Gundam SEED Fan Fiction / Vandread Fan Fiction ❯ GunDread SEED (Redition) ❯ Another Life ( Chapter 16 )
[ P - Pre-Teen ]
Disclaimer: Another disclaimer? Fine, I don't have ownership of VanDread and Gundam SEED. I'm just a guy who loves to write about what I imagine.
< >: Thoughts
<( )>: Mental speech
<Where the heck am I this time?>
That thought echoed in Kyo's mind as he looked around in the dark void that he was floating in. The young Gundam pilot then tried to look for anything that could tell him where he was.
The black void was totally void of temperature, making Kyo think for a moment that he was in space, he shook his head clear of that idea as there were no stars. The former Earthling then decided to check his injuries… but was surprised to find absolutely no trace of the grievous he suffered in battle against the dark counterpart of his Gundam, not even a single trace of blood on his clothes clothes. His body felt no pain…in fact he felt nothing, period. He touched his face and arms, and not a single glow of sensation hit him. Things got even more bizarre to young man when he discovered that he wasn't breathing. He raised both hands to his mouth and felt no breath. He immediately placed his right middle and index fingers to his neck, and then to his wrists, he felt no pulse. He had no heart breath and no respiration, so why was he still alive…or was he really alive?
<Okay, as of right now, I'm officially freaked out!>
Kyo then got a hold of himself as he decided to calm down and try to find some clue as to how he got to this place. His recollection went back to his most recent confrontation with the Earth's Gundam unit. He admitted that the AI-controlled Gundam was no pushover and had really overwhelmed him and Freedom, and he and his Gundam were in no shape then to take on such an opponent. Just where the heck did that Gundam come from? The Mobile Suit's arsenals, tactics, and maneuvers were totally similar to what he could do with Freedom. He winced in memory of Dominion's beam saber impaling Freedom and nearly skewering him as well. And he hadn't forgotten about it's beam arsenals.
Those crimson and emerald beams were the total polar opposite of Freedom's plasma and rail-gun cannons most powerful energy attack, and had shredded sections of the armor despite the P.P.S Armor system being online. But the big question was, how did that Gundam come to exist? Who built it and where was it assembled? How did the Earth know how to built a Gundam? Those questions were sadly placed aside as the young man tried to recall what had happened. He vaguely recalled attaching Freedom via energy the mangled left arm to the grappling arms of Gascogne's supply shuttle, then lying on a gurney in the medical bay. Then he heard Meia, Jura, and Dita cry out as he was enveloped in…darkness.
“So…does that mean I'm…dead?” Kyo asked.
Kyo was just floating around with no place to go, not knowing what he should do now. Then, he spotted a flicker of light at the corner of his eye. He turned to face the light and spotted it to be the size of a small box in the distance. Kyo wondered what it was, and decided to check it out. After all, he had no intention of doing nothing and staying this dark void any longer than he had to.
e took one tentative step forward and saw the light become closer. He looked down and saw that there were no surfaces, and he was stepping on nothing. How was that possible?
<Heh, it seems that when you're dead, then reality has no meaning.> Kyo thought as he kept on moving towards the light. A few minutes, or what seemed like minutes later, he was thinking of nothing else but reaching his goal. For the longest time he thought that there were voices calling him, and they were vaguely familiar. As soon as he reached the box of light that became a doorway, however, he stopped and thought for a moment. Wasn't there an old saying? It went that you were supposed to stay away from the light at the end of the tunnel. Kyo thought it over and then nodded. He had nothing else to lose considering his deadly injuries. There was probably no way for Duero to save him, and it won't be any surprise if the Talark doctor considered him deceased, (which he was actually declared not a few hours ago).
Kyo took one more moment of consideration and stepped through the doorway of light.
Meanwhile…back in the land of the living…
< Damn! I'm so not good at this kind of thing. > Barnette sighed as she gazed at the young man on the tables as she continued to make her peace with Kyo. After saying `I'm sorry' to it (a phrase which she RARELY used), the Dread pilot found herself at a loss for words. What more could she say to a person, who she had treated badly, on the very day he had stepped onboard the Nirvana?
“Jura…won't say a word to me…until I talked to you. I personally think that it's crazy for me to be pouring out my soul to a dead person, but… I guess that it's the thought that counts, right? <What am I doing? >
The Gundam pilot stopped and wondered for a moment as to why he thought of Barnette, but he decided to push those thoughts aside for a while and decided to take a look around. The place was familiar enough. He was in the Paeksis. Kyo had been here at least several times in his dreams, on the day of the merge of the Ikazuchi and the Megele pirate cruiser, and in his last battle with the Harvesters and this Gundam AI-controlled counterpart. It was a vast, nearly unending ocean of blue-green-white and it moved just like a body of water. There was a quiet and soothing hum, like a choir of soft human voices and there wasn't a single soul apart from just him. Kyo decided to do nothing and just bask in the warm and calm environment.
“Now this is nice.”
Kyo then decided to look about, despite the fact that the place was pretty relaxing and peaceful, he didn't like the idea of being alone.
<It sure is going to be real lonely here if I'm just one person in this place. I wonder if there's anybody else around here?>
As if in answer to Kyo's unspoken question, a voice called out to them in their minds.
< (You…who are you?)>
Kyo jerked his head and began looking around for the source of the voice.
“Who was that?” Kyo asked, reflexively reaching for his weapons, which weren't there.
< (Who are you?)>
Kyo calmed down and looked on into the blue-white-green void. “First things first, I want to know some things. Where am I and who are you?”
The voice merely asked again. < (Who are you?)>
Kyo decided that he wasn't going to get anywhere if he didn't answer that simple question. “Gasco calls me K, and Dita calls me Mr. Alien. But I go by the name of Kyo.”
< (Who are you?)>
“Say what?! I told you my name already! What do you mean by `Who are you?'?”
The voices asked once more. < (Who are you?)>
Kyo sighed and tried again. “My name is Kyo.”
< (You are Kyo, but you are not completely Kyo. Who are you?)>
Kyo frowned. “Now what kind of crazy logic is that?! I've gone by that name for as long as I can remember! Just what do you mean not completely?”
< (The one called Kyo IS Kyo, but Kyo is not complete. But YOU are Kyo.)>
“What the heck does that mean?! Can't you give an answer that makes sense?!”
< (Kyo is Kyo, but Kyo is not complete, YOU are Kyo.)>
The Gundam pilot considered the voice's vague explanation for a few seconds. The he asked slowly and carefully. “So…what you mean I AM Kyo, that Kyo's my real name but it's incomplete?”
<Finally! An answer that makes sense!> Kyo thought as he sighed as one hurdle was overcome. But he had another question.
“Now that we both got that question settled, just who are you? And where exactly are you?”
< (I are here.)>
< (I are here.) >
Kyo shook his head. “Let me rephrase the question. WHERE are you?”
< (I AM HERE.)> The voices stressed once more.
Kyo looked around. “Where exactly are you, give me some kind of beacon so I can find you.”
< (I am here. You are also here. WE are here)>
The Gundam pilot shook his head in puzzlement over the newest cryptic message from his mysterious companion. “What are you getting at… are you saying…I'm inside you?” Kyo asked.
< (We are here.)>
“Ok…that makes sense…I think. Now, you told me that my name is Kyo, but I'm incomplete. That must mean that the reason I can't remember anything else is because something happened to me. So…if you know that much, then…do you know anything about me and my past?”
< (You seek your past?) >
The young man nodded. “Yes.”
In an instant, the expanse of blue-green-white changed and was flooded with images, which were moving at apace that Kyo couldn't tell what they meant. Some of the images looked very familiar to him, but the rest were somewhat unrecognizable.
Then the images stopped moving at a high pace, and one picture came in front of Kyo. Kyo became intensely interested as he gazed at a picture of a beautiful, gentle-looking woman with light pink hair and pure blue eyes. He recognized the woman as someone in his dreams, he then saw a tall man, with the same shade of brown hair like his, only shorter, he had a deep lavender colored pair of eyes, and he had a kind smile as he stood next to the woman, and he also recognized the tall man as another person in his dreams, but this time, their images were crystal clear. He then saw the woman, holding a baby, which upon closer inspection, was a boy with deep brown hair, and a combination of the older man's eyes and the woman's eyes…and…
Kyo froze as he realized something. <Hold on a second!> He looked closer and then he gasped. <That's…me! That's really me! I looked like that when I was a baby! If that's…true…then those two people…are…my…”
Another image showed itself in a quick flash next to the image, both then vanished and Kyo was once more alone, but not before he saw the baby version of himself nearly about fifteen years of age with those same two people with two other younger children and another family. A man with stormy blue hair and green eyes, a woman with blonde hair and amber eyes. Both those people also had children, and they were very familiar to Kyo. Before Kyo could recognize the other people in the next image, he was now back to the blue-green-white nothingness.
The young man cried out in shock as the images disappeared.
“Hey! Bring those images back! Where those two I saw before were my parents?! Tell me! Tell me what else you know about my past!”
< (Your past can wait, your present cannot, the future is waiting.) >
<Damn! Just when things were looking up, we're back to this bloody nonsense again!>
Dita was still sniffling a bit when she finally decided that crying over Mr. Alien and the other Mr. Aliens wasn't going to do anything good. They weren't coming back. She decided to go out of her room and take a walk.
