Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam.
Update: Story has been split into more chapters for your reading convenience.
An original story. An original universe. A familiar Gundam-inspired tale.
Amidst an intergalactic power struggle over the advanced relics of an ancient civilisation, the fates of two enemies intertwine, changing their destinies forever.
Vega Aurelia, Lux ace and woman of mystery, finds an adversary worthy of her skills.
Laura Hartmann, Rem orphan-turned-pilot, makes the discovery of the century on her quest for vengeance.
As the fighting intensifies, little do these women know that their rivalry will transform the balance of the war, unearthing mysteries and truths that will shake them to the very core.
Hello, this is Crimson and this is my first Gundam fanfiction story.
I'm actually only what you might call a passing fan of Gundam. I saw Wing way back on Toonami before moving on to Seed (possibly my favourite, despite its flaws) and a long time passed until I tried Reconquista in G (one of the worst shows I've ever seen). Currently, I've kept up with all the Build series which are interesting in how they utilise past Gundam series by making the shows actually exist in that universe as a way of fan service and advertising, but I feel it's aimed at a younger audience (it's a half-hour of commercial brainwashing to ensure Bandai-Scamco and Sunrise's future ATMs).
Anyway, during all this time I waited patiently for a Gundam with a main-series-first female protagonist. When that never materialised, an idea began to stew in my head for years until I finally wrote it down on paper. At first it was difficult transposing what I imagined as a TV show into a novelised format, particularly describing mobile suits and space battles, but I persisted and the experience has been very fulfilling so far.
Lastly, I must give a big special thanks to my best friend LoneWulffe for all her help and encouragement. You're the best!
Ok, enough from me. I hope you enjoy the first episode of Gundam Gemini.
The Scarlet Wolf
Lemuria, the lost planet.
A barren, lifeless world of sprawling deserts and crumbling ruins, Lemuria was an innocuous yellow ball turning in the vastness of space. It had no discernible value, not in resources to plunder nor fertile land to colonise – yet humans searched for it. Dreamt of it. And when they finally found the lost planet… went to war over it.
The sardonic voice belonged to a woman wearing a form-fitting black spacesuit, strapped and sitting in the confined darkness of a cockpit. Her gloved hands were wrapped around dual controls sticks at the end of her armrests and the glow of a large monitor was the only source of light in the windowless coffin. On-screen was the yellow planet, which reflected off the pilot's helmet and through the translucent image one could make out silver hair and handsome features – but not their eyes.
For their eyes remained hidden behind a mysterious white mask.
"Let's get one thing straight, Vega," a gruff voice despoiled the quiet sanctity of the cockpit, barking through the com embedded in her helmet. "You may have been a genius cadet back at the academy used to getting your way as House Aurelia's chief brat, but that means nothing here. This is a real battlefield ruled by death and mayhem, not one of your pretty little make-believe simulators and as such any numbskull attempts to be a hotshot will get you and everyone else killed. So, unless you want an early funeral, you will rein in your usual antics and obey orders to the letter – am I making myself clear, lieutenant?"
"Crystal clear, Captain Wallace," came the husky reply and, unbeknownst to her superior, a curl of the pilot's red lips.
The monitor cut from the image of Lemuria to the steel doors of a hangar bay, which slowly parted to reveal the real thing outside, floating against the backdrop of black space and twinkling stars. As the radiance of the lost planet illuminated the inside of the hangar with gold tones, the ominous shape of over half-a-dozen robotic figures came to light.
Known as mobile suits, they were the war machine of choice for the era; towering bipedal mechs with variable equipment, making them capable of great feats of power and agility. A single pilot of one could turn the tide of battle and the black Wargs of the Lux Empire were feared most of all.
"Ok, Warg team – fall out!"
At their captains order the Wargs' eyes glowed and they began launching in pairs, flung into space with the aid of catapults and rails. Vega was the last in line and braced as her cockpit shook and the hangar bay rushed past, until her Warg was floating above Lemuria in complete silence. Putting aside the feelings of awe and smallness the yellow planet aroused, the masked pilot pushed on her throttle and followed her comrades up.
