Mobile Suit Gundam Fan Fiction / Gundam Wing Fan Fiction / Gundam SEED Fan Fiction ❯ Mobile Suit Gundam GGeneration: Dreams ❯ Chapter 10: Orb's Children ( Chapter 10 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Chapter 10: Orb's Children
Marcus looked down from his open cockpit hatch and wondered what all the noise was about. The entire maintenance crew of the hangar dropped what they were doing and walked over to admire the beaten up Strike Gundam. Some of them shaking their head while others whistled in admiration. A large and well-built mech-man in an orange jumpsuit moved a mechanical platform to the height of the Strike Gundam's cockpit and secured it against the fuselage. Once the platform had stopped moving, he leapt over the controls and sprinted all the way to Marcus' open cockpit hatch.
“WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO IT?!” He hollered, his eyes assessing each scratch and dent on the Strike's armour.
“Err…” Marcus climbed out of the cockpit, unsure as to what he should say.
“Don't you `err' me,” The mechanic was becoming hostile, “Tell me why the hell is my precious Strike is in this state?”
Marcus went through a long-winded retelling of the battle on Heliopolis, the battle near the Jenius 7 remains and the fall through the atmosphere. When he had climbed off the platform and down to ground level, the other mech-men gathered quickly surrounded him, listening intently to what he had to say. With each description of the Strike being hit or scraped the entire crowd would recoil in horror.
“Alright.” The man who seemed like the head mechanic said shaking his head, “I guess that this kind of damage couldn't be helped during times of war. Just tell me that the other four GATs are OK.”
Marcus hadn't the heart to tell him that the Duel, Blitz, Aegis and Buster had been taken by ZAFT. He remained silent but the head mechanic saw right through him.
“So the rumours were true.” The group of mechanics began murmuring amongst themselves. The machines that they put their souls into were stolen.
“Well at least tell me you brought back the Striker Packs.”
“Striker Packs?” Marcus said, confused. He knew that the Aile configuration for the Strike Gundam was a Striker Pack but Packs?
The head mechanic grabbed Marcus by the collar. He was almost a foot taller than Marcus so his strong arms lifted Marcus off the ground.
“What kind of pilot are you?” He shouted angrily, “How the hell could you not have known about the other Striker Packs?”
“I-I-I-” Marcus was now surrounded by irritated mechanics; all of them were bigger than him. Even his Co-ordinator strength and reflexes wouldn't help him now.
“What are you people doing now?” A voice called behind the crowd of mech-men. Marcus peered over the head mechanic's shoulder and saw a man in a deep red suit march across from the other side of the maintenance bay. He looked a little over 20 and was of East Asian decent; his jet-black hair was gelled down making his fringe looked like the front of a cap. The head mechanic dropped Marcus and gave him a nasty look before turning to the man in the suit.
“Nothing, Mr Saga.” The head mechanic said gloweringly.
“That better be the case, Holland-san, because this young man is to be treated like a VIP on Nord Industries' property and on Orb soil. Understood? Now get back to work. I expect the Strike to be functional again in 24 hours.” Mr Saga raised an eyebrow.
The group gave a collective yes and went back to their work.
“I have to apologise for their behaviour. They tend to be somewhat passionate about their mobile suits. I'm Hayate Saga by the way. One of the many vice presidents of Nord Industries.” He extended a hand to Marcus.
“Lieutenant Junior Grade Marcus Kolin. 154th Titan Mechanised Team. Pleased to meet you Mr Saga.” Marcus said shaking his hand.
“Please, call me Hayate or Hayate-kun. I don't like it when people call me Mr Saga. It separates me apart from my father, Marcus-kun.” Hayate led Marcus down the platform and made their way through the busy maintenance bay. Some of the engineers were already looking at the plans of the Strike Gundam and gathering tools for repairs.
“Very efficient.” Marcus thought out loud, unbuttoning his pilot's suit.
“The best of the best.” Hayate commented with a hint of pride in his voice. Marcus glanced at the Hayate as they made their way through the building. He had heard the name Saga somewhere before but he couldn't place his finger on it.
“If you don't mind me asking, Mr-I mean Hayate, but is your father involved in Orb politics?” He asked, his curiosity getting the best of him.
“Oh?” Hayate looked at Marcus, amazed that a Titan pilot would bother to keep up with the political climate of Orb, “Yes. My father, Akira Hayate, is the Vice President of Orb.”
A family of vice presidents? Guess a whole family can hit a glass ceiling.
“I should thank you for bringing Kriss back in one piece.” He continued, “It's not everyday that your fiancée goes out into space and gets herself blown up, right?”
