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Mobile Suit Gundam - The Second Century (Part 2: The Second Century) - Page 6
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Thread: Mobile Suit Gundam - The Second Century (Part 2: The Second Century)

  1. #101
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    Episode 5 continued...

    “Msgt. Al-Said reported that the units we chased out of Freemont Colony have been wiped out,” Jolie reports.

    “Which leaves the ones still inside the colony when we eliminated the G3 toxin plus the fleet,” Athena amends, “our fleet won’t be in effective firing range for another thirteen minutes. By the time they arrive, we need to have destroyed or chased out the remaining enemy mobile suit units in Freemont Colony, is that understood?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” come the replies from Jolie and Jonah.

    Msgt. Karim Abdul Al-Said’s voice comes through the tactical net, “This is Centurion Four to Centurion Leader. We’ve neutralized enemy units from the second assault wave.”

    “Well done, Master Sergeant,” Athena responds, “What about our personnel?”

    “All units present and accounted for, ma’am,” Karim replies, “minimal damage to mecha and no personnel loss.”

    That last piece of information pleases Athena most, “All right, then. We’re going back into the Freemont Colony to help our remaining units in there finishing mopping up the enemy. Then, after the fleet arrives, we’re going after the Zeon capital ships.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Athena’s troops respond in unison.

    They follow her lead, without question, as they have so many times before. Athena hasn’t led them to disaster yet.

    They are, to a man or woman, confident she never will.


    Captain Jason Conrad, commanding officer of the Xerxes Special Operations Team, maintains the offensive push of his squadron of ten GM-IVs as they continue their counterattack on the first wave Callisto Zeon mobile suit attack force.

    “We’ve got the upper hand, people,” Conrad urges his allies on from the cockpit of his Jegan-IIS (Officer’s Custom Type), “Keep up the offensive!”

    A new interloper, however, threatens to turn the tide of the battle against the Special Forces.

    Lt. Colonel Leonid Bolochov is among the top mobile suits of the Deimos Zeon Imperium ruled by Imperator Konrad Von Bach. Called the “Baltic Bear,” Bolochov indeed fights with the relentless ferocity and seeming indestructibility of that mighty mammal, facilitated by his use of a new experimental mobile suit, the AMX-199 Dworvak – a fourth generation derivative of the old Zeon Dom-class mobile suits succeeding the Dreissen third generation mobile suits.

    The Dworvak is a mechanical monster. Humanoid in shape as are all mecha designated “mobile suits” (as opposed to “mobile armors,” which have taken numerous bizarre forms with no anthropomorphic analogues at all), the burly armor of the Dworvak creates an impression among some of an Ursoid creature…a bear. Indeed, it looms over the Federal Forces’ GM-IV and Jegan-II

    The Dworvak has much more than just mass and bulk going for it, however, for that mass conceals a large, powerful nuclear fusion engine that yields five times a GM-IV’s energy output. A part of this energy is diverted to moving the Dworvak’s great mass, which is surprisingly quick and nimble despite its bulk because of the power of the mobile suits’ nuclear fusion engine. The Dworvak’s power, however, is also largely distributed into its powerful weapons systems…including a hyper beam rifle whose firepower surpasses that of some higher caliber ship-mounted main cannon (three to five times more powerful than a standard mobile suit beam rifle) and its powerful beam mace, capable of disrupting and overriding the blade of a standard beam saber.

    “Target unidentified enemy mobile suit!” orders Captain Conrad, “Fire at will!”

    The Special Forces mobile suits do; the Dworvak leaps out of the line of their fire with an agility and quickness that belies its great mass. The GM-IV units scatter as their pilots realize that their attack has failed, and they must move quickly if they do not wish to become easy targets for the Dworvak.

    In the Dworvak’s cockpit, Col. Bolochov briefly toys with the idea of blasting at the Feddie mobile suits with the hyper beam rifle, but thinks better of it. It would do too much damage to the colony. Bolochov isn’t too crazy about the idea of endangering civilians, but if they are in the line of fire when he must fulfill his duty to Imperator Von Bach and the Deimos Imperium, Bolochov won’t have any more qualms for their lives than a bear would for the lives of its prey. The Imperator, however, had made it clear that the Deimos Imperium requires Frontier 8 for strategic purposes and thus, undue damage to the colony should be minimized if at all possible.

    The hyper beam rifle would likely cause more damage to the colony’s facilities than the Imperator would prefer. Thus, Bolochov opts for using the massive and powerful beam mace, which is capable of smashing down an enemy mobile suit as if it were made of papier-mâché.

    The GM-IVs of the Special Forces and Captain Conrad’s own Jegan-IIS scramble and scatter as the Dworvak swings its powerful melee weapon at them. Sooner or later, Conrad knows, one or more of them will take a hit, and that hit will be lethal.

    2Lt. Traci Buckingham of the N Team had recently celebrated her seventeenth birthday. A native of Side 5, Traci made her parents proud when she graduated from high school a year early…at the top of her class. Scholarships to the world’s best universities beckoned, and Mr. and Mrs. Buckingham saw a future for their daughter as a physician, an attorney, or perhaps a businesswoman. She broke their hearts, however, by turning down all offers of admission by the universities that courted her to join the Earth Federation Special Forces. It would have been easy for Traci to choose ivy green over mobile suit-grey, but she had come to believe that there were certain responsibilities that members of her generation needed to fulfill. A university degree, a good-paying job…none of these things would matter if there were not a safe world in which to make use of them. Traci had grown up in a time of war; she had an older brother that she had never met who was killed during the One Year War and an older sister who went missing as a consequence of the First Neo Zeon War. Further such tragedies had to be prevented, so that those fortunate enough to not be affected by them could be spared. To do so, however, Traci would need to break her parents’ hearts.

    It was by no means an easy decision, and she never did win her parents’ approval for her choice, but Traci was confident that her decision had been correct. Her only regret is not being able to explain her choice to her mother and father, and seek their understanding.

    As her mobile suit GM-IV gets its armored foot caught in electrical wire and goes down hard on the pavement, Traci senses that she never will.

    The Dworvak lands behind her fallen mobile suit, its beam mace raised for a fatal strike.

    Her comrades watch helplessly, unable to intervene.

    Traci closes her eyes, making peace with her choices, asking forgiveness from her parents.

    Mom, Dad…I’m sorry for leaving you like this. I love you both so much.

    But Traci will get her chance to tell her parents about her love for them personally.

    She will survive this day.

    The Dworvak reels back, as if stricken by lightning from the heavens.

    In a sense, it has.

    Behind a screen of smoke, the Centurion Gundam Unit 1 of the White Phoenix, 1Lt. Jolie Minh, emerges. Behind her mecha is Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels’ identical Centurion Gundam, Major Athena Ibaz’s Cour de Leon, and the Jegan-IIs and GM-IVs of the rest of the Special Forces.

    Episode 5 to be continued...

  2. #102
    Senior Member sheraldine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    2. Literate and fluent in 15 different languages.
    15 eh? hmmm.....


  3. #103
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sheraldine View Post
    15 eh? hmmm.....

    Good to see you.

    Yes, fifteen languages (I haven't decided which fifteen, although we know for sure that English, French, and Chinese are three of the fifteen). I'm guessing probably Russian, German, Latin, Greek, Japanese, Vietnamese (perhaps learned from Jolie), and six other languages.

    Athena is the awesome!

    Jolie is the awesome too...just not in learning languages.

  4. #104
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    Episode 5 continued...

    “Jolie! Jonah!” Traci exults.

    The twin Centurion Gundams form a defensive barrier between their comrades and Bolochov’s Dworvak. Both Centurion Gundams draw their beam sabers, crossing them in the Dworvak’s path, blocking access to their comrades.

    While all this has been going on, Athena has not been idle. Soaring in with the Cour de Leon in Waverider mode, she abruptly transforms the mecha into mobile suit configuration as she arrives at street level. With a single, cat-quick motion, the Cour de Leon neutralizes the nearest enemy Geara Doga mobile suit with a deft beam saber slash, seizes the enemy mecha’s beam rifle out of its malfunctioning armored hand, and turns the commandeered beam rifle upon additional enemy mobile suits in the area, quickly immolating four of them.

    Seeing that her subordinates are standing around gaping at her and Jolie and Jonah’s actions rather than carrying out her duties, Athena snaps them out of their momentary shock by briskly issuing new orders, “All units: deploy in squads of three onto 5th, 6th, and 7th Streets. Heavy artillery units take up position at the ends of Grand Avenue, Broadway, and Main Street. The remaining enemy units, eleven total, are concentrated on those segments of the city grid. Sweep them out of the colony’s northern terminus, now!”

    In the days before the Special Forces arrived at Frontier 8, Athena had each and every one of them study the city map grids of each of the inhabited colonies of Frontier 8…literally thousands of streets. Many of them had doubted at the time the wisdom of wasting time and energy in such a seemingly pointless brain-busting exercise. Now, they realize how useful that exercise was as they deploy precisely to the spots where Athena had ordered them.

    “Take all of them down,” Athena commands with cold, efficient certitude, “No prisoners.”

    The Federal Forces mobile suits deploy their weapons systems; their coordinated firepower sanitizes Freemont Colony of Zeon mobile suits.

    …save one.


    Spark! Flash!

    The two Centurion Gundams move in unison to dodge the Dworvak’s beam mace.

    The massive weapon misses them by centimeters. Jolie is exhilarated by the danger; Jonah, not so much.

    But they are of one mind as to how to respond to it.

    Coordinating the movements of their beam saber slashes as if part of some elaborate dance, the beam energy of the two Gundams’ beam sabers coil around the emitter shaft of the Dworvak’s beam mace, separating the emitter of the weapon from its power source in the lower part of the shaft. The fearsome beam mace of the Dworvak is now useless, melted metal components.
    Having eliminated the Dworvak’s primary melee weapon, however, Jolie and Jonah must now contend with its hyper beam rifle…within the close confines of the space colony, still filled with helpless civilians taking refuge in shelters.

    This is what they have been training for. Fail here, and not only do Jolie and Jonah die, but perhaps thousands who live in this space colony as well.

    Jonah sees an image of the Hans…Adrian and his wife, Christine, and their children Kirby and Jocelyn. He remembers how they died.

    Jolie sees an image of her parents and brother…Dominic, Lucie, and Jean. She remembers how they died.

    The nightmare would not repeat itself today. Not here. Not now.

    Not ever again, if they could help it.

    Colonel Leonid Bolochov levels the hyper beam rifle of the Dworvak at the twin Centurion Gundams. Within the confined space of the colony interior, they are unlikely to be able to avoid its deadly beam, however swift and nimble they might be.

    The colony would suffer some damage. Civilians would likely be killed. Such is the price of war. The Imperator would understand.

    The energy charge of the hyper beam rifle builds rapidly. Eighty percent. Ninety percent. One-hundred percent.

    The beam energy erupts forward with tremendous kinetic force, the shockwave knocking down nearby buildings and mobile suits alike.

    Spark! Flash!

    Powerful energies erupt forward from the centers of Jolie and Jonah’s minds, from the core of their beings. The energy coalesces and expands, enveloping their two Centurion Gundams in a bubble of silvery energy.

    The blood red energy of the hyper beam beam cannon strikes the silvery energy generated by Jolie and Jonah, and is harmlessly absorbed into the amplified psyche energy. Force adequate to blow apart a space colony is instead harmlessly absorbed.

    Bolochov’s eyes go wide in disbelief; his mouth gapes in shock, “T-that’s impossible! How could that…?! I-I can’t believe…!”

    The energy shield around Jolie and Jonah’s Centurion Gundams dissipate. The arms of the Centurion Gundam Unit 2 reach up, boosting its twin into a flying leap.

    “Go!” Jonah yells.

    The two Centurion Gundams descend upon the Dworvak like angry birds of prey, their beam sabers extended. The dual blades penetrate the Dworvak through its cockpit, instantly disintegrating Colonel Bolochov.

    These two…they’re Newtypes! Bolochov realizes in his final moment of consciousness before eternal oblivion.

    The Dworvak falls on its back. The two Gundams withdraw and deactivate their beam sabers. The explosions fall silent.

    Fires continue to burn throughout the colony city. Buildings are wrecked as far as the eye can see. On the streets, beneath collapsed buildings, and even under the wreckage of fallen mobile suits lie the dead…men, women, children.

    Inside the cockpit of the Centurion Gundam Unit 1, Jolie pants rapidly, fighting for breath. She opens the visor of her helmet, desperately needing fresh air.

    Aboard the Centurion Gundam Unit 2, Jonah does likewise.

    Jolie expected a feeling of exhilaration upon defeating the enemy. Instead, she feels an emptiness, a mounting despair as she looks at the burning, collapsed buildings and the many bodies strewn in the streets, “T-this….this doesn’t feel like victory.”

    “Because it’s not,” Jonah snaps, “How can anyone call it a ‘victory’ when so many lie dead?!”

    “M-maybe we could have prevented this if we came sooner,” Jolie says, “If only the council on Earth had listened to General Noah and Athena when they first requested permission to deploy out here months ago…”

    “But they never do,” Athena says ruefully as her Cour de Leon approaches, “We should have been here months ago to prevent this from happening. Now all we can do is minimize the damage as we try to end the Zeon threat to this community.”

    Athena looks sadly at the scene of ruin. There is so much work to be done, and not even she can be sure that she and her people, for all their talents and training, are up to the task.

    “We’ll come back here to help coordinate rescue and recovery efforts in a little while,” Athena tells her two subordinates, “but for now, the battle isn’t over.”

    Jolie and Jonah nod. There is still the armada outside the colony to contend with.

    “Captain Beecher and the rest of our fleet will be arriving in about ninety seconds,” Athena says, “we’ll coordinate the last phase of the counterattack with them.”

    “Yes, ma’am!” Jolie and Jonah reply, launching ahead of their commanding officer.

