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Gabriel Winter sat in the lounge of his space base. He reclined into his seat and rubbed his face with his good hand, his lame arm strapped across his chest with a harness. For perhaps the hundredth time he questioned what he was doing, but he decided it was worth his curiosity to try. He brought up his menu and selected the NPD rental section. Gabriel paused as he hovered over the option to rent and decided to go ahead. Within a few moments a red headed girl materialized in his lounge.

Lunamaria smiled and announced cheerily, “Lunamaria Hawke reporting for duty!” She saluted almost exactly like the last time her saw her and he winced as he studied her. “I can’t wait to work with you!” She said as she walked over to the seated Gabriel. Standing up he offered his hand to the NPD, his limb shook from fear, and she responded by taking up the handshake. “Do you… do you recognize me?” He asked through a strained voice. She cocked her head at the question seeming lost in thought, and Gabriel held his breath. 

———

Aker stood on the oil platform by the rails overlooking the sea. The wind blew into his fair features the saltiness of the sea. It was both chilling and invigorating. He found that he liked that particular perch, with the wind rushing at him he could loose himself entirely in its intensity. The wind reminded him that there were greater forces at play, always. It humbled him to merely exists against the gusts. His contemplation was interrupted by the chime of a new message. He brought up his menu to investigate. 

Even with the wind in his face he found himself squinting at the message from his Zapp friend. “You want me to do what?” He asked more to himself as he thought about how to respond. The mysterious Zapp agent was perhaps the only person who knew exactly who Aker, or rather Gabriel Winter, really was. It was the same person who gifted him with the space nest and a small fortune which Aker had been keeping secret from his friends in Fleurs De Noblesse. This particular message was a plea for what? Humanity? Curiosity? For, as kind as the Zapp figure had been to Aker, the man had been a riddle of emotions that Aker still couldn’t sift through at times. 

The request was asking Aker to hack into an active campaign to do some dirty work it seemed. Curious, Aker promptly responded back with a simple, “do I have to do this alone? I have a team I can work with.” As expected there was a delay and finally the response came back. “Look for an active mission offer. Will be similar to your last jobs. The more the merrier.” Aker scoffed at the reply but nodded his approval. He decided he’d float things with his teammates to see what they thought. He contemplated telling them the truth for perhaps the hundredth time but thought against it. As far as he knew they were there just for a game, the flavor of the mission shouldn’t matter as much. He sent a notice to the other members of Fleurs De Noblesse and waited to see when they would show up to his call for an “exciting mission”.

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Ray rubbed his eyes with his finger and thumb and groaned. “Yeah, okay, fine,” he said as he took the last sip of his beer. He placed the glass back down on the patio table perhaps a little too hard, judging by the deep ‘thunk’ it made. “If you’re going to be this stubborn about it, there’s not really any way I can say no, is there?”

“Not at all,” said the woman across from him. Amelia van Coor was beaming from cheek to cheek, having finally broken her friend’s will and weaseled her way into a visit to his Force nest. “You know me so well, Ray. I’m glad you finally see the futility in telling me no,” she laughed and took a deep pull of her own beer.

“I didn’t say ‘no’,” Ray said, scratching his chin and casting a sidelong glance at his dark-haired friend. “I just suggested that maybe we wait a bit before I…unleash you on the guys,”

“Unleash me?” Amelia quirked a brow. “You make me sound like some kind of perv. I just want to meet your new friends, Ray. You’ve seemed a lot happier lately, you know? So of course, I must meet the people responsible,”

“Yeah, yeah,” Raymond checked his watch and rubbed his eyes again. “We should probably get a move on then, Mel. The shop is probably packed by now,”

Amelia stood up, straightened her long black hair and smoothed out her skirt and nodded, flipping a couple of bills out onto the table for their server. The two of them walked down the busy city street, passing through phases of idle chit-chat and silence. In those quiet moments, Ray worried about the meeting ahead. He hoped that Aker was doing better since their last sortie, but…

It’s not that simple, is it?

Soon enough, the two reached the game store and luckily managed to find two units next to each other. Placing their models on the scanning units, the two of them entered the digital world.

--

Icarus looked over at Amelia’s avatar as she loaded in. She had a sharp pink pixie cut and was dressed in a customized version of Domon Kasshu’s clothes, sporting a pink cape rather than a red one. Mel referred to herself in game as ‘Million’ and reminded Icarus of it, rather aggressively, every time he slipped up. So to meet her half way, he settled on calling her…

“Mill,” he said as they met in the lobby. “You have to promise me that you’ll be chill with these guys. One’s just a kid and the other…” he thought about Aker’s secret. “Well, the other’s going through a hard time right now. So…you know,”

“Please, Ick,” Million herself had decided that if Icarus could use a shortened version of her name, he could receive the same treatment. Icarus, naturally, hated it. “Everyone knows I’m the queen of chill,”

Good lord,

The two of them took off in their respective suits, flying way out to sea until, at last, the oil rig came into view. Icarus landed his newly upgraded Leo in it’s usual spot, but made enough room for Million to land her suit as well—a SEED suit she dubbed the Star Dueller, which naturally combined the Stargazer with the Duel. How she ever made the combo work was beyond Icarus, but he gave her points for creativity.

As they exited their suits, Icarus spotted Aker staring out over the water. Tora had run up to them as well, barking happily and firing confetti every which way. Million was immediately taken with the miniature LaGOWE, bending down to pet it furiously. Meanwhile, Icarus continued towards his team-mate, raising his arm in the air.

“Yo, Aker,” he cried, the wind catching the folds of his new uniform. “I brought a friend today, I hope that’s cool. How’s it going?”

Edited by Judge
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"I... only got... one shot... left!!!"

In one of the many forest areas, a small military base looked like a blemish against the trees and wildlife. The few building it had were demolished, rubble spread across the paved road. It wouldn't be permanent, as GBN reset broken parts of its virtual world after a certain amount of time, but now was not the time. A fight between two Divers was in full effect, creating damage to the landscape and to themselves.

A single Gundam stood atop a mishmash of steel and concrete, the only place it could go to be above its opponent. The Gunpla was violently shaking, not only from its uneven footing, but because each of its limb were barely hanging on. There was no backpack to be seen, and the damage taken meant trouble for the young Diver. "I can't screw this up, all my energy is going into this!" The Local Type held its newly acquired buster rifle, still shaking while attempting to aim.

A black Ahead didn't move an inch, only pointing its custom broadsword toward Wade's Gunpla. "This guy is such a moron..." The Ahead's Diver snickered to himself while watching the buster rifle slowly charge up. Wade watched the charging meter intently, impatiently waiting for his final assault to commence. "Annnnnd. NOW!" The beam that protruded from his weapon was by far the largest the Diver had ever shot. Thankful he had participated in the Hard + mission, his reward left no trace of the paved road or many of the trees behind it.

The Local Type fell to its knees, rolling down the broken building remnants to the scalding hot surface. "I did it." Wade softly spoke, his mobile suit laying on its back. "The power of this weapon. It's-it's immeasurable!" He began laughing to himself, pumping his fist in the air. "Watch out Chris! UNIVERZ is gonna fall after I-" A sword jammed itself deep into the cockpit of the Gunpla, the Ahead standing atop it. 

BATTLE ENDED

...

Wade now laid his head on his fist, sitting in the dining area of a McDaniel. Another loss had been added to his battle record, taking him one step further from making a name for himself and his team. Leaving a half-eaten burger on the table, the Diver slowly got out of his seat. Walking out to a very beautiful beachside town, Wade noticed a Gaza-D doing tricks in the sky. He thought back to when he did tricks in the then-new Local Type. He was so excited to use it, but maybe the machine wasn't up to snuff... or the pilot. 

His thoughts were stopped by a notice sent by his comrade at the oil rig. Not wanting to be left out, he ran at an immense pace to the nearby hangar, housing a repairing Local Type. It wasn't long before the Gunpla was in the air, speeding past the Gaza and heading to his team's Force Nest. Thankfully, it wasn't a long trip and in no time flat his Gunpla rested its feet on the remaining platform. "Wait... Who's that?"

502889651_image0(4).thumb.jpeg.ba55c1afbbd31f825105a703b64e26f2.jpeg

Wade thought was a finely tuned Gunpla and easily found the pilot of it, a pink haired woman next to Icarus. Teleporting out of his own Gunpla, the Fleurs leader met up with the others. "Looks like the gang, plus one, is all here!" Wade hoped the others would fill him in on the new Diver and the "exciting mission".

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((group collab thanks guys!))

