Mobile Suit Gundam Iscariot
Title: Mobile Suit Gundam ISCARIOT
Fandom: Gundam (Meta)
Disclaimer: No profit is being made on this fanwork.
Rating: T Overall
Summary: Aleksei Vivek dreams of becoming an ace mobile suit pilot. It's all he's wanted and all he's worked for. But what happens when he gets to NIN-ANA, the toughest training school there is? What happens to a dream when it's time to wake up?
Notes: (While there are not as many expies in this as intended, feel free to play spot-the-expy as you go~)
Silver and red.
The image of that mobile suit flashing by the window of the commercial shuttle burned into Aleksei Vivek's memory in an instant. And from that moment on he knew, even as a child, that he wanted nothing other than to be a mobile suit pilot.
He'd only been six when the flight he'd been traveling on with his parents had been saved from one of the first moments of what had afterward been called the First Battle of Dea Matrona. It was a small skirmish, in hindsight, part of an overarching war that eventually effected the whole of space.
But that was over...
Now, he was sixteen and three weeks, if the three weeks mattered at all. Aleksei didn't think so, as he tried to flag down anyone he could in the cargo zone of the station Paao. So far he'd gotten three dirty looks and two terse refusals. No one was heading to NIN-ANA and they weren't afraid to let him know it.
"Hey... Excuse me!" Aleksei tried again as he saw a pair of almost too-handsome young men making their way towards a dock. He hadn't tried anyone from that ship yet. "Hey..."
The men looked at each other for a moment, before the one with long, light blue hair nodded and they paused to let Aleksei approach.
"Are you going to NIN-ANA?" Aleksei asked, hopeful.
"You're a student?" the second man questioned. He had short, reddish hair and far sharper features than his partner.
"Yes," Aleksei admitted. "I can pay a small fee, or work on your ship..." He tried to smile, but he was tired and it was forced. The men looked at each other for a long moment, seemingly saying volumes to each other without uttering a word.
Aleksei had known it would be difficult to get to NIN-ANA, the most remote and most highly regarded of mobile suit design facilities and training schools. He'd spent over a year taking tests and filling out forms. And his acceptance paperwork had said he'd have to find his own way to the station. But this... was getting ridiculous.
"Can you cook and clean?" the blue-haired man questioned.
"Yes!" Aleksei replied, suddenly re-energized. They were going to take him. This was it...
"We're departing in less than two hours," the man said, gesturing that Aleksei should probably get going ahead of them. "NIN-ANA is still three days out and we have a stop in between."
"Perfect," Aleksei commented, nodding. He wanted to jump up and down - to do something. He wanted to take the boxes the men were carrying and carry those, but he had his own suitcase and duffel. Everything he thought he needed to own, right there. "Thank you."
"Thank you," the red-haired one echoed. Aleksei thought their might've been a chuckle in there, too, but he wasn't sure. It didn't really matter. Whatever was awaiting him, he could survive. NIN-ANA was one step closer.
Two days into the three day trip, Aleksei had re-read the three books he'd packed along with practically memorizing the magazine he'd bought back two spaceports ago. He'd read and re-read his admissions paperwork and instructions. He'd listened to every song on his datapad and realized he had pretty underwhelming taste in music. But he was trying... Mobile suits had just been a pretty singular obsession for him.
He'd also cleaned every surface of the Pale Fox that he could possibly clean. Surprisingly, the ship wasn't a cargo vessel, but a cruiser. Aleksei hadn't asked, but he could only assume that any cargo the ship was carrying wasn't normal in any way. Especially not if they were heading to NIN-ANA for either a delivery or a pick up.
With the next meal prepared and the kitchen already clean, Aleksei debated asking if there was anything else he could do. So far the Pale Fox's four crew members had been polite to him, but not particularly friendly. At first, Aleksei had been surprised, but then he realized that they probably saw a lot of people and that they had their own concerns. It was reasonable.
He'd brought his datapad with him to the kitchen to serve as a stereo while he cooked, and just as his playlist ended, he saw a spot he'd missed nearby and sighed. There was a pause before the playlist started again and knowing he still had more to do, Aleksei let it continue. He rinsed the dishcloth and headed over to make the counter shine.
