Getting out of the Captain's living quarters with Shiro’s file and a clenched fist, Nicky floated to the cargo bay, where he got himself two red wrenches to slip into the sleeves of his jade-colored jacket, and approached a remnant of his friends in the AEUG's green Salamis: Nelson Astley, a chubby engineer who liked to collect military plastic models back in Earth, living with the elite before his parents kicked him out and he joined the AEUG in retaliation. Nelson had photographic memory, and while he didn't remember the name of the guy legally in charge of the maintenance reports, he did tell him about a guy with messy hair and a bandana keeping the upper part in place, dressed with a green military jacket. Dining with his friends in the cafeteria. Bingo. He made his way there, and surely enough, he found a posse of young adults, crammed in a single table and carelessly laughing at each other's jokes. He could hear what they said as he calmly floated to his table.
"Heard we're gonna have to tow that GM all the way to wherever we're going." Said the bandana-wearer, apparently the leader of the pack, eating the last of his fries. He was bigger than what Nelson had said...
"The one that ate shit?" The fat one opposite him stopped sipping his drink after the fizzy liquid had gone past the half mark, then left the plastic vase in its hole while reaching for an unfinished heart-stopping, triple-decked burger. "Dead weight. We could get there faster if we left the thing floating around space or something. It’s not even worth scrapping, not to us anyway." You’re another definition of dead weight...
"Literally dead. Fucking Zeeks punched a hole through the torso. We're lucky they don’t try to bring that shit near the bay. You know, i completely pity the poor bastard who gets assigned the job of opening that thing once we get there. Must reek of fried burgers in there." The careless alpha-male laughed, along with his friends. One of them was drinking from another plastic vase when the black humor kicked in, and his nose fired the soda back into the table, along with an extra something, before he was forced to get out of the table and go to the bathroom, holding his face on pain and cursing at the air while the ones next to him were understandably grossed out by the sight of what seemed to be a blob of not-ketchup floating next to their bread.
"Then..." Cleaning up the blood next to his brother’s sandwich so he could munch on it like nothing had happened at all, another one of them replied, clad in a green engineer’s jumpsuit. "We should get one of the new captain’s Feddie lackeys to start doing the dirty jobs here. The ex-Titans fucker walking around in the black jacket sounds like a good start."
Nick didn’t give them any more time, and without a greeting, he began building his relentless offense. His hand threw Shiro’s file in the table, exactly in front of the culprit and just like his commander had done a few minutes ago. But it fell much more heavily this time, with an audible thump. "You know, you’re talking mad stuff, for the shithead responsible of killing a perfectly good soldier."
His eyes open with disbelief, the green jacket turned around and looked at him. "The fuck you said to me, you little shit?" He asked, adding a lot of emphasis to the second word. Nicky was already scared shitless, and had to constantly remind himself not to show it to everyone present, not to run away, that everything was under control. We’ve been here before. You can time it right this time...
"Of course, i did kill him." Nick continued. "But it was your fault too. You see, your name is probably somewhere in a piece of paper in Von Braun, a piece of paper that says you get paid for doing a job you’re currently NOT. Namely, doing the final check-up on every Mobile Suit."
"And what do you know about little Eddie over there?" Said the jumpsuit guy, having finished his own Ham and Cheese Long.
"I tend to read about the people i kill", Nicky jokingly added. "Edward Shiro was with this organization from the very beginning, because he was a man of outstanding morals, not like a group of people i’m currently staring at." Looking at the big man in the bandana, he could see him gritting his teeth. "He had two daughters, which means he was capable of maintaining much more than you ever will, even without your fancy toolbox. And he has left behind a wife. He seems to have been somebody a woman could get to love. Unlike your sorry behind."
The gang replied with typical teenager behavior: "Ooooo"ing. The universal way to add gasoline to a fire you want to make sure will be there for one to watch the world burn. Their leader was an imbecile, but he could take a hint, and so he crepitated his knuckles, getting up from his seat. "Some fucking sorry ass excuse of a manlet is forgetting his place here, and i’m about to send his pretty face where it belongs… the infirmary."
