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January 25th CE 71

Heliopolis crisis

Zaft forces have traced alliance activity to the seemingly neutral colony of Heliopolis. The coordinator task force takes it upon themselves to infiltrate and steal the new alliance mobile suits being rolled out for deployment. During the attack the Zaft team succeeds in procuring four of the five machines. One of the machines, the Strike by name, was commandeered by a young coordinator by the name of Kira Yamato. 

As the strike fought off the attack from a lone GINN, other forces began to take advantage of the deteriorating situation…

*****

Nathaniel hated being rushed, his fingers fumbled over the door code for the third time. “Settle down Hawthorne!” He chided before the woman behind him could quip about him forgetting the code. The Red haired woman bristled at the mind reading remark and shook her head in resignation. “this’ll do it…” Nathaniel cooed as he entered the correct code this time, confirmed by the click of the door unlocking. 

The man dressed as an Alliance Lieutenant, snatched the handle of the door and twisted it, holding it fast so it wouldn’t lock again. Nathaniel studied his handgun before looking back at Delphine Hawthorne and the four other members of their commando team. The point man was less than thrilled about this next portion of this impromptu operation but it was for the betterment of their homeland so how could he disagree?

He made eye contact with Hawthorne  as she scooted to the opposite edge of the sealed door. Nathaniel quietly mouthed a countdown to “three”, which the woman mimicked with her free hand for their teammates to see. 

On the third count he swung open the door violently and followed Hawthorne as she ducked into the corridor, gun raised for any threats. One by one the six man team entered the ship and sealed the hatch behind themselves. As the team pushed themselves through the eerily vacant ship their hopes grew that they could actually pull off this crazy stunt. Their hopes soon met reality as they came to the entrance to the bridge. The team paused by the doo, Nathaniel took the moment to give everyone a stern glance. His team had worked together for many years and could practically read his mind when he gave that particular look, “follow my lead.” 

The team of operators soon entered the bridge of the Archangel where they met the skeleton crew of Earth Alliance officers. A black haired woman looked at him with both surprise and relief, “Lieutenant! What’s goin on out there? Have we received orders?” 

Nathaniel cleared his throat as his team moved around the bridge, taking up strategic positions but not putting away their weapons. “We have…” he paused to consider his words, “we’re taking the ship out, I need you to initiate the launch sequence. 

The stern looking woman nodded grimly and barked out, “you heard the man lets launch the Archangel!” As she said this the other two crewmen began working their controls at their stations. The woman came closer and asked in a lower voice, “so does this mean ZAFT is attacking?”

Nathaniel nodded, “they are, we need to deploy the Archangel into the colony and protect the civilians before any more damage can be done! Can I count on you…” his voice trailed off as he hinted to wanting her name. “Badgirulel, Natarle!” She responded eagerly. She seemed on edge, that much was certain, so Nathaniel did his best to hide his growing smile as he looked her. 

Soon the ship left the dry dock and began floating free. Subtle head nods from Nathaniel’s team soon told him that it was time. “I’m sorry to do this Natarle but I’m taking control of this ship. Everyone step away from their stations, and put their hands up. I promise you, that none of you will be hurt.” As he spoke he leveled his gun at the Earth Alliance Officer,  she sputtered, “what?” 

Nathaniel shrugged sheepishly, “I’m taking this ship in the name of the Orb Union Ensign. I don’t have time to discuss the details right now. All you have to do is surrender so that I can save as many Orb citizens as possible.” 

Natarle along with all the other crewmen looked confused and angry, but no one put up a fight as the six man Orb team kept their weapons aimed at everyone. They made short work, cuffing and escorting the crew to a confined area as four people stayed behind on the bridge. 

“See no bloodshed Hawthorne!” Nathaniel pipped as they went about double checking all the systems on the ship. The red haired woman scowled at him, “it would have been quicker to shoot them all…” she muttered and again Nathaniel gave a sheepish grin and nodded, “go ahead and take the Command chair, you studied more of this battleship stuff than I ever did.” 

His remark did brighten the woman’s mood some, “you mean I’ll be captain?” She raised an eyebrow and Nathaniel shrugged as he looked out the viewport, “Semantics don’t matter right now Delphine, we just need to move quickly.” 

The reminder replaced the woman’s stern look and she nodded, “very well, lets make course to the alternative manufacturing site. Assault cannons… fire!” In response the Archanel unleashed a volley from its’ two main cannons to destroy the gate keeping it contained. The massive ship erupted out of the flaming debris of the gate to fly into the synthetic skies of the ailing colony. The commando team remained dumbfounded as they studied the damage to their home territory. Nathaniel was about to say something when the fight between the Strike and a CGUE came to everyone’s attention. “What is that?” He asked aloud as the studied the peculiar mobile fighting the ZAFT unit. He was stunned as a brilliant beam lanced out from the mobile suit to try and hit the CGUE. It dawned in Nathaniel that the mobile suit was one of the GAT series, “that idiot!” He yelled out as the overpowered weapon not only glanced the CGUE but tore a hole into the ground of the colony. “The CGUE is retreating!” Someone called out, much to the relief of everyone on the bridge. Hawthorne spoke up then, “lets match speed and land?” Nathaniel nodded, “yeah, lets see if we can capture the Strike with the same trick. Maybe if we take control of all the Alliance assets ZAFT will cease hostilities…” it was as much a prayer as question as he moved for the door. “Ships in your hands Hawthorne!” 

*****

As Nathaniel approached the Strike with one of his other men he saw a woman, and a man with a group of teens. A mobile armor which had been fighting, asked for permission to land, which they gave to help keep up the charade. “Whose piloting the Strike?” Nathaniel called out as they got closer. 

The woman turned to look at him and scrunched her face in confusion, “I don’t believe we’ve met? I’m Lieutenant Ramius…” 

“Are you the pilot Lieutenant?” Nathaniel didn’t hide his contempt as he studied the out of uniform officer, “no” she responded cautiously, as she did a brown haired teen came down the pulley of the Strike’s cockpit. Suddenly it made sense how the machine could move when the OS was supposedly incomplete.  “A coordinator?” Nathaniel mused, which caused the woman to stiffen some, along with the teens. A smile grew on Nathaniel’s face, “boy are you a Heliopolis citizen?” Kira tilted his head as he regarded the mysterious Earth Alliance officer. “I am…” he answered tentatively. “Ah then you’ve done your homeland a great service!” 

Nathaniel leveled his weapon at Ramius as his teammate did the same to Mu. “Lieutenant, this ship is under Orb control, you will be confined with the rest of the Alliance officers we’ve arrested. The two alliance officers looked baffled at this turn of events. “We have precious little time to rectify your mistakes so please cooperate and we might all make it out of this alive.” 

*****

The jeep bumped precariously as it wound through the abandoned streets of Heliopolis. One battle and one hole in the colony left the place looking quite ragged. Nathaniel adjusted his regular suit as he eyed the road. Nathaniel’s team was stretched thin as it was so he only had two other people with him, both dressed in their own regular suits. He hated leaving the ship like this but knew that he had to. By all accounts ZAFT had secured four other GAT series suits, plus they still had an unknown supply of other mobile suits to boot. “This may be our only chance to level the playing field.” He mused as he entered. The correct code for this security gate the first time. They parked the jeep outside of a nondescript factory and made headway for the interior of the building. 

They soon found themselves in a dimly lit hangar of sorts with three massive shadows standing next to catwalks. “Hit the emergency lights! We need to hurry!” Even as he made the order he was climbing a ladder to approach the first machine. The lights turned on just as he approached the chest of a black, white, and gold mobile suit. “Astray…” he solemnly addressed. Nathaniel looked to see his two comrades approached the red and blue machines as well. “If we hurry we can snag all the spare parts move it!” Nathaniel moved for the cockpit and popped the hatch. He went inside the brand new mobile suit and went about adjusting straps and booting up the OS. It wasn’t ideal but he had to adjust the operations system much the same as the ZAFT forces had done earlier. In a few moments the Coordinator had his suit moving. “It just might be an even fight now!” He announced. “This is Nathaniel Barondel, Astray launching!”

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 “Deep breaths. Deep breaths. You’re gonna be fine.”

Whatever she had signed up for, it wasn’t what she was expecting in the slightest. To be in actual combat and point a weapon at people? It is what she trained for after all, but being in an environment like this still made her queasy, even though she didn’t have to speak at all. At least that was blessing for her. 

“Just do your job, Geneva. Get the Alliance crew off the bridge.”

She continued to point her assault rifle at the enemies, watching as the leaders of their team made small talk. Their new ship, the Archangel, was in full battle mode as thoughts raced through her head. 

“Would this work? What if the ship explodes? What if they MAKE me talk?!”

Eventually, she sat in the passengers seat with Nathaniel, awaiting her orders as the jeep sped to their destination. Geneva knew it’d be time to pilot soon, hoping the jitters would stop but then. Nevertheless, it came time to approach her mobile suit, the blue colored one. As she sat inside the sleek machine, the shaking didn’t stop.

“Come on! Don’t screw this up!”

The OS booted up quickly, giving the woman full control of the unit. The blue machine slowly planted one foot past the other, beginning a stride. “Astray launching!” The mobile suit caught up to the similar gold one. “Oh, this is Geneva Halston. I’m sorry. I should’ve said that before…” She stammered.

“Crap. Screwed up…”
 

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As the Astrays marched out of the factory they moved efficiently to secure the spare parts, and bring what they could aboard the ship. Nathaniel spent most of the time observing the other two units work. He took a moment to open a direct line to Geneva. He had known the woman for awhile now and knew how… concerned she could get about her job. “How ya holding up Genie?” He would often speak more casually to her because he felt like it calmed her down, or was it distract her? Nathaniel cleared his throat, “I know its been awhile since we’ve had to play with any mobile suits, but you know as well as I do that you’re probably the most qualified one on our team to pilot one of these units. Don’t forget that! And take some pride, you’re one of our first official pilots!” He winced as he made the statement knowing she may full well run the other way with the complement. He quickly added, “you’re doing a great job Ensign just keep –“ 

A beeping from his mobile suit told him that things were about to get much more interesting. He switched the comm channel to address everyone, “I’m seeing movement can you confirm Archangel?” As he waited for an answer he put his beam rifle up and reached back to draw a beam saber. 

“That’s an affirmative Astray One, ZAFT bogeys inbound, 3 GINN and…” there was a pause and some commotion Nathaniel could barely make out over the radio, this time Hawthorne responded, “Nathaniel, it’s the Aegis! They’re deploying one of the new machines already! Plus those GINNs are carrying heavy weapons for an assault…” her voice trailed off making it clear that it wasn’t a good development. Nathaniel grimaced and moved to jump on top of the ship, “Geneva you’re with me! Everyone else finish loading up the material and button down the hatches!” 

Although none of the Astrays were equipped with flight units, the lower gravity in the middle of the colony allowed them to emulate space combat close enough. Gold Frame took off to speed towards the enemy units. 

Nathaniel fumbled with the controls looking for a way to hail the potential enemies. Any hope of Parlay was erased as one of the lead GINNs immediately fired at him with its’ oversized beam cannon. “Son of-!” He was barely able to raise his shield in time, testing the new technology against the emerald beam. 

How easy it would have been to bring his rifle up and return fire but he couldn’t be sure of his backdrop for such a shot. 

