Mobile Suit Gundam Fan Fiction / Gundam Wing Fan Fiction / Gundam SEED Fan Fiction ❯ Mobile Suit Gundam GGeneration: Dreams ❯ Chapter 7: Things We Leave Behind ( Chapter 7 )

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

Chapter 7: Things We Leave Behind
The controls and buttons glowed around Marcus and Kriss as the shuttle was prepped for launch. Kriss, who sat next to Marcus, was in a tight Titan normal suit (or space suit as they were called before the invention of mobile suits). She tugged and squirmed in it as though it was wrapped around her like cling-film.
“What are you staring at?” She glared at him.
“Nothing.” Marcus quickly replied and began focusing on the shuttle again, his face began glowing as red as his ginger hair. Torii, the green mechanical bird that Marcus kept as a pet, was perched on his shoulder twitched as if laughing at him.
The Strike Gundam, with its wing-like Aile backpack, and Kriss' Red Astray was stored in the shuttle's main storage bay. He was about to hand Kriss over to the two majors: Kuroshin Watanabe and Terrance Rockfield.
The electronic monitor above Marcus' head changed from displaying shuttle statistics to the face of the ship's captain.
“Lieutenant Kolin is everything set?”
“Yes, sir. We'll be ready for launch in approximately three minutes.” Marcus looked up at the monitor while simultaneously tapping on the controls in front of him.
“Good. Tano and Orphen will accompany you in their Gaplants but they won't follow you to Oz territory. You will have to go alone from there. We have lost track of the Nazca-class ship carrying the other Gundams so be prepared for a surprise attack from ZAFT.”
“Aye, sir.”
“Good luck, son. Get back alive. I don't want to be blamed for the loss of the only Coordinator in the Titan military.” The monitor switched from the captain's face to display the shuttle's current condition. Marcus turned his attention back on prepping the shuttle and watch Kriss struggle with her suit from the corner of his eye.
“Any idea why Major Watanabe and Major Rockfield wants to get you from Oz territory?” Marcus asked, trying to get a conversation going between them. During their short time together, he had developed a crush on Kriss. He knows that she was the daughter of the President of Orb but that hasn't stopped him.
“Probably because the atmospheric re-entry point is closer to Orb.” She replied, “This is so typical. The normal suits are either too large or too small.”
“I think it fits you nicely.” Marcus said as he checked his seat belt and leaned over to check on Kriss' only to be pushed aside.
“My belt's fine. You would say it fits, wouldn't you? You men are all the same.” She said but Marcus wasn't listening as he was talking to the communications officer on the ship's bridge through the intercom.
The main door to the hangar bay opened while the shuttle and Tano's Gaplant was suit was pushed along the floor by several struts connected to a network of rails and placed them onto the launch catapult. The lights for the catapult launch sequence changed from a red “STOP” to a yellow “ACCEL” and finally a green “LAUNCH” signal. At that point, the catapult propelled the small white shuttle and Tano's Gaplant into space with electrical discharges emitting off from the magnetic accelerators. Orphen's Gaplant soon followed and caught up with them.
“Hey Marcus,” Tano's voice could be heard over the laser comm. Minovsky interference was high so the message was filled with static and crackling, “Why do you always get to get the girls?”
“You asked me that before and I really can't be bothered to go into your little twisted mind games.” Marcus turned to look at Kriss who was still tugging at her normal suit, “Are you gonna stop doing that?”
“Doing what?” Tano's crackly voice said over the comm.
“No not you. I was talking to Kriss.”
“Oooohhhh. You sound like you're married already.” Tano's teasing never ceased to annoy Marcus. Both he and Kriss blushed. Marcus yelled several profanities at Tano before switching the communicator to another channel so to avoid Tano's laughter.
Major Dena Nadist used her elbows to lean against the large 3D map display table in the back of the Nazca-class ship's bridge. The ZAFT Gundam pilots, in their red officers uniforms, surrounded her while Captain Reyes stood rigidly opposite. The pilots chatted about what they done to their new suits, especially Ensign Riou Hajima and the new Assault modules on his Duel Gundam.
“I'm confident that the Strike Gundam is on that shuttle. If it were not then it would be out there escorting the shuttle.” Captain Reyes called to Dena over the noise, “Will you guys be quiet for a moment, please.”
All the pilots stopped talking and stood to attention immediately.
“Good. So how do you think we should proceed Major Nadist?”
Dena mull over the thought about the Strike Gundam but her mind switched back to Seig Garland. She was still astonished that she would meet him again so soon after he and she went separate paths, but now that they've met he was bound to figure out what she was going to do. Then again she might be overestimating the man. After all, even though they were family does not guarantee that he would also share her intellect.
“Major?” Captain Reyes woke her from her thoughts and forced her to think about the matter at hand.
“Yes I agree. What is their most probable destination?” She enquired while brushing her hair out of her facemask.
“Sector alpha dash two nine…here.” Captain Reyes leaned over the table and pointed at a cube section that was almost touching the virtual display of the Earth's atmosphere.
“Looks like they are heading for re-entry…” Ryan muttered. His face was young yet the expression it conveyed was one of utmost seriousness and professionalism that wouldn't usually be seen on someone who was only seventeen years old. His eyes were azure blue, as was his hair, which contrasted heavily with his red uniform.
“But that shuttle isn't built for re-entry.” Vivian, the only female pilot of the group, joined in.
