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Knights of the Zodiac


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Ray Hermes couldn’t help but smile to himself as he sat down at the console, the sounds of the game mingling with the voices outside in the rest of the hobby store. It had been about a week since Fleurs de Noblesse had completed their last mission and purchased their force nest. Ray had thought that their new base, combined with his streak of totalling his mobile suit, was justification enough for the purchase of a new project. He had only given the DaeDAL two good runs and had more or less destroyed it both times. The use of the DaeDAL had mostly been his friend Amelia’s idea, he just put it all the pieces together. And while it was a solid machine, he needed something he could put through the ringer, evidently.

He fished out his new model from his bag and placed it on the scanner, his fingers tapping away at the controls excitedly as GBN booted up. In short order, Icarus had loaded in and made his way to the old oil rig where, standing on one of the offshoot platforms, the silver Leo Chevalier caught the rays of the sun and reflected its light off its gold filigree and highlighting. It certainly looked pretty for a grunt, and if he did his job right, it’d be just as sturdy as it was glitzy.

Icarus entered the tower and sat himself down on an uncomfortable looking bench. He pulled up his menu and began scrolling through the mission list as he waited for his teammates to arrive.

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"Please tell me there's a spot open!" Wade excitedly stated as he ran up to the counter of his local hobby shop. "I gotta try out my new Gunpla!" The worker sighed, nodding to the teenager. Wade was a frequent customer at his shop and even if there were no openings, he knew that kid would've still ran into where the GBN machines were kept. While his movements were quick, Wade very gently put his custom model down to scan. "There's no way I can keep up with the others in the SD." He thought, sliding the headset on. "Now I've got something much stronger." It wasn't long before he dove into the virtual world he loved so much. 

The lobby he ended up in was packed, barely giving him enough room to get to one of the hangars. One by one, there were tons of different Gunpla flying into the sky, many heading toward the Moralia biome for an unknown reason. "Hope I'm not missing something." He exclaimed, planting his new Gunpla's feet onto the catapult. "MK II Local Type, let's do this!"

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The speed of a full sized mobile suit caught him off guard. The machine almost glided with the air flow, even though it was quite stacked with weaponry. "Woohoo!" He yelled out while spinning around in the air. "This is what I'm talking about!" No one payed much attention to the happy teen, except for one red and black mobile suit. It stood atop one of the highest buildings in the area, balancing on the needle shaped tip. "My target is working with that moron?" Inside the cockpit of the cloaked Gunpla was an equally cloaked Diver. He grasped the side panel, pondering whether or not if he'd follow. "Not today, Fucanglong..."

It was a longer trip to their Force Nest since the ocean area was so vast, but Wade eventually landed on one of the other platforms. "A Leo?" Wade wondered as he got out of his mobile suit. "I wonder who brought that one." His question would be answered as he saw his teammate sitting on a bench. "Icarus! I see you have a new Gunpla as well."

 

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Aker lay in his hammock, eyes closed as he tried to sleep in the warm ocean sun. He rather liked their force nest, despite its’ humble appearance. Having only one other spot he could safely goto, he found himself splitting his time equally between the force nest and his own “place” in space. He had fashioned his own cabin in one of the rooms at the Fluer’s complex, next to what would be his mobile suit bay. 

The loud noise of mobile suits approaching caused him to stir some but it wasn’t until the strange MKII appeared that he jumped out off is hammock in a stupor. “8 launch the Jager!” He called out as he ran towards where he would board the suit. He kept his Astray parked at his alternate location to keep his impact at the oil rig to a minimum. The suit materialized in its’ appropriate dock just as he realized it was his two allies who had appeared, and not some random strangers (or worse) looking for him. He paused near the Astray’s cockpit and let out a chuckle at his own paranoia. He decided to keep the Astray docked as he made his way to the communal briefing room. 

He quietly entered the room, looking almost out of place. Aker looked more like a tourist than a diver at that moment; wearing a pair of sandals, cargo shorts, and a pink Hawaiian shirt of some kind, with a pair of “Alex Dino” sunglasses covering his face. “Hey guys!” He called out, “I’m digging the new suits! I’m guessing it’s mission time?” He teased as he moved in to plop down on a sofa. It was almost absurd seeing the normally dour looking diver acting so carelessly. 

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In short order, the rest of Icarus’s team appeared, with Wade entering the tower first. Icarus turned to the teen and nodded.

“Hey Wade—yeah, I thought I would splurge a little and build something a little sturdier. It might not be as fast as the DaeDAL, but it can still get moving when it wants to with that GN drive. I call it the Leo Chevalier,” Icarus scratched the back of his head. “I uh, tried to make it look like a knight, sort of. Sounds like you’ve got a new model yourself?”

At that moment, Aker entered as well, dressed in a summery getup that Ray was pretty sure he owned in the real world—it was pretty close at least, though he wasn’t sure whether or not that was a good thing. Icarus, however, was still dressed in the normal suit of the generation 1 extended naturals from SEED, which put him at odds with the cool breeze and the hot sun.

“Good to see you Aker. I was just explaining my design philosophy to Wade here,” Icarus quickly summed up the suit’s knightly theming, close-combat focus, and other specs to his teammates. “Oh, I’ve also been scrolling through missions while I waited and I think I found a good one,”

Icarus shared the mission details with his comrades and felt a twinge of excitement. He was beginning to feel a lot more comfortable with GBN’s features and was confident that he could get through this new mission without obliterating his suit.

