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'.
"You're way better with those already," Julian said, clacking his chopsticks together in Lan's direction.
"I'm a quick study," Lan replied with a chuckle. Sushi also seemed to be a constant meal for the team - he'd be embarrassed if he hadn't picked up the art of not stabbing his food.
"You see Tracey and Christiane come around with the new guy?" Demitri questioned.
"He's blind, isn't he?" Catlene added. "I wonder what he's going to be doing."
"He might not be blind," Lari said. "They can do a lot with implants these days. So he may look blind but he can see just fine."
"Speaking of fine, not that he'd ever look my way..." Catlene poked at her salad while Lari giggled.
Lan hadn't really seen the new guy. As long as he wouldn't be a problem, Lan wasn't concerned with him. And the project was too far along for any problems, anyway. Besides, he'd gotten a message from Christiane saying how pleased he was with everything and that they were getting ready for a recruitment drive with the four current pilots showing off their skills.
Lan's datapad beeped and he hauled it out. There was Siduri Bunny, hopping beside a message.
[Christiane: Not sure if you've seen the news, but a battle sprung up --]
There was a link and a news article attached, along with video.
[LDusk: Are we suiting up?]
[Christiane: Defense only, but yes.]
Lan glanced around the table. "Eat what you can in the next sixty seconds. Then get to your machines. This is real."
Lan headed up to pay their bill.
His datapad beeped again. This time there was no sender, only the Siduri Bunny icon dancing.
SiduriSys: [Assist with launch timing? Y/N]
SiduriSys: [Launch timing assistance set. Command?]
SiduriSys: [Standby understood. Command?]
Lan frowned. He was rather sure he'd give a handful of non-vital organs just to have a controller he knew on the other end and not a computer.
"Whoa, look at your hair!" Mallory stared at him for a long moment. "What happened?"
"Disguise," Solitaire said. "Plus, Kenzie insisted. It was a lot easier to wash this morning, I have to admit."
"I'll never let anyone take mine." Mallory shook his head.
"I wouldn't ask you to," Solitaire said. "I'm getting us a pair of Emeraldes, by the way, so we don't have to kill ourselves with Atropos. I need to put in for our weapons as well, since I lost my guns and haven't even thought about replacing them. What do you usually carry?"
Mallory blinked at him and it took a second for Solitaire to realize what that meant.
"Have you ever fired a gun?"
Mallory shook his head.
"Held a gun?"
"I had one that shot foam darts when I was a kid," Mallory replied. He winced. Solitaire sighed.
"We're going to find a shooting range," Solitaire said firmly. "You are going to fire every gun they have til you find one you like. And then you're going to learn the basics of hand-to-hand combat. Today. I am going to make you a skilled soldier today."
"Today? That isn't..."
"It's possible because I say it's possible," Solitaire interrupted. "Come on."
"Emeraldes. I like Emeraldes, don't worry. And I know you have to at least know how to fly but maybe I can set you up in a simulator for the evening while I'm off being art with Kenzie," Solitaire said.
"I'm really not sure if I can..." Mallory took a deep breath. "Do you think I can?"
Solitaire nodded and stepped over to give Mallory a quick hug. "I know you can. I believe in you, I believe in me, and I believe we can do this."
"You're the coolest guy I know," Mallory managed. "That's probably why--"
He pointed up at Atropos.
"C'mon. Guns." Solitaire led Mallory back out of the hangar, already digging out his datapad to get directions from Dolen on just where he could get Mallory some experience and fast.
"I think we failed at making you blend in," Kenzie noted. "You look like a model."
Solitaire sighed. He certainly didn't agree with Kenzie's assessment. Honestly, he did think he looked like a different guy. Instead of a uniform, he was in distressed dark denim and work boots with a white button-down dress shirt untucked and under- buttoned.
Kenzie had loaned him a chunky silver cross on a thick chain. It was more than enough decoration against his far-too-visible skin.