Aker heard his name called out and turned around to see the two new mechs perched at the oil rig. Before he could look at Icarus he saw Wade’s machine approach in for a landing as well. He tilted his head as he realized the extra machine then looked at Icarus and the girl he brought with him. Finally the words registered in his head and he forced a polite smile even though he was slightly more nervous around an unknown diver. “Hey Icarus!” He waved back as he walked towards his teammate. Aker’s Fleurs uniform flapped in the wind some as a particularly strong gust hit his back. He approached forward and offered his hand to the lady while answering Icarus. “Of course! Any friend of Icarus is a friend of mine! My name is Aker, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He realized he must have looked quite the sight standing there like that in the wind and nodded to their lounge. “Let’s catch up inside?” He asked and nodded to Wade as their fearless leader showed up not far behind Icarus. Aker lead the way and soon they were all inside the comfortable interior of their force nest.

-Icarus smiled faintly as everyone convened. Even Wade, showed up with delightfully good timing. 

“You can call me Million,” his pink haired friend said as she shook hands with Aker. She said it loud enough for Wade to hear as well, giving him a wave as she approached. The four of them headed inside and Icarus sat himself down at one of their new tables, which they had purchased after their last mission. Million sat down next to him, her eyes scanning around the interior of the tower.

She let out a whistle “Not bad, Ick. I would’ve expected a Force Nest owned by three dudes to be an absolute pig sty but it seems your friends know how to look after themselves. You should see his IRL apartment, it’s an absolute mess. Plates, papers, and empty beer cans everywhere.”

“M-Mill…” Icarus felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment. “Come on, don’t out me like that. It’s not that bad,”

“I mean, it’s not great either, pal. You could learn a thing or two from your friends,”

Icarus simply let out a sigh. “So what’s going on, Aker? What’s this exciting mission?”

 

- The main area inside was thankfully better than when they had first purchased the oil rig, with Wade noticing the new tables and furniture. Million seemed interested to the Diver. The was clearly a closer connection between her and his teammate, but getting others to join would help their rank go up. “We gonna impress her or something.” Wade thought as he sat down on one of the couches. “Yeah, I wanna know too.” The Diver said aloud to Aker.

 

- Aker had to chuckle at the back and forth between Million and Icarus. It was refreshing to see close friends together. He brought his hand up to his mouth to hide his mirth before clearing his throat. “Well I found this mission and it looked really interesting…” he said cryptically as he sent the description to his comrades. It was fairly mundane sounding of course. “I know we just escorted a shuttle last game but this one says there’s stages to it and that the reward is a mystery. I think that in itself could be worth trying it out?  Basically we go with a shuttle into space and escort it to a colony the whole way through. What do you guys think?”

He was doing his best not to hype things up too much, he wanted to be convincing not suspicious. His eyes wondered towards the new guest in their nest and he briefly wondered how long it would take for Wade to address the elephant in the room. Maybe her presence would distract everyone from the mission details enough that they would mindlessly agree to talk about the potential prospect instead?

The description matched Aker’s assessment while simply listing the mission as hard plus, the difficulty Fleurs seemed to be gravitating towards.

 

-Icarus nodded along as Aker described the mission ahead. Their previous mission had, ostensibly, been an escort mission as well, but in fact focused more on defeating the Operation Meteor Gundams. Even if the content seemed similar on paper, Icarus was sure they were in for a much different experience.

"Sounds interesting," he said "we shouldn't need an NPD either with Mill here. Though I don't know how you get anything done with a machine like that."

Million cast a sideways glance at Icarus and smiled slyly. "That 'machine' you're referring to happens to be one of the most statistically powerful combinations out there," she raised her head in mock gallantry. "But I would be happy to guest star on this mission and save you boys some credits."

"You're so generous," Icarus said, deadpan. "And we'll see just how 'statistically powerful' it really is, won't we?"

 

- Part of him was worried. With multiple parts, the hard plus mission could be even more challenging than the last. Wade pushed himself off the couch into an upright position. “Sounds like one of those Serial Battle Missions.” He wondered if the reward would even be worth it, but they had been in the past, his last Diver fight withstanding. “Then we got ourselves a plan.” He glanced at the pink haired girl. “With Icarus’ buddy joining the mission, we’ll probably have a better shot compared to using an NPD.”

 

-Aker nodded his agreement with Wade’s assessment. He cringed slightly at the nonchalant mention of NPDs almost like they were tools but he let it slide. If Aker’s Contact was willing to ask him to risk his own life then the task must be worth the risk on some fundamental level. Or at least that’s what Aker kept telling himself.

He then nodded over to Million and tilted his head, “does this mean we can count on you?” Aker looked at the time on his menu realizing that there was indeed a timer counting down the mission being available. He cocked his head not noticing that detail before. Shaking the thought from his head he looked at the newcomer again, curious what they would say. 

 

-"Absolutely, boss," Icarus said, looking at Wade. Then he looked at Million, quirked a brow, and then looked back to Wade. "Maybe not as good a shot as if we had a real ringer of an NPD, but better than some definitely and--ow, hey!" 

Icarus recoiled from the elbow that had rammed itself into his ribs. Million smiled and turned to Aker, who had proceeded to ask if they could count on her. "Who me? Absolutely! I could go down a list of my various achievements if you like? Oh, but that might be tacky...well, just know you're in safe hands. I taught Icarus everything he knows, after all,"

 

-Aker nodded his agreement with Million’s claim and he offered a small smile. He wasn’t the most personable person on a good day so he was really trying his best now. “Well if we’re all in agreement we better get to it, there’s a half-life on the mission being available.” As he talked he brought up the option to launch the mission. The oil rig shimmered away and was replaced by, the same thing? At first Aker thought the game had rejected the little hack Zapp had done to get them into this mission. He was sitting in his mobile suit but was gazing out at the ocean just like a few moments ago. The Jager was standing on a platform but it wasn’t their oil rig. He looked around realizing that they were on the ocean on a series of platforms which formed a long elevated track which gently curved to aim at the sky. “A mass driver!” Aker said to himself and he realized they were on the junk guild’s mass driver made out in the middle of the ocean. 

Nodding in approval at the success of uploading into the new world he double checked his load out. He had opted out the katana and Zeta rifle in favor of the GN blade and beam pistol from his old Ardent Exia. He also had a Force striker equipped from the impulse to let the Jager fly in the atmosphere. It was missions like these he missed the GN drive but he knew the Alaya-Vijana had been a worthwhile trade off. Or had it? Aker looked at his lame arm it was still strapped across his chest and could become free if he moved the arm. He hadn’t activated the Alaya-Vijana yet, it was a good reason why he equipped the GN blade so he could rely on his good arm more. While he was tempted to activated the system to feel his arm again, he was becoming increasingly weary of the system and the performance trade off. “Not yet…” he muttered to himself and looked around for his teammates. 

Before he could start counting his teammates however he was greater by a cheery voice. “Oh my! We didn’t see you approach! I hope you are here as friends?” Aker froze at the voice and hissed in disgust, “that man has sick sense of humor…” Aker muttered and not for the last time, as he referenced the Zapp agent. “That’s an affirmative … Ms. Clyne… we’re Fleurs De Noblesse and we’re here to offer you protection on your perilous journey home.” 

One of his screens turned into a video feed and the face of the pink haired princess showed up looking at him. He grimaced and took a deep breath, she was younger than Meer was, it made it only slightly easier to talk to the girl who reminded him of his ex. “You must be the people Mr. Creed talked about! Thank you so very much for your assistance. We’re almost done loading up and we’ll be taking off shortly.” 

Aker nodded his acknowledgment and did his best not to blush from the warm compliments, “understood ma’am. We… we’ll make sure you get home… Aker out.” He cut the feed and looked for his teammates. It occurred to him that they didn’t know about his past fling with a Lacus cosplayer named Meer. “So much to tell them…” Aker muttered. 

Edited by Roromi
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As the oil rig faded away, it was replaced by yet more ocean. Icarus was in the seat of the newly upgraded Leo Chevalier, sporting its new physical sword and a second shield mounted on its other arm, and looking out over the water. It took him a moment to realize that he wasn’t still at the rig though, and a quick scan after that indicated that they were in the mission already—at the base of what looked like a mass driver.

“Of course,” he said to himself. “Of course we’re heading back into space,” he had been hoping for a mission planet-side, but it looked like they would only be spending a little bit of their time on terra-firma…or aqua-firm, judging by their surroundings. The platforms were a stroke of luck for the others on the team. He wasn’t sure that they were flight capable in atmosphere like the Leo was, and there didn’t seem to be any base jabbers in sight. Aker and Wade would likely have to hop from spot to spot to advance, unless they had some surprises up their sleeves that Leo didn’t know about. That just left Million.

“Does that pink and white monstrosity of yours fly, Mill?”

“Well, uh,” Million chuckled slightly to herself. “Truth be told, this thing is a bit of a brick in atmo. Get her out into space though and she soars like an eagle.”

So that makes me the most mobile…mobile suit.

“Right, I guess I’ll take point then. Aker, Wade, your guys’ suits are grounded too, right?”

