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Mobile Suit Gundam - The Second Century (Part 1: Prelude 0099) - Page 10
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  1. #181
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Sep 2002


    Episode 7 conclusion

    Minutes later, General Bright Noah’s convoy is passing through the forested area between the central city area of Shanghai and the suburban areas to the south. As to attract minimal attention, the road convoy consists only of General Noah’s personal transport (an armored and reinforced SUV/van type vehicle) and a few military police vehicles. The real security flies overhead in FF-99X jet fighters and GM-IV mobile suits.

    Nearby, Hathaway Noah’s Hizack Sniper Custom crouches among the cover of tall conifer trees, ready to strike at its prey.

    Hathaway’s Hizack Custom has been painted in an all-white scheme in anticipation of this mission in the snowy lands of northern China during the winter months. Stenciled onto the Hizack’s body, however, is a stylized black logo of the name “Mafty.”

    Mafty, Hathaway Noah, targets the four GM-IV mobile suits speeding in his general location at a distance of two kilometers. The handsome young CFM journalist and clandestine ISRLA operative thumbs the trigger on his mecha’s control stick.

    Four missiles launch forth from pods attached to the Hizack’s legs, seeking their targets.

    Three of the four missiles find their targets, scoring direct hits. The flaming wreckage of three GM-IVs plummet onto the snowy earth below.

    General Noah’s convoy comes to a stop.

    “Red alert!” the convoy’s security chief calls out over his radio, “Convoy B1 is under attack!”

    The driver of General Noah’s vehicle turns to face the general, who has stuck his head out of the vehicle’s window to get a better look at what’s happening.

    “Sir,” the driver says, “the convoy is under attack. We should turn around and return to the city.”

    Bright says nothing to that suggestion, instead telling the driver, “Give me the radio, Sergeant.”

    The driver duly complies. General Noah orders the troops, “Locate and neutralize the attacker! Try to take him alive, if possible! Also, dispatch a squad to provide security for my family!”

    The voice of the security chief replies, “Yes, sir…a squad from Whampoa is already en rout to your home, sir.”

    “Already…?” Bright asks, “Who?”

    The reply comes, “Centurion Team, sir. Captain Athena Ibaz’s unit.”

    Bright cannot help but smile, Quick thinking, Athena…as always.

    The last of the GM-IVs is piloted by a veteran, Captain Li-Yao Huang, a Federal Forces mobile suit pilot since the One Year War. Picked to lead the security convoy’s mobile suit escort squad due to his experience, Captain Huang has long been known as one of the best mobile suit pilots stationed at Whampoa Base.

    For all the good it does him.

    Captain Huang fires the beam rifle of his GM-IV into the forest where he is reasonably certain the three quick shots that so ruthlessly and efficiently destroyed the rest of his unit issued from. The beams hit nothing but snow-covered conifers, felling the trees and causing them to burn.

    Captain Huang’s concentration wavers momentarily as he finds himself dazzled by the flames of the small forest fire he has started. Suddenly, behind the cover of trees, a mobile suit grenade is lobbed forth, detonating near Huang’s GM-IV. The concussion is not enough to destroy the Federation mobile suit, but is powerful enough to knock the mecha down. A follow up beam rifle strike, however, promptly annihilates Captain Huang and his mobile suit.

    “So much for the escort squad,” Hathaway Noah breathes, “Now for the actual objective.”

    Hathaway Noah targets his Hizack Sniper Custom’s beam rifle at the sports utility vehicle in which is father, General Bright Noah, sits. Hathaway can make out the man’s familiar silhouette through the window of the vehicle.

    For a moment, Hathaway feels a tinge of regret. Hathaway remembers how, as a child, he adored and worshipped his father…how he celebrated his father’s victories over what Hathaway then believed were the forces of evil, the Zeon and the Titans. He remembers playing with his father, learning reading and mathematics from him, joining him on fishing and camping expeditions, watching exciting movies with him at the cinema.

    That was another lifetime…before he saw his father’s true colors.

    The Earth Federation Government was evil. Its military arm, the Earth Federation Forces, its primary tool of oppression. Hathaway will never forget how his first love, sixteen year old Quess Parayana, was killed by the Federal Forces officer Chan Agi. Quess had been misled and manipulated by the Neo Zeon leader Colonel Char Aznable to serve as his living weapon…pilot of the devastating mobile armor NZ-333 Alpha Azieru, but Hathaway had convinced the girl to surrender. Quess never got that second chance that she deserved, however, because Miss Chan had jumped the gun….literally. In a moment of rage and hate, Hathaway killed Chan in retaliation, and was later charged for the murder of a Federal Forces officer.

    Hathaway was brutally beaten by Federal Forces MPs while he was jailed awaiting trial. It was in the jail that he saw the true face of the Earth Federation Forces.

    And it was his father, his own father, who was subsequently promoted into the position of the Earth Federation’s highest ranking military officer.

    Bright Noah disowned his son; Hathaway decided then too, that he would disown his father and all his father stood for: the Earth Federation and its barbaric, backwards ways.

    Hathaway’s finger tenses around the trigger of the control stick. In another second, with another gesture, it would be over.

    Farewell, Father, Hathaway thinks, May God have mercy on your soul.

    The finger tenses further.

    The crashing din of metal upon metal suddenly fills the Chinese wilderness. Something very large, very heavy slams into Mafty’s Hizack Custom. The assassin mobile suit tumbles across the snow. In its cockpit, Hathaway Noah is thrashed violently, his life preserved only by the safety harnesses snapping into place.

    The Hizack’s automatic balance gyros bring the mecha back to its feet. The viewscreen/targeting monitor is working on identifying the interloper.

    The computer is unable to find a match for the Federal Forces mecha now confronting him, but Hathaway recognizes it as the Cour De Leon.

    Captain Athena Ibaz’s mobile suit.

    Above where Athena’s Cour De Leon confronts Hathaway’s Hizack Sniper Custom, the Centurion Team flies past, on its way to the Noah family home some ten kilometers to the south.

    General Noah’s convoy has turned back north towards the city of Shanghai. Further reinforcements are on the way from Whampoa Base and should be arriving in minutes.

    Aboard the Hizack Sniper Custom, Hathaway Noah seethes angrily. His best opportunity to kill the man he has come to hate is slipping away.

    With a quick, brutal move, the Hizack Sniper Custom kicks down the Cour De Leon standing in its way. As the Federal Forces’ mecha goes down, however, it reaches out with one of its metalshod hands, grabbing the leg of the Hizack Sniper Custom and forcing it belly-first onto the snowy ground.

    “Stop interfering, damn you!” Hathaway curses, as he levels the Hizack Sniper Custom’s beam rifle at the Cour De Leon.

    The Cour De Leon kicks the weapon out of the Hizack Sniper Custom’s hand, then lays atop the enemy mecha, pinning it down. It is a bizarre, ironic, mirror of the tender moments that the pilots of the two mecha had shared scarcely eight hours earlier.

    A memory comes unbidden into Athena’s mind, as she recalls Hathaway’s words of earlier that same morning, now seemingly a lifetime ago, You always need to be on top of every situation, don’t you?

    Hathaway, aboard the Hizack, experiences a similar flash of memory of Athena’s response, It’s how I’ve managed to survive this long. Never let the enemy gain the high ground.

    I’m your enemy now? Hathaway’s question returns to haunt Athena.

    Hathaway recalls the warmth of Athena’s body in his arms as he held her gently, the softness of her voice, I wish it could have been different.

    Hathaway uses the powerful servomotors of the Hizack’s fusion powered, armored legs to kick the Cour De Leon off and away from his mecha, simultaneously drawing out the Hizack’s beam saber. Hathaway directs the Hizack in an aggressive charge directly at the Cour De Leon, the beam saber held menacingly in a strike position.

    Dodging back from the kick and quickly regaining its balance and orientation through spurts of jet exhaust from its vernier thrusters, the Cour De Leon deftly draws out and ignites its own beam saber and brings it up to parry the incoming strike.

    The Cour De Leon and Hizack duel with their beam sabers, exchanging a succession of quick, fluid slashes, counterslashes, parries, and jabs.

    Athena whirls the Cour De Leon’s beam saber snakelike around the length of the Hizack’s energy blade. Sensing what Athena is trying to do, Hathaway counters by pulling back both the beam saber and the Hizack’s body, breaking Athena’s maneuver and lifting his mobile suit’s weapon high for a downward strike upon the head of the Cour De Leon. Athena throws the Cour De Leon sideways, using her mobile suit’s leg to trip the Hizack in the process. The Hizack rolls away, coming up with its beam saber held in a defensive stance just in time to block the Cour De Leon’s next saber strike.

    Images of the previous night’s dance at the ball flash through Athena and Hathaway’s minds and juxtapose with the current images of the battle. The legs of their two mobile suits shift rapidly and gracefully, as if this too were a dance. But whereas the previous evening’s dance was characterized by tenderness and beauty, the “dance” now is defined by the savagery of battle.

    Their parting words from the night before…no, just hours ago on this very same day, return to haunt Athena and Hathaway as their mobile suits continue to battle.

    “Will I see you again?” Hathaway asks longingly.

    “Yes,” Athena chokes out, “Yes, you’ll likely be seeing me again.”

    In a desperate maneuver to end the battle quickly, Athena raises the beam saber of the Cour De Leon for what appears to be a lethal final strike on the Hizack Sniper Custom. Hathaway raises his mecha’s own beam saber to parry.

    But Athena’s move is simply a feint. Instead of striking down on the main body of the Hizack with the Cour De Leon’s beam saber, Athena raises the empty hand of her mobile suit and presses its armored palm against the monoeye of the Hizack, momentarily blinding the enemy mobile suit.

    Taking advantage of Hathaway’s momentary disorientation, Athena knocks the Hizack’s beam saber from its armored hand, then engages the Cour De Leon's thrusters to deliver a devastating elbow-first collision into the Hizack. Hathaway’s mecha is knocked flat on its back, completely at Athena’s mercy. The Cour De Leon trains its beam rifle upon the prostrate Hizack.

    But the Cour De Leon hesitates, as if its pilot is unwilling to take the battle further. Sensing this, and knowing that his true quarry is now out of range, Hathaway makes the decision to complete his mission some other day.

    You win this round, Athena…we’ll meet again. Hathaway thinks to himself, lobbing blinder grenades to cover his escape.

    There is a flash of brilliant light, and clouds of steam and smoke that persist for a long minute. When the light and smoke clears, the white Hizack of Mafty is nowhere to be seen.

    Athena opens the visor of her helmet. The frown on her young, pretty face tells the story: the battle has resolved nothing.

    Her troubles are only beginning.


    Next: Hathaway and Athena’s troubles continue, and a deadly new enemy for Jolie appears in EPISODE 8: THE WHITE WOLF!

  2. #182
    Senior Member sheraldine's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    STILL malaysia - CHEH!!


    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    Episode 7 conclusion
    “Stop interfering, damn you!” Hathaway curses, as he levels the Hizack Sniper Custom’s beam rifle at the Cour De Leon.
    You win this round, Athena…we’ll meet again. Hathaway thinks to himself, lobbing blinder grenades to cover his escape.
    ken cheng to the end, instead of lovers spat its LOVE WARS!


    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    Next: Hathaway and Athena’s troubles continue, and a deadly new enemy for Jolie appears in EPISODE 8: THE WHITE WOLF!
    really? love battle or love hate??

  3. #183
    Senior Member ghostdarTeal'c's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Currently in Moss, Silver. Next stop....still Moss, Silver


    aww....im still stuck at ch5.....so busy these days....

  4. #184
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Quote Originally Posted by sheraldine View Post
    ken cheng to the end, instead of lovers spat its LOVE WARS!
    And this is just the preliminary round. Next episode is the REAL battle.

    really? love battle or love hate??
    Jolie doesn't meet the man of her life just yet (not until the beginning of Part II). The enemy she faces in the next episode is a psychotic, forty-three year old veteran warrior from an earlier war...not her kind of guy at all.

    Mainly, Jolie will need to test her skills against a proven ace: a mobile suit pilot who has probably killed more mobile suit pilots than any other in history.

  5. #185
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002



    The bitter cold of Northern Siberia’s wind-swept snows lashes across a desolate landscape all but devoid of life. Few environments on planet Earth could be less receptive to the development of life, and only the hardiest of specimens can possibly take root here.

    The region is remote from the conclaves of civilized humanity. No human habitation of any significant size lies within a thousand kilometers in any direction. The region is as desolate as the surface of the moon had once been before the lunar cities of Von Braun and Anman were established around a century ago.

    This very remoteness, however, makes the area an ideal venue for the Earth Federation Forces to establish its Aurora Communications Base…a vital link in its satellite communications network between Earth and the various space colonies.

    Against the advice of communications technology experts and plain common sense, the Earth Federation Forces have concentrated a great amount of their Earth-to-Space communications relay at this site. Even many laypeople would observe that the Federal Forces are fools to do so: all it would take is one successful strike against the base to cripple the Federal Forces’ ability to communicate with its garrisons in the space colonies. Should Aurora, built in the years immediately after the One Year War, be compromised, communication between Earth and the cosmos would effectively be slowed to a trickle for weeks…and full communications would take months to reestablish.

    The Earth Federation Government reasons, however, that it would be more economic to concentrate its space communications relay in a single location rather than distribute it to stations around the globe. The latter arrangement, while making much more sense to communications planners and military experts alike, would require the more costly posting of defense forces to protect multiple targets around the world. The Federation Government, never keen to spend more of its budget on the military than it absolutely needs to, has opted for the strategically risky, but less expensive option of a concentrated communications relay station guarded by a single, fortified base.

    For eighteen years, Aurora Communications Base has escaped capture or destruction by enemy forces. The forces of the First Neo Zeon Empire nearly captured the base during its invasion and occupation of Earth in U.C. 0088, but were successfully repelled from the base by a combined Federation/Karaba (the Earth-based division of A.E.U.G.) defense squad led by Captain Amuro Ray.

    But a rich, fat target such as Aurora cannot hope to remain untouched forever. The gods of sensibility must surely be offended by the presence of such an unwisely planned enterprise, and must surely someday unleash their wrath upon such absurdity.

    That day has come.

    He was the son of a hard-drinking, failed professional boxer turned spaceship-builder in Side 3. Born in U.C. 0055 in Zum City, Shin Matsunaga came of age during the Great Spacenoid Revolution led by Zeon Zum Daikun during the U.C. 0060s. He remembers the day when, as a high school student, he and his fellow students wept in despair as they heard the news about Prime Minister Daikun’s untimely and unexpected death in U.C. 0069. He remembers the great pride and nationalism that swelled in his then-young heart as the new Prime Minister, Degin Zabi, swore solemnly that Zeon Daikun’s dream of Spacenoid independence from the corrupt Earth Federation Government would not die with the former Prime Minister. Matsunaga also remembers the awe he and his peers experienced as they saw how, under Archduke Degin Zabi (who had quickly abandoned Zeon Daikun’s republican form of government and reorganized the Zeon Republic as the Archduchy of Zeon) and Prince Giren Zabi, the Army of Zeon quickly grew from a small, limited defensive army into a mighty military juggernaut…the greatest military power ever organized by humanity.

    In U.C. 0071, sixteen year old Shin Matsunaga enrolled alongside hundreds of thousands of other Zeon-born youths in the Royal Military Academy of the Archduchy of Zeon. A warrior by nature whose aggressive instincts had been fueled by frequent beatings at the hands of his alcoholic, former prizefighter father, Shin had always been tougher than unprocessed cattle hide. His combative temperaments served him well at the academy, and Matsunaga won fame at the academy as one of the deadliest, most efficient cadets ever to graduate from the academy…especially in the operation of the new, anthropomorphic war machines that were known as mobile suits.

    Matsunaga graduated from the Royal Military Academy in U.C. 0074 at the top of his class. During the following year, he became a combat instructor at the academy, and among the pupils he trained in the art of piloting mobile suits into combat were Prince Garma Zabi, youngest of Archduke Degin Zabi’s four children, and Char Aznable, the man who would one day become infamous as the “Red Comet.”

