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Mobile Suit Gundam - The Second Century (Part 2: The Second Century) - Page 4
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Thread: Mobile Suit Gundam - The Second Century (Part 2: The Second Century)

  1. #61
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    Episode 3 conclusion

    Millions of kilometers away at Garrison Noah at Side 7, General Bright Noah receives a perplexing report from Colonel Richard Maiter, commanding officer of the Federal Forces’ Frontier 8 Civil Defense Guard.

    Months ago, General Noah had conducted a surveillance mission in the Outer Solar System to study and assess all aspect of the Neo Zeon civil war that had been raging sporadically outside of Federation space for the past five years. The general’s surveillance had identified the principal players in the conflict, their relative strengths and weaknesses, and their attitudes towards one another (and towards the Federation).

    If he had to pick an unlikely ally for the Federation among the Neo Zeon of the Outer Solar System, General Noah would not have picked the Phobos Zeon Army of General Alexander Miguel.

    And yet, here was Colonel Maiter’s report, telling him that it was Miguel’s Phobos forces that had effectively saved the day for Frontier 8 today, and spared the space colony from even more terrible carnage.

    It is a confounding mystery to add upon the already befuddling morass that is the Neo Zeon Civil War.

    And in just a week’s time, the Federal Forces’ best and brightest, the Special Forces, will be diving directly into that morass to see if they can make sense of it, and find a way to neutralize its threat to the Federation’s assets in the Outer Solar System.

    General Noah knows that the forces he is bringing to bear in this difficult assignment are the best the Earth Federation Forces has to offer: the brilliant strategic mind and cunning of Major Athena Ibaz, the peerless mobile suit piloting skill of 1Lt. Jolie Minh, the promise of the young mobile suit pilot Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels, and providing them leadership: the veteran experience of Captain Beecher Olech.

    But would even they be equal to the task set before them?

    The future of humanity rests upon their young shoulders.



    The following morning, Major Athena Ibaz has the Centurion Team lined up for morning inspections. The night of dancing and fun has passed, and it is back to the grim business of preparing for war.

    Athena carefully surveys each of her troops. She notices new patches on the right upper arm sleeves of 1Lt. Jolie Minh and Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels, bearing the image of the Centurion Team’s stylized “C” logo enveloping a pair of hearts lanced together by twin arrows. Below the image is the indecipherable phrase, “JoMi, JoMi.”

    Athena looks severely at Jolie and Jonah, “Lieutenant Minh, Chief Michaels. Would you care to explain these unauthorized new patches on your uniform jackets?”

    “Um,” Jonah says, not sure what to say.

    Jolie, with no such reservations, says, “Major, ma’am. It’s a little token of unity on our team.”

    “The Centurion Team,” Athena asks, “or just you and Chief Michaels?”

    “Well, uh…,” Jolie says.

    “It’s…,” Jonah attempts.

    The rest of the Centurion Team fights to suppress giggles, knowing that the slightest titter could put them into the stockade for the rest of the day.

    Jolie and Jonah, they figure, however, are definitely busted.

    Athena smiles enigmatically, “’JoMi, JoMi’…I figure these must be abbreviations of your names, correct?”

    Jolie and Jonah turn to each other, speechless, but not really surprised that Athena has figured it out.

    What comes next does surprise them, however, “They’re very nice, and you have my permission to continue wearing them. Remember, though, you’re part of a team of twelve and an army of millions: don’t ever forget it.”

    “No, ma’am,” the JoMi, JoMi Duo replies in unison.

    "And 1Lt. Minh...?" Athena thinks to add.

    "Yes, ma'am?" Jolie responds, waiting to feel the keen edge of Athena's sometimes sarcastic wit.

    "Please consider wearing a longer uniform skirt; you're distracting your fellow soldiers," Athena says, smiling.

    Jolie tugs down the hem of her very short uniform skirt, "Yes, ma'am."

    The Centurion Team can no longer hold their giggles. Athena tolerates it for a few seconds, and then turns serious.

    “The mission that we are being deployed on seven days from now could well decide the future of all humanity,” Athena says to the entire team, “As such, I expect each of you to perform your duties to the best of your considerable abilities. Am I understood?”

    “Yes, ma’am!” comes the collective reply.

    Athena nods in approval. Her youthful, pretty face beams confidence, but deep down, she has misgivings. She has no doubts about the ability and commitment of her team, but will they be able to accomplish the monumental tasks set before them?

    The answer to that question would be forthcoming in the weeks and months to come.

    END OF EPISODE 3

    Next, in Episode 4: the war begins for the Centurion Team!

  2. #62
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    EPISODE 4: INTO THE BREACH

    Side 7, Bunch 1, Garrison Noah, January 25, U.C. 0099, 03:00.

    Final preparations are underway for the launching of the Earth Federation Forces space warship Amuro Ray, a Ra Cailum-II class space battlecarrier named after the Earth Federation Forces’ most famous war hero. The ship’s commanding officer is space naval Captain Beecher Olech, AEUG veteran of the First Neo Zeon War and onetime commanding officer of the Nahl Ahrgama.

    The Amuro Ray floats in a Zero-G airlock, the orbital analog to the old maritime drydock, as dozens of technicians and engineers make final checks in preparation for the ship’s launch in T-minus ninety minutes. The ship’s nuclear fusion turbine engines, digital navigation systems, gunnery (multiple missile tubes, beam cannon, and a single, mighty mega-particle beam cannon), communications (a full array of radio, laser, broadband, and microwave systems), and hundreds of other assorted sundry systems and mechanisms are checked and rechecked in triplicate.



    The Amuro Ray, a Ra Cailum II-class Earth Federation Forces Space Battlecarrier

    For its mission to the Outer Solar System, the Amuro Ray will be operating with a crew of seven-hundred members of the Federal Forces Space Navy. Attached to the Amuro Ray will be the twelve-member Centurion Special Operations Team and its force of nine mobile suits.

    On the bridge of the ship, General Bright Noah introduces Captain Beecher Olech to Major Athena Ibaz, commanding officer of the Centurion Team and Deputy Director of the Special Forces under Colonel Peter Cairlay.

    Beecher is a naval captain, meaning that he outranks Athena by two grades according to the parallel ranking structures of their respective departments (he, space navy; she, space army). As the vessel’s commanding officer, Beecher has ultimate authority aboard the Amuro Ray. Nevertheless, Athena has effectively autonomous authority over her personnel on the Centurion Team, the key concession being that the Centurion Team must observe the rules that apply to all crew members of the Amuro Ray while aboard the ship and respect Captain Beecher’s authority.

    Interdepartmental deployments such as this are not uncommon among the Federal Forces, but it is a first for the Centurion Team, which has, in the first two years of its existence, been primarily attached to army bases, not space navy ships.

    “Major Ibaz is one of our finest officers in the Special Forces,” Bright tells Beecher, “she will be a great asset to you as your First Officer, Captain.”

    “Yes, I’m sure,” Beecher smiles. He has read the dossier on Athena and her team, and knows that he has been assigned the Federal Force’s star combat squad…a unit that has had extraordinary achievements during the past year.

    Never a tactical genius himself, Beecher feels relieved that Athena will be available to help him plot and direct strategy in the very likely event that the Amuro Ray sees combat out in the Asteroid Belt.

    “It will be an honor, Captain Beecher, for my team to serve under your command,” Athena says to Beecher, shaking his hand, “We are pleased to be at your service.”

    “Thank you, Major,” Captain Beecher says, shaking Athena’s smooth, soft hand. The captain stares at Athena fixedly…not just because she is an extraordinarily beautiful young woman (besides, Beecher’s wife Elle would kill him if she finds him flirting), but because she seems…familiar somehow. Beecher has a strange sense that he has seen Athena somewhere, long ago, but cannot place exactly when or where.

    “Major,” Beecher ventures, “I hope you’ll pardon my asking, but have we met? You seem somehow familiar to me.”

    Athena smiles prettily, “No, sir. As far as I know, we haven’t met before. I have, however, conducted joint operations with space navy personnel in the past. Perhaps we encountered each other briefly during one such operation.”

    “That might be it,” Beecher says, although he doubts it, “Anyway, I’m glad to have you and your team aboard, Major. You have my permission to rejoin them now so that you can supervise their integration into the ship’s crew. We’ll talk at length later.”

    Athena salutes crisply and smartly, “With your leave, sir.”

    Athena salutes General Noah as well, and leaves the bridge en rout to where the rest of the Centurions are being processed into the ship’s crew.

    “Wow,” Beecher says after he and Bright are alone, “she’s something.”

    Bright smiles, “Quite a stunner, eh? Beauty and brains, all in one package, and an excellent combat pilot as well. But you’d better be careful, Captain. If your wife catches you flirting with her, I wouldn’t be in your shoes for a tubful of diamonds and gold bars.”

    “Yeah, I hear that,” Beecher grins, reminding himself that he’s a married man and soon to be a father to boot, “There’s something about her, though. I swear I’ve seen her somewhere before.”

    Bright shrugs, “That’s not surprising. Athena and her team have been right in the middle of several high-profile combat incidents during the past year, in each of which they turned the tide in the Federation’s favor. You might have seen her on the TV news or the Uniweb.”

    “No,” Beecher says, “The feeling goes back way further than that. For some reason, I keep seeing this vague image in my head of the major as a little girl.”

    “You’re a little young to have fathered any illegitimate twenty-year old daughters,” Bright jokes.

    Beecher sighs, “Well, it’s probably not important. What’s important is that she’s got the brains needed to be my badly needed point person on the strategic end of things.”

    “She’ll give you that and more,” Bright promises, “Athena’s second-to-none when it comes to strategy and tactics. We’re extremely fortunate to have her on our side. I shudder to think what we’d be up against if she were working for our enemies.”

    “Lucky me,” Beecher smiles, suddenly feeling less anxious about his new assignment.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  3. #63
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    Episode 4 continued...

    Below decks on the Amuro Ray, the Centurion Team is setting themselves up in their quarters among the regular crew of the ship. Although the Special Operations Teams are the very elites of the Earth Federation Forces, they will be given no special privileges aboard the Amuro Ray. They are expected to conduct themselves under the same guidelines as the ship’s regular crew.

    Gravity-control has been deactivated aboard the ship in preparation for deployment from the airlock. Hence, crew members are able to float freely in the corridors and other access areas aboard the ship. “Swimming” through Zero-G is nothing new or particularly uncommon to the ship’s space-born crew.

    1Lt. Jolie Minh and Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels float gracefully down a corridor aboard the ship, lugging a proverbial ton of their personal gear in enormous nylon bags on their backs. Under normal gravitational conditions, such bags would be far too heavy for either one to move, but in the Zero-G environment the ship maintains for docking and loading, the weightless bags are merely bulky and unwieldy.

    “These warships are so damn cramped!” Jolie complains, as her large bag bounces against the corridor walls, causing her to struggle to float forward.

    “I know,” Jonah agrees, “You can barely move around here without bumping into anything.”

    At last, the couple reaches crew cabins G-108 and G-109, to which Jolie and Jonah have respectively been assigned. The rest of the Centurion Team occupies quarters farther down the corridor. Athena, as commanding officer, has the privilege of a larger officer’s suite on the command tower just below the bridge.

    Jolie floats through the narrow passageway into the tiny room, which is austerely furnished with a bunk bed and a Plastiform desk and chair. The cabin is about the size of a standard elevator car.

    Jolie’s equipment bag, as could be predicted, gets stuck in the narrow doorway. She tugs on it, but the damn thing won’t budge.

    “Jonah,” Jolie says from inside the room, “I can really use a hand here…”

    “On my way,” Jonah says, pushing the bag from the outside even as Jolie tugs from the inside.

    A few minutes of tugging and shoving later, the recalcitrant mass of the bag finally slides free of the door’s threshold. Unfortunately, Jonah exerted so much force to shove the bag forward that he finds himself propelled towards the inner wall of the tiny cabin at neckbreaking speed.

    Jolie, seeing Jonah hurtling her way, gives a yelp and tosses the mass of the bag into Jonah’s path to prevent him from slamming into the cabin’s inner wall. Jolie succeeds in this, but the impact of the bag knocks Jonah back towards the door and the corridor outside. Reaching out, Jolie grabs onto the collar of Jonah’s uniform tunic, hoping to stop his momentum. Jolie manages to slow him down slightly, but is ultimately dragged towards the door with Jonah.

    Reacting quickly, Jonah stretches out his arms to brace himself against the frame of the door. Having stabilized himself, he uses his body to provide a relatively soft “crash pad” for Jolie, whose tiny figure falls lightly onto his chest an instant later.

    Jonah disengages his arms from the doorframe and wraps them around Jolie, “You all right?”

    “Fine,” Jolie says, “Nothing says ‘comfort’ more than bouncing off the walls in Zero-G. What about you?”

    Jonah replies with a smile, “All arms, legs, and internal organs accounted for, ma’am.”

    Jolie knocks on the top of Jonah’s head gently with her fist, “Brain might be missing in action, though,” she chides.

    “Heart too,” Jonah grins, holding Jolie closer, letting her lean against his chest.

    Jolie sighs happily, wishing she could stay there forever, but the call of duty is relentless.