“But their suits can, in theory. So if what you say is true it means that they would have to rendezvous with another transport. You pilots know more about re-entry points than me. Where would they be heading?” Captain Reyes always held his pilots in high esteem and valued their input greatly. It was always nice to get a teenager's point of view since being an adult usually meant that his thought process was moulded into shape by experience, which isn't always a good thing.
The pilots stared at the green 3D globe illuminating their faces. Their minds worked furiously over the mathematical equations that were taught to them during the years in the ZAFT Academy. The Coordinator mind is far more intricate and superior to that of a natural born person due to genetic manipulation to augment their physical and mental structures; it is that very reason why people who lived on Earth feared and despise them.
“Orb.” Akito Hidasaki, the Japanese decent pilot of the Buster Gundam, muttered out loud.
“The re-entry point would be this region.” Riou pointed at a section of the Earth several hundred kilometres south of Orb. His dyed platinum grey hair shone in the bridge's lights making it feel that his hair was actually made of metal, “But if they were trying to get somewhere then Orb would be the most obvious choice.”
“Or they think that they can retake Australia with just one MS.” Vivian mused.
“OK.” The Captain picked up a small metallic pole from the table that extended outwards into a long thin stick and used it to point at the 3D map, “This is the Oz space border. If they follow the New York Treaty, I expect those two Gaplants to break off when they reach here and the shuttle to stay on course. That is when we should attack. Any thoughts Major?”
Dena stared at the map while the three red dots showing the Titan shuttle and the two MS traversing through space.
“I agree, Captain. But I suggest that we send two suits to cross into Oz territory. Ryan's Aegis in mobile armour mode should be able to pass itself off as a freighter with Vivian's Blitz in Mirage Colloid mode should be able to fool their sensors before they can react.”
Ryan looked at Vivian and saw a demonic spark light up in her eyes that he sees every time she gets sent into battle. Her life has been changed so much after she lost her family in the Bloody Valentine Massacre. He had known her since they were in the academy, so he watched Vivian change bit by bit and was afraid of what she was going to become.
“Agreed.” Captain Reyes said in his usual raspy voice, “I want you two to keep heat and electronic emissions low. Obtaining the Strike Gundam is a priority but remember that our primary mission is to reinforce the African front, not this. So I expect both of you to come back, OK? All other units will be on standby. Get to your suits. You'll launch in approximately 10 minutes.”
“Sir!” The young pilots left the bridge one by one with Riou mumbling to Akito about not having the chance to show off the new Assault Shroud armour on the Duel Gundam.
“Ryan,” Dena said as Ryan reached the door, “Remember our talk. Keep the Strike Gundam pilot alive. If you can.”
Ryan saluted in response and left the bridge.
“You think they can handle the mission?” Captain Reyes asked Dena. He felt like a father towards those young pilots and resented the fact that ZAFT would send such young people to the front.
“They'll be fine.” Dena answered, “Ryan still sees the pilot of the Strike as a friend. If he can convince him to join us or capture the Strike then this war will end, swiftly.”
A sinister smile appeared on her face.
Marcus Kolin…Number 001.
Kuro and Terrance both resembled two very dirty military figurines. After their battle on Heliopolis both of them were too flustered to find Miss Kriss Sampson and not be killed by Orb's president, Mr Sampson, they didn't really see the need to change clothes or wash. Their faces were covered in ash and grease from trying to fix their Blue and Gold Frame Astray mobile suits while trying to fly a battered mobile suit transport that somehow is in good enough condition to re-enter the atmosphere. Well, at least they thought it could.
Kuro's jet-black hair was ruffled into what resembled a bushel of hollies while there was a large purple patch on Terrance's face, which was due to floating into a spinning spanner in 0-G conditions. Needless to say their spirits weren't too high, but it was lifted slightly when they managed to contact the Titan ship that found Miss Sampson. Now the President won't have their heads on a platter.
“I'm reading another shuttle on the scanners. It's Titan.” Terrance said to Kuro. All the thoughts about what the horrible things President would do to him and Kuro drained from his mind while a serene feeling filled his being.
“About time.” Kuro sighed in relief, “Wonder what would happen if we didn't bring Miss Sampson back?”
“I'd rather not think about it.” Terrance replied while clinging desperately to the only good feeling he had for the past few days.
Both pilots sat for a few seconds in comfort that the president wouldn't kill them before Kuro said something that sent a shiver down Terrance's spine.
“Something isn't right.”
“Oh god, what is it now?” Terrance's only shred of hope was pulled out of him, kicking and screaming, and was devoured as quickly as a hungry cat would eat a fish stick.
“Not sure.” Kuro replied leaning over to activate a laser communications channel. It isn't often that he has bad feelings about things but when he does, chaos usually ensues.
A sensor blip appeared on the shuttle's control panel. Marcus pushed a green button besides it and the display showed a rough image of an Orb mobile suit carrier with its specifications in a message box next to the sensor blip. Both Tano and Orphen's Gaplants returned to the ship just before they reached the Oz border. Marcus had always disliked the New York Treaty where Oz and Titan governments agreed to not send their MS into each other's territories; all it meant to Marcus was that their shuttle was open for an attack, especially when the they could be drawn into the Earth's atmosphere if they weren't careful.