As the squadron of Wargs climbed higher, the sleek black cruiser they had exited came into full view, one of a dozen in a line formation above the north pole of Lemuria. All flew the banner of the dark serpent and launched their own mobile suits until over a hundred Wargs were converged above the Lux fleet. They moved as one towards the equator and from the south pole the enemy did the same.
At first a speckled cluster of shimmering dots in the distance, they revealed themselves to be an endless wall of white battleships flying the flag of the snowy lion for the Rem Republic. They were twice the Lux fleet's number and the white Garm mobile suits amassed opposite the Wargs were almost three times their number. The two space fleets were set for a collision course over the atmosphere of Lemuria, between it and its battered moon, Lenos, where they would battle under the gaze of its giant crater.
"This is it! Remember your training! Remember you are proud pilots of LIRA!" Captain Wallace began rousing the troops with his prebattle speech, using the acronym for the Lux Imperial Army, and finished by raising his beamrifle above his Warg's head. "Glory to Lux!"
With that battle cry, hundreds of mobiles suits were sent rocketing forth towards the enemy on contrails of blue fire bursting from their foot and jetpack thrusters. The hordes of black Wargs and white Garms connected just as the beam cannons of the ships behind them fired, turning the battlefield into a sea of lights and destruction. While colossal red and blue beams criss-crossed below against the yellow deserts of Lemuria, disintegrating everything in their path, battle raged above as Vega followed her squadron in and engaged in direct combat with the enemy mobile suits.
The Wargs darted from point to point before pouncing on their prey with beamsabre or rifle in hand, using their superior speed to their advantage which made the mobile suits as deadly as their angled and warlike appearance. One on one, Rem's slower and more defensive Garms could not compare and the square-bodied suits struggled to hold the line at first. But where Rem trailed in technology, they made up for it in numbers and Vega watched as some of her comrades were surrounded by several Garms at once and skewered with beams.
No matter how many they shot down another wave of Garms came to replace them, hiding behind their blast shields as they fired a thick barrage of blue beams at the nimble Wargs. Black and white debris alike filled the battlefield and for a moment it looked as if Lux would be overwhelmed – exactly the moment Vega had been waiting for.
"Vega? Where are you going? Get back here!"
Captain Wallace bellowed into her ears, but the masked pilot simply muted the channel as she broke formation and headed straight into the fray. Almost immediately, a stray Garm showed up on her monitor, out of position and out of luck.
"Perfect…" she crooned.
Vega set her sights on the white target and pushed her throttle to the hilt, firing her rifle as her Warg hurtled forth on blazing blue thrusters. Hot red beams ripped through the unsuspecting Garm's chest and it detonated in spectacular fashion – and Vega flew straight into the explosion.
After a heart-stopping pause, she burst through the smoke and the heat had stripped away the Warg's black paint to expose its true finish.
A mobile suit the colour of scarlet.
The distinctive colour drew the attention of the enemy and a bombardment of lasers followed. The rain of blue fire would have shredded any other mobile suit to pieces, but Vega was undeterred – she flew straight into the storm and weaved through the beams with ease, before pointing her own rifle forward and firing off several blasts. With deadly aim, three Garms were transformed into balls of fire in rapid succession, shocking the others to attention as the red Warg charged right into their formation.
The speed of the scarlet blur, far beyond that of other Wargs, took the Garm pilots by surprise and when they realised the beast was coming it was too late. With a swing of its equally red beamsabre, Vega tore the closest white robot apart in an explosion of flying scrap metal, before moving on to the next. The Rem Defence Force scrambled to contain the enemy in their midst, but the weakness of their defensive strategy was laid bare – at this range they could not shoot for fear of friendly fire.