    “We’ll talk about your missing anatomy later, Chief,” Jolie says teasingly, “We’d better get your stuff moved into your room first or Athena will chew us out for inefficiency.”

    Agreeing with Jolie, Jonah floats out into the corridor where his own bag of equipment remains floating. Down the corridor, he can see the other Centurions likewise struggling to get their equipment bags into their equally cramped quarters.

    “See?” Jolie indicates as she and Jonah watch Sgt. Geoff Sutcliffe struggle with both feet to force his equipment bag through the narrow door into his quarters, “You’d think the engineers the Federation hires to design these flying death traps could build a little more elbow room into them.”

    “Actually,” Jonah says, admiring the engineering wizardry of the ship around him despite being no expert on mechanics himself, “It’s a pretty well designed ship. Every system aboard is state-of-the-art technology. I’ve heard that this ship can get from Cislunar Space out to the Asteroid Belt in just ten days. That’s pretty amazing! The average commercial ship takes at least two weeks.”

    “Yeah, she’s fast,” Jolie admits, “and the sooner she gets us out to the Asteroid Belt, the better. It’s about time we taught those Zeon creeps a lesson!”

    Jonah frowns. As much as Jonah adores Jolie, the raging belligerence within her disturbs him, “Why do you hate the Zeon so much, Jolie? They’re people just like we are.”

    “They’re people,” Jolie says, “but their soldiers are murderers and evil scum. How many people have the Zeon armies killed since the wars began twenty years ago, Jonah? Tell me.”

    “And how many people have the Federal Forces killed?” Jonah returns fairly.

    Jolie glares angrily at Jonah for a moment. Over the past few weeks, they have been of one mind and one heart on just about everything. It shakes Jolie a bit to hear Jonah disagreeing with her, especially on something of such personal importance to Jolie.

    Sensing Jolie’s growing ire, Jonah puts his hands gently on her shoulders and says, “Jolie, I just want you to understand: people aren’t good or evil just because of where they come from or what government they live under. There are good and evil people from both Earth and Zeon, and that includes soldiers as well as civilians.”

    “I know that,” Jolie says with some exasperation, “I’m not stupid, Jonah.”

    “No,” Jonah says apologetically, “I wasn’t trying to say or hint that you are. It’s just that when I heard you go off on the Zeon people like that…”

    “I wasn’t talking about the Zeon people,” Jolie says, “I’m just talking about their army. Their leaders. I don’t hate Zeon people, Jonah…just people like the Zabis and Alexander Miguel.”

    Jonah feels a cold sweat break on his neck as Jolie refers to Jonah’s brother.

    “My best friend is a Zeon,” Jolie continues, “You think I hate her because of it?”

    “Your best friend?” Jonah says, “You mean Athena is a Zeon?”

    Jonah is not surprised, really. He recognized early on that Athena speaks with a slight, but still noticeable Zeon accent. Likely, Athena has recognized Jonah’s Zeon accent as well, although if she has, she’s declined to remark upon it.

    “Yeah,” Jolie answers, “but she doesn’t exactly want everyone to know about it. I shouldn’t even have told you, really, but I know I can trust you. Just keep it a secret, OK?”

    “I will,” Jonah promises.

    “Anyway,” Jolie says, “I’m sorry if what I said about the Zeon was out of line. I’m not the greatest speaker in the world, you know? I kind of just blurt out what’s on my mind, and sometimes I forget how the stuff I say pisses off other people. That’s the way I’ve always been. I’m trying to change that about myself, but it’s hard sometimes.”

    Jonah smiles, “Forget it. The important thing is that you know that you have a problem and that you’re trying to change it. I didn’t mean to suggest you’re some kind of dogmatist or anything like that, Jolie.”

    “A dog…what?” Jolie asks, perplexed again by Jonah’s college boy vocabulary, “Are you calling me a b*tch, Jonah?”

    Jonah laughs, “No, of course not!”

    Jolie smiles, her irritation fading. She finds it impossible to stay upset at Jonah for long, “Well, you know, I can be a b*tch sometimes. You realize that, right?”

    “Even if it’s true,” Jonah says, “I don’t care. If you really are, as you say, a ’b*tch,’ I’ll be your dog any day.”

    As if to underscore the joke, Jolie lets out a little bark. She sounds like a chihuahua on uppers.

    Jonah begins to laugh, then replies with a somewhat deeper bark, like a greyhound in heat.

    The sounds of simulated barking and laughter fill the corridor, drawing stares from crew members passing through the corridor.

    Suddenly, Major Athena Ibaz appears in the corridor, but Jonah and Jolie fail to notice her. They continue barking and laughing at one another for a moment. Athena folds her arms and leans against the corridor, enjoying the humorous scene for a moment.

    The couple finally notices Athena standing a few meters down the corridor, smiling at them.

    “Major Ibaz!” Jonah and Jolie salute, petrified.

    “Time to get out of the kennel, you cute puppies,” Athena says, “We’re shipping out in just one hour.”

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  4. #64
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    Episode 4 continued...

    Other than the Amuro Ray, four other battlecarriers of the Ra Cailum class are being deployed into the Asteroid Belt and Outer Solar System by the Federal Forces, each carrying a Special Operations Team that includes nine mobile suits, just like the Centurion Team. One cannot exactly call it an overwhelming show of force in light of what the Federation’s resources can bring to bear against its enemies, but the addition of five battlecarriers and forty-five Special Forces mobile suits (which considering the Special Forces’ superior pilots and mecha, would each be the equivalent of five regular pilots and mobile suits) will greatly reinforce the beleaguered Frontier 8 space colonies and deter the Neo Zeon from allowing their civil war to spill over into Federation-controlled space.

    Even with the significant speed improvements incorporated into the second-generation Ra Cailum-class ships’ thrusters, the journey from Cislunar Space to the Asteroid Belt will require nine to ten days. During this time, the crews of the battlecarriers and the Special Forces teams must spend nearly every waking moment training in preparation for the combat that is anticipated.


    “He’s just not very aggressive,” 1Lt. Jolie Minh admits to her superior officer, Major Athena Ibaz, in a private planning conference between just the two senior officers, “he’s an artist, not a fighter. He’s got no killer instinct.”

    Athena nods, “Exactly. Jonah isn’t like you and me, Jolie. He’s a good kid, and he didn’t grow up in an environment of constant bloodshed like we did. If he’s going to be a soldier, he needs to get that killer instinct and quickly, or he’s going to end up dead even faster.”

    Jolie sighs and runs her hands through her long, luscious black hair tensely, “’Thena, don’t ask me to do this, please. You know I can’t.”

    Athena replies, “Jolie, you care about Jonah, right?”

    “Of course I do!” Jolie says, growing impatient with Athena’s asking questions whose answers should be obvious.

    “You want to keep him alive, don’t you?” Athena presses further.

    “Skip it, ‘Thena!” Jolie says, “Get to the point!”

    Athena says, calmly and firmly, “Then you need to hit him and hit him hard when the training begins. Don’t go easy on him, Jolie; you’ll just be condemning him if you do.”

    “But ‘Thena,” Jolie protests, “I can’t bring myself to hurt him…I just can’t.”

    Athena sighs, “I’m not telling you to maim him, Jolie…just make sure he understands what real combat is like, and why he has to be more aggressive than the enemy. Jonah has a tremendous amount of potential, but unless he discovers some latent aggression, he’s not going to last long out there in battle.”

    Jolie closes her eyes and nods, realizing that Athena, as usual, is right, “It’s not going to be easy…on him or me.”

    Athena puts a comforting hand on Jolie’s shoulder, “I know, and I’m sorry about that. But if you love him, and I know you do, you have to do this or…”

    Athena declines to finish the horrible thought. She knows that Jolie has caught her meaning.

    “OK,” Jolie says reluctantly, “I’ll do it.”

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  5. #65
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    Episode 4 continued...

    An hour later, the three commissioned officers of the Centurion Team are assembled in the combat training center located aboard the Amuro Ray. The staging area is the largest enclosed space aboard the ship other than storage areas and the hangar deck.

    Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels is attired in his white Federal Forces normalsuit, a standard sidearm loaded with rubber pellets at his side. Standing next to him in the Ready Room is Major Athena Ibaz, giving Jonah some words of encouragement and advice.

    “Be prepared for anything, Chief Michaels,” Athena tells Jonah grimly, “and remember: don’t relent, don’t let up for ANY reason. The enemy is out to kill you and will succeed in doing so unless you kill him first. You have a good heart and your compassion does you credit as a man, but in combat, compassion must be set aside. Is that understood?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah says tentatively.

    “Good luck, Chief,” Athena says, patting the side of Jonah’s helmeted head and opening the door into the combat simulation chamber.

    Jonah enters the cold, cavernous chamber. The door closes behind him with a metallic clang, echoing in the empty space. The lights of the chamber are darkened, giving the place an eerie, ominous atmosphere.

    As his eyes adjust to the darkness, Jonah makes out a tiny, feminine figure normalsuited and helmeted like himself. Jonah knows that it is Jolie, although her lovely young face is hidden behind the dark visor of her helmet.

    Jolie’s presence puts Jonah at ease.

    Which is precisely the wrong feeling for him to have at this particular moment.

    Without warning, and with a speed nearly incomprehensible, Jolie covers the distance between where she stood across the chamber an instant ago and the spot where Jonah stands. Jolie kicks out with her right foot, connecting with Jonah’s helmet visor and knocking him off balance.

    Jonah attempts to rise, but is chopped across the back of his neck by Jolie. Dazed and stunned, he has hardly a second’s respite before another kick sends him reeling across the room. This is followed by a solid punch across the visor of his helmet that cracks its reinforced glass.

    “C’mon, fight!” Jolie demands, “Or you’re going to wind up dead!”

    So saying, Jolie lands another kick on Jonah’s chest, causing him to fall back on the far wall. As he leans against the wall, wincing from pain and blood seeping from the corner of his mouth, Jolie presses her foot against his throat, her pistol drawn and pointed at his heart.

    “If this were real,” Jolie says, “You would’ve been dead six times over already. Any one of those blows I struck at you could have been lethal if I wanted them to be. When are you going to learn how to fight back?”

    So saying, Jolie drags Jonah by the arm, like she had so many times before, but this time with fierce aggression rather than warm affection. She pulls him to the ground, and presses her right knee against his neck, “Come on, damn you! Fight!”

    Behind the glass partition separating the ready room from the combat simulation chamber, Athena watches the training progress and shakes her head in frustration. This is no good…Jonah just doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body. He’s not going to make it if this keeps up.

    Jolie continues to pummel Jonah with blow after blow, pleading with him, “Fight back, damn it! What’s the matter with you?! You’re going to get killed unless you learn how to fight! FIGHT ME!!!”

    Jonah rolls away from Jolie, easily throwing off her light weight. Still unwilling to counterattack, Jonah attempts to rise, but finds himself swiftly knocked off his feet by Jolie’s sweeping kick.

    “Damn you, Jonah,” Jolie says, her voice filled with anguish, “If you die on me out there in battle, I swear I’ll never forgive you…”

    That does it…from somewhere deep down inside him, something horrible, something that Jonah never knew existed within him, wells up and rises to life. It consumes his being, seizing control of his brain and his limbs. Before he knows it, his fists lash out…quickly, powerfully, precisely.

    Jolie dodges backwards, dancing away from some of the incoming blows, deftly blocking others. Jonah’s punches and kicks lack true refinement and practice, and Jolie is able to counter them easily. Nevertheless, just the fact that he has begun to counterattack at all is heartening.

    “Yeah!” Jolie yells encouragingly, “C’mon! Come at me again!”

    Jonah does, with a series of fluid strikes and blows that would surely have felled a lesser opponent. Jolie dodges or parries these blows with almost casual ease, but it is doubtful that anyone else alive could.

    As Jonah moves, his mind reels with shock and surprise. He has always hated fighting, and he would have laughed off the suggestion that he had any talent for it, but here he is, striking with inexplicable ability against the best fighter in the Earth Federation Forces.

    Jolie, her instincts as ever competitive, launches a series of counterattacks. Having seen that Jonah is capable of defending himself, Jolie goes for a more aggressive series of strikes this time.

    But she has overestimated Jonah’s abilities.

    A hard punch gets through Jonah’s crude defenses, landing firmly against his sternum. Jonah falls back and down.

    Knowing that she’s stricken too hard, Jolie winces and runs over to the fallen Jonah, pulling off his helmet. Jonah coughs up a small mouthful of blood.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

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    Episode 4 continued...

    “Oh, God! Oh, God! Jonah, I’m sorry!” Jolie says frantically, unsealing Jonah’s normalsuit and fighting desperately to get the spacesuit off of the injured young man so she can examine the wound she caused him.

    Athena rushes in from the ready room, first aid kit in hand. She radios Dr. Wenwu Zhou, the Centurion Team’s physician, “Doc Wooster, this is Major Ibaz. We’ve got a situation in the combat simulation chamber on Deck Five. Chief Michaels has sustained an injury…possibly internal bleeding in the upper thorax, please report immediately.”

    “On my way, Major,” the doctor’s voice comes through the comlink.

    Jolie pulls the top part of Jonah’s normalsuit and lifts up his shirt. There are bruises all over the young man’s body, particularly on his chest.

