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'.
"Hey, ah, Terry--" Kenzie stuck his head out into the hallway while Solitaire was entering his door code into the panel beside the door. "Since that's what your name-plate says now--"
Solitaire didn't say anything.
"The quarterly student art festival starts in three days and the night before, there's an invite-only gallery preview," Kenzie said, smiling. "I have an invite-with-date."
Going through his choices, he settled on the safest-- "On campus?"
"On campus," Kenzie confirmed.
"Forward the details to my datapad," Solitaire replied, smiling.
"Yes!" Kenzie did a little happy bounce in his doorway - and then had the decency to blush. "Ah-- I mean... You seem like a good guy, Terry, and I should probably tell you--"
Solitaire stepped over to him, gesturing that maybe they could just sit down and have the conversation somewhere that wasn't the hallway.
"I mean, I mostly like girls," Kenzie continued once Solitaire had settled on Kenzie's sofa. "And I want you to know I'm not hitting on you, even though you're a good looking guy."
"Flattered," Solitaire said. He hoped he wasn't echoing Kenzie's blush. "I'm engaged, if that helps."
"Completely." Kenzie exhaled. "Basically, it's traditional to try to impress everyone else by finding the most attractive date possible. It'd mean a lot-- I'm not artistic, after all - I just get invited to these things because people think my dress collection is fun."
"And I know you've looked in a mirror lately, Terry," Kenzie continued, smiling.
"I don't have any clothing other than the uniforms you gave me," Solitaire admitted. "And I'm limited to moving around on campus, though... I'll have to check with Dolen on that. Ah-- Headmaster Dolen."
"Your uncle, I'm guessing, through means undiscussable?" Kenzie commented, chuckling. "Let me know. We'll go shopping. I know some neat little places."
"Thanks," Solitaire replied. He closed his eyes for a long moment. "I don't think my sofa is this comfortable."
"You're welcome to stay," Kenzie said after a moment. "I'm just going through a chapter on original Safphir-type mobile suits. They're made out of a different composite metal than the newer machines."
"The metal was originally developed for single-pilot small-craft fighters, not mobile suits," Solitaire said. He'd worked on old machines, new machines, and stared up at old specimens of fighter enough times that he could probably teach any class required.
"That's not in here," Kenzie commented after a beat. Solitaire was looking up at the ceiling - drop-tiles, off-white. He'd said too much--
"Oh wait, here it is! There's a note that says both types of Safphirs can be viewed and touched in the Dolen School Teaching Museum Hangar," Kenzie continued. "Wanna go?"
"Now?" Solitaire asked, looking over at Kenzie, who nodded.
"I don't have class today," he said. "This is for tomorrow's stuff. I bet no one ever goes to the museum."
Solitaire smiled. He didn't really have any other plans. Lucien had simply told him to rest and something was in the works. This would keep him from dwelling on... everything.
Honestly, nothing felt real to him. Gemma Caeli, Dolen, Lucien... Eventually, what he was doing - what he'd done - would sink in. But until then...
The museum was a short walk and not entirely far from the working hangars. Solitaire ached to check on Atropos, but Kenzie's enthusiasm was impossible to deny.
While Lucien was nowhere to be seen, Rosella was near the entrance, sketching a heavily-customized Emeralde that was posed in a kneeling position.
"Oh, cool--" Kenzie ran over to it to read the information on the plasma screen beside it.
"Are you feeling better, Rosella?" Solitaire questioned. He looked around for Lucien again - scarcely an hour had passed since they'd parted at the cafe. "Is Lucien with you?"
"He had meetings and told me to take the rest of the day off," Rosella said, smiling as she spoke. "I don't know what you two talked about but..."
She shook her head. "I had overheard someone mention the museum, so here I am."
"I'm surprised to find out you're an artist." Solitaire glanced at her sketch, which was quite good. He wanted to suggest she had a bright future, but...
"Yeah-- it's one of the things he lets me keep doing," Rosella said softly. She closed the sketch pad and tucked it back into a bag she had slung across her body. "Can I walk around with you?"