The masked pilot knew this all too well and grinned as she danced circles around them, carving a trail of destruction as she slashed and shot the lumbering mobile suits with precision until the entire squadron had been vanquished. By the time another wave of Garms arrived to take their place, it was too late. The hole in Rem's defences had been filled by a horde of jubilant Wargs rushing after their red comrade and the defensive formation crumbled from the inside out as LIRA wreaked havoc on the RDF.
"Vega, you blasted fool!" the feared roar of her captain was the first thing Vega heard when she reactivated her com. "Do you even know what you're doing?!"
"Making history, captain," she replied with barely contained excitement and made sure to open all her channels for her next words. "Rem's ships are defenceless! Follow me!"
Buoyed by her rallying cry, Vega was joined by the rest of her squadron as she spearheaded the charge towards Rem's unguarded battleships in her red Warg.
Built to be nothing more than giant floating cannons to battle from a safe distance, the titanic RDF warships had little means to fight back once the enemy got too close. The pack of Wargs flew right up to their white hulls, peppering it with red beams and a trail of explosions followed. Those that carried RPGs launched their payload into the sides of the ships and fire erupted out the other end. Vega herself targeted the cannons, chancing death by flying into their wide openings and firing her rifle right down the middle, causing them to misfire and the ships were destroyed in an explosive chain reaction.
When the Garms finally regrouped and returned to defend the battleships, eight were already smoking wrecks and the Wargs were long gone. A retreat was ordered on both sides and the fleets withdrew back to their respective poles of yellow Lemuria, leaving another graveyard of devastated ships and mobiles suits for junkers to scavenge.
"Vega! What the hell did I tell you about your antics and following orders?! I should have you thrown out of LIRA and shipped back to Lux in a tiny box!" Captain Wallace chastised the pilot with deafening fury on their way back to the ship, but an unrepentant Vega only smiled and her superior eventually ran out of steam. "…God damn it, who am I kidding? They'll probably give you a medal for this."
"I couldn't have done it without you, captain," Vega teased. "Your mentorship these past few months has been invaluable. I hope you can continue to guide me into the future."
"The future? Oh gods, no," he sounded appalled at the very thought. "Vega, you've finally done what Rem, LIRA and a loving family could never do – I'm retiring."
"Captain! I will sincerely miss you."
"I wish I could say the feeling was mutual, lieutenant," Wallace huffed, before his stern tone softened. "With pilots like you, the future of LIRA should be in capable hands… but Godspeed to whoever your new commanding officer is."
Suppressing her urge to chuckle, Vega instead turned her attention to the glow of the planet on her monitor. Once again, the battle for Lemuria had been left without a victor, but the War of the Descendants, as it was also known, would rage on. Catching sight of her own reflection off the screen, the pilot stared into her mask and spoke under her breath.
"I'm just getting started…"
"Earlier today the Rem Defence Force faced off against the Lux Imperial Army over the atmosphere of Lemuria, in what was the third major battle for the planet since its rediscovery ten years ago."
In a sunlit classroom, the crisp voice of a female news anchor reverberated throughout the room from a TV attached to the ceiling. Below it, crowded around the desks and chairs with their eyes glued to the events on-screen, were five girls. They wore navy blue uniforms with the lion crest, marking them as military cadets, and each were labelled with the words 'Rem Military Academy'.
"Official reports say the fighting was fierce with major casualties on both sides, but the exact number of RDF casualties has yet to be released by the Ministry of Defence. Despite the government having been confident of their victory this time, there was once again no clear victor to the battle which was being hailed as the end to the Lemurian Conflict. Privately, it seems many officials are blaming a lone enemy mobile suit which upended their entire strategy and a video has even emerged of the mobile suit in question."
The report cut to grainy footage of several white Garms firing upon an unseen enemy before a red blur darted across the screen, cutting down the mobile suits in succession. Three of the girls in the classroom jumped out of their seats.
"Did you see that?" asked one with short black-hair, her jaw hanging wide open.
"That thing was twice as fast as a normal Warg," a girl with pink twin-tails nodded and gritted her perfect teeth. "You can't achieve that with modification alone."
"A technopath… a powerful one," said another girl with long blonde hair who had remained seated and calm.