    “Jonah…I didn’t mean to…I-I got carried away and…” Jolie says frantically.

    “It’s OK,” Jonah coughs, more blood coming forth, “I’m all right. I-it’s not as bad as it looks.”

    “I shouldn’t have…” Jolie says.

    “N-no,” Jonah says painfully, “You have to do this. If you don’t, I won’t be ready in combat. Then we might all get killed.”

    As Jolie comforts Jonah (or is it the other way around?), Athena examines Jonah’s wounds. Having acquired the equivalent of three years’ medical training on top of the paramedic training that all Federation officers must receive, Athena determines that Jonah’s injuries are indeed not as serious as they appear to be.

    Breathing a sigh of relief, Athena says to Jolie, “Don’t worry…Jonah’s right, it’s not nearly as bad as it looks. He’s basically got a bruised sternum. Nothing broken, as far as I can tell, but Doc Wooster will give him a thorough MRI scan just to make sure.”

    A bit more at ease after having gotten this information from Athena, Jolie turns to Jonah again, “Does it hurt bad?”

    Attempting to console the worried-sick Jolie, Jonah flashes a pained grin and says, “You think? Remember what you said the other day about me looking like the guy who gets beaten up by his girlfriend? Well…”

    Jolie smiles in spite of herself, “You still remember that stupid joke?”

    “I remember everything you tell me,” Jonah says, “and every hit you land on me…ow!”

    Jolie and Jonah laugh as Athena runs to greet Doc Wooster and guide him to Jonah.

    “Owww…don’t make me laugh…,” Jonah pleads, “It hurts when I laugh!”

    Jolie strikes Jonah, gently, one last time, “You’re the one making stupid jokes, mister!”

    “You always hurt the ones you love,” Jonah teases.

    Athena and Doc Wooster approach, and the major explains to the doctor, “No broken bones, and apparently, sense of humor is intact too.”

    “Hi, there, Doc,” Jonah greets the physician cheerfully.

    “Been sparring with 1Lt. Minh?” the doctor remarks.

    “Yeah,” Jonah replies, “Quite a workout. She’s trying to kill me before the enemy does.”

    The doctor grins, and even Athena has to stifle a laugh at that wisecrack.

    Doc Wooster makes a more careful examination of Jonah’s wounds, and confirms what Athena previously determined, “Not to worry. You’re not hurt that badly. Mainly, just bruises, although that blow to the sternum came pretty close to cracking it.”

    Jolie bites her lip and whispers meekly, “Sorry…”

    “1Lt. Minh puts more soldiers into my infirmary than the enemy does,” Doc Wooster chides, “it’s a good thing she’s on our side...or at least, I hope she is.”

    Her attitude returning now that she knows that Jonah is in no real danger, Jolie remarks, “If it weren’t for me, you’d be collecting unemployment, Doc.”

    “Hardly,” the doctor says mildly, “If it weren’t for the war, I could be happily running a nice, quiet clinic for old ladies and little kids back on Earth instead of looking after you military maniacs.”

    A stretcher arrives, but Jonah waves it off, “I won’t need that. I can get to the infirmary on my own power.”

    So saying, Jonah rises to his feet. He’s a little shaky at first, but finally finds his balance. Jolie and Athena each take one of his arms, and support his weight on their willowy shoulders.

    Looking to his left and right from one beautiful face to the other, Jonah smiles at Doc Wooster and says slyly, “You know, I think I’m going to have to find ways to get hurt more often.”

    “Knock it off, Jonah,” Jolie says with mischief in her voice, “or ‘Thena and I will just drop you on the deck right here…and maybe kick your butt some more.”

    “Maybe we should anyway,” Athena says with a grin, “so that we can really test the limits of Chief Michaels’ endurance.”

    “Over my dead body,” Jolie says protectively, “C’mon! Let’s get him to the infirmary before he passes out on us here.”

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  7. #67
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    Episode 4 continued

    Twenty minutes later, Jonah lies comfortably on a bed in Doc Wooster’s infirmary, his upper body bandaged in medicinal tape. The MRI reveals no significant damage. His sternum is bruised, but otherwise, Jonah has been declared headed for a full recovery by Doc Wooster.

    Athena has given Jolie leave to accompany Jonah for a while. She injured him as a consequence of training, so she has the responsibility (which for once, she doesn’t mind taking) for nursing him back to health.

    Jolie touches the bandages on Jonah’s chest, wishing that she could take away the wounds as easily as she inflicted them.

    “You know, if you have other things you need to do, you don’t have to stay,” Jonah says, “I’ll be out of here soon enough.”

    “What are you saying?!” Jolie demands hotly, “I’m not leaving!”

    “Whoa, simmer down,” Jonah says soothingly, “I didn’t say I wanted you to leave, just that if you’re needed elsewhere…”

    “Screw ‘elsewhere,’” Jolie replies, “The only place I want to be is with you.”

    Jonah smiles, stroking the back of Jolie’s head fondly, grateful for her devotion to him, “I don’t know what I’d do without you sometimes.”

    “You wouldn’t be lying here hurt, for starters,” Jolie says guiltily.

    “Hey, enough with the guilt-tripping,” Jonah says warmly, “I’m all right, and besides, better to have you beat me up in training than me getting killed in combat, right?”

    “Still trying to play ‘good soldier,’” Jolie says with a chiding smirk, “If only your reflexes were as game as your attitude…”

    “I’ll be fine,” Jonah says, rising from the bed, grimacing with pain.

    “I hope you’ll still be able to say that in an hour,” Jolie says, “because if you’re not too badly hurt, Athena wants to test your marksmanship skills.”

    “Now?” Jonah winces.

    “Now,” Jolie confirms, “If you’re able, that is. Remember: Athena is nothing if not a taskmaster.”

    Jonah sighs, reaching for the normalsuit hung on a rack in the corner of the infirmary room, “Better get moving then…ow!”

    Jolie helps Jonah steady himself, then adds, “I’ve got to warn you that you’re going to be going up against the Federal Forces’ best markswoman. There’s nothing anywhere that Athena can’t hit with that Walter minipistol of hers. I own her a*s in hand-to-hand combat, but even I have to admit she’s probably a better shot than I am.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind,” Jonah says, redonning the normalsuit and checking his plastic-pellet loaded sidearm.

    “She’s not going to go as easy on you as I did,” Jolie warns darkly.

    Jonah sighs. He volunteered to become a soldier when every cell in the rational part of his brain screamed, “Don’t do it, idiot,” and now he needs to accept the consequences.

    Jonah takes another look at the sylphlike Jolie, lovingly clutching his arm, her wide, soulfully dark eyes and her river of long hair, and smiles. Some consequences, Jonah concludes, one never needs to regret.

    Doc Wooster returns with a roll of gauze bandage and a tube of analgesic cream, “These are for tonight and tomorrow morning. You ought to apply it before bed tonight along with fresh bandages, and replace them every morning.”

    “Thanks, Doc,” Jonah says, accepting the items from the physician.

    Jolie says, “I’ll help you apply them tonight.”

    Jonah replies, “Thanks. You’re all the medicine I need.”

    A quick kiss later, the JoMi JoMi Duo is on their way back to the combat simulation chamber so that Jonah can face the Federation’s finest markswoman.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  8. #68
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    Episode 4 continued...

    Jonah and Jolie arrive back in the combat simulation chamber and find Athena waiting there. Athena is attired in her skintight normalsuit, accentuating the appealing curves of her figure.

    Athena quickly surveys Jonah, noting that he’s moving fairly well considering the beating that Jolie administered to him in the hand-to-hand combat and survival training, “Looks like you’re going to live, Chief Michaels, and in our line of work, living means getting right back into the fight. Are you ready?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah replies crisply.

    Athena checks the action on her chrome-encased sidearm as she tells Jonah, “Our weapons are loaded with plastic pellets loaded with a red dye. The pellets will burst upon impact and release the dye. Let’s see if you can come out of this clean, soldier.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah repeats.

    “You might actually find this a little easier than the hand-to-hand combat simulation,” Athena says somewhat coldly, “After all, I’m not Jolie.”

    As embarrassed as Jonah is to acknowledge it, he realizes that Athena is right. Jonah does like Athena, but as a mentor and “big sister” – a completely different and less visceral relationship than his special bond with Jolie. Even now, after weeks of growing familiarity, Jonah finds that Athena intimidates him. It’s more than just Athena’s relentless demand for discipline and her no-nonsense efficiency; Jonah cannot shake the feeling that somehow, Athena is privy to all his most private thoughts…that she can see into his soul and know what he’s thinking before he himself knows.

    “Kill the lights, Lieutenant!” Athena orders.

    Inside the Ready Room, Jolie moves the light switch for the combat simulation chamber into the “off” position.

    “Target Scenario G9413,” Athena instructs.

    The combat simulation chamber’s holographic environmental projector activates at Jolie’s command from the Ready Room. The chamber suddenly takes on the appearance of a dark street in a war-ravaged city at night.

    Jonah draws his sidearm and points it in the direction in which he had last seen Athena, but the sylphlike Centurion Leader is gone.

    Jonah feels something tiny and hard pelt him on the back, just below his left shoulder blade. A red dye covers the back of Jonah’s white normalsuit.

    Athena’s voice comes coldly through Jonah’s helmet receiver, “That shot would have sent a bullet right through your heart, Chief. Pay attention!”

    Jonah drops into a combat crouch and ducks beneath the cover of a holographic “building.”

    Jonah points his sidearm forward, glancing left, then right, listening for the slightest sound picked up on his helmet’s built-in microphone. The chamber is filled with a roaring silence.

    Jonah catches a slight movement to his left and fires his sidearm in that direction. The bullet sparks off the far wall of the chamber.

    Suddenly, Jonah senses movement to his right. He twists around and aims his pistol towards the source of the motion, opening fire.

    Once again, he hits nothing but reinforced wall.

    A plastic pellet explodes on the front of Jonah’s visor, smearing his vision with red dye.

    Athena’s voice comes in, “That shot would have gone straight through your visor and into your brain.”

    Jonah takes cover once again, this time next to a holographic projection of a large, truck-like vehicle.

    I can hardly see anything in here, Jonah considers, especially with this red goo covering my visor.

    Jonah opens the helmet visor, exposing his handsome face to the chamber. He knows that that would not be an option were he in outer space.

    Jonah closes his eyes and reaches out with his mind. He senses a familiar presence approach.

    Jonah leaps away from his position behind the holographic truck, tumbling away as three plastic pellets explode upon the ground where he crouched a moment ago.

    Jonah rises and fires three shots in the direction where he had sensed the familiar presence. Two of the shots strike the wall and explode; the third grazes the edge of something soft.

    A shot follows from the dark, striking Jonah in the chest. Red dye explodes. A final shot strikes Jonah’s sidearm itself, knocking the gun out of his hand.

    Jonah leaps after the gun. Just before he reaches it, a long, lean leg extends to kick him in the gut, knocking him back and away from the gun.

    Athena places one knee upon Jonah’s chest and thrusts the muzzle of her Walter handpistol onto the temple Jonah’s helmeted head.

    “Click,” Athena says, before withdrawing the gun, rising and stepping back away from Jonah, and reholstering her weapon.

    “All right, Chief, get up,” Athena orders Jonah.

    Jonah is covered in red dye…on his back just behind where his heart is, on his chest in front of where his heart is, on the visor of his helmet behind which is his skull.

    Three lethal hits.

    Jonah looks at Athena’s normalsuit…a slight spatter of dye just below her right shoulder.

    Athena says, “If this had been real combat, you would have been dead three times already before you managed to nick me with that last shot. The enemy won’t give you any second chances, Chief Michaels.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah replies sheepishly.

    “Still,” Athena says, finally revealing the warm, pretty smile that Jonah prefers to see on her, “That was a nice recovery and counterattack at the end. You actually managed to graze me. Even Jolie is only capable of doing that on occasion.”

    “I heard that,” Jolie says, stepping into the chamber and latching onto Jonah’s arm protectively, “Are you OK?”

    “Fine,” Jonah grins, “Major Ibaz is a great shot. I couldn’t keep up with her at all.”

    “You could,” Athena corrects, “but you didn’t. Again, I sensed that you were tentative during the simulation…like you couldn’t bring yourself to shoot.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah admits, “you’re right. I did feel that way.”

    “That’s your biggest weakness right now,” Athena advises, “Just like in your hand-to-hand training with 1Lt. Minh this morning, you demonstrated a lack of killer instinct. That’s not going to be acceptable if you’re going to be a soldier, Jonah.”

    “No, ma’am,” Jonah says.

    “You do show great potential,” Athena says at last, “but unless you develop that killer instinct…that aggression quickly, you’re going to wind up with a Purple Heart and ride home in a body bag, assuming there’s anything left of you.”

    Jonah can well imagine it. He has no fear of death, but he did not join the Federal Forces seeking it. Perhaps it was never really his calling to be a soldier, but now that he has chosen to become one, he must become as good a soldier as he can be.

    “We’ll continue training,” Athena tells Jonah, putting a comforting hand on his arm, “We have ten days to make a viable combatant out of you. 1Lt. Minh are going to be pushing you hard during these ten days, so be prepared.”

