Chapter 2 - Unexpected Aid
"MISTAKES, NO MATTER HOW ONE TRIES TO AVERT THEM, DO EXIST. AND AS MISTAKES EXIST, SO DOES THE TRUTH."
"WHAT? Who... who are you? What do you mean by that?" Fiona frantically looked around, trying to somehow keep the pace of the automated combat robots that, now beyond all control, were focusing all their fury on her. The Tauruses kept shooting their lasers, forcing the girl to desperately zigzag among the beams of light. Luckily for her, the Excellence C was quite nimble and was able to avoid all attacks, but Fiona still couldn't find the time to stop and unleash a counterattack. Cursing to herself, the redhead deployed her Fairies, and the small funnel-like guided cannons flew from the back compartment, in front of the Excellence, and opened fire with deadly precision" Three Tauruses and one Aestivalis, the latter coming forth to try and attack directly, were pierced by the Fairies' laser beams and exloded, allowing Fiona to breathe a momentary sigh of relief.
"So?" Fiona called again for the mysterious speaker. "I'm asking you again... wh the Hell are you? Show yourself! You're the one responsible for all this mess, aren't you?". Much to her disappointment, the girl saw more unmanned units of various models coming out of the hangars... and towards both her and the research center!
"I AM THE ONE WHO BEHOLDS MISTAKES. I AM THE ONE WHO COMMITS MISTAKES. I AM..." the disembodied voice started answering, cutting itself short just when it seemedto be about to give its name. Not that Fiona cared too much, at that point, since she had seen a group of Tauruses and Zakus coming dangerously close to the laboratories - exactly the rooms where Lahge and Mitsuko were at that moment! The brave redhead almost choked in worry for her only friends and tried to reach the offending Mobile Suits, recalling her Fairies before they cold fire more shots... but the small thermoguided cannons were stillbusy with other enemy units coming from all directions! Now, the numbe of attackers had risen by about a dozen... and it didn't seem to be about to decrease, since whenever one was taken down, another took its place.
"D-damn... is there no end to these guys?" Fiona exclaimed as she unsheathed her beam saber to parry a mass-poduced Aestivalis' Field Lancer. The smaller robot had managed to dodge the Fairies' attacks, but the Excellence C, with a little effort, was able to push it away from itself and took advantage of its moment of unbalance to skewer it with its sword. The Aestivalis collapsed in a heap, but a Zaku and a Taurus were immediately upon Fiona, who was forced to once more forsake the research center to defend herself. In frustration and despair, Fiona managed to open a communication with her friends and screamed at the top of her lungs.
"LAHGE! MITSUKO! Get out of there, now! Don't worry about me, I'll manage somehow! RUN AWAY!"
"I KNEW IT!" Chief Miwa practically roared, as he saw the approaching Mobile Suits, halfway between furiously angry and in blind panic. "I knew these Montoya Research Labs were just a damn bunch of outlaws and traitors! They set this all up to get us killed! I'm sending you straight to court-martial and I'm having you hanged, you dirty alien-loving scum! You will not get away with this, YOU HEAR ME?"
Lahge and Mitsuko were too busy working at their consoles, in a desperate attempt at getting the situation back under control, to really care about the fanatic General's words... and other two inspectors were needed to put the screaming madman under control.
"Admiral Sakimori, you will calm yourself!" one of the inspectors exclaimed, as he started dragging the furious admiral towards the automated doors of the lab. The other New Federation military agents were already pouring out into the corridor. "Now, all we can do is get away from this place and go back to our shuttle! So please calm yourself and follow me!"
"Hey, hold on a second there!" Mitsuko screamed in panic, raising her head from the consoles. "What... what are you trying to do? You can't leave us here alone without..."
She was denied the chance to complete her sentence, as Miwa and the restraining officer had already gone through the sliding metal doors, which then closed behind them... and locked automatically, leaving the two young researchers stranded in the control room... which was dangerously close to being destroyed! Mitsuko felt her blood run cold: those so-called "important people" had abandoned them to their fate without thinking twice, only attempting to save themselves!
"I... I... can't... believe it..." the young purple-haired girl murmured, trembling in fear. "We... we... will have to... die here? Wait... wait a moment... I... I'm not ready yet... I don't want to... I don't want to end like that... FIONA, HELP US! PLEASE, HELP US!"