“Looks like you're friends are here to pick you up.” Marcus said to Kriss and saw her face brighten instantly and stopped tugging at her normal suit. He was going to miss her even though they had just met about a week ago. A beeping noise meant that Marcus there was a laser communication being sent to his shuttle. It wasn't often that laser communications were used because of the possibility of being intercepted by enemy transmitters but he supposed that there wasn't really anything worth intercepting.
“This is Major Kuroshin Watanabe. Who am I speaking-Hey! You're that kid we on Heliopolis!”
Kriss palmed her face in her hand when she saw Kuro on the monitor. She knew Kuro was sloppy when it came to appearances but he looked ridiculous. Marcus wasn't too sure what to say.
“Er…yeah. That's me.” He replied.
“Is Miss Sampson with you?” Kuro leaned towards the monitor as if trying to peer into Marcus' shuttle.
“Yeah, I'm here.” Kriss answered without moving. She was trying to avoid eye contact with Kuro. Outside the shuttle the Orb MS carrier parked alongside Marcus' shuttle about two kilometres away to give both shuttles some manoeuvring room.
“OK, bring you're Red Astray over when you're ready.” Kuro's face flickered and disappeared from the screen.
“Looks like this is where we part.” Marcus turned to Kriss.
“Yeah, guess so.” Kriss suddenly felt awkward. She had never had any kind of feelings towards young men before but there was something about Marcus that made her face flush slightly every time she looked at him.
“You should get going.”
“Yeah.” She unbuckled her seatbelt and floated towards the shuttle's small hanger. Marcus, now utterly alone, sat silently holding the shuttle's control stick.
“Thanks for everything.”
Kriss had returned and pecked Marcus on the cheek. He turned his head and looked deeply into her eyes. Her orange iris glowed in the light of the cockpit and Marcus was mesmerised by them.
“Give me a call someday when you're on leave. You'll know where to find me.”
“Sure.” Marcus chuckled, “I'll see you around.”
Kriss floated over to the back of the cockpit and the door shut with a hiss. Torii fluttered around the cockpit as Kriss left. It's chirping reminded Marcus of the days before ZAFT came into his life.
Ryan cruised with his Aegis Gundam in mobile armour mode past several pieces of old UN ships that were destroyed during the Zeon. The mobile armour mode looked somewhat like a missile with multiple spikes protruding from various parts of the main fuselage. He was moving under the momentum he gained during launch to avoid the Aegis' heat signature showing up on anyone's sensors. The phase-shift armour of the Aegis Gundam was pink, which irritated Ryan slightly, but it was to be expected if they modelled wanted it to resemble the Red Comet from the Zeon War.
He had told Vivian to stay concealed until he attacked. Ryan didn't want to see Vivian hurt but during battle anything could happen so he'll have to see if she follows his orders.
He zoomed the exterior cameras in on Marcus' shuttle and the Orb MS carrier. The static filled image showed a red and white MS moving slowly from the shuttle to the MS carrier. Ryan couldn't tell whether it was the Strike Gundam but this was not time to be indecisive. If that isn't the Strike Gundam then it follows that Marcus is still on the shuttle.
Need to force him out.
Without hesitating, Ryan stepped down on the foot pedal and the engines of the Aegis Gundam burst into life, spewing a blue plume of superheated helium vapours and plunged towards them.
Beep beep beep.
“Oh shit.”
Kriss could hear nothing except for her own breathing, the low hum of the Red Astray's engines and the whirring of the main computer. The Earth encompassed the entire forward view screen and what a beautiful sight it was. The green shades of the endless fields, the brownness of the mountains and deserts while the deep blue oceans covered the rest of the stunning planet. It was a shame that people have lost sight of the Earth's own radiance, looking to the up at the stars and forgetting to treasure what they already have. It was quite disorientating for her because of the difficulty in judging distances when out in space, so she had to rely upon her computer for any and all readouts, even with the Minovsky interference.
The MS transport became larger and larger. Kriss saw it's bay door open and the other two Astray units, Blue and Gold, lay in several pieces inside. Her left view screen still displayed the multitude of stars in the universe but a twinkle in her peripheral vision caught her attention. Usually atmospheric turbulence creates the twinkling stars you see on Earth but she was still in outer space so what could it be?
“Marcus?” Kriss swung her Astray around. A pillar of red and blue light flew past right where Kriss would have been if she had kept moving.
“Oh God!” Kriss' mind suddenly froze. She was technically a civilian, even with her mobile suit piloting training with Kuro and Terry, she had a habit of freezing in abrupt situations. She would feel fine in mid-battle but when something like this happens a fear takes over which paralyses her entire body.
Her mobile suit suddenly lurched forwards, as if it was struck hard by another mobile suit. The force pushed her past the Kuro and Terrance's MS carrier and closer to the Earth's atmosphere. Suddenly the stars to her right began to fluctuate and the green glow from a beam sabre appeared out of nowhere. It came straight at the Astray, aimed directly at its cockpit. Kriss' fear prevented her from even screaming.
The automatic avoidance circuitry activated itself and the Red Astray boosted backwards and spun around to avoid the incoming beam sabre. Kriss' mind shrugged off the initial shock and broke out of its temporary paralysis, she wondered why the enemy didn't finish her off. It was then she saw the green streaks of beam energy from a beam rifle flash before her mobile suit.
“Kriss! Kriss! Wake up damn you!” It was Marcus.