    “Yes, ma’am!” Jonah salutes.

    “Meet us in the MS Combat Simulator on Deck 4 at 11:00,” Athena orders, “next up is MS combat training.”

    “Yes, ma’am. With your leave, ma’am,” Jonah replies.

    Athena dismisses Jonah, then says to Jolie, “1Lt. Minh, could you stay behind for a moment?”

    Jolie reluctantly lets go of Jonah's arm, then whispers into his ear, “See ya upstairs in a little while.”

    When they are alone, Athena sits down on a nearby metal bench and says, “We’re really going to have to do something about that boy, or he’s going to get himself killed out there.”

    “Yeah,” Jolie says, “Unless we kill him in training first.”

    Athena stretches and smiles, “Aren’t you worried about him?”

    “Well, of course I am,” Jolie admits, “but I’ll be out there protecting him, so…”

    “You know that’s not how it works,” Athena tells Jolie, “How many times can you protect him, Jolie? Even you’re not invincible. Moreover, your responsibility is to the team and to the Federation, not just Jonah. He’s going to have to learn.”

    “Fine,” Jolie says, realizing that Athena, as usual, is right, “So we continue with the training?”

    “Hard,” Athena says, “By the time we reach the Asteroid Belt, Jonah is going to be combat ready, even if we have to run him into the ground to do so.”

    Jolie gulps, “But…”

    “No ‘buts,’ Jolie,” Athena says, “I know how much you adore him, and if that’s the case, you have to help me make a stronger soldier out of him. Agreed?”

    “OK,” Jolie says, “Agreed.”

    “We’re going to make life Hell for Jonah during the next ten days,” Athena says, “But the result is that he’ll still have a life to show for it after we enter combat.”

    Jolie nods in reluctant agreement. She doesn’t like the idea of having to put Jonah through “Hell,” but she knows that it is inevitable of Jonah is to develop the killer instinct he needs to survive in battle.

    Athena puts a comforting arm around Jolie, “I know it’s hard. You love him very much, don’t you? I understand. It isn’t easy for me either: he’s such a gentle soul, and we have to take that gentleness and grind it out of him. I hate myself for having to do it, but I’ll do it anyway. If I don’t, I’d just be murdering Jonah.”

    Jolie says, “That’s what sucks about war, right, ‘Thena? It forces people to be what they aren’t, and do things they shouldn’t.”

    Athena nods, “War doesn’t give offer people many options. It’s very Darwinian: adapt or die, that’s about it. Jonah needs to adapt to the realities of being a soldier. We have to help him do that…and sooner rather than later."

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  9. #69
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    Episode 4 continued

    The next phase of the training, as ordered, is MS combat simulation. Because of the Centurion Team’s distance from the full MS maintenance facilities available only at a base, and because their MS must be fully prepared for combat duty at any time after they arrive in the Outer Solar System, the Centurion Team must hone their MS piloting skills using computer-generated simulation programs rather than their actual mobile suits.

    This special exercise has been booked for the team’s trio of MS-piloting officers only: namely, Major Athena Ibaz, 1Lt. Jolie Minh, and Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels. The rest of the team, currently conducting routine shipboard drills, will join them for a second round of combat simulator training late in the day.

    The programmed scenario has the small squad of three, Athena in her Cour De Leon and Jolie and Jonah in their respective Centurion Gundams, squaring off against an assortment of twelve Neo Zeon mobile suits. The scenario presented is that the squad of twelve Zeon mobile suits is assaulting a space colony of 800,000 inhabitants, and that the three Centurions must neutralize the Zeon MS with minimal casualties to the space colonists.

    “Centurion Leader to Centurions Two and Three,” Athena says through the tactical net, “”Enemy units, twelve in number, have invaded the Virtual Colony. Intercept and destroy all enemy targets, but use caution: civilians will be all over the kill zone.”

    “We’re outnumbered only four to one,” Jolie complains, “You’ve made this way too easy, ‘Thena!”

    “Sorry, Jo,” Athena’s voice returns with a sarcastic edge, “We’ve got a rookie with us. Can’t expect him to be ready for thirty-six to one yet.”

    Thirty-six to one?! Jonah thinks to himself, She’s got to be kidding!

    Neither Athena nor Jolie is laughing, however. The two sylphlike officers have turned dead serious.

    “Attack formation,” Athena orders.

    The two Centurion Gundams form up in front of the Cour De Leon, in its Waverider configuration.

    “T-minus fifteen seconds to entry,” Athena adds.

    Centurions Two and Three prime their weapons.

    “Commence attack!” Athena orders.

    The twin Centurion Gundams enter the simulated space colony via an access hatch in its forward terminus. Their tracking computers detect twelve enemy targets scattered amidst the urban environment below.

    A Dreissen-II mobile suit occupies the intersection between two thoroughfares in the city, creating panic in the streets. Suddenly, Jolie’s Centurion Gundam lands feet-first on top of the Dreissen, piledriving the Zeon mecha onto its knees. Before the enemy mecha has time to recover, Centurion Gundam Unit 1 has hoisted it up and away from the busy intersection, using the mighty mechanical gears in its armored arms to throw the enemy mecha onto some unoccupied parkland.

    Jolie follows up the assault by drawing the Centurion Gundam’s beam saber and driving it directly into the cockpit of the Dreissen-II. If this were actual combat, the enemy pilot would be dead…instantly melted by the heat of the beam saber, more intense than that of the sun’s core. This tactic, although cruel, is effective in neutralizing an enemy mobile suit without causing collateral damage to neighboring structures as it does not induce the MS to explode…something that cannot be allowed to happen in a heavily populated urban zone.

    Three more Dreissen-IIs and a Zaku-III converge on Jolie’s Centurion Gundam, their beam tomahawks and beam cannon drawn.

    Behind the visor of her normalsuit helmet, Jolie grins, This is too easy!

    The three Zeon mobile suits open fire with their beam cannon, and strike...each other (!) as Jolie dodges the Centurion Gundam out of the path of their bolts of beam energy faster than seemingly possible. The Centurion Gundam rolls twice along the ground, slashing out with its beam saber. The three Zeon mobile suits, already damaged by their own errant strikes, collapse in unison as their legs are cut out under them.

    Elsewhere, Major Athena Ibaz’s Cour De Leon twists away from beam cannon shots fired by a trio of Gaza C mobile suits led by a Gaza D unit. With surgical precision, Athena delivers shots that strike near, but not upon her four targets. She then jets the Cour De Leon away.

    As she anticipated, the four Zeon mobile suits pursue. Having drawn them away from the city, Athena is free to use her mecha’s firepower. Two well-placed missiles skeet two of the three Gaza Cs from the sky. Having dispatched those two units, Athena finds her Cour De Leon under assault by the enemy commander’s Gaza D, which reconfigures to mobile armor configuration to blast at the Cour De Leon with its beam cannon. Even as her enemy changes configuration, however, so too does Athena, converting the Cour De Leon into its mobile suit mode. The Cour De Leon swiftly grabs onto the Gaza D mobile armor and holds it fast in an iron grip, not allowing the transformable Zeon mecha to return to mobile suit mode.

    Its commanding unit thus held by the Cour De Leon, the computer-simulated Gaza C is at a loss for what to do next. In its moment of confusion, Athena incapacitates the Gaza C with a precise beam rifle shot straight through its cockpit.

    The Gaza D finally breaks free of the Cour De Leon’s grip, but before it can launch another attack, Athena separates its top from its bottom with the Cour De Leon’s beam saber, rendering the enemy MS immobile and helpless.

    Near the city center, Jonah finds a school campus ablaze and under assault by a two Gellond mobile suits. His mind flashing back to that horrible day at Frontier 8 when he watched helplessly as the Han family fell victim to a callous assault by Zeon mobile suits, Jonah remembers why he has set aside his pacifistic ideals to become a soldier in the Earth Federation Forces. Although Jonah is conscious that this merely computer-generated simulation training, and that no real lives will be lost if he fails today, Jonah throws himself into the battle with the same intensity that he would had real lives actually been at stake. The lessons that Athena and Jolie have taught him are beginning to sink in: someday, soon, it will be real, and innocents will die unless Jonah acts promptly and precisely, as his two superior officers are training him to do.

    Jonah takes an instant to run through his list of attack options: missiles? Too destructive and unpredictable for use in the relatively confined space of a colony cylinder, especially when innocent lives are at stake. Beam rifle? Requires precise aim and could pose the same potential danger as the missiles. Vulcan cannon? No computer targeting available and limited to fixed-forward firing; moreover, its firepower isn’t strong enough to do serious damage to an enemy mobile suit. Beam saber? Requires getting in close, and difficult to use in hitting multiple targets…unless one is as good as Jolie or Athena. Hand-to-hand? Frankly, after his morningtime beating at Jolie’s hands, Jonah isn’t feeling particularly confident about his hand-to-hand fighting skills, mobile suit or no mobile suit.

    These thoughts run through Jonah’s mind in the span of a half-second, but he is forced to abandon his consideration and act because one of the two Gellonds is slashing at his Centurion Gundam with its beam halberd while the other takes aim at him with its beam rifle.

    With a deft move that Jolie had taught him some days ago, Jonah blocks the downward slash of the first Gellond’s beam halberd by using the Centurion Gundam’s own beam saber. Holding the defensive parry, Jonah simultaneously kicks out with the Centurion Gundam’s left leg, sinking his mecha into a gymnastic crouch seemingly impossible for a mechanical structure.

    It is a graceful and breathtaking move, and highly effective, but with one very significant flaw…

    “Oh, no!” Jonah’s eyes widen in dismay as he realizes what he has done.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

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    Episode 4 continued...

    The beam-rifle wielding Gellond tumbles onto its back, for the moment unable to threaten Jonah. Unfortunately, the Zeon mobile suit’s backwards tumble causes it land upon and flatten several school buildings. Had this been a real battle, the occupants of that building would have been killed or gravely wounded.

    Distracted by the consequences of his error of judgment, Jonah momentarily freezes…a mistake that Athena and Jolie have warned him against time and again.

    The beam-halberd wielding Gellond disengages from its sword-lock with Jonah’s Centurion Gundam, using its shoulder to knock Jonah’s mobile suit backwards and down. The simulation pod, designed to mimic the impact of combat as well as the sights, upends Jonah’s simulated cockpit module with a violent rocking motion that knocks the wind out of young mobile suit pilot.

    When Jonah finally comes to his senses, he sees the Gellond about the plunge its halberd straight into his mobile suit’s cockpit.

    Jolie’s Centurion Gundam appears on the scene like a flash of lightning, impaling the Gellond sidelong with its beam saber and cutting upwards, lengthwise, incapacitating the mecha without compromising its nuclear fusion engine and inducing an explosion. With an additional fluid move, Jolie’s Centurion Gundam also kicks down the second Gellond, which had risen from where it had fallen and had been taking aim at Jonah’s prostrate Centurion Gundam.

    Unlike Jonah, Jolie calculated the kick precisely, causing the Gellond to fall down upon an unoccupied automobile parking lot behind the school. After the enemy mecha is down, Jolie smashes its head/camera unit with the Centurion Gundam’s knee, strips the Gellond of its beam rifle, and finishes it with a hard punch of the Centurion Gundam’s armored fist that collapses the Gellond’s cockpit. Were the mecha real, its pilot would have been crushed into fleshy pulp.

    Jonah watches the scene in horror. He is shocked by how merciless Jolie becomes in combat. Doesn’t she realize how much agony she would have caused the enemy pilot if this had not been a computer simulation?

    Athena’s voice comes into Jonah’s mind to haunt him, “This is war. You have to set aside the compassion you feel and destroy the enemy before he destroys you. There’s no such thing as ‘mercy’ in combat.”

    Once again, Jonah finds himself reflecting upon why he joined the Federal Forces. He had witnessed his own brother, Alexander Miguel, lead a battle that had resulted in the deaths of thousands. Disgusted by Alexander’s actions, Jonah resolved to do what he could to prevent similar slaughters.

    Having turned his back on the family of his birth, Jonah found a new family in the Centurion Team, particularly Jolie, who has all but become his soulmate, and Athena, more of an older sister to him than his biological older sister, Nanai. Jonah has great affection for them both, and holds them in high regard. Jonah is disturbed, however, by the utter ruthlessness that both Jolie and Athena are prone to exhibiting in combat. Are Jolie and Athena any better in that sense, Jonah wonders, than Alexander? Has he merely exchanged a Zeon flag for an Earth Federation one, without transcending the evil called war?

    Jonah shakes his head to clear it, refocusing on the task at hand.

    There remain one final Gellond and a Nightingale to contend with.

    The Nightingale greatly resembles the mobile suit that his brother is known for piloting. Jonah avoids confronting that mecha, instead going after the last remaining Gellond.

    Suppressing his natural inclination towards compassion, Jonah charges the Gellond with a throat-tearing war cry that he would never have imagined himself capable of emitting. It is an expression of extreme anguish and effort, as he struggles against the pull of his own conscience to do what he must.

    The beam saber of Jonah’s Centurion Gundam lances directly into the head unit of the Gellond, blinding the mecha. Jonah then removes the Gellond’s beam halberd from the enemy mecha’s own backpack storage unit, activates the enemy weapon, and uses it to cleave the Gellond in half horizontally along its waist, just below where the mobile suit’s nuclear fusion generator is situated. The Gellond is immobilized, but its would-be pilot is spared.