"Sure. My friend is Kenzie, a student. He was reading about Safphirs and... here we are," Solitaire explained, gesturing in Kenzie's general direction.
"Hey! Terry! Come check this out! Your uncle built this thing!" Kenzie called, waving for him to come over.
"Uncle?" Rosella questioned.
"Obviously not related by blood," Solitaire said with a soft chuckle. He held out his arm to Rosella, and she accepted.
Solitaire was impressed with the display on Safphir development and early mobile suit development in general. He was not at all surprised to see notes that several of the display pieces had notes on them thanking 'Commander Lucero' for his generosity.
Maybe it would be impossible to leave NIN-ANA entirely.
"Any way to change how this thing thinks?" Lan asked out loud, absently, while shaking his datapad. He'd fed what seemed like good numbers and timing into Altere's Siduri System and gotten its stupid rabbit mascot replying that his estimates had nothing to do with reality.
He was really mad that he'd already bought one of the stupid Siduri stuffed rabbit toys for his friend Francis.
"What are you trying to make it do?" one of his special forces volunteers questioned. It was Catlene, peering at him with only half-interest.
They'd insisted on taking him out to dinner - the four of them - but he just wanted to get Siduri to understand where he was coming from.
"Anything," Lan said, shaking his head. "It would be so much easier to explain myself to a person. People are so much easier to deal with."
"Since it's not a person, you can make it wait til tomorrow," Julian, another special forces team member, noted. "Eat! Drink! We had a good day."
Lan nodded and turned the datapad off. Julian was right - they'd had a spectacularly good day. Christiane was impressed, they'd all coasted through the daily simulations - everything was going as-planned. Possibly even better than planned.
"I've never eaten anything like this before," Lan admitted, gesturing to the spread of sushi in from of him.
"We can get you a fork?" Catlene said.
"He's got to learn or he doesn't eat!" Demitri Frahbkis called from Lan's other side, clicking his own chopsticks together.
Of the four, Demitri was by far the loudest of the bunch, though Julian was close. They were all close to his age and Lan was glad they saw him as a friend.
He truly hoped he wouldn't have to ever fight against any of them.
"How do you hold these?" Lan questioned, trying to settle the chopsticks in his hand.
"However it works for you to pick up food," Lari Aloha answered with a firm nod. "I swear, that's the real answer. If you can pick things up, you're doing it right. Though if you get really frustrated, it's okay to stab stuff, too."
"Food," Julian corrected. Julian had let slip that he and Lari were cousins on their first day as a team, though the only resemblance was their golden-yellow eyes. "You can stab food."
"I don't think he'd stab any of us," Catlene countered.
Lan forgot entirely about fighting with the Siduri system and instead began to enjoy his night out.
"Have you been keeping busy?" Dolen questioned. This time, Solitaire had beat him to the cafe and had plowed through a giant omelette before Dolen had even arrived.
"I visited the school museum yesterday," Solitaire replied. "And tomorrow I'm going shopping with Kenzie to find something to wear to an art gallery."
Dolen chuckled. "That saves me the trouble of inviting you, then. As I'm sure you recall, Varuna always encouraged anyone who wanted to be artistic, even if it wasn't an official part of the curriculum. I've tried to do the same--"
"I'm not artistic at all," Solitaire admitted. He hoped he hadn't changed his facial expression at the sound of Varuna's name. He hadn't forgotten Dolen's ties to his former commander; he just... was trying not to think about it. "It's nice to see other people are, though."
"And what are you doing today?" Dolen asked.
"I figured I'd check on Atropos," Solitaire replied. "I didn't get a chance yesterday. I ran into Lucien's assistant at the museum and ended up talking to her for longer than I'd intended."
He'd gotten most of Rosella's life story, in fact, in between exhibits. He almost wanted to go back to look at the actual machines again because he could remember more about Rosella than anything else.
"The young man you randomly gave access to has been working on it," Dolen noted. He chuckled again. A waitress - Solitaire realized it seemed to be the same one every day - brought Dolen his coffee and asked if he wanted his usual.
"Mallory," Solitaire said. He smiled. "Seems like a good guy. He knows what he's doing, at least."