    Athena transforms the Cour de Leon to Waverider mode, quickly catching up to and soaring past her two subordinates. She spares a moment’s thought for the phenomenon she witnessed the two of them generating just minutes ago, There can no longer be any doubt: Jolie and Jonah are the most powerful Newtypes I’ve ever encountered…more powerful even than Haman, Char, Camille Vidan, and Judau Ashta. Definitely more powerful than Hathaway or me.

    The power to do the impossible…to create miracles.

    A power that could be extremely dangerous if used without principle or discipline.

    That discussion would be broached when the battle is over.



    1Lt. Jolie Minh, as seen on cockpit recorder camera aboard her Centurion Gundam, during the Battle of Frontier 8 at the beginning of the Phobos War.

    Episode 5 to be continued...

  5. #105
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    Episode 5 continued...

    The mobile suits of the Special Forces, all thirty-five of them, some in better condition than others, but all still functional enough to stay in the battle, burst forth from the Freemont Colony. Directly in their line of sight is the Callisto Armada.

    From around 25 kilometers in the direction of the sun, the Amuro Ray and the rest of the Federal Forces fleet approaches.

    Athena contacts Captain Beecher Olech on the bridge of the Amuro Ray, “This is Centurion Leader. Captain Beecher: all enemy mobile suits have been neutralized. Requesting fire support from fleet to finish off enemy capital ships.”

    “Roger that, Centurion Leader,” Captain Beecher replies, “Maintain your mobile suits in position and coordinate with our attack. We’ll be opening fire with megaparticle beam cannon and missiles in thirty seconds.”

    Beecher switches the channel to his fellow ship captains on the bridges of their respective vessels, “This is Captain Beecher. All ships: stand by to fire megaparticle beam cannon and heavy warhead missiles on my command. Target: Callisto Armada ships.”

    The order is acknowledged by Beecher’s counterparts and counterparts.

    The megaparticle beam cannon is the most powerful weapon that can be mounted on a space warship. First deployed on the AEUG warship Ahrgama during the Gryps Conflict of U.C. 0087, the energy output of the megaparticle beam cannon has doubled during the past dozen years. The megaparticle beam cannon of the Amuro Ray delivers enough raw energy to slice an island the size of Hawaii cleanly in half.

    Five such beams are now brought to bear upon the ships of the Callisto Armada. Mighty Zeon warships are reduced to cinders within seconds. What the megaparticle beams don’t get, heavy warheads fired by the Federal Forces fleet do.

    Athena, surveying the situation, orders her mobile suit assault team, “Open fire with all functional long range weapons!”

    The mobile suits of the Special Forces add their firepower to that of their fleet’s capital ships, further saturating the enemy Callisto Zeon Armada in destructive explosions.


    Aboard the Artemis Moon, Grand Admiral Lara Constantinas grips the side of her command seat as the massive display of enemy firepower incinerates her fleet. Hidden well behind her armada, Lara’s flagship manages to avoid the brunt of the firestorm.

    “Full retreat, all remaining Callisto vessels!” Lara orders, “We’ll regroup back at headquarters!”

    Seething, Lara leads her surviving forces, less than twenty percent of what she had started the invasion with, on the long journey back to their home in Jupiter orbit. This operation had been meticulously planned for months, and would have put the war against her rivals in the Martian Zone in her favor. Instead, she finds her forces weakened and her goals set back.

    All because the Federal Forces had unexpectedly taken a more aggressive stance than they ever have in the Outer Solar System. Why now, after having neglected this part of space for so long? And was there more coming from Earth?

    These are the questions that Grand Admiral Constantinas must contemplate with her advisors after she returns to Callisto Fortress.

    We’ll have our day of reckoning, Lara vows to her enemies, I will remember this humiliation and the loss of my comrades, and I swear you will pay dearly for today.



    Grand Admiral Lara Constantinas, Leader of the Callisto Zeon

    Episode 5 to be continued...

  6. #106
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    Episode 5 conclusion


    “There are three ships getting away!” Jolie says, tracking the Artemis Moon and its escorts on her long-range external view monitor.

    She prepares to blast at the ships with the Centurion Gundam’s beam rifle, but Athena stops her, “Stand down!”

    “We can’t let any of them get away to regroup!” Jolie protests, “Weren’t you the one who ordered ‘no prisoners?!’”

    Athena replies calmly, “They’re outside the Frontier 8 Zone, which means they’re out of the reach of Federal Forces jurisdiction. While they were within the zone, we could attack them on the grounds of self-defense and boundary violation. Out there, it’s Zeon-controlled space, and if we attack them there, we’d be the one in violation of boundaries. We’re here to observe and contain the Neo Zeon Civil War outside of our territories, not to participate in that war. If we exceed the scope of our orders, we could trigger another full scale Earth/Zeon war.”

    Jolie has no choice but concede the wisdom of Athena’s perspective…pointing out things that now seem apparent, but that Jolie hadn’t thought about. That’s why she’s the leader, Jolie realizes. Jolie realizes that she’s already in a heap of trouble with Athena when they return to the Amuro Ray, and that she’s likely dragged poor Jonah into trouble right along with her. Stupid! Jolie berates herself, Why do I always let my temper get the better of me?!

    Athena issues the order, “All units, return to ships. Stand down from combat status and proceed to post-combat debriefing.”

    The mobile suits of the Federal Forces return to their motherships. The battle is over, at least for today.

    On the bridge of the Amuro Ray, Captain Beecher is hailed by the Spaceport Authority of Frontier 8. Frontier 8 issues a welcome and authorization to dock to the Federal Forces’ relief fleet.

    The surviving citizens of Freemont Colony cheer as the relief fleet flies past, grateful for the intervention of the Federal Forces at last to deliver them from the Zeon threat. Others, however, are silent in their resentment that reinforcements had not come sooner.

    A thought that also weighs on the mind of mission leader Major Athena Ibaz as she leads her charges back to the docking bays of their ships.




    Ninety minutes later, after post-mission debriefings have been completed, Athena has Jolie and Jonah inside her private office aboard the Amuro Ray. For several long minutes, Athena says nothing to either one of them…just stares at them intensely as they hang their heads in shame.

    Finally, Jolie can’t stand it any longer, “Well, come on!” she blurts out angrily, “I know you’re mad at us because we disobeyed orders and attacked on our own! Just scream at us and get it over with, dammit!”

    Athena rises from her seat and walks over to Jolie, but does not shout at her. Instead, the Centurion Leader says quietly and calmly, “I’m disappointed in you. I thought you’d learned to not endanger your comrades by rushing off foolishly on your own and deviating from the combat plan.”

    “I’m sorry, Athena,” Jolie says sheepishly.

    “’Major Ibaz’ when we’re on duty, Lieutenant. You must remember to conduct yourself with the discipline expected of a Special Forces officer.”

    Seeing Jolie getting raked over the coals by Athena doesn’t sit well with Jonah, so he pipes up, “Major Ibaz. With all due respect, Lieutenant Minh…”

    “I didn’t ask for your opinion,” Athena says sternly, sparing a furious glance at Jonah as well, “When I’m finished speaking to Lieutenant Minh, I’ll get to you, Chief Michaels.”

    Jonah gulps and falls silent. It’s going to be a long evening.


    Athena actually finishes what she needs to say to her two executive officers inside of five minutes. Athena never has been one for long rants or lectures. Often, a long, withering stare is enough to get her point across.

    Athena says, “You both performed very well in combat today, and you were instrumental in saving many lives and accomplishing your mission. For that, I’m very proud of both of you. You also, however, violated orders…something a good soldier must never do. Although we were fortunate today, your decision could have led to the deaths of your comrades or innocent civilians.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jolie and Jonah respond jointly. Upon reflection, Athena’s criticisms are on the mark.

    “Therefore,” Athena says plainly, without anger, “You are both confined to quarters for the next forty-eight hours. I want you both to contemplate your mistakes and understand why you’re being disciplined.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jolie and Jonah reply, as they head for their separate quarters, where they’ll be locked in by military police.

    All in all, Jolie and Jonah know that they’re getting off lightly. Insubordination in battle gives a commanding officer the right to execute his or her subordinates on the spot. Both had been expecting Athena to throw them into the brig for at least a month; they’re surprised that Athena is letting them get off with just forty-eight hours’ confinement in their quarters.

    The military police arrive and escort Jolie and Jonah to their quarters. As the door to her office closes, Athena pours out a glass of whiskey and takes a sip from it. She then extracts a handkerchief from the breast pocket of her uniform jacket and uses it to tersely wipe her fingers.

    Athena sighs. She hates having to discipline her friends, but they are also her subordinates. Athena loves Jolie and Jonah as she would a kid sister and kid brother, and for that reason, above all, she must ensure that they learn the discipline necessary to survive at war. War is no child’s game, but Jolie and Jonah, both seventeen year olds, are still, in many ways, still just children. Circumstances have placed them both in the crossfire of war. Athena’s goal is to make sure they both can come out of the war alive…as adults.

    Mars rises into view through the window of Athena’s office. The angry red planet, named after the Roman god of war, beckons.

    The wisdom of Minerva…come to quell the wrath of Mars.

    A quest whose outcome will not be known until another day. The Battle of Frontier 8 is but the first salvo of a much longer war ahead.


    The military police guards escort Jolie and Jonah to their quarters, where the two young officers are locked in. They will be isolated for the next forty-eight hours, with no human contact.

    Jolie slumps against the cold metallic wall of her quarters, an eight-centimeter thick slab of steel alloy that separates her from Jonah.

    On his side of the wall, Jonah also leans against the cold metal, the worst part of being confined to quarters being not having any contact with Jolie.

    Or perhaps he can…in a fashion.

    Jonah reaches out with his mind, with his heart, Jolie…Jolie do you hear me?

    On the other side of the wall, Jolie sense Jonah’s thoughts, Jonah…yes. Yes, I hear you!

    The couple cannot see each other’s smiles, at least not with their eyes, but sense them with their hearts. It heartens them to know that even super alloy walls cannot truly separate them.

    Jolie, Jonah projects his thoughts to her, I’m sorry about that argument we had in the middle of the battle today. I didn’t mean to be so harsh.

    No, Jolie’s thoughts return, You were right…and so was Athena. It was stupid of me to do that. I could have gotten all of you killed. I’m sorry, Jonah. I’m such a fool sometimes. But still, you came to stand by my side even when you knew how stupid I was being, and that it’d get you in trouble too. I don’t know what to say, Jonah.

    Jonah projects a loving warmth in his thoughts to Jolie, Just say that you know how much I love you.

    Jolie smiles and projects that very thought to Jonah; Jonah takes it in, filling him with a feeling of warmth and comfort.

    Separated by a cold metal wall, but separated by nothing, the two teenagers share their deep affection for each other long into the night. The quiet hours inside their quarters pass quickly as they keep each other company.

    END OF EPISODE 5

    Next: EPISODE 6: MASKS OF WAR

  7. #107
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    EPISODE 6: MASKS OF WAR

    In her office aboard the Amuro Ray, Major Athena Ibaz of the Earth Federation Special Forces is in a private teleconference with General Bright Noah of the Federal High Command. General Noah is in his own office back in Reville Hall of Side 7’s Garrison Noah, headquarters of the Special Forces.

    General Noah updates Athena on the political situation back Earthside, “After reading your report, the Security Council has agreed to send twenty more ships and four hundred more mobile suits from the regular forces to Frontier 8 to assist in shoring up the defense of our assets in that sector, but they won’t be available to you for direct assaults against the enemy, Major Ibaz.”

    “Understood, sir,” Athena replies, figuring as much, “It’ll be good enough for me if the regular forces can take over security for Frontier 8 so that the Special Forces can move on to the next phase of the operation.”

    “So your plan is to take over the ore mining operations that the Zeon have on Mars?” asks General Noah, having had the opportunity to only skim through Athena’s latest proposal.

    “Not take over, sir,” Athena says, “Destroy. We don’t have the manpower available to occupy those mining colonies. Our goal is to deny the Zeon access to those resources by destroying their mining facilities. It would take between eighteen months to three years for them to rebuild those facilities if we were to destroy them, and we don’t plan to give them even a single month’s peace on Mars to rebuild them.”

    “Disrupting their access to ore supplies would greatly curtail the Zeon’s capacity to manufacture for war,” General Noah agrees, “Have you established a plan for accomplishing this yet, Athena?”

    “Yes, sir,” Athena answers, “it’s included in the document that I’ve sent to you evaluating the next phase of the operation.”

    General Noah studies the document, “Surgical strike, eh? Reconnaissance is on it?”

    “And the Intelligence Department as well,” Athena adds, “I plan to scout it out personally with Sgt. Horowitz later today.”

    “Very well, Major,” General Noah says with an approving nod, “Keep me posted.”


    Twenty minutes later, Athena is at the door of 1Lt. Jolie Minh’s quarters, in which the pretty seventeen-year old executive officer of the Centurion Team has been confined for the past two days. The time has come for her release.

    The metal doors slide open as Athena taps a code into the door lock mechanism. Athena finds Jolie lying in her bed, wearing only one of her short t-shirts over a string bikini bottom.

    “Why aren’t you dressed?” Athena asks, resisting the urge to roll her eyes, “You knew that you were going to be released and put back on duty at this hour.”

    “Sorry,” Jolie says, almost lackadaisically walking over to the closet to retrieve her uniform, “I kind of lost track of time.”

    “Jolie,” Athena implores tiredly, “You really need to get your act together. You’re an officer of the Special Forces.”

    “Yes, ‘Mom,’” Jolie says, stripping off the t-shirt and pulling up the skirt of her uniform in the same motion.

    Athena admires the curves of Jolie’s lithe, sylphlike body, She’s really shaped up nicely since I first found her on the streets of Industria almost two years ago. She was just a skinny little waif back then. Now she’s really got a figure. No wonder Jonah is all gaga over her.

    Sensing Athena’s eyes on her, Jolie smiles as she snaps her bra on, “What are you looking at? Are you checking me out?”

    “Of course,” says Athena coyly, “You’re such a hottie, how could I not?”

    “Whoa! Whoa!” Jolie mock protests, “Since when have you started getting all les, ‘Thena?”