As she went through the door, she noticed that the attitude of her fellow crewmembers had changed, and none for the better. Several of the residential quarters were shut and the hallways were less traveled. Usually, Dita would normally would pass by two to three crewmembers every minute or so, but now, she would only pass by one girl every ten minutes or longer. Those she did meet along the way were in a deep mood of sadness and despair. At first, she tried not to think much on it, but as she continued on with her walk, the atmosphere became even more dreary.
Back in the other side…
“Wait a bloody second! Why can't you show me more images?”
<(Past can wait, it will always be waiting there. The present cannot wait, and the future is still coming.)>
Kyo was getting even more frustrated by the second with the voice of the Paeksis. “What do you mean the past can wait?! I want to know my past right now!”
<(Past not important if both present and future is ignored.)>
“What is THAT supposed to men? All I have now IS my past. I don't have a present or a future, since I'm already dead!”
<(Kyo who is not completely Kyo still has present and future. Kyo must go back to the present and go to future to learn the past.)>
Kyo was getting even more confused, but then took a minute to get things right in his head. “What are you saying? You mean to say that I'm not dead yet?”
<(Kyo who is not completely Kyo is gone only because he thinks he is gone. I know this. I and Kyo BOTH know this.)>
At that moment a kaleidoscope of color appeared in front of Kyo and a blue-violet seed appeared in front of him. He recognized it as the physical representation whenever he went into SEED mode. He had always wondered why he could turn the SEED on and where did he have this ability. The seed then grew and released another kaleidoscope of color and the blue-green-white area grew brighter. And Kyo began FEELING things that were never there before he entered this place. He began feeling this same energy when he had awakened in Freedom before and when the Paeksis reactor imploded during the raid all those months ago.
“Wait a second…are you saying that…you and I…are connected somehow when the torpedoes hit the Ikazuchi. I recall feeling strange when the Nirvana was first formed. Both me and Freedom felt a bit different when we went into battle the first time.”
<(Kyo who is not completely Kyo must go back to present, travel to future to learn past.)>
Dita entered the bridge, but saw that everyone, including Magno and Buzam were in a state of despair. They all didn't seem to care about anything. Their very life energy seemed to have been drained out of them, and they were now nothing but soulless automatons. They didn't even register Dita's entrance to the bridge as each person merely gazed aimlessly at her console. The red-haired Dread pilot felt as if she was the only person alive on this ship, and her nature didn't like the feeling one bit, so she decided to do something about it.
“Doctor! Can you please help me?”
Duero, and Paiway turned and spotted Dita at the door of the Medical Bay
“What's the problem Dita? What's wrong?” Duero asked, concerned at the look on the normally jovial and cheery red-head.
“I'm all right, but I need some medicine! Something to make all the sadness go away! Something to make everyone feel happy again!”
The healer gave the girl a sad smile and shook his head. “I'm sorry Dita, but I have no medicine for that problem.” Duero answered.
“But what can I do to make everyone feel better?”
“There isn't anything we can do!” Paiway replied with bitter sadness. “It's all over now! In four days we are all going to die! What's the whole point of getting our hopes up? There's nothing left for us to live for! Face it Dita, we're all doomed.”
Dita became shocked to hear such words from her childhood friend, then she ran off with fresh tears in her eyes.
On the other side…
“You mean that I have to live my present and future to learn about my past? I have to complete this whole journey to know all about myself. That's a little hard to do since I'm dead.” Kyo said to the Paeksis.
<(Kyo has begun the journey already. He has just strayed off the path he has chosen to walk. He needs to be guided back to the path.)>
“Now how is that going to happen? How am I supposed to make the journey back from being a corpse? Who's going to guide me back anyway?”
“Can everyone hear me?”
All over the ship, every female pirate stopped wallowing in their individual sorrow as Dita's voice came over the PA systems.
“I know that lots of people onboard think that I'm stupid. I know that a lot people don't like my enthusiasm. But all I can do is be enthusiastic, because no one else will. I've always felt happy with everyone on this ship, and that's why I can't stand to see everyone so sad.”
In her room, Dita sniffled once more, but gathered her courage to continue with what she wanted to say.
“I…know that everyone is sad that Mr. Alien is gone. I was the saddest…(sob) when he passed away. Mr. Alien always made me smile with his stories of the adventures he and his partner had, I recall all the wonderful things he's done for us. Then I think on how happy we all were when he was still here with us. I remember how much he cared for all of us. Now we're all sad and not thinking about the future, our future. I don't think Mr. Alien would have wanted us to do that. He always strived for the best in life and thought about tomorrow and never gave up his hope! HE NEVER GAVE UP!”
Slowly, a new strength seemed to flow into the being of each crewmember of the Nirvana who thought that the future could no longer be changed.
“That's why…that's why I am NEVER giving up! Mr. Alien never gave up, so I'm not going to give up either. If we keep on trying and have hope as they did, then we CAN win! Mr. Alien taught all of us to work side by side. He taught us to CARE! Even though he is gone, that doesn't mean that we give up on ourselves and our hopes, and dreams! That doesn't that we should stop caring! That doesn't mean that we should stop LIVING!”
Sara nodded as she felt a great feeling of confidence flow into her and several of her squad-mates.
<Dita is right! The Commander never lost his confidence even when he knew things were bad!>
She decided to go to those of her team that still were drunk and kick them out of their stupor. They were going to fight like TRUE warriors! It was time to get busy!
“Mr. Alien is with us, in our hearts! He always has been, and he always will be!
Mai stood from her console and shook away her depression.
<What am I doing, wasting what time I have doing nothing? My ancestors would have never have waited around to die. There's so much work to be done!>
Her fingers went to work, almost dancing on the console as she went to the task of rearming the Dreads and Vanguards. Even if the odds were totally overwhelming, she had every intention of making those Harvester bastards pay for messing around with Magno's pirates. It was time to get busy!
“Even if it seemed hopeless, even if there is nothing left we can do about it, we have the right to live our lives the way we want to! Mr. Alien showed us that both man and woman have the right to life. It never mattered to them about our gender! We all deserved to LIVE!”
Meia smiled a bit, admiring the courage Dita was showing, no doubt from her experiences with Kyo. She then tapped her console, and signaled the other Dread pilots to assemble in the planning center, to prepare their battle tactics. It was time to get busy!
“We should fight not just for ourselves, but also for Mr. Alien…and our future!” (1)
Parfet smiled as she also got her confidence back on high gear, she turned to her staff and began issuing orders in the engineering section. As some of her staff went to work on the Paeksis reactor, the head engineer instructed others to help her restore her work Liberty, and even if it might not work, she would rebuild Freedom and train someone who could pilot the Gundam. Even though Kyo was no longer with them, she had every intention of finishing what she started. It was time to get busy!
In the Medical Bay, Duero began instructing Paiway to ready the station for all incoming emergencies and prepare all the equipment and scanners. It seemed that they were about to become very busy.
On the bridge, Magno felt herself smile as she watched her crew come back to life. Slowly but surely, the command center went back into action. It seemed that Kyo's influence was still with them all, regardless of the fact that he was now dead. Things were about to become busy.
Dita sniffled as she finished speaking and shut off the communicator. She had nothing left to say, though she had no idea how much her words affected her crewmates. As she stood up, she felt the desire to see Kyo's body for one last time. Unknown to her, a small blue-white light appeared on her forehead and took the form of a seed, the same as Kyo's, but in deep blue color, and her eyes briefly flashed in a dazzling blue light. The object and lights flickered away as soon as she stepped out of her room. She was naturally surprised as the hallways were bustling with so much activity and wondered just what was going on. She immediately made a beeline towards the place where Kyo's body lay.
Meia didn't understand it, but suddenly she had this feeling to see Kyo's body, before going to work with her fellow Dread pilots in the briefing room. She supposed that it was because she wanted to give her final farewells, and to thank him for his kindness and his respect towards her after she had opened up to him. On her head however, was a similar blue-white light that transformed into the same seed-like object, but was aqua-green, and like Dita her eyes glazed over a bit in the same shade, before fading away as soon as she stepped out of her quarters.
Jura decided to see whether Barnette had finally made her peace with Kyo, before she makes her way to the briefing room. On her forehead was another point of light of blue-white, this time the seed was in deep emerald green, and the same thing happened to her eyes as they flashed with green light, and just as quickly faded. The blonde pilot wiped her eyes, and straightened herself off and left her room.
In the morgue of the Nirvana, Barnette had been silent ever since Dita made her speech. She then looked at Kyo's body and shook her head while smiling. “You hear that? Even now Kyo, she will STILL call you Mr. Alien. Go figure.”
The other place…
As Kyo was about to ask the Paeksis another question, but the expanse of the Paeksis glowed even brighter. Pinpricks of light appeared and began to form into a bridge leading to a certain point of the sea of blue-green-white.
Kyo looked in that direction and spotted three seeds in different colors. One was aqua-green, another was deep emerald green, and the last was deep blue. The three seeds glowed brightly as he felt them calling to him.
<Are those the guides the Paeksis spoke of?>
Kyo decided that since they were already, he might as well go there and make his path to whatever destiny he had. It didn't take long for him to reach them seeds. The seeds then formed into one and glowed brightly. Taking one last breath, Kyo walked into the seed as the seed exploded in another kaleidoscope of color as the world went dark.
“Do you know how much I hate Dita's enthusiasm, Kyo? It always irritated me at how could she remain so cheerful and happy all the time.” Barnette remarked. “How could anyone be smiling on every second of the day?” She let out a long sigh. “I always thought that she was a hopeless ditz…but now I can't seem to feel anything but pride for what she said right now. I guess that she became that strong all because of you Kyo. You…placed your hope and faith in all of us…on her as well…even when others like me…thought differently and looked the other way. You always believed in every last one of us…and I didn't do anything else but throw it all back at your face. I guess I did deserve to be slapped. No wonder Jura did that to me and will never talk to me. I wouldn't want anything to do with someone like me either. But… I'll do everything to make it up to her…and to you. You…deserve that much, Kyo… wherever you are now, I hope and pray…that you could…forgive me.”
