Mobile Suit Gundam Fan Fiction / Gundam Wing Fan Fiction / Gundam SEED Fan Fiction ❯ Mobile Suit Gundam GGeneration: Dreams ❯ Chapter 6: A Hero's Return ( Chapter 6 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter 6: A Hero's Return
“Ship's log, 2015 hours, 18th April CY089. Rika Matsumoto.
An uneventful day. The relocation of crew from the other ships has been successful. The medical staff are currently having a shortage of supplies, but that shouldn't be a problem now that we are in range of Grenada. We haven't received any word on whether the Londo Bell fleet will be integrated into another battle group or reformed with new ships. I hope they decide quickly. The York's engines are operating at around 58 efficiency and the starboard launch catapult is now sectioned off with minor repairs being done but we would need to be in dry dock to do any major repairs.”
She sighed and put down the ship's general report on her desk. Tilting her head, she noticed a framed photograph next to her computer. Reaching out, Rika picked it up and gazed at the people within it.
She recognised herself immediately, standing at the front of the group. Then there was Paul Ransom, her tactical officer; Hana Trinkov, York's sensor and communications officer; Michael Li, the ship's head gunner and many others. Then there was the old man standing beside her. His dark beard covered most of his face while his EUF cap covered up his eyes. It was Admiral Londo Bell.
“It won't be the same without you, old man.” Rika continued, leaning back on her chair while still staring at the photograph, reminiscing of her past missions with him.
“End log entry.”
Tyan Long Wang perched himself on the ledge of the mess hall window and gazed out towards the moon. His face filled with gloom.
The Londo Bell Fleet, or what was left of it, drifted sluggishly towards the EUF Grenada Moon base. Though Grenada officially is the EUF's Space Fleet HQ, it technically belonged to the Titans. The Titans loaned the base to the EUF when it was first formed however they reserved the right to use the base as they pleased, occasionally making certain modifications to it.
It was a miracle that only one ship exploded on the way back from the ambush by the Crossbone Vanguard. All that was left from the fleet was the York, the lead Argama-Class battleship and two smaller and older Magellan-Class cruisers. The corridors of the four ships were packed with crews of the ships that couldn't make the trip back; injured men and women groaned as they tried their best to be comfortable on the hard floor. Morale was at an all time low; even though no one admitted it, the darkened bags under each member of the crew's eyes and their vacant faces said everything.
Sieg Garland squeezed his way through the crowded mess hall with two packs of water and joined his despondent friend.
“Cheer up, Tyan,” Sieg handed the pack to Tyan, “At least we got back in one piece.”
Tyan, still looking downcast, gulped down the water all at once and returned to stare out of the window.
“Can't believe that we got caught in an ambush.”
“You can't blame yourself for that.” Sieg leaned on the ledge next to Tyan.
“Can't I? How many pilots died because of my bad planning? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? Then there's the crew of the ships. It was so obvious that they'd set a trap for us. How the hell didn't I see it?” Tyan sighed.
Sieg didn't answer. He knew how Tyan was; it was better to let him sort it out by himself.
Looking up at the moon, the Grenada base was now quite visible with its communications antennae and outer defence structures. Sieg noticed several new satellite dishes were built from the last time he was at Grenada but he put that small detail aside.
“Admiral Pasture, sir, three ships from the Londo Bell fleet are requesting permission to dock. Captain Matsumoto says that they ran into an ambush and lost most of their fleet.” A stern Lieutenant Colonel reported.
Fleet Admiral Pasture didn't reply. A pair of round glasses rested precariously on the tip of his nose seemingly about to fall but found the strength to clench on. His eyes shifted from left to right across his computer screen reading the daily reports sent to him by all departments. He was looking at the words but not reading them.
Most parts of his day have been filled with one crisis after another. First was power failure in sector 2, then it was a burst water tank that flooded a residential section and now he's reading that hangar bay 3 is to be sealed off for some Titans operation. But nothing that day compared to what he received on his computer that morning.
How long has it been since he heard those two names? Half a year? A year? However long it was, receiving a message from them came as a surprise. He had wondered whether those are still alive after the battle at Acteria. If it weren't for them he wouldn't be here reading daily reports but be strewn across space in millions of pieces.
He was only a rear Admiral then. After the destruction of Acteria his Magellan cruiser was being harassed by several GINNs with no friendly MS for support. When it looked like the GINNs were about to go for the kill, out of nowhere they appeared. Darting around in what looked like pink fighters, they destroyed the GINNs in no more than 30 seconds, saving his ship. As the Magellan cruiser left the combat zone, he heard something. It wasn't a voice but rather a thought that slipped into his mind.
