Episode 8 continued...
Monday afternoon in Shanghai. Another cold, dreary pre-winter’s day. No snow today, however.
At 16:00, Captain Athena Ibaz emerges from the Earth Federation Government Deliberative Assembly building in downtown Shanghai. She has just come out from an eight-hour meeting with Generals Bright Noah and Manron Blackhead and the Earth Federation Government Security Council. During the meeting, the military officers and political leaders have worked out plans for both military and public relations responses to the increasing aggression of ISRLA terrorists.
Athena spots Hathaway Noah across the wide boulevard, leaning roguishly on the hood of his red GT-900 sports car. Hathaway smiles as he spots Athena.
Athena does not return the smile. Looking away, she heads in the direction where her military land rover is parked in a nearby parking lot.
“Hey,” Hathaway calls, dodging traffic as he deftly crosses the busy boulevard (much to the consternation of cursing drivers), “are you going to just ignore me like that?”
Athena continues walking, saying nothing to Hathaway. Not even turning to look at him.
Hathaway finally overtakes Athena, standing in her path, “Come on, Athena. Don’t be this way. Did I do something to make you upset? Tell me, Athena, please.”
Athena shoots Hathaway a hostile glare, “Drop the charade, Hathaway. We both know what the reality of the situation is.”
Hathaway becomes serious, knowing that it is futile to attempt to deceive Athena, “How long have you known?”
Athena replies, “I knew it from the beginning. It became clear almost right away. Your job with the CFM. Those Cezanne paintings that I know are real, and that I also know you can’t possibly afford. Those are going to pay for the Hizack and its weapons, aren’t they…Mafty?”
“If you knew,” Hathaway ventures, “Why didn’t you come with an army of Federal Forces MPs to bust me? Capturing Mafty would have guaranteed you a fast track to promotion, Captain Ibaz.”
Athena sighs, taking a moment to gather herself before replying, “Because I couldn’t bear the thought of making you a prisoner of war…possibly even the victim of a firing squad.”
Hathaway’s expression softens. He approaches Athena, and cups her delicately beautiful chin in his soft, gentle hands. Hathaway lifts Athena’s mouth close to his for a long kiss.
The couple embraces. Athena leans her head on Hathaway’s shoulder, “Hathaway, please…quit your activities as Mafty now, before you get yourself killed. I spared you once, but I can’t promise that I’ll do it again. I am a Federal Forces officer, and I have my duty to perform.”
Hathaway disengages from the warm embrace, holding Athena at arm’s length, “You’d really kill me?”
Athena’s eyes shimmer with tears she does not let fall as she replies, “I would have to, as much as I don’t want to.”
Hathaway takes Athena into his arms again and sighs, “I have to kill Bright Noah, Athena. I just have to. For my peace of mind, I have to.”
Now it’s Athena’s turn to disengage from the embrace, “I know it’s not because of the ISRLA, Hathaway. You aren’t that committed to their cause. Jolie’s talked to Chieming. It’s about that girl Quess that you were once in love with, isn’t it?”
Hathaway looks away.
Athena continues, “It wasn’t General Noah’s fault, Hathaway. He’s a good man, and you know that. War is madness, and all who participate are both victimizers and victims. I beg you: don’t let the madness continue. Walk away from it while you still can.”
“Athena…” Hathaway says, turning to face her, his voice cracking.
Hathaway looks at Athena, gathers himself, and begins again, “The ghost of Quess has haunted my dreams for years. I thought I’d never forget about her. But now that I’ve met you…”
He reaches out, gently feeling the warm smoothness of Athena’s cheek affectionately.
“Will you give up this mad quest for revenge?” Athena whispers, “If you can, maybe there’s still a chance…for us.”
Hathaway pulls his hand away from Athena’s cheek. It closes into a fist.
“I’m sorry,” he says, walking away…crossing the street, boarding his sports car, and speeding away.
“I’m sorry too,” Athena whispers, heading once again towards her own vehicle for the drive back to Whampoa Base.
At Whampoa Base, 2Lt. Jolie Minh is taking advantage of the pre-dinner downtime to chat on the phone with her new friend, Chieming Noah.
“They actually had sex,” Jolie repeats to Chieming for what must have been the tenth time, “Can you believe it?”