"More powerful than Laura? No way…" the fourth girl covered her mouth in fear and turned her green eyes towards the cadet with short golden hair standing in the middle.
The final girl left her desk and marched right under the television screen, her intense purple eyes never having left the red Warg, and the report froze on the enemy mobile suit.
"People within the military are already calling the pilot of this mobile suit the Scarlet Wolf and... yes? Yes, we have a report just in: even LIRA is hailing the pilot as their ace and we now have their identity – the Scarlet Wolf is a female pilot named Vega Aurelia."
The girl with purple eyes squeezed her fists and whispered under her breath.
FIVE YEARS LATER.
"This month marks the fifteenth year since the Lemurian Conflict began and for Rem's young people it is a war that has been going on their entire lives. In light of this, I thought it would be prudent to look back on its origins, but first we must go back three centuries…"
A woman's digitised voice echoed throughout a tiny cabin with clarity and mingled with the sounds of gentle humming. The source of the humming was a young girl with tawny brown hair who sat on the bottom bunk of a double decker bed, one of three squeezed into the tight space. With eager green eyes, she flipped through a pack of cards while listening to the radio that floated through the air as the elegant voice of the host continued.
"Three centuries ago, Lemuria was home to an advanced, space-faring civilisation said to possess technology beyond our wildest imaginations. But one day disaster struck – an event known only as the Lemurian Cataclysm forced its inhabitants to flee the planet on giant arks. We have no record of what the Cataclysm was exactly – all records of the time have been mysteriously redacted – but we now know it turned the once vibrant planet into a lifeless wasteland."
There was a hydraulic hiss and the metal door to the cabin slid open, allowing a slender young woman to float through. Her short blond locks drifted through the air as she passed, framing her sharp but elegant features, including a pair of piercing purple eyes. The other girl stopped her humming and her gaze lit up when she saw who it was.
"Hey, Tully," Laura greeted the slighter girl and noticed the radio floating nearby. "Rem National again?"
"They're talking about Lemuria," Tully smiled, before returning her attention to her cards. "Where are the others?"
"Probably still in the hangar bay. I finished my maintenance ages ago!" the blonde flopped down on the bed beside her bunkmate and sighed with exhaustion. As she did, a simple amethyst necklace in the shape of a disc escaped from the collar of her uniform and hung in the air.
"Well, we're not all geniuses like you, Laura Hartmann," Tully laughed, and the pair sat on the bed together, listening as the radio floated by again.
"There were four arks that abandoned Lemuria that fateful day: the Serpent would go on to found the Lux Empire, the Dragon populated many planets which would eventually form the Zodiac Union, and the Lion, as you know, went on to establish our Rem Republic. However, the fate of the final ark, the Phoenix, still remains a mystery to this day."
Tully and Laura heard the boisterous voice long before the door even opened and a flurry of pink hair burst into the room. The girl floating before them could have been an idol with her brilliant blue eyes and flowing tresses, which were tied into two long tails on each side of her head, but the words coming out of her lips were far from ladylike.
"Don't think you've won just… just because you're a little faster… Laura Hartmann!" the newcomer panted out in between heavy breaths and pointed an indignant finger at the other girl. She'd obviously rushed all the way over from the hanger bay and her cheeks were flushed like two tomatoes.
"Whatever you say, Freya," Laura threw her hands up in the air and relented, before allowing a smirk to escape her lips. "…But I'm still faster."
"Stop it, you two," Tully interjected without batting an eyelid and it obviously wasn't the first time she had acted as peacemaker. "Why don't we just settle down and listen to some Rem National while we wait for the others?"
Freya grumbled, but kicked off the floor and onto the top bunk of the bed opposite, where she crossed her arms and tossed her fiery hair.
"Fine! Enjoy the number one spot while you can, Laura – one of these days I'm going to knock you off your perch."
Tully sighed, but when she saw Laura's mischievous purple eyes, they both broke out into smiles and the voice from the radio filled the cabin once more.
