Disclaimer: I only own Crim and the story. I do not own ZOE.
Chapter 8: Realizations
Jehuty arrived at the designated area of meeting, which was an abandoned mining facility built on an asteroid that was located a few miles away from the colony Argetlam.
"Well ADA." Leo said as he observed the surroundings. "We're at the right place, but I don't see Anubis anywhere. Do you think you can use your scanners to find it?"
"I will try." ADA answered. There were a few minutes of silence before she spoke again. "I am unable to locate Anubis. The pilot is probably keeping it concealed in order to maintain an element of surprise."
"You catch on very quickly." A new voice commented over the intercom. "I must admit, boy, you have a very resourceful AI."
Leo recognized the speaker's voice instantly.
"You!" He shouted. "You're the pilot for Anubis, aren't you? Colonel Nohman."
"Good, you remember my name." Nohman said mockingly. "So we can skip the introductions and move right on to business. Right, Leo Stenbuck?"
"Where's Celvice?" Leo shouted. "If you've done anything to hurt her I'll kill you!"
"My, my, angry aren't we." Nohman replied in the same mocking tone of voice. "Don't worry, the girl is safe, for now, and she hasn't been harmed in the least. After all, what good is a damaged bargaining item?"
"You son of a-!" Leo shouted before forcing himself to calm down and reluctantly spoke again. "What do you want?"
"Come to the center of the mine." Nohman instructed. "There's a large room in there where we can talk business in full. By the way, I'm not a very patient man; so do be there within an hour, if you please? If not, then the girl's life is forfeit. Now the clock is ticking, so don't spend too much time playing with the doormen." And then there was silence.
"ADA, can you blast through whatever this asteroid is made of?" Leo asked.
"Allow me to analyze the asteroid." ADA replied. She spoke a few seconds later. "Affirmative."
"All right then." Leo said. "Let's do this!"
Jehuty charged up a burst shot and blew a hole into the asteroid. It then sped down into it, repeating the same process every time it encountered a wall.
As Jehuty passed through one of the many tunnels inside the asteroid, leaving behind the remains of several destroyed enemy frames, Leo suddenly heard the intercom ring. Leo hesitated before answering it.
"Leo! Leo, do you read me?" The caller's voice was Crim's.
"Crim?" Leo said in recognition. "Yeah, I read you. What is it?"
"Thank God I was able to reach you." Crim said with relief. "Listen, I'm headed for the mine that you're at. I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Hold on a minute!" Leo shouted. "I thought I told you to stay behind. The message Nohman gave me was to come alone."
"Look, I would have done just that, but I have a good enough reason. Leo, the Anubis orbital frame that's waiting for you in the center of the mine isn't the real Anubis. It's a copy."
"A copy?" Leo asked. "But that doesn't make any sense. Why would Nohman just have me fight a drone?"
"The reason is because Celvice is probably inside that thing." Crim answered.
There were a few minutes of silence as Leo fully contemplated what he had just heard.
"You mean that bastard Nohman, was trying to trick me into..." Leo couldn't finish.
"I'm afraid so." Crim replied. "And you're not the first either. Ever since he got that frame, Nohman's played this sick game with all his enemies. He finds someone dear to that person, abducts him or her, and puts him or her in a fake Anubis. By the time the opponent finds out the truth, it's already too late. That's how that bastard is; he destroys his enemy's spirit before killing them. In most cases, the opponent just lets Nohman finish them in the end."
"That's sick!" Leo said. "How could anyone do something like that to another person?"
"I really don't know." Crim sighed. "Well, enough about that. For now, let's concentrate on Celvice's rescue"
"Right." Leo replied. "Do you have any ideas on how I could rescue Celvice?"
"A couple, but they're not very likely to work." Crim answered.
"It's better than nothing." Leo replied. "Tell me."
"The first would be to attack the frame until you damage it enough to disable it." Crim suggested. "But you have a pretty good chance of hurting Celvice, so I wouldn't recommend this one."
"And I wouldn't try it even if you did recommend it." Leo added. "What's your next suggestion?"
"I don't know if ADA can do this, but if she can, I'd recommend this one. Since the Anubis copy is basically a drone, then an AI is probably controlling it. If you can delete that AI, you should be able to rescue Celvice without any problems."
"It might work. ADA, can you do that?"
"Affirmative." ADA answered. "However, you will have to put Anubis in a position where I can make contact with the frame so the AI can be deleted effectively. Also, once the AI is deleted you must proceed to rescue Celvice Klein as quickly as possible. There is a chance that there is a backup AI installed in case of a malfunction in the first AI."
"So there's a time limit, huh." Leo said. "So how much time would I have?"
"Four minutes." ADA answered.
"That should be more than enough time." Leo said and then he turned back to Crim. "So how do I put the frame in a vulnerable position?"
