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Prologue


Note: For this chapter, dialog has been taken from the television series Mobile Suit Gundam 0079, episode ten "Garma's Fate".



Zeon Odyssey: Genesis

Festival Night


 
Tonight marked an annual celebration for Zeon's people. It was the night of October 3rd, a day every citizen of Zeon knew well. The city of New York had planned ahead of time to accommodate their special guests. It was to be held at the manor of Mayor Eschonbach and former Earth Federation citizens were encouraged to attend.

The staff in charge of the arrangements had lit paper lanterns on each side of the main pathway parallel to each other, which led to the front door entrance. Gardeners manicured the hedges and rosebushes on the lawn the morning prior. Despite Mayor Eschonbach's inner protests about playing host to Zeon, he kept quiet. He painted a smile on his face and greeted them. He even managed to chat when officials bothered to make small talk. Excitement and gossip buzzed through the air, along with more resentful emotions hidden within sly comments.

Garma Zabi found the room stifling as more guests piled into the manor. He adjusted his collar and took a sip of wine before letting his eyes wander through the crowd.

Guests had wrapped themselves in silk dresses and tailored suits for the event. Tables were decorated in rich reds, whites, and blacks to mimic Zeon's flag. Men and women chinked together crystal glasses with their laughter not far behind. And the hired orchestra strung sweet melodies together in a corner while it echoed through the room.

It was all a façade, of course. It served the people here a false promise for the time being. There was no war outside those walls. He took a sip of his wine in acknowledgement. It was a lie, but a beautiful one.

His eyes trailed up above the heads of guests. A framed portrait of Degwin Zabi was hanging on the wall above. Garma resisted the urge to flinch. It was as if his father were in the room with him, watching his every move. It made him feel like an ant before a magnifying glass. He wondered to himself if his plan to catch the Trojan Horse would succeed. He took another sip out of his wine glass, but this time out of need to settle the shiver rising up his spine.

Hearing footsteps approaching, Garma turned around. Two gentlemen looked eagerly at him. One appeared to be older, wearing a white suit with a red rose pinned to his lapel. The other was most likely in his late forties. He wore a more ostentatious color for his suit: maroon. The color made him look bold and lively, and probably gave the gentleman a confidence to approach Garma in the first place.

"So I heard your father, Sovereign Zabi, may be visiting Earth sometime in the near future," the gentleman in the maroon suit said, attempting to start a conversation.

"I haven't heard anything," Garma said, taking another sip of wine.

"Ah." The gentleman leaned towards Garma. He put his hand to his mouth as if whispering something to a child to entertain him. "Well if he does come, it would be a great honor to serve under him." The gentleman then exchanged a quick look with his elder friend, and both broke into fits of chuckles.

Garma forced a laugh. These two men waved around their disrespect like rude schoolchildren, but it didn't matter. He had dealt with this kind of attitude before, and from learned previous experiences, it was best to ignore it. After all, there was a party to enjoy.

He was about to interject his thoughts on a safer topic, such as the chef's prepared pork chops, before spotting a familiar face in the corner of his eye. He perked up his head and watched Char Aznable snake through clumps of guests to sit near the bar counter on the far right wall.

"Excuse me. I'll see you later," he said to the gentlemen, bowing in a quick dip. Garma then turned his gaze back to the bar, his feet leading the way.

Halfway across the room he caught a few words exchanged between two blushing women.

"Oh, Garma always looks so gallant in his uniform!"

"I wouldn't mind seeing what's under it."

He resisted the urge to titter while his feet hastened in their strides. What he wouldn't give for that three years ago, before he entered the military academy. The moment of nostalgia framed it for him in the corner of this mind. A young boy with bright violet eyes shining full of ambition and optimism. A boy whose only worries consisted of being second in his class and what girl to take out to lunch. It seemed so long ago.

He reached the bar and slid onto a seat next to Char. Garma looked over to see Char's hand curled over a glass of scotch. His face appeared worn-out. Garma's eyebrows furrowed, and he handed his empty wine glass to the bartender. He was sure he looked the same as Char. The last week had definitely taken a toll on their sleep. He hadn't fought so hard since his first day as a Captain.

