraway place?” Mr. Miyasaka continued.

With reluctance written on his face, Saji replied, “I was working on the Winner Resource Colony in Lagrange 4 before but-”

“Ah, yes. I’ve heard that one. Damn OZ... And they even had the nerve to pin it on Zayeed Winner!”

The older man clenched his fist and bumped it into a locker loudly. This action and the choice of words for that statement puzzled Saji but before he can take a moment to ponder, a group of uniformed men with firearms filled the room.

“Eddie Miyasaka! You’re under arrest on suspicion of working with Katharon!”

Eddie threw his helmet at one of them and tried to squeeze out of the room but he was shot immediately and subdued with beatings and then some. The other uniformed men turned their attention to the onlookers and began to beat them up as well with the stocks of their guns.

“What did I do?!” Saji protested as his face bit the floor.

 oOo

“Damn it! Where is he?!” Odin Bernett said as he flies around the asteroids, checking rock and debris as he looks for signs of the Geminass-02, twin unit of his own 01. “He’s around here… I’ll catch him!” He flew around the asteroids some more…

“There! I found him!” Just as he was looking forward to, his sensors picked up signs of 02 and right in front of him in a favorable position. With his beam saber he slashed at the figure… and hit nothing. “What the…”

“Odin! Being deceived by chaff isn’t good enough!“ From behind out came the 02, beam saber ready to slash at the 01.

“Behind me? Damn it!” The 01 countered with a beam saber of its own but the response is too late.

“PX System Activate!” The 02 glowed bright blue and Odin didn’t even see it but his mobile suit’s hand which was holding the beam saber came off.

“P-PX System Activate! Activate! Damn it! It isn’t working?!” Next thing Odin saw is the blue light from the beam saber filling his cockpit.

-END OF SIMULATION-

The words filled the screen.

“You two’ve done enough! Test battle finished!” A jovial girl’s face displayed on their monitors. “Odin, Odel… Thanks a lot!”

“Ha! We’ve just started!” Such was Odin’s foolhardy reply.

“What?! You’d already be dead in real combat!”

“The mechanic’s no. 1 job is to tune it up! Isn’t it, Lucille?”

“Hey! I didn’t tune it wrong! You’re just an unskilled test pilot!”

Odel stayed silent for Odin and Lucille’s banter and read the results, tuning out his amusement with statistics of the battle.

 oOo

“Lucille, how are the mobile suits doing?” An old man entered a control room and asked the girl monitoring several screens.

“Oh, Dr. Berg! The mobile suits are giving satisfactory results,” she replied, muting the audio output from the monitor where Odin is displayed. “Odel is really bringing out the capabilities of the Geminass to an extent we did not foresee. Odin lags behind but I’ll chalk it up to him being an inexperienced pilot instead of how the unit is configured.”

“I see,” the scientist thought aloud. This MS will be the strongest MS ever and the achievement of a lifetime. He thought to himself.

“The project is going well but OZ… wouldn’t it be trouble if OZ finds out what we’re doing?” An eyeglasses-wearing woman said. “It’s bad enough that we didn’t report the Gundam we salvaged years ago…”

“As Mr. Herman said before, we won’t announce it to OZ until it’s complete.”

The control room’s door opened again and in came a frantic man wearing his goggles over his hat, neglecting to close the door behind him even with the confidentiality of what transpires in that room. He is out of breath but tried his best to speak, “Trouble!… A-Laws s-soldiers are… harassing our workers!”

 oOo

"Hey, hey! What's all this about?!" A man, fuming, approached the soldiers. "I thought you were only going to conduct an inspection on our colony but here you are causing a ruckus! We've sworn our allegiance to OZ so you can't do this to us!"

"The A-Laws is independent of OZ. Your alliance means nothing to us and you are coddling rebels." The soldier replied. "Mr. Roga Herman, as colony representative you are responsible for this. Take him away, too!"

"W-what?! No! Let go of me!"

He was about to be dragged off but the leading soldier raised his hand to make the others stop while he presses his headset closer to his ear.

"Affirmative… Automatons?... Here?... Understood… Sir, yes, sir," After the call ended, the troop leader turned his attention to the other soldiers. "Leave them. Let's move out of here."

The soldiers briefly looked to the troop leader and each other but without a word they started running away.

"Hmph. Cowards," Roga Herman uttered. "Yeah, tuck your tails between your legs and run." He turned his attention to the captives. "Are you guys okay?"

"Automatons… No, it can't be!" Miyasaka's face was drained of its colors. "Run for your lives!"

o0o

Outside the MO-V colony, a Virginia-class transport ship is on its way escorted by a cadre of Realdo and Flag mobile suits, all colored blue to represent the rebel group Katharon.

"Begin the rescue operation!" The Virginia's captain commanded and the ship rammed towards an open port in the colony while the mobile suits fended off the colony's mobile dolls. However, they soon found themselves being fired upon by a platoon of red mobile suits; the A-Laws are here.

"Identifying mobile suits directly above the ship." An operator reported. "There are new units."

oOo

"First Lieutenant Peries, dispatch the enemy squad." The leader of the platoon ordered.

"Roger," Soma Peries had already taken out a couple of mobile suits before she even responded.

"Warrant officer Halevy, standby at current position." The platoon leader added. "I will conduct a test of the new automaton model's capabilities, as planned."

"Roger," Louise Halevy replied. Lieutenant Zinin and First Lieutenant Peries, I mustn't let them down.

"Warrant Officer Halevy, if you need assistance don't hesitate to hail me." Another person contacted her but on a private channel.

"Thank you, uhm… Second Lieutenant Smirnov."

oOo

If the intel is correct, it should be somewhere in here. Setsuna F. Seiei floats through the colony's passageways unsuspected by the workers. Exia… I'll find you soon.

Four years ago, in their fight against the A-Laws, Setsuna was forcefully ejected from his mobile suit. Celestial Being presumed that it was captured by one of Earth's military forces but new intel suggests that an unknown party came across it and found its way farther from the inner solar system.

As he traverses in the colony, he noticed that the flow of the people from the opposite direction increased. Thinking quickly, he stopped one of the persons running, making the poor fellow stumble, and asked him.

"What's happening?" Setsuna forces the answer out of the startled colonist as he harshly lifted him back up to his feet.

"We're under attack! Will you please let me go now?!"

Sounds of erupting gunfire can be heard even from far away. Louder and louder it goes; wherever it's coming from it's getting nearer.

"Setsuna?!" Saji Crossroad was among the people running from the opposite direction and spotting an old acquaintance in an unexpected place stopped him in his tracks. "You're here too?!"

"Saji… Crossroad…?"

"No time to waste! Follow me to the secret docks!" The colony representative yelled to whoever could hear him in the commotion.

Both Saji and Setsuna thought it curious though for vastly different reasons but nonetheless, both followed in his escape.

oOo

Aboard the OZ Prize Space Battleship Grand Chariot…

"Sir, we received report that A-Laws has come to MO-V before us," A woman with boyish short hair relayed information to a young man polishing an ornate sword. "It seems that they are looking for terrorists hiding in that colony."

"So what if they are?" The young man replied without batting an eye to his subordinate. "Besides, our mission is beyond mere eradication of small-time terrorists. What we seek are weapons that will bring order to the world." He sheathed his sword and stood up from the seat from which he commands the Grand Chariot.

"Those who don't understand the will of the Romefeller Foundation, Gjallarhorn and A-Laws both, should know their place in this new world!" A large man with a rounded face boomed with those words.

"Now, now. They're still of some use to us," A tall and slim man with silver hair posited a new point to the conversation. "They serve as a counterbalance for the people to hate as tyrants while OZ remains as the liberators in their eyes."

"Excuse me, sirs, but you're putting yourselves in great danger. Let my men and I occupy the colony for you." The short-haired woman said.

"Thank you, Aretha, but as Knights, we must show an example." The young man shorter than the other two confidently strode and unsheathed his sword again to point it on the display of a large monitor. "To your mobile suits, my fellow knights! Our conquest awaits!"

oOo

"I'm going out!" Odel announced as the Geminass-02 began moving.

"But Odel, it's dangerous!" The bespectacled woman snatched Lucille's microphone. "Besides, its backpack unit isn't even fully operational yet."

"Then I'll just have to make do with what we have," Odel replied. "If I can help it I'd rather not fight them. This must be all a misunderstanding."

The woman sighed and relented, "If you're sure then go ahead but promise me one thing, Odel. Please come back safe."

"Okay, Tricia."

"You heard him. Lucille, prepare to launch the 02!" The elderly scientist ordered. A real fight, eh? Probably too soon but hopefully, we can gain a good amount of data from this.

"R-Roger." Lucille took over the microphone again. "Geminass-02, launching!"

"If Odel's going out there, I am too!"

The Geminass-01 suddenly moved, too, and followed the 02 outside the colony.

"Odin?! Not you, too!" Lucille stood up from her seat and yelled. "I could understand if it's Odel but you'll just be a liability in this fight!"

"Damn, that hurts my feelings but I'll show you that when it really counts, I can be just as good when piloting a mobile suit as my brother."

"Ah, mou! Do whatever you want but come back alive. We don't want to scrape off what would be left of you!"

"Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence but I'll be okay. Don't worry your pretty little head about it."

oOo

"Aaagh!"

"No! Forgive us!"

Even as the colony representative leads them to a safe haven, workers are still dying left and right as automatons caught up to them.

"There it is!" Roga Herman yelled as he saw the door to the secret dock he previously mentioned.

The biometric scanner scanned the representative and the survivors poured in as soon as it opened. Eddie Miyasaka was supposedly the last to enter but before he was able to, he was shot by an automaton and the door shut a mere few inches before he could reach it.

"Mr. Miyasaka!" Saji tried to drag him in or what was left of him but he was pulled back by Setsuna.

"It's pointless," Setsuna said coldly.

"We'll be safe here," Roga Herman informed the survivors. "This is where we develop our mobile suits."

Both Setsuna and Saji took in their new surroundings. While Setsuna was not surprised at all, Saji wracks his brain for an explanation.

"I've never heard about this..." Saji zoned out at a towering cordoned figure with only its metallic feet sticking out from below. "Hey, this is not a model sanctioned by the Earth governments, is it? What the hell were you people thinking?"

"Tell your workers to uncover it." Setsuna held Roga Herman at gunpoint.

"Who are you?"

"You've taken something that is mine. If you want to save what is left of this colony, just do as I ask."

Roga nodded and ordered his workers to unveil the mobile suit. It's the Gundam Exia in a very poor state; missing an arm, half of its face, and other bits that make it only a shell of its former self.

Saji froze in place. A while ago, he was surprised but now he's enraged. Gu-Gundam… Setsuna, why are you...

"I'll clean up the automatons inside the colony. I'll lure them. Hide yourselves if you don't want to get caught in the crossfire." With those parting instructions, Setsuna climbed to Exia's cockpit. "It's in bad shape but this will do."

oOo

"Stop! This is MO-V territory! Discontinue your assault immediately." Odel announced in an open channel intending for all sides to hear but he realized that only one group remains. The Katharon squad was wiped out and so were the mobile dolls deployed from the colony. "Please hear us out. We'll surrender any of our colonists if they committed a crime against the Earth government."

"That design… a Gundam?" Barrack Zinin uttered at the sight but though astonished, he wasn't overwhelmed. "Your colony hid rebels from us and are even developing unauthorized mobile suit designs. We cannot excuse your subterfuge."

Is this another one of Celestial Being?… Doesn't seem like it. It's not even a GN-equipped model. Soma Peries zoomed in to the mobile suit in her monitor.

Gu-Gundam… Louise Halevy froze in place. "Urgh..." She reeled from pain coming from her left hand. A hand which she no longer have, replaced by an unfeeling, cybernetic one. A phantom pain. A reminder of her history with the feared machines of destruction.

"There isn't only one!" Odin's voice joined the channel and the Geminass-01 fired its beam rifle, drawing a trail of light in an empty space until it hit an asteroid. "That wasn't a warning shot! If it's a fight you want then we'll give it to you."

"Odin, why are you here?! I'm trying to negotiate for the safety of the colony!"

"Too late for that! I just heard from Roga that unmanned machines slaughtered several of our colonists!"

"That's inhuman! Why you-"

"Even before coming to this colony, we've determined that its inhabitants are guilty and must be executed for the greater good of the Earth. Zinin Platoon, open fire at the Gundams." He commanded the platoon comprised of two Aheads and fourteen GN-XIII's.

With the platoon leader's command, the A-Laws' GN-XIII's pointed their beam rifles and fired at the G-Units. The two skillfully evaded the beams and each flew at a GN-XIII nearest to them; 02 slashed at its enemy with a beam sword while 01 finished one off when it fired its rifle at point blank.

Soma's Ahead Smultron came flying in as it fires its GN submachine gun at the 01. "You can't run from me, Gundam!"

"Oh, no you wo-" Odin tries to evade but was still hit and took some damage. "Is the sensors giving a wrong reading?!"

"That must be the disruptive effect of the GN particles I read about. Keep in mind that that's gonna widen the margin of error in the readings." Odel informed his brother.

"Understood. I just have to use more wild, freestyle moves to be less predictable, right?"

"No, that's not… you know what, as long as you make sure to stay safe."

"Warrant Officer, assist us!" Andrei Smirnov called out in the middle of firing at the Gundams. "What's wrong, W.O. Halevy?"

"No matter! We'll do it ourselves!" Barrack Zinin said.

Just as my quantum brainwaves felt a while ago, she's pushing herself. "Second lieutenant, get her out of here."

Heeding Soma Peries's instruction, Andrei's GN-XIII flew to Louise's and pulled her out of the battlefield.

The GN-XIII’s threw themselves at the G-Units but the platoon has been halved, with only the Aheads and six of GN-XIII’s left. However, the G-Units have also taken some damage and their evasion has been whittled down. Cornered back-to-back, the brothers were determined to keep fighting but an unexpected arrival prolonged their lives just in time.

"Odel, Odin, more units incoming!" Lucille's voice filled the speakers of the brothers' mobile suits.

"A-Laws, cease at once!" A new voice in the open channel commanded. "We are OZ Prize and I am Roche Nattono of the Stardust Knights. This colony is under the jurisdiction of OZ and therefore all operations on it must be conducted with our knowledge. Your non-compliance will be taken as a sign of hostility and Earth Sphere Federation or not, you will be dealt with accordingly."

"This colony might be your jurisdiction as a territory but as A-Laws, we are authorized to deal with organized terrorism." Barrack Zinin replied defiantly. "You can conduct your operation after we conduct our own."

"Oh, do I hear that right? I have your superior on the line and your statement contradicts his." Roche replied irreverently. "General Goodman, be a dear and enlighten your subordinate for me."

The general's portly face filled Barrack Zinin's screen. "General, what is the meaning of this?"

"We'll cooperate with them," Goodman replied.

"General?" Barrack's eyes widened. "We're independent-"

"Just do as he says!" Goodman lashed. "Bear this disgrace for now! The mission has changed; Capture those Gundams and bring the scientists responsible for its production alive."

"… Roger." The lieutenant resentfully obliged. There must be a good reason for this but it still hurts my pride as a soldier.

"Wait. Isn't OZ supposed to be our ally?" Odin expressed his confusion privately to his brother.

"No. It seems that they have an agenda of their own."

A warning sound from his Ahead's controls refocused Barrack's attention. "The number of automatons is decreasing? No… they're gone!"

"A reading on the E-sensor? Enemy reinforcements." Andrei, too, was wary.

From the colony emerged a green streak of light emanating from a mobile suit.

"Those GN particles are..." Zinin knows what he's looking at but didn't the finish the sentence as he's saying the supposedly tabooed word too many times for his own comfort in this battle.

If "It's a Gundam!" or variations thereof, don't say it. The specifics of the superstition varies from person to person but a lot of soldiers generally agree that it's bad luck to identify a Gundam as such when fighting against it. Of course, it can't be helped if you're taken by surprise. Then again, if you are cowardly enough to believe such flight of fancy then an ace pilot can't be made out of you.

Nothing has changed. Nothing's changed since those days. Setsuna absorbed the sight of the battlefield. This is not what we want! Lockon and I… We don't want this world!

"Oh?… So this was the Gundam that appeared five years ago, huh?" Roche acknowledged the presence of Exia with a proverbial upturned nose. "I would have loved to fight you in your prime but I guess I'll just have to settle for a piece of junk."

"Our three Leos against three Gundams. This will be an interesting game." Kratz Silvy, the lean, long-haired man readied the beam lance of his feminine Leo variant, the Leo-R.

"Three on three? But we're still here." Soma Peries reacted.

"Hmph. You guys are superfluous." Broom Brooks, the large man scoffed. His bulky Leo variant, the Leo-N, crunched its fists.

They really are self-styled nobles; these guys are just too abrasive and conceited. Soma noted.

"The hunt begins. I'll take the GN-equipped Gundam." Roche declared and his Leo-S's cape fluttered as it flew towards Exia. "You're a Stardust Knight's prey now!"

"Let me have a crack at them." The Leo-R pointed with its spear at the G-Units.

"Let's play a little, Gundam!" Broom said. "It's our first prey in a while. We should enjoy ourselves!"

After a brief respite, the battle recommenced and though the GN-XIII's and Aheads were ignored as a primary target of the Gundams, they still provided support to the three Leos like greyhounds to hunters.

"You in the GN-XIII beside me," Kratz ordered the rank-and-file pilot. "Provide me with some cover fire."

"H-Huh? O-Okay..." The GN-XIII fired beams from its GN Lance while Leo-R's own long beam lancer thrusts at the Geminass-01. The thrust didn't connect but Odin had to shield himself from the beams.

This thing is a Leo? Odel thought as the top-heavy, green MS chased after him in spite of its tortoise-like appearance. I don't usually go against my better judgment, sortieng with an unregistered, experimental model and all, but if I had gone out with a regular Leo, I'm not sure if I could have lasted this long.

"You killed many of our comrades," In the middle of a sword clash with the Exia, Barrack Zinin aired his grievance. "I will avenge them!"

"Checkmate, Gundam! Your head will be my trophy!" The Leo-S sneaked behind the Exia with its beam saber drawn back and preparing to slash.

"Dynames Repair, Lockon Stratos, sniping the targets." Just as the red caped Leo was about to deliver the coup de grâce, a pink burst of light grazed the Leo and hit the same asteroid that Odin hit earlier.

"What the… who dares?!" The Leo-S lost its beam saber and Roche turned his attention to its source.

"That's… Dynames?!" With the distraction from the other Gundam, Setsuna was able to fly away from his assailants.

"Need a hand?" A familiar face, yet one Setsuna wouldn't expect, filled his screen.

"Lo-Lockon? It's really you. But how?"

"Yeah, it is me but not really. I'll explain later," Lockon said coolly. "Let's get this over with first."

Barely a minute since Lockon arrived when everyone in the battlefield picked up a sudden interference. The mobile suits are bugging out and lines and shapes which they find odd display in their monitors.

oOo

"Lucille, what's happening?" Dr. Berg asked.

"Something's jamming the signals," Lucille replied.

"Find out what's causing it."

"I've narrowed it down to a certain asteroid that is radiating a strange energy."

"GN particles? Ahab waves?"

"No, doctor. The readings I'm getting doesn't match with anything known to us."

oOo

"Is this a trap set by the colonists?" Roche asked no one in particular but a sort of answer came soon.

"Not likely, sir." Out came Aretha's answer from OZ Prize's channel. "It's some kind of energy discharge that is mildly jamming the sensors but our analysts determined that it's not particularly dangerous."