“Kriss! You OK?” Marcus' voice crackled through the interference filled intercom. A quiet chirping could be heard in the background, “Torii, be quiet. Kriss, can you hear me?”
“Yea-yeah I'm-I'm fine.” She replied with a stutter.
The invisible enemy's armour shimmered and crackled with electricity in the starlight to reveal a sleek black mobile suit, the Blitz Gundam. The Mirage Colloid function gave it an overwhelming advantage in covert attacks by making it invisible to all sensors, even the naked eye, and it worked perfectly in this situation.
Throwing the Strike's shield to Kriss, Marcus drew both its beam sabres and ignited them. Their pink glow reflected off the Strike's white and blue armour.
“Kriss get going. I'll hold them off until you guys enter the atmosphere.”
“No! It's two against one. I'm not leavi-”
“GET GOING!” Marcus shouted through the intercom. He personally had no idea how he was going to handle both the Blitz and the Aegis Gundams but he knew one thing, Kriss' safety was more important than his.
The Blitz Gundam raised its right arm and fired the lancer darts with several beams from a shield like rifle that was mounted to it. It then boosted towards him, drawing and activating its beam sabre in the process. Marcus pushed the Aile pack mounted on the Strike Gundam's back to maximum thrust and charged at the Blitz. He dodged the green beams while letting the lancer darts hit the Strike's armour. The Phase Shift armour would protect the Strike Gundam from physical attacks but the beams would burn straight through. The two suits met halfway.
Marcus swung one beam sabre from above the Strike's head and followed by a thrust forwards from the other one. He had hoped that the pilot of the Blitz would shift to the left. Instead the Blitz's reverse thrusters came to life and propelled it backwards, just far enough to avoid Marcus' attack, simultaneously firing it's grappling anchor mounted on its other arm. The claw-like anchor slammed against the Strike's head and clamped tightly around it.
The cameras within the Strike's cockpit fizzled and cracked with static. The horrible screeching of metal meeting metal filled Marcus' ears. From the still active cameras, Marcus saw the Blitz Gundam pointed its beam rifle and fired. The blast took an entire chunk out of the Strike's leg, setting of various alarms and blowing out several minicomputers. The shock from the blast pushed the Strike farther away from the Blitz but the wire from its grappling anchor remained intact.
Suddenly the Blitz Gundam was jerked forwards as it ran out of wire. Seizing the opportunity, Marcus let loose the Igelstellung cannons mounted on its head. The golden anchor exploded, leaving a ball of flames where the Strike's head was. The force of the explosion pushed the Strike closer to the Earth. The Strike's head emerged undamaged from the smoke but a red glow began appeared on the Strike's back.
Dammit, how the hell did I get so close to the atmosphere!
Firing the Aile boosters, Marcus pushed the Strike Gundam forwards trying to escape the gravity, his eyes focused solely on the black Gundam in front of him.
A bright flash behind the Blitz Gundam made Marcus gulp hard. As if time had slowed, he watched helplessly as the black mobile suit spin aside to reveal a blue and red beam fired from the Aegis Gundam's Scylla cannon. There was no time to dodge it and without his shield, the beam would vaporise the Strike's entire torso.
The beam struck the Strike's shield. Kriss' Astray somehow managed to sneak in from below both mobile suits and block the beam. The red shield, though looked intact, was in fact pretty useless as the mega particles seared millions of microscopic holes on its surface meaning that it could crumble at any time.
Before Marcus could say anything further, the beam pushed the Astray against the Strike Gundam, flinging them both down into the atmosphere. Marcus shouted to Kriss to activate her thrusters but he got no reply.
She must be out cold. Alright I suppose I'll have to get us both out of this.
He pushed the Strike's verniers to maximum and began to accelerate. A frenzied beeping gave him some very bad news. He was past the point of no return. This is where even the maximum thrust of the Strike Gundam was applied, the mobile suit would not be able to escape the atmosphere.
Both mobile suits glowed red as the friction super heated them. To make things worse, the Strike's Phase-Shift generator was almost out of power. If he were to survive re-entry and landing, he had better think of something, fast.
Ryan watched from his Aegis Gundam as the two mobile suits plunged into the atmosphere. He griped the mobile suit controls tightly; his mind conflicted. If the two suits were to go through the atmosphere then the impact with the oceans would kill them both instantly. It would solve ZAFT's problem of the rouge Coordinator and also avenge the deaths of all of Ryan's comrades on Heliopolis. But Marcus was on the Strike, someone who he had promised to be friends no matter what.
It was friendship versus duty.
“Vivian, head back to the ship! I'm going after those two.” Ryan said without hesitation.
“What? Why?” She protested.
“Just do as I say! Ignore the Orb transport. We don't want to drag them into this war.” Ryan's Aegis Gundam sped towards the Earth's atmosphere at a fantastic speed.
“Ryan!” Vivian called out but her reply was only static from the atmosphere.
Kuro and Terrance both watched the entire battle through the MS carrier's view-screen. They wanted to help but the Blue and Gold Frame Astrays were useless, plus the ship's starboard engines were damaged by the initial beam attack from the Aegis Gundam. Although they were not hit directly, the beam was so close that stray particles made millions of holes in the mobile suit carrier's engines. They could only watch as Kriss' Astray and Marcus' Strike enter the atmosphere with the Aegis Gundam chasing after them.
“The President's gonna kill us, isn't he?” Terrance asked pessimistically.