Outside, the Excellence C dodged a beam saber thrust from a Taurus and quickly struck back with its own saber, skewering the automated MS's engine. As the Taurus fell, Fiona deftly sprinted backwards and sent two of her Fairies to distract the enemy... then, she took advantage of the brief moment of reprise to reach the labs and crouch towards it, making it so that the cockpit was more or less at the same height of the windows. Sure, it wasn't the easiest or safest escape method... but considering the situation, there was no time to think of anything else! Lahge and Mitsuko's only hope was to pray they wouldn't get exposed to the external void...
"Quick, Lahge! Mitsuko! Climb on board! I don't know how much longer I can hold against these things!" Fiona exclaimed, as an emergency door opened on the side of the Excellence C's head, near the place where the two young researchers were. "Shatter that window and climb on board the Excellence-C! It's our only hope!"
Seeing their mutual friend offering her a way out of that predicament seemed to assuage Mitsuko's panic attack, and the young researcher swalloed some saliva and calmed down before turning to Lahge. "F-Fiona... I'm so glad... you came... All... alright then, we're coming! Lahge! Lahge, what are we waiting for?"
"Just a moment, I'm coming!" the bespectacled young man answered. He had reached a still-functioning console and entered a combination of keys... then, he grabbed a still-smoldering pipe that had fallen a few moments before, and reached the glass screen the Excellence C was close to. With a brief yell, the boy smashed the glass open and pushed both himself and Mitsuko inside the tunnel to the combat robot's cockpit. The hatch opened briefly, just enough to allow the two researchers to slide down to the cockpit without being harmed by the external void, then the door silently slid shut and the Excellence C quickly stood up, just in time to avoid a machine gun barrage from one of the MP Aestivalises...
"Kyah!" Mitsuko screamed. "Fi... Fiona! Thank heavens, I don't think I and Lahge could ever repay you enough for this! You... you saved us all!"
"No problem, Mitsuko... but it all still rides on me! If I can't get past these guys, it will be all for nothing anyway!" Fiona answered as she tried to find a comfortable position on her seat. The cockpit had been made for a single pilot, and now there were three people inside... which meant that the red-haired pilot barely had enough space to move her cloche around!
"Don't worry, Fiona..." Lahge reassured her, attempting to squeeze as much as possible, while keeping his glasses on. "Before we evacuated... I managed to send an SOS signal... If... if there is someone close enough to come to help us... hopefully they will intervene!"
"Hmph... yeah, like those guys, for instance?" Fiona cynically growled. On one of the Excellence C's screens, the New Federation shuttle could be seen speeding away from the battle, taking the Federation agents with it! Seeing those people abandon them like that, Fiona couldn't help bursting in an array of unladylike insults, without too much regard for the ears of anyone nearby! "You miserable assholes! Go, save your sorry asses without giving a crap of anyone else, will you? What was I expecting from New Federation officers, anyway? I hope you all die!"
"Don't think about them, Fiona! Don't get distracted, or we won't last long against those!" Lahge exclaimed. Fiona turned her attention back to the battlefield, seeing a group of Tauruses and Aesivalises getting past the Fairies' cover fire. Biting down a curse, Fiona had the Excellence C take off again, giving herself and her friends a temporary respite. But as she did so, the cockpit shook, sending Lahge and Mitsuko to slam comically against the cockpit's walls!
"Kyah! Look where you're touching!" Mitsuko shouted, feeling something on her back...
"Lahge! You're touching Mitsuko's hips! Keep your hands down!" Fiona protested as she saw where her male friend's hands had involuntarily gone...
Lahge blushed in embarassment and tried to detach himself from the wall... but because of the restricted space and the continuous rocking, it turned out to be quite difficult! "Ugh... sorry, sorry! It was an accident... but let's not talk about this now! They're coming at us!"
In fact, as Fiona could plainly see, some Taurus and Aestivalis units had taken off as well, as were trying to close the distance to avoid the Fairies. Fiona unsheathed her beam saber once again and ran it through an Aestivalis, before sending it hurtling towards the Moon surface, where it exploded in a huge red fireball. Even so, the number of attackers was still too high for them to handle...
"Dammit, if this keeps up..." Fiona swore...