    In U.C. 0075, Matsunaga became acquainted with Prince Dozle Zabi, Archduke Degin’s third son. Every bit as much a natural born warrior as Matsunaga, Prince Dozle soon found himself taking a great liking to this gifted young mobile suit pilot. The two became good friends, each admiring the other’s limitless courage and aggressiveness on the battlefield, and Prince Dozle made sure that 1Lt. Shin Matsunaga was assigned directly under his command. So impressed was Prince Dozle by Matsunaga’s prowess with a mobile suit that in U.C. 0077, Dozle appointed Matsunaga his personal bodyguard.

    Colonel Shin Matsunaga, the infamous "White Wolf" of the Archduchy of Zeon Army, at the height of his military career during the One Year War

    Having gained Prince Dozle’s favor, Matsunaga lived like a prince himself during the next several heady years. Raised in poverty, Matsunaga enjoyed wealth and luxury that he had never imagined could be his. The prince ordered the construction of a luxurious manor for Matsunaga in Zum City, located not far from the Royal Gardens. A handsome man during his youth, with a rough-edged charm, Matsunaga enjoyed the company of beautiful women during these years. Many women of Zeon longed for the opportunity to be seen on the arm of one of Zeon’s most celebrated military heroes.

    Neither Prince Dozle nor his siblings ever begrudged indulging Matsunaga with accolades and luxury. In their eyes, it was money well spent…for they had a loyal warrior who constantly and fervently brought terror and destruction to the Earth Federation Forces.

    During the One Year War, Captain Shin Matsunaga of the Archduchy of Zeon was known to favor white mobile suits. In his Japanese heritage, white was the color of death…the color of mourning. Matsunaga wanted his enemies to know that when they laid eyes upon his white-colored mobile suit, they laid eyes upon the harbinger of death. In that year of devastating war, many, many Federal Forces mobile suit pilots died with the white armor of Matsunaga’s mobile suit filling their horror-stricken eyes. By war’s end, Matsunaga had compiled the third most kills among mobile suit pilots in the Army of the Archduchy of Zeon. Many believe that if not for a wound he sustained mid-war protecting his liege Prince Dozle from an assassination attempt by treacherous soldiers under the prince’s command - a wound that sidelined Matsunaga from the battlefield for three months - he would have been the Zeon’s top ace of the One Year War. Matsunaga lost his left eye in that battle…a wound many at the time judged would prove to be the end of Matsunaga’s career as a mobile suit pilot. Piloting mobile suits in space combat required the sharpest of senses. How could a mobile suit pilot be effective with only one eye to see?

    But the many were wrong. When Matsunaga returned to the battlefield three months after his injury, his skills as a mobile suit pilot had become greater than ever before, because in the intervening months, his Newtype potential had blossomed to compensate for his missing eye. Once, Matsunaga had two eyes. Now, it was almost as if he had a dozen of them around his head. Federal Forces mobile suit pilots who had hoped they had seen the end of Matsunaga learned to their dismay that their enemy had become deadlier than ever.

    Matsunaga’s style of mobile suit combat was different from that of most others. Whereas most mobile suit pilots favored using long-range weaponry such as beam rifles, machine guns, bazookas, grenade launchers, and missiles, going to close-in weaponry such as beam sabers and Heat Hawks only when there was no other option, Matsunaga favored and was a specialist in close-combat maneuvers. His favorite tactic was to use his mobile suit’s specially modified thrusters (which, under Matsunaga’s orders, were often given up to four times a standard mobile suit’s output capacity) to draw himself close alongside an enemy mobile suit, where the enemy’s long range cannon could not effectively be trained upon him. Matsunaga would then use his mobile suit’s Heat Hawk (and later in the war, after he had been assigned an MS-14S Officer’s Gelgoog to replace his MS-06S Officer’s Zaku and MS-R09S Officer’s Rick Dom, a beam naginata) to carve the enemy to shards…a brutal tactic that Matsunaga took great pleasure in.

    For his brutal, deadly tactics, his cold efficiency, and for the color of his mobile suit, Matsunaga became famous (or infamous) as Haruko, the White Wolf…the Wolf of the North who descended upon his enemies as if they were so many fat sheep waiting to be slaughtered.

    Before Prince Dozle Zabi went to fight what turned out to be his last battle, the Battle of Solomon, he had instructed Captain Shin Matsunaga to protect his wife, Lady Cenna Zabi and their newborn daughter, Princess Minerva Zabi, with his life. More than anything, Captain Matsunaga wanted to join his lord and best friend in battle against the Federation scum who were so close to invading their homeland of Zeon. But Matsunaga knew that should his lord fall in battle, and should the Federation penetrate Solomon, Granada, and A Bao A Qu and take Zeon itself, Princess Minerva would be the hope upon which the people of Zeon would look for their eventual day of revival. Moreover, the prince had given Matsunaga the privilege of becoming Princess Minerva’s godfather, an honor for which Matsunaga was always grateful.

    Prince Dozle Zabi was killed in December, U.C. 0079 when his MA-08 Byg Zam mobile armor was destroyed by the Earth Federation Forces’ RX-78 Gundam mobile suit piloted by a young Newtype from Side 7 named 2Lt. Amuro Ray. When Matsunaga received word of Dozle’s death, he wept like a child, and swore that someday, he would carve Amuro Ray and the Gundam to pieces and drop those pieces on the leaders of the Earth Federation Government.

    The One Year War came to an end before Matsunaga had that opportunity. Like most of the surviving Zeon Forces, Matsunaga fled to the safety of the Asteroid Belt, where at the asteroid fortress Axis, the Zeon would gradually rebuild their strength over the next seven years. Admiral Makajara Khan, who had become the highest ranking surviving officer of the Army of the Archduchy of Zeon upon the death of Princess/Admiral Kycilia Zabi, took primary responsibility for rebuilding the Zeon forces and caring for surviving Zeon monarch, Princess Minerva Zabi. Admiral Khan promoted Matsunaga to the rank of Colonel for his valor during the war.

    During these relatively quiet years, Matsunaga was often a visitor to the Royal Palace constructed in Axis Fortress. After Lady Cenna’s death from illness two years after her husband’s death, Matsunaga often came to comfort and play with the little princess, Minerva. Princess Minerva grew quite affectionate towards her “Uncle Shin,” and Matsunaga developed great fondness for the child himself…the beautiful daughter of his former lord and best friend.

    Colonel Shin Matsunaga was once again deployed to the front lines when the Army of the Axis Neo Zeon invaded Earth in U.C. 0088. Determined to make good on his vow of vengeance for Prince Dozle Zabi, Matsunaga requested and received an assignment to occupied Earth from Lady Haman Khan (who had become nominal leader of the Neo Zeon forces after her father’s death in U.C. 0085). His assignment was to further demoralize the already exhausted and besieged Earth Federation/A.E.U.G. Alliance by killing one of its greatest heroes and top mobile suit aces, Captain Amuro Ray.

    The White Wolf and his squadron finally located and confronted Captain Amuro’s Karaba squadron in the skies over California on Earth. The Karaba mobile suit squadron under Captain Amuro’s command had orders from the Federation/A.E.U.G. high command to attempt to liberate California Hickory Base from Neo Zeon control. There, the White Wolf awaited them.

    After a long, savage battle, Amuro in his Zeta-Plus mobile suit defeated the White Wolf, destroying the Zeon ace’s customized Officer’s Regelg mobile suit. Matsunaga survived the battle, but had suffered his first-ever (and to date, only) defeat – to the man he hated more than any other. Taken a prisoner of war by the Federation/A.E.U.G., Matsunaga became a broken, bitter man in Federal prison by the time the war ended several months later. In U.C. 0093, following negotiations between the Earth Federation Government and Matsunaga’s one-time academy pupil Char Aznable, who had become the new Neo Zeon leader, Matsunaga was released along with many other prisoners of war from Federal prison.

    Without an Archduchy of Zeon to serve, Matsunaga soon found himself without a purpose. In U.C. 0093, the year of the last great Neo Zeon uprising, Matsunaga was thirty-eight years old. He had known great triumph, glory, and wealth, but what did he have to show for it now? The Archduchy of Zeon had been reduced to a rabble of squabbling fiefdoms in the Outer Solar System. Colonel Char Aznable was dead. Duchess Minerva Zabi was missing. Even Matsunaga’s great enemy, Captain Amuro Ray of the Earth Federation Forces, had perished. Even revenge had ceased to be a purpose to live.

    For six months, Matsunaga drifted aimlessly on Earth…drinking heavily and reminiscing about past glories. But those whose lives are defined by war had not forgotten him. The legend of the White Wolf had endured.

    It was in early U.C. 0094 that Matsunaga was located and contacted by an anti-Federation corporate entity that wanted a Federal Forces’ installation eliminated (most likely so that it could profit from the contract the Federation would offer to rebuild it). For the first time in six years, the White Wolf terrorized the Earth Federation Forces again…and he was as dangerous as ever. Not age, not the long period of inactivity, and not even his mounting alcoholism had dulled Matsunaga’s deadly skills. The installation and the twenty-five mobile suits that guarded it were handily destroyed within a half hour’s time. The White Wolf had returned, this time as a soldier of fortune…a fierce and deadly efficient warrior willing to kill for anyone who could afford to pay his luxuriant fees.

    For the past four years, the White Wolf has continued to menace the Federal Forces’ assorted bases and installations on Earth…a constant thorn in the Federation’s side and one that the Federation seemingly cannot eliminate. Among the last veterans of the One Year War, the White Wolf is still killing Federal Forces mobile suit pilots who were not even born when Shin Matsunaga first gained fame and notoriety.

    “The White Wolf of the North has come,” Matsunaga liked to announce to his enemies before he slew them, “and you are all but sheep to be slaughtered before me.”

    November, U.C. 0098 would go down as one of the coldest Novembers on record, with snow reaching even the lower latitudes. Hence, the typically bitter climate of Northern Siberia is even worse than usual.

    “Man,” Cpl. Lance Bowman of the Earth Federation Forces’ Aurora Base Mobile Suit Squadron 94 says, blowing his breath into his gloved hands, “I hope that my next reassignment is going to be to Hawaii Base or somewhere like that.”

    Sergeant Ivan Nagayev, Bowman’s commanding NCO, chuckles, “Dream on. With your record, you ought to count your blessings that they don’t put you in front of a firing squad.”

    Bowman says, “The worst thing about this place is the boredom. Nothing ever happens up here!”

    Nagayev replies, “Yeah, you’re right about that. It’s too bad that I wasn’t even able to pass the preliminaries in Special Forces training. I could’ve been styling with the elites up in Garrison Noah at Side 7.”

    Bowman smiles, “You mean where all the babes are?”

    Nagayev says, “All the hot chicks are in the Special Forces. There’s that Athena Ibaz, and that Jolie Minh…you know, the ‘White Phoenix’?”

    “Yeah,” Bowman breathes, his pulse running a little quicker at the mention of the two names, “Saw those two girls on the news reports about that action with the Moonshadow last month. They are hot, hot, hot! If they came up here, they’d probably melt all this snow!”

    Nagayev says, “In your fantasies! They’re Special Forces elites. We’re grunts stuck in the boonies. We’re not worthy enough to wipe their a**es after they s**t.”

    “Now that’s an image I won’t be able to get out of my head,” Bowman replies to his commander’s tasteless joke.

    The two laugh. Suddenly, however, Bowman’s laughter falls silent.

    Nagayev notices the sudden silence. Thinking it might be a problem with his helmet communications set, Nagayev does a test check. All channels are clear. It must be something on Bowman’s end.

    Nagayev attempts to radio his other subordinates, “Private Watamba? Private McEnery? Private Zhang? Any of you guys hear me?”

    Zhang replies, “Over here, Sarge.”

    Nagayev asks, “Where’s the rest of the squad?”

    Zhang replies, “Don’t know, sir. They’ve been dropping out of contact one-by-one during the past six minutes or so.”

    Nagayev grows nervous, “It could be radio trouble. Anyway, be alert. Something strange is going on around here.”

    “Yes, s…” Zhang’s reply disappears in static.

    “Zhang? Wata? Mac? Bowman?” Nagayev calls into his helmet comlink, “Where the hell are you guys?

    Nagayev never sees the massive form of the white Officer's Regelg that suddenly appears behind his GM-IV Cold Weather Type.

    Neo Zeon mobile suit Officer's Regelg. The "White Wolf" model favored by Colonel Shin Matsunaga is upgraded with extra thrust output and superior avionics from the standard model, and is painted white instead of the more standard green or red.

    Nagayev barely glimpses the beam saber that appears from behind his mobile suit to stab straight through its cockpit, melting his body like butter in the flame of a blowtorch.

    Nagayev is but a memory as the Regelg hacks what remains of his disabled mobile suit into obscenely neat piles of scrap metal.

    Nagayev is but the latest…the last of a scene that has already been repeated a dozen times here today.

    With no more mobile suits to descend upon and eliminate, the white Officer's Regelg extracts a high-powered grenade from its backpack storage nacelle, and tosses it at the Aurora Communication Base’s main transceiver tower.

    A brilliant explosion, followed by silence across the Federation’s satellite communications network. Federal Forces communications techs around the planet and across the space colonies are thrown into sudden confusion and panic.

    Aboard the Regelg, Colonel Shin Matsunaga takes a swig from his flask of whiskey, then says, “The White Wolf of the North has come hunting…and all of you are but sheep before me.”

    Two hours later, Matsunaga’s Regelg is being loaded aboard a Gaw mobile suit transport aircraft. The massive carrier plane, once manufactured and deployed en masse by the Army of the Archduchy of Zeon, dates to the One Year War. Years ago, Prince Garma Zabi had met his end at the controls of a Gaw aircraft in combat against the Federal Forces’ famous White Base commanded by then Captain Bright Noah.

    Gaw Airborne Mobile Suit Carrier and Assault Bomber, first deployed by the Archduchy of Zeon Air Force during the One Year War

    “It’s an honor to finally meet you, Colonel Matsunaga,” says the commander of the Gaw, “your reputation precedes you.”

    The commander of the Gaw is the same shadowy individual who had supplied Hathaway Noah with the RMS-106CS Hizack Sniper Custom outside Shanghai several days earlier.

    Matsunaga does not return the pleasantry. In his eyes, this tool is worth no such honor.

    “Aurora Base is a smoking ruin,” Matsunaga says matter-of-factly, “I expect to be paid the remaining balance for that job in a timely manner.”

    The other man nods and grins encouragingly, “Already wired into your Swiss bank account, Colonel…two million credits, directly from the ISR treasury by way of Anaheim Enterprises’ fiscal department.”

    “Leave that to the bean counters to figure out,” Matsunaga says, taking another swig from his flask of whiskey, “So we’re ready to take off for Shanghai?”

    The other man replies, “As soon as your mobile suit is secured, Colonel, yes. This next job is a big one you know…”

    “Five million credits,” Matsunaga acknowledges, “two Feddie generals dead. Sounds like an easy way to make some serious cash fast.”

    “You’ll be working in conjunction with Mafty,” the other man tells him, “With you two working together, we cannot fail.”

    “That kid?” Matsunaga sneers in contempt, “I’ve eaten pilots like him for breakfast since I was in my teens, and I turned forty-three last July!”

    “Congratulations, Colonel,” the other man replies with a respectful bow, “You must have the blessing of God to have been able to survive all those many battles.”

    Blessing? Matsunaga contemplates, Hah! More like curse! All these victories…all these battles, one after another. What have they all meant? Are they all my life has amounted to? For nearly thirty years, the better part of my life, I’ve slaughtered men in mobile suits as if they were sheep. When will I ever find real prey whose flesh would really be worth sinking my teeth into?

    Matsunaga takes another swig from his flask of whiskey, draining it.

    Sighing, the aging mobile suit ace boards the Gaw along with the aircraft’s mysterious commander.