Cursing out loud, he charged forward, igniting his pink blade as he tried to close the distance. The GINN got off another shot which Nathaniel absorbed once more with his shield. Just as he closed in for a swipe the GINN danced away trying to line up another shot. “Ensign!” He roared out, “Stop those bunker busters!” The remaining two GINNs were equipped with heavy missiles meant for taking down entire bases. 

As Nathaniel fought the persistent GINN the Aegis hung back wearily, as if studying the Astray fight. Slowly the stolen unit brought up its beam rifle and solemnly began to line up a shot on the Orb Lieutenant, waiting for a break in the fight to take a clean shot. 

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The blue astray almost wobbled as it marched along with the others. She held the controls tightly, hoping that maybe it would help balance the machine better, but nothing seemed to be working. The squad leader began communicating with the girl in an attempt to calm her down. "I-I'm good sir!" She responded as the Astray continued. Geneva clearly wasn't, but nothing could be stopped now. Whether she liked it or not, the mission was in full effect and about to get much worse. Four enemy units came quick to interrupt Orb's little charade, with one being one of the stolen Alliance mobile suits.

"Oh no... Can I just guard our cargo and let them do the fighting? Please?"

“Geneva you’re with me! Everyone else finish loading up the material and button down the hatches!” Her heart immediately sank as she heard Nathaniel, but nothing could be done about it. She was given her orders and had to stand by them.

"Even if I-I die?! Ugh, dammit!"

"Yessir!" The Astray blasted forward as she wished to catch up with the two GINN's assigned to her. The mobile suit had little in terms of weaponry, but she assumed what they were piloting was much better than the current mobile suits ZAFT had on the market, based on her research and testing. "I won't let you win! I can't!" She yelled as the Astray's rifle raised, firing a few shots. The GINNs each pulled to the side, watching the beams completely miss. One retaliated quickly, launching a much larger weapon against her. "Raise the shield. Or will that be enough. Aw crap!"

Geneva panicked while the blue machine pulled up its shield, but then lowered as it flew upward. The missile went directly between the Astray's two legs, barely missing the waist. "Oh no you don't!" The shaking pilot sent a barrage of shots toward and all around the two enemy machines, striking one in multiple shots, causing it to erupt in flames. The other could only watch as its missile launcher was hit, throwing the weapon. The explosion rocked the poor GINN, taking much of its armor off while it crashed into the colony. 

"Did I do it?" She muttered, only to hear a booming sound far behind her. "OH NO! THE COLONY!"

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Nathaniel was so preoccupied with the pesky GINN he didn’t notice the stray shots being traded with Geneva and the two GINNs. Eruptions splatter over the colony but the worse was when a few of the bunker busters and beam shots hit the main shaft of the colony. The mega structure shuttered from the abuse and debris slowly but surely began bleeding off. 

 

Miguel grimaced as he kept missing the strange new mobile suit. “What’s with this guy? He’s fast! First the strike now this guy?” He let loose another blast as the golden astray actual dodged the shot this time, the pilot seemingly getting more confidence in their suit it appeared.

 

“Miguel back away so I can shoot him!” Athrun called out as he nervously kept his crosshairs on the dancing enemy. Miguel wasn’t known for his teamwork however. “He’s mine Athrun now back off!” Athrun growled in frustration. He had only flown out because he thought the strike could be out here, not another set of secret mobile suits. 

 

“Can’t hit me with that bulky thing can you?” Nathaniel growled as he deftly dodged the green blast. He hated the idea of collateral damage be knew he had to catch the ZAFT soldier off guard. He had used GINNs in simulators before but even GINNs didn’t have this level of maneuverability. His gambit paid off as he closed the distance. “Got you!” He roared out as he came in for a slash. 

The fuchsia blade ate easily into the GINN’s armor, cleaning cleaving the suit in two. As Nathaniel sailed past the wreckage the two pieces erupted in an explosion. 

 

“Miguel!” Athrun cried out in rage, already he had lost two teammates on this mission! He recovered from his shock to line up a shot. “Die you!” Just as he squeezed the trigger the unthinkable happened, the colony ripped itself apart. 

Violent winds and debris flew through the air spoiling any shot Athrun could take and soon all the mobile suits went flying in various directions as they were caught in the whirlpool of sheer catastrophe. 

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Geneva thought she'd messed up. Realistically, there wasn't much she could do to prevent the collateral damage, but the pilot's biggest enemy, herself, kept her from believing this. "Uhhh. Sir?" She attempted to contact her leader, not knowing if it could even go through as the colony and her mobile suit violently shook. "What do we do now?" Another batch of explosions came from the third and final GINN, causing Geneva to snap back into battle mode.

The Blue Frame headed directly toward the red mobile suit, watching as it pointed its rifle at Nathaniel. "I-I'm sorry!" As she responded with lifting her own rifle, mayhem commenced as the colony tore itself apart. The mobile suit's rifle flew wildly in another direction as the Orb pilot lost complete control of her machine. "AHHH! SOMEONE HELP!!!" Like a ragdoll, the mobile suit looked like it was boneless as it flipped around, hitting small pieces of debris. Whatever was happening, she knew it wouldn't have a pretty result.

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It was faint at first, the rustling of static, the babble of voices frantically calling. Through the incoherent din, the word “astray” could be heard over and over again. Things certainly had gone astray as far as Nathaniel was concerned. He remained strapped in his chair, clutching his stomach to avoid the onslaught of hurling up his last meal. Finally the blood stopped pooling in his extremities and his vision cleared up as he focused on the debris field in front of him, in front of his Astray. 

“Those bastards….” He breathed heavily as he realized speaking was still something done in haste. Manipulating the controls he fully leveled out his mobile suit to help fight the nausea. Taking a few more deep breathes, he was convinced he was in control of his body once more. The static kept bubbling into focus as it became evident that the Archangel was trying to hail him. 

“This is Astray one, Archangel do you copy?” A jolt of panic coursed through his body and he quickly added, “Geneva! Astray two are you ok?” He looked around frantically but had trouble sorting out one mess from the next. He felt some measure of relief as Hawthornes voice called back, “Nathaniel! Thank god you’re alive!” The soldier turned pilot thought he could detect a hint of emotion in the woman’s voice and he allowed a small smile to crease his lips, a notion that faded as he saw a floating tricycle in front of his machine, “I’m here Hawthorne! What’s the status of the ship?” 

There was a static filled pause before the woman responded, “we’re fine… but the colony…” Nathaniel was already shaking his head, “I know! I know… listen the colony must have shot off its’ escape pods, if red frame is still able to, have them start collecting them. We need to save our people!” He took a breath to calm down. Hawthorne responded, “will do Lieutenant! What are you going to do?” 

Nathaniel gripped the controls wincing as he considered his options, his little fight had made a noticeable dent in his power supply but he could still move. “I’m going to find Geneva; then pay a visit to the ZAFT command ship nearby.” He could already guess Hawthornes response so he quickly added, “we need to parlay… their fight is with the Earth Alliance not us. I… I need to see if they can be reasoned with.” He tested the mobility of gold frame, please to see it was only lightly damaged from the debris storm it just survived. He tucked away the beam saber to pull out the beam rifle from the small of his back. He looked around carefully, looking for shades of white and blue. Finally he thought he caught sight of his teammate and headed for her. “Geneva! Are you ok? Genie!” He called out frantically. 

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A blue mobile suit floated through clunks of debris and corpses, slamming into a chunk of a building. The jolt rocked Geneva forward as the pilot tried to open her eyes. Her eyelids seemed heavy, likely from going unconscious after the whirlwind the colony created. Whatever had just happened, the Orb woman hadn't expected to be apart of it. Static only came through her comms as the pilot shook her head. Not only was the Blue Frame's rifle gone, but she had no clue where she'd even ended up. 

"Hello? Hello!" She attempted to contact Nathaniel, or anyone for that matter, but to no avail. "What if... What if they just left without me?" She whispered, curling up in her cockpit for warmth. "No, they wouldn't leave this mobile suit behind." Tears began to swell from her face to the bottom of the helmet. "Did they... die?" The mobile suit had thankuflly only taken minor exterior damage from the explosion, but still it remained floating and unmoving. Part of her just wanted to just wait until the air was gone. It was her fault the colony seemed to collapse anyways. However, a tiny glint of gold caught her eye. Nathaniel was coming. 

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“Ensign!” Nathaniel frantically called out as he pushed debris aside to find the stoic blue frame gently twirling. He reached out to halt the friendly unit and popped his hatch, practically running out of the machine to go to blue frame. A few moments later and he had the hatch pried open for blue frame. “Geneva!” He called out in a panic as he caught his breath to see her sitting there with a horrified expression on her face. 

Her look stole any words he could say out of his mouth. He reached out to try and comfort her but paused, like his hand had just reached an invisible force field. His outstretched hand curled into a first and the look of sympathy drained from his face, replaced with determination. “Ensign.” He said calmly, “go back to the angel. There’s people that need our help- your help right now. You can make a difference with this blue frame.” 

Despite his calm words they did little to ease his tense demeanor. “I got business to deal with, so please… pull yourself together and hurry back.” He turned away and rushed back into the cockpit of gold frame. He didn’t wait to see her reaction as he pushed and throttled away from his teammate. 

A few tense moments of navigation later had him face to face with a blue spaceship, commonly referred to as a Nazca class ship. He had no idea if any more of the stolen ships were around or what happened to the Aegis for that matter. Nathaniel didn’t care, not in that moment. Gold frame tucked the rifle away behind its’ back and outstretched its’ arms in an almost biblical looking “T” pose. “Unknown ZAFT forces, this is Lieutenant Barondel of the ORB Special Forces, I seek to parlay with your commander immediately.” 

——

“Sir!” A helmsman called out onboard the Vesalius, “the unknown mobile suit is requesting to talk to the commander!” 

Rau allowed for a smirk to cross his face as he curiously studied the peculiar unknown machine. He relaxed his grip on the back of the captain’s chair and nodded, “why not? This could work out to our advantage.” The crew looked at each other nervously as the masked commander went over to grab a headset, “This is Commander Rau Le Crusset. To whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?” 

“Commander!” The voice sounded both relieved and alarmed if it was possible, “I am Lieutenant Nathaniel Barondel…. I am with the ORB forces stationed at Heliopolis…” Rau allowed a smirk to grown on his face as he noticed the man being flustered, “Commander…” the main reiterated, “I realize that there is a war going on between ZAFT and the Earth Alliance; and by no means does that exclude our country from the conflict… However, there are no active Alliance forces left. All of the mobile suits as well as the Alliance capital ship were commandeered by my task force and we do not wish to escalate this situation beyond what has happened already. I’m asking that your forces withdraw so my team can focus on humanitarian efforts here. There are refugees we’ve already begun to bring aboard our ship.”

The tone I which the Lieutenant referred to the legged ship was not missed on Rau as he took in this revelation. “So are you suggesting we simply leave Lieutenant?” 

Nathaniel responded back eagerly, “Yes- Yessir I am! It hasn’t escaped our attention that you procured the mobile suits the Alliance was working on, there is little more you could hope to gain from your operation by escalating this situation. The ORB Union will undoubtably take further action against our defensive forces as a hostile measure by your account.” 

There was a growing confidence from the ORB soldier which was almost admirable, Rau let the smile full grow on his lips. “Very well Lieutenant. We will cease all hostile activities, please understand we will remain in the vicinity to verify your claims though.” 

