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: With their first year at NIN-ANA more than half over, Aleksei, Whitby, and their friends have already had more adventures than they could have dreamed. However, past sins are finally coming to light and in one instant, things will change forever.
Notes: It's time.
Solitaire nearly winced when he stepped into the Pandemonium's bridge. The tension was thick enough to nearly be visible - more than usual, at least. Gate was keeping her distance from Deadline and Jackal. Eddie was lurking between Gate and Tiercel. Amalgam looked wholly unimpressed with there being people on the bridge, and even Lore and Eternity weren't sitting as close as usual.
"We're splitting up for a bit," he said firmly, looking around at everyone. "Danurea is taking us on for escort missions - easy stuff and the pay is good."
"That's not what I was expecting to hear," Lore commented.
"I don't need to run escort missions," Jackal added.
"Hey, you're only still here because Solitaire felt sorry for you when your boss got busted," Eternity snapped. "Be grateful."
"This is the best we can do?" Deadline questioned.
Solitaire frowned. At least Amalgam met his gaze with some measure of understanding. But Amalgam had been with him for the longest amount of time. Amalgam knew that this was just until he was sure no one was sniffing around after Atropos.
"I'm not going to force anyone to do it," Solitaire finally said. "You can split off and try to find something on your own."
He waited. There was only silence. Even Deadline was fidgeting. Honestly, Solitaire was fairly sure they'd all be stumped on how to find their own jobs for at least the first bit.
"I don't mind escort jobs," Gate said, shrugging and checking her nails. "And I like Danurea I'm in."
"In," Lore added. "Eternity too."
"Yeah, okay," Deadline muttered. Tiercel nodded, as did Eddie. Solitaire knew he didn't have to ask Amalgam.
"Fine," Jackal finally said, frowning. "I want some good leave time, too."
Solitaire nodded. "On our current course, we'll be at Danurea in a couple of hours, so the first team will have no less than three days to themselves before their run. Everyone else will have longer. I'll have Sincere send you all your assignments."
"That didn't go well," Sincere said softly in his ear as he turned to leave.
"There's just not much out there right now," Sincere replied. "NIN-ANA won Helvetios away from us, though that would have gotten a little dangerous anyway."
"Does Dolen have anything?"
"No," Sincere said. "No jobs and no chatter."
Solitaire reached up and switched his microphone off. "It's too quiet. I don't like it."
"I tried our contact on Asterope Colony, too," Sincere continued. "You turned your microphone off, didn't you? Honestly, Solitaire, it's okay. We were both wrong about how various groups would react to what happened with Fireshade."
"Yeah, but it didn't start getting weird until after Jackal's screw-up. When I took Atropos out."
He didn't want to worry Sincere. He just wanted to take care of his crew.
Switching his microphone back on, Solitaire tried to smile before he replied.
"Finalize everyone's escort schedules," Solitaire said quickly. "Get them sent as soon as possible - we'll be at Danurea before their night cycle. At least some downtime should improve everyone's moods."
He should have known better than to try to fool Sincere. "Hopefully."
"I don't think Solitaire ever intended to defect," Ashtorethe said to Aleksei as they waited for a tram to take them back to the school.
"Oh?" Aleksei mumbled. He really hadn't expected to hear more on Solitaire, or on any part of the past. It apparently was painful, for everyone, so he could understand why it wasn't often mentioned.
"He was one of Varuna's favorites, actually. They were good friends," Ashtorethe explained. "Varuna hand picked the mission for him, according to Jet. Solitaire was so good with people."
She smiled a sad sort of smile.
"Well, Lan was good with people. I never actually saw him on a mission, but I can't imagine his demeanor changed much, which might have made him a bit soft," she said. "He was sent to assist a young colony set up a defense militia. In the wake of Dea Matrona, a lot of colonies suddenly realized they weren't prepared for true battle.
