A large waterfall was crashing down onto the rocks below, keeping a large pond filled. Ryder Sarka sat near this lake during his break from his duties at Jaburo. It had been a week since the skirmish with the Zeon Remnants, and things had changed since then. The Commander had received new orders from the higher-ups. The four were to leave for space once Dustin had healed. The Ensign knew little about the assignment, only that they would be apart of a larger division. He hoped that it was a special unit, but only time would tell.
As for the Zeon survivors, no search parties ever found them. Ryder assumed they had made it to their destination. He hoped that his next mission would go differently. The Titan picked up a small stone, tossing it across the water. It began to sink as it hit it. "I was never good at skipping stones." Ryder thought to himself. Ryder had been doing a lot of thinking lately. The Titans were something completely different to him, and part of him wished that he'd never joined. He knew it had to be done though. Ryder needed closure for Len's death, and the only way to do that would be through the specialized Zeon killers.
He got up and began walking back toward the base. It wouldn't be long before he'd be leaving and going back to space. That got Ryder excited. Not only would it be a change of scenery, since it'd been years since he'd gone back up, but it would be a new chapter in his life as a Titan. he wouldn't allow himself to lose again. This time, thing's would be difference. Ryder Sarka wouldn't allow anything but the best of his abilities in order to become a star in the Titans...
Ryder walked down, turning away from the Ensign. A wave of emotions seemed to flood inside of him. All he wanted to do at this point was move on, but something wasn't letting him do so. The Lieutenant went back toward the barracks. He hoped that maybe they could arrive at their destination before he woke up. The bleak, dank ship was beginning to bore him, and he wished for a change of scenery. Climbing back into the pod, he began to rest. However, this former Titan would never be able to rest peacefully...
Knock Knock! He heard someone banging on the pod door. "Oh, come on. Let me get some sleep." Ryder climbed out, only to see a familiar face staring at him. "I can't believe it..." He said. "Len?" The blond haired brother smirked. "It's great to see you, Ryder!" The Lieutenant ran up to him, as the Sarka brothers hugged. "I thought you were dead!" Ryder cried out as tear began to form. He let go, beginning to take of his jacket. "This belongs to you." Len shook his head. "No, no. You can keep it." He responded. "It fits your badass look."
Ryder laughed. "Badass look? Bro, I'm far from being badass." Len chuckled. "Come on, dude. You're pretty cool!" Len put his hand on Ryder's shoulder. "Too bad you killed all those people!" The former Titans expression changed. "What?" Len laughed hysterically.
"Look around you, bro!" Ryder began to notice dozens of people on the floor. They were withered, as if all the air was taken from them. "This is only a faction of deaths you caused." Ryder shook his head. "No. NO! I didn't know. Dustin was-" Len turned back to him. "THEY ARE DEAD AND THEY'LL NEVER COME BACK!" Len began to smirk again. "You should join them." Ryder looked back at him. "Stop this! Make it e-" Suddenly, it seemed like all the air was being sucked out as Ryder began to gasp for air. He fell to the floor, trying to breathe. Len watched to his brother suffocated.
"AH!" Ryder smacked his head on the top of the pod. "He came to realize it was all a dream. It didn't matter to him though. The nightmares felt real, and they continued to haunt him every night...
Ryder's emotions became very mixed after getting slapped by his superior. Part of him wanted to fight back, but that'd be a one-way ticket to a Titan POW camp. Another part of him respected the Captain for what he did. It showed Ryder that the AEUG had a competent leader who wouldn't put up with people's bullshit. The former Titan didn't agree with the silver-haired man, but he was starting to warm up to the AEUG's leader. Right then, Ryder knew he had to change his act in order to succeed.
He had one goal in mind, which was to rise up in the AEUG's ranks. Pissing of their leader wasn't going to help with that. "Like it or not, I gotta play by his rules." Ryder thought to himself. "This is my chance to shine. I can't screw this up." The Lieutenant was going to respond, but the captain was currently chewing out Nicky on the account of Ed Shiro, the GM pilot who perished in battle. He noticed the Captain really seemed to care about the deceased, going as far as to say he was twice the pilot Ryder was. "If he really was that, he wouldn't be dead."
His sloppiness didn't get the pilot killed though. It was a mixture of Nicky's incompetence and the man's own skills, so Ryder felt little sympathy. However, it made Ryder realize every life mattered to the Captain. "If I want to get on his good side, I'll have to protect every pilot, no matter how inept they are." Grim stared back at the two, seemingly waiting for a response. Ryder had nothing else to say, but he wasn't sure about Nicky. How would he feel being partially responsible for a teammates death? After all, Ryder had been in the same spot before...