“That’s acceptable Commander. I’ll take my leave then… thank you.” 

The channel was cut and Rau looked back at the puzzled expression of Captain Ades, “The good lieutenant has a point, we retrieved what we sought to obtain. Once we determine if they are telling the truth then we’ll return to the homeland.” The Captain reluctantly nodded his agreement as Rau went past his chair, “If you don’t mind I need to go have a discussion with Athrun, I’d like to know why he sortied without my approval…”

——

The Archangel stayed around Heliopolis for a long time, taking in as many escape pods as they could while caretaking the ones that couldn’t fit on the ship. The task was made all the more important when it was discovered that one of the refugees was none other than the princess Cagalli Yula Atha. This heightened the crew’s sense of duty and made them redouble their efforts to ensure the safety of the ORB citizens. The caravan of escape pods along with the stolen Alliance ship made an uneventful endeavor to earth, eventually returning to the homeland. 

Contrary to what the small special forces team was hoping for, they did not receive a warm welcome. Almost immediately the ship was impounded at Morganrate along with the Astray and Strike Mobile Suits. Had Nathaniel not been apart of the intelligence community, and still in the regular military he was certain he would have gotten a court marshal. He was only just saved from having to explain his actions to Lord Uzumi when he was instead called into the office of a different ORB Nobleman. 

“Please Lieutenant have a seat…” said the well dressed man, as he stood next to his window overlooking the sea. Nathaniel snapped free from his salute and went to sit down as indicated. He wasn’t much a political person so he didn’t know how to react with his host. Many moments of awkward silence entailed with the long haired man pursing his lips in a smile as he regarded the soldier before him. “I wanted to personally thank you for your help in recovering those items from Heliopolis Lieutenant. Despite whatever impressions you may be receiving, your mission was critical in ensuring the strength of our country.”

Nathaniel nodded as he tensely held onto his uniform cap on his lap. “I live to serve sir!” He said rather dogmatically. The curt reply made the nobleman smile all the wider, clearly pleased with the obedience set before him. “In that case I have another task for you… and your team.” 

This remark made Nathaniel cock his head, “what could that be sir?” The aristocrat didn’t miss a beat as he walked behind is desk to sit down himself. He crossed his legs and entangled his fingers as he looked more closely at Nathaniel, “please understand Lieutenant… it is through my good graces that I spared you any… unnecessary criticism for your actions at Heliopolis. So in a round about way… you will be working for me from now on… do you understand?” 

Nathaniel couldn’t help but gulp at that revelation but knew better than to question his fortunate position. Usually for disasters scapegoats were sought after, and he had indeed been fortunate not to be put up as such so far. “I’ll do anything to protect our homeland sir!” he sharply responded to the ORB noble. Again this answer seemed to amuse the nobleman who leaned back in their chair. “Very good Lieutenant… From this point on you will be the tasked with forming an elite unit using our recently acquired assets. I want you to select and train the best of the best to be our first generation of mobile suit pilots. The others wont tell you this…” his voice dripped lower and Nathaniel knew that the “others” were the other ORB nobles. “But we have precious little time to prepare for the inevitable… ORB must be strong. We must be strong… I will be counting on you Lieutenant. I’ll send your orders shortly. You are dismissed..” 

Nodding, Nathaniel shot up form his chair and snapped into another crisp salute, “Thank you Lord Sahaku! I will do my best!”

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Roane MacMaster shivered whenever the thought crept back into his head. He was in space. He was in SPACE. Surrounded by infinite nothingness and in that nothingness existed death. Which certainly wasn’t nothing but it was probably worse. Probably.

“Leading Private MacMaster…” came a voice from across the desk. It belonged to a woman in immaculate military garb with symbols that told Roane she was way further up the chain of command than he was. “We’ve established that you were at Heliopolis at the time of the attack, but we haven’t fully established why. Would you care to elaborate?”

“I’m afraid that’s top secret, ma’am. Need-to-know basis only, something like level 7 clearance?”

“I think it’s fairly obvious that I need to know, Private,” she tapped one of the symbols on her jacket. Roane got the hint. With a sigh, he adjusted his tie and tried to look her dead in the eye.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of the Astrays? I was brought onto the project about six months ago as a test pilot. Me and my team had just finished some routine trials that day and were going over the data when it happened. I was still in the cockpit of the Red Frame—figured it was the safest place to be. Imagine my surprise when a couple minutes later, some guy in an Earth Alliance uniform tries to break in. I wasn’t about to let them just take it—it wasn’t ready and it wasn’t theirs. So I booted him—literally,”

The woman—an intelligence officer by the name of Bennett—leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. “And I’m sure by now you’re aware that this man you intercepted was one of ours?”

“How was I supposed to know he was a spoo—” Roane caught the word before it fully exited his mouth. Bennett’s eyes narrowed. “What I mean to say is, the whole point of an undercover mission is that you blend it. I’m not a soldier, ma’am, I’m R&D. There was no way I was going to be able to tell the difference,”

“That man you kicked off the mobile suit didn’t make it, you know. He was a fine operative,”

Roane’s stomach turned and he grimaced. “Well, with all due respect, a lot of people didn’t make it, ma’am. Some of my team ended up stuck on the colony when it went down, too.”

Bennett was silent for a moment. “Let’s move on,” she said. “You were in the Red suit. What happened next?”

“The soldier that had commandeered the Gold suit started issuing orders. I knew if I tried to fight back, it’d be two on one. I know my way around all those suits, ma’am, and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to take the Blue Frame and the Gold Frame alone.”

“So?”

“So I followed orders, ma’am, to keep suspicion off of me. I was to deliver spare parts to the Archangel-class ship and I did,”

“It concerns me that you would be so willing to commit treason against the homeland, Private MacMaster,”

“Treason?” Roane reeled backwards. “They were our guys. And I was doing it in the interest of our project. It wasn’t until I made it to the Archangel that it all kind of sorted itself out. They pulled me out of that thing pretty quick once they found out I wasn’t their guy, slapped some handcuffs on me and threw me in with the EA folks they had captured. There were a couple of really cute ones in there, too, actually. There was this one brown-haired girl with—”

“That’s enough, Private. Obviously this is an incredible breach in protocol and national security. You’ll be lucky if we don’t have you executed for this,”

“E-executed?”

Another soldier came in through the door, illuminating the darkened room. Roane winced at the sudden light as the soldier leaned in towards Bennett.

“You’re kidding me,” Bennett said in reaction to the whispered comments. “Him?” The soldier nodded. Bennett levelled her gaze on MacMaster and removed his handcuffs from the bar on the table with the most venomous of scowls. “Stand up, Private. Today’s apparently the luckiest goddamn day of your life,”

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Geneva had to rearrange herself as she flew back toward the Archangel. She had trained for many different situations, so she knew that her emotions shouldn't had gotten the best of her. Nevertheless, it was over. The Blue Frame docked itself inside the battleship while Nathaniel "had business to deal with." She trusted her superior very much, but sometimes she felt he would be somewhat mysterious at times. 

"Maybe I'm just paranoid..."

Fortunately, his meeting allowed the team to safely traverse out of the area, even picking up the princess along with more refugees. Geneva wondered how different this could've turned out if Cagalli had ended up somewhere else. The soldier looked up to her, even though she was younger, and felt that her importance to their nation would help them drastically.  

Unfortunately, the complete opposite had happened. ORB wasn't happy with the stunt they'd pulled, even though Geneva assumed it was all apart of some higher power in the military's plan. In fact, she didn't quite understand why it'd happened and what the consequences were going to be for her and her team.

...

A shower head quickly stopped as Geneva pulled the curtain aside. Typical of her, she almost managed to trip on the edge of mat, but caught herself on a nearby cabinet. The soldier, or perhaps former soldier, looked directly into the mirror beside her. A somber face, almost brought to tears, stared back. 

"What if... This is all my fault?"

Once again, she was lost in thoughts. She had no idea if she was being court martialed, executed, or or any other negative result because of her actions. All she knew was that she was lost and confused.

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“This man is the one responsible for this mess! It was his own initiatives that brought us here to the awkward situation we are in now!” 

There was a murmuring all around the room, with few daring to speak up beyond their hushed tones. Lord Sahaku dropped an accusing finger to aim directly as Lord Uzumi. “You are in a position not of power, but of trust! And you sir have betrayed out trust!” 

The Orb leader glared at the upstart Lord but didn’t say anything knowing any words would likely galvanize the negative opinion he was garnering. Ever since the youth took his father’s position these board meetings had been getting progressively more volatile. 

Lord Sahaku allowed a tiny smirk to crest his lips as he spoke up, “I have no choice but to put forth a motion of ‘no confidence’ in Lord Uzumi’s leadership. We must act now to rectify the mistakes he has bestowed upon us, despite his intentions.” 

That was it, that was the nail in the coffin and the board room roared to life with shouts and cries for resignation and voting. Sahaku lowered his hand letting the chaos erupt around them all and simply stared back daringly at Lord Uzumi who kept his fingers entwined. 

Already there were contradicting voices, some pushing for an immediate Alliance with the Earth forces, while others voicing to join ZAFT. The shouting died down as Lord Uzumi stood up and looked all around the room. Silence soon stole everyone’s breath and slowly the Orb leader spoke up, “I will not resign amidst the chaos we are facing right now… especially when you all cannot decide for yourselves what to do. We may very well be in a situation where we may feel like we must join one side or another but we must remain firm in our beliefs.”

It was Sahaku who responded, “beliefs alone do not determine our reality Lord Uzumi… only a dictator is willing to cling to power.” He let the stinging words hang in the air. “My fellow lords, let us determine who should be our leader right here and now with a vote.” 

——

Lord Uzumi stormed out of the conference room, a look of anger plastered on his face. Cagalli stood up from her chair outside the board room and rushed to be by her father. She knew that face he had, knew that silence would be more favorable at that moment. As they got into their car her father finally spoke up, “Cagalli…” 

The young woman straightened up and nodded, “yes father?” 

Again the stoic man kept a silent gaze on his daughter before taking a deep breath, “I want you to go to Morganrate and help oversee the development of the Natural operating system…” Cagalli gave her father a questioning look, knowing that this request was out of his character. “I know that you want to fight, that you want to do something to impact the world… and while I don’t condone such behavior, even I know that sometimes… sometimes drastic actions must be taken.” Lord Uzumi leaned forward to put a hand on his daughter’s knee, “we need friends in these dark times… Cagalli… I need you do what is in the best interest of our people, not yourself.” 

—-

Lord Sahaku grimaced as he finally got into his own car, his sister remained perched in the leather seat, with her legs crossed, “how did it go brother?” She asked daringly, knowing the foul mood he must be in with that particular expression. Gina took a deep breath and slowly smiled, “its going well.. Lord Uzumi will be out of power by the end of the week.”

Not one to miss a beat his sister chimed in, “but its too long? You were hoping they would act now? I’m sure you gave a thrilling speech, father would be proud.” Her tone was mocking if not condescending but Gina didn’t let the words get to him. “I suppose it will have to do! All this rhetoric can get so tiring that’s all…” 

At that remark his sister let out a belly laugh, “poor Gina, always one to work behind the shadows thrust into the limelight as our dear Saviour politician!” 

