Gundam SEED Fan Fiction / Vandread Fan Fiction ❯ GunDread SEED (Redition) ❯ Ground Ops ( Chapter 5 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

GunDread SEED
Disclaimer: I state that VanDread and Gundam SEED are not mine, I'm just borrowing them for the use of writing.
< >: Thoughts
Chapter 5
Ground Ops
The completely fused vessel, now named the Nirvana, was in orbit of a strange desert planet that looked completely barren and lifeless. On the bridge, the first officer and the captain studied the image being displayed to them through the main view-screen.
“This planet seems to be completely lifeless." Buzam said as she studied the images. “However, we are getting several energy readings from the surface. The readings indicate that there are several structures that appear to be completely man-made. I suggest that we should check it out, whether there are supplies and parts that we can salvage."
Magno considered this and weighted their current options. “Hmmm… our kitchen is running a little low on supplies. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to do this like old fashioned pirates."
“Thank you captain." BC nodded as she then directed her attention to the bridge crew. “Begin monitoring the atmospheric conditions and the surface of the planet. Let's determine the best time deploy a landing party to explore the surface."
“Roger." Belvedere, Amarone, Celtic, and Ezra replied as they went to work on fulfilling BC's command.
“Man! This is hard work!" Kyo said as he ran a diagnostic check on both Freedom and Liberty using a special laptop and several automated repair arms logged into the laptop, while the Gundam and the ATCISS unit were in their individual paddocks.
The Gundam and it's support unit were currently in the same hanger where the transformed Dreads were also stored, as Kyo worked hard on maintaining their machines. The place was also where the extra Vanguards were stored and kept in reserve, though he and his comrades knew that the Megele women would never touch the machine of the Talark men, ever since the fusing of the ships into the Nirvana. With the exception of Freedom and Liberty, the male machines were in a state of neglect and disrepair. Parfet's teams have already cannibalized a few of the robotic suits for raw components and spare parts.
Since the new mecha was an enhanced replica of a Dread, Kyo had no difficulties in modifying and repairing his new partner, since he took the time to study it's combat structure, and he had exceptional technology skills, thanks to his extensive education and memories of his past life. As of today he was making modifications to the mechas' systems to increase performance rate and reaction time. And with both machines having artificial intelligence, they made decent company, and unlike the Navi-robot Pyoro, the Gundam and the Liberty made no back talk.
Kyo then logged in the command for Freedom to allow access to a nearby computer port and began checking the systems and mechanisms for possible repair requirements and upgrades.
“You know, they really know how to make people work hard around here don't they?" Kyo asked as he directed his question to himself while working on the servomotors. And he had good reason for such a comment. Between his duties as part of the Register staff under Gascogne and when in battle as Dread Fighter support, the former Yamato had little in terms of leisure time. What time he did have to himself, he spent on working with this Gundam and ATCISS in the training cockpits, in mock battles in space, or keeping in top physical combat condition at the gym.
As the voyage continued, the young man found himself drifting down memory lane again. He had reason to do so, all the while he recalled all the places he traveled to and seen, and the beings he encountered, and the many conflicts he had fought in as well. He then drifted to what he was going to do once this voyage was over when they all returned to Megele and Talark. He supposed that he should help them as long as he could before setting out into the great unknown, he would move on as always, as he was a man without a permanent home and he was searching for answers. Though for a rather strange reason, he didn't have the heart to leave the ship and the people he was now working with, as he seemed to feel like he now belonged here. Granted the fact that the majority of the all women personnel still treated him like a barely-tolerated outsider, namely girls like Paiway and Mai, along with others. But naturally there were those who accepted him without question. Those were the captain, Gascogne and also Dita, though he had a rather difficult time handling the advances of the curious and over-excitable redhead. In a sense… they became like a family to the former Earthling and Gundam pilot and the last of the Coordinator gene-pool.
On that train of thought, Kyo felt saddened as the vague memories of his parents trickled into his mind. He tried his very best to at least recall the names of the vague images in his mind as he thought about his real parents. Kyo recalled only a tall man with brown hair with deep violet eyes and a kind smile, a young girl with deep pink hair and vibrant violet eyes laughing, a beautiful older women with bright pink hair, and deep blue eyes with a beautiful voice and nature, a mischievous younger man with blue eyes and brown hair with a innocent smile. He saw others as well, a tall woman with honey-brown eyes and blond hair, and a kind but strong nature, a tall man with blue hair and deep green eyes with courage in his warm smile, and a tall girl with blonde hair and deep green eyes. But sadly he couldn't see them all very clearly as their faces were covered in mist and shadow, but he felt peace and calm whenever they showed themselves in his mind, along with others that he vaguely recalled. And as he wondered if those people were his family, how would they have reacted when they would have seen him decked in women's garb during his early stint in the Register.
Kyo was engrossed with his thoughts as he worked on his Gundam, so focused was he that he didn't notice Dita, as the young redhead climbed up the boarding ramp to where he was. Dita smiled as soon as she got close enough to Mr. Alien and gave a wink and blew him a kiss. The minute that happened, Kyo gave a startled look and now found himself flat on his back when he tripped on a wrench. He winced and chided himself for being caught off guard like this and made a mental note to step up his own combat training sessions. He looked up, and the moment he did that, his cheeks reddened in embarrassment and his body instantly boiled as he now found himself staring up Dita's skirt.
< OH MY GOD! GET A GRIP ON YOURSELF! > He quickly averted his eyes as he tried in desperation to quell the latest hormone riot that was underway in his body.
Dita, being the totally naïve girl that she was, wasn't aware of what was going through Kyo's mind at that moment, she was puzzled by his reaction as she simply stood there and asked in all her natural innocence. “Are you okay?"
Kyo instantly got to his feet and moved a good distance away from the redhead. Though he had been given a full education on the ' facts of life' and all the mechanics involved with that part of human nature a long time ago and he had vague memories of being out with a girl before on more than one occasion, he hadn't been in any serious relationship with women for some time. Therefore he had some difficulty in controlling his reactions to the opposite gender. And with what he had seen under her skirt…
< AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH! > Kyo screamed in his mind, as he tried NOT to think of that right now, while trying to control the still growing hormonal riot in his body. “I'm fine!" He blurted out with what control he had to spare at the moment. “I… guess I haven't been eating well lately… that's all."
The young pilot quickly closed up the Gundam's access panel, swept up his toolbox, and was gone in a flash, leaving a bewildered Dread pilot to stare at his little escape.
At the medical bay…
“Your pulse rate seems to be somewhat elevated from normal and you seem to a bit… agitated." Duero remarked as he checked on Kyo, while placing several cardiopulmonary sensors on various areas of the youth's face and chest. The young pilot was wearing only his boxers as he sat on the examination table. The Talark medic began a full and through physical examination of his patient with well-trained ease and professionalism. But the moment his hands came close to Kyo's privates, his patient scrambled back a bit.
“Keep your hands away from there!"
“I'm just examining you Kyo." The doctor said as he waited for whatever stress the young soldier was in to bleed out of his system. “You seem rather tense."
Kyo sighed at that. < If only he knew WHY I am like this now. > He then relaxed, as he knew that Duero was only doing his job. “Well, I have been rather busy at this moment. Working and fighting alongside women can be really tiring on the body. Hell I think I need a vacation, but somebody's got to help protect them."
Duero nodded as he gave a bit of a knowing smile. “You have been fighting to help protect women?"
“Well…I'm not saying that their not competent in combat or anything…but well…ah, forget it! I can't think straight right now!”
“Let's stop focusing on the women for a while. Right now you can rest here until you feel better." Duero suggested as he allowed Kyo to rest on the sick beds. At that moment Paiway came to where Kyo was lying, and then pointed up to the machine that the young Yamato was hooked up to.
“What is that thing? A video game?"
“You've never seen a pulse monitor before?" Duero asked, rather surprised that the young apprentice nurse wasn't familiar with even basic medical equipment.
“What's it to you two if I haven't?" The eleven-year old asked as she gave Duero a kind of pout. “Anyway, all health problems can be fixed up in the Jacuzzi."