Mission: Knights of the Zodiac

Difficulty: Hard Plus

Description: High above the Earth Sphere, five mobile suits set out on a mission. These are not the shooting stars you know…

“I don’t know what makes a mission ‘Hard Plus’ but I figured we could try tackling another hard mission, since we managed to win the other one,” He thought back to the red mobile suit and tensed up as the sound of its wailing came back to him. “Well, for the most part, at least. I was also looking into renting an NPD diver, since this one is uh…hard plus. Thoughts?”

He looked at his teammates as he stroked his chin. Maybe whatever 'Hard Plus' was would be too much for them. He didn't want to accidentally get his whole squad wiped, especially since he didn't know what penalties came with losing, especially for someone in Aker's situation. 

 

 

 

 

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Icarus brought up a good point. This was going to be a challenge, likely harder than their fight against the Psycho Exam. Renting an NPD would be the best option. Wade pulled up his own menu, swiping to the rent section. A vast array of pilots appeared in front of him, allowing him to list them by skill, price, etc. Every time he looked at the NPD chart, he always gawked by the best, and easily the most expensive pilot, Amuro Ray. You had to be the 1% to afford him, but he was always worth it, based on videos other Divers had made.

"Well, we can't afford the best obviously." He said while scrolling past Char and many of the main protagonists. "But we're not gonna have to rent some crap either." Wade stopped at Katz, realizing that he scrolled too far. He also had to keep in mind that they'd either be stuck with one of their canon mobile suit, or their EX mobile suit, since they didn't bring any other Gunpla in. "What does the EX ones mean?" He clicked on Emma Sheen, picking the EX option. A Full Armor Gundam MK III showed up behind her screenshot. "Oh, so I gives them something great, that's related to their canon mobile suit." Eventually, he picked five for the team to choose from. "These are the best ones in our budget, but don't be afraid to show me more if you find any others." He turned his notepad around in the air to point toward them.

Nicol Amalfi

Marbet Fingerhat

Roybea Loy

Chara Soon

Sting Oakley

 

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Aker studied the mission description intently and then the list of possible pilots and who was in their price range. It was moments like these that caused him to briefly consider spending some of his undisclosed wealth with his teammates but he found the circumstances rewarding and brushed the notion out of his mind. “What about her?” He asked as he pulled up the description of a certain red headed pilot. “I’m hesitant to go for a pilot who fights closely. I think if we utilize a sniper they could help pinpoint trouble and not get in the way.” 

Lunimaria Hawke was slightly more affordable than the list Wade offered but seemed to have some upgrade options they could afford more easily. If Aker was being honest with himself he always found her to be an interesting character and bought it would be interesting to see her up close. Ultimately he would be happy with whatever his teammates decide though.

He kept his gaze locked on the mission description, piecing together the cryptic meaning behind the title. “5 vs 4?” he mused softly to himself. “And in space most likely…” it was sure to be an interesting tussle, and a smile slowly creased his lips at the thought. 

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Icarus scanned the list that Wade had curated, reading the names one by one.

Nicol’s not a bad choice…Marbet…Roybea…
He paused when he read Chara Soon’s name, his cheeks growing slightly more flushed as he recalled the Gundam ZZ character. He looked up at Wade and narrowed his eyes.

Would she be an inappropriate choice? Wade was, ostensibly, a teenager. There was a chance that he was older in real life than he was in the game, but there was an equal chance he was younger as well. A character as provocative as Chara Soon might not be the best option. Sting Oakley, the next name on the list, was an equally dicey choice for much different reasons. Icarus might have been wearing the flight suit of a Biological CPU pilot but that didn’t mean he condoned what those characters were about. A pilot like Sting could, ultimately, be a liability on the battlefield. It was then that Aker chimed in with another suggestion.

“Lunamaria Hawke, huh?” He didn’t mind the character, but she was far from his favourite. But it wasn’t about favourites, was it? It was about finding someone that could feasibly watch their backs in a five on four and Aker made a good point about her being a long range fighter. “I was going to suggest Nicol and the Blitz for their mirage colloid, but I suppose you have that covered too, Aker. Lunamaria is a decent choice, then—let’s go with her.”

Icarus looked at his teammates and nodded. “Is everyone equipped for space?” He figured the GN drive would allow the Leo to manoeuvre in space without the additional attachments, but he hadn’t even had the opportunity to take it for a test drive on land, let alone space.

I’m sure it’s fine…

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"Luna it is!" Wade uttered as he scrolled to the ZAFT pilot. With her being a little cheaper, they could now easily afford the EX option. The Diver clicked the extra mode. causing a red-colored Destiny to appear behind her screenshot. "Oh, looks like she's gonna bring the big guns." With another click, the purchase processed. UNIVERZ had used their fair share of NPD's, not really for necessity, but because of the cool custom scenarios you could make with them. Plus, you could interact with them outside of the mission. Wade  recalled Kyle's constant renting of his idol, annoying other members of the group.

At that moment, the NPD appeared in front of the team, wearing a casual black tee with red pants. Luna stood straight and saluted, a common decision made by the NPDs. "Lunamaria Hawke, reporting for duty!" She stopped saluting to wave at her new friends. "I can't wait to work with you!" Wade was thankful they'd picked a nice character. NPDs were extremely accurate to their characters, after all. "You bet Luna!" Wade stated, noticing the red Destiny appeared on the remaining open platform. "You like it?" Lunamaria asked, putting her hand on her hips. "It's like Shinn's, but its color is much better!"

