Existence - Historical
Suletta Mercury is not used to not being familiar with her environment. On Mercury, in its industrial developments, made not for Human considerations at all, it was an imperative for every inhabitant, from the lowest engineer to the highest executive, to know where they were going, where they had been, or, at the very least, where to go because of any number of accidents ranging from freak magnetic storms which would rip iron from one's blood to containment breaches. Being lost was a mistake that she never made on Mercury, beat into her head by her mother.
The effects of a solar flare on the body were one thing: to see it was another.
(Melted flesh, fibers seared onto bone, eyes popped, skeletons burnt.)
Mercury had taught her well to be mindful of where she had been, and being a mobile suit pilot, overly so.
It hadn't helped her nerves however that she had been lost now in Asticassia's many long facilities. Surely the school hadn't been as lethally stringent as Mercury and its settlements, but for Suletta, it was not something her mind took too easily as she walked, not by vision, but by following a barely updating map on her personal tablet.
Her first month had been eventful, to say the least, a whirlwind of happenings that put her in the center stage despite it all. This was, of course, without the academic part of it!
For the most part she was a good student, at least as far as the month so far had gone. Her studies had only been backed up by real life experience that, perhaps, her peers had lacked living as they did. For all the jeering of being a "backwoods bumpkin", it had provided with her with applicable work experience that was rudimentary, basic to her, but advanced for those who had barely been even in a mobile suit save for the novelty of it.
To her, mobile suits had been more than an object. One was her family after all.
"But- but…" Her words are the only thing keeping her company however that day, twenty minutes late, and, at least as it felt to her, dozens of kilometers away from Astroengineering Mechanics 3022. "If I just passed the Kennedy Hall then this should- should be….?"
She could traverse Mercury like her own body in Aerial, but here, now, somewhere in Asticassia, Suletta Mercury is lost in massive halls and steel buildings, hardly a soul (or a Haro) there to help her, to guide her. The easiest option there is also the most demeaning, the most annoying, however. Miorine had only just last week given her her contact information, and to have their first call being something as pathetic as "Help me I'm lost!". No. Suletta would not have it. She could make it out of this!
She had taken the Blue-A tram that morning the same as she always did out to the main academic campus of Asticassia, however Astroengineering had been slated to meet in a different complex that day because of mechanical experiments done in the Zero-G chamber. That had been supposed to start twenty minutes ago, but her feet had taken her someplace else.
Maybe she had assumed that the Zero-G chamber was in Applied Sciences Building, where her other classes that did do hands on experiments took place, but that wasn't the case, and the tram to the connecting station had already left.
She had asked for directions at first, she really did, but people wary of her had kept away, and the one she did corner, she sputtered, she flailed, out of breath, sweating- but eventually had gotten something out of him. A vague direction.
"Go that way."
"O- okay!" She had bowed all the way down and dashed off.
She should have asked for more directions. She should have knocked it off and stood true. But she could not. Her heart hadn't been there, her tongue was being tied, and she was pretty sure she had been sweating like the miners of her home. The last thing she wanted was to just be near anyone at all, and yet now she had wished for it, lost in space, lost in steel walled compounds of buildings with foreign names and lonely fields.
Marble floors are below her feet, and each step she makes echoes. She hears no echoes back from anyone else. Just the drone of the life support system, loud because of absence. Long hallways create a maze, and, perhaps, it wouldn't be a maze if she hadn't been worrying, but she was worrying, and the map on her tablet hadn't been updating fast enough or collecting the right data and, even if she did call Miorine, she wasn't even quite sure what to tell her regarding where she was.
It's 11:53, Near Side Standard Time, and Suletta Mercury is lost, alone, late for class, and most of all, probably a place where she shouldn't be.
Her mother is in her ears: chiding, punishing.
"What did I tell you about wandering off?!"
She feels the palm of her mother strike across her cheek, even if it is but a distant memory, or a mental reinforcement.
Her shoulders are shaking, and the lights above suddenly are too hot and-
If you move forward,
If you move forward,
If you move forward,
If you move forward,
If you move forward,
Her feet are taking her somewhere, some place, away from there, and her head is down as if she is in the wrong for even being there (she probably is). Suletta Mercury is lost, but moving forward is her birthright. It's the only way she could survive, after all. Her face is down, looking at the screen below, waiting for something to change. Every time she looks up it's just long, white, steel halls. Clean, sterile.
It is 12:13, and Suletta Mercury is still lost as the tapping of her feet in that liminal whiteness have become a monotone rhythm that spooks her when it stops. So, she keeps moving forward, like her mother had taught her. Eventually she has to hit a wall, and then she could follow that wall. Maybe she could be found.