Gina did glare at her but eventually shrugged, “It will be worth it if we claim power…” 

“Who else is considering the position?”

“Sieran and Hanada predictably… those fools want to join the Alliance and ZAFT respectively.”

“If not Lord Sahaku then which one would you desire to win?”

Gina scoffed at the notion but slowly nodded his understanding for such a question. “Hanada and ZAFT would be preferable as allies but Lord Hanada is a stuborn one and not likely to entertain schemes with. While the alliance is the less desirable of allies, the Sieran family is a bunch of fools and easily manipulated. I suppose we could do with either one.” He looked out the window distasteful of either notion. “I suspect that Lord Uzumi may be our unwilling accomplice in the days to come though. No one else voiced stronger criticism than myself. Orb will be ours dear sister, just give it time.” 

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(Thanks to Frosty and Judge for doing the dialogue with me!)

A knocking came at the door to give Geneva a warning and a moment later Nathaniel strode into the cell in his naval uniform. The Lieutenant looked around the room before settling his gaze on Geneva. “Ensign.” He stated curtly, “how are you doing?”

“Sir?” She responded, sitting down on her bed. “I’m fine.” Geneva looked down at the floor dejected. “I just... what’s going on? Why am I held in here? I thought we were doing a good thing for our nation, sir.” Glancing at the naval uniform, she knew something was up, but didn’t quite know what.

Nathaniel looked tired and he motioned to the bed next to her, indicating he would sit and join her. He cleared his throat, he wasn’t used to seeing anyone from his team out of uniform much less in such a bizarre situation. “The big wigs are overreacting... they are scrambling to scape goat someone for Heliopolis.... I saw the report...” he paused to search for the right words, “you did everything right ensign. They will sooner hang me before they get to you Geneva...” he looked at her, his expression sincere. “Are you... are you still willing to serve? After all this?”

She sighed as she heard her superior, her friend speak. “I don’t have anything else. I can’t just leave it all behind, but I did screw up out there. If this is as serious as it is, I don’t want to put lives in danger.” She thought about the Blue Frame and how she used it. “But... I want to continue. I need to prove that I can be a good ally. Sorry, I kinda rambled...”

Nathaniel flashed a smile, “it’s fine Ensign, I’d probably be feeling much the same as you are right now. I’m glad you’re still willing to help. As you know there aren’t all that many coordinators in our country and even less who are in the military.” He motioned with his hand to the cell, “all this doesn’t do them justice for just how much they need you. I’ll cut to the chase. I’ve been tasked by our benefactor to set up a task force. I could really use you on it.” He gave her a pleading look but didn’t press beyond that.

“Welp. I guess so.” She stood up from her bed. “It’s nice and quiet here, but I need to do what’s right.” Being a coordinator, it meant there would be these special perks, but she still hadn’t proved it in battle yet. Perhaps it was time. “Alright sir, when do we start?”

Nathaniel stood up and motioned for the door. “How about tomorrow?” He headed for the exit himself. “I need you to clean up and meet me at Morganrate at 0600. We gotta callibrate the Astray units and get them ready for testing and action. It’s my understanding that we’ll have a mission real soon.”

——-

As Roane was escorted out of the holding room his handcuffs were removed. Eerily enough he found himself standing in an adjourning room with one other person, a diminutive woman dressed in a ceremonial uniform with a rank too high for such a young girl. “So you’re the guy who commandeered one of our suits?” Her face and tone added a silent “you don’t look so impressive.” At the end of her question. But the Princess of orb wasn’t known for her charming personality.

"Commandeered? Not impressive?" Roane rubbed his sore wrists, now free. "Lass, I'm practically that mobile suit's Uncle. No one can pilot it like I can. Besides I was already in it when those spooks tried to--" only then did he notice the absurd rank on the lapel of her uniform, the various clues and details clicking together and telling him that this wasn't some random girl, but his boss's boss's boss's daughter and a honest-to-god princess to boot. Roane immediately snapped to attention, saluting Cagalli whilst standing as straight and firm as he could. "Apologies you're highness, I didn't realize. You are correct, ma'am I'm not impressive at all, just a test-pilot who is very sorry for everything that happened,"

Cagalli scowled at the man’s reckless behavior and let out a sigh as he finally caught on. She shook her head, resigned to her options. “Fortune would have it that you were there to help our people Private.” She stated the rank more so to remind the man of his place. “Look, I hate to even approach you like this but circumstances have gotten a little of out of control here if you haven’t noticed…” she put her hands on her hips to look at the pilot, “I came here to personally ask for you assistance…” her voice trailed as if she wasn’t quite sure herself if this was the right person to even ask.

"Me? Assistance?" Roane folded his arms across his chest. "What could a princess of Orb possibly want from some nobody R&D guy such as myself?" Roane quirked a brow. She mentioned...circumstances--what did that mean exactly? A kernel of an idea sprouted in his mind. "You're about to ask me to do something stupid, dangerous and maybe even..." he scanned the corners of the room for cameras. "...illegal, aren't you?"

Cagalli blushed at the mention of something illegal but shook her head. “No!...no… look. I don’t know how political you are but in case you didn’t know my father is on the verge of being outed… right now the fate of Orb is in the hands of Morganrate… I think just about everyone can agree that if we can develop a viable operating system for naturals then it could really change things for our nation.” She paused her rambling to look at the man, “in any case I know that when you leave this building you are going to approached by a man, the pilot of the Gold Frame I believe. He’s going to want you to join his group… I need you to agree to go along with him.” She furrowed her brow to study his reaction closely.

"An OS for naturals, huh? I'm not much of a codemonkey, but that sounds like something we can do. I'll talk to my team and--" he was cut off by the rest of Cagalli's plan--her real plan--for him. "The Gold Frame? You mean that spec ops guy? And you want me to just...join up with him? Does that mean I'm going into battle then? Is he one of our guys?" he had so many questions and they all spewed out of him with ease. Eventually he had to stop himself, holding up his hands. "You know what, I don't have much choice do I? This feels very much like one of those 'do it or kiss your cushy job behind' kind of deals," he sighed. "Fine, I'll go with the spook then,"

Cagalli clearly looked uneasy asking for such a thing. “I- no Orb appreciates your cooperation Roane. I need you to understand that there is going to more than just that… I need you to report to me, discreetly of what it is your unit will be doing. Do you understand?”

Roane's cheeks glowed the slightest shade of pink as he averted his gaze. "Ah, uh, well..." he scratched the back of his head. "Of course, your highness. I'm just a scientist, but I'll do whatever I can. For the greater good, you know?" Roane looked back at the Orb princess and gave her a deep bow. "I'll be off then, ma'am. If you need me, I'm sure you have people that can find me," and with that, Roane exited the room.

Cagalli gave a slight nod at the test pilot and watched him leave. She let out a deep breath when he was gone and clenched her fist. “If only that idiot knew how important it really is…” she muttered to herself. 

Just as Cagalli predicted as soon as Roane left the building another man approached him in a naval uniform. His insignia designated him as a Lieutenant. “So…” he stated matter of factly, he stood directly in front of Roane, arms crossed. “You’re the guy who took red frame out is that right?” His tone was inquisitive, and his expression showed less than amusement as he studied Roane.

*These people really don't waste any time* Roane thought as the man Cagalli mentioned stood before him, blocking his path. He didn't look particularly happy to be recruiting the test pilot, which immediately put Roane on edge. "Aye, I'm the guy who saved the machine your boys tried to hijack. Roane MacMaster, Morgenroete R&D and Leading Private," Roane placed his hands on his hips. "There something I can help you with, mate? I assume you're one of them spec ops boys?"

Nathaniel clenched a fist, very much wanting to punch the test pilot right there but fought the urge. Instead through gritted teeth he said, “before we get started you should know that Ed Shiro was a good man…” he flashed Roane a look of pure hatred which lasted for just a moment before he took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and looked up at Roane, “my name is Nathaniel Barondel, I’m the pilot of Gold Frame. To cut to the chase Roane MacMaster… we need your help with further developing the Astray series… I’m putting together a team and right now you’re probably the most experienced with the machines.” He side eyed Roane, seeing if the pilot was quick enough to catch on to what was going on.

Roane, sensing the man's thinly-veiled malice, narrowed his eyes. This Nathan fellow wasn't much older than him but, like it or not, he was higher up on the food chain. "I bear no ill-will towards your comrade. I regret that things happened the way they did. But what was I supposed to do?" The test pilot rubbed his wrists and met Barondel's gaze, unwavering. "I'll help you, if only to make up for what happened and because I feel like I don't have much choice. But keep one thing in mind, Lieutenant Barondel--when it comes to the Astrays, I know more than you ever will. If these machines ever see their day on a real battlefield as effective units, its because my team and I made it so,"

Nathaniel let a breath out nodding his agreement with Roane’s assessment of the situation. Chaotic things happen on a battlefield. He sniffed and looked back at the pilot. His tone amused Nathaniel in a good way. There was a twinkle in the Lieutenant’s eye as he allowed a smirk, “I hope you’re right, because we may have to test their full ability in the near future.” His tone was much more civil this time, he could recognize the fellow pilot for what he was, a pilot. “We leave in the morning, meet up at the dry dock you can’t miss our ride!” He offered his hand for a shake, “I’ll have your paperwork ready when you get onboard.” He promised.

Roane took the man's hand and shook it. "I wish I could say I look forward to it, Lieutenant, but truth is I'd rather be as far away from the battlefield as possible. But you can count on me to get these things up to speed," Roane gave the man a determined smile. He knew he should still be cautious of this man, Nathaniel Barondel, but there was no sense in burning the bridge before he crossed it. After all, he needed to get in close to get Cagalli the information she needed.

——-


As Nathaniel walked up to the giant spaceship they had captured he spotted Geneva likewise approaching the ship. He quick stepped a couple of paces and called out, “Ensign!” He ran up to get next to her motioning for them to keep waking together. He held a ruck sack with his stuff over his shoulder, his officer hat somewhat disheveled on his head. As he caught his breath he spoke up, “there’s been some changes to the team I wanted to run by you Geneva?” He asked cautiously.

“At least we get to keep the ship...” the pilot was deep in thought after all the events that had occurred. She wondered if this was the right decision, her superior walked toward her. “Changes? Like what?” She stated nervously.

Nathaniel flashed a toothy smile, “well for one…” he paused as he considered telling her about Roane and what he had done to their friend Ed who was going to pilot red frame. He decided it wouldn’t be productive to tell her the full story, “we’re getting a test pilot from Morganrate who is familiar with the Astrays. He should be a great asset…” he looked at her then added, “the second thing is about Hawthorne, she’s been promoted and won’t be under my command. Which means I need a good XO for our team… are you up for the job?” It was about as informal as he could get asking her the question. And while he had his reservations he really didn’t have a better choice.

“M-me?” Just a little ago, she was expecting to be court martialed, but now she was being promoted? “Well I...” She wasn’t even sure what to say, there was bound to be someone else out there who was better for the job. Nevertheless, she wouldn’t decline the offer. “I’m ready sir!” She saluted

Nathaniel gave an approving nod to Geneva. It wasn’t the first time she surprised him, and he certainly hoped it wouldn’t be the last. “I’ll send you the official documents after we settle aboard.” He nudged his head towards the ship. They had just reached the entrance hatch. He gave a quick salute. “I’ll talk to you later Geneva!” He nodded then went down the hall looking for his quarters.