"Why not the showers? My new camera could use with the practice!" A fourth voice joined the fray with another joke, which made all of them laugh again, innocently enough to convince Nick that they hadn’t gotten ever before to that extent, nor would they get to anyways. He ignored the joker with the shiny black SQNY video camera, and made his final approach, to make sure all cards would be stacked in his favor against the alleged chief maintenance "worker" of the ship.
"Funny of you to say. You’re failed a spot check in that confidence of yours. You see, that guy, that good man? He died covering me so i could get back to the ship. Because i was out of combat. Because my bullshit Mobile Suit sortied without giving me a single warning that it had been put in the wrong configuration. And it wasn’t entirely its job. It also was your job to warn me of how the Suit had been used beforehand and the state it was in. That father? That husband? Wasn’t only me and Anaheim. You killed him too. So if you think you actually deserve a place on this ship, you incompetent piece of shit, well… you’re as wrong as the colony gasser in the other Nemo."
"Motherfucker!" With an audible yell, the big man finally lost it, having his punch go all the way back, to be launched towards Nicky’s face at terminal speed. With incredible nimbleness, however, all Nicky did in immediate response was to take a mere step back, and watch the fist come to a halt a pair of meters away from his face. He wasn’t one to simply keep dodging, though, so before his opponent could make another move and force him to step back again, he crouched, and one of the red wrenches came out of his right sleeve. He steered away from his rock-hard abs, instead launching it towards a much more harmful area. When the wrench hit his groin, the whole gang covered theirs impulsively, making all kinds of painful grins. Then, to drive the point home, he pulled his left arm back, and the other wrench came out of it too. When the disoriented man tried to look in his direction, it was too late. A solid piece of steel made impact against his nose, and by the noise it made afterwards, the watchers knew that was going to hurt almost as much. Fainting by the sheer amount of pain endured in a question of a few moments, his towering figure fell with his back over one corner of the table, turning it over and sending everyone’s food floating around the room, while he started floating slowly towards the floor, unconsciously grabbing his nose with both hands and leaving behind a trail of blood.
With a smug smirk, Nick looked down upon the defeated man. Internally, he couldn't believe it. He had actually pulled it off, and now was feeling invincible. He raised his gaze to Bandana Man's shocked friends, and quickly tried to scare them off a "boo", which didn't work out as well as expected. He would only realize too late that the one that had gone to the bathroom was back, and so he was subdued from behind, thrown to the floor and kicked by the five men that were still standing. It went on for minutes, until one of the cooks got out of the kitchen with a rolling pin in hand, and threatened to beat them all to a mist if they kept making a disturbance in the cafeteria, while Nick was wise to fly away the moment the gang was being distracted by the chef with the killer glare. Not the most beneficial of ways to end the the battle, he reckoned an hour later, as he came out of the nearest men’s restroom with wraps over his own nose and forehead. Their leader wouldn’t get out of bed in a long while, but the five of them were still at loose, looking to return the favor. And Captain Grim was sure to slap him for it next day. Don’t give a piece of crap. The point has been made. That fucker better do what he’s paid to from now on...
Only one thing left to do now. Nick set course for the sleeping pods, looking for the pod labeled B7R, and when he found it, he used a key to unlock the door. He briefly leaned inside to leave his e-journal and glasses there, under the watch of an empty receptacle where a CRT screen probably used to be, before it was removed and replaced with the kind of flexible tape one could see in early-morning weekend infomercials back in the colony cylinders. There still seemed to be something there Nick could use to close his eyes, though: a pair of worn headphones and a radio with a broken dial, which probably couldn’t even reach for anything on the emptiness of space, but maybe still played something. Eager, he plugged in the headphones and listened, looking for a musical safe haven he could let himself fall in, and as a happy tune played behind them, a familiar pair of Swedish women indeed welcomed him with the one thing he didn’t know he really needed that night: their voice.
"You can dance! You can jive!
Having the time of your life!"