    Jonah spots Jolie’s Centurion Gundam high in colony’s sky, dueling with the Nightingale so much like Alexander’s. The simulated Zeon mobile suit is programmed with ace pilot attributes, challenging even Jolie’s skills. Jonah watches amazed for a moment the breathtaking dynamic maneuvers of both mecha, more like dance than warfare, then rejoins the fray at Jolie’s side.

    Jonah fires his Centurion Gundam’s missiles at the Nightingale, forcing it away from Jolie’s mobile suit. The Nightingale, dodging the torrent of missile fire, turns its beam rifle in Jonah’s direction and opens fire. Jolie places the shield of her Centurion Gundam between the beam and Jonah’s Centurion Gundam just in time, sacrificing the shield, but preserving Jonah.

    Athena’s Cour De Leon soars in from behind the Nightingale, strafing the Zeon mobile suit’s back with fire from the Cour De Leon’s beam cannon. The Nightingale responds with a flight of missiles that forces Athena to withdraw.

    Jolie and Jonah’s twin Centurion Gundams draw their beam sabers in unison and assault the Nightingale, which responds by drawing its double-bladed beam saber.


    Identical sparks of psi-energy erupt from Jolie and Jonah’s helmeted heads. The sparks coalesce into a powerful energy bolt that inundates their two mecha’s systems and powers the two Gundams far beyond the limitations of the mecha’s design.

    The two blades of Jolie and Jonah’s beam sabers meet as they rise to block the Nightingale’s vicious slash, the two streams of energy flow together into one, overwhelming and finally dissipating the energy of the Nightingale’s beam tomahawk blade.

    With a graceful maneuver that appears choreographed, but is in fact, spontaneous, the two Centurion Gundams disengage their merged beam sabers, spin away from the Nightingale, then instantly deliver twin stabs directly into the Nightingale’s cockpit. The entire sequence of motion occurs in just a second’s time.

    The Nightingale falls onto the artificial turf of the colony’s “ground,” immobilized.

    “J-Jonah…” Jolie’s voice comes through the tactical net, “Did you feel that? Did we…?”

    “I know, Jolie,” Jonah replies, “I felt it too. It was like...I can’t describe it. We felt…I guess, merged somehow.”

    “That’s how I felt too,” Jolie says, “Like I knew exactly what you were thinking…what you were feeling.”

    Athena lands the Waverider-configured Cour De Leon near where the two Centurion Gundams stand. Athena radios her two subordinates, “Are you two all right? What just happened?”

    “We…” Jolie tries to explain, but cannot, “I don’t know, ‘Thena. It was the weirdest thing. Jonah and I seemed to just combine into a single person or something for a second.”

    “Yes, Major Ibaz,” Jonah adds, “That’s how I would characterize it too. It was like Jolie was communicating directly to me in my mind.”

    Athena opens her helmet visor, “You two are powerful Newtypes, and it’s not surprising that you produce a kind of empathetic vibe when you’re together, but what you’re describing is pretty extraordinary. We ought to have Doc Wooster look at you two right away.”

    So saying, Athena cancels the combat simulation program. The holographically rendered artificial environment and enemy mobile suit wrecks disappear, and the trio finds itself once again in the stark reality of the combat simulation chamber aboard the Amuro Ray.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  11. #71
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    Episode 4 continued...

    Two hours later, Jolie and Jonah walk out of Doc Wooster’s clinic. The doctor has taken blood samples and other tissue samples from them both and will be examining them in the coming days.

    In the meantime, the physician offers this to Jolie, Jonah, and Athena, “The tissue samples probably won’t tell us anything important, but the EEG readings I’ve taken are telling. The brainwave patterns for 1Lt. Minh and Chief Warrant Officer Michaels are in perfect sympathy with each other.”

    Athena’s eyes widen in revelation, while Jolie thinks to ask, “Is that rare, Doc?”

    “Rare?” the physician says, “Jolie, it’s nothing short of miraculous. The EEG wave pattern of each individual is as unique as his or her fingerprint. No two are identical, but each one is sympathetic with exactly one other in the entire universe. Rarely, however, do two individuals with sympathetic EEG patterns encounter each other.”

    “What does that mean, Doc?” Jonah asks, perplexed.

    “It means,” Athena explains with a smile, “that you two really were meant for each other. Perfect sympathetic Newtypes…brought together here against all odds.”


    The long training day finally ends. Jolie is inside Jonah’s quarters, gently rubbing analgesic cream on the wounds she inflicted upon him during the morning’s training, then wrapping his wounded torso in gauze bandage. The sensation of Jolie’s tiny, soft hands upon his body comforts Jonah greatly, and he notes the irony that the same hands that had hurt him so badly now soothe those same injuries.

    “Did you see what we did to that last enemy MS in the simulation program, Jonah?” Jolie says as she wraps the bandage around him, “That was like…wow!”

    “It was a very powerful feeling,” Jonah concurs, “Almost a little frightening. It was like we possessed each other for a second or something.”

    “I was thinking…” Jolie says, “Maybe we can train ourselves to do it voluntarily. It could make us unbeatable.”

    “I’m not going to feel so unbeatable if you don’t stop wrapping me in this bandage, Jolie,” Jonah says with a pained grin, “You’re mummifying me.”

    Jolie goes wide-eyed, “Oops. Sorry.”

    Sure enough, the distracted Jolie has wrapped Jonah in much more than the necessary amount of gauze.

    The two laugh as Jolie locates a pair of scissors and begins to snip away the excess bandage.

    “Seriously, though,” Jolie says, “It’s awesome that we’re perfect synthetic Newtypes.”

    “That’s perfect sympathetic Newtypes…ow!” Jonah winces as Jolie binds him tightly with the bandage, “We’re definitely not ‘synthetic.’ At least I know I’m not.”

    “We’re really soul mates in every sense then,” Jolie says smiling.

    “I didn’t need a medical expert to tell me that,” Jonah says, taking Jolie into his arms and holding her tightly, “I knew it the first time I laid eyes on you.”

    Jolie leans on Jonah’s chest, closing her eyes, “If it means that your combat skills are gonna get better, I want to work on seeing if we can learn how to do what we did today at will.”

    “Why are you so anxious to do that, Jolie?” Jonah asks, “It’s not as if we don’t do enough killing as it is. Should we really be using this…power we have to kill even more?”

    Jolie disengages herself from Jonah’s embrace, glaring at him angrily, “Is that what you think I’m doing this for?! What do you think I am, Jonah?! A heartless killer?!”

    Caught off guard by this reaction, but understanding how it must appear from Jolie’s perspective, Jonah amends, “I’m sorry. I…just don’t want more blood on your hands, Jolie. Every time you take a human life, you lose a little bit of yourself. I know because my brother is that way. He’s been a soldier for his entire adult life, and during his career, he’s killed so many people. I love my brother very much, but I left him because…I don’t know him anymore. The war has twisted him inside…turned his heart into a coil of cold iron. Jolie, I…I love you too much to see you become like that.”

    Moved by Jonah’s sincerity and concern for her, Jolie lets Jonah take her back into his arms, “I’ve always had a hot temper, Jonah. I hope you can forgive me when I sometimes let it go off on you like that. Maybe you’re right about me. Maybe I have turned into something terrible.”

    “No,” Jonah says soothingly, stroking Jolie’s hair, “You have a noble soul, Jolie. When we merged today, I could see into your heart, and I saw the light of a hero there. Your instinct is to help people…to protect the weak and innocent and fight against cruelty and evil. I know that’s where your heart is, and that’s one of the reasons I love you so much.”

    Jolie says, “Then do you understand why I want to learn if we can use this power we have together?”

    “I know,” Jonah says, “You don’t want to see me die.”

    Jolie leans against Jonah’s chest again, and Jonah feels the moist warmth of Jolie’s tears upon him, “I can’t lose you, Jonah. I’ve already lost so many people I’ve loved…my parents, my brother, my friends. I’m not afraid of dying, Jonah. What I’m afraid of is having to helplessly watch the people I love die. That scares me more than anything. Everyone I ever love seems to die and leave me behind. I can’t let that happen to you too. But I don’t know if, in the middle of combat, I can always be there to protect you like I want to. That’s why I have to be sure you can protect yourself.”

    Jonah holds Jolie closer, “Jolie…I don’t know what to say. To say that I’m grateful isn’t even close to enough. You’re giving all of yourself to me…how could I…?”

    Jolie shushes Jonah, “Just promise me you’ll stay with me forever. That things will never change between us. That we’ll spend our lives together. To the end.”

    “I promise,” Jonah says without hesitation or doubt, “We’ll always be together, Jolie, I swear we will.”

    The couple embraces. Unknown to them, and unwitnessed by others, a life-giving energy cocoon surrounds them, warming and nourishing their souls. Thus giving each other strength, Jolie and Jonah’s Newtype essences begin to grow in ways that even they do not comprehend.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  12. #72
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    Episode 4 continued...

    In the video conference room aboard the Amuro Ray, Captain Beecher Olech and Major Athena Ibaz conduct a teleconference with General Bright Noah, who remains at Side 7, General Manron Blackhead of the Federal Forces’ High Command, Colonel Peter Cairlay (Director of the Special Forces), and the Federal Forces Security Council in Shanghai on Earth. Beecher and Athena are being updated on the situation in the Outer Solar System, sorting out the various factions of Zeon that are vying for power in that sector of space.

    The Neo Zeon warlords each have the same general goal: to establish himself or herself as the new supreme ruler of the Zeon Empire and eventually, conquer Earth and the Cislunar space colonies as well as the settlements of the Outer Solar System and the Asteroid Belt. Five major factions have emerged: the Titan-Zeon (not to be confused with the Titans Corps that was the Federation’s elite anti-Zeon task force during the mid-U.C. 0080s) in the orbit of Saturn, Jupitorius-Zeon in Jovian orbit, Callisto-Zeon, also in Jovian orbit, Deimos-Zeon in Martian orbit, and finally Phobos-Zeon in Martian orbit.

    Lacking a mother planet, and isolated from the Cislunar space colonies, the Zeon warlord factions have needed to be resourceful and self-sufficient. There are valuable resources even in this cosmic hinterland. The gases in the atmosphere of Jupiter and Saturn can be converted into fuel for the warlords’ war machines, including space battleships, fighter planes, mobile suits, and other vehicles. In fact, an irony of the Earth Federation Forces’ having exiled the remaining Zeon forces to the Outer Solar System is that the Federation has effectively delivered the Zeon to a vast supply of energy that the Federation itself cannot muster on Earth or in Cislunar Space. Jupiter and Saturn each contains inconceivable quantities of concentrated hydrogen gas that can be converted to fuel for nuclear fusion to power space colonies and modern war machines alike. The Titan-Zeon, Jupitorius-Zeon, and Callisto-Zeon largely control this vast power supply, mining the gas directly from the giant planets that occupy the middle of the Solar System. The Zeon stranglehold on the hydrogen mines of Jupiter and Saturn effectively denies access to these resources to the Federation, forcing outlying Federation space colonies to rely on hydrogen supplies imported from Earth and Cislunar Space.

    In the Asteroid Belt and on Mars, there are large supplies of metallic ore useful for the construction of machinery. Largely unexploited, Mars remains a planet whose ore resources remain rich and deep, unlike the greatly depleted Earth that humanity has been exploiting for millennia. The Deimos-Zeon and the Phobos-Zeon rule this region, and thus also control the metallic ore supplies necessary to maintain a space-based civilization…and to conduct space wars.

    Each of the Zeon factions looks warily and enviously at the resources controlled by the others, and their leaders scheme to eliminate their rivals so that they can claim these resources for themselves. Moreover, the Zeon occupation of these resource-rich zones denies the Federation access to them. Although there is little unity among the surviving factions of the former Archduchy of Zeon these days, despite their shared militaristic contolist ideology, one thing that they can agree on is that anything that puts the Earth Federation at a disadvantage is good for Zeon.

    Some resources, however, the space-based civilization will forever suffer a paucity of. First and foremost is water. Lacking Earth’s oceans, the space-based Zeon civilization must rely on the frozen ice blocks in Saturn’s rings or the polar caps of Mars. The Zeon space colonies of the Outer Solar System include hydroponics agriculture colonies at which staple grains, fruits, vegetables, and livestock are raised in vast enough quantities to feed the space-based population, which census-takers estimate at approximately four billion (compared to the Federation’s nine billion on Earth and in the Cislunar space colonies), but hydroponics agriculture is tenuous and expensive to operate and maintain. For this reason, the leaders of Zeon look thirstily and hungrily to the mother world of Earth, hoping to take the cosmic blue gem of life from the degenerate hands of the Earth Federation that desecrates it more with each passing day.

    Major Athena Ibaz uses a holographic map of the Outer Solar System and Asteroid Belt regions to illustrate her understanding of the situation to General Noah, General Blackhead, Colonel Cairlay, and the Security Council, “During the past six to twelve months, the Callisto Armada and the Jupitorius Army have been putting a great amount of pressure on the Frontier 8 Zone and the Deimos and Phobos Zeon factions. Evidently, the Callisto and Jupitorius factions are suffering from a severe shortage of metallic ore supplies, probably from high rate of consumption during the Zeon civil war that has gone on for the past five years. They need a base from which to attack Deimos and Phobos, however, and that’s why they’re interested in Frontier 8.”