    “We used to hang out together so much some people probably thought we actually were a lesbian couple,” Athena reflects with a smile, “but we don’t seem to talk to each other as much as we used to.”

    Jolie replies, “Yeah. Well, I guess dating takes up a lot of my free time. Jonah and I are always together, not that I’m complaining or anything.”

    Athena says, “You shouldn’t. You two are very lucky to have found one another.”

    Jolie senses Athena’s mood turning dark, and carefully intercedes with, “You miss Hathaway, don’t you?”

    “Yes,” Athena admits.

    “Then why haven’t you gone looking for him?” Jolie asks, “Knowing you, you’d find him easily…if you wanted to. You do want to, don’t you, ‘Thena?”


    “Yes and no,” Athena allows, “Of course I’d like to find him, Jolie, but if I did, I’d be duty-bound to kill him.”

    “The damn war again,” Jolie says, with some disgust.

    “Yes, the goddamned war again,” Athena sighs, “I’m still an Earth Federation Forces officer; he’s still an assassin for the ISRLA.”

    “It doesn’t have to be a Romeo and Juliet situation if you don’t want it to be, ‘Thena,” Jolie advises, “If you really love each other, you can make it work. Your commitment to the Federation doesn’t have to last forever. After the war is over, you can resign or just not re-up your commission. Then you and Hathaway can get married and have lots of little…”

    “Hold it,”Athena says, “Let’s back track to ‘after the war is over.’ What makes you think the war is going end any time soon?”

    “You’ve told me that it’s your life’s goal to end the war and make the world a more peaceful place,” Jolie reminds her friend, “And Athena Ibaz always gets the mission accomplished.”

    Athena smiles, slapping Jolie gently on the arm, “Thank you, Jolie. I appreciate the vote of confidence.”

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  8. #108
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    Episode 6 continued...

    “‘Thena,” Jolie says, latching on to her friend’s arm, “I’m serious. When the war is over, you should quit the military and get together with Hathaway. I know how much you two love each other. You two could be so happy together. I know you two would…just like me and Jonah!”

    “Then we’d better get on with the business of winning the war,” Athena says, the serious officer side of her personality suddenly asserting itself, “or your fear that I’ll die an old maid might come true.”

    The two friends laugh. Jolie, now fully dressed in her uniform (which Athena nonetheless compulsively helps her straighten and smooth out, as always), follows her friend and superior officer as they leave Jolie’s quarters and step around to the door of Jonah’s quarters.

    Athena keys in the code that opens the doors of Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels’ quarters.

    Jonah stands at the door, his uniform neat and proper, and salutes sharply, “Major Ibaz, 1Lt. Minh. Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels reporting, for duty ma’am!”

    Athena and Jolie return the salute.

    “At ease, Chief,” Athena says, “glad to have you back on duty.”

    “Thank you, ma’am,” Jonah replies.

    Athena notices Jonah and Jolie exchanging longing glances at each other. It’s been two days since they’ve seen each other.

    “Go ahead, you two,” Athena says with a smile, letting military discipline drop for a just a minute, “I know how hard it’s been on you the past two days.”

    Jolie runs into Jonah’s arms, laughing. Jonah embraces her tightly, twirling her around. Their lips lock in a kiss.

    Athena smiles at the happy couple, suppressing slight feelings of envy. Perhaps Jolie is right…

    “Are you two finished?” Athena says mirthfully after letting the couple go on for a minute, “Or should I come back in an hour?”

    The couple disengages their embrace, “Sorry, ‘Thena,” come their sheepish apologies.

    “Don’t be,” Athena smiles, “You two share something very special, and you’re very fortunate. I need your help, however, to ensure that billions of others can also be so fortunate.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jolie and Jonah respond, ready to follow Athena’s directives.

    “Our next operation is going to be against the enemy’s mining stations located on the surface of Mars,” Athena tells them, “The plan is to choke off their metallic ore supply, which will hamper the enemy’s capacity to manufacture mecha and armaments and thus cripple their ability to continue waging war.”

    Jolie asks, “Are we ready for another major battle so soon? We just completed a big operation two days ago, and even though our people and mobile suits came out of it OK, they’re still exhausted. Also, who’s gonna protect Frontier 8 after we leave?”

    Athena tells Jolie and Jonah, “I had the same concerns. General Noah informed me this morning that reinforcements from Earth are coming. Twenty more ships and four-hundred more mobile suits from the Federal Space Armada will be relieving us here at Frontier 8. They’re expected to arrive in fifteen days. We’ll be using that time to prepare for the next phase of Operation: Vigilant Eyes.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” respond Jolie and Jonah.

    “Ma’am,” Jonah asks Athena, “which factions of the Zeon control the mining facilities on Mars?”

    “Deimos and Phobos,” Athena replies, “Konrad Von Bach and Alexander Miguel’s jurisdictions.”

    “Oh,” Jonah replies, feeling a little sick.

    “What’s wrong, Chief?” Athena asks perceptively.

    “Nothing, ma’am,” Jonah answers, “Just getting used to being out in the open again after two days in confinement.”

    Athena figures it’s something much more than that, but decides not to press it…not here, not now.

    Jolie’s reaction is more enthusiastic, “Finally! This might be my chance to kill Miguel!”

    Jonah blanches.

    Athena admonishes, “If it’s within the scope of the mission, Jolie. I understand your reasons for hating Alexander Miguel, but killing him will only be an option if it falls in line with our duties.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jolie says reluctantly. As much as she wishes she could, Jolie doesn’t think she can obey that particular order. Alexander Miguel murdered Jolie’s parents and brother. She has vowed to kill him even if it means facing court martial…or worse.

    Jolie turns to Jonah, “When I go up against that bastard Miguel, I hope you’ll be at my side, Jonah…Jonah?”

    Jonah does not look well at all, “W-what?”

    “Jonah,” Jolie says, concern in her eyes, “Are you OK?”

    “If you’re not feeling well,” Athena says, “better report to sick bay and have Doc Wooster look at you. Maybe you sustained an injury in battle the other day that wasn’t detected in your post-combat physical.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah says weakly.

    “Jolie, go with him,” Athena orders, knowing that Jolie would anyway.

    Jolie takes Jonah by the hand and leads him gently towards the sick bay, making worried noises along the way.

    Athena looks hard at the backs of the departing couple…particularly Jonah. She frowns; the young Deputy Director of the Special Forces senses something very wrong concerning her junior executive officer, Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels, and it has nothing to do with his physical health.

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  9. #109
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    Episode 6 continued...

    At his castle-like dwelling in Phobos Fortress, General Alexander Miguel listens with quiet intensity as his faithful adjutant, Colonel Ross Davenport, gives him a report of recent events in the Frontier 8 Zone.

    “In summary, the Federal Forces swept the Callisto Armada out of the Frontier 8 Zone in a decisive fashion,” Davenport tells Miguel, “These reinforcements arrived from Earth not long after Constantinas’ fleet began its assault on Frontier 8’s Freemont City colony and easily routed the Federation’s Civil Defense Guard. The Federation reinforcements fought with exceptional skill and used superior grade weapons; they were likely the Federation’s Special Forces. The Callisto Armada suffered severely heavily casualties in the counterattack, although Constantinas was able to escape in her flagship.”

    “Constantinas will lick her wounds and return to the fray,” Miguel remarks, coolly sipping brandy from a crystal goblet, “I understand my former colleague well enough to know that this setback will not deter her ambitions for long. When she does return, we must be ready for her. What of Deimos? How did they respond?”

    “Deimos sent one mobile suit to reconnoiter the situation,” Davenport replies, “but that unit was destroyed by the Federal Forces. We can’t be certain what, if any information that unit was able to send back to Von Bach, but we certainly discovered an interesting bit of information about the Feddies.”

    “Oh?” says Miguel casually.

    Davenport tells his liege, “The Federation’s relief forces included two new Gundam-class mobile suits…likely the Gundam-100 type units that we had planned to seize last year. The pilots of those two mobile suits demonstrated extraordinary abilities…they are likely Newtypes.”

    “The Earth Federation Forces have had Newtypes in their fold before,” Miguel comments, thinking of such past stalwarts as Amuro Ray and the various bioengineered Newtype soldiers utilized by the Titans during the Gryps Conflict, “but they’ve never really appreciated or understood how best to use their power.”

    To that, Davenport says, “Project K is on target, my lord. We’ve just entered the beta-testing phase yesterday. With any luck, Project K will be ready to roll in another six months.”

    Alexander takes that news with a pleased nod, then turns his query to another concern, “Any new word on Jonah’s whereabouts, Ross?”

    “I’m sorry, my lord. None of our intelligence agents have been able to find a trace of young Lord Jonah’s location. There were rumors that he was sighted at Frontier 8, but that was several months ago. He could literally be anywhere.”

    Alexander sighs, “Should my brother’s orbit ever cross ours again, Ross, he will be severely disciplined for dishonoring his family and his nation through such cowardice. I’d expected much better of him.”

    “Lord Jonah is young and naïve,” Ross concedes, “but my lord, I’ve never known him to be a coward.”

    “Nor have I,” Alexander admits, “but his actions are indisputably cowardly. To be frank, Ross, some part of me does hope that our agents never do find him.”

    “My lord?” Ross responds, unaccustomed to hearing his liege express such sentimentality.

    “If you ever do,” Miguel says, coldly drawing his sidearm and inspecting its loading chamber, “I will, regrettably, be compelled to uphold the family and nation’s honor, as much as it will personally pain me to do so.”

    Ross gulps as Alexander reholsters the gun.

    “What else do you have to report, Ross?” Alexander asks.

    “The Federal Forces have occupied Frontier 8. Reinforcements from Earth are currently en rout to the colony. It looks as if they have plans to fortify the Federation’s position there.”

    “An advantageous turn of events for us,” Miguel says, smiling enigmatically.

    “Advantageous, my lord?” Davenport echoes, failing to see how any strengthening of the Earth Federation in the Outer Solar System could be “advantageous” to the Zeon cause.

    “Advantageous, Ross,” repeats Miguel, “The ancient Chinese believed that wars are best won without deploying a single soldier into battle. Why should we bother, when there are others willing to do it for us, as long as we are patient, and are willing to sustain minor immediate losses in exchange for much greater gains in the future?”

    Colonel Ross Davenport begins to gain an inkling of his liege’s train of thought, and nods his approval.

    “The black pawns, the white pawns,” Miguel says offhand, “in the end, they are all my pawns.”

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  10. #110
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    Episode 6 continued...

    In addition to preparing for the upcoming campaign to destroy the Zeon ore mining colonies on Mars, the Special Forces have also been assigned to assist the Civil Defense Guard and Frontier 8’s civilian disaster relief authorities in rescue/recovery efforts at the heavily damaged Freemont City space colony. The Federation High Council initially balked at this idea, wanting Major Ibaz to press the campaign against the Zeon mining facilities, but Athena succeeded in persuading the council that in addition to be a vital PR move to secure Frontier 8’s support for the Federation (something that the Federal Forces will need to effectively wage war against the Zeon in the Outer Solar System), an assault on Zeon’s Martian strongholds would not be tenable until 1). the reinforcements from Earth arrive to take over responsibility for Frontier 8’s security from the Special Forces and 2). sufficient intelligence is gathered regarding the disposition of the Deimos and Phobos Zeon’s defenses of their mining facilities. Athena already knows those positions are heavily fortified; what she needs to know are how and where.

    For this reason, Athena and her reconnaissance officer, Sgt. Anna Horowitz, will be undertaking surveillance sweeps of Mars during the next several days.


    “Be careful lifting that!” instructs Casey Pierson, overseer of the Freemont City relief effort, “The remaining superstructure is still very unstable and we don’t want to do any more damage!”

    1Lt. Jolie Minh and Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels respond affirmatively to Pierson’s exhortations for greater caution as they use the mighty mechanical “muscles” of their twin Centurion Gundams to remove the collapsed roof of Freemont General Hospital. The facility had taken a stray hit from a Neo Zeon mobile suit during the initial invasion, and its roof had collapsed. It is imperative that this facility be restored to operation condition as soon as possible; hospital services in Freemont City have been temporarily moved to a secured area of the Freemont City Spaceport.

    Elsewhere, other mobile suits registered to the Special Forces are assisting other rescue and recovery efforts. Before they were ordered to assist with the hospital reconstruction effort, Jolie and Jonah had liberated two families that had been trapped underneath the rubble of a collapsed condominium for two days. Three members of the M-Team assisted in welding shut the massive holes rent into the colony’s exterior by the Callisto Zeons’ attack. Around 09:00, Athena and the team leaders of T-Team and Q-Team successfully finished getting the colony’s electrical power grid and waterworks online again.

    Most of the people in Freemont City are grateful for the presence of the Special Forces. For the first time in many months, they can go about the business of their daily lives without immediate fear of Zeon attack. There are those, however, who are resentful: cynically questioning why the Earth Federation Government has allowed Frontier 8 to endure nearly a year of Zeon harassment before sending in the Special Forces. In the mind of these individuals, the sudden arrival of the Special Forces is much less about the Federation protecting the people of Frontier 8 and much more about military conquest…the Federation’s ambitions for territory and power no different from the Zeons’.

    At 13:00, the Special Forces take a half-hour break for lunch. Scattered as they are across the city, and busy as they are in their various tasks, lunch consists of prepackaged, processed military rations. Hardly tasty, but ostensibly nutritious.

    Jolie and Jonah share their lunch under the shadows cast by their massive mobile suits. As always when they dine together (which has effectively been every meal they’ve eaten since they met), the two spend several minutes scooping the best portions of their food onto each other’s plates…an expression of the deep love they feel for one another.

    There are those who doubt the depth of Jolie and Jonah’s affection for one another. After all, they are both just kids – scarcely seventeen years old, and they have known each other scarcely seventeen weeks. It’s puppy love, these doubters believe – adolescent lust between two exceptionally attractive teenagers, driven by hormones rather than anything more spiritual or sublime. Jolie and Jonah, however, know better. Fewer than two months have passed since they first met, but deep inside, they feel that they have always known each other – since the beginning of sentience itself. They are soulmates in a way that few others could ever understand, and nothing in the cosmos mattered more to either of them than the other.