Just as she was about to walk away after finishing her speech, Kyo's body suddenly began emitting strange blue-green-white light. At that exact moment Dita, Jura, and Meia arrived on the scene and were in total awe at the sight. The Gundam pilot's body didn't rise from the table but instead began to shiver and move. In a matter of moments, the arms of the once dead man began to move along with the chest signifying breathing. In a moment Kyo sat up as the sheet fell from his face, he opened his eyes and then took off the sheet and smiled in front of the awe-struck Dread pilots as he got to his feet.
In the engineering section, Parfet was knocked off her feet as Freedom was suddenly engulfed in a great light. The battered and broken Gundam was engulfed in crystals and when the crystals faded away moments later, the missing limbs were fully restored, all areas of the Gundam were fully repaired as the Gundam was now like brand new.
“I didn't know that you improved Freedom's nano-fiber repair system that much Parfet.” Chief said, the younger engineer was the spunky Megele girl's second in command in the Engineering Bay
Parfet shook her head. “I didn't.”
The engineers near the Paeksis chamber were also caught by surprise as the power reactor suddenly flared up with intense lights. It was as if new power and life was placed into it. The Paeksis Phlagma reactor hummed with great power as systems which were once dormant came to full activation, as in heralding the return of two dear friends, as Liberty too was fully restored.
Barnette and the others were still awestruck as Kyo stood before them all. Then, the Gundam pilot walked in front of Jura's best friend. He smiled at her and nodded as he showed his hand to help her stand. She took his hand and was helped to her feet as he gave her a warm smile.
“I accept your apology.”
This was too much for Barnette to handle.
Kyo looked down at the unconscious green-haired Dread pilot after she had just fainted, and then looked up in confusion to the three Dread pilots standing at the entrance of the morgue.
“Did I do something wrong?”
The whole ship shuddered on the sound of one LOUD voice.
Kyo was instantly bowled over to the floor as he was tackled by three Megele girls.
Magno was caught by surprise as Barnette appeared on the main view screen on the bridge.
“What is it Barnette, why do you look so shocked?” The old pirate captain asked.
Barnette smiled a bit as she turned the video screen to a scene that sent shockwaves of awe and joy throughout the bridge.
“Oh…my…god!” Magno said as she took in the sight.
On the enemy flagship…
The Dominion's CPU calculated and recorded all the incoming data as it received it's final instructions from Earth to defeat the Nirvana, and harvest all of it's crew. Though for some reason, the computer felt that there was un unknown factor nearby in it's plans, the Gundam gazed out to the gas giant as a nagging feeling tugged at it's CPU.
The great battle was about to hit the horizon…
A little while later…
The joyous atmosphere onboard the Nirvana reached new heights as news of Kyo and Freedom's resurrections spread out like wildfire. Dita absolutely refused to let go of her Mr. Alien and Kyo was in deep danger of losing all circulation to his right arm. Presently he was in the bridge surrounded by the girls of the Register, the Dread teams, and of the Vanguard squadron. Kyo stood before Magno and BC in the bridge.
The old woman came close to shedding great tears as she directed her gaze at the newly restored Gundam pilot. Though countless questions were in her mind that she wanted to ask him. All she could say was…
“It's good to have you back, Kyo.”
The young man nodded with a smile on his face.
“Good to be back.”
Kyo was about to say more but he then looked to his right and spoke to the young redhead girl who had his arm in a vise-like grip. “I know that you're happy to see me. But would you mind letting me go? I DO need that arm.”
“NO!” Was all Dita said as she shook her head and gripped even tighter. Around her several girls began to glare at the redhead. Jura and Meia found themselves feeling rather envious that Dita was so close to Kyo, Meia had already embarrassed herself when she suddenly and impulsively glomped onto Kyo in the morgue, but she couldn't help herself. She felt as if her heart was given wings when she saw Kyo alive, and her heart thundered as she held him, feeling his warmth near her. And that made her more alive than she ever felt before. Though she steadfastly denied it afterwards once he asked her to let go of him.
Kyo sighed a bit as he firmly but gently removed Dita's arms around his arm. “You can't pilot your Dread if you're like this, and from the looks of things, I'll need all of you if we're going to bust out of this mess we're in.” That announcement got the attention of all present. The fact that Kyo was back and alive, Freedom miraculously restored to top fighting form, and both pilot and Gundam were ready to fight had given their morale a much needed-triple boost. Now Kyo had a solution to this situation? They became all ears.
“You have thought of a way to beat the enemy?” BC asked, totally interested.
“I've got…some ideas.” Kyo answered. “Meia and the others have filled me in on the current situation, since I…took a little side trip.”
“What do you have in mind?” The aged captain inquired.
“I haven't…worked out the details just yet. But let's just say that it's going to be a real BIG blast.”
An hour later, at the briefing room…
“That's totally insane!” One Dread pilot commented as she watched the diagram of the plan outlined by Kyo on the holographic display.
The young man shrugged his shoulders, as he went forward to explain. “According to the data on Pyoro's memory banks, we're in a gas giant which the core is rather unstable. With enough energy output, we can cause this gas planet into a small star. I've got no doubt that the Harvester forces can't withstand the solar flares that'll be jumping out of that star's creation. We can't take them head-on since they've outnumber us ten to one. Using this method we can wipe them into atoms with one shot, and we'll give the mothership a real thrashing.”
“What about us? Won't we be caught in the solar storms too?” A pilot in the Crusader Squadron asked.
Kyo explained further. “Timing in this mission is totally critical.” He punched in some data as the display changed. “Just before the core ignites, we'll pull back all our forces and out of the fire-zone as fast as possible. Therefore, only a selected number of Dreads and their pilots will be the ones to ignite the core.”
Meia nodded in agreement as she took her part in the briefing. “We're going to need at least a full twenty seconds to achieve escape velocity after the chain-reaction begins. Since my Dread is the fastest, it's going to be part of the team that will ignite the core, along with Dita and Barnette's Dreads.”
“But what about the Harvester forces and their flagship? I don't think that they'll just sit back and let us do this.” Sara asked.
“That's where you and Crusader Squadron come in Sara.” Kyo said as he began punching some more data into the display. “Along with Jura's Dread and Freedom, along with Liberty, we're going to give them something to keep themselves preoccupied while Meia's team ignites the core. It's all going to be close-quarters combat and GunDread Jura and the Vanguards are more suited for that kind of fighting than the Dreads. Once the core's ignited, retreat immediately to the Nirvana, or gain some distance ASAP until we can pick you up. And one more thing, do NOT engage the Dominion alone, keep a good but easy distance from the Earth Gundam. I'll take it out personally. Understood?”
“Yes Commander!” Sara and her squad-mates said as they saluted their commander and headed off to prepare.
At that point Meia turned to face Kyo and said. “There's just several loopholes in this plan you have. We still have two of those GunDread clones to deal with…and that Dominion Gundam.”
“Don't I know it. The way I see it is that as soon as we take out that Gundam, then everything should slowly become a cake-walk, since the Dominion's the biggest advantage the Harvesters have at this point.”
“This isn't just about settling a personal score, is it?”
Kyo smiled a bit. “Part of it anyway, I'm not going to let some new AI controlled Gundam get the better of Freedom and me, the Earth gave me quite the slap in the face, and I'm not going to let that slide Meia. But I'm rather curious as to how the Harvesters got the technology to build the Dominion in the first place, but I'll deal with it first, we knock the Dominion into the dust then we can handle the other two GunDread clones. The rest will fall in line after that.” <Hopefully.> Kyo silently added.
Kyo then turned to Parfet. “I'm been meaning to ask you something Parfet. Before me and Freedom left the Nirvana, you mentioned something about some special enhancements you've intended to install on Liberty, right?”
The head engineer nodded. “Yeah, and now that Freedom and Liberty are fully repaired then I can finish what I've started! Believe me, once I'm done, the next time you Freedom, and the Dominion meet head-to-head. It'll be NO CONTEST!”
Kyo grinned a bit at that. “How long would those modifications be made ready?”
“About two days, three at the most I think, we'll work all night if we have to.”
“Good idea. We're going to need every piece of firepower we can get. We've less than four days to get ready for battle.”
As the ship bustled with activity, Kyo picked up a pair of items he had with him before going to the Register room and decided that a little side trip to the Medical Bay was in order, since he had a certain apprentice nurse to talk to.
Paiway was busy working on the medical bay when she turned to find Kyo, he was looking at her, with a blank look. She shook a bit nervously and twiddled her fingers as she walked to the former Yamato.
“You've got some explaining to do, Paiway.” Kyo said with a neutral tone.
Paiway felt like she was being sent to the inquisition, but she managed to calm down and began to speak.
“I'm…really sorry. About acting so impulsively…(sob)…and well…I…” Paiway turned away and tried to hide her tears, she felt in her heart that Dita may be partly wrong about Kyo.
She felt a firm hand land on her shoulder, she turned as Kyo wiped away the tears that she didn't know were flowing down her face. She looked up, expecting a very angry glare…instead he smiled at her.
“It's okay Paiway. I said that I forgave everyone during the mutiny when Freedom and I came back and fought for the ship. That includes you.”