Icarus revved up the GN drive and the Leo’s feet began to gracefully lift from the ground. Then, a familiar voice rang out over his comms. “Lacus Clyne? Are we escorting the Eternal?”

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There wasn't much of a scenery change, save for the Mass Driver instead of an oil rig. The Fleurs leader had hoped they wouldn't be in space again and he was correct. With his air thrusters already in place, the Diver was met with a question from Icarus. His teammate essentially just asked him to show off his Gunpla's gimmick, at least, that's what Wade out of of his question.

"The Local Type is ready to fight anywhere!" Wade gave a thumbs up to his friend on the viewscreen, turning a knob with his other hand. Each of the thrusters on the Gunpla's back and legs rotated, showing the group his land, air, and space thrusters, along with his water rudders. spinning back to air, the Diver took no time at all blasting into the sky. The white mobile suit did a 180 as he switched to his water rudders, breaking the ocean barrier. In very little time, Wade flew back to the surface, landing back on the ground.

At this point, the Diver was just showing off and was thankfully stopped in his tracks by the second pink haired individual there. It was clear to Wade that this was a Seed related mission, but something stuck out to the Diver from Lacus' speech. "Who's Mr. Creed?" He thought, noticing how large this area truly was from his cockpit. "That's not a Seed character, right?" Immediately, something was off, but he didn't let it bother him. After all, the mission had only just begun.

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He was hesitant to say that he felt confident but it was hard not to feel that way with such a formidable force on his side. Aker knew what Fleurs was capable of doing and so far they had defied the odds in succeeding so well in all their challenges. “We can do this…” he vowed quietly to himself. His screen opened another window with a magnified view of Lacus loading into a shuttle at the end of the run way. Aker tilted his head as he saw a coffin looking device follow in her wake. The screen magnified again and he saw the face of Kira Yamato inside the casket looking capsule behind a protective screen. “We’re escorting Kira…” Aker said loud enough so his teammates could hear, even though it sounded like he was talking to himself. If this was Creed’s game then Kira could have an impact on events yet to come. Kira was easily one of the strongest pilots to exists, was the Zapp agent merely trying to cheat the game? Aker was already shaking his head at the notion however. Creed, if they really was his name, was one of the best divers he’d had to deal with, it’s likely that man wouldn’t shrink away from a challenge, would he? “What’s the value of Kira’s life versus everyone else’s? Or Lacus for that matter?” Again Aker mused rather loudly, enough for his teammates to hear. 

His thoughts didn’t last long as the radar picked up a trio of bogeys. “Contact!” Aker called out and flared the thrusters on the Force pack making the Jäger take flight. As he took the sky he flew closer to the trio of mysterious suits in the sky, it couldn’t be a coincidence that unknown machines were there too. A blue bolt flew at Aker and he was forced to twist suit to the right to have the blast hit his shield. The bolt hit hard and sent Aker tumbling. It was difficult to pilot the suit with one hand but he was determined not to give into the Alaya-Vijana so easily. It took him a moment to level out and get his bearing again. He then saw what it was that shot at him. The trio of flags flew past him with a uncanny precision. “This will be fun!” A gruff voice called out as the Union Flag transformed, the two wingman doing the same. “Hey hey hey!” Another pilot responded to the first, “this ones mine!” A flag flew at Aker drawing out a blue blade as the other two went for his teammates. There was something eerily familiar about the trio that Aker couldn’t quite nail down just yet. He brought out his GN blade just in time to block the incoming strike. There was an intensity in the enemy pilot that Aker wasn’t quite used to seeing, a clear intent to shoot him down. “Who are you?” Aker called out as he tried to maintain his composure.

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Icarus nodded as he saw Wade demonstrate what his abilities could do. Furthermore, in taking a closer look at Aker’s machine, he saw that it was, in fact, equipped with a flight-capable striker pack as well.

“Glad I was mistaken,” the diver said to himself, looking over at Million. “I guess it’s just you then who’s grounded,”

“Bah,” the female diver waved his comment away. “Who needs to fly when you have this much firepower anyway? I’ll be fine whenever the enemy—” the long range alarms of the divers’ suits went off simultaneously.

“Speak of the devil,” Icarus gripped his controls tighter. “Mill, stay close to the shuttle and keep you eyes open for any late-comers to the party and take shots where you can...,”

“Oh so you’re the boss now, are you?”

“…please?” Icarus rolled his eyes, but smiled despite himself.

“Well since you asked so nicely, I guess I can do that,”

Icarus nodded and then pushed the Leo forward through the air, following after Aker who had already taken off. A trio of Union Flags were the approaching enemies. Icarus had not seen all of 00, but he knew that the Flags were solid machines capable of transformation and not to be taken lightly. Luckily, the diver knew some of the common tactics among transformable mobile suits and could be on the look out. In the meantime, though, he found himself dipping and whirling out of the way of oncoming beams. Icarus remarked to himself on how different flying the GN driven Leo in atmospheric combat felt to his time in space. He certainly felt heavier, but the drive allowed him a not insignificant amount of grace as the green particles flew off around him into the air.

“Alright, let’s see what these upgrades can do,” Icarus muttered as he drew nearer to one of the Flags, which had transformed into its mobile suit configuration. The clamps holding the Leo’s new battle blade opened and as he grabbed it, Icarus brought the sword around in one fluid swing. But the Flag seemed ready for him and managed to juke out of the way just in time. It swung its own blade in retaliation, which struck the shield of the Leo as it dodged.

Icarus thought for a moment about everything they had learned since entering the mission. Kira, these Flags…and whoever this Creed guy they keep talking about…something weird is going on here.

The swords of the two machines clashed and the two combatants pressed towards each other in the rising heat of battle.

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It wouldn't be long before the enemies' assault commenced, with Wade watching the three Union Flags pick their targets. "Welp. Here we go!" The Diver had has Gunpla crouch down to warm up the air thrusters. He wanted to get high in the sky quickly to catch up with the remaining member of his opponent's group. Blue flames spurted out of each thruster as the Local Type launched like a rocket. The inside of the mobile suit began to shake while Wade grasped the controls harder. "I wasn't expecting to go this fast!"

Pushing the joysticks down as far as he could, the Diver was now well above each of the other mobile suits, but the Union Flag didn't care. "Oh geez!" The 00 unit's blue saber slashed above them, just barely missing the Local Type's legs. Wade began floating closer to the ground as his sub arms brought out two shields. Now even in height, the Flag sliced at Wade's defenses, causing deep singe marks into the shields.

"This isn't good!" The Local Type wasn't meant for close combat, so he blasted backwards through the clouds. For a split second, he contemplated using his beam rifles, but that much power early on could lead to disaster later on in the mission. Instead, Wade flipped down his gatling guns, sending a multitude of bullets into the direction of the Union Flag. With each Diver in combat, he hoped the others were alright. From where he stood, or in this case hovered, he couldn't see his comrades.

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“Who cares?” The gruff voice replied back to Aker as the flag pushed the Jager away and repositioned its’ blade for a stab. “I’m here to kill you!” Aker cut his thrusters to drop the Astray and avoid the stab thinking it would off balance his opponent. His guess was incorrect as he realized the stab was a feint and the Flag used the distance to raise their rifle and fired a volley at Aker. Again Aker angled the Jager to the right to have the shots explode against his shield, black smoke erupting from the damaged shield. 

Aker grunted and retracted his blade to level his pistol at the enemy. Before he could get a sight picture though the foot of the flag cut through the smoke to nearly knock the weapon from the Astra’s grip, making Aker spin around to his left in tumble. “What the-!” Aker was caught off guard by the skill this enemy seemed to possess and he once again fought to level out his machine. “You’re pathetic!” The voice taunted as Aker fell into the ocean. 

The flag looked around triumphantly before eyeing a teammate engaging another strange machine. The flag that attacked Aker transformed into its’ flight mode before calling out.  “Orga let me show you how it’s done!” 

——

The Flag crossing blades with Icarus traded blows with the Leo to little effect. “What is with your funny looking machine?” The pilot growled as they tried to get an opening for a killing stroke. The annoying almost shrill voice of Clotho nearly made Orga slip up. “Damnit Clotho don’t get on my nerves this one is mine!” Orga yelled out as he batted at the Leo hard, hoping to overpower the enemy with a wide slash, half expecting the shield to block him once more. 

As the two fought, Clotho quickly approached in flight mode, leveling his linear rifle for a shot on Icarus. 

——

As the bullets trailed towards the Flag fighting Wade the machine raised its’ shield and miraculously parried most of the projectiles with the spinning device. There was an ease with which the Flag dispatched the attacked that only made the machine seem more intimidating than it ought to. “That’s fine by me.” Shani calmly said to no one in particular as the flag tried to flank Wade and retaliated with a burst of fire from his own rifle. The Flag tried to gain elevation over the Local Type, hoping to suppress the gundam towards the ocean or platform. 

