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Race to the Rose

Hiro Kusanagi

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Grim sat in his chair of his quarters looking over the hastily gathered damage report. Overall the damage had been superficial, a busted window on the bridge scared the hell out of those on duty but the emergency shutter did its job closing quickly. More importantly this was going to have a bad impact for morale.

Of course it wouldn’t matter that they had defeated a technological superior force, all the incident seemed to prove was that Zeon was on to them. It would only be a matter of time until another strike force moved in to engage them all. Grim sighed out loud, “I doubt we’re going to catch a break anytime soon…”

He rubbed his temples as he glared down at the two personnel files on his desk, “of all the pilots… where’s kamille when you need him?” He bit his lip as he made the comment thinking back to reports he read about the ace, while the kid had been good his attitude left much to be desired. “Who names a boy that… poor kid must have been angsty because of that…” he shook the thought from his head returning to the present. He was going to have a good debriefing with his two “star” pilots.

Grim pulled on a phone and held it to his head, “get me Sarka and Lavie! Thank you.” He hung up and got up to pour himself a cup of Tea. A minute later he heard the ship’s PA ask for his two pilots to report to him. He sat back down in his chair sipping at the mug, inhaling the steam.

A knocking on his door broke his concentration. Although he was expecting the two pilots, this was perhaps too soon to be the duo. The Captain shrugged and called out, “enter!”

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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.

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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.

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“At ease.” Grim announced as the duo stood before him. He put his mug down and stood up, walking to the side of his desk. He took a moment to study both men trying to gauge what they must have been feeling at that moment. The look on Ben’s face showed that he wasn’t there to pay them praise.

“I’ll get straight to the point… what the hell was that out there?!”

Grim slammed a fist down on the desk hard shuttering everything on top of it. His eyes pierced at Nicky then surprisingly jumped to Ryder too. “What I don’t understand is how two pilots on opposite ends of the spectrum could fail so miserable?!”

Sweeping his hand from the desk he arched a finger and pointed it squarely in Lavie, “training mode?! Do you have any idea the level of danger you put everyone in with that stupid stunt ensign?! Any more incompetent and you may as well be working for the damn zeeks!”

His finger waved from Nicky over to Ryder. “And you! You think just because you were a Titan means you are hot stuff don’t you? I thought you were supposed to be a leader? Instead you’re out there acting like a damn headhunter!” Ben’s voice hit a crescendo and he dropped his finger to gaze down between the two men shaking his head. Lowering his voice he muttered “I expect better from you…” he looked up to regard both pilots. “What do you have to say for yourselves?”

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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.

Edited by Replicator
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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..."

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“There's no excuse. This incident is completely on my shoulders. It will not happen again."

Grim squared away at Nicky as the ensign gave the pitiful but expected response. The Captain had been around awhile and could see hate behind the ensign’s eyes. Hatred at what, was hard to tell, Ben would have preferred the ensign be focused on the enemy but suspected it was aimed more at Grim himself. Still the Captain gave a hard stare at the boy before Ryder chimed in.

As Ryder rambled on, a small but distinct curl formed on the edge of Grim’s lips. While a part of him could agree with the Titan’s assessment of the situation this wasn’t the forum to address the issues. Grim was beyond stressed and this cocky little bastard was pushing his buttons. Before anyone could understand what had happened Grim’s backhand firmly connected with Ryder’s cheek. The hand flew across and stood hanging in the air, the slap of flesh silencing the room. “Ed Shiro was twice the pilot you will ever be Lieutenant.”

Grim’s cold stare could freeze a beam saber, and he glared hard at the sniper.

He fought the urge to slap the Titan again, but he knew he needed to get through the pilots ego one way or another. “I need soldiers not divas…” he added as he slowly dropped his hand. “You keep up that attitude Lieutenant and you won’t amount to anything under my command! do I make myself clear?”

His eyes shifted dangerously back to Nicky, “and do you understand that Ed Shiro died trying to protect you and the Nemo?” He reached behind him to the desk and hoisted up a folder nearly tossing it at the ensign. Inside the folder was the radio log from the battle and highlighted were Ed’s lines stating how he was trying to protect the ailing Nemo. The comms during the battle were probably flooded with activity and no one but the Firefly seemed to catch his transmissions. Ed was in fact in the GM that Grim had seen getting destroyed by one of the Gaza’s. Grim stared at both men waiting to see if they had any other intelligent remarks to make.


((OOC: redd Shirto seemed too obvious))

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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...

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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.

Edited by Replicator
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Grim glared at both men evenly. He could see the gears grinding in Nicky’s head. Ryder cautiously remained quite and Grim did have to pause and wonder if there was hope for them both yet?

