“Athene?” I knew her voice the instant I heard it, and any hope that I may have been mistaken was shot down as cleanly as any sniper kill. The feeling of wrongness in my head mutated into a physical, nauseous feeling in my stomach that I struggled to keep down. She didn’t stop attacking, though – she never even hesitated, manoeuvring out of my tail attempt and positioning herself for another pass.
“Athene, why have you joined the Commonwealth forces?”
MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM STORM
A Fanfic by Andrew Dynon
Based on Mobile Suit Gundam by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yadate
Chapter 6: Pride
After the Gallipoli’s complement of military MS had moved out, I launched in my Lifeguard, following at minimum safe distance. The Lifeguard was the Interplanetary Rescue Corps’ standard mobile suit, smaller than a military-grade MS, designed to nimbly navigate around tight spots and dodge debris which may pose risks during rescue attempts. It was painted in the same high-visibility yellow and red as our uniforms, and its equipment was designed to facilitate its intended purpose of rescuing downed MS and fighter pilots (the term “downed” is an anachronism in space warfare, but I digress). It also carried a supply of oxygen packs, sealing equipment, and other survival gear.
There was nothing I could do to help the poor Regulus pilots that were Athene Gold’s targets, though. Whenever she engaged one, she mercilessly shot at the cockpit, and rarely missed. The LunaPact pilots barely managed to scream out something like “It’s a Gundam!” before being vaporised by a rifle shot or beam saber thrust, whereupon there was nothing that could be done but notify their next-of-kin. If you’re so much better at fighting than them, why do you need to kill them all, damn it? Isn’t just disabling their MS as effective a way of removing them from the fight?
One Regulus pilot almost managed to dodge Athene’s cockpit shot. As the escape pod auto-ejected, I saw that the shot had pierced the lower section, magnification showing his or her legs missing from the knees down. I boosted forward to catch the escape pod, despite the danger of stray shots from the battle still going on in the area. With luck, that pilot could still be alive – but they wouldn’t be if I left them exposed to vacuum for more than a few seconds.
“Khadija, escape pod detected! Help, Khadija!” Haro told me in case I had missed it.
“I see it, thanks, Haro.” I replied.
“Hey, Khadija, watch out there! You’re getting pretty close to the firefight!” Shane told me.
“I’ll be careful.”
I set the Lifeguard’s lights flashing in the pattern for “rescue in progress”, and caught the holed cockpit in my MS’ hands. First priority was to try and ensure the pilot didn’t die from depressurisation. The beam gun shot had instantly cauterised what remained of her (being up close now, I could confirm that the pilot was female) legs. I administered sealant spray over the area to keep the normal suit’s pressure in. She didn’t react, but life signs were still registering, thankfully, so she had most likely passed out from shock.
“You’re gonna be okay. Let’s get you out of here.” I told her. Even if she couldn’t hear me, I hoped I could somehow, God willing, reach her and give her the strength to survive. The closest ship was still the Gallipoli, so I turned back.
“This is Khadija Akram. I have one casualty, please ready medbay facilities.”
The green-and-white Gundam Athene was piloting circled to the left of my Sirius once again, firing a beam rifle shot that I barely managed to evade. My body felt as though it was surging with electricity, my stomach was twisting itself into knots – this feeling was way better than practice. I had never felt more alive, and if I hadn’t known it was Athene, I wouldn’t want to stop. No, scratch that. Even knowing it was my dear sibling, part of me didn’t want to stop.
“What do you mean? We trained to be part of the Commonwealth forces all along!”
Why would she ever say such a thing? As I spun the Sirius around to try and lock in on her tail, I replied.
“No, that’s wrong! We were trained to fight for Lunapact! Don’t you remember?” What was wrong with her? Surely she couldn’t have forgotten?
My head told me this was wrong – but my body, my heart pumping, the electricity flowing through my nervous system, all told me otherwise. This was the most exciting feeling I had ever experienced. According to the instincts I had learned to trust on the battlefield, it was right for us to fight.
I opened up the thrusters and accelerated in pursuit of the Gundam.
The Lieutenant and I were involved in our own running battle with the two Denebs, but even so, we were forced to resist the temptation to be enthralled by the duel between the Gale and the Sirius. The two MS interlaced in an almost hypnotic spiral of motion, switching from defence to attack and back to defence almost faster than I could follow, all the while drawing inexorably closer in their passes.
