Mobile Suit Gundam Iscariot: System Command
Title: Mobile Suit Gundam ISCARIOT: System Command
Fandom: Gundam (Meta)
Disclaimer: No profit is being made on this fanwork.
Rating: T Overall
Summary: Lancaster Dusk has a mission go bad/Solitaire begins a new life.
Notes: aka 'Shades of Beige' or 'This fic is about what everyone eats for breakfast'.
"Are you okay?"
Solitaire glanced up at the young man standing in front of him and debated how to answer. No, no he was not okay. Solitaire was not okay. He'd failed a mission and didn't even know if he'd been set up for that failure by his leader...
Now he was sitting in the waiting area of the administrative building of Dolen Mechanical School, Gemma Caeli Colony - as neutral a space as he could think of to hide in. In hindsight, it was a terrible idea but his mobile suit, Gundam Atropos, was already in a hangar and likely being repaired.
And Solitaire was waiting to talk to Dolen himself, even though he wasn't sure what to say.
"I don't know," Solitaire admitted before sighing.
"That must be why you're here," the young man continued. Solitaire didn't say anything, instead finally really looking at his sudden companion. Black hair like his own, but curlier, shorter, framing a young face half-obscured by a silver visor.
Possibly, it was a personal computer system. Possibly, the young man was naturally blind and he was navigating via information the visor was gathering. Solitaire didn't see any reason to ask - it wasn't his business.
"Do you know Dolen?" the young man continued.
"Met him once," Solitaire finally said before realizing something. "Are you one of his students?"
The young man laughed. "No, not at all," he said. "My name is... well, if we're using just one name like Dolen, how about 'Lucien'?"
"Solitaire," Solitaire said carefully before offering a hand. Lucien took it quickly and firmly.
"Fitting, for someone here alone," Lucien noted before crossing back over to a sofa across the room. The waiting room was empty aside from the pair of them.
Solitaire sighed again. He was really truly alone, yes.
"Were you one of his students?" Lucien continued, shifting a bit and kicking his feet up on the seat beside him. He leaned back, relaxing, his dark skin and dark clothing a contrast to the neutral beige of the waiting room.
"No," Solitaire said.
"Oh." Lucien smiled but said nothing. Solitaire watched him for a long moment, curious. But Lucien, eyes hidden beneath the visor, seemed momentarily distracted.
Solitaire leaned back and glanced around the room. Aside from the beige, one wall was a bank of windows that looked out over a grassy courtyard. But the waiting room was several floors up - all he could see through the thin beige curtains was another building.
There were other seats, of course, and a table and a bookshelf with a handful of books on it. In one corner, a small closed-circuit camera watched over them both.
Slowly, Solitaire got up and stretched and headed over to see what literature Dolen chose to inflict upon his visitors. He did not miss the camera moving. Pausing, he glanced back to Lucien.
Instead of picking out a book, Solitaire began to pace, watching as the camera tracked his movement.
Still, Lucien said nothing until Solitaire stopped close to the camera and stared straight up into it.
Lucien smiled. "Did you know one of NIN-ANA's Gundams came into the dock not long ago?"
"Who are you?" Solitaire asked coldly. He started to turn and then realized that he very much was looking straight into Lucien's eyes by looking into the camera lens.
"Who are you?" Lucien questioned in response. "You're not wearing one of their Commander's bracelets, yet you're here to ask Dolen for assistance, correct? You used a NIN-ANA emergency code and were piloting that Gundam."
"You're... hacking into the security camera," Solitaire replied, frowning. "And... security in general!"
"Yeah... Dolen might lecture me about that but it's not like I'm hurting anything and, as you may have noticed, I'm particularly ill-equipped when it comes to seeing on my own," Lucien said. He shifted on the chair, settling more and propping his arms behind his head. "So... did you defect?"
"Maybe." Solitaire really didn't know. He'd failed his mission and gone off the radar and ditched his bracelet and just generally felt so damned sorry for himself that he hadn't really done anything for a couple of days except for hope someone might come along and blow Atropos to space dust once the adrenaline from his escape had worn off.
When that hadn't happened, he'd decided to try Dolen.
"You must be a really good pilot to have a Gundam."
"I guess..." Solitaire still had no idea who Lucien was, but the longer he stared at the camera, the less he felt like he was going to find out. He turned and crossed back to sit.
"I had a Safphir once," Lucien continued. "I'm not the best pilot, all things considered."
Before Solitaire could say anything, the waiting room door opened and a gorgeous young woman stepped in.