The bartender handed him back a full glass of wine. Garma gripped it firmly and exhaled with short breath.

"Bunch of fools," Char said bitterly. Garma took a swig from his drink and nodded in reply. "They'd all be terrified if they knew about the Trojan Horse and the new Mobile Suit," Char continued, a slight frown forming on his face.

Garma set his glass down, already empty. He was certain Char knew of the problem they were facing, now that the Trojan Horse had crossed into this territory. The area was vast; it would be like trying to single out one star in the sky.

"That's right," Garma chimed in, "the problem is there's too much area to cover to pursue the Trojan Horse."

"Garma, who is that gentleman?"

Garma turned his gaze to where Char was concentrating. He spotted the man who Char was curious about immediately. Icelina's father surrounded himself with enthused guests. It wasn't hard to see why. He wore a sleek navy blue suit with a pendant near his collar that flashed a coat of arms; it was all accompanied by his natural, fluffed hair. It was an unusual combination, groomed but soft. And it drew people in.

"That's the former mayor, Eschonbach. He hates the Zeon. Although he did stay behind. Seems he decided to look after the civilians."

"Sounds like a stubborn man."

Quite. But then again, the man had lost everything except a small piece of his land and his daughter. His small community that survived the conquest of Zeon was there to help him pick up the pieces, Icelina had told him. What was left, what remained, was his family now.

"It's my pleasure to introduce Icelina Eschonbach!"

Garma snapped out of his musings. He peered up to see Icelina glancing back down at him. She smiled and dipped in a curtsy. Garma barely drew breath as he watched Icelina glide down the stairs. Ruffles of midnight blue fluttered from her dress in greeting. An enticed gentleman kissed her hand. She batted her eyelashes a few times and retracted her hand.

Garma grinned widely. She was just so coy like that, and he found it rather charming. Char gasped beside him. Garma guessed he agreed.

"If you'll excuse me, Char," Garma said, moving towards where Icelina stood in wait. She glowed, beaming at him.

His hand reached for hers, and she grasped it firmly. His forefinger brushed her skin. It was still soft as he remembered. He bent down to kiss her hand, catching a whiff of her scent. She had chosen a perfume she dubbed 'Peach Blossom' during their courting. It became his favorite from then on.

Garma held her hand to his face a second longer, admiring her selection. He then let it down gently. She took in a sharp breath. Her eyes never left his face as she did so.

"Let's get out of here. Just for a while," Garma said. She nodded in agreement.

"It's about time. I can barely breathe in here!"

They strode to the balcony to no notice of the other guests who were enraptured in their own small talk. Garma sighed in relief. There were very few times in his life where he was able to be alone with those he chose. And he intended to enjoy every bit of it while it lasted.

She clasped his hand with her own, leading him to the center of the balcony. He wished there was more time. Time where he could take Icelina to a clearing they found near the lake when they first started dating. They had made love there on several occasions. He still remembered how she rested on him while wild strands of hair tickled his sides.

Out of impulse, she twirled with the guide of his hand, imitating an unfinished waltz. He witnessed the folds of her dress dancing to the music only heard playing in his mind. When she finished spinning, Icelina leaned into him. His heart leaped as she buried her face deeper into his chest, her arms clinging to his shoulders. Garma nudged the crown of her head with his chin, finally resting upon it.

"I'm not sure this counts as waltzing, Icelina."

Icelina looked up at him and rolled her eyes, pushing him away. She muttered something that sounded like "rude" under her breath and folded her arms.

"I was joking!"

One of her eyebrows raised. She then huffed in irritation.

"I'll never get your sense of humor," she said while shaking her head. She had pursed lips that looked like they wouldn't relax for years. Her arms crossed and she turned away, facing the moonstruck trees.

"Father knows everything now. About us, I mean."

Garma reached out his hand towards her, resting it on her shoulder. Icelina leaned her head near him, and her body followed. Her eyes were wide, holding a look of apprehension. He tried to give her a look of reassurance, brushing a few wisps of hair away from her face. He could sense her distress, like a wave had engulfed him whole and dragged him far away from the surface.