There wasn't really anything on Atropos that Mallory could really mess up - mobile suits were mobile suits at the heart of it all, and Solitaire had already planned thorough system checks before taking it anywhere.
"He has no idea what he's doing," Dolen said flatly. "He's a brilliant student and quite capable in general, but he has no idea what he's doing, which is why he's been a student for the better part of a decade."
Solitaire winced. Mallory hadn't really mentioned that.
"He did say he failed an internship..."
"I'm honestly afraid he did that on purpose," Dolen noted, shaking his head and sending shoulder-length blue whipping. "But I don't really know what to do with him. I'm actually surprised he's taken an interest in Atropos."
"It can't be a bad thing--"
"We'll see if it lasts."
"I'll encourage him."
"If that's really what you want, Lan."
"So how many hours have you put in on it?" Solitaire questioned as he looked up at Atropos and Mallory. Mallory simply shrugged and went back work. Solitaire shook his head. But... Mallory seemed to like what he was doing. That was the important part.
"I can cheat and pull up the OS, you know," Solitaire said as he climbed up to the platform Mallory was working on. "Actually, I was going to check the OS anyway. You're welcome to see-- it's not terribly different from most other mobile suits."
"Really?" Mallory finally said.
Solitaire nodded and hopped over to grab the manual cockpit latch. Jet had hidden it from plain sight, but Solitaire knew quite well where it was.
The cockpit hatch slid open and Solitaire climbed in before reaching a hand out for Mallory. "C'mon--"
"Are you sure?" Mallory questioned, softly.
"If you're going to work on it, you need to know what needs work," Solitaire countered. He quickly typed in his access codes and double-checked that it wasn't relaying information anywhere.
But it was clean and within five minutes, Mallory seemed to have grasped enough to decide where to start working anew.
"Are you leaving when everything is fixed?" Mallory asked in between testing movement in Atropos's left hand.
"I can't stay here forever."
Mallory sighed. And then he went silently back to work.
It wasn't til about an hour later that they started talking about the museum.
Rosella was at the museum again. Solitaire was far more interested in what Mallory had mentioned about the tiny section on NIN-ANA's Gundams and nearly didn't greet her.
But... Lucien was so fond of him. And of Rosella. Solitaire didn't want to do anything that might come off as a slight to his potential employer.
This time, Rosella was sketching the Safphirs.
"Hello again," he said, smiling.
"Ah! Mister Terry..." Rosella beamed at him before a soft blush took over her cheeks. She was wearing another long-sleeved dress, though this one was far more colorful than the one before. "I thought perhaps I'd see you again..."
"Yeah... my friend Mallory mentioned an exhibit that I missed yesterday," Solitaire replied. "It's nice to see you, though. I'm guessing Lucien has meetings again?"
"End of the quarter financials," Rosella said before mock yawning. "He asked me to draw a Safphir for him. I don't know why - I don't even know if he can really see any of my art..."
Rosella sighed and added a few lines to her drawing. "It is relaxing, though. Mobile suits are complicated at first, but one you learn how all the lines work, they're not so bad."
Solitaire glanced back and up at the camera mounted up high on a steel beam and gave it a tiny wiggle-fingered wave when Rosella wasn't looking.
It dipped, ever-so-slightly.
Lucien was indeed keeping an eye on Rosella and her art.
"I'm not artistic," Solitaire admitted as he looked back to the Safphir. "I see power, destruction, repair-- I know how hard I can push a machine like this without completely destroying it. I know how easy they are to break."
"What exhibit did we miss?" Rosella packed her sketch pad back into her ever-present sling bag and stood. She did not comment on Solitaire's statement.
"On NIN-ANA's Gundams," Solitaire replied. "You can stay and sketch."
"I'll go with you - it's nice to be escorted around by a handsome gentleman," Rosella said. She was closer than Solitaire had realized - she'd slipped into his space while he was looking at the Safphir.
"Aside from Lucien?"
"Are you kidding?" Rosella's tone was harsh and her frown made Solitaire realize he'd unintentionally insulted her. Well, that meant that their relationship was very different than he'd inferred. While Lucien very obviously loved Rosella... "I... He pays for my medication and I... I tried to love him but..."