    A member of the Security Council asks, “And our civil defense forces at Frontier 8 haven’t been adequate to drive them off?”

    “No, ma’am,” Athena tells the councilwoman, “not nearly, I’m afraid. The civil defense units have simply been overwhelmed. Frontier 8’s entire Civil Defense Guard isn’t nearly enough to stand up to even one of these Zeon factions, let alone five of them.”

    “What about the Special Forces, Major,” asks General Noah, “Do you think you and your comrades will be able to stem the tide?”

    “If we pursue wise and effective strategies, then yes,” Athena says, “but we can’t take a permanently defensive position, which is the best that we of the Special Forces will be able to do on our own. To truly eliminate the threat, we would need to mobilize the bulk of the Federal Forces Space Armada and Mobile Suit Army Corps to the Outer Solar System.”

    Athena’s remark sets off a wave of muttering and mumbling among the Security Council members. Half of the council supports Athena’s suggestion that the Federation take a more aggressive stance; the other half rejects it as unaffordable.

    General Blackhead asks, “Major, just exactly what do you mean by ‘wise and effective’ strategy? And do you really think the Federation can afford to or has the right to involve itself in a Zeon civil war? Especially so far from the Federal Forces’ home base?”

    “No, sir,” Athena replies, “and the idea is not for the Federation to move against the Zeon immediately, but after their strength is further depleted by their own internal conflicts. The Zeon are weak presently because they are not unified; that could change if the Federation goes in against them right now. Their current collective strength would still be extremely difficult for the Federal Forces to handle. Therefore, we must deplete the Zeons’ strength by letting them, even encouraging them to continue their civil war, but at the same time, ensuring that they do so without threatening Frontier 8 or the Federation’s sovereign territories in the Outer Solar System.”

    “Can we afford to wait, however?” General Noah asks fairly, “We could win a war of attrition against them on Earth or in Cislunar Space, but out there…”

    “Not war of attrition, sir,” Athena amends, “The crux of my plan is not only for the Special Forces to secure Federation territory in the Outer Solar System, but also to strike at and seize the Zeon’s ore and fuel supplies. We need to cut off their access to this lifeblood.”

    Blackhead, who has never liked or trusted Athena because of her ability and tendency to upstage him as a strategist, smiles sarcastically, “How do you propose to do that, Major? Blow up Mars…or better yet, Jupiter and Saturn?”

    “No, sir,” Athena replies evenly, “but by strategically hitting the facilities and equipment that the Zeon need to access these resources, we can weaken them rather quickly. The Special Forces’ training does prepare us for operations of that nature.”

    Athena’s strategy meets with the approval of General Noah and the Security Council. Blackhead, however, scowls darkly.

    General Noah says, “Major, you, Captain Beecher, and the other fleet captains and Special Forces commanders can work out the specifics and report back to us when you’ve formulated a concrete plan…”

    “Done, sir,” Athena says, “you’ll find the file sent encrypted in code in the Intelligence Department’s secured databanks.”

    Amazed, but paradoxically not surprised by Athena’s efficiency, General Noah responds, “Very well then, Major. We’ll study it immediately and if we find it sound, we’ll give you the green light to go ahead.”

    “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” Athena salutes, and Captain Beecher follows suit.

    The conference ends. Breathing a sigh of relief, Athena turns to Captain Beecher and asks to be excused so she can supervise the training of her squad.

    Beecher grants the request for leave, but asks Athena, “Major, do you really believe we can accomplish the goals you’ve set out? Our forces are well-armed and well-trained, but numerically, we’re still at a great disadvantage.”

    Athena replies, “At this point, Captain, sir, we don’t require a great amount of force. What we do need is the right intelligence to hit them at the right spot at the right time, and the right personnel to carry out these surgical maneuvers.”

    “That explains why you’ve been training your people so intensely,” Beecher says with a smile, “but aren’t you concerned about exhausting them before the battle even begins?”

    Athena says, “They’ve been trained to endure even the most demanding of circumstances, sir. But their success will depend on their precision, and that’s why they must constantly refine their skills.”

    “In that case,” Beecher says, “I’d better let you get to them. Dismissed, Major.”

    “Thank you, sir,” Athena salutes and leaves the conference room.

    As Athena leaves, Beecher smiles admiringly at the young officer. Sometimes, he wonders who’s really in charge aboard the Amuro Ray, and to be frank, Beecher is glad that it’s more Athena than him.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  13. #73
    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
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    Wow, that episode 4 goes on and on..how many pages is that episode 4 alone in MS word?


    You shameless self-promoter!
    I just love how you Captivate My Mind

    Self reminder - Update blog more often and continue editing/writing for TOV fanfic.

  14. #74
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Suet Seung View Post
    Wow, that episode 4 goes on and on..how many pages is that episode 4 alone in MS word?
    I don't know; I'm not done expanding it yet.

    It started with a 700-word outline of the general idea. I've been filling in the details during the past month.

    There are currently around 25 pages yet unposted.

    You shameless self-promoter!
    I was born in Hollywood, you know (literally)?

  15. #75
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    Episode 4 continued...

    The next day, Jolie and Jonah are hard at work in the combat simulation chamber, trying to duplicate the feat of merging their Newtype energies to synchronize their attacks as they had done during the previous day’s training. So far, however, they are having no success. Jolie’s moves are lightning quick and fluid as always, and Jonah is improving seemingly by the hour, but the magic spark of that moment seems to have vanished for the present, and the couple cannot establish it again despite their best efforts.

    “Damn it!” Jolie rages, throwing her helmet onto the metal deck of the chamber, “Why can’t we get it to work again?! We were able to pull it off without even trying yesterday, what the hell is wrong?!

    Jonah, removing his own helmet much more gently, puts a hand on Jolie’s normalsuited shoulder and says, “Calm down. We’ll find how to make it work again. Your getting so upset about it probably doesn’t help matters.”

    “What do you propose we do, then?! Sit down and meditate until we figure it out?!”

    Jolie sits on the floor crosslegged and pulls her helmet into her lap. Her young, pretty face is a scowl of frustration. Jonah can almost see a plume of angry smoke rising out of the top of her head.

    Jonah smiles wanly. His girlfriend has quite a temper…one that would probably scare many guys off. Jonah doesn’t mind, however; Jolie’s occasionally explosive temper is part of her appeal to him. A calm and retiring personality himself, Jonah feels that he needs Jolie’s fiery character to energize him.

    Jolie removes the glove of her normalsuit and begins chewing on it…a sure sign that she’s at the end of her rope and that her patience has all but run out.

    Jonah puts a comforting arm around Jolie; she leans on his shoulder in frustration, but calms herself enough to say quietly, “Sorry. You must be getting really annoyed with me blowing up at you all the time like this. I know I’ve got a lousy temper.”

    “It’s OK,” Jonah smiles, “I think we’ll have better luck with this if we calm down. Maybe our problem is that we’re too tense. Maybe it doesn’t work that way.”

    “I’m hungry,” Jolie remarks, and indeed, Jonah can hear her stomach growling. They have been training since the early morning, and gotten so involved in their task that they skipped lunch.

    “Then again,” Jonah says, “Maybe we’re not able to do it because our blood sugar is low.”

    Jolie lies down on the cold metal floor of the combat simulation chamber, “I don’t even have the strength to stand up right now…”

    As if on cue, Athena appears at the door of the combat simulation chamber. In her hand, Athena carries a basket.

    “The two of you have been working so hard,” Athena says with a smile, “I’m very proud of both of you. I heard you skipped lunch today, so I brought you something to eat.”

    “Thanks ‘Thena! You’re a lifesaver!” Jolie says, grabbing three sandwiches and a container of fruit juice from Athena’s loaded basket. Athena offers a fourth sandwich and a second fruit juice to Jonah.

    “What about you?” Jolie asks, wolfing down the first sandwich.

    Athena sits down on the cold floor of the combat simulation chamber, curling her long, shapely legs beneath her and covering them as demurely as possible with her uniform skirt, and replies, “I had lunch in the commissary already; the steward there told me he hadn’t seen you two all day.”

    Her mouth full of roast beef sandwich, Jolie says, “Veevebntrntdothttngweddystday!”

    Jonah, smiling, translates for Athena, “I think she’s trying to say that we’ve been trying to do that thing we did yesterday.”

    Athena, shaking her head at Jolie and laughing, asks Jonah, “Have you two had any luck?”

    Jonah says, “Well, my skills are getting much better, which is definitely a plus, but we haven’t been able to duplicate that phenomenon we produced yesterday.”

    Athena nods, “Don’t push it. This isn’t the kind of thing that can be accomplished by brute force.”

    “Fshor!” Jolie says, stuffing a second sandwich into her mouth.

    Jonah takes a bite of his own sandwich, eating as slowly as Jolie is quickly. Chewing thoroughly before swallowing, he then says, “It was so spontaneous when it happened yesterday. I know that I wasn’t trying to cause that effect. Isn’t that how it was for you Jolie?”

    Jolie, busily chewing the second sandwich, nods and makes vague approving noises.

    “Spntns! Ye!” Jolie says after some of the sandwich goes down.

    “I see,” Athena says, “In that case, it’s probably not something that you can will through your conscious mind. It comes from deep in your subconscious. I think that to make it work, you need to drop your individual inhibitions and open up your hearts and your minds fully to each other. That’s the only way you’ll be able to recreate the effect again.”

    Jonah and Jolie think about what Athena tells them. It makes perfect sense, of course. Considering the source of the advice, they are not surprised.

    Athena rises and says, “Take a short break after you finish eating, then try it again with the approach I suggested. See if it makes a difference.”

    The Centurion Leader leaves her two executive officers as she rushes off to attend to other matters.

    “Athena’s advice makes a lot of sense, Jolie,” Jonah says, “It only works when we open our hearts and our minds to each other…I remember feeling something like that just before the effect kicked in yesterday.”

    Jolie, unwrapping her third sandwich, says, “We do that just fine when we aren’t in the middle of a firefight, but in the heat of battle?”

    “We did it before,” Jonah replies, “why not again?”

    “Mmmm,” Jolie remarks in agreement, biting into the sandwich.

    Jonah smiles at his voracious girlfriend, “If you keep eating like that, we might never be able to squeeze you into an MS cockpit again.”

    Jolie smiles, “You trying to say I’m getting fat, Jonah?”

    Jonah takes in Jolie’s willowy frame, Unlikely, he thinks to himself…he’s beginning to wonder if Jolie’s digestive system isn’t just some great black hole that delivers everything she consumes into another dimension.

    “You’re going to get constipated again if you don’t stop eating,” Jonah says mischievously.

    “Better break out the laxative capsules then,” Jolie says, swallowing the last of the sandwich, “’Cuz I’ve eaten it all.”

    Jolie opens a bottle of fruit juice and takes a drink from it. In eating the three sandwiches (or more like inhaling them, Jonah notes), she hadn’t taken a single sip of liquid.

    Jonah, amazed and amused by his pretty, petite girlfriend’s voracious appetite, begins to make mocking grunting noises like a pig.

    “Hey!” Jolie says, slapping Jonah on the arm and laughing, “Now you’re calling me a pig!”

    “Well, you eat like one,” Jonah says mirthfully.

    “Hey, well,” Jolie says, “You know: I joined the Federal Forces for the free food.”

    “I bet you regret it now,” Jonah says.

    “Every meal,” Jolie replies.

    The two laugh, enjoying the casual chatter.

    “When we retire from the military some day,” Jonah says, “I’m not sure our pensions will cover our grocery bills.”

    “What’s with the ‘our’ talk, kemosabe?” Jolie says, drinking from the fruit juice bottle again.

    “Weren’t you the one who made me promise that we’d always be together?” Jonah asks.

    “I’ve changed my mind,” Jolie says, “You called me a pig and I hate you now.”

    Jonah leans forward and kisses Jolie on her forehead, “Why don’t I believe you?”

    “Because,” Jolie says, smiling, “you’d be a fool if you did.”

    “I’ve been a fool before,” Jonah says, “but fools get lucky. I sure did.”

    Their lips meet. Tender moments like this nourish their souls in a manner not unlike how the sandwiches that the couple consumed nourish their bodies.

    “I didn’t know soldier girls could kiss so sweetly,” Jonah says warmly.

    “Or soldier boys,” Jolie replies breathily.

    Jonah and Jolie’s lips touch again. Jolie leans back, and Jonah strokes her long, fine, luscious black hair.

    Then it happens.

    spark!

    “Whoa!” Jonah says, “Jolie did you…?!”

    “Yeah!” Jolie exults, “We did it!”

    The two rise, the thrill of adolescent romance momentarily replaced by the excitement of imminent success.

    Too excited to think straight, the couple is momentarily at a loss for what to do next.

    Jonah is the first to snap out of it, “Let’s get into the simulators right now! We’ve got to see if we can make it work when we’re in combat!”