He wanted to say something. But instead he stood by her, breathless. Words of comfort would have come across as jilted, forced, and he knew it. All he could do was be silent, and wait.

"He doesn't approve, you know."

The corner of Garma's mouth twitched. Icelina didn't seem to notice. Of course he didn't approve. It wouldn't matter if Garma came to the man with gold magically spouting from his hands while light emitted from him as angels sung in the background. The fact still remained that Garma was a member of a group that had conquered his homeland and rung up Federation casualties. And a Zabi to top it all off. The news still bruised his ego though.

"He thinks a colonel who's an heir to the Zabi family isn't good enough for his daughter?"

"Yes."

He laughed. His emotions had escaped him for a fleeting moment. "With all due respect, that sounds just like your father."

"I don't care about what he wants me to be. I care about you," she said, biting her lip for a fraction of a second. "He can't stop me from loving you."

Garma stood there in shock. He looked into her eyes. She didn't look away. Her gaze stung him like a fresh slap striking his face. She wasn't kidding.

"Icelina," he whispered, his mouth trembling. She curled herself into his arms and started to cry.

"I want you. Even if I have to betray my own father, I want you."

She is seventeen, Garma thought, she doesn't know what she wants. And for that matter, neither did he.

Garma began to stroke her hair. He tried not to dwell on the problems of their situation. But it crept up into his mind and flooded him with the troubles he struggled to avoid. She was still a kid, and he was a fool. He wanted to tell her the truth. That for the past week he had never been more terrified in his life. That he had narrowly escaped death in a Dopp. And that his mind tormented him with the thought he would not return from this mission. And more than anything else, that he would never live up to his family's hopes. It fed off of him, like a parasite.

His muscles ached, and his nights of sleep were interrupted because of it. He wanted to tell her all of this, to unload all his worries here on the moonlit balcony. But it was selfish on his part and he knew it. He would have to keep her in the dark. Her mind was content there.

"I can't afford to betray my own father and Zeon," he started, but stopped, seeing Icelina's pained expression. He would have to choose his words more wisely.

He grasped her hands, giving them a light squeeze. "Listen, I have a good chance of capturing some important Federation secrets. Icelina, if I pull this off, my father won't…come between us."

"Oh, Garma," she sighed. Her green eyes shined at him. They emitted a warmth that was almost foreign.

"If my father refuses to grant me my wish, then I will abandon Zeon," he blurted out.

What a stupid thing to say, Garma thought. He had mulled over that possibility before, but still remained uncertain on whether he could commit to such a promise. The charms of Icelina Eschonbach. He could sometimes get lost in them.

She leaned forward to kiss him. He complied with a quick peck. Her lips were tender, untainted by the realities he faced daily. He desired to deepen the kiss, but it was a distraction he could not afford. Not right now, anyway.

"Colonel Garma!"

"What is it?" Garma snapped. He pulled away from Icelina to see his lieutenant in at attention.

"It's about the Trojan Horse, Sir! It's now passed the S-3 point."

"What?"

"Colonel, if they break through our final defensive -"

This was his last shot to make amends for all his blunders. He had the Trojan Horse cornered right where he wanted it, and with enough carbon carpet bombing from his Dopps to scare the enemy, the patrol dunes had an opportunity to find it. There was little to hide under with most of the city in ruins. Everything was coming to fruition.

And yet, a sour taste lingered in his mouth. If something went wrong, it was over. Sure, he might survive, but the cost of failure had a high price. America was his territory, a place where he could set terms to catch his prize. Once the Trojan Horse crossed over his borders, it was up for the highest bidder. He had a chance here. It was slim, but it was still something. Still possible.

However, if it slipped through his fingers here, there was no sense in recovering it. Char, M'Quve, and others would embark on a wild goose chase for it in search for glory and promotions, but for him it would be tom foolery. He would only be a sore loser to his people, his family, and himself.

"It's just as I planned," Garma said, hearing Icelina take in a sharp gasp.