“Remember the names Nicolas and Joseph Fin.”
And then the two MS just boosted off into deep space.
Those names stuck with Admiral Pasture ever since. He got an odd feeling of dread every time that he remembered the experience and secretly hoped that he would never see or hear from them again.
He just remembered that the Colonel was standing in front of him.
“Yes.” He jerked his eyes away from the computer monitor.
“There are three damaged ships from the Londo Bell Fleet requesting to dock for repairs, sir.”
Oh God, they're actually here. A minute voice squeaked within the Admiral's soul.
Admiral Pasture contemplated his predicament, either to ignore what the message or to do what they told him to do. Ignoring the message would be the best but there was something about Nicolas and Joseph Fin that made him fear them.
“Bring them in. I want those three ships to be locked down and have security place the all the senior officers under arrest.”
The colonel hesitated for a moment, about to question his superior's sudden decision.
“Is there a problem, colonel?” Admiral Pasture looked up. His eyes staring menacingly at the colonel.
“Um, no sir. I'll alert security straight away.”
He saluted and marched out the Admiral's office briskly. As soon as the colonel left, Admiral Pasture sank into his leather chair in despair. He had become a traitor.
A trail of laser guidance beams led the three battered ships into the vast complex beneath the lunar surface. Unlike the outer grey and dull structures, the base interior was bright, almost luminescent, with bustling arrays of machines and people in normal suits (a name for space suits after the invention of mobile suits) all working toward a common goal of maintaining the base and its visitors. The entire hangar was filled with a deafening silence. If there had been air the noise of the ship's engines, shouting and mechanical whirring would be overwhelming.
Wiz Earo stood on the bridge of the York and watched as it descend into the bowels of Granada. He stretched his arms upwards and yawned as if waking up from a nap.
“I never thought I'd say I'm glad to be back in this hell hole.”
“Language, captain.” Rika warned him with a smile. The tension and stress on the bridge seemed to melt way into nothingness as the thought of safety within the confines of Grenada settled into their minds. The ship's helmsman brought the York in slowly and placed it between another Argama-class and a Salamis-class ship and the hum of the engines died down to a low drone.
It seemed odd that there were so many mechanics in the hangar area but it didn't really bother the bridge crew. The door at the back of the bridge slid open and Tyan and Sieg floated in. Tyan was in a better mood now that the ship was docked and about to be connected to Grenada.
“Is it me or are there more people out there than usual?” Hana, the York's communications officer mumbled.
Paul Ransom, the ship's tactical officer, eyed one of the people outside the ship as he floated past the main view screen. As the man was floating above the view screen, a glint of grey caught Paul's eye.
“My god, they're carrying machine guns!” He exclaimed loudly. His words sent a wave of dread through everyone who heard it.
“Captain, I'm receiving a transmission from Grenada control.” Hana reported.
“What do they want?”
Hana paused a second and patched through the message into the speakers,
“This is Fleet Admiral Pasture to all Londo Bell Fleet ships. Prepare to be boarded by EUF soldiers. Do not resist them. They have authorisation to shoot any and all crew members who retaliate.”
The sound of footsteps could be heard from behind the door leading onto the bridge. They opened to reveal a dozen EUF soldiers wearing gas masks. They barged onto the bridge shouting 'Put your hands up!', 'Stand up!' and other orders to the bewildered crew. As soon as the bridge was secure, an EUF soldier with a Penguin insignia on his arm walked casually onto the bridge. He removed his gas mask to reveal a cleanly shaven, but glum face.
“Captain Rika Matsumoto?” He enquired with a sigh, he obviously wasn't pleased at being called at such short notice to invade a battleship, “I'm Sergeant Major Siegfried Reinable. Admiral Pasture has ordered me, or should I say us to arrest all senior officers. So if you…” He looked around the room and laid his eyes upon the captain's insignia on Wiz, Tyan and Sieg's uniforms, “…you three…” he pointed at Hana in the corner, “…and you would like to come with me, please. The rest of the crew are to stay onboard their ships.”
Tyan, Sieg, Wiz and Hana all turned to Rika as if asking for permission to leave. She gave them a small nod and followed Sergeant Reinable off the bridge.
Admiral Pasture stood with his hands behind his back looking out of the large window in the Grenada hangar control room. He was accompanied by a small group of high-ranking officers and surrounded by operations crew going about their daily routine. They watched the three Londo Bell ships dock and the soldiers swarm around them, but only Admiral Pasture knew that this was all a complete farce.