    “Already ahead of you!” Jolie calls out, leaping gracefully with a gymnastic somersault into the cockpit simulator.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  16. #76
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    Episode 4 continued...

    Within seconds, the couple have donned their helmets and gloves and have activated the simulators to mimic the cockpit controls of their Centurion Gundams and a combat scenario similar to what they are anticipated to face in the Outer Solar System.

    Blips appear on Jolie’s monitor screen, indicating enemy targets.

    “Targets acquired,” Jolie reports, all serious soldier now, “Twelve in number: two Gellonds, four Zaku-IIIs, three Geara Doga IIs, two Dreissen-IIs, and a Quebeley-III.”

    “Roger, Lieutenant,” Jonah replies.

    “Prepare to engage,” Jolie says.

    “Five seconds to contact,” Jonah says, “four, three, two, one.”

    “Commence firing!” Jolie commands.

    In perfect unison, the computer-simulated Centurion Gundam Units 1 and 2 unleash a torrent of heat-guided high-explosive missiles. Most of these find their targets. The four Zaku-IIIs, three Geara Doga IIs, and two Dreissen-IIs are quickly eliminated, leaving only the pair of Gellonds and the command mobile suit, the Quebeley-III.

    A Gellond draws its beam halberd on Jonah’s Centurion Gundam and charges the young artist’s mobile suit. Jonah, his battle instincts much improved through training, draws the Centurion Gundam’s beam saber and deftly blocks the incoming slash. He twirls the beam saber in the Gundam’s hand in an arc that finds its way to the Gellond’s wrist, severing the enemy mecha’s hand. Then, as if from nowhere, Jolie’s Centurion Gundam swoops in swiftly and uses its beam saber to cleave the Gellond in half lengthwise, upward from its bottom.

    The second Gellond approaches, firing its beam rifle ineffectually towards the two Centurion Gundams, which both dodge the incoming fire with seemingly effortless grace. Jolie takes aim with her mobile suit’s beam rifle and shoots the Gellond through its nuclear fusion engine, destroying the enemy mobile suit with one shot.

    “It’s much easier to fight without having to worry about collateral damage to civilians,” Jonah observes.

    “Yeah,” Jolie replies, “but that’s not always the case. We’d better…hold on…Jonah, DODGE!”

    The two Centurion Gundams vector away and apart just in time to avoid being immolated by beam fire emitted from multiple angles. The beams strike from seemingly every direction…suddenly, swiftly, mercilessly.

    “Jolie…wh?!” Jonah grates as he twists the Centurion Gundam to barely avoid being nailed by two beam shots fired from odd and unpredictable angles.

    “The Quebeley is using its fin funnels,” Jolie tells him, “Newtype-power guided weapons. Be careful, Jonah!”

    Jolie is able to dodge the rapid and multidirectional beams with seeming ease, but Jonah is struggling. He manages to block some blasts with his Centurion Gundam’s armored shield and dodge some others, but blasts are beginning to get through, damaging his simulated mecha’s sensor and motor units.

    “Jonah!” Jolie calls out worriedly, thankful that this is only simulation.

    Jonah calms down, and he recalls Athena’s words, Open up your hearts and your minds to each other…

    The same thought enters Jolie’s consciousness at the same time.

    spark!

    All at once, the two Centurion Gundams begin to move in perfect synchronization. Standing back to back, both Federal Forces mobile suits draw their beam sabers and, standing in space at the center of the beam storm created by the Psychom funnels of the unseen Quebeley-III mobile suit attacking them, use the blades of their energy sword to bat away the incoming beam blasts.

    Jonah and Jolie angle their beam sabers to deflect the incoming beams back at their emitters, managing to hit only a portion of them because the emitter funnels are quick and mobile. Nevertheless, using this technique, they are able to halve the number of their tormentors after less than a minute.

    “Jolie…,” Jonah says with difficulty, straining to keep up with the incoming beams.

    “We can’t hold this defense forever; we’ve got to counterattack!” Jolie says.

    Jonah nods. Once again, the couple surrenders their individual will and merge their consciousness, trusting in one another implicitly.

    spark!

    In flawless coordination, the two Centurion Gundams draw out their beam rifles in a single fluid motion. Taking aim without seeming to, the twin Federal Forces mobile suits fire multiple shots from their weapons, each beam striking a darting Psychom funnel.

    Explosions fill local space. From behind the cloud of debris emerges the Quebeley-III, soaring in at multiple mach speeds.

    “Jonah!” Jolie calls out.

    “I see it!” Jonah replies.

    The Quebeley blasts at Jonah’s Centurion Gundam with its wrist-mounted beam cannon. Jonah dodges the Centurion Gundam away from the cannon fire, and counterattacks with a shot from his own mobile suit’s beam rifle. The shot penetrates one of the shoulder-mounted “wing” thruster units of the birdlike Zeon mobile suit, disabling its maneuvering capabilities. Jolie finishes it with a shot that instantly disintegrates the crippled Quebeley.

    “Woooooohooooo! We did it!” Jolie yells gleefully.

    “Awesome,” Jonah adds in agreement. He has never been one to celebrate or glorify violence, but even Jonah must acknowledge the thrill he feels at the incredible power and precision that he and Jolie have achieved together. It was uncanny…almost as if their beings were combined into a singular superentity.

    The combat simulators disengage and the cockpit hatches open. The two Centurion Team ace pilots emerge into the lighting of the ready room to find Major Athena Ibaz leaning against one of the walls, applauding them.

    “Bravo!” Athena says with a smile, “That was the most extraordinary display of virtuosic mobile suit piloting I’ve ever witnessed.”

    “I guess that means you liked it,” Jolie remarks, doffing her helmet and shaking out her long, luscious black hair, “Thanks.”

    “It was incredible,” Jonah remarks, “I didn’t know that I…um, that is, we were capable of anything like that.”

    Athena offers Jolie a congratulatory cigarette, lighting it for her, Jonah declines (as always), and Athena lights a cigarette of her own before looking Jonah unnervingly straight in the eye and saying, “You two are walking WMDs. You have more power within you than you comprehend. For now, and for the foreseeable future, however, I think we’d best keep that knowledge among the three of us.”

    Jonah does not see Athena’s logic in this, “Ma’am? With all due respect, as Federal Forces officers, aren’t we obliged to let the high command know?”

    Athena slowly exhales a lungful of smoke, and says nothing, letting Jolie answer for her.

    Jolie tells Jonah, “Remember that conversation we had about how there are good and bad people on both the Federation and Zeon side? Well, Athena and I have seen the Federation’s bad side, and even though we’re Federal Forces officers ourselves, we honestly can’t deny that there’s a lot of cruelty by Federal Forces. Before you joined the team, we were stationed for a month at Side 3 trying to get a hold on the ISRLA rebellion there. We….we saw the Federal Forces kill an entire office of news reporters.”

    The information makes Jonah sick to his stomach. Evil really does fly all colors and flags. He truly begins to wonder if it hadn’t been a mistake for him to leave Phobos Zeon only to join the Federal Forces.

    Jonah looks at Jolie, lost in thought and terrible memories as she stamps out her cigarette, and berates himself. Any decision that brought her into his life is one he will never regret.

    Nevertheless, what Athena and Jolie have revealed to Jonah is disturbing. It is difficult enough for him to kill enemy soldiers out to kill him. Will he be ordered to kill innocent people as well?

    Jonah would rather die himself than follow such orders.

    Then he remembers his promise to Jolie…to be by her side always…to not die on her and leave her alone in the world.

    These internal conflicts cause Jonah great turmoil.

    Sensing that her two executive officers are exhausted both physically and mentally, Athena says, “I think you both have trained enough for today. Go get some rest. We’ll continue the training tomorrow.”

    “We’re arriving in the Asteroid Belt in just three more days,” Jolie points out, “Just three more days to train.”

    Athena replies, “There’s no better training than real combat. Intelligence reports that the Callisto Armada is bearing down on Frontier 8 again. At our current rate of speed, we should arrive just in time to intercept them. That’s going to be our first priority when we arrive. I need to know that I’m going to be able to count on both of you.”

    “Yes, ma’am!” Jonah and Jolie salute in unison.

    Athena returns their salutes, “At ease. Go get showered and changed. We’ll have an officer’s meeting at 16:00.”

    Athena leaves the combat simulation chamber. Jonah begins to leave too, but then he notices that Jolie stands in her spot, helmet held in the crook of her arm, scowling.

    “What’s the matter, Jolie?” Jonah asks.

    “Jonah,” Jolie says with a slight edge of anger in her voice, “When we merged, I felt…I felt you were holding out something on me. There was something you didn’t let me share with you.”

    Jonah tenses. He knows what Jolie sensed is true. He indeed had been hiding a part of his thoughts from her…his true identity as Jonah Miguel, younger brother of the man who murdered Jolie’s family…the man whom Jolie hated terribly in her heart.

    Jonah does not know what to say, “Jolie, I…”

    “I thought there wouldn’t be any secrets between us,” Jolie says with a hurt look on her flawlessly smooth face, eyes moist with tears.

    “Jolie, I’m sorry,” Jonah says, “There are certain things I haven’t worked out for myself yet, and until I do, I don’t want to burden you with them. It wouldn’t be fair.”

    Jolie takes Jonah’s arm in her own, “We’re supposed to share our burdens, dummy,” she tells him sweetly, “That’s what love is like.”

    “But I love you too much to weigh you down with my burdens right now, when you aren’t prepared to handle them, Jolie,” says Jonah, “Someday, when you and I are both ready, I’ll share them with you. I promise.”

    “All right,” Jolie smiles warmly, “I’m sorry, Jonah. I should know that I can trust you with anything. I do. I trust you with my heart, the most valuable thing I have.”

    “I’m glad,” Jonah returns the smile, kissing Jolie on the cheek and pulling her close for a warm embrace, “because you’re the most valuable person in my life.”

    spark!

    In the shadow of war, intense love has blossomed in the hearts of two young people, but will their love survive the terrible ordeals to come?

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  17. #77
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    Episode 4 continued...

    Three Gwadjin-class space battleships, four Chivvay-class cruisers, two Dolos-class carriers, and Grand Admiral Lara Constantinas’ flagship Artemis Moon, a Moussei-class cruiser, bear down upon the Frontier 8 space colonies.

    Grand Admiral Lara Constantinas has mobilized a formidable assault force that, in addition to its ten capital ships, includes 100 mobile suits of the Gaza-C,-D, and new –E class, Dreissen-IIs, Jagd Doga-IIs, Gellonds, and if necessary, the Grand Admiral’s personal mobile suit Gorgon Medusa. As a young officer in the Archduchy of Zeon during the One Year War, Lara had been one of the first and finest female mobile suit pilots on either side of the conflict. She has not piloted a mobile suit in combat in twenty years, but she has continued to train in the operation of newer generation mobile suits. Having risen through the ranks of the Zeon forces during the reigns of Regent Haman Khan and Fuhrer Char Aznable, Lara now commands perhaps the most impressive space navy in the history of space warfare.

    Maintaining that navy requires vast amounts of both fuel and raw materials. As the ruler of the Callisto Zeon based on the same-named satellite of Jupiter, Lara has access to more than adequate amounts of hydrogen fuel from the largest of the Solar System’s planets, but the metallic ore that she needs for her ships and mobile suits are most readily available on Mars…a planet controlled by the Phobos Zeon and Deimos Zeon, the factions ruled by Alexander Miguel and Konrad Von Bach, respectively. Lara knows that she will need to rid herself of these rivals if she is to extend her rule beyond the Callisto domain to the entire Outer Solar System.

    To achieve this goal, the Callisto Armada will need a field operations base within proximity to Mars. The armada’s home base at Callisto in Jupiter orbit is much too far away from Mars to be a viable base from which to assault the heavily fortified Phobos and Deimos forces. The best available base, both in terms of location and resources available, is the space colony Frontier 8. Although the colony is under Earth Federation protection, the Federal Forces’ presence at Frontier 8 is too light to be of any consequence. Even the limited force that Lara has brought with her will be more than adequate to rout the Federation’s Civil Defense Guard at Frontier 8. In Cislunar Space, perhaps, the Grand Admiral would perhaps be mildly concerned about drawing the attention of the Earth Federation Forces to a Zeon civil war, but out here, so far from Earth, she could care less. The Federation is cowardly, corrupt, and self-engrossed: it would not expend its resources or risk provoking another war with Zeon for a far-flung developmental colony such as Frontier 8.

    From the command bridge of the Artemis Moon, Grand Admiral Constantinas sends a message to all of the troops that she handpicked for this mission, twenty-thousand Zeon soldiers in all, “Attention. This is the Grand Admiral. In just sixteen hours, we will be entering the Frontier 8 Zone. Heavy combat against the Phobos and Deimos Zeon and the Federal Forces’ Civil Defense Guard at Frontier 8 is anticipated. You are, I presume, all prepared to fight to your last breaths for the glory of Callisto, the true Heir of Zeon?”

    “Sieg, Zeon!” comes the collective reply.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  18. #78
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    Episode 4 continued...

    At the Aerie, the command center of the Phobos Zeon Forces located atop the northern pole of the Phobos Asteroid, word is received from Phobos reconnaissance craft that the Callisto Armada has been sighted approximately 12,000 kilometers from the Frontier 8 Zone and seem poised to attack the space colony.

