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Mobile Suit Gundam Iscariot

Title: Mobile Suit Gundam ISCARIOT
Part: 4
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: When the test results reveal new paths, Aleksei barely has time to react before another bombshell is dropped.

Aleksei stared. Obviously there was some mistake. Some huge mistake. Something was horribly wrong, and that something was where he'd been assigned.

A large wall screen had activated near the cafeteria, and everyone was crowding around it - not just the first years. But Aleksei had planted himself right in the front, staring, hoping that if he just kept on staring, the glaring error would magically fix itself.


"Aleksei..." Nari put a hand on his shoulder, but he didn't even flinch.

"Hey, Aleksei... it's okay..."

Glaring, Aleksei turned to scream at Whitby that no, it was not okay. But words just didn't come out. He just didn't have them. He didn't have anything, really.

His name wasn't listed as a pilot. Instead, he was listed as the top-scoring mechanic amongst the class. It didn't make a bit of sense, though he did know a lot of specs and could identify a lot of machines quickly without error. He'd flown through that part of the training, but his simulation scores had been top notch, too.

He just...

"No, it's not okay," he finally managed, softly. Eoin was still a pilot, and Nari was slotted into development. Whitby, however, had also had his ranking changed from development to repair. And Whitby had... grabbed his hand again, and was very carefully pulling him away.

"It's not like you won't get to learn to pilot," Whitby continued. "Classes will be almost identical. And it's not like you won't be able to find a piloting job once we graduate. Look, mine got changed too but it's... not a huge surprise, really."

"I just..." Aleksei shook his head as he pulled his hand away from Whitby's. "I don't know."

"Do you still want to go see your friends?" Whitby questioned gently. Aleksei nodded. At least hearing about Tisiphone would brighten his mood. He'd nearly forgotten about Mick's promise to review the logs and share all the information he found.

Raising his hand, Whitby gestured for Nari and Eoin to make their way over. Aleksei was confused for a quick moment, before realizing how he'd been acting. It was a blow, but...

Ah, he owed Whitby one.

He was not supposed to be a mechanic, though. Maybe he could ask Mitra or Cardinell about it in the morning. Fix the mistake. That would work. But first, Tisiphone.

Mick and Jet were in their usual places, aside from having moved from crate and chair to the battered sofa that marked one side of their little lounge area.

"Evening," Jet said, looking up as he saw the group approaching. He let go of his side of a larger data tablet that he'd been sharing with Mick, and moved over to his usual location. "I see we have a new body..."

"This is Whitby," Eoin said quickly. "And Whitby, this is Jet and Mick."

"Honored," Whitby said quickly. "I've heard a lot about you. And read your faculty biographies."

"What's ol' Mitra saying about me now?" Mick questioned, shaking his head. "He should know better than to try to make me sound like a respectable member of NIN-ANA's teaching staff."

"Security officer," Whitby replied. "With an interest in literature, language and art."

"Art," Jet noted flatly. "Art..."

But Mick was laughing, as was Eoin as he sat. Nari stayed on her feet, leaning behind Eoin and reaching to braid his hair.

"Something wrong?" Whitby asked, clearly confused.

"Mick's got an appreciation for the human form, yes," Aleksei said, unable to hold in a chuckle. For as awful as he felt, well, there was no denying the humor.

"I'm mostly harmless," Mick commented, before patting the seat next to him. Whitby settled without hesitation, and after a long moment, Aleksei took Mick's crate.

"I already have your scores," Jet said after a lingering pause. "I'm surprised, in general, but not for the reasons you might think."

"Oh?" Nari asked. She'd pulled a comb from somewhere and was working on Eoin's hair, drawing it out into long straight chunks. "Because Aleksei..."

"It has to be a mistake," Aleksei interjected. "I'm a pilot."

"Here's what you didn't see," Jet said as he reached for the tablet that Mick had hung on to. Mick passed it quickly, and after a half-dozen very fast taps and drags, Jet passed it along to Aleksei. "I'd appreciate if you'd not retain any data aside from your own, but those are everyone's detailed scores."

Aleksei found his name quickly and sucked in his breath.

"Eeeeh?" Nari leaned, Eoin leaned, and Whitby moved to lean, but he was on the wrong side of Mick to really do anything.

