Deftly, Teo willed the Gelgoog's arm to catch the Quel's arm by the wrist. Contact-based radio activated, allowing him to hear the enemy pilot. His blood boiled, and quietly he grit his teeth from behind his helmet. "Because I want to prove myself!" he spat. "I want to prove that I'm my own man!"
The Gelgoog's thrusters roared to life once more as its leg was brought up to brace against the GM's chest. With all its might, it begun to pull on the newer mobile suit's arm. Slowly but surely, the Gelgoog begun to gore the enemy mobile suit, tearing its arm free from the rest of its body. Electricity arced from the torn wires while oil and coolant begun to flow free from the tubes connecting the Quel's arm like blood from a wound.
With its other hand, Teo drove the beam naginata's condensed blade into the machine's shoulder, cutting upwards to slice and tear through the Federation machine's frame. Curiously, however, none of the Gelgoog's strikes were aimed at the vital sections of the Quel. Perhaps its pilot didn't want to kill his enemy.
For a split second, Teo could feel something in his gut. Something screamed at him, pulled him to turn around. Out of the very corner of his peripheral vision, he saw a dark, squared figure. “A Quel?!” Almost immediately after, far quicker than he was usually capable of, Teo fired the Gelgoog Stutzer’s boosters at full power. A warning blared on his main screen, then several. He was pulling higher than maximum lateral Gs, and he could feel it. For the short few moments he’d catapulted out of the way of the Quel’s beam rifle, Teo felt his arms and legs grow ten times heavier as he was forced downward into his seat, and just as suddenly, he’d fire the Gelgoog’s many maneuvering verniers, quickly changing the direction of the G forces. He was about to puke, black out even, but something inside of him, whatever it was, gnawed at his mind, implanting the need to survive.
Come on. Come on. COME ON! It cried, a plea to Teo to fight. What for, he hadn't the slightest clue. It was a feeling at the very back of his mind, a near subconscious drive.
His visor would crack, and then shatter, and pieces of it would bury themselves in his cheek. Teo didn't notice.
He grit his teeth as the G forces quickly diminished while his movement was arrested by the verniers, and surely enough, Teo brought the Gelgoog’s Beam Machine Gun to bear. His vision, blurred by the rush of blood coming away from his head, slowly recovered as the Quel was brought into his crosshairs. The machine around him creaked and juddered as it recovered from the immense pull of inertia, and soon the distinct burp of rapid beam fire, muffled by the vacuum of space, filled his ears. A volley of mega-particle bolts would rain down on the Quel like a hail of deadly comets, each of the dozens of shots threatening to pose serious damage.
The beeping grew louder, more frequent as Teo pushed the limits of the Gelgoog Jager. He could hear the aging generator behind him start to whine with the sounds of overwork and low fuel, but he had to push on. A small utility arm extended from the machine’s front skirt armor, taking the Beam Machine Gun away while he reached for the Gelgoog’s other weapon: its Beam Naginata Splitter. It ignited, sputtering as the machine’s power reserves ran dangerously low, and for an instant the blade of golden energy looked less like a blade and more like a flame. Then, the two halves of the weapon split apart in both of the Gelgoog’s hands, and the blades shrunk, turning white as the energy was compacted into a far denser package. It surged forward, using the last of its reserves in an attempt to dispatch of the GM.
Teo had screamed himself hoarse.
A brief moment of clarity befell Teo as he watched the orange Dra-C drift off into the depths of space. And then, as if on its own, his body moved to maneuver his machine. The Gelgoog surged forward again, this time at full throttle, causing the inside of the old machine to shake violently as he attempted to close the gap. Would it be enough?
He fired the machine’s grapple wire once more, and soon, the magnetic hook found purchase on the damaged mobile suit, arresting its momentum and no doubt causing its pilot to experience a significant shift in G forces, perhaps enough to knock them out. Teo panted loudly, though before he could do anything else, a volley of powerful yellow beams struck his machine, incinerating the thin luna titanium wire and melting the left leg of his machine to a metallic pulp.
Quickly, Teo drew back, putting his Gelgoog’s beam machine away as the Dra-C approached with beam saber in tow. The mobile suit’s gatling gun struck the Gelgoog, forcing him forward with a loud thud before he regained control. The cockpit of the Gelgoog Stutzer shook as he fired the maneuvering thrusters to correct his heading, gritting his teeth. “Come on…” he growled.