Roche spotted an oddly glowing, amber-colored, crystalline structure among the debris of rock and metal. "This must be what's causing it." Within his beam rifle's effective firing range, Roche fired his weapon and hit the structure dead on.

 

The structure cracked and the interference stopped but it revealed something else embedded inside. Its features were hard to discern at first but it began uncurling itself from what seems to be a fetal position. Its ‘tail’ unfolded from its torso and it uncrossed its arms and the tail, too, split to reveal legs. All in all, the thing is humanoid, feminine even.

“Who’s there?”

A voice resonated in their heads. They are not hearing it from their speakers, the voice itself is within their minds. The voice echoes and has a timbre that doesn’t seem human or even organic.

“What the hell?!” Roche trembled. He would have thought he had gone insane had it not for the people in the channel having almost the same reactions. “Is this sorcery? Get out of my head!”

“Is it time to wake up?” The voice spoke again.

“Everyone, fire at that... thing!” Barrack Zinin, dazed and confused, ordered, forgetting that they are under OZ Prize’s command at the moment. Nevertheless, the A-Laws soldiers did as told and even the Stardust Knights did the same.

They’re firing at it. Somehow, this doesn’t feel right. Impulsively, Odin motioned to defend the thing from the asteroid. With his shield up, he received the brunt of the beam projectiles. At least of those that didn’t miss; the strange occurence has lowered the morale of the enemy’s fighting force. Why am I doing this?

“What is happening?” The voice asked.

“Uhm...” Odin was unsure how he should respond or if he should but he put it bluntly, “We’re kind of in the middle of a battle.”

“Battle?” The voice responded. “I can sense it. You are not of my kind. How long have I been asleep?”

“Kind? What are you-” With the force of the beams, Odin’s Geminass has been pushed back eventually and some of it hit the source of the voice. Odel caught his brother and flew him away from taking further damage.

“Odin! That’s enough. I’ll take care of this. PX System! Overdrive!” The dark blue mobile suit is covered in bright blue light and began moving faster than before, seemingly leaving afterimages. He flew towards the Leo-N and the Ahead Smultron, divesting them of their beam sabers, and went for the gap in the former’s shoulder armor to render one arm useless.

Is that... Trans-am? Setsuna wondered as he watched the scene unfold. No, it doesn’t even have a GN drive but to be able to create something so similar...

“No! My beautiful MS!” Broom yelled.

“Broom, retreat!” Roche commanded.

“But!...”

“Just go! What use will you be if you go down here?”

“Grr...” Broom reluctantly escaped.

“I don’t know who you are but if you continue to threaten me, I will be forced to defend myself.” The voice echoed in their heads with a degree of boldness that wasn’t there before. “I didn’t harm you. Please let me be so that we can part ways in peace.”

“Why would I listen to you? I don’t know what you are but I can feel you are a dangerous existence that I must eradicate.” Roche replied furiously. “Everyone, continue your assault! Aim for that first.”

“As I’m not getting through to you, I must do my best to disable your capacity to fight.” The unknown mechanical humanoid’s “skirt” unfolded to reveal barrels which expulsed bubble-like spheres of energy which exploded upon contact with several GN-XIII’s.

“Hey, hey. Aren’t we just suppose to capture a mobile suit in development? Why are we having such a hard time?” Kratz phrased his complaint like a question.

“Indeed,” Roche replied dryly. “We’ve underestimated them. Everyone, retreat.” The Leo-S turned its back from the battlefield. “You won’t be so lucky next time. One way or another, designs of your mobile suits will be ours.”

The Stardust Knights and what was left of the A-Laws flew away from MO-V.

“That’s finally over, thankfully,” Odel stopped his suit’s PX system. “But the damage to the colony has been done.”

“But this isn’t over, right?” Odin chimed in.

As they were talking, something else approaches the colony. It is covered in green light and approaching at high speed.

“More enemies?! Come on!” In his suit’s cockpit, Odin threw his arms up in the air.

“No... that’s our ride,” Lockon clarified.

oOo

In the bridge of Ptolemaios II...

“Ah! Lockon has found Exia!” Mileina excitedly announced.

“Setsuna was on MO-V after all and so was the Exia.” Feldt Grace softspokenly said.

“Miss Wang’s information is amazing!” Mileina exclaimed.

“I bet Setsuna would be surprised to see you, Mr. Lasse.” Feldt turned to the ship pilot’s seat.

“Probably. He’ll have a lot to take in after just having seen Lockon, which might disappoint him if he learns the truth.” Lasse replied.

“Mileina, please hail the colony,” Sumeragi ordered.

oOo

“Mr. Herman, incoming request for docking from unknown ship. Odin and Odel confirmed for us that it’s affiliated with the pilot of the broken Gundam. What shall we do?”

“We wouldn’t have survived without their help. The right thing to do is to welcome them. Open a dock and ask them where to connect the boarding hatch.”

Preparations were made for the unboarding crew of the ship with workers of the colony to welcome them.

“Welcome to MO-V. It’s unfortunate that we have to meet under these circumstances.” Roga Herman initiated the conversation.

“Not at all,” Sumeragi replied. “Our survival depends on our cooperation.”

The mobile suits and the one unidentified machine entered the docks, too.

“Hey, Odin. What is that thing?” Lucille asked after he came down from his mobile suit. “Is it safe to bring in?”

“No idea,” Odin shrugged. “But it did help us so I’ll give a maybe pointing close to yes if it’s safe.”

Everyone from their mobile suits disembarked but the one from the strange mech hasn’t come down yet. Everyone held their breaths as to what could come out from it. After a while, a hatch on its abdomen opened.

To their relief, the entity looks human enough. Then, it leaped. From about ten meters to the ground. Yet, it landed gracefully like a cat on its toes. Now having a closer look at the entity, she resembles a six-feet tall human woman. She was wearing a mask and upon removal, it revealed her heart-shaped face, wide doe eyes, and thick, full lips. For everything else not mentioned, they are human-like but that made her inhuman features stand out even more; “hair” that resembles the quills of a porcupine, sclerae of a golden brown hue, and ridges on the sides of her neck. While her pale complexion may pass for a human’s, it wouldn’t look healthy for one.

“Uhm... not as bad... I mean, better than I expected, actually,” Lucille quipped.

“Hey, we’re gonna have a meeting at the control room so let’s go,” Dick Higasaki, MO-V’s chief engineer and the frantic man with goggles a while ago, called out. “And bring your... err... friend along, too.”

Lucille and the pilots tailed the conversing leaders of the two groups and the strange, tall woman didn’t fail to snare the attention of the onlookers.

Chapter Text

Personnel of both Celestial Being and MO-V have gathered at the control room. Though cordial, the two groups were still sizing each other up.

“Mr. Herman, may we ask where did you find one of our Gundams?” Sumeragi began, sitting opposite to her counterpart from the colony.

“We didn’t find it. Smugglers sold it to us. They thought it was a liability to keep around so they wanted to sell it to someone as far away from Earth as possible.” Roga Herman explained.

“Our father, Mark Bernett, held the Gundams of legend in high regard so he bought himself one.” Odel cuts in. “He’s no longer in this world, so to speak, so we ask for an apology on his behalf.”

“Personally, I didn’t see what the big deal is,” Odin said. “But seeing you guys fight, I kind of understand now.”

“Aren’t you guys also piloting Gundams?” Lockon asked.

“Is it really? Those A-Laws people kept calling it that but we never did so,” Odin squinted his eyes.

“It has the face of a Gundam, the shape of a Gundam. It’s a Gundam.” Setsuna barged in. “Being a Gundam means to eradicate all conflict, even if we have to fight ourselves.”

“O-Okay...” Odin relented.

“My turn to ask,” Roga Herman continued. “Did you know anything about the Katharon operatives hiding among us?”

“Negative,” Sumeragi denied. “They’re rebels fighting against the Federation but in spite of similarities in our objectives, we are not directly affiliated.”

“Seeing how the armies of the ESF work up close, I can’t really fault you people.” Roga regretfully added, “Despite that, as colony representative, I have obligation first and foremost to protect my citizens.” He stood up and bowed. “If I may ask a favor… please transport all Katharon members in this colony that are willing to reveal themselves to go somewhere else. Also, bring the G-Unit Development team with you.”

Commotion erupted amongst the listening colonists.

“But if we leave the colony, it would be even more defenseless!” Odin slammed his palms against the table and voiced his opposition.

“But if you stay, they’ll have more reasons to find us guilty. At least, we could claim that the Gundams and the Katharon operatives are a splinter faction and had escaped following the previous battle. They’d have no reason to touch us and you would find better hiding places in the inner Earth sphere.” Roga seated again. “I’m not disowning or exiling you. I just want what would be best for all of us.”

Sumeragi thought for a moment and made eye contacts with her crew to gauge their reactions. “Very well, Mr. Herman. If there’s enough room for the rebels and the research team, we’ll be taking them with us but we can only ferry them across to Mars and no farther.”

“That would be satisfactory,” Mr. Herman agreed and left his seat. “Have a safe voyage.”

“Right. We’ll leave as soon as we can.”

oOo

Katharon base, Classified location

“Klaus, we’ve received new reports from Jean 1.”

“Gundams on MO-V?” Klaus Grad, leader of the Katharon rebels responded to the report brought in by a female compatriot. “We’ll have to thank them. We were able to save our surviving comrades thanks to them.”

“They may perform an armed intervention against us.”

“No. They share the same resolve that we have, Shirin.”

oOo

Back at MO-V, the loading of the G-Units and related machineries to the Ptolemaios II began.

Celestial Being and MO-V personnel engaged in idle chat and introduced themselves to each other. Odin, meanwhile, was dangling from his Geminass’s V-fin scribbling a word; “Gundam”.

“Why are you vandalizing your mobile suit?” Odel asked his brother when he descended.

“I saw it before, engraved in Setsuna’s Gundam, but I never paid attention to it.” Odin wiped the smudge from his hand to his shirt. “Now, I want to proclaim that I’m a proud pilot of a Gundam, too.” He grinned from ear to ear but it soon contorted to a serious expression. “By this symbol of freedom, I will avenge our fallen colonists.”

“By the way, what’s up with the spiky-haired girl?” Lockon raised a question, to which everyone else shrugged.

“Um… hello?” The girl spoke again in their heads.

“Damn… that still freaks me out,” Lockon shivered as he says so. “I mean, hello, too, but, not to offend a lady, can you please speak normally?”

“Normally? Ah, you mean use my mouth as you guys do? Sorry, but I physically can’t. My kind is biologically closer to fishes. Hence, no vocal chords.”

“Still doesn’t explain why you can get in our heads,” Odin spoke but Odel elbowed him. “Also, are you reading our minds?!”

“We just evolved that way,” she replied shyly. “And no, our telepathy doesn’t work that way. Among sentient beings, thoughts are subconsciously classified to what they are willing to reveal and those that they wish to keep secret.”

“And your brainwaves can directly interface with our radio communication systems?” Lucille brought it up.

“Yes,” she answered flatly.

“We’ve been talking a lot but we don’t even know your name yet,” Odel came forward and spoke to her confidently. “I’m Odel and this is my younger brother, Odin. What’s your name?”

“Name? You mean what you call each other? I guess I’m Scout.”

“Scout? Is that what you do? But that’s not a name, unless you prefer to be called that,” Lockon explained. “For example, I’m called Lockon, because I shoot things, but my real name is Lyle.”

“Lyle?...” Setsuna wondered. He knew Lockon’s real name and it wasn’t Lyle; it was Neil.

“How about Selkie? It’s the name of a mythological creature from my homeland that lives in the sea.” Lockon resumed.

“Selkie?” She thought to herself. “If you are comfortable with that, please call me by that name.”

All is well until one broke off from their task and toted a gun that was taken from an A-Laws soldier. It was Saji Crossroad.

“Do you know what you did? So many people died because of your actions! You all did that!” Saji was screaming and his hands were trembling. “Because of you, the person I love was hurt. Her family and relatives were killed. My only family, my sister, was killed because she was involved with Celestial Being.” He was weeping. “Say something-”

Selkie threw a spike from her head like a dart. It pricked Saji on his nape and he suddenly fell down.

“What the hell? Did you kill him?!” Odin rushed to the fallen figure.

“No, our hair contains natural sedatives,” she made clear. “He’ll be out for a few minutes. That would be enough to imprison him.”

“We should take him with us. I know this person.” Setsuna spoke.

“Are you sure? He seems to be pointing his gun specifically at you.” Feldt worriedly stated.

“No, he’s right. Take him,” The colony representative said. “If he’s set on a vendetta against you, he wouldn’t be able to work properly for us anyway. If you have a dispute with him, it’s better if you settle it.” He laid his hands on Setsuna’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. “If you consider him your friend, that is.”

oOo

Space Daimobic, Areosynchronous Equatorial Orbit

(That’s just a fancy way of saying “Mars Orbit above the equator.”)

“Kazuya, our mission will be over soon. Isn’t it too bad that we didn’t actually get to go around Mars?” A man with a thick afro said to the only other crew member of the ship.

“We didn’t go here for a vacation, Kyoshiro,” Kazuya replied. “We’re here to bring the Daimolite from Mars back to Earth. It will have to wait for another time.”

“We already have the Photonic Energy. Japan and the rest of the SAU is just showing off at this point.”

“Well, our bloc wants to maintain the monopoly on these energy sources. I wouldn’t say that’s right but everyone is holding back something from everybody. That’s just how politics are.”

“Right,” Kyoshiro concurred. “But our new Prime Minister, Yumi, seems to be a moderate. He’s been pushing for worldwide distribution of Photonic Energy ever since he’s been elected. Wonder how that will sit with other SAU politicians.”

Kazuya didn’t reply and the quietude persisted until Kyoshiro spoke again.

“Are we discussing politics?”

“Yeah, man, what has gotten into you?” Kazuya replied, holding back a burst of laughter.

“Damn. Staying for too long in this spaceship is doing a number on my mind.” Kyoshiro ruffled his hair but its strands just bounced back to its rounded shape. “Let’s get out of here fast.”

oOo

In Ptolemaios II, Nearing Mars Orbit

To pass the time among the crew and pilots, conversations have taken place in a minimalist common area while they eat their meals together.

“That’s it? You’re just taking that revelation in stride?” The second Lockon Stratos said perplexedly.

“Of course. That better explains a lot of things than with the first Lockon coming back.” Setsuna said. “He said he had a younger brother but I never thought that he meant a twin. How did they recruit you?”

Lockon scratched his cheeks and chin then spoke, “It was at this bar in Ireland where I met one of your associates. She asked to sit beside me and I offered to buy her drinks, which she humored. We hit it off right away and when I was too drunk to go home, she brought me to her condominium unit. When I woke up the next morning, she sprung up the question if I’ll be willing to work for an organization that could change the world. Long story short, I accepted. It didn’t turn out as I have planned that night but she did promise to reward me when we meet again if I come aboard.”

Setsuna’s eyes met with the women of Celestial Being but all of them shook their heads as if to say, “It wasn’t me.” His eyes met the new Lockon’s again and asked him, “This associate of ours, did she say her name?”

“Hmm? Yes, it was Tieria. Has anyone seen her? I thought she’ll be among the people who’ll come pick me up.”

The veteran members of the ship exchanged glances that varied from worried to amused but Lasse finally spoke, “I don’t know how to tell you this but Tieria isn’t who you think-”

“Tieria’s male,” Setsuna stated with scathing bluntness. The crew members couldn’t decide where to look after this revelation as they stifle their reactions.

“Sort of,” Lasse added. “He’s an Innovade. It’s complicated.”

His face alternated colors and his jaw slackened. After a long silence, he found his voice again. “W-Wow, that’s a lot to take in. Will you excuse me for a moment?” As he said so, he stood up from his seat with a blank look on his face and left the room with his eating utensils.

“And here I thought Setsuna would be on the receiving end of the shock,” Lasse snickered. “When he was given the task to convince the new pilot, I never imagined that that’s the method he had in mind. Frankly though, I just don’t understand Tieria’s appeal. Even as a girl.”

“Oh, Mr. Lasse. You just don’t understand the charm of a person like Tieria, don’t you?” Mileina teased.

“I wouldn’t argue with that but speaking of Tieria, where could he be right now anyway?”

My initial impression of this people fell apart in just a couple of days. Odin thought. Did these guys really nearly brought down the Earth government?

“How about you guys? Are you twins, too?” Mileina turned to Odin and Odel. “I just thought that with Gundams named after the Gemini, you’d at least be fraternal twins since you don’t look that much alike.”

“Mileina, that’s too direct.” Feldt said, embarrassed for her friend. “Please excuse her.”

“That’s okay and no, we’re not. I’m the older brother by a few years.” Odel replied with a smile. “It’s flattering to hear that we could be mistaken for twins though. It makes me feel younger than I should be.”

“That certainly is so, Odel,” Mileina replied with a giggle. “You just have that pretty boy aura that the Gundam pilots I’ve seen so far have.”

“Ah, thanks. That means a lot coming from a young lady.”

Beside him, Tricia pouted and pinched his thighs. She said in a low voice, “You’re getting overly familiar. Does it excite you that you’ve met girls from outside the colony?”

“A-ah, excuse us,” Feldt stood up and spoke. “It’s about time to bring Saji and the Katharon rebels some food in their holding cells.” She grabbed Mileina’s hand and said to her, “Let’s go.”

Man, Odel is still famous even here. Odin thought as he sips from his canned drink. “I need to have something going for me now that I’m away from MO-V.”

“Something go for you? What does that mean?” Selkie interrupted his train of thought with an inquiry.

“I knew it! You can read minds after all!” Odin leaped from his seat.

“No, I truly can’t. You said it out loud. Didn’t you notice?” Selkie hurriedly assured him.

“O-oh. I did, huh?” He calmed down and returned to his seat.

“What do you mean by ‘something going for you’?” Selkie pressed the question immediately after he returned to where he was?

“I mean that if I want my life to go somewhere, I need to improve. I can’t be in my brother’s shadow forever.”

“Why not? If your brother is superior to you, shouldn’t you let him dictate your life?" Odin was indignant at what he heard but before he can oppose, she continued. “As a Scout, I am low on the hierarchy and depend on our leaders to survive. I am grateful that this group allowed me to come along. A lone Scout without the command of stronger ones does not survive long.”

“Selkie, where you’re from, didn’t you have a concept of self-reliance?”

“Why rely on yourself if there’s someone stronger you can rely on?”

In the hangar…

“This robot,” Ian Vashti referred to Selkie’s mecha. “I can’t believe that something like this is in the middle of these Gundams. This is one of those weird overtechnology that’s been springing up lately. Wherever she’s from, we need to watch out for her even if she’s cooperating with us. I’m not content that the only definitive thing that we know about her is that she’s from an ancient civilization.”

“Yeah, it freaks me out, too,” Dick Higasaki concurred. “When we were loading it, I noticed that there were dents in its abdomen. It’s not there anymore.”

“Seriously?” Ian turned his head to the man standing beside him. “Couldn’t you be just remembering wrong?”

“No, because it actually stood out.” Dick affirmed.

“I guess that’s not the only weird thing about it. I checked its cockpit. It’s filled with water like a fish bowl.”

In the middle of their conversation, Lockon walked in.

“Hey, Lockon, what brings you here?” Ian greeted him.

“I just wanted some fresh air; though tell me if I’m getting in the way.”

“Nah, not really,” Dick said. “But if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong place.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” Lockon said and looked up to his and Setsuna’s Gundams. “Say, why doesn’t my Dynames have that conical thing on the Exia’s back?”