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Aker was in the middle of looking at the mission details when the ZAFT pilot teleported into their briefing room. He did pause to look at her, it was one thing to see the character in the show and something else entirely to see them in person. He stood up to gawk at her and slowly walked around in disbelief. She was more than an NPD, she reminded him of some cosplayers he’d seen on GBN before, it was uncanny how lifelike she seemed. It was just as hard to believe that he shared a similarity to the NPD on some level. He wondered if she thought and felt the same as him? He should have paid closer attention to the details though. While Lunimaria was more budget friendly, and the version he looked at was her Zaku version he completely glazed over the Destiny option.

“Wait!” He started to protest as they talked about her machine. He rushed to the window to look outside at the imposing red Destiny. Of course her “Shin” was different from his, and her “Destiny” was different from the one he fought; but still. Aker instinctively clenched his fists, his knuckles turning white, as he looked at the machine. He couldn’t help but grimace at the memory of a golden version of that same machine stalking over to try and impale him. 

Lunamaria must have sensed his apprehension as she came over and asked cheerily, “do you like it?” Aker snapped out of his contemplate to see a teasing smile etched on her fair features. He blushed and nodded, “yeah, always been a fan of the Destiny Gundam…” he offered a weak smile which she nodded at. He could see a questioning expression on her face as if she intended to ask more, and that perhaps unsettled him more than the presence of the red machine. “Do we gotta figure anything else out before we launch?” Aker asked as he looked past her to his friends. 

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Icarus watched as Lunamaria materialized in the tower and came to life. The whole thing was indescribably odd—she was rendered so faithfully it was almost incredible. The diver watched silently as their NPD interacted with the other members of the squad, paying particular attention to how she and Aker conversed. Seeing Lunamaria and Aker conversing was…odd. Where did their similarities truly end, he wondered? Aker could think and feel, but like Lunamaria, he presumably only existed within the confines of the game. Were the NPDs sentient in the way that Aker was? And if not, what did Aker have that Lunamaria didn’t.

Icarus rubbed his forehead. Plumbing the depths of the rabbit hole would have to wait another day—they had a mission to undertake. He took notice of Aker’s uneasy expression and when the EL-Diver asked if there was anything else to do before the mission start, Icarus could have sworn he heard a subtle cry for help from his teammate.

“Let me just check something really quick,” he said, pulling up his menu.

Sorry Wade, hope you’re ready,

“Ah-oops!” Icarus ‘accidentally’ brushed his finger against the ‘Start Mission’ button. The cockpit of the Leo formed around him, and man and machine quickly found themselves thrust out into the clutches of space.

Everything was quiet in the moment before his team-mates loaded in. A great blue sphere—Earth—rose up out of the darkness behind him and in front of him was only the vast expanse of pin-pricked darkness. The silence was quickly shattered, however, from an incoming SOS transmission. Icarus patched it through to him and his squad.

“If anyone is out there, my name is Heero Yuy. My vessel is under attack by OZ forces and we are in urgent need of assistance. I repeat, if anyone is out there,  my name is Heero Yuy. My vessel…”

Heero Yuy? But that doesn’t sound like Heero…

 

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"Well." Wade responded to his colleague. "I guess we should prob-" His words were stopped by the 'mistake' Icarus had made, sending the group of 4 into the depths of space. The Local Type was intended for ground and water usage, but Wade knew space missions would be plentiful during their journeys. The Diver rotated a knob, making what looked like two revolver barrels turn to the right, replacing the ground thrusters with space specialized ones. 

With that out of the way, Wade overheard the desperate message from Heero Yuy. "Is it the real Heero Yuy? The politician?" The Diver thought as he headed toward the transmission at a much faster pace than the SD Gunpla he had. "This is Fleurs de Noblesse. We've heard your transmission and are coming to assist!" After sending a response back, Wade waved the others to follow. "This is a Hard+. Be on the lookout for anything fishy." Wade said calling out to his teammates.  

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Thankfully the cockpit materialized around him and he took a moment to orient himself. Aker brought up his menu and materialized his Zaft space suit on. He lifted his left hand up once more to flex his digits and frowned at the lack of sensation the limb still seemed to experience. 

He shook the thought out of his head as Wade’s voice chimed in over the radio about the mission difficulty. Seeing the Destiny put him in a foul mood and he was eager for a fight now. “Acknowledged.” He responded. Aker checked his instruments to see the status of his mobile suit. He hadn’t made any significant changes to his suit save for one detail. He swapped out his beam rifle out for the same rifle the Zeta Gundam used. Now he could turn the rifle into a melee weapon if need be. “Ok 8 stay frosty.” Despite himself he found himself looking at the red Destiny Gundam. “Guess we’ll see what you can do Luna…” he muttered to himself. 

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“Fleurs de Noblesse?” came the voice of Heero Yuy. The face of an older man appeared on the diver’s screens, confirming that it was indeed the politician and not his namesake “Well, whoever you are, your assistance is greatly appreciated. Our shuttle is at the following coordinates heading earthwards. If we can reach atmosphere, our UESA rendezvous force should be able to look after us, but until then we’re sitting ducks,”

Icarus angled his mobile suit towards the coordinates given and in short order the passenger shuttle came into view. “You’re out here alone?” Icarus said, scanning the vast expanse of black for any signs of the enemy.