Rosella reached to grab one of Solitaire's hands and squeezed it tight. "Terry, he's not like either of us. He's terrifying! Please--"
Midway through pulling his hand away, Solitaire froze. If Lucien hurt Rosella, that changed everything.
"Does he... Does he hurt you?" Solitaire asked softly.
Rosella shook her head. "No, not like that. But he's not... Terry, I want to be with a real man again. Please! Lucien is always sending me away so he can attend to business and I..."
With that, Rosella threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around him. And torn, Solitaire let her stay for a moment before carefully pushing her away.
"I have someone," he said firmly. "Someone that I can't be with right now but love very, very much. Possibly as much as I know Lucien loves you."
"But Terry, he..."
"Talk to him yourself," Solitaire said before turning to head deeper into the museum. "I'm going to forget this ever happened."
Once he arrived at the admittedly small exhibit on NIN-ANA's Gundams, he glanced up at the security camera and shook his head.
He was not at all surprised to hear the soft beep of a new message on his datapad.
Z: [do I want to ask what that was? because it was certainly more interesting than the meeting I'm virtually stuck in.]
TDolen: [she doesn't seem to see your relationship as you do. I tried to be polite]
Z: [not the first time I've seen her do this - ignoring what I haven't seen. I suppose it's time to find a new partner.]
TDolen: [I'm sorry, Lucien.]
Z: [so am I. Especially because I know I'll find her in my bed, trying to play me...]
TDolen: [I have a spare bedroom.]
"This would be so much easier if there was an interface mod," Lari complained, grumbling over her comm-set.
"Interface mod?" Lan questioned.
"Yeah. Dataport," Lari said quickly. "You didn't notice? I was updating files earlier..."
"I didn't notice," Lan admitted. "And I think the worry with mobile suit-pilot interfaces are physical dependence and feedback. I know there's been testing done and it was unpleasant."
"We'll get there," Lari noted. Lan could imagine her smiling in the cockpit. "And hey, I heard Prez Tracey is going to come for an inspection sometime this week. We're gonna have to totally impress him."
"How come I haven't heard about that?"
"Maybe Commander Christiane doesn't want you to be nervous?" Lari suggested. She giggled. "Hey, you think I could give my Safphir a cool name like your mobile suit?"
"I don't see why not."
"Are there a Klotho and a Lachesis already?"
"They're in progress," Lan replied.
"Lari, follow my lead. You have all the paint bullets you need, right?"
"Of course. Hey, what about the Furies?"
"Taken," Lan said, chuckling.
"No fair-- though I want to see them someday, okay?"
"Did you let the Siduri System know we'd be out here?"
"Of course," Lan replied. Stupid rabbit mascot. Would be easier to deal with a person like Varuna.
He was going to have to ask to see Lari's port. And then check for wiring on the rest of his recruits.
The first thing Solitaire did after waking was stumble to the other bedroom to see how Lucien was doing. He was still asleep, and while he hadn't mentioned to Solitaire that he needed to be up to do anything in particular, Solitaire didn't think Lucien seemed like the type to sleep late.
Only when he edged closer did he realize that Lucien had his visor off for sleeping.
"Thank you," Lucien said softly. "I'm awake... I've done a bit of work but really, I don't want to be awake. I miss her."
Solitaire sighed. That was something he could understand.
"Maybe you can talk to her?"
"I'll never be what she wants," Lucien replied. "It's not the first time this has happened, you know." Lucien rolled and grabbed his visor and fitted it into place in one fluid motion.
"What do you have planned today?" he questioned, sitting up and looking in Solitaire's direction.
"Shopping with Kenzie for some new clothing. For... a gallery event," Solitaire admitted. "I'm his platonic date."
"Dolen has invited me as well," Lucien noted. "However, I have my own wardrobe already and not stored on campus. I have plenty of resources that do not involve Rosella."
"And yet you're in my spare bedroom," Solitaire said.