“You mean the GN Drive?” Ian replied. “We sent the GN Drive it had for a testing on a new model that uses two of them. For some reason, the machine is being picky and while it accepted the other one, it’s rejecting the one from Dynames. We’re hoping to rectify that by using Exia’s.”

“Isn’t this an organization secret?” Dick interrupted. “I feel like I shouldn’t be listening in on this.”

“Yes, it kind of is, but mere descriptions of our systems are meaningless to outsiders,” Ian confidently claimed. “Besides, Dr. Berg didn’t hesitate to share the specs and configurations of your Gundams. Speaking of which, where is he?”

In the strategy room of Ptolemaios II…

Sumeragi asked for everyone to gather in the bridge to discuss the Katharon rebels’ and MO-V team’s imminent debarcation.

“The rebels will be on their own to find their group’s outposts in Mars. As for the MO-V team, we can’t have you guys tagging along with us for both your sake and ours so Roga and I decided to book you on a trip to Earth with a transportation company called Chryse Guard Security. However, you’d need to use a cover identity as rich merchants and your mobile suits will be disguised as cargo.” Sumeragi explained.

“That’s fair,” Odel replied, “But when we get to Earth, where will we go?”

“If you approach those from the Sanc Kingdom, they could possibly offer asylum as long as you’re not terrorists and an outright threat to the Earth Federation.”

“From what I’ve heard, isn’t Sanc Kingdom a very small nation?” Tricia asked. “Why is the Earth Federation deferring to them”

“Yes, it is,” Sumeragi turned her attention to the inquirer. “It may be small but it’s also a sister kingdom to Alisia, which is actually the one putting pressure on the Federation. Alisia has threatened to withdraw support in the fight against the Shadow Angels if the Federation dare encroach on Sanc without provocation. As the twin prince and princess are believed to be the reincarnations of the ancient heroes Apollonius and Celiane, aside from having confirmed Shadow Angel ancestry, their participation cannot be discounted.”

Shadow Angels. Selkie thinks that she may have known them in a passing conversation among her superiors but she cannot be sure. It might have been just the way the brain waves are being interpreted.

“By the way, Selkie,” Sumeragi addressed the token non-human. “You’re going with them, too, but you need a more elaborate disguise than being a merchant. It was a lucky coincidence that the first people you met are non-xenophobes like us but you will not be as lucky next time. The Earth Sphere is in a precarious situation with non-humans right now.”

“Yeah, you should wear a wig,” Lucille voiced her agreement.

“You need a scarf to cover the ridges on your neck,” Tricia added.

“You should wear tinted glasses,” Feldt concernedly whispered. “Because your eyes would stand out too much.”

“Red lipstick would emphasize your pale skin and complement it,” Mileina said then her face lit up and her eyes sparkled. “Kyaa! Girls, do you know what this means?”

“W-what got you so excited?” Feldt’s bafflement made her follow it up with the mandatory need to ask.

“It’s time for a makeover!” Mileina squeed. Grabbing Selkie’s hand, she led her out of the room and the three other girls followed.

oOo

Back in Space Daimobic…

“Hey, Kazuya,” Kyoshiro strikes a conversation again after a few minutes of lull. “That spacecraft model doesn’t look familiar. Any idea what that is?”

“Nope, nothing comes to mind,” Kazuya turned his attention to the triangular flying objects. “But somehow, I don’t feel they’re friendly…”

As if to confirm his suspicion, the triangular fliers fired beams into their spaceship. “Damn it! Here I thought that nothing gets past Gjallarhorn! What the hell is the Mars branch doing?!” Kyoshiro complained.

“This is what we get for cutting costs and forgoing the escort until after leaving from Dort 3!” Kazuya yelled as the two of them gets rocked around the ship’s control room. “Send SOS to nearby ships quick!”

“Right!” Kyoshiro proceeded to pushing buttons in the control panel.

oOo

Back in the Ptolemais II…

After taking a nap in the hangar, Lockon returned to the common area after missing the meeting entirely. To his astonishment, the other people are gathered around something. “Hey, what’s all this?”

The group made way for him and he saw a tall, shapely brunette, her hair shoulder-length, wearing tinted glasses, a scarf, and Selkie’s pilot suit. Wait.

Lockon squinted his eyes and asked, “Selkie, is that you?”

“Yes,” she replied. “But I don’t understand why this is such a spectacle.”

“Are you kidding?” Mileina said. “You’re gorgeous!”

“Her head spikes made it easier to put the wig in place.” Lucille stated.

Utter drivel. Dr. Berg thought with contempt. He was the only one with clear displeasure in his face; Setsuna is only indifferent, at least, which is how he usually is.

“Personnel, back to the bridge! Meisters to the hangar!” Sumeragi called from the speakers. “An unprovoked attack on a nearby research ship is in progress. The civilians aboard it have requested aid. Bernett brothers and Selkie, you can choose to ignore this if you prefer to as you’re not under my command but we’ll appreciate it if you choose to help.”

“If you put it that way, how can we not?” Odin said as he and Odel nodded in agreement.

“Be careful, Odel!” Tricia called out before he can leave.

“It’s fine, Tricia,” Odel looked back and assured her. “I’ll be back.”

“That’s a promise, Hon.”

Choose? Selkie was momentarily dazed. Never had she been given a choice before as it’s a privilege reserved for the upper echelons of their society but she thought, If everyone else is going, I should, too.

oOo

The Skrugg Mothership with its fleet… The truth is no longer just out there…

“We have detected Balmian spacecrafts nearby,” An insectoid creature reported. “They seem to be engaged against natives of this star system.”

“Excellent,” Their leader droned. “This is an opportunity to observe how these lifeforms will fare against an unknown threat, like us. We’ll act when one side is defeated and capture all surviving Balmians.”

“Understood.”

oOo

“Looks like this is where we go down,” Kyoshiro pessimistically voiced as the Daimobic trade fires with the enemies. “I would say that it was nice meeting you but if you didn’t convince me to take this job, I wouldn’t be in danger.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t be,” Kazuya replied. “But you’d be a deadbeat and that’s not cool.”

“Good point,” Kyoshiro conceded with a subdued chuckle. “Still, I really wanted to fall in love with a beautiful woman, get married, and have kids; not necessarily in that order."

Only a moment after resigning themselves to their fate when three of the spacecraft were shot down and five mechs appeared around their ship.

“You guys alright?” Odel hailed from an open channel.

“Y-yeah, we are,” Kazuya replied. “Thanks for the assist.”

“Hey, Kazuya,” Kyoshiro carefully whispered. “Most of them are Gundams and I recognize one from the news years ago about Celestial Being. We might be in more trouble than we were in before.”

“Get out of here quick,” Sumeragi instructed. “We’ll facilitate your escape. Follow this route that we’ve mapped out for you while we fend off these attackers.”

“Okay,” Kazuya went through the details of the plan that was sent to them and looked to Kyoshiro. “Let’s hightail it.”

What ensued was a mopping out of the small fleet of a dozen ships remaining; the fliers may be nimble but they didn’t stand a chance against the more versatile humanoid weapons. Not a beam even scraped the Daimobic as they defended its passage. There were smaller aircraft that emerged from them that most likely are escape pods but they didn’t pursue.

“Alright, team, let’s get back on course to the Martian surface,” Sumeragi said. “Get back to the ship, everyone, for atmospheric entry.”

Just as they were about to return, a different set of unknown ships appeared. In contrast with the triangular ones that came before, the newcomers are circular, saucer-like. These ones generated tractor beams and abducted the escape pods.

“Uh, Selkie? I’m going out on a limb here but do you know these guys?” Odin asked.

“No, not one of ours.”

“That’s what I had hoped for,” Lockon remarked. “I had doubts about the first group but these ones just fit all the cliché we have about aliens.”

“Are we going after them?” Setsuna directed a question to Sumeragi.

“No, we don’t know what they’re capable of. Fall back!”

With that, they resumed their descent to the surface of Mars peacefully with the fleet of flying saucers ignoring them.

oOo

“Decently strong but not impressive enough,” The leader gauged the combatants from the mothership, which didn’t join the fleet sent to abduct the Balmians. “Though a full impression of their entire race couldn’t be made with such a small sample.”

Speaking to no one in particular, he asked his underlings. “What are the results of the evaluation of this red planet?”

“Underpopulated and the resources are scarce,” A random operator replied. “It seems that it had only been terraformed for about two hundred of this planet’s revolutions around its star.”

“So this isn’t worth conquering first then,” The leader concluded. “We must invade somewhere we can easily replenish our numbers. If they terraformed this one then their homeworld must be close by.”

“Certainly. We are not very far from the planet they call ‘Earth’.”

He laughed wickedly and said, “Then that’s where we should head to.”

oOo

MO-V Space Colony, Asteroid Belt

The colonists are on their knees, with their hands behind their heads, and guns pointed at their faces. As luck would have it, they’ve been laid siege to again, contrary to Roga’s expectations of being left alone when the targets are no longer around.

But for one thing, he was right. The Earth Federation didn’t bother them once more. Their oppressors are not from the Federation or even from Earth; he can tell by the wings behind their backs.

Among the armored bird-people, a fair-haired man in lighter garb stepped forward and asked, “Who is your leader? Stand up!”

Roga slowly forced himself to his feet.

The fair-haired man proclaimed in a fluent Earth language, “This facility is now under the control of the Balmian Empire. You will help produce weapons for us and in exchange, your lives will be spared. Resist and you will witness the bounds of our mercy. Is that clear?” He looked Roga in the eye. “And you’re going to make sure that everyone is doing their job right. Is that understood?”

Y-yes.” Balmian? Roga thought. These aren’t the fabled Shadow Angels? Just how much trouble is the human race in at this point?

The winged man’s staring down was interrupted when a winged woman came rushing in and called out to him, “Prince Richter!”

“What is it, Raiza?” He asked her in their mother tongue.

“The squadron you sent to kill Isamu Ryuuzaki’s son! They’ve been defeated by the humans and the Skrugg abducted them!”

“Damn them,” Richter muttered with clenched teeth. For a moment, he was silent; then he turned to the humans and spoke again in their language. “What are you all waiting for?! It’s time for work!”

Chapter Text

"So, those guys, were they really aliens?" Odin raised the question as they all gathered to have a post-battle conversation, the last they'll have before the G-Unit Research Team and Selkie transfer to CGS.

"They might have been," Sumeragi replied. "It's not public knowledge but there were rumors of the Earth Federation negotiating with an extraterrestrial race only a few days before we arrived in MO-V."

"But if they agreed to negotiate, doesn't that mean that they had peaceful intentions?" Another question followed up from Odel.

Lasse informed them: "Well, the story goes that while in the middle of a meeting between humans and these aliens, the latter group's emperor died. Apparently, he was assassinated by the human delegates. The retaliation was immediate and our peace ambassador was also killed right then and there."

"That sounds really unfortunate, to put it mildly," Tricia Farrell said with a frown.

"Why did we have to pick a fight with them if we're already facing enmity on multiple fronts?" Lucille opined.

"Then there are those flying saucers," Lockon pondered. "Those escape pods seemed to be resisting them. We may have to face more than one group of aliens in the future if they all turn out to be hostile."

"No one can really tell since the details are spotty and before the previous encounter, we also thought that these are just rumors. However, if humans really carried out the assassination, then it can just be chalked up to the usual suspect: xenophobia." Sumeragi continued but steered it toward a new subject. "All of these are speculations so it's currently pointless to discuss it further."

"Indeed," The unpopular Dr. Berg took his turn to speak. "This goes without saying but I'll say it anyway: We'll keep a low profile while being escorted by CGS. That means no unnecessary conversations with their crew, especially about our 'cargo'."

Man, I hate this guy. Odin said in his head. I know that what he's saying is correct but when it's coming from him, I feel like I just wanna do the opposite.

"Selkie, is it?" Dr. Berg turned his attention to their odd companion. "I don't care what you are and as long as you stick to your role, no trouble should arise. It would be problematic if they suddenly hear unexplained voices in their heads so we'll appreciate it if you keep it to our little group. Except me; you disgust me and talking to you grates on my nerves. However, if your true self is revealed to their crew, we will all feign ignorance and let you be hunted for the freak you are."

"That's a cruel way to put it, Dr. Berg!" Lucille opposed. "She's different and it hasn't been a long time since we first met her but-"

"It's okay, Lucille," Selkie assured her. "I know the importance of the role that I'll be playing for the survival of our group. I will do my best to carry it out."

"Thank you for your assistance, Selkie," Sumeragi said in a subtle attempt at consolation.

"Ms. Sumeragi, Ptolemy's landing is in five minutes," A speaker passed along Feldt's voice.

"Okay, that's all for now. Good luck to all of us." Sumeragi closed the conversation. "See you guys next time."

As they were setting up the final preparations before they leave, Tricia approached Odel.

"Is there a problem, Trish?"

"I hope not… I mean, maybe," There was a distressed look on her face. "I lost contact with Representative Herman several minutes before the last battle."

"We're no longer there to attract attention. We're in Mars now and very far from the colony. The Ariadne network just might not be holding up well."

"I certainly hope so. Yeah, maybe that's it."

Even though Odel was the one who suggested it, he couldn't bring himself to believe his own guess and he had an inking feeling of being bothered by such a development.

oOo

Chryse Guard Security base, Chryse Autonomous Region, Arbrau Territory, Mars

"We will take the representative's daughter to Earth," Maruba laid out the task in between puffs of his cigar to the men standing before him. "And her escort… will be you, the Third Group. You do it."

A short, rounded man looked up to a taller man and back to their manager. "Is the representative's daughter Kudelia Aina Bernstein?"

"Do you know her, Biscuit?" The old manager asked.

"She's been involved in the independence movement." Biscuit knowledgeably spoke.

"If she's that important, wouldn't the First Group be a better choice for this?" The tall man spoke with an uncaring tone and his sight strayed to another standing man beside Maruba but quickly averted when their gazes met. "Why let us do such a big job?"

"They would have been but a group of rich merchants have already hired them," The manager answered as he gently dropped his tobacco to an ash tray. "Her trip to Earth this time is about the Mars independence, too. It's a noble thing. Also, the Young Miss handpicked you guys."

The two standing men looked at each other in puzzlement.

"Just do what you're being told to do!" The dark-skinned, mustachioed man standing beside Old Maruba shouted. His privilege to speak out of turn showcases the disparity between him, the leader of the First Group, and Orga, leading the Third. "You brats just need to listen to what we say!"

Orga closed his left eye and the right one left open looked to his left, at the vintage guns on display in a rack, with vindictive thoughts soon occupying his mind.

Outside the building, under-aged members, if their society allowed for such qualms, of CGS were shoveling the grounds of their base.

"Dang it. Landmine setting drills are unbelievable." A child complained.

"And for tomorrow, it's removal drills." Another child, an orange-haired one followed it with the corollary. "This is bullying."

Not far away from the grounds of their lackluster task, dusts were being kicked up by metallic boxes clashing in mock combat, paintballs flying in the air and toward their targets.

"Darn, that Mikazuki!" A blond young man shouted after a paintball coated his Mobile Worker, the formal term for these boxes.

"Can you dodge this, Mikazuki Augus?!" A muscled man challenged the same person that has taken down his teammate.

"Cool! I also want to do that one day," A kid with brown-streaked blond hair voiced his wishful thinking as he watched the others' training exercises.

"Why are you working so slowly?!" An older CGS worker punted the recent talker.

The other younger workers looked on with contempt at the freshly dealt abuse, albeit no different than the usual they've endured.

Before more mistreatment could be meted out, gigantic trucks approached and soon stopped at their grounds. The commotion brought out the leader of the First Group quickly to meet customers they had been expecting.

A smaller vehicle was tailing behind the trucks and pulled in front of them when they stopped. From it, there stepped down and walked a group of people with confident strides as the children of CGS looked on in awe.

"Welcome to CGS!" The First Group's leader greeted. "I am Haeda Gunnel, leader of the First Group. It's a pleasure to do business with you."

"Likewise," the tall man replied with an expression that doesn't attest to his sincerity.

"And you are Mr. Aesir Monticello, I presume?" Haeda attempted to get to their client's good side, i.e. suck up, pronouncing his surname as 'Mont-ee-sello'. "Your secretary talked to me on the phone and told the story of how you became a self-made man. I hold high regards for such hardworking achievers."

He must be talking about Sumeragi. Odel thought. I'm grateful that she arranged all of this for us but to entrust me to act out this fabricated personality far too different from my real one… To place that much confidence in me…

"It's pronounced 'Mohn-tee-chell-o', you inelegant mule," The man blocked Haeda's attempt to get cozy. "And if you have the time to run your mouth, why don't you use that to command your underlings to go pick up our cargo?"

"Tch," Haeda's face soured. With nothing else that he can say to the rich merchant, he turned his attention to the young laborers. "Alright, you Human Debris, bring their stuff in."

They did as told and soon the containers were transferred to CGS's warehouses.

"Hey, have a safe trip. We owe you for that time back in MO-V," A Katharon rebel that drove one of the trucks for the G-Unit team whispered to Odin, who was disguised as part of Aesir Monticello's security detail. "We hope that the next time we see each other and return to the colony, it will be a time of peace."

"Same here," Odin responded with similarly lowered volume. He's wearing a dark blue suit over a white shirt and black tie and his eyes are concealed by sunglasses.

"Let's go, Odin," Selkie's voice reverberated in his head. She's wearing the same kind of clothes that Odin wears with the addition of white gloves on both hands. "We need to keep the ruse of being Odel's guards."

The rest of the G-Unit team were also in disguise. Tricia dressed like an office lady, a secretary to the young nouveau riche, perhaps also a paramour. Lucille is in a maid attire. Dick, the mechanic, looks tidier than usual in tuxedo and bow tie as a butler. However, Dr. Berg dressed no differently; keeping his usual long white coat, the team actually listed him as a medical doctor.

The workers have not finished unloading the cargo when another vehicle arrived outside the warehouses; one of those SUVs adapted for use in Mars. A tall woman in a maid's uniform stepped down from the car. After her, a shorter blonde girl in a long red dress with a dark grey neck ribbon and brown high boots followed.

The blonde's eyes immediately focused on a laboring child, and then to another, then another… until she remembered the face of every working child in her field of vision.

"These kids… aren't they too young to be working on heavy mechanical operations?" she said with pity.

"That's just how things are, Miss Kudelia," her maid informed her.

"That doesn't make it right, Fumitan. I know that this is the norm that I sought to fight against but to see it up close…"

Her train of thought was interrupted when a CGS employee approached her.

"Are you Kudelia Aina Bernstein?" Orga asked aridly.

"Yes, I am. I'll be in your care from now until we complete our trip."

"Hmm. I'm Orga Itsuka. I'll be leading the Third Group which will accompany you." He turned to a shorter kid following behind him, "Mikazuki, lead them in."

Orga left and Mikazuki stayed with the clients.

"Nice to meet you. I'm Kudelia Aina Bernstein. Can you please show me around?" She took her right glove off and extended her hand but for several awkward seconds, the boy didn't return the gesture. "U-um… A handshake. To show that I want to be on equal terms with you."

"We can't because my hands are dirty," He looked at her pearly hand, not that he could have known what a pearl is, and back to his own. "But that means we're not on equal terms to begin with, right?" Mikazuki looked away, turned his back, and signaled with his hand to follow him. Few other kids also began to attend their luggage.

"You're being rather rude to your client." Fumitan called him out.

"I-it's okay, Fumitan," Kudelia cut her off from berating their guide. "Perhaps this will also be a good way to get to know them. I don't want to bother them so it's better if they act as their usual selves. I want to see and feel the truth. They embody the problems that currently burden Mars. By interacting with them, I hope to at least share some of their pain."