“Jacuzzi?" Duero asked, as he had never heard of that term before.
At the said location…
“Ah, space battles always damages my hair." Jura said as she lounged on a salon chair with a towel wrapped around her head, keeping her long blonde hair from flowing out. She was naked, save for another large towel wrapped around her body. She continued to relax as several attendants were massaging her legs and there were others who were giving her a manicure and a pedicure.
“Don't worry Jura. We're here to revive your beauty." One of the attendants assured the blonde Dread pilot.
“I appreciate it. I don't feel like going into battle unless my hair is set just right."
Pyoro floated around the room and was now beside Jura, being a machine and not a man, the little automaton was allowed into the recreation center where the women relaxed. “Sometimes I just don't understand humans at all, as they make no sense."
Jura sighed as she felt her body tension melt away from the massage she was getting, she moved her head to the side and saw a hot tub where Meia soaking in it. “Meia, are you trying to lose more weight again?"
“Excess fat gets in the way of combat." The blue-haired girl replied to her blonde comrade's inquiry in a simple way.
“But you won't have any breasts left at that rate." Jura pointed out to her leader.
“Heh. Don't worry too much about me." Meia wasn't as interested with maintaining her feminine appearance was her blonde comrade was. (Though sooner or later, she will be gaining some good incentive in keeping up her feminine appearance soon enough. I'm not saying what it is though.)
Meanwhile… at the ship's cafeteria…
Barnette looked at the conveyer belt that was displaying the meals prepared from the galley, and was in the process of deciding what she was going to have for her lunch today. She then made up her mind as she selected a dish with meat and vegetables with a light but tasty sauce that had the tag of 800 calories. Before she could reach it however, it was snatched away from her. She angrily looked up and found Dita holding her intended lunch.
“I think I'll take this one!" Dita said with a deep smile on her face.
Barnette however wasn't in that a joyful mood. “Dita! That's loaded with calories!"
“That's okay, Barnette. He said that he wasn't eating right." Dita said was she moved away, still holding the dish.
“Huh?" Barnette asked as she tried to understand what her young comrade was talking about.
BC nodded as she had gotten the latest data concerning the planet's surface from the bridge crew. Several centralized heat sources were detected, though there was a massive sandstorm that delayed proper confirmation. However she decided that it was best to continue with landing preparations, however she knew one problem was present. The Dreads, while being exceptional space fighters, were never intended for atmospheric flight and were totally useless for land exploration. The vaunted Megele fighters were only designed for space warfare and were never built to withstand the full brunt of atmospheric reentry, she knew that there was a secondary alternative to accomplish the new mission, though she knew that there would be some disagreement on the secondary option, but they had no choice anyway.
“Attention all crew. We're going to investigate the surface of planet. All Dread pilots should immediately begin training aboard the Vanguards."
The moment the Gundam pilot heard this announcement, he stopped.
<The women actually plan on using the Vanguards?> Kyo thought with a curious look. He had already finished his rest at the medical bay and was actually intending to go to the cafeteria for a bite to eat and some liquid refreshments. But he heard the announcement while on their way.
“I better see this for myself, this should be interesting." Kyo said to himself as he moved in direction of the Hanger
At the Hanger…
True to BC's expectations, there were some pilots who disagreed with the idea…
“Geez. I know that it's impossible to use the Dreads to get to the surface and the Vanguards are the best choice for this mission. Even so, that doesn't mean that I have to LIKE using a man's Vanguard." Barnette said while gazing at the male fighting machines with extreme distaste and also with a lack of confidence.
After months of neglect and being ignored, the machines were now being repaired and serviced by Parfet's crew of engineers. Several of the male mecha were even colored in outlandish patterns and colors. That however didn't mean that all the pilots were in disagreement with the idea, as one certain pilot was gazing at her scarlet and pink colored mecha with eagerness.
“I don't really care if it's a Vanguard or not." Jura said with a smile in her mind. “Just as so long I can combine into something beautiful!" She knew that in a mission like this, Kyo and his mecha were naturally going to be part of the combat team. The man was the only ones with the on-hand experience in handling and piloting Vanguards (Though Freedom wasn't technically a Vanguard), and due to his experience and the flexibility of his Gundam's programming, he would have no problems for adapting to ground battle excursions. That meant she would have an excellent opportunity to combine with him. Now all she needed to do was convince him to combine with her.
At this point, the young cadet Bart took the time to boast once more. “Hey there! If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask me! During my long years in the academy, I have endured hundreds of training missions. You could then say…"
He didn't have the time to finish boasting when he was…
Bart stopped as he was floored by an anti-gravity lift came down right on top of him. The technician who was on the lift gave a look down and scolded the young boastful cadet, “What are you doing standing under the lift? We're busy here so try to stay out of the way!"
“Okay." Bart moaned as he rubbed his sore head.
It was then that Kyo came into the hanger, and the moment he looked about, he immediately winced as he viewed the brightly colored and decorated mecha. It became apparent to the veteran Mobile Suit pilot that the women weren't taking this situation in a serious manner, as he knew that training for the Vanguards or any general purpose Mobile Suit wasn't like flying Dreads.
Kyo sighed a bit as he directed his gaze to where his Gundam was, and immediately gasped as he spotted Dita on the ramp, and she was brandishing a…SPRAY PAINTER?! He didn't need to look around him to know just what the young redhead had in mind.
“HOLD IT! DON'T YOU DARE!" Kyo cried as he immediately rushed to his mecha. The mere thought of having his Gundam decked out in cute colors made him feel very uneasy and uncomfortable.
On the ramp, Dita readied and aimed her instrument at the Gundam. “I'll make you clean and pretty, Freedom! I'm sure that Mr. Alien will really like it!"
Just as Dita fired off a stream of pink paint, Kyo arrived and stood between her and his Gundam. As a result he was doused in the liquid. (Don't worry, it's removable.)
As soon as he got the paint out of his eyes, Kyo directed a rather angry glare at the young Dread pilot. “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING THIS TIME?!"
Dita however, didn't pay attention to his angry look and voice, as a starry look showed itself in her eyes. "WOW! A PINK ALIEN! HOW CUTE!"
Kazuki slapped his forehead and rolled his eyes. “She's crazy!"
A bit later…
Kyo, along with Bart and Duero watched from the control center, as several female pilots, namely Dita, Meia, Barnette, and Jura were now training using the Vanguard simulators. Kyo had already cleaned away the paint from himself and his clothes and was currently watching the trainees duke it out in a virtual training mission. It was soon obvious that the female pirates were totally unaccustomed to the male mecha in hand-to-hand and close quarters fighting scenarios. The women had been trained extensively with Dreads and were more experienced with doing long-range strikes and surprise assaults. Their specialty was deep in maneuverability and that needed a lot of space to operate. The Vanguards however were specifically designed to work with male pilots, confined areas and inborn fighting skills and instincts, which were an integral part in the male psyche. They could however tell that were some exceptions to this rule. Despite her being totally against the use of the Vanguards, Barnette quickly mastered the machine and soon got the handle of manipulating the mecha systems.
As the virtual Vanguards tripped and stumbled over one another, Jura became disgusted and left her simulator. “I've had enough! Why can't this machine move with more elegance? I'm out of here!" With that she quickly exited the room in a huff.
Kyo shook his head in disappointment. Though she didn't know it herself, Kyo could tell that Jura had good potential as a Vanguard pilot or a Mobile Suit pilot, though she lacked the skill, experience, and lastly the patience. He then had to admit that she was still one good pilot and not a bad looking one either. He quickly shook his head to steer clear of those thoughts before they would go to rather indecent areas. He directed his gaze to the other remaining pilots.
Also watching the pilots' performance via pulse monitors, Duero nodded as he then checked the statistics on the pilots as they continued their training.
“Looks like I'll be needed at the bridge." Duero said as he prepared to report to the captain, that Jura, despite her earlier fuming period, had the needed motor control and skill to be a Vanguard pilot for only this mission, and Barnette was also doing quite well, along with Dita who did considerably well, despite her inexperience. It was then that he gazed at another pulse monitor reading that he began to focus more on this one, as the simulators showed that its pilot was showing signs of feeling agitation and extreme stress. Apparently, the best Dread pilot in the pirate group was the worst Vanguard pilot, but something about the readings was no laughing matter.
