(Also, I must be doing that macro thing wrong, because I couldn't get it to work)
EDIT: Second draft, added a prologue. Apart from that, just a couple of minor tweaks)
Story inside the spoiler box...
- [NAME WITHHELD], Lecture at Sparta Base.
“Ensign Athene Gold reporting for duty, ma’am!”
“Welcome aboard, Ensign. I’m Captain Tanya Monash.”
The Captain was different than I had envisioned – a woman in her early 30s, the look in her eyes was nothing like the severe glares I was used to from the trainers at Sparta Base. But then, nothing about this assignment was what I had envisioned. I had expected to be deployed in the main Commonwealth forces, alongside the other trainees from Sparta Base. Instead, I had been assigned to the battleship Gallipoli in Mars orbit, far from the main theatre of operations around the Earth sphere, for a secret project – something called Project Gundam.
MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM STORM
A Fanfic by Andrew Dynon
Based on Mobile Suit Gundam created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yadate
Report 01: Activation
“Athene Gold? Weird name. I’m Ensign Shane Yamada. Pleased to meet ya!” Shane stretched out his hand. He wasn’t what I was expecting, either. My fellow trainees had been about the same age as him, but he definitely didn’t carry himself like them. There was no way the instructors would have permitted such a casual attitude. What did he think was so weird about my name? I’ve always had it - it’s the name that was given to me by the instructors. And why was he holding his hand out to me like that? I hesitated, unsure what to do.
The Lieutenant standing beside Shane looked at me, expecting... something. Shouldn’t he have admonished Ensign Yamada for speaking out of turn?
“Go on,” he said to me, “Hold out your hand.” I did as he said, and the ensign grabbed it and pumped it up and down, smiling. I didn’t understand it, but for some reason, the combination of his facial expression and the sensation of our hands touching each other made me feel as if I belonged aboard the ship.
The Lieutenant turned to me. “Well, Shane’s taken the liberty of introducing himself. I’m Lieutenant Alan McDermott. I’ve been briefed on you, Ensign – well, what they felt they could let me know, anyway. You might find that things here are a bit different than what you’re used to.”
“Yes, sir.” I was finding that already – the lack of formality and discipline aboard the ship was making me uneasy.
“Anyway, you two go and unpack your things, then change into normal suits and meet me in the hangar. I’ll explain your assignment to you there.”
By the time I located my quarters, Shane was already there and had begun to change. He jumped backward as I began taking off my uniform.
“Athene? What are you doing?”
“Changing into a normal suit, as ordered.” Wasn’t it obvious?
“But… but I’m in here!”
“There’s enough room for both of us.”
“But… I’m a boy and you’re a girl!”
“So shouldn’t we be changing in separate rooms?”
“Why should that make a difference?” I changed and bathed alongside males all the time at Sparta Base, and was familiar with male anatomy. But Shane’s reactions were different to them – including what his body was doing.
“Shane, why is your penis sticking up like that?”
“Uh… bye!” He rushed out of the room, still not only partly dressed.
Why was he acting that way?
The spotlights in the hangar switched on, and I heard Shane gasp at the sight of the three Mobile Suits that were illuminated – as if he had never been near a mobile suit before. Admittedly, this particular model was new to me, but that didn’t warrant acting in such a manner. And why were they painted such conspicuous colours? Surely white accentuated with blue, green or red – depending on the particular MS – would stand out far too much on the battlefield.
“Ensigns, welcome to Project Gundam.” Lieutenant McDermott said. At least he still seemed like a respectable soldier. “This is my unit,” he indicated the one with red highlights, “GD-1 Alpha, codename Flame. Ensign Yamada, you’re assigned to the blue unit, GD-1 Beta, Lightning. Ensign Gold, you will be piloting GD-1 Gamma, Gale. Both your units are designed as fast striker units – the Lightning has greater raw speed, but the Gale is capable of performing more complex maneuvers involving sudden shifts in direction. My own mobile suit is a heavy support unit – I’ll be minding your arses for you while you’re in the thick of things. Of course, I’ll be expecting you to look out for each other, too. Now, get to the cockpits and familiarise yourselves with the controls. Once you’ve done that, we’ll be running some simulations to see if the reports I’ve read are accurate accounts of your capabilities.”