    As they enter the giant transport craft’s spacious cockpit/bridge, the Gaw commander says to Matsunaga, “We’ve been studying Whampoa Base’s defenses for two years now, and we’ve found several vulnerable points that you and Mafty can exploit. What does throw some of our intelligence off, however, is the presence of Special Forces units at Whampoa that are not usually stationed there. You want to pay particular attention to the Centurion Team…”

    “Centurions?” Matsunaga suddenly becomes alert at the mention of the name, “Don’t they have that girl pilot…Joey Meng, or something?”

    “Jolie Minh,” the other man corrects, “called the White Phoenix. She’s been a thorn in our side during the past year…a mobile suit piloting prodigy of incredible talent.”

    Matsunaga smiles, “I’ll carve her like a chicken.”

    “That’s what we’re hoping, Colonel,” the other man replies, “Your job lies primarily in eliminating the White Phoenix. Mafty will take care of the rest.”

    “As long as I get paid,” Matsunaga shrugs, trying to get another sip out of his whisky flask, and throwing it across the cockpit/bridge of the Gaw when he realizes it has not a drop left to give, “this might make for a good challenge.”

    The Gaw flies southward. Its destination: Shanghai, China.

    Episode 8 to be continued

  6. #186
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    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...

  7. #187
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 8 continued...

    The following morning, the Centurion Team is once again in the hangar bay performing maintenance checks on their mobile suits. Captain Athena Ibaz allows nothing to fall to chance, particularly not the condition of their war machines. Although Captain Anh Lu’s crack team of engineers and technicians have already given the Centurion Team’s mobile suits a thorough maintenance routine, Athena insists that the team personally ensure the condition of their mecha.

    Athena has an access panel near the chest ventilation nozzle of her Cour De Leon open. A component is loose…perhaps shaken loose during the skirmish against Mafty the other day. Somehow, Captain Lu’s techs had missed it, or perhaps hadn’t gotten around to it.

    Athena takes a welding burner and sets about the job herself.

    As Athena performs her maintenance work, troubling thoughts come unbidden into her mind.

    Will Hathaway listen to me? Athena wonders, Will he really back off and give up his quest to kill General Noah? If he doesn’t, will I be able to do what my duty requires me to do?

    Lost in thought, Athena fails to notice the welding burner slipping in her grasp. The flame scalds her gloved fingers, causing her to drop the burner and let out a pained yelp.

    “Ow!” Athena complains, shaking her slightly singed fingers.

    Athena’s yelp brings Jolie, who has been working on maintaining her Centurion Gundam on the adjacent dock, running over.

    “Hey, you OK?” Jolie asks.

    “Yeah,” Athena says, angry at herself for losing concentration while performing such delicate work, “just singed myself a little. No big deal.”

    Athena removes the glove on her right hand to examine the wound. Nothing major. The skin didn’t even break. It is however, turning red. She’d likely have blisters too.

    Jolie looks at Athena with concern, “It’s not like you to be so careless,” the teenager observes.

    “Yeah, well,” Athena says, wrapping her singed fingers in a medicated cloth taken from her utility belt’s first aid kit, “I’m only human, right?”

    Jolie grins, “I never thought I’d hear you admit that.”

    Athena returns the grin, but somewhat wryly, “Having to take care of you has shown me my limitations.”

    Jolie says, “I don’t think it’s worrying about me that’s got you lost in daydreams. It’s Hathaway, isn’t it?”

    Athena leans back against the maintenance dock’s guardrail as she applies more pressure to her burn wound, “Why is it that these days, all of our conversations revolve around Hathaway Noah?”

    “Because you never answer my questions,” Jolie persists, “As your best friend, I want to know if you’re really in love with him.”

    Athena becomes serious, “How can I answer that question when I don’t know the answer myself, Jolie?”

    “Cut the B.S., Athena,” Jolie says, “I know you, remember? You can’t be that confused. You never are…about anything.”

    “Well, there’s always a first time,” Athena concedes, re-donning her glove and picking up the welding burner to continue her work.

    Jolie takes a different tack, “Athena…I know you’re not sure what to do. If Hathaway really is Mafty…”

    “He is,” Athena confirms, working the burner again, “there’s no ‘if’ anymore.”

    Jolie says, “Well, then…”

    Athena asks, “What would you do in my position?”

    Jolie goes wide-eyed. She doesn’t know how to respond to that one, “Well, um. I’d, uh…”

    “That’s what I thought,” Athena says, “You’ll be interested to know that I don’t have any better idea than you do about what I’m going to do.”

    “You’ve always taught me,” Jolie says, “that a soldier is in greatest danger when she loses focus on her objective.”

    Athena sighs, “That’s right.”

    Neither of them knows what to say next. In many ways, what happens next seems out of their hands.

    Athena shakes her head as she continues her work. She curses herself for having committed one of the cardinal sins of military life.

    She has fallen in love with the enemy.

    General Bright Noah and General Manron Blackhead arrive at Whampoa Base from Shanghai under heavy escort. Nothing is left to chance this time. Two full MS squadrons and supporting fighter squadrons escort the generals’ convoy in an impressive show of force. The time to be stealthy has given way to the time to show uncompromising strength.

    For the generals’ safety, it has been decided to have them stay on the base rather than in the city on the final day before they are to return to space. The space shuttles Nightwing and Kobayashi (replacing the destroyed Silverthread) are on the launch pad, being prepped for their return flights to Side 7. A larger transport ship, the Wygan, will transport the mobile suits of the Special Forces and their pilots back to their home base at Garrison Noah. The departure time has been settled: 15:00 the following afternoon, scarcely twenty-four hours from the present time. Good weather is anticipated for that hour.

    At 11:00 the following morning, Captain Athena Ibaz and 2Lt. Jolie Minh are in the control/observation tower of Whampoa Base along with the base’s chief security officer, Major Rogan Nelson. Nelson, a tall, stocky man of about forty years with a dark complexion and a wispy moustache, is known as something of an egotist.

    “As long as I’m in charge here,” Nelson likes to brag, “Whampoa Base will be more secure than the core of the Earth!”

    Nelson’s record, unfortunately, does not live up to his braggadocio. As is the case throughout the Earth Federation Forces, security at Whampoa is fluid at best.

    One part of Maj. Nelson’s reputation that does meet, indeed surpasses expectations, however, is his infamy as a womanizer. Although known to be married, Maj. Nelson is nevertheless well known as a bit of a lecher…never failing to ogle the female soldiers and officers that he encounters on the base. He was severely reprimanded on one occasion for making a pass and suggestive remark to the wife of a visiting Federation Deliberative Council member.

    And so it is that Athena and Jolie have been avoiding the man’s attempts to put the moves on them. It has taken all of Athena’s force of control to prevent Jolie from kicking the senior officer where it would hurt most after he had attempted to lift the back of her short uniform skirt. Even then, Athena would not have had the heart to discipline Jolie if she’d succeeded in doing so. Athena feels a bit like kicking the man in the privates herself.

    Topping off the unpleasant experience of having to share a space with this pervert is having to listen to his stories about his supposed heroic exploits defending Whampoa Base from Zeon saboteurs. Nelson’s stories of his supposed manly valor grow increasingly humorous in their sheer improbable hyperbole. Athena and Jolie struggle to stifle their laughter.

    As Nelson brags loudly about how he once singlehandedly chased away three Zeon spy planes, Jolie rolls her eyes and whispers confidentially to Athena, “Ohmigod, what a pig this guy is.”

    Athena nods, but puts a reassuring hand on Jolie’s shoulder, “Easy. In just a few hours, we’ll be tens of thousands of kilometers away from this loser back on Side 7.”

    “Thank God,” Jolie whispers back, “Zero-G never sounded so good!”

    Athena misses space too. They have been on Earth for ten days, and as is typical of Spacenoids, have become uncomfortable in Earth’s direct gravity. Jolie has complained that Earth’s gravity makes her feel twice as heavy as she actually is.

    “And that’s why, my lovely ladies,” Nelson concludes his long, rambling, shamelessly self-referential speech, “Whampoa Base will always be the Federation’s most sec…”

    A radio message comes into the control tower from a foot patrol soldier just outside the perimeter of the base, “Major, sir. This is Patrol D3. We’ve found the wreck of an abandoned mobile suit just outside the base perimeter.”

    “What?” Nelson asks in incredulous surprise.

    Athena and Jolie exchange worried glances.

    “What should we do?” Nelson asks, at a loss.

    “Let’s get out there, now,” Athena says, taking charge.

    It is an AMS-140S Officer’s Regelg, in terrible condition, and apparently long abandoned. The rusted, scorched external armor suggests a great amount of damage sustained long ago, most likely during the First Neo Zeon War.

    “Can’t believe that this thing has just been lying out here for years and years,” Sergeant Menendez, whose unit found the mecha buried in the snow, reports to Maj. Nelson, “it’s a vintage Neo Zeon Regelg.”

    “To think it’s been lying here all this time,” Maj. Nelson remarks, “Well, let’s get a transport crew out here to haul it back to the hangar. Maybe we can…”

    “No,” Athena cuts in, having just returned from where she and Jolie have finished inspecting the abandoned Neo Zeon mecha, “I smell a Trojan Horse. We should destroy this unit immediately.”

    “Oh, come now, Captain Ibaz,” Nelson says, thinking of a great hangar trophy to burnish his reputation as a lion of the Earth Federation Forces, “surely this old wreck can’t present any threat.”

    “Major,” Athena says calmly, but firmly, “With all due respect, this represents a major breach of security.”

    Major Nelson is not accustomed to being admonished by junior officers, particularly not by a woman, “Captain Ibaz, I am in charge here and…”

    While Athena is being forced to listen to Nelson’s dubious list of “achievements” once again, Jolie continues inspecting the abandoned enemy mobile suit. Both she and Athena have concluded that something isn’t quite right about the Regelg. The first thing that Athena and Jolie did after arriving upon the scene was pry open the mobile suit’s cockpit hatch. The cockpit, in terrible condition, was abandoned…no sign of a pilot’s corpse.

    Jolie spots an unusual bulge in the Regelg’s armor, inconsistent with what she knows of the profile of this particular model of mobile suit. Most likely, it’s some sort of attached secondary systems unit…quite common on mobile suits of the First Neo Zeon War era. Then again…

    Gripping a wrench that she had brought with her from the land rover that she, Athena, and Maj. Nelson had ridden in from the control tower to the perimeter, Jolie begins to bang loudly on the armor of the anomalous bulge.

    Inside the secret, secondary cockpit of the Regelg, Col. Shin Matsunaga listens to the clamorous din that Jolie is causing on the outside.

    Might as well get started, Matsunaga thinks to himself, looks like my cover is about to be blown anyway.

    The loud bangs that Jolie is causing on the Regelg’s external shell with the wrench interrupts Athena and Nelson’s conversation (to Athena’s relief and Nelson’s irritation).

    Looking at Jolie, Athena says, “What the hell are you doing up there?”

    Jolie points frantically at the armored bulge beneath her booted feet, “Come check this out!”

    Knowing to trust her talented protégé’s judgment on matters such as these, Athena sprints over to the wreckage of the Regelg and deftly leaps up to join Jolie on the shell of the mecha.

    “You ever see a Neo Zeon mobile suit with this kind of bulge on it?” Jolie asks.

    “No,” Athena admits, “This definitely isn’t something standard. We definitely need to…”

    Athena doesn’t get to complete her sentence. The Regelg’s monoeye flashes to life, the cold, dark cyclopean visor of the mecha suddenly burning a hellish red.

    The telltale roar of a mobile suit’s nuclear fusion engine revving up breaks the silence of the wintry wilderness. The mobile suit begins to rise.

    Athena and Jolie, caught off-guard by the suddenness of the mobile suit’s activation, hang on to the mecha’s external armor for dear life as the Regelg rises into a standing position.

    Nelson and the men of Patrol Unit D3 watch in horror as the apparently damaged enemy mobile suit reveals itself to be fully functional. It is just as Athena said: a Trojan Horse.

    “Help! Get outta my way!” shouts a panicked Major Nelson, fleeing ahead of his troops from the now erect Regelg mobile suit.

    “A little appetizer,” Shin Matsunaga grins in the cockpit of the Regelg, using his mecha’s head-mounted Vulcan machineguns to reduce Nelson and the patrol unit to bloody piles of flesh.

    The Neo Zeon mobile suit enters the perimeter of Whampoa Base, perhaps oblivious to the two young Federal Forces officers hanging on for dear life on its external armor.

    “Jolie!” Athena calls out, “We’ve got to get to the hangar!”

    “Right!” Jolie replies, “Let’s do it!”

    Athena and Jolie simultaneously release their grips on the armor of the Regelg. The two young women drop some twelve meters onto the snowy ground below. Only their superb training allows Athena and Jolie to survive a fall that would have killed or seriously injured most others. The two fall upon the snowy ground, tumble away the momentum, and then quickly leap out of the way of the advancing enemy mobile suit’s giant armored feet.

    “Are you all right?” Athena asks Jolie.

    Jolie gives Athena a thumbs-up, “Yeah. How 'bout you?”

    “I’m fine,” Athena replies, “Let’s head for the hangar, now!”

    Athena and Jolie break into a sprint across the base. The Regelg has spotted them and is firing upon them with the same Vulcan cannon that recently disposed of Nelson and the patrol unit.

    Athena and Jolie dodge the gunfire by scrambling around as they run in the direction of the hangar, making it difficult for the Regelg to get a bead upon them.

    Athena pulls out her comlink and opens channels throughout Whampoa Base, “This is Captain Ibaz! Red alert! The base is under attack! I repeat: red alert! The base is under attack! Breach in Western Perimeter, Sector G7! All units deploy to Sector G7 and intercept the enemy!”

    Episode 8 to be continued...!

  8. #188
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 8 continued!

    The mobile suit pilots of the Centurion Team are already deploying in their mobile suits when Athena and Jolie reach the hangar. Athena has left Sgt. Karim Abdul Al-Said in charge until she and Jolie can join the battle.

    Athena and Jolie hastily don their normalsuits and helmets, then dash to the cockpits of the Cour De Leon and Centurion Gundam, respectively. Within minutes, the two ace mobile suit pilots join their unit.

    As suddenly as it had appeared, the mysterious Regelg has apparently vanished, ghostlike, into the wilderness. By the time that mobile suits from the Special Forces and Whampoa Base’s own security units arrive at the perimeter, only the mangled bodies of Maj. Nelson and the members of Patrol D3 serve as evidence that it had been there.

    Brigadier General Rolando Bassani, the commander of Whampoa Base, has taken over direct command of the effort to locate and destroy the enemy unit. The Federal Forces mobile suits are ordered to fan out and locate the target. Termination with extreme prejudice has been ordered.

    An hour later, the mysterious enemy mobile suit has not reemerged. The Federal Forces mobile suits continue to ply the snowy wastes searching for their quarry, but their prey eludes them.

    Still, there is a general consensus that the enemy is out there, waiting for the right moment to pounce.

    The White Wolf of the North has come, and you are all but sheep before me.

    Cpl. Eddie “The Ed” Fredericks of the Aragon Team yawns in the cockpit of his Jegan mobile suit. Eddie is convinced that the enemy mobile suit, such as it was, has probably been scared off by the tremendous display of force that Whampoa Base has sent out in response. He’s waiting for General Bassani or Captain Ibaz or *somebody* to sound the all clear so that he can return to the base for a good nap.

    The Heat Hawk slices across the Jegan’s vital head/body joint assembly with sickening swiftness. The Jegan’s head falls from the mobile suit’s body.

    Eddie’s internal monitors and sensors go dark.

    A blade of superheated photon energy abruptly rips through Eddie’s back. In an instant, he is no more. Sleep granted. Eternal sleep.

    The snow-hued Regelg of the White Wolf extracts his mecha’s beam saber from the back of Cpl. Eddie’s Jegan.

    “One sheep down,” Col. Matsunaga sighs heavily, with a tone of regret.

    This isn’t combat, Matsunaga thinks to himself, This is butchery. I am a warrior. Are there no other warriors left to fight me? Are there only sheep to be slaughtered?

    Matsunaga takes a deep swig from his whiskey flask, seeking his next quarry.

    About a kilometer to the southwest, Athena asks her communications and reconnaissance officer, “Anna, have you got anything?”