She's his fiancée?! Marcus tripped over his own feet and fell flat on his face. Hayate rushed forwards and picked him up off the floor. Marcus' face flushed with embarrassment. For a moment his face was the same colour as his hair. In the confusion, Marcus didn't see the evil grin on Hayate's face.
“You alright?” He asked while dusting off Marcus' uniform.
Marcus had no idea that Kriss was engaged. Since he met her on Heliopolis, she had never showed any signs that she already had a man in her life. If Kriss made a move on him and told Hayate, he would probably hunt Marcus down and rip him from limb to limb. Being a Vice-President of one of the largest intercontinental and intercolonial companies, Hayate could probably kill Marcus and no one would ever his body.
The two of them stepped out of the maintenance hangar and into the Nord Industries' main complex. From Marcus' perspective, the complex looked like something out of a science fiction novel. The buildings were sleekly designed and painted white. Trees, grass and bushels of flowers littered the grounds, making it seem like futuristic Eden. The warm orange glow of the setting sun made the place seem almost magical.
“We get this kind of reaction a lot.” Hayate said, pushing shut Marcus' hanging jaw. Marcus' face glowed red again.
Walking around serene complex made Marcus miss the way that his mother always kept their garden. Not a single weed could be seen or a stray flower growing where it shouldn't be. He always loved the way that she would smile at him sitting on the swing in the backyard. Her smile had always comforted him whenever he needed it. He would never be able to see that smile again, something that was so cruelly taken from him by ZAFT.
Their short walk led them to a building with a giant protruding dome on the roof. The plaque on the wall said `Titan Embassy'.
“The Orb military have contacted a nearby Titan naval vessel. The patrol has relayed our message to Titan Central Command. Your superiors are waiting for you to call them.” Hayate stopped outside the embassy doors, “You can make your call from here. The receptionist will tell you what to do. Once you're done, just speak to her again and she'll tell you where you'll be spending the night. I really have to go. It's been a pleasure meeting you.”
Marcus watched Saga walk off. He couldn't shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen between him and Kriss.
The room that the receptionist led him to was a small conference room with a large view screen built into the wall. Tapping on the panel beside the screen like the she told him, it sprang into life showing an old man.
The old man wore a black Titan uniform with several medals pinned to the breast pocket. The insignias on his shoulders bore the rank of a Major General while the sparkling Titan Military symbol shone on his red cap.
“Marcus, it's good to see you're OK.” He said cheerfully. Marcus saluted and stood to attention immediately. The General nodded and motioned for him to take a seat.
“Likewise, General Thomson.”
Major General Thomson took off his cap and wiped off the perspiration off his forehead. He was one of the many greying Generals in the Titan's military, but compared to the others, he held more influence than most during decision-making. It was his brilliant strategies that held off the initial ZAFT assault on the Caribbean islands. Furthermore, he held off a ZAFT invasion of Greenland with half the number of troops than ZAFT had. Marcus admired the old man for his courage and owed him almost everything. If he had never met the Major General during his graduation piloting exams, a Brigadier General then, Marcus would probably never been allowed on the combat roster.
“You look like you could do with some rest.” The General pointed out, noticing the bags under Marcus' eyes
Marcus opened his eyes wide and tried to shake off the drowsiness, “Sorry, sir. It's just been a hectic few days. I haven't had much sleep.”
General Thomson smiled. Marcus often wondered why he received such kindness from someone that barely knew him over a year ago but those questions disappeared whenever he and the General spoke.
“I understand. At least you can have time to have some R&R now that you're in Orb.”
“Excuse me, sir?”
R&R in Orb? Marcus thought, trying to figure out what the General meant.
“We're about to conduct a major operation in a few days, Marcus, and the logistics can't spare a MS transport just yet. So I'm dispatching the transport with Tano Hagane and Orphen Enohpiris to Orb. They're currently having a medical check up and when they are done they will com-”
General Thomson began coughing uncontrollably. Marcus shot up from his seat wanting to help him, but then realising that there was really nothing he could do. This wasn't the first time that Marcus had seen the Major General like this.
When they first met. Thomson was interviewing Marcus for combat duty selections. Halfway through the General began coughing. When Marcus helped him swallow down some of his medicine, the General looked directly into Marcus' eyes.
“Your have very kind eyes; lonely, but kind. Are you sure you want to go on combat duty?” He saw Marcus nod, “Very well.” From there, the General had been in continuous contact with Marcus through hand written letters and short video calls.
He watched the General take a swig of his medicine from a small bottle and his coughing slowly subsided.
“I'm sorry, Marcus. The doctor said that the medicine would help in the short term, but the long-term cure is still in development. Anyway, the transport will reach in Orb in two days. If all goes according to plan, it should arrive at 0730 on the 19th.” He reached for a piece of paper on his table, “I have new orders for you.”
