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Mobile Suit Gundam Iscariot

Title: Mobile Suit Gundam ISCARIOT
Part: 5
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 first day of classes continues to be full of surprises. Meanwhile...

"This is ridiculous," Eoin complained, holding out his datapad across the cafeteria table as if he was the only one with a long homework queue. "Is he even a real teacher?"

Aleksei wasn't entirely sure what to say. He didn't really think Mick -- Instructor Hedone -- was on any sort of power trip. He apparently just had really high expectations and decided to give out assignments to back it up. But considering the amount of time Aleksei had spent studying for NIN-ANA's testing, well, he was used to doing his homework. And then some.

"It's not bad," Whitby countered as he pushed Eoin's datapad back at him and leaned back in one of the blue plastic cafeteria chairs. "We've got what, tonight and two whole other days to read one short story, answer five short-essay questions about it along with writing a thousand words about the most interesting thing we've discovered thus far about NIN-ANA."

"That's a lot of work," Eoin insisted. "And it's going to get worse, I'm sure."

"That or he's going to realize he hates grading the stuff and slack off," Aleksei suggested. Somehow, he couldn't imagine Mick sitting there on the ratty hangar sofa and grading papers for very long before getting frustrated and going back to his other past-times.

"Maybe," Eoin said. "Did any of your R-Block people raise a fuss?"

Aleksei shook his head. He wasn't even sure who was actually in R-Block, nor did he really care to find out. "No one really said anything. Maybe they were all in shock?"

"Some R-Block folks may actually want to be here," Whitby suggested.

"Not Lyndee," Eoin said, glancing around the cafeteria, which was only half-full at best. "I don't see her - she's probably back sulking in her room. Apparently she had no idea she was even coming here until she was shoved onto a charter shuttle."

"Why bother?" Aleksei questioned. He both did and didn't understand the concept of R-Block. "Wouldn't it be better to have someone here who wants to be here?"

"She scored as a pilot," Eoin said. "Not near the top, but she was put into that bracket anyway..."

"I'm beginning to think Development and Repair are the higher tier programs," Whitby said wryly. Aleksei still wasn't sold.

"Anyway, she just went into all sorts of fits about having to do homework," Eoin explained. Mick just sort of stopped talking, stared, and waited for her to finish. And then he said nothing and just kept going with the lesson. He pretty much ignored her, so the next time she was louder and he just kept talking to the rest of us. No matter what she did, it didn't work."

"What happens if you don't pass a class?" Aleksei questioned.

"Didn't you read your Student Handbook?" Whitby asked back. "I read most of mine the first night."

"I kinda slept sixteen hours," Aleksei reminded him. "And then had Eoin and Nari drag me around."

"Where is Nari?" Whitby questioned, glancing around. Her spot beside them was noticeably vacant.

"Tearle snagged her pretty quickly," Eoin said. "Girl stuff, I guess. I don't want to know."

"Mmm, no worries," Aleksei said. "But anyway, about passing?"

"Well, they don't send you home. But there are varying degrees of punishment and there's eventually a note that says to ask Mitra if anyone really wants to know," Whitby said.

"That's probably not good." Aleksei went to poke at the Student Handbook application. In the process, he pulled up his class schedule and saw that it had finally been updated with Mick's name as an instructor.

"There are still a lot of things about this place that are a little... unique," Whitby said. "But we'll all be fine."

"I'm just not sure about Lyndee," Eoin said with a headshake. "And I've got class with her all afternoon."

"Maybe she'll shape up once she realizes this was a one-way trip," Whitby offered.

Aleksei nodded. He supposed he should be feeling the same way.

"Good morning," the woman said, before yawning like she'd really just gotten up, despite it being 'afternoon' for the colony. She was wearing cargo pants and a modified tool belt, along with a tank top that looked like it was almost attempting to match the NIN-ANA uniforms. "You can call me Eris. We'll be spending our first couple weeks together going over the basics of these--"

She gestured back to ten mass-production Safphirs secured on adjustable platforms in a line along the wall of the hangar, each painted a different color - black, white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink and grey. They were older, Aleksei thought, but still looked good. It certainly made sense to give them something far less... expensive and difficult to repair.