“We did have an escort,” Heero said. “But they were all taken out by those mobile suits. I’ve never seen anything like them—”

All at once the Leo’s sensors set off with alarming volume, the cockpit lightning turning a deep and worrying red. The diver maxed his thrusters back ward just in time to avoid an overhead strike from a pair of superheated shotel swords.

Sandrock,

Icarus clenched his teeth as he activated his yellow beam saber and faced his enemy.

“I missed?” Dorothy Catalonia hissed over the comms system. “So, that’s no ordinary Leo, then. Hmph, fine. If you want to prolong your death, I’m more than happy to oblige,”

“I told you not to rush in,” Lucrezia Noin’s voice accompanied the whirring of the Heavyarms’s twin beam gatling guns before letting out a hail of bullets directed at the MK II Local Type and the Destiny. “What? They’ve got Gundams too?”

“Don’t get distracted,” the last voice was ice cold and unmistakably belonged to Lady Une. She brought the Deathscythe Hell out of it’s active clock, bringing up the beam scythe in a exploratory swing at the Jager, meant more to test it than destroy it outright. “Just deal with these fools and take out Yuy before Master Treize gets here.”

Icarus took a swipe at the Sandrock, only for the mobile suit to dance away. “Keep an eye on that shuttle and make sure it hits atmosphere, guys,” he said, readying himself for another assault from the Gundam.

 

 

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The Local Type's shield's swung out in front of it, keeping much of the damage from the Heavyarms away from the cockpit. "I'm glad I got some protection now." Wade boasted as his own gatling guns pointed at the Wing unit, returning fire. These were physical damage instead of beam, spinning around to create a flurry of lead. That wasn't enough for the Diver though. Now that he had the Jesta Cannon's rifle, he had a beam LMG and a standard beam rifle combined. Deciding on using the latter, he shot out three times. However, he knew it wouldn't be long before the shields let up. Wade pulled back to hopefully gain some distance.

With the others real members busy, Wade wanted to take advantage of their extra teammate. "Looks like we all got our targets except you Luna!" The Fleurs leader yelled out over the comms. "Stay close to the shuttle and protect it. We'll be expecting two more mobile suits." With a mobile suit like the Destiny, the Diver assumed nothing would bring her down, but this was no simple mission...

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Aker easily dodged the swipe from the Deathscythe.  He hadn’t had his cloak activated, and questioned himself for his oversight. His worries were short lived as he focused on the present. His dodge backward afforded him a chance to shoot at the Gundam attacking him. He brought about his beam rifle and leveled a shot at the Deathscythe. Wing Gundams were notoriously beefy with their defense so at best he thought he might shred some armor off his foe. It wouldn’t be enough either way. He kept his momentum and started flying backwards, weaving in a pattern to keep the Gundam guessing. If he could keep his distance me might have a chance at easily dispatching his opponent. 

Wade’s words rang true in Aker’s mind, there should be two more. Or could there be more? He frowned at the thought, if Oz had the big 5 where did that put Tallgeese in all of this? Or other Gundams for that matter? “Just how developed at you?” He muttered to himself as he performed his erratic dance. He tried to aim his rifle for another shot, hoping to keep his foe off balance with his beam weaponry. A small part of him was tempted to engage the Alaya-Vijana but he wanted to refrain from it as much as possible, at least this early on. 

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“I'm on it!” Lunamaria said, angling the Destiny towards the shuttle. She unfolded the long range beam cannon and waited patiently for any sign of incoming combatants who might arrive late to the party. Noin didn’t lose sight of her initial target however, letting the Destiny go for the time being while she dealt with the target in front of her. Noin brought up the Heavyarms's shield, which took the three shots Wade had let loose admirably, watching as the Mk II Local Type retreated to gain some space.

“Oh no you don’t,” she said, flipping a switch. The left shoulder hatches opened and three of the Gundam's seeker missiles streaked out, bearing down on the Mk II. “Let’s see what this thing is really capable of,” she muttered to himself. The chest armour, too, sprang open, revealing a set of twin gatling guns that whirred to life with gunfire directed at Wade's machine.

Meanwhile, Une continued her assault on the Jager, corkscrewing her machine around the bulk of Aker’s shots but allowing one or two to connect, knowing that the Deathscythe Hell could take it. Une let out a sharp, sneering laugh. “Pathetic, you think you can slip away from me?” Raising the suit’s left hand, the Deathscythe’s buster shield’s pincer blades snapped open and the shield itself blasted forwards towards Aker and his suit. Hoping that the pilot would be distracted, Une activated the Gundam’s cloaking system and Hyper Jammer. “You’re not worthy of Master Treize’s time, I’ll just kill you myself,”

Icarus had his own hands full with the Sandrock Custom, dodging this way and that and dancing away in a seemingly endless waltz to avoid the shotel. The DaeDAL was fast, but the Leo Chevalier felt agile and when he did miscalculate the distance and the shotels nicked his armour, he had faith that the Leo could take it. “What kind of machine is that?” Dorothy gritted her teeth. “A Leo shouldn’t be able to move like that, especially not in space,”

“You’re one to talk,” Icarus muttered to himself. He didn’t recall Dorothy ever piloting anything other than mobile dolls via remote and yet she was making the Sandrock fight as if it were built for her. “It’s time to take the lead,” Icarus evaded another swipe of the shotels and kicked the Leo’s GN Drive into high gear, bringing the yellow beam saber towards the Sandrock in a lunging thrust that pierced the Gundam’s shoulder armor. He had been aiming for the arm, but was still satisfied seeing the sword go through, even if it amounted to very little. Retracting the blade, Icarus spun the Leo around to the back of the Gundam and jetted backwards, switching the sword for his beam shot rifle.