—-

As the battle commenced the shuttle began to get locked on the launching platform and the crew quickly worked to get the craft moving. The pilot called out not he intercom, “Lady Clyne we’ll be taking off shortly, please strap in for a bumpy ride! We should be able to loose the pursuers once we get into space!” 

Lacus took her seat next to Kira and looked almost pleadingly at the comatose boy. Even in this state there was a calm strength that she could sense. Lend me your strength Kira, she silently pleaded as she crossed her hands in a silent prayer for protection. 

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Well, this is a bit ironic. And I just switched out my old normal suit.

It appeared, from the voices that rang out over his radio, that he was locking blades with Orga Sabnak, one of the first generation Extended naturals from Seed, with his compatriot Clotho Buer on his way to back him up. Orga, in the meantime, had taken to questioning his taste in mobile suits. The extended bashed wildly at the battle blade, but the Leo managed to shift just enough to get his left-arm shield under one of the blows, just enough to make an opening. As the Flag’s saber cut into the shield, Icarus brought the Leo’s foot up and kicked the transformable machine, sending them both flying backwards.

“It’s called a Leo, kid,” Icarus grunted. “And it’s about to teach you a thing or two.” Icarus cranked his engines, the GN drive spinning up to its fullest as he rocketed towards the Flag, his sword brandished point-first as he made an attempt at a lunging thrust. This was a feint, however, as when Icarus closed the distance, he tossed the battle blade up above Orga’s Flag, grabbed one of his hip-holstered armor schneiders in a reverse grip, and made an attempt to stab the hand wielding the beam blade.

---

While she may have been flightless, being on the ground provided Million a small advantage. While the battle waged on above her, she was able to take it all in from below without anyone seeming to notice the almost blindingly pink and white suit. So when she spotted Clotho’s Flag split off from Aker and line up a shot on Icarus, she was ready.

“God, haven’t these guys ever heard of a fair fight?”

Million brought the two shoulder-mounted Shiva railguns attached to the Star Dueller’s modified assault shroud to bear on the Flag and lined up her own shot.

“Sayonara, asshole,” she smirked as she pulled the trigger, firing two electromagnetically propelled shells at the unsuspecting mobile suit. The force generated by the rail cannons pushed the Star Dueller back and caused it to stumble. “Whew,” Million said. “Forgot how much of a kick those have. Gotta be careful,” then she hailed the shuttle. “Everything set to go in there? You seem to be taking your sweet time,”

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The final Union Flag, now revealed to be piloted by Shani from Gundam Seed, made quick work of Wade's attack. "He's good!" The Diver stated as he started to fire again, but the enemy mobile suit was faster than he had expected. The gray machine gained elevation over Wade's Gunpla, retaliating with shots from its linear rifle. The Fleurs leader didn't have time to pull back, causing the shots to slam into his left gattling gun.

"Dammit!" He yelled while jettisoning the broken weapon, only taking a bit of damage from the explosion. The Diver knew those would be out of the picture and without using his beam rifle's, he seemed lost. "I gotta confuse him or-or something!" Connecting his beam rifles to the backpack, Wade grabbed two of his shoulder grenades, tossing them at the Union Flag. However, his intention wasn't to damage Shani with them.

The Local Type's vulcans blared, sending the tiny bullets into each grenade. "You may be fast, but the Local Type is faster!" Wade pulled his large knife out, pointing the blade at the Union Flag's chest while blasting diagonally upward. The two grenades exploded away from the enemy, but it and the smoke fallout could give the Diver enough time to make his attack unseen. 

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Orga’s eyes went wide as the strange suit charged in at him, to his credit he brought his blade across to block the sword rush only to be foiled by the feint. When his blade met no resistance he instinctively tried to push the barrel of his rifle forward to make desperate point blank shots. It was this act that saved his sword hand at the cost of having his barrel stabbed instead. The weapon exploded as he attempting to fire the weapon, the explosion sent the Flag falling backwards with Orga hissing, “Why you!” He recovered quickly reaching for his second blade. A little more respect for his opponent was evident with the Flag’s body language now as he brought the blades up to prepare for a new attack. 

——-

Just as Clotho aimed and squeezed the trigger for his shot he realized something was wrong. The blue bolt raced towards the Leo just as a fierce yellow beam arced in at the Extended. “Crap!” He yelled out as the blast ate into the nose of his fighter stripping the main weapon and making him spin wildly in the air. A lesser pilot would have retreated or even lost their mobile suit from that impact, but Clotho was anything but normal. The Flag did a transformation that mirrored a sky diver free fall before he aligned his thrusters to rush at Million now. “Just what the hell was that?” He screeched as he reached for both his melee weapons, blue blades igniting as he charged. The flag made a blistering pace as the pissed off Clotho charged the Pink mobile suit. 

——-

Shani thought the attempt to lobe grenades at him was pathetic and didn’t loose his focus as he tried to line up a devastating shot at the cockpit of the Local type. He was shocked when his focus was stolen by the cloud of smoke. He growled in frustration as he retracted his aim only to find the Local type rushing at him, blade drawn. “Too close!” He cried out as he instinctively tried to dodge by arching the flag backwards. The motion may have saved his life as the blade from the Local Type skidded across the front of the Flag, digging deeply against the armor protecting the cockpit. The blade literally cut upwards into the controls in front of the Extended causing the suit to go limp. He had dodged death by mere inches. Shani could do nothing as the mobile suit began to plummet towards the water. The extended couldn’t help but wonder if the fight would have been different if he had a better suit. 

——

The world violently exploded into a distorted realm of white mist and cold blue water. Aker was violently tossed around in the cockpit of the Jager. He clutched himself both in fear of getting cut down, and from the impact. He held his breath for a long time before finally opening his eyes to see that he wasn’t dead. Letting out a long blow of air he breathed slowly as he regained his nerve. He couldn’t directly see the battle above but his heads up outlined the friendly and enemy units. “Damnit! What’s wrong with me?” He muttered to himself as he slowly reached for the controls, his hand shaking. “Am I nervous? Am I scared?” His fingers tentatively gripped the control and he closed his eyes to once more collect himself. “It’s all just a game… it doesn’t mean anything!” His fingers tightened their grip on the control and he flexed his arm. “It doesn’t mean one damn thing!” He jerked the control back and forth trying to make the thrusters fire up but they were water logged. Tears streamed down his face, “If it doesn’t mean anything then why are we protecting them? Huh?” He asked himself while frantically trying to make the mobile suit respond. “Why am I here when there’s monsters in this world?” He found himself flexing his left arm, or rather trying to, just to have his shoulder lamely jerk in response. His thoughts trailed back to Lunamaria, how he couldn’t protect her. Images of Lacus, or was it Meer? Flooded his mind and he thought about what it would mean if he let her die.

“Lets do this eight!” 

The bulky tablet was strapped near the front monitor and it responded, “Are you sure? This course of action is not advisable.” 

Aker merely responded with a toothy grin as he felt the machine hook up to his neck, “Oh I’m sure…” he sniffled trying to make his tears go away as anger slowly boiled to the surface, “I can’t leave this realm in the hands of those bastards!” The computer responded with a simple, “Be careful, don’t over do it.” 

The familiar chill ran through Aker’s body and he jerked out his left arm from the harness to grasp the free control. Finally the Jager began to rise back to the surface, Aker found himself near the platform and grasped the corner to hoist himself back onto the metallic surface. As he came up he saw Million firing her rail guns at the enemy. He took a moment to get this feet underneath him before reaching up to draw a beam saber from the Force pack on his back. In one motion the shield and pack popped off the Jager, both pretty much spent from his earlier encounter with the extended. He saw his earlier opponent get hit from Million’s blast before flying towards the girl in what Aker imagined was a rage. The Jager ran off towards the Flag with weapons in hand, “Not this time.” He promised as he went to back the new teammate up. 

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Icarus smirked for all of a second as the rifle exploded before Clotho’s shot collided with him. As he was preparing to thrust upwards and catch his sword, the combination of the shot and the explosion sent the Leo reeling back and to the left away from Orga. The attack rocked Icarus in the cockpit, causing him to lose control of the machine which very quickly began to fall out of the sky.

“Get a grip, Ray,” he growled under his breath. “Get this situation back under control,”

The Leo spun, correcting itself in mid-air as the GN drive whirred to life. It took a moment for the diver to reorient himself, but soon enough he found his opponent a short distance above him. But Orga wasn’t what he was really looking for. Blasting forward, the Leo managed to snatch its battle blade mere seconds before it plunged into the water below, the blade skimming the waves as Icarus flew over the ocean. He pulled back on his controls, sending the Leo Chevalier arcing upwards towards Orga and his Flag, leaving the characteristic green particles in its wake.