"Model," Kenzie repeated, smiling. Kenzie had his makeup done already but was otherwise still wearing a robe. "I wasn't sure we'd make it. You got back kinda late."
"I had to teach someone at least fifty ways to kill other people," Solitaire explained flatly. Maybe it wasn't really fifty. He had indeed made Mallory shoot a lot of guns until Mallory found one that was comfortable and he could aim decently with. And then they'd gotten to basic physical combat, which indeed had run a little long. But Mallory was stronger than he looked and was a quick study. They'd actually had quite a bit of fun and Solitaire was looking forward to working with Mallory at his side.
"Give or take."
"Tell me all of them on the way," Kenzie said before shuffling back over to his side of the hall. "I'll only be a minute!"
Solitaire leaned back and poked at his datapad.
TDolen: [Did you get my message about weapons?]
Z: [I did. Shouldn't you be on your way to the opening?]
TDolen: [Waiting on my date.]
Z: [Ah. Dolen found a lovely young lady for my arm. I believe she has a piece in the show.]
TDolen: [I look forward to meeting her. I'm not an art person.]
Z: [Nor am I, for a multitude of reasons up to and including the obvious.]
TDolen: [Wouldn't that be a selling point?]
Z: [I meant that I'm far too busy--]
Solitaire chuckled. Lucien had gotten him.
He started work on an expanded supply list and before he'd gotten past the first page, Kenzie slipped back into his room.
Solitaire meant it, too. Kenzie made a rather pretty woman. He had on a dark blue silk blouse unbuttoned over a pink flared dress that was the same color as his wig.
"You don't have to--"
"I mean it," Solitaire said quickly. "I'm impressed."
Kenzie smiled. "Let's go impress everyone else."
The gallery was packed by the time they arrived but all eyes turned in their direction anyway. Solitaire wasn't quite expecting that sort of attention but recovered quickly, guiding Kenzie to grab drinks and then to actually look at the art.
"Not the lowest of profiles," Dolen noted as he stepped beside Solitaire in front of a large painting of neon squiggles. Solitaire wasn't sure if it was supposed to be something or just... squiggles. But it was kind of nice to look at.
"I hadn't expected to look like..." Solitaire winced.
"A model," Kenzie said from Solitaire's other side. "Did I overdo it, sir?"
Dolen chuckled. "A bit, Kenzie. But it's a good look on him. And you're looking lovely tonight, too."
Kenzie giggled. "You're too kind, sir."
"I may need to borrow your date for a moment or two later," Dolen noted. "But for now, you two enjoy the art."
"I think they're part of the art." Mary's voice was smooth as she slipped beside Dolen. "Don't you agree?"
"I believe our friend Lucien has already purchased one of them already," Dolen said. "He's a great patron of the arts."
Mary smiled. "I saw him with Swann. She has a couple of pieces here."
Dolen smiled. "I do hope--"
Before he could continue, there was commotion at the front of the gallery. Without thought, Solitaire and Dolen made their way thru the crowd to see what was happening.
"Let me through!" Rosella cried from where a pair of campus security guards held her fast.
"Boss?" one questioned upon seeing Dolen.
"Remove her," Dolen said flatly. "She's not allowed on campus."
"Terry!" Rosella cried. Solitaire blinked, realizing that Rosella hadn't recognized at first. "Tell them--"
"Terry? What's going on?" Kenzie slid up close beside him and put a hand on his arm in what obviously looked like far too intimate a gesture than it really was.
"Her? You turned me down for that trash?"
"Get her out of here!" Dolen repeated, his voice still even but his volume louder.
"You're a disgrace."
"I will not stand to be made a fool of," Lucien said flatly from Dolen's other side. "Be gone, Rosella. Darken my doorstep no more."
"Shut up," one of the guards said, giving her a firm shove back towards the door. "No one cares."
Someone amongst the gawkers laughed. Rosella froze and the other guard gave her a sharp shove that made her move.
"So your name is Terry?"
Solitaire glanced over to see a cute girl dressed in what looked solely like duct tape.