Somewhere further out in space, two stars shot through the darkness towards the earth. “Sounds like the others have met with some resistance,” said one of the pilots, his fingers clenched firmly on the controls of his suit.

“I have every confidence that our comrades will succeed in their task,” said the other, his suit managing, if just barely, to keep up to his partner’s. “Soon, OZ will have done away with it’s final obstacle and stability and unity will be achieved at last,”

“Target is in sight. We seem to have four bogeys, one of which is keeping watch over Yuy’s shuttle,”

“I trust you can take care of them, Zechs?”

Zechs Merquise’s mouth curled up into a smile beneath his mask as he brought up the Twin Buster Rifles and let them charge.

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The twin gatling chest guns pounded Wade's shields, making tiny dents all around them, but still managed to hold on. However, one of the missiles sped between the Diver's protection, slamming into the right shield's connector. The shield spun around as it flew away from the Local Type, albeit quite slowly due to no gravity. "Aw man!" Wade cried, watching it float. This was no time to get distracted though. Wade disconnected his remaining shield, transferring it to the left arm's hardpoint. The steel arm rolled back into the backpack, giving the diver more room to fight.

"I can't just run..." Wade thought to himself, changing the direction of his thrusters. "I'm the leader of Fleurs and I gotta win!" His own gatling guns kept firing on the Heavyarms, with the Diver returning even more fire with his LMG option. the green and regular bullets were bound to put Zech's lover in a predicament, but Wade wasn't out of the woods yet. It would require a great amount of skill to take even one person out.

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Aker furrowed his brow as the Deathscythe fired it’s shield buster at him. He had no choice but to activate the blade on his rifle  to bat away the projectile. Between the flash of the shield launching and the resulting explosion of his counter he lost track of his enemy. His eye widened in realization of what his opponent did. He grimaced as he had no choice now, “8 lets do this!” 

The sensation of the the chilling pain etching along his body wasn’t so startling this time. Aker and 8 had tweaked the settings of the Alaya-Vijana some since the snow battle.  He was feeling more comfortable about using the system, despite his own misgivings. “As long as I don’t over do it…” he muttered as he felt the Astray seemingly become one with himself. From his own experience using a stealth system, he knew that it would be nigh impossible to track the Deathscythe in space.  Instead of relying on his eyes he was banking on the increased spacial awareness from the Alaya-Vijana. 

In-out, he steadied his breathing and tightened his grip on his weapon. He had to clear his mind, and focus on the present. He had to not think of the Destiny, not think of Lunamaria. Why would I think of her? He asked himself before chiding, focus! With any luck he could counter the Deathscythe and turn the Lady’s overconfidence into a his advantage. 

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Noin rejoiced to herself as she watched the enemy gundam’s shield hurtle into outer space, only for her smile to fade as her opponent pulled out another one and attached it to its arm. “That’s one seriously well-equipped mobile suit,” she tightened her grip on the controls of the Heavyarms Custom. This was no time to lose focus, she thought. She had to double down on her conviction to beat this pilot.

The flurry of bullets that Wade’s machine let loose absolutely tore up what remained of the Heavyarms’s shield, damaging the gatling guns underneath as well. While the Gundam was sturdy, it wouldn’t last long if she just let it get hit over and over again. Even though the Heavyarms Custom was adapted for space, it wasn’t nearly as fast as Zechs’s Gundam. Still, Noin cranked her thrusters to max and attempted to juke around to the Mk II’s flank as she readied her payload. Her machine may have been slow but it had plenty of firepower, and while only one of the beam gatling guns would spin now thanks to the damage her shield had sustained, Noin was ready to go all out to destroy the MK II Local Type.

“You’re mobile suit is pretty well-equipped,” she said to her opponent. “But let’s see if it can survive this,” she brought the Heavyarms to dead stop before switching the direction of her thrust in an attempt to get below her opponent. She let fly with a sustained burst from the remaining gatling gun and, with the flip of a switch, launched the 24 micro missiles stored in her mobile suits leg armor.

----

Une chuckled quietly to herself as she watched the Jager search for her in vain against the endless black backdrop. So pleased was she with her little trap that, as she inched closer like a spider to her prey, Une failed to notice the subtle change that had overtaken her opponent.

“All it will take is one strike,” she said to herself as she inched behind the Jager Astray. She was still some distance away from him—better to be safe than sorry—but she figured with the reach of the beam scythe, she could easily make up that gap without giving her opponent a chance to react. She hoisted the Deathscythe’s namesake up and, when she was ready to spring her trap, released her cloak and sent the weapon careening towards Aker and his mobile suit, making use of the scythe’s rocket thruster to give it the extra momentum she would need to cut the Astray in half.

“Die,” she said, a cool and evil smile creasing her lips.