"There's another defensive line yet," he continued. "It's fine! I will head them off myself with a mobile squadron. Inform Commander Char we're leaving! Mobilize!"

"Sir!"

The lieutenant gave a quick nod and headed off to the Gau. Garma slipped away from Icelina's hands that tried to tighten their grip on him.

"Garma?" Icelina whimpered.

"After I capture the Federation's new weapons, I will present them to my people. And at the same moment, I will present you as my fiancée," Garma said, the corners of his mouth twitched into a smile.

Icelina exhaled faintly, and her eyes glazed over. He couldn't tell if her response was more out of fondness or worry. Lacking the luxury of time, he kissed her cheek in farewell and sprinted towards the port where the Gau was located.


~*~*~*~

Char stood by the hangar, waiting patiently for him. Garma ran up to the opening, slightly panting.

"Colonel, I received news that the Trojan Horse is heading towards us from south of here," Char reported, closing the gap between them.

"Correct. Lieutenant Graham relayed the information to me five minutes ago. Given its speed -"

"It should be within a sixty kilometer radius."

"Yes."

The Gau took flight as Garma and Char trod to the bridge of the ship. His stomach flipped as the engine roared to life, parting with the ground. The vibration hummed in his ears in a familiar greeting. It filled him with anticipation, yet also brought with it a sense of caution.

"Hamble," Garma addressed as the subordinate jerked his head to face him.

"Inform the patrol dunes to begin scouting the area within a sixty kilometer radius. Quickly! We commence carbon bombing in twenty."

"Sir!"

Hamble rushed to the phone on Garma's right. His fingers were swift on the dial keys and reached the Seattle patrol line with little effort. Hamble gave the patrol dunes the order, and then nodded to Garma.

"Good." Garma then strolled to the communications screen, pressing the line to connect with Lieutenant Gable.

"Sir?"

"Prepare the launch of carbon bombing."

The time slipped through Garma's fingers, and soon twenty minutes turned into seconds. Flashes of light filled the sky, and the resonance of explosions rang through his ears. The Gau drifted southward while more bombs dropped. Still nothing.

Thirty minutes had now passed. Sweat beaded across Garma's forehead and a musky odor drifted from his damp undershirt. He wondered where on Earth such a colossal beast could seek refuge here. He fidgeted with his hair. They used nearly half the bombs in storage. He could hear Gihren's disapproving voice, remarking such a thing to be a rookie's mistake.

"Garma."

"What?" he barked, turning his head towards the voice. His mouth quivered and he released a spurt of breath. "I'm sorry, Char," he mumbled. Garma stretched over his chair and then rubbed his eyes.

"I'm not quite sure I recognize your strategy, Colonel."

He let his hands rest above his face, then inhaled before settling them on the sides of his chair. "There isn't much the Trojan Horse can hide under here. I was sure the addition of bombs would put the Federation on edge, and make them more careless in their tactics. Or at least reveal their general location," Garma explained.

"Ah."

Garma glided his vision to the window as another burst of golden orange and dark red spread through the sky.

"I miscalculated, didn't I?" he murmured.

"Hmmm."

It wasn't like Char to be so unsure and vague. He always had the answer. At least, that's what Garma had thought until now. He relied on him ever since the early days at the Academy. Garma looked down and fiddled with his pockets. Char Aznable: unreliable in action. The thought was ridiculous. But then again, so was a massive battleship vanishing in thin air.

"Colonel! Patrol dunes on line one!"

"Put them through."

"Through, sir! With an update on their scouting. They are currently waiting for your response on the situation."

Garma grabbed the phone on the right wall. His fingers curled around the receiver so hard he thought it would snap in two.

"Colonel Garma."

"Yes, this is he."

"Our units have searched for over half an hour. No signal has shown on our radar, sir. Our scouts have combed this area and have found no ship."

"What, patrol dunes? You can't find the Trojan Horse?" Wonderful. This is all he needed right now.

"No luck yet, sir." Clearly.

"Well, they haven't left the city! Try harder!" Garma shouted, slamming the phone onto the receiver.