"I'd like to assume you're all familiar with Safphirs - they were a military standard for close to four decades, before slowly being phased out and replaced by new Rubis and Emeralde machines," Eris continued. "They're also exceptionally simple machines. Even if, for some reason, you have no working knowledge of mobile suits, you'll be able to take one of these apart and put it back together in two weeks."

"Literally?" a girl - Becky? - questioned incredulously.

"Almost," Eris replied, smiling. Her lips were a bright red, Aleksei noticed, and a sharp contrast to the pale of her skin and the black of her eyes and long, bound hair. "But we'll get there."

Aleksei swallowed hard. He'd never really put too much stock in things like Safphirs, but being this close to an entire pack of them, well, they looked quite impressive. Even if one of them was pink.

"Since this is such a big class - both repair and design - we'll work in pairs," Eris continued. "I trust that you're old enough to pair off properly, and from there you can draw numbers from your datapad. Aside from color, all of the Safphirs are relatively identical - some may be slightly later models, but the parts have little variation."

Aleksei looked quickly at Whitby, who nodded and smiled and edged a little closer to Aleksei. Everyone's datapad beeped and Whitby pulled his out. Displayed on the screen were six folded pieces of paper. Then five, then four.

"Grab one!" Aleksei instructed. Whitby nodded and poked at the closest digital piece. It unfolded to show a color and both boys frowned. They'd gotten the pink one.

Aleksei looked over to Eris, who was watching the progress and making notes on her own datapad. She glanced up to meet Aleksei's gaze and then smiled a wicked smile. There was no point in asking for a do-over. They were stuck.

"Light red?" Whitby asked, glancing at the very-much-pink Safphir.

"Light red," Aleksei agreed, shaking his head. Of course he was going to get the pink one. He'd been on the absolute worst streak imaginable, after all.

"Now..." Eris said once every pair had a machine. "Your class application has the entire lecture built in. It is rewindable and pauseable, narrated by myself. As much as I'd love to give the same speech a thousand times, itís much easier when you're actually looking at your machine and besides, this is a big hangar. I can't yell that loudly.

"However, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me. I'll cycle between all of you as you go..."

She smiled. Aleksei winced. If he'd thought the morning was bad, well, this was something else entirely...

Eoin was already in their room by the time Aleksei got back. But judging from Eoin's posture - flopped across their sofa and staring vacantly upward at the drop-ceiling tiles - he wasn't much in the mood to talk about the day. While Aleksei was tired, it felt good. He'd certainly learned a lot, and despite his initial apprehension at Eris's virtual lecture, it had apparently been well-honed from experience and actually answered questions that Aleksei had almost exactly on cue. While he and Whitby had needed to pause and rewind several times to look at various parts and how things like individual manipulator fingers worked, he'd understood it all and had only had to get Eris in person once.

He'd also aced the quiz at the end, which Eris had explained wasn't graded this time, but an indicator of how each student retained what they'd learned.

"Long day?" Aleksei questioned as he tugged off his uniform jacket. He'd not been fond of the material, initially, but once Eris had explained how easy it was to clean, it made sense. He had the feeling that the cargo pants that she and Cardinell wore were made of the same stuff.

"Our flight instructor is insane," Eoin replied without moving. "We didn't even touch mobile suits today. Didn't even really look at them. Instead, we ran laps around the hangar, threw things at one another, and generally didn't do anything worthwhile."

Aleksei couldn't help a little tiny chuckle, both because he'd gotten plenty of hands-on, and also because he thought he understood what Eoin's instructor was doing. Even if Eoin didn't.

"How did Lyndee fare?" Aleksei questioned, curious and yet a little afraid.

Eoin sat up and shook his head.

"Not well," he confirmed. "I don't think Instructor Moros even let her leave when he let the rest of us go. I'm not sure I want to know what'll happen to her."

"We can ask Mick tonight?" Aleksei suggested. "He might be willing to tell us..."

"You want to talk to that guy after the homework assignment he gave?" Eoin asked, before laughing. "Yeah... I guess I sort of want to know, too."