"Bye..." Once again, the woman was alone. There was a sense of dread inside of her, but also a sense of pride. She was going to be apart of something much greater than she had anticipated. "Better try to enjoy this..."

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What does one do on a battleship? Kali asked herself. A cup of tea sounded so good at that moment. Her stomach gurgled as well and perhaps lunch... or dinner? Everything happened so fast and now things moved at a snail’s pace as she waited patiently on the bridge. A delicate finger gently pushed her large circular glasses up to rest against the bridge of her nose, the silent curse most glass-wearers were burdened with. Her white lab coat was dusty, torn, and smeared but it was the only thing of comfort to her. She tugged her jacket in place over her red dress and shirt blouse. She did her best to tidy herself and stay out of the way of those that knew their purpose and moved to execute it with diligent efficiency. A sigh escaped as her nervous fingers crawled to fix her hair, adjust a bobby pin here and there, and tuck a frazzled piece of hair back in its place. She wondered if she should flag one of the soldiers that moved to and fro to assist her in finding Captain Hawthorne or maybe a way for her to go home? She went to raise her hand to get the attention of someone but she second guessed herself and lowered her mid-flight hand, what would she say? How would she say it? What was the proper etiquette in addressing military personnel? Did she have to salute? Or curtsy? No! That’s royalty! Her hand instead decided to nurse the headache that accompanied her anxious thoughts. She wanted to go home but she remembered her flat going up in a blaze after she was shuttled aboard the gargantuan ship. Her brown eyes glanced around again as silence fell about her. Her black Mary Jane shoes tapped and echoed as she approached the panoramic view of the skyline of Heliopolis, “I wonder why Captain Hawthorne felt it would be best for me to stay here...I don’t know how much of an asset I’d be to the military... I’m just an analyst.” She mused out loud.

Edited by Grayson
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Keiran drew in a breath as he was kept in a holding cell, he really wasn't sure what had happened after the colony was torn apart, in fact.. he had even thrown up a little in his own mouth when it happened he leaned back against the wall and shut his eyes, this new team he had been transferred to caused him quite a bit of trouble, nevertheless he sat back and and tried to relax.. they were a good bunch of people, at least, worth working with and protecting should the going get tough. "Ugh..." He got up and paced the room over and over, what was he gonna do? What was gonna happen? He was in a ship in the middle of space, without a helmet. "Are they gonna send me out the airlock?.." He wondered, squatting down and then pulling at his hair a little "Makes me feel sick.." He said, shutting his eyes and then trying to recall everything that happened. 

He helped the Red Frame carry the materials and equipment into the angel, and upon finishing said goal.. he went to rush back to assist his allies.. and that's when it happened, the place that he, his family, and many friends could safely call home was well and truly gone.. and that angered him, quite a lot.. so much so that he had punched the metal side of his cockpit and hurt his hand in the process. He drifted a little in space before calming down and returning to the angel; where he was apprehended, and found himself in the situation he's in now. 

Keiran was now sat back against the holding cell wall once more, groaning and waiting for.. something to happen, anything, an execution would be better than to be left to rot in the dark, he thought, actually.. scratch that, he didn't want to die, he felt like there was more he was supposed to do in life, but he really didn't know what that could be, at least.. he didn't know yet.

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(Thanks to Grayson, and Confectrixx for the dialogue!) 

There had been some commotion outside the cell just before the door was opened. Nathaniel strode in a moment later, dressed in a full Orb uniform. He flashed Kieran a sympathetic look, “how you holding up private?” The words almost felt jarring given the circumstances. Nathaniel took off his hat and held it in front with both hands. “Been a rough few days I imagine?”

 Keiran looked up when he heard the commotion, smiling a little as he saw Nathaniel "Welcome to my humble abode, sir" He chuckled, his hair was pretty messy, and he looked tired "Alright.. All things considered, What's been going on outside?" He asked

Nathaniel looked around somewhat distastefully at the scarce quarters. “The politicians have been having an identity crisis.” He mused as he paused to look at Kieran, “we have been the ones to pay for their hesitation for what has already happened. I think they don’t appreciate having their secrets exposed.” He offered a worldly wink to Kieran. “How about you? What’s your plans after you get out of here?” Nathaniel’s tone was lighthearted at best given the circumstances.

 Keiran chuckled a little and nodding along as he listened to what his superior said "Me? well, No family left to take care of so I guess It's back to the military for me" He said "I wanna get back at them for what they did ya know? But at the same time..." He let a childish grin show on his face, just a little though "There are people here I wanna fight for too"

The Lieutenant nodded thoughtfully at Kieran’s reply. It was as good as any reason to want to fight and serve. “Well then you’re gonna want this new assignment I got up my sleeve.” He cocked an eyebrow at his peer, “I got permission to assemble a task force, my pick… “ he let out a big breath before adding, “I need mobile suit pilots, you know any?” It was clear enough what Nathaniel meant as he eyed Kieran.

“You're in luck sir, cause I do" He said "I know a guy perfect for the job, white hair, devilishly handsome.. Keiran Larris, you know the guy?" He chuckled and then got up, dusting himself off and stretching "He did mention wanting to keep the green frame too" he smiled.

Nathaniel allowed himself a chuckle. “It is your lucky day then. That thing was in shambles last you saw it, should be up to par for this next go out.” He paused as he turned towards the door. “Let’s get out of here.” He nudged his head towards the exit and began to leave.

“You got it, boss" He said, straightening himself up and then following Nathaniel, looking both ways of the hallway before joining, he felt pretty good about himself, the new assignment sounded like a good opportunity for him as well
——

Nathaniel came up to the door of the quarters he was dreading to have to enter. Taking a deep breath he knocked on the door, a voice inside distantly told him to enter. Pressing the button, the door swooshed aside and the Lieutenant strode in, snapping to attention. “Lieutenant Barondel reporting for duty ma’am!” 

The smirk Hawthorne returned to Nathaniel was both Infuriating and amusing at the same time. The captain leaned back in her chair and put her hands up behind her head. “At ease Lieutenant…” she half laughed out loud.

Nathaniel felt his cheeks burn at her casual rank taunting she was doing with him. They both knew that if it was anyone else she wouldn’t be acting so nonchalant. Shaking his head, Nathaniel asked “so now that you’re finally free of my control this is how you’re going to act as captain?”

The woman gave an amused laugh and almost immediately Nathaniel could sense something behind her laughter that wasn’t there before. “You know Nathan, it is because of you I’m even in this position.” She taunted.

Scowling Nathaniel retorted, “hardly Delphine, we both knew you would get this high in your career. You didn’t need some upstart coordinator in your way.” He paused seeing that her expression showed her not buying his modesty. “I’m glad for you, really! You have more of a presence for command than I care to exhibit. And the fact that we get to keep working together is a plus!” His tone grew hopeful as Hawthorne let a smirk grow on her face. “You know we’re not in the same branch anymore right? You may be spec ops, but this position is firmly under the Navy.” 

He couldn’t hide his puzzled expression at her remark, and the captain hesitated before continuing, “I was… worried about you… at Heliopolis…” her voice was soft, her tone more sincere. 

Shifting the weight on his legs Nathaniel cut in abruptly, “how’s Frank doing?” 

The question seemed to pause Delphine as she smiled and nodded, “he’s doing fine… he’s excited for my promotion, seems to think it’ll keep me out of trouble.” She allowed an uneasy chuckle as she looked at Nathaniel. The Lieutenant gave a nod before rocking his head to motion to the door. “I gotta get settled in and get a feel for the ship, figure out where my people will be. I just wanted to check in Delphine.” 

“Sounds good Lieutenant, carry on then.” She gave him a tired looking smile as she resigned to the situation. Nathaniel saluted and left the captains quarters. As the door swished behind him he let out an uneasy breath as if he had been holding it in the entire time. He paused to gaze back at the sealed door and slowly shook his head. 

As the Lieutenant marched down the hall he saw a mousey looking girl looking around like she might be lost. She looked like she could be a civilian with the clothes she was wearing,  which was all the more confusing seeing on the state of the art battleship. “Excuse me ma’am can I help you with something?” Ever on edge Nathaniel casually looked around the hallway to see if there was any surprises. Even as he got closer to her he squinted thinking that he had somehow seen the girl before, although he couldn’t place where. 

 

Kali glanced over her shoulder as she turned to look at the person who addressed her. She immediately recognized him, “Lieutenant!” She said in surprise. She brought her hand to her lips in attempt to hush herself but she soon realized it that she could not course correct something that had already occurred. She smiled softly and lowered her hand and eyes simultaneously looking to the reflective floor, “Yes, I was asked to wait here by Captain Hawthorne. I’m not sure if I should leave... it has been a while. Perhaps she’s forgotten about me which is understandable given what recently occurred. Maybe I should go home...” her anxiety was speaking for her and her voice softened into silence, “I don’t have a home... anymore.” She muttered, “Could you help me find the captain?” She managed to ask with a sheepish look and awkward grin.

 

Nathaniel’s squint turned into an eyebrow raise as he realized that he must know her. A grin grew on his face, “forgive me ma’am but I don’t seem to recall who you are? Have we met?” He reached up to fix his hat. He seemed set on figuring out the mystery of how they knew each other before pointing her to the office. 

 

His grin put her at ease and helped her feel less of off place. She felt herself become less tense and a calmness soothed her anxiety. Her    awkward smile warmed, “You could say that we’ve met Lieutenant Barondel. I was by the captain’s side when the Aegis attacked. I’m glad we were able to alert it’s presence to you.” She was certain here presence went unnoticed and that he didn’t hear her voice with all the commotion and the radio chatter.

 

He let out a helpless chuckle at the revelation, “ah so you’re one of the civilians who was helping us out! That sure was a sticky situation…” he lamented as it dawned on him that she likely lost her home during his last sortie. Nathaniel grimaced as the thought but quickly recovered, “thank you very much, that warning really helped all of us out.” He bowed politely then straightened up, “Captain Hawthorne’s office is at the end of the hall on the right, last door.” He turned to point behind him then glanced at the girl to make sure she understood. 

 

“I’m glad I was able to help. One of the officers was injured during the skirmish, it all happened rather suddenly.” Kali recalled. It b was an out of character moment for her to step up in a seemingly dire situation. His appreciation made her feel less like a fish out of water which in turn made her feel relieved that she wasn’t some burdensome civilian impeding on military affairs. She turned to the hall on the right side and she turned back to see him glancing in her direction, “Thank you... for doing what you did. You saved us.” She said in soft gratitude. She wasn’t sure if they’d meet again or if she would ever get the opportunity to express her appreciation for surviving such an ordeal.

 

Nathaniel nervously nodded, “all part of the job ma’am. Thanks!” He waved as he turned around to leave. 
 

—-

Lined up in a row stood five mobile suits, all looking nearly identical save for the colors separating them. Technical crews scurried over the machines like ants, two machines getting slightly more attention than the other three. The green and purple frames were respectively looking more disheveled as they were technically being assembled still, but looked just about ready. 