“Yes. Yes he is.” Kuro answered.
“Kuro, have I told you how much I hate you?” Terrance sighed.
The reddish glow dissipated from the outer armour of both the Astray and the Strike Gundam as they entered the lower atmosphere. Now the easy part was over, Marcus has to think of a way to slow down both suits before they crash into the ocean or worse, slam straight into an island.
Swing the system control keyboard around the back of his chair, Marcus began tapping furiously at the keys which brought up maps and equations on a small screen to his right. He pressed the return key several times and the multiple lines superimposed themselves over the small map with an arrow pointed to a large island.
“Great.” Marcus muttered, as the nearest civilisation was almost a thousand kilometres away and no one would be able to help them.
Think that he might as well give it a try he pressed his left foot down on the reverse peddle. The engines activated, spluttered slightly and then stopped. The display above Marcus made a continuous tone that meant the Phase-Shift armour was depleted.
The once bright armour that covered the Strike Gundam faded to a dull grey as the armour deactivated itself. The Strike Gundam and Kriss' Astray was in freefall. If only Kriss was conscious, she would be able to use the Astray's thrusters…
“Marcus!” Ryan's voice came through the radio.
Marcus head whipped around to his still active sensors. Ryan's Aegis Gundam was right behind him.
“Take my hand!” The Aegis Gundam closed in on the Strike Gundam and reached out its arm.
Marcus hesitated.
“Look,” Ryan sounded annoyed “Just forget that we're on different sides. If you don't want to slam into the ocean then grab on!”
Kriss' safety was Marcus' priority and it was his mission to ensure that she gets home in one piece. He really didn't have a choice.
Pushing what's left of the power stored in the batteries out, Marcus wrapped the Strike's arm around the Red Astray while extending the other one and gripped the Aegis' hand.
“Yes sir. The Strike Gundam has descended to Earth.” Vivian's voice was filled with disappointment and resentment. Her transmission was filled with static by Minovsky particles but it was still discernable to Captain Reyes.
“Roger that, Ensign Oria.” There was a sense of urgency in Captain Reye's voice, “It looks like the Titan ship has found us and is on an intercept course. Return to the ship as soon as possible. There has been a huge Oz counterattack in Egypt. Our forces there need you. We have to leave Ryan.”
Vivian was dumbstruck.
“We can't leave him! He's going to be along in ene-” Her transmission was clearing up as the Blitz Gundam moved closer to the ship.
“Yes we can.” Dena interrupted, “It was his choice to go after the Strike Gundam so it is up to him to get back. Now get back here before we leave you with the Titans.”
Vivian narrowed her eyes at the major, her breathing deepened in hate.
Almost instantaneously, Marcus saw the Aegis' thrusters come to life. The blue plume of vapours poured out of its verniers as he tried to slow their descent. The distance readout decreased rapidly on computer panel but their speed was gradually slowing.
10km before we impact…Ryan needs to reduce speed to at least 20m/s…
The afterburners of the Aegis Gundam flared and as it struggled to fly upwards. The speedometer readings were encouraging:
“Almost…!” Marcus strained under the intense G-Forces that his body is put under. He can only imagine what it must feel for Ryan. His eyes shifted to the altitude display that showed 2.395km while the island was zooming in on his view screen.
A creaking sound sent a shiver down Marcus' spine as he watched the hands of the Aegis and the Strike began to slide apart. A scraping sound echoed throughout the Strike's cockpit as the hands of the mobile suits slid apart while a tremendous gust of wind pushed them apart further. Marcus closed his eyes and wished that they had slowed down enough so that they won't end up as a crater on the island that he predicted they would land on.
The Strike Gundam hit the shallow waters of the island, hard. The seatbelts that held Marcus tore under the strain. He was thrown from the chair into the cockpit's main view screen.
Warmth, the kind that you felt when you know that you have parents who love you. That warmth would fill your heart and soul with hope, making you believe that you can achieve anything.
Marcus slowly pealed his heavy eye lids open. The room he was in was awash with orange light from a small fire in front of him. The smell of burning wood filled his nostrils while the warm glow of the flame made him want to go back to sleep. Marcus raised his head and glanced around the unknown place. There were several rocks, bathed in the colour of the flame, were scattered across the dusty and uneven floor. He felt something tickling his ankles while grains of sand rubbed against his foot.
Marcus turned his head slowly around the place and his eyes fell upon a red uniform. His brain didn't register it at first but then it snapped to attention to identify it as a ZAFT pilot uniform.
“Agh!” Marcus yelled out in surprise. One arm automatically pushed his body off the ground and the other reached for the gun on his waist. His fingers reached into the holster and felt nothing. His hands began patting the holster, trying to find the gun. His eyes were pinned on the ZAFT pilot.
It took his mind several seconds before he recognised the pilot was Ryan. Marcus didn't recognise him at first because his hairstyle has changed but his face still remained the same. Even though Marcus knew Ryan was a friend, he had no idea what the years that he had spent apart from him would do to Ryan. He had to be cautious.
“Looking for this?” Ryan held up the gun Marcus was searching for.
“Yeah…” Marcus stopped his rummage of his but still remained alert in case Ryan does decide to shoot him.
“Don't worry,” Ryan tossed the gun back to Marcus, “I threw the ammo into the sea as a precaution. Plus it's waterlogged so it's useless anyway.”