Kyo also noticed this as well; he then shook his head as he could tell just who was in the simulator, though he had no idea what was happening in the mind of that certain someone.
In the simulator…
Meia slammed her fist in anger on the simulator's side while being inside the virtual Vanguard's cockpit as it had declared that the trial mission ended in complete failure and she was killed in action. Her breathing became labored and rather shallow as she sat in the confined space of the cockpit. Sweat beaded down her forehead and on other areas of her face, as she became even more furious at her poor performance. It was then that her main monitor lit up.
“Are there any medical overrides on Megele?"
Duero's face became very serious at this new revelation and showed his reasons why. “On Talark, doctors like myself are given full authority by the high command to ground pilots who show any sign of psychological stress, which can disrupt their performance as pilots. Do you want that to happen?"
“Of course not!" Meia shot back as she now had someone apart from a certain male to vent her anger at.
“Then I suggest that you switch your monitor for full all-field vision. That should help in lessening the strain on your body."
“Keep your advice to yourself! I don't need help, especially from a man! I'll be just fine, thank you very much!"
Kyo listened to the little exchange and shook his head. Though Meia's pride was somewhat admirable at times, he had already seen that pride, when placed above practical sense, was a fatal choice. He then decided to prepare himself to watch over the currently volatile blue-haired woman, should she try to enter this mission. He knew just what was hampering her performance.
“Hmmm…. How to use the ten-in-one knife shield… following the will of the pilot…ah, simultaneously with the electron pulse beam! I can do this!" Bart smiled as he went back to reading the Vanguard instruction manual he was reading.
Kyo sighed in disappointment, as he listened to that. He knew that the Vanguard had none of those weapons yet and it wasn't going to be just that simple. Kyo then got up as he decided to have a little extra time to tune up Freedom, it had been a while since he had been on a planetary mission. However his attempt to leave his seat was stopped, as his vision was blocked by a very ample amount of cleavage. Kyo instantly stopped in his tracks as he gazed up and found himself being looked at by a certain Dread pilot as he felt himself suddenly become rather uncomfortable.
“Hello there." Jura said as she smiled her best at the Gundam pilot. “In the next battle, you will be combining with me! I hope you remember that."
After she and Barnette left the training center, Kyo squirmed a bit in his seat and shook his head. He sighed and swallowed hard as the words Jura said to him came back to his mind. The blonde woman wasn't aware at the time, that when she said the word combine, Kyo's thoughts were totally not on combining mecha at all, but on something else entirely.
Duero was getting very worried, and he had very good reason to be worried as well. After reading all the data on the Vanguard trainees, it was Meia's readouts that totally disturbed the young Talark medical graduate. She showed signs of agitation, high stress levels, and the most significant of all… fear. He knew that there was only one reason for this, and there was no mistaking the signs either. He had naturally tried to talk to her about it, but the Dread leader totally shut him out, while maintaining that it was just stress and fatigue and denied and ignored all his advice and offers to help her.
The good doctor then thought about exercising his right to declare the Dread squadron pilot as mentally unfit to be part of the landing team and for further Vanguard duty. However, he knew that there was one problem. He was on a female dominated ship and his suggestions and opinions wouldn't carry the same weight, as it would have if he was on a ship from his home-planet of Talark. Despite the fact that he was the head physician and surgeon onboard the Nirvana. (The truth of the matter is, he WAS the ONLY certified and well trained physician and surgeon onboard the ship) He was still being considered by most of the crew as an unwanted, but necessary male crewmember.
In the end, despite his better judgment of the situation, he decided to hold his peace.
Magno and BC were still in discussion about the landing force being assembled, while the bridge crew continued to monitor both the planet for any changes that would affect the landing team's approach and also monitor space in the case of possible attack from their alien enemies. It was then that a call came to the bridge.
The image of the caller showed itself to be Kyo.
“Captain, are you there?"
Magno smiled a bit and took the call; she had to admit that the young man who was her crew's newest member was quite respectful and friendly. And that there was something about them made her trust the young man the same way she trusted her whole crew. “Yes Kyo, I'm here, what's on your mind?"
“I'm sorry if I'm interrupting anything important, but I have a request to make."
“That request being?"
“That you tell that young Dread pilot not to come within three hundred feet of my Gundam next time. I seem to recall that being part of the agreement"
Magno chuckled slightly as she could tell just who the person was, that Kyo was talking about. She had already gotten wind on what had happened at the hanger before. “The reason for that being?"
“Well, she tried to douse my Gundam in pink paint for one. And I got doused instead. Not that I dislike her or anything but…"
Before he could finish, the same person he was talking about then interrupted him.
“Mr. Alien!"
Kyo looked at the side and groaned while slapping his forehead. “Not again! Sorry captain, I'll have to cut this discussion short."
He then switched off the Comm-link, but not without BC and Magno hearing what he was now saying to himself. “Why me? Is it my curse to be followed by that girl?"
BC looked on with confusion written all over her face, while Magno chuckled lightly as she recalled the resigned look on the young man's face. “Talk about the irony. The whole ship's gotten livelier when the men got onboard."
Kyo sighed and gave a tired look as he faced the young redhead approach him once more, with her usual smile. He didn't mind her company at all, except for that name she kept on giving him.
“What is it this time?"
Dita then offered him another box. “Here, you looked so worn out that I made you something."
He sighed once more as he took the box.
Kyo munched leisurely on the bento that Dita had given him as they both sat on a blanket while being in the Bio-Park of the Nirvana. The young Dread pilot continued to smile happily as she gazed at her Mr. Alien
“Why are you staring at me like that?" Kyo asked as he noticed the happy look on Dita's face and wondered about that.
“It just makes me happy to watch you, besides you look much better when you're happy and full of life Mr. Alien." Dita replied cheerfully as she gazed at him with her deep blue eyes.
Kyo sighed. He wondered just when would this redhead ever call him by his real name. He didn't mind that for now as he focused on getting enough energy for the mission and also to enjoy the food he was given.
Nearby, a certain someone was busy scribbling down notes and clicking pictures of the two unsuspecting people from behind a tree.
“Pai check!"
Paiway was now inside another chamber as she gave her latest news to her comrade Jura. The voluptuous blonde was currently in a stall taking a shower.
" … And there they were, having a nice little picnic. The thing I noticed is, he was completely under Dita's control. And that was all because of one little boxed lunch."
Jura smiled as she heard Paiway's report. “Hmmm, I see." She then began to plan her newest attempt to convince Kyo to combine his Gundam with her Dread, now with this little tidbit of data, she just might have an edge.
At the kitchen…
“That's the reason why I'm doing all this cooking?!" Barnette asked, as she was quite irritated as soon as she learned the reason why her partner Jura had requested her to cook one of her special meals.
“It's so I can combine." Jura explained; as she was rather busy admiring the polish of her nails. “You do love me when, I'm beautiful, don't you Barnette?"
Barnette sighed in irritation, as she knew that once her comrade had an idea in her mind she intended to follow it through, and then she gazed around and smiled evilly when she spotted a bottle of hot sauce. Without making Jura notice, she began to pour liberal and rather large portions of the bottle's contents and added quite a few choice spices to the mix as well to the fillet mignon she was preparing.
“All right, I'm done."
“That's why I love you Barnette. Let's go find him. I can't wait to see the looks on his face!"
< Neither can I. > Barnette thought evilly.
“What do you want from me now?" Kyo asked with a slight hint of anger as he was being dragged towards a table, where Barnette also waited. He knew that he could resist easily and he was rather busy, wanting to grab a drink after finishing his field checks on his Gundam and get ready for the mission. But then decided that it wouldn't hurt to follow the two Dread pilots as they were now part of the landing team along with him and his comrades. Though he had a little difficulty trying to not show his admiration for Jura's figure, which was easy to see due to her dress.
He then found himself being directed towards the table, which had several platters that were also covered. As soon as he sat down, Jura lifted the lid on one of the platters, which was larger than the others and with that the aroma of the cooked food instantly caught the attention of the Gundam pilot.