    “I wonder what poor animal had to die for this,” Jolie comments as she tastes a spoonful of the processed meat product in the tiny can in her hand. No matter how many times she eats this stuff (and it’s been many times, dating back to her years in Industria Colony), she can’t get used to the taste.

    “That’s why you ought to go vegetarian,” Jonah says, a vegetarian for the past five years, taking a bite of his tofu and rice based rations.

    “Ugh!” he grimaces as the barely palatable mixture registers on his taste buds.

    Jolie begins to laugh in response to Jonah’s expression of disgust; Jonah loves seeing and hearing Jolie laugh - the way her dark eyes crease and narrow and pretty dimples appear on either side of her wonderfully smooth baby face, and the delightful sound of her girlish giggle. The sight and sound always warm Jonah’s heart.

    “Veggie or not, this stuff is disgusting!” Jolie says, still trying to stifle her laughter.

    “Where’s Athena?” Jonah asks, “she’s made herself scarce all day.”

    “She and Anna went to scout the Martian surface,” Jolie tells her boyfriend and subordinate as she pokes at the remainder of the rations with her spork, “she’s trying to map out the layout of the Zeon mining colonies on the surface so we can prepare for the invasion.”

    Invasion, Jonah reflects. He has never thought of himself as an invader, and the term conjures up unpleasant images, but he cannot help acknowledging that he and his comrades are indeed invaders, though here in Freemont City, at least, generally welcome ones.

    Jolie continues, “Athena wants us to begin the invasion as soon as the relief fleet arrives, but it’s frustrating because the government here is stymieing us with a lot of their local policies.”

    Jonah replies, “I thought that after we stopped the Callisto Armada’s invasion, the people here would be grateful to the Federal Forces…at least enough to not create more obstacles for us.”

    “Well, the people mostly are grateful,” Jolie says, chewing on some unidentifiable meat from her rations can, “but the Minister of the Customs Administration here at Frontier 8…that Cartier guy? He’s a f**king a**hole!”

    Jolie’s language is more ribald than Jonah’s own elegant elocution, but he has grown accustomed to it and regards it as part of Jolie’s charm. He likes her frankness, and wishes he could be just as frank when expressing himself. Jonah also agrees with Jolie about Minister Barclay Cartier of the Frontier 8 Customs Administration, a career bureaucrat and one of the key figures in Frontier 8’s autonomous (but Earth Federation Government-supported and protected) government. Frontier 8 is generally friendly to the Earth Federation and opposed to the Archduchy of Zeon, but many of its government heads insist, at least officially, on maintaining a stance of neutrality. The leaders of Frontier 8 know that in the Outer Solar System, the military might of the Earth Federation is far, far away, and the threat of the Zeon, splintered as they are, lies no farther than the other side of Martian orbit opposite to the Frontier 8 Zone.

    “I know what you mean,” Jonah says, still trying to force the ill-tasting mixture into his mouth, “I can’t believe that after the Special Forces fought so hard to drive the enemy out of Freemont City, Cartier told us that our fleet couldn’t even dock at Frontier 8, or get re-supplied here. That’s why we’re down to eating these rations. We have to wait for the relief fleet from Earth for fresh supplies.”

    “If the Zeon decide to counterattack any time in the next five days before the relief forces get here,” Jolie says, “we’re completely screwed. We don’t have all the parts necessary to repair all the damage to our mobile suits, and our ammo supply is limited too. Cartier and his flunkies seem to have no problem ordering us around, though.”

    “Well,” Jonah concedes, “That part I don’t mind because we really should help the civilians here with rescue and recovery. It’s not their fault that their government won’t let us dock and re-supply here. As soldiers and as human beings, we have a moral duty to help out. I don’t blame Cartier for that.”

    “You’re right,” Jolie says, giving up on her lunch, “I didn’t mean that we shouldn’t help out. Of course we should. It’s just that the Frontier 8 government should help us so we can help their people. It’d be much better if we helped each other.”

    “I hear that,” Jonah says, like Jolie, giving up on his unpalatable meal.

    “I don’t want to eat this crap anymore,” Jolie says, “Do you?”

    “No,” Jonah replies, “I sure hope the civilians are getting better relief supplies than we are.”

    “Athena’s been working on that,” Jolie says, “With any luck, everybody will be eating better after the relief fleet arrives.”

    “At least we fed our brains,” Jonah says, referring to their discussion in lieu of a meal.

    “And our hearts,” Jolie says, leaning close to Jonah.

    The young lovers exchange a kiss, the taste of each other’s lips providing a sweetness that quickly erases the distaste of their hapless lunch rations.

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  11. #111
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    Episode 6 continued...

    From high orbit above the planet Mars, Major Athena Ibaz’s Cour de Leon escorts Sgt. Anna Horowitz’s GM-IV AWAC as the reconnaissance mobile suit trains its array of sophisticated surveillance devices on the planet’s scarlet surface. With just two mobile suits, Athena and Anna are at considerable risk; they would be quickly overwhelmed if discovered by enemy forces, and reinforcements from Frontier 8 would be at least twenty minutes away. It’s a risk they must take, however, because a larger force would surely be detected by the enemy. Only with small numbers can they remain invisible long enough to perform their task.

    The data received through the GM-IV AWAC’s sensors are processed through the mecha’s powerful computers.

    Sgt. Horowitz seethes with frustration as, for the umpteenth time, the computer converts the data into nothing but static and interference, “Damn it! I’m sorry, Athena. The Minovsky interference that the Deimos and Phobos Zeon are generating is just too dense. My sensors just can’t penetrate it.”

    “It figures,” Athena says, “you’ve done your best. I think the only way we’ll get the data we need is to attempt a surface landing on Mars.”

    “That’s going to require more than just the two of us,” Anna points out.

    “Absolutely,” Athena responds, “we’re going to have to go back and coordinate it. I think we’re done here for today.”

    “Roger, ma’am,” Anna says.

    The Cour de Leon and the GM-IV AWAC speed towards Frontier 8.

    Fewer than thirty seconds later, Anna gets a blip on her scanner…an enemy recon satellite.

    “Ma’am, there’s…”

    Before Anna even finishes her sentence, the Cour de Leon has fired a shot from its beam rifle, instantly disintegrating the Zeon reconnaissance satellite that had crossed their path.

    “Even if that recon satellite didn’t manage to transmit any data,” Athena observes, “the very fact that it was destroyed will alert the enemy that we’ve been here. Damn. It’s going to be even harder than we thought to get the information we need.”

    The Cour de Leon and the GM-IV AWAC continue their return flight to the Frontier 8 Zone. Within twenty minutes, both mobile suits dock with the Amuro Ray, moored just outside the Freemont City space colony.


    “We want to know when we’re getting fresh medical supplies!” demands one of the citizens of Freemont City, an elderly woman in need of medication for her breathing difficulties.

    “And do you call this slop food?!” demands a burly middle-aged man, indicating a food rations can similar to the ones that Jolie and Jonah had attempted to make lunch out of, “Maybe this stuff is OK for dogs, but we’re people!”

    “My daughter is missing,” a woman in her thirties sobs bitterly, “but no one I’ve talked to seems willing to help me to find her!”

    “My apartment was flattened during the battle,” a young man says, “and I’ve been living in the government’s shelter ever since. But I’ve got no clothes except this stinking t-shirt and these ratty jeans and sneakers I’ve been wearing since the day of the attack!”

    “People have been looting my store day and night since the attack,” a shop owner complains, “don’t you soldiers provide security?”

    These and hundreds of similar complaints assail the ears of 1Lt. Jolie Minh and Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels. Despite their best efforts, the tide of human need in the wake of war is simply overwhelming. There’s only so much that they can do. Despite their great power, Jolie and Jonah feel completely helpless.

    “Please,” Jonah beseeches the gathered civilians, “the Earth Federation is working closely with your government here at Frontier 8 to make sure that all your needs are met. Just this morning, Major Ibaz succeeded in getting the colony’s electrical and water delivery systems working again. We’re making progress towards restoring other basic services as quickly as we can. We need you all to be patient.”

    The crowd’s patience, however, is played out. They have endured months of terror in the crossfire of the Neo Zeon Civil War, and thought that the arrival of the Federal Forces at Frontier 8 would be their salvation. Their fear has dissipated, but has been replaced by frustration: until a year ago, the people of Frontier 8 regarded themselves as the luckiest people of the world…living in a fresh and new community unthreatened by war. Now, they face violent invasion by the Zeon and indifference to their needs from the Earth Federation.

    The mob becomes agitated, shouting their myriad demands to the two young officers. Insults are lobbed at couple, including “liars,” “incompetents,” and unbelievably, “cowards.”

    Sensing trouble, Jolie grabs Jonah by the arm and begins to pull him away, but she is suddenly pelted on the side by a hurtling piece of garbage (an empty rations can). Jolie picks the can up and prepares to hurl it back at the crowd, but she is stopped by Jonah, who takes hold of her wrist and shakes his head gently.

    Jolie’s own patience has reached its limit. Having bitten her tongue for several long minutes, Jolie finally snaps at angry crowd, “What the hell is the matter with you people?! How can you be so ungrateful?! We fought hard to save you from the Zeon! Even if you don’t appreciate it, you don’t have any right to turn on us like this!!!”

    The angry crowd surges forth, closing in on the young couple. Jolie and Jonah slowly back away. They really don’t want to hurt anyone, but will defend themselves if they must. Still, they are facing a crowd of hundreds. Even with Jolie’s extraordinary fighting skills, how could they fend off so many attackers at once?

    A large man shoves Jonah on the chest, pushing the young Centurion Team officer backwards. Jonah manages to not fall down, but the hostile shove against him enrages Jolie, whose fist rockets out against Jonah’s assailant. That single punch flattens the man, who is nearly three times Jolie’s size.

    “I’ve had it with you people!” Jolie snarls, her rage unsatiated, “I don’t care what you call me or what you throw at me! But as soon as you touch Jonah, then…!”

    “You little Feddie b*tch!” the large man snarls, “You’re gonna pay for that!”

    The giant closes in on Jolie, an angry mob behind him. Jonah steps between Jolie and the crowd, attempting to shield her with his body. With the grace of a cat, Jolie slips back in front of him, determined to face their attackers up front.

    There is the sudden loud crackle of a firearm being discharged, followed by an equally sudden and eerie silence.

    Every person present checks himself or herself, looking for a bloody wound. Not a single wound or drop of blood is found.

    The sound of light footsteps is heard. From behind the crowd, Major Athena Ibaz, in her full dress uniform with officer’s hat and overcoat draped over her shoulders, approaches. In her raised right hand is her Walther minipistol, its barrel still smoking from recent discharge.

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  12. #112
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    Episode 6 continued...

    Having gotten the crowd’s attention, Athena reholsters her sidearm. Saying nothing, Athena stares at the people present with withering reprobation.

    Athena takes Jolie and Jonah’s side, motioning for them to stay put. Athena throws an authoritative glare at the now silent, ashamed crowd. Athena pulls out her handkerchief, uses it to wipe the corner of her mouth, and returns the handkerchief to the breast pocket of her uniform jacket.

    “Don’t you people want to survive?” Athena asks quietly, calmly, “How can you, when you’re behaving so weak-mindedly?”

    The people of Freemont City know that Athena is the one who led the Special Forces to deliver them from the Zeon invasion. They also know that Athena is the one who got their electricity and water running again after these facilities were damaged by the Zeon attack. They furthermore know it is the continued presence of Athena’s forces at Frontier 8 that have deterred any further Zeon attacks. Thus, Athena’s presence carries an authority that the people of Freemont City are compelled to respect.

    Athena gestures in the direction of Mars, and says grimly, “The Zeon threat is still out there…not far away. They can return at any moment. If they do, will any of you be ready to face them?”

    Athena next gestures at Jolie and Jonah, “This young woman and this young man, whom you called ‘liars’ and ‘cowards’: both of them put themselves at great risk saving your sons, your daughters, your mothers, your fathers…your brothers and sisters. Lt. Minh, the young woman here you attempted to attack, lost her own parents and brother years ago to one of the very same Zeon warlords that now threatens the lives of your loved ones. You’re all frightened. You’re all angry. I understand. You have enemies…enemies who are out to kill you. You should know whom they are…and whom they are not.”

    Stung by Athena’s words, and recognizing the truth underlying them, the crowd backs away from Jolie and Jonah, hanging their heads in collective embarrassment.

    Athena looks at them sympathetically, and as she addresses them again, her tone is softer and more compassionate, “Lt. Minh, Chief Michaels, and I will listen to your needs. We will do our best with the resources that are available to us to meet them. Further assistance from the Earth Federation is on its way. We need time to make it accessible to you. Please give us that time.”

    An ameliorated and much more docile group forms orderly lines to prepare to speak to Athena, Jolie, and Jonah. The crowd’s redistribution into lines makes visible a black limousine that has been parked on the nearby street for some time, its engine still running. A tall, thin man, around fifty years of age, hair going grey, but not balding, face gaunt as that of a fresh corpse, emerges from the limousine. He is dressed in an expensive, conservative three-piece business suit, a spectacle glass over one eye. The overall effect of his mannerisms and dress is one of pretentious pompousness and bluster.

    He is Minister Barclay Cartier of the Frontier 8 Customs Administration, an important cog amidst the wheels of the Frontier 8 government.

    The crowd is in awe as the powerful official approaches. Few in Frontier 8 could be called admirers of Minister Cartier, but all who live in Frontier 8 recognize and fear the man’s power. Minister Cartier has connections with powerful entities legitimate and otherwise, and few dare to incur his wrath.