“You’re lucky this is a multi-part mission,” Icarus informed his opponent as he spiraled up towards him. “Otherwise I’d show you what Trans-Am can do. But I think I can take care of you without it,”

The two suits locked blades again, but Icarus grimaced when he noticed the second sword in the Flag’s hands.

I’ll give you a sword fight, Orga,

The Leo Chevalier’s left arm reached across its chest to the shield on its right arm and it pulled a beam saber out of its holder. As Orga’s second blade came down, it collided with the freshly drawn beam saber instead of the Leo’s shoulder.

“Seems we’re at an impasse, kid,” Icarus smirked. “Right back where we started,”

-----

“Ohoho, you want to rumble, huh?” Million’s smile turned into a wide grin. “I love it when these guys get their panties in a twist,”

The cover of the Star Dueller’s shoulder mounted missile launcher popped open and fired a five-missile salvo up at the advancing Flag. Million looked up at the twisting rocket tails, her face narrowing into a focused expression. “Better to be safe than sorry,” she said to herself as she pulled one of her own beam sabers from her backpack.

The Star Dueller levelled its shield towards the incoming Flag and spread its feet in order to steady itself against its attack. “Bring it on, Sparky,” she laughed. If she could rile this guy up just enough to lose his focus, that could give her the edge she needed to get a tidy kill shot in.

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The Local Type floated in the sky, watching the now limp Union Flag freefall towards in ocean. "Nope! Gotta get those bonus points!" Wade turned his Gunpla upside down as he ignited his thrusters, sending the mobile suit down to his defeated opponent. Beginning to catch up with the unit, he moved the Gunpla's hand under one of the Union Flag's shoulders. He hoisted the machine up to his level, bringing it to a halt as the Diver floated only about 100 feet from the water's surface. "Phew! That was close." The Fleurs leader sighed. He wondered what they'd get from the save, but his mind began to go elsewhere as he loosened his grip on the Local Type's controls.

A brown SD Gunpla skirted its back across a grassy field. The Command Gundam had X's in its large eyes as it lied down, defeated. A red, white, and blue Tallgeese slowly planted its feet back on the ground, standing tall against Wade's machine. With each step getting closer to him, Wade knew this was officially is 10th loss against the leader of his team, Chris. The UNIVERZ leader made the Tallgeese hold a hand out, with the little SD barely even being able to reach it. "Man. I just don't know what to do against you!" Wade uttered as the Command Gundam shook its head. "I guess that's why you're one of the best..." The Tallgeese responded by also shaking its head.

"Relax, Wade. You're one of the best too." Wade was confused by this statement. With their team of 6, he was always last, but Chris continued. "You haven't given up, unlike most, and the potential inside of you is stronger than any of us. I think that you'll even beat all of us someday." Wade, shocked that their strong leader was saying someone like him could win against Chris, was now thankful he was apart of UNIVERZ. However, good things don't last forever...

The Fleurs Leader recalled the change in UNIVERZ, from a tightknit team to a Force built on a mentality of greed. Only one of the original team members stuck with Chris, but over 100 others replaced Wade and the others. With each mission he played with the other team members of Fleurs, he began to not regret the team's accidental creation more and more. Something had changed in Chris that made him more and more enraged. "We had something good, and it got ruined." He muttered under his breath. "None of the others even talk to me anymore! SCREW THEM!" It was infuriating seeing UNIVERZ get rewarded, but the Fleurs leader knew he had to calm down. There was an NPD to save, but it was too late.

The Diver looked up to see the Local Type's knife embedded in the cockpit of the Union Flag. "W-what?..." Wade then realized in his fit of rage, he'd stabbed Shani. The Gunpla's other arm let go of the limp enemy mobile suit as it slid off the knife, crashing into the water below. It was then confirmed to Wade that this mission was special, but not in a good way. A lot was different here compared to the average GBN mission with NPDs. Now the Diver was scared, staring at the knife now coated in red. Dropping the weapon, the Local Type stayed in the air, completely frozen as it hovered.

 

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Clotho yelled out in a blind rage and didn’t think twice as he launched towards the missile barrage. It proved to be the greatest and last mistake of his life. The Flag was battered by the projectiles and erupted into a spray of molten metal and flames, landing just shy of Million. Aker skidded to a stop dumbfounded by the death of the extended. Turning his attention he looked to see another flag, Shani, getting impaled by Wade’s machine. “No…” Aker mumbled as his jaw grew slack from what he was seeing. He thudded his fist against his side monitor, “no damnit!” He clenched his eyes as he considered what his weakness costed this time. ‘There has to be a better way…” he grumbled as he looked to see if he could see what was happening to Orga. 

The last Flag seemed defiant as he locked blades with Icarus but as their teammates got shot down the fight seemed to leave the last pilot. The Flag kicked at Icarus and turned to speed away. Aker held his breath wondering if Icarus would shoot the fleeing pilot in his back. Tears welled in his eyes as he helplessly watched from he ground. “This is my fault…” he muttered, the extended may not have been kind hearted souls but why did they have to die, and for what? Aker’s thoughts were interrupted as the shuttle chimed in over the comms, “this is shuttle Epsilon, we’re locked in and commencing take off. Be advised Fleurs de Noblesse that there is a separate transport shuttle being prepared for your team to follow. We’ll see you topside shortly!” 

The pilot signed off just as the civilian transport shuttle shot down the rail towards the slope aimed at the heavens. Aker stood watching, feeling particularly helpless. He didn’t say anything to his friends as he brought his machine into the loading apparatus for their ride up into space. “If it wasn’t them then it would have been innocent civilians…” Aker kept telling himself and slowly he pushed the knot in his stomach away. He began to feel better as they all slowly loaded up on their shuttle and got ready for launch. He knew they had to hurry so they could catch up and not leave their charge defenseless.

Their launch was rather uneventful as they were rocketed into space. The ride was particularly bumpy if not harsh as they met the optimal speed to escape the earth. It gave Aker a new appreciation as to the effort needed to get into space. Soon they met back up with the shuttle. Some text crawled across their screens, “Phase I complete”. 

Aker found his voice at last, clearing his throat as they all assumed a patrol formation around the shuttle.  “I’ve been meaning to ask you guys… why do you fight?” The question itself seemed almost innocent but he had to know what motivated his teammates during all this. 

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There was a perceptible change in Orga’s demeanour and spirit as the two of them continued their desperate struggle. Icarus didn’t know what had happened, but the Flag broke the lock with a kick to the Leo’s torso, knocking the OZ suit away before turning tail and retreating. Icarus, clutching at his controls, made to pursue, but stopped himself. Something seemed to ring out in his head, calling to him, telling him to let his opponent live to fight another day.

Is this…guilt?

Swords in hand, the Leo hung in the air, watching as the Flag sped away before turning to face his comrades. The two other Flags sat in crumpled heaps in various states of destruction. Icarus looked at the smouldering pile of metal in front of the Star Dueller and frowned as the sounds of his friend’s jeering reached his ears.

“Haha, daaamn man. What were you thinking? You didn’t even try to dodge those missiles,” Million continued to laugh excitedly. “If this is all the challenge this mission has to offer, we’ve got this baby locked down.”

“Mill,” Icarus said, hailing her on his radio. “Tone it down,”

“Huh? What? Why?”

“Just…” Icarus looked over at the remains of Shani’s suit and then to the Jager Astray. “We’re not out of the woods yet, is all. This is a multi-stage mission, we’ve still got a way to go and we shouldn’t be celebrating yet,”

“Uh, okay, sure,” Million knit her brows together. “Sorry, I guess.”

He and Million turned and watched as the shuttle shot up the mass driver and onwards through the atmosphere. Their shuttle came soon after and while they waited, no one on the team seemed particularly keen on discussing the mission so far, or anything else for that matter. It wasn’t until they had linked back up with Lacus’s shuttle out in space that Aker finally broke the silence and posed a question to the group: ‘why do you fight?’

Why do I fight…? Icarus mulled the question around in his head. I mean, the easy answer is that this is just a game. I fight to win and in winning I am awarded with the means to make myself stronger.

The diver looked over to the Jager Astray and frowned. But I suppose it’s not a game to him, is it?

“If I’m being honest with you, Aker,” Icarus said finally, looking out into the cold reaches of space. “I fight because the game asks me to. Because we can’t win if I don’t fight.” He closed his eyes and thought of the living mobile suit that they had fought a few missions back. “Sure, we have the option to lay down our arms and say ‘no’, but the game—this world—as far as I understand it, won’t lay down theirs in return. If we had sat there and refused to fight those three just now, what would’ve happened? They would have shot us down, without hesitation.” Icarus let out a sigh and opened his eyes. “So I guess that’s my answer. I fight because I have no other reasonable choice,”

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Wade's Gunpla stayed in the air unmoving as another one of the Boosted perished. He'd assumed Clotho or Orga suffered a horrid death as well, not even paying attention to which Union Flag it was. Slowly, the mobile suit landed near the others, waiting for their own shuttle. They'd won, but at what cost?

