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Mobile Suit Gundam - The Second Century (Part 1: Prelude 0099) - Page 9
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  1. #161
    Senior Member sheraldine's Avatar
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    Heh. You'll really dig this current chapter, then. It's the focus of this particular episode.

    a bit disappointing then. you could do betta, couldnt you? i dont want things to get kinky fast (ewwww, that is gross!) but i expect quick sparks, not dry flame.

    In a better world, Hathaway and Athena would be a very happy couple, but the damn war gets in their way.

    ahh, we have an angsty couple eh... take care ken, you are giving too much away

    I'm a big VOLTRON fan myself (I'm buying all the new DVDs), but the VOLTRON universe lacks the thematic sophistication I need to tell my story. GUNDAM has it by the ton. Only EVANGELION is more angsty in terms of robot-themed anime.

    voltron is suitable for our malaysian public viewing for local tv... i am not sure about gundam.... our censorship in malaysia sucks... certain elements or ratings are not approved here. even initial d was censored heavily without reason.

    To each his/her own. It's actually kind of nice, with the balance of you as the Jolie fan and Ghost as the Athena fan. Ideally, if my fanfic had alot of fans, I'd like them to be split approximately 50/50 between Jolie and Athena.

    but hey, isnt ghost into jolie as well?? ah, never mind. guys most probably would go for athena... as for the ladies, most mature ones would pick athena too... but i am not most mature ladies as for fans, you might have the quiet ones you know. most fans remained quiet and anonymous is because they didnt know what happen to the outcome of the fanfics. many fanfictions are being abandoned, no matter how promising or good or nearly completion. we get annoyed when things like this happen. so with time, we rather keep quiet. so dont be demotivated, take it as a silent appreciation.

    What the heck is an "angpow?"

    ohhhh, sorrryyy... i forgot you are in the US. angpow is a hokkien (fuxian i think in pinyin ) dialect for our cantonese hungpau (red packet lah, you know those CNY money envelope) usually matchmaker received their commission in such way.

    If you're going to play matchmaker for me, find me a girl who looks like Jolie Minh/Joey Meng.

    ahhh.... sorry to say my generation of actresses are idy chan au yeong puisan, chiu ngar chi etc.... joey meng??? totally no idea who. the youngest i think i can remember are the likes of sharon teng and chingmy yau, if they are not into 40's i believe they in late thirties. too old for yer, kenny my boy? well, dont you know older and mature ladies are lots more sexy than their younger fella sistas?

    Heh. All right. I'll give you another big clue, though: think about the setting they're currently in. I put them where they (physical location) are in this current episode for a special reason.

    still

    I didn't want them to first meet slugging it out in mobile suits. A restaurant was the best thing I could think of. Restaurant dialogue is easy to write.

    i dont want them to make out at first glance either. personally i dont think highly of people who do that. as for the restaurant case, it is all about food, isnt it? and why lah must it be duck?? cant it be something more exotic to complement the romantic setting??? i think you are beginning to get tired of my continuous yakking

    The humor is kind of subtle...it's in all the wry, cynical little comments that Athena and Jolie make. One running joke (I hope you've noticed) is how Athena is always trying to get Jolie to behave like a proper lady and officer, but Jolie keeps on acting like the savage little street teen she is.

    most of us do speed reading, so such subtlety lost. while i catch it now and then, nothing beats those quirky quotes
    Last edited by sheraldine; 05-23-07 at 04:03 AM.

  2. #162
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sheraldine View Post
    Heh. You'll really dig this current chapter, then. It's the focus of this particular episode.

    a bit disappointing then. you could do betta, couldnt you? i dont want things to get kinky fast (ewwww, that is gross!) but i expect quick sparks, not dry flame.
    Well, I'm not exactly writing a porn novel here.

    Things develop kind of quickly between Athena and Hathaway because, well, they haven't got a whole lot of time together in Part I. This episode is more or less dedicated to them, but it's just laying the seed for other things that develop MUCH later (i.e. in Part II).

    Anyway, read on. I promise you won't be disappointed in how things develop. The actual time isn't long, but it *feels* long because so much happens.

    In a better world, Hathaway and Athena would be a very happy couple, but the damn war gets in their way.

    ahh, we have an angsty couple eh... take care ken, you are giving too much away
    Heh. Nothing you wouldn't already know. Hathaway is Mafty. His assignment is to kill his own father, General Bright Noah. Athena and her unit are responsible for protecting the general. You *know* that can't end well as far as Athena and Hathaway's relationship are concerned.


    but hey, isnt ghost into jolie as well?? ah, never mind. guys most probably would go for athena... as for the ladies, most mature ones would pick athena too... but i am not most mature ladies
    Jolie is the hot chick for guys who like tough, rebellious girls. But remember: these are evolving characters. Although they remain essentially who they are, they do change and grow as the story moves along. When Part II begins about a year later, Jolie will have grown up a bit. At the end of Part II, she's another year older. In Part III, she'll be in her mid-20s already (and very different from how she was at the beginning of the story).

    Athena, in comparison, is the "thinking man's hottie." Gorgeous to look at, but also great to talk to because she's got a brain (not that Jolie is stupid; far from it, but she doesn't have Athena's sophistication).

    as for fans, you might have the quiet ones you know. most fans remained quiet and anonymous is because they didnt know what happen to the outcome of the fanfics. many fanfictions are being abandoned, no matter how promising or good or nearly completion. we get annoyed when things like this happen. so with time, we rather keep quiet. so dont be demotivated, take it as a silent appreciation.
    Thanks. I'll just take it that those 4,000+ views do count for something.
    What the heck is an "angpow?"

    ohhhh, sorrryyy... i forgot you are in the US. angpow is a hokkien (fuxian i think in pinyin) dialect for our cantonese hungpau (red packet lah, you know those CNY money envelope) usually matchmaker received their commission in such way.
    I see. Well, there's a simple explanation for everything.

    If you're going to play matchmaker for me, find me a girl who looks like Jolie Minh/Joey Meng.

    ahhh.... sorry to say my generation of actresses are idy chan au yeong puisan, chiu ngar chi etc.... joey meng??? totally no idea who. the youngest i think i can remember are the likes of sharon teng and chingmy yau, if they are not into 40's i believe they in late thirties. too old for yer, kenny my boy? well, dont you know older and mature ladies are lots more sexy than their younger fella sistas?
    Joey Meng (Yee Man) was the second runner up in the 1989 Miss Asia Pageant held in Hong Kong by ATV (TVB's main rival). She was a popular actress at ATV throughout the 1990s, and her biggest hit was 1999's MY DATE WITH A VAMPIRE (which spawned two sequels in 2001 and 2004). She's acted less often since marrying ATV director Chan 13 in 2000.

    Here are some photos:







    So that's who you should picture when you think of Jolie. Jolie Minh is based on Joey Meng (note the similarity of names).

    Athena, on the other hand, is based on a 1990s American actress named Tea Leoni.






    i dont want them to make out at first glance either. personally i dont think highly of people who do that.
    Don't worry. I guarantee you they remain chaste for at least the first 48 hours.

    I guarantee nothing beyond that, however.

    as for the restaurant case, it is all about food, isnt it? and why lah must it be duck?? cant it be something more exotic to complement the romantic setting??? i think you are beginning to get tired of my continuous yakking
    Heh. No, this is fun!

    Why duck? I figure since they're in China, they ought to do the regional cuisine. Beijing Duck seems plenty exotic, I think.

    most of us do speed reading, so such subtlety lost. while i catch it now and then, nothing beats those quirky quotes
    There's an element of humor in this chapter as Jolie keeps egging Athena on with Hathaway and Athena keeps trying to get Jolie off her back. The two girls have been pretty friendly up to now, but this episode will see the first time they start getting into SERIOUS arguments with each other.

  3. #163
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    And lest we forget, this *is* a GUNDAM story, there WILL BE some mobile suit mayhem action amidst all the character developments. So if you're waiting for more mecha battles, don't worry: your interests will be served too.

  4. #164
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    Episode 7 continued...

    A few blocks down the street, Jolie and Chieming find themselves along the banks of the Yangtze River. The Chinese metropolis’ famed city lights shine gloriously, casting their multicolored glow on the water of the river.

    It turns out that the two girls are not really so interested in shopping tonight as they are in chatting. The two, being of the same age, find plenty of common ground despite their different upbringings, which actually hadn’t been so different until Jolie’s parents and older brother were killed six years earlier. Their present conversation, however, focuses not so much on each other’s pasts as on their elder siblings’ (biological in the case of Chieming and figurative in the case of Jolie) future.

    Chieming is seated demurely on a public bench facing the cold waters of the mighty river. Behind her, Jolie has lain herself out on the front hood of a red sports car parked at the waterfront. Jolie figures that the car’s owner probably won’t mind.

    “Are you serious?” Chieming says in disbelief, “Books?”

    “Books,” Jolie confirms, drawing a hand across the bangs of her hair to brush them away from her eyes, “a whole shelf full of them, by people like Ma kee o velly and Neet-chee or whoever.”

    “You make it sound like Athena’s a real nerd,” Chieming says, “but she’s so cool and sexy.”

    “Well, she is,” Jolie admits, rising to sit upright on the hood, tucking her knees to her chin, “cool and sexy…AND a nerd sometimes, but she’s just…I don’t know, so serious and driven. She’s so damn smart that it's scary sometimes. She’s definitely got one hell of a brain, but I’m not sure there’s a heart in there. I worry she’s gonna end up an old maid someday.”

    “Worry?” Chieming says with a smile, “I thought she’s the one taking care of you.”

    “She does,” Jolie says, switching to a more comfortable position flat on her belly, delicate chin resting in delicate hands, “Athena’s the only person who’s really cared about me since my family died. She’s like a big sister to me. That’s why I wanna help her.”

    Chieming looks towards the river and says, “I feel the same way about my big brother, Hathaway. Ever since Daddy kicked him out of the family, Mommy and I have worried ourselves sick over him. He’s found a pretty good career for himself, but he’s all alone these days.”

    “He’s got you and you guys’ mom,” Jolie replies, “even though your dad hates him now.”

    “We don’t get to see him much,” Chieming says, “Daddy has said he’ll shoot Hathaway if he sees him again, and I think he’s serious.”

    “Your dad is my boss’s boss’s boss,” Jolie says, “he doesn’t strike me as being that uptight.”

    “You’re not a member of his family,” Chieming says somewhat bitterly.

    Catching what she has just said, Chieming offers, “Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean…”

    “Don’t worry about it,” Jolie replies, “it’s not like you’re saying anything that isn’t true. Besides, I do have family: the Centurions are my family, especially Athena.”

    After a brief silence, Jolie continues, “Your brother’s really cute, you know? It’s kind of too bad that Athena is more his type.”

    That brings a smile from Chieming, “Uh-oh. Are you and your ‘big sister’ gonna fight over my big brother?”