“Sir. This will not happen again. I'll make sure of it as soon as i cross that door.'' 

This was the second time Nicky made that promise but Grim could tell it was more heartfelt. The Captain merely nodded and responded softly, “see that you do. Both of you.”

He gave both men another quick glance to study their obedient demeanors. He supposed time would tell if these two could help pull off this mission or doom them all. “Dismissed.” With that he moved to return behind his desk and calmly began sitting back down. He paid neither of them little attention as he went back to looking at the papers on his desk.

(lackluster but I can’t think of anything else to grill them on :p)

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  • 2 weeks later...

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...

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  • 2 weeks later...

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.

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  • 1 year later...

Hiro pressed the bell at the entrance of Grimsdottir’s office and the metal door slid open. As he walked into the office, he saw the captain’s head buried in a pile of papers on his desk. 

He had been surprised when he saw the AEUG personnel accustomed to using physical reports. Perhaps it was due the nature of their line of work that the Draconis Fury and the rest of the Galleon Combine operated using data pads and preferred to view their reports digitally on screens. Leaving a paper trail was risky business for mercenaries, and the often had to destroy data in short notice.

Choosing not to interrupt the Captain, Hiro sat himself down in the chair opposite Grimsdottir and fished his data pad from the inner pocket of his jacket. He thumbed through the reports once more. Despite having read them several times over, something still gnawed at him.

While he respected the AEUG captain’s choice to share selected information with him, he hoped that their performance in the earlier skirmish had convinced the man to trust the Draconis Fury more and divulge intelligence that would benefit them both.

If word was brought back to Zeon about the *Firefly*, they might bring the fleet down on the lone mercenary ship. If they knew what cargo she carried, Hiro reminded himself. But it was a big if.

Captain Grimsdottir cleared his throat and Hiro snapped his head up to smile a greeting at the AEUG officer.

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Ben had been diligently writing a report when his door opening, telling him that his mercenary compatriot had entered his office. He took a moment to finish what he was doing before trading smiles with the pilot.

“Please have a seat Hiro.” He motioned with his hand. He waited a moment for the man to sit eye level with him before sitting up straight. “I wanted to thank you for your performance during that last battle. I also wanted to apologize for not meeting with you sooner. We’ve been so busy repairing damage, and what not. That I unfortunately took advantage of your position as a mercenary, and made you wait for this debriefing.” His words weren’t far from the truth, but Grim knew better than to abuse his relationship with the mercenary with undo neglect. It still did little to ease his own reservations, had the AEUG become so vulnerable that they had to rely on hired guns to get them through these turbulent times? 

“I trust your team is being treated with respect?” The question was more to get himself out of his own dangerous train of thought. As a commander he had to be positive in their mission, irregardless of their circumstances. “I must admit I’ve never worked with mercenaries directly before so I apologize if I’ve been lacking in proper decorum when dealing with you.” He pursed his lips realizing that he should give the man an opportunity to speak instead of listened to him ramble. He motioned with his hands to Hiro that it was his turn to speak.

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“Thank you for your concern, Captain. However, your apologies are completely unwarranted as much as appreciate your gesture,” Hiro said. “We don’t have a habit of debriefs unless circumstances require us to do so. In this case, I believe there’s an outstanding point in the report I sent you.”

Grimsdottir was going to speak but Hiro raised a finger and went on. “My team has been treated well. Perhaps our reputation precedes us. In any case, the Draconis Fury gets the job done, no questions asked. I understand the gravity of this mission when I signed my team up for this. For the AEUG to use a mercenary ship rather than rig the IFF of a better armed and armoured ship, this is top priority cargo.”

“Yes, you might be thinking that something so important shouldn’t involve mercenaries that might cut and run with it. That’s why the Galleon Combine sent the Fury to do the job.”

Hiro paused to take a deep breath. He continued, “I’m here to discuss our plans. I don’t know what the reports from your men say, but the reports from my team indicated that Zeon forces might have fled with intel about this operation. So we better be prepared for more surprises along the way.

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As Hiro finished asking his question, Ben was already nodding his head in agreement. “I agree with your assessment of the situation.” He concurred. “It’s unlikely the Zeeks will leave us alone. Unfortunately there’s little more we can do besides beeline it to the rose and hope that our luck holds out.” Ben muttered the last part as he brought his hands up on the desk to hide his mouth. He looked around thoughtfully for a moment as he considered what other options they really had?