The ride up to space was dead quiet. It was just the way Wade wanted it to be as they continued on with the next phase. His mind kept flashing back to the Local Type's knife, stained with blood. "That's not... supposed to happen..." Thoughts had raced in Wade's head throughout the entire mission, majorly affecting his skill in combat. "Even since I started this team, all this... weird shit has been going on!" While he had participated in the third Coalition of Volunteers battle, albeit a very minor participation, something felt off there.

The Diver still didn't know what happened then, but now it was the time to look for answers. Aker, the Redacted Experiments, and the Boosted CPU came to mind while the Fleurs Leader stayed in formation. Wade stayed silent as Aker asked his question, with Icarus eventually taking up the courage to respond. He felt bad for his friend getting wrapped up into this mission. "She probably thinks we're a bunch of weirdos." Wade knew he had to answer the question eventually though, but he didn't really know what to say.

"I-I don't know! I just thought this was a game!" Wade exclaimed loudly as he slammed his fists on the monitors in the cockpit. "I didn't expect to be fighting against weird monstrosities and-and all this blood and stuff!" The Diver sighed as he regained his thoughts. "I mean, it's cool to do missions, but if they're more real in this game... you know, NPD's with actual feelings dying." The Fleurs Leader had no idea what to say next, only that he wanted it to be done. "Let's just finish the mission quick..."

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By this point Aker had assumed that Icarus had been the reasonable one of the group. To say that his answer to Aker’s question was akin to a splash of water to the face wasn’t exaggerated. Aker flexed his left arm up and down as he considered the candid response. Part of him wanted to retort, “but you guys can’t die…” before the words could formulate though Wade chimed in; their fearless leader seemed rattled from the last encountered, a fact that oddly seemed to comfort Aker. A sympathetic smile etched along Aker’s face at the explanation Wade gave and he found himself nodded in agreement with the leader’s assessment. 

“Acknowledged…. And thank you… both of you…” he signed off the channel and focused on piloting the Astray in the weightless void. They maintained the patrol for what seemed like a long while, the peacefulness becoming somewhat jarring from the scrap they had just gotten out of. Still Aker let his thoughts drift along the sea of stars. He recalled his earlier ‘missions’ interfering with other people’s games, he wondered now if that was somehow justified with him not being like other players. How things had changed since then, since Fluers de Noblesse was created even. He kept subconsciously moving and flexing his left arm. He thought about how he had to master the Amaya-Vijana if he didn’t want to loose function of his other limbs. I have to keep my anger in check... he decided as he stared at the limb. It occurred to him that is was when he gave into his blind emotions that he gave into the allure of the system. 

It was the shuttle that broke the radio silence, startling Aker from his vigilante gaze at the stars. “Fluers de Noblesse,” it was none other than Lacus speaking, “I wanted to thank you for your service so far.” Aker reflexively grimaced at the gratitude, he could sense the edge of fear and uneasiness in her voice and he didn’t like getting thanked for something that wasn’t yet done. Still she continued, “I wanted to inform you that our transponder has been damaged so our return to the homeland will be more difficult than predicted…” Before she was even done talking Aker was already hissing, “You’re kidding me…” he groaned as he instantly realized where this was going. “I’m moving ahead to scout!” He declared cutting off Lacus before she continued. As if on cue text on his screen appeared reading: “Phase II Complete.” It was just a patrol! he mused as  he flared his thrusters and veered ahead of the group. He toggled his controls to activate his mirage colloid, making the Jager vanish into the stars. Lacus continued, “well… as some of you may have realized, we can’t properly identify with ZAFT command that we are not a threat. They will likely move to intercept us. Because of the nature of our cargo we can’t afford to have them looking closely at our vessel. If we can safety land in the Plants we can avoid further detection… but we need your help to make that happen.” There was a hesitation in her voice as it became evident she wasn’t thrilled at asking her escorts to attack ZAFT forces, possibly killing them. It was clear she was at an impass of conscious when she simply stated, “I ask that you do what you feel is right in your hearts in this moment, for your actions will echo in the future.” 

Even as Aker raced ahead his heart began beating rapidly from tense anxiety, who knew what kind of hornets nest they would be walking into at that moment.

—————

Athrun was growing restless being stuck in the Plants, enduring seemingly endless “debriefings” about the GAT weapons. “More like interrogations…” he mused to himself as he leaned back in his office chair. He didn’t understand why he had to be held back while the rest of the Cruset team was redeployed. He got a notice on his phone and he brought it up to look at the message. “Activation?” He mused as he stood up. He had just gotten orders to report in at the base. Shrugging, Athrun went to his closet to dawn his red military uniform. 

His father was barely ever home so during his whole time spent there, it felt more like he was living in a bachelor pad. As he finished dawning the uniform he looked at the picture of Lacus that he had pinned to the edge of his mirror in his room. He had hoped to spend time with his fiancé during this time but found that she was away. “Away doing what?” He muttered to himself, while he would admit that Lacus was beautiful he still felt awkward around the girl and at times wondered just how much the two of them had in common. He eyed the deconstructed Haro on his desk and shrugged, the Haros had been his attempt at “wooing” the girl, if it could even be called that. Still she seemed to appreciate the little robots, about as much as Kira liked birdie. The thought made him pause as he held the collar of his coat, “Kira…” he mused to himself before resolving to finish getting ready and head out. 

It was a short drive to the military base and much to Athrun’s surprise he saw his machine in the hangar being worked on. He marched up to the foot of the Aegis and eyed the peculiar additions being placed on the grayed out machine. Catching a passing by technician, Athrun promptly asked, “just what exactly are you guys doing to my mobile suit?” 

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The tech looked around as if he wasn’t at fault and took a moment to clear his throat, “I umm we… well… we got orders to add this test equipment onto it…” the man shrugged then slide away before Athrun could press for more information. He looked up at the behemoth and simply shook his head in resignation. He was about to go look for another person to ask when he was approached by two cadets in green uniforms. The duo saluted Athrun and the male form the duo asked, “Are you Athrun Zala?” Athrun tilted his head as he finished his salute and nodded, “that’s me…” before he could ask why they were looking for him the cadet finished, “We’ve been assigned to do training exercises with you today, I believe the brass wants you to test out the modifications to your machine. Should we goto the briefing room?” 

Athrun couldn’t help but smile and shrug at the whole series of events and motioned in surrender “may as well.” And he motioned for the cadets to lead the way. If he got to go out in the mobile suit today then maybe it wouldn’t be all that bad. He hadn’t even seen the Aegis since he had return to the colonies, it would be good to sortie and keep up with his skills. 

—————

Athrun was barely done putting on his flight suit when the scram order game in. Alarms blared throughout the base causing him to turn towards his mobile suit. He caught sight of the male cadet from earlier and asked, “what’s going on?” The cadet was struggling to put his green helmet on and replied, “Looks like some unidentified mobile suits have gotten too close to the homeland!” 

Athrun nodded his understanding and didn’t say anything else as he made way to the Aegis. As he got in his cockpit his orders came in from an officer wearing a white uniform, “I repeat we are launching all mobile suits from this base, every able bodied pilot is being mustered.” Frowning, Athrun dared to reply back on the open line, “Is that wise? Whose leading the mobile suit response?” The woman didn’t look flustered by the reply and she nodded at the camera, “you are Zala! Now head out, you should have a few GINNS meeting you outside the colony!”

Athrun grimaced at the notion that he was leading the response force, had ZAFT stretched itself so thin that they had to use recruits to defend the homeland?” Aegis soon headed out into open space with more and more GINNS sprinkling out of the colonies to join his growing formation. “Everyone don’t get careless!” He cautioned as he opened an open comm channel to hail the incoming force. “Unknown riders, identify yourself at once! You are entering restricted airspace and will be met with lethal force if you do not comply.” 

((Thanks to Replicator for the Aegis picture!))

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Icarus frowned as Aker cut off his radio. Maybe honesty hadn’t been the best course of action in the moment, but the older man was hoping that his friend and teammate would come to appreciate it in time. Aker’s subdued answer wasn’t without an effect on his views either. As they flew through space, Icarus wondered whether or not there was another way to play and win the game without having to fight. He had already resolved to hold back from killing blows as much as he could—Wade had too from what he had seen, Shani withstanding. But maybe there was more he could do—maybe there was another way. He would have to keep his eyes on it, on himself, in order to find that path.

Icarus hailed Wade on a private channel. “Boss,” he said gravely. “I know you’ve been trying to hold back on our enemies and I think we should double down on that, for Aker’s sake. I think he’s been struggling a lot more than we realized up until now. There has to be something we can do. Let’s keep an eye out for him, sound good?”