----

Icarus brought up the beam shot rifle, sighted his opponent, and fired several bursts, hoping to catch the Sandrock in the spray. But Dorothy was playing it cautiously, managing to manoeuvre the gundam under and around the Leo’s fire. Once she had evaded the final burst, the Sandrock Custom launched two seeker missiles from its shoulder armour. Icarus, with little time to adjust, was forced to let one of them hit his mobile suit dead on, while the other collided with his shield.

“Tch,” Icarus clenched his teeth as his cockpit jostled wildly. “Am I just bad at this game?” he asked himself, trying to focus through the pressure as it bubbled up within him. The smoke of the explosions dissipated just in time for Icarus to see one of the shotels cutting through the distance between the two suits mere seconds before it cleaved into the Leo’s right leg.

“Come on,” Icarus swore under his breath. The shotel had wedged itself into the Leo’s leg, stopped only by virtue of its own Gundanium alloy armour. Icarus looked up to see the Sandrock practically in his face, its other sword raised in what he was sure Dorothy was hoping was a final strike. “Well, no time like now,” Icarus’s hand slammed down on the flashing button on his controls that read ‘Trans-Am’ and all at once, the Leo seemed to change. Instead of rocketing backwards, Icarus sent the Leo careening forwards, crashing it into the Sandrock and disrupting Dorothy’s slash. The two mobile suits flew through space in a jumbled, connected heap, until at last Icarus stopped his charge. While the Sandrock kept hurtling backwards, Icarus fired off more shots from the beam shot rifle and, with a free hand, freed the shotel from his unit’s leg.

----

The Destiny’s radar beeped. “I have two enemies inbound,” Lunamaria cried over the comms, alerting her fellow pilots. She scanned the space in front of her and, sure enough, caught two figures drawing nearer. She tracked one and when her lock was confirmed, Lunamaria sent a bolt of energy from her long range beam cannon. There was no time to confirm a hit though, as another beam of light streaked across the battlefield, a yellow light in contrast with her blue beam. She had not prepared for such a long range attack of that magnitude, only just managing to get the Destiny out of the way of the shot and losing it’s left foot in the process. Before she could ready another shot though, a green gundam appeared in front of her, its dragon-headed fist weapons sending out twin beams of fire in her direction.

“Damn it,” she cried, throwing the Destiny out of the way of the flames just in time. “My beam cannon is fried,” she said as she pulled her Arondight sword off her back. “Hey guys? I might be in trouble here,”

 

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There wasn't much time to react as the gatling blast went through the legs of the Gunpla. Bullets made clean holes in the feet as micro missiles now hit the backpack of the Local Type. The mobile suit had now taken a moderate amount of damage, worrying the leader. "Dammit! I can't use it yet!" He yelled as he thought about his best weapon, knowing he'd have to save it for later. He turned the Gunpla downward vertically, just barely getting the shield up before the other half of the missiles attacked their target.

The damage had been done though. The backpack's thrusters were stuck in space mode. While that wouldn't be a problem in a space only battlefield, more damage to them could be catastrophic. Wade grunted, hearing Luna was also in quite a bit of trouble. The Diver had to think of something, knowing how well matched the artillery machines were. That gave him an idea as he tossed the beam rifle to his now lonesome sub arm. 

"Alright, it's time to get real!" Wade uttered while pulling a large metal knife from the Gunpla's skirt. With its shield raised, the MK II blasted toward the Heavyarms, knowing it would retaliate, but he had to take it out quick. The Local Type's gatling guns and LMG blasted as the Diver pointed the knife forward, knowing fully well that the assault might be risky.

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When the Deathscythe came, Aker was ready. His theory about the Alaya -Vijana proved correct as he could “sense” the attack. The namesake weapon lashed out for him and he quickly spun around, his weapon ready to parry. The reach of the beam rifle allowed him to match some distance of the scythe and he used that as his opportunity to counter. With the precision that the Alaya-Vijana afforded, he angled his blade between the twin blades of the scythe. He leveraged his beam blade to lock the two weapons for a moment. He followed through with a volley from his head Vulcans toward the scythe’s beam emitters. He was hoping to knock the namesake weapon out of commission. 

“Let’s see whose worthy when you don’t even have a good weapon!” Aker yelled out, he yanked his beam rifle blade away sending smoke trailing away. He then shifted his weight to kick at the belly of the Deathscythe, sending the suit to float away. He heard Lunamaria’s voice and his focus shifted from his squabble, to the Zaft pilot. He needed to protect her, but why? He wondered briefly. He then contemplated giving chase to his enemy but decided he needed to protect the shuttle and broke his engagement. Maybe Lady Une would make him regret that choice but he had to focus on the priority. “I’m on my way to the shuttle!” He called out frantically. “I hope I’m not too late…” he muttered as he made his way. 

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“So it’s a knife fight you want, huh?” the grimace that had graced Noin’s face as she took the brunt of the MK II’s fire turned into a smirk as the machine drew near. Without her shield, she had been forced to take the Local Type’s counterattack head-on, the gatling guns and LMG leaving significant wear and tear in the struggling Gundanium alloy. Noin knew that the Heavyarms was not designed for melee combat, but that didn’t mean it didn’t have options. By bringing his machine in close, all the enemy pilot had done was make the playing field equal.