Ryder looked puzzled. "Headhunter?" He thought. "Has he ever worked with a sniper?" While Ryder was confused, he did understand why Grim would be enraged. As much as he wouldn't like to admit it, his first sortie as an AEUG pilot was somewhat sloppy, but the way things were run in the AEUG was sloppy. As a Titan, things were planned out and it was clear what jobs people had on the battlefield. Ryder was told that he was the squadron leader, but one of the mercs would give him orders. Nicky's actions were self-explanatory, and the other pilots were far from skilled. "Four Gaza-C's shouldn't have been an issue, but it wasn't all my fault."
"Sir, my job as a long-range mobile suit pilot is to take out as many enemies as possible before they get in range. A headhunter is what I'm supposed to be." Ryder responded. "And I'd love to be a leader, but when the team doesn't know how to even adequately pilot our mobile suits, like our sitting duck over here, it makes it very challenging." Ryder felt himself get angrier. "Am I even the squadron leader, because one of your mercs was giving me orders. Why is nothing in the AEUG ran efficiently? None of us even know our mission, we were just thrown onto this dumpy ship!"
Ryder thought again about the battle. Some blame could be put on him. He needed to be a better teammate, no matter how reckless the AEUG did things. He looked away. "But you are right in expecting better. I expected better from myself too..."
Ryder Sarka stood against one of the walls near the sleeping pods, arms crossed. As he reminisced about the recent battle, the former Titan wished he could've gotten more practice in the simulation. It had been months since he'd even been inside a mobile suit, since he was too busy being tortured by the Titans. Luckily, he realized how much the Nemo controlled like the GM Sniper II, one of his older machines he'd piloted before. "Reloading..." He thought to himself. "I got to get faster at that!" Ryder walked to his sleeping pod. "That rifle could take out nearly anything in one hit, why can't it hold more than one shot?!"
A red button illuminated near his pod. When he pressed it, the square door hinged up, allowing him inside. It was cramped, but it was supposed to be. After all, the pods weren't meant for comfort. A couple of pictures were taped to the top of his bed. Two were of the squadrons he'd served in with the Titans, the Pursuers and the 41st Strike Team. He looked closer at the Pursuers, noticing his former Commander. "Poor bastard." The other two were taken back when he was in high school, one of him and his friend Maria, and another with his newly enlisted brother, Len, as he grinned in his new uniform. "That was the day he gave me his jacket." Ryder grabbed that jacket, putting it back on as he closed the door. After many years, the jacket had become somewhat torn and ratty. Ryder attempted to fix it many times, but he dreaded the day it would just tear in half from any sort of movement.
There wasn't much time for him to think about the past though. Dashwood's voice spoke through the intercom, requesting him and the Ensign, Nick Lavie, to go to Grim's office. "Expected that..." He thought. A debriefing was needed after what they went through. Ryder made his way to the quaint office, seeing his teammate saluting the captain. Ryder followed suit, awaiting a response from the Captain.
The Nemo rattled as it was thrown from its laying position. The mobile suit floated as Ryder grabbed on to the controls, positioning it to see the damage caused. Smoke blared from the outside of the bridge. "Not good..." Ryder thought to himself. If they couldn't get the ship to move, they'd all be sitting ducks. The only choice for the Lieutenant was to fly back into the hangar and hope things would be ok. The hangar door opened as Ryder flew back, connecting his rifle back to the wall. There were minor scrapes and paint chipping on his mobile suit, but it was otherwise still very functional.
The mobile suit powered down as Ryder floated out of the cockpit. "Hey!" He yelled out to the mechanic. "What's the damage look like?" Ronald turned his head to the pilot. "I'm not sure yet. A lot of crew members are surveying the damage right now!" Ryder pushed off the cockpit door to the neck of the ship. He had no idea how far they were from their destination, so it was unknown how long it'd take for someone to come to their aid. Smoke was all around him when he made it to the neck of the ship. He assumed the bridge crew was wearing normal suits, so unless they took a direct hit inside the bridge, they'd hopefully be fine. "We've had some bad luck..."
Ryder ran to help out his fellow Ensign, but he was too late. The only machine left was a mangled GM Quel, with no Gouf custom in sight. "DAMMIT!" He yelled out. He knew that their leader would join up with the other two functional suits. It was unlikely that they'd find them now. Ryder turned off his beam saber and put it up in its slot, noticing movement at the bottom right side of his screen. It was Dustin, bleeding out on his own pilot seat... "Uh... Commander? We're gonna need a medic."