The school was keeping a remarkably close eye on her, were they not?
Perhaps, maybe, a stray thought arises out of her, seeing her tablet's power reach the single digits, that she could scream. It would draw any attention to her, surely, but she could not force herself to do it if she tried.
It's 12:30, and Suletta Mercury still does not know where she is. She's been walking forward, hasn't she? Or maybe she had taken a turn somewhere. Yes, she tells herself, she made a turn somewhere because that had been the obvious choice. Intersections upon intersections upon intersections. Maybe she had found herself in Asticassia's structural barriers perhaps? Designs meant to keep the station together in case of external pressure. No, it could not be. The floor was marble still, and the lights above her office standard. The walls however are featureless, no doors, no emergency call box, and gravity was still in effect here.
Even if she did want to call Miorine, she realized, there was no service where she was.
It is 1:00, and Suletta Mercury has missed lunch, missed class, and her tablet is dead.
She has always been alone in life in some measure, even with Aerial there for her, but now it is on a scale that makes her scared. To the bone. When all she does is walk, she cannot feel the sensation of the rest of her body. The temperature, it is nothing. Neither cold nor hot. Just there. Her fingers hold onto a screen gone cold, but she must, even if there is a shiver there to it.
If you move forward, you gain two.
She moves forward still, endless scenery of a white world passing her by. A thought arises in her that this must be what it is like to be buried alive.
A threat for the miners on Mercury, always. Cave ins, closing in the world on people to a modicum of existence until nothing at all. The walls are closing in on her, but they do not move. She has never experienced snow before, but she knows now what it means to be snow blind as the white slowly begins to sting her eyes.
"Hello? A-anyone?" She whispers, but even the whisper carries sound and echoes, back and forth, between walls, and then back to her. She tries to trace the echoes, but all of it comes back to her, and her alone.
She has been sweating enough that she thirsts, but there's nothing on her. Only her clothes and a now dead tablet.
If it really got bad, she could, maybe, find some paneling, start ripping out wires. Damages would no doubt cause an alarm, bring people to her. But being expelled was as good as death for her. If she was expelled, she would have to face her mother again. Mercury expected much of her and for her to squander it all because she got lost like a stupid, dumb, child… It would kill her, would it not?
Suletta Mercury doesn't know, but it's 3:00. The lights do not change. There is no gradual change in the tone of the lighting here like there is in the dormitory to simulate day or not. She hugs the walls closer as she keeps walking, her head kept down her fingers out, touching the wall to feel something. The air scrubber in this place was doing its job too well. She can hardly find dust or dirt or anything that had hinted at any sort of activity. The opulence, she thinks for but a second in a rising form of frustration and confusion, on these people making areas so big and filling them with nothing. On Mercury, so many families, or perhaps the entire population could've lived so comfortably without even seeing each other in these halls.
"Please-! Is anyone there! I need help!" She cried out before, but she keeps trying now as again the words echo beyond to the nothingness.
Suletta Mercury had a good mother. She's never known hunger, or thirst. But, a part of her mind, the Human part, the one that remembers an ancestral history of a Mankind before technology, when they were no more than the animals they hunted, reminds her that starvation is a way that people die. Exposure.
This area is so clean, she wonders if her body would even decompose.
She thinks she will die five minutes before they find her.
She thinks of herself dead.
Molten tools melt into the hands of those unlucky, left out of the shelters, too late to get there, as they melt into Mercury.
She knows how people die.
She wonders how she will.
But she slaps herself for being dramatic and blinks her vision clear again. She was not about to cry. (Was she?)
If you move forward…
Someone is following her. She is sure of it. She can feel the breath of an Other at the back of her neck and if she turns around it would be there and-
She runs, Suletta Mercury runs.
It is 7:44. She doesn't know that.
She calls herself stupid as the air blows past her in the run, cold stinging her skin. All of this would have been avoided if she just backtracked! But something is behind her, she can feel it. Opening its maw. She closes her eyes because it's in front of her too and if she opens her eyes she's dead and she's just so close to if you move forward if you move forward if you move forward if you move forward if you mifyoumoveforwardoveifyoumoveforwardifyoumoveforward
She's running forward because maybe her way out is just slightly ahead of her but what if it's not what if she had to open her eyes to look left and right and peer down different turns but isn't it strange that she hasn't noticed her shadow and-
She hears another tone. The whispering of wind. She opens her eyes. She almost passes it in her sprint:
A cut out.