With the enemy closing in, Noin fired the Gundam’s Vulcans and shoulder machine guns, hoping to distract the pilot. Finally, as the Mk II flew into melee range and the point of its knife threatened to pierce her machine, Noin deployed the Heavyarms’s own combat knife from its wrist armour and parried the enemy blade. “You have to wake up pretty early in the morning to think such a rookie tactic is going to work on me,” Noin smiled. She flipped open the chest panels again and tried to fire what little ammo she had left from the gatling guns within, but the system gave her an error message. “What?” she uttered under her breath. Maybe she had been too reckless after all. The panels opened but the gatling guns failed to turn.

--

Une’s eyes widened in sheer surprise as the Jager spun around on her, it’s rifle-mounted beam blade locking with the blades of her scythe. “Impossible,” she cried, putting all of her attention into pushing the blades closer to the mobile suit. But Aker had an advantage that Une didn’t. With the hyper focus of the Alaya Vijnana, Aker’s Vulcan fire landed true, tearing through the emitter of the scythe. The beams flickered and faded and before she could react, the Deathscythe Hell was being propelled backward by the Jager’s kick.

“Damn you,” Une cried, watching as the enemy flew off towards the other Gundams and the shuttle. She turned her attention back to the seemingly useless weapon in her hands. “Work, damn it,” she hissed. The Deathscythe brought its fist up to the emitter and knocked on it several times. Eventually, life seemed to return to the weapon, if only barely. A beam blade flashed out of the lower emitter, much shorter and fainter than it had been previously. It might only be good for one more strike, but one more was all she would need, she assured herself. Correcting the course of her suit, Une activated the active cloak one more time and made her way in haste to where the fighters were slowly congregating.

--

The Leo Chevalier hefted the shotel in its hand. The suit definitely was not meant to wield such a weapon but desperate times called for desperate measures and Trans Am seemed to make the impossible possible, at least for a time. “An actual sword might be a good idea for this thing, actually,” Icarus said to himself as he turned his attention to the Sandrock Custom ahead of him. Dorothy had managed to get the machine under control and for a moment the two suits simply watched each other, swords in hand.

“Neat trick,” Dorothy sneered. “Now give me back my sword,”

“You’re going to have to fight me for it,” Icarus allowed himself a slight smirk to cross his lips. “You should know I’m prone to fighting to the bitter end,”

“Then the bitter end you shall have,”

And with that, the two suits charged forward, shotels raised. As they drew nearer, each took their respective swing. But mere moments before they clashed, Dorothy activated a feature that Icarus had forgotten about. The Sandrock’s shield came to life with a bright flash that filled Icarus’s cockpit with blinding light. The diver winced in surprise, but it was too late to abort his attack. Just as he felt the Leo’s shotel cleave into the heavy Gundanium alloy, he could feel his enemy cleave into his own armour.

“Son of a—” Icarus bit off the end of his sentence, bracing for a killing blow that…didn’t come. His vision, obscured by patches of colours, returned slowly but in time he saw it. The shotel that the Leo had swung was deeply embedded in the torso of the now inert Sandrock Custom, while the Sandrock’s shotel was…

My shield…

He had almost forgotten about the shield mounted on the Leo’s shoulder. In his panicked reaction to the flashbang, he must have accidentally adjusted himself just enough to render the Sandrock’s attack mostly harmless.

“Phew,” Icarus let out a long exhale and a light chuckle before remembering that he was far from done. Getting his bearings once more, the diver located the shuttle, now under assault by the Wing Zero and the Altron. The Destiny was struggling to keep up, but Aker and now himself were on their way.

--

Lunamaria was in over her head. No matter how she manoeuvred around the green Gundam or swung her sword, the Altron had an answer. Whoever was in the cockpit, she thought, was good—very good. Better than herself, though she hated to admit it. It was all she could do to avoid the swings and jabs of the enemy’s twin beam trident. There was also the added complication of the other mobile suit, which hung back. It seemed to be mostly observing, taking careful shots every now and then but nothing at the same caliber as the initial beam it had fired before.

“Why?” she muttered to herself. “What are you waiting for?”

“Don’t get distracted,” the voice of Treize Khushrenada rang out over her radio. “I’m your opponent,”

Another flurry of jabs and swipes from the trident made it necessary for Lunamaria to bring up the Destiny’s beam shield.  The two of them locked, face to face, as the trident sparked against the Solidus Fulgor, the sounds of amusement coming from her enemy’s cockpit.

“That machine of yours is pretty impressive,” he said. “But I can see every weakness,”

Keeping her shield up, Lunamaria let go of the Arondight sword, brought the Destiny’s hand up to its shoulder and flung forth a beam boomerang that arced around the shield and embedded itself in the Altron’s leg. Yet Treize’s laughter only intensified.

“Very good,” he said. “Then you are a worthy opponent. I guess I’ll get serious then. Your shield seems to block physical and beam weaponry, but a shield can only do so much.” Treize released one hand from the trident, extended it around the beam shield and let loose another stream of flame that required Luna to move the Destiny to evade. As she did so, she felt a tremendous sense of relief wash over her as she saw the Jager incoming.

“Aker,” she said excitedly. “Thanks for the save, let’s get this gu—”

“I said, ‘don’t get distracted’,” Treize’s voice crescendoed as he drove the trident into the waist armour of the Destiny.

Zechs, watching from a distance in the Wing Zero, merely shook his head. “It’s over, then,” he said as he levelled a single buster rifle at the Destiny and fired. “I’ll put you out of your misery,”

The beam collided with Destiny, piercing through its torso from behind. The Altron retreated as the Gundam began to explode, keeping his eyes on the incoming opponents that had caught Lunamaria’s attention and cost her her life.