    “Negative, ma’am,” replies the efficient, bespectacled Cpl. Anna Horowitz, “My surveillance equipment isn’t registering any bogies.”

    That doesn’t mean he’s not out there, Athena thinks to herself.

    “We have lost contact with a few units that had been patrolling a few kilometers northeast of our location,” Anna adds ominously, “Trying to reestablish contact.”

    A Newtype PSI-energy spark emanates from Athena’s helmeted head, and from Jolie’s in the Centurion Gundam. They both sense it. For Athena, especially, the sensation is familiar.

    “Jolie,” Athena radios to the Centurion Gundam, “Take command here. There’s something I need to investigate.”

    “Let me come with you,” Jolie offers.

    “Negative,” Athena replies, “You’ve led the squad in training maneuvers. Now, let’s see how you lead them in a real battle. Centurion Leader out.”

    The Cour De Leon transforms into Waverider mode and vanishes over the canopy of trees.

    “’Thena!” Jolie protests, but her commanding officer is gone.

    OK, I’m in charge, Jolie tells herself determinedly, I’d better do it right, or innocent people will get killed.

    “2Lt. Minh to all units,” Jolie radios the rest of the team, “sound off immediately if you encounter anything. Don’t try to take the enemy alone. Call for backup if you encounter the enemy.”

    “Yes, ma’am” comes from the Centurions.

    I may not be Athena, Jolie thinks to herself, but I can lead.

    Meanwhile, the White Wolf has silently disabled two more Federal Forces mobile suits, silencing their pilots with instant death.

    Slaughter, nothing but slaughter, Shin Matsunaga reflects bitterly.

    In the cockpit of his Jegan, Cpl. Geoff Sutcliffe of the Centurion Team grins dreamily at the images in his Datapad…images he has secretly taken of his commanding officer, Captain Athena Ibaz and his junior executive officer, 2Lt. Jolie Minh.

    During the past few months, Geoff has taken every opportunity to furtively take photos of the two beautiful young women that commanded his unit. To date, he has quite a collection: about fifty photos of each of them.

    The only frustrating thing for Geoff is that the overwhelming majority of the photos feature Athena and Jolie in their dress uniforms or normalsuits. Of Jolie, he had three or four photos in more casual clothing…including a few in very short and revealing nightshirts that Geoff regards as the prize of his collection.

    Geoff stares at the photos with a goofy grin on his face, picturing Athena and Jolie in skimpy bikinis…in lingerie…in nothing at all.

    The image of a Heat Hawk suddenly fills the forward monitor of Geoff’s Jegan.

    “GAHHHH!!!!!!!!” Geoff screams in mortal terror.

    The Heat Hawk rises up terrifyingly.

    Geoff Sutcliffe makes peace with his Maker.

    The Heat Hawk arcs downward for the kill.

    Its objective is denied by the Centurion Gundam’s beam saber blade.

    “Get out of here, Geoff!” Jolie calls out through the tactical net, “Rendezvous with the rest of the squad and go support Athena! I’ll handle this!”

    “Yes, ma’am!” Cpl. Geoff Sutcliffe replies, vectoring his Jegan away to comply with Jolie’s orders. He’d have to buy her a drink later; after all, she’s only saved his life (again).

    In the cockpit of the Officer’s Regelg, Colonel Shin Matsunaga, the White Wolf, regards his new opponent with a sense of outrage. How dare this interloper interfere with a kill!

    Matsunaga soon realizes, however, that his new opponent is a Gundam-class mobile suit, and on its chest directly above the cockpit hatch is the image of a burning White Phoenix.

    Matsunaga grins, “Finally, another warrior whom I can actually combat instead of slaughter…you’re the second one, White Phoenix. Let’s see if you’re as good as Amuro Ray was.”

    The White Wolf lances forth with his mobile suit’s beam naginata. The motion of his saber strikes is like a thousand snowflakes blown forth by the force of a blizzard.

    Jolie leaps the Centurion Gundam back a distance of approximately five hundred meters. The White Wolf follows trails her like a shadow, the tip of its beam saber seeming to advance upon multiple points of the Centurion Gundam simultaneously.

    Jolie feels a sense of dread creeping up her spine. For the first time in a long while, she experiences fear.

    Episode 8 to be continued!

  9. #189
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 8 continued...

    Two kilometers away, Athena converts her Cour De Leon from Waverider to mobile suit configuration and sets the mecha down in the snowy forest.

    The Cour De Leon draws its beam rifle and assumes a combat crouch that would seem impossible for a mobile suit, straining its points of articulation and motor gears to the limit. Nonetheless, with the mobile suit in this position, the tall conifers of the forest conceal Athena’s mobile suit from view.

    Athena waits silently. Patiently. She knows that her moment of reckoning will soon be at hand. She knows what she will do, although even she cannot predict the outcome.

    Either Mafty would die, or she would.

    And then, like a ghost sweeping across the snowy land, he appears…the white Hizack Sniper Custom of Mafty, laden with heavy explosives.

    Athena raises the Cour De Leon’s beam rifle from behind the cover of the trees, aiming a shot not directly at, but in the path of the Hizack Sniper Custom.

    Hathaway Noah, Mafty, brings the Hizack Sniper Custom to an immediate halt as the beam blast passes just in front of the monoeye of his mobile suit. Had he been moving even slightly faster, the beam would have caught the Hizack on the side of its head.

    Hathaway drops the Hizack onto its belly, aiming the mecha’s beam rifle in the general direction from which the shot was fired. He unleashes a single retaliatory blast.

    Athena slides the Cour De Leon aside just in time to avoid being nailed by Hathaway’s retaliatory shot. She raises the Cour De Leon to a standing position and fires a retaliatory shot of her own.

    Hathaway intercepts the shot with a missile fired from one of the launch tubes attached to the Hizack’s leg. The subsequent explosion rocks the air with a loud roar and fills the sky with smoke.

    From behind the cloud of smoke emerges the Hizack, its beam saber thrusting towards the heart of the Cour De Leon.

    “Fabulous,” Shin Matsunaga enthuses, “Absolutely fabulous!”

    To Matsunaga’s surprise and delight, the enemy Centurion Gundam unit has successfully survived ninety seconds of his attacks. Beam rifle shots, beam naginata slashes, missile fire…the Centurion Gundam has, thus far, succeeded in dodging it all. In his long military career, Shin Matsunaga has known only one other opponent who ever lasted this long against him in battle.

    Aboard the Centurion Gundam, Jolie has no idea that her enemy is greatly impressed with her skills. She’s struggling to just barely stay ahead of his moves, several times avoiding death by mere millimeters and milliseconds.

    Damn, Jolie grits her teeth, This guy’s good! Really good! I don’t know if I can handle him!

    Thus far, Jolie has been completely on the defensive. The enemy had seized the initiative from the start, and Jolie has not been able to take it back. Every move she has made since the battle began fewer than two minutes ago has been made in self-defense. Each time that Jolie has attempted to retaliate and take the offensive, she has been thwarted by the White Wolf’s relentless attacks.

    Athena’s words return to haunt Jolie, You can’t rely on your talent, reflexes, and instincts alone. You need to outthink your opponent…

    Jolie recalls her favorite story, Louis Cha’s wuxia novel The Giant Eagle and Its Companion. She remembers that the female protagonist of that story, Dragon Girl, often used soft weaponry such as ribbons to great effect against much more powerful enemies.

    The Centurion Gundam is not equipped with silk ribbons, but it does come equipped with magnetic clamp cables.

    With the Centurion Gundam’s left arm, Jolie raises the reinforced armored shield of her mecha to protect herself from the hail of Vulcan cannon fire that the white Regelg torments her with.

    Without losing a step, Jolie aims the right arm of the Centurion Gundam at the Regelg, not to fire the beam rifle or slash with the beam saber, but to deploy the mobile suit’s magnetic clamp cables, stored in the mecha’s forearm.

    Magnetic clamp cables, standard equipment on all Earth Federation Forces’ mobile suits manufactured after the year U.C. 0086, are not designed for combat, but transport. In deep space, mobile suits frequently use magnetic clamp cables to drag massive objects such as disabled spacecruisers or large space colony components. The cables are meant to be used as utility tools, not weapons.

    But to a warrior such as Jolie Minh, anything can become a weapon.

    The magnetic clamp cables snake around the White Wolf’s Regelg before it can dodge away. So sudden and unexpected is the move that even Shin Matsunaga fails to avoid it in time.

    “Odd strategy,” Matsunaga remarks to himself, “Interesting. Let’s see what she does next.”

    With a grunt of effort, Jolie pushes the lever that causes the Centurion Gundam to reel the Regelg in. As the enemy’s greatest advantage seems to be, like her own, superior speed, Jolie has determined that her best chance of winning this battle is at close quarters.

    Matsunaga, for his part, has already guessed what Jolie’s plan is. He smiles at the sheer audacity of it, even as he shakes its head at the inevitability of its failure, “So you want to fight in close quarters, eh? Foolish girl. Close quarter combat is the White Wolf’s birthright!”

    Still reeling the Regelg in with the magnetic clamp cable in the Centurion Gundam’s right hand, Jolie directs her mobile suit to cast its defensive shield aside and draw the beam saber with its left hand…her weaker hand. It’ll be an awkward angle for a strike, to say the least.

    Matsunaga, for his part, has not drawn the Regelg’s beam naginata yet. There is time still. Might as well let the girl enjoy these last few seconds…let her think she’s won the battle, then carve her to shards.

    “Such a shame,” Matsunaga sighs sadly, “She shows such promise. In ten years’ time, she could conceivably actually beat me.”

    Athena launches the Cour De Leon high into the air, avoiding the Hizack Sniper Custom’s advancing beam saber tip by the slightest of margins.

    Athena transforms the Cour De Leon into Waverider configuration to put a suitable fighting distance between herself and Hathaway’s Hizack. It turns out to be a tactically prescient maneuver, as Hathaway’s next move is to fire three more missiles at the Cour De Leon.

    The Cour De Leon twists and spins to avoid the incoming salvo. Athena activates ECM (electronic countermeasures) to jam the guidance systems of two of the missiles, and fires heat chaffs to draw away and detonate a third, heat-seeking missile.

    With the missiles disposed of, Athena turns the Cour De Leon Waverider 180 degrees and dives back towards the Hizack, firing her aerodynamic mecha’s beam cannon.

    Hathaway backs the Hizack away from Athena’s cannonfire, attempting to skeet the Cour De Leon out of the sky with his Hizack’s own beam rifle, but finding no success.

    As savage as the battle appears, experienced and keen-eyed veterans of mobile suit warfare would observe that the two combatants appear to be reluctant to truly strike at each other. Indeed, had Athena or Hathaway truly meant to kill each other, one or the other would have already perished several minutes earlier.

    Neither one, however, can bear to actually unleash lethal force upon the other. Both curse themselves for their weakness.

    Are you in love with Hathaway Noah? Jolie’s words once again invade Athena’s thoughts.

    Athena…Athena, why did it have to be you? Hathaway reflects bitterly.

    In the cockpit of the Cour De Leon, Athena has come to a resolution. She knows what she will do. This ends now.

    As it dives towards the Hizack, the Cour De Leon transforms back from Waverider into mobile suit configuration. Using the force of her mecha’s descent, Athena rams the Cour De Leon into the Hizack, knocking the opposing mobile suit off of its feet.

    As an excellent mobile suit engineer and technician in her own right, Athena knows that all mobile suits possess certain centralized joints and servomotors that, if disabled, would effectively immobilize the mobile suit without destroying it. Athena draws the Cour De Leon’s beam saber and proceeds to surgically disable those joints and servomotors on Hathaway’s downed Hizack. Within seconds, the vital connections that enable the mobile suit to move are severed. The Hizack becomes a quadriplegic war machine.

    The combat computer aboard the Hizack tells Hathaway Noah what he already knows. His mobile suit is disabled.

    So much for Paul Cezanne, Hathaway reflects on the two paintings that his providers had taken from him earlier that morning.

    Hathaway extracts his sidearm from its hip-mounted holster and opens the cockpit hatch of the Hizack. He quickly scrambles out of the cockpit into the cold, snowy air of the northern Chinese forest.

    As Hathaway leaps off the Hizack onto the snowy ground below, he notes that Athena has landed the Cour De Leon. She could finish him off with the single press of a button now if she wishes to.

    To Hathaway’s surprise, Athena opens the cockpit of the Cour De Leon and disembarks from her mecha. Apparently, she means to settle this in the flesh.

    As the battle occurs on the surface of Earth, the two pilots actually need not keep their helmet visors down, concealing their faces behind dark, reinforced plexiglass. They maintain their lowered visors, however, perhaps to make it easier to do what they must do next.

    Athena points her sidearm, a compact Walther pistol, directly at Hathaway. Hathaway likewise has his weapon, a Winchester automatic, pointed at Athena.

    They face each other in a moment of terrible decision.

    Episode 8 to be continued!

  10. #190
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 8 continued!

    “Go to hell!” Jolie screams as she arcs the Centurion Gundam’s beam saber forth in a deadly slash.

    Shin Matsunaga turns the slash aside with a casual parry of the Regelg’s beam naginata. He had read Jolie’s move, and blocked it with consummate ease.

    “Is that all you’ve got, ‘White Phoenix?’” Matsunaga taunts, “Disappointing, to say the least.”

    So saying, Matsunaga directs his Regelg in a vicious kick that strikes the Centurion Gundam directly on the cockpit hatch.

    Jolie screams in pain at the force of the impact. The shock of the strike causes Jolie to feel as if her bones are being ripped apart.

    Get up! Get up! Jolie tells herself. Despite her pain, she needs to stand the Centurion Gundam up and be ready to meet the White Wolf’s next move. She would be dead within seconds if she doesn’t.

    The Centurion Gundam rises firing desperately with its beam rifle. Jolie is lashing out blindly, hoping to at least keep the White Wolf off balance until she can clear her mind.

    But the White Wolf is gone.

    Jolie looks at her tracking monitor. There are friendly mobile suits scattered in the area within a ten kilometer radius, but the Centurion Gundam’s sensors detect no trace of the white Regelg she had been struggling with just seconds earlier.

    Jolie re-holsters the Centurion Gundam’s beam rifle and once again draws the beam saber. Again drawing from the lessons she has learned from Athena, and from her previous battle experiences, Jolie closes her eyes and reaches out with her mind.

    Behind the Centurion Gundam, the white Regelg suddenly reappears, the blade of its beam naginata rising menacingly towards the motionless Earth Federation Forces’ mobile suit.

    They shoot simultaneously. The bullets miss their targets by mere millimeters.

    Athena leaps from the cockpit hatch of the Cour De Leon. She executes a neat forward somersault to land directly in front of Hathaway Noah. He levels his pistol at her, but Athena knocks the weapon out of his hand with a well-timed chop to Hathaway’s wrist.

    Hathaway retaliates with a series of blows that reflect Wing Chun style martial arts, powerful punches striking within short range from the attacker’s body.

    Athena blocks each of Hathaway’s strikes with Jeet Kune Do moves that counter Hathaway’s attack motion for motion. Nevertheless, Hathaway stands a good twenty centimeters taller than Athena and has at least thirty kilograms’ greater weight than she does. The blows drive Athena back.

    Must change tactics, Athena realizes.

    Noticing that Hathaway’s footwork is relatively weak, Athena goes for a sweeping kick in an attempt to knock the young man off his feet. Hathaway anticipates the move and avoids the sweep by leaping over Athena’s leg, but he fails to anticipate Athena’s follow up, which is to knee him in the groin.

    Seething in pain, Hathaway is unable to counter as Athena twists him onto the ground. Her feathery weight lies atop him as it did that one, wondrous night they spent together.

    For a moment, it is that night again: their naked bodies lying warmly together as a cold winter night passed beyond the walls of Hathaway’s apartment. He recalls her soft, smooth, silky skin…the light in her eyes and the warmth of her breath. She recalls the security and comfort of his arms, wishing she could be embraced by them forever. A precious moment, now forever lost. That night, Athena willingly surrendered herself to Hathaway as she had never surrendered to anyone before.