Marcus caught the gun and shook it from side to side. Sure enough, the sound of water came from within the gun's inner mechanisms. Letting out a disappointed sigh he placed the gun down him, he then realised that Kriss was snoring gently beside him. He turned to get a good look at the room.
It was actually a cave. Algae was growing along the grey walls of the cave while golden sand covered the floors with shoots of grass sprouting out from beneath it. There was a large hole, not more than 10 meters deeper into the cave, where water was pouring in from outside. Marcus felt a cold breeze whip around the cave and instinctively knew that the main entrance was around the corner of the wall he was leaning against. The sound of the crackling fire was dwarfed by the sound of heavy rain outside the cave and water dripping through the hole. A low rumble of thunder from outside echoed slightly in the cave.
Ryan and Marcus watched each other for the slightest sign of movement. It was then Marcus remembered that there was a small dagger hidden within his normal suit.
“Never thought you liked blue hair.” Marcus spoke while his right hand began inching its way slowly down his leg.
“Guess people change.” Ryan replied. His voice was the same that Marcus had remembered just a little bit coarser than before. Marcus still remembered the brown haired boy whom he left behind on Side 6. Ryan's face still retained that warm inner self but it was now hidden thanks to the war between ZAFT and the Earth. He had always admired Ryan, some how always been able to surpass him in grade school and also having an uncanny skill and knowledge in robotics. Torii suddenly flew in through the entrance of the cave and landed on Marcus' shoulder. It was dripping with rainwater but a few shakes of its wings dried it out and sprayed Marcus' face with water.
“You still kept him after all this time? I'm really surprised that its batteries have lasted this long.” Ryan smiled at the bird's antics. Marcus wiped his face with his left hand and dried them on the fabric of his normal suit.
“I had to replace his batteries every eight months or so. It's not really easy to find them in this war.” Marcus right hand felt the dagger's handle inside the normal suit fabric under a Velcro seal.
He hesitated, wondering whether it was worth it to gain control of the situation but his training took over. Pumping his legs on the rock wall behind him, Marcus pushed his entire body off the ground while his right hand tore open the Velcro seams and pulled out the dagger. As he expected, he caught Ryan off guard. He easily got through his defences and pressed the dagger to Ryan's throat. A sense of achievement and self-confidence washed over him, which disappeared at the same instant when he felt something cold on his neck. Torii was fluttering around the cave chirping loudly but the sound of rain falling drowned it out.
“You're not the only one with a sharp toy.” Ryan's voice suddenly became sinister. Both of their eyes met and it was as if they could see into each other's minds.
“Never thought you'd be this fast,” Ryan continued but the sinister tone was gone, “Guess the Titans trained you well but…”
Marcus pushed the harder against Ryan's neck waiting for him to finish his sentence.
A sharp pain in Marcus' crotch almost made him vomit. Ryan's boots connected sharply with his groin. His grip loosened on the dagger as the pain spread across his body. It felt like a dream when Ryan pushed Marcus off him, pinned his right hand to the floor and shoved his own dagger to Marcus' face before he could get up.
“Nice try, Marcus.”
Marcus groaned in pain, both physical and mentally. No matter how hard he tried he still can't beat Ryan.
“Put the dagger down.” A third voice echoed in the cave. Both of them turned their heads towards the voice. Kriss was holding the pistol that Marcus had put on the floor and pointing it directly at Ryan's head. Her hands were shaking.
Both Marcus and Ryan knew that as long as Kriss shook like that she would never hit anything, plus the gun was useless too.
“Umm, that gun…” Ryan pointed at the gun with his free hand.
“Shut up!” Kriss shouted before he could finish. She tried to keep the gun level but it was difficult; she had never used a gun before in her life and it was much heavier than she had thought.
“You really shouldn't…” Ryan urged again.
“SHUT UP! If you don't put that dagger down I'm gonna shoot!” She was still groggy from her sleep, which made it even more difficult to aim. Marcus, who could still feel Ryan's blade, remained silent. He wasn't really sure what to do.
Kriss' forefinger stroked the trigger and tightened. She didn't want to kill anyone but if it would save Marcus then it will be worth it. She shut her eyes and pulled the trigger.
A splurging sound began to come out of the barrel of the gun. Kriss opened her eyes only to see muddy water drain out of barrel. It was followed by a loud popping sound, and then everything went quiet. All that could be heard was the rain and the chirping from Torii who had perched on a ledge above Kriss.
All three of them remained silent as the last drip of mud from the barrel fell to the ground. One of them began to snigger. No one knew who it was but at that moment the tension broke. They laughed and the sound of laughter resonated within the cave.
A small ember flew off from the fire that burned in front of Marcus, Ryan and Kriss. The daggers and gun was piled up on the far side of the cave, basking in the glow of the fire. Ryan threw a damp twig onto the fire when he saw the ember land at his feet. Rain still poured through the hole but it really didn't bother them.
They were tired. Piloting mobile suits isn't like a machine in an arcade. The G-force that would be weighed upon a pilot requires them to be in top physical condition, but sometimes even that would not be enough. A pilot's mind would have to be focused solely on the battle, trying to survive while trying to kill others. It isn't easy and the smallest mistake would cost you your life.
“You know, Marcus,” Ryan said over the clamour of the drops of rain hitting the ground, “I always found you to be the luckiest guy I've met. First you manage to survive till now, get such a powerful mobile suit and get a beautiful girlfriend, who happens to be the daughter of the President of Orb. I don't know how you do it.”