Marble to wood.
Stale air is brought alive. Paper. She smells paper. A cigarette? A foul thing on her nose, but one that much of Mercury's population partook in to deal with life.
Suletta Mercury opens her eyes, stops her feet, and comes to her senses, even when she looks behind her, nothing is there.
She flinches more at the voice that reaches out from where she isn't looking.
"Hello." It is an adult voice. A man's voice. Level. Measured. It shocks her. It is the first sound in hours that isn't herself or the world around her. She nearly collapses from it as she brings her legs in, arms in front of her as if trying to deflect a blow, and yelps before she realizes what that sound is. When she looks between the blockings of her fingers, she sees a flash of blonde. A man wears a khaki suit, sunglasses over his eyes, rising himself from the desk he sits at. The room behind him is plain, wooden floored with white walls arisen in the center, like monoliths, but she knows, somehow, what it is.
This is a museum.
The man approaches her, and she feels safe.
His face is that of an adult's clean shaven, well into his thirties exuding a certain pressure that makes her feel at ease. His shoulders are broad beneath his khaki suit.
"Are you okay?" He asks her as he approaches. The muted steps of his shoes against the wooden floor are a far warmer sound than the echoes of the marble.
Suletta does not need to answer. She looks as she is: not good.
"I'm… I'm…." Barely a handful of feet away from her, he stops, looking her up and down.
"Take your time." The man says, and he looks down upon her. His eyes are hidden, but she can barely make out the shape, a hint of color. Blue, maybe. "I wasn't expecting anyone here today."
He says it in all ways but outright: He knows she is lost.
"I… I was… I was on my way to class, and I didn't know where to go and- Lost. Yes. I'm lost." She squares herself as best she can but her bottom lip can't seem to not want to quiver. She's still too close from that nothingness behind her and the man seems to know that, stepping backwards before turning around, a hand of his flicking for her to follow to his desk. It's built into the wall, black wood that contrasts oddly with the lighter paneling below them, but she's not one to understand aesthetics. It's more of a counter, really, several stools by the front of the desk as the man slides back to where he had been just moments ago behind it. There's the usual administrative terminals there, but they are unattended for and idle, instead a book is in his hand again before a red book marker is placed where he had been. She can barely catch the name of it: Heaven in Disorder.
"You look like you need help, Miss…?" The man asks as he puts away the book by some of his personal items below the lip of his side of the counter.
"My name is Suletta-"
"Suletta Mercury?" The man says to finish, and she shrinks. Of course, this man, obvious staff at Asticassia would know. "I didn't think you'd be checking in here so soon." He seemed surprised.
"Here…?" Suletta asks, not sure if this is what she assumes.
"Oh." The man is self-amused at himself, "This is just a small hall where they put important alums of the trade. With how you fought that duel against Guel? You've got potential to end up here."
Odd to wear sunglasses indoors, but familiar. Those on Mercury often always did out of habit. Was this another of her people, she wondered. "Who are you?"
The question comes and the answer is easy on the man's lips. "Call me Cassidy." The sunglasses come off, and blue eyes shine.
"Cassidy…" She echoes his name before remembering what she was here for. "I am lost, Mister Cassidy. I'm not supposed to be here, and my tablet died and it's- I don't know how long I've been gone." Her mind is back to her life, to reality, to the understanding that she is not completely screwed but with all the classes she's missed today things aren't looking to improve when she returns to the main campus. Her vision in shame draws her out, inwards toward where this is, and she sees, plainly, how alums are remembered: art, portraits.
On the far wall, a face stares back at her, weary, serious. He wears a thick, army green jacket, and raven black hair frame a face that has seen years beyond how old he looks. He has bangs as unruly as her own, if not for her headband. His gaze in painted form, this portrait of his torso up, is captivating.
Cassidy traces Suletta's gaze, from her, to the painted young man, and she is frozen, captivated.
"You are lost?" He clarifies, and all she can do is nod silently. "Well," Cassidy adjusts his jacket. "That's what it is to be young." Suletta hears ticking away on a tablet behind the table, but she cares not for it as much as she does the contents of where she has ended up. This Cassidy knows too. "I've called for people to come escort you back to the campus, but, while we wait, how about a tour?" He stands again from his post, and Suletta, considering for only a moment, agrees with a nod. Why not? The affairs of history, especially Asticassia's corporate world, had been still foreign to her (in fact she missed a class today on it). "I work the graveyard shift here, so it's not often that I get people at all." He explained a certain eagerness about him, their steps that of solid notes that echo with thocks.