Nathaniel gripped the guard rail as he studied the machines with awe and reverie. He tried to clear his mind from his earlier interaction with Hawthorne as he regarded these monuments of power. He thought of how long he’d known the woman, how long he’d been in the military. He liked his career, he couldn’t imagine life as a civilian, like that girl he’d met in the hall. His passion for his professional life often left his personal life at a loss. He’d hardly known any solid relationships outside the uniform and he often found it hard to connect with people not in the military. He let out a profound sigh, before today he was looking forward to the assignment, glad to be off the hook for Heliopolis; but now he wasn’t so certain.

His eyes traced the edges of each Gundam, the armor of the suits reminding him vaguely of ancient samurai. These five machines could very well be the saving grace for his entire country; by contrast, his problems felt insignificant. He heard orders being shouted out and looked down to see a blonde woman in an orange blazer of sorts telling workers what they should be doing. She wore glasses and had a certain beauty about her. “Morganrate… Simmons…” he muttered to himself. If she was here then it was evident that Orb wasn’t pulling any punches in getting this operation off the ground. 

Easing his grip on the rail, Nathaniel pushed himself away and walked back to the corridor leading to the pilot quarters. He could hear commotion from some of the rooms he thought. He came to the room at the end of the hall that would be his and his alone. “Perks of being in command.” He mused as he entered the room to look at his things he had set on the bed in a rucksack. Sighing he entered the room to fully settle in. He had a briefing to do soon and didn’t want to fall behind on his self imposed tasks. 

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Geneva was quickly getting used to her new abode. stacking little knick-knacks up on the table near her bed. It was mostly quiet inside the room, giving her some time away from any of the crewmembers, but she still felt that something was off. "I wish I knew who was even gonna be fighting with me..." At first, the pilot thought that could possibly be better for her. After all, if she didn't put much effort into knowing them, it wouldn't hurt as much if they died due to her mistakes.

She shook her head at the morbid thought. These would be her comrades, people who she could rely on in life or death situations, not nameless nobodies in a war. Geneva rested her head on the pillow as she wondered what exactly their mission would be. The Astrays were powerful, as she saw when Nathaniel went toe to toe with the hi-tech stolen Alliance machine, but five mobile suits couldn't change the entire Earth Sphere, could they?

She held noticed what she assumed would be her mobile suit when she first went to tour the ship. Unless, she was reassigned to another, the woman knew practice would be necessary. The ORBie hoped to never perform the same way she had last time, meaning changes had to be made. It wasn't long before she left her quarters toward the hangar. "I have to get better!" She muttered while walking to the Blue Frame's cockpit. Ignoring a couple of engineers who'd rather be fixing her machine than watching her get in it, Geneva booted up the machine's practice AI mode, noticing the feature during her look through the machine's data.

"Let's get to work."

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“Alright, Roane,” came a voice over the Red Frame’s radios. “Tilt left hand 45-degrees and flex those fingers for me,”

“Roger that, Micha,” Roane said, poking away at some buttons in the cockpit before doing as he was asked. “Movement on the rotational axis feels a bit sluggish. A little bit of recalibrating and some grease should fix that right up though,” he muttered to himself.

“How about you leave the diagnostics to the scientists, Roane,” Micha said, laughing. Roane looked up to his co-worker on the screen. Micha Redwood was standing across from him on the catwalk, datapad in hand, clad in his orange jacket that told everyone around that he was an Morgenroete employee. Roane was wearing his own as well as he sat in the cockpit. Normally, he’d be in his test suit if he was in the chair, but he had only wanted to check some things quickly as the Astrays underwent their refits. Of course, as soon as he sat down in the cockpit, ‘a quick check’ turned into an hour-long diagnostic run of systems that they’d tested again and again.

“Just want to make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible, Micha,” he said, flipping some more switches and focusing on a smaller screen to his left. “Energy output is suboptimal too. Seems like one of the subsystems is drawing a bit more power than it should be,”

“And if you can tell me what subsystem that is, I’ll get a team on it right away. Otherwise I humbly ask that you vacate the mobile suit and let me get on with this refit. Time is money and we have four of these things to get finished,” Micha responded, knowing full well that his friend wouldn’t have the answer.

“Fine, fine,” Roane chuckled, opening the cockpit. “I’ll leave you guys to it. I have to go make sure they didn’t mess up my stuff when they were moving it. You guys can survive without me for ten minutes?”

“Hell, we could probably survive without you for twenty,” Micha said, watching Roane exit the machine and join him on the catwalk. “Take your time, MacMaster. The Astrays aren’t going anywhere without you and the others,”

Roane smirked and gave his friend a casual salute as he walked off towards the crew quarters he had been assigned, marvelling every step of the way at the engineering of the Earth Alliance ship they had commandeered. He had seen a few very classified documents when he joined the Astray project that talked about the Archangel-class. Jointly developed by the Alliance and Morgenroete, it shared some DNA with the Orb Izumo-class. Of course, he had never been on an Izumo, or even seen one, but he knew at least that the first ship of its class belonged to the Sahaku family. Roane thought back to the day of the Heliopolis incident. He had been locked up on this very ship under suspicion of treason and thrown in the brig alongside the original Alliance crew of the vessel. He wondered what had happened to them and to that one lieutenant—Ramius or something—in particular.

Lost in his daydreaming, Roane had completely missed his quarters and had to backtrack. It was a small room with two beds and little else. His boxes had been placed with at least some care on his bed. The test pilot set about unpacking his things then, his thoughts continuing to drift back to that fateful day.

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(Thank you Roromi for running dialogue with me!)

Kali’s shoes clicked on the metal floor as she approached Captain Hawthorne’s office. The mechanical door slid open with a hiss. Kali hesitated for a moment, took a breath to calm her racing heart, and entered. The door closed behind her and Kali found herself stopping betwixt two empty chairs that faced a desk, the chair behind the desk and the person sitting in it was not facing her direction. Kali’s hands found each other and clasped together as if hugging each other for comfort. Her thumb caressed the back of her hand as she waited to be acknowledged. Her eyes lowered noticing the datapad on the desk. Kali couldn’t help but look at the contents on display, a purple gundam rotated on the screen. Annotations flashed on the screen but that’s not what drew Kali’s attention, it was the red discrepancies and unidentified data that intrigued her. To the common eye, the gundam was seemingly standard but just a glance at the discrepancies and the unknown data meant the gundam may have more capabilities than it had initially. Kali cleared her throat and adjusted her glasses, momentarily forgetting where she was. She was intrigued, what did the Orb Union plan to do with the gundam, did they share the same sentiments she had about the gundam. She looked back to the chair, “Captain?” she asked hoping to make sense of why she was there and what the captain had in mind for her on Archangel.

Hawthorne lowered her hand from her forehead and muttered something.  She turned around with a smirk on her face that evaporated into a look of surprise, “oh hello Kali! You caught me off guard!” She smiled and looked around as if to make sure there wasn’t anything embarrassing out in the open. She sat up a little taller then motioned on a chair in front of her. “Please have a seat!” She waited a moment for the girl to sit before she casually asked, “so do you have any idea why I asked you to come here?”

A soft yet nervous formed on her lips, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Lieutenant Barondel said I could find you here." she explained as she took the seat that was offered, "Thank you." she said softly as she crossed her legs and rested her hands in her lap, "Honestly, Captain, no. I have been wondering what I could contribute. I'm merely an analyst. I am glad I was able to assist during the blitz. I was wondering what you had in mind honestly." Kali managed. She closed her eyes and took a breath, glad that her anxiety didn't get the best of her.

Hawthorne purses her lips as she leaned forward, placing her hands on the desk she continued. “To be frank I thought you did an outstanding job during the crisis. It’s not often you find people who impress yourself so it’s a responsibility to reach out to you.” She paused and eyed the girl.” I want you to serve in this ship with us, with the military.”

Kali was astounded, "I..." she didn't think she contributed much but for the Captain to say she did an outstanding job filled Kali with a sensation she hadn't felt before, "Thank you, Captain." she finally said. Kali wasn't sure what was happening but to be asked to serve was beyond something she'd ever done. She lowered her eyes in thought, she didn't have a home, come to think of it she wasn't sure about the well-being of her family or her friends and colleagues. Who would protect them? If she could help them if the Captain felt she could help, why wouldn't she? "I accept." she said with determination, "It would be an honor, captain."

Nodding her agreement, Delphine added, “perfect I’m glad to hear it then!” She rustled through her desk to pull out some recruitment forms and slid them between them. “How about we get you started then! We plan on putting off soon and I’d like to cut any red tape to have you on board. Command is giving us a lot of leeway with resources and materials.” She waited for Kali to sign her life away and put a finger up to her chin, “hmm we’re running low on bunk space I might need to have you set up in the pilots' quarters…” she was more talking to herself at this point.

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Kali brightened at Captain Hawthorne's enthusiasm. She nodded eagerly and watched as the captain slid the recruitment forms in front of her. Kali glanced over the paperwork before deciding to throw caution into the wind and sign the paperwork, "The pilot's quarters?" she asked as she signed and set down the pen. She sat back in her seat, "Are you expecting me to pilot?" she asked in awe. Her eyes couldn't help but look at the purple gundam displayed on the datapad again.

Delphine laughed at the expense of Kali’s optimism, “no! No… we barely have one unit working with a prototype Natural operating system, I doubt you could even move one of the mobile suits if you wanted… no you’ll just be putting up with another pilot at night… probably Geneva if I had to guess…” she added thoughtfully as she scooped up the papers. “Go ahead and report to the armory for a uniform and we’ll get you settled in and figure out where you can do the most help!” She had a reassuring smile as she stood up to shake the girl's hand. Recruiting Kali was as much reassuring Hawthorne’s confidence as the ship captain as it was getting personnel onboard.

Kali smiled even though she was somewhat disappointed, "Of course." she half-heartedly said in agreement more to save face than anything else. She gathered herself up from the chair and took the captain's hand in her own, "Thank you, Captain. I will do my best." she said. She lowered her eyes in thought for a moment and looked at the captain, "Will I have access to the data collected on the mobile suits?" she asked. She wasn't sure but something told her there was more to learn and she wanted to have a working knowledge moving forward, this was but one way to do just that.

Hawthorne offered a knowing smile, “I’ll see what I can get you access to private.” She cocked her head, “what exactly do you have in mind for that data?”

Kali could have made an excuse but she was terrible at being dishonest. Lying was something that she wasn't suited for. Kali clasped her hands in front of her again, her eyes lowered in thought for a moment before raising them to look at Hawthorne, "Captain, one of the mobile suits you have in your possession has some anomalous and encrypted data that I feel warrants further scrutiny." Kali explained, her eyes were focused as she recalled what she gleaned from the datapad. She blinked and lowered her eyes, "I apologize for looking at the datapad without your authorization, Captain, it caught my eye. I've never seen anything like it. At first glance, it appears to be a standard mobile suit but with the anomalies and encryption, it may have more capability if properly analyzed and unlocked. Hence why I asked." Kali explained sheepishly. 

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The captain squinted some at her reasoning but slowly nodded her head, “that is very perceptive of you….” Her eyes peered at Kali for a long moment before she nodded, “very well. 
I’ll see what I can do. You’re dismissed, Kali.” She ended with a friendly smile and nodded towards the door.