"Mr. Solitaire, Dolen will see you now," she said, smiling. Solitaire couldn't help staring at her - she was downright perfect. Her pale skin was flawless and her long wavy hair was a vibrant red.
"Th-Thank you," he managed, standing.
"I'll see you around," Lucien offered.
"This way," the woman interrupted, gesturing that Solitaire should follow her. "Dolen is on a very tight schedule today."
Leaving Lucien behind, Solitaire followed the woman down the hallway and through an unmarked door that led to another hallway.
"Dolen, Solitaire to see you," she said as they made one last turn.
"Thank you, Mary," Dolen replied as Mary stepped aside to do a bit of quick gesturing and then quickly left.
Dolen was behind a dark wooden desk, which Solitaire couldn't help but appreciate. Though... Dolen looked younger than Solitaire remembered - certainly not much older than himself. Though it had been more than six years since the last time he'd been to Gemma Caeli.
"You took off your bracelet and willingly left?" Dolen questioned. Solitaire wasn't surprised at the lack of a greeting - Dolen was always business, from what he'd heard and his small bit of experience with the man. Dolen's suit was dark and crisp, hiding metal and cabling that Solitaire nonetheless knew was there.
"Yes," Solitaire replied, not even sure how to elaborate on what had really happened. But he definitely had cut his ties. "I..."
"And you took a Gundam with you," Dolen continued, chuckling. "You're lucky to be alive."
"I know," Solitaire replied. Traitors weren't allowed to live, after all. Not at NIN-ANA. It was probably only a matter of time. And while he probably wouldn't be hunted just for leaving, stealing a Gundam - even if it was assigned to him - made him a traitor.
"What do you want to do?" Dolen questioned, green eyes flicking up to watch Solitaire carefully.
"I don't know..."
"Then I can't help you," Dolen quickly interrupted. "We'll repair your machine per agreement with NIN-ANA, but after that--"
"I want to live!" Solitaire cried. He did! "Just not... I don't want to... I don't think I can go back. So I want..."
The truth was, Solitaire wanted to go home. His beloved Amde was there, and his little brother Nick and his best friend Mick and everyone who'd been a part of his life for the last decade... But he did not want to go home as a failure, if he'd even be allowed... Because there was a chance that it had all been a trap...
Dolen tapped his fingers on his desk.
"I'll find you a place in the dorms where you can rest," he said after a moment. "Figure out what you want to do, Solitaire. Then we'll talk further."
"While I cannot do the same for all of Gemma Caeli, despite my influence, I can guarantee your safety within my school," Dolen said. There was a softer tone in his voice, one that Solitaire was surprised to hear. "Get some sleep, okay?"
Solitaire nodded. And before he could even thank Dolen, Mary was there guiding him back out.
"S'all ready," a young man with spiky green hair said as he ducked out of the room that Mary was just about to lead Solitaire into.
Solitaire had realized one thing about Mary while they'd walked across campus. Two things, really -- the second was that she was in love with Dolen. The first was that she was a fully-converted cyborg.
Neither revelation bothered him - it just explained a few things, like her surprising perfection and the slightly inhumanness to her movement. Most conversions were done due to horrible accidents or incurable disease. Solitaire didn't ask - it wasn't his business.
That she was in love with Dolen - well, that was obvious in the way she spoke about him as they walked.
"Thank you, Kenzie," Mary said, fluttering her long eyelashes at him as she spoke. "Kenzie, this is Mr. Solitaire, who'll be staying with us. Help him with whatever he needs?"
Kenzie nodded, obviously looking Solitaire over.
"I live across the hall," Kenzie said quickly, pointing. "Your door-comm is one-two-three-four, but you can reset if you want. I've got a practical for a couple hours, but I'll be back later, ah--"
"Thank you," Solitaire said, attempting to smile. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he did need to sleep.
"Dolen will be in touch," Mary said softly.
Solitaire nodded and without really thinking about it, he stepped into the room and closed the door. Hopefully Mary and Kenzie would understand that he just... He was done for the time being. Finished.
The dorm room was surprisingly a double-occupancy, but it was completely empty. One bedroom had the light on and Solitaire peeked in.
He'd left everything behind except for Atropos and the change of clothing he had stashed in it. Everything else was gone - his clothing, his datapad, and trinkets he'd bought for his friends including a stuffed rabbit for Francis, a First Year student who was like a second younger brother.