He was interrupted by Lacus’s speech, beseeching them to think wisely about their actions going forward. Were Icarus capable of feeling any kind of mirth in that moment, he might’ve chuckled at the timing. Icarus’s frustration only deepened when Aker raced away, leaving his comrades with the shuttle.

“Heads up, Ick,” Million said, checking her long range sensors. “We’ve got heat signatures coming in,”

Icarus looked over at the Star Dueller. True to her words, Million’s mobile suit was gliding along gracefully, its back-mounted ring glistening as it activated its Voiture Lumiere systems.

“Is your friend okay?” she said more quietly on an isolated channel.

“I don’t know,” he responded. “We’ll keep an eye on him, but I trust that he knows what he’s doing. How many suits do you see?”

“Not sure yet, but more than one,”

They were starting to appear on the Leo’s sensors now as well. Definitely more than one…that’s an understatement.

The voice of Athrun Zala came over the radio next. “Unknown riders, identify yourself at once! You are entering restricted airspace and will be met with lethal force if you do not comply.” 

Icarus flipped a switch on his comms. “This is Icarus of the…uh…mercenary band Fleurs de Noblesse. We mean you no harm, we’re simply escorting a VIP transport shuttle to the colonies. Lacus—” was saying her name the right thing? This was a different SEED universe from the one he was familiar with, after all. Icarus shook his head. “Lady Clyne is on board and we are to see her safely to the PLANTs.”

Please don’t make me attack you, Athrun…

 

 

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He didn't know what or how to feel when he noticed Athrun and the GINNs approaching. This game was (mostly) about fighting opponents, so Wade knew the death would have to continue in order to succeed. Or would they? His teammate had his own plans as he set a private channel with the Fleurs leader, talking to him about looking out for Aker. Wade understood that Icarus was right. "Y-yeah. We should..." He kept his response simple, but another way of thinking about the situation popped into his head.

Whatever he was going through with all the killing in GBN, Aker was living through it. EL-Divers seemed to have it much harder than him and the others, living inside a computer created world. Wade shook his head as he stood in his cockpit. People like Aker DID have it harder, no matter what. However, there was still a part of the Fleurs Leader that wanted to be hurt, even though he knew it was selfish.

Wade he didn't want to fight and thankfully his comrade had a solution. As he heard the other player speak, he hoped this could be solved peacefully with these... advanced type of NPDs. "Whatever happens, I just can't fight back..." Wade's speaking was weak as he pulled up the main menu in his cockpit. He stared intently at the button to leave the mission, contemplating on what to do.

 

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Athrun grimaced as the unknown force responded to his hail. It was a weak excuse they were giving, one that seemed too convenient to be offered at that moment. It was the same Cadet from before who seemingly read Athrun’s thought. “Sir this could be a trap.” Athrun nodded then responded to the fellow coordinator, “I think you’re right, that’s a lot to prove on their behalf…” Athrun switched channels to talk to the mercenary group. “That may be, however we need to confirm your claim. Halt your approach and await our inspection.” Athrun went to move ahead of the amassing GINNs.

Deep in the shadows of space surrounded by the plants a third party watched the interaction between Fleurs de Noblesse and Zaft with great interest. Their timing was rather convenient, “almost too perfect!” A shrouded pilot mused from their cockpit. A smirk etched their face with slowly grew wider as they contemplated what to do. “Now… it would be a shame if things got… crazy. Wouldn’t it?” The question wasn’t to anyone in particular but the pilot leaned forward in their seat and nodded to themselves.

As the Aegis got within range of the shuttle and the escorts, neither side doing anything all that intimidating. In truth it looked like the whole misunderstanding would be resolved peacefully. The pilot watching leaned forward with sudden interest and shrieked out loud, “and then from out of no where!” Several emerald bolts suddenly ripped into the mass off GINNs in the rear of the Aegis causing them to explode. The pilot couldn’t help but laugh as sheer chaos unfolded, it was all too easy after all.

—-

This wasn’t even her fifth sortie. The young coordinator grasped her controls with an edge of anxiety. By all means she wasn’t meant to be deployed for combat yet. But still it was her homeland, and her family both were counting on her. She hoisted the giant beam cannon on the GINN’s shoulder, marveling at its design and curious what kind of damage the weapon could do. She remained disciplined as she followed her fellow cadet and the famous Athrun Zala.

It was hard not to feel somewhat comforted by the mere presence of such a famous pilot. Her fellow cadet broke her train of thought, “everyone spread out!” Rey was a peculiar cadet but he had an uncanny sixth sense that was hard to dispute, something she had learned to trust as much as the boy did. She worked her controls to barely dodge an emerald bolt seemingly from out of no where, the beam hitting the suit behind her. “Ambush!” She cried out as she tried to level her weapon for a target. The sight of the unknown mobile suits in front of her seemed the most obvious. “This is Lunamaria! I’m engaging the enemy!”

—-

Aker was just above the group of GINNs as Athrun began talking to Icarus. It was hard to explain but there was an uneasiness in the air that he couldn’t quite comprehend. He felt shivers up and down his spine, almost like he could feel knives flying in the space around him. At fist he thought the Alaya-vijana was acting up but then it dawned on him. At the same time Rey called out (unbeknownst to Aker) he cried out for his teammates, “move it!”

Just then a handful of GINNs erupted into flames, with plenty others around to take up arms in retaliation. Aker burst into action as well diving immediately for a target. It was unavoidable now, they had to act. He whipped out his GN blade as he flew for a GINN with an laser cannon. It was his proximity that caused him to pick up the comm traffic and his heart sank at the revelation. “Noooo!” He screamed out as his blade impulsively swiped at the enemy GINN. His momentum was too great to stop as the invisible Jager Astray pounced at the young Lunamaria's GINN.

Athrun wasn’t targeted by the mystery attack, this allowed him great ease to pull out both swords on his machine and charge at the enemies in front of him. “You bastards! He yelled as he decided to swipe at the shuttle. It had to be important after all, for all Athrun knew it could have been the very device that just shot up half a dozen cadets.

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Things seemed to be going well, for once. Icarus’s quick thinking had seemed to, if not convince Athrun, at least buy them some time. The ZAFT ace began to approach and inspect the shuttle when all hell broke loose in less time than it took to bat an eye. Maybe it was luck, or maybe it was his old baseball training, his ability to read a pitch, to quickly pick up on his opponents intentions, that allowed him to see the bolt of green energy as it flew into the army of GINNS.  Time seemed to hang, frozen for a moment, as the shot ripped through the ZAFT mobile suits. Icarus’s eyes darted up towards the direction the shot had come from but before he could see what, if anything, was there, time caught back up.

Aker yelled, but Icarus had already been halfway through his reaction when the EL Diver’s voice reached his ears. Athrun had begun to yell as well, drawing the swords of this strange, custom Aegis. It was only by virtue of this telegraphing that Icarus was able to intercept in time.

Have to be careful…if he goes SEED on me, I won’t be able to keep up,

“Athrun Zala,” Icarus said over the radio as he tried his best to push back against the Aegis. One of the ZAFT unit’s swords was digging into the Leo’s shoulder shield, while the other was balanced in a clash with one of Icarus’s own beam sabers. “Listen to me, we are not your enemies. I don’t know who did this, but it wasn’t us. If you destroy this shuttle, you kill…” Icarus clenched his teeth. “If you destroy this shuttle, you kill both Lacus Clyne and Kira Yamato. Is that what you want?”

I hope that was the right goddamn thing to say.

 ----

“Son of a bitch,” Million reaffirmed her grip on the Star Dueller’s controls, vaulting the ringed mobile suit upwards to get a better view of the battlefield as things began to heat up.

“Heads up, boys, things are getting ugly fast,” she said, firing off volley after volley from her high-energy beam rifle. Several Ginns exploded in the distance, but more returned fire towards the pink and white gundam.

“Heh, thought you might do that—but I’ve got a little trick up my sleeve,” Million activated the special ability of her suit’s VL system. She had managed to capture of few of the beams shot at her by the enemy GINNS, which orbited her suit in tight rings.

“Return to sender!” Million cried, launching the green rings of light as beam blades back towards the ZAFT horde.

 

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Wade had really hoped Icarus' persuasion tactics would work, but someone had to rain on their parade with green beams. "No..." Wade muttered, worried about the consequences that would be brought upon both parties. Athrun's group no longer seemed to have any intention of backing down, sending his army of GINN mobile suits against the team. The Fleurs leader's mood quickly changed from sadness to anger, now screaming in his cockpit. "JUST STOP IT!!!" With space thrusters helping his fit of rage, Wade took his Local Type's controls and pushed forward, but not to Athrun or the GINNs.