    Minister Cartier’s influence and power are such that even the Governor of Frontier 8 and the Central Legislature find themselves deferring to his authority, even though his is not the highest office in the Frontier 8 government. Minister Cartier is considered a key figure in the Frontier 8 government not so much for his post, impressive as it is, but for his connections with the Zeon authorities. From the earliest days of Frontier 8, Cartier had established friendly ties with the Zeon warlords in the Mars Zone, Konrad Von Bach of Deimos and Alexander Miguel of Phobos. For years, Cartier has promoted open economic exchange between the Zeon and Frontier 8, which has both kept the Zeon military menace at bay and enabled Frontier 8 to enjoy the economic benefits of trade with Zeon. With the Earth Federation so far away and seemingly indifferent to the needs of Frontier 8, the people of the farthest-flung space colony’s greatest fear has long been invasion by the Zeon remnants that also populate the Outer Solar System. For years, Cartier’s diplomatic ties with the Zeon have kept the threat from reaching Frontier 8, albeit at the cost of some autonomy, as the Zeon have had far too much influence, in the opinion of Frontier 8’s citizens, on their civic and economic affairs.

    The recent attacks by Zeon forces have caused many a Frontier 8 citizen to question, albeit quietly, the ability and will of Minister Cartier to keep the Zeon out of their haven. Indeed, some have long wondered if Cartier’s loyalties are really to Frontier 8, or to Zeon. For years, Cartier has used his position in the Frontier 8 government as a bully pulpit to excoriate the Earth Federation for its indifference and ineptitude and to lionize Zeon as a far more benign alternative patron to Frontier 8, conveniently neglecting the fact that the Zeon leaders’ vision of Frontier 8 is to militarize it and use it as an additional base from which to attack each other and, after leadership of Zeon is established, the Earth Federation.

    Barclay aims a condescending smile at the three young Earth Federation Forces officers, “Major Ibaz, Lt. Minh, Chief Michaels.”

    With a simple, subtle hand gesture, Athena signals a command to Jolie and Jonah to leave Cartier to her as they continue to hear out the civilians’ grievances.

    “Minister Cartier,” Athena says courteously, fixing him in a cold, impassive gaze, “Your presence is a surprising pleasure, sir.”

    “I came to see what assistance I might be able to lend, Major,” Cartier says with elaborately contrived helpfulness, “after are, these are my people.”

    “They probably prefer to think of themselves as their own people,” Athena rejoins mildly, “but they obviously appreciate your administration’s efforts on their behalf.”

    “And those of the Special Forces,” returns Cartier, his brow furrowing as he studies his immaculately manicured fingernails, “I admire your ability for authoritativeness, Major Ibaz. Look at how obedient they became after you lectured them…after first getting their attention with the Federal Forces’ firepower, of course.”

    Athena replies, “It will take more than firepower to eliminate the Zeon threat, Minister Cartier; of course, that’s where you come in.”

    “True, true,” Cartier says, “and you are correct, Major. It will take more than firepower. You learned that at Side 3, I imagine.”

    Athena’s stony facial expression does not change, but the allusion to Side 3 stings. A few months ago, she had initiated a PR campaign designed to reduce the hostility of the remaining inhabitants of the Zeon fatherland of Side 3 toward the Federation, thereby hampering the ability of the ISRLA to recruit new members to their cause. Things had started off well and the Special Forces made great progress…until General Manron Blackhead and Colonel Peter Cairlay sabotaged Athena’s plans by using Jolie to assault the Side 3 headquarters of the Cislunar Free Media, an organization whose staff includes Athena’s one-time nanny and friend Dory Ischinda and the man with whom Athena had fallen in love, Hathaway Noah.

    Athena’s principle is to respond to a sting with an evisceration, so she responds with the barest hint of a smile, “At Side 3, I learned that the most dangerous enemies are those who pretend to work alongside you. Fortunately, there will be none of that here, Minister Cartier.”

    Cartier’s face darkens at the veiled insult, and his elaborate, contrived smile fades into a fierce scowl that Cartier wishes could burn a hole right through Athena.

    Athena, however, remains as impassive as a stone wall as she calmly inserts a cigarette between her lips, lights it, and exhales a cloud of smoke before twisting the verbal blade further, “I’m sure the people are grateful for the minister’s support, but right now, they need action. Your administration’s services won’t be of any use here, Minister Cartier.”

    Sharp-tongued little Feddie b*tch Cartier steams, but resumes, with great effort, his false smile, “Apparently so, Major. Very well. If the people require my assistance, you know where to find me.”

    The minister boards his limousine, which soon speeds away with its convoy of escort vehicles in tow.

    With a slight, almost imperceptible smirk, Athena watches the convoy leave. Another self-important, idiotic bureaucrat to deal with. Cartier is an arrogant, self-satisfied boar, but Athena knows that he will cause trouble, unless he is eliminated…

    “What did that pig Cartier want?” Jolie asks as she approaches Athena.

    “He wanted trouble,” Athena replies, “and he found it. He’s going to be an obstacle if we let him.”

    Jonah chimes in, “He’s a very powerful man here, Major. But I understand he’s not exactly well liked in the community.”

    “That’s not surprising,” Athena says, then turns to admonish Jolie, “Jolie, you have to get a hold of that tripwire temper of yours. I hope you realize how close you came to instigating an incident that would have seriously compromised the Federation’s position at Frontier 8.”

    “Sorry,” Jolie says sheepishly, “but this big guy was pushing Jonah around and…”

    “I’m not blaming you for defending yourselves,” Athena says, “but remember: wars are won on diplomatic as well as military fronts. There is a time to fight…and a time to refrain from fighting. Jolie: at that point, you and Jonah should have walked away instead of attempted to retaliate. Like I told the civilians: know whom your enemy is, and whom he isn’t.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Jolie replies, shrugging, “I know, ‘Thena. But these people drive me nuts sometimes. We risk our a**es for them fighting the Zeon, and they treat us like we’re the enemy somehow!”

    Jonah puts a hand on Jolie’s shoulder and says, “These people are scared, Jolie. You can’t blame them. They don’t know who they can trust.”

    “Jonah’s right,” Athena says, exhaling a lungful of cigarette smoke and gazing at the crowd, now being queried by newly arrived Special Forces officers relieving the Centurion Team members, “This is not so different from the situation we encountered at Side 3 a few months ago, Jolie, except this time, the sympathy of the population lies primarily with us. We need to make sure we don’t screw up it and lose it to the Zeon, as unlikely as that seems.”

    “And that Cartier…” Jolie says, her anger rising again.

    “…he’s just like Cairlay and Blackhead,” Athena finishes, “Same species of bureaucratic fool who lusts after power, but doesn’t understand the sacrifices involved in getting it, or how it should be used after it’s obtained.”

    Athena exhales a final breath of cigarette smoke and stamps out the remaining butt of her cigarette.

    “We’ll deal with Cartier later, when the right opportunity arises,” Athena tells Jolie and Jonah at last, “but right now, we have a more immediate concern: Anna and I tried to do a reconnaissance sweep of the Martian surface from high orbit earlier today. Because of the heavy Minovsky particle interference put out by the Deimos and Phobos Zeon., we were unable to gather any useful data on the Zeon mining colonies on the Martian surface. We’re going to have to go down to the Martin surface itself for a closer scan.”

    “That means going behind enemy lines,” Jonah observes, “Do you think that’s a good idea considering how small our force is compared to the enemy’s, ma’am?”

    “The thing about Minovsky particle interference is that it’s a double-edged sword,” Athena responds, “what makes it nearly impossible for us to scan them at long-range also makes it extremely difficult for them to detect us if we approach in small numbers. In retrospect, I panicked and jumped the gun when I shot down that satellite. It probably wouldn’t have been able to detect us anyway. It’s more a bluff than anything; a wooden watchdog.”

    After a moment’s thought, Athena tells her two subordinates, “Jonah, Jolie: gather the squad. We’ll be moving out at 21:00.”

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  13. #113
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    Episode 6 continued

    Sometime later, the Centurion Team, their mobile suits specially equipped with scanning/recording devices, land in pairs on the surface of Mars, on the side away from the Martian satellites (and Zeon strongholds) of Deimos and Phobos.

    To maximize flexibility and avoid making the team’s most important assets a concentrated target, Athena has divided the team into the following groupings:

    Spearhead 1: Athena and Anna.

    Forward 2: Jolie and Geoff

    Middle 3: Jonah, Tomo, and Nick

    Rear Guard: Karim and Phoebe (in low orbit around Mars)

    The Martian surface was first probed by humanity during the late 20th Century. First, robot satellites surveyed the planet’s surface, transmitting their data back to Earth in those early decades of space exploration. By the mid-21st Century, human visitors began to set foot on Mars.

    At the very beginning of the Universal Century era, the first surveillance outposts were built by the Earth Federation Government on Mars. Within a decade, Mars’ early pioneers had discovered a wealth of valuable mineral ore beneath the planet’s ruddy surface. Plagued with more pragmatic concerns closer to home, however, the Federation did not commit the necessary resources or energy towards exploiting these resources. Twenty years after the establishment of the first human colony on Mars, the red planet was abandoned once again for several decades.

    The value of Mars was not truly realized until the surviving remnants of the Archduchy of Zeon fled to the Outer Solar System after the One Year War. The rich mineral ores that were discovered decades earlier by the Earth Federation’s space explorers and scientists were just what the Neo Zeon needed to rebuild their military empire. Ore for building new space colonies…new spaceships….new mobile suits. Ore for supplying energy to their new homes in deep space. Ore that the Federation had no inclination nor means to take away from the Zeon.

    Regent Maharaja Khan of the Archduchy of Zeon began the construction of the Martian ore mines in the early U.C. 0080s, shortly after the Archduchy reestablished itself at Axis Fortress in the Asteroid Belt. Between U.C. 0081 and 0087, the Zeon excavated millions of tons of metallic ore from beneath the surface of Mars. This ore was crucial in the quick rebuilding of Zeon’s strength, enabling the Zeon to mount a new war against the Earth Federation by late U.C. 0087.

    Since the Zeon were driven into the Outer Solar System again by Federal Forces following Colonel Char Aznable’s defeat in U.C. 0093, the mines have largely fallen under the control of two particular Zeon warlords, Konrad Van Bach of Deimos and Alexander Miguel of Phobos. Mining activity has continued on Mars throughout the 0090s, despite occasional violence between the Deimos and Phobos forces on the Martian surface as the two Zeon factions struggle for exclusive domain over the mining facilities. Mars’ rich ore vein crucial to the success of building a military powerhouse (to say nothing of sustaining a space colony), the Zeon factions lying beyond Mars and the Asteroid Belt in the orbit of Jupiter are no less interested in the red planet as an invaluable resource.

    For human beings setting foot there for the first time, the surface of Mars is an eerie landscape. What should be blue and green on Earth are various hues of red on Mars. The sun is distant and cold…a remote dot in the sky providing muted illumination as opposed to the well-defined incandescent disc it appears to be in Terran skies. The world is cold, silent, and dead, perhaps reminiscent of the way Earth was many eons ago.

    But the Centurion Team has not come to Mars as astro-geologists; they are here to choke off the supply lines of metallic ore that feed Zeon.

    On the surface of Mars, the presence of Minovsky particles is not nearly as dense as it is in the planet’s orbit. This is because the various Zeon mining facilities on Mars must communicate with one another, and this communication would be hampered by a complete blanket of Minovsky particles. Thus, as soon as the mobile suits of the Centurion Team touch down on the surface of the planet, the team’s pilots notice that their surveillance equipment has become functional.

    But that means that down here, an enemy can survey them as well.

    “Anna,” Athena says, “are you getting anything on your scopes?”

    “Lots,” Anna replies, “but it’s going to take time to make sense of it all.”

    “We need a heading on those mining facilities,” Athena says, “They should be hard to miss.”

    As if on cue, Anna returns with, “Got it. There seems to be quite a large facility located around the northern rim at 87-42-19.”

    “Which one of our units is closest to that location?” Athena asks.

    Anna replies, “Team 3: Jonah, Tomo, and Nick’s unit, is approximately 200 kilometers southwest of it, ma’am. They can reach it in about ten minutes.”

    Athena issues the order, “This is Centurion Leader to Centurion Three.”

    “Centurion Three to Centurion Leader,” Jonah’s voice comes through the tactical net, “reporting for duty, Major.”

    “Jonah,” Athena says, “Anna has detected a facility approximately 200 kilometers southwest of your current location. She’s feeding the exact location into your MS’s combat computers now. I want you, Tomo, and Nick to scout it out. We’ll continue exploring this sector.”

    “Roger, ma’am,” Jonah replies, then turns to the two artillery mobile suit pilots, “Come on, guys.”

    In the cockpit of his Guncannon-100, FSgt. Tomo Higashi smiles. Despite being an officer, Jonah is still just a kid: more enthusiasm and courage than battle savvy and experience. Nevertheless, if Athena has entrusted Jonah with leading the unit, then Tomo has no qualms about following him.

    In the red skies above them, a Phobos Zeon soldier in a turbo glider streaks past. He relays his discovery back to Phobos Fortress.

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  14. #114
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    Episode 6 continued...

    “Federation mobile suits have been spotted by our reconnaissance personnel on Mars,” Colonel Ross Davenport reports to General Alexander Miguel, “It’s not clear what they’re doing there, but they pose a threat to our mining facilities on the planet…to say nothing of the possibility that they might try to establish an advance base on the surface to attack us directly here at Phobos.”

    Alexander replies mildly, “If I were their leader, I’d target the mining facilities. In a war of attrition, sufficiency of resources means everything. In the Outer Solar System, Zeon’s resources are far superior to those of the Federation…unless we lose access to the ore mines of Mars.”

    “I’ll scramble our Mobile Suit Cor…” Davenport begins.

    “Ross,” Alexander says, exhaling a ring of cigar smoke, “No need to rush in. Our existing ore stockpiles are enough to sustain full wartime production for at least thirty-six months, even if all mining activity were to stop today. That will be more than adequate…”

    “My lord?” Davenport queries.

    “Our rivals are profligate with their resources,” Miguel replies, “expending all of their resources in battles against us for which they have very little to show except depleted forces. Von Bach will learn that winning a war is more about resource management than the amount of firepower fielded.”

