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: The school year begins with a fresh set of tests.
Nari was leaning against Eoin's shoulder, barely poking at her breakfast when Skerry and Quinn made their way cautiously over to their table. Aleksei felt a bit like something had plowed him over, but he wasn't going to admit to it. They'd not made it any further on their sneak about, opting instead to talk to Mick and Jet until the wee hours of the morning. And they'd been invited back, whenever, for private lessons or anything else they wanted. Jet had given Mick a little tap on the shoulder at that, which had made Aleksei curious. They'd obviously known each other for a very long time, but he wasn't good enough at reading people to tell if they were friends or lovers or something more complex.
"Missed you last night," Eoin said flatly.
"Sorry..." Skerry shook his head. "We were ambushed by some third years and ended up hanging out with them. Figured you'd be okay, though..."
"We were," Aleksei said with a little nod. "But next time, send a message?"
"I thought I did," Quinn replied. He frowned. "I sent one to someone that... I really hope wasn't Cardinell. I had sent her one about adjusting the ventilation."
"It's okay," Nari piped up. "It all worked out." She paused. "I'm Nari, by the way."
"Skerry," Skerry said before gesturing. "And Quinn."
"Where has everyone been?" Aleksei questioned. "This is a lot of people..."
"Is it?" Eoin asked in response. "I don't know..."
"More than we've seen," Aleksei corrected as he glanced around again. They were in an auditorium, waiting for their official welcome to NIN-ANA. Skerry and Quinn were in the same row, along with Nari on Eoin's other side.
"True," Eoin admitted. "Mm, there's Mick and Jet."
"And Cardinell," Aleksei added, gesturing to the group forming up on the stage. The faculty and staff seemed less organized than the students, Aleksei thought as he watched them mill around and check their datapads.
"This should have started, right?" Nari asked, pulling out her own datapad.
Aleksei opened his mouth to reply, but was instantly distracted by a boy with long, pure white hair racing across the stage and to the microphone. The boy was dressed in a uniform not unlike the ones Aleksei, Eoin and the rest were now wearing, but there was something about his that was distinctly different, too. Aleksei just couldn't put his finger on it.
"Hello," the boy said, looking flustered. "I apologize for Commander Varuna's absence, but his previous appointment has run long, and he asked that we get started without him.
"My name is Mitra," the boy continued. "I am Commander Varuna's assistant, and I daresay I've done this little talk more often than he has."
Mitra shook his head, long white hair sweeping behind him as he moved. It was then that Aleksei figured it out - while their uniforms had a grey hue to them and colored accents, Mitra's was pure white. Coupled with his hair and pale skin, he was nearly colorless.
"And so I welcome our eighteen new students to NIN-ANA. I'm sure you've all done some exploring and made new friends, though I urge you to continue these things whenever you can. The bonds that you make here will last you for life," Mitra said, managing a strange little smile. "Same goes for those of you who are entering your second or third year. Please make an effort to meet the incoming students and help them in their endeavors.
"Now, I do have one very important matter to discuss with the incoming class. As you may have noticed, your class of twenty-four now numbers only eighteen. That's due to a group thinking they could get the better of NIN-ANA and attempted to alter their data. While those individuals have been excluded from eligibility, Commander Varuna has decided that the incoming class will retake a day's worth of aptitude tests to ensure the quality of our results."
Aleksei sucked in his breath. And chatter erupted around him, sounds without words in all directions as his mind raced. But before he could worry too much, Mitra cleared his throat. There was instant silence, at least from the older students.
"It's merely a formality," Mitra assured. "While second and third years will begin their new class schedules tomorrow, first years will have testing.
"With that," Mitra continued, stepping back and gesturing to the group behind him. "Allow me to introduce some of NIN-ANA's staff and faculty."
Aleksei wasn't really listening, though. His datapad was flashing with messages from Nari and Eoin, and he was struggling to read them and reply.
"Hey, how old is Mitra?" Nari questioned as she reached to tug Mick's girly magazine away from him. "He looks younger than we are."