"You are very out of the way, sir." An understatement to say the least out of Suletta's mouth as she follows.
His nose twitches once, a nod in agreement. "Ah. It's because it's convenient for them, the higher ups."
"How do you mean?" Suletta does not quite understand, the language dips into the business airs of the world she inhabits now.
Cassidy adjusts his sunglasses, just enough, the sunrise reflection of the lights above wink in and out from the surface. A flash of blue breaks through from the dip before he reaffirms them. "They can say they paid tribute to who we have here, but if they drew too much attention to them, the students here would get a little too invested… At least that's what I think the reasoning is."
It's a hall big enough to fit Aerial in, plus-shaped monoliths mechanically placed like markers in between distances of walls and each other, each spoke, a man, a woman, persons, portraits, all captured, all on display save for one: a blanket over it, off in the corner.
"All of this is built on their backs." Cassidy flicks his hands in the general direction of the displays. Young men, teenagers, children. Lines and color on white paper paint their form. Their gazes capture hers, and they distract her as they walk before the first. This close to this person, she knows: this person was her age.
"This is actually our most recent addition."
Liberal arts were still a requirement in Asticassia, and there was an art class that Suletta had attended in the matters of Earthian art and analysis. It all slides off her like meat from a bone. She has always been more engineering and mechanical minded that the more abstract thinking asked of her by her professors toward art and surrealist emotions is not something within her grasp. She is working on it though, grades at hazard.
A stone face young man looks on, his body half turned perpendicular to the camera. His eyes are a peaceful blue, like that of shallows she has seen only here on Asticassia. Oceans, lakes, ponds, are all concepts known, but unexperienced by her. His eyes calm her, and yet the rest of him, there is a tension. Like a hammer, pulled back, ready to strike by a trigger.
"A great warrior. Self-taught. He knew what it meant to sacrifice and to serve." Cassidy says.
"Is… is he alive?" Cassidy is reflective to Suletta's question, looking up at the lights above before answer.
"No one here is, unfortunately." Cassidy levels his gaze at the boy in the piece, and then small plaque, melted into the wooden frame. Initials only.
"Unsurprisingly, many of our alums here get thrown into their own troubles, war most chiefly, after they become acquainted with- well, something you're quite familiar with already."
"Gundam." He says the word and it echoes. For Suletta however, that word resonates warmly beneath her. It is the name of a family member to her. "Surely you know that your mobile suit isn't the only Gundam out there."
"Aerial is- she's…No." For some reason Suletta feels the need to apologize for Aerial, but she does not know why. She knows about, in the vaguest sense, about a law, about as old as her, limiting suits like hers, but it she was told to never really worry about it by her mother. Aerial was not a Gundam, and yet… "Aerial can't be a Gundam, my mother told me so."
Cassidy's chest puffs once and he nods at her. "You'd be surprised what a Gundam can really be."
M.A looks on between them, and his eyes, blue as they are, poke out form Suletta's periphery as she speaks to Cassidy. This painting is so indescribably there, her skin feels that electricity of having eyes on her. She feels more M.A's gaze on her than Cassidy's, his eyes obscured by black lenses.
"Did he go here? Like me?" Suletta had to ask again, confronting M.A's eyes and staring back. If someone this young had made their mark, maybe there was hope for her yet. "Did he have a Gundam?" She must ask. She has to know who is like her. All alone, all her life, and then, even in picture alone, she is surrounded by those that know her. The least she can do is know them.
"They called it, "The King of Wolves"." Cassidy told her with a slow nod. "An early model Gundam. One of the first. The models that we have as general issue here could've taken it down now, but back then it was a monster, both for its enemies, and for the person piloting it."
"Was this before permet scores were…?"
"Not quite," Cassidy shrugged. "Back then, Gundams themselves alone were unbound machines. So much so that they extracted a certain penance on its pilot if they decided to use it. Mika-" Cassidy stops, stumbles, takes in a breath. "M.A here saw that that was a deal worth taking for his cause."
"And what was his cause?" Suletta asks.
"Freedom." Cassidy pauses. "Devotion."
That answer is one Suletta can understand. This school must have not been that bad if someone like this person had fought for freedom in the end. A stark contrast to the world that seemed to wrapped up in a business schema that wanted to choke it down to its very last drop.
Her mother had told taught her something once, an underlying principle so down to its core she had hardly considered it at all: You fight for family. Of all the things to die for in that world, a company, a business, was not one to do so for. Family had been the holiest, and in some ways all that Suletta had ever had. Family you would fight for. Family you would die for. Family you would kill for.