Tactless. Tactless. Tactless. He knew he had lost his temper. The patrol dunes didn't deserve his frustration for something they had no control over. Try harder. He cursed himself for managing to come up with such a stupid command. The patrol dunes would lend no aid to him now.

"You may be right. The most speedy way to flush a rat out of its nest is with a little carbon bombing," Char intervened.

So now he speaks, Garma thought.

"Mmm. Right. Prepare for roller shift bombardment. And commence second wave of bombing as soon as you're ready!"

"Sir!"

Garma pushed strands of stray hair out of his face and frowned. Everything told him that this strategy was useless: The lack of results, the increasing depletion of carbon bombs, Lieutenant Colonel Hamble rubbing his forehead then looking at a control panel to the far left, and most of all, his gut feeling. Every fiber of his being was shouting at him to stop this. His muscles ached from the tension that racked and pounded throughout his body. And a tingling sensation spread from his spine to his fingertips. It left a creepy feeling under his skull, as if there were snakes writhing around his brain.

But Char had advised differently. And even though Garma had his doubts, his response to Char was automatic. It was Char. He had never steered him in the wrong direction before. Garma ruffled his hair with hands that now stuck to his gloves.

More bombs brightened the night sky in flashes of gold, orange, and dark rusty hues. Smoke wafted around the city like an ominous shadow. Ten minutes passed on Garma's watch. He turned to Hamble.

"Any more news from Gable about the Trojan Horse?"

"Not yet, sir. Still waiting."

"Where is it?" he muttered to himself. "What's going on?" Garma then peered up at Char with wary eyes.

"Colonel, they're improving their tactics. So we'll have to be even smarter."

It seems Char came to the same conclusion he had. There was only one other option left. It was a last resort, a Plan B he never really planned to put to use. It required more improvisation than method. The strategy begged death to come over for a visit. But drastic times called for drastic measures.

"Well, we'll have to go down to the surface and find it."

"Garma, wait! If you really want to take the risk, I'll go down there with my men instead."

He wanted to say yes and allow Char to take over this operation so weight could be lifted off his shoulders. He yearned to breathe freely, if only for a few seconds. But in spite of his desire to leave this in Char's hands, a small voice cried out in protest. The pang inside his chest grew, sending warmth from the beating heart to the tips of his fingers.

"No," Garma said, his voice calm and resolute.

"I don't think I understand your reasoning, Colonel -"

"I said no, Char."

Char sighed and shook his head. "You seem to be a bit more anxious than you should be. Try not to let your feelings for a woman make you careless. Please, stay calm."

"I'm as calm as I need to be," Garma said, standing up from his command chair. "We have less than forty percent of our ammunition left to our disposal on this ship, and a thirty-ton Federation aircraft to catch. We're running out of options."

He made his way to the exit and grinned. "Besides, it's been a while since I've stretched my Zaku legs."

Char paused for a fleeting second and then smiled.

"Of course, Colonel."

"Right," Garma said, nodding to Char and Hamble, "Hamble, inform Gable to round up two teams of our best pilots on this ship. We move out in ten."

~*~*~*~

Garma strode towards the stairs that led to the launch pad. He whizzed down the steps and took a sharp intake of breath when his eyes met the entrance. Garma glanced out to see the Zakus towering over him. He treaded past the ones painted green until he saw it. Standing erect, coated in a deep auburn shade and a plated green torso, was his Zaku.

It shimmered from the reflected light, greeting him like an old friend. Garma placed his hand on the base of its left leg. He brushed off a thin layer of dust in the process. He hadn't been able to polish it in a while what with scrambling to catch the Trojan Horse.

"It's time for another ride," he said, smiling from ear to ear. Their reunion brought him solace. It sharpened his focus. Echoes of footsteps clacked through the launch pad. Garma swerved his head to see Char accompanied by six men. Two he recognized immediately. Lieutenant Dren shadowed Char like a lost puppy while Lieutenant Gable spaced himself from the rest of the men with his eyes resting on Garma.