Yes! Somebody had probably left a number of incredibly dated, but unbelievably good mixtapes running as a makeshift radio station of sorts and plugged all of the bed auxiliary cords to it. Just like in that good old Salamis. Tired, Nick left his shoes in the receptacle under the door and climbed inside, getting cozy under the provided bed sheets and putting on the headphones again, before turning on his journal and typing for ten or twenty minutes straight about his first day of being berated and punched by a gang of incompetent, overpaid crewmen. After that, he turned off the journal and closed his eyes, drifting through the coldness of space as a roll of artificially softened bed sheets. By then, the radio had suffered a serious tone shift, from a cheerful song about happiness, to a sad piano piece over which another woman finished her solo, while he silently cried, alone, to once and for all kill what was left of that horrible day.
"Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart..."
OOC: If you thought this post would be good because of how long it is and how much time it cost me - you’re wrong. It's plain old writer's block. Have a good night.
Dead...? A GM was destroyed in the battle, and rumors that no capsule was spotted were abundant. But... Slowly, Nick stepped forward and reached for the folder, looking at the papers containing a script of every transmission made during the battle, the desperation that was thinly hidden behind every single word, and Shiro's personal file. Born Edward Benjamin Shiro, forty-one years old. Earth Federation Liutenant and AEUG agent ever since its formation after Colony 30. Husband to Lena Shiro Ferrin. Father to a teen, and a preschooler. Jesus fucking Christ... His right hand shook as it tried to reach for the pair of silver-trimmed glasses, taking them off. Such a sight saddened him profoundly, never mind the fact that he knew part of what Grim said was right: he was partially responsible for the death of a good man. Not only a good pilot. A husband. A father. Growing up in one of Hatte's grittiest colonies, he knew this feeling well. He had seen friends of his cry for the loss of their loved ones. He had seen his cousin cry for the loss of his aunt and uncle when Zeon took the capital colony away. It filled him with impotence, and impotence turned into rage. His left hand briefly clutched in anger, he gently set the folder down upon the table from which it was taken, and now looked at his Commanding Officer, hating him no more, but still full of hate.
''Sir. This will not happen again. I'll make sure of it as soon as i cross that door.'' Nick seemed a little different all of a sudden. He cared not about the enraged Commanding Officer that was more likely to unload another slap on his face than to actually dismiss him, nor the star pilot at his right, riding his high horse even after being backhanded across the face, but about what he was doing to do before getting to the sleeping pods, if only to sleep knowing he had tried his best at least once in that day.
Not everything was my fault. Shiro died defending me, because i was defenseless. I was defenseless, because i had sortied in an useless Mobile Suit. I sortied in a useless Mobile Suit, because i did not know it was in that condition, not that it should have. And it was in that condition because somebody carelessly left it that way, even though the rest of the Mobile Suits came ready to use. I didn't know it was like that, because there wasn't a maintenance report over the seat, even though that was someone's responsibility too. For want of two nails, we lost the war.
Whoever was responsible for this, i'll find out before the day ends, and i'll give him fucking nails.
Working for the Zeeks. Hmph. If this shit keeps up, sure, I might. What do I have to say for myself? One of the first and most important jobs you're supposed to do is keep spies at bay. Yet Axis knew when and where to find us, on our first day. YOUR incompetence got us into this. I couldn't get to the unit for the most basic of acquaintances before those fucks appeared. There was no status report inside the cockpit warning me of the mode switch, a task too difficult to be done while all of you repelled the Zeeks, nevermind the fact that in an emergency sortie, you don't have time to go through the whole check-up. And even having so few mechanics in the ship, I was assigned to battle in a shoddily-made Mobile Suit of all people. You knew this would happen, and probably even wanted it. You're merely playing with all of us. This is but a game for your amusement, isn't it? Come on, what do YOU have to say for yourself? Because I didn't expect better from you, yet you still managed to disappoint. Nick looked at Grim with accusing eyes, not even gazing at Ryder. As much as they hated each other's guts, he felt this one was all on Grim, regardless of what the other felt.
But he knew such thoughts would get him ejected through the airlock in record time. He couldn't simply give anybody in that ship his two cents. Everybody was unknown, and he was still making his white list. So far, only Hiro and the good-hearted cooks had made a good impression on him. The rest, an unknown force. Not to be trusted. Not to ever see behind the shield. So he put on his best poker face and spoke what they wanted to hear from him. "There's no excuse. This incident is completely on my shoulders. It will not happen again." I won't let you make it happen again.
