Episode 36 continued...
The Phobos Division has the Desert Dogs on their heels, their superior numbers and skill outweighing the Dogs’ deep knowledge of the terrain. The Dogs’ experience fighting in these conditions has enabled them to draw the battle out and prevent a quick rout, but to a man, they know it is only a matter of time before the Zeon finish them off.
A Gellond GS takes aim at MSgt. Tanaka’s stalled Guntank with its beam rifle, preparing to send the Federation MS and its pilot to oblivion with a single shot.
Instead, the Gellond is skeeted from the sky by a precision strike from the rapidly approaching White Phoenix Gundam.
“Hey! Look at who’s just joined the party!” Tanaka exults, seeing the mighty Federal Forces MS tear across the sky.
The Elmeth Gamma is about to decapitate the Centurion Gundam with its beam saber when it finds its strike blocked by the beam saber of the WPG, the move forcing the Elmeth Gamma to withdraw momentarily.
Jonah spots the WPG through the Centurion Gundam’s scopes, “Jolie! What are you doing here?! I ordered you to stay at the camp!”
Ignoring her commanding officer and husband, Jolie launches the WPG in pursuit of the Elmeth Gamma, which has recovered from the WPG’s unexpected arrival and counterattacks.
“The White Phoenix shows herself at last,” Kyoko hisses, her lips curling into a smile.
“I’m taking you down today,” Jolie threatens from the cockpit of the WPG, “You won’t threaten anyone I love again, Zeon b*tch!”
An awesome duel of beam sabers ensues, with movements so exquisite and refined that it seems scarcely possible that two armored mechanisms could execute them with such flawless precision and fluidity. A strike, a parry, a block…moves anticipated milliseconds ahead of execution. Such uncanny grace…combatants on both sides are compelled to pause in mid-battle to watch the awesome spectacle.
For several long minutes, there is stalemate, as neither the White Phoenix Gundam nor the Elmeth Gamma seems able to gain the upper hand against the other, but then…the WPG seems to begin to falter…
Jolie feels herself going lightheaded, and gripped by nausea…her limbs growing weak.
No…not now, Jolie tries to clear her head and reorient herself.
The Elmeth Gamma kicks the beam saber out of the White Phoenix Gundam’s armored hand, then proceeds strike the WPG in the midsection near the cockpit hatch with several powerful punches.
Jolie is jostled violently in the WPG’s cockpit, feeling an intensifying pain in her abdomen. She coughs, and blood seeps from her mouth.
Kyoko, sensing that the advantage has shifted in her direction, prepares to end it with a coup de grace, a beam saber strike that will immolate the White Phoenix Gundam.
“NOOOOOOOOOOO!” comes the scream of Captain Jonah Michaels, who positions his Centurion Gundam in front of the disabled WPG, prepared to take the strike for his wife.
Kyoko then senses it…within the White Phoenix, a second presence…innocent…helpless…afraid…
She realizes the truth.
“All forces withdraw,” Kyoko orders.
“Ma’am?” comes the confused response from 2Lt. Lithgow.
“I said withdraw!” Kyoko spits out more vehemently, launching her Elmeth Gamma high into the air and vectoring away in its mobile armor configuration by way of example.
At the cusp of victory, the Phobos Division pulls away, on a heading for their base camp.
“Why’d they withdraw?” one of the Desert Dogs asks, “They had us!”
“We’ll figure that out later,” MSgt. Tanaka says grimly, “We’ve got wounded.”
The Centurion Gundam has helped the White Phoenix Gundam to a landing in a clearing in the midst of the forest.
Jonah removes his helmet, leaps forth from the Centurion Gundam’s cockpit, and rushes to the unmoving WPG.
Jonah pounds on the armored cockpit, “Jolie! Jolie, are you all right? Open up!”
The cockpit hatch slides open. Jonah finds his wife slumped in the cockpit seat, panting shallowly, her face pale through the open visor of her helmet.
“Jonah…” Jolie moans pitiably, “It hurts…”
Jolie puts her hand on her abdomen to indicate where the pain us.
Jonah removes Jolie’s helmet and scoops her into his arms, “It’s going to be OK, sweetie. Let’s get back to the camp.”