"Wait..." Aleksei wasn't entirely sure what he was looking at. He'd had the highest score on the piloting simulations. His psych exam had set him as a pilot. But his score as a mechanic was higher yet. So...

"Congratulations, you're awesome," Jet said with a smile. Aleksei wasn't entirely sure if Jet meant that, or if it was sarcasm. But he didn't think so - that just didn't seem like how Jet acted.

"Okay, now I have to..." Nari slipped over and peered upside down at the screen. "Wait, what?" She tugged it away from him. "Oh, I did pretty decent too. But yeah, you..."

"Here," Eoin said, reaching. Nari passed it to him.

Aleksei blinked a few times. Now he really wasn't sure what to think.

But before he could really gather his thoughts, his datapad beeped. And so did Eoin's, and then Nari's and Whitby's. Even the tablet Eoin was holding did a little chime to signal that it had received some sort of data.

"Eh?" Aleksei pulled his out and peeked.

It was his class schedule, and he couldn't help opening it on the spot. He glanced quickly over the top at his friends, and they were all doing the same thing.

"Normal stuff in the morning," Nari complained as she flopped down in front of Mick. "You guys?"

"Yup. Same here," Eoin said quickly.

Aleksei stared at his. Two days a week, he was scheduled entire afternoons of piloting, along with options for supplemental courses and practice on off-days. That was good. And for as much as he didn't think he was meant to be a mechanic, knowing how to fix his machine would be useful. He always figured he'd have a trusted mechanic somewhere to help him out, but being his own... Well, that would be even better. Yes, it would be good.

"Everyone?" Whitby questioned, slipping down onto the floor and offering his datapad.

"Right," Eoin said with a nod, echoing Whitby's movement. For the next few minutes they stared at one another's schedules and copied down where they'd be sharing classes.

All smiles, they settled back. Mick was playing with the tablet again, obviously pulling up something.

"I guess this is where I offer up Tisiphone's initial logs," Mick said cautiously. "They're pretty interesting, and I'd completely forgotten that Tisiphone's original assigned pilot was --" He frowned and looked to Jet, who just shook his head.

"I'm only Tisiphone's second," Mick said firmly, indicating that he wouldn't entertain questions as to just how the switchover occurred.

"Can I...?" Aleksei asked, reaching. He didn't like the implication, but he was sure there was a reason.

"Here," Mick said as he handed the tablet over. "There are several pages, and even some original schematics and Jet's rough drafts for some of the assembly."

"Please don't look closely at those," Jet moaned. "I was young and had more ideas than understanding."

"You still have more ideas than anything else," Mick commented. "It's why we're here."

Jet sighed, and leaned back, waiting.

Aleksei was enthralled. Everything about Tisiphone was here. Everything. From initial assembly and design, to color charts and even notes on the incidental materials. And Tisiphone's first live tests. Except...

"This isn't right," Aleksei said softly. The dates were wrong. He knew exactly when he saw Tisiphone and...

"Mmm?" Jet looked over at him. "What's wrong?"

"I saw Tisiphone at Dea Matrona," Aleksei said. "But according to this, Tisiphone wasn't even flight-ready..."

There was silence, and then Mick swore.

"Fuck! I was so carried away with finding all the data, I didn't even think about the timing," Mick said, getting to his feet and pacing over to stand at Tisiphone's feet. "Of course it wasn't Tisi."

"Mick, if it wasn't Tisiphone..." Jet started, before stopping dead as his eyes widened. "Oh..."

"What?" Nari questioned. "Then this isn't the one that saved Aleksei?"

"It isn't," Jet said. "And there's only one mobile suit that I can think of that could ever have been mistaken for Tisiphone. Well, to have Tisiphone mistaken for it..."

"But..." Aleksei wasn't even sure if he could move. He didn't think he could feel. He hadn't found the machine that had saved him. For so many years, he'd held Tisiphone on the highest pedestal, but... it was all wrong.

"Atropos." Mick said, and Jet nodded.

"Atropos," he confirmed a moment later. "That's going to be a little trickier to get proper information on. It's..."

"Atropos," Aleksei echoed, letting the name roll over his tongue. "Atropos."

"My third-year project was the full design of a trio of mobile suits," Jet explained. "Atropos was the only one actually built at that time, however. Its service record is painfully short, but it would have been around for Dea Matrona. And it basically was Tisiphone's prototype - as far as design and functionality are concerned... I can see where you'd have seen Atropos as a child and then found a picture of Tisiphone and thought they were the same."