Ever since getting back on the ship, Nick would spend the whole of his time trying to get the Training Nemo into working condition. As much as he wanted to blame it on Anaheim's rapid manufacturing, certainly a case to be helped by the presence of all those unpainted parts and hastily screwed-on stuff on the Mobile Suit, he knew this one was on him. He couldn't spend a full hour in the ship before the patrol was encountered, and never got to the cockpit, never mind read the status report that was supposed to be inside (not that there was one to boot), but for everyone, everything seemed to be his fault, and the voice of the many often turned into the fake but collective and easy ''truth''. Sad, but unpleasantly true in the cruelest of manners. How ironic. Aaagh. Nothing to do about it but properly screw on these things now, he thought. The Nemo was lucky to survive ramming the Gaza, which even without the best of durability ratings, gave the shoddy assembling a good shake, many of the parts on the verge of coming off when he got back inside. Mechanics were all over the five Mobile Suits, looking to make a list of every part in need of a good screw. All but the Nemos seemed to be exempt, being as the three GMs were built during the beginning of the Gryps Conflict, times in which the Earth Federation had the resources to think they had more than just a shot at defeating a mere group of rebels. Both Nemos were recent, and had no such luck. Some things had come off in both, and while the hotshot ace hadn't slammed the Mobile Suit against anything, the close examination revealed that some parts were off-place too.
The crew started properly bolting bodywork on both Mobile Suits, while Nick gave the operating system some finishing touches in the Preferences section, switching on the Metric units to have a clue at how fast was the thing going. Switching the unit to operative mode was a surprisingly bureaucratic task. Sarka probably found his in working condition when he got here...
No time to smell the ashes. As he got out of the cockpit, looking to go for maybe another juice bag, or a waffle, the intercom turned on with a red light that changed intensity as Dashwood's voice spoke. However, it was dim all around, since he sounded tired as he called for him and the war criminal to go to Grim's office. Fucking great. Not only will i have to stand a whole stupid lecture from this guy, the other one is going to be there to get a medal and look at me with a smug grin in his face. God if i could only wipe that shit off him with a well-placed jab. I should have gotten those martial arts lessons back at my Side. If only to get the jump on him for a first hit... Fortunately, he was nearby when the announcement was made, since he was trying to get to the cafeteria as he heard it, so it took him but a minute to get to the office's door. The faster i get these two off my back, the sooner i can start training. Axis is onto us, and if we're still as unlucky as we've been, i'll be still inside the Nemo when it happens... He took the two candy from his pocket and opened their wraps, before putting them in the trash bin next to the door and the candy in his mouth. Happy thoughts make happy people, now be a happy fucker and get in that office, thought Nick as he built up the strength to get in. So he shyly knocked on the door, and after being granted access, he made his way in, looking at his commander in the eyes with a tired expression, before sighing and taking his hand to the head to perform a standard military salute, aware of Ryder's absence, but knowing this bliss wouldn't last long.
Unable to accept defeat, Nick kept evading beams and trying to convince the Firefly that he was still worthy, as he avoided the shots of the last operative Gaza's cannon. - ''Negative! I can disable these locks! Give me time!'' - However, the Mechanic in Chief, Gina Reid, proved him wrong with the Nemo's manual in hand. ''Ensign! Obey orders and return to the carrier! The mode change needs a system reboot, and you would be even more of a sitting duck while the switch takes place. Your only bet is to return to the ship... out here, you're just a liability.'' - Angered and filling with impotence as Gina's disappointed face vanished from his screen, Nick finally agreed in a silent manner, adopting a new course towards the Firefly at full speed. CO Dashwood, who would see through this an attempt to return to the ship, wouldn't ask for his acknowledgement and vanished too. Seconds later, a light that came from the inside of the ship attracted his attention. They were opening one of their cargo hatches to receive him.