“When you have been retrieved by the transport, you are to be temporarily stationed on the TNS Ikari of the 2nd Naval Fleet. From there you will be briefed on the aforementioned operation. After you have successfully completed your mission you, Tano Hagane and Orphen Enohpiris are to be assigned to the 13th Mobilised Squad.”
“You mean the Special Ops team, sir?” Marcus choked out in surprise.
“Yes, that's the one.” Thomson smiled again at Marcus' expression, “You have two days to get some R and R. Just get the Strike Gundam there with all the necessary equipment. That will be all, Lieutenant Kolin. Have a good time in Orb.”
Marcus stood up and saluted. General saluted back and the screen went blank.
Major General Thomson's office seemed like it came from the early 20th century. Apart from the computer on his desk and a large video screen built into the wall opposite to where he was sitting, everything else looked like antiques. The oak tables and chairs; several mahogany cabinets filled with the forgotten classics such as Shakespeare and Chaucer; and even small marble statue of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, weaving, crafts, and war, sitting on his desk. Everyone who stepped into his office would think that they had gone back in time.
When Marcus' face disappeared from his view screen, Thomson let out a sigh of relief but his troubles weren't over yet; there was another man in the room. The man was leaning against the corner of the office. The chandelier overhead chandelier shone off his Titan issue black overalls and red cap. Even though the man only had the rank of Colonel, being in the Titan's Military Research and Intelligence Department made him more powerful than a Lieutenant General.
“Are you sure that's a good idea, General?” The man looked up. He had a full beard and piercing grey eyes.
Thomson stood up and walked over to his window, “He would be more beneficial to us once he has rested, Kings.”
“I would feel so much better if 002A and B are there with him.” Vladimir Kings adjusted his cap and put on a pair of white gloves, “Something could go wrong in Orb.”
“I assure you, nothing will go wrong.” Thomson said. He looked out into the courtyard below. The street lamps below had just switched on and illuminated the Titan soldiers patrolling the grounds. In the distance was the Cape Canaveral Mass Driver. There was an eerie silence as the Mass Driver was not in operation on that day due to essential maintenance.
“I hope you know what you are doing, General Thomson. If anything happens to 001, it will be your responsibility.” Kings walked over to the office door and turned the handle, “And I hope you are willing to accept the consequences. I have to check up on 002A and 002B.”
The door clicked shut before Thomson could say anything.
Damn it Vladimir, they are human beings too!
Tano and Orphen both convulsed violently on their beds. Their arms and legs were tied to the bed so that the doctors could get to them without getting hurt.
“How long has it been since the subjects' last treatment?” Kings stood in front of a one-way mirror looking into the room where the two men were struggling in pain. Several doctors in white cloaks rushed around, trying to find the right chemicals to inject into them. A pair of orderlies held Tano still while one of the doctors injected a clear liquid into his arm and Tano's fit stopped almost immediately. They did the same to Orphen.
“I said how long ago was the subjects' last treatment?” Kings asked again at the lead doctor who seemed preoccupied with what was going on in the room.
“002A and B's last treatment was just before the Jenius 7 incident.” The doctor said, flipping through their charts, “This would explain their current states. We were lucky that they managed to return to Earth before these symptoms arose.”
Kings lit a cigarette, ignoring the protests from the doctor. He eyed the two young men laid out on the beds with half a dozen doctors inserting needles and tubes into various parts of their bodies. Tano and Orphen were two bright young cadets at the Titan Military Academy. Since both were orphans, they were perfect for this task. Their enhancement meant that not only were their physical capabilities augmented but their mental capacity too. However, their new roles required that their memories and any compassionate emotions were suppressed with new memories implanted into them.
I wonder what they have done if they had known that their job involved subject 001? Kings thought.
For just a brief moment, he felt sorry for them. If they had known about their new assignment, they would have never agreed to it. He quickly regained control over his emotions and reminded himself that this was a necessary sacrifice in order to control the potentially unstable element of subject 001. Plus, they were prototypes of the future 003 subjects, who should be the perfect soldiers.
A doctor wearing a pair of thick rimmed glasses walked out of the room and handed a graphical chart to the doctor talking to Kings.
“Looks like these memory regressions are becoming more serious. If they go through more of these regressions, their higher brain functions will be permanently damaged.” The doctor warned Kings.
Kings glanced at the doctor and said, “I heard that you have a new procedure that would help in this situation, correct?”
The doctor paused as he realised what Kings was planning, “Yes, but the procedure is untested and if it's unsuccessful it might kill 002A and 002B.”