"No idea," Mick replied, reaching to snag it back. "He's old enough to be Varuna's right hand."
"I don't buy it," Nari said flatly. "He's gotta be what, twelve? It's just not possible."
"I'm more interested in tomorrow," Eoin commented. "I have a weird feeling..."
"Yeah," Aleksei replied, shaking his head. "It's weird, isn't it? I don't think anyone thinks we're trouble, or we wouldn't be allowed to wander so much."
"Sneak," Nari corrected. "Technically, we're still sneaking around."
"I just don't want to take all those tests again," Aleksei admitted. "I just want to move forward and do new things."
"Same here," Eoin said. "I want to get in a cockpit and..."
"And what?" Mick asked. He had an amused smile on his face. "If I put you up in Tisiphone, would you have any idea what you were doing?"
"Er..." Eoin blushed. Nari giggled and Aleksei just shook his head.
"I would be attempting to not look around," Jet noted, slipping up behind Mick and reaching for Mick's magazine. Mick did not resist, which struck Aleksei as quite interesting. "He's got more naked lady pictures up there than in this magazine."
"Not just ladies," Mick corrected. "I'm an equal opportunity pervert."
"Mick..." Jet's voice was low and warning.
"Anyway, I have all of Tisiphone's info and logs now," Mick said, smiling at Aleksei. "Since I don't have anything to do, I'll see about finding that information you wanted. If you still want it."
"Yes!" Aleksei cried. "Please."
"It'll be a gift, then, for finishing all that testing," Mick said with a chuckle before looking at Eoin and Nari. "Suppose I should figure out something for you two as well?"
"I'm good," Nari replied. "As long as you'll keep having us around. Though..." She glanced back in the direction of Sarasvati and Aditi.
"I'll take you to see some of NIN-ANA's main mobile suit hangars and the Rubis factory," Jet said. "You'll get to see a few other Gundams and some other customized mobile suits."
"Mmm?" Eoin frowned. "This isn't..."
"This is just a sub-hangar and mostly Mick's domain," Jet said firmly. "I believe I told you that he was security."
Mick simply winked and snagged his magazine back.
Aleksei couldn't help smiling. He wasn't entirely sure what he'd expected his instructors and the other staff to be like, but he was glad for Mick and Jet, at least.
"Scores are going to be up after dinner," Whitby Timin, the young man who'd been assigned as Aleksei's partner for part of the testing, announced. Most of the first years were milling around outside of the testing classroom as he and Aleksei exited. "Mitra just messaged Instructor Moros and said that everything other than the last bit has already been processed."
"They expect us to eat?" Eoin questioned.
"I'm hungry," Aleksei replied. "Besides-- nothing is going to change. We're already here..."
"Hey, I could end up as an ace pilot," Whitby interrupted with a smile. "Instead of an aspiring designer."
"Who's left?" Aleksei questioned, glancing around. "Nari?"
"Nari and Quinn and two others," Eoin noted, counting on his fingers. "Did you notice that there were only twelve in our testing?"
"The others were R-Block," Whitby said. "I don't even know if they had to do the re-testing. Doesn't much matter."
"R-Block?" Aleksei asked. "I didn't know we had blocks."
"We're in T-Block," Eoin noted. "I saw that somewhere. What's the difference, though?"
Whitby shook his head. "Am I the only one who did some deep research? You heard what Mitra said, right? We're in NIN-ANA for life."
"Yeah, and?" Eoin slumped against the wall and finally sat, and Aleksei was right behind him. They'd wait for Nari, at least. Skerry seemed distracted by a couple of students that Aleksei hadn't really met yet.
"Well, there are two ways to get here," Whitby said as he sat cross-legged facing them. "First is to do all the testing and be skilled enough to get in. You know, what we all did. The second is to pay the tuition, which is part of what keeps this place running."
"Yeah," Whitby said. "We're all here on scholarships, I guess. But there's a going price, and anyone rich enough who needs a problem child out of the way for a few years..."