    “Hell, no,” Jolie grins, “Hathaway’s cute, but he’s totally not my type. Don’t get me wrong, but he’s one of those smooth operator types. I’ve never trusted guys like that. I’m looking for someone who’s really honest and straightforward.”

    Chieming playfully pretends to be offended, “Oh, but it’s OK for him to be interested in Athena, huh? With friends like you, does Athena need enemies?”

    Jolie replies with a light laugh, “I’m not worried. There’s no man on or off of Earth who can get the better of Athena Ibaz. She’ll tame that brother of yours for you.”

    Chieming adds, “Yeah, and ruin her military career in the process; don’t forget: she works for my dad. It wouldn’t do her reputation with him any good if she and Hathaway were to…”

    “Shhh!” Jolie cautions, “They’re coming. Pretend we’re talking about clothes.”

    As if on cue, Hathaway and Athena approach. Jolie and Chieming notice a polite distance between the pair. Evidently, to Jolie and Chieming’s considerable disappointment, nothing has sparked up between them yet.

    Hathaway grins at the sight of Jolie’s tiny, curvaceous figure sprawled on the hood of red sports car, “If you don’t mind, Jolie, I need to drive that away now.”

    “This is your car?” Jolie says, getting off the hood with a very graceful somersault, “Sorry. If I knew it was…”

    “Don’t worry about it,” Hathaway says charmingly, “I should have taken a picture while I could. ‘Sexy Federal Forces Babe on Sports Car’ would have been huge!”

    Jolie replies with a grin, “I wouldn’t mind being a pinup girl.”

    Athena cuts through the merriment, putting a hand on her protégé’s shoulder, “All right, pinup girl, we need to report back to base. We’re still doing reveille at the usual hour tomorrow.”

    “Right, Captain,” Jolie says, folding her hands behind her head and walking towards where they had parked their borrowed Federal Forces land rover.

    Jolie turns to say goodbye to Chieming Noah and exchange Uniweb IDs and phone numbers for future chats. Likewise, Hathaway and Athena turn to say their goodbyes.

    “It was wonderful spending time with you tonight,” Hathaway says, “Will you be in Shanghai again? Do you think we might be able to meet up sometime?”

    “I’m going to be in the city quite frequently during the next week or so,” Athena replies, “but you probably won’t see much of me. Military business.”

    “More secrets?” Hathaway grins.

    “You could say that,” Athena says.

    “Well, good night then, Captain,” Hathaway says.

    “Athena,” the commanding officer of the Centurion Team says in response, her face lighting up with a smile, “I was joking earlier, although I’ve enjoyed your calling me ‘Captain Ibaz’ all evening like the people I work with do. It can be ‘Athena’ from now on, though.”

    “Good night then, Athena,” Hathaway says gently.

    “Good night, Hathaway,” Athena answers.

    A red sports car and a dull olive military jeep depart the Shanghai waterfront for different destinations.


    The jeep speeds towards Whampoa Base, located thirty kilometers outside of Shanghai. Athena is at the wheel, and Jolie rides shotgun. To Jolie's irritation, Athena drives the vehicle at precisely the legal speed limit of 70 km/h.

    Athena has no problem with Jolie operating a multibillion-credit prototype mobile suit in combat, but she will not be a passenger in any automobile driven by Jolie. As Athena told Jolie half-jokingly once before: “I’ll gladly fight and die alongside you in space, Jolie, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to break my neck riding shotgun with you if you flip one of these land rovers over while turning a corner too fast.”

    The drive back to the base for Athena and Jolie is not a quiet one, as Jolie plies question after question about what had happened at the restaurant between Athena and Hathaway. Much to Jolie’s frustration, Athena answers these with “yes” or “no” when she can, and simply refuses to answer when she can’t.

    “But he’s soooo good looking,” Jolie implores her friend, “and he’s a real gentleman too.”

    “So why aren’t you interested in him?” Athena says, attempting to turn Jolie’s argument back on her.

    Jolie replies, “Dammit, ‘Thena: don’t change the subject! This isn’t about me, it’s about you! You can’t tell me that you haven’t even thought about it. I know what it’s like. I’m a woman just like you!”

    “You’re a girl,” Athena replies more factually than judgmentally, focused on the road ahead, “Physically, you’ve got another year or two of growth ahead of you. Emotionally and intellectually…”

    “All right, all right,” Jolie says, not eager to be on the receiving end of another of Athena’s lectures, “but it doesn’t hurt anything to get to know someone and find some things in common, right? I think you and Hathaway…”

    Athena says, “He works for the CFM, you know…”

    That revelation floors Jolie a bit, finally shutting her up (as Athena intended). During the past few months, the Earth Federation Government has been doing its best to shut down the CFM, which is known to be an important part of the ISRLA’s propaganda machine.

    Jolie takes a minute to process that, but all she can come with is, “But. That doesn’t… well, OK, but…”

    Athena adds, “I think there’s more to it than that. Some things about Hathaway Noah don’t quite add up. I feel pretty certain that he’s much more than he lets on. There’s much more to him than there appears to be.”

    “You don’t think he’s Mafty, do you?” Jolie queries.

    “Stranger things have happened,” Athena replies noncommittally.

    Jolie remains silent. It’s hopeless. Here she is, trying to play matchmaker for Athena, and all Athena wants to do with Prince Charming is subject him to an interrogation.

    Not all men are enemies, Athena, Jolie thinks to herself, for once, you need to let your heart do the thinking, not your brain.

    Assuming that Athena has a heart, that is, a condition that Jolie questions more and more each day.

    Episode 7 to be continued...

  5. #165
    Senior Member sheraldine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    Well, I'm not exactly writing a porn novel here.
    no, i dont expect you to. leave those to harrold robbins or jackie collins etc.

    so joey meng.... say, did she acted with fung po po in a series, something like one million hope?? i think i might have seen her in our local showing but that was years back. she kinda cute, so that is mr ken cheng's taste eh.

    as for tea leoni, yeah mrs david duchno... errr mrs "fox moulder"....

    read your latest post.... wont comment now.... will do so later

    ghost??? o ghost, where r u lah?

    and kenny...... so i have to imagine joey m and lea l as both jolie and athena respectively, so how do you want me to envision the man himself????
    Last edited by sheraldine; 05-24-07 at 01:02 AM.

  6. #166
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sheraldine View Post

    so joey meng.... say, did she acted with fung po po in a series, something like one million hope?? i think i might have seen her in our local showing but that was years back. she kinda cute, so that is mr ken cheng's taste eh.
    Oh, yeah. Joey Meng has been the woman of my dreams for the past seventeen years or so. Unfortunately for me, she's kind of married these days.

    as for tea leoni, yeah mrs david duchno... errr mrs "fox moulder"....
    Yeah. It was around 1993, when I was writing my first draft of the story, that I was trying to decide on a look for Athena. I knew she had to be a grown up version of the 10-year Duchess Minerva Zabi from the previous ZETA GUNDAM and GUNDAM DOUBLE ZETA anime series, but of course, I couldn't draw that. A friend of mine did, and I quite liked his design.

    Then, I saw Tea's photograph on the cover of a TV GUIDE and I immediately knew, "That's her! That's what Athena looks like!"

    Tea was just perfectly what I imagined Athena would look like. She couldn't have fit the role better if she were made to order.

    Of course, bear in mind that Athena and Jolie look like Tea and and Joey as the two actresses appeared about seventeen years ago. Tea is now in her early forties and Joey is in her mid-thirties (compare that to Athena's 19 and Jolie's 16). They're no longer the teens/twentysomethings that Athena and Jolie are. If you see Tea and Joey in current pics, you need to de-age them about 15-17 years to get the right look for Athena and Jolie.

    read your latest post.... wont comment now.... will do so later
    OK. Thanks.

    ghost??? o ghost, where r u lah?
    He's a ghost. He only comes out after midnight.

    and kenny...... so i have to imagine joey m and lea l as both jolie and athena respectively, so how do you want me to envision the man himself?
    ???
    You mean Hathaway Noah? There are manga illustrations of the characters a few posts back.

    If you mean which real-world celebrity would resemble Hathaway, I have no idea. Being a straight male, I don't have much of an eye for what a good-looking young guy should look like. I have a general idea, but really can't nail it down...and I can't think of a single celebrity from either Asian or Western pop culture that fits my image of Hathaway Noah. Maybe you could help me here.

    Suffice it to say that he's half Asian (his mom is Japanese), half Caucasian (his dad is British). He's about eighteen years old, and really good looking. Know anyone who would fit that profile?

  7. #167
    Senior Member sheraldine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    Oh, yeah. Joey Meng has been the woman of my dreams for the past seventeen years or so.

    Maybe you could help me there. Suffice it to say that he's half Asian (his mom is Japanese), half Caucasian (his dad is British). He's about eighteen years old, and really good looking. Know anyone who would fit that profile?
    you have very high taste, ken. i dont know any single beauty queen, let alone a miss someone of somewhere. very hard to earn your red parket, ken

    as for hath..... i just got the rightttttttttttttttt recommendation for you..... very excited here..... how about takashi kaneshiro..... lets see, he is caucasian being half japanese and very extremely good looking.... cool suave mysterious and he speaks purrrfecttttttttttt english...... ok, he might not fit your profile exactly, but he fulfilled at least some of your criterias

  8. #168
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sheraldine View Post
    you have very high taste, ken. i dont know any single beauty queen, let alone a miss someone of somewhere. very hard to earn your red parket, ken
    That probably explains why I'm still single. I'm looking for a gal who has Joey Meng's looks, Athena Ibaz's brains, AND doesn't mind that I have a thousand geeky hobbies that'll distract me from her! Tall order! I'd have a better chance hitting the Megabucks Lottery, or finding life on Mars!

    as for hath..... i just got the rightttttttttttttttt recommendation for you..... very excited here..... how about takashi kaneshiro..... lets see, he is caucasian being half japanese and very extremely good looking.... cool suave mysterious and he speaks purrrfecttttttttttt english...... ok, he might not fit your profile exactly, but he fulfilled at least some of your criterias
    That could work, although like Tea and Joey, Tak would need to be de-aged about ten to fifteen years or so (Hathaway is just eighteen, a year younger than Athena).

    This image kind of would work for Hathaway:

    http://www.asianemax.com/thumbnail/c...p-05001982.jpg

  9. #169
    Senior Member ghostdarTeal'c's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    That probably explains why I'm still single. I'm looking for a gal who has Joey Meng's looks, Athena Ibaz's brains, AND doesn't mind that I have a thousand geeky hobbies that'll distract me from her! Tall order! I'd have a better chance hitting the Megabucks Lottery, or finding life on Mars!
    the only people that i think could match that is either Jane Smith of Mr and Mrs Smith (gorgeous, brilliant, and of course, since she's a spy she wouldnt care if you get stuck in front of the computer with your GUNDAM fanfic or moderating spcnet ;p) or Lt Col Samantha Carter of Stargate SG-1 (beautiful, brilliant beyond imagination, and she'd be stuck with saving the world most of the time, of course she wouldnt mind you spend the time when she's away with anything dorky/geeky as long as you dont cheat on her).

    too bad both candidates are fictional....*hand on ken's shoulder* lower your expectation or face the fate of dying alone
    Last edited by ghostdarTeal'c; 05-24-07 at 05:55 AM.