    For both their sakes, she cannot surrender to him again. Not today.

    Athena presses the barrel of her sidearm against Hathaway’s helmeted head. For a long moment, the star-crossed couple lies silent and still.

    Behind you! Jolie’s mind sparks, suddenly alert to danger.

    Jolie brings the beam saber of the Centurion Gundam up and back just in time to avoid being impaled in the back by the white Regelg’s beam naginata.

    “Very good!” Shin Matsunaga enthuses, “Hah! You’re much better than I thought you were, girl!”

    Jolie has a flash of inspiration. She deploys the Centurion Gundam’s magnetic clamp cables again. Once again, the long, metal cables wrap themselves around the body of the White Wolf’s mobile suit.

    “This tactic again?” Matsunaga wonders, “What makes you think it’ll work this time, eh?”

    In the cockpit of the Centurion Gundam, Jolie diverts ALL of her mobile suit’s electrical power in a surge through the magnetic clamp cables. If her ploy fails, her Centurion Gundam would be powerless and immobile for at least five minutes. Failure would mean certain death.

    The electrical current, thousands upon thousands of kilowatts, surges from the Centurion Gundam’s nuclear fusion engine through the magnetic clamp cable into the white Regelg.

    In the cockpit of his mobile suit, Colonel Shin Matsunaga is enveloped in a cocoon of lightning. Matsunaga grits his teeth in agony as his internal organs boil. Burnt, smoking blood begins to ooze forth from his mouth, nose, and ears.

    Matsunaga begins to laugh maniacally, “So this is how it ends for the White Wolf, eh?”

    His mobile suit irrevocably immobilized, and knowing that his heart and lungs will soon follow, Matsunaga directs a thought to his enemy and slayer, Bravo, girl, bravo. You truly are a great warrior. Someday, you might even prove yourself the greatest.

    Aboard the Centurion Gundam, Jolie pants hard from the exertion of defeating her powerful enemy. The white Regelg is essentially dead, its circuitry fried beyond all possibility of function without extensive repair. The Centurion Gundam stands triumphant, but equally still over its fallen prey.

    Deep within her mind, Jolie reads her enemy’s thoughts, the admiration and respect she has won from the dying old warrior.

    You were only the second true opponent I’ve ever had, Jolie’s Newtype mind hears, Fight well, and fight with honor, girl. Don’t ever let combat devolve into slaughter…and don’t waste your life upon slaughter like I have.

    Jolie disembarks from the Centurion Gundam’s cockpit and removes her helmet. She leaps down onto the wrecked Regelg’s chest. She suspects there is very little fight left in her enemy, but she draws her sidearm just in case.

    The complete electrical systems failure induced by the Centurion Gundam’s final attack has forced the cockpit hatch of the Officer’s Regelg open. Had it been otherwise, Jolie would not have been able to open the armored hatch to access the pilot within.

    Jolie climbs into the cockpit of the Regelg, sidearm directed at her mortally wounded foeman. Jolie can see dark blood oozing downward from the broken O-ring between the pilot’s helmet and normalsuit.

    Jolie checks around the cockpit and on the enemy pilot’s person. No sidearm or weaponry of any sort…not even so much as a survival knife. Either the height of self-confidence, or the height of arrogance. Jolie suspects that it’s probably a bit of both.

    Having confirmed that the enemy pilot poses no more threat to her, Jolie helps the dying man to remove his visored helmet.

    She looks down upon the weathered face of an old warrior who has seen hundreds upon hundreds of battles over a lifetime. Countless Federal Forces mobile suit pilots have died at this man’s hands, but today, he meets with the same fate as his victims. The man’s right eye, covered by an eyepatch that also partially covers an ugly vertical scar, is evidence of a life defined by brutality and violence.

    Jolie makes use of her military paramedic training in an attempt to stabilize the man, who is still conscious, but fading. Jolie radios for a medical unit, but she knows that it is futile. The man is dying.

    Because of her.

    Jolie regards her enemy with a sympathy she could not feel or show during the battle. He had been a legendary hero to many, a loathsome murderer to others, and a fearsome warrior in either case. But what of it? In the end, his name is added to the interminable list of combat victims…one more corpse for the ravenous beast known as War.

    Is this my final fate too? Jolie wonders.

    The man opens his eyes. They fall upon a beautiful teenaged girl of Asian descent, her long, black hair flowing like a dark river down her back…her wide, expressive eyes the same ebony shade.

    “W-what’s your name, girl?” the man asks, coughing up a spurt of his lifeblood.

    “2Lt. Jolie Minh, sir,” Jolie replies with a respectfulness uncommon to her.

    “Care to keep an old soldier company…in his final moments, Lt. Minh?” the dying man asks.

    “It’d be an honor, sir,” Jolie replies.

    Jolie kneels beside Col. Matsunaga like an obedient pupil before a wise old teacher.

    “There is so much you must learn,” Matsunaga says, “Don’t…don’t make the same mistakes that I did. You must…must not let yourself…turn into a monster. Not like I did.”

    “Sir,” Jolie says tentatively.

    “Look into my soul, Jolie,” the man says, “What do you see?”

    Against her better judgment, Jolie reaches with her mind into the man’s soul. She sees a horrible, relentless darkness…blacker than the void of space. Then, the hellish image of a ravenous wolf, its sharp teeth stained with fresh blood, its eyes afire with madness.

    Jolie is horrified.

    “Do you understand, Jolie?” Matsunaga asks, coughing up more blood.

    “I understand, sir,” Jolie chokes out.

    Episode 8 to be continued!

  11. #191
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 8 conclusion!

    Hathaway Noah knows he does not have many options. Likely not even one. Not with Captain Athena Ibaz’s Walther pistol pressed directly against his helmeted head. Nevertheless, if this is how it must end, he can take satisfaction in knowing that it comes at the hands of the woman he loves.

    Hathaway closes his eyes, resigned to Eternity.

    To his surprise, Athena backs off. She removes her helmet to face him unmasked.

    “Get up,” Athena orders coldly.

    Hathaway rises to his feet. He also removes his helmet, letting it drop to the snow below his feet. He raises his hands in a gesture of surrender.

    Athena’s beautiful brown eyes are full of torment as she takes aim directly at Hathaway Noah’s forehead.

    Hathaway knows that Athena is regarded as the best markswoman in the Earth Federation Forces. At this range, death is more certain than the next day’s sunrise.

    Athena fires.

    The bullet whizzes by Hathaway’s ear, singing his right earlobe, but otherwise passing harmlessly by him.

    “Mafty is dead,” Athena says, “He’s paid for his crimes, and he will never threaten the Earth Federation Government or its people again.”

    Hathaway wants to run to Athena. To take her into his arms and hold her forever.

    Her next words and action freeze his heart like ice, colder than the snow all around them.

    “Hathaway,” Athena says in a quavering voice, “disappear…go into my blind spot.”

    “Athena…,” Hathaway says, a bitter lump in his throat.

    “Into my blind spot,” Athena repeats quietly, “Go.”

    Hathaway backs away slowly. He finally turns, walking towards the forest beyond.

    He spares one last glance back over his shoulder at the woman he loves. A single tear falls down his cheek.

    Hathaway Noah disappears into the forest. Into Athena’s blind spot.

    Athena finally reholsters her sidearm. She turns away from the forest towards her Cour De Leon.

    A cold wind sweeps across the snowy meadow. Athena hugs her elbows against the cold.

    A pair of teardrops falls silently from Athena’s brown eyes; they freeze to icicles upon the skin of her cheeks.

    A minute later, Athena is back in the cockpit of the Cour De Leon. Wiping away tears, Athena locks onto the wreckage of Mafty’s white Hizack Sniper Custom mobile suit with the Cour De Leon’s beam rifle and opens fire.

    A single beam blast ignites the flame. Athena adds a salvo of plasma missiles, ensuring nearly complete disintegration. There will be no trace of Mafty’s mobile suit after the fire dies down.

    As she watches the fire consume the remains of Hathaway’s mobile suit, Athena thinks back to an ancient Chinese poem…one written by the 13th Century Chinese poet and scholar Yuan Haowen, and was frequently quoted by Louis Cha in Jolie’s favorite novel, The Giant Eagle and Its Companion.:

    O mortals, what is love?
    That binds beyond life on earth?
    To all corners, in pair we fly...
    Braving summer and winter, by and by...
    Union is bliss, parting is woe,
    Agony is boundless,
    For a lovelorn soul,
    Sweetheart...give me words,
    Trail of clouds drifting forward...
    And mountains capped with snow,
    Whither shall my lonesome shadow go??

    What is love? Athena reflects, Whither shall my lonesome shadow go?

    For once, Athena has no answers. Only an ache in her heart that she knows will never go away.

    The beeping of the Cour De Leon’s communications receiver breaks up Athena’s reflections. It’s Jolie.

    “Centurion Two to Centurion Leader. ‘Thena? Do you read me?”

    Athena steadies her voice as best she can before replying, “Centurion Leader to Centurion Two. Go ahead, Jolie.”

    “Are you all right?” Jolie asks, noting the quaver in Athena’s voice.

    “I’m fine,” Athena replies, “I’ve just taken care of Mafty.”

    The momentary silence on the other end reflects Jolie’s shock, but Athena’s executive officer and best friend soon replies, “I’ve got his accomplice here…alive! But if you want to interrogate him, you’d better hurry. I don’t think he’s going to stick around much longer.”

    Less than a minute later, Athena lands the Cour De Leon Waverider next to where Jolie’s Centurion Gundam still has the White Wolf’s inert Officer’s Regelg bound by its magnetic clamp cables. Jolie is in the cockpit of the enemy mecha, watching over the dying enemy pilot.

    Athena joins Jolie in the cockpit.

    A flash of recognition, and a look of shock appear on the faces of Athena and Colonel Matsunaga as they set eyes upon one another.

    Colonel Matsunaga is taken back in time some fifteen years. He remembers an adorable little girl of four years, the only daughter of his onetime liege lord and best friend, and the heir to the throne of the Archduchy of Zeon. Matsunaga had loved the girl as if she had been his own daughter, and the deadly warrior could, for several hours a week during his frequent visits, become like a child again himself as he played a game of dodgeball with the little Duchess, or taught her how to identify different kinds of birds and insects.

    Athena is stricken with a flood of memories…memories of childhood. Those were lonely years…not because there had been no people around her. As Duchess of the Archduchy of Neo Zeon, she had dozens of attendants, officials, and military leaders waiting upon her, but few whom she could call her friend. One was Colonel Shin Matsunaga, the “White Wolf” who had fought so gallantly and spectacularly under her father’s command. Colonel Shin was like a favorite uncle to Duchess Minerva. She remembers how, as a little girl, she enjoyed being lifted into the air in his arms, much to the concern and worry of her royal staff. But Colonel Shin would never let Duchess Minerva come to harm. He was too loyal to Zeon, and too loyal to Prince Dozle Zabi, to ever let such a thing happen. He would gladly give his own life a thousand times over for this child’s.

    The dying Matsunaga opens his mouth to speak one last time, “Mi…Mi ner..Min…”

    The White Wolf is dead.

    Athena kneels by the fallen Zeon warrior. For the second time today, her heart breaks.

    Athena closes the man’s eyes with her gloved right hand. Her facial expression is one of profound shock and loss.

    Jolie, kneeling by Athena, notices, “Hey, are you all right, ‘Thena? What’s wrong?”

    Fighting down an urge to scream, Athena whispers, “Nothing…nothing. Let’s get ready to leave.”

    Jolie knows that despite her denials, something is definitely very wrong with Athena. She takes her friend by the arm and guides her down from the cockpit of the wrecked Regelg. Athena appears to be catatonic. Shell-shocked.

    Some three hours later, the space shuttles Nightwing and Kobayashi, bearing Generals Manron Blackhead and Bright Noah, launch from Whampoa Base without incident. Both shuttles are under heavy escort by Whampoa Base mobile suits and fighter aircraft, as well as three space battleships.

    Also a part of the convoy to Side 7’s Garrison Noah is the mobile suit carrier ship Wygan, aboard which are the Centurion Team and the other Special Forces teams that had accompanied the generals to Earth, along with the teams’ mobile suits.

    Athena and Jolie sit next to each other in the passenger cabin of the ship. Athena looks very tired and depressed. Jolie has never seen her friend like this before.

    Sick with worry, Jolie finally speaks up, “Athena. Did you really do it? Did you kill Hathaway?”

    Athena shakes her head, “I killed Mafty. I didn’t kill Hathaway.”

    For a moment, Jolie is confused. Isn’t that the same thing? Then, Athena’s true meaning dawns upon her. Jolie smiles proudly at Athena.

    Athena says with a quaver in her voice, “I performed my duty, but I couldn’t bring myself to kill Hathaway. I…I love him.”

    Jolie senses the deep pain in her best friend’s heart. Even so, Athena stubbornly refuses to let those emotions out.

    Poor Athena, Jolie reflects, Her heart is breaking, but even now, she doesn’t know how to cry.

    Jolie opens her arms to Athena, determined to help her friend.

    Athena accepts her friend’s generosity, letting herself be held by Jolie.

    Jolie begins to sob. If Athena can’t bring herself to cry, Jolie will cry for her.

    The convoy continues its path towards Side 7. A bitter day has come to an end, but it is just one day. Many more days, some sweet, some bitter, lie ahead.

    O mortals, what is love?
    That binds beyond life on earth?
    To all corners, in pair we fly...
    Braving summer and winter, by and by...
    Union is bliss, parting is woe,
    Agony is boundless,
    For a lovelorn soul,
    Sweetheart...give me words,
    Trail of clouds drifting forward...
    And mountains capped with snow,
    Whither shall my lonesome shadow go??


    In the next episode: the Centurion Team is dispatched to Side 3, the birthplace of Zeon and the home of the ISRLA. Athena’s past returns to haunt her once again, and Jolie must face yet another dangerous enemy. Both young women are forced to reevaluate their mission as they are confronted with horrible truths about the Earth Federation that they serve. Catch it all in the next episode (9), “The Killers!”

  12. #192
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002



    Side 3 was the birthplace of both the Republic of Zeon and its successor state, the Archduchy of Zeon. The space colony built furthest from Earth beyond the dark side of the moon was and remains the font of Contolism, the ideology first promulgated by the Spacenoid philosopher and statesman Zeon Zum Daikun. It was at Side 3, during the early U.C. 0050s, that Daikun first began to speak out on the issue of Spacenoid rights, and to advance his theory of the evolution of human beings into Newtypes.

    Even back in those comparatively benign days, the Earth Federation Government treated Side 3 as a callous parent would treat a willful and fractious child. The people of Side 3 have long been the most staunchly anti-Earth Federation of Spacenoids, and the most often subject to the Federation’s often arbitrary whims.

    After the end of the One Year War in January, U.C. 0080, the Earth Federation Forces occupied Side 3 and nominally reinstated the Republic of Zeon. A name was all that this puppet state had in common, however, with the idealistic and progressive government that Zeon Zum Daikun had once presided over. The postwar Republic of Zeon was nothing more than a tool of the Earth Federation Forces to govern the still-restive population of Side 3, although the real threat (i.e. surviving elements of the Archduchy of Zeon) had fled to the Asteroid Belt and the Outer Solar System.

    During the First Neo Zeon War of U.C. 0088, Regent Haman Khan’s Axis Forces captured the colony, bringing Side 3 under Zeon control again. Side 3 was “liberated” by the Earth Federation/AEUG Alliance at the end of that war, and once again the Federal Forces occupied Side 3, this time under a state of perpetual martial law, which continued in place even through Colonel Char Aznable’s final bid at restoring the Archduchy of Zeon in U.C. 0093. The following year, Artasia Som Daikun (Sayla Mass), Char’s younger sister and daughter of Zeon Zum Daikun, founded the Independent Spacenoid Republic (ISR) movement, hoping to revive her late father’s idealistic dreams.

    In late U.C. 0098, however, the only dreams known by the people of Side 3 are nightmares.