"For three hundred years the descendants of the arks had no contact as their civilisations developed separately, but all had the same dream – to find lost Lemuria and learn the truth of the catastrophe. In 289AC, Rem space explorers finally found the lost planet and an expedition was sent the following year. They were met with an inhospitable landscape of deserts and ruined cities, the remnants left behind by the great catastrophe that had destroyed Lemuria. But, as they soon discovered, they were not alone on the dead planet."
The hiss of the cabin door wheezing open interrupted the radio again and this time an angel graced the room. With a tall physique, long limbs and straight blonde hair that stretched behind her like a gold silken banner, the beauty could have been a model with her perfect features. As she glided forward with an air of grace, her flawless white skin positively glowed and it wouldn't surprise the others if feathered wings sprouted from her back.
"What took you so long, Alice?" Freya asked as the angel passed her by. Alice smiled, a rarity which entailed a faint tug at the corners of her pink lips, and let out a melodious titter.
"I was just staring at the burly men of the maintenance crew… before I knew it so much time had passed," she admitted, closing her eyes and clasping her hands together as if a maiden in prayer.
"Oh, don't tell me…"
"It has to be that…"
Both Laura and Freya nodded their heads in agreement and Alice spun around, opening her eyes to reveal striking amber orbs almost the colour of gold.
"They must be a couple, right? After working and sweating their days together, surely love must have blossomed before one night they gave in to their passion and..."
Alice trailed off into her own world, but the others were left unfazed and merely sighed.
"Of course, it's that…" Tully laughed.
"If only the male crew knew just what their perfect angel fantasises about them doing," said Laura.
"I wouldn't mind that," said Alice, who returned to being cool and expressionless as she sunk into the bottom bunk at the back of the cabin. "Just the thought of their shocked faces gives me joy."
"You're a weird one, you know that?" Freya whispered, raising a finely chiselled eyebrow at the cool beauty before the voice on the radio garnered their attention.
"By pure coincidence the Lux Empire had also rediscovered Lemuria and had sent an expedition to the planet at the very same time as Rem. And so it was that fifteen years ago, on the sands of their ancestral home, did the descendants of the Lion and Serpent meet for the first time. But what should have been cause for celebration quickly escalated into the fires of a war that has continued to this day. What is it about Lemuria that fuels this conflict? What could both sides possibly want from a barren world, former home though it may be? The answer is relics."
The cabin door opened for the fourth time and a girl floated in headfirst, groaning at the ceiling as she did. Her black hair was cropped short, giving her a boyish look and, unlike the others who wore white uniforms, she wore grey overalls.
"Junko? What happened to you?" Laura asked, watching as the girl floated by like a corpse.
"Flyboys…" she muttered with disgust, causing the others to groan with her.
"Those sexist pigs! It's high time someone made roast pork out of them!" Freya growled and shook her fist.
"That's an insult to pigs, Freya – but I agree with your sentiment," Alice remarked, keeping her poker face.
"Well, you'll be pleased to know I showed them in the end," Junko's dark eyes curled with glee. "I recalibrated those Garms in record time! Never underestimate a mobile suit fanatic, jerks!"
"Wow!" Tully clapped her hands together and Junko puffed out her chest, before the brunette stopped and sighed. "Why are they so mean? Even though we're all on the same side."
"It's because they look down on women, Tully," a furious Freya explained, raising her voice. "They think we can't do the same job as them!"
"The idea that female pilots could be as good or better than them no doubt threatens their fragile masculinity," Alice added her calm analysis. "It's quite pathetic really."
"And just because they were aboard the Baselard first they think can boss us around and cram all of us into this tiny cabin," Laura's voice dripped with anger, before her lips curved into a cocky grin. "But we'll show them, won't we? When Operation Arrowhead starts we're going to steal all glory and leave them in our dust!"
"You said it, girl! Show them the title of the academy's most talented graduates ever isn't just for show!" Junko cheered and pumped her fist as she reached Alice's bunk and lay down next to her.