But his tactical retreat was suddenly interrupted by the last Gaza, which turning again into a Mobile Suit, stood directly between him and the ship, aiming his beam rifle at Nicky's Nemo, as if he hadn't gone through enough that day. Tired and enraged, Nick was not in the mood for the playful demeanor of this particular unit, and decided he would get the last word, even if he was to retreat. So his feet both turned suddenly into solid lead to floor the thruster pedals, and yelling, Nick maneuvered at the side to avoid the Gaza's first shot at him. By the time the bright pink beam rifle was ready for another, the Axis pilot would suddenly find the Trainer Nemo was at an alarmingly close distance and still closing in, the left shoulder pointed towards its enemy, ready to ram him. One of the Combine pilots, who had positioned its GM II behind the Gaza and was ready to destroy it, had but mere seconds to forget about it and get itself out of the way, which it miraculously managed to do with a full burn of the thrusters.
I'll teach you not to mock me ever again, you imbecile! ''ZEON, BE GONE!''
A second passed, and the speeding trainer unit made contact with the Gaza. Not a sound was heard by the rest, but they could only imagine the force of said impact and the fear in the enemy's eyes, who had thought Nick would simply change course on being faced by him. The sturdier Nemo, having rammed the Gaza only with its left side, got its fair share of bumps in the armor, ruined paint and had its antenna bended, but would get off lightly compared to the other Mobile Suit, which had gotten its right arm's joint ruined, the secondary optic array mounted in the torso crushed by the Nemo, and even lost its beam rifle, which somehow slipped out of the Gaza's hands on collision to start spinning towards the Firefly. Both pilots ended up briefly dazed and disoriented, as their units spun around on a similar manner, though seeing as he did expect this, Nick would recover faster, and quickly aligned his MS with the Firefly to enter through the hatch, while the enemy machine was nowhere to be seen after the impact, perharps intending to flee the area. Seconds after stepping inside, the door started closing again in front of the Nemo, which kneeled on the floor. When it finally closed, Nick would hear his own breathing and feel his heart beat again, as he shut the Nemo's systems off. He was out of the battle.
Coming out of the Firefly, the second yellow-accented Nemo would automatically aim its standard issue beam rifle at one of the attackers, chosen at random by the targeting system. Inside, the panoramic screen would show the pilot three green rectangles and a fourth one, colored yellow, all identified as ''AMX-003'' by the HUD. Apparently, the one that was hit by Sarka's sniper rifle was still in one piece, however it would still switch its IFF to yellow status, signaling itself as ''out of combat'' per the now-aging Antarctic Treaty. It was unknown whether it would manage to go back to wherever it came from or if its pilot would be forced to eject and risk capture by the Firefly. However, the scarce white foam that now came out of the Mobile Suit (if it could be called anything but a stick with legs and arms) indicated that the pilot was still alive and was attempting to buy himself some time by placating the fire.
''Go back to your rock, fascist turds!'' - Holding down the button on the right lever that prompted his Trainer Nemo to point the rifle at one of the operative Gazas, Nick would wait until it was moving in a relatively straight-forward line, as most Mobile Armors did in-between maneuvers, to position his crosshairs right in front of the bogey. Then, he would press the red, circular button with his thumb, prompting his Nemo to fire an unveliebably easy shot at the MA, courtesy of its pilot's carelessness. The perfect, cleanest one-shot.
Or it would have been, had Nick remembered to switch his unit to Battle Operation mode upon activating it. As he pressed the firing button, a big sign would then occupy the center of his screen, reading ''TRAINING MODE ENGAGED: Disengage to operate weaponry'', and the beam rifle would emit no particle upon the pink speedster. Upon seeing this, Nick would yell, enraged at himself for committing such an idiotic mistake. - ''What? No, no, no, NO! Whoa-''
Nick wouldn't be granted any other word. Another of the Gazas would appear out of the blue, flying in his direction and firing his cannon at him, forcing him to quickly maneuver out of the way. This was a real battlefield, and he realized he was extremely lucky to have been forgiven an initial mistake. Further mis-steps would be punished with gruesome death, and he needed to act quick. Reaching for the radio commands, he avoided the Gaza at the same time, which seemed to be fixated on his unit, maybe sensing his fear, maybe seeing weakness through the thick armor plates of his Mobile Suit.
His finger would finally find the button with the twin protuberances, meant for tactile identification, and spoke through the AEUG frequency to request help. - ''This is Ensign Lavie! Nemo 2! I'm experiencing technical trouble with my unit, Mr. Dashwood! Get me a Nemo technician on the line please!'' - As he said so, he hoped that the comms weren't blurry enough for the Firefly to miss his transmission, and that the Galleon Combine pilots had already come out in their GMs. However, the Gaza at which he had intended to fire a shot was now en route to him too, seemingly warned by his comrade not to lower his guard, and his flight pattern was looking increasingly complex already.