    Miguel leans back in his copious chair, his fingers steepled before his face, concealing his confidently wicked grin.

    The pieces of his plan continue to fall into place under the light gravity of Mars…


    The scanners of the Centurion Gundam Unit 2 sweep across the Martian surface from behind the cover of one of Mars’ gargantuan mountain ranges. Lying equidistant from the observer and the horizon is the sprawling surface complex of a mining facility operated by the Imperium of Deimos Zeon.

    The ruler of the Imperium of Deimos Zeon is Field Martial Konrad Von Bach. During the One Year War, Major Konrad Von Bach had been one of the finest mobile suit pilots in the Archduchy of Zeon’s Afrika Corps, leading a squadron of fifty Dwadges and Doms to victory after victory against the Earth Federation Forces in Africa. Eight years later, Colonel Von Bach was among the leaders escorting the victorious Axis Zeon Forces into the Federation capital city of Dakar, Senegal when the Axis Zeon briefly occupied the city.

    Von Bach and his mobile suit corps remained on Earth after Regent Haman Khan’s forces were driven back into space by the Earth Federation/AEUG Alliance. For four years, Von Bach and his men fled from the Federal Forces, managing to control swaths of the African heartland for months at a time before being chased to a new location by numerically superior Federation military units. During Colonel Char Aznable’s brief resurgence in U.C. 0093, Von Bach and his men returned to space, but the conflict between Colonel Char and the Federation was too brief for Von Bach to make any meaningful contribution. Moreover, Von Bach and his men were masters of terrestrial combat, and were out of their element fighting in the vacuum of space.

    Konrad Von Bach, however, had not become one of the greatest warriors of Zeon without being adaptable, determined, cunning, and ambitious.

    Rallying his loyal VB (Von Bach) Corps around him, the newly self-styled Field Martial Konrad Von Bach arranged to abduct a number of Anaheim Enterprises’ finest mobile suit engineers and technicians from Anman City and Von Braun City on the Moon. During their time on Earth, the VB Corps had plundered Africa’s riches, including the diamond mines of South Africa.

    With such wealth to offer, Von Bach lured not only engineers and technicians, but hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers of fortune…many of whom were veterans of previous wars (and various alliances; the newly expanded VB Corps would include soldiers who had previously served Zeon, the Earth Federation, AEUG, and the Titans). The engineers and technicians modified the existing VB Corps mecha (by this time consisting of Dreissens, Dwadge-IIs, and Desert Hizacks) into space-worthy mecha, and with the wealth that Von Bach plundered from Africa, the VB Corps was able to arm its new troops with new generation Dreissen II, Geara Doga II, and Gellond mobile suits.

    Revitalized though it was, the VB Corps did not have the manpower or resources to seriously consider a new offensive against even the weakened Earth Federation Forces. As was the case in the aftermath of the One Year War, the surviving Zeon forces from the First and Second Axis Wars fled into the cosmic hinterlands of the Outer Solar System.

    Although born and raised in space, Von Bach was a man whose career as a soldier was defined by his knowledge of and prowess is fighting on land. Moreover, during his time as a bandit/warlord in Africa, Von Bach had learned that the land often concealed great wealth – wealth that could be extracted and exploited. Exiled from Earth, the only land accessible to him was the surface of Mars, and Von Bach soon discovered the minerals beneath the ruddy Martian soil could be used to provide the material foundation of the empire of his dreams.

    A significant obstacle stood in the way of those dreams – Von Bach’s rival Zeon warlords, each of whom also greedily eyed the remnants of the empire that the Zabis had built, and among his rivals, it was the Principality of Phobos Zeon’s General Alexander Miguel who most often caused bile to rise into Von Bach’s throat.

    Unlike most of his fellow Zeon warlords, who favored the remote orbits of Jupiter or Saturn (and the hydrogen fuel supplies that the giant planets represented), Von Bach knew that his interests lay in solid commodities – the metallic ores of Mars. Alexander Miguel, however, had the same idea, and was already perched in Martian orbit by the time the VB Corps settled itself on the asteroid of Deimos, converted the asteroid into a mobile base, and reestablished itself as the Imperium of Deimos.

    For the past half decade, the Deimos and Phobos forces have been locked in a bitter struggle for control of the Martian mining colonies…a struggle that has come to a stalemate. Deimos and Phobos each controls roughly half of the Martian mining facilities, but neither will settle for less than sole control of those facilities. Intervening, on occasion, are the Zeon warlords of the Jupiter and Saturn orbits, also interested in the ores buried deep in the mantle of Mars.

    And as of today, the Earth Federation Forces have also demonstrated newfound interest in the mines of Mars.

    Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels reports both verbally and visually the data he is taking in to his commanding officer, Major Athena Ibaz, “SSgt. Higashi and Cpl. Van Dyck concur, based on the data received, that this facility is indeed for mining. Its disposition, layout, superstructure, and dimensions are being relayed to your combat computer now, ma’am.”

    Aboard the Cour de Leon, Athena carefully studies the information that Jonah is relaying to her. Despite its vast size, this facility alone would not be sufficient for the Zeon to meet their vast ore requirements. Athena reasons that at least five more such facilities existed elsewhere on Mars’ surface.

    As if to confirm her thoughts, Athena receives an incoming message from Jolie, “Jolie here, ‘Thena. Geoff and I just found a mining base just like the one Jonah found. It’s just about 50 kilometers south of the equator, longitude 36.”

    “Roger that, Centurion Two,” Athena responds, “Anna is detecting a similar facility due north of our current position at about 350 kilometers.”

    Tackling these facilities is going to require much greater manpower than we have in our Special Forces strike force, Athena realizes, We’re going to need to wait for reinforcements to arrive from Earth before we can mount a meaningful assault on these facilities.

    That train of thought leads Athena to a disturbing realization, Why aren’t these positions more heavily fortified? With the tremendous value that these mines represent for the Zeon, we should never have been allowed to get this close. Logically, we should have met heavy resistance in low orbit, Minovsky particle interference or otherwise. That means…

    Athena opens communications to all her units, “This is Centurion Leader. Be alert: I suspect that we’re about to be ambushed.”

    True to Athena’s word, an armored head, its presence masked from long-range detection by Minovsky particles, peers out from a newly opened hatch at the top of a ridge above where Jonah, Tomo, and Nick’s mobile suits stand. Like a demon born out of the bowels of hell, the Zeon mobile suit’s armored shoulders emerge from the concealed access hatch, enough for the mecha to aim its beam rifle at the backs of the three unsuspecting Federal Forces mobile suit units.

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  15. #115
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    Episode 6 continued...

    NZ-086 Gryphon Sniper is a stealth mobile suit first conceived by Anaheim Enterprises in the mid-U.C. 0080s and finally rolled out in U.C. 0095. Colonel Char Aznable had ordered three of them, but none was completed before the colonel’s demise in U.C. 0093. The Gryphon Sniper fields the most sophisticated stealth capabilities yet to be mounted on a mobile suit…superior to that of the Earth Federation Forces’ Cour de Leon. After Char’s demise, Anaheim Enterprises had offered its three Gryphon Sniper prototypes to the Earth Federation Forces, but the Federal Forces rejected the Gryphon Sniper as too costly to mass produce and disfavored by Federation mobile suit pilots because of its Zeon association. Anaheim Enterprises officials believed that in addition to these given reasons, there must have been a fear among the Federal High Command that the mobile suits would be boobytrapped in some manner.

    The Federation’s shortsightedness was Field Marshal Von Bach’s gain. Von Bach purchased all three Gryphon Sniper units from Anaheim Enterprises along with hundreds of Dreissen-IIs, Geara Doga-IIs, and Gellonds. Alexander Miguel, however, also knew of the existence of the Gryphon Sniper units, and coveted them as much as Von Bach did. Instead of attempting to outbid Von Bach at the bargaining table, Miguel elected to steal the prized mobile suits from his rival instead. Miguel succeeded in capturing two of the three units, and Von Bach fought fiercely to retain possession of the third.

    The Gryphon-class high performance mobile suit was to have been Zeon’s answer to the Federation’s Gundam-series mobile suits. For fifteen years, Zeon’s otherwise formidable mobile weapons technology had been thwarted by the Gundams, but Anaheim Enterprises had finally delivered an effective anti-Gundam weapon.

    Or so they thought.

    The Gryphon does feature stealth capabilities unprecedented for a mobile suit…a capability not yet implemented on the Gundam mobile suits. In terms of maneuverability, firepower, and armor strength, the Gryphon is comparable, but nonetheless somewhat inferior to such contemporary Gundam-class mobile suits as the RX-93 Nu Gundam and the RX-100 Centurion Gundam. Moreover, the Gryphon, though extremely high-performance, is extremely costly to manufacture and difficult to maintain. Even Von Bach and Miguel have expressed hesitation to invest in further production of the Gryphon beyond the three prototypes.

    Faced with these limitations, Von Bach assigned his one remaining Gryphon to his most capable mobile suit pilot: Captain Duncan McAllister.

    Indeed, such a weapon was given to McAllister only because he is capable, not because he is trustworthy, and even Von Bach is left to wonder if there would come a day when the gun by his side would be the gun at his head.

    Captain Duncan McAllister, age thirty, began his career as Private First-Class Duncan McAllister of the Army of the Archduchy of Zeon at the age of eighteen two years before the outbreak of the One Year War. McAllister distinguished himself as a dangerous mobile suit pilot during that conflict, and quickly rose through the ranks to become a sergeant by the war’s midpoint.

    To ally and enemy alike, McAllister was known for being deadly efficient and utterly self-serving. McAllister is infamously loyal – to himself, and to no other. Nevertheless, his allegiance and his deadly skill at the controls of a mobile suit could be had for a generous offer of creature comforts – luxurious homes, personal vehicles, beautiful women, booze.

    Having served under Admiral Kishiria Zabi during the One Year War and Regent Haman Khan during the First Axis War, McAllister took service under Field Marshal Konrad Von Bach only because Von Bach offered him ten percent of the ores mined by the Deimos Zeon Forces from Mars…enough to make McAllister a very wealthy man when his mobile suit-piloting days are done.

    That, and no loyalty to Von Bach, Zeon, or Contolism is the sole reason that McAllister will defend the mines of Mars with his life.

    His character being perfidious, it is unsurprising that McAllister’s combat techniques are equally treacherous. Although a formidable upfront mobile suit combat specialist, McAllister’s preferred and signature move is to simply shoot his enemies in the back. “Optimal combat efficiency,” as McAllister calls it. McAllister has even gone so far as to have had Deimos’ mobile suit engineers and technicians modify the weaponry of his Gryphon for sniper operations.

    At the moment, McAllister’s prey is Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michael’s Centurion Gundam, approximately one-thousand meters in front and below the barrel of his specially modified beam rifle at a forty-five degree angle.

    The targeting computers of the Gryphon Sniper aid McAllister’s cold, precise eye in locking onto the nuclear fusion engine of the Centurion Gundam Unit 2. McAllister reasons that the blast radius from the Gundam’s explosion should at the very least severely damage the two Guncannon-type mobile suits alongside it.

    Amateurs, McAllister thinks to himself with a smile, Standing their mobile suits so close together…

    At that very moment, the same thought occurs to Jonah. The positioning of his Centurion Gundam and Tomo and Nick’s Guncannon-100s leaves all three of them in extremely vulnerable circumstances, and goes against what Athena has taught them.

    And there’s this malevolent presence Jonah senses at his back…a creeping feeling running up his spine to the center of his brain.

    He must act now.

    Jonah leaps the Centurion Gundam into the Martian sky, twisting the mobile suit around and opening fire with its beam rifle.

    At the exact same moment, McAllister opens fire with the Gryphon Sniper’s own beam rifle. The shot leaves a smoldering crater where Jonah’s mobile suit had stood a second earlier; the impact of the blast is enough to knock even Tomo and Nick’s sturdy Guncannon-100s off balance.

    “Take cover, you guys!” Jonah shouts into the tactical net.

    Responding to training and survival instincts, Tomo and Nick assume defensive combat positions, their weapons primed and their senses, human and electronic, alerted.

    The Centurion Gundam lands, firing a second shot in the direction from which the enemy fire originated, but the beam disappears over the Martian horizon, its intended target nowhere in sight.

    The pleasant, albeit helmeted visages of Major Athena Ibaz and 1Lt. Jolie Minh appear on the monitor of Jonah’s Centurion Gundam.

    “Jonah, are you all right?!” Jolie demands anxiously, “What just happened?!”

    “We were under enemy fire,” Jonah reports, “We weren’t hit, but the enemy target has disappeared.”

    “How many were there?” Athena asks.

    “Sorry, ma’am,” Jonah says, “I wasn’t able to get a visual or a sensor reading before the target disappeared. I think there was only one.”

    Athena replies, “Let’s assume there are more. We don’t know their number, so a direct confrontation isn’t advisable. Our presence has been uncovered, so we need to withdraw immediately. We have the data we came for.”

    As if in response to Athena’s orders to withdraw, a half dozen Dreissen-II mobile suits rise from where they had been concealed beneath the Martian sands like armored flowers sprouting forth from alien soil. These “flowers,” however, have dangerous “stingers” in the form of beam cannon and beam tomahawks.

    “Attention all units!” Athena calls through the tactical net, “Enemy units sighted! Go to combat status!”

    Athena transforms the Cour de Leon from Waverider to mobile suit configuration, extracting the mecha’s beam rifle and downing two Dreissen-IIs with two rapid shots.

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  16. #116
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    Episode 6 continued...

    “Sgt. Horowitz!” Athena calls out, “I want you to withdraw immediately!”

    “Ma’am?” Anna Horowitz begins tentatively.

    “Your AWAC unit isn’t suited for heavy combat,” Athena explains as she fights off the four remaining Dreissen-II units, “And the data you’ve collected is too valuable to be lost. I want you to withdraw and rejoin Sgt. Al-Said and Cpl. Mendoza in orbit immediately! That’s an order!”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Anna replies, reluctantly leaving her commanding officer behind.