"I promise I won't slow you down!" Tully quickly spoke up, although her quivering voice didn't sound quite so sure of itself. "I'm just so glad we were assigned to the same ship… and the same quarters too."
"Well, that's one bright side to the harassment. A mechanic like me would never get to bunk with pilots otherwise," Junko nodded.
"It's just like back in Libra Orphanage," Tully continued and looked at her friends in turn with her gentle green eyes. "I really am so happy the five of us get to stay together…"
The other girls smiled and Tully turned away embarrassed, glancing instead at the photo stuck above her bunk. It showed the five of them in their blue academy uniforms just after graduation, standing in front of a church with an older woman and several children.
"We'll have so much to tell the matron and the children when we get back," Laura said and Tully nodded, and they returned to listening to the program on the radio.
"Relics are the incredibly advanced technology or research left behind by the Lemurians, whether as preserved machines or data stored within mysterious purple cubes. With them we have discovered cures for diseases, ways to harness new forms of energy, blueprints for engines capable of advanced space travel, and countless other innovations. Their value and their effect on our civilisations cannot be understated and that is the reason why Lux and Rem each covet Lemuria and its treasures enough to wage all-out war."
"So, it's a just a family feud over the inheritance?" asked Freya, whilst checking her pink nails and looking none too impressed.
"Basically," said Junko, before her brown eyes bulged. "I'd love to get a look at a relic up close… imagine, a mobile suit relic!"
"They say only technopaths can access the information on relics," said Alice, looking around the room. "In which case, we are all in good stead."
"It's weird. Technopaths are meant to be rare, but there are five of them in this room alone," Laura pointed out. "A lot seem to come from Libra Orphanage too."
"Isn't it just a coincidence?" Freya continued to study her nails even as she dismissed the idea.
"I think it's sad," Tully interrupted, who had been deep in thought and missed the entire conversation. "All that advanced technology we could be using for good and all we humans can do is fight over it…"
"Well, that's what you get when warmongers like the Lux Empire are involved. They started it, didn't they?" said Freya.
"Supposedly they have to do everything their precious emperor commands," said Alice. "Even if they don't want to."
"The whole empire at the bidding of one old man? They must be crazy," gasped Laura.
"It must be a planet of flyboys," said Junko, to which they all groaned again.
"Furthermore, relics have only helped to advance the weapons of war on both sides, leading to not an arms race, but a relics race for technological superiority. This culminates in a major space battle almost every five years as the two powers test one another but has resulted in a stalemate each time. With the recent reports of activity in the RDF and LIRA's forces, the fourth battle is expected to begin very soon."
"Not just soon – we're actually there," said Junko, ignoring the fact the speaker couldn't hear her. "Even if we're safely at the back of the fleet."
"Perhaps it's for the best," said Alice. "Although I'd hoped our first real battle experience was something less daunting."
"Turn that thing off, Tully. A history lesson isn't going to help us once the battle starts," said Freya and the girl complied, silencing the voice from the radio with a touch.
"Hey, are those new cards?" Laura asked, finally taking notice of the deck in Tully's hands.
"Yep," the girl smiled with glee and showed them off. "I had them specially ordered."
"Tarot cards, again?" Freya peered down from her perch and sighed. "I'll never understand how you can believe that hocus pocus…"
"Says the person who asked for fortunes almost every day at the academy," Laura goaded, eliciting a sharp humph from her pink-haired rival.
"It is surprising how accurate Tully is sometimes," said Alice, just as Junko floated over to Tully's bedpost.
"Whoa! Are those electromagnetic? That's amazing!" the mechanic exclaimed, looking over Tully's shoulder.
"They're made especially for technopaths. Watch…"
Tully reached for the side of her bunk and pulled out a metal panel with locking stilts that propped it up into a make-shift table. Placing the deck on the steel surface, she held it down with her index finger before lifting it off and the others chorused with wonder as it stayed in place.