"In the end, the true threat was the colony's leader. He was afraid of the militia's new power and ordered them all arrested. There was a revolt and Lan was in there somewhere. Everything got very bad very quickly and honestly, the mission was a failure."
"But sometimes that happens, right?" Aleksei questioned. Sometimes failure was unavoidable, no matter what anyone did. Nothing could go perfectly every time.
"Well, the colony's leader survived, the ensuing mess drew the colony into the war, and Lan..." Ashtorethe shook her head. "Lan took off his bracelet and vanished. At first it was suggested that he might have been killed and Atropos taken, but I don't think any of us ever believed it was possible."
"Why didn't Mick and Amde just go look for him?" Aleksei questioned. He couldn't imagine them not going after their friend.
"Because no matter what he was thinking - if he couldn't face his failure or if something else happened that we didn't know about - he left them," Ashtorethe said. "They swallowed their pain as best they could."
"No one looked for him?"
"Varuna has looked constantly," Ashtorethe replied sharply. "Though now... I never thought Varuna would ever actually order anyone out after him. I guess I thought he was too --I don't know -- possibly sad, or possibly just willing to let Solitaire live out his life free, to ever issue the command."
Aleksei frowned. He really didn't understand.
"You know why all of those mobile suits were moved the other day, don't you?" "It was time?" Aleksei replied. "A special assignment."
Ashtorethe nodded and glanced down the tracks as the tram's lone headlight appeared in the distance.
"Once Varuna knows where Solitaire is, he's going to be hunted down and killed." Ashtorethe's voice finally cracked, and she shook her head. "That's why all of those mobile suits were moved the other day -- Varuna is sending Solitaire's best friends to kill him."
Aleksei was silent as they got onto the tram and sat. Only after it was in motion did he manage to ask his next question.
"Do you think that's the right thing to do?" he asked Ashtorethe softly.
"Completely," she responded without hesitation. "For Varuna, I would pull the trigger myself."
Varuna thought about Solitaire every day. He always had. And it had taken him far too long to finally decide to act.
"I hope you like your Rubis, by the way," Ashtorethe said with a little smile as the tram stopped.
"That machine you were using, that you left down in my care," Ashtorethe added, not breaking her smile.
"What about it? It was..."
"It's yours," she said. "Just in case you miss the announcement, if Moros or Eris has already given it. You'll still have that work Safphir for taking apart and putting back together, of course, but the Rubis is yours. Even after you graduate."
"Rubis is mine?" Aleksei had to let that sink in. The Rubis was his. His! His very own mobile suit...
He wasn't even sure if he still wanted Atropos and he was damned sure he wanted Mick in Tisiphone instead of Akhlys. Akhlys was scary, now that he knew more about it. Not that Mick seemed terribly harmless, either.
"Yours," Ashtorethe repeated. "It's not a Gundam, but it's not impossible for you to get one of those, either. I know Jet keeps on stock-piling them for future use."
"Thallo, Auxo, Carpo," Aleksei began.
"Agleae, Euphrosyne, Thalia," Ashtorethe continued. "And Angelos..."
"So many..." Aleksei said.
"We've had teams retire, and a few are taking the Rubis now, and Deamondes and Emeraldes. We've lost teams..." Ashtorethe's voice was quiet. "It's okay. NIN-ANA is going through a quiet period out here. Varuna knows that."
"But we could..."
"Fan the flames of war? There are others, graduates from NIN-ANA who use their machines to create and maintain peace," Ashtorethe said. "Those who topple pirates, those who work closer to the colonies they serve. Most of our income is from selling mobile suits and materials...
"But perhaps in your lifetime, this will not be a school for war, but a school of machines and materials. Varuna is a resourceful man. He will figure it out."
Ashtorethe smiled. Aleksei thought she might look tired, but she did not. Instead, she looked almost like a young woman, ready to face her endless possibilities.
"I wonder, though, if Jet won't build you something all your own."