Chieming replies, “It’s not so hard to believe for Hathaway. Remember: he’s my brother. I know him. But Athena, wow…”
“I was so shocked I actually called her a cheap sl*t,” Jolie confesses, “I really didn’t see that coming.”
“It’s not that surprising, though,” Chieming says, “If the world wasn’t such a messed-up place today, Athena would probably be married already. You know: I think it’d be kind of cool to have Athena as a sister-in-law.”
Jolie grins in amusement, “Wouldn’t you rather have me, though?”
“I thought you weren’t interested in my brother,” Chieming replies.
“Kidding,” Jolie says, “Like I said, he’s definitely a hunk, but just not my type.”
“Then just what is your type?” Chieming asks, her smile evident even across the telephone airwaves.
“I’ll let you know when I meet him,” Jolie replies.
“Anyway,” Chieming begins, “Let’s see if…”
“Hey, gotta hang up,” Jolie says rapidly, “’Thena’s coming. Talk to you later!”
Jolie quickly closes the line.
“Hey, there ‘Thena!” Jolie salutes brightly as her friend and commanding officer approaches.
Athena returns the salute crisply, but says nothing.
“You’re cheery today,” Jolie says sarcastically.
“Not now, Jolie,” Athena warns her young protégé.
Changing the subject to something that Athena would likely be more willing to talk about, Jolie says, “We’re going to finally be going back to Side 7 in two days!”
Athena replies, “Yes, and because of that, we need to make preparations. The High Command is anticipating the ISRLA will probably try one last strike against the generals before they return to space. We need to be on guard.”
“Yes, ma’am,” replies Jolie.
“There’s an important assignment awaiting for us after we return to Garrison Noah,” Athena tells Jolie, “We’re going to be deployed to Side 3 to take a more direct approach to dealing with the ISRLA.”
That does not interest Jolie at the moment. What she wants to know is, “Athena…what you told me last night. Is Hathaway really Mafty?”
Athena sighs and nods.
“So what are you going to do?” Jolie asks.
Athena says calmly, “My duty.”
Jolie’s eyes widen, “But ‘Thena…”
“I’m an officer of the Earth Federation Forces,” Athena says resolutely, “and so are you. We have our duty to perform. It’s that simple.”
Jolie says nothing, but she looks at her friend sympathetically. Jolie doesn’t need to use her Newtype powers to sense that deep inside, Athena’s heart is breaking.
Jolie only wishes she knew what she can do to help her friend, but how can she when her friend seems to be in denial of her own feelings?
Hathaway Noah sits alone and dejected at a bar in downtown Shanghai, attempting to find a resolution to his deepening problems through the haze of tobacco smoke and glasses of whiskey. The chemicals, however, only salve his troubles as much as a bandage would salve a hemorrhage.
The face and words of the beautiful Athena Ibaz return to haunt Hathaway again and again, Give up this mad quest of revenge…there’s still a chance for us.
Hathaway admits that Athena’s entreaties are extremely tempting. A part of him would like nothing more than to leave the conflict and violence of the war behind forever, to be together with Athena somewhere where they could live in peace…perhaps even start a family together.
But to do so would dishonor the memory of Quess. With Athena’s emergence in his life, Hathaway has begun to realize that perhaps he’s not in love with Quess anymore…that maybe he never was. For goodness’ sake, he was only thirteen at the time. How far could he understand what love was? He remembers Quess as flighty, fractious, and ultimately, a bit selfish. She fascinated him at the time, but seen from his current perspective, Hathaway has to admit that Quess was quite immature…probably even less mature than Athena’s friend Jolie.
Athena, however, is very different…at nineteen, already a grown woman with her own ideas and principles. It was Athena’s physical beauty that first caught Hathaway’s attention, but it is the strength of her personality and her mind that has truly caused him to fall in love with her. He loves her commitment to her beliefs and her goals. He loves the courage and intelligence with which she fights to pursue them. He loves the way she exerts the force of her personality upon her world…and how she gives of herself for those who matter most to her. That is the woman that Hathaway has fallen in love with, and increasingly feels he cannot live without.