He paused. "So... what did you get to do?"

"Mmm?" Aleksei smiled and sat down to tell Eoin everything.

The Pandemonium lacked a conference room, but its bridge worked perfectly well for crew meetings. The bridge was one of the only areas large enough to accommodate the team, as well. Gate slid into one of the empty control seats and spun it around. Amalgam, the ship's pilot, gave her a quick glance before looking back to his screens.

Gate knew better. He wasn't doing anything. They weren't really moving at all.

"Nice of you to finally show up, but I see you had to give up on--"

"Shove it, Deadline," Gate countered, glaring up at Deadline as he ambled by. He had his latest knitting project squashed in one of his hands, trailing a couple feet of multicolor scarf behind as he walked. Gate held in a comment about her tits and his inability to knit sweaters. She didn't want to encourage him.

"Is maintenance done?"

Gate looked over to where Eternity was leaning against the pale metal-paneled wall to her right.

"Hours ago," Gate replied. Eternity's Rubis was ready to take on the world. "I sent a message..."

"I've had a game up," Eternity admitted with a tiny wince. "This one has to stay open... I don't know if I like it."

"You could get a second pad to--" Gate trailed off when the bridge doors opened and Solitaire strode in and to the captain's chair, which was less a chair befitting a commander and more of an angular, blocky sofa.

"Is everyone here?" Solitaire questioned before glancing around. Amalgam, Gate, Eternity, Lore, Deadline, Tiercel and Eddie-- that was everyone who could possibly be there. Gate had already done the headcount.

Deadline paused from his knitting and looked like he wanted to say something, but Solitaire gave him a look that quickly made Deadline shut his mouth. Gate couldn't help a little smile. Her prince, right there.

Silently, Deadline went back to his knitting.

"We have an interesting offer," Solitaire began, glancing around once more. Gate smiled a bit wider when his dark eyes fixed on her for a couple of seconds. "It isn't our usual type of mission and has one major drawback."

"Why are we considering it?" Lore questioned. She stretched and then wandered over to sit down beside Solitaire. "I know we're low on funds and haven't been getting anything big, but..."

"That is the first reason," Solitaire replied. There was a bit of silence that Gate knew wasn't really silence before Solitaire spoke again. "Along with our financial situation, which isn't dire but definitely pressing, it's a chance for an alliance of sorts that would promise much more work in the future."

"Is it bad stuff?" Tiercel questioned from where he'd settled by Eddie. Tiercel was thin and pretty and quiet but a damned good pilot when not caught in the middle of an ambush. Still, Gate was surprised he'd spoken up.

Deadline rolled his eyes. "We're not exactly the good guys, you know." He finished a row and switched hands while still glaring at Tiercel. For good measure, he also glared at Gate, who glared right back.

"We would be working for... an import-export company that has been having some issues with competition," Solitaire noted. He reached to brush back his shoulder-length black hair and for a split second, Gate could see his earpiece. "It would be steady work; however they have some trust issues. They insist on having one of their own pilots 'in-house.'

"Sounds like a bad idea," Eternity commented, pushing herself away from the wall and shaking her head as she made her way over to Solitaire and Lore. "Why are we considering this again?"

There was a moment of silence and then Solitaire drew in his breath and quoted a number that Gate thought had one too many zeros. At least.

Eddie let out a low whistle.

"I'm in," Deadline said.

"Payment up front, contract is for one job only," Lore said quickly. "We'll re-negotiate after that."

Solitaire nodded. "Everyone?"

"More details?" Tiercel asked softly. Eddie nodded from beside him.

"Wouldn't it be easier not to know?" Gate questioned. She leaned back, trying to be casual about it.

"This hurts, but I agree with Gate," Deadline commented. Amalgam nodded from his seat.

"Everyone?" Solitaire repeated.

"In," Gate replied, raising her right hand. Slowly, the rest of the crew raised their hands.

"It's just one job," Eternity commented as she leaned down to take one of Lore's hands in her own.

Gate stretched, arching her back. But Solitaire wasn't looking...

Another time, she supposed. Now... there was work to be done.


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