    Supreme Leader General Alexander Miguel meets with his inner circle, the Superior Command, to discuss how they will react to the approaching hostile forces.

    Brigadier General Dieter Bettelheim says, “That woman has assembled quite a fleet, but it looks like their target is Frontier 8, not us.”

    “Naturally,” replies Lt. General Zhong Fayang, “That force she brought isn’t nearly enough to take on our forces. Constantinas has quite an armada, but she brought only a fraction of it for whatever purpose she had in mind.”

    Lt. General Sandoval Cuevas adds, “I wouldn’t have either, if I were in her position. She’s far from her base; if anything should go wrong, her forces would be at a huge logistical disadvantage out here away from her roost.”

    Bettelheim reiterates, “Then her plan must be to take Frontier 8 as a beachhead…a landing point where she can marshal additional forces for a later invasion.”

    “We must neutralize her now, then,” says Maj. General Stone Waller, “throw a heavy assault on that fleet before it even reaches Mars Space.”

    General Alexander Miguel, who has thus far been listening quietly to his generals’ discussion while smoking a cigarette, finally speaks, saying only, “No.”

    “No, sir?” asks General Waller, “But my lord, if we…”

    “Waller,” Miguel says coolly, “only a fool wastes his energy on a task that others will readily perform for him.”

    Seeing that his generals cannot possibly comprehend his meaning, the Supreme Leader of the Principality of Phobos Zeon orders an aide to play on the conference room monitor a transmission he received less than an hour ago.

    The generals see the image of five Earth Federation Forces Ra Cailum-II class battlecarriers somewhere in space.

    Miguel tells his subordinates, “These ships are approaching from Cislunar Space. After years of playing desert ostrich, the Federal Forces have finally acknowledged that the Zeon still pose a threat to them…so much so that they have actually dispatched a substantial force out to reconnoiter and monitor the situation…”

    “If the Federation is getting involved,” General Cuevas says, “it will complicate matters.”

    Miguel chuckles, “On the contrary, Cuevas; this is the opportunity we’ve long been waiting for.”

    “But my lord,” says Zhong, “the balance of power between us and the other factions is delicate enough as it is. If the Federation interferes as well…”

    “In the war strategy books of your ancestors’ homeland, Zhong,” Miguel begins grandly, “is there not a tactic known as ‘using barbarians to battle barbarians?’”

    The generals fall into silent respect as they were their lord to explain

    “Let the Federation’s Earthist degenerates and that woman Constantinas’ laughable fleet grind each other to pulp,” says Miguel with cold calculation, “whoever remains at the end will be sufficiently softened for us to easily manipulate as we will.”

    The Phobos Zeon generals have only a vague idea of their lord’s ultimate plan, but they know well enough to trust in his judgment. He is, after all, their Prince and Supreme Leader, and he has led them to victory countless times before. Unquestioningly obeying his directives has been, through the years, a proven path to triumph and glory as well as the best promise of keeping one’s head attached to one’s neck.

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  19. #79
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    Episode 4 continued...

    Aboard the Amuro Ray, Major Athena Ibaz is conducting a multi-channel military planning strategy with General Bright Noah and Colonel Peter Cairlay at Side 7, the Federation High Command and General Manron Blackhead on Earth, and the ship commanders and Special Forces Team Leaders assigned to the current reconnaissance mission, which has been dubbed “Operation Vigilant Eye.” In addition to Captain Beecher Olech, Athena has also invited her executive officers 1Lt. Jolie Minh and Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels to attend the meeting. Usually, junior-level officers such as Jolie and Jonah would not be asked to attend such a high-level conference, but Athena wants her two executive officer to be privy to the Federal Forces’ overall strategy as well as the problems and limitations they likely would encounter.

    “Reconnaissance patrols indicate a fleet from the Callisto Armada moving into attack position towards Frontier 8,” Athena says, indicating an image on the monitor, “they have ten capital ships of the Gwadjin, Chivvay, Dolos, and Moussei-classes. Additionally, those Dolos carriers each can carry a contingent of up to fifty mobile suits and seventy fighter planes each. That being the case, even with the support of the Frontier 8 Civil Defense Guard, we will likely be outnumbered by a ratio of two to one.”

    “And that’s before the Zeon at Deimos and Phobos get involved,” Captain Beecher adds, “and you just know they will, since this little brouhaha is going to go down in their bailiwick.”

    Athena supplements, “For this reason, we need to get in the first strike and we must hit them in the right places. We need to neutralize their fighting strength quickly and occupy Frontier 8, reestablishing the colony’s defense and fortifying it against further attack.”

    General Noah asks, “In specific terms, Major, what do you mean by hitting them in the ‘right places?’”

    Athena indicates the two Dolos mobile suit carriers, “We need to take these two vessels out before they deploy the bulk of their forces. Their strength lies more in their mobile suits than in their capital ships. If we can cut down their mobile suit assault force early, we can fight them on a more even footing.”

    “Your intelligence report says that the Callisto Armada will arrive at Frontier 8 ahead of our forces by four to five hours, even with the fleet traveling at top speed,” General Manron Blackhead says, “By that time, the enemy will likely have established a foothold Frontier 8 already; just how are you planning to neutralize the enemy’s fighting strength and occupy the colony, Major?”

    Athena replies without missing a beat, “The mobile suits of the Special Forces will deploy the M-Booster Packs.”

    There are a few gasps and some mumbling among the flag-ranking officers and command council. Not all of them even are aware of exactly what an “M-Booster Pack” is.

    Colonel Cairlay speaks up, “Major, the Mega-Booster Afterburner Thrust System is still undergoing final testing. Who authorized…?”

    “I did,” General Noah says, “My apologies, gentlemen. Under the hectic conditions that prevailed just prior to the launch of Operation Vigilant Eye, I authorized the assignment of thirty-six of the newly produced M-Booster Packs to the Special Forces for this mission.”

    “That’s dangerously close to insubordination, General Noah,” General Blackhead bristles, “You know that the High Command did not authorize those M-Booster Packs for assignment to anyone under any circumstances.”

    “I accept full responsibility for the commands that I issue to my subordinates,” General Noah says evenly.

    “General Noah,” President Gloria Brenner of the Federation High Council says, “the High Command Council would like you to account for your decision. If you can satisfy us that you gave the order to assign the M-Booster Packs for a legitimate reason, then we will agree to authorize you to carry out your plan. If not, you will be held in contempt of the Council and subject to charges of insubordination.”

    “Hooboy,” Jolie whispers to Jonah, “General Noah is gonna get busted!”

    “I hope not,” Jonah whispers back, “He’s the best general the Federation has. I think he’s the only one who actually cares about us troops.”

    “Shhh…” Captain Beecher whispers at the couple, as General Noah prepares to begin his defense of his decision.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” General Noah begins, “Expedience is necessary when battles must be won and lives, property, and freedom saved. Nobody ever authorized a young civilian by the name of Amuro Ray to approach, much less board and operate the RX-78 Gundam at Side 7 nearly twenty years ago, but he did, and in the end, that moment’s decision won the One Year War for the Federation. The young woman sitting accompanying Major Ibaz and Captain Beecher, 1Lt. Jolie Minh, was a civilian with no security clearance when she boarded the stolen Gundam-100 and reclaimed it for the Federation from the hands of anti-Federation terrorists. Bureaucratic procedure is a luxury of peacetime, ladies and gentlemen, but we do not live in a time of peace. If we are to prevent more children from becoming war orphans, if we are to continue to live democratically rather than under the rule of despots, then we cannot afford to be bogged down in bureaucratic procedure. If you find me wrong, then prosecute me.”



    General Noah makes his pitch to the Fedeation High Council

    Episode 4 to be continued...

  20. #80
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    Episode 4 continued...

    The Federation Security Council discusses the matter among themselves for a few tense moments. Finally, President Brenner says, “General Noah, we hereby authorize the assignment of the M-Booster Afterburner Thruster System for use by the Special Forces for Operation Vigilant Eye.”

    “Thank you, ma’am,” General Noah salutes, his face betraying no emotion.

    At her place at the conference table of the Amuro Ray, Athena is similarly stone-faced.

    Captain Beecher offers only a slight smile.

    “Yes!” Jolie and Jonah clench their fists and grin in triumph.

    Colonel Manron Blackhead and Colonel Peter Cairlay are red-faced in fuming humiliation, angry that their authority was undermined once again by that Spacenoid-loving Bright Noah and that smart aleck girl Athena Ibaz.

    The conference ends. Captain Beecher, Athena, Jolie, and Jonah depart the conference room. The captain says, “That was some speech by Bright. I didn’t know he had it in him. When he was our commanding officer on the Ahrgama during the First Neo Zeon War, I remember him communicating with us more like a rabid bear than anything…and he often made his point with his fists rather than his mouth. He’s really smoothed out his act over the years.”

    Athena says “With twenty years’ experience as an officer in the Federal Forces, the general must have learned a thing or too about dealing with the top brass.”

    “For someone with about twenty months’ experience in the military,” Captain Beecher says with a smile, “you handled yourself pretty well too.”

    “Thank you, sir,” Athena says.

    “A major at twenty,” Captain Beecher muses, “It used to be that people would have to be out of the academy upwards of a decade before they might make major.”

    “The previous wars have killed off many of the older, more experienced officers,” Athena says nonchalantly, “The younger personnel are all that’s left.”

    “How well I know it,” Beecher sighs, recalling how at seventeen, he had been hijacked into becoming a guerilla fighter very much against his will.

    Captain Beecher heads for the bridge to continue his command watch on the Amuro Ray. Athena, Jolie, and Jonah head for the mobile suit deck, where 2Lt. Molly Duran and her crew of technicians are already installing the M-Booster Afterburner Systems onto the Centurion Team’s mobile suits.

    Twenty minutes later, all of the mobile suit pilots of the Centurion Team are gathered on the mobile suit deck, where they listen to Chief Engineer 2Lt. Molly Duran explain to them the functions of the M-Booster Afterburner System, as well as its associated hazards.

    “The M-Booster’s afterburner is powered by a fusion battery not so different from the generators of your mobile suits,” Molly tells the pilots, “but in this case, 100 percent of the battery’s energy is directed towards thrust and nothing else. Basically, the equivalent energy needed to power your mobile suits for regular operation over a seven-year period will be expended in one five-hour blast run by each M-Booster. Think of it as a super ramjet. For a period of five hours, the M-Booster will be able to accelerate your mobile suits at a velocity of up to Mach 60. ”

    Soaring at sixty times the speed of sound…the very idea sounds staggering to the mobile suit pilots. At maximum normal thrust, none of their mobile suits save Athena’s Cour De Leon in its Waverider configuration can accelerate to supersonic, much less hypersonic speeds, and even the Waverider can’t do better than Mach 2.

    The M-Booster can push their mobile suits to thirty times that speed.

    “On Earth, the friction and gravitational forces would rip your mobile suits to fiery shreds,” Molly continues, “not to mention cause all kinds of collateral damage from the resulting shockwave. Out in space, that won’t be a problem, but don’t expect to be able to maneuver your mobile suits while the M-Booster is engaged. Basically, we’ll point you at the target destination, catapult you out, and you make a beeline at sixty times the speed of sound towards the target. You’ll need to disengage the M-Booster before engaging in combat. As soon as you disengage the booster, it’d be a good idea to put as much distance between yourself and the booster as quickly as possible; to prevent enemy theft, the boosters are designed to self-detonate thirty seconds after disengagement.”

    Athena asks, “What about the retro-acceleration thrusters, Molly?”

    “Right, Major,” Molly says, “as you have read in the operation manual for the M-Booster, you’ll be switching off the forward acceleration after you reach the 10,000 km mark on approach to the Frontier 8 Zone. At that point, you will engage the M-Booster retro-acceleration thruster to slow you down gradually as you approach Frontier 8. It will take between thirty to thirty-five minutes for you to decelerate to safe speeds for disengagement of the booster.”

    Athena adds, “Needless to say, the deceleration and disengagement process needs to be timed precisely. If you get it wrong, your mobile suit will spin out of control and likely vector out into deep space and be lost forever. Also, if you collide into anything solid while accelerating at Mach 60, it won’t matter how strong your mecha’s armor is: you’ll be pulverized into space dust.”

    “Great,” Jolie exhales, “This is gonna be fun…”

    Jonah says nothing. He looks a little green. Just thinking about moving that fast (Mach 60!) makes him feel sick.

    Athena says, “We deploy tomorrow promptly at 04:44. Even so, we won’t be able to intercept the Callisto Armada before they enter the Frontier 8 Zone. Captain Beecher and the other vessels’ captains are pushing the fleet forward as quickly as possible, but that combined with the M-Boosters will get us there about an hour after the Callisto Armada reaches the outer perimeter of Frontier 8. We can only hope that the Civil Defense Guard there can hold them off until we arrive.”

    Each of the Centurions is grim and sober. Even the normally rambunctious and ebullient Jolie is subdued. This is an extremely dangerous mission, and for several members of the team, including Jonah, their first real mission under actual combat conditions. There is no guarantee that any of them will return from the mission alive.


    Episode 4 to be continued...

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