“Sir,” a young communications officer who sat in front of Pasture reported, “Group 3, 4 and 5 are reporting that they need more men to cover the York and the Southampton.”
“Move the security from Hangar 3. The Titans can cover their own asses.” Pasture replied.
“Yes, sir.”
There, done. I hope those two are happy. I moved troops away from Hangar 3 and arrested the Londo Bell officers. Pasture thought to himself.
An operator to his left stood up immediately after his thought. Pasture didn't pay much attention to him but as the man reached the door, a familiar voice spoke in Pasture's mind. It was the same voice that spoke to him during the battle of Acteria and the same voice that he dreaded.
Thank you Admiral. Just keep the Londo Bell officers busy and keep security to the Titan hangar to a minimum; you will have nothing to worry about.
Pasture spun around, only to see the door slide close. He glanced at the other officers in the room as he turned back around and found that they were all giving him very strange looks.
"Sir, are you sure you want to do this?" One of the Vice Admirals leaned over Pasture's shoulder, "I mean no disrespect sir, but how can we be sure that they are really AEUG terrorists?"
“Ahem.” He let out a fake cough, “How can we be sure that they're not? Better to keep them under lock and key until we can ascertain who they really are."
"Fine, sir."
"Get meeting hall 2 ready. We'll use that for the hearing." Pasture ordered and walked out of the control room quickly, hoping to avoid more penetrating questions from his subordinates.
Three hours, or so the officers currently held in a prison thought, had passed by. Tyan, who felt agitated, paced continuously around the darkened cell, occasionally stepping over Wiz or Sieg's legs.
“Sit down, Tyan. Unless you want to wear away the floor so that we can escape, you're really helping anyone.” A male voice said. The cell was so dark, Tyan wasn't sure who said it and continued pacing.
Rika and Hana were kept in a cell by themselves on the other side the prison section. Hana felt cold and afraid, it was as though the blood had been drained from her body leaving only an empty shell, her auburn hair draped across her shoulders onto her weary face. She was still green and sat on the hard bed with her legs tucked up to her chest while trying to keep close to her captain. Rika on the other hand was preoccupied with her own thoughts. She disliked being kept in the dark about anything and situations like this annoyed her intensely.
The door to Rika and Hana's cell opened and the light from the outer corridor flooded into the room. Two armed guards followed by Sergeant Reinable stood outside. He scraped his feet along the floor while eying the two female prisoners with a certain level of distain. The glumness was still there within his face but his voice didn't show it.
“It's really a shame that fine officers like you decides to turn on the EUF. I've heard so many good things about Admiral Londo Bell and his fleet.” Siegfried said.
“What the hell do you want?” Rika demanded, standing up from the bed.
“Admiral Pasture has requested your presence for the trial, or rather a know court martial kind.”
“On what charge!” Rika yelled out in surprise and confusion.
“Oh just treason, murder, insubordination, mutiny etcetera. Nothing too light.”
Rika was taken aback by it all. Nothing made sense to her. Had the EUF turned on them? Ever since her last mission, nothing made sense anymore.
“Come along, Captain,” Siegfried continued. The corner of his mouth quivered slightly as if to smile, “Admiral Pasture isn't normally a patient man. Don't worry, we'll be bring along your crew as well.”
Composing herself, Rika decided there was really nothing she can do now except to see how this farce plays out. She helped Hana up onto her feet and followed Siegfried out of the cell. Tyan, Sieg and Wiz joined them with several other officers of the other Londo Bell ships in the darkened corridor with their hands cuffed behind their backs. They were herded out like cattle.
“Captain Matsumoto, are you the commander of the three ships that returned from the Angola Shoal Zone?”
The meeting room was well lit. Four high-ranking officers, including Admiral Pasture, sat behind a long oak table staring down on the indicted officers as judges. The lines on their faces showed experience and wisdom but to Rika they were only the signs of betrayal. The Londo Bell officers were placed in front of the pseudo judges at a simple metallic table. None of the others spoke a single word apart from a grey haired man.
Yes sir was the reply.
“Captain Matsumoto this court charges you and your senior officers of mutiny, insubordination, treason and first degree murder of the crews on the other Londo Bell ships. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty.” She answered.
“I presume that you answer for all the officers here?”
Rika nodded. The old officer noted something down on a piece of paper before reaching for something underneath the large wooden table and brought up a bulging folder full of paper and placed it carefully down on the table. He opened up the folder and retrieved a single sheet and read it carefully, all the while ignoring the fact that everyone in the room sat in an uncomfortable silence.