"Thanks. Now we know who to vote for..." She smiled and dove back into the crowd. Kenzie smiled. By the time Solitaire glanced back to where Rosella had been, she was gone.
"How unfortunate," Lucien mumbled.
"Don't worry about her," Lucien's date replied, attaching herself to his arm. "She's just jealous that you're all mine tonight."
Solitaire definitely didn't expect Lucien to make it home any time before morning.
Dolen: [Solitaire, this is an emergency, I need you to launch in two.]
Dolen: [Hours. Get Mallory and get to the dock.]
"Dammit!" Solitaire crawled out of bed and through the quickest shower of his life. Kenzie's door wasn't open. He packed pretty much everything he owned, including the silly button that stated that he was the hottest date brought to the show. The true honors had gone to Kenzie, though, and rightfully.
And then Solitaire ran.
Mallory was not hard to find - he'd fallen asleep in the combat simulator sometime in the middle of the night.
Dolen was waiting for them in the hangar, along with a stunningly underwhelming shuttle.
"Low key," Solitaire noted. If it flew, well, it would be fine.
"This one is from me," Dolen said. "Remember when I said I had a friend in Altere?"
Solitaire swallowed hard. "You're sending me back to Altere?"
"Briefly, yes," Dolen replied. "I don't know how bad Altere is or what exactly is happening, and some of that is because my contact with my friend has become quite spotty. Which shouldn't be happening at all."
Solitaire frowned. "Does she know we're coming?"
Dolen nodded. "I hope so. And even with your haircut, she should know you. She said good things about you, after all."
Solitaire froze. "Everyone there who knew my name... died."
Dolen shook his head. "Her name is Lisa Taylor and she's crafty, if nothing else. I know she'll be fine even without her resources and Solitaire, I know you know her."
"She's the human terminal of the Siduri System."
Solitaire swallowed hard. That damned mess of a system had a person in it! But it was constantly called just a computer-- there had to be a reason.
"Civil service job," Solitaire muttered before shaking his head. "Send everything to my datapad. We'll prep the shuttle."
"Solitaire?" Mallory questioned.
"Yeah?" Solitaire blinked before remembering that he'd never mentioned his other names to Mallory. "Yeah. It's a code name. We'll get you one, too."
RC: [Lan, you need to get out of there.]
Lan stared at his datapad for a long moment, trying to puzzle out Christiane's message. And then he heard gunfire.
He'd been helping Catlene prep the Emeralde they'd managed to secure for her. She'd been elected team leader after all.
"Lan! What's going on?" Catlene cried from the cockpit.
"Stay up there!" Lan replied, pocketing his datapad and running towards the sound.
The troops were wearing a dull grey, no affiliation. One was slipping along trying to find anyone. He wasn't fast enough, though, and Lan had him on the floor in a heartbeat.
"Who sent you?" Lan questioned, prying the gun out of his hand.
"Your commander," the soldier replied. "You're no longer..."
Lan shot him and then made quick work of scavenging more ammunition and a second gun. He didn't like blood, or killing, but... there were only so many options.
Julian was still alive when Lan found him, Lari's body clutched close.
"What happened?" Lan questioned, dropping to his knees.
"I don't know," Julian managed, gasping for breath. There was a lot of blood and Lan knew there wasn't anything he could do. "They just came in... I'm sorry, Lan. We weren't good enough. We failed you."
"I failed you."
His datapad beeped and Lan looked up. Another wave of soldiers burst through the door. Not a single one knew what hit him, though for the last few, Demitri was gunning right alongside him.
"Dude, we gotta get out of here," Demitri said, shaking his head. "They just keep coming."
"I left Catlene in the hangar," Lan replied. "Hopefully she's safe. We lost Julian and Lari."
"You're going to lose me," Demitri admitted, gesturing down at what looked like far too much blood soaking through his shirt.
"No I'm not," Lan replied. "Come on."
"Are you asleep?" Mallory questioned.