    On an early December day in Zum City, former capital city of the Republic of Zeon and the Archduchy of Zeon, no festive pre-holiday atmosphere is evident, as has been the case during the nearly two decades since the One Year War. How can people celebrate a holiday dedicated to peace when the specter of war hangs perpetually over them?

    Poverty and strife have marked most of Zum City’s history during the past twenty years. Once the opulent capital of a mighty state, a seat of government and home to royalty and aristocracy, Zum City today is tolerable only to the hardiest of souls.

    In the midst of the city, Federal authorities are seen doling out meager supplies of food, medicine, clothing, and other basic necessities to poverty-stricken civilians. As an occupied war zone, Side 3 is unstable and subject to constant disturbances by ISRLA and Zeon guerilla fighters. Once a model of space colony self-sufficiency held up as a brilliant example of how Spacenoids could establish their own nations independent of Earth, Side 3 now finds itself barely subsisting off the Earth Federation Government’s largesse. Aid from the Federation, however, comes reluctantly and minimally, and often with terrible abuses.

    At the moment, in downtown Zum City, two Federal relief workers carry a heavy crate of overripe apples for distribution to the masses. Fresh fruit is a rare and valued commodity in Side 3, as the colony’s once abundant hydroponics farms have mostly ceased to function. The beleaguered relief workers drop the crate, causing it to shatter, sending dozens of apples rolling onto the street.

    There is a mad scramble among the crowd of civilians to grab an apple. For many of them, it will be the only meal they will have this day…perhaps a number of days. Parents of young children grab as many apples as they can, stuffing the fruits into the mouths of their children. Others shove their neighbors aside for a precious apple, rotted and worm-ridden as the fruit might be. The desperate faces of hunger are seen everywhere; all pretense of civilized behavior is abandoned.

    The crowds push, jostle, stomp, and grab. Several fights break out over possession of an apple. Within minutes, a Federal Forces Military Police vehicle arrives on the scene.

    The sergeant in charge of the MP squad yells through his bullhorn, “Order! Order, you despicable Zeon dogs! Try to behave like human beings, hard as that is for you!”

    If the scrambling crowds hear the sergeant, they ignore him. Is there time to be concerned with law and order when starvation is at hand?

    “Spacenoid bastards!” the sergeant seethes. He turns to his squad, “At them, men! Show them how the Federation treats Zeon savages who can’t follow simple orders!”

    The MPs beat upon the civilians with their billy clubs. There are some retaliatory shoves from the civilians, but for the most part, the impoverished people are more intent on feeding themselves than fighting their oppressors.

    Failing to establish the order that he desires, the sergeant becomes livid. He issues his next order, “You dogs want to eat? All right, then: eat hot lead! Open fire!”

    The squad of MPs armed with carbines fire into the crowd, killing several dozen civilians in a hail of bullets. Human bodies emaciated by hunger are penetrated by rounds of explosive ammunition, which also penetrate and poison the flesh of many apples. Many of the hungry men, women, and children die with half eaten, rotten apples in their mouths.

    A few kilometers away, a woman old enough to remember Side 3 in more peaceful days before the Contolist Revolution begs for some spare change from a patrol of Federal Forces infantrymen. Accompanying the old woman are her two grandchildren, a boy aged seven and a girl aged four.

    “You want charity from us?!” demands the lead infantrymen, “We haven’t made you people pay yet for what the Zabis did to the people on Earth during the war! The billions they killed!”

    The Federal soldiers proceed to strike the old woman and her very young grandchildren with the butts of their rifles. The old woman and the toddlers are savagely beaten and left for dead.

    A Federal soldier spits upon the wounded family, “Zeon pigs.”

    At the same time, in a nearby apartment, a poor electrician and his family are packing their meager possessions. They plan to leave Side 3 for Von Braun City on the Moon. As the electrician and his family leave the apartment, they come face to face with two Federal Forces soldiers. The soldiers demand to search the man. When he appears nervous, the troops proceed to beat him senseless and deprive him of his family’s last possessions. For him, the horror ends quickly, with a bullet to his brain. For his wife, an attractive woman, a much longer, much more bitter ordeal awaits…

    Just another day in the life of Zum City, Side 3, in December, U.C. 0098.

    Episode 9 to be continued...

  13. #193
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 9 continued...

    Across Cislunar Space at Side 7, a press conference is being held at Reville Hall by General Manron Blackhead, a senior member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Earth Federation Forces. Media from across the Earth Sphere, some pro-Federation, others anti-Federation, pack tightly into the central vestibule of the hall to ply the general with questions. Earlier in the day, a similar scene had taken place in the same hall when General Bright Noah faced the press. The media wants to know: what do the Earth Federation Forces plan to do about the ISRLA and the Neo Zeon civil war brewing in the Outer Solar System?

    Tom Jennings, a well known reporter for the pro-Federation United World Media Corporation, asks General Blackhead, “General, what has the Earth Federation Government Security Council decided to do about the ISRLA?”

    General Blackhead replies, “The troops of the Earth Federation Forces understand their responsibility in protecting the lives and property of the people of Earth and the space colonies. We plan to root out these terrorists and prevent them from causing harm to any of our people. To accomplish this, the Federal Forces will use all measures necessary.”

    “All?” pipes up Connie Walters, a journalist from the anti-Federation Lunar Broadcasting Company (LBC), “Would that include that terrible violence that we’ve heard rumors about Federal Forces troops using against civilians at Side 3?”

    “Connie, those rumors are pure rubbish,” General Blackhead replies, clearly angry, “The Earth Federation Forces is an army of honorable, compassionate soldiers. Our people would never stoop to or tolerate such tactics.”

    As the mass of reporters press forth with a deluge of questions, General Blackhead pompously silences them with a bold statement, “The Earth Federation Forces will no longer tolerate the obscene savagery practiced by the ISRLA. The ISRLA are not freedom fighters, as they like to call themselves. They are terrorists, and will be dealt with according to the laws of the Earth Federation Government. Our enemy, however, is the terrorists, not the people of Side 3. The Earth Federation Government is sensitive to the needs of our Spacenoid brothers, and the Federation will help Side 3's citizens with all of its resources. Let me tell you that the Deliberative Assembly is discussing the possible lifting of the current economic embargo on Side 3. The loyal citizens of the Federation should rest assured that we…”

    Off to one side of the hall, Captain Athena Ibaz leans against a window, looking upon the city of Green Oasis. General Blackhead’s speech makes Athena feel sick. A Federal Forces officer herself, she cringes at the utter lies, the utter hypocrisy, and utter self-righteousness of Blackhead and his ilk. As disgusted as she is with Blackhead and the senior staff, Athena is most disgusted at herself: after all, it was she who wrote the text of the canned answers that Blackhead is now mouthing to the media. Athena has become good at spouting the Federation’s lies, although she knows better than to believe in them.

    Athena has been moody and easily irritable ever since she and the Centurion Team returned from their mission to Earth some ten days earlier. Alternately depressed and angry, Athena has had difficulty eating and sleeping since the mission’s end. There has been a great amount of work to do following the team’s return to Side 7: not only the usual documentation and debriefing after their extraordinary experiences on the mother planet, but also beginning the full-press PR and military operation against the ISRLA at Side 3. Consecutive twenty-four hour work shifts three days running have become a part of Athena’s life recently. She is very fortunate to have had four hours to sleep the previous night, most of which unfortunately she spent tossing and turning in bed.

    But Athena knows that ultimately, it is not any of these stresses that are so deeply affecting her. She had been trained to handle those.

    It’s the constant ache inside her heart that won’t go away.

    Despite her best efforts, Athena has not been able to put Hathaway Noah out of her mind. She closes her eyes, and sees his handsome young face there. In moments of silence, she still hears his voice…his easy laughter. Where could he be now?

    Athena sighs, looking out the window of the great hall, trying to focus on something…anything else.

    One of the journalists in the crowd surrounding General Blackhead, a tall, attractive blonde woman of approximately thirty-five years of age, breaks from the group as she spots Athena. She is Linda Ackerman, Editor-In-Chief of the staunchly anti-Federation Cislunar Free Media. Dressed in a professional pantsuit, Linda is every centimeter the tough, consummate investigative journalist.

    Linda approaches Athena quietly and lays a gentle hand upon Athena’s shoulder.

    For an instant, Athena fails to recognize the woman. Then, a look of shocked delight emerges on Athena’s pretty face.

    “Dory? Oh, Dory, is it you?!” Athena whispers.

    “I’m known to most as Linda Ackerman now, Your Highness,” the woman replies, “but to you, I’ll always be Dory.”

    “Dory!” Athena places her hands on the woman’s shoulders fondly.

    Dorinda Ischinda, known as “Dory” to her familiars, was once the Royal Chambermaiden to Duchess Minerva Zabi. Dory was essentially Duchess Minerva’s nanny…responsible for the Duchess’ meals, clothing, education, and entertainment. Those who wished for an audience with the Duchess, no matter how important or prominent, needed Dory’s approval first. With the passing of Lady Cenna in U.C. 0081, Duchess Minerva became an orphan. It was Dory who mostly took over the day-to-day role of caretaker for the little Duchess.

    As Athena and Dory regard each other in the great hall of the Earth Federation Forces at Side 7, fond memories flood back of bedtime stories, shared meals, games in sandboxes and on swings, learning to read and write at the early age of three, and learning to play Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin at age four.

    It has been nearly ten years since Athena has seen Dory; she had long since given up her old friend and caretaker for dead.

    Although General Blackhead has the rest of the pack of journalists rapt in his speech, Athena nevertheless realizes that the public vestibule of Reville Hall is not the appropriate venue for an emotional reunion with her long-lost friend and caretaker.

    Athena takes Dory aside, “Let’s go into my private office. We won’t be disturbed there.”

    Athena guides Dory down the corridor into her spacious corner office in Reville Hall. After she locks the door, Athena embraces Dory with an affection she was unable to show back in the public vestibule.

    “Dory,” Athena smiles fondly at her old friend, “It’s so good to see you again. After that day when Colonel Char took me away, I thought…”

    Dory nods, returning Athena’s smile warmly, “Your Highness, we were all so deeply worried after Colonel Char disappeared with you. Not long afterwards, the Federal Forces overran Side 3. I managed to find passage to Side 6…just barely. I was on the last shuttle out before the Federation took over.”

    Athena looks pained, “It must have been hard on you, Dory. On all of you.”

    “It must have been harder on you, Your Highness,” Dory says, “Until that day, you had never left our care. Then, to be whisked away so suddenly and violently…”

    “Colonel Char took good care of me,” Athena assures Dory, “The next several years were peaceful.”

    “Mine weren’t,” Dory returns, with an edge of anger in her voice, “For a time, I considered settling down peacefully at Side 6, but I couldn’t bear to see our people suffer under the Federation’s oppression. When Dr. Artasia Daikun announced the formation of the ISR in 0094, I answered the call.”

    “Cigarette?” Athena offers to her old friend and childhood caretaker, a fresh cigarette already loaded between Athena’s lips.

    Dory declines. She is not a smoker. Tobacco disgusts her. As when she was the Royal Chambermaid, Dory sees smoking as a vice of the morally corrupt – a vice that weakens the soul as well as the body. Dory views the cigarette lodged between Athena’s lips with distaste and disapprobation.

    She’s farther gone than I imagined, Dory reflects. Whatever happened to the demure little Duchess she had once doted upon?

    “I was never much of a soldier,” Dory continues, “but as you probably remember, one of my duties as Royal Chambermaid was composing official Royal Correspondence. During my years at Side 6, I earned a journalism degree. When I joined the ISR, Dr. Artasia put me in charge of media operations. I took the name Linda Ackerman, and within a year, founded the Cislunar Free Media.

    Athena lights her cigarette and inhales deeply from it before replying, “I’ve read many of your articles, though I had no idea it had been you who was writing them. They were excellent.”

    Dory says nothing in response to her former mistress’ praise, “My work as an investigative reporter led me to many shocking discoveries. I’ve learned things about the Earth Federation Government that have shocked me. That would shock anyone with any sense of human decency. Inconceivable atrocities. But the single most shocking thing I’ve ever uncovered is that Your Highness, Duchess Minerva Zabi of the Archduchy of Zeon, Sovereign of the Zeon People, had become ‘Captain Athena Ibaz’ of the Earth Federation Special Forces.’”

    Athena exhales a lungful of smoke before replying, “What’s so shocking? Everyone needs a career, Dory.”

    “And your career choice,” Dory says bitterly, “was to w'hore yourself to the Earth Federation Forces?”

    Athena stares impassively at Dory, working through her cigarette, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “Look at you!” Dory says contemptuously, “Have you forgotten who you are?! How can you serve the Federation to oppress our people?! My God, what’s happened to you, Minerva?!”

    Athena turns away from Dory, leaning her hands upon her desk, “Don’t call me that. I’m not Minerva Zabi anymore. There is no more Minerva Zabi. Minerva died years ago with the evil that was the Archduchy of Zeon.”

    Nine-year old Duchess Minerva Zabi of the Archduchy of Neo Zeon in U.C. 0088

    Ten years later, in U.C. 0098, the former Duchess Minerva is nineteen-year old Captain Athena Ibaz of the Centurion Team, Earth Federation Special Forces

    “Stop kidding yourself!” Dory demands, “You’ve sold yourself out! Worse, you’ve sold your people out! How can you serve those who have destroyed Zeon?! Who’ve hurt our people in every way?!”

    “What would you have me do?” Athena replies, “Lead the Zeon people on another mad crusade…like my grandfather and my father did? How many more people need to die, Dory, before we learn anything?!”

    “I’ve learned,” Dory returns, “that justice and freedom must be fought for. I fight the good fight, and I can look in the mirror every morning and respect the person I see there.”

    Wagging an accusatory finger at Athena, Dory continues, “Can you do the same, Minerva? You were supposed to be the leader of the Zeon people…but you’re nothing more than a coward and a running dog of the Federation!”

    “That’s enough, Dory!” Athena snaps, with an authoritative air that Dory remembers from when the Duchess Minerva ruled an empire of billions.

    “Your family would have been ashamed of you,” Dory adds acerbically.

    Athena replies, “Ashamed of me? What about the shame I carry in their name? My family was responsible for the deaths of billions, Dory…and I’m supposed to be ‘ashamed’ to not follow in their footsteps?”

    “You can turn your back on your family heritage,” Dory persists, “but can you so easily turn your back on the Zeon people? Can you sleep at night knowing that the Federation treats them like animals? And that you’re a part of that inhumane Federation?”

    “This conversation is getting us nowhere, Dory,” Athena says finally.

    “I’m beginning to see that, Your Highness,” Dory says, venom in her voice, “or should I call you ‘Captain Ibaz?’ I also see that it was a mistake for me to seek you out here. Maybe you’re right: maybe Duchess Minerva is dead, after all.”

    So saying, Dory storms out of Athena’s office. She literally bumps into 2Lt Jolie Minh, who is just entering, nearly knocking the pretty teenaged Centurion Team junior executive officer down.

    Dory shoves Jolie aside roughly as she exits the office.

    “Hey!” Jolie complains angrily, her delicate hands tensing into fists, “What’s your problem?! Come back here and…!”

    “Jolie!” Athena says in a tone of voice that Jolie has come to recognize as Don’t do what I know you’re about to do, or else…

    “Who the hell was that?!” Jolie demands, “What a rude b*tch!”

    “What do you want, Jolie?” says Athena, getting straight to the point, in no mood for another argument.

    “Colonel Cairlay told me to remind you that there’s a Special Forces officer’s meeting tonight,” Jolie says, “He wants both of us there at 21:00.”

    “I know,” Athena says, “We’re going to discuss the details of the Side 3 Operation.”

    Jolie notices the sullen expression on her commanding officer’s face, “What’s wrong? You look a little teed off.”

    “Nothing,” Athena says, offering Jolie a cigarette, lighting it for her friend, then lighting a fresh one of her own, “Just very busy. That ‘rude’ lady, by the way, was Linda Ackerman, Editor-In-Chief for the Cislunar Free Media.

    “CFM?” Jolie replies, “Isn’t that the same media company that Hathaway works for? Ooooh…sorry.”