"You could take one of the Rubises," Sincere suggested.
"Won't have the range. Besides, they're both out," Solitaire replied, shaking his head. He'd split off everyone he could - he hadn't expected an urgent request from their Asterope contact.
"Lacks the overall power output I'd need to be successful," Solitaire told her. "You know that."
He paused in his brushing. This was going to be a job for Atropos and they both knew it. Solitaire wasn't thrilled with the idea but it was the only way.
"I'm going to take Atropos."
Sincere reached up and wrapped one of her hands around his.
"I won't be seen," he added. "It's a distance strike on an awful weapon that shouldn't exist. It'll be fine."
He told himself that the entire time.
Mick carefully nudged Psyche off of his chest and to where she could sprawl across the bed safely. His datapad was making a noise that wouldn't stop, and it wasn't because of the time. It was far too early - he was sure of that.
Looking at it, yes, it was far too early. He'd only gotten a week with Psyche, who had grown up to be incredible. He'd barely been able to introduce her to everyone and catch her up properly on the years since he'd left home. They'd both been bad at writing. The photo on his fridge, which she'd immediately grabbed, was more than a decade old.
"Mick?" Psyche shifted and looked up at him, blue eyes only half awake.
"S'okay," Mick said quickly, reaching to draw his fingers through her red hair. "Just gotta go do something. Go back to sleep."
She nodded and closed her eyes and carefully, he tucked the blankets up across her back as he stood.
The screen wouldn't clear, but at least the volume control still worked. Turning the incessant beeping down as far as it would go, he headed towards the bathroom to, at the very least, throw up.
Amde had just finished stitching, putting a glue layer on and then bandaging a particularly impressive cut across the arm of one of the Third Years who had been working until it was far too late to be working and had gotten sloppy. She was early in her shift, and this was the sort of thing she didn't mind. It was easy, and reminded her that she was useful.
She'd sent the young man on his way and gotten everything cleaned up when the beeping started.
She wondered if she'd ever wear white again.
Jet had been working on Ereshkigal, and had settled in its cockpit to nap. He'd set an alarm, at least, but had apparently been tired enough to sleep through it. This, however...
Varuna didn't feel any better about it.
Carefully, unwilling to wake even Mitra, he unplugged himself and pulled on his boots. There was no sense in formality - the station was mostly asleep and really, he didn't care about appearances at the moment. Not when he'd gotten a clear fix on Atropos. And Solitaire. And how to get in contact with them. He'd cracked the one last bit of the riddle...
He knew that not a one of the three would rush, and well, he was tired. They'd be tired. They'd be angry. And they'd be sad.
There was no doubt that this needed to be done, however. It was time.
The hangar was on its dim, unoccupied night setting, which was the best scenario. The fewer people who knew about the launch, the better, though he knew that everyone would know about it before long.
Varuna quickly turned on all the lights and linked himself in to the whole of the hangar operations. Checking quickly, everything was ready to go. However, he'd been short on sleep and the sudden exertion finally caught up with him, leaving him a touch dizzy. Rushing there hadn't been a good idea at all.
Glancing around for a place to sit, Varuna was only a little surprised to be scooped up by Valentine.
"I still sleep here, after all" Valentine said with a little grin. "Let me get you somewhere comfy."
"Thank you," Varuna said, relaxing in Valentine's arms. "It's been awhile..."
"It has," Valentine commented. "Though this is... This is what I'm afraid it is, isn't it?"
"I'm sorry," Varuna replied as Valentine helped him settle on a supply crate. "Please, Valentine, trust me on this one."
Valentine nodded slowly. They looked at each other for a long moment, not speaking. They didn't have to. Valentine had been issued the command before. He knew what was going to happen.
"They should be on their way..."
Valentine stood beside him until Mick, Jet, and Amde arrived. Not a one of them said a thing about Varuna's choice in seating, and Varuna was grateful that both he and the crate had remained upright.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!