Oh man, oh man...
Before the mercenary in front of Lavie could reply, a high-pitched alarm, followed by Dashwood's voice, would interrupt their chat again with an announcement for the captain, and implicitly, for whomever it might have concerned: Axis had already found them, and had deployed Mobile Suits. The first of many red flags yet to find within his assignment...
''FUCK!'' - A yell would run away from between his lips, and his fist would slam itself over the plastic table once, in a very audible manner. - Just when i thought this day would go easy on good old me! And i didn't even get to the god-damned simulator! Screw the Zeeks! Screw them all! ''Hiro! We have to take off! We can resume our introductions later!'' - Nick would yell over the intercom's blaring request for everyone to get into Level 1 battle stations, before jumping off his seat and kicking his table (thankfully screwed to the floor) to fly towards the corridor, then speed like a bullet through it to the Mobile Suit bay by constantly jumping from one wall to another, nimbly dodging a dazed mechanic, parts of a malfunctioning speaker and a floating laundry cart. It appeared he was somehow accustomed to doing such things in zero-G.
Cornering right by using a metallic handle, he would fly into the supply cabinet and stop himself by bouncing off one of the walls with his feet, then grabbing the door's frame. He would quickly look for one of the one-size-fits-all orange flight suits, a matching helmet and a pair of boots of his size, as Dashwood spoke again in the background to confirm the presence of four bandits, AMX-003-class. - This is not normal. We're a box of scraps floating through space. One of many. Why the hell would they go to such lengths to intercept such a ship they know nothing about? They must know two things: First, we're AEUG and have Mobile Suits. Second, we're carrying something of interest. But aside from Grim, which is by all means replaceable... what the hell could we be carrying that they want? And how do they know all of this? God damn the Corporate Department to Hell! They never tell me anything!
Now getting out of the dressing room, sporting a flight suit that was only barely stretched out, Nick being small as he was, he would propel himself towards the unoccupied Nemo by kicking one of the railings to gain speed. As he floated, he would have a glance at the two Mobile Suits already on their feet: a bleach-white GM II, and a doppleganger of his own unit, holding a sniper rifle. According to the file he had been handed at Von Braun, the peculiar GM would be assigned to Grim himself, while the only other Nemo had been assigned to the dreaded squadron leader. - Is Grim heading out into space himself? Heh. Sitting on an armchair all day must not be that comfortable. Look at the bright side, Nick... you can let the felon die under the excuse that there were more valuable assets to protect at the time...
He would finally enter the cockpit, trying to remember as well as he could his GM-type pilot training. Thankfully, stickers all over the place helped him get his bearings, and so he easily found the button to close the canopy, before firing up the main camera, the exterior finally displayed all around him on the panoramic screen as the propulsion and AMBAC systems started up. The UI showed the standard warning that indicated the suit was unequipped for ranged combat, and a pair of presses of a button later, the Mobile Suit automatically walked up to the arms rack on one of the walls, grabbing a beam rifle with the right hand, then with the left, strapping two spare magazines to the left side of the skirt armor. Then getting in line, behind Ryder's back, Nick would speak to his Mobile Suit, conditioned by a strange habit of his: making his tools and weapons of war the objects of his affection. - ''Okay, big boy... i know this sounds crazy. I don't know you, even though you've been easy to read so far. And you probably hate me already. But let's make a promise, both of us. If we both survive this war, we're walking up to Anaheim's offices and tearing them down to the foundation for putting us into this.''
Now pushing the button to activate the communications system, the radio (which had already been set up) would let him hear Alistair's voice again. ''-the report. Four contacts. Gaza Cs. Romboidal formation. Approaching our port side.''
Very well... here goes. If i'm going to be turned into grilled meat any time, this should be the day. ''Ensign Lavie, on line for catapult, Nemo!''