Paiway felt more tears run down her face, but these tears were not from sadness or fear, since she could see the truth of Kyo's words in his smile.
“Hey, there's no more need to cry Paiway.”
“I know…I really do know that. But I'm really happy. I thought that you would hate and despise me for what I did to you. But I was angry that Dita always hanged out with you, it was the anniversary of our joining the pirates, and you know what happened after that.”
Kyo smiled a bit at that. “So that's why Dita wasn't explaining why she borrowed me for that trip to the ship's food supply area.”
The Gundam pilot chuckled as he pulled out a small box. “So I take it that you don't mind if I handed you this?”
Paiway took the box, opened it and found a small wooden picture-frame with the picture of her and Dita together when they joined the pirates. “What's this?”
“I took a little side trip before and asked Dita if she could hand me a photo of you and her when you first joined the pirates. Take a look at the inscription below the edge… I hand carved it myself.”
Paiway looked and saw the inscription.
It read…. “Paiway and Dita…Best friends forever!”
Paiway looked up in shock and surprise. “You…made this…for me?”
“Yep, and I have something else to give you.”
Kyo smiled as he pulled from his pocket a beautiful necklace made of platinum, gold, and silver. It had a pure blue gem in the middle as it was shaped in a crimson-lacquered cross like that of the old symbol of the medics of ancient Earth. Paiway gasped as he handed the precious item to her.
“This was a gift I got from a young girl like you. She gave it to me when I helped cure her from a bad sickness. She then told me that since I gave her a chance to become what she wanted to be, and that was a doctor, she wanted me to have this. She wanted me to also give this to someone who wanted to reach for her dreams. And I can't think of a better person to give it to, than you Paiway. I can tell you that I believe that you will be a great nurse once this is all over. Happy Anniversary Paiway, hope you show that to Dita as well.”
Paiway looked up with a great smile and nodded. “Thank you…I never had been given things like these before…I don't know what to say…but thank you!”
“There is one thing you can do though.”
“What is it?”
The young man smiled. “Work hard. We'll need your help in this operation, so can you give it your all?”
“Don't worry, I will!” Paiway said with a big smile.
Kyo arrived in his tuxedo uniform in the Register, there, Gascogne and her staff greeted him warmly.
“Good to have you back here, K.”
“Good to be back Ms. Gasco.”
“Just how many times must I remind you? It's Gascogne!”
“I know, and for your information, the name's Kyo.”
The supply officer and the Gundam pilot faced off with one another in mock anger, then they all broke out in peals of laughter. Gascogne then patted him on his shoulders and sent him to his work station; Kyo's own station was right next to Maia's own console.
“Shouldn't you be working out in training with the Crusader Squadron for the battle?” Mai asked as Kyo worked on his console.
The brown-haired Gundam pilot shrugged his shoulders. “I've got several sessions lined up with the Crusader Squadron, but they can wait until the Vanguards have been totally refitted and modified for the operation…Say, why don't you join in?”
“Huh? Me?” Mai was a little bit surprised at being asked.
“Of course. From what Sara told me, you've got skills in martial arts as well, and I can see that from the way you move.”
“Well, yes. I do have some skills in martial arts.” The brown haired admitted. “My family has their own style of fighting, after one of my ancestors practiced several fighting arts as a child.”
“I see. I'd love to see that. So you'll come during the sessions?”
The Register girl thought for a moment, and then nodded. “Okay, why not? That'll allow me to get some practice in, and work off some stress.”
“Great idea.” Kyo nodded in agreement and then snapped his fingers. “Say, here's a thought. Why don't you join the Vanguard squadron? They can use extra pilots, and having some previous experience in martial arts is a definite home court advantage.”
“I'm…not so sure that's a good idea. Not that I'm being ungrateful, but I've got so much work here to do already.” Mai said, feeling a little bit nervous of the idea of working more closely with Kyo, in battle as well, as in the supply-depot.
“So do some of the other pilots.” Kyo answered with a simple smile. “A few of them also came from the Register, as well as the Dread Squadrons. I'm not pressuring you to join though, most of the work is volunteer basis, so you can choose to join the Crusader Squadron or not, and you can drop your position easily, and it will wait for you if you still want it.”
The brown-haired girl thought about that. “After this operation is over, I'll think about it.” She then went back to work on her console.
A while later, Kyo signed off as he finished his assignments, and got ready to meet up with the Crusader Squadron then he turned to talk to Mai as he was about to leave. “Think you can come by the gym once your shift ends? We'll be training all the way to 2300 hours.”
“I think so.”
“Good, I'll see you then.” Kyo said as he was about to leave the Register.
At that moment Gascogne called out to Kyo. “K! I hope that you didn't forget our bet!”
The Gundam pilot thought back a bit and nodded as he called back. “Don't worry about that, I haven't forgotten. After we give the Harvesters a good thrashing.”
“What bet was that?” Mai asked
The Gundam pilot shrugged his shoulders and explained. “Gasco and me had a poker game a few days prior to my…death. I lost the bet and I've got to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the entire Register crew for a day.”
“Really?” Maia asked, totally intrigued with the prospect of the young man cooking again. “By the way…I've been meaning to ask you something.”
Kyo looked at the young girl. “What is it you want to know?”
“How did you know how to cook so well? I've never seen anyone cook the way you do.”
Kyo smiled and nodded. “I've always been traveling and I've learned a lot of things that aren't limited to martial arts and piloting Freedom. Some of the cooking techniques are things I can still recall, though vaguely.”
Kyo nodded, as he walked away. “I hope to see you soon at the Gym.”
Mai nodded. “I'll be there.”
Onboard the enemy flagship, Dominion finally stepped out of the assembly/maintenance center and went to recharge itself to the Harvester's main power core. The Earth Gundam's armor and systems were totally repaired, including the broken and chipped areas of it's shoulder and chest. In an instant the Earth Gundam awaited it's recharging to be completed as it awaited it's latest orders and directives for battle.
The Gundam was the pride of many of the surviving members of the Earth Council and the techs that developed it. The Gundam owed it's creation to two factors, the first was the Paeksis fragments that formed the foundation of it's CPU and combat power source, the fragments, while giving the Gundam immense power were not as stable and had to be periodically filled with energy to maintain it's crystallization process.
This power source had traveled through space and arrived on Earth during the old Era known as the Cosmic Era of Unification. This Era was when the older generations of Earth and those that lived outside in space around Earth's orbit lived in peace years after the great war that nearly sent both factions of humanity to the grave. The power source was nearly discarded after an incident nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, when the first prototype reactor overloaded and would have devastated both the Earth and the Colonies, had it not been for a young man of the Yamato family and one of the few Gundams of the previous war. The man gave up his life and allowed the Cosmic Era of Unification to continue, until the Colonization Era where humanity reached out to settle in the universe. The crystal was used once more, and with the newly developed technology was developed into a power source when the remaining humans on Earth found it and used it to power the efforts, one was left on the Earth, due to the decrease in some of the planet's power sources, while the other was stored in a Colony ship known as the Ikazuchi.
Eventually the Earth suffered a great disaster, like the one the martyr Yamato had averted when extremists attempted to take over the reactor, leading the incident known to the survivors of both Earth and the Colonies surrounding the Earth as the Days of Despair, where the surface was irradiated and the Colonies, while breaking out from their orbits and slamming to the surface, turned the surface of Earth into the sterile and barren wastelands, altering the Earth's biosphere, rendering all landmasses uninhabitable, thus leading to the full genetic saturation of the citizens. All methods of procreation were useless, even cloning no longer worked. In time this made the humans who eventually inhabited the once verdant world believed that they were the last true vestiges of the once proud human species. In time they lost all sense of morality and only self-preservation and survival ruled them, in order to do so they needed the organs of those who survived the rigors of space travel. With their Paeksis providing them the power to create their massive Harvesting Fleet, there seemed absolutely nothing that could stop them in their plans…
Then the Gundam Freedom appeared.
Now the Harvester forces found themselves facing a very deadly pair of obstacles. They in response needed a weapon of even greater power. Thus they were able to find the blue-prints from the older governments in manufacturing Mobile Suits, namely Gundams and with the resources they still had, created the Dominion, with the sole purpose of destroying the Gundam Freedom and it's pilot.
As the Gundam watched the gas giant waiting for the women to make their move, the Gundam recalled all the data concerning it's battle with Freedom and it's pilot. It didn't care if the pilot and the Gundam was alive or not, it cared only to fulfill it's purpose, and if it's creators ordered it, it will become the spear-head to crush all resistance to the Harvest. THAT was it's sole reason to be assembled.
The dark Gundam then placed those bits of information aside and concentrated on it's vigil for the Harvester Fleet's prey, the Nirvana.
The Nirvana's gym area…
The female Vanguard pilot groaned a bit as her teammates helped her back on her feet after she had been tossed by her Commander Kyo. He wasted no time in getting their squadron back into full combat readiness, and he did so with the training regimes once more. All the girls will need to be on full alert, minds totally clear and reflexes on full readiness, in no doubt will be their greatest battle ever.
Kyo had gone hard on those who had been on drinking binges to drown their sorrow and grief after he had supposedly `died'. He however made it clear with strong, commanding, yet gentle tones that he wasn't punishing them harshly, he never blamed them for what they had done. He wanted them however to drain every drop of sake, beer, wine, and whatever alcohol they had taken out of their blood. Good training regimes were the best way to build up metabolisms and burn out any unneeded substances in them, they also needed their inner energy to be in full readiness. They wanted them to be sober and completely eager to face the enemy once more. That means that ALL of them would have to sweat every drop of alcohol they had guzzled.