“Captain Matsumoto,” One of the younger high ranking officers with greying black hair with a face that was full of freckled at the end of the table began spoke, “Are you familiar with article 1 of the EUF constitution?”
“Yes sir.”
“And may I presume that you and your crew are all familiar with it too?”
“Yes sir.” There was a slight tone of confusion in Rika's voice as she tried to figure out why she was being asked these questions.
“Then I can safely say that you know that the EUF was created to preserve the peace of the Earth-Moon system? And it is not our position to align ourselves to any government or faction, correct?”
“Yes sir.”
“Then why,” The man said quietly, “Are you and the Londo Bell forces been colluding with the AEUG?” He slammed his fist down on the table startling all of the Londo Bell officers.
“Not only that,” The officer continued in a loud hardened voice, “You betrayed your own comrades to the AEUG by aiding them in the ambush in your previous mission!” He slammed his fist down on the table.
“That's a lie!” Wiz shouted out.
“Order!” Admiral Pasture bellowed to keep the court calm, “Captain Earo, I would advise you to remain silent. And Malcolm, calm down.”
“I'm sorry. I just can't stand traitors. Admiral Bell would be spinning in his grave.”
That comment was like a spike through Rika's very soul. Every member of the Londo Bell Fleet was loyal and was willing to do anything that Admiral Bell asked of them. She wanted to spring up off her seat and floor the man but her mind stopped her when she saw most of the other Londo Bell officers about to something similar.
“What evidence do you have?” Rika said before anyone did anything foolish.
“I'm glad that you asked.” The officer who remained silent throughout the session said and took out from underneath the table a large binder.
“Ensign Hana Trinkov,” The officer asked as he flicked through the binder, “Are you aware of all transmissions on and off the York?”
“Yes, sir.” She said back in a quiet trembling voice.
“So then is it true that there was a message sent somewhere into the Lohar Shoal Zone just before the Londo Bell Fleet left Grenada?”
“I said did you or one of your fellow crewmen send a message into the Lohar Shoal Zone?” He said eyeing Hana very carefully.
“No, sir.” Her voice was becoming quieter and quieter.
“Then why did the Grenada transmissions tower intercept a message being sent from the York to the Lohar Shoal Zone? Isn't it where the EUF suspect that the AEUG terrorists' HQ is based? So I'm asking you, Ensign Trinkov, did you or did you not send a message to the AEUG?”
“Objection! You that evidence is inconclusive, it might have been just a routine sensor signal.” Sieg protested.
“May I remind you, Captain Garland, that you do not have the right to object to our questions. We have reviewed the questions thoroughly and have deemed them to be fair.” Admiral Pasture said in a firm voice, “Also, it is up to us to decide whether the evidence given supports the accusations or dismiss them. So no more further outbursts or I will have you removed from the hearing.”
Sieg heaved slumped back into his chair in frustration.
“Ensign Trinkov,” The officer continued where he left off, “Did you or did you not send a message to the AEUG?”
“There-there-” Hana stuttered out, “There was a message sent out to the Lohar Shoal Zone. But-but I thought it was just a malfunction in the internal communications grid.”
“So are you saying even though you are the head communications officers on the York, yet you did not monitor all outbound communications carefully?”
“I didn't me-mean that, sir.”
“Then does that mean you found the signal and didn't report it to a higher authority or check it with another department for confirmation that it was just a malfunction?”
“No, sir.”
The judges shook their heads at this apart from Admiral Pasture who was staring intently at Rika. His mind focused solely on the thought of what Nicholas and Joseph Fin wanted the Londo Bell officers dead. What could these people sat in front of him have known to warrant such drastic action? What ever the answer was he had a task to complete.
“Fine. Captain Rika,” Admiral Pasture flipped through a piece of paper that Rika saw marked `SENSOR DATA', “According to your report and the sensor data from your ships, it is said that you left the Salamis-Class ships Uganda and Otto behind while you escaped the battle-zone, correct?”
“Yes, sir.” Rika knew exactly where this was going.
“Is there a reason why those two ships were left behind while the York, the Southampton and the Shanghai escaped?”
“Sir, have you even seen the damage that was inflicted on our ships? We lost twenty-seven crewmen during that battle. If you are implying that we left the Otto and Uganda there to be destroyed then why the hell would we have picked up the remaining survivors from the ship's MS compliment and crew?” Rika protested.
“But that doesn't excuse the fact that you left those two ships, who's crews were still onboard out for the enemy while you ran like cowards.” The younger officer interjected.
“We did not run! We received orders from Admiral Bell to retreat.”