Fumitan raised an eyebrow but silently accepted the young lady's decision.

In a room in the CGS base…

"Aesir Monticello" and his posse have settled in and are finally in liberty to speak to one another.

"Guys, we did it," Odel spoke first. "We got in and no one was the wiser."

"Yeah, we sure did, bro," Odin joined in his relief. "I can't believe that you could change yourself that much."

"Yeah, I couldn't even see any of your real personality in that pretense." Tricia added.

"Yeah, you deserve an award for that one," Lucille praised him. "So far, so good. Still, I can't help but be bothered with some of the people here. Did anyone else notice their spines? There's some sort of grotesque growth on them."

Dr. Berg explained: "Those things that upset you are called 'Araya-Shiki Implants' or 'Alaya-Vijnana' in its original Sanskrit. It's a device that lets a human being directly interface with a machine, and use it as if it's a part of their body."

"Alaya-what? Alaya-vag-"

"No. Just no." Lucille interrupted and reprimanded him. "Do you really want to go down that road?"

"S-sorry. That's just how it sounded like to my ears. Anyway, that's pretty cool, isn't it? Imagine if I can directly connect to my Geminass."

"Don't even think about it," Odel opposed. It's not as convenient as it sounds. The surgery's survival rate is estimated at 1 out of every 5 people. You're also past the age of when the surgery can be performed; not that I would have allowed you otherwise."

"A-Alright, never mind that then," Odin sheepishly stirred the conversation away from his verbal blunder. "Still, there are kids doing hard labor in this kind of place. One would think that social welfare would be all over this group by now."

"This is Mars, Odin," Odel responded. "Things are a lot different here. Are you familiar with the process of procreation in the space colonies?"

"Yes," Odin replied, puzzled by the seemingly irrelevant question. "Grown in test tubes, like us, because the colonies' environment is unsuitable and dangerous for regular pregnancy."

"Right," Odel nodded. "And people have to pay a fortune for the process so only the rich can afford to have lots of children and it served as some sort of population control. However, the terraformed Mars is closer to Earth in terms of environmental conditions so no such process is necessary. The Martian colonists reproduced the way nature intended and soon the population boomed. In spite of the similarity in environment, the production of resources to sustain life could not keep up with the population growth…"

"So it lead to a need for more people to work to survive," Odin concluded. "And then their human rights were kicked around somewhat. That's harsh."

"Don't lose sleep over it," Dr. Berg advised. "It's their problem, not ours. When we reach our destination, their crisis will literally be a world away."

If bearing children is exclusive to a Queen as it is with 'us', they wouldn't have this problem. Selkie thought, disconnected from the humans. I'm possibly the last of 'us'. If so, we are effectively extinct.

Terminating the topic, the man in white turned to the mechanic dressed as a butler. "Higasaki, is the 'cargo' properly secured?"

"Yes, doctor," Higasaki replied. "I installed a security system that would prevent anyone that isn't a member of our group from opening it and if someone tries to use brute force, I have a device that will alert me."

"Good," The scientist flashed a content grin. "I do not trust these rats."

oOo

Gjallarhorn - Martian HQ

Stationary Orbital Base

"How beautiful youth and innocence are. The daughter of the Bernsteins, who are deeply involved with Earth, is seen as the leader of the independence movement." A high-ranking Gjallarhorn official spoke to a queasy man separated by several tables from him. "Isn't that ironic, Norman Bernstein?"

"Yes, she's a foolish daughter," Kudelia's father replied.

"Foolishness going that far almost makes it magnificent," said by the official. "That is why Chryse's… No, those scoundrels all over Mars support her. Then, for her to be eternally remembered as a people's icon, we will help her."

"Yes, please be kind, Sir Coral."

The meeting between the two ended and Coral took an elevator going down to the hangar. He spoke to his assistant, "He sells out his own daughter and he asks me to be kind. He's a true coward. He should learn from his daughter."

The assistant grunted a word of agreement.

"But this changes that inspection from Earth into an opportunity. To receive the support of Nobliss, we need to have her do well." Exiting the elevator, he immediately called out to a group of soldiers standing in an elevating work platform beside a mobile suit. "Orlis, the mission has been decided. You take command this time. Crank, you support your former student. Ein, this is your first mission. Do your best."

"Yes, sir!" were the replies of the three and they prepared to descend to the surface.

oOo

In one of Gjallarhorn's Biscoe-Class Cruiser on the way to Mars…

"Mars, huh? As a colony, its resources are all used up. Must a Gjallarhorn inspector be there?"

"Are frontier operations boring you, Gaelio?" The man at the captain's seat asked his companion standing behind him.

"As if. I will work hard as an officer of the inspection division, Specialist Major McGillis."

"The current economy of the Earth Sphere depends upon that used-up colony. For them to continue contributing to Earth Sphere as they are now, the Mars Branch must straighten themselves up as part of Gjallarhorn, the keepers of the world order."

"I sympathize with those at that branch," Gaelio said but the indifference evident on his face says otherwise.

"The push for independence is spreading across all of Mars. Perhaps we can't afford to worry about others."

oOo

In the CGS base's dining area…

In the middle of their meals, the Third Group's members have engaged in lighthearted conversations.

"The new clients are really something, huh?" A member initiated. "Especially the women. I can't believe that's how they look like when they don't grow up in the slums."

"Ohoho. Danji knows what he likes!" A blonde boy wearing a red necktie jeered.

"C-come on, Eugene. W-what's wrong with what I like?" Danji defended himself. "Those two women with glasses especially. I could die being smothered by breasts like those." He was referring to Tricia Farrell and Fumitan Admoss, the most mature-looking of the ladies that recently arrived in their base.

"How about you, Mikazuki?" A brown-haired boy spoke to the shorter kid. "It looked like you caught the Maiden of Revolution's attention and had a chance to get close. She must smell so nice, right Mikazuki?"

"Forget it, Shino. Mikazuki isn't hungry for girls," Orga spoke on his behalf as the kid was preoccupied with his food.

"Takaki?" Mikazuki called out to the boy with brown-streaked blond hair carrying a tray of glasses.

"Yes, water?"

"No, that wound…"

"I'm fine. It always happens."

"Isn't this the opportunity we're waiting for?" Eugene spoke again. "We'll be escorting a big name celebrity. This is our chance to prove that we're better than the First Group."

"Old man Maruba thinks we're expendable so he'll never think much of us."

"We're treated like this because this is how you act as the leader of the Third Group!" Eugene raised his voice.

"Stop it, Eugene," Biscuit rebuked him.

"Shut up, Biscuit! You stay quiet! Besides, you…"

Mikazuki pinched his ear and turned his face toward his own. "A fight, Eugene? I don't like it."

"Ouch, you're gonna tear it off!"

"This isn't a fight, right guys?" Orga asked to give Eugene a chance to deny his aggression.

"R-right, of course!" Eugene replied as he twists in pain.

From behind Orga in another table, a gruff-looking man with thick eyebrows stood up up and left. Orga called out to his retreating figure, "Sorry, Akihiro, for being rowdy."

"It always is."

A little while later in the hangar of CGS Base…

It's almost the Martian dawn but not everyone has fallen sleep; an establishment like theirs requires roaming guards around the clock after all.

"Hey, pops, what are you doing?"

"Oh, Orga," the chief mechanic replied to the kid that called out to him. "Doing some quick maintenance as usual."

"I see," He was satisfied at the reply but he noticed that it's not just the usual mobile workers that the old man is paying attention to. "Wait, that thing, too?" He pointed to the enormous kneeling fiend dwarfing everything else in the wide compartment.

"Yeah, him, too. It's this guy that keeps this place alive after all."

"But you're tinkering with its limbs. What good would that be? We only need its reactor."

"I know but I just don't have the heart to let the rest of it go to waste." The mechanic and his assistants went around the mobile workers once more and he confirmed, "Okay, that's it for checking the equipment we're taking."

"Good job, everyone." Orga commended them then lowered his voice as the mechanics gathered closer. "Concerning the other thing, have you set it up?"

Everyone nodded firmly and Orga smirked.

Outside the base…

"Come on, it's nearly dawn," a young CGS operative hit the back of his drowsy buddy's head with the stock of his gun to keep him awake. "Then we get relieved."

Suddenly, he fell down and before his buddy can process what happened, he also fell.

Both of them shot in the head by snipers overlooking from a cliff. "Clear, okay, next."

Yet, before they can kill another guard, one of them has already spotted the bodies lying on the ground and fired a warning flare.

"They failed already. I'm going to toss those lousy snipers in the brig." Orlis, the commanding officer, angrily declared in the cockpit of his mobile suit.

"Wait, Orlis. Be calm," Crank Zant advised his former student.

But he was ignored and an order was given, "Alright then. All forces… commence attack!"

Mobile workers brought by Gjallarhorn's Mars Branch began firing salvo of missiles that rained on CGS territory, shaking the grounds and the buildings.

In the sleeping quarters…

"The hell was that?!" Odin fell off from the top of the bunk bed he shares with his brother when the room shook violently.

"Odin, the base is under attack," Selkie's voice rang. "We're safe for now but we will need to move out soon."

"Why does trouble follow us wherever we go?" Lucille clambered out of bed and complained.

"I will go see what's happening," Fumitan asked permission from the recently awoken Kudelia. "You wait here, Miss."

"Wait. I'll come, too!"

She moved to follow her maid but nearly toppled on her way out, if not for Biscuit catching her arms. "If you stay here you'll die." Monticello's group were also on their way out and he also called out to them.

"Just how long would it be for them to run out of ammo?!" Eugene, aboard his mobile worker, said. "Are they rich or something? They're firing so much!"

"I don't know who they are but they want us dead," Shino said. "Let's show them that we feel the same way!"

"Yeah!"

CGS rallied against the group laying siege to their base and deployed their mobile workers. Though using similar models of machines, they are horrendously outgunned by their counterparts as they don't possess artillery heavier than 30mm machine guns.

"Everyone, let's hold them off with the best we can!" Orga encouraged his allies as he lead the Third Group.

Biscuit led Kudelia and the G-Unit team to the hangar and he explained, "Excuse this place for being a pig sty but this is the safest place we can keep you in."

Odel, still in character, replied, "Whatever. Just keep us safe or else, refund is the least of your problems."

"Sir, we're working hard right now so that you will be."

As soon as Biscuit ran off to aid his friends, the clients' attention was redirected to the sleeping giant.

That face… could that be another Gundam? Odin thought.

It's definitely a Gundam. Odel thought.

Their being awestruck was interrupted when an older CGS member demanded their attention.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the man said, careful not to let the members preoccupied with the battle hear. "I'm offering an exclusive opportunity of sure survival. Some of us in the First Group have an escape plan prepared for this kind of situation. However, not all of us can be accommodated so only a few of us know about this."

"Why are you telling us this secret?" Odel asked.

"Well, for the right price, sirs and madams, we can make room for you. Surely, it would be a bargain…"

"You're selling out and abandoning your friends? How could you?" Kudelia was appalled.

"Then we'll take-"

Before Dr. Berg can accept, he was interrupted by Odel. "No, we will not. And you disgust me."

"V-very well; as you wish."

Odel replied with such bitterness that the devil's advocate was intimidated, forcing said person to scamper away.

"Odel, you-"

"I understand that we all want to survive but it just doesn't sit well with me. Odin, would you help me fight?"

"Thought you'd never ask. Selkie, you coming with?" Odin replied enthusiastically.

"I'll try."

The three of them abandoned their disguise and proceeded to unlock their cargo: their mechs.

"M-Mr. Monticello, what is the meaning of this?" Haeda Gunnel called out to Odel as he climbed the container of Geminass-02.

"You'll see."

The clash in the battlefield hasn't shown signs of slowing down; broken machines littered the soil and bodies oozing blood further reddened its color. The missiles are making things difficult for CGS but three mobile suits are even making it worse for them.

"Stop this futile exercise," Ein boasted in an open channel. "Your mobile workers are no match for our Grazes."

"Heh, bringing this much firepower might be an overkill," Orlis gloated as he splits a mobile worker with his Graze's axe. "But as long they're the ones getting killed over and over, it's all good."

As soon he was done splitting a mobile worker, another heavily damaged one zipped in front of him as if taunting him. He chased it but he was shot by several others from behind.

"Mikazuki, go back for repairs!" Akihiro yelled at him through their channel.

"We'll hold out here for a while," Shino assured him.

"Okay."

Before Mikazuki can re-enter the hangar, three new machines emerged. However, they are not mobile workers.

"If it's a fight you want, you're on!" Odin shouted in the open channel.

"Hey, who are you?" Eugene was surprised.

"We'll be fighting for you. Is that enough?"

"S-sure. Whatever help we can get."

The Geminass units proceeded to beat up the enemy's red mobile workers, opting to damage their wheels in contrast with the brutal fighting style of both sides. Selkie's mech is moving much slower though.

"Selkie, is there a problem?" Odel called out.

"My unit is designed for space and underwater, where the effect of gravity is lessened. I'm sorry but my effectiveness is reduced in this fight."

"Our Geminass have also not been recalibrated for this terrain. We'll just have to make do with what we have," Odel said. "Those mobile suits are the biggest nuisance to us so let's clear the way if we want to get nearer.

Mikazuki had ejected from his mobile worker. He noticed that the mechanics have gathered to watch something. As he joined them, he realized that the three unknown machines that are fighting for them are the ones they're spectating.

"Pops, those aren't ours, right?"

"Oh, Mikazuki. Yeah, apparently that's our client's cargo. So many unexpected things are happening today." The chief mechanic turned to the young pilot.

"Don't we also have something like that though?"

"Huh? O-oh, right. We do have something like that."

"P-pops," an apprentice to the older mechanic locked eyes with him. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Yamagi, how could I possibly-" Then it crossed his mind and the three of them looked at the same thing. "It just might work!"

"I know that it's possible but we haven't done a test run of this machine, at all," Yamagi second-guessed. "Mikazuki's life might be in danger!"

"You worry too much," Mikazuki calmly said. "Just do it."

The three machines have cleared a path, with relatively very few mobile workers remaining on both sides, and they have come within striking distance of the Grazes.

"We were not told about mobile suits being here. Taking on mobile workers in a mobile suit… You cowards!" Ein angrily spouted.

"Look who's talking! That's just what you were doing before we came along!" Odin retorted.

"Talk is cheap," Orlis proclaimed. "We'll decimate you along with this base." Orlis's Graze leaped, bringing down its axe with it, onto Geminass-02. Odel attempted to block it with his beam sword but he was forced back. "Beam weapon against a mobile suit plated with nanolaminate armor? You didn't do your research, amateur!"

Odin and Selkie also engaged with the other two Grazes. However, just as with its twin unit, the 01 struggles against them. Selkie had been taking more hits than in her previous skirmishes in space. Thankfully, the enemy only has physical attacks and the shell of her mech can better withstand it.

While the fight rages on, an aircraft from a hangar, separate from the one where the mobile workers were deployed, launched. Flying away from the direction of the battle, its attempt to escape is obvious.

"Yukinojo, who's in the Audhumla?!" Orga called to the chief mechanic.

"There are people who saw that it's apparently Old Man Maruba, Haeda, and some of the First Group." Yukinojo replied. "Haeda was just here a while ago. He said that he was preparing a pincer attack but it doesn't look like it now."

"Damn them! Can you contact them right now?!"

"No, they're not answering."

"A lizard must let its tail be eaten to save itself; as long as you and I survive, the CGS will go on," Haeda said to Maruba. "They will just have to be written off as casualties of this battle."

However, the person he was speaking to wasn't paying him any attention. He was busy berating an underling from the First Group. "Sasai, you dumb brick! The jewelries you brought are incomplete! If you've stolen them, fork them over before I decide to throw you overboard!"

"S-sorry, Boss! Some of them fell off when we hurried to get aboard!"

"You…!"

Orga was momentarily silenced but after thinking things over, he gave the command, "Detonate the bombs we placed on the ship."

"Is that decision final?" The chief mechanic asked to confirm.

"Yes. It's been a long time coming."

Yukinojo turned to the younger mechanics, "You heard him. Light up the sky."

With a push of a button, sections of the Audhumla exploded, flame and dark smoke painting across the first light of dawn as it crashed.

The fighters in the battlefield noticed the crashing battleship but being engaged in a dire situation of their own, they took no more than mere glances and mental notes.

Geminass-02 managed to roll away from the Graze that has been pinning it down and fired its Accelerate Rifle. Still, its beam barely made a scratch. The Graze was about to shoot 02's head with its rifle… when it was hit and crushed by a forcefully thrown object, smack dab at the cockpit. The projectile wasn't a missile as one might have expected; it was a mace.

"It can't be… Captain Orlis has…" Ein said in shock.

"Everyone, stand back," Mikazuki told the others fighting to defend their base.

"Odin and Selkie, fall back." Odel instructed. "He might have a better fighting chance than we do against this kind of enemy."

The brothers and Selkie ran but the Grazes pursued after them.

"Ein, back me up!"

"Yes, sir!"

However, their pursuit was blocked by the machine that just killed their commanding officer when it plunged into battle, launched by its strong thrusters. It threw its mace again, that time toward Crank's Graze and though it was deflected by a quick swing of his Graze's arm, it was caught again by its thrower in mid-air and deprived the Graze of its axe-holding hand as it landed.

Dust was scattered and Mikazuki lost sight of where his enemy was until it reappeared again, holding the axe in the hand that wasn't broken. Mace and axe clashed as they swung at the same time.

"I don't know where you got it from but with such an old mobile suit, do you think you could beat a Graze of Gjallarhorn?" Crank asked the opposing pilot.

"But it seems one is already dead," Mikazuki defiantly replied as he wiped the blood from his nose with the back of his hand.

"That voice… could it be that you're a child?"

"You bet. Most of those you killed are, too. And the ones… who will kill you all."

The deadlock was broken off when Ein's Graze fired solid rounds on Mikazuki's mobile suit but the latter was able to thrust himself backwards. However, another problem arose when the warning "Out of Fuel" appeared on his monitor. But he didn't have to read it to know; he can't. Instead, he felt it.

"I can still aim if it's this close," Ein assured himself.

With his mace, Mikazuki kicked up dust again to create a smokescreen.

"Below you!" Crank warned Ein but the young soldier's reaction wasn't fast enough when Mikazuki's mobile suit dived for another blow with his mace. Luckily for him, Crank's Graze tackled away his in time, reducing the damage to the loss of the outer shell of his unit's head.

"Are you alright, Ein?" Crank asked as he fully blasted his suit's thrusters to escape.

"Yes, but…" Ein replied, clutching his right arm with his left.

"We will retreat. His thrusters seem faulty so he can't chase after us. Our remaining mobile workers have reached safety. This is our only opportunity to minimize our losses."

"Not yet," Mikazuki uttered before his body fell short of his willpower and with the Martian sun fully risen, he fainted.

Chapter Text

"This one is alive."

"They might be buried so be careful."

"Does it hurt?"

The aftermath of the battle; Sunrise has finally shone light to the devastation of what took place. Metal scraps that were once part of functioning machines and body parts that used to constitute full, breathing human beings litter in heaps. Noncombatants of CGS have rushed to get their comrades out of the Mobile Workers' cockpits. Some extend their hands to ask help to be pulled out.

Others don't, as their lifeless hands hold onto broken control sticks. Spines connected to cables bent and displaced into acute angles either by impact of collision or their death throes. They are the lucky ones; describing those slain by the larger Grazes as dead is an understatement. Stomped on, kicked around, culled by their ax; chunks of meat and bones scattered as if they were roadkilled critters.