"Colonel, teams one and two have been selected and are waiting for your orders," Char said, accompanied by the six men. Three of them hovered near Char.

"Right," Garma said, his gaze directed at the other men, specifically Gable. "Team one, you're with me. We'll be covering the eastern part of this area."

"Team two," he continued, turning his attention towards Char and the three other men beside him, "You are to cover the west of this area. If you detect anything unusual or the object of interest you are to inform myself and my team."

"Remember what we're dealing with here. The Trojan Horse contains three mobile suit units that overpowered our Zakus with little effort. Keep on your toes. If possible, immobilize the enemy and take prisoners alive. We'll have an easier time collecting the information we need that way," Garma said his eyes gliding over the men.

"And try not to leave the ship in scraps. Our cleaning crew can only handle so much," he finished with a sly grin. A few men chuckled.

Garma then climbed up the ladder and opened the hatch of his Zaku. He looked down at his men, suddenly quiet. Their eyes fixed on him.

"Teams, let's move out."

"Sir!"

Garma leaped into his cockpit and settled into the seat. He pressed on the ignition to start the power and turned the knob that lit up his visual screen. He fastened the seat buckles over his torso as the main inner lights flickered on. He then reached near the dashboard for the headset and fitted it snuggly on his head before opening up his communications line.

The engine whirred with excitement, causing his skin to prickle. "I know how you feel," he said softly.

His hands grasped the controls on each side of the cockpit. His feet lingered over the pedals below them. The hatch of the Gau raised open. He aligned his Zaku to the Gau's launching pad.

"Garma Zabi! Launching!"

The gears below the pad hooked onto the feet of the Zaku and thrust it towards the open night air. Garma pressed his feet onto the pedals as his Zaku was released into the atmosphere. The rocket thrusters propelled him further into the sky, pressing G-Force onto his entire body. The blood in his veins pumped and surged throughout his body, and his muscles released in ecstasy. One kilometer, two kilometers, five kilometers, ten kilometers… He observed his visual screen. The city appeared so small in comparison, as if in a snow globe.

He lowered himself slowly, with spurts of his rocket thrusters to prevent rapid descent in a fifty metric ton chunk of metal. He spotted Gable and two accompanying privates near ruins of a park. The feet of his Zaku thudded to the ground near them. It emitted vibrations throughout the entire machine, pulses of tremors came in waves.

"Two of you will follow me northeast to scout. Gable, you will patrol in the air in case the Trojan Horse attempts to take flight. You have the experience of shooting at a distant range."

"Yes, Colonel." Gable then took off within seconds.

Garma shifted his Zaku next to the scorched trees and chipped statues.

"The two of you search the area within a five kilometer radius of me. Inform me if anything strikes you as suspicious."

"Sir!"

Both Zakus trudged through the uninviting terrain. One right, another left. Each parting ways with his colonel. Garma maneuvered his Zaku to a building 107 meters in front of him that had been torn in half. He decided to himself to start in that direction.

The night around him came to a still. All Garma heard were the footsteps of his Zaku that printed onto the cracked pavement. He directed his Zaku down a street full of old apartments. He took his time, checking that the sides of his Zaku wouldn't smash into one of the brick built walls.

He continued down the pathway, his Zaku scanning over the small high rises. Its visual screen swayed from right to left. Nothing out of the ordinary yet. He went down the road of the main street he was on. A change of pace might be what he needed.

Five paces, six paces, ten paces, seventeen paces. His visual screen turned slowly around the area. Garma's right hand pressed gently on the controls to move it right. And then he saw it. A gleam of shiny metal glinting in his eyes. His hands twitched.

He zoomed in for a closer visual. It looked like a beam, still coated with fresh paint. His eyes narrowed. Odd. Something of that sort sticking out of an old baseball stadium.

"Team one, this is your Colonel. I think I spotted something worth checking into near an old baseball stadium. Keep within a 100 meter distance from me. Contact Char."

"Contacting Char, Colonel."