Kali gave a satisfied smile to the captain nodding before turning on her heels and exiting the office. She hoped that she would get to see the data for the mobile suit soon! She beamed with joy before looking down the hallway with a blank stare. She forgot to ask where the armory was. She looked back at the closed door, she couldn’t fathom going back in and asking. She winced in frustration and confusion, “I’ll figure it out…” she muttered half-heartedly as she walked down the hall and turned the corner, “Perhaps this way?” she wondered aloud before rushing back and turning another corner, “Maybe this way…”
 

  

Edited by Grayson
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"Phew, that was good..." Keiran sat back in his chair, he had gotten himself a good meal in the cafeteria before he had to deal with his responsibilities, which to be fair wasn't much, he had to pack up his stuff and bring it to what would be his official quarters as an official mobile suit pilot.. just the thought of it made him giddy, a small smile crept upon his cheeks before he covered his mouth and looked around the area "Oops" he said, removing his hand from his mouth slowly while making sure no one was looking at him. The smile had disappeared and he had a neutral expression. "No telling who could see me doing that.." He mumbled, getting up and grabbing his tray, and returning it with that same neutral expression. 

The white haired male would leave the Cafeteria and check the halls for anyone, and once he had confirmed no one was watching, he pumped his fist in the air and gave himself a nod of approval "Hell yeah.." He said, before putting his hands in his pockets and then walking over to grab his stuff, he looked up at the ceiling a little and thought about the incident that had happened to him and his people "Here's hoping we're the only colony to meet such a fate" He thought, he still couldn't get much sleep after what had happened.. so many people were resigned to the fate that he feared the most.. he couldn't forget the looks on some of their faces, it made him cringe, and he felt his stomach turn "Ugh.. not after I had a good meal.." He held his stomach and then shook his head, making his way to where his stuff was and opening the door, immediately opening the lights to illuminate the dim room. 

Keiran... he didn't exactly have much, well- not much things other people would see as important, he opened up a box that he had.. it was filled with official tapings of his favourite show, and underneath that were official copies of said show's comics. It put a smile on his face once more, but it faded the same way as the one earlier. He'd place the things back and look at his other stuff, clothes.. makeup, a mirror, he was used to having his stuff be mistaken for a girls- at least at a cursory glance. He grabbed his bag, and stacked the two boxes he had and made his way to the pilots quarters.

When he got to said quarters, he looked over to his new roommate, he was about to say something but figured it wouldn't be worth it. He stayed quiet, he put his things down and began unpacking as well, he didn't exactly care where everything went as long as they fit, and it didn't look messy, though there was one aspect that he did make extra care to organize, that was his personal space.. whether it be a desk, a locker, or the inside of his cockpit; he had a picture of himself and his family taped up, alongside a picture of his class from when he graduated school. He sighed a little as he looked at them, a mixture of nostalgia, mourning, and regret. He shut his eyes for a moment before clearing his face of those emotions, looking in his mirror and starting to do his makeup.. slowly, deliberately, to calm himself down. 

"Always thought I'd be the first to go, How come it was the opposite?" 

He thought to himself 

Edited by ImAnnoyingHer
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The Archangel would be heading out. It was determined that the ship was too advanced to simply make her the dock queen, and had to be immediately deployed in order to show the world she was under Orb’s control. Same could be said about her mobile suits, hence Nathaniel’s newly crowned “Astray Wing” of mobile suits and pilots. 

Nathaniel gripped the edge of his collar to give his neck some room to breath. It had been a few hours since he had finished organizing his cabin and now it was time to make things happen. Working up his nerve he marched up to the podium they had set up in the briefing room and cleared his throat. “Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming and being apart of this historic moment for our nation.” He paused to let that weigh in on everyone, his eyes shifted from Geneva, to Roane and Kieran specifically. “To cut to the chase, the Archangel will be departing shortly to a training ground, designated as Outpost Echo.”

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 Nathaniel turned to look behind him to make sure the slides were working, sure enough a map appeared showing their designation. “This is a small island chain out in the pacific ocean, it will provide us plenty of land to run the Astrays through their paces. Morgenroete has finished assembling both green and purple frames respectively, though only green frame is scheduled to sortie with the other units.  I’ve also been told that there is additional pieces of equipment that Morgenroete want to have us test,  so talk to your unit’s mechanic team to determine the best load out for the upcoming sortie.” He looked around to see nodding heads from not just pilots, but crew chiefs too. Gulping he nodded, “it’s up to us to protect the homeland. Everyone do their best and watch out for each other. Even something as mundane as training is imperative for our strength.” 

As he said this Nathaniel caught a glimpse of Hawthorne who was nodding her agreement in the back of the room. Curiously he saw the civilian girl from before, Kali, sitting not far from the captain and the sight almost made Nathaniel stumble in his next words,” I want teams to break up their respective units and get to work. All pilots will be required to rest 8 hours before sortie. If anyone has any further questions they can contact me at any time, I will have an open door policy as squadron commander. You are all dismissed!” 

Hawthorne offered Nathaniel a tiny smirk before slipping out of the room. Of course it made sense for the captain to listen in on the briefing it was now her ship after all. Shaking his head, Nathaniel looked around at his three pilots. This was perhaps the first time they had all been together, it was going to be up to him to form them as a team. There was only so much team building a leader could do outside of actual work though, and he figured that the best way to indoctrinate them together would be during the mission. 

——

Hawthorne strode back onto the bridge of the Archangel. She nodded to the watch officer who moved from the captain’s chair and scurried into position. Hitting an intercom button she spoke up. “All hands this is Captain Hawthorne. We will imminently be launching, please secure your stations as well as any personal belongings. We go forth to strengthen our great nation, I expect all of you to perform with the utmost care and professionalism. This ship is now the jewel of our forces. It is an honor to be onboard this ship and serve with you all. Thank you.” 

She keyed off the intercom and nodded to the helmsman, “let’s take her out nice and easy,  stay afloat.” She looked around at her crew and spoke up, “this is as close as we’re going to get to a sea trial for the Archangel so lets make it count everyone!” A chorus of  enthusiastic responses gave Delphine a smile as she leaned forward in her chair. 

Yes this would be her chance to shine. Nathaniel was right about one thing, they both knew she wanted a position like this for as long as she had been in the military. She just hoped she could keep up with the responsibilities she was expected to have. 

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"Again."

"AGAIN. COME ON GENEVA!"

Time and time again, the Blue Frame kept taking a beating from its AI opponent. With her small range of weaponry, the pilot wondered how she'd even be able to take down a squad of GINN's, let alone the red machine Nathaniel fought. "I don't get it..." She wondered, the Blue Frame beginning to power down. "This is a top of the line mobile suit. I took down two GINN's in reality. Why can't I take anything down in this?" Geneva rested her head on her hand as the cockpit door swiveled open. She felt horribly defeated, only to notice in array of weapons near their mobile suits.

"T-those are for us, right?" She hoped the mechanics wouldn't get angry with her question, not wishing to ruin a higher up's loadout plan. However, it seemed as if the pilots would have a little more control than she had once thought...

Soon after, she joined up with the rest of the important crew members in the Archangel's briefing room. For the first time, she was able to see who the other pilots even were, though she wasn't yet sure who was piloting what. The one who caught her attention the most had blinding white hair and a scary expression. "Better not mess with him." Geneva thought while noticing the other's uniforms. It was official. These people were apart of her team for good, so she knew there would have a be an eventual time to become friendly with them, much to her dismay. As she listened more to her superior speak, she learned that the "Astray Wing" unit was going to be leaving the vicinity, heading for a training ground. 

"Wait... Maybe I can try that rifle combo, or that bazooka!" Thoughts raced through her head, wondering if piloting the mobile suit in real life again would help with her lacking abilities. Whatever the case, they were leaving soon and she HAD to be ready to prove herself worthy to be a Frame pilot.

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Roane had barely had any time to introduce himself to his new bunkmate before they were all called into the briefing room. He had just been in the middle of hanging up his swimsuit model poster when they got the call and he had to hastily smooth it out before rushing out of the room. As he sat in the meeting room, his mind wandered. He hoped the poster hadn’t fallen down—it was a limited edition after all, signed by the model herself. Roane wasn’t one to label anything as priceless, but that poster came close.

A glance from Hawthorn, the woman that had recently been promoted and the Archangel’s new captain, told him that he had been caught out in his daydreaming. The test pilot, panicked, tried to look as focused and interested in what the lieutenant had to say. He wasn’t, of course, but he didn’t want to get in trouble with the higher-ups. Roane had expressed his disinterest in being on the battlefield but it seemed to have gone on deaf ears. His knowledge and experience as a test pilot for the Astrays had made him an ideal candidate and his military rank had more or less locked him into any and all decisions his superiors meant. Enlistment had been a condition of his working on the Astray project—if he had known it’d wind up with him fighting, would he have still joined on? Roane side-eyed his new teammates, all clad in their Orb uniforms while he was still dressed in his Morgenroete get-up. Aside from the worry that he might get dinged for it later, his difference in attire set him off from the rest.

When the meeting was dismissed, Roane hung around outside the briefing room as the others wandered off. He waited for his white-haired roommate to exit the room as well.

“Hey, mate, hold on a sec,” he said, pulling him aside. “Didn’t get a chance to introduce myself earlier—name’s Roane. I’m the Red Frame’s pilot going forward. I figured, since we’re squaddies now, you and I and the others might find something fun to do before all the hustle and bustle. What do you think?”

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Kali sat quietly with her hands clasp in her lap as she listened to Lieutenant Barondel speak. She studied the map showing the small chain of islands in the pacific. Her ears perked up at the mention of the mobile suits running their paces, ‘So the purple frame has been assembled…’ she thought to herself pushing her circle frames gently on the bridge of her nose. She nodded in agreement when the Lieutenant mention that it was up to them to protect the homeland. A soft smile curved on her lips, she couldn’t place the feel she felt. It was as if she had found her place in the world without really looking for it. It was at that moment she and the lieutenant made eye contact or at least it felt that way. Her dark eyes lowered to gaze at her clasped hands. 

Kali absent-mindedly tugged on the sleeve of her jacket, she couldn’t believe she was in uniform. She was glad she got settled in even though she didn’t see her roommate, “Geneva” was what the captain had said to her. Kali exhausted her already fatigued mind that night anxiously thinking of the best ways to greet the pilot. The mental Olympics she played lulled her fast asleep before she settled on a proper greeting. She tried her best not to play in the jungle gym of her anxious mind trying to think of another greeting. She just hoped they would get along. Her thoughts were interrupted as they were all dismissed. Kali closed her eyes and let out a sigh of relief as she got up from her seat and exited the hall.

The Archangel was still a maze to Kali, but she did manage to find the cafeteria. She decided to help herself to a cup of tea. She decided on simple cup of chamomile and honey. She sat quietly with her hot, steamy cup and stirred with her spoon as she listened to the hustle and bustle of the busy ship around her.

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(Thanks to Judge for the dialogue)

Keiran turned to his roommate, quite surprised that he didn't just call out, but fully pulled him aside too. He kept a neutral expression, but let his surprise show through after his new squadmates introduction "Uh.. sure, sounds good" he said "I'm Keiran". Roane smiled at his newfound partner in team-building crime "Keiran, aye, a strong name," he gave the white-haired soldier a firm clap on the shoulder. "Right, good. First order of business then is finding what the hell there is to do on this rig that could constitute as fun. Somehow I doubt the movie selection is anything but non-existent and I don't see a fast-food joint on any of the islands we're passing by, so if you have any ideas lay them on me,". Keiran thought about it and realized he hadn't been able to go around the archangel either, causing a dumfounded "...Huh" to escape his lips. "Now that you mention it, I haven't had the chance to look around either" he said "Well, I have some anime we can watch in the room" he said.