Odin descended from his Gundam and with one sweeping look over the scenery, he put a hand over his mouth and bent over.

"Odin, turn away," His brother told him.

"I think I just got dizzy," Odin said. "I envy you for having the stomach for this."

"I don't," Odel pointed to a puddle of vomit barely five meters away. "I came down here long before you did."

"I was scared out of my wits back there. I thought that I finally had the right mindset to use the PX System but I failed again. I'm really pathetic."

"Don't be too hard on yourself," Odel told his brother. "At that time, I can't do it either. We must find more effective weapons against nanolaminate armor."

"Hey, Chad… This is Danji?"

"There's no doubt. That Alaya-Vijnana earplug is all that's left." A dark-skinned kid affirmed.

"Darn. You told me… that you wanted to die smothered in large breasts. They're soft, you know. It is not hard like this cockpit. Hey, Danji, say something!"

The two brothers averted their eyes, their faces blanched as they listened to the conversation. Odel's expression was of calmer melancholy while Odin's was of suppressed rage as he gritted his teeth. Selkie has also came down and looked at the two brothers with regret.

Not far behind them was Orga Itsuka overlooking from a hilltop. Fists clenched and morosely staring.

"Hey, looks like the survivors from the Audhumla have been taken in," Akihiro reported.

oOo

Gjallarhorn - Martian Branch Third Surface Base

"What? You failed?" Mars Branch Chief Coral Conrad was fuming from behind the monitor as he called from his orbiting space station.

"Captain Orlis Stenja has died. We lost a third of our soldiers and a Graze. We had to retreat." Crank Zant delivered the bad news.

"That's a load of bull!" Chief Conrad shouted as he slammed his fist on his table.

How could this be? The leader of the Martian independence movement, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, was to be killed gloriously in action from our attack. Having lost their heroine, Mars goes into further turmoil and strengthens their hate towards Earth. It was supposed to be like that. With this, support money from Nobliss will be done for. Specialist Major Fareed will arrive in two days. Furthermore, if we have lost a Mobile Suit…

"Listen, capture Kudelia in two days before the inspectors arrive!" Coral issued a new order after going through the train of problems in his mind. "And erase all evidence of battle. Erase all the enemy, too."

"The enemy… were children," Crank lamentably replied.

"Children? You got your asses handed by brats?!"

"They're children! I cannot fight against child soldiers! I do not think they are fighting of their own will."

"Don't be so soft. Who cares if they're kids? Eliminate every single one. This is an order! There will be no failures allowed!"

oOo

Before Crank can elicit a reply, Coral cut off the video feed. As he turned to leave his seat, another prompt for a video call came up, one that has been on standby since the middle of the previous conversation. "OZ? What do they want?" He thought for a while before picking up.

"Greetings, Gjallarhorn Mars Branch Chief Conrad," A blond man in a garish attire appeared in the screen. "I am Roche Nattono, leader of the OZ Prize's Stardust Knights. I want to talk to you about something important."

"Prize? Why would OZ's special ops want to talk to me? And why would I listen? You are, after all, underlings of a family of self-styled nobles embittered by the rejection of being a part of Gjallarhorn. Such false flair from people whose ancestor couldn't even kill a Mobile Armor…"

"Choose your words wisely! For you are but a mere prefect of a backwater colony!" Broom, behind Roche, took offense and interrupted. "Though Duke Dermail Catalunya shines not with the Seven Stars of Gjallarhorn, he guides the stars of the Zodiac."

"Hmph," Kratz scoffed. "You can't even get the terminology right. There's a difference between a Mobile Armor and a Mega Armor. The former is built and piloted by humans while the latter is self-aware and made by the Meganoids."

Roche gestured to the two to calm down and not speak anymore. "Excuse my fellow knights but, as pointed out, why judge our organization on the merits of people long dead in the past instead of our achievements in the present? We can be of great help to your current conundrum if you just listen to us."

"W-what do you mean?" Chief Conrad was taken aback.

"Oh, we know what you're up to. We have reliable sources." Roche said. "But if you're planning a second attack on their base again, you'll just worsen your losses."

"Damn you. You're spying on us!"

"Everyone is spying on everyone. All the same, OZ Prize have a proposal that will benefit both of us. A group of fugitives that we've been pursuing have been traced to that base. However, we have no permission to operate in the surface of Mars so I ask of you to cooperate with us."

"Our Branch can handle our problems-"

"Can you really?" Roche interrupted. "Your forces have just been trashed rather pitifully. What makes you so sure that it won't happen again?"

"But we cannot just let you in on Mars either!" Conrad protested. "There are clearly defined territories on which our organizations may overlap but this isn't among them!"

"You don't need to. We just have to wait for them to get out of the atmosphere and attack them."

"But the inspectors will arrive soon! If they caught wind of what happened…"

"No need to worry. Just like I said, there are fugitives on that base. Isn't what you conducted a legitimate operation then?"

"H-huh? Y-yes… Yes, yes!" The realization dawned on the Branch Chief and he nearly leaped from his seat in joy.

"And there is sufficient reason to believe that CGS is actively protecting these fugitives, with the revolutionary Kudelia Aina Bernstein as their accomplice to destabilize the law and order of the ESF." Roche filled in the blanks. "I know that using AI-controlled mobile weapons is taboo in Gjallarhorn but we, OZ, don't have such restrictions and both allow for temporary alliances with fellow ESF operatives."

"Marvelous! I mean, that would be extremely helpful!" Conrad's discomfort earlier has completely vanished. "But how many of your mobile weapons will you lend us?"

"Well, regarding on the number of mobile suits you are willing to deploy, we'll send out the same number of mobile dolls. That doesn't include us, Stardust Knights, that will deploy in our own suits. How's that?"

"That is fair enough, indeed," The branch chief smirked and nodded. "Give me a few hours to think this over."

"Very well. Remember, if we play our cards right, this could be a win-win situation for both of us. I'm sending intel on the fugitives in a few minutes. We'll take custody of our target and you'll take yours."

"Yes, I'll keep that in mind," Coral's excitement died down and he composedly turned back. "Now, I have some other things to attend to. Thank you for an offering of peace of mind."

Ha! I couldn't believe that someone would deliberately play themselves into my hands. Coral Conrad thought, grinning after the monitor returned to its wallpaper and the Knight was out of sight. Naive knight, he thinks I'm doing this for the EFF and Gjallarhorn? Custody? I'd rather have them all killed… to impel the revolution. A new sun shall rise on Mars when their plutocracy is toppled!

oOo

At the Grand Chariot, Mars Orbit…

"I don't want to cooperate with Gjallarhorn like this but we need the designs for the G-Units as soon as possible," Roche quickly shed the amiable persona he displayed in front of the branch chief. "But what else is new? Our relationship with the rest of the ESF relies on lip service."

"You're really something, Roche," Kratz interposed. "I can't lie through my teeth like that, even for the cause."

"What do you mean by that?!" Brooks angrily held Kratz by the collar and lifted him almost a feet off the ground.

"Hey, hey. I don't meant anything bad by what I said," The silver-haired man coolly assured. "If anything, I'm praising his ability. I do not have the skill to maintain such a straight face while negotiating. I'd give away my feelings too easily."

"Oh, you're not giving me that crap!"

"That's enough, Broom," Roche ordered. "The important thing is we got ourselves a deal in our favor. We strengthened our force but it would be them who will be putting more lives on the line and we'll have our hands on the Gundams' blueprint. Who cares if they capture a revolutionary or two and a rat king of Whiskereds?"

"As expected of Roche!" Broom excitedly cheered. "He who thinks this far ahead really deserves to be called the leader of the Stardust Knights!"

"Tch," Kratz frowned at this remark. "But what about the mobile units from that security firm? If they're gonna fight with their mobile workers, they won't be a problem, of course, but what about that Gundam? It has an Ahab Reactor. Anyone with basic knowledge of what happened three centuries ago should be aware of the threat it poses."

"You may have a point about that but remember their conversation we've intercepted: a kid is inside that thing. With them blowing up their grown-ups, I think it's safe to say that we'll be against an inexperienced trash mob. That was unexpected but that worked really well for us."

"Excuse me, sir," Aretha approached and addressed Roche.

"Yes, what is it?"

"Lt. Sernan has returned from his scouting mission. Should he be debriefed?"

"Yes, and I think it should be done now so tell him to enter."

Aretha did as told and a man wearing glasses soon entered and saluted. "Reporting for duty, sir!"

"At ease, soldier," Roche said. "In fact, we're not even the regular military so don't think of yourself as an officer. Believe yourself to be a squire to us knights."

"Uh… Okay?" Sernan was confused but resumed speaking, "I wish to report the results of the field testing of the Leo EWAC Type. It managed to pass through the Mars Branch's encryption but not the Gjallarhorn inspectors' communication channels."

"No surprise there. The 'horns from Earth are better equipped than this shit outpost, hahaha." Broom quipped, followed with boisterous laughter.

"Rather than blame the machine, I'd chalk it up to human incompetence," Kratz gave an aside.

"Nonetheless, we now know that the Leo EWAC's wiretapping equipment works," Roche sounded pleased. "Next, we need to test its Early Warning and Control capabilities and what better chance than the upcoming encounter with the Gundams. We'll be counting on you Lieutenant."

"B-but, sir… I may be a Lieutenant but I am primarily a technical officer!"

"Have you heard about the supply mobile armor in the Battle of A Baoa Qu of the Calamity War that gave the old Earth Federation a good scare and saved dozens of Zeon soldiers? Apparently, a technical officer was piloting it." Kratz matter-of-factly stated.

"But that's just a rumor and more people believe that it was the Red Comet inside that thing!" Sernan protested. "And you can't actually compare a mobile armor with a mobile suit."

"Quit teasing the guy, Kratz," Roche reprimanded his fellow knight. "And don't worry — we'll back you up."

Sernan was silent at first but he dejectedly replied, "It seems you've made up your mind. I will participate in the next sortie."

"You may take your leave now, Lieutenant."

"Yes, sir." Sernan replied with a salute out of habit and turned back to leave.

"You're trying to get him killed, are you?" Kratz asked Roche confidently.

"I do not have such an intention. I just want to shake him up a little, that's all." Roche clarified. "And I want to spite Captain Cage and Lady Une. I want their inspector to know that OZ Prize's way of conducting its operations is effective, that we are necessary guardians of peace in this turbulent times."

Just you wait, Roche, your delusions of knighthood will soon come to bite you in the ass. Kratz thought.

oOo

About half a klick from CGS HQ Grounds…

Out of the frying pan and into the fire; few of the First Group deserters managed just in time to ride the mini-fishes kept in the Audhumla and outfly the fireball but said machines were all rigged to follow a homing beacon to the base. When they began flying back, some of them opted to leap from hundreds of feet in the air, suspecting the grisly possibility that awaits them.

The survivors were captured and rounded up in the middle of an empty, dusty warehouse. Tied together around a concrete pole like bound bundle of rods, nearly two dozens of clumped men can't even sit down. In the middle, nearest to the pole, are Sasai, Gunnel, and Maruba. A single rod is easily broken, while a bundle is difficult to break; members of the Third Group are willing to test this.

"You bastards! After we gave you a home, this is how you repay us?!" Haeda Gunnel spurted.

"This hellhole is not a home," Orga retorted. "But maybe after you're gone, it will be." He turned to his companions and began a sequence of commands. "Ready!"

"P-please wait! If it's money you want, I can give it to you!" Maruba yelled in a desperate bid to save his skin.

"Aim." Orga continued.

"The company! I'll give you control of the company! Just please don't kill me!"

"Fire!"

The firing squad let their bullets fly at point blank simultaneously from around the survivors and tore new holes for them from which their blood and internal flesh erupted. The screams and gunfire were so loud that the squad's ears rang and the survivor's might have, too, if theirs weren't being torn apart by the kinetic projectiles.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh! AAAAHHHH!" Maruba was screaming at the top of his lungs before he noticed that it was only his voice that was filling the air. "I-I'm alive…!" He uttered to himself in disbelief. He opened his eyes and though he was sprayed with blood, he was unhurt. Somehow, not a single bullet pierced him. Blood and excrement from the then frightened condemned were pooling around his feet but he couldn't care less; he's alive and that's all that matters.

"Not you, old man," Orga slyly said. "There's still something you have to do for us." He produced a stylus and a tablet from his person and presented it respectfully to the adipose geezer.

Back in CGS Base's hangar…

"Oh, you're finally awake," Yukinojo uttered when Mikazuki opened his eyes and raised his head. "Stay still for a while. I couldn't cut the link with this machine while you were unconscious."

The kid grimaced but let the mechanic work on the cable connected to his implant. "How many died?" He asked.

"Thirty-two from the First Group and fifty-eight from the Third. You and this…" He pointed to the mobile suit. "Did a good job."

"The others… those machines like mine… the people using them… where are they?"

"You mean the people who were supposed to be our passengers?" The mechanic turned his head behind. "Don't worry about them. They're in better shape than you. If not for your machines, more people would have died."

A short distance away, a conversation between Kudelia, some members of the Third Group, and G-Unit team was taking place. The G-Unit team had finally introduced their real identities and their listeners' reactions are of varying degrees of shock. While the account was mostly truthful, they ambiguously referred to Celestial Being as "a group of renegades" who helped them and no mention was made of Selkie being non-human.

"That explains a lot of things," Biscuit reacted to their story. "Though I think you're mistaken in your assumption that they might be after you."

"He's right," Kudelia added. "They're most likely after me."

"Why would you think that?" Odel inquired.

"Because of me…" Before she can continue with an explanation, her maid that left during the commotion arrived. "Fumitan, where were you? I was worried." She ran to her but paused when she saw her holding an arm in pain.

"Do not worry. It is just a scratch." The maid assured. "But rather than that, I am sorry. I was ordered to contact Mr. Norman first in an emergency."

"What did father say?"

"He was very worried. He wants you back right away."

"I cannot do that yet. This trip to Earth was supposed to be done in secrecy," She turned to the other people she was talking with and resumed where she left off with her explanation. "But there is no doubt the target of Gjallarhorn's attack was me. And my father, who is usually against my actions… was supportive this time. I don't want to consider it but… he might have a hand in this."

"Miss…" Fumitan uttered to object to her line of thought.

"I understand. But I cannot return to my father unless I confirm that."

"I also understand. However… there's no point in staying here."

"That is…"

"Um, who is she supposed to be?" While the two were talking, Odin whispered to Biscuit.

"Huh? Oh, she's Kudelia Aina Bernstein, a revolutionary leader."

"Really? She looks too young."

"There have been even younger ones."

Kudelia soon saw Mikazuki leaving the cockpit of the mobile suit he used and she rushed to talk to him. "Mikazuki! T-thank you for your efforts..."

"I don't need thanks." Mikazuki told her off.

"But because of me, so many people…"

"Seriously, cut it out. They all died because of one mere person like you? Don't look down on my comrades." Mikazuki located his jacket and wore it before leaving the hangar.

Somewhere else in the base…

"Those brats… There's no way we'll be safe picking a fight with Gjallarhorn. They've controlled the Earth Sphere for hundreds of years. This is going to be the end!"

"This is an unforeseen development but no matter, it can work in our favor." A voice emitted from a handheld phone relayed.

"I was completely in the dark about the Third Group's plan. Damn that Orga. If I wasn't sent out to ask the passengers to secretly board the Audhumla and was left behind because of the delay, I could have died there, too!"

"No point in fretting over it, Mr. Mirconen," The voice said. "Keep an eye on them for me."

"Will do," Todo affirmed reluctantly. "Now's the time to think things more thoroughly."

Minutes later at the hangar, Dick Higasaki and mechanics from MO-V were servicing the units used in the previous confrontation along with their counterparts from CGS…

"Wow, you guys have an Ahab Reactor? Gjallarhorn holds the monopoly to the production of these things so it's really hard to come by. How did you even get one of these?" Dick Higasaki excitedly asked.

"This has been here for a long time," Yukinojo replied. "Before I even joined this company." Going through the control panel, he attempted to read the display. "What is this? Bar… baro…"

For a few moments, Dick watched the older man struggle with the letters. "Wait. You can't read?"

"No, I can't. Most of us can't."

"O-oh," Dick was stunned. "This one reads as Barbatos. That must be this mobile suit's name. I think I may have heard that name somewhere before." He paused to think then remembered something. "I-impossible… could it be…? That would be incredible…"

Before the two chief mechanics can carry on with their conversation, Yukinojo was called by the group that went with Orga to deal with the survivors.

oOo

As the night was falling on the CGS base, Gjallarhorn Mars Branch received their expected guest in an unexpected time…

"Specialist Maj. Fareed and Bauduin, you're here early! We weren't expecting you for the next two days."

"Better early than late, Major," Gaelio Bauduin said.

McGillis has been seated for a while and browsing through the Mars Branch's data that they've been handed. Gaelio, meanwhile, stood by his side.

"I'm really sorry. Due to our blunder and miscalculation, we couldn't sort the data in time for you. It must be hard for you to even look through it."

"No," Maj. Fareed said. "The examination of the data you gave us is almost finished. We'll soon be able to report the inspection results, too."

"Oh, I see," Coral Conrad confidently spoke. "That's good to hear."

"By the way, something in the data caught our attention." McGillis pressed on.

"Huh? What was it?"

"Looks like one company has been sent out to conduct an operation on the headquarters of a private security firm." McGillis specified.

"Oh, forgive me," Conrad said. "We have recently received a tip from OZ Prize that rebels from a space colony have taken shelter in there. We had to act as soon as we can so it wasn't updated soon enough but please check again. I've just asked our technicians to update the details."

McGillis turned his attention from the Major to the tablet and he soon found the details of the aforementioned operation. He had an expression of surprise and asked, "This is unprecedented but not entirely outside our standard operating procedure. Still, what prompted you to accept their request of cooperation?"

"For the harmony of Mars and unchallenged rule of Gjallarhorn, of course!" Maj. Conrad replied proudly. "They provided the intel, which we didn't have, and we conducted the operation, which they can't."

"But still even with an entire company, you lost a captain and a Graze plus dozens of armed mobile workers. What happened? Logistics failure?"

"Officers take years to train, you know, and Mobile Suits don't come cheap. At least, not for you." Gaelio threw a thinly-veiled shade about the Mars Branch's general insufficiency.

Maj. Conrad scowled slightly at the provocation but continued: "It was unfortunate but the security group put up a fight and fielded an unregistered mobile suit. One that has an Ahab Reactor which they are not permitted to be in possession of. With these undeclared asset, it's safe to assume that even this group is in tacit consent of the rebels and that Kudelia Aina Bernstein, who is also present in that base when it occurred, is coordinating their efforts. That first move was but a preemptive strike to stir the rodents in their holes."

"Preemptive strike?" McGillis awaited a clarification.

"Yes," Conrad is pleased with himself enough to discuss the plans he made with OZ Prize, with how the combined forces will ambush them in space. "And it's a plan I wish for you inspectors to come along in."

"Come along in?" Bauduin parroted.

"Having Kudelia Aina Bernstein go to Earth for an arbitration is not something you wish for, right?"

The two Specialist Majors gave each other unsure looks for a few seconds until Fareed nodded. "Very well, it seems that everything is in order. We will leave you to your own devices. Keep up the good work." The last sentence has an air of irony that the inspector didn't try to hide. "Also, give us some time before we determine our role in your next operation."

The inspectors left and with the two of them gone, Coral Conrad pumped his arm in victory. Success! And I didn't even have to bribe them!