Jura smiled sweetly at him. “If you agree to combine with me, then you can eat it."
Kyo sighed a bit. He knew that Jura wanted to combine with him ever since seeing his Gundam fuse with Meia and Dita's Dreads. He however wasn't going to be bribed by anybody, even of that somebody was a drop dead gorgeous blonde in one hell of a dress. < I should have known there was a catch. > “Fine then, I don't want it."
“Too bad, it's to die for." Jura said while shrugging her shoulders as she waited for the aroma of the food do the convincing for her. And it was beginning to work as she could see the looks Kyo was giving the food, namely the fillet mignon.
Kyo's stomach rumbled a bit. He had already gotten to eat a meal, before heading out to do his tests on his Gundam. Even so he was still feeling hungry, as his slightly higher metabolic rates made him slightly hungrier than most people and he knew it wouldn't hurt at least pile up on energy for the impending mission to the planet below them.
“Well… all right, a little bite… but I'm not yet saying that I'll agree to it."
Jura nodded as she smiled, prodding him to go and taste the food. After the first bite, Kyo would soon be twisted around her finger. Behind them, Barnette tried not to laugh but made no effort not to grin. After one bite of the doctored food, Kyo's taste buds would be totally obliterated.
What Barnette wasn't aware of, was that Kyo had already detected the vast amounts of hot sauce and spices that had placed in the meal in front of him. His sense of smell was far more acute than most. Though he couldn't recall it all now, he had an increased amount of focus in all aspects, of taste, smell, sight, hearing, and touch, due to the fact of his Coordinator genes, his training as a special counter-terrorist agent, and his love for cooking foods in his past life. He had developed a way to actually counter the effects of the said spices and also he had eaten a rather large variety of foods, namely spicy ones that were more potent than the one in front of him, due to his vague memories of his long forgotten mother Lacus who cooked certain spicy foods, and his long forgotten aunt Cagalli, who had a strong passion for strong but appealing and tasty food. As soon as he placed the piece of the steak in his mouth, he allowed some of his mental training and physical training to flow to his tongue. Therefore the moment the food touched his tongue, he felt only a minute tingling on his taste buds and became more focused on it's real taste.
“Well?" Jura asked. “How is it?"
Kyo shrugged a bit as he chewed the morsel thoughtfully, and admired its texture and the flavor of the juices in the meat and then swallowed it. “Not too well done, and it tastes quite good." He said as he felt the morsel slide down his throat as he gave a half-blissful expression. “Though it's a little too light for my taste. I hope you don't mind me asking. But you don't happen to have brought a bottle of hot sauce with you? I think I need some right now."
Barnette's jaw dropped as her eyes went wide. “WHAT?!"
Kyo shrugged once more and gave a simple smile. “I happen to like my food a bit hot and spicy, what can I say?"
“Give me that!" Barnette said as she used the knife and cut herself a piece of the steak as well. < There is no way he COULD have endured that! > She thought as she shoved that piece of meat into her mouth. The moment she did that, her tongue felt like it was dipped into a vat of pure burning liquid, as her taste buds were nearly overloaded with pain.
Kyo smiled a bit as he and Jura watched Barnette run off to the cafeteria with her mouth in fire. Jura looked back to Kyo with confusion written all over her face as the former Yamato just shrugged his shoulders once more.
“Don't look at me, I didn't do anything."
It was then that BC's voice was heard on the intercom, stating that it was now time for the whole landing crew to prepare for the descent towards the desert planet they were orbiting.
“What? We have to go already? I was starting to enjoy the meal! Oh well, can't be helped." He said as he left the table and began to walk away from the table and moved towards the Hanger where his Gundam was waiting for him. Despite her still unknown intentions, Kyo admitted that Barnette was an excellent cook.
“Hey! Don't forget that you're supposed to combine with me!" Jura called out after him.
“I didn't agree to that yet!" Kyo answered back.
A few minutes later, the Freedom launched from the Nirvana and sped towards the planet's atmosphere. It was then followed by the other Vanguards who were in a special drop-ship. Inside their respective mecha were Dita, Jura, and Barnette (who now sported a pair of puffy lips). At the helm of the ship was Jura. Her gaze was directed solely on Freedom as the former Z.A.F.T Gundam made it's way to the planet.
“I won't let you get off the hook that easily Kyo." Jura vowed as she directed the ship's trajectory to follow Freedom who took the point.
“Leave Mr. Alien alone! The only one he's going to combine with is me!” Dita said as she heard Jura's speech, it became apparent that Jura forgot to shut off her communicator.
“You stay out of this!” Jura said in retaliation.
Both decided to give one another deep glares instead.
Barnette just shook her head. “This had better be a quick mission." She then touched her lips and began then to wonder on just HOW did Kyo withstood the food she had doctored.
The Gundam and the drop-ship began to make fiery reentry paths into the planet as they moved through the atmosphere. As soon as they passed through the clouds and cooled down, the drop-ship broke apart, letting its cargo experience freefall for a period of a few seconds. The Vanguards then deployed umbrella-like devices to float all the way down to the surface. Freedom just righted itself and fired it's wing thrusters to slow down it's descent as well. Since the Gundam was larger than the standard Vanguards, it was immediately deemed too heavy for the umbrella devices to work, and the sheer power of it's nuclear fusion reactor and the Paeksis-like power source allowed it to enter and escape planetary gravity quite well. Plus, the Gundam's P. Phase Shift Armor system was more than adequate for planetary reentry and more than heat resistant.
Inside his Gundam, Kyo watched the ground approach through the main viewer-screen. He had already decided to upgrade Freedom's OS but he had to do it quick, Freedom whipped up it's own small sandstorm when it landed on the surface.
The other Vanguards soon touched down on the desert world and immediately began to look around. They had landed in the midst of several artificial structures, which seemed to resemble the ruins of one massive and forgotten city.
Back on the Nirvana…
A lone pilot ran into the hanger and gave a shout of frustration. “I'm too late!" Meia said as she ran to her waiting Vanguard. It was then that Pyoro arrived and floated it's way to the young pilot.
“You're pushing yourself too hard. Don't you think that they'll be fine on their own? They can do well without you."
“No!" Meia said as she shook her head. “I'm the leader of this mission; I'm supposed to be responsible for all of them!" < Even for…Kyo. > She added silently as she gazed at the planet below.
“But the drop-ship's only designed for one-way use only. There aren't any others." The robot pointed out to the young Dread leader.
On the planet's surface, the Vanguards and the Freedom surveyed their surroundings and the seemingly desolate area they were currently in. Placed on one side were the umbrella like devices, which were now stripped of the umbrella protrusions, these were also designed to act as booster units for getting back to space when the mission was considered over, as the Vanguards had no other way on leaving the planet's gravity. Even so, the Freedom Gundam had no need for those due to the systems enhanced by the Paeksis and it's massive power reactor.
“Well this place is totally deserted. Nothing here to get all excited about." Jura commented as she continued her scan of the area.
Barnette agreed at her comrade's statement. “There was no need for Meia to come with us."
“Wow! Look at all this sand." Dita commented as she also looked around.
Kyo however was completely focused and had a grim expression. He then trained his sensors around the area, for the remote but still present possibility that there were survivors anywhere on this planet. He looked at the landscape, totally unimpressed and saddened by lack of any detected life-signatures. He then directed Freedom, to move around and explore the area. Kyo noted that Freedom still had to update it's planetary combat software protocols as the Gundam was somewhat sluggish.
It was then he registered a tapping on his Gundam's shoulders. He then felt a little bit uncomfortable, namely at a certain area on his body and in his mind as he saw who was on his monitors.
Jura smiled rather seductively at Kyo while in her Vanguard. “Well now, shall we get on with it, hmmm?"
Kyo immediately restrained the hormone-induced reaction in his body as he tried to control himself after receiving that smile from the blonde Dread pilot, which was starting to send rather… (Ahem!)…suggestive images into his mind. “You've GOT to be kidding! You want to do it now?!"
The others didn't know what Kyo's reaction meant, but a certain redhead wasn't in the mood to hear Jura's seduction tactics being used on Kyo.