“They are test subjects, doctor.” Kings adjusted his cap, “That is what they are designed for. I know the procedure will only take an hour and they should recover in a day, so I suggest that you get started. As far as I'm concerned, the 002 subjects are already failures.”
He turned and left the room, leaving the doctor stunned and shocked.
Standing outside in the dark corridor, Kings lit a cigarette. He inhaled and exhaled loudly, blowing the smoke into the air. Nothing was better than a cigarette after an exhausting day for him as they have sustained him throughout his life. He had forgotten when he started the habit but he remembered his mother warning him of the dangers of smoking when he was young, so he wisely ignored her. If Kings had listened to his mother, he would probably be sitting at a desk pen-pushing for some no-name company. Eventually he had his family killed to keep them from going to the presses about his work. Rather than feeling guilty, he felt free.
“You know,” Kings blew out another ring of smoke, “If you keep coming here unannounced, I could have you arrested and shot.”
The woman wearing a mask that covered the top half of her face smiled, “But you wouldn't.”
Kings dropped the cigarette on the floor and stamped on it. He stared at the masked woman, looking at her blue eyes through the plasti-glass visor.
“What do you want, Dena Nadist?”
“ZAFT won't give you a very easy time in Australia, Vladimir.” Dena took a cigarette out of King's breast pocket and popped it into her mouth. Kings lit it for her.
“Tell me something I don't know. Why are you here?”
Dena leaned back against the wall. Her Titan uniform was a size too small for her but she liked the tight feeling it gave her. Plus it showed off her body, which is always an added bonus.
“To check on the boys. But that's not why I came to see you.” Dena inhaled the smoke into her lungs and blew it out a second later, “What have your sources got on Neo Zeon?”
“Just they are heading back into the Earth-Moon System.”
“What about Project Angel?”
Kings looked up at her in surprise but he just smiled, “Where do you get your information? Maybe if you introduce me to them…”
Dena laughed condescendingly. She held out the cigarette in front of his face before crushing it in her hand, that habit of hers made Kings extremely uncomfortable but it meant that she had something important to tell him.
“Project Angel is 97% complete and ready for testing. If you don't start Operation Viola with Oz's Operation Darling as quickly as possible, you may never have the chance to reach that rank of General you always wanted.”
“You mean-” He managed to mutter out in complete surprise. He expected Project Angel to be nearing completion but he had no idea that it was ready for testing. Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead. If what Dena told him was true then…
“I really must be going.” Dena dusted her hands of the ash and tobacco, “And Vladimir, I know you are thinking about tracking me. Take my advice, it'll be back for your long and short-term health.”
When Dena had walked out of sight, Kings slammed his fist into the wall all the while cursing her name.
No person can leave a telephone ringing, no matter how busy they are. This was an unwritten edict passed down through the generations but Marcus wanted to ignore it. The constant high-pitched noise finally got him out of bed and pick up the receiver on the bedside drawer.
“Hey, Marcus!” It was Kriss' voice, “You awake?”
I am now. “Yeah, what do you want?”
“What do you want?!” Kriss' voice became agitated, “After I convinced Hayate to give you with a nice room, this is the thanks I get?”
“Sorry. I'm usually irritable when I haven't had enough sleep.” He said rubbing his eyes.
“Not enough sleep?” Kriss laughed sarcastically, “I've been trying to call you yesterday and you wouldn't answer. The building manager said was that you were asleep.”
“The hell?” Marcus sprang out of bed and looked at the electronic calendar on the wall, dropping the receiver on the floor. Saturday 8:57am 18th April CY 089. He had indeed slept through all of Friday.
“I'm sorry.” He ruffled his red hair, getting out the dents from the night before, “It's been a while since I've slept in a comfortable bed in full gravity. Anyway, where are you?”
“Look out of your window.”
Marcus walked over to his room's window and drew the curtains. A brilliant flash of sunlight met his eyes and flooded the room. When his pupils adjusted he looked out into the distance, surveying the city below the steep hill where the Titan Embassy was located. Looking down, there was a figure in red waving at him. Kriss was wearing a flowing red dress with a wide rimmed bonnet that hid her face. She was also carrying what seemed to Marcus like a large white bag.
“I've got something for you,” Kriss talked into her cell-phone, “Let me in when I knock, OK?”
Ryan Steigen ignored the itching feeling around his neck from the new ZAFT uniform. He marched down the damaged corridors of the newly taken Cairo Base towards his new quarters. After being reprimanded by two Colonels, he felt ill tempered. What he wanted most was to just lie down on a comfortable bed and get some sleep. At least one good thing came out of this, he got 3 days R&R.