One step closer to NIN-ANA.
He'd spent years trying to locate the machine that had saved himself and his family that day, but until he'd stumbled across a grainy photo of a mobile suit named Tisiphone, he'd not found anything at all like it. It was a 'Gundam' - the name for the one-off powerful machines produced at NIN-ANA. Gundam Tisiphone. Later, Aleksei had tracked down more photos and data, though there hadn't been much to find. He had a year of entry-to-service, and better images, but anything after its first few years was an utter mystery. It went from having a distinguished career to vanishing overnight. But it was the least of Aleksei's concerns, even if it was the background of the datapad, red and silver decorating the space behind the music player application.
Before the playlist ended for the second time, Aleksei had re-cleaned everything, started on another set of meals and lifted every heavy jug he could find at least once. While the artificial gravity in the Pale Fox seemed to be notched up to simulate actual gravity, Aleksei knew it was worth his time to keep his muscles active. He'd need them.
The kitchen and adjoining dining area had sort of become his domain. It was comfortable - more so than the closet-like room he'd been offered. No one had really bothered him unless they had tasks for him, and he'd been assured that his transit had been covered via his work.
Datapad in hand, Aleksei settled onto a chair and pulled up his acceptance letter again. The letter itself was brief and only vaguely congratulatory. He was one of just two dozen students accepted, apparently, and he should be proud...
The attachments were more interesting, but still vague. Apparently he wouldn't get the student handbook until he arrived, because it was confidential. Most everything related to NIN-ANA was. Aleksei knew he'd be limited in outside communications, but aside from his mother and sister, he didn't really have anyone to keep in contact with. While he considered himself a friendly enough guy, the last few years had all been about NIN-ANA and he knew it'd cost him the friends he'd once had.
They just didn't understand, though -- he was going to be a pilot. He was going to NIN-ANA to be a pilot.
Scrolling through the suggested packing list, Aleksei sighed again. The Pale Fox needed to get there-- he was ready. He'd been ready. Aleksei flipped back to the letter and stared at it. It was signed 'Commander Varuna'.
"Varuna." Aleksei repeated. The head of NIN-ANA had to be amazing. Everyone there had to be amazing...
Aleksei blinked and stared as the crew of the Pale Fox was greeted with familiarity and hooting by the NIN-ANA docking crew. He wanted to ask, but he was lost for words. Clutching his suitcase and duffel, he just stared, slack-jawed.
Nearly jumping, Aleksei turned to see a blonde woman in cargo pants and a hooded sweatshirt looking him over.
"Aleksei Vivek, right? How was the trip?"
"Fine," Aleksei replied. "And yeah, that's me. How did you...?"
"At your last test, you were photographed and measured, remember?" the woman questioned. "That was so we could be ready for you if you passed. You have uniforms waiting for you, though..."
She reached and tweaked the braid of hair that hung just to the left of Aleksei's face.
"This is new."
"My sister..." Aleksei admitted, hoping he wasn't blushing. She'd just learned to braid and had been practicing on all of his shoulder-length turquoise hair. He'd already re-braided and fixed the one he'd kept, but the sentiment was still there.
"Ah." The woman smiled. "You can call me Cardinell. I'm part of the Residential Staff. Today we'll be getting you settled in and perhaps you can meet Commander Varuna. Your roommate isn't here yet, but there are still four days before classes begin. You're actually one of the first to arrive."
"Really?" Aleksei asked. He would have arrived a week ago if it had been possible.
Cardinell nodded. "Of the eighteen of you, you're only the fifth to get here. And since the Pale Fox is the only scheduled arrival, you're it for today."
"Anyway, let's get going. We've got a lot to cover," Cardinell continued. She smiled, and Aleksei couldn't help smiling back. There was a certain agelessness about her, and Aleksei couldn't pin her any closer than 'twenties'. The formlessness of her clothing didn't help, in his opinion.