Dita's Vanguard stomped towards them and grabbed an arm of Freedom.
Jura gave a glare to her comrade. “STAY OUT OF THIS!”
Kyo wasn't in the mood to be somebody's prize, even if the contenders were beautiful women like Dita and Jura.
With that, he fired up Freedom's thrusters and took off. However, before he could reach a full hundred meters, he was detected by a hidden sensor in the ruins; this sensor immediately triggered a beam of red light to shoot out in front of Kyo and his Freedom Gundam. Several more of the same devices then shot out more red beams that crisscrossed each other, that immediately formed some kind of energy cage above the area where the Vanguards and Gundam were, effectively trapping them from the rest of the planet.
“What the Hell?!" Kyo shouted as his partner's warning sensors alerted him, but the warning came too late, as his command panel suddenly shorted out and he and Freedom went crashing back to the ground.
High above the whole situation, a lone Vanguard came through the clouds. Inside it, Meia did her best to pilot her mecha safely to the surface of the planet towards the landing coordinates where her comrades and the Sorcerer-Knights were. She had tried several times to raise her allies on her Vanguard's communicator, but had no success in doing so. As she headed towards the surface, her machine suddenly began to shudder as a massive sandstorm suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere and caused extreme turbulence.
On the bridge of the Nirvana, Duero became very concerned. The pulse monitors on his console for each Vanguard pilot including Kyo as he had installed in the Freedom a set of vital sign readers were now showing elevated heart rates and increasing respiration. When he checked Meia's readouts as well, he knew that they were in very serious trouble.
“This is not good. Their pulse rates are increasing rapidly and they are now showing signs of fear and disorientation. Something dangerous is happening down there."
BC immediately opened a frequency to the Vanguards and the Gundam below, but the comm-links were scrambled and were very grainy, no doubt from interference from the detected sandstorm, and the response from the pilots were very short and incomprehensible.
“Vanguard team, what's happening down there?"
“We're… trapped… (Squark!)… (Bzzzt!)…"
“Ahhh! Look…out!"
“Damn! It's an… ambush!"
“The sand… is… (Crackle!)…attack…"
Buzam's expression became a mixture of both confusion and deep concern. “The sand is attacking?"
In her Vanguard, Dita became a little more shocked and fearful as the sand suddenly moved as it seemed to have a mind of it's own. As the sudden sandstorm whipped around them, particles suddenly began to stick to the surface of her mecha and that of her fellow pirates, along with Mr. Alien's partner and the other good aliens' machines, and the sand spread out like blobs. Servos began to lock up as sand began to lock into the joints and also to other moving parts as well, making their movements more difficult and sluggish.
“This sand's acting as if it's alive!"
Inside his Gundam, Kyo began to grow even angrier. The sand began to try to cover his Gundam and it wasn't going to be long before his Mobile Suit was going to be completely covered by sand and also completely immobilized. He had made upgrades before leaving the Nirvana to condition Freedom for desert warfare, but he wasn't expecting this sudden attack of sand, let alone the stuff acting alive.
“Damn it! My Gundam's already built for this kind of land, but if this keeps up, Freedom won't budge at all!”
It was then that Jura's Vanguard came up to him.
“Leave this to me!"
Activating the exhaust vent located in front of her mecha, Jura directed the airflow to blow over Kyo's smothered machine and remove the sand, layer by layer, until the Gundam was freed of the sands.
“Thanks a lot!"
Jura then smiled as she replied. “You're welcome. By the way, why don't we combine? That's what I want in reward for freeing your partner."
Kyo sighed a bit and he gave an unbelieving expression to his face. “Are you still stuck on that combining business? If so I think you've forgotten something, and it's the fact that there's no way that I can combine with your Vanguard. My Gundam can only combine with your Dread. How do you expect me to fuse my Gundam with your Vanguard anyway?"
Jura gave a shocked and rather disappointed expression. “Are you joking?! NO! Why didn't you tell me before?! I shouldn't have trained for this mission!"
Meia's Vanguard landed hard on the surface of the desert planet, which was now in a blazing sandstorm. Her cockpit was covered in darkness, as several systems were now offline. Due to the sandstorm that arrived unexpectedly, she had landed several hundred meters from where the others were. Her breathing became rapid and she took in air in short gasps, her heart rate began to gain speed and thundered in her chest. Her forehead became sweaty and her eyes widened in fear and terror.
It was then that Duero's voice managed to reach her through the comm-link on her Vanguard.
“Meia! Meia! Do you hear me? Turn on your main monitor! Look as far away as you can!" Duero called out in a commanding voice as he tried to get Meia to recover.
The young Dread pilot reached out with a trembling hand and activated a switch to bring her monitor back online. “He…should mind his own…damned business!"
As the monitor came back to life and showed the barren and sandy landscape, her breathing came back to normal and her heart rate returned to being steady. However, the Dread Leader's relief was short lived, as she caught movement, something was heading at her direction, right for where she was.
“What's that?"
The Nirvana…
Amarone gave a gasp of shock. She was monitoring the scene on the desert planet and was watching the markers that told her where the landing party was. Her cry of shock was due to the fact that one of the markers had disappeared… Meia's marker on her Vanguard.
“Meia's mecha has disappeared from the sensors!"
BC acknowledged the report from Amarone and immediately got into contact with the landing party. “Barnette! Jura! Dita! Kyo! Do you copy? Meia has disappeared! You have to find her!"
“What?!" Kyo called out as soon as he got the message from Buzam.
“I repeat… Meia's mecha has landed some distance from where you and the others are. But she's no longer in our sensors' display! Find her!"
“Roger that!" Kyo called out as he and the others were now nearing their recovery from the massive storm of sand that threatened to hinder them. < Damn it! What the heck is she trying to prove here? > He knew that there was something terribly wrong with Meia, from the way she acted during her session at the Vanguard simulators and the condition symptoms that he noticed before, and he knew how deadly it would be for someone in her state of mind to be in a Vanguard.
“Leader's out there somewhere?!" Dita called out as she and the others had also received the message from BC. The redhead had already helped remove the sand hindering Barnette and her Vanguard.
“That's right. We'll have to find her fast." Kyo said as he finally used Freedom's wings to wipe away the sands on his Gundam.
“Don't look now but we've got company!!" Jura shouted as she pointed at one direction.
The others looked and gave shocked expressions, as mounds of sand began to appear and suddenly transform into replicas of the Vanguards. The doppelgangers then immediately went to their programmed duties and attacked. The Dread pilots had no other choice but to retaliate using the combat skills they had learned in the simulators. But due to the irony that now they were like the Vanguard trainees they battled with when they attacked the Ikazuchi. They were totally unsuccessful in the battles with their sand counterparts, as they had no on-hand combat experience with the male mecha and on how to manage the need to maneuver the machine while in battle.
Dita desperately struggled as she was now engaging one of the sand Vanguards as it attacked her mecha. She was shocked even more at the combat readouts; it showed that their systems were being copied and to add further difficulty to her current plight, the mecha she controlled was also being drained of power.
“The sand-creatures are copying the Vanguards' systems and draining the power supply! It's…almost like having the blood in us drained out!"
Kyo shook himself clear of his momentary surprise and immediately went into action. He was well versed in these types of scenarios than the Dread pilots, as his extensive combat experience in all his travels journeys and the battles he and Freedom had been in gave both of them a better chance than their female comrades. In the next instant the Sand Vanguard engaged Dita, it's right arm was suddenly slashed off by one of Kyo's beam sabers, it was instantly decapitated a moment later as Kyo swiped off it's head. He wasted no time and took out Freedom's other beam saber and cut in half another of the sand creatures that tried to blind-side Jura as she was also battling it out with another in front of her. He also smashed his Gundam's fist into the side of sand Vanguard's face, shattering the attacker's head and cut the thing down with his beam sabers, making the thing drop back into particles of sand. He went to work to lessen the number of the Sand Vanguards to give his female comrades better room to both fight and maneuver.
Kyo immediately got into contact with the women and issued battle commands while he blasted three more with his assault guns. “Don't let these things separate any of you! Watch each others' back and support each other!"