After getting back to their ship, Gaelio voiced out his concern. "You can't possibly have bought his bullshit, right?"

"Of course not," McGillis replied. "But he just barely circumvented our inquisition."

"This is not the reputation that preceded him so color me surprised when he blabbed about his plans as if he's a master tactician." Gaelio shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

"He isn't," Fareed emphasized. "The idiot has just let himself be a pawn of OZ but we can't do anything by ourselves if they provided them with a valid reason to operate." He then changed the subject. "Kudelia Aina Bernstein is now a symbol of the Mars independence movement. By taking control of just one young lady, we might be able to pacify the Martian citizens. Wouldn't you say that's worth it?"

"I see. We take her into custody and have her sing in the palm of our hands." Gaelio said until he segued to discussing Coral Conrad again. "So, we're nabbing him after he's of no to use to them anymore?"

"That's wishful thinking. I don't see this ambush ending well for him."

oOo

Later that night in Maruba's former office in the CGS Base…

The leading ousters of the previous administration have gathered and they've invited Kudelia, with her maid, and the Bernett brothers, with Tricia, to their meeting to decide their next step.

"Why are the guys who didn't ride the Audhumla and quit after the last battle given severance pay?" Eugene Sevenstark complained. "We need even more people now!"

"You need to pay a proper wage for any work," Orga defended his decision. "Those guys did well."

"What about the remainder of the First Corps?" Eugene asked again.

"Who knows what they'll do after leaving here," Orga continued. "But hush money is a good motivation to keep quiet and not damage our reputation further. We'll only be doing honest jobs from now on."

"Reputation? Honest? Don't joke around!"

"Come on, it's not good to fight." Todo Mirconen put a hand around Eugene and urged him to calm down and take a seat. "People have different opinions but let's work together from now on, alright?"

"That means…" Biscuit uttered.

"Yes, I've chosen to stay. Looking forward to working with you, comrades."

"That's the guy that almost done us in, right?" Odin whispered to his brother's girlfriend.

"Yes, but we're new so we don't how things work around here," Tricia whispered back in an even lower voice. "We should keep it to ourselves for now."

The meeting proceeded with the accountant Dexter Culastor, a First Group member who wasn't among the deserters and decided to stay, discussing their finance. "Of the remaining assets, including the jewelry and money Maruba tried to escape with you confiscated, adding what we picked up in the battle, and calculating the amount that we're to receive into the budget…"

"I've never seen so much money." Shino verbalized when he saw the figures.

"Idiot," Eugene disparaged. "Companies usually have this much."

"No. From that, we subtract the severance pay, repair and maintenance costs of our mobile weapons… after we take away all that… it becomes this." Dexter presented the tablet again.

"Shit, we're broke," Eugene said. "What can we do with this?"

"Even if we eke out…" Biscuit anxiously said.

"Three months would be the limit to stay in business." Dexter informed them.

"We have to find other sources of income or we won't be able to go on." Orga expressed.

"But with our current situation, people will take advantage of us." Biscuit said.

"Have you guys forgotten? You made a total mess of Gjallarhorn. This place is already their target. If only we could surrender the Young Miss and exchange her for money…" Todo said without regard for Kudelia's presence. "Then our business could take off without her."

"You…" Odin was raring to punch the guy in his bulging belly that stands out from the rest of his scrawny body but Odel and Tricia held him back.

"I will go," Kudelia stood and declared. "There is no need to drag other people into this. Everything would be okay if I go, right? Meaningless battles should be avoided."

"That's right!" The prospect excited Todo. "How about you negotiate for some money, too?"

"We don't know what will happen." Orga said.

"That's right," Biscuit concurred. "They tried to kill you. Many people have already died. Who is to say that they won't kill more?"

"We're not sure if we can trust them anymore," Orga added. "They'll come after all of us to keep this situation under wraps so it's best if we stick together. That is my decision."

The majority nodded at his verdict and Odel took the turn after he gauged the pace of the conversation.

"If I may speak, our team will be willing to lend financial assistance as long as you agree to take us to Earth. With multiple ESF branches hot on our trail, there's no turning back for us."

"You guys are going there, too?" Kudelia turned to Odel and then to Orga. "If you're no longer considering the alternative, I also pledge to pool my resources with yours."

"Alright!" Eugene cheered. "The future is looking bright for the new CGS!"

"No, no, let's not go by that anymore," An idea flashed in Orga's mind. "How about we go by the name "Tekkadan"? The iron flower that never wilts."

 

Chapter Text

Back in the room the G-Unit team occupies…

"We're supposed to be running away from danger but look at where we are now!" Dr. Berg, fuming, yelled.

"With all due respect, Doctor, if we listened to you and boarded that ship, where would we be?" Odin fired back.

"Don't you dare…"

"Stop! Stop!" Tricia got in between them and Odel and Lucille tugged at Odin to get him to sit down. "We can't turn back now."

"Trish is right," Odel concurred. "We have to go along with whatever they come up with at this point. The important thing is for us to reach Sanc. I've talked with the Third Group's leader Orga a while ago and he said that they are willing to continue both missions. It turns out that the other client, Ms. Bernstein, intends to go there anyway. We gave a different location for our destination before we make our own way to Sanc as part of the cover but with it blown anyways, we might as will go there directly."

"But we will not be traveling with the most stable of people," Dick Higasaki said. "I've heard from their conversations while I was fixing our mobile units that aside from blowing up their co-workers' ship, they just executed the deserters from the last battle rather gruesomely."

"It's a natural response to an opposition to a collective behavior," Selkie said. "Those deserters deviate from what the Third Group considers as their norm and therefore, they were a threat to their existence. Though I commend them for their dedication in maintaining their status quo, I am baffled by the idea of supplanting one's superior."

"Human morality just doesn't work that way, Selkie," Odel began clearing up the strange creature's misunderstanding. "You see, in human society, might doesn't make it right. At least it's not supposed to. There are those who have too much influence and power but they are fewer than those who have too little. When those who have too much abuse what they have too obviously, it is expected that deprived many will seek to topple them."

Selkie was quiet for seconds after Odel finished explaining before she spoke again. "I get the gist of it but what I don't understand is why." How can a society made up of a single species with individuals of trivial differences be this disordered? Half of the thought she chose to be left unsaid and continued. "But since I have nowhere else to go, tagging along with you will teach me all I need to know about humanity."

oOo

Back to Gjallarhorn Mars Branch Surface Base…

"Hey, Ein," A soldier called out. "I heard that you just got your ass kicked by kids. How does that feel?"

"That's what you get for buying your way in." Another soldier jeered. "Having a Gjallarhorn officer from Earth as a father might get you far in the ranks but you're still trash like us."

"You have no right to say anything. You weren't there!" Ein vehemently opposed the insults thrown at him. He came charging at one of them but he stopped in his tracks when he heard someone else call him from behind. He immediately recognized the authority of the voice and turned to ignore his critics.

"Ein, are you still hurt from the last battle?" The older man concernedly asked.

"No, it's getting better now, Lieutenant Crank. Thanks to your guidance, I avoided being worse off."

"No need thank me," The lieutenant played down the credit he's being given. "Every soldier of Gjallarhorn should look out for each other. That's just how it's supposed to be."

"I agree with you, Lieutenant," Ein voiced. "But still, I want to thank you."

Knowing that the young man won't relent, Crank dropped the subject and relayed the new orders he has just received from Maj. Conrad: "I was planning to challenge their base to a one-on-one combat to settle the conflict without shedding more blood but we are being recalled to ambush them on their way to leave Mars. I personally don't like this but if given the opportunity to hail them in comm line later, I'll still try my best to persuade them."

"Lieutenant, you are truly a man of great virtue," Ein said with a smile. "If only everyone could be like you."

"To each their own," The old soldier replied humbly. "I wouldn't say that my own ways are necessarily right and that the others' are wrong. I just stand by my own conviction to follow a path of honor which I consider appropriate."

"But I truly envy you, Lieutenant. If only I could be as noble as you, if only I'm not a child of…"

"Listen, Ein," Crank interrupted the younger man before he can further sing his praises. "Your personal pride has nothing do with your birth or what label they assign to you. Every person is different. They can't be grouped together as one. Choose the path you think is right for you. Don't be bothered by those around you and show them how you want to live."

Ein took the kind words to heart and replied enthusiastically, "Yes, Lieutenant!"

oOo

The next morning, Biscuit and Mikazuki made their way to the Griffons' family farm. Accompanying them were Kudelia, Fumitan, Odin, Lucille, and Selkie.

"Excuse me, where are we going?" Kudelia impatiently asked while scanning the field of contrasting red and green.

"Miss Sakura's field." Mikazuki flatly replied.

"Miss Sakura?"

"She's my grandmother." Biscuit explained.

"And why did you bring me here?"

When their truck neared, two identical girls were blocking the way. "Hey, hey!" Both girls called out.

"Stop!" The girl on the left yelled.

"You mur-de-rer!" The girl on the right cupped her hands and shouted the words through it, punctuating each syllable for emphasis.

"Watch out!" Odin yelled in a panic until the truck came to a grinding halt.

The people aboard the truck immediately went down and came to check on the twins. Biscuit was especially worried for his two little sisters.

"Are you two alright?!" Biscuit asked concernedly as he bowed to the level of his sisters. "No bruises? No broken anything? You two should stop doing that. Because one of these days you might just…" He trailed off and paused to catch to his breath.

Before they can answer, another girl about their height came running, "Mikazuki!"

"Oh, hey, Atra!" Biscuit greeted. Mika, meanwhile, only smiled and nodded.

"Hello there, Biscuit!" The girl greeted back. "Oh, who are they?" She looked at the five other people she doesn't recognize and asked.

"They're our current clients. Let me introduce you." He introduced Atra and the twins to the group and vice versa.

"You're here." An elderly woman arrived.

"Miss Sakura." Mikazuki acknowledged her.

"Is that all of you?"

"Yes."

"Okay, then let's start. Get ready. We have your clothes prepared over here."

"Hey, Mikazuki," Atra began inspecting the boy's wounds. "What happened to you?"

"Oh, these?" He nervelessly said. "It's complicated. I'll tell you while we work."

oOo

A four-wheel drive off-road vehicle was traversing the rugged Martian landscape and inside were the two Gjallarhorn investigators…

"What will we do about Maj. Conrad's request for our participation?" Gaelio asked while driving from the right.

"How do you feel about it?" McGillis asked.

Gaelio paused for seconds in thought before replying. "I might as well participate."

"Charmed by the prospect of taking credit, eh?" McGillis tauntingly asked.

"No, that's not it. If we can just give this branch a better fighting chance against these rebels, we can nip this insurgency in the bud." Gaelio claimed. "Besides, I want to supervise the cooperation with OZ Prize to make sure that they wouldn't take advantage of our troops. I don't believe that Conrad has the sufficient sense to think about their welfare. In case that happens, I want to see it firsthand and have my report of his transgressions as an eyewitness account."

"That's true," McGillis conceded to Gaelio's insight and ribbed him no further. "But we're not in a position to put our soldiers from Earth and space colonies in peril. Furthermore, one of us is to stay on the ship for command."

"I guess I'll go with the Mars Branch by myself then," Gaelio said. "You'll back me up if things go awry, right?"

"Sure."

"C'mon! Can you at least be more reassuring?! Oh well, it's hard to be an inspector." Gaelio yielded. "By the way, I'm calling my sister tonight. How about you join me?"

"Almiria?"

"She won't shut up about not getting to see you. Our parents decided this but your fiancée is merely 9 years old. You certainly have it hard."

"It's fine. She's my friend's sister."

"Don't force it."

"But "big brother, I do no such thing."

oOo

The guest workers of the farm are following the pace of the Martian farmers, most of them struggling with the tasks suddenly thrust into them.

"I'd choose mobile suit maintenance over this any day." Lucille complained while picking up the corns left after the thresher passed by. "The natural sun… it hurts."

"I want to reach Earth soon. I've heard it's much colder there because of the beginning of a new Ice Age." Odin said. "How did we even get roped into this?"

"Oh, is the Martian heat too much for the sheltered space colonists?" Grandma Sakura provoked without any ill intent but to bring out their determination. "The colony's artificial environment atrophies your bodies. Use this opportunity to develop your bodies' natural immunity."

"I'm not so sure if that's a sound medical advice…" Odin subtly talked back.

"What was that?!"

"N-Nothing… ma'am! We'll get right back to what we're supposed to be doing!"

"That's what I thought," Miss Sakura said while rolling back down the sleeve she rolled up. "Why don't you follow the example of this girl here." She patted Selkie's shoulders. "Good work. What's your name?"

At that point, Lucille intervened. "Her name is Selkie, Miss Sakura. I'm sorry but she can't talk. She can hear you fine though."

"Oh? That's too bad. However, I meant what I said. If peaceful times come to pass ad you no longer need to fight, come to me for a job, will ya?"

Wordless, Selkie can only nod. Though she's paying attention to the people around her, her thoughts were somewhere else. If only the seas of this planet didn't run dry, we didn't have to…

Meanwhile, Mikazuki and Atra were catching up with each other's affairs…

"That sounds scary! I'm glad that you're alright but it's heartbreaking to hear about what happened to the others." Atra expressed.

"No way around it. Danger is part of the job." Mikazuki said.

Kudelia nearby was trying to pull an ear of corn which the thresher didn't topple when the force of her pulling almost made her fall backwards. Mikazuki was there to catch her by the arm though so she narrowly avoided lying on the ground."

"Are you okay?" Mikazuki asked.

"I'm sorry… and thank you," Kudelia uttered softly. "For keeping me from falling just now… and for taking me to this place. It's lovely. When I'm sweating and touching the land, it clears my mind. It's very refreshing."

"I'm glad to hear."

"Is that why you brought us here?"

Mikazuki didn't reply directly but he asked a question himself: "How much do you think that corn sells for?"

"For one corn? About 200 galars?" Came Kudelia's educated, yet ignorant, guess.

"50 galars for 10 kilograms," Mikazuki turned his back to her and his attention shifted to the vast green field. "Around here, they get sold cheaply as raw material for biofuel. It would be hard for Miss Sakura without Biscuit's salary. The same goes for the others. To feed their family… to pay off a debt… To buy their freedom… They put their bodies on the line to live. Do you know about Human Debris?"

"Yes, roughly," She responded. "People traded for money, right?"

"At crummy prices. You've heard the name Akihiro during our last meeting, right?"

"Yes, you guys talked about him after Orga declared a new name for your group. Why?"

"Him and those around him are exactly that. Even if they become free, they can't get proper jobs. Well, I guess we're not that much different." He looked back at her. "Thanks to you volunteering to shoulder our expenses for a while, we were able to just hang on. Thank you so much." He bowed slightly.

Amid their conversation, Atra, who was left alone, had her cheeks puffed and muttering words under her breath. So fixated on the two, she was, that she didn't notice the twins sneak up on her.

"Aren't you worried, Atra?" Cookie, the girl with the twintails whispered.

"You'll get Mikazuki taken away." Cracker, her twin whose hair hair is arranged in a bun teased further.

"Hey!" Atra replied with a flushed face.

"Cookie, Cracker. Can you get a new basket for me?" Biscuit requested from his sisters.

"Yes, we'll get it." Cookie giddily said.

"Get it and get it taken away!" Cracker subtly continued the teasing with her play on words.

"Gosh," Atra sighed and continued looking at Mikazuki and Kudelia.

But all their attentions were diverted when they heard a screeching sound, horns, and screams. Everyone working immediately rushed to where it all came from.

A car swerved on the pathway and the twin girls were lying on the ground.

Gaelio stepped out of the car and calmly asked. "Hey, are you alright-"

Mikazuki dashed towards the taller man; neck and hand met. With fury, Mika began choking the older man.

"You… what are you doing?!" Gaelio whimpered as his feet was being lifted off the ground while he's pushed against the car door.

"You kids alright? Can you get up?" Odin opted to turn his attention to the girls instead and helped them on their feet.

"Mikazuki! It's not what you think!" Cookie appealed.

"Mikazuki, hey!" So did Cracker.

"He-Help!" Gaelio begged.

"That's enough," Miss Sakura softly bonked him on the head. "You hasty fool."

Mikazuki released the man who was grasping for air.

"We ran out in front." Cookie explained.

"That car avoided us." Cracker continued.

McGillis has stepped out of the car and spoke (he was the only one who can between the two of them who could): "We were careless, too. Let me apologize."

"Cookie! Cracker!" Biscuit caught up to them and called out but when he saw the insignia emblazoned on the car, a beast of his namesake rampant blowing a horn above a banner charged with seven stars, he slowed and quieted down to cautiously draw close.

Fumitan, who also noticed, pulled over her mistress to the side before they can be seen.

"Are you okay?" McGillis helped his friend to get up.

"You're always like this when you get mad," The old woman reprimanded Mika. "Be careful."

"I'm sorry, Miss Sakura."

"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to." She pointed to the unknown men and she left to go back to her work.

"I'm sorry." Mikazuki said while scratching the back of his head.

"You're sorry?! You…" Gaelio threw a punch but Mikazuki swiftly evaded. "Hey, what's that on your back?"

Instead of Mikazuki, McGillis replied. "Alaya-Vijnana System?"

"Alaya-what?"

"An organic device system implanted into the human body. I've heard that they still use it…"

"Implanting foreign objects into your body?" Gaelio let the thought sink in and when it did, he brought his hands to his mouth to hold back a rising sensation from his throat.

Gaelio slowly went back inside the car and McGillis went towards the little girls hiding behind Atra. "I'm sorry to have frightened you. This is all I have, but can you accept this as an apology?" He handed over a packet of sweets to the two and smiles immediately formed on their faces.

"Thank you very much." Cookie and Cracker graciously received the present from the stranger.

"Thank you." Atra echoed their response.

"Lucille, Selkie, have some, too!" The twins called out to their visitors.

"See a doctor just in case. If there's anything call the Mars Branch of Gjallarhorn. My name is McGillis Fareed." Afterwards, he turned his attention to the men of the group. "By the way, I want to ask something."

"W-What is it?" Biscuit asked nervously.

"It seems there was a battle around here recently. Have you noticed anything?"

"Now that you say it, I think I heard some shooting just yesterday. There's a paramilitary organization nearby so it might have been them training, right?" Biscuit winked at Mikazuki outside of Fareed's field of vision.

"Yeah." Mikazuki concurred.

"Nothing I can tell from my end, sir." Odin played along politely.

"I see. Thank you for your help." McGillis expressed. Then he turned his attention to Mikazuki, "Your moves were amazing. Have you been trained?"

"A little."

"I see. You'd make a great soldier."

The Gjallarhorn officer bid farewell, entered the car, and rode off. They who were holding their breath finally found release.

"They finally left." Fumitan sighed in relief.

"They didn't seem to know about the battle yesterday." Mika said just as the car disapperead from their sight.

"Yeah, I guess even Gjallarhorn doesn't work as one either." Biscuit concluded.

oOo

CGS HQ's Hangar

"You sure about this boss?" An orange-haired kid asked.

"Yeah, Ride you're doing great," Orga replied as he looked up with a pleased expression at a ship while several people with buckets of paint and rollers work on it. "Redesigns should come with the rebranding. Renaming, too. From now on, it shall be known as isaribi."

"Isaribi? Fish lure? Seriously, why?" Eugene asked with a brow raised. "I kinda liked Will-o'-the-Wisp better."

"What's that?" Shino asked.

"They were asked by Mr. Orga apparently." Takaki explained.

"And what's that symbol?" Shino continued.