"Fleurs! Keep them busy while I try to find this... this idiot who ruined everything!" The Diver stated over the comms, heading in the direction the bolts came from. Thankfully, Icarus was still using knowledge to reason with the Coordinator, but he wondered if it'd even help now. Being a Diver, you would most likely have tons of information that could help you against NPDs. However, one slipup of Gundam trivia could lead to tragedy. "I just wanna spill everything I know to Athrun, even if this world is strange." He wasn't certain how it would affect things, but they'd likely be negative things.

One thing was certain though. Wade had no intention of fighting ZAFT. "Unless this guy is somehow ZAFT too and is just messing with us." As he got further away, he not only didn't know if he could catch up or even find the unknown opponent, but he hoped no one else would follow suit. The Local Type continued to get faster and faster as the flew through space.

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Athrun scoffed at the pathetic attempt to have him lower his guard. It’s true that if he had been alone he likely would have paused to talk things out but here he was with literally the Plants to his back, his homeland, and he couldn’t take such a reckless risk. “I’m not buying that this time!” He roared, more so to dispel his disbelief over the claim that Lacus and Kira would even be together, how ridiculous would that be after all? So caught up in the moment, Athrun didn’t string together the notion why Icaus would know about those two key people in his life. It didn’t matter at that moment anyways, as Athrun locked blades with the bizarre Leo he grunted and suddenly kicked up with a foot, activating the blade to come in up across the enemy. He hoped the attack would catch his foe off guard for a quick defeat.  The Aegis transition with the kick to dive backwards in a sort of backflip, his blades leading for a follow up attack from his rotation as well. The move made him expose his back upside down at the enemy but he banking in the success of his foot attack to at least drive Icarus back.

—-

The mystery pilot chuckled as one of the strange Gundams ventured off to follow the shots from the attack they had just done. “Fool.” They scoffed as they repositioned the funnel bits to aim at the curious gundam. “Can’t have you following my trail, even if it is a bad one you’re after…” In truth they just wanted to see the unique mobile suit explode because, “that would be fun to see!” The nearly invisible weapons gave away their own positions more clearly now as they tried to aggressively surround the Local type. “I wonder if they are skilled enough to dodge this!” The pilot roared maniacally as they order the weapons to open fire once more in a focused attack. 

—-

Aker couldn’t stop his momentum but he could angle his attack, and so he sliced towards the barrel of the oversized cannon Lunamaria was wielding. The weapon exploded sending shrapnel at both their suits and the Mirage Colloid failed from the stress. The Jager shoulder bashed into Lunamaria’s mobile suit, pushing them both away from the growing fire fight. Aker was so nervous about choosing his words he almost forgot to open a channel with the girl, “Please stop! You can’t attack that shuttle! Please don’t do this!” 

Luna pushed the bizarre Astray away from her and reached down to draw her GINN sword. It wasn’t her forte but she was confident that she could hold off this strange enemy for a little bit. “Who are you? Why are you attacking us?” 

Aker growled in frustration as he tried to recover from his stumbled attack and turned to face the GINN. “We’re mercenaries that’s true! But we really are escorting Lacus! The shuttle has been damaged, please don’t kill them!” 

The mono eye looked from Aker to the shuttle as if contemplating the story, but without warning the GINN locked its’ eye back to Aker and attacked. “Don’t make me hurt you Luna!” Aker cried out as he instinctively moved to block the attack with his own blade.

——

The GINNS all seemed to focus on Millon’ s strange machine as it oddly countered their attacks. It made the most sense that it would be the cause of the mysterious attack after all. The shuttle wasn’t sitting idle as all hell broke loose. It flared its’ engine and began flying in an erratic pattern towards the docking back of the nearest Plant. Lacus held her hands together in silent prayer as she stood vigilant over Kira’s body. “Please let us through. Even if my voice has been silent, heed my will!” He silently called out in her mind. Maybe just maybe, all the forces of ZAFT would hear her. 

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      --------------
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    • By JohnSeever
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    • By Zhane Tan
      Looking at the Gundam Battle Nexus setup, Zhane blinked and had no idea what to do, "So, I just sit in this and put my gunpla here?" he asks the person at the GBN store as he looked back at them. "That's right," said the worker.  Looking at the machine, he thought for a moment and sat down. "Ok, now what do I do?" he asked as she looked again after placing his Gunpla on the machine. The employee blinked and just looked, shocked more than anything "... you've never done this?" he asked. "My first time," was Zhane's response.  The employee sighed, "You put on the headset, and create an account," and as the employee spoke, Zhane did that. "That's it?" he asked. "Yes," said the employee.
      Zhane is odd in this matter, having not been out in public much, except for his trips to the hospital. He has bone cancer and has been going through a lot to try to stop it and fight it of and the Doctors are sure that they are to the point of getting all of it, so he has little experience with anything like this, and thinking, Zhane types in a name, Lucky. The employee looks, "Interesting name," he states. "Yea," Zhane says. "I have been lucky my entire life, and still am so far," he replies as he listens and places his Gunpla on the machine to scan it in. "Interesting suit design," the employee said. "Thank you," he states simply as he closes his eyes and takes a few breaths, kind of tired but opens them. "Here it goes," he comments to himself as he logs in for the first time....

      Traveling through the VR of the login, he looks around and smiles, "Totally cool," he states as he wonders, will keep his same appearance or will have a different appearance. 

      He looks at the screen and thinks as he gets his answer. smiling to himself, he picks an design that he thinks will be cool. "Can I change my appearance later?" he wonders to himself as he picks his normal appearance with simple clothing. Afterwards, he steps through the door and into the GBN.
      Arriving in the GBN, he looks around as he sees all the different avatars, "Wow, there's someone dressed as Zechs and another as Char.... and... is that a dogboy?" he says to himself as he walks around the floor and looks completely lost.
       
    • By Judge
      “So, this is Orb,” Lowell looked out across the sandy, sunlit beach as azures waves as crisp as crystal crashed against the shore, ticking his sandaled feet. He shaded his eyes against the sun. Even with sunglasses and shorts it was too bright, too hot. It was same thing he disliked about the desert when he was stationed there. The ZAFT pilot much preferred the climate-controlled PLANTs to actual atmosphere and all that came with it.
      Behind him, some meters away, Renato Masters was sitting at an outdoor bar, shaded by the palm-frond thatching and sipping on a deep orange Mai Tai. He was watching Lowell as he trudged his way back up towards the bar and took a seat next to him. Renato had gone to the trouble of ordering him a similarly vibrant drink.
      “It’s very…blue,” Lowell said, picking up the sweaty glass and observing the miniature novelty umbrella wedged between the ice within.
      “It’s called a Blue Hawaiian,” Ren informed him, sipping his own drink. “Give it a try, you’ll like it. It’s fruity,”
      “Wolf Squad really is lucky to have its own former mixologist on board,” Lowell said, sipping at the drink. It was indeed very fruity and very alcoholic. Lowell set it back down and looked out towards the ocean. He wasn’t fully sure why such a natural thing unnerved him—perhaps it was because it was so like space but yet completely alien, ironically. Boundless and vast. “Do you ever miss your place?”
      “What, the bar?” Ren quirked a brow. “Sure, every day. But this is more important I think, don’t you? If we don’t fight here and now, there might not be a bar to miss, you know? Besides, it’s in good hand. My little sister is running the place until I get back and I swear she knows more about business than I do. She’ll probably have bought me out by the time this is all over and then I’ll have to find a new job or become a lifer or something,” Ren chuckled and took another drag of his Mai Tai. Lowell smiled softly and then turned his eyes back to his drink, contemplated it.
      “There’s that look again,” Ren said, lightly pushing his commander’s shoulder. “You’re stressing yourself out again,”
      “No, no,” Lowell smiled. “Just thinking about things back home that’s all,” a silent moment passed between the two as a warm, tropical wind blew through the cabana. Quietly, Lowell made a decision for himself. “Enjoy yourself, Ren. I’m going to head into town to do some looking around but I don’t think it’s a two person job,”
      “Hey, you’re the boss, Lowell,” Ren grinned. “You say drink, I say how much,”
      ---
      Lowell’s rent-a-car slowed to a crawl as he brought it to the side of the road, cursing his bad fortune. He knew he shouldn’t have cheaped out on the rental, but with the amount that Ren was likely to be drinking today, he didn’t want to run up too much of a charge on the unit funds. The smoke coming out from under the hood was dire, but after being in a mobile suit, no amount of minor vehicular disrepair could faze him. It did, however, greatly inconvenience him. His personal phone wasn’t exactly on an Earth plan. Lowell exhaled through pursed lips, his hands on his hips. Of course he broke down on a country road outside of the city. He could even see it in the distance, but he wasn’t exactly looking forward to walking several kilometers in sandals.
      Lowell leaned up against the side of the car and folded his arms across his chest as he tried to think of a plan, when a plume of dust on the horizon caught his eye.
      “Oh! Hey!” he cried out, waving his hands up over his head in hopes of flagging down this oncoming driver.
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