"No," Solitaire replied. "Just thinking about what we're heading into."
"I know you're not really comfortable talking about what happened, but it seems pretty significant at this point," Mallory said. He leaned back in his control chair and looked over at Solitaire. "You can say no. But..."
"Here." Solitaire attached his datapad to the main shuttle console and pulled up an article on the screen. "Altere is claiming there was an insurrection within the government and that it was rooted out and eliminated."
"Mal, that was me," Solitaire said softly. "Except... I was hired to be there. I was there for months, following orders and reporting to their higher-ups. And one day, a group of hired guns storms in and killed... everyone. My... friends."
"Was it a set-up?" Mallory questioned as he reached over and gave Solitaire's shoulder a little friendly pat. "Kinda seems too elaborate, doesn't it? To let something run for months..."
Solitaire shook his head. "I don't know. I don't think so. I don't know if I'll ever know for sure, though. But my former commander wouldn't have sent me into that sort of trap."
"If he didn't know?"
"He would have known. I hope he would have known." What Solitaire didn't want to say was that even though he wanted to believe Varuna hadn't ordered it, he had no way to really know.
"And now we're going back into that..."
"We have a cover story, I have a new name, and we won't be around long enough to see anyone who might recognize me," Solitaire said firmly. "We'll use a different set of docks and hopefully Siduri will be waiting for us. In and out. No complications."
"Then why do we have Emeraldes and a small arsenal?"
"In case of complications," Solitaire said with a sigh.
RC: [Lan, you gotta go!]
He'd lost Demitri. Or, more correctly, Demitri had sacrificed himself to hold a door. Which was a damned waste. Yet for some reason, he'd kept running without Demitri.
He could still save Catlene.
Lan turned and froze. There were a good dozen soldiers behind him, all with their guns drawn.
"Drop your gun," one ordered. "This is the one we want alive."
Lan hesitated for a moment before dropping his gun and holding out his hands.
"Good. Smart one, you. You took down a lot of my soldiers." Lan could only see the soldier's smile under his dark helmet. It was enough. 'Alive' was going to be a messy future.
He took a step forward, hands out. The hallway-sealing fire door came from nowhere, catching him and knocking him back, half-dragging him as it snagged onto the sturdy metal of his NIN-ANA bracelet.
Shots were fired, but the fire door held. And Lan quickly reached and unlatched his bracelet. It fell to the other side of the door, which quickly sealed and held. Falling to his knees, he took a deep breath and after a long look at his bare wrist, he got up and kept running.
RC: [Lan, there's someone in here. I don't know how much longer I can hold out.]
RC: [Goodbye, Lan! It was a pleasure--]
The next soldier Lan saw took the datapad in the face, knocking his helmet back and off. Lan grabbed his gun and finished the job.
"Catlene!" he yelled as he ran into the hangar.
"Lan! What's going on?" Catlene called from her Emeralde. "Is that blood?"
He didn't think it had been more than a few minutes. It felt like a lifetime.
Catlene had the Emeralde sweep a hand low and he jumped up onto it, thankful that she was skilled enough to deposit him right at Atropos's cockpit.
"I can't get Siduri to give me launch timing," Catlene radioed over as Lan fired up all of Atropos's systems.
"We'll have to do it ourselves, then," Lan said. "But it might not be any better outside than in."
Lan pulled Atropos's rifle free of its mounting.
"I lost Catlene not long after we got out of the colony," Solitaire said. He sighed. "There were just too many, and half of them were fielding Deamondes. I'm still not entirely sure how I lost them, aside from power and speed..."
"And you made it all the way to Gemma Caeli--"
"Yeah. Spent most of the trip wiping everything I could out of Atropos's OS. Tracking, reporting, anything from Altere or NIN-ANA that someone could find. I just..."
"I'll protect you," Mal said softly. "And I'll listen. And together we'll--"
"Let's just worry about Siduri," Lan interrupted. "Everything else can come later, if it comes at all."
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!