  10. #170
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostdarTeal'c View Post
    too bad both candidates are fictional....*hand on ken's shoulder* lower your expectation or face the fate of dying alone
    I refuse to compromise.

    Ideal Woman or bust!

    *Blows bugle and keeps charging*

  11. #171
    Senior Member ghostdarTeal'c's Avatar
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    good for you, ken...good for you. nothing like a real drive in life well, dont forget to tell me when you found one

  12. #172
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    Episode 7 continued...

    Several hours later, in the wilderness outside of Shanghai in the direction opposite of Whampoa Base, a lone red sports car drives through a deserted wooded area, its headlights turned off. The driver maneuvers the car stealthily through the darkness.

    Hathaway Noah parks his GT-900 sports car and disembarks from it. The young man extracts a cigarette from an inner pocket of his parka and lights it.

    Soon, a figure approaches in the darkness. In a low, quiet voice, the figure says, “Good evening, Mafty.”

    Hathaway takes a look at his watch and replies, “You mean ‘morning.’ It’s 2:30 already.”

    “I stand corrected,” the dark figure says, “would you like to see it?”

    “I didn’t come out here to take in the scenery,” Hathaway replies.

    “Come with me, then,” the figure replies.

    Hathaway and the dark-garbed man pass through a barbed wire fence onto a snow-laden field, crossing the field and walking towards what appears to be an abandoned agricultural building…a large barn that was once the centerpiece of a sprawling farm, now long since abandoned.

    “Don’t patrols from Whampoa ever come out here?” Hathaway asks.

    “Hardly,” the other man replies, “they’re that complacent these days. Makes our lives easier.”

    The two men enter the building. Lying prone on the ground, covered by a large canvas tarp is evidently a mobile suit.



    RMS-106CS Hizack Sniper Custom. This mobile suit, first used by the Titans in late U.C. 0087, is a favorite of assassins. It is ideal for the quick, running kill.

    “RMS-106CS Hizack Sniper Custom,” the man, an engineer in the employ of the ISRLA says, “completely refurbished and upgraded with the latest tracking and attack system from Anaheim Electronics.”

    Hathaway Noah walks around the tarp-covered mecha, inspecting it carefully.


    At 06:00 later that morning, Captain Athena Ibaz and 2Lt. Jolie Minh listen as Captain Anh Lu, Chief Mobile Suit Engineer at Whampoa Base, explains the work his technicians are performing to the Special Forces’ mobile suits.

    “Your mecha were designed primarily for combat in Low-G or Zero-G conditions,” Lu says, “but are adaptable to all environmental conditions on Earth. During the winter months in northern Asia, what the mecha have to contend with in addition to the enemy is the severely cold and wet weather. You probably listened to the weather report this morning and heard about the snow storm that’s supposed to hit us this afternoon. It’s very difficult for mobile suits to operate in those conditions without certain modifications. These extra vernier thruster pods the technicians are attaching to your mobile suit’s lower legs will supplement the main thrusters to help you maneuver across the snow. Also, since visual ID is extremely difficult when…”

    Athena listens intently to the engineer’s explanation, taking notes and asking questions. Jolie spaces out again. So mobile suits don’t move well in the snow without special thrusters. She doesn’t need some engineer to tell her that.

    Jolie is still scheming up ways to bring Athena and Hathaway closer together. The previous night, before the mandatory 22:00 lights out, she managed to get a message out to Chieming Noah via Uniweb messenger. When she checked her Datapad first thing in the morning, Chieming had already sent back a half dozen suggestions.

    “You get all that?” Athena asks Jolie.

    “What?” Jolie replies, snapping out of her daydream.

    “Chief Engineer Lu’s recommendations for operating our MS in cold weather conditions,” Athena says.

    “Oh,” Jolie says, “Sure. No sweat.”

    Athena sighs, then says, “I’m going to be in town again today, Jolie. It seems like the Security Council and the two generals want me at ALL the meetings from here until the end of the conference. You’re going to be in charge again.”

    “All right,” Jolie says, “when will you be back?”

    “By midday, I hope,” Athena replies, “there’s supposed to be a storm coming in this afternoon, remember?”

    So saying, Athena heads towards the dormitory room she’s sharing with Jolie to shower and change out of her work coveralls and into her dress uniform.

    “Hey, ‘Thena,” Jolie calls out as she follows Athena.

    “What is it, Jolie?” Athena asks, knowing and dreading the question.

    “Are you going to be seeing Hathaway Noah again?” comes as predicted.

    “I have an extremely sensitive, high-security conference to attend,” Athena replies, “you think I’m likely to have time to stop by for a social call?”

    “Well, just asking. You don’t have to be all touchy about it, ‘Thena,” Jolie says.

    The two enter the room that they have been sharing together. The enlisted troops are bunked four to a room. Athena and Jolie, as officers, have the relative luxury of a two-person room. The room’s furnishings are Spartan: two simple, no-frills single beds and two no-nonsense wooden desks and chairs. The Hyatt Regency it is not.

    Athena gathers her uniform and a compact toiletry bag and heads for the female officers' communal bathroom. Jolie follows along, unwilling to be satisfied unless Athena gives her the answers she wants to hear.

    With one quick, graceful motion, Athena strips the skintight work coverall from her body, leaving her naked as a newborn. Her femininely graceful, curvaceous figure is visible for only the briefest of instants before she slips ghostlike into the shower.

    “Anyway,” Jolie prattles on, “you must have noticed how Hathaway kept staring at you last night. He’s totally got the…”

    Athena turns on the shower, drowning out Jolie’s voice, “Can’t hear you, Jo.”

    Jolie, sensing that she’s getting the brush off, leaves the bathroom muttering, “Stubborn b*tch.”

    Athena, running her hands through her drenched hair, mutters to herself, “Nosey little b*tch.”

    Still, Athena reflects as the warm stream of water runs over her, Jolie isn’t wrong about Hathaway Noah. He is indeed a very handsome and charming young man. It’s a shame, really.

    Because, Athena is assured, by the end of the week, one of them would likely be dead.

    Episode 7 to be continued...

  13. #173
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Episode 7 continued

    The conference takes up most of the morning and much of the afternoon. Athena assists General Noah and General Blackhead in laying out their understanding of the ISRLA threat, which Athena understands in greater detail than does either of the two generals because she has seen and dealt with it firsthand. Athena advances the theory that the ISRLA is likely receiving support from large corporate backers in the private sector with anti-Federation agendas (or at least, would stand to benefit from the Federation’s troubles), and possibly from the Neo Zeon remnants in the Outer Solar System as well. General Noah is clearly pleased to have Athena there; General Blackhead, however, seems to harbor misgivings about having a junior officer address the Security Council directly.

    By 15:30, the meeting has adjourned for the day. General Noah, General Blackhead, and Captain Ibaz share cups of coffee at the commissary located in the underground complex.

    “Thanks to your arguments and observations, Athena,” General Noah beams, “I do think the Security Council will begin to take the ISRLA threat more seriously and provide us with more support at Garrison Noah.”

    “It’ll largely depend on how that support will be used, sir,” Athena replies, “the situation in the colonies, as you know, is extremely delicate. We could go into Side 3 in force and root out the ISRLA, but that would be playing into their hands. If the Federation uses direct force to snuff out the ISRLA, it’s likely that the entire Earth Sphere would rise up against the Federation.”

    “You’re right,” Bright Noah concedes, “we need to be extremely cautious about how we play our hand here.”

    General Blackhead, who has been simmering quietly up to this point, adds acerbically, “If you ask me, we’ve been much too cautious already. I think the ISRLA is counting on the fact that we won’t react more strongly than we have to make the Federation look weak. Have you head the rumors about Side 1 and Side 5 starting their own independence movements? It’ll be just like Eastern Europe in the final days of the Cold War back in the 20th Century.”

    “With all due respect, sir,” Athena remarks fairly, “that historical scenario ended positively, with minimal bloodshed and the rise of democratic states in place of oligarchic tyrannies. Had the Soviet Union taken aggressive action, the outcome likely would have been catastrophic.”

    Not wishing to prolong a historical debate between Blackhead and Athena, Bright intercedes, “We’ll have plenty to think about after we return to space. Athena, did you say our latest intelligence reports have the Neo Zeon on a civil war footing right now?

    “Yes, sir,” Athena replies, “In fact, it’s been going on for quite some time now…possibly as long as two years. Ever since the Neo Zeon remnants fled to the Outer Solar System after Char Aznable’s defeat in 0093, the remaining generals have basically carved up the Neo Zeon military apparatus and turned on each other. They’re vying for Neo Zeon’s corpse.”

    “That’s their business,” Blackhead says, “a Neo Zeon civil war is a good thing for us. As long as they’re busy fighting each other, they won’t bother us.”

    “I’m not so sanguine about that, sir,” Athena replies, “I think sooner or later, the Federation will be dragged into that conflict as well.”

    “I agree,” General Noah says, “if there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past twenty years, it’s to never underestimate the resilience of Zeon fanaticism. The Ghost of the Zabis will haunt us for a long time to come.”

    To that, there is only silence. Athena draws out her handkerchief and wipes her hands with it.


    Athena finally leaves the underground federal compound at 16:30. The skies over the city are growing dark. As promised, snow begins to fall.

    Athena boards her borrowed military land rover and guns the engine. She drives away from the curb along the main boulevard and turns onto a residential street that she knows is a shortcut to the main highway leading to Whampoa Base. She travels scarcely two kilometers when the land rover’s engine overheats and the jeep’s electrical systems shut down. Athena pulls the land rover to the curb.

    I’m glad our mobile suits are more durable than our utility vehicles are, Athena thinks sourly as she opens the hood of the vehicle. Making a quick examination, Athena identifies the problem: Just as I thought…clank pulley disabled.

    Athena pulls out her comlink and contacts Jolie at Whampoa Base, “This is Centurion Leader to Centurion Two.”

    Jolie’s girlish voice responds immediately, “Hey, ‘Thena!”

    Athena says, “My vehicle has died on me, Jolie. I’m still in Shanghai with a broken clank pulley, and it’s started to snow.”

    Jolie says, “Want me to drive out there to pick you up?”

    Athena replies, “Negative. The team can’t have both officers away from the base at this hour. Besides, you’ll probably get snowed in halfway into town.”

    “I could always come in with the Centurion Gundam,” Jolie suggests.

    Athena laughs lightly, “Sure, and terrify tens of thousands of drivers at the height of the afternoon homebound commute! They’ll drum us out of the Special Forces for that one.”