“From that static filled transmission?” The eldest officer held up another piece of paper, “You could barely make the shape of the person, let alone who actually sent it or what he said.”
“What are you saying?” Rika asked.
“What I'm saying,” Admiral Pasture stood up from his chair and placed both hands on the wooden table and look intently at the Londo Bell officers with an eye of utter hatred, “That one of you, or all of you are AEUG insurgents are here to undermine the operations of the EUF and threaten the peace of mankind.”
“So is this what it's all about,” Tyan finally spoke after keeping quiet for quite a while, “A witch hunt? And I bet that you've made your decision already about our guilt, haven't you?”
There was a stunned silence in the hall. All four judges glared at Tyan their eyes expressionless. Admiral Pasture eventually broke the silence.
“Captain Wang, if this was a witch hunt then why are we giving you a chance to defend yourselves?” He said in a sly tone, “I guess you never expected this situation during your planning sessions?” A smile appeared on his face.
Tyan heaved a sigh of disgust and frustration as did many of the other Londo Bell officers. It seemed like there was really nothing they could really do.
Two men stood by a huge door leading into a Grenada hangar that was set out for Titan use.
“Is everything ready?”
“Almost, Commander Fin.” A Titan officer said back. The other man he spoke to wore a EUF uniform and a pair of round orange tinted glasses. They were joined a second later by another man in a mechanic's jumpsuit. Though they wore different clothes, the EUF and the mechanic were physically identical.
“Brother.” The mechanic greeted his sibling.
The Titan officer peered around the corner into a large hangar and turned back to the twins.
“The Mother Vanguard will be here in forty three minutes. We'll begin operations in…” The Titan officer looked at his watch, “Fifty minutes. For Neo Zeon.”
“For Neo Zeon.” Nicolas Fin said sinister tone.
The hearing had finished half an hour or so before. The Londo Bell officers managed to put across their version of events but no one can tell whether it had swayed any of the judges. Admiral Pasture and the three other judges have left the hall to discuss their verdict and what their punishment would be. Sieg tapped his fingers irritably on the metallic table and the clang rang throughout the hall until Wiz jabbed him painfully in his still bandaged ribs to make him stop. There were EUF soldiers guarding every door in the hall, each had a semi-automatic machine gun nestled in their chest.
The door to the right of the room sprang open and the four judged walked back in. The young hotheaded judge from before wore a rather disturbing grin on his face while the other men's faces remained expressionless. Rika was prepared for the worst.
“Captain Rika Matsumoto,” Admiral Pasture's voice boomed and echoed within the hall, “We have found you and your crew…guilty of all charges.”
Rika closed her eyes. The other EUF officers were utterly outraged but they kept quiet and brooded silently.
“I cannot show you or any other senior officer of the remaining Londo Bell fleet any mercy. Therefore, your punishment shall be death and your crews shall receive a reduced punishment of ten years imprisonment.” Admiral Pasture then turned to Sieg, “Captain Garland, we have taken into account of your special circumstances and come to the conclusion that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. However we also cannot ignore the fact that you did nothing to stop the AEUG plot. You are hereby dishonourably discharged from the EUF and forbidden to set foot on any EUF or its allies' facilities, unless you wish to be shot. This hearing is adjourned.” Admiral Pasture banged his gavel on the wooden table.
Ten EUF soldiers suddenly swarmed upon the Londo Bell officers from around the room, handcuffed them and was lead out by Sergeant Siegfried Reinable.
“What do you think we should do?” Tyan whispered to Rika as they were walked down the corridors of Grenada. Almost every single EUF officer they passed was eyeing them suspiciously.
“I don't know.” Rika replied. She felt depressed and let down. Never before has she ever felt like this. She believed in the EUF, she trusted the EUF. It has been her home and her family ever since she joined but now it seemed that she was an outcast. She felt lonely.
The entire base shook hard and a gust of warm air rushed through its corridors pushing everybody onto the floor.
Chaos ensued within the Titan hangar bay. Smoke and dust obscured everyone's view. No one knew what was going on except that several Titan and EUF officers began mowing everyone down with machine guns.
“Make sure that the Ashtaron and Virsago are safe!” A lone voice shouted within the vast hangar while staggering towards two MS that stood like statues in the corner of the room. One was crimson, almost blood red, with black paint over its joints. The other was a jet-black and grey with red covering its various nozzles. The grey one called Ashtaron wore a large booster filled backpack and seemed more bulky than the red MS called Virsago. The Titan officer stumbled across the hangar with a pistol in his hand, choking on the think smoke.