It's sad that we're short enough on hands to accept this clown... but hopefully nobody will bat an eye when that Nemo's cockpit is melted through with a heat hawk. While Ryder let go of his shoulder and made his exit, much to his relief, Nick finished slurping the contents of the pulp-free juice tube. All that was left on the tray was a pair of elongated, wrapped candy, which didn't really call out to him then, but would come in handy later, so he put them on his jacket's left pocket for another time.
Immediately after Ryder's exit, Hiro would speak again, and it was comforting to see that he wasn't the only unsettled one at the presence of somebody who should, by this time, be at the gallows back in Dakar. Nodding his head in happy agreement, he would be then asked for information about himself again, and without the intruder in sight, this time he felt like actually introducing himself. Adjusting his glasses, Nick began:
''Ensign Nicholas Lavie, but you can simply call me Nick. Been in the Federation ever since working age, repairing grunt suits. Got in the Group when a bunch of their idiots tried to steal GMs from my Salamis and got blown up to smithereens. One of them, well, what was left of his face, used to be a friend of mine in school, so the Titans charged me with being their inside man without prior investigation and sent men after me and my family. So the AEUG made sure to protect them. And, in exchange, they expect me to pilot a Mobile Suit. I'm a mechanic, for fuck's sakes!'' - Nick calmly motioned both of his hands forwards, rolling his eyes at the ceiling for a brief moment. - ''And yet, i have to do it. Even though i know nothing about this, and having in mind they were the ones with the brilliant idea of jacking GMs from the Feds. I swear, if these imbeciles at Anaheim thought they're getting away, doing this to me, they better hope i don't survive this war...''
A brief pair of beeps would interrupt his ramblings. The intercom had been switched on, and now a mature, slightly raspy voice spoke through it in a slight British accent. ''-sting. Testing. This is Communications Officer Alistair Dashwood. The technicians appear to have fixed this thing at last, which means we can finally be heard through the ship's speakers again. Not all of them might work, however, so be sure to report any malfunctioning units to me through one of the lines. More lives than your own might depend on our announcements being read by every crew member, or so says the emergency manual. Anyways, speaking of announcements. From this day, we're joined by new personnel, amongst which is the AEUG's new leader, Benjamin Grimsdottir. Be sure to remember, he is now at the top of our command chain, and his authority overrides that of your previous superiors, so, uh... don't question him like last time. You know who you are. The only other item in the list for now: some of the dummy balloons are reported to need patching. Get somebody to it, will ya? It's a simple task, and it's not like those fake asteroids haven't saved our collective asses before. You can keep on working on that scrap heap of a space bus later.''
After the general message ended, Nick would check the time with the LCD clock embedded on the upper end of the opposite wall. He needed to be at the Mobile Suit bay in twenty minutes to check his Mobile Suit, then to get acquainted with it by running operation simulations. He had time to hear from his new comrade. ''So, what about you? I didn't catch your full name, so you can start there, if you feel like it. The interest for knowing those i'll cover from now on is mutual, after all...''
After being dismissed by his new superior, Nicky would find his way into a small cafeteria at the middle section of the Firefly, attended by a pair of cooks that looked like they had just gotten a rest. Only a few of the tables were occupied, as the crew that came with the ship had taken their breakfast earlier, and so Nick got the luxury of choosing a cushioned seat at a corner table, always having been drawn to push his back against walls, always reliable guardians for one's back. The wall paper was coming off in some places, but the ambiance given by the titillating, calid lighting tubes was nice overall, so he decided to have his breakfast there, setting a metallic food tray down upon the table, and securing it with a pair of small hooks that were built at various points into the table, knowing that it would fly away with the contents otherwise upon escaping the moon's weak gravity field. Halfway through the sandwich, the mercenary addressed by Grim as Hiro would come to greet him, while he had his mouth full. But before he could say anything, an unwanted presence invited itself onto the table too. Ryder Sarka.
Trying to ignore the unsettling guest at his right, Nick listened at Hiro's introduction of his group. Apparently, they had a high reputation amongst other mercenaries (whatever the hell that was supposed to mean to him). He was relieved to hear him speak in a gentle manner despite his tough aspect, acting not at all like he thought a sell-sword would be, an impression matched very closely nonetheless by his squadron leader, who replied with a long volley of what he assumed would be just bullshit about his time with the #1 pedestrian beating institution of all times. Guess first impressions aren't always right... Finishing his sandwich, Nick would poke a hole in the straw of his orange juice tube, but before he could take it into his mouth, a hand fell heavily over his right shoulder, clutching it in a very uncomfortable, maybe even painful manner. But Nick knew what the results of facing somebody his size would be, and his fists opened before they even had a chance to fully close.