"This whole thing," Cassidy made a vague gesture with his hand around. "It wasn't always a school. More like an abstract institution. Before it was a school, it was an organization, a military one, a peacekeeping effort, rag-tag groups all bound together by Gundams, always."
"I'm sorry," Suletta bows again. "I don't quite know my history. I should." Maybe if she did, she would know who these people are.
"Oh, don't worry. This type of thing goes beyond time." A smirk, a smile, his words amuse him far more than Suletta understands, but that was something she had always known of adults: being self-satisfied with themselves. He was, it seemed, to be the only adult there, even among the paintings, the many faces that stared inward into that sterile space.
Again, one sticks out, and she walks for it without even realizing it. Cassidy follows.
"This one," he pegs who she is drawn toward: another young man, black hair with determined chestnut eyes. "He was quite an innovator."
"S.S." Suletta says the name on the plaque. "Was he an engineer of Gundams?"
Cassidy shook his head once, "He was a believer in Gundam. What they represented, rather. At least to him." He seemed at peace in this depiction of him, Suletta sees. "He got what he wanted, and yet he goes on; an eternal mission, but it is, at least, one that he fights true."
"He's happy, to say the least, and only if we were so lucky, altogether."
"You know he's happy?"
Cassidy shrugs. "Just a guess. But he is a rare form in here." His gaze casts out along the curve of the walls, the lines of portraits. "Most everyone here was done with what they needed to do… Or rather, Gundam was done with them."
Gundam. An amalgamation and title of all mobile suits that fell underneath GUNDARM tech, the next step, a distant voice in her head reminds her, of Human evolution.
Cassidy goes on. "Gundam is a deal to be made. Power for life. Gundams are made to give people without power, without hope, the ability to change the world. To stand against a Gundam is to stand against the future itself." They walk, they float, they see the many eyes and the many faces of many pilots and many boys. They tower over them all from their frames and they look upon them in recognition and in silence. They never sleep, Cassidy says, they never are gone. They are the foundation of Gundam and yet they are dead.
"A great favorite." Cassidy gestures to one portrait.
K.B. A younger man, barely older than herself again. Warm blue hair nearly fades into the starfield behind him, and those stars are specks in his eyes, looking up beyond the frame. "He knew not what he was until it was too late, but when he did, and knew the power of Gundam and the women he brought them upon evil and saved the world, at least for a little time. He was, at once, the future, and stuck in the past, in," Cassidy rubs his fingers together. "Stuck in an infinite moebius loop."
"He seemed… scary." Suletta looks up to K.B, and there was something about him, his hands, his eyes, which seemed so unknowable that even the white pilot suit he has on seemed forever darkened. "He…" She feels drawn to him, somehow, but the portrait does not reach back out to her. In her gut, something stirs. Something dark. Twisting. She looks away, and yet the presence is still there. K.B looks down on her, and there is something so draining about him that she must step back. "What was his Gundam?"
"A machine designed by him." Cassidy says. "It was the first in the line of Gundams that could truly see the potential of people, because he could see the potential in people."
Cassidy can only look and see K.B look down upon her and see that same potential. Of course, she had it. It was why she was here after all. But K.B was gone. They all were.
She turns away, and they all move on again.
One by one the portraits run backward and forward along the room and its walls, and each framed so perfectly in their order and principle that they seemed each connected to each other and owing one another's existence to the one that came before and the one that came after. The frame is their restriction and yet all they have. Great men, ultimate soldiers, freedom fighters and rebels and anti-Earth unionists and celestial beings and Gundam fighters and those who bore names not their own, but the plaques read them true. Here they are validated upon a pantheon of white and wood and kept frozen, and they all monitor those that move before them.
The light there seemed to be the one put by God, all encompassing, nothing is hidden.
"So bright…" Suletta says, looking above but finding no fixtures. "On Mercury, we never had lights this bright." Energy saving measures, of course. Her eyes were forever dimmed until she came to Asticassia and saw light that seemed so natural it felt as if she had not come to a place in space but rather Earth itself.
"Have you ever left home, before?" Cassidy asks delicately as they stop before a boy, around the same age as Suletta. He shares the portrait frame with a girl, delicate and yet resolute and who had born a false name herself in order to put truth out to Humanity at large. Nothing changed. Not when he looks down and sees H.N, not too far away, head hung in shame as if forever wanting to hide from Cassidy himself.
Suletta shakes her head. "Mercury is all I knew before I came here…" She wanders in her words as B.L looks, not down on her, but to the stars beyond. To a different god. "I came here because of Mercury." She adds on, not quite sure why she was telling Cassidy, of all people.