I ascended the liftwire into the Mobile Suit’s cockpit and closed the hatch. Retinal scanners lit up, confirming my identity – clearly, someone had set the security clearances up beforehand – and the main monitor lit up.
“Pilot Recognised: Athene Gold. Welcome to GD-1 Gamma.” The voice speaking inside my helmet was a feminine one that was only vaguely recognisable as computerised. Was it part of the Gale’s interface system? None of the suits I trained on had used a vocalised interface, except perhaps as a warning system when the systems detected a lock-on. The voice continued.
“I am an Artificial Intelligence system designed to assist the pilot’s interface with the Gundam series mobile suits and offer tactical guidance.” That sounded useful. As far as I knew, the Commonwealth wasn’t using such interface technology in its Mobile Suits.
“I do not currently have a name designated. Do you wish to assign me a name?”
Assign the AI program a name? What would be the point of that? Even if it was an advanced AI, its function was still simply to assist the pilot in combat. Giving it a name wouldn’t impede its functionality, but neither would it serve any useful purpose.
“Understood.” For a moment, I thought that the AI’s voice sounded disappointed, but I quickly came to my senses and realised I’d imagined it. AIs didn’t feel emotion. Even if they could, such a system would only impede combat efficiency. Why install it in a Mobile Suit?
“Ready to begin run-through of basic control interface. Acknowledge when ready.”
Working my way through the basic exercises, the interface felt much smoother than those on the GR series mobile suits we had trained on – neither too clunky nor so sensitive that the suit was constantly overreacting. According to the data, the suit’s power output was also greater than normal. It made me feel better about being assigned here – any of my siblings would have given their right arm (or their left – the instructors made sure we were equally skilled at using either hand) to pilot this MS. So why was it being deployed out in Mars orbit instead of the Earth Sphere?
When I had completed the exercises, I checked the others’ status and saw that Shane had not yet finished, meaning I had some spare time. The monitors were able to access general knowledge databanks, and I was wondering what Shane had meant earlier when he said my name was unusual. “Gold” was probably simply the colour or precious metal (not as precious as it had been in the past, though). There were a plethora of links to entries with “gold” in their name, but it probably wasn’t worth investigating them all.
The entry appeared on the monitor. Athene, or Athena (among other variations) was the goddess of wisdom and war in Greek mythology, specifically the strategic, disciplined aspect, as opposed to the “fury of war” embodied by her rival, Ares.
Why had nobody told me about this?
Before I could read much further into the entry, I heard a beep indicating that Shane had completed his preliminary exercises.
“Seems pretty sweet so far! You ready for combat sims?”
“You could be a bit more talkative. So, whatcha name the AI?”
“I didn’t give it a name.”
“Aw, why not?”
“There didn’t seem to be a point.”
Shane sighed. “Anyway, since the MS is called Lightning, I named mine Shazam.”
“Shazam?” The word wasn’t familiar.
“It’s from an old comic book. I could send some stuff to your pad later if you’re interested.” He noted my lack of reaction. “Or not.”
The main screen of my MS flashed and switched to the barren rocky landscape of Mars.
“Okay, you two ready?” Lieutenant McDermott asked. I allowed myself to smile a little (I doubted anyone would see it under my helmet) adjusted my grip on the controls and scanned the battlefield in anticipation.
“All right. Our scenario is an attack on an entrenched enemy position. Enemy forces are eight normal Regulus Mobile Suits and four Regulus Artillery Types.” Ordinarily, going against an entrenched position at four-to-one odds was not considered advisable, even if the enemy were grunts like the Regulus. But we weren’t using ordinary Mobile Suits. And I, at least, wasn’t an ordinary pilot. “Lightning, Gale, ready to launch in three, two, one!”
“Shane Yamada, Lightning Gundam, launching!”
“Athene Gold, Gale Gundam, launching!”
We dropped out of the (simulated) cockpit and boosted toward the fortifications the ochre-coloured Regulus MS were stationed at. Behind us, a swarm of missiles from the lieutenant’s Flame Gundam streaked past us and exploded against the fortifications, covering our approach.
Shane reached the enemy fortifications ahead of me, strafing them with his beam rifle. The enemy MS took cover, and his strafing run failed to do any significant damage.
“How are you gentlemen? All your base are about to belong to us!” What was he doing, talking over an open channel like that?
“Ensign Yamada!” McDermott snapped.