Barnette growled at that as she struggled with her own attacker and managed to beat the thing away. “I don't take orders from a man!"
Kyo however was more concerned with the battle than what Barnette had said; he knew that there was no time to get into a debate on who was in command with his female allies, as it would not prove helpful in their current situation. He then got Freedom into the air and provide cover fire using his double beam rifle and other weapons, the Gundam began raining down assault gun fire, plasma and rail-gun bolts as it attacked its targets causing the enemy to scatter apart.
Kyo had his reason for this move. He knew that he could soften up the number of attackers, and he knew that fighting and flying in a massive sand-storm was out of the question at this point, besides, in order to get to Meia, they had to fight their way to her on the ground, since that energy net forbade him and Freedom the luxury of just flying out to find Meia. And that suited him just fine as close range battles and hand to hand fighting was where he and Freedom were also best at.
“I'm right behind you Mr. Alien!" Dita called out as she reached for her mecha's weapon and smashed down one of the sand creatures that tried to blind-side Kyo the moment his Gundam landed back on the ground.
“Thanks!" Kyo said as he and Dita were now cutting their way through the enemy units.
Barnette had a disbelieving look. A woman following a man?! “Dita! What are you doing?!"
“Mr. Alien is trying to help us!" Dita called as she defeated another Sand Vanguard with her own weapon.
Barnette gritted her teeth, as she watched the battle unfold. Jura then came next to her, and then headed in the direction where Dita and Kyo were. “Dita's got a point Barnette! We have to do this if we want to survive, and it seems that Kyo and his Gundam are our best bets on out of here alive, so come on!" She called out as she managed to use her weapon just in time to slash another Sand Vanguard that arrived to attack Kyo and Dita.
The Dread pilot snarled a bit, but bit down her pride as she knew what her comrade had said was true, she relented and joined Jura as the two of them reached Dita.
After a few minutes of non-stop fighting, the tide slowly turned in favor of the pirates and the Gundam pilot. As the Sand Vanguards lessened in number, Kyo managed to download a set of coordinates. “I've got a fix on Meia's last known location; I'm feeding in the data now." He immediately raised Barnette as he faced another arriving batch of Sand Vanguards.
“Barnette, we'll hold the line here, you'll have to go and locate Meia. You've got her coordinates so go find her now!"
“I told you before that I don't take orders from a man!"
“Look, right now we don't have the luxury of time to argue here, so either follow my orders, or lose your Dread Leader! Now get moving!"
Jura's friend growled irritably, but realized the truth of Kyo's words. She then went off in search of Meia, while Kyo and the others readied themselves for the new battle.
Back on the Nirvana…
“Run a full analysis!" BC commanded as soon as they were able to reestablish communications with the landing party.
Ezra nodded as she managed to help decipher the data they received from the landing party. She then displayed the outline of the area and also brought up in image of a strange device that resembled a large technological tick on the monitor. This seems to be the device that's controlling the sand, and it's buried deep in the ground."
“So, this was some sort of trap left behind by our alien adversaries, eh?" Mango commented as her eyes narrowed. “And with that force-field in place, our Vanguard team is cut off. What's happening down there now?"
BC looked at the readouts and was a bit surprised at what she was being told. “The Vanguards are now engaged in some sort of counter-attack."
“Who's leading them? Is it Barnette?" Magno asked as she was given the report by Duero that the friend of Jura was the most proficient Vanguard operator of the four trainees selected for this mission.
BC shook her head. “No, she's gone out to look for Meia. The one who is leading them is… Kyo and his Freedom Gundam."
Meia shivered in fear and slowly growing terror as her Vanguard lay on it's back as the living sand was now swallowing it up. As the strange substance controlled by the device Ezra had detected coated her mecha and rendered her helpless, her body began to lock up and her breathing rate began to get shallower. Her heart rate became faster and was now thundering in her chest, as she couldn't calm herself down.
“W-W-What should I do? I'm…so scared…"
Just as soon as the sand soon engulfed her Vanguard, Barnette's own mecha arrived on the scene.
Barnette rushed to her comrade's side and activated the shovel extension of her Vanguard and immediately went to work on freeing Meia from the sand that surrounded and trapped her mecha. She swore, as she couldn't use her vent system to free Meia, the system was too clogged up with sand and was further damaged by the battle with the Sand Vanguards earlier.
Suddenly, Meia's sand coated Vanguard got up and knocked Barnette's own mecha aside. It then took off, rocketing upward to touch the force field high above them. This attempt activated a loud blaring alarm to fill the whole area, as several structures rose from the sand and began to pulsate like beating hearts.
“What's going on?" Magno demanded as they detected the sudden increase of power under the surface of the planet.
Ezra began to scan the situation and gasped as she read the report from their scanners concerning the massive build-up of energy. “There's some kind of self-destruct sequence that's been activated!"
Amarone confirmed this as she detected a countdown. “The count-down's underway. Three hundred seconds before the whole planetary surface is engulfed in explosions!"
“Nirvana to landing party! Get out of there now!" BC cried out to the expedition unit.
“As much as we want to do just that, we'll a little bit tied up down here!" Kyo called back to the Nirvana as he smashed his Gundam's double beam lance into the side of another Sand Vanguard, severing the creature into two.
Kyo turned Freedom and spotted another Sand-Vanguard, he then aimed his dual rail-guns on the would-be attacker. “Not another one! Just where the hell are these things coming from anyway?!" He then readied his rail-guns to turn the thing into atoms when he spotted Barnette's mecha following it.
Inside the mecha, the Dread Leader was in full state of catatonic shock and naturally was unaware of what was happening outside of her machine. She was shocked back into reality as something smashed into her Vanguard and knock it to it's back. She then heard Kyo's voice in the communicator of her mecha.
“What the hell are you doing in there?! We don't have the time for this sort of thing!" Kyo then tried to remove the sand with his Gundam's hands. But every-time he managed to brush off a layer of the sand; it would be replaced by an even thicker coating.
“F-F-Forget about me…save yourselves…" Meia said weakly.
“What are you getting at?! You want us to just leave you here?! Forget it!" Kyo shot back at her. “Your reason to live right now may be to make life for me on the ship a living hell. But leaving you here to die in front of me is NOT on my agenda today!"
< Damn! I'm not getting anywhere here!> Kyo couldn't ask Jura to do the same thing she had done to free Freedom neither could he ask Dita as she and the other Dread pilots were still duking it out with the sand copies, as the process would take way too long, and time was running out for them. The layers covering the mecha were too dense for such a plan anyway and using his wing thrusters could endanger Meia, he needed another solution and fast. He then spotted something resembling a massive storage tank near them. His Gundam's sensors systems then detected a large concentration of gas that was a full sixty degrees cooler than the outside temperature. Just the thing he needed.
“One hundred and fifty seconds until detonation."
“Did you hear that?" Buzam cried out on the communicator.
“WE KNOW THAT ALREADY!" Kyo shouted back as he directed his attention to the storage tank. He locked in Freedom's targeting sensors and unleashed all the Gundam's weapons to the side of the storage tank. The combined impact of all of the Gundam's ranged armaments made the tank explode, unleashing the gas payload inside it into a cooling mist. The mist then covered the entire area, rapidly cooling everything in it's path. At the same time the mist had completely frozen the circuitry of the force field emitter, disabling the barrier above them all.
“What the heck are you doing?! It's getting cold in here! I'm freezing!" Jura complained, but then she realized something. “Wait a minute…?" She looked through her monitor and saw that the Sand Vanguard she was fighting with earlier had suddenly stiffened and became brittle. In a second it broke into shards of sand. The mist spread out rapidly, turning all the remaining Sand Vanguards into brittle statues that exploded immediately.
“You're so smart Mr. Alien!" Dita cheered.
Barnette never wanted to admit it, but to her also, it had been a good idea.
Kyo nodded at Dita's praise but he knew that now wasn't the time to be choosy. He then directed his attention to Meia's Vanguard. The sand that covered her mecha cracked and broke away, allowing the young Dread Leader to see daylight once more.