"All the resources in the galaxy do not make up for a broken heart," Lucien replied. He sighed, and Solitaire sat down on the bed beside him. Carefully, Lucien leaned and Solitaire wrapped his arms around Lucien. Lucien was not quite as small as his former commander, but Solitaire couldn't hold back the thought.
"Thank you," Lucien finally said.
"I should be thanking you." Solitaire hung on perhaps a moment longer than necessary. But it felt good to be close to someone.
"So we're going to have to do something with your hair, too," Kenzie said as he led Solitaire across campus and towards the port city.
Solitaire had deposited Lucien with Dolen and Mary at breakfast, though he firmly expected to see Lucien in his quarters again before long.
"What's wrong with my hair?" Solitaire questioned. He ran his fingers through his long, black hair and frowned. It was clean and combed...
"Well, you're undercover or whatever and worried about being recognized, right?" Kenzie surmised. "And you don't have to answer that. But anyway, a good haircut and sunglasses should be our first manner of business."
Kenzie did have a point.
"I'm in your hands," Solitaire said. His hair would grow back if he ever wanted it long again. And it would definitely make him less recognizable.
"You won't regret this," Kenzie said.
Three hours later, Solitaire regretted everything. His hair was barely long enough trail his fingers through and it wasn't like he could - it was styled with thick goo that had hardened into perfect spikes that both Kenzie and the stylist had been excited over.
He had sunglasses. He had clothing. And his Zeeko card - Terry Dolen's Zeeko card - just kept sliding thru terminal after terminal. It did feel good to be wearing something other than a uniform, though.
"This is going to be great," Kenzie said from across a cafe table. They'd stopped for a late lunch and despite Solitaire's protests, they were sitting outside. But... no one seemed to notice them.
"I hope so," Solitaire replied. He meant it. With each stop, Kenzie had smiled more and more.
"I need you to find a crew and be ready for launch before the end of next week," Lucien said. "I should have all of the necessary data by then."
"What sort of work?" Solitaire questioned, a little afraid of what the answer might be. But he'd do it - he'd steel himself if he needed to. He'd--
"Search and rescue," Lucien said quickly. "But nothing I can send space forces or any of my own civilian ships after."
"That's what I'm working on," Lucien admitted. He leaned back on Solitaire's sofa and sighed. "I've been tracking this for a long time and it's never been easy. I can ask Dolen about a crew..."
"I know who I want, if he'll do it," Solitaire interjected. "Atropos isn't finished and it might not be, so I'll need two Emeraldes and a decent shuttle that can carry them both. Depending on range, I might have some other requirements on power and speed."
"Only one other person?" Even with the visor, Solitaire could see Lucien's raised eyebrow.
"He'll be more than enough." Solitaire smiled. "I'll have to see if this will count as his internship."
Lucien chuckled. "An intern? You're playing a strange hand."
TDolen: [Still looking for an internship?]
Mal: [Trying to get rid of me?]
TDolen: [Trying to keep you. I need a partner for a bit and I remember you saying you're a competent shuttle pilot along with a good mechanic.]
Mal: [I took ship control classes - my practical experience is kinda barely there.]
TDolen: [Still probably more than me. Say yes?]
Mal: [You really want me?]
TDolen: [You're exactly who I want, Mallory.]
Mal: [Wait - what are we even doing?]
TDolen: [I don't have the details, but it seems like fairly clean work, don't worry.]
Mal: [Don't worry, I'm in. I am definitely in!]
TDolen: [I'll fill you in tomorrow, then. We'll work on Big A til I need to head back and change for the art thing.]
Mal: [You're going? I've never been.]
TDolen: [I could get you a ticket?]]
Mal: [Nah. Not my thing, but thanks. I'm not really the dress up and pretend to admire fingerpaintings and whatnot sort of guy.]
TDolen: [Neither am I, but I was asked in such a way that I couldn't refuse.]
Mal: [Cute girl?]
TDolen: [Something like that. I'm sure you'll hear all about it.]
Mal: [Hey, Terry?]
Mal: [If I pass my internship, I graduate. You'll be stuck with me.]
TDolen: [Welcome, partner.]
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!