...but she had no time to follow up before a powerful laser beam, coming from somewhere to her left, struck the Aestivalis nearest to her dead center and destroyed it! With a startled yelp, Fiona turned in that direction...
The attacker had been a custom-model blue Aestivalis armed with the model's traditional weapons - a Rapid Rifle, a dagger for close combat and a two-handed Field Lancer, but the slight shine of the Distortion Field could be seen around its body as it sped towards the remains of the lunar base. After a moment of silent surprise, Fiona thanked fate for sending that blue Aestivalis in their aid...
"Looks like we came just in time, huh?" a self-assured boyish voice rang out from Fiona's speaker. "We received your emergency call, and thought we might as well give you a hand here!"
"Er... much appreciated, we were actually starting to sweat here!" Fiona answered, trying to get visual contact with the other pilot. The AI-piloted units had stopped briefly, as if to evaluate the unexpected situation... which gave Fiona and the newcomer all the time to organize themselves.
A comm window opened up on Fiona's screens, showing the smiling face of a long-haired blond boy with a red curl of hair descending on his forehead and wearing the typical uniform of the New Federation's Aestivalis pilots. As he saw Fiona, the young man saluted briskly and winked, trying to act as charming as possible!
"It's always a pleasure for me to save a damsel in distress! And her friends too, while I'm at it!" was his introduction. "Takasugi Saburouta of the Nadesico-B... at your service!"
"Nadesico-B?" Lahge parroted uncertainly before noticing another dot on the Excellence C's radar. An elongated, dynamic-looking battleship, completely white with blue and grey trimming, was closing in, very much resembling the legendary Nadesico, the mobile battleship that had put an end to the Earth-Jovian war five years earlier. It appeared that the first model had had success, and the New Federation was fielding a new one...
Saburouta turned his attention to the group of automated Tauruses and Aestivalises, pointing his Rapid Rifle at them. "So... here are the felons trying to hurt the lady, huh?" he asked retorically. "Very well then, guess I'll have to rough you up a little!"
Onboard the Nadesico-B, a young black-haired boy sitting at the comm officer's position did not seem very pleased with Saburouta's words. "Lt. Saburouta!" he exclaimed with some indignation. "I thought you Jovian Union pilots were serious and brave soldiers!"
"Well, am I not being brave, in this moment?" Saburouta answered with a light-hearted shrug. Needless to say, this did not assuage the black-haired boy's frustration, but he didn't get the time to answer to that, as the person sitting in the captain's seat spoke before him: a young girl not much older than fourteen, with long silver hair tied in a pair of pigtails at the sides of her head, large amber eyes, extremely pale complexion, and a serious, mysterious and at the same times melanchonic demeanor. There was something about her that immediately denounced her as someone different from any other human.
"Lt. Saburouta, I'm counting on you." she said, much to her black-haired peer's displeasure.
"But... captain!" he tried to protest. But the young silver-haired girl ignored him and started communicating with the Excellence C by simply moving her gloved hands on the console.
"This is High Mobile Battleship Nadesico B, of the New Earth Federation's Fourth Fleet. Captain Ruri Hoshino speaking." she said. "You sent that SOS message earlier, did you not?"
"We're going to have to explain things later..." Lahge answered. "For now... could you please help us out? We're barely managing to keep ourselves alive with this prototype!"
"Acknowledge." Ruri answered. "Lt. Saburouta, aid the unidentified unit. We'll act as long distance support."
"Er... sorry, Lahge, are you really sure we can trust these guys?" A slightly bewildered Fiona asked. "I mean, not that I'm not thankful, but they seem a little... out there to me, that's all!"
"Well, Fiona, there's someone else coming, if you're interested in that." Mitsuko answered, as a few more dots lit up on the radar, coming from the opposite direction of the Nadesico B. "Another battleship and a few Mobile Suits are being detected at the moment... though I really don't recognize the models..."
"What?" Fiona asked, as she turned in the direction of the newcomers. A large white battleship, reminescent of the famous White Base, was approaching slowly, and in front of it were a trio of speedy mobile weapons: a white jet-like fighter with blue and red trimming; a shining white Gundam with a pair of deep-blue mechanical wings and matching decorations on its hips and ankles; and a red Gundam with black trimming on its chest, knees and lower legs. Both Gundams were armed with beam rifles and had the typical V-shaped antenna on their foreheads...