Five minutes later, quickly showered and definitely exhausted, he burrowed naked under a couple of layers of blankets and fell into a dead sleep.
"Would you be willing to take a longer mission?" Varuna questioned. Lan didn't say anything at first. Normally, Commander Varuna took the time to unhook himself from the colony before this sort of conversation - that or he just issued orders that arrived on datapads. Varuna didn't ask questions.
"How long?" Lan finally asked, raking a hand through his hair. He knew why Varuna was asking - it was because he was spinning his wheels in NIN-ANA. His mission trio - well, his fiancee Amde's mission trio had disbanded because Amde was studying to be a doctor. That meant she was at a different station for months at a time. Mick had Jet and his own concerns.
A few months away wouldn't be a bad idea for him. Varuna knew this and Lan knew this.
"Probably between three and six months," Varuna replied, opening pale silver eyes just a sliver to gaze at Lan. To Lan, Varuna seemed strangely vulnerable when plugged into the colony - a mass of cables snaking from various parts of his body. But Lan knew better - this was when Varuna was at his strongest. "Have you heard of a colony named Altere?"
Lan shook his head. "Should I have?"
"Not particularly," Varuna said. "But it came close to being enveloped in the war and that area is still volatile."
"It's near Dea Matrona?" Lan questioned. He'd fought there several times and while decisive victories and quick treaties had calmed that part of space for the time being, Lan didn't think it would last.
"Yes," Varuna noted. "Not terribly close, but close enough. It's a young colony and without much in the way of defense. They've gathered a small collection of mobile suits but need some instruction and organization."
There was a long pause.
"Me?" Lan questioned. He wasn't really the sort of guy to do that, was he? He was more of the 'shooting things til they stop moving' type. Not 'organize and train a colony militia'...
"Yes," Varuna said. "I think you're exactly what Altere needs."
Lan wasn't as sure, but he didn't really know how to voice that. Not when Varuna had so much faith in him.
"I'll do it," he said.
When Solitaire finally crawled out of bed, it was no longer daytime in the colony. The first clock he found suggested he'd slept the better part of fourteen hours, which didn't really surprise him.
He wandered, still naked, out into the main room of the dorm and glanced around. A small LED lamp was on, illuminating a pile of clothing and a datapad. He picked up the datapad and clicked it on. There were two notes pinned on the main screen.
'Clothing and a datapad and food is in the little fridge. Get me if you need anything. -Kenzie'
'Change your door-code?'
Either Kenzie or Dolen - or Mary - had guessed his size with reasonable accuracy. Solitaire pulled on the clothing - a Dolen School uniform, he quickly realized - and then looked in the fridge. A pair of wrapped, wilting sandwiches greeted him and honestly, Solitaire didn't think he'd ever been so happy to see food.
Once he'd finished eating, Solitaire looked around again. There was no reason to stay in the room. Not when he didn't feel like being caged.
The night was cool enough for the jacket Solitaire had been given, and once he had studied the map on his datapad enough to have some idea just how far he could safely go, he started walking.
Dolen would fix Atropos. Dolen would probably help him find a shuttle home. He could beg forgiveness and find out what had gone wrong and if Varuna really had set him up even though he just couldn't imagine it. Or he could go back to Altere and try to fix things. Maybe Altere could be saved, if Altere was supposed to be saved.
Solitaire paused beneath a streetlamp and sighed. He'd seen too many of his friends gunned down to believe that Altere could be saved. He'd been told that their deaths had been ordered from above. And he'd been a coward and saved himself instead of dying with them.
He'd failed them and himself and everyone he'd left in NIN-ANA.
Could he ever make that up in any way?
Solitaire kept walking.
He hadn't asked Dolen about Lucien. He'd nearly forgotten about Lucien until he thought about Varuna. But Lucien didn't seem like a colony-controller or even much more than a clever little hacker. Still... he'd ask.
What did he really want to do?
He walked until long after the sun rose.
"Hey-- I brought you some more stuff..." Kenzie's door was open and he stuck his head out while Solitaire was entering his door code. "Sorry I didn't have it sooner. I mean, I have my own stuff and I mean, I'm on the Welcoming Committee, but..."
Kenzie shook his head. "Sorry... it's not my business. Anyway-- if you need anything..."
"Thanks." Solitaire ducked into his room and closed the door. A basket of toiletries had been added along with another couple sets of clothing and a Dolen School-emblazoned Zeeko Card. He picked it up and flipped it over before flipping it back and really looking at it - 'Terry Dolen'.