"See? Like this, I can still play with them in space," Tully boasted and began sliding cards off the top of the pile and lining them up on the table, demagnetising and magnetising them in place with a touch of her technopathic finger. "With a bit of practice, even a weak technopath like me can do it."
"You're not weak, Tully," Laura chided her, and the others agreed.
"You passed the exam like everyone else," Alice reminded the brunette.
"Don't belittle yourself, Tully – all technopaths look weak when compared to these monsters!" Junko comforted her by pointing at Laura and Freya, causing both to bark at her in anger.
"Well, technopathic strength aside, we're a team," Freya cleared her throat and reminded them. "What we can't do alone, we do together, and when the five of us are together we can accomplish anything…"
The starlet paused and her cheeks flushed when she realised what she was saying.
"In… In other words… we need you, Tully," she finished with a whimper.
"Oh, Freya... thank you," Tully wiped tears from her eyes and flashed her brightest smile, before finishing the embarrassed girl off. "…I love you too."
Like a boiling kettle, steam whistled from Freya's ear as her face turned as pink as her hair and she covered it up with her hands.
"Wow… you're the last person I thought I would hear use the word 'team'…" said Laura, her mouth agape.
"Oh, shut up!" Freya shouted, still hiding behind her hands.
When everyone's laugher had died down and Freya's complexion returned to normal, Laura's purple eyes gazed at Tully with excitement.
"Hey, tell my fortune, Tully!"
"Before the battle?" the smaller girl asked, frowning.
"Yeah, tell us! Maybe the cards will have something important to say?" Junko joined in with Laura's excitement.
"I'm interested too," Alice nodded.
"Go on… you know you want to," said Freya, reversing Tully's frown.
"Oh fine…" she smiled and began shuffling the deck before magnetising it to the table again. "Ask your question, Laura."
"I want to know the future – does Operation Arrowhead succeed?"
Tully removed cards from the top of the deck and placed them face down until there were a row of three. Flipping the first card over revealed a fearless woman patting the head of a lion.
"Strength," Tully announced. "It symbolises bravery and action."
"Sounds like Laura," said Junko.
"When the fighting starts you will be thrust into the heat of battle," Tully closed her eyes and interpreted the energy flowing in the air. "But despite it being your first battle, you will acquit yourself well with your courage and skill and should have nothing to fear."
"Of course – I'll be fighting alongside you, after all," Freya boasted with a cheeky grin.
Tully flipped over the second card and it showed a warrior riding a gold chariot – except it was upside down.
"The Chariot reversed," Tully explained, frowning. "It represents failure and frustration."
"That doesn't bode well," Alice stated the obvious.
"During the battle, I sense you will be tested… your life may even be in danger," Tully continued, her brow furrowing with alarm. "If that should happen, it may be better to retreat than continue forward."
"You're saying I should run away?" asked Laura.
"Wait, so Operation Arrowhead is a failure after all?" said Junko.
"I don't know… I can only speak about Laura's future."
"Well, there's still one card left," Freya pointed out. "Isn't that usually the solution?"
"Perhaps it will tell us how to avoid this dire future," Alice agreed, leaning forward.
Tully's fingers rested on the final card – but before she could turn it over the cabin was bathed in angry red light and a siren screamed into their ears.
"Battle stations! All hands report to battle stations!"
The intercom blasted out their orders and the girls immediately went for the door as their training kicked in.
"Are we under attack? It's too early!" Freya shouted over the noise and held the door open.
"Whatever the case, Operation Arrowhead is well and truly underway now," said Alice.
"Good luck, everyone! Please stay safe," Junko pleaded and looked at her friends in turn before floating out, leaving only Laura and Tully in the room.
"Come on, Tully, let's go!" Laura tucked her necklace back in her uniform and paused at the door, calling after her friend who was still sitting on her bunk. She was staring at a tarot card in her hand, almost mesmerised. "What is it?"
"It's nothing," Tully replied, quickly putting the card back on top of the deck and jumping up. "I'm ready."
Laura patted her on the back as she passed and went after her, leaving the door to close behind them with a long hiss.