The jet sped forwards and shot a barrage of missiles against the automated units, striking down a Taurus and a pair of Aestivalis... and when the two Gundams got close enough, they opened fire as well, greatly reducing the enemy units' numbers. Surprised by the three pilots' skill - obviously superior to her own - Fiona almost didn't see that one of them was trying to communicate with her. When she finally opened the connection, she saw a young man approaching his thirties appearing on the screen. His reddish-brown hair was short and somewhat curly, and his face gave a vibe of experience, confidence and a still-visible innocence.
"To the unidentified unit. You were the ones who sent that distress call." The young man, obviously the pilot of the plane-like robot, began. "This is Captain Amuro Ray of Terminal, affiliated to the Neo Earth Federation and designated pilot of the Re-GZ. We have come to help."
Two more comm windows opened up, showing the helmeted faces of two younger men - a brunet with deep purple eyes and a strangely harmless and gentle look for a professional pilot; and a blue-haired boy about the same age, with green eyes and a more professional, yet still gentle, demeanor. "Lt. Kira Yamato speaking. Pilot of the Freedom Gundam and member of Terminal." the brown-haired boy hailed the Excellence C's pilot.
"Lt. Athrun Zala speaking. Former member of ZAFT forces, and now affiliated to Terminal as well." the blue-haired pilot introduced himself. "Pilot of the Saviour Gundam. We can wait for the details later."
"Roger!" Mitsuko answered. "But be careful! Although they're piloted by AI, those training dummies are armed with live ammunition!"
"Acknowledge!" Amuro answered. "Yamato, Zala, support me. We have to take out all enemy units."
"Roger!" the younger pilots answered in unison. The Freedom Gundam attacked first, shooting a barrage of multicolored lasers from various cannons on its body. The outdated Mobile Suits and the Aestivalises were completely outclassed... and in fact, a few fractions of second later, most of them were struck by the beams and wiped out! The few survivors were quickly annihilated by the beam cannon on the Re-GZ's nozzle and by the Saviour Gundam's beam rifle... and those who had kept fighting against the Excellence C and Saburouta's blue Aestivalis had no better luck, as they had lots the advantage of overwhelming numbers, and both Fiona and Saburouta were far too skilled for a few simple AIs.
Saburouta easily deflected a pair of Tauruses' beam sabers and, with a lightning-quick, almost impossible to see, movement, he unsheathed his Aestivalis' combat knife and plunged it deep into the screen-like face of the nearest Taurus. The OZ Mobile Suit's internal computer shut down immediately, sending the Taurus tumbling to the lunar surface... and one second later, Saburouta pointed his Rapid Rifle against his opponents and fired a devastating salvo, just as the Excellence C pointed a pair of guns against the last remaining MP-Aestivalis. Fiona opened fire with both guns, striking with lethal accuracy, and the enemy Aestivalis blew up with a satisfying firework, putting an end to that unexpected battle.
"Phew... that was really close!" Fiona breathed in relief as he collapsed on her pilot seat, exhausted. "We were lucky those two ships managed to intercept our distress call... but I'm afraid the research center is lost. Those automated units did quite a number on it..."
Fiona moved her robot's main camera to show what had happened to the research center... and both Lahge and Mitsuko, especially the latter, were horrified by what they saw: very little of their labs had remained standing, and most of the data contained in the memory bank had been destroyed along with them. Pretty much all the data gathered from the trial flight of the Excellence C before that strange disembodied voice intervened were irrevocably lost...
"My... my data... our research..." a distraught Mitsuko murmured, her hand clenched into a fist near her heart. "I... I can't believe it, we risked our lives for this test... and nothing remains!"
"We're still alive and our research data have not been completely destroyed, we should count our blessings..." the more rational Lahge answered, holding what looked like a red USB pen between his left thumb and index. "And... what we've lost today, we can make up for in another occasion."
"Yeah, Lahge, I think that will make Mitsuko feel better... really..." Fiona muttered sarcastically. "Anyway, Mitsuko, let's not cry over split milk here. I have taken the liberty of using the Excellence's internal CPU to record the data myself... so, all in all, the damage is minimal. The problem is, that now we don't have a research base anymore..."