    “So what are you gonna do?” Jolie asks.

    Athena replies, “I’m going to call for service from the military motor pool.”

    Jolie says, “That’ll take hours, you know?”

    “What choice do I have?” Athena says, “I’ll probably be in by 20:00. Watch over the squad until I get back.”

    “Roger that, Captain,” Jolie replies.

    “Centurion Leader, out,” Athena finishes.

    The snow begins to fall somewhat more rapidly, but still gently, as Athena contacts the military motor pool. The dispatcher notes her location and tells her that the wait is estimated to be ninety minutes.

    Which in reality, Athena knows, is probably closer to two and a half hours, possibly longer now that the snow has started to fall.

    Athena sighs and resigns herself to the long wait. She is in a residential district, a few kilometers from the city center. Would it be worth the walk to find a warm café to sit in while waiting?

    Athena’s thoughts are interrupted by the playful voices of children, who delightedly emerge from nearby homes to play in the snow. The children, aged between six and ten and numbering at least a dozen, take great delight in pelting each other with balls of freshly fallen snow.

    Athena watches the children play with amusement. Seldom has she had the opportunity to just slow down and enjoy life’s simpler pleasures like this. Her life has been a constant pursuit, or escape from pursuit. Quiet moments like this are rare. She envies the carefree existence of the children playing before her.

    Without warning, one of the kids picks up a snowball and throws it not at any of the other children, but at Athena! The snowball pelts her on the side of her face.

    “Hey, pretty officer girl!” says the little boy who threw the snowball, “Come play with us!”

    Why not? Athena smiles.

    Athena scoops up dual snowballs in her fine, delicate hands and pelts the children back. This is one kind of war Athena can fully join in without any agony of remorse or guilt.

    Athena laughs with delight as she and children exchange salvoes of snowballs. Her heart has not felt this light, this joyous in many years…maybe ever. It is a moment she cherishes, and wishes could last forever.


    There is a price to be paid in all wars, including ones fought entirely with snowballs.

    The fun went on for about thirty minutes, until the children’s families began calling them indoors for supper. As suddenly as they had appeared, the children dispersed back into their homes, leaving Athena alone on the street again.

    Athena’s overcoat protected her body and upper legs from the flurry of snowballs the children struck her with, but she had no defense for her legs and feet. Her Federal Forces uniform boots were designed primarily for deep space environments, not snow. Athena’s socks are soaked with melted ice water, and her feet are freezing.

    Darkness has begun to fall over the city, as the glittering lights of Shanghai light once again. Athena puts in another call to the motor pool. “About another hour,” the dispatcher tells her.

    Which means two if I’m lucky, Athena thinks wryly. She begins to toy with the idea of calling Jolie in with the Centurion Gundam or the Cour De Leon, regulations be damned. Getting thrown into the brig couldn’t be much worse than this.

    The snow continues to fall, constantly, but not heavily. Athena considers taking refuge in the land rover, but decides against it; she has no desire to be buried alive.

    The temperature drops as the sun begins to disappear on the western horizon. Athena draws out a cigarette and lights it. The smoky fumes of the cigarette provide little warmth.

    “You know, smoking is very unladylike,” a newly familiar voice cuts in.

    Athena turns her head to find Hathaway Noah leaning casually against a nearby city lamppost.

    Athena exhales a cloud of smoke before replying, “Pointing it out is ungentlemanly.”

    Hathaway shrugs, “I never said that I’m gentlemanly.”

    Athena replies, “I never said that I’m ladylike.”

    The pair laughs softly, the white, warm steam of human exhalation visible in the cold air of the Chinese winter. Athena and Hathaway’s humor clearly operates on the same wavelength.

    Hathaway broaches the question, “What are you doing out here?”

    Athena replies, “Well, I was supposed to be on my way back to the base now, but the clank pulley on my land rover here died on me, so I’m stranded.”

    Hathaway muses, “Hmmm. Too bad I know jack about fixing cars. I drive them, but I don’t fix them.”

    Athena says, “I could if I had the parts and tools, but no luck there right now.”

    “In that case,” Hathaway says, “why don’t you come over to my place for a while? I live just up the block. It’s too cold to be standing out here, and it’s going to get colder after the sun is all the way down.”

    Athena takes just a second to consider it. Her toes are numb with coldness, “You wouldn’t mind?”

    Hathaway smiles, “Mind? You just saved me the trouble of making up a thousand excuses to get you to come over.”

    Hathaway extends his hand to Athena. Athena takes it. The warmth of his hand envelops the coldness of hers.

    Hathaway leads Athena to his apartment a block up the street, leaving the disabled land rover to suffer the coldness of the Shanghai evening alone.

    Episode 7 to be continued...

  14. #174
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Episode 7 continued...with an Easter Egg in the chapter for you Jin Yong fans.

    Athena’s doffed boots stand next to a warm fire in Hathaway’s apartment. Next to them lie her soggy socks, now slowly being dried by the fire’s heat. The comforting warmth of the flames greatly improve Athena’s mood.

    Further improving Athena’s mood is the foot rub that Hathaway is giving her to bring warmth and circulation back into her nearly frozen feet. The constant, but gentle rubbing of Hathaway’s soft hands and the application of his warm breath on Athena’s slender, elegant arches and toes are superbly comforting.

    Athena bites her lower lip gently as circulation begins to return to her feet, bringing with it the telltale feeling of “needles.”

    “Better?” Hathaway asks Athena gently.

    “Much,” Athena replies, “thank you so much.”

    “Glad to,” Hathaway replies, meaning it.

    Even when I was a Duchess, I was never pampered like this, Athena thinks to herself with a degree of amusement.

    “I think that’ll be fine, Hathaway,” Athena says, “I don’t want to tire you out there.”

    Athena says so out of courtesy, but as far as she can tell, Hathaway is enjoying giving her the foot rub even more than she is enjoying receiving it.

    Nevertheless, Hathaway grins, “All right. Let me get you something to wear on those lovely feet of yours.”

    Hathaway disappears into his bedroom.

    Athena rises from where she has been sitting on the couch of Hathaway’s living room and makes a closer examination of her surroundings, absorbing the details around her.

    It is a modestly, but tastefully furnished apartment, most likely built after the end of the One Year War. The furniture is modern and new, combining function and comfort. Athena reasons that Hathaway has not been living here very long, and most likely, not very frequently. The place has more the feel of a temporary stopover than a permanent home. The only indication that contradicts that impression is the presence of several paintings hung on the apartment’s living room walls, apparent reproductions of classic works by centuries-dead masters.

    Athena wonders why she doesn’t feel more vulnerable standing barefoot in the apartment of a young man she had met scarcely twenty-four hours ago, but somehow, she doesn’t. The wooden floorboards of Hathaway’s modest, but well kept apartment feel wonderfully organic under the soles of Athena’s feet. For someone whose life has been mainly spent in space colonies and spaceships, and dressed variously in royal raiment and military uniforms, it’s a rare and cherished feeling of complete naturalness. It helps Athena appreciate why Colonel Char often told her that to live on the Earth was a privilege, and one that humanity had thoughtlessly squandered.

    Hathaway emerges from his bedroom with a pair of slippers…his own. “These are all I have,” he says somewhat apologetically, “but you’re welcome to them.”

    “Thank you,” Athena says, sliding her feet into slippers slightly too large for her.

    “Like a drink?” Hathaway offers.

    “I’d appreciate one,” Athena replies, “thank you.”

    “Make yourself at home,” Hathaway says, “I’ll be back in just a minute.”

    As Hathaway disappears into the kitchen, Athena admires some of the young man’s wall paintings. Hathaway Noah might be young, but he certainly has taste.

    Athena steps closer to one of the paintings. Her admiring smile soon turns into a scowl of realization.

    Paul Cezanne, French Post-impressionist painter, produced some of the finest paintings of the early 20th Century. Much of his work was lost in the numerous calamities that have besieged humanity in the two centuries since Cezanne last put down his paintbrush. What few samples that have survived have seen their value skyrocket. A Cezanne original in U.C. 0098 could fetch prices on the collector’s market that would buy a mobile suit.

    Inexplicably, Cezanne’s original Still Life With Curtain, painted in 1895 of the old Gregorian calendar, hangs on a wall in Hathaway Noah’s apartment in suburban Shanghai. Nearby is another of Cezanne’s classic works, Les Grandes Baigneuses, painted in 1906, the year Cezanne died. This one too, Athena notes, is authentic.



    Paul Cezanne, Still Life With Curtain, 1895



    Paul Cezanne, Les Grandes Baigneuses, 1906

    “Do you like Cezanne?” Hathaway asks, carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses.

    “Very much,” Athena replies, “I’ve long had an affinity for Cezanne’s work.”

    “Got those prints cheap at a local bazaar,” Hathaway replies, “I’m not much of an art collector, but they do liven up these dull rooms a bit.”

    Athena says nothing, but she knows that Hathaway is transparently lying. Athena can distinguish real paintings from cheap prints, and Hathaway Noah, CFM staff writer, somehow has possession of two priceless 20th Century treasures. Athena has a hunch how he obtained the paintings, and what their purpose is.

    The two seat themselves comfortably on a plush, soft rug in front of the fire.

    Hathaway hands Athena a flute-shaped glass of clear white wine. The pair toasts each other and takes a sip.

    “Chardonnay,” Athena identifies the taste, “excellent vintage.”

    Hathaway says, “U.C. 0078 – good year.”

    Athena puts down her glass, “Some would say the last good year, but this dates to 0074.”

    Hathaway looks at Athena with admiration, “Is there any lie you can’t see through?”

    “Everybody has their blind spots,” Athena says, swirling the wine in its glass, “I do what I can to keep people out of mine.”

    Hathaway challenges, “If they are in your blind spot, how would you even know they’re there?”

    Athena replies, “One should never rely on her eyes alone. There are other, more comprehensive senses.”

    Hathaway says, “You’re talking like a Newtype.”

    “If I were a Newtype,” Athena says, “I would have predicted my car troubles today and just stayed in bed.”

    “But then, you wouldn’t have come here,” Hathaway offers.

    “Thank goodness I can’t predict the future, then,” Athena returns.

    “I hope I never end up in your blind spot,” Hathaway says.

    “Because…?” Athena ventures.

    “Because,” Hathaway says, leaning his face closer to Athena’s, “I want you to always see me.”

    The space between their lips closes slowly until it is a space no more. The kiss is long, deep, and passionate, sending an electric thrill through both of them.

    Their lips disengage. Both are out of breath. How long had they stopped breathing?

    Hathaway breaks the silence with an utterly absurd, but yet somehow utterly fitting, “Hey, are you hungry?”

    Now that Hathaway mentions it, Athena realizes that she is. She hasn’t eaten since that tiny triangle chicken salad sandwich she had for lunch....eight hours ago. It’s 19:00: about an hour after the Centurions usually have dinner back at the base. No wonder Athena feels hungry.