He nods, considerate, looking from B.L and M.Z and then down to Suletta again. "I was sent away from my home, once, as well." He senses her fear, her loneliness, her anxiety and wonder and worries that hold her shoulders down like Gravity. "More than that, I took a name. I wore a mask. I became someone else. All for a cause greater than myself…"
"For what?" Suletta asked quietly. Behind her, the door to the exhibit is obscured by the shifting white shapes of the exhibit.
"Oh, you wouldn't know. It's matters of the Earthsphere." Suletta had never been to Earth. Her mother had been, of course in her business dealings, but she herself had never felt that cradle, that pull, of Earth's gravity. Suletta tilted her head at Cassidy as he spoke.
"Are you are an Earthian?"
Cassidy pauses again, tongue rubbing the inside of his cheek as he considered. "No." He answered simply. "I belong to… Space."
Space. Suletta knows Mercury as home, and yet Space was side by side with it. She is more familiar with the lack of Gravity than without. Was it a blessing she wonders? She hears the stories of those who had gone to the Earth after living their whole lives in space and wanting desperately to return: the Earth had been holding them captive. But she thinks to herself, from errant and overheard news reports, that it was the other way around: It was those in Space that had kept Earth captive.
Another portrait, another man.
"This is our oldest." And before her, stares a young man. Auburn hair and blue eyes look out from a wispy, vibrant star background. White birds fly behind him, distant mirages of creatures that Suletta knows not the name of. He looks sad, if not stern, his black jacket that of a leather that is far beyond her as a Mercurian to know what that feels like. On his gold plaque: A.R. Cassidy stares a long time back, and even Suletta sees the long draw of his breath upon his consideration.
"Did you know him?" She asks, and his face barely changes. His plaque has a layer of dust on it, but as Cassidy notices, he is quick to react, a thumb reached out, wiped against its surface, gleaming again.
"I don't know." Is how he responds, a breath out, looking away from A.R. "I don't know if I really did know him, in the end, or if the idea of him survived."
Suletta knows his voice. It is the same as her mother's speaking about her late father. It is a distant voice, speaking from memories that step further away, day by day.
"But you met him?"
"Many times." He answered, and that reflectiveness is the same sheen on his sunglasses. Regret drips from his tongue. "He was the first."
Only now does Suletta realize that they are out the end (the beginning?) of the line of portraits that wrapped and wrapped in a path of odd dimensions and length. The same room, and yet here they were an impossible distance, an impossible amount between then and now and her.
"Did you know his Gundam?"
"The White Devil." Cassidy is compelled to say out of his mouth, and he seems to regret that it had immediately. "I fought with it."
Devil. Witches. Kings. "…Gundams are…" Suletta leads on and on, but there is no word there for her to speak ill of family despite the way Gundams are spoken of, alluded of, here in those walls. "Aerial isn't…"
Had he spoken of all these figures? For she seemed to know them now as she looked down that long line of portraits of pilots and those ordained. Did he speak of the man with the burning hand and of the men who fought for love? Did she know by heart the wars that seemed to share only names with her world? Masks, she sees masks in her mind, cutting silver and metal and red eyed men who wear masks and yet she knows their face. There are people besides them unseen and ships and comrades and stories and loss that drag them down and yet they alone, mostly, are in their frames and yet she knows their stories because they lie within her like an uncommon intelligence had applied them like code from somewhere else. They are historical in their place and they are the future and they are the past and Suletta Mercury realizes that they are all looking at her. She came to Asticassia to learn, and here she had been learning.
Learning of war, of warfighters, of what was given for nothing in the name of Gundam. Beasts of impossibilities, endless waltzes, an eternal moebius loop, beyond the time. Again, and again. Different scenes: the snow of Kilimanjaro, in an infected beast, Hong Kong, Side 3, Laplace, Jupiter, Earth to Space and all the Colonies and the hearts of men and women and children.
A boy. Just a boy.
Thirteen years old. He holds the head of his mother as a cherub of God's horror is behind him returning Mankind to nothing. He, alone, for the rest of his life, must fight this war again and again in memory immemorial. This boy, younger than her, has seen things, suffered improprieties, all because of the simple expedient of Gundam itself. Victory.
She wants to help him, but she can do nothing.
"Who are these people?" She asks again, but for the first time. She stands before broken gods and suddenly that weight is on her shoulders and her breath is thin and suddenly, she finds herself wanting to walk away.
"Who came before you, hopefully." Cassidy says, adjusting his sunglasses.