His eyes refocused on the mercenary and be nodded, “I’ll have my crew take shifts on active standby I want you to just be ready to go should the situation arise.” He nodded more to himself as he considered the plan. “We’ll keep our head on a swivel until we get to the rose. We’ll be as ready as we can be.” He concluded. The captain stood up to offer his hand to the mercenary. “I’m not so arrogant as to assume that my plans are infallible, if you have any suggestions don’t hesitate to tell me. I made it through the one year war, and I intend to survive this mess as well.” The smile Grimsdottir offered was the practice look of an officer reassuring his men. We’ll make it through this… he vowed silently to himself, an echo to a vow he made in the last war. 

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Standing to take the Captain’s proffered hand, Hiro knew from the conversation that Grimsdottir was indeed a soldier accustomed to the military ways. However, they were on a mercenary ship sneaking around in a smuggling run. His team had more experience in this type of operations. 

He planned to have a longer discussion with the Captain but the brief exchange has told him that he had to step in and take a more proactive role in leading the mission. 

*From the way the AEUG is handling the mission, they probably don’t even know what’s in the cargo themselves. Or are we just a diversion?* Hiro knew it was unlikely. *Given how stretched the AEUG is, they won’t put in so much effort just to create a diversion.*

“With all due respect sir, the *Firefly* is our breadwinner and my crew would want to take a more active part in making sure we survive this with our ship more or less intact.” Placing both hands on the table, Hiro leaned forward. “I propose that we send a recon suit ahead. We have more than enough manpower to rotate the shifts. Having an MS in the field would also buy time for our suit to launch in case we get jumped.”

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Ben was taken back by the mercenaries boldness but he quickly focused on what was being offered. He had thought of rotating a scout out earlier too. He thought it could be too taxing on their limited crew and drain their resources. Still, he had to admit that Hiro was on to something. 

Slowly the captain nodded, a grin daring to etch his features, “alright Hiro, you make a good argument. How about you take on this assignment then?” Ben’s tone wasn’t condescending, rather he was sincere in his agreement with the proposal, “I can’t argue with that logic!” Grimsdottir was beginning to appreciate that the mercenary wasn’t some thug with a gun,  but  potentially an asset. We’ll see how useful he’ll be if we make it to the rose… he mused as he nodded to the door.  “I’ll get the rest of the crew updated with the plan. Thanks Hiro!” 

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Hiro looked at the AEUG captain. “I believe we have enough pilots and mobile suits between the two teams to maintain four-hour shifts for the rest of our journey to the *Rose*.”

Hiro and Kamea Thrace were the main pilots for the Draconis Fury. As the backup pilot, Grace Valerii would rotate between the two mobile suits when either of them were off duty. This covered twelve hours. The AEUG had four mobile suits and a cycle would see them clear another sixteen hours.

If they maintained their current speed, they were less than 80 hours from the *Rose*. That would be less than three shifts per pilot with sufficient time for rest and mobile suit maintenance. Hiro caught himself before he started rattling the numbers that ran through his head. *Surely, this AEUG veteran knows the figures. What’s he playing at by pushing the assignment to the Fury?*

He refused to buy the common joke about how both the Federation and AEUG had suffered so many losses that the officers they had now were hardly capable. Hiro preferred to give the benefit of the doubt in normal circumstances. However, the lives of his crew and his ship were on the line this time.

Hiro sighed and finally stated, “The AEUG team has enough pilots to put in their recon shifts too, Captain.”

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Ben narrowed his eyes at Hiro’s question of his own judgment. Still the captain knew better than to let his own ego judge his response. “Rest assured Lieutenant we’ll pull our weight too.” He paused considering if it would be beneficial telling the mercenary about the issues he was dealing with two particular pilots at that moment but shook his head. “I merely want you to start the shift out. One of our pilots will take the following sortie.” Motioning to the door the captain silently suggested that their meeting was at an end. “Now if you’ll excuse me I do have some other matters to attend to.” He waited to see if the Mercenary would comply and added, “and Hiro… I do thank you for your expertise. We’re in this together. I won’t forget that.” He promised as he offered a friendly smile for his comrade.  

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Hiro nodded. “Understood, Captain. I just want to make sure we’re on the same page. Our goals are aligned and my team will do our utmost to make them happen.”

He turned and left the room, heading straight to his team’s bunker. Thrace and Valerii were working out. “Where’s Augur?”

“Went to grab some food,” came Thrace’s curt reply followed by a grunt as she lifted the weights again. Valerii was lying on the ground after finishing a set of crunches. “Care to join us, Apollo?”

Hiro shook his head. “Not now. I’m going to head out. The Captain has agreed to sending a scout ahead. This is making me jittery. Since I can’t get anything done, I’ll take the first shift. You guys know what you need to do. The AEUG will send a pilot to relieve me after four hours. Then you’re up, Starbuck.”

“Aye, aye.”

“Make sure you’re rested and your MS is ready to go.”