    As Anna’s GM-IV AWAC takes to the scarlet skies, Athena raises the Cour de Leon’s arm-mounted shield to block incoming beam cannon fire from a Dreissen-II bearing down upon her. As the enemy mobile suit enters melee combat range, Athena rams the shield forward into its body, using the Cour de Leon’s powerful thrusters to knock the Dreissen-II onto its back. Keeping the Zeon mobile suit momentarily down by leaning the full weight of the Cour de Leon upon it, Athena twists the beam rifle of her mobile suit skyward to blast a Dreissen-II that had gone in pursuit of Anna’s AWAC unit.

    “1Lt. Minh, Chief Michaels,” Athena calls into the tactical net again, “I want you to escort Sgt. Horowitz’s AWAC unit out of the combat zone.”

    As expected, Athena’s orders draw protests from the two loyal teenage officers, unwilling to leave their friend and commander to face the enemy alone.

    “Don't question your orders; just obey them!” Athena says sternly, “I’ll be fine. If Anna’s AWAC doesn’t make it back to base, this entire mission will have been futile.”

    The mission. For Major Athena Ibaz, it’s always about the mission. She has dedicated all of her self to the completion of the mission, and nothing could stand between her and the successful accomplishment of her mission.

    Understanding well Athena’s determination, Jolie and Jonah argue the issue no further, obeying Athena’s directive reluctantly and escorting Sgt. Anna Horowitz and her data-laden GM-IV AWAC high into the Martian atmosphere.

    Before leaving, however, the two Centurion Gundams each take a shot at Athena’s remaining opponents, reducing their number to the one that the Cour de Leon reposes upon.

    Athena thanks her two charges, and turns to deal with the final Dreissen-II, already at her mercy, but not yet removed from the equation.

    Athena draws the Cour de Leon’s beam saber and surgically slices through the Dreissen-II’s essential gears and connector units. The mecha is neutralized, but its pilot spared.

    Athena Ibaz had enough of Minerva Zabi, her loyalty to Zeon, within her to do at least that.

    It’s always the common combat soldiers who suffer most, Athena reflects, Never their leaders. Those who give the orders are invariably those who sit farthest from the battle, safe behind the lines.

    The thought infuriates Athena, but she sets such feelings aside. Emotions have no place in battle; they merely cloud a mind that must be kept clear.

    The Cour de Leon transforms into Waverider mode and takes off after its Centurion Team brethren.

    From beneath the Martian soil suddenly erupt forth a dozen more Deimos Zeon mobile suits, Dreissen-IIs, Geara Dogas-IIs, and a mobile suit that Athena recognizes as an experimental Gryphon model.

    Must be one of the three stolen from Anaheim Enterprises’ facilities on the moon back in 0096, Athena realizes.

    Athena also realizes that the Gryphon, at the very least, can stand head-to-head with her Cour de Leon in straight up combat. Such a high performance mobile suit would not be casually issued to an average grunt pilot; the Gryphon’s pilot is almost definitely an ace.

    As if to prove Athena’s assumption correct, the Gryphon takes a lightning-quick shot at the Cour de Leon. Despite the mecha’s great speed and maneuverability and Athena’s sharp reflexes, the shot manages to strafe the Waverider-configured mobile suit in the starboard thruster. Within seconds, the thruster mechanism begins to stall, and the Waverider’s rapid climb quickly becomes a deadly plummet.

    Athena pulls on the control yoke of her mecha, struggling to maintain its rapidly deteriorating flight integrity. If Mars had an atmosphere like Earth’s, with prevailing trade winds upon which the aerodynamic Waverider could glide, Athena would likely be able to nurse the damaged mecha to a soft landing. Mars is not Earth, however, and Athena knows that the Cour de Leon will crash upon the surface of red planet unless she switches to mobile suit configuration.

    Athena deftly fingers the mechanism that triggers dozens of gears and servomotors to shift and slide to reshape her mecha from a sleek air/spacecraft into a twenty-meter tall armored knight. Athena is relieved that the shot from the Gryphon that disabled the Leon’s starboard thruster didn’t also render the transformation mechanism unusable. Athena’s mechanical instincts had considered that a likely possibility, but somehow, the Leon has defied that likelihood.

    Odds, however, have their way of righting themselves against flukes. The Cour de Leon might have managed the transformation back into mobile suit configuration, but its right leg’s (the analog to its right thruster in Waverider mode) automatic balancer mechanism is shot. The Cour de Leon goes down on one knee, unable to support its weight on its right leg.

    Athena’s mobile suit has come up lame, surrounded by enemies, isolated from allies.

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  17. #117
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    Episode 6 continued...

    Athena shuts down communications in her helmet monitor. Anna, Jolie, Jonah, and the rest of the squad should already have left Mars’ atmosphere and be headed back to Frontier 8 with the valuable reconnaissance data. No point in risking their lives coming back for her.

    She prepares to make her last stand on the angry red face of Mars. It’s fitting: a youth spent at war comes to a fiery end on the planet named after the god of war.

    The Gryphon points its beam rifle directly at the Cour de Leon’s cockpit. Unsteadily, the Cour de Leon raises its own beam rifle and levels it likewise at the Gryphon. Behind the experimental Zeon mobile suit is its legion of Dreissen-II and Geara Doga-II comrades-at-arms.


    High in orbit, Newtype PSI energy sparks erupt simultaneously from 1Lt. Jolie Minh and Chief Warrant Officer Jonah Michaels’ helmeted heads, alarming them.

    “Jonah!” Jolie says, her eyes going wide in sudden fear for Athena’s life.

    “I know,” Jonah says, “Athena’s in danger. Let’s go get back down there right now!”

    The two Centurion Gundams rapidly change direction, dropping back down towards the surface of Mars.

    Jolie takes a moment to contact Msgt. Karim Abdul Al-Said, “Karim, you take command! Get the squad back to Frontier 8; we’ll catch up with you as soon as we rescue ‘Thena!”

    “Roger, ma’am,” the powerful and supremely disciplined master sergeant replies, this certainly not being the first time he has been placed in temporary acting command.


    Unable to stand, the Cour de Leon nevertheless lets loose with a beam rifle shot that barely misses the Gryphon, which leaps clear at the last possible instant, but immolates the Geara Doga-II that had stood behind it.

    Had the Cour de Leon’s automatic balance mechanism been functioning, the Earth Federation Forces’ finest markswoman would have already added Captain Duncan McAllister’s Gryphon Sniper to her long list of victims, but alas…

    Athena acknowledges her opponent’s familiarity with the innate weaknesses of the Earth Federation Forces’ signature Gundam/GM-class mobile suits – the leg/thruster modules. From the time of the original RX-78 Gundam onwards, Federal Forces MS engineers have been concerned about the vulnerability of Federation mobile suits in this area. Although numerous improvements and adjustments have been made since then, it remains a weakness that the savviest enemy MS pilots know to exploit.

    The Cour de Leon’s greatest asset is its maneuverability…its speed and agility. McAllister’s beam rifle shot, however, has robbed Athena’s Leon of both. Her mecha can hardly move, let alone maneuver itself to dodge enemy fire or track enemy movement.

    Athena raises the Cour de Leon’s beam rifle defiantly, prepared to resist to the end. Deep inside, one regret lingers in her heart, Hathaway…
    Du
    The Gryphon Sniper closes in menacingly on the Cour de Leon, its beam rifle extended.

    Captain Duncan McAllister’s finger tightens on the trigger mechanism; his mouth curves into a sadistic smile.

    His smile becomes a grimace of shock and pain as his Gryphon Sniper is suddenly felled by a piledriving kick from 1Lt. Jolie Minh’s Centurion Gundam.

    As Jolie turns her attention to the other Deimos Zeon Forces mobile suits, Jonah’s Centurion Gundam also arrives on the scene, supporting Athena’s damaged Cour de Leon on its shoulders.

    Athena reactivates the communications monitor in her helmet just in time to hear Jonah ask, “Major Ibaz, are you all right, ma’am?”

    Once again, Jolie and Jonah have disobeyed Athena’s orders, but she doesn’t have the heart to chew them out…not after they’ve just saved her life.

    “I’m fine, Jonah,” Athena replies, “thanks to you and 1Lt. Minh. Get us into the air so that we can lend her a hand.”

    “Roger, ma’am,” Jonah responds as he complies.

    The Centurion Gundam takes to the sky, bearing its damaged ally with it. With the Centurion Gundam providing support and stability, Athena is able to direct the Cour de Leon to fire upon the enemy units, immolating one, two, and then three Deimos Zeon mobile suits with precisely-placed beam rifle shots.

    Jonah adds the firepower of his Centurion Gundam to that of the Cour de Leon. Meanwhile, groundside, Jolie cuts through the enemy units like a sharp scythe through tall grass, assaulting them with beam rifle fire and beam saber slashes.

    At the same time, Captain Duncan McAllister’s Gryphon Sniper rises. The captain seethes with rage: who dares to interfere with him?

    McAllister spots Jolie’s Centurion Gundam cutting through his troops like a lion unleashed amidst deer, and levels the Gryphon’s beam rifle at the Federation mobile suit.

    Yellow-tinged beam fire erupts forth from the nozzle of the Gryphon Sniper’s primary weapon. The Centurion Gundam leaps clear of the deadly stream of charged particle energy with picoseconds and millimeters to spare.

    Jolie counterfires with a beam rifle blast of her own; the shot is deflected by the Gryphon’s double-reinforced arm-mounted shield.

    “Damn!” Jolie clenches her teeth in frustration, “that shield has I-field protection! It can’t be hurt by beam rifle fire!”

    “Jolie!” Athena calls out, “Try to take this one alive! He’s an officer; we need him for interrogation!”

    “Roger, ma’am,” Jolie replies.

    “Jonah, maneuver us up around fifty meters, and angle us seven degrees to the right,” Athena orders.

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah says, directing his Centurion Gundam and the Cour de Leon as instructed.

    Athena lines up the Gryphon Sniper, exchanging shots with Jolie’s Centurion Gundam, in her targeting reticle. She lets loose with a beam rifle shot.

    The beam energy passes over Jolie’s Centurion Gundam to strike and immolate the beam rifle of the Gryphon Special. The powerful explosion of the weapon leaves McAllister reeling in shock.

    Jolie takes advantage of McAllister’s momentary disorientation to move in. To her surprise, however, the Gryphon takes to the sky, changes form, and jets away over the horizon.

    “It’s a transformable mobile suit!” Jolie says, astonished, “Just like ‘Thena’s Cour de Leon!”

    Episode 6 to be continued...

  18. #118
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    A portrait of androgynous Japanese pop singer "Gackt," possibly as General Alexander Miguel:



    Gackt as General Alexander Miguel? Perhaps...

    Gackt is a bit too effeminate to really fit my image of Alexander Miguel, but although Miguel is definitely very masculine, he is ever so slightly foppish. It might work.

  19. #119
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    Episode 6 continued...

    Jolie attempts to pursue, but is blocked off by the remaining Dreissen-II and Geara Doga-II mobile suits.

    “Jonah, put me down. Go help Jolie.” Athena orders.

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah replies, grateful that Athena has given him authorization to do what his heart has been compelling him to do.

    The Centurion Gundam Unit 2 sets the Cour de Leon back down on the surface of Mars. Athena puts the Cour de Leon down on its belly, taking a strategic position atop a ridge to pick away at some of the enemies battling Jolie’s Centurion Gundam Unit 1.

    Jonah’s Unit 2 joins Jolie’s Unit 1. Between their combined beam saber assault and Athena’s precise shooting, the enemy mobile suit squadron is eliminated within three minutes.

    The din of battle soon falls silent. Dark, oily smoke rises from the remains of the Zeon mobile suits destroyed by the Centurion Team’s three ace pilots. The pilots of the Zeon mobile suits, in various degree of injury ranging from minor cuts and bruises to collapsed lungs and broken vertebrae, disembark or are otherwise removed by their more fortunate from the cockpit of the mobile suits.

    Athena opens communications to the Zeon pilots through their tactical wavelength, “Attention all Zeon prisoners: this is Major Athena Ibaz of the Earth Federation Special Forces. A Federal Forces Military Police unit will land within the hour to take you to Frontier 8 for processing. You will be treated in accordance with laws regarding prisoners of war enacted by the Antarctic Treaty of U.C. 0078 and the Side 6 Conference of U.C. 0095. Rest assured that you will be treated humanely and given your day in court. I advise you to remain where you are; there is nowhere for you to run.”

    The Zeon troops appear to have accepted as much, as they assume “surrender” positions upon the Martian soil.

    The enemy troops subdued, Jolie’s attention returns to the unfamiliar transformable mobile suit she encountered minutes earlier, “’Thena, what kind of a mobile suit was that? I’ve never seen one like it, and it’s not in the Centurion Gundam’s database either. Is it some new Zeon model?”

    Athena explains, “It’s a Gryphon. Anaheim Enterprises secretly developed three high-performance prototypes for the Zeon in the late U.C. 0080s/early U.C. 0090s that they finally delivered after the collapse of Char Aznable’s plot to drop Axis Fortress on Earth in 0093. It was designed to counter the Federation’s Gundam-class mobile suits, especially the multiple configuration maneuverability and surplus power of the Zeta and Double Zeta Gundams. The prototypes were originally built without transformation capabilities, but the option for modification to transformability was always in the Gryphon’s module design specifications. Looks like the Zeon made those modifications after they received the Gryphons, and on this particular model, made further modifications for sniper operation.”

    “It’s tough,” Jolie says, “It’s as fast and well-armed as the Centurion Gundam, and can transform into a Waverider like your Cour de Leon.”

    Athena adds, “It also has the best stealth capabilities of any mobile suit ever built – Federation or Zeon. Although the Minovsky particle rendered long range stealth technology obsolete, the Gryphon incorporates a new close in range stealth technology that actually confuses the nerve endings of your eyes.”

    “You mean it can turn invisible?” asks Jolie, incredulous.

    “In a manner of speaking, yes,” Athena replies, “The visual information you get through your optical nerves won’t be reliable in this case.”