The door to his new room slid open. As he walked in, a hand swung from within his room and slapped him hard. He stumbled backwards, reeling from the stinging sensation. A flash of green and Ryan immediately knew who had hit him. Rubbing his cheek, Ryan steadied himself for another assault.
Whenever a ZAFT soldier mentioned the name Vivian Oria, they immediately think of someone with an extremely bad temper. Vivian's name had been etched into the annals of the ZAFT Academy' history when she managed to break the martial art's instructor during their first session. `He looked at me the wrong way' was what she would say to anyone who asked her why she did it. Ryan had no idea how they got together but all he wanted to do now was live to see another day.
Without warning, Vivian grabbed him by the collar and dragged him into the room. Before Ryan could do anything else, she pressed her lips against him. Slamming the door control from the inside of the room with her palm, the door closed with a loud hiss.
“Tell me again why you thought this colour scheme suits me?” Marcus said while driving Kriss towards Orb city centre. The highway leading to the city from Nord was mostly empty, with several cars and lorries driving into the mountain top complex rather than away from it.
“Come on, what's wrong with pink and white?” Kriss smirked, “You military types are too rigid. I think you really should be more comfortable with your sexuality.”
Marcus rolled his eyes and focused on the road again, however his mind was distracted by other thoughts. Whether Ryan managed to get safely back to his unit and the prospect of leaving tomorrow. But the Kriss' fiancée, Hayate, bothered him the most. He had dreamt of him coming into his room and hacking him to bits with a large knife and the Orb police saying that it was a suicide attempt.
“So when are you leaving?”
“0730 hours tomorrow.” Marcus said, remembering that he needs to keep his eyes on the road not daydreaming. It was Saturday so the roads seemed rather empty apart from several lorries travelling the other way.
“Hey, let's take the next exit off. The city centre's closer this way.” Kriss pointed towards the next slip road.
The sun dipped further and further into western horizon. The sky, which was once a magnificent fusion of blue and white, had been replaced by a luminescent red and orange. The daytime shops of Orb were preparing to close up while the trendy restaurants and clubs next to the seaside opened their doors for a night parties and drinking.
Marcus was surprised how life could be so normal here while there was a war being fought not too far from this little country. However, as he and Kriss sat at a small table next to the beach, he found himself being immersed by the beautiful ocean scene. The sound of waves lapping on the golden sand, laughter from children and their families still playing by the surf and the stunning view of the setting sun with Kriss sitting opposite even made him forget that there was even antagonism between Co-ordinators and natural born humans or that there was even a war on.
A cool breeze made the bags of clothes and small stuffed toys that Kriss made Marcus buy for her ruffle loudly. He wiped a thin layer of sweat from his forehead and took a quick swig from the cool glass of sparkling water in front of him. One of his principles in life is to never drink anything apart from water, especially not after the incident at the academy. He looked up at Kriss' ice cream bowl and saw that it was full of spoon marks yet none of it had disappeared.
“Are you trying to torture your ice cream into submission or something?” He said, trying to lighten the mood.
Kriss smiled weakly, swallowed a spoon full and went back to poking the ice cream.
“Hey, is something wrong?” Marcus looked directly into her eyes.
Kriss looked up into Marcus' eyes. Even with his tough military exterior, she had always thought he had kind eyes, just like those of her father. Those brown orbs made her feel as if she had known Marcus for a long time and she would have no trouble sharing her secrets and feelings with him.
“I don't want you to leave, Marcus.”
Marcus almost spat out his drink in surprise.
“What?” He wiped off the water from his mouth with a napkin.
Kriss blushed, “I don't want you to go off fighting anymore. You're the first person that I've met who's not acting.”
“It's just that…you treat me like I'm a normal person, not a head of state. If I don't hid my face, the people of Orb will treat me like royalty and don't show their true selves.” Kriss sighed.
“Guess that explains the hat.” Marcus pointed at her overly large hat. She refused to remove it and shied away from large crowds wherever she went. A girl like that must be lonely, unable to go anywhere without people recognising her, unable to lead a normal life.
“But when I'm with you I feel comfortable and you don't act as if I'm anyone special.” Kriss blushed even more, “I want you to be by my side. If you go off to fight again, who knows when I can see you again? I know I'm being selfish to ask you to give up your life as a Titan soldier but I don't want you to get killed.”
Marcus realised where Kriss was going with this. No matter how much he wanted to stay with her, it was impossible for him to do so.
“Look, Kriss,” Marcus leaned forwards, “I know about you and Hayate Saga.”
Kriss slumped back in her chair, “When did you find out?”
“He told me when we met in Nord Industries.”