A few hours later, Ryder sat in the hangar bay, looking at the mess of mobile suits inside. Two other pilots sat by him, saying nothing to each other. Albert, who had a bandage on his nose, looked at the other one. It was the surviving GM Kai pilot, who's headless mobile suit had fallen off a ridge, missing the battle. His poor skills as a pilot ended up saving his life. As for Dustin, he was being treated in the Medea's medbay. Last time Ryder saw him, the injured Lieutenant Junior Grade was mumbling something about Gabriel to the Commander. Speaking of, Ryder hadn't seen Gabe since they all got on the ship. He thought that maybe the other Ensign wasn't taking his loss very well.
However, the silence had gone on for too long and Ryder tried to lighten things. "You know, seven out of ten isn't that bad." He joked. Albert glared directly at him. "Ten out of ten is what we strive for. The Titans are only satisfied if every Zeon is dead." The Commander stood up. "Through you just reminded me of our little friend in the cell. Come with me." Ryder and the other soldier. "Not you." exclaimed Albert. "This is Titan business." The two walked to the brig. "What about Gabe?" Ryder asked. The older Titan frowned. "Gabe... did something on the battlefield. I'm gonna have a talk with him later." They opened the cell door to find a Zeon Remnant Soldier cuffed to a chair, bleeding. It was one of the Zaku pilots, who Ryder had incapacitated once trees had fallen on his mobile suit.
"Watch and learn." said Albert as the walked toward their prisoner. "This is how the Titans conduct business." Albert tried to make eye contact with the soldier but to no avail. "Tell me where your friends are headed." The soldier looked up at him, spitting blood in the Commander's face. "The other ones tried. You're getting nothing out of me." He uttered. Albert responded by pulling out his pistol, smacking the Zeon prisoner in his face. "TELL ME!" He yelled as blood dripped down his enemy's face. Ryder was shocked. Albert was harsh, but he didn't expect him to torture the prisoner. He thought that maybe something happened on the battlefield.
The soldier grinned, looking back up at Albert. "Sieg... Zeon..." Albert scowled, turning away. "We're done here." He said to Ryder. Just as he walked to the door, he turned around, putting a 9mm sized hole in the Zeon soldiers head.
"You're nothing but a mindless follower who fights for a lost cause. Just quit!" Albert McConnell swung diagonally to the left, connecting with his opponent's heat hawk. Sparks flew as the two mobile suits pushed with their weapons. "Just a little closer..." Albert thought as the GM Quel's head got close to the Zaku's. "NOW!" The Commander launched his vulcan guns straight into the Monoeye, causing the glass surrounding it to shatter. "Ha!" He laughed. "Time to-" The Zaku took a risky move, kicking the GM Quel in its right knee, breaking it in the other direction. Both suits fell on their backs, dropping the weapons they'd used. However, only one mobile suit got up. The Zaku F2's cockpit door was raised, giving the pilot vision. It began to walk toward its prey...
Meanwhile, Ryder and his opponent took some nasty hits. As bullets hit the Titan's shield, it crumbled and cracked, most likely due to damage, which it'd received prior. Worse though was the fact that some rounds managed to hit the joint between the torso and the arm, sending the limb flying back, shield in tow. "Shit!" He yelled out, dropping his empty machine gun. As he replaced it with his beam saber, the Ensign had no choice but to use close combat. Flying towards the last location of the Zaku, he swung, only to find no Zaku in the area.
Albert tried reaching for his own beam saber but to no avail. It was too far, and the damage to the leg meant he wasn't going anywhere. The Zaku stood above him. Its heat hawk had been broken in half from the drop, but the pilot had other ways to battle. Sara made the Zaku clasp its hands, sending both of them into the shield. Albert's machine shook violently as the Zaku repeated this many times. Eventually, it just grabbed the shield, pulling it off its connector. With no way to protect himself, Albert only had one option, he fired the remaining vulcan gun rounds into the chest of the Zaku. Its arms stopped moving as it fell on top of the GM. "Dammit. Can't move at all now." He thought as his cockpit opened. He pointed his pistol above him, only to see a 60mm sized hole through the torso of the pilot. Blood began to drip on Albert's head. He noticed that the seatbelt was the only thing preventing the corpse from falling on top of him. "Commander!" He heard Ryder through the comms.
"I lost the Zaku. Are you ok?" Ryder called out. "I'm fine. Took care of my Zaku, but my GM's not gonna move." Said Albert, who was bleeding from the attack. "Go after their leader. Don't worry about the other one." Ryder became worried. "But I only got my beam saber left. I'm a sniper. You know a can't-" "THAT'S AN ORDER, ENSIGN! GO!" Ryder left for the main battle, worried that it might be his last.