    During their return to Side 7 from Earth, Athena had asked Jolie to promise not to discuss Hathaway with her again. Until this slip, Jolie has been good on her word.

    “I’m really sorry,” Jolie repeats, “I didn’t mean to…”

    “Forget it,” Athena says, “Ms. Ackerman wanted an insider’s scoop on the Federation’s plans for Side 3. Naturally, I told her nothing.”

    “How about telling me something, then?” Jolie says, placing her cigarette in Athena’s ashtray and sitting on the guest couch in Athena’s office, drawing her knees to her chest, “Just what are we supposed to do at Side 3, anyway?”

    “Restore some semblance of order there,” Athena says, “Hopefully by convincing the people there that we’re not their enemies.”

    “Mission Impossible,” Jolie sighs, “Does the High Command think we’re miracle workers or something?”

    Athena offers a wry grin, “Something like that, yes.”

    Episode 9 to be continued...

  14. #194
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 9 continued...

    “The PR attack will be as important, perhaps even more important, than the military attack,” Captain Athena Ibaz tells the group of Special Forces officers also assigned to the Side 3 Operation, “We need to win the psychological and political struggle against the ISRLA at Side 3, or we’re going to be in an even worse position there than we are now. Naturally, this is easier said than done: the people of Side 3 really don’t have much reason to trust us.”

    “It’s going to be an uphill battle for certain,” Colonel Cairlay remarks, “Do you think your plan of hiring more people from Zum City to work for the Federal Forces will work, Athena?”

    “The economy at Side 3 has been a basket-case for years,” Athena says, “Poverty is probably Side 3’s biggest enemy after the Federation…with the embargo in place and all.”

    “Aren’t we risking our security even more by hiring Side 3 civilians to work for the Federation?” asks Captain Angelica de Gades of Olympian Team.

    “We’re not hiring them maintain our mobile suits or battleships,” Athena says, “We’re basically giving them a chance to restore the basic livability of their home. The domestic electrical, water, transportation, and communications infrastructure of Side 3 is a mess. If we give the people of Side 3 a chance to fix these problems…to help them fix it, they’ll be less inclined to hate the Federation and support the ISRLA.”

    “I think this plan of yours gives way too much to those Zekes,’” Captain Koichi Sato remarks, using a popular Earth slur in reference to the Zeon people, “Why are the Special Forces playing social worker with them? We ought to just go in with force, teach those Zekes a lesson they’ll never forget.”

    Athena bares her teeth angrily at her fellow Special Forces team commander, “Those people are angry, Sato. They’re angry because they’re hungry, hurt, and scared, and they understand that it’s because of the Federation that they’re in their predicament. As long as they feel that way about the Federation, no ‘lesson’ will ever convince them to stop fighting us.”

    “Both of you make good points,” Colonel Cairlay cuts in diplomatically, defusing the argument building among his Special Forces commanders, “At this juncture, I think we’ll give Captain Ibaz’s plan a chance. Perhaps it might achieve the results we’re looking for. But Athena: if we don’t begin seeing results within a reasonable amount of time, we might be forced to pursue a more direct, more aggressive course.”

    “It will take time,” Athena concedes, “but I do believe that my plan will succeed.”

    “All right, then,” Colonel Cairlay says, “It’s decided then. Those of you assigned to the operation will deploy to Side 3 in two days. We anticipate that you’ll be there for at least a month before your brother units will relieve you.”

    The Special Forces officers rise and salute as one, “Yes, sir.”

    An hour later, Athena is hard at work in her office, drafting up the second and third phases of her plan to counter the ISRLA’s growing influence and support at Side 3. Wracking her formidable brain, Athena draws upon numerous different historical propaganda and public relations techniques from throughout history…and upon her personal experiences learning from Lady Haman Khan and Colonel Char Aznable. Even the methods of her grandfather Archduke Degin Zabi and her uncle Prince Giren Zabi are, selectively and subtly, brought into play.

    Athena is deep in thought, wiping her hands with her handkerchief, when her desk phone rings.

    “This is Captain Athena Ibaz,” Athena answers.

    “Hey, ‘Thena!” Jolie’s voice comes through the phone, “The squad’s going to the Andromeda Nightclub tonight, like we talked about yesterday. You coming?”

    Athena sighs, “No, I’ve got work to do. You guys have fun, all right?”

    “Oh, come on, ‘Thena!” Jolie protests, “You need to go and have some fun, especially since you’ve been under so much pressure and so depressed lately. We’re gonna be at Side 3 for God knows how long starting the day after tomorrow, and there’s no night life over there!”

    ‘What time, then?” Athena says, mostly to get Jolie off her back.

    Jolie says, "20:00, Andromeda Nightclub. On Ahrgama Boulevard. Next to the...”

    “I know where it is,” Athena replies, “I’ll see you guys there.”

    Athena hangs up the phone. Suddenly, Dory’s words return to haunt her.

    You’re nothing more than a coward and a running dog of the Federation!

    Athena sighs. In some ways, Dory is right. Athena is a coward. She doesn’t have the courage to face up to her past and her family’s dark legacy. She doesn’t have the courage to face her love for Hathaway. She doesn’t have the courage to face the fact that perhaps despite her efforts, she won’t be able to change the world for the better.

    Athena smiles bitterly as a random thought momentarily enters her mind: she considers walking away from it all, putting her life saving’s into a tobacco or coffee plantation somewhere, or perhaps a vineyard cultivating grapes for fine wine, and just quietly living the rest of her life as the owner of a farming enterprise.

    Athena the Agriculturalist, she thinks, causing herself to laugh slightly.

    Athena stands up and draws open the blinds of her office, looking outside of Reville Hall to the climate-controlled environment of Green Oasis City. In the space colonies, weather patterns are artificially controlled and predictably temperate. The colony management council would occasionally schedule a gentle rain shower to help the colony’s inhabitants feel as if they are living in the natural environment of Earth, but typically, nothing more elaborate than that.

    On Earth, it’s snowing in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere now, Athena reflects.

    Athena sighs, remembering snowy days weeks past that feel as if they occurred in a different lifetime.

    Where are you, Hathaway? Do you still think of me? Or have you forgotten?

    Across space at Side 6, Hathaway Noah lies dejectedly on the bed space he occupies at a local YMCA. He has requested and received permission for an extended leave from his job with the Cislunar Free Media, and from the ISRLA as Mafty.

    Hathaway closes his eyes and attempts to rest, but his mind and heart are haunted by images of Athena Ibaz. Sleep has eluded him for weeks.

    Realizing that sleep is futile, Hathaway bolts out of bed and leaves the YMCA for a late night walk. It is quiet at this hour, as the colony is in a nighttime cycle.

    Making his way to one of the enormous colony observation windows (hundreds of meters tall and wide), Hathaway looks out across the endless cosmos, its field of glittering stars. Somewhere out there is Side 7, and in one of its colonies, Green Oasis 1, is Athena.

    Athena, Hathaway reflects bitterly, tears welling in his dark eyes, Do you know how I miss you? How I wish I could hold you in my arms again? You saved me from myself, Athena, but what good is that if I can’t be with you?

    Hathaway sits upon the ground, burying his face between his knees. Somehow, some way, he would be together with Athena again.

    “I promise you, Athena,” Hathaway says softly, “I promise you we’ll be together someday.”

    Episode 9 to be continued...

  15. #195
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 9 continued...

    At the Andromeda Nightclub on Ahrgama Boulevard in Green Oasis City, Side 7, the members of the Centurion Team are variously drinking, dancing, joking with one another, and otherwise enjoying themselves. The activity seems to center around the very gregarious 2Lt. Jolie Minh, who sassily dismisses the flirting attempts of her team’s male members.

    The team is celebrating Jolie’s spectacular achievement of having defeated the pilot now confirmed as the infamous “White Wolf,” Colonel Shin Matsunaga, formerly of the Archduchy of Zeon. Matsunaga has been a fearsome thorn in the side of the Federal Forces for the better part of twenty years, and even the legendary Federation ace pilot Amuro Ray had not been able to conclusively defeat Matsunaga and end the menace of the White Wolf. That Jolie has now done so has escalated her already burgeoning profile to living legend status.

    “Hic-cup,” an obviously drunk Cpl. Geoff Sutcliffe offers, before continuing with, “Another toast for the cutest lieutenant in the Earth Federation Forces…who saved my arse back on Earth!”

    “To Jolie!” the team raises their glasses of wine and beer in unison to their pretty ace pilot.

    “Thanks, guys!” Jolie enthuses, returning the toast with her own mug of beer. She can’t quite drain it in a single gulp…not even half of it, in fact, but is able to offer up a rather slight little burp that amuses her teammates.

    “Heh-hiccup,” Geoff says, “Still just a little girl after all. Tough little girl, but little girl nonetheless.”

    Jolie elbows Geoff playfully, “Watch it, Sutcliffe. Piss me off and I’ll just let the Zekes carve you up next time!”

    “That’s telling him, Jolie!” Sgt. Tomo Higashi enthuses.

    Even the normally stoic Sgt. Karim Abdul Al-Said is amused, “Sutcliffe’s skills with the ladies are almost as bad as his skills with his mobile suit. Don’t expect Lt. Minh to bail you out of the former, though.”

    Cpl. Anna Horowitz adds, “Geoff only flirts with the pretty girls. Guess there’s no hope for Plain Janes like me, huh Geoff?”

    In truth, the bespectacled and somewhat bookish-looking Anna Horowitz is not an unattractive young woman in her own right, although her studious good looks do pale in comparison to Athena’s refined elegance and Jolie’s foxy teenaged appeal.

    “Aw, don’t say that, Luv,” Geoff says, now flirting with Anna, “I think yer’ all babes. You and the lieutenant and the captain.”

    “That’s ‘cause you’re blind, Geoff,” Anna says, causing everyone to laugh, “How can you compare me to Jolie and Athena?”

    “You watch our backs out there, Anna,” Tomo adds fairly, “That makes you beautiful in my book.”

    Anna raises her wine glass to toast the gunnery sergeant, “My thanks, Sergeant.”

    Athena has sat quietly listening to her teammates and smiling at their remarks, but hasn’t said anything all evening, silently smoking cigarettes and drinking wine.

    Jolie has noticed, and turns away from the team’s merrymaking conversation for a moment to check on her friend, “Hey, ‘Thena. You OK? You’ve been sitting there all night and haven’t said a word.”

    Athena glances at Jolie with a blank expression, butts out her cigarette in an ashtray, and takes a sip from her wine glass, “I’m all right. Just tired.”

    “Come on,” Jolie encourages, “Relax. Loosen up.”

    “Cheers,” Athena toasts Jolie, but somewhat halfheartedly.

    At 22:00, one of the club’s resident singers takes the stage, seating himself on a stool under a singular spotlight. During this hour, the nightclub typically features singers of mellow ballads, to get the crowd in the mood for slow dancing.

    The singer, a studious-looking young man who is likely a college student when he isn’t performing at the Andromeda Lounge, picks up his acoustic guitar and says, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Max Langham. Let me help you get into a romantic mood for the evening with a few old love songs.”

    Max plucks a gentle tune from the late 20th Century, a song by a singer of that time named Jewel Kilcher.

    I hear the clock, it's six a.m.
    I feel so far from where I've been
    I got my eggs and my pancakes too
    I got my maple syrup, everything but you.
    I break the yolks, make a smiley face
    I kinda like it in my brand new place
    I wipe the spots off the mirror
    Don't leave the keys in the door
    Never put wet towels on the floor anymore' cause
    Dreams last for so long
    even after you're gone
    I know you love me
    And soon you will see
    You were meant for me
    And I was meant for you.
    I called my momma, she was out for a walk
    Consoled a cup of coffee but it didn't wanna talk
    So I picked up a paper, it was more bad news
    More hearts being broken or people being used
    Put on my coat in the pouring rain
    I saw a movie it just wasn't the same
    'Cause it was happy and I was sad
    It made me miss you oh so bad 'cause
    Dreams last for so long
    Even after you're gone
    I know you love me
    And soon you will see
    You were meant for me
    And I was meant for you.
    I go about my business, I'm doin fine
    Besides what would I say if I had you on the line
    Same old story, not much to say
    Hearts are broken, everyday.
    I brush my teeth and put the cap back on
    I know you hate it when I leave the light on
    I pick a book up. Turn the sheets down.
    Take a deep breath and a good look around
    Put on my pjs and hop into bed
    I'm half alive but I feel mostly dead
    I try and tell myself it'll be all right
    I just shouldn't think anymore tonight 'cause
    Dreams last for so long
    Even after you're gone
    I know you love me
    And soon I know you will see
    You were meant for me
    And I was meant for you

    Yeah.... You were meant for me and I was meant for you.

    The Centurion Team applauds loudly as Max finishes his song, except for Athena, who looks a bit bleary eyed behind her cigarette and glass of wine.

    “Sing us another!” Jolie demands, signaling for the bartender to give Max a drink.

    Max plays another tune from the 20th Century, this one dating to the decade of the 1970s, a song first performed by a Canadian singer named Dan Hill over two-hundred years ago:

    You ask me if I love you
    And I choke on my reply
    I'd rather hurt you honestly
    Than mislead you with a lie
    And who am I to judge you
    On what you say or do?
    I'm only just beginning to see the real you

    And sometimes when we touch
    The honesty's too much
    And I have to close my eyes and hide
    I wanna hold you til I die
    Til we both break down and cry
    I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

    Romance and all its strategy
    Leaves me battling with my pride
    But through the insecurity
    Some tenderness survives
    I'm just another writer
    Still trapped within my truth
    A hesitant prize fighter
    Still trapped within my youth

    And sometimes when we touch
    The honesty's too much
    And I have to close my eyes and hide
    I wanna hold you til I die
    Til we both break down and cry
    I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

    At times I'd like to break you
    And drive you to your knees
    At times I'd like to break through
    And hold you endlessly

    At times I understand you
    And I know how hard you've tried
    I've watched while love commands you
    And I've watched love pass you by

    At times I think we're drifters
    Still searching for a friend
    A brother or a sister
    But then the passion flares again

    And sometimes when we touch
    The honesty's too much
    And I have to close my eyes and hide
    I wanna hold you til I die
    Til we both break down and cry
    I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

    Athena can’t take it anymore. Stubbing out her last cigarette and finishing her glass of wine, the Centurion Team Leader stands up and tells her team, “Get back to the base by 01:00 at the latest,” before she goes to the lobby, retrieves her officer’s hat and overcoat, puts these articles on, and leaves.

    Jolie chases after, “Hey, ‘Thena!”

    Jolie catches her friend just after Athena steps out of the Andromeda Nightclub, “Hey, are you sure you’re all right?”

    “Yes,” says Athena coldly.

    “Where are you going?” Jolie asks.

    “Home,” Athena says, walking away, not even certain what that term means for her anymore.

    Jolie rolls her eyes and shakes her head. Sometimes, Athena is just hopeless.

    Episode 9 to be continued...

  16. #196
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 9 continued...

    At Side 3, a squad of Earth Federation Forces GM-IV mobile suits flies by the colony cylinders on routine patrol.

    “Patrol Squadron Hawkwind to base,” reports 1Lt. Douglas Riordan, leader of Patrol Squadron Hawkwind, “All quiet out here in Sector G8.”

    “Roger, Hawkwind,” replies an officer at the base, “Continue your patrol in Sectors G9-15.”

    “Roger, base…we’re…AHH!”

    A loud burst of static, followed by an eerie silence.

    “Patrol Squadron Hawkwind?” the tech at the Federal Forces’ base in Zum City calls into his transceiver, “Hawkwind, acknowledge. This is Federal Base Zum to Patrol Squadron Hawkwind. 1Lt. Riordan, do you copy?”

    “What is it, Chief?” asks Major Dieter Koschmider, one of the senior officers on the base.

    The tech, Chief Warrant Officer Stacy Huang, replies, “Sir, Patrol Squadron Hawkwind just disappeared off our scopes.”

    “You can do better than that, Chief,” Koschmider replies, “Reestablish contact with Patrol Hawkwind. Failing that, determine what’s going on with them.”

    “Yes, sir,” replies Chief Huang, turning to her task.