    “Wait a minute,” Athena says with a smile, “don’t tell me you haven’t gotten over not being able to pay for dinner last night.”

    “No,” Hathaway says, “I’m broke anyway. But if you like home cooking, I can whip up a gourmet meal really quick.”

    “You cook too,” Athena remarks, “Now I’m really impressed.”

    “Wait here?” Hathaway whispers.

    “No,” Athena says, “I’d like to…I’d like to join you.”


    Ten minutes later, the pair is inside the kitchenette of Hathaway’s apartment. Athena slices mushrooms and bell peppers as Hathaway beats some eggs. The pair then works the frying pan and skillet to perfection, like master chefs who have worked together for years. Between them, the two soon produce a delectable mushroom and pepper omelet.

    In the dining room minutes later, Athena takes a bite of their collaboration. She nods with approval, “Quite good.”

    Hathaway expresses similar approval, “You’re not bad in the kitchen either.”

    “Survival skill,” Athena remarks, taking another sip of wine, “it’s either that or eating Jolie’s cooking.”

    Athena’s slight shudder brings a laugh out of Hathaway as he remembers Jolie’s joke about military provisions.

    “What doesn’t come out of me from one end usually comes out the other,” Hathaway and Athena quote in unison, causing them both to laugh.

    Hathaway says, “Your friend, Jolie. She’s a real hottie.”

    “Don’t even think about it, Hathaway,” Athena says with teasing admonition, “she’s practically my little sister. You break her heart, and I’ll break your balls…although knowing Jolie, she’d probably take care of that herself.”

    Hathaway grins, “Jealous now, eh?”

    “Yeah, right,” Athena remarks, amused by the preposterous idea of her and Jolie at odds over a man.

    Hathaway says somewhat more seriously, “Jolie is cute, but she’s just a girl. She’s the same age as my sister.”

    That brings a laugh from Athena, “You’re only a little over a year older than she is, Hathaway…here you are talking like you’re some kind of graybeard.”

    Hathaway says, “And you’re only about a year older than I am. Does that make you an old lady, Miss Nineteen-Year Old Special Forces Commander?”



    Nineteen year old Captain Athena Ibaz in November, U.C. 0098

    “Positively an old hag,” Athena answers, finishing the last of her share of the omelet.

    “They don’t make hags like they used to,” Hathaway says, drinking in Athena’s youthful beauty with his wine.

    “Ask my squadmates,” Athena says, “they’ll tell you how ugly I can get when I lose my temper.”

    “I had no idea the Federal Forces were recruiting blind soldiers these days,” Hathaway says.

    Wiping her mouth with a napkin, Athena says, “All right, that’s enough flattery. It’s almost 20:00…8 p.m. for you civilians. I’ve got to get back to the base within two hours, or there’ll be hell to pay.”

    Hathaway Noah looks outside, “Looks like the snow’s let up. Should be safe to drive. You sure you have to go so soon?”

    “Some of us have to work in morning,” Athena replies dryly.

    “Right,” Hathaway smiles, “put your socks and boots back on. I’ll warm up the car.”

    As Athena pulls her now dried socks and boots back onto her attractive feet, Hathaway guns up the engine of his sports car. Within minutes, the couple is en rout via the main highway towards Whampoa Base.


    Hathaway’s sleek red sports car pulls up to the gate of Whampoa Base at 20:45. Hathaway and Athena exchange one final kiss before the Centurion Team Leader disembarks from the car.

    “Thanks for everything tonight, Hathaway,” Athena says, “we’ll meet again.”

    As Athena prepares to enter the gate, Hathaway says, “Hold on. Are you doing anything tomorrow night?”

    Athena stops and replies, “Tomorrow is Saturday night. The squad has the night off, so I can be free if I want to be. Why?”

    Hathaway says, “There’s a formal dance being held by the local division of Anaheim Enterprises. Lots of big shots from the business, politics, and the media will be there. I’ve got an invitation, but no date, so…um,”

    “What time tomorrow?” Athena smiles.

    “7 p.m. That’s 19:00 for you soldiers,” Hathaway replies.

    “Pick me up at six, then,” Athena says.

    Hathaway watches adoringly as Athena passes through the gate into Whampoa Base.


    It’s past 21:00 by the time that Athena enters the dormitory facility where the Special Forces are temporarily quartered.

    Jolie, wearing a nightshirt that is entirely too short for her, sits on one of the dormitory lounge’s beanbags, long, smooth, and slender legs crossed temptingly “Indian”-style. The pretty teenager is reading some sort of paperback book, which rather surprises Athena.



    Jolie Minh in her "too short nightshirt." Special thanks to SPCNET Forum member roger and his anonymous artist friend for the image.


    Jolie glances up from her book at the clock mounted on the lounge wall, notes the time, then glances at Athena with mocking reproval, “20:00, huh?”

    Athena runs her hands tiredly through her hair, “Yes, I know. I ran into some delays on the way back. Where’s the rest of the squad?”

    “In bed already,” Jolie says, “the training regimen you left behind for us exhausted them.”

    Athena grins, “All except you, of course.”

    “Hey, well, you know my reputation as a bundle of energy!” Jolie remarks brightly.

    “What are you reading?” Athena asks, hoping that Jolie has started taking her advice about feeding her mind.

    “Old story I used to love when I was a kid!” Jolie replies, showing Athena the book.

    Athena takes the paperback novel, borrowed from the lounge library, and looks at the cover: The Giant Eagle and Its Companion, by Louis Cha, known in Asia as Jin Yong. A wuxia adventure/romance novel from the 20th Century.



    The Giant Eagle and Its Companion, by Louis Cha (Jin Yong). Jolie Minh's favorite story of all time.

    “Ever read that before?” Jolie asks, “It’s been translated into many languages.”

    “Yes, I know,” Athena replies, “I read it in the original Chinese years ago when I was learning the language. This novel, along with Confucius’ The Analects and Sun Tzu’s Art of War, helped me become literate in Chinese. Saw one of the movie adaptations too…the last one was made in U.C. 0083, I think.”

    Jolie rolls her eyes, remembering that Athena is fluent and literate in fifteen different languages, Chinese being one of them.

    “Did you like it?” Jolie asks.

    “The adventure story was quite good,” Athena remarks, flipping through the book, “hated the romance story, though.”

    Jolie uncrosses her lovely legs and kneels on the beanbag, pulling forth the hem of her too-short nightshirt for a little more coverage, “Mommy used to read that story to me every night before bedtime. It’s still my favorite story even now! I think it’s so romantic how devoted Yang Guo was to Dragon Girl. I really hope I can meet a boy someday who’ll love me like that.”

    Athena rolls up the paperback and waves it admonishingly at Jolie as she offers it back to her younger charge, “You know, love stories like this are just fairy tales. It’s not very realistic to hope for anything like it.”

    “Oh, really?” Jolie challenges, taking the novel back from Athena’s outstretched hand, “What about Hathaway Noah, then? Did you see him in town today?”

    “I spent the last few hours with him,” Athena says matter-of-factly, “he was the one who gave me a ride back to the base.”

    “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Jolie says, caught off guard. Springing forth with catlike agility from the beanbag, she attaches herself to Athena’s arm, “What’s this? Tell me more!”

    “I was getting hypothermia waiting for those idiots at the military motor pool to dispatch a vehicle to help me,” Athena says, “Hathaway happened to live just a block from where my land rover stopped on me. He invited me over to warm up. We had dinner together, and he drove me back. That’s all.”

    Jolie smiles with satisfied glee, “Hah! I knew there was a real woman inside you!”

    Pouring herself a glass of hot tea from the lounge Thermos bottle, Athena asks, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

    Jolie says, “I mean, that’s great! You really need to get out there and meet somebody, ‘Thena! You’re a beautiful girl, but you’re gonna end up an old maid if you don’t stop obsessing about the war and start thinking about your own future!”

    Athena is amused, “Now you’re the one teaching me?

    Jolie replies, “Hey, when it comes to book smarts and strategy and things like that, you know way more than I do, but I can teach you lots of things about relationships with guys!”

    “Right,” Athena says sarcastically, sipping the tea, “I know that the men on the base and in Side 7 hit on you all the time. They hit on me too. That doesn’t make you some kind of relationships expert, Jolie. Good grief, you’re only sixteen!”

    “Sixteen,” Jolie says, running her hands through her long, luscious hair and adopting a seductive pose, “but a veteran heartbreaker.”

    “That I do believe,” Athena says in response, meaning it, “Anyway, let’s get to bed. We have a long day of training exercises tomorrow from 05:00 to 17:00.”

    “Want to go into town with me again tomorrow night?” Jolie asks.

    “I’ll be going into town tomorrow night,” Athena says, “but you’re going to have to party with the rest of the squad. I’ve got a date with Hathaway. A formal dance being thrown by Anaheim downtown tomorrow night.”

    Jolie’s eyes widen, “Date? With Hathaway? Damn, ‘Thena, you learn faster than I thought.”

    “Don’t get the wrong idea,” Athena says, “I’m curious about Hathaway, but not for the reasons you’re imagining.”

    “What do you mean?” Jolie asks.

    “I just have a hunch,” Athena says cryptically, and leaves it at that.

    Episode 7 to be continued...

  15. #175
    Senior Member sarakoth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    And lest we forget, this *is* a GUNDAM story, there WILL BE some mobile suit mayhem action amidst all the character developments. So if you're waiting for more mecha battles, don't worry: your interests will be served too.
    Well please serve my interests sooner.

  16. #176
    Senior Member sheraldine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    That probably explains why I'm still single. I'm looking for a gal who has Joey Meng's looks, Athena Ibaz's brains, AND doesn't mind that I have a thousand geeky hobbies that'll distract me from her! Tall order! I'd have a better chance hitting the Megabucks Lottery, or finding life on Mars!
    ok, first a hint, now a complaint. readers (that means you, my fellow sistas) you do know you could bring ken cheng down to his knees, dont you? never mind he is the seriuos stern stiff and moody moderator of the wuxia forum but here, he is the single and available chap who could actually write a decent piece of romance.(even though he doesnt believe in fairy tales)

    The space between their lips closes slowly until it is a space no more. The kiss is long, deep, and passionate, sending an electric thrill through both .....

    you know ken, it brought me back to the memory of my 13/14 tomboy years hiding behind a library devouring the chapters of "sweetdreams" and "river valley" romance

    anyway, be proper now.... i tried to like athena but i just couldnt find any click with her. sure, she is cool and calm and sophisticated and strong, but such elegance described doesnt sit well with me. and the whole thing with hath only serve to make her such a drag despite the interesting theme involved. overall, it is fine setting although tame, and dont think i didnt notice your dig at YG/XLN. i m warning you ken, leave your punching marks and acidic remarks at the wuxia forum.bet none dare to warn you off like this before eh)

    i m not done yet... but i shall PM you later when i feel like yakking nonstop. some of my yakking are R rated, so not suitable for children under 13!