"We could help you with that." Fiona heard the voice of the Nadesico B's captain, the mysterious silver-haired girl named Ruri Hoshino. "We may not know the specifics, but we do know that your labs were researching some very important topics. Now that you've lost your base, we could help you. Obviously, if this is okay with you and our Terminal colleagues. Hari-kun, could you hail the Terminal battleship?"
"Yes, Captain Hoshino!" the young second-in-command answered. Fiona, Lahge and Mitsuko waited a few seconds for the communication to be broadcast to the other battleship... and sure enough, another comm window popped up besides Ruri's showing the captain of the Terminal ship - a tall black-haired man with a serious demeanor whose facial traits betrayed his Western Europe ancestry (a part of the world not fondly remembered, as it had often been a past victim of Blue Cosmos' depredations), wearing a decorated uniform indicating his high rank in the semi-governative organization known as Terminal - a group founded after the second battle at Jachin Due, playing a fundamental role in stemming the ambitions of Char Aznable's Neo Zeon and Gilbert Durandal's ZAFT.
There was no mistaking him: he was the famous Captain Bright Noa, the commander of the White Base, the Argama and the Near Argama!
"Captain Hoshino?" Bright answered Ruri's call. He didn't seem surprised by the Nadesico captain's young age, which confirmed to both Fiona and his friends that they were at least familiar with each other. "We have some place for the refugees on the Ral Kairam, and I'm sure Lady Lacus would consent as well. However, I'd prefer to give the lab personnel freedom of choice. Either way, my suggestion would be for you to pick them up, as you do seem to be somewhat short on pilots."
"Heh... that's true, you know?" Saburouta commented. "My Aestivalis is worth two or three of them, but I still remain the only pilot on board the Nadesico B. I kinda feel lonely..."
Mitsuko couldn't help but giggle a little at this. To be a professional pilot of the former Jupiter Empire, that guy was kind of easygoing...
"What do you say about this, unknown unit?" Ruri finally asked, as Amuro's Re-GZ and the Freedom and Saviour Gundam retreated slightly, never straying too far from the Ral Kairam. They seemed to be waiting for Fiona and her friends to decide... and the red-haired girl looked at Lahge and Mitsuko as if to ask for their advice.
"Well, Fiona, if you ask me... we'd better go with the Nadesico B... that's that battleship's name, right?" Mitsuko answered. "Lahge, what do you think about it?"
The bespectacled young man looked uninterested in such discussions, as long as someone could take them out of hot water. "I'm fine with whatever you decide." he affirmed.
Fiona nodded, before answering to Ruri and her second-in-command. "Alright then, Nadesico B. The Excellence C's crew accepts your offer, and proceeds to docking with your ship. Thanks for your aid."
"Roger, Excellence C crew. Hari, prepare the hangars for their approach. Lt. Saburouta, escort the unit to the Nadesico B." Ruri answered, once again showing few traces of emotion. "Crew of the Ral Kairam, we are thankful for your offer. We will take care of the refugees ourselves."
"Alright then." Bright answered. "We'll pray for the success of your mission, and we'll trust you with the safety of the refugees. Re-GZ, Freedom, Saviour, return to the ship. We're resuming our mission."
"Roger that, Captain Bright." Athrun, the pilot of the Saviour Gundam, answered. "We wish the Nadesico B's crew a safe continuation as well."
"Good luck to you all." Amuro concluded, as the Re-GZ and the two Gundams flew back to the Ral Kairam.
"Hehee... well, if it isn't good luck for us!" Saburouta commented as the Ral Kairam's pilots went back to their ship. "It is rare to save two beautiful girls in the middle of the cold, uncaring space. Do not worry, you and your friend are in good hands! I'm sure you'll find yourselves confortable on the Nadesico B!"
Fiona was still unsure what to make of that guy. "Er... we're very thankful for that! And... we do hope there can be support between our teams!"
As the Excellence C floated towards the Nadesico B, Saburouta's Super Aestivalis on tow, Fiona, Lahge and Mitsuko found themselves wondering what they had gotten themselves into, and how all that would have turned out...
TO BE CONTINUED
Author's Note: A minor note, but... you'll notice that I added a few elements to canon, like for example the Taurus' beam saber which that particul type of Mobile Suit never used in Gundam Wing. Consider that my way of adding things that - in my humble opinion - make sense. I'll try not to stray too much from canon, though.
There! That's all for this episode! Wait patiently for the next one, where we'll meet some of this story's villains!