"If you have any questions, just ask them. And I'll take that, if you're sick of carrying it." Cardinell reached for Aleksei's duffel and he let her take it. It was easy enough for her to sling it crossways over her body and she still had her hands free. Though she didn't seem to actually have anything on her person, unless she had a datapad hidden.
"Only eighteen?" Aleksei questioned. "I thought it was two dozen."
Cardinell gestured that they should start walking, and Aleksei was at her side almost instantly.
"There were a couple of students who couldn't accept for various reasons, and a couple that were deemed inappropriate for the program," Cardinell replied flatly. "It's not a bad thing. The smaller the classes, the more you'll learn."
"I guess so," Aleksei admitted. It was hard to focus on Cardinell when there were so many other things to look at. This was NIN-ANA. Even the cargo dock was fascinating. Aleksei just wanted to stop and admire everything, but Cardinell herded him onward through a series of air doors until finally they arrived at what looked like a tram station.
"All of NIN-ANA is inter-linked via tram," Cardinell explained as she walked over to a small podium and waved her hand over it. A small blue light lit up on it, and Cardinell hit a couple of flat buttons that turned the light purple. "There are multiple lines, however... One set is scheduled, and that's the set you'll generally be taking. The other is on demand, and functions on a priority system. Students are free to use it, however if someone with a higher authority needs it, that priority wins."
Aleksei nodded, trying to figure out how she'd activated the tram stop. Either she had an implant or...
"Each person on NIN-ANA is issued a unique identification code," Cardinell said with a soft smile. "It can and will be used to track your presence around NIN-ANA, but don't worry, it won't be used to invade your privacy. You don't have to carry it, however there are obviously places and times where you'll need it to open doors or summon trams."
There was a quick sparkle as Cardinell gestured to the tram line tracks, and Aleksei realized that her code was embedded in her wedding ring.
"So the trams go everywhere?" Aleksei asked. Already it seemed too easy to go wandering to check everything out. He'd be able to see NIN-ANA's Gundams firsthand.
"Yes, but you have to have high enough clearance to get them to activate a stop," Cardinell replied. "Don't tell me you're already planning on having a good sneak around..."
"Er..." Aleksei winced. Either every student thought like he did or Cardinell was just very good at her job.
Cardinell smiled at him and then gestured at the tram signal, which had turned green.
"Everyone has a good sneak around, don't worry," she said. "You'll get caught, get in a bit of trouble and maybe even get a lecture from Varuna. It's tradition."
Aleksei tried not to smile. Cardinell obviously had personal experience. "You were a student here?"
"Met my husband here, too," she answered just as the tram pulled up. "I like you. You're observant."
Aleksei shook his head, feeling his braid bop against his cheek as he did so. "Not really... it just seemed obvious. Though... I thought if you were a student here, you'd go on to do other things..."
"Someone needs to handle the basics," Cardinell commented as the tram doors opened and she stepped on. The car was empty aside from the two of them, and Aleksei tugged his suitcase on and quickly sat. Despite the amount of sitting he'd done for the last week, somehow it felt good.
Cardinell waved her hand over another panel and a map appeared. She maneuvered it quickly and selected a destination before sitting.
Aleksei found himself a little stuck for words as the tram started moving. The tunnels were unadorned, and Cardinell herself was quiet, seemingly waiting for him to find something to ask.
But he had nothing all of a sudden. Absolutely nothing. This was his dream - he was here in NIN-ANA.
And as he glanced alternately at the woman in the hoodie and cargo pants and the blank walls flying by outside narrow windows, Aleksei wondered if he'd finally woken up.
By the end of the day, Aleksei was exhausted. Cardinell had a seemingly limitless amount of energy and once they'd deposited his luggage in a room that Aleksei wasn't sure he'd ever find again, she'd dragged him over as much of NIN-ANA as her own clearance would allow. He'd had his datapad poked and prodded and had a half-dozen applications added to it, including the entire student handbook, which Cardinell had advised him to at least try to read.
He hadn't seen a single Gundam.
And sleep was far more important by the time he fell onto his bed and closed his eyes.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!