"Here?" Aleksei questioned. He didn't like the idea of having to deal with peers who didn't actually want to be there learning about mobile suits.
"Here," Whitby confirmed. "Though I suppose they had to be tested into something... Maybe one of them will turn out to be a good pilot."
Aleksei opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Nari slipping out of the classroom and bee-lining to flop beside Eoin.
"That was awful," she said with a little headshake. "I don't think I managed anything right. It all just sort of turned into a blur."
"Don't sweat it," Eoin said, reaching to pat her on the shoulder. "Everything'll turn out good."
Everyone turned to see Cardinell standing at the end of the hall, hands on her hips. She was actually in what Aleksei had decoded to be the staff uniform, and she didn't look amused. He wasn't sure if it was just a Cardinell act, as she seemed to be notoriously two-faced, or if she really intended to run them all off.
"The sooner we eat, the sooner we get our scores and the sooner we can go see Jet and Mick," Nari said, clearly not wanting to move. "I just don't want to do anything, though..."
"May I invite myself along?" Whitby questioned. "I was one of the last to get here and haven't had all the good exploring time."
"Of course," Aleksei replied as he got to his feet and then offered Whitby a hand. "Tonight's going to be a great night."
Whitby grabbed his hand and smiled. "I'm sure it will."
"Hey, Gate... I've almost got it narrowed down."
Gate sighed, humoring her little brother. "Oh?"
"Either 'Crisis' or 'Knight," he replied, smiling. "What do you think?"
Shaking her head, Gate's short faded-pink hair swept around her face. "What's wrong with just being 'Eddie'?" she asked him.
He frowned. "Yeah, perfect. Solitaire, Deadline, Gate and Eddie... It doesn't really have that certain ring to it."
"Why not wait and earn a name?" Gate questioned. She leaned back and held out a hand to admire her nails. They were a constant work in progress. Unlike Eternity, she did her own maintenance. Well, hers, Eddie's, and whatever she could of Solitaire's before he shooed her away from his machine.
But they were nice and pink again, bright, four coats plus a top layer. It would last for at least a couple of days before needing to be fixed again. Besides, Solitaire didn't have work for them yet. At least not for anyone who wasn't Amalgam or Lore.
"I want it now," Eddie complained. He'd been fussing with his datapad for the last hour, while Gate had painted her nails. If all he'd done was try to figure out a cool name for himself, well, she'd call him 'Eddie' forever.
"Tough," Gate responded. "You should have gotten into NIN-ANA and not wasted years of Solitaire's planning."
"That wasn't my fault!" Eddie cried. "That other guy had the perfect way in..."
"Cheating is never the perfect way in," Gate interjected. "Idiot."
"You didn't clear the first test," Eddie shot back.
Gate frowned at him, and was almost thankful when Deadline ambled into the common room and eyed them both.
"Solitaire wants to see everyone in an hour," he said flatly. "I think this one is a big one."
"Might just be more boring stuff," Gate replied. "We've been getting more and more light jobs - escorts and all that."
"It pays the bills," Deadline reminded her. "Especially when someone decides to smash her Safphir against two enemy Emeraldes."
"Fucking stopped them," Gate replied, narrowing her eyes. "Finished the mission, at least. One up from Tiercel."
"He's got the bracers off now," Eddie said, laughing. Gate wanted to hit him. This wasn't the life for him and she knew it. But it was what she'd wanted and she liked the job. And she liked Solitaire.
"Besides, I fixed it myself too," Gate said, attempting to stare down Deadline from where she was sitting. It didn't work.
"Whatever," he said. "Meeting in an hour. Try to remember how to get dressed by then."
Gate frowned at him as he left. Solitaire never complained about her outfits. Half the time, he was the one paying for them and her nail polish.
Solitaire just needed to notice how much she'd grown up since they'd first met.
Gate reached with one pink-tipped thumb and pushed the zipper of her tight-fitting top down a bit. And then a little more. She'd get his attention.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!