Sara nodded in approval as she could see the effects of the regimes on her fellow wing-mates, their confidence and unity was back in full force as they went back into full combat shape. Her superior had started with basic calisthenics then moved up gradually. It didn't take long for each girl to regain their former fighting edges. Towards the middle of the training stages, Kyo had made them progress to black belt levels. Then her eyes caught the arrival of a new visitor.
Kyo stopped his training as the glanced at the person near the doorway.
He smiled a bit. “Glad to see that you made it Mai. Come in.”
The young woman, who was heir to her family's style of martial arts, nodded as she stepped forward. She was dressed in what was the multipurpose suit of her school and discipline. She wore a pair of dark black leggings with strong Chinese style shoes, and had special shin guards sewn in the leggings, she wore a special body suit that showed her curves which were covered in a gi top made of red cloth. Slung on her shoulder was her family's special sword, similar to Kyo's katana, and there were smaller throwing knives as well.
Kyo nodded. He could tell that Mai had great power in her frame, a testament of her skill in the martial arts, she also had great though somewhat uncontrolled personal energy in her, which could really help her a lot.
Kyo nodded as he took out his own weapon. “Okay Mai, show me what you can do.”
Three days later…
Kyo sighed as he reached his quarters for some sleep, it had been quite a few days, and no doubt tomorrow might as well be his last. Then again, the Gundam pilot was not as apprehensive, as he had died once already, he was now ready to face off against the Gundam that `killed' him and Freedom. At first he had thought he had just been in a coma, but Duero had explained that he was totally deceased, albeit temporarily.
Now what was left for him? He had traveled to the Great Beyond and came back to life. He had been given another chance at life, and the great question left unanswered, was…what will he do with it? Kyo was however quite sure that some great power had granted him the chance to come back and also to see his real parents, thought they were only images.
He then thought back to what the Paeksis told him about his journey.
< Kyo must go back to present, and go to future to learn past. >
<Go on to learn my past, huh? I never expected that arriving on Talark, stowing onboard the Ikazuchi to leave Talark, would send me and Freedom into a trip that included the Harvesters, a ship full of women, a mutiny, then me dying and coming back from the grave…I never thought that fate would bring me to this ship and this has been the longest I've ever been somewhere…maybe I really will find my past while here on the Nirvana?>
Kyo contemplated those thoughts in his rooms as he slowly went to sleep.
The thoughts of leaving the crew of the Nirvana never seemed a good idea now as it had been several months ago. He had originally intended to help them reach Megele and Talark and then move on, but now, there was a force that somehow demanded from him to stay onboard, now it felt like both he and his Gundam were intended to come onboard this ship and fight alongside everyone onboard for both his past and the future of all humanity, the crew were truly like family now, and as such leaving them was no longer an option, besides that…there were still some questions left unanswered, and the best way it seems to answer them was for them to remain on the Nirvana.
Kyo agreed that if this was his destiny and path…then he would see it through, no questions asked. He fell asleep, his rest was all he needed for tomorrow's coming battle of the decade.
The day of the final battle…
After three days of intense preparation, the crew of the Nirvana was more than ready then they were in their long careers as corsairs. Dread and Vanguard pilots put all their machines through their final checks. The Register crew were in their positions, and the Engineering Section were all set for any and all situations imaginable. In the Medical Bay, Duero, and Paiway were all set and ready to treat any incoming injuries incurred during the operation.
On the bridge, a tense atmosphere hovered over the crew as the countdown went underway . In her command chair, Magno nodded to each member of her crew, then to her first officer. Bart was in the navigational well, ready to move the Nirvana at a moment's notice. The ship's sensors had determined that the gas giant's core had reached the apex of it's energy curve, therefore, making this time the right time to initiate the plan laid down by Kyo, though it was relatively risky and desperate to say the least. The enemy fleet still maintained its orbit over the gas giant…right in the firing path.
<Now the stage is all set.> Magno thought. <The actors are all ready, and the stagehands are in position. It's all up to the Dreads, the Vanguards…. Freedom…and Kyo!>
Speaking of whom…
Kyo, in his uniform and his helmet in hand sat on the newly rebuilt and modified Freedom Gundam adjusting some of the OS programs for battle and that of Liberty, as they both had been prepared to launch with the other fighter teams. Parfet and her engineers had finished all the modifications on the ATCISS unit the day before, but had no time to test the weapons. In theory the weapons would give them the edge they needed over Dominion, it's arsenals, and the rest of the Harvester forces. It became apparent it would be a trial by fire…again.
Just as soon as Kyo's screen was clear as he finished his upgrades, an incoming call from a certain someone came in. Kyo opened his comm channel and was surprised to see Dita's face.
“Mr. Alien?” Dita looked somewhat apprehensive and nervous as she spoke to the object of her affections. She had been giving Kyo some room after he had come back from the dead, but now felt a great desire to say what she felt to him.
Kyo took on a look of worry. “What's wrong? I thought that you already understand the plan, I personally explained that to you…”
“No, it isn't that at all.” The young Dread pilot explained as she twiddled her fingers a bit. “I just wanted to ask you something.”
“What is it about?”
“I…was wondering…” Dita once more twiddled her fingers. “I was just wondering…if you would like to come to my room when this is all over.”
“Huh?” Of all the questions he expected Dita to ask him, this wasn't one of them. “Can't that wait until this is over? We're just about ready to…”
“No! I want you to promise me now!” Dita said insistently.
Kyo let out a sigh, there was no chance of him arguing with Dita once she had something on her mind…so why bother? He nodded. “All right, I suppose I can do that.”
That brought an instant smile to the redhead girl's face. “I'll be waiting for you!” Dita said as she cut off her communications.
Kyo shook his head a bit, he the recalled something, as he made a call to a certain someone.
“Barnette here.” The green-haired pilot replied as she got hailed by three callers, then she saw Kyo as he locked in his helmet. “Oh, what can I do for you, Kyo?”
“Oh, I called to wish you the best of luck, and to say that there's no more bad blood between you or me.” Kyo answered.
“Good luck out there Barnette.”
“Luck in battle.”
“Thanks…that's really nice of you.”
Kyo gave her a smile and salute as he signed off and locked in his visor.
Barnette took a deep breath, and felt happy to have made her peace with Kyo, and she psyched herself up for the mission ahead.
At that exact moment, Magno gave the signal for the operation to begin.
In the Earth's main flagship main command center, The Dominion watched as the sensors detected several fighter signatures heading for their fleet's position.
The Gundam of Earth watched as the mecha it's CPU immediately identified as the Talark Vanguards, break into squadrons, and alongside them was a crimson colored Dread. The Gundam immediately recognized the fighter as the Dread that formed the red transformer GunDread, the Dominion however became a bit puzzled as to why only that Paeksis-enhanced Dread was present, and the other two were not, and neither were the other Dreads. Then it caught sight of two other objects making their way through the gas giant's ionosphere and the electromagnetic storms. The CPU was caught off guard as it spotted and identified the first target…it was the Freedom!
<Impossible!> was the only thought of the Gundam's CPU.
Kyo wasted no time as he and Freedom, along with Liberty made a direct beeline towards the enemy fleet with the Vanguards and Jura's Dread right behind them. The Harvester flagship immediately responded by launching multitudes of Cube Fighters, Seed Ships, and Space Urchins. Space became a morass of lasers, energized projectiles, explosions, and missile trails. The Crusader Squadron broke apart even more and returned fire, using their newly made electron-pulse rifles and the newly installed missile pods installed by Parfet and her engineering crews. They used all their martial arts training and the bladed melee weapons at their disposal as soon as the enemy came too close. Jura's Dread provided long-range cover fire.
Kyo, and Meia's assessment of the battle-field had been accurate. With the gas giant on the back and the Harvester in front and on both sides of them. The overall battle-field space was limited and the Vanguards were more suited for this kind of battle-field. However that didn't mean that the Dreads didn't play a vital role in the plan.
Deep within the gas giant, the Dreads and the Nirvana came towards the core of the unstable gas planet. Taking their assigned positions around the core, Dita, Barnette, and Meia began using their energy weapons to feed more energy to the core. Slowly, but surely the core of the gas planet began to heat up.
Kyo looked about as he and his Gundam moved through the morass of wreckage as they reduced several dozen Cube Fighters into nothing but spare parts. This was the best way to warm up the systems as he waited for the real main event…So where was the Dominion?
The Gundam pilot nodded as Freedom's combat sensors detected the presence of an incoming Mobile Suit, he looked up and saw the Dominion heading straight for him. Breaking off towards the Earth Gundam, Kyo who went into SEED mode fired Freedom's weapons and took out Freedom's beam sabers and charged to meet the dark counterpart of his Gundam, and so the rematch went underway.
On the Nirvana's command bridge…
“Sensors have detected the Freedom Gundam and Kyo have engaged the Dominion Gundam.” Celtic reported.
Magno nodded as she watched the energy readouts on the planet's core continue to
“Look at that!” One Vanguard pilot commented as she got to see the great battle raged between the two powerful Gundams.
“Keep your mind on the mission at hand!” Sara scolded her comrade. “We have to draw the enemy close enough to the planet, so they'll be wiped out as soon as the solar flares come into play! Kyo and Freedom can handle that Gundam!” <I hope those new weapons Parfet placed in will work. I don't think that we can stand losing them again.>
The Dominion's CPU was confounded! It's greatest enemy had done the impossible and came back to life! It was not prepared to deal with a newly rebuilt and modified Freedom Gundam, nonetheless it was programmed to battle Freedom to the bitter end. It made no difference as to how the Nirvana's Gundam and it's pilot had come back to life. The Gundams blasted away at each other with assault guns and beam rounds. And when they got close enough, they went at it with beam sabers.