"What?" Suletta's confusion always wore itself on her face, but she tried her best to hide it. She did not. Cassidy walks, and she follows, all the way down that rainbow line of Gundam pilots of other colors and other stripes of who fought for no one and fought everyone and did it for a Federation of man or against it. They each are upon her and she cannot look at them because in the end their gazes seem to calcify around her legs, around her wrists. She walks with Cassidy because-
If she moved forward…
At the end of the portraits, there is a frame, but there is no one, and nothing in it. Just a mirror.
Cassidy steps asides and lets Suletta see herself.
"I don't have a portrait here because, even though I am burdened by Gundam, my reflection was taken from me but that's quite alright."
"Reflection." Cassidy repeats her word as she looks at herself in this mirror. "All we are not stares back at what we are, after all." And yet all Suletta does is stare at herself in this mirror. Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Not a picture, or art, just a reflection of her, looking back. "Which is why masks are so, so useful with the lives we live. They distort even our reflections."
Suletta Mercury looks upon herself in the mirror as if to remind herself she is still here, but who she sees is her and yet not her.
It is an older version of her, somehow. Different, down to the bone.
As she knows the stories of those before her, she knows this one's story, and in her is euchred a part destiny.
If you move forward,
[this is who you become]
Entombed in an image the reflection looks upon her, and Suletta Mercury begs Suletta Mercury. Begs her for mercy. For trials, tribulations, war, and horror. Imprinted along the skin of Suletta Mercury is a promise. Gundam was power, and yet who was the weapon? Red. She sees red. The world turns red and she remembers Miorine's tomatoes. They taste so plump, so nice, but she did not often look into its flesh as she bit. Not after the first time she saw the inside of a tomato she had taken a bite out of. Flesh. Blood. In her hand. How malleable, pliable, and delicious.
But what is blood?
The binding agent. Blood is within her, and it goes cold.
Blood is demanded of her, by her.
Her Mother's voice asks her to extract it.
A flesh colored tomato is in her hands and there is a bite within it and she can taste the skin and the bone on her tongue, coating her teeth.
But what is blood?
It is required of her, and the color of her reflection is painted by it, as so ordered for a ceremony that put her here.
She wants to puke, to expel her mouth of what flesh she feels within it but there is nothing within her mouth to vomit.
She wants to leave, because suddenly Cassidy's shadow, his warmth, she feels it upon her.
"Can… I'd like to leave." Suletta tries to step back, but Mercury, her Mother, had told her to make sure she kept an eye on the danger. She can't keep but looking at herself as she backpedals.
"Oh, don't look away, Suletta Mercury." She backpedals, and Cassidy's hand is at her back and the contact shocks her, propels her forward, and she whips around sees nothing but a man with a mask and his blue eyes black behind darkness. Beyond him: the door is still there, the infinity of Asticassia's bones.
"I'd- I want to go!"
Cassidy says nothing, pocketing his hands. "I'm sure you do. But you are accounted for here."
Behind Suletta, now turned, Cassidy's own reflection looks down upon her. When he steps forward, she panics. This was a different panic. One born different of the social worries of her, and one different than the physical danger of the world. This was fear within her whose nails raked across her heart. There was no going forward, there was no stepping back, there was just going.
Her body is electrified and her heart beats an improper rhythm as she hooks right of Cassidy, her footsteps loud against the floorboards beneath her. When she hears one footstep from Cassidy that is when her stride becomes a sprint and the opening before her extends beyond.
Cassidy does not call upon her.
It is not Cassidy calling upon her, tugging her back.
She sprints, she runs forward.
If you move forward,
[there is an end here]
A woman appears at the door, and Suletta flies into her arm in her frenzy, in her panic. She is a short woman with dusky brown skin, a Bindi between her eyes, and her yellow dress flowing. She offers her arms to Suletta and Suletta knows not where or who she is, but she is safety, different.
"Help me!" She said, as if crying to a mother. "Take me home, please!"
The Woman's hands wrap around her, and her touch is soothing as she smooths her white uniform down her back, bringing her chin to the top of her head. Safety, Suletta thinks. This woman feels safe, even if she is smaller than her.
Only in her care does Suletta recognize who she is, and suddenly she is not safe, but taken in her grasp.
"Oh. You are mistaken." The woman tells her, her yellow dress burning with a cold air that seems to sweep behind her. "You belong here too."
Suletta tries to tear away, but her grasp feels too good, as if she had never felt the touch of a mother before, gesturing behind her wildly. "He's not who he says he is!"