Well, that wasn't rather ridiculous - not at all. Solitaire sighed. Dolen had certainly given him quite the name to live up to.
It gave him someone to be that wasn't Lancaster Dusk.
His datapad beeped in his pocket.
Z: [I need a hand! Can you come out to the hallway?]
Solitaire blinked. Kenzie should have just knocked, if...
He shoved the datapad back into his pocket and opened the door. While Kenzie's door was still open, his attention immediately shifted to the slim form at the far end of the hall. Lucien.
Why would-- ? Solitaire looked up and around - there were no cameras in the hallway. Had Lucien come to see him and gotten stuck?
"Lucien?" Solitaire jogged down to him.
"Solitaire, thank you," Lucien replied, instantly reaching and grabbing one of Solitaire's hands and squeezing tightly. "I'm terribly embarrassed - I had forgotten about the lack of cameras in student housing."
"You can't--" Solitaire wasn't terribly sure exactly what he wanted to ask. That visor apparently did nothing? Or...
"I've got some limited infrared and something akin to sonar," Lucien said quickly. "So I knew where you were when you came to get me. And I could navigate the hallway, though finding your room number if there isn't Braille would be exceptionally difficult for me."
"You can read Braille?"
"I am blind," Lucien reminded him. "Though considering the success rate for vision correction, it's rare that I find it."
"Shouldn't you have a cane or something?" Solitaire questioned as they started towards his room.
"I tend to be able to find cameras," Lucien replied. "And I have Rosella, my personal assistant, the rest of the time. However, I didn't realize I'd need her services this early."
"I'll make sure you get back to someplace you can navigate," Solitaire said quickly, squeezing Lucien's hand without really meaning to. It just felt like the natural thing to do.
"I appreciate that," Lucien said. He dropped a step. "There are two rooms with open doors?"
"Mine and then Kenzie's," Solitaire explained. "Dolen has Kenzie watching out for me. He's a student here."
Lucien nodded. "I see. Metaphorically, of course."
Solitaire didn't ask the important question until after the door was closed.
"Who are you?" Solitaire questioned.
"What am I?" Lucien countered as he let go of Solitaire's hand and felt his way over to the room's lone sofa where he quickly flopped. "That's what you're asking, isn't it?"
"I..." Solitaire decided the wall by the door was a perfectly comfortable place to lean.
"Well, Terry Dolen - Solitaire - Lancaster Dusk..."
Solitaire froze, expecting Lucien to say his birth name. But Lucien didn't, instead drawing his lips into a tight smirk that implied that he definitely knew.
"Who and what are you? Dolen will be summoning you soon," Lucien continued. "And he knows I'm here because he's been a kind host and has let me run myself ragged in his networks.
"He'll be asking you all sorts of questions. What you really want to do and all that. I hope you've thought about it."
"Why are you interested?" Solitaire questioned. "You haven't told me--"
Lucien sat up and smiled, folding his hands together and looking as dead serious as he could with half of his face hidden.
"I can help you if you'll help me," Lucien said. "That's all. I need someone strong and skilled who can--"
"That's not me," Solitaire replied quickly, turning. "I'm not..."
"I need someone who can do some good out there where I can't go any longer," Lucien said firmly. There was something in his tone that Solitaire just couldn't ignore. He knew the tone. It was the same as Varuna's.
"Are you a colony-controller?"
Lucien frowned. "Yes and no," he said. "I am a colony-controller-class cyborg, yes. I am not, however, Gemma Caeli's controller nor am I controller of any colony at present."
"I probably shouldn't be so surprised that you asked," Lucien continued as he leaned back on the sofa, contrasting entirely with its obnoxious beige. Solitaire hadn't noticed before, but everything was shades of beige, even the fake marble floor tiles.
Solitaire could almost too-easily imagine Varuna sitting there in that black outfit. The only difference was the color of Lucien's skin and hair. Though Lucien also seemed to have a few years on Varuna, physically.
He didn't dare ask Lucien's actual age.
"Varuna," Solitaire said under his breath.
"No," Lucien said, smiling. "Though he and I may seem the same to you, we have very different desires. Once you've talked to Dolen, I'll tell you what I need you to do and you can make your decisions."
Solitaire's datapad beeped.
Of course it was Dolen. Of course he was being summoned.
"Come along, then," Solitaire said, crossing to take Lucien's hand.
Perhaps he needed to rethink his early-morning decisions. Already, he had the terrible feeling he'd gotten caught up in something greater than what he even understood.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!