Kyo wasted little time and got even with Dominion. Dodging the double beam sabers, he extended his new shield and slammed it right into Dominion's torso, he then ignited the second blade of his beam saber and slashed twice at Dominion, carving through the chest armor, despite the Phase Shift System used by the Dominion, as one of the upgrades Kyo made to Freedom's weapons was to have the power output needed to crash through even advanced Phase Shift Armor.
The Dominion backed away while launching more beam shots at Freedom, it's CPU having realized that the Freedom was faster and better than it was originally in than it last recalled. The Dominion however wasn't backing down as it attacked with it's still ignited beam sabers. The attacks were expertly evaded and blocked, and then the weapons were knocked away from the Dominion as Freedom blocked one saber, knocked it aside and used it's own beam lance to knock the other beam saber away. Not to be outdone, the Dominion Gundam knocked away the weapon of it's rival while Freedom retracted it's shield, and the two Gundams went at it with hand to hand. Dozens of punches and kicks that could smash apart ship armor were exchanged in the blink of an eye between Freedom and Dominion. The two Gundams ended with both of them having their hands locked together with their thrusters on full power, each trying the other to their limits.
Kyo realized that this Gundam, being an AI-controlled unit used it's moves according to what it had been programmed with by it's creators, since as far as he could tell, the mecha acted on pre-set combat directives, just like a Cube Fighter. So he decided to act out of the box.
Kyo turned off Freedom's thrusters and suddenly leaned backward, while driving both feet right into Dominion's torso, knocking the crimson, black, and green armored Gundam over and losing it's grip, and then Dominion received a barrage of punches with a parting slash from Freedom's spare beam saber to it's back and wings in seconds, with Freedom finishing it off with a slash to it's side and a powerful kick to the side of it's head, sending the Dominion slamming into several Cube Fighters, destroying the drones in the process.
Freedom's counterpart got of the explosions and took out it's beam boomerangs as it got out of the wreckages of the fighters and charged at it's opponent once more. Kyo retrieved Freedom's other beam saber and went at it once more.
The Nirvana's bridge…
“Planet core will be reaching critical mass in twelve minutes.” Ezra reported. However the rest of the crew, including Buzam watched the battle between Freedom and Dominion, as both Gundams went all out in their personal battle.
“Hurry up, Kyo, hurry.” Magno said softly.
Kyo wasted no time as he unleashed another barrage from Freedom's plasma cannons at Dominion, the Earth Gundam dodged the blasts, it however didn't avoid the next salvo and got creamed by the blasts, but still went on the attack. Dominion retaliated with one of it's beam boomerangs, sending the energy edged projectile at Freedom. Kyo dodged the attack as Dominion slammed into his Gundam, with him barely able to block the boomerang aiming for Freedom's head. He immediately open fired with Freedom's guns on the head…causing the boomerang to explode, he dodged it in time, but Dominion lost a portion of it's arm to the explosion. Kyo then responded as he slammed his beam saber right into Dominion's shoulder, causing more damage to the Gundam of Earth. Dominion responded as it's own rail-guns opened up and slammed both into the shield and the torso of Freedom, knocking the Nirvana's Gundam back, thankfully the P. Phase Shift Armor dealt with most of the blast. Both Gundams flew through space firing their plasma and rail-gun cannons all the while, hoping to strike a blow at each other.
“We can't hold them off forever, Sara!” A pilot called to her commanding officer as the Crusader Squadron was being pushed back by the incoming forces. Their rifles were close to running out of power charges, and all their missiles were already exhausted. Now the enemy flagship was joining in the fight by firing at them. Most of the girls under Kyo's command were now reduced to hand-to-hand combat. Thankfully, the training they all had received from Kyo, and their sessions allowed them to fend off the smaller enemies.
The Vanguard pilot nodded as she hailed the Nirvana. “Captain, we're running out of ordinance and time! How much longer do we have before we can pull back?”
“Estimated time to core chain-reaction is now at seven minutes and fifty three seconds.” Ezra called out.
Buzam immediately got into contact with Freedom. “Kyo, we need you to buy us some more time! You've got to finish Dominion NOW!”
Kyo acknowledged the request as he and Freedom were busy knocking aside the Dominion's attacks with masterful skill, having used every technique, tactic and move in his arsenal of skills in Mobile Suit piloting, and from his own gather experience wandering the cosmos, as Freedom parried every attack. Kyo knew that it was time to end this battle, he had people to save and protect. He then signaled Liberty on an intercept course, the ATCISS responded and made a beeline from it's own engagements with the Harvesters to meet up with it's partner.
Kyo had Freedom dodge the latest attack from the Dominion and then activated a special command protocol in Freedom's OS. Freedom suddenly stopped moving and emitted a signal that meant that it suffered a power failure to it's systems and most of the critical systems were down, as the P. Phase Shift Armor seemed to fade away. The Dominion having retrieved it's beam sabers, detected the signal and charged, intent on the belief that the Freedom was at it's mercy. However, the signal was a ruse and the Gundam fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
Kyo waited and once the Gundam was close enough, deactivated the fake signal and slammed both beam sabers right into the torso and chest of the Earth Gundam, impaling the Dominion the same way it had impaled Freedom before. The beam sabers tore through the armor and chewed up the insides of the Dominion's systems, causing the Dominion to short-circuit and explode in some areas, as it was critically hit in the reactor.
Freedom kicked Dominion away from it's beam sabers and flew to Liberty and initiated fusion, to finish it's quarry off.
“Liberty…initiate full fusion of interlocking power source and initiate full weapons deployment on full power rating, and switch to overcharge mode
“Orders received.” Replied the Liberty via audio
The Liberty immediately went into action as it once more transformed into combat mode and then several power collector units opened up near the beam cannons of the enhanced Vanguard support unit, as both the Gundam and the ATCISS combined and powered up their own attacks and energy began to condense in the collectors.
In the Engineering section of the Nirvana…
Parfet nodded as she and her crew watched the battle via monitor. The head engineer began explaining the newest additions to the ATCISS as it began it's transformation.
“The new energy collectors will gather energy from both Freedom's Paeksis reactor and it's nuclear reactor, along with the energy gathered from space. The energy will then be amplified and directed to the weapons installed in both Freedom and Liberty, the combined energies will form into one cohesive power beam guided by the Freedom's HiMAT computer…I call it…Maximum Overcharge.”
Dominion got back and righted itself, and determined the damage to all it's core systems, it realized that it might not be able to keep up the fight despite being still able to function, though barely. It then spotted Freedom activating it's cannons on what appeared to be it's HiMAT `overcharge' mode while docked with Liberty. The Dominion's CPU decided that it would take out Freedom now and deal with the Nirvana later once it was fully repaired. It then charged up it's own cannons, re-routing all power to use it's own version of overcharge mode.
The cannons fired at full output, the beams shot out like cannon shells fired from a cannon, and like arrows, the beams lanced towards Freedom and Liberty, with the sole intent of wiping them out completely from the universe, however, that was where the Earth's Gundam got a real surprise of a life-time as it's counterpart fired out it's own answer.
“My turn!” Kyo shouted as he activated the HiMAT and used the maximum overcharge.
The attacks of both Freedom and Liberty were more spectacular as the beams literally lit up space, the beams were a hundred times each more powerful than the regular attacks or even the overcharge mode. Anything in the firing path was atomized instantly. Seed Ships, Cube Fighters, and Space Urchins were destroyed in nanoseconds. The Dominion's own overcharge beams were totally neutralized as soon as the beams made contact with one another, and Dominion found itself right in the line of fire.
The CPU of Dominion was unable to make the Gundam move away in time as a good portion of power was directed in attacking the Freedom…so it was no big surprise that the Gundam was caught off guard, and was seen being totally destroyed as it was engulfed by the combined beams as they continued into the remainder of the enemy fleet. More enemy vessels were reduced to their basic molecules before the combined beams slammed into the Earth Flagship right on the bow and blasted a huge hole in it. The ship shuddered like a leaf in a storm but remained relatively intact and still functional, as it remaining fleet forces concentrated in fighting off the Nirvana's own fighting forces.
Onboard the Nirvana…
Cheers ran all over the ship as the crew rejoiced.
“YES! GOOD RIDDANCE DOMINION!”
“THEY DID IT! THEY DID IT!”
“KYO AND FREEDOM WON!”
“THEY BEAT DOMINION!”
On the bridge, Magno and BC smiled to one another
“Well done, Kyo.” The ancient woman said softly.
As soon as the cheering died down, Ezra announced that the core critical chain reaction will begin at exactly five minutes and twenty seconds.
“Kyo, we can really use a little help over here!”
Jura called out to Kyo in Freedom, and the Gundam pilot heard her and made his way towards her and the Crusader Squadron. Beside the blonde pilot were the Vanguards and they were near the edge of the gas giant's atmosphere, Kyo immediately separated Freedom from Liberty to fuse with Jura and her Dread once he was close enough. Freedom complied and once the Gundam was close enough, the Gundam initiated the fusion process with Jura's Dread. GunDread Jura in its crab form activated its barrier systems and shielded the Crusader Squadron from the incoming assault, along with Liberty.
Jura leaned over and hugged Kyo tight.