The Woman chuckles once, smiling upon her as if she had heard that before. It is true, and Cassidy is behind her and Suletta cannot move, sandwiched between the two.
"You," And Cassidy's breath and voice are in her ear and down her neck. "You dare to tell me I have a fake name. You: Suletta Mercury."
Suletta Mercury cannot cry because she feels herself pressed between the two, four hands upon her. "Please…" She begs, she whimpers. Cassidy ignores.
"And those who bare fake names, cannot escape the curse of themselves, their true selves…." The Woman tells her, and her lips graze her cheek.
"Stop this…" And there is a tear that the Woman kisses, and her lips are dry.
"Prospera made this deal, long ago." Cassidy whispers, and his hands ball at her back like ice until all at once his fingernails dig deep. She screams at the pain, true pain, which ignites her spine as she is dragged back into this memorial. "You belong here, Suletta Mercury."
She tries to kick her feet to gain any purchase, but she is dragged and the sound of her soles rubbing against polished floors screams until she is stopped. The nails of him burn in her and she can feel her back cry out in pain and bloody wetness. She is lifted from Gravity, and then brought back down: She doesn't know what she cognates first: the breaking of the glass on her back as she is slammed against the wall, Cassidy's palm against her chest holding her to the wall with strength beyond him, or the way that glass, in how she fights, cuts into her back.
She screams, and cries for help, but no one there that could, would ever. She is lost.
She cries for Miorine's name, but she is far away from there.
She begs Aerial, somewhere, to rescue her, but Aerial is missing.
And at last, she screams for her Mother.
Cassidy smirks a joker's smile as the woman in yellow, her dress like wings, drapes herself over his shoulders, perched like a bird. "You have no mother."
And yet Suletta screams still as the walls close in. No help comes for her, and yet they emerge from their frames, their stories, their walls and place in universal centuries and after calamities. Cassidy's hand that holds her not is at her throat, and he squeezes. She chokes, she tries to force air through her lungs but nothing can be done as his fingers hold her to a place to freeze her, to kill her, to damn her to the stories that populate that place.
One by one, as she looks around through choking vision they emerge. They come from within, and then out, stepping out of portraits, not unlike themselves. Their names are in her mind as the pain shoots through her body, and she cannot know why:
Mikazuki Augus appears, and half his body is crimson, his eye has burst. Half-ghoul half-boy, blood drips to the ground at his feet, and he looks at her, and approaches. She wants to scream, but not enough air is getting out of her throat and suddenly there is no air at all as her body kicks and screams.
Setsuna Seiei appears like an angel of a different cloth, and when he does nothing, she knows she is lost.
Banagher Links and Mineva Zabi too are helpless, but they bear responsibility too as all those figures from their worlds come from their places and walk to her, surround her, and reach out like a writhing mass. Beyond them, beyond those walls, white machines who promised death to those who didn't matter look down, look down. Suletta Mercury writhes and wracks her body trying to get free, but many hands come to reach out to her and put upon her body to keep her still as she loses air enough to even scream.
Kamille Bidan's eyes are empty, save for the stars, and as she looks into them the stars go black, one by one, until the finality of the universe is a story made and read in the void of his soul. His hands press down upon her and she feels the cold, his cold, further seep in as the world shrinks, and the darkness arrives.
Amuro Ray approaches, but his hands do not touch her. They instead wrap around the Woman, and then around Cassidy's chest, and he holds them to their task in smiles and love and warmth.
Uso Ewin is the last of dozens and as a hundred hands press her into the frame, it is his that replace Cassidy's around her neck, the pressure is replaced with, not choking, but pulling, pulling, the tendons in her neck burning as he pulls up, and up, and she screams as she feels her skin break and bones crack.
Before she dies, the last words she hears are of a man with a mask, bathed in color, laughing, and the world has gone red crimson. He looks at her and delivers the killing words of all those cursed by Gundam:
"Blame this on the misfortune of your birth."
"We need ghost stories because we, in fact, are the ghosts."
She wakes up screaming, but she is glad she does. It means she is alive.
A bad dream. She is not used to them. Her dreams are aimless and benign.
She wakes up in her dorm and realizes that the Astroengineering class has not yet happened. In fact, it's a few hours before it should happen, and she just woke up that morning. A half-eaten chocolate bar with Miorine's note to her to not eat it all in one go is still by her bedside.
What else can she do but go to her bathroom sink, wash her face and-
Above her sink is a mirror.
Above her sink, looking back at her, is the person known as Suletta, the Witch from Mercury.
A mask would do her good.