Jonah radios MSgt. Tanaka, “Tanaka, come in.”
“Sir,” the MSgt. replies.
“Let’s get back to base,” Jonah says, “Lt. Minh is wounded.”
“Roger, Captain,” Tanaka replies, “We’ll cover the withdrawal…make sure the Zekes don’t catch us on a return run.”
“Thank you, Sergeant,” Jonah answers.
Jonah switches on the WPG’s flight systems; he will pilot Jolie’s MS, and carry the Centurion Gundam on the larger WPG’s back.
Later, back at the Zeon Occupation Army’s base at Xian, Lt. Col. Kyoko Yamaguchi explains her failure to Archduke Miguel, who appears to her on a video communications screen at Xian Base.
“I should not have spared her,” Kyoko says contritely, “It was my weakness that cost us a crucial victory, my lord, and for that, I am prepared to accept any punishment you deem fit."
Were it any other officer, a report of such failure would have guaranteed a swift execution, but to Kyoko, Archduke Miguel only smiles, “You did comply with my most important order, Kyoko, which is that you survived the battle. That pleases me. There will be other opportunities to destroy the White Phoenix. In fact, the National Armory will soon roll out a new mecha that I will provide you specifically for that purpose. You’ve done well. Please get some rest and I will provide you with new orders shortly.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Kyoko says, thankful for Archduke Alexander’s generosity, but still disappointed in her failure to kill the White Phoenix.
But on another level, Kyoko does not fully regret her lack of action. She is a loyal warrior of Zeon, and a true believer in the doctrines of Archduke Miguel.
But Kyoko is no murderer of children, especially unborn children.
Even now, the Black Raven cannot help but wonder about the condition of her enemy, whom she desires to someday defeat in a fair struggle.
The Desert Dogs’ resources were spartan even before the colony drop attack on Asia, owing to the remoteness of their base in Inner Mongolia. Even so, they had access to engineering and maintenance facilities for their mobile suits and other armored weapons, and a hospital facility for their wounded troops.
Now, however, they do not even have so much as a fully trained paramedic on hand.
Special Forces officers have more training in this area, although combat personnel not specifically trained in the Medical Corps had little more than advanced paramedic training, and certainly, the Special Forces’ paramedic rubric didn’t have much in the way of helping a pregnant woman through a miscarriage…
The Desert Dogs guard the tent occupied by Jolie and Jonah at a respectful distance, with MSgt. Tanaka checking in periodically to ask if he can lend a hand. Jonah thanks the Sergeant, but confirms that there is not much the NCO can do other than have his men stand guard and ensure that his and Jolie’s privacy is not disturbed.
Corporal Tolui Sansar asks his commanding NCO, “How’s the Lieutenant, Sarge?”
“Not good,” Tanaka replies, “Captain Michaels is hoping for the best, but it looks like 1Lt. Minh is probably gonna lose her baby."
Sansar spits, “F*ck those Zeke pigs!”
“Yeah,” Tanaka nods, kicking the dirt at his feet, “Next time we meet ‘em out there, we’ll tear those bastards apart for this.”
Jonah is seated behind Jolie on the floor of the tent, holding her gently in his arms. Jolie sits on Jonah’s lap, clad in only her uniform jacket, with her exposed legs spread wide and drawn back, knees nearly level with shoulders. Although the air within the tent is frigid, Jolie perspires profusely as she pants rapidly.
“Just keep panting, Jolie,” Jonah says as reassuringly as he can, “It’ll be all over soon.”
“Jonah…” Jolie moans fitfully, “Help me…I’m gonna push.”
Jonah can feel Jolie’s pelvic muscles begin to contract on his lap. He holds her more tightly, taking her hand into his as he whispers into her ear, “OK. Push slowly, gently…not too hard. Just a little, like when you’re constipated.”
“Hnnnnnghhh!” Jolie grimaces as she begins to strain.
Jonah places his hands around Jolie’s thighs as she pushes, bearing down into her bottom as if to relieve severe constipation, as Jonah suggested.
“Unnnnngh….nnnnnngh!” Jolie grunts, her hands gripping Jonah’s tightly as she continues to strain and push.
Jolie suffers a painful loss...
A warm gush of blood soon splashes from between Jolie’s legs, followed by a small, pitiful mass of dead flesh.