    “Are we going to go after it, ma’am?” Jonah thinks to ask.

    “Absolutely,” Athena says, “These soldiers here will be able to give us some information, but not the information that we really need about the mining facilities here. Its most important secrets are likely known only by officers…with far greater security clearance than these men here. We need to capture that Gryphon pilot alive.”

    So saying, Athena, opens the cockpit hatch of the Cour de Leon and exits the mobile suit. She extracts a tool kit from underneath the pilot’s seat.

    Athena tells her two charges, “Jonah, Jolie…you two go ahead and look for the Gryphon. Remember: bring back the pilot alive. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I repair the damage to the Cour de Leon.”

    “Ma’am, with all due respect,” Jonah says, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to leave you here alone and defenseless.”

    “That’s right,” Jolie says, “We can wait here until…”

    “No,” Athena insists, “You two will pursue the Gryphon now. That’s an order. We can’t afford to lose him. Don’t worry about me. It’s more important that we bring in that Gryphon pilot.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” JoMi JoMi reply in unison.

    Athena can’t help but let out a slight laugh; even the reluctance in their voices has become synchronized.

    It must be nice to harmonize so perfectly together.

    As Jolie and Jonah’s twin Centurion Gundams disappear into the Martian horizon, Athena examines the damage to the Cour de Leon’s right thruster/leg module. The damage is significant: there’s no way the Cour de Leon will be able to function at one-hundred percent capacity again without some extensive work by chief MS engineer 2Lt. Molly Duran and her crack team of mechanics and technicians. Athena can, however, use the limited tools and equipment she has available to her (and the wealth of spare parts from the abandoned enemy mobile suits) to effect some rudimentary field repairs that will get the Leon moving again…enough to limp back into battle for a short time, at least.

    Athena sets to work immediately; every second she loses reduces the chance of successfully capturing the Gryphon pilot.

    Episode 6 continued...

  20. #120
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    Episode 6 continued...

    Jolie and Jonah cannot help but wish that Sgt. Anna Horowitz and her GM-IV AWAC were still with them on Mars instead of, most likely by this time, back aboard the Amuro Ray. Although the suite of surveillance instruments installed aboard their Centurion Gundams are among the most sophisticated and powerful ever mounted on a combat mobile suit, they are not nearly as effective as the dedicated surveillance system’s of Anna’s AWAC. At the moment, the two Centurion Gundams’ sensors detect no sign of the powerful enemy mobile suit that Athena called a “Gryphon.”

    “’Thena’s right about that Gryphon: it’s sure is good at hiding,” Jolie remarks sourly as she scans both her mobile suit’s monitors and the surrounding environment for a sign of her quarry.

    “It’s hard to believe that a mobile suit can actually affect the nerves in our eyes so that we can’t even trust what we see,” Jonah responds, “That’s scary. I’m an artist, and precise vision is essential in our trade. If we can’t trust our eyes, we’re lost.”

    Jolie smiles, and her grin is apparent in her voice, “So when are you gonna finish my portrait, ‘Mr. Artist?’ You’ve been working on it since we were still at Side 7, and you still haven’t finished it yet. I wanna see how you draw me!”

    Jonah returns Jolie’s grin, “Well, as know very well, I’ve been kind of busy lately. We’ve been in combat for weeks now, and when we aren’t actually in combat, Athena has us training for future combat.”

    “Yeah,” Jolie agrees, and then adds, “and as soon as she gets here in a few minutes, she’s gonna chew us out for losing focus in battle.”

    “Right,” Jonah says, and after a momentary pause, makes an inspired suggestion, “You know, electronic sensors and our eyes aren’t the only tools we have to search for the enemy.”

    “That’s what I was thinking,” Jolie says, “Let’s do it!”

    Jolie and Jonah close their eyes…and open their minds. Suddenly, the entire expanse of Mars is as transparent to them as an ocean of distilled water.

    Zeon Daikun once expressed the belief that the human mind was possibly the most powerful force in the universe…capable of transcending many of the laws governing matter. Neither Jolie nor Jonah truly understands the nature or the limitations of this great power that they possess, but with each day, their skill at using it seems to grow.

    Their minds reach out like the tendrils of a spider’s web, expanding across the surface and skies of the red planet. In the midst of the tranquil emptiness, Jonah senses a presence…malevolent and devoid of compassion. Jonah begins to tremble in the cockpit seat of the Centurion Gundam Unit 2 as he feels a coldness creeping up his spine and his hair standing on end.

    Where Jonah reacts, Jolie acts. A shot from her Centurion Gundam Unit 1’s beam rifle impacts against the Gryphon Sniper, which simply had not been there (or appeared to have been there) an instant earlier.

    “Amazing,” Jonah breathes, “That mobile suit can actually turn invisible.”

    “It’s playing tricks on our eyes,” Jolie supplements, “It’s there, but we can’t see it…at least not with our eyes and our instruments!”

    No sooner does Jolie say that than does she let out cry of shock as the powerful impact of a missile slams into her Centurion Gundam’s back, pushing the Federal Forces’ advanced combat mobile suit onto the ground.

    “Jolie!” Jonah reacts with alarm. Setting his Unit 2 down next to Jolie’s fallen Unit 1, Jonah blasts out with his own beam rifle in the direction where the enemy missile had come from, but ultimately hits nothing.

    “Jolie!” Jonah cries out again, his heart racing with panic, “Are you all right?”

    Jolie lets out a grunt of outrage, not pain, much to Jonah’s relief, “If that guy knows what’s good for him, he’s gonna stay invisible, ‘cause if I ever find him, I’m going to blast him from here to Pluto!”

    “You OK?” Jonah asks again, needing to be sure.

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” Jolie says, her anger building. Performing a quick check on the Centurion Gundam’s systems, Jolie registers that the blast has damaged her mobile suit’s thruster unit. Like the Cour de Leon before it, Centurion Gundam Unit 1 cannot fly.

    “Damn it!” Jolie clenches her teeth in frustration, “The thruster unit is out! I’m going to have to get carried off this planet! And I can only go after that Gryphon thing on foot!”

    “Thank God the missile wasn’t armed with a higher caliber explosive,” Jonah says with some relief, removing the shield mounted on his Unit 2’s left arm and remounting it on the back of Jolie’s Unit 1 to protect her mecha from further attacks against her now vulnerable backside, “or it would have ruptured the nuclear fusion engine and caused your MS to explode.”

    “But I still can’t move!” Jolie rages, “And that Gryphon is gonna get away!”

    “Jolie,” Jonah says soothingly, “Calm down. I’m not going to just leave you here.”

    So saying, Jonah directs the Unit 2 to reach its armored hand out to Jolie’s Unit 1.

    The Unit 1 reaches its own metalshod hand take its counterpart’s; Gundarium fingers touch and mesh in a tight grip.

    In the cockpits of their mobile suits, Jolie and Jonah cannot help but smile. Even through so much alloy, reinforced ceramic, and other cold, hard material, the warmth and security they experience whenever they touch each other is palpable.

    Jonah launches his Centurion Gundam into the Martian sky, tugging Jolie’s identical mecha by the hand.

    The couple receives a radio message from Major Athena Ibaz, “Centurion Leader to Centurions Two and Three. Did you locate the Gryphon unit?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah answers, “but we lost him again. We engaged him in combat briefly, and 1Lt. Minh’s mobile suit has sustained damage to its thruster unit. We’ve confirmed that the Gryphon uses some sort of stealth mechanism making it impossible to track visually.”

    “Roger, Centurion Three,” Athena says, “Is 1Lt. Minh all right?”

    “’Course I’m all right!” Jolie’s protesting voice comes through the tactical net, “You didn’t seriously think that Gryphon could have killed ME, did you?”

    Athena grins, “I would have invited the Gryphon pilot over for a congratulatory party and drunk with him all night if he did.”

    “Love you too, ‘Thena,” Jolie says wryly.

    Jonah chuckles with amusement, enjoying Athena and Jolie’s saucy repartee.

    “Major Ibaz, ma’am,” Jonah says, turning serious, “We’ve confirmed that the Gryphon can effectively turn invisible to human eyesight. 1Lt. Minh and I were able to track him only by using our Newtype sensory abilities.”

    “It’s a good thing that the Gryphon’s stealth devices don’t have an answer for that,” Athena observes, “or we’d really have a problem on our hands. I suspect that the stealth mechanism is highly power intensive, which is why he hasn’t followed up his attacks more aggressively. Anyway, continue the search. I should be able to join you within fifteen minutes.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Jonah replies.

    “’Thena’s probably right about the Gryphon’s stealth system being a huge drain on its power,” Jolie says to Jonah as he closes the communication with Athena, “The enemy pilot knows we can’t see him. All it would have taken to kill me a few minutes ago was to fire another shot.”

    “I wouldn’t have let that happen!” Jonah insists, then catches himself for having blurted out his protective thoughts so impulsively.

    Jolie cannot help smiling at that. She has never been a “damsel in distress” type, having always been able to take care of herself against almost any threat. Knowing how much Jonah cares about her, however, means everything to Jolie, and the protectiveness and affection in his reaction warms her heart.

    “I know you wouldn’t,” Jolie says softly, “Just the same as I wouldn’t ever let anything bad happen to you. Thanks for using the Unit 2’s shield to cover my back, by the way. I guess this is like the modern day equivalent of the gentleman lending the half-dressed lady his coat, huh?”

    Jonah laughs slightly, “I suppose it is. Who says chivalry is dead?”

    Jolie returns the laugh, and says coyly, with a coquettish sigh, “Sir Jonah…my hero!”

    Jonah continues to play along, “I will protect thy honor from those wicked fiends, milady!”

    “My knight in shining armor!” Jolie says melodramatically.

    The couple breaks into laughter.

    Their mirth swiftly becomes terror, however, as they both feel that cold, creeping sensation up their spines again…just as they had minutes ago when they last encountered the Gryphon.

    “Scatter!” Jolie cries.

    The incoming missile approaches the two Gundams’ entwined hands. Jolie and Jonah are forced to disengage the grip to avoid both being stricken by the missile.

    Jonah immediately regrets it as he watches Jolie’s Centurion Gundam plummet towards the surface of Mars, “JOLIE!”

    “Don’t worry about me!” Jolie says, “Focus on the Gryphon!”

    “No!” Jonah says, rocketing his Centurion Gundam down ahead of Jolie’s flight-disabled mobile suit.

    The best Jonah can do is place his Centurion Gundam directly under Jolie’s, catch it as it falls, and use the Unit 2’s thrusters to soften the landing. Fortunately, with Mars’ gravity being weaker than Earth’s, the impact is less than bone-shattering. Nevertheless, the two teenaged Earth Federation Forces MS pilots cry out in pain at the moment of impact.

    Jolie, sick and tired of being abused by the Gryphon, gets the Centurion Gundam Unit 1 on its feet in the blink of an eye, “I’ve had it with this bastard!!!”

    Pulling Jonah’s Unit 2 to its feet with a tug of its metalshod hand, the Unit 1’s eyes flash.

    A spark of powerful PSI-energy erupts like a volcanic flame from Jolie’s forehead. The Gryphon, concealed by energies that interfere with the function human optic nerves, cannot hide from the reach of Jolie’s mind.

    The Unit 1 opens fire; the shot destroys the Gryphon’s head/scanner unit. A trail of smoke rising from seemingly empty space gives away the Gryphon’s location.

    Captain McAllister attempts to transform the Gryphon to mobile armor configuration for a rapid escape, but is stricken by two incoming missiles that appear suddenly from over the horizon. The Gryphon’s transformation mechanisms are critically damaged by the twin explosive impacts, locking the mecha in its anthropomorphic configuration.

    Major Athena Ibaz’s Cour de Leon appears on the scene in mobile suit mode. Athena was able to get right thruster unit operational, but the automatic balancer and transformation mechanism cannot be repaired without the resources of a fully equipped and staffed MS repair facility. Still, Athena’s jerry-rigged repairs have gotten the Cour le Leon back into the battle to return the “favor” to McAllister and his Gryphon Sniper.

    “Now we’re even,” Athena says softly and coldly, then to Jolie and Jonah authoritatively, “1Lt. Minh, Chief Michaels: gift wrap this package for me, please.”

    Jolie and Jonah draw their Centurion Gundams’ beam sabers. Within thirty seconds, they meticulously dismember the Gryphon Sniper, removing its limbs from its main body. Jolie finishes by using her mecha’s powerful hands to wrench the reinforced cockpit free of its nacelle within the Gryphon’s body cavity. They have their captive.

    “Use the cables,” Athena orders, “we can’t be sure that that cockpit module isn’t boobytrapped.”

    The Cour de Leon and the Unit 2 take to the sky, deploying magnetic clamp cables from their storage niches in the Federal Forces’ mecha’s forearms. Extending each cable to a length of 200 meters, the two mobile suits magnetically attach the ends of the cables to the Gryphon cockpit.

    Jonah lands the Centurion Gundam Unit 2 on the surface of Mars one more time, takes the hand of Jolie’s Unit 1, and launches back into sky.

    As the three Centurion Team mobile suits and their quarry ascend high into Mars’ atmosphere en rout back into space, they are met by a descending force of Federal Forces Military Police – seven GM-III mobile suits, three Wasp cosmic fighter planes, and a transport shuttle for the Zeon prisoners.

    The commanding officer of the Federal Forces MP unit deployed from Frontier 8 radios the Centurion Team, “This is 1Lt. Braddock Murray of the Frontier 8 Earth Federation Military Police. We’re responding to Centurion Team’s request for prisoner transport.”

    “This is Centurion Leader,” Athena returns, “You’ll find your prisoners waiting for you at the coordinates I’m relaying into your onboard computer, Lieutenant Murray.”

    “Thank you, Major Ibaz, ma’am,” Murray returns, “My men and I will take it from here.”

    The Centurion Team’s officers return to the Amuro Ray. After delivering their mobile suits to the MS dock for repairs, they will be proceeding to Freemont City to debrief their captives.

    Episode 6 to be continued...

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