Garma moved his Zaku at a steady pace towards the stadium. He saw on his visual screen two Zakus land and motioned them to follow with the mechanical arm. His heart pounded in his ribcage, the sound reverberating in his ears. He positioned his Heat Hawk in a fighting stance.

"Ready your bazookas."

There was no need to respond. All three knew how delicate the situation was. He crouched behind a chipped building. In five seconds he would emerge. His grip on the controls tightened. He'd have to be quick and mark down their weak points, possibly using decayed buildings as concealment.

He readied himself to leap towards possible enemy territory. His feet pounced on the pedals below. The Zaku soared in the air.

He should have felt confident, prepared. Instead he felt more like a deer in the crosshairs of a shotgun. The hairs on the nape of his neck rose and bit at his skin. His heart stopped.

A blaze of light shot through the sky and grazed his Zaku by inches. The blast from it shattered the remains of a skeletal building near the stadium. Adrenaline pumped through his veins. His mind seemed to speed up what was happening before him. A boom thundering explosion, a tidal wave of dust, and a rain of fire directed straight at him.

Garma jerked on the controls and slammed on the pedals to veer left out of its path. His Zaku retreated under the shade of half a skyscraper. His visual screen detected a flash of red in the left corner. He rotated the head of his Zaku to get a full image. It was Char's Zaku.

"I thought you might need a hand, Garma," Char's voice said over the communication line. "It's a shame I missed the Trojan Horse."

"I was thinking of an ambush rather than taking it head on," Garma responded, his lips thinning. It was too late for that plan now.

"Colonel, the Federation Mobile Suit!" It was Gable's voice.

A streak of white raced across the night sky, disappearing behind a building north where his Zaku was planted. A scream from Gable's communication line emitted before it cut to static. Garma resisted the urge to slam his fist on the visual screen. Damn that Federation pilot.

"It's a ploy to lure us away from the Trojan Horse," Char said, as if musing on something. "The other two mobile units will most likely join that Mobile Suit."

"The mobile unit with the massive canons has very strong defenses," Garma said with his forefinger tapping on the visual screen. "And the new mobile suit is nothing like I've ever seen… I don't think our Zakus have the advantage to take it down."

Char paused, then toyed with the question. "What about the mobile unit tank?"

Garma rubbed the front of his forehead. "I suppose…perhaps with a clean cut to its two main canons. But it's going to take more than one Zaku to carry that hunk of metal."

"Good," Char said, satisfied, "I'll inform Lieutenant Dren and what is left of our teams to cover us. Immobilize the tank, then contact me for assistance. We need to move fast."

"That should be no problem for you," Garma teased.

Char chuckled then stampeded his Zaku between a group of remaining buildings. Garma edged his Zaku near the end of the brick wall that shielded him and zoomed in on the Trojan Horse. The red mobile unit crept slowly away from the ship. His camera scouted from left to right, then spotted movement in his right corner. He grinned. Definitely the mobile unit tank. It seemed more adventurous than its other companion, already within thirty-five meters of his range.

Garma slipped between masses of cement and brick. He needed to attack from behind the mobile unit. Surprise was the key element in the equation. Minovsky Particle Density was too high and rendered his radar useless. Speed. Calculation. Improvisation. Those were allies now. The sound detection picked up movement of crushed sidewalk and debris which grew louder. His Zaku crouched and waited behind a slick building that had been shaved into an anomalous column.

The rumble of gears working against the terrain reached a pitch that provoked his urge to pounce. Garma fired rounds from his Zaku's 120mm machine gun aimed at a nearby building. The dust and bits of metal flew in all directions, creating a shower of remnants. He then attached the machine gun to his Zaku's waist.

With no hesitation, Garma twisted his Zaku to the other side of where he had shot, and sprang out from the column. He towered over the tank from behind. It froze in its place. The hand of his Zaku snatched the right side of the tank with his Heat Hawk raised into the air for a clean shot. The driver of the tank seemed to snap out of his trance, struggling against his pressure, grinding against the gravel below with its wheels.

THWACK!

The left main canon plopped to the ground. His Heat Hawk had cut through the metal like a hot knife on butter. With another strike, he sliced through the second main canon.