    But Patrol Squadron Hawkwind – 1Lt. Doug Riordan and the five mobile suit pilots under his command, will never again acknowledge any earthly communications. The pilots are dead, and their wrecked mobile suits float listlessly in space.

    Nearby, an all-black MSN-04R Sazabi MK-II mobile suit reholsters its smoking beam rifle and vectors away.

    In the cockpit of the Sazabi MK-II is Colonel Braniff Oskar, statistically the deadliest mobile suit ace of the One Year War.

    Nearly twenty years ago, Colonel Braniff Oskar was among the most feared mobile suit pilots in the Archduchy of Zeon. Colonel Char Aznable, the Red Comet, was more flamboyant. Colonel Shin Matsunaga, the White Wolf, was more brutal. The Triple Black Star Team of Gaia, Ortega, and Mash were more dazzling. No one, however, on either the Zeon or Federation side was as deadly efficient as Braniff Oskar, who had never missed a target during his entire military career. No other mobile suit pilot in history…not Aznable, not Matsunaga, not the Federation’s Amuro Ray, could make that claim.

    Most ace mobile suit pilots are known for their flamboyant personalities. Colonel Char had always been known for his favoring of red clothing and red mobile suits, and hiding his handsome face behind masks (all while currying favor with women ranging from Princess Kycilia Zabi to the Newtype Lalah Sun). Colonel Matsunaga had been known for his tastes for wine, women, and song (and his friendship with Prince Dozle Zabi). The Triple Black Stars were known for their tight fraternal bond and deep loyalty.

    But Braniff Oskar is a mystery, even to those whom he serves.

    Tall and gaunt, his graying hair slicked back to reveal a widow’s peak, very little is known about Oskar’s past. He had quietly emerged from the Archduchy of Zeon’s Royal Academy during the early U.C. 0070s, and his brilliance as a mobile suit pilot was not discovered until the One Year War began at the end of that decade. By war’s end, he had shot down over three-hundred Federation mobile suits and over thirty battleships, making him statistically the most accomplished mobile suit ace of the One Year War.

    Despite his singular accomplishment, Oskar has been somewhat overlooked compared to his more flamboyant rivals. Oskar’s quiet, reclusive persona has drawn less attention from the media and war history scholars than the lives and careers of his colleagues.

    For some, however, this has only added to Oskar’s mystique. Oskar might lack the flair of a Char Aznable or a Shin Matsunaga, but his sheer, coldblooded efficiency cannot be disputed.

    In the twenty years since the end of the One Year War, Braniff Oskar, like many veterans who survived that war, has made his services available to those who have a need for an ace mobile suit combat pilot. Unlike most others, however, Oskar is not a soldier of fortune. He stubbornly refuses to accept monetary compensation for his work. Instead, he takes assignments based on whether or not they interest him, although precisely what does or would interest Oskar, no one but the man himself can be certain

    Episode 9 to be continued...

  17. #197
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 9 continued...

    Colonel Braniff Oskar lands the Sazabi MK-II in the dock of a heavily damaged, long abandoned Side 3 colony. Once a farming community, the Side 3 colony known as “Agricola” is now home only to rats…literal and figurative.

    Oskar disembarks from the Sazabi MK-II and he is greeted by a figure in the shadows. The figure’s voice, kept low, is vaguely familiar.

    “Colonel Oskar,” the voice says, “Thank you for accepting this assignment. It is indeed an honor to have the services of the famous One Strike Killer.”

    Oskar smiles enigmatically, and says nothing.

    “Your orders are contained here,” the figure says, handing a Datapad to Oskar, “The objective is more political than military, so I hope you will proceed as such.”

    Oskar nods.

    “Do you have any further questions?” the figure asks.

    Oskar shakes his head.

    “Don’t worry about whom you might to take down in the process,” the figure finally says, “They’re valuable assets, but even they are expendable. If necessary, they can be sacrificed in the name of the objective.”

    To that, Oskar says, as usual, nothing. He simply notes the information and moves on. He knows his objective, and will act upon it when the time is right.

    A fiery explosion rocks Zum City, killing thousands in an instant. A second explosion immolates homes, schools, churches, and parks in a heartbeat. Men, women, children…their bodies torn, their souls extinguished, drift into the cold of outer space

    Captain Athena Ibaz bolts upright in her bed, barely suppressing a scream.

    Athena pants rapidly, her forehead covered in perspiration. Another nightmare.

    Athena covers her face with her hands, shaking her head. Every night has been like this for her during the past few weeks. She has seen a military physician about the problem, but the physician could find nothing wrong with her, at least physically. A military psychologist to whom Athena was referred concluded only what Athena already knew: that she’s been under a great amount of stress.

    Athena sighs and looks at the clock on nightstand: 03:48, a little over half an hour before reveille would be called.

    Realizing that it’s futile to try to get back to sleep, Athena slips out of bed. Her nightshirt is soaking wet with her perspiration.

    Athena takes a seat on the couch in her private quarters, drawing a cigarette from a compact container and lighting it.

    Athena hears Dory’s disembodied voice in her head, Can you sleep at night knowing that the Federation treats them like animals?

    Athena rises from the couch and steps over to a mirror hanging on one of her room’s walls. She examines herself closely in the mirror, So who am I really? Am I Duchess Minerva Zabi of the Archduchy of Zeon? Or am I Captain Athena Ibaz of the Earth Federation Forces?

    Athena has long prided herself on her ability to keep a calm, steady mind through the worst of circumstances. Therefore, it irritates her that ever since the mission to Earth, she has been feeling as if she is slowly losing her mind.

    At a loss to take control of her own life, Athena decides to at least fulfill her responsibilities to the one she agreed to look after. Going into Jolie’s quarters, Athena notices that the pretty teenager has thrown off her covers, as always.

    Just a child, Athena thinks to herself, and I’m only three years older than her. Can I protect her dreams? Will I let her down as I let down so many hundreds of millions?

    Athena sighs and fixes Jolie’s covers, smiling fondly upon her protégé. The teenager breathes softly as she sleeps, a gentle sound that soothes Athena’s raw nerves.

    Jolie has made Athena’s life much less lonely. Despite their differences and occasional arguments, Athena has come to greatly value Jolie’s friendship. Their bond is as tight as any biological sisters’…maybe even more so, forged as it was in the din and clamor of combat. If Athena can ensure nothing else, she hopes to ensure that Jolie will live a long, long time…perhaps even long enough to become somebody’s wife…and somebody’s mother.

    Yet another pang of guilt in Athena’s soul.

    I dragged the kid into this war, Athena reflects, Will I be able to live with myself if something happens to her? Or what if I get killed in combat and have to leave her behind to take over my responsibilities? What then?

    Jolie opens her eyes, surprised to see Athena sitting there, “What th…? Is it time for reveille already?”

    “No,” Athena replies, “there’s still thirty minutes. Why don’t you get some more sleep?”

    Jolie sits up, “I doubt you just happened to walk into my room for nothing. Another sleepless night?”

    “Yes,” Athena admits, “Another night of nightmares.”

    “’Thena,” Jolie says, “Not even you can control everything. Sometimes fate controls us. You’ve got to let go of things you can’t control.”

    “I don’t believe in fate,” Athena says, “I see chaos, and my instinct is to impose order on it.”

    Not sure what all that means, Jolie says, “You need to let yourself be a woman. You’re not a mobile suit, Athena. You keep driving yourself the way you do and you’re gonna go nuts someday.”

    “You’re probably right,” Athena confesses, “You’ve been right about a good many things: there probably are some things you could teach me.”

    “I’ve learned a lot from you,” Jolie tells Athena, “You’ve been really good to me, ‘Thena. You took a lonely, angry kid off the streets of that nowhere place Industria and gave her a family to belong to. I’ll never forget it. I’ll always be here for you, whatever happens.”

    The two friends embrace each other affectionately. Neither Athena’s strategic genius nor Jolie’s near superlative fighting prowess represents their greatest strength, which is the strength of their friendship. If nothing else, they could always count on that.

    Episode 9 to be continued...

  18. #198
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Episode 9 continued...

    Some three days later, the Centurion Team and three other Special Forces units arrive at Side 3’s capital, Zum City, aboard the mobile suit carrier Wygan. The Special Forces have brought their mobile suits with them, although their plans do not call for them to use the mecha. The battle this time is more political than military, and will be won with canny understanding of psychology and ability to communicate effectively than skill with a beam rifle or beam saber.

    As they ride the Ele-car from the spaceport down into the city, Athena and Jolie take in the view of the former capital of the Republic of Zeon and the Archduchy of Zeon. Once considered the jewel of all space colonies, Zum City is now a disaster area.

    “What a dump,” Jolie remarks, “This place is almost as bad as Industria.”

    “This is what happens in a state of perpetual war,” Athena remarks, “These people have been forced to endure more than is humane.”

    “I feel sorry for them,” Jolie says sadly.

    “Oh?” Athena says, surprised, “I thought you hated the Zeon.”

    Jolie shakes her head, “I don’t hate all Zeons. I’m a Spacenoid too, remember? I hate Alexander Miguel, that pig who killed my family and destroyed my home, and I hate the Zabi Family who started all this and caused so many people to die.”

    Athena puts an arm around Jolie’s shoulders, “My apologies. You’re much more grown up than I thought you were.”

    Jolie grins, “After hanging out with you all this time, it was bound to rub off on me at least some. But, ‘Thena, tell me something: do you really think we can help these people?”

    Athena looks at the sprawling ruin of the once beautiful city of her birth, “That’s the plan. The people here must be made to understand that we mean them no harm…that we’re here to help put things right again.”

    “You think they’ll accept us?” Jolie asks.

    Athena replies matter-of-factly, “Therein lies the challenge.”

    Back at Side 7, General Manron Blackhead has Colonel Peter Cairlay in his office for a private meeting. Notably absent is General Bright Noah, whom Blackhead and Cairlay have decided to not invite to this meeting.

    “I certainly hope Ibaz can handle this assignment,” Blackhead says to Cairlay, “She’s a bright girl, but I think she’s bitten off more than she can chew this time.”

    “She’s idealistic and naïve,” Cairlay agrees, “She really believes that by ‘killing them with kindess,’ we can win over the people of Side 3.”

    “It’s better than those Zeke pigs deserve,” Blackhead says darkly, “But on the off-chance that it works, it could be cost effective. Food, medicine, and minimum wage cost less than mobile suits do. It’s the only reason I agreed to sign off on this plan.”

    Cairlay reminds the general, “If Athena’s plan fails, we always have our second option.”

    Blackhead nods, “So he was really willing to assist us, huh? Unbelievable. Any idea why?”

    Cairlay replies, “No, sir. With this particular individual, one can never really understand why.”

    Blackhead sighs, “I suppose it doesn’t matter as long as he does what we need him to do.”

    The general looks at the profile of Colonel Braniff Oskar on his personal computer. There is very little information there. Oskar is a maddening conundrum.

    “The first order of business is to restore electricity, water, and communications services,” Athena tells the crowd of Zum City citizens gathered around her at the park surrounding Zum Palace, the once magnificent residence of the Zabi Royal Family, where Athena was born nineteen years earlier, “Many of the facilities here in Zum City have not functioned for nearly twenty years, and we’d like your help to get these systems online and working again.”

    “Why are you here?” an old man asks, mistrust in his voice, “Why are you doing this? Why now?”

    Athena says gently and candidly, “The Earth Federation Government is looking to end its occupation of Side 3, but to do that, it must first make sure that Side 3 is self-sufficient and secure again. We need your help to make your home livable again.”

    The crowd, which numbers in the hundreds of people, young and old, begins mumbling themselves.

    Athena adds, “The Federation is prepared to pay fair wages to anyone willing to work, including bonuses for those who contribute the most. You’ll have a say in setting the priorities through our new citizens outreach council, and we’ll be available to lend you any assistance you need. Our mobile suits are here to help with the heavy industrial work until proper hydrosuits can be brought in from Anman and Von Braun. Benefits will continue to those who are unable to work.”

    After nearly twenty years of abusive rule by the Earth Federation Government, the people of Side 3 have learned to distrust the Federation’s representatives, especially its soldiers, but there is something reassuring, trustworthy, and strangely familiar about this pretty young Federal Forces officer now addressing them. Side 3’s people are accustomed to dealing with ugly, thuggish Federal troops barking orders at them from behind weaponry. For the first time, they feel that there is someone in the Earth Federation Forces they can identify with and trust…a real human being as opposed to a bureaucrat or a thug.

    Summoning her newfound courage, an old woman steps forward and says to Athena, “We need food. We have not received any supplies in ten days, and my grandchildren are hungry.”

    Athena replies, “We’re doing something about that right now, ma’am. My people are escorting a supply vessel into the spacedock at this very moment. You and your family will have a fresh, hot meal within ninety minutes, Mrs….”

    The citizens of Side 3 know better than to give out their names to Federal authorities, but the old woman somehow feels that she can trust Athena. Usually, the woman is afraid to ask the Federal authorities for anything, and when she does gather the courage her do so, she is invariably either ignored or answered with demeaning obscenities. This young woman, Captain Ibaz, however, has actually promised to deliver aid to them very shortly.

    “Nakamura,” the old woman says.

    “Mrs. Nakamura,” Athena smiles a friendly smile, “How many grandchildren do you have?”

    “Three,” Mrs. Nakamura answers, “the youngest born only a month ago. My son works for a courier service, and my daughter-in-law is a teacher, although her health has been too poor for her to work since she gave birth.”

    Athena nods sympathetically, “I’ll order a military medic to visit your home later today. Would it be all right if you let me know where you live?”

    Mrs. Nakamura regards Athena nervously for a moment, then decides that she can trust the pretty Special Forces officer. She writes down the address of her home for Athena.

    Athena turns to the rest of the crowd, “We’re going to be signing up people for work and relief services right away. Please form lines along the central mall of the park.”

    To everyone’s surprise, the citizens of Zum City begin lining up in an orderly fashion as Athena orders.

    I wonder if they’d still listen to me if they knew who I really am, Athena thinks.

    “I can’t believe it,” Sergeant Donald Gifford says of the Federal Forces Military Police, “They’re actually listening to you. When we order them to do stuff, they act like they don’t hear us!”

    “That’s because you don’t know how to communicate with them,” Athena says dryly.

    Athena works the crowd, asking individual citizens about the problems they’re facing and how they would like the Federal Forces to assist them. Athena listens attentively to their problems, and takes mental notes on possible ways to solve those problems.

    It’s just a drop in the ocean, Athena reflects, but it’s a beginning…something that these people have needed for a long, long time.

    Episode 9 to be continued...

  19. #199
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002


    Ghost, Sheraldine: haven't heard from you guys in a few days. Been keeping up with the massive outpouring of material?

    I've exhausted the inventory of material I typed up during some free time last month, so this will have to do you guys for a few days until I have time to sit down and edit/post some more.

    If anybody out there is good at designing/drawing GUNDAM style mecha, I could really use your help. I need someone to help design Athena's mobile suit, the Cour De Leon.

    Conceptually, the Cour De Leon somewhat resembles an existing mobile suit design, the Zeta-Plus (itself derived from the Zeta Gundam from the series of the same name):

    Something in that vein. I envision the Cour De Leon as a cross between the Zeta Gundam and the Hyakushiki. It's more geared towards aerodynamics than Jolie's Centurion Gundam, which is more of a close in combat mobile suit.

  20. #200
    Senior Member ghostdarTeal'c's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Currently in Moss, Silver. Next stop....still Moss, Silver


    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    Ghost, Sheraldine: haven't heard from you guys in a few days. Been keeping up with the massive outpouring of material?
    sorry, friend, i've been busy. i need to be in the mood to read up your fanfic again, maybe i'll wait til ch10 comes out then i can get the gundam feel again and not just getting it on and off by your per chapter updates....

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post

    Something in that vein. I envision the Cour De Leon as a cross between the Zeta Gundam and the Hyakushiki. It's more geared towards aerodynamics than Jolie's Centurion Gundam, which is more of a close in combat mobile suit.
    is it just me or does it really look like the transformers?

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