Was this what Athene had been capable of all along? Her opponent was keeping up with her, though… almost as if the Sirius’ pilot wasn’t normal, either. I began to wonder of the MS could keep up with their pilots’ attempts to outmanoeuvre one another.
“Yamada, ten o’clock low!” McDermott’s warning snapped me out just in time for me to catch a shot from one of the Denebs with my shield. “Mind on the game, ensign!”
I cursed at myself for getting distracted, and boosted towards the Deneb to try to engage it in melee, but the Deneb’s pilot angled his MS’ thrust to dodge out of the way, and circled around, trying to get on my tail. Damn, he was good – guess that’s why he’s the Sirius’ wingman. And there I go, assuming it’s a guy in the cockpit when I should know better, but no time to contemplate that now. I can’t afford to pay too much attention to what Athene’s doing, either, but I trust her to handle things by herself.
The second worst thing about the situation was that there was a part of me that enjoyed fighting Pallas, a part that craved the challenge of engaging in battle against someone as skilled as myself, even if she were my sibling. The worst thing was that it wasn’t something small, hidden deep down under layers of my psyche. It was right at the forefront of my mind, a colossal lust for battle that battled against my sense of reason and my friendship with Pallas, even as we struggled against each other in physical battle.
“No, this is wrong! We shouldn’t be doing this!” I shouted, and might have been saying it to myself as much or more as I was telling Pallas. My Gale Gundam and her Sirius circled closer still to each other, and yet even at such a short range, we still managed to evade each other’s shots.
“Is it really?” Pallas replied. “I bet you’re feeling as excited as I am. Maybe this was what we were meant for all along.” The Sirius stowed its right-arm beam cannon, drawing its dual-blade saber, its thrusters adjusting from a the spiral motion of our ever-decreasing circles to a straight line towards me. “Now we can find out who really is better!”
“To what end?” I asked. “Is who’s the better fighter all that matters? Why would someone create and train us just to fight each other? What purpose would it serve?” I drew my beam saber in the Gundam’s left hand, and prepared to meet the Sirius’ charge. “Metis, melee combat!”
Roger that. Manoeuvre S-Epsilon.
“Who cares? If it’s our purpose, what do their reasons matter?” Our MS clashed, and even though it took place in only a fraction of a second, I could see it all clearly. Pallas parried my beam saber thrust with one end of her weapon, and made a follow-up strike towards my MS’ exposed right side. I desperately pulled back to avoid being sliced in half, but the tip of the blade still hit, cutting a gash down from my Gundam’s shoulder – it was all I could do to avoid a cockpit or reactor hit. My body jolted from the impact, my helmet bouncing off the back wall of the cockpit, and my vision blurred.
The hit may not have been an instant kill, but it left me vulnerable. Pallas drew her blade back, preparing to finish me off by thrusting it through either the reactor or cockpit, and hesitated for what was only a second or so, but seemed far longer.
In the instant before she could bring the blade down, a stream of automatic fire shot by, forcing Pallas to pull back to avoid the hit. McDermott’s Flame Gundam flew towards us, dodging shots from the Deneb he had turned his back on as he approached.
“Gold, get out of there!” He yelled. “Back to the ship! You too, Yamada!”
I obeyed, and he turned, covering our retreat.
The three of us managed to make it back to the Gallipoli, but a cloud of gloom seemed to have settled in the cockpit of my damaged Gundam, made worse by the headache and dizziness I was feeling. It was the first time I had taken part in a failed mission – our Gundams’ retreat meant that the Commonwealth forces had no superiority MS to counter the Sirius’ domination of the battlefield – but that was nothing compared to the knowledge that the Sirius was being piloted by Pallas. Moreso, there was that instinctive urge to fight her that I had. Rather than being something small and deeply buried within my mind, it was right at the surface, a huge wave of aggression and joy that threatened to wash over me and drag me away from my memories, my reason, my love for my siblings, everything that told me it wasn’t right. Judging by what Pallas had said, she probably felt the same way – had she given into it? And if she had, was it possible for her to come back? For a long while, I simply sat with the cockpit door open, my mind seemingly unable to command my body to move.
I’m sorry, Athene. Metis said.
“None of this is your fault, Metis.”