  17. #177
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sheraldine View Post
    ok, first a hint, now a complaint. readers (that means you, my fellow sistas) you do know you could bring ken cheng down to his knees, dont you? never mind he is the seriuos stern stiff and moody moderator of the wuxia forum but here, he is the single and available chap who could actually write a decent piece of romance.(even though he doesnt believe in fairy tales)
    Thank you, thank you.

    The space between their lips closes slowly until it is a space no more. The kiss is long, deep, and passionate, sending an electric thrill through both .....

    you know ken, it brought me back to the memory of my 13/14 tomboy years hiding behind a library devouring the chapters of "sweetdreams" and "river valley" romance
    Hmmm. I was trying to do it a little better than that. Guess I'll have to keep trying.

    anyway, be proper now.... i tried to like athena but i just couldnt find any click with her. sure, she is cool and calm and sophisticated and strong, but such elegance described doesnt sit well with me. and the whole thing with hath only serve to make her such a drag despite the interesting theme involved. overall, it is fine setting although tame,
    One of the things that I'm trying to do with Athena in this episode is to gradually humanize her. She starts out in this episode like an invincible robot/superwoman, but by the end of the next episode, we see her being more vulnerable and human. Brick by brick, these two chapters deconstruct Athena's character somewhat. In the end, she'll have to reevaluate herself.

    Also, although things start out rather tame, they don't stay that way.

    and dont think i didnt notice your dig at YG/XLN. i m warning you ken, leave your punching marks and acidic remarks at the wuxia forum.bet none dare to warn you off like this before eh)
    Heh. Well, the dialogue between Jolie and Athena about ROCH kind of serves to represent the two views that readers/fans of that story in general have. Jolie's represents the romantic's view, while Athena takes more of a realist's view towards it. Of course, getting embroiled in a difficult romance of her own is going to cause Athena to reevaluate her judgments somewhat later down the road.

    i m not done yet... but i shall PM you later when i feel like yakking nonstop. some of my yakking are R rated, so not suitable for children under 13!
    Look forward to it. Do you have MSN Messenger? We can perhaps chat in "real time" one of these days.

  18. #178
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    Episode 7 continued...some mobile suit mayhem and action at last!

    Early the following morning, the Centurion Team and the remnants of the other Special Forces squads that escorted Generals Noah and Blackhead to Earth are testing the new modifications to their mobile suits.

    A dozen assorted Jegans, Guncannon-100s, and Athena’s Cour De Leon and Jolie’s Centurion Gundam skate across the snowy fields outside of Whampoa Base in the Chinese wilderness, hovering on vernier jets built into the mecha’s feet. Captain Anh Lu and his technicians’ modifications have made the mobile suits much better suited for combat on Earth, especially the snowy conditions that now prevail in the region.

    “Centurion Leader to all units,” Athena commands from the cockpit of the Cour De Leon, “Prepare to commence ground targeting simulation sequence. Take this seriously, people: we’re using live fire, and so are the targets.”

    Cpl. Anna Horowitz has the targeting data on her GM-IV AWAC’s computer. There’s minimal Minovsky particle interference down here, and her MS’s radar is working, “Targets acquired at Bearing mark-seven-zero. Identified as RMS-106 Hizack, twelve units in number. Standard armaments.”

    “Select a target and hit it hard,” Athena instructs.

    Twelve RMS-106 Hizack mobile suits, left over from the Gryps Conflict a decade ago, are concealed within a heavily forested area about a kilometer north of the Centurion Team’s current location. These mobile suits, set aside for training purposes, are automated by their onboard combat computers. No pilots sit within their cockpits. The Centurions and other Special Forces pilots are free to do as much damage as they please.

    The team locks the targets in formation and prepares to attack.

    The Hizacks take the initiative away, firing from beam rifles, heavy machineguns, and missile pod racks.

    “Evasive maneuvers,” Athena orders, dodging fire from a Hizack’s beam rifle.

    Jolie’s Centurion Gundam appears on the scene, “Let me show you guys how it’s done!” Jolie enthuses.

    Jolie extracts the Centurion Gundam’s beam rifle, hitting a Hizack dead-center with a single shot. Before that first target even goes down, Jolie barrels into a second Hizack, lifting the target mecha with the Centurion Gundam’s mighty arms. She uses this second Hizack as a shield to intercept the beam blast of a third Hizack. Before the target in the Centurion Gundam’s metalshod hands explodes from the fatal damage it has suffered, Jolie hurls it at the Hizack that fired the deadly shot. Both mecha are destroyed.

    Beam fire from a fourth Hizack nearly nails the Centurion Gundam, but Jolie dodges the blast at the last possible instant, raising the Centurion Gundam’s own beam rifle to blast the Hizack to smoking ruin.

    A fifth Hizack comes at the Centurion Gundam with hits Heat Hawk, slashing the axe-like weapon at the Centurion Gundam’s nuclear fusion backpack energy unit.

    Jolie twists the Centurion Gundam around to dodge the blow, drawing out the Gundam’s beam saber. The laser sword twists around the Hizack’s weapon, finally severing the Hizack’s weapon hand at the wrist. Jolie presses the advantage and stabs the beam saber through the Hizack’s center, disabling it.

    Jolie launches the Centurion Gundam high into the air, blasting three shots from its beam rifle to immolate three more Hizacks. She cuts her mecha’s thrusters to bring the Centurion Gundam hard on another Hizack crouching under a canopy of tall trees. The force of the landing crushes the Hizack.

    A ninth Hizack gets the drop on Jolie (or rather, Jolie allows it to) and puts the Centurion Gundam in a full nelson. Jolie flips the Hizack over with a brilliant judo move, finishing it with a beam saber slice that cuts the Hizack in half lengthwise.

    Two more Hizacks appear, firing their beam rifles at the Centurion Gundam. Jolie blocks with the Gundam’s arm-mounted shield, only to find that the two Hizacks have emptied their missile racks at her.

    In desperation, Jolie fires the Centurion Gundam’s own missiles to counter. A tremendous explosion ensues.

    From behind the cloud of burning metal and fire emerges the Centurion Gundam, beam rifle blazing. The final two Hizacks go down.

    Only thirty seconds had passed since the simulation began.

    Aboard the other Centurion Team mobile suits, and in the control tower at Whampoa Base, the several dozen who witnessed Jolie’s awesome display of prowess are left slack-jawed and bug-eyed. They can’t believe what they’ve just seen.

    “Hah-HAH!” Cpl. Geoff Sutcliffe of the Centurion Team finally enthuses, pounding the control console of his Jegan excitedly, “Lawdy, mama! Did you guys see that?!”

    “Jolie, you are just amazing…” Sgt. Tomo Higashi agrees.

    Cpl. Anna Horowitz confirms, “Twelve targets neutralized in thirty seconds. That’s a new record.”

    Only one observer seems unimpressed.

    “Centurion Leader to all units,” Athena’s voice comes darkly over the tactical net, “Training maneuvers are suspended until replacement target units are provided. Return to dock.”


    Back at the hangar, Jolie emerges from the cockpit of the Centurion Gundam, for once coming out the cockpit exhilarated rather than spaced out, dizzy, or nauseous. She feels quite proud of her accomplishment.

    I’m going to be the best mobile suit pilot EVER, Jolie thinks with great self-satisfaction.

    Jolie sees Athena striding towards her. The Centurion Team Leader does not look happy. Typical. Athena is usually grouchy after training exercises.

    Without warning, Athena slaps Jolie HARD across the teenager’s left cheek. The blow is so quick and so unexpected that even Jolie fails to dodge it.

    “Ow!” Jolie complains, “What the hel…?”

    “Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve been teaching you?!” Athena demands furiously, “You’re supposed to follow orders, not showboat! You’ll get yourself and your teammates killed pulling crap like that!”

    Jolie’s eyes flash angrily, “You’re just jealous ‘cause you know you aren’t half as good a pilot as I am! Until I joined, you were the top ace in the Special Forces! But I…”

    “Shut up, Lieutenant!” Athena orders, “You’re confined to quarters for the rest of the morning training session!”

    “What?!” Jolie says in disbelief, “But…!”

    “Get to quarters now, or I’m throwing you into the brig!”Athena says, raising her voice.

    Jolie begins to comply, but cannot help saying under her breath, “B*tch.”

    The remark, though barely a whisper, does not escape Athena’s ears. She responds with a second slap, this one with the back of her hand, catching Jolie on the right cheek.

    Angry tears fill Jolie’s eyes. Delicate, gloved hand covering the spot where Athena has just stricken her a second time, the teenager storms off to her quarters.

    Athena looks at her own gloved hand, the one that she just used to slap Jolie not once, but twice. She has never lost her cool with Jolie like that before. Although Jolie did indeed make a serious error in judgment and needed to be disciplined, Athena knows that she was much too harsh on the girl.

    What the hell did I do that for? Athena wonders.

    The rest of the Centurion Team has been quietly watching the drama between their commanding and executive officers from the sidelines. They are stunned by the unpleasant scene they have just witnessed.

    Nice going, Athena, the honey-blonde Centurion Team leader thinks wryly to herself, Just what the squad needs to see: drama between their two officers. Stupid! Stupid! Athena wants to kick herself.

    Sighing, Athena tells the team, “See to maintenance on your mobile suits.”

    Knowing that their commanding officer is in a foul mood, the Centurions return with immediate, “Yes, ma’am”s.


    At around noontime, Athena enters the two-officer room that she is sharing with Jolie. The teenager lies in her bed, pillow pulled over her head. Athena hears a sniffling sound; Jolie is crying.

    “Jolie,” Athena begins awkwardly, “Jolie, I’m sorry I slapped you this morning. That was out of line. I shouldn’t have lost my cool at you like that.”

    Jolie bolts up suddenly and throws the pillow at Athena, but not hard. Her eyes are red from tears.

    “What was with you this morning, anyway?” Jolie demands, “I know I screwed up, but…”

    Athena says, “I’m just under a lot of stress right now. At those security conferences I’ve been attending with Generals Noah and Blackhead, I’m finding out that we’re up against much more than we originally thought. That’s no excuse, though. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. I don’t blame you for being angry at me.”

    “Forget it,” Jolie says, “I was stupid first. I shouldn’t have showed off like that. I’m sorry.”

    “Forgive me?” Athena says softly, with a kind smile.

    Jolie wipes away the last of her tears and smiles back, “Yeah. Sure. We’re friends, right?”

    “The best,” Athena agrees.

    The two young women embrace each other warmly. It would take much more than the morning’s spat to tear apart their deep friendship.

    Disengaging from the embrace after a long minute, Athena says, “During afternoon maneuvers, do exactly as you’re told, understand?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jolie replies, then she adds, “Say, Athena…you know your date with Hathaway tonight?”

    “Oh, no,” Athena groans, “not this again.”