"Char" Garma barked through his communication line, "I need backup immediately! The mobile unit tank has been compromised!"

"Alright, Garma. I'll be there shortly," Char responded.

Garma then planted his Zaku hands firmly on the torso of the tank. It waved its arms around like a frightened animal, but its torso remained immobile. Droplets of sweat skated down the sides of his face. He waited with his Zaku out in the open.

Within minutes, a red mobile suit emerged from the building he had taken shots at. The right hand of Char's Zaku waved up. Garma let out a breath of relief.

"Looks like you need a hand."

"Get on the side of it! It can't move its middle torso."

Char maneuvered swiftly to the side of the tank and reached his Zaku hands on the base near Garma's. Char stated through his line, "Dren and the others have circled the Trojan Horse. The red mobile unit is staying near its side. Not a very impressive tactic for the Federation. You would figure they would try to scatter their men to distract it from the ship."

"Maybe the pilot inside is scared," Garma replied.

"A battlefield isn't a place for the scared."

Another voice on the communications line interrupted their conversation. Not Dren's, but rather a private in Garma's team.

"Colonel, the red mobile unit has retreated into the Trojan Horse! It seems to be taking flight!"

"Inform Hamble to head the Gau directly towards the baseball stadium and to aim for its engines. Direct all your firepower towards them!" Garma answered.

The line cut off. Within seconds his visual screen picked up the Gau soaring across the night sky while hot lasers teemed in the air. The sky above them brightened from rich black to a sickly blue. Yet the Gau persisted onward through the swarm of firepower. A glimmer of white metal then parked itself on the left edge of Garma's visual screen.

The Federation Mobile Suit.

"Char!"

Char's Zaku leaped past Garma and the tank, charging towards the Mobile Suit with full force. Garma saw Char dodge the shots from the Mobile Suit's bazooka slung over its shoulder, his Heat Hawk crashing on top of its shield. Garma on the other hand strained to keep a grip on the tank, which was fighting back fiercer than ever before. Its upper arms writhed and shot wildly into the air while the wheels spun rapidly, making the gravel below fling like bullets.

"Well played, Mobile Suit," Garma heard Char mutter through faint static.

The Mobile Suit had retreated, leaping towards the Trojan Horse while using its rocket thrusters for extra lift. It reached the ship with little effort, planting its legs firmly on the edge of the hangar. The entrance of the hangar shut before Garma's eyes as the Trojan Horse gained more distance from the ground. Powered beams dashed across the sky between the Trojan Horse and the Gau, delivering a melancholy choir that sent shivers across Garma's skin.

Within a split second a ray of white-hot light fired from the Trojan Horse's canon, blasting the right wing of the Gau. Smoke and fire sprung to life, burying the wing completely. The Trojan Horse sailed further from the ruins of Seattle as the Gau dove towards the heart of it.

Hamble, Garma prayed, land in a clear pathway.

The Gau tilted its nose upwards while the tail ducked towards a nearby clearing. It hastened in descent, finally touching the tips of earth. The nose trailed not far behind, bumping up and down for a few seconds, then riding smoothly until coming to a full stop. Garma let out a gasp of breath he had held in and laughed in relief.

He opened up the communication line to the Gau. "How are things?" he asked, flashing a smile.

"The canon blast scraped the Gau's right wing," Hamble panted, attempting to regain his breath, "but it's nothing a visit to an emergency dock won't fix."

"Glad to hear it," Garma said, turning his attention to the tank. It seemed to have gone limp.

Before Garma could discuss with Char the dealings with their new guest, the hatch of the tank rose open with a screech of metal against metal. Legs dangled at the edge of the hatch, followed by a body sliding from its cockpit. The pilot of the tank gazed directly at Garma, putting both of his hands up in a sign of surrender. Garma zoomed in on him, the visual screen displaying a clear image of a boy of small stature accompanied by a baby face and lively, round eyes.

"It' can't be," Garma said softly.

"Garma, what is it?" Char's voice responded from the communication line.

"He's…just a kid."
 


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dragonfly99

July 2012

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