That bastard, always trying to control me. Kriss thought while imagining her hands around his throat. Even so, she wasn't about to let Marcus go off to fight again.
“It doesn't matter if I'm engaged to him. I don't care about that! And I know Hayate told you that we were engaged to keep you from seeing me. Please, stay. Now that I you're here, I don't want to lose you.”
Marcus ran his hand through his red hair. It was a habit that manifests itself whenever he is in a tough situation.
“Look, I know that you have feelings for me but it is impossible for me to stay. Who am I, an outsider, to break up something was probably decided years ago?” He saw Kriss' eyes begin to water but he continued on regardless.
“It's not my place to break up your marriage in order to satisfy my needs and nor should you. You're the daughter of the President of Orb, what would the world say if you ran off with an unknown Titan soldier? I know that your feelings for me are important but you have a duty to your country, you can't run away from that responsibility. Besides, I have my duties to perform with the Titan military an-”
Before he could finish, Kriss grabbed his water and poured it over his face.
“You're the same as everyone else!” Kriss shouted angrily, tears streaming down her face, “Why can't you think of what I want rather than what the state wants?! I thought you would be different, but I'm obviously wrong!”
Marcus wiped off the stinging sparkling water from his eyes only to see Kriss running towards her parked car. He watched in silence as she ignited the car's engine and zoomed off. The few people sitting at nearby tables were whispering quietly but he ignored them.
A waitress offered him some napkins to dry himself but he just placed several Orb dollars he got from the Titan Embassy down on the table and left, leaving the stuff he and Kriss bought under the table.
Only half the sun could now be seen on the horizon. Marcus' form was washed with a bright orange glow as he walked slowly back towards the Titan Embassy. His mind was focused solely on Kriss. He regretted what he said to her but at the same time reminded himself that what he did was right. As he climbed up the steep road towards the Nord Industries complex, he couldn't help but to look at the beautiful sunset to his right. Large islands were scattered across the sea, each with a large population centre and many houses scattered along their edges. Marcus thought maybe he made the wrong decision. Living in Orb is an tempting offer, a life away from the military, to forget about his past and start anew.
No. Marcus shook his head. Images of his parents flooded into his mind. His father was lying in a pool of his own blood while his mother's neck was snapped and her face covered with semen. He can't leave the Titans, not until he made those people pay for what they did.
A red open-top sports car pulled up beside him. Inside was a man wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of sunglasses. When the man took of his sunglasses, Marcus recognised him from Heliopolis and the Orb transport in the Earth's atmosphere.
“Hey kid, you need a rid?” Terrance Rockfield said, opening the passenger side door.
Their car zoomed up the highway, past the rows of palm trees leading to the Nord Industries complex. The air had begun to chill and the street lamps were slowly lighting up. Terrance had closed the car's roof and the sound classical music filled the interior.
“You did the right thing.”
Marcus, who staring at his legs, looked up, “Hm?”
“You did the right thing back there.” Terrance repeated, “By the way, I don't think we have officially been introduced. My name is Major Terrance E. Rockfield, Orb Marine Corp. My college you met in space was Major Kuroshin Watanabe, Orb Secret Service. We are the officers assigned to ensure Miss Sampson's safety.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Marcus replied politely, “About the things that me and Kriss bought…”
“Don't worry about them, Major Watanabe has taken care of it. But back to what I said, what you said to Kriss was the right thing.” Terrance said while switching off the radio.
“You were spying on us?” But when he thought about it, Marcus wasn't really that surprised. Major Watanabe was in the Secret Service so tapping into their conversation wasn't all that difficult. In fact, he should have expected it.
“Not spying,” Terrance reached into his shirt pocket trying to fish something out, “Just a matter of curiosity. Gum?” He offered.
Marcus shook his head. He watched as Terrance somehow used only one hand to unwrap a stick and popped it into his mouth.
“Let me explain a few things to you about Kriss and Hayate.” He continued while chewing, “Orb's political system is one of the most stable on the planet, Lieutenant Kolin. You probably heard that our government had only two different Presidents, right? No? Well you know now. But in recent days, the relationship between the President and Vice President hadn't been all that smooth. You do know that the citizens of Orb don't vote in the President or the Vice President into office, right?”
From Marcus' bewildered look, Terrance decided it was better to explain Orb's democratic system while he was at it.
“When the people of Orb vote, they vote for a chancellor to represent their area. Then top 2 chancellors who gained the most votes from the public are put forward for the position of president and the chancellors would vote in the next president. The position of President and Vice President is often pre-determined because many chancellors often have allegiances to one of the candidates so when Orb citizens vote, they are indirectly voting in their President too. The winner of the vote becomes President and the runner-up becomes Vice President. Often the President and Vice President share different views on certain topics but that ensures that the President does not have the power to do as he pleases and forces him or her to consider alternative views and make the best decision for Orb.”