“Hey, that line’s a classic! I just couldn’t resist!”
One of the Regs was drawing a bead on the Lightning – I fired a shot with the Gale’s beam rifle, hitting it in the shoulder and disabling its arm. Not a killshot – my aim should have been better. I prepared to land amid the fortifications.
“Transition to melee!” I ordered the AI.
“Roger. Dual Saber.” In a single fluid motion, the Gale Gundam stowed its rifle and drew a pair of beam sabers. I stabbed one of the Reg Arts through the cockpit, then spun and sliced the Reg I had shot before in half.
I then boosted toward the next Reg, dodging aside from the path the Gale’s AI predicted as its likely aim. Another Art was coming up behind me, but the Flame Gundam fired a burst of Gatling rounds that riddled its chassis with holes, and it collapsed. After I sliced into the reactor, I glanced to my left to see the Lightning make another strafing run. This one was more successful than Shane’s previous attempt, shooting down two more of the enemy with a missile volley. That made six down – at least he looked like he had some talent.
I sheathed my right beam saber and retrieved the rifle. My next target would be the Reg taking cover behind a wall at ten o’clock. I kicked the thrusters in and jumped to the left to open up the angle. As I moved, the Flame swung around to the right, unleashing another stream of gatling fire on the two remaining Reg Arts.
I took aim and fired a shot, plugging the MS I had in my sights, and the AI reported that Shane had scored another in his next strafing run. Now, it was three on three, which with these MS was far better than even odds. McDermott could take care of the one remaining at the other end of the fortifications. One of the remaining Regs lined up to fire, and I shifted to the right, evading the shots while minimising excess movement, then boosted forward, cutting through it with my beam saber. Following through, I dashed toward the remaining Reg, and sliced open the cockpit – at the same moment that Shane fired a shot into its reactor.
“Scenario complete.” The Gale’s AI reported, and data about our performances flashed up on the screens.
“Hey, Athene, five kills. That was pretty impressive.” Shane said over the comm.
“Come on, that last one was mine!”
“No, I was the one who made the kill.” The computer analysis showed my score as 5.5, but I hadn’t needed Shane’s help to beat that Reg.
“Fine, let’s settle this. You and me, one on one.”
“You’d lose. Look at the analysis. My senses and reaction times are higher.”
“I have my own theory. And hey, it’s not the first time I’ve been the underdog.”
“All right.” If he wanted me to beat him that badly, I’d be glad to oblige him. The scenery on screen shifted to a mountainscape, full of cliffs and ravines.
“Scenario Start.” I didn’t have visual on the Lightning yet. I kicked in the thrusters and moved forward, scanning for any sign of it. Then I heard his voice over the comms. Why did he insist on talking to the enemy?
“Y’know, Athene, since you’re so confident, maybe we should have some kind of bet.”
“Okay. If I win, you have to tell me about yourself.” That was classified information, but it didn’t matter, because he wasn’t going to beat me. “Just what are you? The way you’re acting, you seem as though you’re some kind of robot or android or something. I kinda wanna know if that’s really what you are, or just an act.”
That arrogant little punk!
I spotted a disturbance of dust at 3 o’clock, and turned and boosted toward it.
“It’d make sense, you know. Maybe that’s why you didn’t bother naming your Gundam’s AI. I mean, it’s just a piece of equipment. The same as you.”
He wouldn’t be so smart-mouthed when I beat the hell out of the Lightning. I sped around the corner where I had spotted the dust disturbance.
“Just a piece of equipment to be used until it breaks, and then disposed of. Nothing more.”
“SHUT THE HELL UP!”
I turned the corner, eagerly anticipating engaging the Lightning and teaching Shane to keep that damn mouth of his shut. I was so eager that, for what must have been over a second, I didn’t register the fact that the Lightning wasn’t there – just a single missile sitting on the canyon floor, blinking.
I threw the thrusters into reverse, but the force of the explosion still managed to knock the Gale onto its back. I saw the Lightning at the top of the cliff, and heard Shane laughing over the comm.
Determined to shut him up, I boosted up the cliff face, firing shots at the Lightning. Shane stepped back to avoid the shots, and I drew a beam saber in the Gale’s left hand and swung in a wide arc, intending to slice the Lightning in two.