''If i wanted to make sure somebody would put his mind and heart into covering my back, i would know better than to threaten them. Good thing you're an ace, right, Commander? If you're what you say you are, then you'll have no need for me next time a Zeek gets to see you from behind, anyways.'' - Nick replied, talking by the first time in person to his first object of loathing since his introduction to the Anti Earth Union Group, always looking forward while trying to appear calm, before taking a sip from the juice tube and shifting his hazel eyes to Hiro, talking to him with a slight smile on his face, trying to make a better first impression than his superior, but inadvertently giving the latter a brief, last throw. - ''It's nice to meet you, Hiro. I feel relieved now that i know that the squadron is to contain actual professionals...''
Not unlike most of the nearby AEUG personnel and Grim himself, Nicholas Lavie appeared very, very stressed, bags under his eyes due to the moon's uncertain day/night cycle messing with his biological clock, having dealt with lots of things in the last few days with the bare minimum of sleep, chugging down caffeinated energy drinks like tap water and running from one side of the lunar city to the other, running errands and providing insight on the mechanical condition of some Mobile Suits that somehow held together and returned from the brutal skirmish at Gryps, most of them having to be scrapped due to the inviability of restoring them to a decent working condition, despite being very good machines. He had only gotten an eight hour nap after being assigned to this new post: guarding the AEUG's new leader and following his command as he got on a ship and went... somewhere.
Catching the person to his left in the act of glancing at him, he restrained himself from returning the angry glare and simply sighed very slowly, in an almost silent manner. The man in question was Ryder Sarka, an ex-Titans officer that would be his squadron leader from then on. He had angered the guy nine or ten hours before via microphone on a secure comms channel, calling him out for being a former Titan, which prompted him to respond that he ''was there'' when the Colony 30 incident ocurred and that it was the subject of profound psychological trauma on his person. In all honesty, Nick did not believe the man's words for a moment. Since he heard him, he only thought of him as a pathetic ''bad boy'' and a war criminal most likely wanted by the Federation that joined the AEUG to avoid prosecution, lying his way to sympathy from his new squad by feigning guilt. The bastard was probably just beating dissenters to death and eating human steak in an interrogation room while Colony 30 happened, Nick thought to himself, making very sure not to voice his thoughts out loud in front of his new group, which he trusted almost as much as he trusted the felon to his left.
Which brought him to think of his new, very dire situation. He was now part of an all-new platoon, which was probably nothing like the sympathetic crew of the Salamis Kai that had given him a lift to Gryps and Von Braun. His squadron leader was already mad at him, probably looking for an excuse to get him into trouble, the mercenaries (of which he knew absolutely nothing) that made up the rest of the Mobile Suit squadron probably going to make friends with him, which Nick feared would make them antagonize him in exchange for befriending Ryder. What was worse, Nick also feared that Ryder and the mercenaries would eventually plot against the Captain and running away with the rust bucket they were going to board, which wouldn't be of any surprise to him. And even if nothing along those lines happened, he was still being put in a Mobile Suit, probably to pale in comparison to Ryder and the other two pilots, so Grim (who was already like the rest of harsh commanding officers he had seen during the course of his life, expecting nothing of him, and didn't even think he could behave professionally) could have an excuse to lecture him for not being as good as the rest of the squadron, which save by him was made entirely out of certified professionals and an alleged ace pilot.
As if they could blame me. I'm a mechanic, not a pilot. Yet the idiots at the corporate Round Table decide it's a great fucking idea to put me into a Mobile Suit, so they can get my ass killed for exactly no fucking reason. Seriously, who the fuck thinks of these things?! I swear, when this war is over, if i don't get a fucking metric crapton of money for my troubles, i'm going to load up my vulcans, and Management will kiss their asses goodbye with my next visit.
It was going to be a long day for Nick...