Terrance saw Marcus nod, but the look on his face showed that he was still confused, “Our current President and Vice President, however, faces something that has never been faced by any of their predecessors. Whether to join in the war or to remain neutral.”
The sky outside had turned from orange red to a deep purple. Only the street lamps on the highway, the stars and the moon illuminated the road.
“President Sampson wants Orb to remain neutral but Vice President Saga is leaning towards joining with the ZAFT forces against the Titans and Oz. with neither backing down on their position. So now we have a split down the middle of the Orb Forum. But at least they realised that there is a rift and it needs to be mended. So the marriage between their children will convince the Orb population that while they are disagreeing, they are still working towards a unified solution.”
“So Kriss' marriage is just a political stunt?” Marcus now realised how broken up Kriss must be on the inside.
“Yep. Even though Hayate has feelings towards Kriss, I have never seen her reciprocate in any way. She only pretends to be close to him in public so that Orb politics can remain stable. She doesn't look it, she's stronger than you think.”
Marcus was silent. He had always thought Kriss was just lonely and wanted him to stay with her. He had no idea that her life had already been decided for her, forced to marry a man she did not love. No wonder she pleaded for him to stay. He closed his eyes and thought about how beautiful she had looked in the sunset.
Marcus hadn't noticed that they were already at the main gates of the Titan Embassy. He must have dozed off on the car. Stepping outside, a cold breeze licked his arms.
Usually countries that are near the equator should be at a constant 25-35 degrees Celsius, but after Zeon dropped a colony onto the planet and wiped out Sydney, the Earth's climate was changed dramatically. Orb used to be the Hawaiian Islands but its seasons were reversed and the temperature was reduced so that after the colony-drop, it never reached above 27 degrees Celsius.
Before closing the door, Terrance leaned over to the passenger side and looked Marcus in the eye.
“Listen kid, from what Kuro tells me there is something big about to happen between ZAFT and the Titans. His sources say that your forces are amassing around Australia. Try not to get yourself killed, OK? Miss Sampson would be very upset otherwise. Oh, by the way, nice t-shirt.”
Marcus saluted and slammed the door, trying hard not to let the huge grin on Terrance's face make him blush. As he walked into the reception area, the female receptionist looked up just before he stepped around the corner and called out his name.
“Sir, you are needed in Nord Industries, 5th Maintenance Bay.”
When Marcus strolled into the 5th Maintenance Bay, the usual sight of the Strike Gundam greeted him. But instead of the usual red backpack of the Aile Striker Pack, mounted on it's back and shoulders were black and white backpack. The head mechanic, who was standing below the Gundam, turned and saw the Titan pilot gaping at his newest masterpiece.
“Yo, kiddo!” He waved Marcus over, “Hey, you like the Lighting Striker Pack?”
“Err…yeah.” Marcus disguised his complete incomprehension of the situation, “What's it do?”
A smirk appeared on the head mechanic's face, “What's it do you say? Well, ye of little knowledge, let me enlighten you.”
Marcus felt sick at the mechanics' attitude towards him as he was led up the catwalk to the Strike's cockpit.
“The new Lightning Striker Pack has improved power-pack design as well as augmented battery storage which will mean the Phase-Shift active times will increase. Also there are more and enhanced coolant systems installed in order to use this baby…” They walked up to the open cockpit. The mechanic reached in, punched in a few commands on the keyboard and the monitor on the cockpit hatch lit up with the schematics of a large cannon.
“This, my friend, is the Type 70-31 Electromagnetic Cannon.” He said with zeal, “Just think of it as a EMP bomb with a barrel. Destroys any and all computer systems that it is fired at. It is kept in two separate parts to allow portability and has a range of over 5 kilometres.”
“So that's what the extra coolant systems are for.” Marcus marvelled out loud, studying the new cannon, “Just out of curiosity, why have you installed this?”
The head mechanic looked dumbfounded, “I thought you knew?”
Marcus shook his head.
The mechanic rubbed his forehead, “We were told to just install it, run simulations and then take it apart for transport. I thought you would have some idea of what it's used for.”
Marcus glanced at the mechanic and back at the screen. This must have something to do with the new Op that General Thomson mentioned. Shutting off the monitor, Marcus turned to the head mechanic.
“Please get the new pack read for transport. And thank you for the maintenance on the Strike Gundam, I really appreciate it. Plus I'd like to apologise for leaving the other two Striker Packs on Heliopolis.” Marcus said, extending his hand.