That leaves him with a dilemma: what will he do when she inevitably will stand in the way of the goal that the ghost of Quess compels him to complete?
Quess…Athena…Quess…Athena…, Hathaway revolves, Is it the dead or the living that matters more to me?
The two women who haunt Hathaway Noah's dreams. At left: Quess Parayana, Hathaway's first love, whom he fell in love with when he was thirteen and she was sixteen. Quess perished in battle during the Second Neo Zeon War. At right: Captain Athena Ibaz, the woman who has reawakened love in Hathaway's heart.
Hathaway shakes his head in confusion as he puts out his exhausted cigarette, his fifth of the hour. He takes a drink from a glass of scotch, his third of the hour.
A powerfully-built, bearded man in his forties walks into the bar. He is wearing an elegant black pinstriped suit complete with a hat. Over his right eye is a black eyepatch, underneath which runs a long, ugly scar. Hathaway regards the man, who looks like a gangster from those old 20th Century gangster movies.
The one-eyed man seats himself on a barstool next to Hathaway. He says, “Siberian winds are blowing,”
Hathaway orders a drink for the man, then replies, “Stirring men and wolves alike.”
“So you’re Mafty,” Shin Matsunaga says, wolfish grin in place.
Hathaway nods, “Hathaway Noah, to those who know me best.”
“Bright Noah’s son?” Matsunaga asks, surprised, then adds with a laugh, “Crazy world. Never know who you'll end up fighting against or alongside anymore.”
“Colonel Matsunaga,” Hathaway says, “our contact has no doubt already briefed you on our objective?”
The bartender brings Matsunaga his drink, which the large man takes with relish, “Your objective is to blow the bejesus out of Whampoa Base before the Feddies can use it to send two of their top officers back into space. Mine is to get the White Phoenix and the Centurions off your back so you can do that.”
Hathaway nods, “I’ll be depending on you.”
“Doesn’t it bother you,” Matsunaga asks, rubbing the eyepatch behind which there lies but an empty socket where an eye had once been, “That you’re going to be killing your own father?”
Hathaway smirks, “Less than you’d imagine.”
Matsunaga nods with understanding, “I hated my old man too. There were times I wanted to kill him too.”
Not keen on comparing notes on paternal conflicts with a stranger, Hathaway changes the subject, “There’s a hefty reward waiting after the completion of this objective.”
Matsunaga replies, “Looking forward to it…but I look forward to the job itself even more. Haven’t had a real challenge in years. It’s been more like sheep-slaughtering than combat for years. I miss the thrill.”
“Life outside the military has been killing you, hasn’t it?” Hathaway observes.
“Some of us just weren’t meant to live as civilians,” Matsunaga says bitterly, ordering a second drink for himself, as well as a fourth one for Hathaway, “Still, ‘soldier of fortune’ isn’t so bad a line of work. It gives even more perks as the real army does. Ain’t quite as exciting as real combat, though. I just kill them by numbers these days.”
“Do me a favor,” Hathaway says upon hearing that, “I don’t care what happens with the other enemy units, but if you see a Cour De Leon out there tomorrow, leave it to me.”
“Oh?” Matsunaga says, “Got a vendetta to settle?”
Hathaway says, “Not exactly. Just let me deal with her.”
“Her, eh?” Matsunaga responds with a grin, “Fallen for someone on the other side, Mafty?”
“That’s none of your business, Colonel,” Hathaway says in response.
“Suppose not,” Matsunaga says, putting down his drink, “but I’ll go with it as long as your Cour De Leon pilot doesn’t put herself in a position where I won’t have a choice but carve her to scrap.”
Matsunaga and Hathaway both attempt to pay for the drinks, but Hathaway prevails.
Matsunaga tips his hat to Hathaway and prepares to leave the bar for his hotel.
Before he leaves, Matsunaga has one last question for Hathaway, “By the way, what ever gave you the idea to call yourself ‘Mafty’ anyway? What the hell is a ‘mafty’?”
Hathaway shrugs noncommittally, “Nothing in particular. Just a whim…a flash of inspiration.”
Matsunaga shakes his head and mutters to himself, “Flash of inspiration…”
After the colonel leaves, Hathaway is left once again with his thoughts of Athena.
Episode 8 to be continued...