    Jolie persists, “You said it was a formal dance. What are you gonna wear? You’re not planning on showing up in uniform are you?”

    “Unless I plan to get lynched, no,” Athena says, “I have a feeling that crowd doesn’t like Federal Forces officers very much.”

    Jolie asks, “Then…?”

    “Not to worry,” Athena says with an enigmatic smile, “I’ve got it all planned out.”


    The rest of the day goes on without incident. Jolie complies with orders and works within the context of the team. Through the course of the afternoon, the Centurion Team greatly improves its skills at using its mobile suits in cold-weather combat. Athena feels that with another day or two of practice, they will have honed their abilities to near perfection.

    At 17:00, the training exercises conclude. The Centurions have the rest of the evening off.

    17:35. Jolie waits anxiously in the lounge area. She can’t go into her room because Athena is locked in there getting ready for her date with Hathaway. Jolie can’t wait to see what Athena’s “great plan” entails.

    17:40. Athena emerges from the room. Jolie goes wide-eyed in amazement.

    Jolie has long recognized Athena as a beauty rivaling herself, but Athena has always somewhat downplayed her gorgeous looks with her elegant, but dull military uniforms. Tonight, however, Athena is positively radiant in a scarlet Chinese cheongsam gown, which perfectly suits her tall, slender figure.

    Jolie, having difficulty finding her voice, finally says, “If I were a guy, I would sooooooooo hit on you. You look HOT, ‘Thena.”

    Athena grins, “I guess that means I’m ready to go.”

    Jolie asks, “How in the world did you get that dress, anyway? I doubt you got it from the Supply Corps.”

    Athena replies mysteriously, “I’ve got my resources.”

    Jolie presses further, “Athena, are you really going out with Hathaway because you like him, or is this another intelligence thing?”

    “What do you think?” challenges Athena.

    Jolie honestly doesn’t know. Her commanding officer is unreadable.

    “Don’t wait up for me,” Athena says as she leaves.

    Episode 7 to be continued...

  19. #179
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    Episode 7 continued...WARNING: SOME MATURE CONTENT. Please read with discretion.

    The Anaheim Enterprises Formal Invitational Ball is being held at the La Grande Ballroom in Shanghai’s most luxurious hotel, the Chez Savoy. The surroundings are opulent, decorated in a French rococo style. The attendees of the ball are, without exception, the wealthy, powerful, and well-connected. Business leaders. Politicians of various alignments and affiliations. Intellectuals. Everyone is either a blueblood or nouveau riche.

    No soldiers, however, attend the ball. The gathering disdains the Earth Federation Forces and the government it serves. It is an ill-kept secret that some of the prominent figures at the ball have strong ISR and/or Zeon sympathies. A few, in fact, are former Zeon noblemen.

    For these reasons, Athena has taken a second alias while attending the dance. She and Hathaway have agreed that for the duration of the party, she will be known as “Miss Tina Mass,” a new friend of Hathaway Noah’s.

    Nobody said it was a masquerade ball, Athena reflects wryly, but in a sense, everybody here wears a mask.

    Hathaway and Athena arrive at the ball arm-in-arm. Hathaway looks doubly handsome in his tuxedo, hastily pressed into service straight from the dry cleaner earlier in the evening.

    A middle-aged gentleman, a finance executive from the Luo Company (a known supporter of anti-Federation activities), greets Hathaway, “Mr. James!”

    “Good you see you, Mr. Davis,” Hathaway says, shaking the man’s hand, “Hope the trading has been good.”

    “Business is like walking on the moon,” Davis replies, “Up, down, up, down. Any juicy new articles, Mr. James?”

    “Only the one on my arm here,” Hathaway jokes.

    Davis had noticed Athena at the same time he first spotted Hathaway in the ballroom, “Who is this lovely creature with you, Mr. James?”

    Hathaway replies, “Mr. Davis, allow me to introduce my friend, Miss Tina Mass. She’s a political science student at Saint John’s University.”

    “How do you do, Miss Mass?” Davis says cordially.

    Athena bows her head demurely, and replies, “It’s a wonderful party, sir.”

    Hathaway tells Athena, “Tina, this is Mr. Roger Davis. He’s the Chief Financial Officer of the Luo Company.”

    “A pleasure, sir,” Athena says politely, shaking the man’s hand.

    Athena has heard about Davis, and is quite familiar with his organization. The Luo Company is officially known as one of the world’s major trading companies. That’s its legitimate front. Athena knows, however, that the Luo Company is also a vital smuggler of weapons and other military supplies to ISR and Zeon elements.

    “Miss Mass,” Davis asks casually, “as a student of the political sciences, how do you view the conflict between the Earth Federation and the various political entities in space?”

    Athena answers, “It’s simply the latest manifestation of the divisions that humanity has always established among itself, sir. There were conflicts among people for millennia before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon over two hundred years ago.”

    Davis smiles at Hathaway, “You’re a lucky young man, Mr. James. Miss Mass is very intelligent as well as very beautiful.”

    “Thank you, sir, you’re so kind,” Athena says pleasantly.

    “Tina…Mass?” Davis wonders, “Miss Mass, I hope you don’t find that I’m being too forthright, but are you by any chance related to Dr. Sayla Mass, leader of the Independent Spacenoid Republic movement?”

    Sayla is Colonel Char’s younger sister. When Athena had been under Char’s care, Char had often spoken glowingly of his kindhearted, brave, and beautiful younger sister, but Athena had never met her. It was Char and Sayla’s foster parents, the Masses, who also took in Athena for a few years after Char perished in combat in U.C. 0093.

    “I’ve been told that she’s a distant cousin of mine,” Athena tells Davis, “but I’ve never met her personally.”

    “She’s a brave and principled woman,” Davis remarks, “the Spacenoids need a leader like her. Perhaps she is the one who will finally lead them out of the darkness of the Zabi era.”

    The mention of her true family name, as always, unsettles Athena, but only slightly.

    Davis then says, “Mr. James, such a pleasure to see you again, and Miss Mass, indeed a great pleasure to meet you. I see my wife signaling to me across the room, so please excuse me.”

    Davis leaves the company of Hathaway and Athena to join his wife.

    Hathaway tells Athena, “Davis is big business, big money. He made a donation of twenty million credits to the CFM last year. That pays the salaries of the entire writing staff many times over.”

    “He’s likely a gunrunner too,” Athena whispers back.

    “Wouldn’t surprise me,” Hathaway says noncommittally.

    The orchestra begins to play a tune, Johann Strauss’ “Emperor Waltz.”

    “Care to dance?” Hathaway asks Athena.

    Athena takes his hand with a smile, “But of course.”

    Not surprisingly, Hathaway finds that Athena is an excellent ballroom dancer, definitely well-trained and well-practiced. The couple searches into each other’s eyes as they whirl gracefully across the dance floor.

    “This is probably not how you spend most of your evenings,” Hathaway remarks.

    Athena replies, “Normally, at this time, I’m locked in my office filing mission reports.”

    “Such a shame,” Hathaway sighs mockingly, “a lovely girl like you wasting her youth planning acts of mayhem and destruction.”

    “I don’t know,” Athena says, “it beats studying political science at Saint John’s University.”

    The two laugh. The dancing continues long into the night.


    At around 23:00, Hathaway and Athena have had enough of the dance party, even though the event shows no sign of winding down. Some of the well-heeled party guests have had a bit too much to drink, and have begun to behave rather rudely. In any case, they’ve had a good time, and don’t want the evening to be ruined by some vomiting or cursing fellow guest.

    Quite a bit of snow has fallen during the evening. Hathaway attempts to get on the main highway leading from the city to Whampoa Base, but finds that the regional road safety authorities have closed the roads for the next several hours until snowplows can get the roads cleared.

    “Back to my place?” Hathaway suggests.

    “Pretty soon, I’m going to have to get a mailing address there,” Athena jokes.

    Hathaway changes directions and heads for his apartment just a few kilometers away.

    Athena pulls out her comlink from her handbag. She contacts Jolie, “Centurion Leader to Centurion Two. Please acknowledge.”

    Jolie’s voice replies promptly, “Heya, ‘Thena. What’s up?”

    “I’m going to be delayed coming back to base again,” Athena says, “Weather’s not cooperating again.”

    “This is getting to be a bad habit, Captain,” Jolie teases from kilometers away.

    “I know,” Athena says, “You can file a disciplinary report on me in the morning if you want.”

    Athena can hear Jolie’s laughter on the other end, “Don’t tempt me. All right. I’ll take care of the squad until you get back. Centurion Two out.”

    “Centurion Leader out.”

    “She’s very loyal to you, isn’t she?” Hathaway remarks.

    “Jolie’s the best,” Athena agrees.

    The GT-900 arrives at Hathaway’s apartment. The couple quickly disappears inside.


    For the second time in scarcely more than twenty-four hours, Athena finds herself shoeless in Hathaway’s living room. She feels like she’s only half kidding when she begins to consider offering to pay half the month’s rent to Hathaway.

    Hathaway returns to the living room from the kitchenette bearing a pot of hot, steaming tea and two cups. He finds Athena once again studying the two Cezanne paintings on the wall.

    “You really like those, don’t you?” Hathaway says, pouring the tea, “I’d give them to you, but then, I’d have nothing to left to decorate this place with. I’d have to get posters with girls in bikinis or someth…”

    “Hathaway,” Athena says seriously, “Level with me, will you? What is it you really do? Can you afford all of this with the salary of a CFM staff writer?”

    Hathaway replies calmly, with a smile, “Doubting my credentials, eh? All right, I’ll tell you this much: some of those wealthy folks we met back at the party tonight? Well, let’s say I’m not beyond doing a little freelance work for them as well. But the work I do for them is strictly confidential, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more.”

    Athena stands close to Hathaway, momentarily averting his gaze, then staring straight into his eyes, “Hathaway, I…”

    “What is it?” Hathaway asks, suddenly concerned.

    Athena is, for once, at a loss for how to proceed next. Damn. This is harder than I thought it’d be.

    “It’s nothing,” Athena says, “Nothing important.”

    “You can tell me,” Hathaway says comfortingly, putting his arms gently around Athena, “Are you angry that I’m not being more open with you?”

    “No,” Athena says, “I’d be a hypocrite if I felt that. There are certain things that I’m not quite able to share with you either, Hathaway. I’m in your blind spot, in many ways.”

    “As long as you never put me into yours,” Hathaway says, kissing Athena along the neck, “it doesn’t matter to me.”

    Athena turns to face Hathaway. Their lips slowly come together and lock. This kiss is longer, deeper, and more passionate than the one they shared the previous evening.

    The tea grows cold, as does the temperature outside the tiny apartment. Two bodies and two souls, however, emit warmth in winter.