Both Marcus and Kriss blushed at Ryan's comment about them being a couple.
“We-we're not together.” Kriss blurted out.
“But you'd make a nice couple.” Ryan took a swig out of a water ration pack he brought from the Aegis Gundam.
Marcus looked over at Kriss' face. He had never thought about how events turn out the way they were. He never believed in destiny and fate, but then again he had been getting a spell of good luck recently, if you can call it good luck. Maybe it's something to do with Yin and Yang, he thought, when you have good luck some bad luck has got to happen to cancel it out. Maybe the Yang is trying to make up for all the tragedy in his life.
“Can't we send out a communications signal for someone to rescue us?” Kriss asked to both pilots.
“No. I couldn't get any signals through the electronic interference of the storm. I tried to send a signal through your MS's communications relay but both of them seem to be broken. I didn't touch anything else, I promise.” Ryan really didn't touch anything else because he respected Marcus too much to do it but he felt that he still doesn't believe him, “However, after the storm clears I can only send messages to ZAFT and the Orb Alliance. If I send a message to the Titans, I could be court-martialled. I hope you understand Marcus.”
“Don't worry about it.” Marcus nodded and turns to Kriss, “Is there any way that I could come to Orb or use an Orb transmitter to call for a Titan transport?”
“Well…Yes, if I ask Kuro and Terry enough I'm sure that they'll give you authorisation.” Kriss said hesitantly. The thought of Marcus asking her for help with the possibility that he could come with her to Orb made her heart pump faster. He face began to flush.
“Well then that's settled.” Ryan said while shifting his legs to another position, trying to make himself comfortable on the sandy floor.
“How is your Grandma?” Marcus asked, changing the subject.
Ryan looked up at Marcus, tucked his legs up to his chest and then looked down again.
“She died. She was killed on Jenius 7 when the nuclear missile hit.”
Ryan's words hit Marcus like a punch.
Ryan's grandmother was like his own grandmother. For as long as he could remember, Ryan's grandmother was the kindest person he had known.
She was a kind person who would have never shown a frown even if he and Ryan had done something wrong. Once he and Ryan was playing in her garden and accidentally trampled her gardenias. He had expected her to shout at them but instead she just smiled at them but Marcus saw sadness in her eyes and he knew he had hurt her. And now he saw that same sadness in Ryan's eyes. But now she was gone. In a flash of light and she was gone. All because he pulled the trigger. He wanted to tell Ryan what he had done but his mouth and throat refused to move. He felt like a coward. His eyes shifted over to Kriss, wondering whether she would let out his secret but she kept quiet.
“I'm sorry.” Was all he could muster.
“Don't worry about it. But I really miss her. I still remember how she was the closest thing I had to a mum. Plus you know what my father is like, always off on business. I think she basically replaced both of them.” Ryan said with a note of nostalgia in his voice.
“What happened to your mother?” Kriss asked and suddenly regretted it, “I'm sorry. I'm being insensitive.”
“No, it's OK. She died giving birth to me. I think that was why my father didn't really get close to me, because I reminded him too much of her. He's a strong man, but he was weak it came to the matters of the heart; I think that he was afraid that he couldn't live up to my mother's expectations and that was why he never really got close to me.”
“Oh.” Kriss said quietly. She had been born into a loving family who still loves her today, so she couldn't really understand what it was like to grow up without parents. But what she heard about Marcus' parents being murdered by ZAFT and Ryan's father practically abandoning him, she realised how tough it must have been for them.
Ryan let out a small laugh.
“What's so funny?” Marcus looked up curiously.
“Just think about life. Isn't it ironic I always told you how much I hated war or any kind of fighting somehow becomes the leader of a group of elite ZAFT soldiers fighting against my best friend?” His grin suddenly disappeared, “I joined the ZAFT military because I wanted to protect my grandparents. Couldn't do a thing to protect them.”
“I don't hate you, Marcus, for what happened but I do hate the people you work for and that's why I've gotta kill you on the battlefield. Ever feel like that God is playing with us, pitting us against each other? If the world is like this then I wonder whether it's worth living in it.”
“Maybe. But I suppose it can't be helped.” Marcus threw one of the twigs near him onto the fire, “We have to play with the hand that life dealt us, no matter what the outcome. Someone once told something that kept me going, kept me want to carry on living. He said `Even if you've lost all hope and faith in others, but if they even have a minute amount of hope and faith in you then you have a life worth living'.”
“That's quite corny isn't it?” Ryan said back with a smile.
“Well, he's alive isn't he?” Kriss retorted at Ryan's remark.
“I suppose.” The tone of sadness returned to his voice, just like when he was talking about his grandmother. Kriss looked around at both Marcus and Ryan only to see them both sat curled up with the same miserable expressions on their faces.
“Hey I know!” She moved closer to the fire and stood up on her knees and beckoned to the both of them to move closer. Marcus and Ryan both looked at each other in confusion, unsure of what Kriss is trying to do, they complied anyway. All three of them were on both of their knees around the small fire.
“Right,” Kriss said while putting her hand over the fire, “When I was small I used to go camping with a friends. My friends and I would put our hands over the fire and promise to be friends no matter what the world throws at us. Even though I only known Marcus for about a week and you for an hour, I feel that we could be friends. One from Orb, one from the Titans and one from ZAFT. What do you say?”