“And you, are you a worthy challenger?” he asked of the Astray.

 

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Knowing about possible bonuses, Wade aimed the knife to the side of the cockpit, trying not to make the same mistake as last mission. Surprisingly, the Heavyarms didn't retaliate as the Diver pried the two doors open. The "plastic" hinges snapped, revealing the female pilot inside. With a little tap on the back side of the machine, Wade knocked Noin forward out of her seat. "Better make sure you can't get back in!" Wade stated while pulling off two yellow grenades from the Gunpla's chest. He shoved both inside the enemy cockpit, kicking it away from the two. In a fiery blaze, the Heavyarms was no more.

There was no time to celebrate though as the Diver watched a large beam utterly destroy their rental. "Are you kidding me?!" He yelled out. "She didn't even do anything yet!" He knew it was a longshot bringing an average pilot to a difficult battle like this, but now Fleurs was down a man, or woman in this case. "I'll heading to the Wing Zero! I'll be there soon!" Wade traded the knife for the rifle, with the sub arm folding back with the blade. He knew there wasn't much time before disaster struck, blasting in the direction of the main battle. However, Wade wondered if he'd be enough help against the hard plus opponents.

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Gone, she was just gone. One moment she was thanking him then the next she was gone. Aker sucked in his breath from the destruction, his breathing came in ragged draws. Altron looked at him, its’ face silently asking for some sort of approval for the action. Trieze may have said something to Aker but he didn’t register what it was. He couldn’t blink, he couldn’t turn away from the murder. “Lunaaaaa!” He wailed out loud, pain etching his voice with the cry. He quickly turned his outrage into anger and clenched his teeth tightly. He sucked in some air and then went limp. Closing his eyes he could feel the space around him, he could feel the endless void. “All of it…” the words were barely a whisper. 

Hunter looked up at Trieze, murderous intent in his eyes. “All if it 8. I don’t care if it cripples me.” Through trial and error he knew that the AI couldn’t respond when the Alaya-Vijana was activated but he could sense the hesitation from the machine. Gripping the controls he lurched forward in his seat, “All of it! Give me everything the Jäger has to offer!” He cried out, a fanatical tone in his howl. Hunter could feel the machine relent and the cold sensation chilled throughout his entire body. The emerald eyes of the Astray flared with a surge of power as the Alaya-Vijana fully activated. “Trieze!” He roared as he launched towards the aristocrat.

He fired a few shots from his rifle, the last shot elongating into a beam blade, and he launched the weapon forward like a spear at Trieze. As Hunter closed the distance he produced his katana from his back. “You don’t know the first thing about being noble you cocky bastard! I’ll kill you!” The words cracked out from his battle cry. Blood dripped from his left nostril in a steady stream and red lines etched his left eye. His eyes were wide with a deep rage and murderous intent. All the heart ache in his past couldn’t compare to that sense of loss he was feeling at that moment. Loss that he was dead set on avenging at any cost. 

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Treize smirked as his newly arrived opponent roared his name and threatened to kill him, his eyes flashing with the joy of battle as he leaned into his controls. “Your machine is different. I can your conviction flowing through it. It won’t be enough though. I can see every move you make in intense detail. I know your every weakness,” Treize danced the machine out of the way of the beams and batted the beam rifle aside with an extended arm. The enemy pilot’s movements were precise and deliberate and he moved with a fluid elegance that the OZ leader had to commend. It reminded him of the ZERO system, in some ways, only more reactive than proactive.

“Zechs,” Treize said through a widening smile. “Make sure no one disturbs us, will you?”

“Treize, what are you…?” Zech’s voice trailed off as he saw his friend sortie with the Jager. “…I see. I swear, Treize, some day that honor of yours will get you killed,”

Khushrenada dashed towards the incoming Astray and locked weapons with it, katana clashing with the beams of his own trident.

“Tell me,” he said. “I can tell your heart aches with sorrow and rage, but will you simply let your emotions get the better of you? To do so would surely mean your destruction,” The Altron’s Vulcans whirred to life and spat out a continuous stream of bullets at the Jager’s head.

--

Icarus pushed the Leo as hard as he could, the red particles of the GN drive propelling him forward fast enough to catch up with Wade in the MK II.


“Give me a sit-rep, Boss. Your machine is looking a little banged up,” Icarus almost cracked a smile. He was one to talk, what with his Leo’s leg hanging on by a thread and a shotel embedded in his shield. Icarus had left the other shotel behind, letting it rest in what remained of the Sandrock custom and wielding instead the beam shot rifle once more.  “Should we back up Aker? Or do we take out the Wing Zero together?”

--

The Wing Zero’s alarms announced incoming enemies, but Zech’s had already anticipated this. He brought the Wing Zero around to face these newcomers and closed his eyes. A moment later, the masked man gave a wry smile and nodded.

“So that’s how it is, then. Very well,” he said. He hailed the Mk II Local Type and the Leo Chevalier on his comms. “Whoever you are, you put up a formidable fight. But I have already seen the path to victory—the path to the future. And it is a future without you.” The Wing Zero spread its wings and boosted forward, slamming the rifles together again. Taking aim at the two approaching mobile suits, the Twin Buster Cannon’s barrel began to glow a brilliant yellow.

“Farewell,” Zechs said, letting fly a massive beam of light that streaked across the darkness of space.

 

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