Aleksei couldn't hold in a sigh. He'd spent a decade chasing the wrong machine. And possibly even the wrong dream...

"Where is Atropos now?" Whitby asked. "Eoin said there were more mobile suits..."

"Atropos was lost from NIN-ANA more than eight years ago. I don't know where it is," Jet replied with a little headshake. "Well, whatever is left of Atropos's frame. As I said, it had a short service record."

The six of them fell into silence again, under the weight of what Jet had said. Aleksei wasn't even sure he what he was feeling - maybe it was grief, maybe it was anger. Everything he'd been doing was completely wrong!

"Aleksei," Jet said softly. "Let's make a deal. It's one-sided, I'll admit, but... I know a lot of people, including some who owe me some fairly large favors. I'll find Atropos for you. Even if it's just pieces... I'll find you the mobile suit that saved your life."

"You can do that?" Eoin questioned, not giving Aleksei the time to respond.

Did it matter, Aleksei wondered. Atropos. If it was even the machine that saved him. It didn't. It was all ridiculous. This was just a waste of...

"Yes." And somehow, that was still his voice, betraying him. He looked up to Tisiphone and nodded. "Please."

Aleksei hadn't really expected to be able to skip out on the last couple years of basic classes, but he also hadn't really expected the basics to be so, well, normal. Despite only being a class of eighteen, they were split into two groups of nine. While Eoin had been assigned into the class that Nari, Skerry and Quinn were in, Aleksei had only Whitby to keep him company at first - at least until he got to know his classmates.

Math was fairly basic, and straight from the curriculum he'd been studying previously. It was almost eerie. His text had been downloaded to his datapad, and there was a port at his desk that connected it to a larger touchscreen so that he could actually work problems.

As a first class, it actually made him feel a little more at ease.

The classroom week was split - instead of a two-day weekend, there week was split so that each week started with a day off, then two days of classes, a day of workshop - whatever that was - a day off, and two more days of classes. There were vacation weeks in there as well, though as far as Aleksei knew, he wasn't leaving NIN-ANA. It would take more than a week to really get anywhere, anyway, so it was pointless. But it was always good to take breaks, he thought.

After math, he had a combination Language Arts class. Never his strong suit, Aleksei dreaded it until Nari snagged him as the two groups marched between classrooms.

"You're not going to believe it," she said, smiling.

"Believe what?" Aleksei questioned.

"Mmm, not gonna spoil it," Nari replied. "But you'll be glad you got out of bed this morning."

Aleksei winced as Nari bounced off. Leave it to Eoin's big mouth to tell everyone that he'd wanted to just stay in bed that morning and go back to a life where his life was doing what he expected it to do. Where he dreamed of Tisiphone and meant it, and where he was going to be a pilot.

"What was that?" Whitby questioned, stepping up behind Aleksei and resting a comforting hand on Aleksei's shoulder. "Something I should know about?"

"I don't know," Aleksei admitted with a bit of a glum tone in his voice. "I think we should just take our bathroom breaks and go to class."

As the last into the classroom, Aleksei scooted towards an empty seat by Whitby without really looking at the instructor's desk or much of anything.

"Yeah, that was worth not spoiling," Whitby said quickly, giving a little gesture.

"Mmm?" Aleksei followed Whitby's gaze and instantly understood. While all of his course materials had suggested their teacher would be a woman with extensive teaching experience, Mick was the one sitting behind the desk.

Looking intently at something that Aleksei could only figure to be pornography.

All of their datapads beeped a second later, and synchronized, and Mick stood and cleared his throat.

"Well, I'm sure you're all curious why I'm here, and not Mrs. Delos. Unfortunately, there was a death in her family two days ago and she'll be away from the colony for at least six weeks, so I'll be teaching in her place," Mick explained. "She left fairly detailed notes about what she'd like you all to study, but I have to admit that I have other ideas.

"Your reading assignments, follow-up questions and writing assignments for the week will all download to your datapads before you leave class," Mick continued. "But right now, I want to go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves with their name, favorite story and why it's their favorite."

Aleksei frowned. Mick was smiling. This was possibly going to be the worst class ever.


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