Inside her own machine, Meia had a deep scowl on her. To think that she now owed a man her life… and to Kyo no less. She then tried to make her machine move, but it wasn't responding at all. She checked her readouts and saw that the sand had accomplished part of its objectives; it had completely drained her mecha of power. There was no chance of her to escape in time.
“The mecha's got no more power! It won't budge anymore!"
Kyo knew this and decided that now wasn't the time to delay or be delicate. Smashing his Gundam's fingers into the chest area of the Vanguard, he tore open the canopy like it was only made of paper, and opened his cockpit at the pilot, while extending out his Gundam's retrieval cable.
“Come on! Get in my Gundam!!"
“Now isn't the time to care about the difference between men and women! Neither is it the time to argue. If you don't plan on dying here, then take the cable and hurry!"
“Thirty seconds!"
Kyo wasted no time as Meia hauled herself into Freedom's cockpit, he closed the hatch and got into contact with everyone else in the landing party to get out of here. He acknowledged and moved to evacuate.
The question now was…will they make it?
“Time's up." Amarone replied as the countdown meter on her console reached a full zero.
On the bridge of the Nirvana, Magno and the rest of her crew watched with apprehension as the surface of the desert planet was engulfed in huge balls of fire and explosive force in orange-red color. Duero's medical monitors were showing nothing but static. There was a deep foreboding silence all over the ship, as the pirates feared for the worst. Then Duero's attention went back to the monitors as all five readouts displaying the landing party went back online as several objects broke out of the massive conflagrations that tore up the planet's surface.
“Three Vanguards and the Gundam are accounted for." Ezra said with a mixture of relief and concern.
“Only three?" BC said with growing apprehension. “Which ones?"
“I count Dita, Jura, and Barnette's Vanguards." Ezra replied.
“If the Freedom is there, then that means that Kyo survived, and Meia is…"
“Hold on a moment!" Duero replied as he checked his scanners once more. “Kyo's in his Gundam, but there is a new life signature inside his cockpit. It's Meia who's inside with him!"
Magno became a bit confused at that new amount of news. “If Meia is in Kyo's Gundam, then how did she get there and why isn't she in her Vanguard unit?"
The rest of the bridge personnel let off a collective sigh of relief as well. It was then that one of the bridge crew namely Belvedere announced that she had received some data from the investigation.
“Read it." BC ordered.
Belvedere became a bit tense, but nodded, with a little prodding from Buzam. “Attention. This year's harvest includes red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, lymph products, etc. All blood products are in good condition. That's where the data ends."
The whole bridge personnel became shocked to the core by the information. Magno looked down of the ground with a barely controlled anger. BC turned to her commanding officer.
“They… They can't really mean…"
“I know BC, but the evidence is right here, and from what we have seen. Our enemies meant harvest completely. We're nothing but vegetables to them!" Magno then looked out to the stars and gave an outraged look.
“Whoever our new enemies, these aliens are. One thing is certain, they are quite formidable."
In the hanger bay, the Vanguards minus Meia's mecha and the Freedom were now being sent back to dry dock, but Parfet had decided that the Vanguards were now to be repaired and maintained, in case the next battle would call for their use. With the aliens now stepping up their attacks to ground warfare, it was now going to be a growing possibility that they would be part of their forces.
On several crates, were Dita and the others, namely Jura and Barnette, resting after their first taste of Vanguard combat. On another crate at another location sat Meia, who watched with a bit of anger at Kyo, while he was busy checking Freedom's combat software protocols.
< Being saved by someone is bad enough. But being rescued by a man is a complete disgrace. And of all the men in this whole universe, I had to owe my life to HIM! >
Meia's thoughts were still on red light as she gazed at Kyo. Her pride was strong and right now it felt battered by the fact that she was still alive due to the young man in front of her. She tried also to suppress remote and strange feelings in her once she laid her eyes on that man. Kyo then turned and was now gazing at her. She immediately tore her eyes away to look elsewhere… anywhere but at him.
On the ramp, Kyo could already feel the anger Meia was giving him. He could understand her, being a strong and independent person that she was, and that meant the he had dented her pride twice. The first was when he tossed her, and the second was when he saved her from death back on that desert world. He then recalled her angry look when he gazed back at her, before she tore her gaze away. To the Gundam pilot however, he had to admit that his male side told him the Dread pilot was attractive in every aspect, even when she was angry and even that strange circlet didn't detract her appearance at all, coupled with her athletic body.
Kyo shook his head and tried to steer clear of those ideas. Regardless of whatever resentment she had on him, though he had taken a great risk for him and the rest of the landing party to remain behind to rescue the fiery Dread pilot. Kyo knew that he had done everything in his power to bring all of his allies back home, safe and alive. That was that.
“Pai check!"
Paiway was busy gathering new information, namely on Kyo and Meia. Despite being only eleven yeas old, the young nurse had the eye of a seasoned detective, though she had no experience on what she was seeing, < Something strange will happen soon, I just know it! > She thought as she scribbled down her observations. It was then that Pyoro flew next to her.
“I guess I'll never understand humans."
“What would be the point of it all when you do?" Paiway asked the little machine.
“What's the point of you taking photos right now?"
“You're a mean robot."
“Shut up."
Later… at the conference room…
“You wanted to see me, captain?" Meia asked as she came into the conference room. She then noted that BC, and Duero were in the room as well.
“Yes Meia. There's something that I'd like to discuss with you. Please seat down."
The strong willed and fiercely independent girl became a bit tense as she then suspected on what she had been summoned for and the reason why. “Captain, if it's about what happened on the mission…"
“That's the exact reason why I called for you here." Magno said as she then took a deep breath. She knew that what was about to be said here would not suit well with the Dread Squadron Leader. “This isn't easy for me to say… but I have no intention of beating around the bush. As the captain of this ship, my first and foremost priority is to the safety and well being of this crew. And as the Captain, I am forced to make some hard decisions." She then turned to Duero. “Doctor, what is your final analysis concerning this matter?"
The Nirvana's healer and only qualified physician and his comrade, nodded to the captain as Duero then addressed Meia. “I'm sorry to say this to you, but as the ship's head physician, I have declared you as psychologically unsuited to take part in any new Vanguard operations. It is my sad duty to hereby permanently ground you from the Vanguards."
That naturally didn't suit well with the young pilot…
“What?!" Meia shot up from her seat and slammed both hands on the conference table. She immediately gave a hostile glare to Duero. “You can't say that! I lead all combat missions for this ship! You are just a man! Who are you to say of what I can or cannot do?!"
“He happens to be our ship's doctor." Magno replied sternly, but sighed silently as the reaction from Meia was expected, she motioned for Meia to sit down, which the young girl did so reluctantly.
“Captain! You can't be serious about this! He doesn't have any authority on the ship and he's just a man!"
"On the contrary, Meia. I happen to totally agree with him." The aged woman said with her usual authority. “And as I recall, I did make the official announcement that Duero, Kyo and Bart are part of this crew for the duration of this voyage. His analysis of your behavior during that mission coincides with something I had long suspected about you for some time."
“What are you talking about captain? I was just suffering from fatigue, that's all!"
Duero shook his head as he began to explain. “You showed signs of agitation, nervousness, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, and increased lack of focus. You became indecisive and distraught. At one critical point of the mission, your entire body locked up and didn't respond. Those symptoms came up only when you entered the cockpit of a Vanguard. I also have extra data from the readouts from your time in the training simulator and when you also rode inside Freedom. You showed all the classic symptoms that indicate claustrophobia. It seems that you can't stand being placed in confined spaces, and that you panicked while inside the cockpit of a Vanguard."
“Ridiculous!" Meia denied in a high voice. “I'm not going to just sit here and listen to all that nonsense! I pilot a Dread better than anyone else here, so what makes you think that I would have any trouble with a Vanguard?"
“Unlike the Vanguard of my home-planet and Kyo's Gundam unit, a Dread's cockpit is more open and spacious in design, so it doesn't surprise me that you have excellent performance and feel more at home with a Dread."
“He's correct on that." Magno said quietly.
“What?! You're actually siding with this…this… man?!" Meia asked in shock at Magno.