Amber would watch as two panels in the Gelgoog’s forearms opened to reveal two halves of a beam naginata, which it would wield separately. The heavy plating of the strange mobile suit hid more than one thing, however, and suddenly, a thick cable shot out from a winch on the Gelgoog’s chest, expertly aimed to let the electromagnetic hook catch against the Dra-C’s beam saber arm. Without hesitation, Teo begun to retract the cable, pulling himself close enough to strike. He didn’t want to fight, but if that was he needed to do, he would do it without hesitation. The blades of the split beam naginata would come down over the orange mobile suit’s arms, and then with a swift kick to the torso, the Gelgoog was away. "I don't want to kill you!" he cried, seemingly at no one in particular. "I don't want to fight either."
Quickly, the yellow circle that labeled the Gaza-C turned into a red diamond as its pilot brought its weapons to bear. Teo hadn’t prepared for a fight, but if that’s what she wanted, he would need to defend himself. “Repentance, call your mobile suit off!” He’d call out, though slowly, he’d unlatch the beam machine gun at his mobile suit’s rear skirt, tucking the stock under the Gelgoog’s arm. The Gelgoog Stutzer surged forward, oddly enough much in the same manner a certain ace would usually do during the One Year War. He was trying to scare the Gaza pilot off in hopes of defusing the situation.
Teo paused for a moment as he came up on the approach, nearing the Gaza-C. For a moment, he hesitated, but as it fired a few shots from its Knuckle Buster, he had little choice but to retaliate. However, before he could get properly targeted on the mobile suit, a veritable wall of tracers very nearly grazed his suit from his right. It was another mobile suit, with an unknown IFF, though after a moment or two, it would change, even as the red diamond hovered over it. ‘DRA-C’ “What the hell...?!” Teo grit his teeth as he fired all of his Gelgoog’s left RCS thrusters, sending the machine off in one direction away from the withering barrage of gunfire. “Repentance, I’m friendly!” He could feel the blood rush to one side of his body, and for a moment, he begun to waver, but he steeled himself, letting out a loud grunt as he regained control of his mobile suit.
“Why are you shooting?!” The Gaza pilot was persistent, he had to give them that, and soon enough, he would bring his own weapon to bear. He squeezed the trigger on his control stick, watching the weapon charge up before releasing a short volley of angry green energy in their direction. Being a short-range weapon, however, most of the shots would fizzle out into a cloud of mega-particle mist before they even reached the Gaza.
The frame of the Gelgoog juddered almost violently around him, the antique metal cocooning the machine’s retrofitted panoramic cockpit creaking and groaning under the stress of high-G maneuvers. Perhaps it was a poor decision, redesigning such an old machine up to the standards of contemporary mobile suit technology: in just eight short years, the fundamental nature of mobile suit warfare had changed, making large, heavy machines like this almost obsolete. Briefly, addled by the inertial stress of a rapid deceleration, followed by a rapid pivot, Teo Nygaard considered the viability of his father’s decision to build the Gelgoog Stutzer. On paper, it was perfect, matching the performance of many of its contemporaries, but in practice, Teo noted that without the agility afforded by a movable frame, the myriad thrusters on the Gelgoog Stutzer made it far more difficult to use.
Teo grit his teeth as he repeated the maneuver, despite the loud beeping of a high-G warning on his monitor. The blood rushed to his head as he inverted the Gelgoog Stutzer in space before slowing the machine to a relative halt. He took several deep breaths, squeezing his fingers vise-tight against the twin control sticks on either side of his body to redistribute the blood back throughout his body. “Maneuvering tests complete…” he panted, speaking through a short-range comms channel. “I’m coming back to refuel.”
Nearby, a civilian cargo craft was nestled between pieces of space debris. It bore the insignia of the Nygaard Concern, and presumably so did the heavily modified mobile suit it was observing. On the other side of the channel, Teo would hear a gruff, pompous voice. “No, Teo. We’ve received orders from the Neo Zeon military: you’re to rendezvous with one of their vessels nearby, the Repentance. We’ve sent you its coordinates, and a laser message ahead of you. They’ll know you’re coming. It’s time to shine.”
Teo sucked out the last few sips of beverage base from the packet, nearly cringing at the overly tangy flavour. He’d been drifting through space for a bit more than half an hour, by now, and he was starting to get bored. The marker labeled ‘RENDEZVOUS’ ahead of him slowly ticked down: ninety kilometers, eighty-five, eighty, seventy-five.