The mechanic stared at the young man for a moment and then grasped Marcus' hand. His grip was intense and sent a wave of pain up Marcus' arm.
“Ah, it couldn't be helped,” The mechanic grinned, “I should be thanking you for bringing the Strike back to us. At least we didn't lose all 5 GATs. Hey, no hard feelings about the day before, right?” Marcus gritted his teeth in agony wishing the man would let go, “Good lad!”
Letting go of his hand, the head mechanic patted Marcus on the shoulders with his muscular arms and almost knocking Marcus into the cockpit.
Marcus yawned loudly. Hardly getting any sleep the night before, he wobbled his way through the seaport terminal towards the Titan Garuda Class aerial MS transport. Marcus thought he was to be retrieved by a smaller craft like a C5-3 Galaxy III but the Garuda was good too.
The Garuda is a huge transport that towered over many of the buildings in Orb. In essence, it is a huge aerial fortress that could carry up to 20 mobile suits. Though lightly armed, it's huge hull and thick armour allows it to participate in aerial drop operations into enemy territory with ease and still return to base without too much damage.
As he exited the terminal, he saw Tano and Orphen at the bottom of a flight of steps leading up to the entrance hatch of the Garuda transport. He also saw a black car parked to his right with a man in a dark suit and a pair of dark sunglasses leaning against it. Even with the sunglasses, Marcus recognised him as the other Orb guy he met in space, Major Watanabe.
“Yo, kid!” Kuroshin called at him.
Sighing loudly, Marcus did up the top collar of his Titan normal suit (he left his normal uniform in space) and walked over. Kuroshin was quite a bit taller than Marcus, forcing him to have to tilt his head backwards so that he can look Kuroshin in the face.
“Is there something you want, Major Kuroshin?” Marcus saluted.
Kuroshin saluted back, “Guess Terry told you about me last night, then.”
“Anyhoo, I had a little talk with a certain someone last night and that person decided to see you today.” Kuroshin stepped backwards and opened the rear door of the black car. Marcus watched as a girl dressed in an Orb military uniform stepped out, it was Kriss. She was even more beautiful than before, her hair was still as unruly but the white and blue uniform fitted her form. She was wearing a thin layer of make up on her face, her lips were pinker than yesterday while her eyelashes seemed to be a deeper shade.
She walked up to Marcus with her hands pressed on her chest. Kriss blushed when she saw Marcus.
“Hi.” She said timidly. Marcus had never seen her like this since she is usually full of self-confidence. Kuroshin took of his sunglasses and went back into the car.
“Hi there.” He said back. Both of them stood in silence, staring at each other. Neither was sure what to do next.
“Here, take this.” Kriss extended her hand out to Marcus. Inside her palm was a necklace with a small golden heart at the bottom.
Marcus looked back at her in confusion, “What is it?”
“It's a necklace, what do you think it is?” Kriss pouted
“No,” Marcus was glad that the regular Kriss was back, “I mean why are you giving this to me?”
Kriss undid the chain at the back of the necklace and tied it carefully around Marcus' neck.
“We have a tradition in Orb that whenever a person goes away for possibly a long time, someone who cares about them deeply would give them a necklace of some kind.”
Marcus looked down at the necklace to see that the golden heart was a casing.
“What's inside it?”
“You'll find out.” Kriss said chirpily. She leaned over and pecked him on the cheek, “Just don't open it unless you are in a desperate situation, OK? I really have to go now. My father is expecting me for a state meeting. Stay safe, Marcus.”
Beaming, Kriss ran back into the car and shut the door. Marcus watched the car drive off, all the time holding the heart tightly in his hands.
I'll stay alive, I promise.
Ryan and Vivian lied under the duvet with their uniforms and underwear scattered all around Ryan's quarters. The harsh heat of Egypt was cancelled out by the air conditioning but the rays of sunlight coming in through the window warmed the couple.
When Vivian woke up, Ryan was leaning against the headrest of his bed. His face had the same expression that she had seen many times before.
“We have another day's leave. You shouldn't be worrying about things at a time like this.” She cooed softly, running her fingers up his arms, “You're thinking about him, aren't you?”
Ryan sighed loudly and closed his eyes. He after his encounter with Marcus on the small island, the guilt inside him had begun to resurface.
“You don't understand. Before I met him on Heliopolis I though he was dead.” He decided to keep their day on the island a secret, “The more I think about him the more I remember what I did to him and his parents.”
Vivian sat up and wrapped the bed sheet around her naked body.
“You know, it's good to let your feelings out rather than to keep them inside.” She said, pushing her hair behind her ears, “Tell me what's worrying you.”
Ryan sighed again, “Thanks, but there are some things I like to keep to myself for now.”