    02:39

    Athena’s lithe, unclothed form straddles Hathaway’s similarly disrobed physique, her long, slender, silky smooth thighs astride Hathaway's pelvic region. Hathaway’s fingers stroke the soft, smooth warmth of Athena’s thighs, edging up towards the curve of her buttocks. Athena leans forward and down until her lovely face hangs so close to his that he can feel the warmth of her breath upon his lips. The perspiration of their two bodies mingles into a single saltine solution.

    The space between their lips closes into a passionate kiss that seems to last a lifetime.

    With Athena’s negligible weight crouching upon him, Hathaway grins, “You always need to be on top of every situation, don’t you?”

    “It’s how I’ve managed to stay alive this long,” Athena says, kissing Hathaway again, “Never let the enemy gain the high ground.”

    “I’m your enemy now?” Hathaway grins, hands reaching up Athena’s back to gently stroke her hair.

    Athena leans her head upon Hathaway’s chest, closing her eyes, “I wish it could have been different.”

    “What are you talking about?” asks Hathaway.

    “Nothing…” Athena says, disengaging suddenly from Hathaway’s warm embrace. She rises from the bed, and very methodically begins to dress her curvaceously naked form.

    “I need to get back to the base,” Athena says, all her warmth suddenly dissipated.

    Hathaway stands and moves towards Athena, attempting to place comforting hands on her shoulders. Noticing the Centurion Team Leader’s sudden change of mood, however, Hathaway thinks better of it.

    “Let me get dressed,” Hathaway says.


    The ride to Whampoa Base is quiet and awkward. Several times, Hathaway attempts to engage Athena in light conversation, but Athena gently brushes his entreaties off. He finds Athena’s sudden change of mood disturbing.

    The GT-900 sports car arrives at the gate of Whampoa Base at 03:45.

    “I…I hope you had a good time last night,” Hathaway said.

    Athena smiles weakly, “It was wonderful. You were wonderful. Thank you.”

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

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

    They kiss one last time. Both fear that somehow it truly is the last time.


    It is 04:00 by the time Athena returns to the Centurion Team’s temporary quarters. Were Athena a regular forces officer under normal circumstances, she would have been AWOL over eight hours ago. Special Forces officers, however, are extended certain privileges and courtesies…

    Thirty minutes remain before reveille is to be called…just enough time for Athena to shower and get changed out of her cheongsam and back into her uniform.

    “Hey, ‘Thena!”

    Already a bunched bundle of nerves from the events of the previous evening, Athena is startled by Jolie’s sudden appearance…so much so that Athena reflexively nearly strikes out at Jolie.

    “Hey, easy,” Jolie says, holding her hands up defensively.

    Athena relaxes and puts down her fist.

    “You’re up early,” Athena remarks, opening the door into her quarters. Jolie follows her in.

    “Actually,” Jolie confesses, “I’ve been up all night. I wasn’t able to sleep thinking of how you were getting on with Hathaway.”

    Athena sits at the tiny bureau in the room she shares with her junior executive officer and begins removing her earrings, “You’re an idiot sometimes, Jolie.”

    “Hey,” Jolie protests, “It’s only because I care. So…how far did you get with Hathaway? Is he going to ask you out again? What’d you guys do after the ball? Why were you out so long?”

    Here we go again, Athena thinks to herself tiredly.

    Almost just to shut Jolie up, Athena tells her executive officer bluntly, “I had sex with him.”

    Athena’s directness catches Jolie off-guard. She doesn’t know what to say. Is Athena kidding?

    “You…had…sex…with…him? On the very first date?!” Jolie says, incredulous.

    “Yes, I did,” Athena says in a dispassionate tone, almost as if she were telling Jolie that she had picked up the mail.

    “Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Ohmigod!” Jolie blinks, unable to believe her ears.

    “Jolie…” Athena says wearily.

    “Ohmigod!” the excited teenager repeats, a delirious grin on her lovely young face, “I can’t believe it! You! Had! Sex! With! Him! First! Date!”

    Athena covers her eyes and shakes her head, already regretting being so direct with Jolie, “It’s not what you think.”

    “Not what I think?” Jolie wonders, confused, “What do you mean?”

    Athena sighs, “I’ve pretty much confirmed everything I suspected about Hathaway Noah. He’s more than he lets on. I don’t believe that he’s just an independent investigative journalist looking into corruption in the Federal Forces. There’s way more than that going on with him.”

    “So…you mean you’re not in love with him?” Jolie asks, “You only had sex with him to get information out of him?!”

    “Yes,” Athena says, glad that Jolie finally understands.

    Or not.

    “What is the matter with you?!” Jolie explodes, “How can you have sex with a man if you don’t love him?! And when you don’t even know if he loves you?!”

    “Jolie…” Athena repeats again, tiredly covering her face with both of her hands.

    “Ohmigod!” Jolie rants, “Athena, I’ve always looked up to you as the classiest person I know. How the hell could you be such a cheap sl*t like that?!”

    “JOLIE!” Athena shouts with a forceful rage that shuts Jolie up, the Centurion Team Leader’s hands slender hands tense into tight fists.

    There is an awkward silence for a moment. A tension as thick as a Minovsky particle field fills the room.

    Jolie scowls at Athena in disgust for a moment, and then, with a contemptuous “Hmph!” for effect, turns on her heel and leaves the room…without asking her commanding officer for so much as dismissal.

    “Damn!” Athena curses under her breath. Athena pulls out a cigarette from her purse and lights it…too early in the morning for a cigarette, really, but what the hell…

    Some things, even an IQ of 200 and a head full of military strategies can’t prepare you for, Athena reflects.

    Episode 7 to be continued...

  20. #180
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Episode 7 continued...

    Sunday. The Security Council takes the day off from discussing the ISRLA and resurgent Neo Zeon problems. General Bright Noah will make use of his time this day to visit is wife, Mirai, and their daughter, Chieming, at their home in the suburbs some forty kilometers outside of Shanghai (in the direction opposite to that of Whampoa Base).

    Jet fighter patrols fly over the path in the hours prior to the passing of the general’s convoy. He will be escorted by security forces from Whampoa Base, including four GM-IV mobile suits.

    Thus far, the reconnaissance forces have detected nothing unusual or threatening along the path. The convoy should be able to pass through at the appointed hour of 10:00.


    Buried in the snow just off the main highway leading out of Shanghai into the suburbs is a white-painted RMS-106CS Hizack Sniper Custom. The mecha has been fitted with special stealth dampeners to make it undetectable to the Earth Federation Forces’ conventional tracking technologies. Its armaments include a high-powered precision beam rifle with extra energy pack, a missile launcher pod (twelve missiles total), and a pack of four grenades to go with the standard beam saber and Heat Hawk setup. The mecha is armed to the teeth for both direct combat and stealth assassination. The MS’s engine and thruster has been modified by Anaheim Enterprises’ top engineers to deliver three times the thrust output of the standard Hizack. The mecha is strong enough to take on a Gundam-class mobile suit.

    Inside the mobile suit’s cockpit, Hathaway Noah, dressed in a Zeon-style normalsuit, waits patiently, helmet off. He smokes a cigarette, the mecha’s internal filtration system removing the smoke from the tiny space.

    He has waited for this day for five years.

    Finally, he will avenge the memory of Quess Parayana on the most respected officer in the Earth Federation Forces…his own father, General Bright Noah.


    07:00 Sunday morning. The Centurion Team is once again in the maintenance hangar, prepping their mobile suits for the morning’s training session. This morning, they will be working on stealth maneuvers in cold-weather conditions.

    Athena is hard at work inside the cockpit of the Cour de Leon, repairing some damage to the internal avionics control mechanism that was sustained during the previous day’s training session.

    Taking a break from maintenance work on her Centurion Gundam, Jolie approaches Athena, “Athe.., um. Captain?”

    “Lieutenant,” Athena replies mildly, without looking up from her work as she addresses her young charge.

    “Captain,” Jolie begins again, “I, um, I just wanted to say that I was sorry. About this morning, I mean. That was wrong of me. I shouldn’t have called you a cheap sl*t. I…uh…”

    Athena, soldering two loose components together, replies, “Forget it. I can understand how it must have looked to you.”

    Jolie says, “But how? I mean, how could you just…?”

    Athena puts down her work. She places her hands on Jolie’s shoulders, “Sometimes, you need to be willing to make sacrifices in light of the big goals. I promise you that I won’t ask you or anyone under my command to make sacrifices on my account, but I’ll make any personal sacrifice that I need to meet my objectives. You need to understand that.”

    Jolie doesn’t think she’ll ever understand, but that’s not what she wants to know.

    “Athena…are you in love with Hathaway Noah?”

    Athena stares blankly at Jolie for a moment, trying to give her friend an answer that is neither dishonest nor inaccurate.

    Ultimately not knowing what to say, Athena quietly continues working on the Cour de Leon.

    “Athena…” Jolie presses.

    Athena closes the cockpit hatch of the Cour De Leon so she can work in solitude.

    Jolie frowns worriedly at the sealed cockpit of the Cour De Leon. Jolie senses that underneath Athena’s steely exterior, the commanding officer of the Centurion Team is hurting.


    At 09:40, Athena stands on the deck of the MS hangar, normalsuited and ready for the day’s training session to continue after a short break.

    An aide approaches and salutes Athena, “Captain Ibaz, ma’am. Update from HQ.”

    “Go ahead, Lieutenant,” Athena says, suddenly worried.

    “Ma’am, at 10:00, General Noah and a security convoy will be southbound on the main highway from the city. The general will be visiting his family, ma’am.”

    “Damn,” Athena reacts with controlled alarm, “Why wasn’t I informed of this sooner?”

    The liaison officer replies, “The security staff believed that the general would be safer if…”

    “Never mind,” Athena says, putting on her helmet and running to board the Cour De Leon, “Sound general quarters, immediately! Put the base on yellow alert!”

    Before waiting for the officer to reply, Athena opens the comlink to Jolie, “Centurion Leader to Centurion Two. Jolie. Do you hear me?”

    Jolie replies, “Roger, ma’am. What’s up?”

    “Jolie,” Athena says calmly, but tersely, “do you have Chieming Noah’s home phone number?”

    “Yeah,” Jolie replies, a bit bewildered by why Athena would be asking for such a thing right now, “Why?”

    “Call Chieming immediately,” Athena says, “Get the Noah family’s home address and scramble with the squad out there immediately. Training session is cancelled! We’re on yellow alert!”

    “Yellow alert?” Jolie says, “Would you mind telling me what’s going on?”

    “REPEAT THE ORDER!” Athena demands.

    Jolie responds crisply, “Contact Chieming Noah. Find out Noah residence address and scramble with C-Team to that location.”

    “Do it now,” Athena says, “and have the team secure the location when it gets there. Be on the look out for sniper units!”

    “What about you?” Jolie asks.

    Athena does not answer. The Cour De Leon is airborne in its Waverider Configuration, speeding at supersonic velocity towards the suburban highway south of the city of Shanghai.

    Episode 7 to be continued...!

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