By now, he reasoned he was close enough to try and get long-range communications with the vessel “Repentance, this is Ensign Teo Nygaard, I’ve been told to rendezvous with you, coming in on vector 0-6-0. How copy?” Soon, however, he would watch as a second IFF marker emerged from inside of the Repentance, labeled 'GAZA-C'. "Oh, great..."
The black screen blinked to life and begun an insistent beep. Alyssa Arano looked up from the book she had buried her head in for the past few hours. She left orders not to be disturbed. Reading to orchestral music provided a brief respite that the piercing ringtone shattered. Alyssa briefly contemplated if she should allow the incoming call to interrupt her rest.
Recent events were exhausting. The loss of her leader and childhood companion affected not just her work but also shook her personally. The Zeon leadership was quick to shove her into the vacuum created by the death of Haman Karn. Alyssa had been groomed for this all her life, yet she never felt ready, not even now. Yet she had to be strong for Neo Zeon to succeed in reclaiming their birthright. They prepared for this for years. The hardships suffered by her people would soon be over once they moved back to Side 3.
The incessant beep broke through her thoughts. Alyssa sighed and closed the book in front of her. She brushed her hair out of her face and checked her appearance vaguely through the reflection of the console screen. Satisfied, she pressed the answer button. The face of her assistant appeared on the screen. He did not appear pleased to be tasked with relaying the message to her, she knew at first glance. Alyssa knew Lieutenant Alexander Mori well enough to sense his discomfort even through the screen. She wondered what bothered him so much, he usually kept a better composure. Alex saluted at the sight of the Zeon Regent. “M’Lady, we have reports that a salvage team scoured the wreckage zone before our recovery team arrived. I’m ashamed—“
“It happens.” Alex did not have to mention Haman’s name. He understood her pain, and she thanked him silently for that. “I trust you’ve dispatched a team to track down the salvagers.”
“Yes, M’Lady. Reports indicate that they are heading for the Moon.” Alyssa expected no less from her assistant. “I will look into this myself, Alex.”
“But, M’Lady—“ Alyssa cut off his protest with a raised hand. He knew she would take over the search personally. That explained his reluctance to make the call. It meant he understood her reasons too, as much as he disliked it. “You know I have to do this, Alex. The fleet will continue on course as planned. The delegation must reach Side 3. Patch the Vice Admiral through.”
“Yes, M’Lady.” There was a brief pause before Vice Admiral Darius Solomon appeared on the screen in a second video link beside Alexander. The Lieutenant saluted his superior while the Vice Admiral saluted the Regent. “Good evening, Lady Alyssa.”
“Vice Admiral,” Alyssa nodded in acknowledgement. “Alex, please.”
Her assistant proceeded to fill Solomon in on the intelligence report. The middle-aged veteran listened quietly. When Alexander finished, Solomon finally spoke, “Do you wish to take matters into your own hands, Lady Alyssa?”
“I leave the Doyenne in your command, Darius. I will leave at once on the Repentance. If all goes well, we will rendezvous with the fleet at Side 3.”
“I’m against this, Alyssa. I should have been firm with Lady Haman and stopped her from going out into combat against enemy ace pilots. With all due respect, it’s too soon to let the new Regent to be off chasing after a rabbit trail.” Solomon was a father-like figure for both Haman and Alyssa. He was a close and old friend of Maharaja Karn, Haman’s father and Alyssa’s guardian.
Alyssa pursed her lip in annoyance. She expected resistance and understood their reasons, but she was going regardless of their opinions and feelings. They stopped her from joining the recovery team and the search parties after the battle. There was no stopping her this time. “The Repentance can handle whatever surprises we encounter. I’ll also be bringing the Black Tri Stars along as escorts. Don’t worry, Darius. You can help me by bringing the delegates to Side 3 and protect Princess Mineva.”
Solomon sighed and said, “You and Haman are too alike. There is not stopping you once your mind is made up. There’s so much of Maharaja in the two of you. I promised him I would take care of you both. I have failed him once and I don’t want to fail him again.”
“I’m not going up against enemy ace pilots in a battle. We are intercepting a group of civilian salvagers. We will outgun them.” Alyssa noticed Solomon’s expression softening slightly. She recognised that look since young when he finally gave in to their pestering him for candy. “Besides, Haman would have done the same for me if our roles were reversed.”