“God where the hell are those damn EUF soldiers?” He thought as he almost tripped over the body of a fallen Titan soldier. Wondering out of the smoky patch, he saw two figures climbing up the metallic platform towards the two MS.
“Stop!” He shouted and began firing haphazardly at them hoping that one of the shots would actually hit, “Stop, St-!”
He was silenced with a bullet struck directly in the head, blowing off much of his face. Blood gushed out like a fountain of wine. Another Titan officer, a Neo Zeon soldier in disguise, walked out of the smoke behind the one he shot and saluted the two men on the platform. They saluted back.
Come on brother, the Mother Vanguard is waiting.
There was indistinguishable shouting and a lot of EUF soldiers and officers running around past the group of Londo Bell officers. All the guards, apart from Sergeant Reinable, seemed to be confused and disoriented.
“You three at the back, go and find out what the hell is going on. You two help me escort the prisoners.” Siegfried Reinable ordered his men in a professional manner. He received a few looks of apprehension from the men.
“GO!” And they ran off in the other direction.
“OK, let's move it!” Siegfried shouted at the Londo Bell officers and took the lead. The group jogged and ducked past falling debris from the ceiling as they made their way through Grenada, some of them had trouble keeping balance because of their handcuffs.
“Captain,” Wiz whispered close to her ear as he jogged up to her, “Maybe we should make a break for it. We won't get this chance agai-.” He was cut off when Sergeant Reinable suddenly stopped in front of the hangar bay door where the Londo Bell ships were docked.
“Sergeant, this isn't the brig.” Rika said. She looked Siegfried in the eye.
“I know.” Siegfried undid Rika's handcuffs and handed her the key.
“Then why…”
“Just get to your ships. I'll explain later. Get going!”
Not really wanting to stay in the seemingly crumbling base much longer, Rika and the other Londo Bell officers obeyed. They freed themselves and filtered through the hangar bay door towards their ships.
Admiral Pasture was hiding underneath the table in his office trying not to cry for his mom. The fragmented voice reports that came through onto his computer made him cringe in fear and caused him to feel like an idiot. How the hell did he not see it earlier? Taking the Londo Bell fleet prisoner, transferring soldiers from the Titan sector, keeping the entire base preoccupied…
“Dammit!” Another explosion rocked his office and several pieces of metal fell onto his desk with loud clangs. He had no idea what the Titans were doing in that hangar. He read that the Titans had only stored Marasai and a few Hi-Zack suits in the hangar but now there were reports saying that there were two prototype mobile suits in storage. The attack wasn't by AEUG but by an unknown group. What made it worse was that the Londo Bell ships blew a hole in the primary hangar bay door to escape, possibly with help from EUF soldiers and AEUG spies.
“This day can't get any worse.”
On board the bridge of the York Rika reclaimed the captain's seat in the centre of the bridge. It was welcoming relief that her crew was safe and sound but now there was one final obstacle that they have to overcome: escaping without being blown to pieces by Grenada's own turrets which didn't really seem like a problem now since the base was in chaos. There was another massive explosion on the far side of the base and two small dots ploughed through the smoke.
“Paul can you magnify those?” Rika asked her tactical officer.
The main viewer split in two and a pixelated image of the two dots was shown to be two mobile suits, one red and the other black, both were heading towards a large ship that looked like the wooden ships that roamed the seas in the eighteenth century.
“Crossbone Vanguard…” Siegfried muttered to himself.
“Hey, that was the ship that attacked us back in that shoal zone!” Wiz exclaimed.
“You sure?” Rika said back.
“I only got a brief glance at it during the battle but I'm positive it's that ship. We need to go after it.”
“Your ships are in no shape to go after something that powerful.” Siegfried interjected, “You have no idea how powerful the Mother Vanguard is. We should head for the Lohar Shoal-Zone; get your ships repaired and some medical attention to your injured. I've already disabled Grenada's defence systems so the EUF shouldn't be bothering us.”
Rika turned around to look at Siegfried. She thought he was just a security officer but now he was something of a mystery.
“Not until you tell us who the hell you are.”
“Ah, yes.” Siegfried rubbed his neck in embarrassment, “I apologise. My name is Siegfried Reinable; at least that much is true. I'm not a member of the EUF. My real rank is Lieutenant and I'm part of the AEUG.” Before Siegfried could continue on further, Tyan rushed forwards, took him by the collar and punched him in the eye.
“So you were the one that got us into this damn mess!” Tyan shouted as Sieg and Wiz both quickly restrained him from beating Siegfried further.
“I suppose I deserve that.” Siegfried rubbed his eye as it began to swell up slightly. Righting himself in the zero gravity, he shrugged off the assault and began addressing Rika again.