Roane quirked a brow. "A-anime?" he had never watched anime before, but had come across it in his day-to-day life. "Do you really think the others would be into that? What's it even about?" Roane tilted his head, curious to see what Keiran had in mind. "Well..." Keiran scratched the back of his head and then explained the premise of the show, as a war rages on, a young pilot is given the arduous task of having to pilot a prototype fighter, and after around 50 episodes of trials and tribulations, helps end the war in the short time span of the year "I guess i should mention i was like... 8 years old when it came out?". Roane listened intently. Young pilots, prototype fighters...it was highly compelling stuff. "Sold, that sounds fantastic. In that case, since you have the viewing material, I'll handle the food. Might be that I can sweet talk the cook into some of the good stuff I'm sure we keep locked away if he knows it's for the Lieutenant's new team,". "Sounds like a plan" He said, nodding along and cracking a small smile, though it disappeared. "I'll go ahead and set it up?" He asked "Which of us are gonna go talk to the others?" Keiran asked. "I can talk to the others once I'm done with that chef," Roane said. He was glad that Keiran had gone along so easily with his plan. His almost punk rock appearance was intimidating at first, but he seemed quite easy-going. They'd get along just fine, Roane decided. "You just have those vids ready, mate,". "Alright, Alright" Keiran stretched out a bit and then put his hands in his pockets "I'll get to it, good luck on your end" Keiran gave his new friend a pat on the shoulder before waving and then parting ways with him for now.

The white haired male would separate off from Roane and then go straight to their room, he'd have enough time to tune his new machine later on anyway, so he focused on getting the stuff ready to have a fun little watch party of his favourite series, he hummed to himself, grabbing the box set of the first season, he didn't wanna just dump everything on them after all, he set them aside and returned what they wouldn't watch back in its place, he was excited, really excited actually, he didn't really get the chance to show off his love for the series with his friends before joining the military, he was always.. a little ashamed of it growing up, but now he was more open about it. He got everything ready and had a small smile on his face, he decided to sit back a little and wait for Roane to come back with whoever he got to join them, while he looked over the Green Frames data, brainstorming on what he could put on it. 

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      The Gundam Astray Purple Frame was commandeered by Lieutenant Nathaniel Barondel. He used the unit to fight off a GINN, and eventually confronted the ZAFT flagship to negotiate a cease fire. The Gundam Astray Purple Frame was still in pieces during the Heliopolis incident. It was later fully constructed onboard the Archangel and has been developed the the second generation of Natural Operating System installed. Because the Purple frame was developed later than the other units in its’ line it had several design features that were outline but never implemented in its’ blueprints. The unit was hastily constructed to be serviceable along side the other Astray Gundams. 

      Model number: MBF-P05
      Code name: Purple Frame
      Unit type: Prototype general purpose mobile suit
      Manufacturer: Morgenroete Inc.
      Operator(s): Orb Union
      Crew: Pilot only
      Dimensions: head height 17.53 meters
      Weight: max gross 49.8 metric tons
      Armor materials: Unknown 
      Powerplant: Ultracompact energy battery, power output rating unknown
      Propulsion: unknown 
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 b
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 beam rifle, power rating unknown; shield
       
      (Credit to Frosty for the image!)
    • By Roromi
      MBF-P04 Gundam Astray Green Frame
      The Orb Union began developing the Astray alongside the Earth Alliance GAT series at the Orb colony Heliopolis in CE 70. Much like the Earth Alliance prototype mobile suits, the Astray Mobile suits are able to use Beam Weapons and and plug technology which would share data and energy with the equipped weapons. 
      Unlike the Earth Alliance prototypes the Astray series was not equipped with Phase Shift armor, instead opting for light weight and higher mobility to compensate for the lackluster armor. 
      (For the Homeland) On January 25th CE 71 ZAFT forces caught wind of the Earth Alliance manufacturing mobile suits and sent a team to steal the new mobile weapons. During the heist a group of Orb commandos responded to the crisis by stealing the battleship Archangel along with the Earth Alliance’s Strike Gundam. During the chaos they secured and activated three Astray Gundams of their own creation and repelled the ZAFT forces at the cost of Heliopolis being destroyed. 
      Green Frame was fully constructed after the Archangel went to earth. It, along with the Purple Frame, were hastily completed in order to be serviceable for the Orb Military. Green Frame would be assigned to Keiran Larris and be assigned to the Archangel along with the other Astray prototypes. 
       
      Model number: MBF-P04
      Code name: Green Frame
      Unit type: Prototype general purpose mobile suit
      Manufacturer: Morgenroete Inc.
      Operator(s): Orb Union
      Crew: Pilot only
      Dimensions: head height 17.53 meters
      Weight: max gross 49.8 metric tons
      Armor materials: Unknown 
      Powerplant: Ultracompact energy battery, power output rating unknown
      Propulsion: unknown 
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 b
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 beam rifle, power rating unknown; shield
       
      (credit to Frosty for the Image!)
    • By Roromi
      MBF-P03 Gundam Astray Blue Frame
      The Orb Union began developing the Astray alongside the Earth Alliance GAT series at the Orb colony Heliopolis in CE 70. Much like the Earth Alliance prototype mobile suits, the Astray Mobile suits are able to use Beam Weapons and and plug technology which would share data and energy with the equipped weapons. 
      Unlike the Earth Alliance prototypes the Astray series was not equipped with Phase Shift armor, instead opting for light weight and higher mobility to compensate for the lackluster armor. 
      (For the Homeland) On January 25th CE 71 ZAFT forces caught wind of the Earth Alliance manufacturing mobile suits and sent a team to steal the new mobile weapons. During the heist a group of Orb commandos responded to the crisis by stealing the battleship Archangel along with the Earth Alliance’s Strike Gundam. During the chaos they secured and activated three Astray Gundams of their own creation and repelled the ZAFT forces at the cost of Heliopolis being destroyed. 
      Blue frame was preserved by Geneva Halston during the Heliopolis disaster. She went on to defend the Archangel and defeat two heavy weapons GINNs with her untested unit. Just prior to being deployed again for training exercises on earth,  Blue Frame was outfitted new experimental weapons. 
       
      Model number: MBF-P03
      Code name: Blue Frame
      Unit type: Prototype general purpose mobile suit
      Manufacturer: Morgenroete Inc.
      Operator(s): Orb Union
      Crew: Pilot only
      Dimensions: head height 17.53 meters
      Weight: max gross 49.8 metric tons
      Armor materials: Unknown 
      Powerplant: Ultracompact energy battery, power output rating unknown
      Propulsion: unknown 
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 b
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 beam rifle, power rating unknown; shield
    • By Roromi
      MBF-P02 Gundam Astray Red Frame
      The Orb Union began developing the Astray alongside the Earth Alliance GAT series at the Orb colony Heliopolis in CE 70. Much like the Earth Alliance prototype mobile suits, the Astray Mobile suits are able to use Beam Weapons and and plug technology which would share data and energy with the equipped weapons. 
      Unlike the Earth Alliance prototypes the Astray series was not equipped with Phase Shift armor, instead opting for light weight and higher mobility to compensate for the lackluster armor. 
      (For the Homeland) On January 25th CE 71 ZAFT forces caught wind of the Earth Alliance manufacturing mobile suits and sent a team to steal the new mobile weapons. During the heist a group of Orb commandos responded to the crisis by stealing the battleship Archangel along with the Earth Alliance’s Strike Gundam. During the chaos they secured and activated three Astray Gundams of their own creation and repelled the ZAFT forces at the cost of Heliopolis being destroyed. 
      Red frame was originally tasked to be commandeered by the Orb Special Forces agent Ed Shiro but was tricked by the test pilot Roane MacMaster. Roane blended in during the chaos and helped transfer the parts for Green and Purple frames while the battle for Heliopolis was fought. Red frame is unique in that it has the first prototype version of a natural operating system installed, with Roane being uniquely qualified to operate the machine. 
           
      Model number: MBF-P02
      Code name: Red Frame
      Unit type: Prototype general purpose mobile suit
      Manufacturer: Morgenroete Inc.
      Operator(s): Orb Union
      Crew: Pilot only
      Dimensions: head height 17.53 meters
      Weight: max gross 49.8 metric tons
      Armor materials: Unknown 
      Powerplant: Ultracompact energy battery, power output rating unknown
      Propulsion: unknown 
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 b
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 beam rifle, power rating unknown; shield
       
    • By Roromi
      Biography
      Full name: Delphine Hawthorne 
      Faction: Orb
      Rank: Captain
      Age: 36
      Sex: Female
      Height: 5’5”
      Weight: 150
      Eyes: brown
      Hair: red
      Skin: fair
      Handiness: right handed
      Personality
      Delphine can be cold at times, always task oriented. Despite her professional demeanor she often harbors doubts about herself and her abilities. She can be a facade of strength but a mess of emotions underneath. 
      She can be quite playful with people who she considers close, and even has a reputation as a bit of a flirt outside of duty.
      Strengths and weaknesses
      Commander  –  Delphine is a natural leader. She is easy to follow, and persuasive in her commands, even if she herself doesn’t fully understand the situation. 
      Lack of confidence – in a professional world that competes with coordinators she herself can find herself lacking conviction or harboring self doubt. Though she is good at keeping this part of herself hidden from most, those who know her well enough are able to see when she is feeling uneasy. 
      Ambitious  – She is career oriented and has always had aspirations of advancing her military career. She will work protectively of her station and her progress. She is also willing to take questionable risks if it means advancing herself. . 
      Natural – Nothing special about her Genes though she does keep herself in excellent physical condition. 
      Appearance
      Delphine is very attractive, but often hides her charms behind a military uniform. She will rarely dress up in civilian attire and even then hardly ever in a dress. Her eyes tend to speak volumes as she has what is described as a mischievous smile. 
      History
      Delphine grew up in Orb and has lived there her entire life. She could be described as a military brat with both of her parents having served in the military. Even growing up she could be described as a tomboy despite her good looks. She lived a fairly normal childhood even going as far as marrying her highschool sweetheart Frank. 
      Despite being married at a young age she was determined to not be tied down with a family and always maintained with her husband that she would be serving in the military like her parents had. This understanding had at times come at odds with her husband, but even so they stayed together. 
      As she progressed in her military career she came to work closely with another officer by the name of Nathaniel Barondel. For the longest time he never disclosed to her that he was a coordinator, but ultimately confided in her when he saw how desperately she was trying she to keep up with his pace of growth. 
      The two developed a mutual relationship that proved how coordinators and naturals could work together to feed of the others strengths. In many regards it was Nathaniel’s “one step ahead” demeanor that drove Delphine to thrive and push herself. 
      Their teamwork culminated as they were assigned to the same special operations team, with Delphine acting as his second in command. The ultimate test was when they were tasked with securing the secret Earth Alliance weapons being developed in Heliopolis. Together they accomplished the mission. Politically Hawthorne was shown in a positive light as the heroic captain of a ship that saved countless civilian lives that day. 
      The added pressure of publicity mixed with the political climate weighed heavily on Delphine’s ego. This was compounded when she was assigned to be the permanent captain of the Archangel, a challenge and opportunity she couldn’t pass up. 
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