Jonah stares in deep, soul-deadening grief at the tiny, pitiable fetus that Jolie painfully passed from her womb. The developing child lies pale and still in the silence of death.
Their child…the latest casualty of this obscene war.
Jolie takes the lifeless fetus into her arms and holds it gently, breaking into uncontrollable sobs as she buries her face in Jonah’s chest
Jonah holds Jolie tightly and begins sobbing with her, stroking the slain child’s head lovingly with his gentle artist’s hand.
Today is the darkest day the couple has ever known together. Jonah then remembers that, just a year earlier at the Woodhaven Colony near Jupiter, he and Jolie had shared a dream of starting a family together in a peaceful, beautiful place where they would be happy.
That dream has been corrupted into a nightmare of a reality.
And Jonah knows who is responsible…his brother, Archduke Alexander Miguel, Sovereign of the Archduchy of Zeon.
You and I will have our day of reckoning, Alex, Jonah vows, clenching his teeth in hatred, you’re my brother, but now, you’re also the murderer of my child. I swear I’ll make you pay for that, Alex.
A day has passed since Jolie miscarried her and Jonah’s baby, which was to have been a little girl…a girl that they would have named “Joanie.”
Jolie dresses the remains of Joanie in the tiny Earth Federation Forces jacket she had been knitting. It was to have been little Joanie’s first article of clothing. Instead, it will serve as her burial shroud.
Jolie and Jonah set the remains of their beloved daughter in a grave dug in the mountain wilderness, marking the site with a stone inscribed by their military-issue survival and combat knives.
Joanie Athena Miguel
October 6, U.C. 0100
Forgive us for being unable to protect you and bring you into this world.
We will love you forever.
Mommy and Daddy
The Desert Dogs, having learned of the couple’s tragic loss, have come by with their condolences, vowing to protect and support the couple as far as they can.
“Captain,” MSgt. Cunningham Tanaka says in as gentle a fashion as he can, “The boys and I are really sorry for your and the Lieutenant’s loss. If there’s anything we can do…”
“Thank you, Sergeant,” Jonah says, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder, “We appreciate the thought. Right now, though, we just need some time alone.”
Tanaka places a comforting hand on Jonah’s shoulder, and leaves the young officer with his thoughts and his boundless grief.
Tanaka takes a seat on a nearby stone, and draws from his pocket a photograph…a photograph of a younger version of himself with his young wife and their newborn son, a decade ago.
All ghosts…all memories.
F*ck those Zeke bastards, Tanaka thinks as he lights a cigarette.
Jolie remains bedridden (or cot-ridden). The bleeding has thankfully subsided, and there are no complications thanks to a very thorough detoxification job by Jonah using the meager medical supplies available. Jolie’s womb has not been significantly wounded, and she will be able to bear children again someday.
At the moment, however, Jolie is an emotional wreck…unable to come to terms with the loss of her unborn child. The cot beneath her is wet with an unrelenting flow of tears.
Jonah shakes Jolie gently on the shoulder, “Jolie…”
Jolie doesn’t respond.
“Jolie,” Jonah says, his voice cracking, “I understand. Joanie was my baby too. We dreamed of having children together, but that dream turned into a nightmare.”
Jolie remains motionless and silent.
“Nightmares like this will keep happening, to other people, in other places, unless someone does something about it,” Jonah says, “That someone has to be us, Jolie. No one else is around to do it.”
Jolie turns to face Jonah. He raises her to an upright sitting position and lets her bury her face in his chest to sob.
“We’ll win this war, Jolie,” Jonah vows through his own anguished sobs, “We’ll set things right again and then, I promise you, we’ll have that family we promised ourselves.”
Jonah feels Jolie nodding her head, knowing that she understands. Today, they grieve, but soon, they will need to set aside their grief to act again.
War is by nature cruel. It produces sorrow like the land produces wild grass, and allows no time to grieve before inflicting its cruelty elsewhere. For Captain Jonah Michaels and 1Lt. Jolie Minh, war’s cruelty has come home, uninvited, but unavoidable.
And the only response is a resolution: to bring the war to an end, whatever sacrifices might be asked of them.
To be continued in Episode 37!