“As I was saying I'm with the AEUG, but I am not responsible for all that you have been through.”
“Then who is?” Rika asked in a suspicious manner.
“Well if you want someone to blame then blame Admiral Bell. He was the one who told the AEUG to come get you with his last transmission.” Siegfried floated next to Rika, “But before I tell you any more I'd suggest we leave before Grenada control regains control of its main systems and send ships after us.”
Rika contemplated about the current situation. Either to go with a complete stranger to a terrorist base somewhere in the densest region of space filled with debris and other obstacles, or to face certain death at Grenada. The former seemed like a better plan. Plus she still had many injured onboard and there was no way that sickbay's supplies was going to last much longer.
She told the helmsman to set a course and told Hana to pass on the information to the Southampton and the Shanghai. But her mind settled back with Admiral Bell. If he had some idea about the attacks then…
“Are you saying that Admiral Bell is in league with the AEUG?”
“Yes. He was one of the founding members after all.” All eyes were upon Siegfried after he finished.
“I think it's better if I explained a few things.” Siegfried sighed. He had hoped that he wouldn't had to do this as he was never much of a public speaker but now he really didn't have a choice.
“The AEUG isn't the terrorist organisation that you make us out to be. What you know about the AEUG, our reputation of randomly attacking EUF, Titan and Oz ships is not true. The AEUG exists because of the corruption, oppression and constant fighting that has been going on for the past ten years. As you know, after the UN's collapse at the end of the Zeon War, the Titans and Oz rose up in its place. Though they did create the EUF to preserve the peace of the Earth-Moon system, but all the EUF was, in the end, a puppet.” Siegfried paused for to breathe. He didn't realise that he just insulted everyone on the bridge.
“The old UN officials, including Admiral Bell, who still had a vision of a peaceful future came together and the AEUG was created to oppose the new Earth governments. Their ideals were not widely known because of the ZAFT uprising a year ago and their voice was pretty much drowned out by this war but it did get through to some people.” Siegfried looked around to Tyan, Wiz and Sieg.
“You know, I've only known Admiral Bell for a short while but he's always been going on about how Newtypes will eventually shape the world we live in. He always transmits a message to AEUG headquarters when the Londo Bell Fleet mobilises for a mission. He sends his message through to each ship before the message randomly picks a ship as its transmitter and gets sent to AEUG HQ. Normally his transmissions were just reports but his last one seemed...surreal.”
“What do you mean?” Siegfried caught Sieg's attention. He remembered the talk with Admiral Bell while he was still in sickbay. He had thought that the man was talking rubbish.
“What I mean is that Admiral Bell believed that he was a Newtype. He apparently felt that something bad was going to happen and it involved the Crossbone Vanguard.” Siegfried pointed at the, now tiny, image of the blue mother ship of the Crossbone Vanguard. The ship had received the two stolen MS from Grenada and was now moving away at full speed, “I personally don't believe in that kinda stuff but after what happened, I'm not sure what to say.”
The room was utterly silent and only the odd beep from the control panels could be heard.
“So are you expecting us to join you?” Rika asked. Her mind was confused and tired after what she had been through. What she really wanted was to have some sleep but the single preoccupation kept her alert: she was in charge of the Londo Bell Fleet and its her job to take care of it, just as Admiral Bell did.
“No. That decision is yours.” Siegfried began rummaging through the many pockets of his EUF uniform, “You know, I never did like your uniforms. Always too many pockets and holes.”
The comment created a few small smiles around the room. He finally stopped as he found what he was looking for, a small data minidisk.
“But before you make your decision, Admiral Bell left you this.” Siegfried tossed it to Rika.
“What is it?” She asked as she caught it.
“Don't know. It was a data packet sent with his message before you left on your last mission. It's addressed only to you and can only be accessed with your encryption code.”
The Virsago and Ashtaron walked slowly across the hangar bay floor towards their dedicated storage area within the Mother Vanguard and stopped next to the two Crossbone Gundams. They seemed more menacing than the Crossbone X1 and X2. Maintenance crews and engineers swarmed upon the two suits as soon as they were secure. The heads of the two suits were of similar design to the Gundams but everything else was unique.
The cockpit door on both MS opened and the two pilots in EUF uniforms stepped out.
“Commander Fin I trust everything went according to plan.” Thraw Nema, the Captain of the Mother Vanguard, floated across the front of the red Gundam, “So how are they?” He pointed to the suits.
“Yes,” Nicolas Fin's British accent annoyed Thraw slightly but he had gotten used to it, “The Virsago is a fine suit and would make a fine stallion. What do you think of your Ashtaron, Joseph?”