"The iron flower, of course," Orga replied. "It will the new symbol that will represent us. Speaking of which, we should also change the design of our uniforms soon."

"Huh? But that's gonna strain our cash even more!" Eugene opposed but Orga wasn't paying attention to him.

"Mr. Orga," Odel approached the new group's boss. "We would like to use leftovers from the Graze's armor to add to our mobile suits. I don't think that we have enough time but we'll put what we can get and utilize what you have available. Don't worry, we'll compensate. If you'd permit us, we'll begin installation now and finish before we launch into space."

"Sure," Orga said. "We need everyone in their best shape. The only extra we have though is what was left from that mobile suit we captured from the last battle."

"Thanks." Odel said.

He went back to where the rest of his team were and gave them the go-ahead. He then asked, "Have Odin and the others returned?"

"Not yet," Tricia answered him. "Why'd even go along with CGS, I mean, Tekkadan's request for some of us to work a day in the farm? And why choose them?"

"Orga thought that the recent events gave us a bad impression of them. He wanted to show that they're regular people, just like us, but they've just been pushed around for too long and they had to do what they did. We might as well humor them for being our new allies. I thought that since Odin and Lucille are the youngest among us, they'll hit it off with Tekkadan's similarly young members."

"But why did you choose Selkie to go along, too?"

"I didn't. She volunteered. I'm not sure why but she seemed eager. I just had to let her go."

oOo

After leaving the farm, the two Gjallarhorn officers' vehicle continued its trip.

"As that man at the farm said, a paramilitary group called CGS existed around that area." McGillis, behind the wheel after Gaelio felt nauseatic, said.

"Existed?"

"The owner and company name have changed. The new name is Tekkadan."

"What's with that?"

"Was it just the name they wanted to erase? Or..." He didn't continue as they finally reached their destination: Gjallarhorn's Martian surface base.

oOo

After three days of preparation, Isaribi is finally IN SPACE...

I'm here now. Mother, Father. Kudelia thought.

"Wow! So this is space. It's so wide!" Atra excitedly said. "But the stars don't twinkle like when I look up back in Mars though."

"Stars don't really twinkle." Lucille explained. "The planet's atmosphere creates that effect."

"Oh. I never knew." Atra looked down sheepishly. "No one taught me about that. I know very little."

Lucille realized what she did and she felt sorry for the kid. "How about you ask me things you are curious about from time to time when we're both not busy? I'll try my best to answer your questions. How's that sound?"

"Really? That would be great!"

"Do you really have to go with us, Atra?" Mikazuki asked when he walked in on their conversation. "You'd have been a lot of safer if you stayed behind."

"Of course! If I didn't come, what kind of food would you be eating?"

"I have my dates." Mikazuki replied and shown the fruits he's been clasping in his hand. "Want some?"

Their easygoing moment of respite ended when Mikazuki was called to the docking bay through the ship's PA system. Lucille also took it as her cue to go back to her work and Atra also made her way to the living quarters.

"Mobile suits spotted! And it's not Gjallarhorn. There are OZ models, too!" Chad reported. "They're hailing us. What will we do, Orga?"

"Put them on!"

A pilot wearing a helmet appeared in the large screen. "This is Lt. Crank Zant of Gjallarhorn's Front Line Troops. Your group is transporting a dissident inciting rebellion to the government and a group of illegal immigrants from the MO-V colony with records of violence against ESF operatives. Surrender them immediately or prepare to face us in combat. Also, we demand that you hand over the Graze you've captured and the remains of its pilot and the others you've slain."

"Do you think we'll do just as we're told? We'd rather go down fighting than give in." Orga agressively replied. "And that Graze is our spoil and we've put it to good use. Don't even think about recovering the pilots' remains. It went to the incinerator a few days ago together with our other garbage."

"Damn you!" Ein, who was listening in, was enraged but his voice wasn't carried through the channel.

"Have you really not realized that we have the upper hand and didn't even consider a way to appease your advantaged opponents?" Crank continued. "I see that you lead this group now. You are but children. There is still life for you beyond warfare so if you turn your back now, I'm sure that a better future awaits you."

"What do you know?!" Orga stood up from his seat and had his anger made clear. "You know nothing of what it's like to be one of us. Ideals of honor and wishes for a better future mean nothing when you are under the threat of dying everyday, whether it's from hunger or someone that can kill you to eliminate competition. You asses might not appreciate it but this cursed lives we knew from when we were born is all we know."

"Enough talk!" Maj. Conrad interrupted. "I knew that your method wouldn't work. We'll just take them by force. You heard that, Tekkamen or whatever? Prepare to face the combined might of Gjallarhorn and die as you regret not taking us up of on our kind offer!"

"That's just the way I like it." The channel closed and Orga instructed the operator to connect him to Geminass-02. "I'm sorry that we have to put you and your team in this kind of situation again but the only way to get past them is to bet on our chances of beating them."

"I know," Odel said. "We also don't believe that they'll make good on their promise."

"Okay! All units launch!" Orga gave the orders. "Destroy their mobile suits and make way for the Isaribi to get through!"

And so it began. The Gundams and Selkie's mech launched to meet the onslaught of the ESF mobile suits.

"Hmph, Leo mobile dolls? I wouldn't worry about those." Odin said as he deployed in his Geminass-01. "And I can take on those Grazes now, too, with these rifle taken from that Graze."

"Like I always say, don't get too cocky." Odel warned as he launched in his own 02 with the Graze's axe. "We only have one each of the kinds of weapons those Grazes use. Let's stick together as much as possible to complement each other. Those Prize guys are with them. They might try to provoke us with reminders of what happened in MO-V. Don't fall for that."

"I know, I know," Odin grunted. "Not all the Stardust Knights that we fought before are here though. The Leo in high heels is missing."

I will not let them stop us. Selkie thought. For my allies, we must make it to our destination.

"Space, huh?" Mikazuki disinterestedly said. "Let's see what you can do here, Barbatos."

"We'll support you, Mikazuki!" Eugene cheered.

"Even if we can't fight too well with our mobile workers, we'll provide support. Go back to us for quick and easy repairs." Shino added.

With their units deployed, the Tekkadan crew engaged in a battle with a force of nine Grazes including one with a slightly altered design, nine AI-controlled Leos, and three custom Leos but with one that wasn't fought before.

oOo

"Specialist Maj. Bauduin, thank you for coming with us," Maj. Conrad spoke privately to the inspector. "Too bad that Specialist Maj. Fareed couldn't come though."

"This kind of operation is beneath both of us but let it not be said that we don't care for Gjallarhorn."

oOo

"What do you suppose that dome-headed Leo is, Odel?" Odin asked between firing at a Graze with the 120mm Rifle.

"I don't know," Odel replied as he parried a Leo's beam saber with an axe. "Mr. Higasaki, any ideas?"

"Hmm... it seems to emit some sort of signal," Higasaki's transmission appeared on a smaller screen overlaid at the top of the vision of the battlefield. "A head shaped like a satellite dish... Oh, I get it! It's designed for electronic warfare!"

"Please don't be too excited about the enemy, Mr. Higasaki," Selkie said. "If that's true, it's what we should aim for first."

"R-Right... I can confirm that the signals are used for detection but if it can do that, it could also probably interfer with the machines that come close enough to its effective range. Do not trust the readouts on your apparatus too much and consider larger margins of error - the interference is probably already occuring as we speak."

The Barbatos swang at a Leo for a supposed kill but it somehow dodged, leaving it open to bursts of beam projectiles that it mostly deflected. True to her words, Selkie tried to hit the odd-headed Leo with a curved blade but it maneuvered out of the way.

"Up, left, up!" Lt. Sernan spoke to himself the directions which he took to dodge. "I can't believe it but I'm doing better than I expected!" He tried to shoot her with a Dober Gun but she also evaded. "Okay, okay. I better leave this to the dolls and not push my luck." With that, the AI of the mobile dolls deemed it advantageous to retaliate against Selkie and secure the EWAC Leo. About half of the beam rifle projectiles connected but only one went past the mech's bubble-like barrier.

I can almost see myself in those drones. Selkie thought.

Interesting. We're fighting against true barbarians. Roche said to himself as he flew around in his Leo-S while firing its dober gun at the Isaribi while no enemy mobile suit was going for him yet. C'mon, G-Units, show yourselves to me. He then noticed the emblem on the ship. That flower looks like a fleur-de-lis! Those fools might not even know the nobility associated with that symbol yet they dare to display it!

"Stardust Knight! You will pay for what you did to MO-V!" The Geminass-01 suddenly appeared behind him brandishing its beam saber but the attack was blocked by Broom's Leo-N using its own body. The 02 was following closely behind and shot the Leo-S that evaded, causing it to drop its dober gun.

"Wait for me, Odin," Odel called out. "We'll set them up for a two-on-two melee."

"Right!"

The Leo-N also produced an axe from its mohawk and crossed it with 01's beam saber. "Thought you're the only ones with nanolaminate plating? This axe has it, too. This isn't part of our service armament but we have to shell out the bucks ourselves if we want to have an edge!"

"Ha! So you do recognize that we're better than you!" Odin taunted.

"I said nothing of the sort!" Brooks protested.

Meanwhile, Ein's Graze has spotted the Barbatos and decided to go against him. "You'll pay for your murder of Captain Orlis!"

"Murder? It was a fight, which you started." Mikazuki replied as he swung the mace to the Graze's torso. The mobile suit got entangled and Barbatos was about to smash the cockpit in but another Graze pushed him away with its rifle.

"You don't have to keep doing this, kid," Lt. Zant in the incoming Graze advised in the open channel. "You can still turn back and avoid being targeted by Gjallarhorn. Children should not be victimized for adult strifes." The Graze swung its battle axe but it was easily blocked by the mace.

"I'm only a victim if I let myself be one and right now, I wouldn't let myself be your victim." The Barbatos kicked away from the Graze, fired its smoothbore gun, and with its thrusters on full power, rammed Crant's Graze. "Let me tell you. I've never been victimized for anything. I am just doing what I can for me and my comrades. And right now, you're in my way." With a pile driver retracting from the mace, the cockpit was penetrated.

"Lt. Crank!" Ein erupted and he almost charged back in when someone else took on the Barbatos.

"Don't think that you can just get kill an officer of Gjallarhorn and get away with!" Gaelio yelled as his Schwalbe Graze charged with its lance.

Another noisy one. Mikazuki thought.

oOo

"How's the fight coming along, Chad?" Orga asked.

"Our fighters and this ship have taken out a third of them but that still leaves as with fourteen enemy mobile suits. Mikazuki just killed a Gjallarhorn officer though so I'd say things are looking up for us even if their advantage in numbers is still worrisome." Chad replied. "Wait, we're picking something up."

"What is it?"

"It's a civilian supersonic transporter. It's way outside its regular route though."

oOo

"Hmm... why is that here?" Maj. Conrad wondered and he opted to hail the civilian vessel. "Hey, this isn't a transport route. Turn back now or-"

Before he can finish, it fired a beam projectile at his Commander-Type Graze. Though it was deflected, it was soon followed by physical ammo from gatling gun fire.

oOo

"Hey, Orga," Akihiro in a pilot suit appeared in the Isaribi's screen. "Are we just in time?"

"Yeah. You brought your friends along?"

"I did, and they're not just friends. They're family."

One of Akihiro's companions also connected to the bridge, "I am Rashid Kurama of the Maganac Corps, the elite force of Katharon. We're here to assist you per the request of our blood brother Akihiro... and to aid a maiden of revolution." His sight moved to that of Kudelia at the back of the ship's bridge who was seated beside her maid.

"Your help is appreciated." Orga nodded.

oOo

From the transport vehicle, three mobile suits emerged. Two mobile suits are nearly identical except one has a horn, like a lot of commander-type mobile suits, and with the number "1" on its shoulder pad while the other one has thicker shoulder armor with thrusters in that part which the other one lacks. The third one has larger legs but no arms and more heavily armored, mounted with both a large beam cannon and a gatling gun.

"This Olifant is not my style but I'll make do with it." Akihiro monologued. "I can't move fast but if I can take them down from here." He said while alternating fire between the two types of artillery.

"Abdul, let's go!" Rashid instructed from his commander Maganac mobile suit.

On another side of the battlefield, Odin rejoiced. "Hah, reinforcements for our side! And you guys were already struggling against us even before they arrived!"

"Brooks, I'm getting out of here... and carry it out." Roche ordered.

The custom Leo flew away to a field of space rocks and debris. In his excitement for the imminent victory, he forgot his brother's advice and pursued him, dropping the rifle to increase speed. But as soon as he was between several debris, three manta ray-like mecha sprang into action and surrounded the 01. They then transformed into humanoid forms and whipped out web-like mesh of wires that they used to trap the Geminass and send electric shocks through it. With their prey captured, the Hambrabis began flying away.

"Aaagh!" Odin screamed and writhed in pain.

"Hahaha! Finally some use for those old Hambrabis lying around!" Roche celebrated.

"Odin!" Odel attempted to rush to his brother's aid but he's locked in combat against Brooks. He called for help from his allies instead. "Please, my brother needs help! Someone chase after them!"

Responding to the call, the members of Maganac and Selkie gave chase while Tekkadan members remain engaged with the Gjallarhorn Grazes. The EWAC Leo followed after the Hambrabis after all the mobile dolls it's been assisting, save two, have been taken out.

"Alright, this is it." Kratz said as he started up his mobile suit from among the debris. "My time to shine. You'll pay for defying the Stardust Knights." With a launcher, the Leo-R fired a beam at the 02 from behind.

"What the-" Odel was jolted forward in the 02's cockpit after the blast. He checked the sensors and detected the mobile suit behind. I knew it was suspicious that they were't complete. Was he hiding there the whole time?!

With his disorientation, Broom saw a chance to strike with his axe across the 02's chest. "Got you!"

A second fire from the Leo-R's Hyper Launcher.

"Brother!" Odin hollered when he heard his brother's pained screaming.

"Listen, Odin," Odel said with urgency in his tone. "Looks like this is where we'll part ways. You might not believe it right now but you can surpass me. Good luck and take care of MO-V when you finally return-"

The transmission was cut off as he saw his brother's mech get impaled. His vision darkened and without being entirely conscious of his situation, he yelled, "Engage PX System!" The 01 burnt blue. In quick succession, he broke free of the net and destroyed the three mobile suits that captured him. The two mobile dolls fell soon after and all that was left was the dish-headed Leo.

"Brooks, Kratz! Pick that G-Unit up!" Roche began flying away from the battlefield. "Sernan, get out of there fast or you'll get left behind!"

"H-hey! I thought that you're going to help us!" Maj. Conrad called out to the retreating suits.

"And that we already did." Roche replied. "We did our part and fulfilled our objective. You can't blame us for not fulfilling yours."

The other Grazes have fallen and those left are the ones piloted by Coral, Gaelio, and Ein.

"Don't wanna admit this but the wannabe knight is right." Gaelio said. "Let's get out of here. I knew this haphazard plan would backfire."

The three proceeded to retreat but Coral's Graze was caught by Barbatos after it used the rocks and debris as springboard. The Barbatos grasped the cockpit area and applied pressure, slowly crushing the man inside. So this is where it ends for me. I might fall here but there are many who shall pick up where I'm leaving off. It's a shame that I wouldn't see the day... He took one last look at Mars in his monitor. Praise be to Metatron!

"N-No!" Lt. Sernan struggled with his controls as the 01 went after him, zigzagging between rocks and debris to try to lose the pursuer but to no avail. Beam rifle fires have hit his Leo but luckily, none that were direct hits that could have sent it crumbling. Out of desperation, he spoke through the open channel. "I give, I give!"

The 01 stopped. Not out of mercy but the pilot has lost consciousness, leaving the mobile suit limply floating in the vacuum.

I'm not sure what happened but I have to follow my allies back. He tried but the Leo wasn't flying. No! My thrusters!

oOo

"Orga, no enemy mobile suit is moving and the rest already retreated." Chad reported eagerly. "W-we did it. We actually did it!"

"That's enough for now, call back our guys."

"Permission to board, Orga," Akihiro said.

"Of course."

"And we've picked up something on the way back. The engineers might want a look at it. The person inside is alive so I'll let you decide what to do with him."

Chapter Text

"No, it can't be! How did that happen?!" Tricia was frantic as news of Odel's death reached her.

"I'm so sorry," Orga apologized. "We didn't detect the lurking attacker until after he started his mobile suit's reactor. It could have been handled better but we didn't know that guy was there until it was too late."

"O-Odel, NO...!" None of Orga's next words reached her as she slowly sunk into despair and unconsciousness, her legs suddenly weighing more than it should and failing to support the rest of her body.

"Tricia!" Kudelia was there to catch her, thankfully. "Get ahold of yourself!" She called out but there was no response.

"Milady, I think it would be better to bring her to the infirmary," Fumitan suggested. "Hey, can someone get a stretcher over here?" She called out to the male crew members.

Several of them responded and helped Tricia.

Odel... for the short time that I've known him, I knew he was a decent person. Orga thought inwardly. He might have done it of his own will but I've just let a client be sent to his death. An unfortunate loss of life aside, this is a breach of professionalism on my part and may as well ruin our reputation. I need to make up for this...

His contemplation was soon interrupted when Chad called to him, "Boss, Biscuit is calling from the hangar! He says it's urgent!"

"Patch him through."

"Orga! This is bad!" Biscuit began. "That G-Unit doctor! He took our last Skyfish without permission and took off while we were bringing in the pilots from the last battle!"

"Say what now?!" Orga lost his cool at the news. "Have our people chase after him and get his ass back here!"

"Our other units are too broken to function and that's not just the ones we sent out to fight. The doctor apparently spread a virus that sabotaged the OS's of the units on standby. It will be a while before the reboot gets rid of it according to Higasaki. Speaking of which, do you want to talk to him now?"

"No, I'd rather not. Let them see to the current task at hand first."

A little while later…

"Odin… Odin…"

"Brother, is that you?!" He called back to the echoing voice in the dark. He ran after the direction of its source without a light in sight to lead the way until his breathing roughened. "Brother, where are you?!"

Then without warning, he was attacked from behind by someone wielding a glowing sword. Without meaning to, he parried it with a sword of light of his own, its source unknown to him. To his further surprise, his clothes has been replaced with metallic armor of a familiar design; it resembles his Geminass. Opposite him was another figure in a similar armor but of a darker tint.

"Give it up, rookie," Lit up by glow emanating from the blades, the face of the attacker came into view: Odel's.

"W-what is this?"

Beam sabers clashed between expert and neophyte, leaving trails of light where the luminous weapons were and sparks flying on contact like a scaled down fight between mobile suits.

"Odel... brother... why?!" Odin asked between parries, all of which are his; the armored opponent who's apparently Odel only strikes ever onward. Odin kept parrying but with one wrong move, "Odel's" saber is on its way to his heart.

"You don't have what it takes to pilot a Gundam. You'll never be as good as I was… but you'll die just like me!"

...

"URK! HUFF! Huff! Huff..."

Odin's eyes opened, jolted awake to a view of the ceiling through a narrow lens only slightly wider than his face, seeing nothing to his left or right like a blinkered horse. His breathing was ragged and he can feel the air . Though he wishes to move his legs, they were held in place by the lid of the capsule, though he has yet to understand what happened to him. Furthermore, he feels wet like he has been submerged in gelatin and he feels it with every inch of his skin. He came to a conclusion: he's naked. He at least tried to sit up straight and push the covering glass but the machine was locked from outside.

"Odin!"