“You were awesome! Truly awesome!” She wanted to heap more praise but noted that Kyo looked a bit tired. “Is…is something wrong?” Jura looked on and tried not to show panic.
Kyo looked up and smiled. “I'll be okay Jura, I think I got a bit tired fighting Dominion, but I'm not out yet. Let's hold the line here and maintain the shield until Meia and the others are done with their part of the operation. Freedom and I will be okay”
Jura nodded and helped maintain the shield alongside Kyo in her GunDread. Outside of the barrier the enemy pounded away relentlessly.
The Nirvana's bridge…
“Estimated time for planet core chain-reaction is now at four minutes and ten seconds.” Ezra called out.
“GunDread Jura is taking heavy damage.” Celtic called out through her sensors.
<Hang in there Kyo…you too Jura.> Buzam silently prayed.
At the planet's core…
“We're almost there, keep on feeding the power to the core!” Meia commanded.
“This is nothing! Mr. Alien and his Gundam have already beaten the bad Gundam copy so there's no problem any more.”
“Don't get carried away and focus on your job!” Meia scolded.
“Sorry!” Dita gulped a bit at her leader's stern expression and reprimand, but then Barnette called in with a smile on her face over her other monitor.
“Dita…just do your best, all right?”
Dita perked up and nodded. “Right!”
“We can't hold the shield any longer than now!” Jura cried out as the data from her side told her that the shield couldn't handle anymore as it weakened under the assault of the enemy.
Kyo winced as he tried his best to maintain the shield, but his battle with his Gundam's counterpart had taken a strong percentage of his personal energy and that of Freedom's power supply, and now the demands of the GunDread's defensive barrier were draining Freedom even more. When he got to look at the holographic monitor, his confidence dropped even more.
“Damn! More unwanted company!”
The two remaining GunDread Clones arrived at their position. Apparently, the two had been in reserve just in case things like this came into play. Now they were bearing down on them, and the Gundam pilot doubted that the barrier could handle the assault from those guys and the remaining Harvester forces. He decided to call the shot and order the Crusader Squadron to pull back since there was nothing else they could do at this point. He immediately contacted Sara.
“Sara, there's nothing left for you and the others to do now! Get back to the Nirvana ASAP!”
The pilot shook her head. “No! There's no way I can just leave you and Jura like that to face those things!”
“DO AS I SAY! THAT IS AN ORDER!”
Sara wanted to argue further, but Kyo cut her short when he deactivated part of the barrier that was nearest to the gas planet. The planet's gravity took over and dragged the Vanguards in towards its atmosphere. With no other weapons and everyone low on energy, the Crusader Squadron had no choice but to activate the shields of the Vanguards and return to the pirate vessel, leaving Jura, Kyo, Freedom and Liberty alone to face the incoming threats.
Jura shivered as the barrage continued and the barrier was about to give way under the murderous barrage from the two GunDread Clones and other ships despite the aide from Liberty. In seconds they would be completely helpless.
“It can't possibly end this way! We're all so close now!” Jura cried as the last vestiges of defense they had left was about to be taken away by the incoming barrage of the enemy forces.
“Damn it! We can beat those blasted fakes! We just need MORE power!” Kyo gritted his teeth in anger as he re-routed what power was left, he then touched another button he hadn't touched before.
In front of the GunDread, the ATCISS Liberty acknowledged Kyo's unexpected command.
It then sped its way towards the GunDread. A section of the larger machine opened and the enhanced support platform entered the slot and triggered certain mechanisms as it began integrating itself to the GunDread.
“What's going on here?” Jura asked as her seat began moving away to a new configuration and position. Kyo's chair also moved as the insides of the cockpit underwent a new setup.
GunDread Jura immediately went to its second form, which was the samurai, but then the warrior mecha's armor began to retract in certain areas. The body reformatted and seemed to become almost humanlike and more feminine, sleek and deadly all filled and curved in a model's most beautiful form. The samurai's head armor began to open as long metallic hair cascaded down from the head and formed a long main of silver over the head, and a woman's head appeared. GunDread Jura's new form made it look like some exotic, fierce cybernetic Amazon of war. GunDread Jura, had just turned into GunDread Jura Alpha! (2)
“THIS IS SOOO AWESOME!” Jura said with glee as she now sat beside Kyo in the new cockpit. Each of them were wearing technological visors which were tied to some sort of virtual reality system and was locked in behind them through their chairs, on their hands were cybernetic control pads.
Kyo sighed a bit at the new form, knowing that this was going to make Jura stick to him like glue even more. But he had no time to complain on that aspect as the fighting was still on. He concentrated and fed more data and power into the machine.
All over the Nirvana, shouts of shock and awe ruled the atmosphere of the ship after what they all had witnessed. The Crusader Squadron who all have arrived safely in the main hanger, all became jealous of GunDread Jura's new form.
In the Engineering section, all eyes were on Parfet, who vigorously shook her head.
“I NEVER THOUGHT IT COULD DO THAT!”
At the planet's core…
“WOW!” Dita exclaimed.
“Keep your focus on the mission!” Meia reminded, though she too felt a bit awestruck at the sight.
Barnette sighed a bit at this. After today, she just knew that Jura would never stop talking about her new `elegance.'
The enemy GunDreads took one long look at the newcomer, and then began to open fire. However the new machine was just as nimble and agile if not more that it's pure samurai form. As it deftly avoided each shot fired at it, the left arm flowed with pure green light and a special circular energy shield was activated, which began to absorb every shot fired at it from the smaller Harvester ships. Once it had taken as much power as it could handle it unleashed the blast via several cannons that appeared in the shoulder armour, and wrists against its clone and let loose all the destructive power into a storm of beams. The Copy GunDread Jura managed to activate its barrier, but it wasn't able to handle the incoming amplified feedback beams, the copy's shield broke away and the clone was obliterated into atoms
“T-minus two minutes and counting…” Ezra announced.
However, it became apparent that no one was listening as they all gazed on what was happening outside the planet's atmosphere.
The Copy GunDread Dita tried to aim its weapons, however it had all the speed, skill, grace, Kyo's martial arts prowess, his long experience, and his Mobile Suit skills. The GunDread Jura Alpha took out two massive beam edged swords which were like the same samurai swords and began to slash and tear away at the copy of Dita's GunDread like a cat taking to a scratching post. Finally the blades glowed with a powerful light, the GunDread then fused both swords and out came a massive anti-ship beam sword and then it took a stance and prepared to strike.
“TAKE THIS!” Jura and Kyo said in unison.
The GunDread Jura Alpha glowed with a massive halo of light and vanished as it charged towards its target and reappeared behind it. Flashes of light were all over the copy as it suddenly broke down into dozens of pieces and it exploded, leaving the victorious fusion of Gundam, Dread, and Vanguard support unit.
At that exact moment, the gas giant rumbled as the chain-reaction went underway.
“They did it!” Belvedere declared as the energy readings of the planet's core went off the scale.
Magno wasted no time in barking out commands, “Barnette, head back to the Nirvana now! Meia, Dita, execute the next stage of the operation! Bart, Get us out of here now!”
“ROGER!” Everyone said as the pirate vessel moved away from the core.
Kyo nodded in satisfaction as he spotted Dita and Meia's Dreads take their positions beside GunDread Jura Alpha. He turned to address the blonde pilot who had a smile that would have put a certain Cheshire Cat to shame.
“We'll have to separate in order for the rest of the plan to work.”
“Awww, do we HAVE to?” Jura pouted.
The enhanced GunDread glowed with a bright blue and white light, and split apart into Jura's Dread and Freedom riding alongside of Liberty, Jura flew off to rendezvous to the Nirvana while Freedom sped alongside the other Dreads, and then Kyo went up to join with Meia and her Dread, in that instant they formed GunDread Meia's dragon form, which used it's claws to latch on to Dita's Dread and went at top speed. Behind them was a massive solar flare from the newly made star. Kyo and Meia had planned to use the power of the solar prominence to wipe out the enemy battleship with one shot. By manipulating the energy output of the chain-reaction, they were able to control one of the flares towards their intended target.
“We're heading towards an asteroid belt!” Amarone called out as the Nirvana sped through space with Harvester ships in fast pursuit. Behind them was one massive solar flare as the star spewed them all out like a volcano in various directions, theirs' included! A massive majority of the enemy fleet were turned into molten slag and the flames were singing the ship's stern, placing Bart literally in the proverbial hot seat.
“YOW! YOW! HOT! HOT! HOT!”
Buzam wasted no time as she took one of the navigation stations and ordered all manoeuvring thrusters switched to manual. She began directing the Nirvana through the relation to Bart's movements. With a little luck and some real good piloting they were able to avoid colliding with any more incoming chinks of ice and rock, and any other solar flares.
“Kyo! What's wrong! We're slowing down!”
Meia became very concerned as Kyo was still looking a bit tired as he went about checking the systems.
“I think there's not much power left in Freedom, both the nuclear and Paeksis reactors took a hell of the drain from all the fighting and that unexpected merging. I'm not feeling all that chipper myself.”
The aqua-haired girl realized that his battle with his Gundam's counterpart and his own confrontation while using the enhanced form of Jura's GunDread had taken their toll on both Kyo and Freedom. They had never figured fatigue in their plans, but there was no turning back now. The solar flares loomed even closer, threatening to overtake them. Then Kyo spotted another button similar to what there was in Jura's GunDread.
“Well…here we go again!” he said as he pressed the button.