“Great. Handles much better than the Gaza series.” Joseph Fin, the identical twin to Nicolas Fin, stepped out of the grey mobile suit called Ashtaron. The three of them floated up to the main walkway of the hangar and the magnets in their shoes connected with the floor.
“Let's set a course back to Axis. Her highness is awaiting news of our triumphant return and to present her with our spoils.”
“Yes, sir.” Thraw replied sternly. Even though they were roughly the same rank in the Neo Zeon military Thraw held the Fin brothers in high respect because of their past; something that he has sworn an oath to keep a secret.
Rika leaned back in the large cushioned chair in her debris filled quarters. The room was dark, bar the light emitting from her computer monitor and a window showing the stars outside. You could barely make out the outlines of a bookcase with most of its books leaning at odd angles and some on the floor bearing the names of “Moby Dick”, “1984”, “Pride and Prejudice” and the like.
She had Hana contact the Southampton and Shanghai to apprise them of the current situation. Neither of their crews seemed to disagree with what she had decided so now the Londo Bell Fleet was heading towards the AEUG HQ.
She held up the minidisk not totally sure that she want to hear what Admiral Bell would say. She eventually plucked up the courage and inserted it into the disk drive. The disk booted on the computer and asked for her personal ID and password, which she entered with several swift keyboard strikes and then the face of her bearded mentor, Admiral Bell, appeared.
“My dear Rika. If you are in procession of this message then I may presume that I am dead or that Siegfried messed up and gave you this by accident; but in most likeliness I am dead.”
Rika could barely make out the admiral's face under the bushy black beard. His black hair was pushed downwards by a large EUF military cap that covered his eyes. She had often wondered how the man could see under all that hair but she never asked.
“There are so many dangerous things in the universe but you know what, Rika, we humans have begun to evolve. The two Newtype pilots you have onboard, Captain Tyan Long Wang and Captain Wiz Earo, they are the future of mankind. Mankind is evolving to become something wonderful. Those who remain on Earth do not understand the potential and possibilities that these Newtypes have. Do you still remember Zeon Zum Deikun's works, Rika? He wanted a future for mankind. I didn't believe him at first but after the battle of Acteria and seeing first hand what the Newtypes of the 1st Mobile Armour squadron could do opened my eyes.”
“We are already evolving Rika. The EUF, Titans, Oz, ZAFT nor Zeon comprehended what that meant. Zeon used the Newtype excuse to create their republic; the Titans, Oz and EUF discriminate against all that lives in space while ZAFT deny their existence. So that is why I helped found the AEUG. They are the only ones who have some belief that Newtypes are people, not items used to fight in wars. But if I am dead then the AEUG will be making the same mistakes as the Titans, Oz, ZAFT and Zeon. So I have something to request of you, Rika. I want you to make sure that there will not be a repeat of the infamous battle between the two legendary Newtypes during the Zeon War. I don't want the world I leave behind to be one that destroys its future. You can do that anyway you want but joining the AEUG would be the best option.” The old man smiled.
“Do you still remember the first time we met? You were still green then, just a second grade lieutenant without much experience or confidence in yourself. For some reason I saw talent in you. I still think back to the day that I put you on the fast-track officer-training program. I pushed you and taught you everything that you needed to know. Some of the time I thought you might burn yourself out with all your studies and duties yet you went on. I was so proud of you when you were given that promotion by fleet to become a full captain. I was barely able to contain my happiness when I gave you your captain's badge. And now…I'm sure that you are taking good care of the Londo Bell Fleet.” Admiral Bell fell quiet for a few seconds, as if he was actually looking at Rika through the recording.
“You don't have to follow an old man's senile thoughts but I want you to know that I will be proud of what ever decision you make in the future, because I am sure that you will be a fine leader. But if nothing else, it is imperative you must find final surviving member of the 1st Mobile Armour Squadron: Sieg Garland and keep the three of them together. I can feel something about those three. I'm sure that you can find him or he will find you.” For a brief moment, Rika saw the Admiral's eyes through all the hair. They still showed the same kindness when she first met him and they still filled her with hope.
“I never liked saying goodbyes to anyone,” Admiral Bell continued, “But there is a time when you have to accept the inevitable. I officially pass on command of the Londo Bell Fleet to you, Rika. Good luck. The future is in your hands.”
The recording flickered off leaving the room darkened apart from the light of the stars from the window shining in.
“It's not going to be the same without you, old man.” A tear trickled down Rika's cheek and splashed on her EUF uniform.