Your reaction speeds in this battle exceeded those previously recorded. I was unable to perform adjustments to the Gundam’s movements in a timely manner. I shall attempt to recalibrate the Gale’s configuration in accordance with the new data.
“There was no way you could have known.”
I detected a surge in your brainwave and other biometric measurements as you came into contact with the Sirius. It is a curious phenomenon.
“Hey, Athene, you coming out of there?” Yamada asked. I didn’t respond. “Well, if you’re not, do you mind if I join you in there?” Without waiting for me to answer, he climbed into the cockpit and put his hands on my shoulders.
“Athene, I heard your conversation there. The girl piloting the Sirius – she’s one of your sisters from the supersoldier project, right? I know that can’t be easy, but if there’s any way I can help you, I promise I will.”
“There’s no way you could now how it felt!” I yelled at him, a swirling mixture of emotions bursting out of me toward the nearest target. “The feelings that came over me when I was fighting her! I was… scared!”
“Hey, being scared of her’s nothing to be ashamed of. Heck, I still get scared every time I go into combat against ordinary scrubs, let alone a supersoldier.”
“Wasn’t afraid of her.” I said. “I was afraid that… I liked it.”
Yamada unsealed and took off my helmet so that he could look me in the eye, his expression one of compassion and concern. “Now that is scary. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
He offered me my hand, but I shook my head and stood up, walking out onto the gantry, where the gash down my Gundam’s torso was visible. All of a sudden, the floor seemed to sway and my legs became unable to support me. I collapsed against the guardrail, my helmet flying loose from my hand and drifting into a far corner of the hangar.
My wingmen, Lieutenants Paul Matthews and Nicole Perez, were in a good mood as we returned to the ship after the Commonwealth forces’ retreat.
“Ha! We sure showed those damn Gundams, didn’t we, Nicole?” Matthews said, grinning.
“Yeah, don’t get cocky just because you’ve got a fancy yellow V-Fin on your forehead!”
“You two shouldn’t be getting cocky, either. We’re likely to be facing them again.”
“Geez, lighten up, Pallas! You kicked that Gundam’s butt out there, why are you trying to pour cold water on it?” Perez asked. She then turned to Matthews. “Come on, let’s head to the bar to celebrate.”
“You coming too, Pallas?”
“I’ll pass. Alcohol inhibits combat performance.”
“Remember, regulations only allow you to consume two standard drinks.”
“We’ll keep it in mind.” Matthews said, and I noted that he didn’t say they’d actually obey the rule. Well, I didn’t really care what they did anyway. The pair headed off, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
Why would Athene be fighting for the Commonwealth? Moreover, why did she seem surprised that I was with Lunapact, when we had been raised from childhood to be soldiers for them? She must have remembered. It didn’t matter, I told myself. No matter how close we may have been, she was with the enemy, now, and my duty was to destroy her. Besides, I had always known I was the better supersoldier, but wasn’t this the only way to conclusively prove it.
Still, the feeling I got when I was fighting her was exhilarating, moreso than anything I’d felt in my life. I would have been disappointed if our competition was settled after only one battle, so I felt glad that she was still alive.
Right now, though, I felt exhausted and my head hurt. I decided to go straight to my bunk.
“Will she be okay, doctor?” I asked.
“The only physical injury I can detect is a minor concussion from when her MS took that hit.” Doctor Li replied. “The exhaustion she’s feeling doesn’t seem to be reflected in her biometrics. My guess is that it’s an after-effect of what she experienced fighting the Sirius, although it’s possible that the concussion she received compounded it.”
While I was concerned for her, my real interest lay in the fact that her fellow trainee just happened to have ended up in the other side’s hot new prototype mecha. I was sure that it was far from a coincidence.
“Did I not tell you those two would put on a magnificent show?” the pale young man in the military uniform asked.
“To the naked eye, that was most impressive.” The woman said. “And the data appears to back our theories up.”
“It will, of course, require proper analysis to fully confirm.” The older man said. “But yes, on the surface, this does appear to support the resonance theory. When the two of them were fighting one another, each of them appeared to be enhancing the other’s abilities.”
“And therefore, you may have just witnessed the first manifestation humanity’s future.” The young man said. “Remember this well, because the fruits of your efforts are finally showing. And to you, my beloved siblings, thank you for that magnificent demonstration. I shall see at least one of you again, soon.”