Another voice called out to him. It was muffled and with his head still fuzzy, he thought it to be another auditory hallucination but it soon became clearer as the lid slowly flipped open.

"Odin, you're awake! Thank goodness!" Lucille exclaimed as she peeked over the healing sarcophagus. Seeing him grope for the latch alerted her and she rushed to help him out. "I thought you'd be - oh!" It was only then that she remembered that Odin is in the garment he was born in. Blushing as she explained herself, she said, "Uwah! I-I'm sorry! I forgot that-"

"Odel... he died... trying to stop me from making stupid mistakes..."

No awkward back and forth tirades like they usually would have as Odin interrupted with words laden with self-loathing. He clenched his fists tightly.

"Odin..." Lucille only stood there, wanting to comfort him but believing that the personal space would help more than she could.

...

"We're really sorry about what happened, Orga, but we didn't really know what the doctor was up to. Please, you have to believe us!" Higasaki pleaded.

"Y-yeah! He was an asshole all around so we just thought that that's just how he was. Never thought that he was actually pretty nasty!" A mechanic that were with them from MO-V attested.

While Tekkadan's mechanics busy themselves with repairing the mechs, those of the G-Unit, along with Selkie, were isolated to a makeshift interrogation room as they're observed by Orga and the others behind the monitors linked to the room's surveillance camera. For safety measures, they've been rounded and locked up, with the interrogator's questions coming from speakers around the room. Even if Orga hasn't asked a lot, the people from the space colony were frantic to explain themselves. Though he's been amiable to them throughout the interrogation, they feared for their lives as they've known that the captain and crew of this vessel suffers traitors poorly, as they observed back on Mars, and as of Dr. Berg's recent betrayal, he might not view them any differently.

Orga made sweeping glances on all of them, going back and forth through all their faces.

Looks like they're even more shocked than we are. Orga thought. They've been betrayed, too.

Eugene whispered to him. "I say let's imprison them for the rest of the trip. We don't know enough to say if they're traitors or not but in that way, they wouldn't be able to harm us anymore if they are."

"There's no need for that," Orga pronounced. "They've been very helpful thus far and they're our clients, too. We can't discredit the contribution that their mobile units provided in the last fight."

"If that's what you think is right, then suit yourself." Eugene squared his shoulders and began walking away but turned back to say one more thing, "But outside of Tekkadan, how many people can we really trust?"

A few seconds after Eugene left, Orga declared: "This is going nowhere. Let them out of there."

...

On a different holding cell...

"Dammit, I messed up!"

Lon Sernan paced back and forth in the room as he contemplates his predicament. He has torn his undershirt and wrapped it around his head as a makeshift bandage. As soon as he was forced to exit his mobile suit, a wrench swung down to his head from a mechanic who was screaming "That's for Odel, you bastard!"

If the assaulter wasn't dragged away, he could have been hurt more or worse. Just as he thought that it was over, he felt a sharp object like a needle pierce his buttocks and the next thing he knew was that he had been locked up.

I'm at their mercy. He thought. But with the report that I've read, I fear that they might not have any.

...

"I really thought that you left us for real!" Shino wrapped an arm around Akihiro's shoulder and horsed around, exerting his weight on the burlier man's back. The former's excitement couldn't be contained and should have been contagious but the latter didn't express anything remotely similar. Instead, his forehead was wrinkling and his thick eyebrows seemed to be meshing together. "I was about to hate you for not saying your goodbyes, man! Why didn't you say anything?!"

"C-C'mon, Shino! Stop that!" Yamagi said as he to tried to pry Shino off Akihiro's back. "You'll hurt yourself!"

Akihiro said nothing and tossed the piggybacker aside. Yamagi sighed and looked at Shino as if to say, I told you so.

"So, these are the friends you made after you left, Akihiro," said the middle-aged man who fought together with them in the last battle. "You've come far from when we first met you."

"Yeah, they're not much to look at but they're decent people," Akihiro replied. "And I haven't introduced you yet, right?" He called to his friends from Tekkadan. "Everyone, I'd like you to meet the people that raised me. This is Rashid, the leader of Maganac. Oh, and this one's Ahmad, the third in command. They took me in after I lost my family several years ago."

"I've heard a lot about your group from Akihiro," Rashid said. "It's a pleasure to meet the people who have become his new family."

"I-I don't know what to say to that. T-That's pretty embarrassing," Shino stuttered. "Sticking together is all we can do. It's pretty much a given for people with nothing to our name like us."

"Don't put yourself down, young man," Rashid offered his insight. "Other people may decide that you're worthless in their eyes but never succumb to the ghibli of your own will."

"Ghibli?" Shino raised an eyebrow and scratched his temple. "Am I just not very bright or is that a really difficult word?"

"It means 'hot desert wind'," Rashid said with a smile but it quickly vanished. "The deserts of the Earth are gone for a decade and a half now, though, and that word might soon fall into disuse. Anyway, I hope to have the chance to get to know all of you in the next few days."

"The next few days?" Akihiro wrinkled his forehead and asked in surprise.

"Yes, we'll be coming with you on your trip to Earth. For that matter, I want to talk to your captain."

"I never heard of this. I thought you were just going to help ensure our escape."

"We were in a hurry. There was no time to fill you in on the details."

At that point, Orga walked in after having released the isolated mechanics. Noticing the gathering of people, he called out, "What's going on there?"

"Oh, Orga," Shino replied. "I think you're just in time. It looks like Akihiro's pals need you for something."

Curious, he approached them. "You looking for me?"

"Ah, you must be Orga," Rashid greeted. "Thanks for receiving us."

"Same here. For coming with Akihiro and helping with our plan."

"But now, I have something else to ask of you." He paused and exhaled. "To put it bluntly, let us hitchhike for a while."

Orga gaped a little for a about a second or two before he replied, "Let's have this conversation in my office."

"Understood." Rashid nodded.

oOo

On the Grand Chariot...

A single Skyfish has arrived in the hangar and soldiers have lined up to receive the traitor onboard with something akin to, or a mockery of, a hero's welcome. Upon stepping down, OZ soldiers poised to salute, to which the scientist just snickered and shrugged.

"Welcome to the Grand Chariot, Dr. Berg," Roche greeted. "We've been looking forward to meeting our man on the inside. You've done a great service for the Earth Sphere and OZ will provide you with the support you'll need if you wish to keep doing so."

"If that's how you see it, then let's go with that," Dr. Berg said with an amused snort. "As long as you help me create the strongest machine, we'll be working together for a very long time."

Roche reached out for a handshake but the scientist only gave him a cold look. The knight reluctantly retracted and sighed, "Anyway, we already have retrieved one of the mobile suits you created. You may take a rest for now and see it late-"

"I don't need to rest," Dr. Berg interrupted. "Get me to the Geminass now. This will be the first time that I will be able to properly cherish my work of art without MO-V's interference."

"I understand but you may as well make yourself comfortable at the moment. Barring the battle damages, we'll still have to clean the... mess made after the fatal blow dealt against the pilot."

"Oh... you killed him," The scientist flatly stated. "Not that I would have preferred him alive but I was looking forward to getting in his face about this. It would have been cathartic after years of putting up with them."

This man! Haha! Kratz thought. It's like looking at my older self!

"We've brought the pilot's body to the morgue and I would have asked you to identify it but there isn't much to look at anymore."

"It doesn't matter. I'm here for my brainchild. Do what you want with that carcass, I wouldn't care."

oOo

Rashid has followed Orga to his office while their respective entourages followed behind.

"Let me get this straight; you want to stay in this ship for free?" Orga sat in his swivel chair as he asked the older man. "I'm sorry if I'm being too direct. We just got stabbed in the back by one guy from a group that we've allowed to cooperate with us. I want to try to assess all of the new people that wants to join us though if you've known Akihiro, it could be enough that he vouches for you. Still, I want to know what you can offer us in return."

"Our group is struggling with money at the moment," Rashid admitted. "One of our benefactors have been taken prisoner by the Feds while we haven't heard of the other one for some time. We're sure that our comrades on Earth are already planning a rescue but as for the other one, we haven't from him in a while. He's just a kid and we're really worried about him. Our main destination is Earth but we've been told by Akihiro that you'll be passing by the Dort 3 colony and a close friend of his is from around there. It's worth looking at. We'll pay you back once we get to Earth but in the meantime, Ahmad and I will do our best to help around the ship and in combat."

Orga stared at the man for a few seconds then turned his gaze to Akihiro, who shrugged, then back to the man. "You did help us last time. This is a bad time for us and we'll really take all the help we can get. Welcome aboard and we look forward to working with you."

"Thank you very much," Rashid breathed a sigh of relief. "To both you and Akihiro."

"Don't thank me," Akihiro modestly spoke. "I'm part of Maganac. This is a relief for me, too."

"I'm not done yet," Orga clarified. "You're a leader of a rebel group, right? Does that mean you know how to train people how to fight?"

"Yes, I do," Rashid replied confidently. "And I have an idea where you're going with this. I'll train you troops if that's what you want, yes?"

"How soon can you begin training them?" Orga stood up.

"If they have nothing more important to do, then we should begin soon."

...

"I couldn't remember anything after the PX System activated." Odin relayed while Lucille was tending to him. "It was like I was in a trance for the rest of the battle."

"Shh. Just relax for now." Lucille advised.

Another person entered the sick bay with light, slow steps.

"Tricia!" Lucille immediately came forward to the new visitor. "If you're still not feeling okay, you should rest a bit more!"

"N-No... I feel better now," Tricia answered. "Everyone is doing their best. I... just don't want to be a burden."

"But you can't possibly be up and about now after...what just happened," Lucille said, a bit choked up. "You two don't need to bottle it up. If you want to talk about it, go on. In fact, I really want to talk about it. You two might have had the closest connections to Odel but it's hurting the rest of us just as much!"

The two others bowed their heads in mourning and all of them fell silent for nearly half a minute.

"I-I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lashed out like that," Lucille calmed down. "It's just that I hate seeing the both of you this way."

"No... you've got a point there," Odin pronounced and tried to leave the healing pod. "We'll be letting Odel down if we don't get our act together."

"Odin, no! Stay here first," Lucille prevented him from getting up "If you need something, I'll get it for you."

"No... I have to go to Orga. I have to report."

"About that... Dr. Berg... turned traitor and now, they suspect that the rest of us might turn against them, too," Lucille explained. "Our mechanics and Selkie have been detained. They were willing to let Selkie be excused as a woman but she quietly insisted on coming along."

The other two gaped at the revelation, with Odin trembling furiously.

"Damn it! I knew that guy was trouble!" Odin gritted his teeth. "No wonder he was such an asshole! I should have knocked his teeth in the first time it came to mind!"

"H-how did this happen?!" Tricia asked.

"No need to worry about that now," From the voice of another visitor came the answer, who turned out to be Dick Higasaki. "I think we were able to convince them that we had nothing to do with the doctor's plan and they let us go without any harm done. Also, Selkie's presence was actually pretty reassuring. Even without a word, she managed to stare them down to not try to do anything too drastic with us."

His listeners heaved sighs of relief and Selkie entered afterwards. She spoke, "I've made sure to display my ability of suppression when I tranquilized the enemy we've captured without being seen how I actually did it. It served well to send a message that they can't mess with us. In lieu of my former companions, I consider you guys as my protectorate now."

Lucille grabbed Selkie's gloved hands and touched it to her bowed head. "Thank you."

"That captured enemy... where is he now?" Odin growled the words. "I will make him regret what he did!"

...

"Eat up! Here's your dinner!" The guard to Sernan's holding cell yelled out. "Finish it quick!"

The technical officer bolted upright from a corner and rushed to collect the food deposited into a chute. The meal consists of veggie loaf, hard bread, and a carton of juice of indeterminate taste. Better than nothing, he thought as he chowed down on his first meal in nearly twenty hours.

"Let me at him!"

Suddenly, halfway through his meal, he heard a loud, angry voice from outside.

"No! Orga's strict orders were to keep him here," The guard replied. "If you want to see him you'll have to ask for his permission first!"

"Open up this damn box! OZ Prize killed my brother! I'm gonna make them pay and I'll start with him!"

"That's great and all but, listen to me," The guard cautiously tried to discourage him. "Orga wouldn't like it if you mess with this guy without him letting you."

"I don't care about that crap-"

"Let him do what he wants," Orga arrived at the scene while Odin was pinning the guard to the wall. "Actually, he's the one I'm saving this guy for. I know vengeance all too well and that if given a chance, an avenger must decide if he wants to take it or not on his own terms."

"That's not a very good advice!" Dick opposed. "C'mon, Odin, you're better than this. He wasn't even piloting the unit that killed your brother. I'm not saying that that should make you feel better but ask yourself if resorting to mercilessness will make you any better than they are."

"The Federation has been morally bankrupt for a long time now," Orga retorted. "There are very few things that can make you worse than them."

"I wasn't just talking about them," Dick glared meaningfully at Orga before setting his sights back to Odin. "You can choose to harbor your hatred or see that this person is just a little cog in the Federation's political machine and that hurting him would mean little. If anything, we should convince him that we're not the bad guys here and maybe, he'll willingly cooperate. If not, at least we've first tried our best at being human."

Odin stopped to think but the rage was still evident in his face. His gaze alternated between Orga and Dick until he spoke, "Just let me in," with the same grunting that he had since arriving in front of the holding cell.

Orga nodded to the guard and the door was soon opened.

Dick can hear the conversation outside but even as he fears for his life, he didn't stop eating. If I'm gonna die anyway, I might as well savor my last meal… even if this isn't savory at all.

As if a strong wind blew it open, the door unhinged and arms dragged him up from the floor where he was eating, scattering food all over the place. With a punch to the gut, more have been scattered and the arms let go of him as he shriveled on the floor.

Lon Sernan expected more beatings but for some reason, no other violent actions followed.

Instead, his assaulter uttered. "That was for my brother. I could do more but that's not going to bring him back. I'm not sure how much you know of your own organization and you might believe that you're fighting for the right side but if you just have any doubts and you're willing to open your eyes, have a look at this."

The lieutenant was handed an electronic slate.

"It's a compilation of what our friends from Celestial Being have investigated over the years. Give yourself a new perspective. I've personally witnessed one of those atrocities."

The angry young man left and Sernan immediately booted up the device.

"This is…" Sernan eagerly skimmed through its contents. "It's worse than what Captain Cage anticipated. With this, the Preventers initiative will surely be given the go signal."

oOo

A few days later...

As discussed, Rashid has gathered the pilots for training. After the past few days of simulated battles inside the ship, the Maganac leader decided that it's time for some field training. For this particular exercise, they have deployed their mobile units in a debris field.

"Today, we're putting the Squad System we've practiced in the simulators to use in a real battle," Rashid announced in their channel. "For now, pair up just as you've been for the last few days."

These Graze is more suited to my style than the Oliphant. Akihiro thought. It has better movement and allows for more in-your-face attacks. My aim is not that good so an artillery unit doesn't really bring out my full potential.

"Akihiro, Akihiro," Rashid called out to him. "Didn't you hear me? Get in formation!"

"R-Right!"

They’re paired up as the following: Mikazuki and Ahmad, Akihiro and Shino, and Odin and Rashid. With more capable fighters, Eugene was relegated to the bridge of Isaribi to serve as a rough equivalent to an XO in a vessel where there is no organized chain of command aside from the role of the captain. Odin, a few days ago, almost lost his will to fight aboard a mobile suit but has bounced back thanks to the encouragement from his friends and family; but that is a story for another time. Selkie’s machine, which was a riddle to begin with for the G-Unit crew, was untouched by Tekkadan’s mechanics at her request relayed to them by Lucille. In truth, it was a decision by the MO-V team who had been previously aware that the machine doesn’t even have any discernible wiring or circuitry that can connect to the simulator and thus, there’s no way to determine its specs.

“Would you be okay now, Odin?” Lucille asked through the channel.

“I think I will be,” He replied. “Thanks.”

...

A girl in a tank top and hotpants floats in the cockpit of a mobile suit as she meticulously files her nails in zero gravity while her pilot suit and helmet drift nearby.

I want some tempura for dinner tonight. Such was the thought running through her head. Been a long time since we've had shrimp. Speaking of shrimp, I can't help but think of Darling's... Yum! I'll have him serve me when I get back to the ship!

Her lull was interrupted when a notification for channel communication rang. She let go of her nail file and let it float with her scattered uniform and answered it. "Hey, what's up?"

"Lafter, suit up," A dark-skinned woman commanded from the monitor. "Those human traffickers will pass by this area soon. We have to be ready to ambush them as soon as they're in the debris field."

"Yeah, yeah, Big Sis," Lafter lacklusterly complied and grabbed her suit and helmet. "I wonder if those guys are the real slave drivers or you."

"Lafter, don't even-"

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding!" Lafter followed up. "Besides, I wouldn't mind you driving me like a slave anytime." She stuck out her tongue and winked an eye.

"Don't get cute with me. Hurry up and get your butt down to formation."

"Can't help being cute. I'm born this way."

...

"That girl is just a handful," Amida muttered to herself. "Without anyone to watch after her, her mind will wander off to dreamland." She then connected to another teammate. "Azee, pair up with Lafter."

"Roger," Upon saying so, Azee's mobile suit flew to Lafter's, leaving Amida with one more teammate beside her.

"Are you sure you're ready to go through with this, Sara?" Amida asked the pilot in the green mobile suit that remained. "You don't have to come with us with this one. I know you've done great in the simulators but we don't want you to push yourself since you have amnesia."

"No, it's alright," Sara replied. "I've been in your care for more than a month now so I should earn my keep. I'm very thankful that Naze accepted me as part of the crew but I can't offer myself as one of his women. This is the next best way to express my gratitude."

"Naze's a great guy. It's too bad that you can't see it enough to fall for him but he's also not one to ask anything from a woman in return for the help he's given. The rest of us all fell in love with him because of all the men we've met, he was the first to give us that much respect. People may judge us for our polyamory but that kind of unselfish love is rare nowadays and must not be denied."

Sara smiled awkwardly, barely visible due to the tint of her helmet. "I won't judge but that's a pretty complicated arrangement. How do you all even… consummate your relationships without exhausting him?"

"Oh, you know, we help each other out," Came the more mature lady's honey-laced reply. "At least, some of us do. But that's one spot that the amnesia missed, huh? Of all things…"

"O-Oh, I didn't even notice… Damn my mouth," Knowing it's too late for a verbal backspace, she opted to stir away from the topic. "So we're not expecting to fight a large group, right?"

Amida noticed the forced transition but she let it slide, "It should just be a dozen, give or take, with a shuttle in tow containing the prisoners. We'll destroy the mobile suits then retrieve the shuttle but be careful since they might use the shuttle as a shield. Draw them out before taking them down."

"Draw them out? How are we going to do that?"

"There's a lot of ways: my husky voice, Lafter's flirtatious tone, your one-of-a-kind mobile suit. These are things that can tickle the lust and greed of these men. They'll want to chase after us inasmuch as we want a claim on their cargo and it wouldn't be just their captives either; they likely have spare parts and products that we can use or sell."

"You plan to draw them out... with my mobile suit?" Sara spoke in a tone sterner than before.

"I've had second thoughts but, I hate to admit it, yes, I planned to bait them with your mobile suit but I didn't intend for you to pilot it. Someone else could have just taken your place but since you insisted anyways, I just thought that we might as well go for it."

"Too late to fret about that now and I couldn't leave my Bolinoak Samahn in anyone else's hands either. It's my only clue to my real identity and I plan to stick with it until everything becomes clear."

"That's good then," Amida checked the display in her control panel. "They're here. Everyone, prepare yourselves."