“You’re telegraphing!” He stepped backwards, and the momentum of my swing shifted the Gale’s centre of gravity, causing it to overbalance, and pitch over the edge of the cliff.
Damn it, damn it, damn it!
The Gale landed face-first at the bottom of the cliff. The rear monitor showed the Lightning standing at the top, taking aim with its rifle, and then the screen went black.
I descended from the cockpit and stormed over to the Lightning, where Shane was descending the liftwire, grinning. “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”
“That was me pwning your arse.”
“You won’t be so smug when I knock your teeth down your throat!”
“Ensign Gold, stand down!” Lieutenant McDermott ordered, and I immediately obeyed. “You lost that battle. Why?”
“Because I failed to fight effectively, sir.”
“True. But why was that?”
“Because I let myself be tricked, sir.”
“And why did that happen?”
I hesitated for a few seconds.
“Because I lost my cool, sir.” As I said it out loud, the realisation sank in. We were always told that emotion was a weakness in battle, and yet I had allowed myself to be goaded into falling for traps and making rash moves.
“Now that you realise it, don’t make the same mistake in a real battle. Although to be fair, Ensign Yamada seems to have a talent for inducing it in his opponents.”
“Now, I believe we made a bet. If I won, you had to tell us about yourself.”
I had forgotten – or rather, the comment had never really registered with me. I hesitated. “But I’m not supposed to tell…”
“What, even though we’re in the same flight? If the brass are that hell-bent on keeping secrets, what’s the point of even putting you on board?”
I once again felt the urge to knock Shane’s teeth in, but the Lieutenant fixed his gaze on me, and I restrained myself.
“Ensign, first of all, you made a bet and you lost. That’s an agreement, and I expect my soldiers to honour their agreements. Second, Shane has a point. Pilots in the same flight need to be able to trust each other, and knowing that you’re keeping secrets will hamper that. Responsibility for this flight lies with me. If the brass has a problem with it, maybe they need a reminder of how things actually are on the ground.”
I hesitated some more. I glanced around, from Yamada to McDermott and back to Yamada, feeling their gaze fixed on me. I was cornered.
“I am part of the first generation of Project Athena. I have been training at Sparta Base, and, have been deemed ready for duty. I was assigned here to serve as a pilot. That is all.”
“Wow, that was quick.” Shane said. “Okay, wait up, what’s this “Project Athena”? And “Sparta Base”?”
“Project Athena is the new breed of soldiers, created with superior abilities to serve the Commonwealth. Sparta Base is our training facility. Its location is top secret.”
“So you’re saying you’re some kind of supersoldier? Isn’t that sort of thing just science fiction?” A sardonic smile appeared on Yamada’s face at this statement. “I say that and I live on a spaceship. Anyway, if there’s a bunch more of you back there, why am I here? Why not just assign another of you to this project?”
“From what I can gather, the Gundams are the pet project of one particular higher-up.” Lieutenant McDermott said. “He was probably able to talk whoever’s in charge of Project Athena into assigning her to it as a trial run or data gathering. As for you, Shane, I've seen the combat report of your performance at the Battle of Tharsis, and I was impressed. I figure they thought you had potential, and weren't overly used to the traditional control systems, so you'd adjust quicker to these ones.”
Yamada looked deep in thought – for him, at least – then turned to me.
“What I said during our duel… I didn’t mean it to be so hurtful. I’m sorry.”
“It wasn’t hurtful!” I protested.
He just shrugged in response. He knew it had hurt, despite the fact that I wouldn’t admit it even to myself. I was convinced that I was part of the great leap forward for the Commonwealth, and for humanity. But perhaps even back then, deep down, I suspected that what he had said to me was the truth. Maybe that was why it hurt so much.
“Pilot Recognised: Athene Gold. Welcome to GD-1 Gamma.”
“I wish to designate AI name.” When I had tried to sleep, I wasn’t able to clear my mind away from Yamada’s comments. Maybe giving the Gundam’s AI a name had a point after all. Maybe it would help me reassure myself that I was more than just a tool. Also, after looking through the data, I had found a name I liked.
“What name do you wish to designate?”
“Designate name: Metis.” It was the name of the cunning intelligence that was an aspect of the goddess Athena.
“Designation, “Metis”, recognised. Pleased to meet you, Athene.”
“You too, Metis. I hope we can work well together from now on.”