Far from their location was Yuri's Zaku. It was riddled with bullets. Both hands were blown off as some of the bullets took off them. However, it could still walk as it made its way to a damaged Dom Tropen. It was trying to connect its own leg back, though it didn't seem to be possible. The two communicated with each other, then with the commander. In their condition, they were probably telling her they'd be taking another way to the rendezvous point, hoping she'd be able to do the same...
In the dense shrubbery near an ongoing battle lied a certain Lieutenant Junior Grade. The man, who was laying on the ejected seat of his mobile suit, had seen much better days. the left side of his face had been scorched by the fire in his cockpit, causing burns down his cheek and ear. "That's gonna scar..." The man, Dustin, thought to himself. Laying on his uninjured side, he looked up at the two mobile suits dueling it out. The Aussie Ensign had his beam saber ready, while the green Gouf held up his own mobile suit. "Not good for the kid. He doesn't know these cockpits eject. There's no way he can attack without thinking he'd kill me." At that moment, Unit 03 sent his blade deep into the cockpit of Unit 02. "That sonovabitch..."
Meanwhile, his teammates were busy with the two remaining Zaku's. "That's right! Shudder in fear!" One of the Zaku pilots said as they thrust their heat hawk into Unit 01's shoulder. "HA! Shudder in fear? You make me laugh!" Yelled out Albert as he pushed forward on the ignition. The jets in its backpack flared as the Titan machine headbutted the Zaku, sending it flying away from the other machine, pulling out the heat hawk in the process. However, the damage had been done. The GM Quels right arm wouldn't last for long, so the Commander switched hands, although he wouldn't have time to switch the shield. As the Zaku realigned itself, it came face to face with the black machine. staring each other down, their weapons connected, again and again, taking the two machine's battle to a different location. It left the lone GM Sniper II to fight the other Zaku.
"Stupid fog..." Ryder Sarka thought to himself. His vision was now clouded, which thankfully meant his opponent's vision was too. The Ensign secretly worried to himself. His specialty wasn't standard combat, plus the Zaku did have home-field advantage. It'd know good spots to hide and strike, leaving Ryder wide open for attack. The Titan slowly walked, peering deep into the dense fog. "There's gotta be some sort of sign. Something I can use to my advantage..." Suddenly, an idea popped into his head. He stopped moving the machine and stopped looking. Instead, he listened. Mobile Suits were far from the quietest machines. If he could hear movement, that could give him an idea as to where the enemy was.
After a bit, he finally heard it. It sounded like an arm moving, but he wasn't too sure. Without moving a muscle (if mobile suits had muscles), Ryder looked to his right screen. Slightly above the crack created when he slammed into it, was a faint pink light. "Gotcha." He thought. He raised his machine gun and damaged shield as quickly as he could, firing directly at the other mobile suit. The Zaku saw this movement, firing at the same time as its opponent.
Ryder knew he had little time to get away from the other two mobile suits. As he ran closer to the main battle, he heard his superior through the radio. "Pathetic, these fools are out of practice!" said the Commander. Ryder saw the aged veteran in a skirmish against the remaining Zaku F2. Albert did have the upper hand, but the Zaku proceeded to ram into the new Titan suit, knocking it over. As it fell onto the ground, the Zeon mobile suit turned away, running another direction.
Ryder noticed it fleeing from Albert. "Why's it leaving?" He thought. Except it wasn't actually leaving. The newer model Zaku came flying toward him, firing its own machine gun toward him! Ryder quickly raised the GM's shield as rounds hit it directly although a few managed to hit his waist armor. From the hip, he fired back with the sniper rifle. While he didn't want to waste his last clip, Ryder knew that it was the only way for him to survive. The Titan returned fire, sending five sniper bullets into the other Zaku. The first and fourth shot missed, but the second, third, and fifth hit the monoeye in its head, lower torso, and right hip. If it was a machine gun, this Zaku could maybe live to fight more but the sniper rounds demolished the face and other body parts of the mobile suit. The machine powered off the dropped as if it'd been knocked out cold.
"Ryder!" Albert said over the comms. "Are you ok?" Ryder sighed. His sniper had no rounds left. "Not really. I'm out." He dropped the rifle to the floor. "Here, take this then." His superior tossed his own machine gun toward the Ensign. "I'll be able to handle myself. Let's help out Gabriel. Dustin's been-." The time had come for the other two remaining Zaku's to arrive. "Yeah..." Ryder said. "I was gonna tell you about that." The F2 had one of the newer model machine guns, while the JC held a heat hawk in its hand. Albert ignited his beam saber and raised his shield. "Let's hope Gabriel is good at close combat. He's gonna have to be to survive..."