“Again that sounds so corny.” Ryan complained.
“We had something like that when we were small, remember?” Marcus pointed out. The time when he moved to another colony cylinder on Side 6, the first time he had been away from Ryan. Even though the cylinders were practically next to each other (around 80km to give room for the spin of the colonies and any possible movement) but it seemed like light-years for Marcus and Ryan. He put his hand over Kriss'.
Seeing that both of them had agreed, Ryan couldn't really say no. He heaved a sigh and put his hand over Marcus'.
“Friends. No matter what happens.” Kriss' voice sounded firm and strong. Marcus was surprised that her usual soft voice disappeared for a moment. He supposed that she had to be since she was the daughter of a President and meeting dignitaries from around the world required her to have inner strength and character.
“FRIENDS!” All three of them shouted simultaneously. Their voices echoed throughout the small cave. All three of them gazed at each other, etching this moment into their memories.
“I still say this feels childish.” Ryan said all of a sudden. Laughter returned to the cave.
The cave was dark with the fire being out. Rain still poured through the hole inside the cave but the rocks retained their heat, which kept them warm. Ryan went out to brave the storm because nature called.
Marcus and Kriss leaned against each other with Kriss' head resting on Marcus' shoulder.
“Kriss, you awake?”
“Yes.” She said drowsily.
“Why didn't you tell Ryan about me and the Bloody Valentine Incident?”
“Cause I don't want to see you hurt.”
“I wouldn't have blamed you.”
“Hm. But friendships are important, especially during war. You got to have friends to have faith and hope in you for you to carry on living, right?”
“Heh. Yeah.”
“Anyway, what kind of a girlfriend would I be if I destroyed your friendship?”
“Girlfriend!” He exclaimed loudly.
“Yes and you're my boyfriend. You're kinda cute, charming in your own way and you have a nice butt.
“You afraid of dating the daughter of the Orb President?”
“Well, no, it's not that…”
“Then its settled then. You're taking me out. I know a place in the city's commercial centre you can take me.”
“I can't, I'm in the Titan military, remember? I can't just go AWOL, I'll probably get shot or something.”
“If I beg Kuro and Terry, they might be able to get you onto Orb soil for a few days. Besides, isn't your Strike Gundam made partly by Nord Industries? I'm sure they'll want to have a look over it while you're there.”
“Maybe, but I don't want to trouble you.” He said, looking up at the dark cave ceiling.
“You're making excuses. Is it because…you don't like me?” She said with a hurt voice.
“No! It's not like that!”
“Then you do like me.”
“What? Wait! No! Aaaa…you're as bad as Tano.”
“You're so funny, you know that don't you Marcus?”
“Ugh…whatever you say, Kriss.” It was a brilliant manoeuvre. He was outflanked and his forces completely wiped out. He sighed deeply. He could feel Kriss' warmth through her normal suit, her rhythmic breathing and the weight of her head on his shoulder. She was asleep. Kriss' warmth washed over Marcus. It was a feeling he felt when he was with his parents, when he was with someone who cared and loved him. He realised that he might really be in love. Those thoughts drifted within his head while he, too, dozed off.
Torii flew around with a few white seagulls in the blue sunlit sky. A few clouds drifted by the island where Marcus, Kriss and Ryan had crashed on but there was no sigh of yesterday's storm.
Ryan, who had rolled up the sleeves of his normal suit due to the temperature being in the 80's, fiddled with the communications equipment in the Aegis Gundam with Kriss in the cockpit too trying to contact Orb. Marcus, on the other hand, was sat on the beach about from the pinkish red Aegis Gundam. When he checked up on the Strike Gundam, he found that the some components in the main engine and some of the outer verniers had melted during re-entry. That meant that the Strike Gundam was quite useless, unless someone fixes it. He has no choice but to go with Kriss.
“Yo! Marcus, we got a signal!” Ryan popped his head out of the cockpit. Marcus acknowledged it with a thumbs up sign. He was wondering what he would say to Ryan when they part again.
“Marcus I'm going to ask you one last time, come back with me to ZAFT. They'll treat you much better than you are being treated in the Titans. At least you'll be with your own kind.”
Ryan and Marcus sat alone on the beach. Kriss was off giving her Red Astray a good diagnostic. She had no idea on how to do it but Ryan and Marcus started her off and now she was ploughing through the mobile suit's computer.
“Aren't we all human?” Marcus said. He didn't mean for it to come out so sarcastically or philosophically but he didn't like the way that people treated normally born humans who didn't undergo genetic manipulation and those who did as different species.
“I-I just can't.”
“Why?” Ryan wanted his friend to join him out of two reasons. One because it was part of his orders and two because he didn't want to fight Marcus again on the battlefield. And knowing the kind of mobile suits that they were piloting and the speed at which this conflict was spreading, they would eventually face each other again.
“Because I owe someone. I promised them something. That's why I can't leave.”
“I see.” Both of them stood up and looked at each other. Marcus put forward his hand. Ryan took it and shook it firmly. Torii was flying overhead chirped happily.
“Do you like Torii?”
“Yeah, it's great.”
“It's a shame that you're not coming with me.”
“I know.”
“Remember our little oath with Kriss.”
“Look after Torii and tell Kriss I said goodbye.”
“I will. See you around Ryan.”
“Yeah, see ya Marcus.”