“Scoot.” Valerii’s remark put a smile on his face. Leaving his mercenaries to their routines, Hiro made his way to the MS bay.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The alarms blared. Roused from his sleep, Hiro Kusanagi struggled to wake up. The alarms continued their wailing. An almost instinctive sense of  urgency jolted him awake as he sat up in his bed and opened his eyes.

The dimmed lights in the room and the red flashes of the alarms told him at once that the ship was in battle. Jumping out of bed, Hiro thumbed the com link on the wall to hail the cockpit. Ronald Boone’s face appeared almost immediately. “Apollo.”

“Status.”  Hiro put on his combat suit with practiced discipline.

“We lost contact with Starbuck. No sign of the enemy but Minovksy levels are at reaching combat density.” Boone paused and nodded towards someone off-screen. “The Captain has ordered the Fed mobile suits to sortie.”

“Good. Ready my suit.”

“Yes, sir!” Boone’s image blinked out and was almost instantly replaced by Grace Valerii’s concerned face.

She bit her lower lip before she spoke, a gesture that Hiro had come to recognised and he braced himself for her next sentence. “Your suit will take a while longer. Sorry, we haven’t finished the maintenance.”

One of the main thrusters of his GM II had been damaged by stray space debris during his scouting shift. The repair would take a while and there was nothing he could do.

“No worries, Athena. I know you’re doing your best. I’ll speak to the Captain first.” Valerii gave her affirmation and ended the call.

Hiro headed for the cockpit to look for Grimsdottir to understand the situation.

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The ship alarms did an excellent job of waking the captain up as he hit his head on the lamp that he had positioned above his bed. Groaning, Ben reached up to rub the spot on his forehead. He then reached for a radio channel to the bridge for a situation report, the reply back was brief.

“We lost contact with our scout patrol, and Minovksy particles are increasing.”

Nodding his understanding Ben grumbled back, “Understood. Have all mobile suits sortie, I’ll head out as well.” He closed the line as he fumbled to his locker that housed his pilot suit.

A few moments later he was bouncing down the hallway towards their makeshift hangar. He was fiddling with his collar making it secure when he thought he spotted Hiro in front of him. “Kusanagi!” he called out as he lifted his helmet to plop it down over his head.

The Captain Caught up with the Mercenary and he announced, “we lost contact with our patrol, are you heading out as well?” It wasn’t a moment for idle chit chat, the urgency of the situation made it clear what they both should be doing.

Finally, Ben clasped the neck seal secure to his helmet. The pair entered the doorway to the hangar where the lot of GMs and Nemos stood ready to be deployed. Ben did pause to regard the Mercenary leader to see what the man had to say. The situation could be volatile out there and Ben needed to know everything he could at that moment to best handle the emergency.

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Hiro was surprised to run into Grimsdottir in the corridor. They stepped into the hangar and he replied, “My suit isn’t ready Captain. I’ll be out as soon as I can.”

His heart sank at the sight of the mobile suits in the hangar bay. Under normal circumstances, a well-trained team would have already launched during the time it took for him to wake up and get to the hangar bay.

“I was under the impression that your pilots were on standby, Captain.” Hiro had more to say but he held his tongue and tried to suppress the nagging worry he had for Thrace. It was normal to lose contact with such a high level of Minovsky particles in the battlefield, but he did not like the idea of her being out there alone bearing the brunt of the ambush.

Given her experience, she would have returned as soon as she came into contact since she was on recon duty. 

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Ben nodded at Hiro and rushed to his signature white GM. It took some effort to sling himself into the cockpit in the weightlessness, but he was soon strapped into his seat. A few flicks of the buttons and the screens of the old GM flared to life. Soon the mobile suit was near the hatch, again reminding Ben of how this wasn’t a real battleship with launching track. “Captain Grimsdottir heading out!”

There was already a couple of friendly mobile suits out in front of him. Thankfully there wasn’t any shots being fired out just yet, everything seemed normal save for the invisible Minovsky particles radiating around them. The Captain made way to clear the loading bay and floated along the ship until he was near the bridge. He kept his beam rifle poised and scanned around cautiously. There had to be something out there causing the particles to sky rocket, but what?

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      Attack in the Colony!
    • By Acidic
      This is not an actual roleplay and more of an origin of Artemis and what shaped her into the Neo Zeon scamp that she is, it is split up into four pre planned parts each with their own title.
      It will contain very harsh language and some scenes may be inappropriate for some sensibilities so please be cautious before reading.
      I will try to complete this within the week as I already have most of this figured out with only the rest to be filled in with words. 
      Links(Will be converted to clickable links as a table of contents): 
      Part One: Rise, Junk Zaku!
      Part Two: Sieg Zeon
      Part Three: Just add Ginger
      Part Four: Goddess of the Hunt
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