The ATCISS unit acknowledged the command from its master and went into an intercept course. Just as the GunDread nearly was fried it opened a section on it back and the Paeksis enhanced support unit interlocked with it and the transformation began. The machine became more streamlined and its current wings opened and out came crystal feathers and the wings expanded and took a more feathery appearance as blue fire erupted from them all. The claws that held Dita's Dread took the form of eagle claws and the body elongated and became more armoured and sleeker, the dragon's head reformatted as it became bird-like, and a feathered tail sprouted from the rear. The new GunDread took on the look of a giant flaming eagle, burst forward in a fiery aura and pulled ahead of the solar flare.
“WOW! WOW! WOW!” Dita exclaimed as she looked at the new GunDread from her cockpit. She then looked forward and saw that several enemy ships were in front of them to defend their mothership. However, Kyo focused all the energy into his reprisal as the wings of the eagle glowed even brighter as it was engulfed in a fiery aura.
Massive currents of pure energy were unleashed from the wings and body that lanced out like waves around their targets as GunDread Meia Alpha flew past them all, the power waves decimated the last remaining ships and fighters. All that was left was the Earth Battleship.
“Dita…you get ready, we're going to stage four.” Kyo said in a tired voice as he raised Dita on the comm-link.
He felt a reassuring hand on his shoulder inside the enhanced cockpit of GunDread Meia Alpha, He looked behind him and saw Meia handing his a small smile.
“Kyo, be careful, and please, don't you die on us!”
Kyo replied with his own smile and nodded. “I've got a lot of things left to do in this lifetime, dying now isn't one of them. Don't worry about me.”
At that instant GunDread Meia Alpha split apart, Kyo knew that he was getting more exhausted from all the fighting and Freedom was somewhat drained of energy but had to finish the operation and he hoped that this would be the last. Freedom and Dita' Dread fused and the GunDread charged headlong into the fight. As the solar flare came closer, the cannons detached and came together, fusing into a dual bladed spear.
Utilizing the power of the solar flare to propel the weapon right on target, they ducked and avoided the incoming energy spear that followed their own thrown weapon after they released the javelin. The projectile rocketed forward and slammed right into the centre of the Earth battleship, piercing it like a piece of paper. The energy of the solar flare leaped through the hole and made total havoc on the insides, literally cooking the ship from the inside. Suddenly the whole vessel was caught in one massive explosion.
Onboard the Nirvana, there was a resonating cheer as the enemy was engulfed in the explosion and what appeared to be their grandest victory. Magno and Buzam congratulated one another for a job well done…however, before the celebrations can begin, something massive came out of the explosion in the centre.
“No! It can't be!”
“Those Earth bastards are really tenacious.” Magno said as she watched and felt her blood run cold.
“You have got to be kidding me!” Kyo growled in frustration as he saw that the enemy flagship was still standing after such a crippling blow. Behind them was another solar flare, gaining fast. Behind then, Liberty raced in towards them as well as Kyo decided to press the same button in the GunDread's cockpit.
“Dita, Kyo, get out of there now!” Magno cried out, but it was too late. The energy wave overtook the GunDread and the ATCISS, causing both to disappear from the monitors on the bridge.
In the navigation well, Bart moaned in despair.
“Stupid. None of this will mean anything if you die again.”
However, the communications began receiving a message in static.
“Who…(bzzzt)….said anything about…(squark!)… me dying?”
For the umpteenth time today the crew were given a real surprise as something burst free from the cloud of destruction and streaked towards the damaged starship. It resembled a massive armoured knight with a pair of pods on the shoulders and arms, and all were colored a brilliant blue. It was GunDread Dita Alpha! Apparently, Liberty had arrived in time to fuse despite being in that prominence.
Inside the cockpit, Dita and Kyo were still in their usual positions, but their cockpit seemed fashioned out of pure crystal and light and so were the consoles. The brown-haired Gundam pilot nodded with a smile to his partner, then shouted out.
“THIS TIME WE END THIS WITH OUR OWN HANDS!”
Dita nodded as they made their way towards their target.
“I'll never give up, because we made a promise!”
Kyo's quick thinking and reflexes allowed him to tap into another storehouse of power in Freedom's reactors as he delivered the final lasting blow. The GunDread tensed up and the pods opened up into sections and attached to the shoulders and arms of the GunDread. GunDread Dita Alpha gave a new meaning to the word gun platform! There were two cannons on the back that resembled massive artillery pieces, two on the shoulders that looked like massive rifles, and on the arms were a pair of dual gattling cannons with a cannon in the middle, and on the sides of the body were an array of energy gun ports and missile pods. The chest region opened up to reveal more gattling gun weapons, numbering eight in all. The guns had Paeksis crystals inside them, which glowed with immense power. (3)
As the guns unleashed their payloads in unbelievable velocities, turning them all into one massive storm of beam fire, that even the heavily damaged Earth vessel couldn't handle anymore. The attack consumed the enemy vessel and turned it into powder in a massive explosion of power.
Inside the cockpit, Kyo gave into exhaustion and battle fatigue. The GunDread powered down as it lowered it's arms.
He promptly went to sleep.
Kyo woke up and found himself in his uniform without his helmet and inside his Gundam's cockpit, wondering how he was still in Freedom's cockpit. The sensors told him that he was in the main hanger and he decided to get out and meet up with the crew. However as soon as Kyo got out of the cockpit, he was warmly greeted by Dita and Jura…
“WELCOME BACK!” Both girls exclaimed.
Behind them was a crowd of females that also chorused the greeting, “WELCOME BACK!”
Kyo went forward and nearly stumbled as Jura caught him in her arms and began kissing him vigorously.
“YOU WERE SO INCREDIBLE! I SIMPLY CAN'T BELIEVE THAT YOU SAVED ALL OF US!”
She then tried to kiss Kyo even more. Immediately, Kyo was taken away from Jura's arms by Dita. “Hey! Keep your hands off Mr. Alien!”
That made Jura rather annoyed. “What are you so worked up for Dita? I was thanking him for saving us all!”
At that point Sara came in heading for them. “I want to thank the commander to.”
Mai came in to. “Not before I do as well.”
Dita shook her head and held Kyo even tighter. “YOU CAN THANK MR. ALIEN LATER! HE HAS A PROMISE HE HAS TO KEEP TO ME!”
“What promise is that?!” Jura, Mai, and Sara asked.
At that moment, Pyoro began leaping out warnings. “IT'S NOT OVER YET!”
Kyo managed to gently and yet firmly removing himself from Dita's grip as he got to the robot. “What are you getting at now?”
The little Navi-robot began displaying images. “I've intercepted some of the enemy communications! Earth has learned that we've defeated one of their flagships and their rerouting the others to make their way to Talark and Megele!”
Jura gasped. “MY GOD! There are five more of those behemoths?!”
This made the entire crew very apprehensive, they had barely succeeded in defeating one of the ships. How could they battle five more?
Kyo snorted his indifference with the matter, which got everyone's attention. “What's with all the glum and sad faces? So we have to deal with five more of them, that's just a detail we'll find a way of working out! Every one of us knew that this trip wasn't without danger, we've already taken the first few steps on this path, and I don't see why we should try to walk back. We have chosen this path whether by fate or circumstance, but whatever the case, we're committed to this path until the very end and we're reaching the end soon, so we might as well go all the way to the end, right?” Kyo said as he grinned at Dita
The redhead girl nodded and smiled. “Right!”
“So we might as well go all the way to the end of this path, eh?” Magno chuckled as she spoke with her first mate. “Just when I thought that kid couldn't surprise me anymore.”
BC nodded as she also smiled. “With Freedom, Kyo, and everyone helping each other, I have nod doubt we can win over any obstacle.”
Magno nodded as Buzam gave the command crew the order to make their way back to Talark and Megele.
As the Nirvana went into hyperspace, a certain Gundam's remains left in the ruins of the Earth fleet's mothership. The figure was brutally battered, torn, and was about to be destroyed. But the protection on the Dominion's CPU and it's back-up power supply had allowed it the power to still remain online. The Dominion was too badly damaged to be of use to the Harvester forces to pursue the Nirvana so it's CPU gathered all needed combat data, the CPU activated it's defensive shell and detached from the desiccated hulk of it's body. It could only send out the retrieval signal for their masters to come and pick it up. The body was gone, but the brain was free and awaiting pick-up.
Whatever scenario it was in, the Dominion's CPU knew that it would not be left alone by it's makers, and it would be sent out once more to battle with the Nirvana, and with Freedom.
The fight has just begun…
End of Stage One!
I can't believe it myself! 42 pages! This is the longest chapter I've ever written! In all cases, you can see that this was only the first installment/stage one of the story, once I'm ready, I'll work on the second installment/stage two, and it will be totally different from the original series while still staying true to the VanDread storyline. As of now I have to confess that I was confined to the house for at least a day and a half due to lack of nothing to do, and I got at least a four day hiatus from anything pressing. That gave me the power to keep on writing these pages. I'm not stopping yet so hold on to your horses if you want to know what else I'll be writing soon. In the second part we'll be meeting some new allies, new enemies, secrets are revealed, romance blossoms, and of course…action galore!
See you there!
I really have to give credit to Dita for being like she was in the anime series on this episode, so I decided to make her in the same light, not like some people who call her an airhead…shame on you all!
Have you seen the picture of a World of Warcraft Night Elf female, in it's armor for the archer? Well, that what Jura's GunDread looks like in this one…minus the Elf ears.
Think Duel Gundam of Gundam SEED combine with Gundam Heavy Arms Custom of Gundam Wing, add nearly unlimited energy and weapons fire. That's what this one looks like.