“It's not a question of whether the doctor is either a man or a woman, Meia." Magno stated firmly. “The fact of this matter is that Duero has far more medical training and experience than anyone else on this ship and he also raised a valid point, in which the safety of your fellow crewmates was affected. Your fear of closed spaces had placed the others in grave danger. In fact, Kyo decided to remain on the surface, and placed himself in extreme danger to rescue you."
Meia became silent at that statement and became angry how that male had saved her and had gotten the others to safety. She had been upstaged once more by that irritating man and now this male doctor informing her that she was unfit for combat! Why couldn't these men just go away? Things had been going on just fine before they came onboard!
Magno noted the girl's reaction. “Meia, don't get the conclusion that we are turning against you. That's totally untrue. We are only thinking for your safety, and also for the safety of the crew. You are an outstanding Dread pilot and commanding officer, no one here will try to discredit or dispute that fact. Therefore you shall remain as the Dread teams' leader. However, both Buzam and I have already agreed that we couldn't afford to lose you if we were to send you out on another mission involving the Vanguards. Do you understand this?"
Meia took a long time to silently consider the captain's words. Finally, with a long sigh, she reluctantly nodded. “I can already see that I'm not going to win this argument. All right then. So we just won't use the Vanguards any more, this was just the only time."
BC shook her head. “I'm sorry to say this Meia, but the captain and I also agreed to keep the Vanguards as an alternate addition to our forces. We don't know what other weapons or abilities the enemy have, which we may encounter on our way back home, and there may be situations where only the Vanguards can be used and are needed. Therefore we also decided to appoint a Vanguard squadron commander for any future Vanguard operations."
“I see." Meia nodded, understanding the logic of the captain and the commander's decision, though it still grated on her that she couldn't be able to lead all combat missions for the ship. But she knew that it was for the safety of the crew. “So who will act as the commander? Will it be Barnette, or will it be Jura?"
The captain and the first-officer, shared a quick glance at each other with a slight bit of uneasiness as they knew that their decision would NOT suit well with Meia. Magno then spoke.
“Barnette did show considerable skill and potential as a Vanguard pilot, and Jura can handle one well enough. However we have already decided who will be the best candidate for the position. He showed exceptional command skills and leadership and calm control in a very tense situation. He is perfect as the Vanguard squadron's leader."
“Then who…" Meia trailed of as her eyes widened as she realized something. “Wait a second here! Did you say HE?! You don't really mean that you're putting HIM in command of the Vanguard squadron are you?!"
At Kyo's quarters…
“Hold it; now let me see if I get this right. You want ME to become the new Vanguard leader. I will be completely responsible of all future Vanguard missions for the entire Nirvana?" Kyo looked on with surprise written all over his face. The women were now asking him to lead them into combat? Talk about a reversal!
“That's about the long and short versions of it." Magno replied.
“Captain, I don't mean to sound offensive… but have you lost your senses in your old age? I don't have all the knowledge for that sort of responsibility."
“You didn't seem to have any problems with leading the landing party on that desert planet."
“I took charge since the need to do so came to me, not because I want to show off my own skills, I work better alone, and it's not going to be just that simple. Why not have Meia or Barnette become the leader anyway?"
Magno shook her head. “I'm afraid to say this, but this sort of combat mission isn't what Meia is totally suited for. As for Barnette, she can pilot a Vanguard, but she doesn't have the kind of experience you have."
“Come again?"
“You have shown that you are deeply experienced with hand-to-hand fighting and close-quarters combat. That is the designed specialty of the Vanguards and your Gundam, not of the Dreads. Furthermore, the skills, knowledge, and expertise that you have in using your own Gundam can help enhance the effectiveness of those machines, just as you have demonstrated today. You showed that you have deep compassion and loyalty to an ally, regardless of their gender. I can't think of a better woman…er man… no, person for the job."
Kyo sighed, and then gave a mildly irritated look. “Okay then, don't take this the wrong way captain. I can see the reasoning about the formation of the squadron you have in mind, but there is a problem. That one being this, even if I take the position, what makes you so sure that your crew would even listen to my orders, let alone follow them? If I were to recall, most of your crew still despise us men."
“They will. They're a good crew and they will do what is necessary to get the job done. I know them well enough, and I trust them all. So what's your answer?"
Kyo thought about it for a few minutes in silence. “I'll give it some thought."
The eldest of the Yamato siblings and one of the only known Gundam pilots left in the new Era decided to ponder his decision while walking, he then found himself inside the hanger where his Gundam and the enhanced Dreads were stored. He found the place to be deserted, save for one particular individual who was sitting in the cockpit of her Dread. He decided to approach the girl, but without hiding his approach, since he knew that if he did hide his approach, then he would reach her without alerting her at all.
Meia turned and looked down from the cockpit when she heard footsteps approaching her location. She then gave a deep frown as she saw who it was.
“What are you doing here?" She asked barely hiding her irritation.
Kyo shrugged his shoulders as he reached the Dread and stared upward. “Same thing you're probably doing and why you're here, I guess, to think things over."
“Yeah right. You're really just here to gloat, aren't you?" Meia shot back, daring the former Earthling to deny it.
Kyo read her intentions and answered her with a naturally curious look. “I don't know what you're getting at and I find nothing to gloat about either."
“Stop lying to me! You probably jumped for joy when you heard that I got kicked out of the Vanguard squadron. By now, the captain has probably given command of all the Vanguard missions and operations to you, right?"
< Oh, so that's the reason. > Kyo said to himself mentally as he shook his head. “Well, she did offer me the position, but I still haven't gotten around accepting it yet."
Kyo took a deep breath before speaking further. “I personally don't want the job, but it seems that the captain and the top brass want me to take it. I know the reasons and I can vouch for the formation of that squadron. I'm not all that experienced leading a large group or teams, but for the duration of this voyage, it seems that I need to work with everyone on this ship. And that also includes you."
“I don't want anything to do with you! I don't need anyone's help, and I especially don't need help from a man! Namely from you!"
“I see… then that's a real shame." Kyo said calmly as he shrugged his shoulders. “And here I thought that we worked well as a team."
“What are you getting at?!"
“Well, we both did do an excellent job in defeating that urchin ship before as GunDread Meia, remember that? Neither of us would have defeated the thing separately, even with the assistance of Liberty or the Dreads. And even though you messed up at that mission on the planet, do you hear me gloating or laughing about it? No, I don't downgrade anyone, just because they messed up somewhere. What I did back there was save an ally. I'm pretty sure you would have done the same thing if we switched roles, correct?"
“W-W-What?!" Meia couldn't believe what she was hearing. Kyo was actually being humble? He wasn't being arrogant or even showing cockiness at all?
“All throughout my journeys with only Freedom as company, I've always been independent; and even if I work with others I still am proud of what I accomplished alone and when I'm on my own. In that sense… you and I are very much the same."
The Dread leader was shocked to silence after hearing this, and what was even more shocking was the fact that Kyo said the truth. In this light the two of them were very much the same. The two of them were strong-willed and fiercely independent. They did whatever was needed to finish the job, and neither of them backed down when they were challenged.
Kyo was about to say more when Dita came along and began to wave at him.
“Mr. Alien!”
Kyo sighed again. “Here we go again! I'll see you later.”
Kyo left the hanger, leaving Meia alone, to consider what he had told her. She had a lot of thinking to do.
To be continued…
The changes are now in effect on this chapter. On the next chapter, Kyo and Meia's relationship will go one more step further, though nothing serious will happen yet. I want the characters I made to have a lot of interaction with the characters of Vandread. Like before, I happen to like Meia, Dita, and Jura a lot, so I want them to interact as much as possible with Kyo.
On another more important note. I am giving all the readers an advanced warning. This warning being that in some parts of the first installment, there will be some suggestive themes which by now should be obvious, and in the second installment there WILL be some light to serious adult content. The reason being is that I never made any announcement that this story won't have any adult situations. I happen to be already in the age for that sort of thing so it doesn't bother me all that much. But if any of you don't like it, then don't read those sections. If you're wondering how Meia got claustrophobia then check out the series and make sure to study every detail, since I don't intend on explaining this at all.