"Well, since the weapon for that thing is that staff, I'd recommend that you cross your weapon with and then you should have a small opening in its defense so you can delete the AI." Crim suggested. "Anyway, I'll be there as soon as I can." Then Crim stopped as if he had remembered something. "By the way Leo, have you figured out the answer to my question yet?"
"I'm kind of busy right now in case you haven't noticed." Leo replied.
"You're right." Crim agreed. "Just think about the answer, okay. Oh, one last thing, I've hacked into the security system for this joint. Can you tell me where Nohman wanted you to meet him, or should I say meet that fake Anubis?"
"He said he wanted me to come to the center of the mine. Why are you asking?"
"Hold on a minute." Crim replied and there was the sound of quick typing on a keyboard. "There we go."
"What did you just do?"
"I hacked into the mines old control system and activated the air in the room you're headed to. I seriously doubt that Nohman bothered to give Celvice a space suit so I made a little adjustment to make sure the rescue doesn't go wrong."
"Thanks, Crim. Looks like I owe you."
"Don't worry about it. Just concentrate on rescuing the damsel in distress Mr. Knight-in-Giant-Shining-Armor." Crim chuckled at his friends embarrassed expression before the transmission ended.
"All right, ADA." Leo said. "Let's head for that place we're supposed to meet with Nohman."
"Affirmative." ADA answered. "Proceeding towards determined location."
As the frame went on through the large maze of tunnels, Leo kept thinking about the question Crim had asked him.
(Why am I so concerned about Celvice anyway?) Leo thought. (Is it because she's in danger?) For some reason that didn't feel like the right answer. (Maybe it's because I just don't want to lose her.) As soon as Leo thought that, he only knew that was only part of the answer. Then he thought back on the question Crim had asked him.
(Why are you so concerned about her safety? Well? Answer.) Crim's voice said in Leo's mind.
(It's because I...) Leo thought.
"It's because I love her." Leo said and as soon as those words left his mouth. Leo realized with absolute certainty that they were true.
"We have arrived at the destination." ADA said.
Anubis, or rather the Anubis copy, floated in the middle of the large room staring at its opponent like a predator would its prey.
"Good, you arrived on time." Nohman's voice said on the intercom. "I really do hate to be kept waiting. Now then, to business, your frame Jehuty is a very important factor in the Aumaan project. To put it simply, I require your frame to ensure that it's successful."
"So you want me to give you ADA in exchange for Celvice, is that right?" Leo asked.
"Correct." Nohman answered. "However, there is one alternative. You see, I'm curious about how much stronger you've gotten since our last encounter. If you defeat me, then the girl is yours. What do you say?"
(Now that I know what he's planning, this seems so obvious.) Leo thought. (Nohman was probably counting on my acting on impulse so I'd fight him. I'll just play along for now. Hold on Celvice, I will save you.)
"Why not?" Leo said. "Prepare yourself Nohman, I'm going to make you pay for kidnapping Celvice."
Anubis then used its teleportation ability, zero shift, to teleport behind Jehuty, its staff raised to strike. Jehuty then turned and then countered the attack with its dash blade causing Anubis to temporarily lose its balance, which gave Jehuty the opportunity to grab its opponent and begin to delete the AI.
"What the...!" Nohman's voice shouted over the intercom. "How did you...?"
"A friend of mine warned me about what you were planning." Leo answered. "Sorry to spoil your fun, but it looks like I've won this game of yours."
Only silence answered him.
"The orbital frame's AI has been effectively deleted." ADA reported. "I have analyzed the air content and have confirmed that it is suitable for breathing. Now proceed to rescue Miss Klein."
"Thanks, ADA." Leo said gratefully and the cockpit door opened. Leo then got out of Jehuty and climbed down toward the fallen Anubis copy. When he got to the cockpit, Leo just knocked against it and the door opened.
Celvice looked up as soon as she heard the cockpit door open. She hadn't been able top see what was going on outside of the frame and was worried that this was BAHRAM recovery team that had come to get her out of the frame now that Jehuty was destroyed.
"Celvice, are you all right?" Leo asked as soon as he saw her.
"Leo..." Celvice said as soon as she saw him. "You came to save me. I..." Unable to say anymore she threw her arms around Leo and held onto him. "I can't really put this into words, but I'm glad you came." Then she felt Leo's arms around her as he returned her embrace.
"And I'm really glad that you're all right, Celvice." He said holding her close to him.
"Leo, you..." Celvice said as she blushed slightly.
"Celvice, there's something I need to tell you." Leo started to blush as he realized that he was about to tell the girl he loved how he felt. "Celvice, I-." Suddenly, a few of the modules for the fallen frame started to reactivate.
"Oh crap!" Leo shouted. "Celvice, we need to get out of here before the backup AI for this frame comes online, hurry." Leo then helped Celvice out of the frame's cockpit and then the two of them ran towards Jehuty.
Leo was the first to reach Jehuty. He climbed into the cockpit and then leaned over with his arm outstretched to help Celvice into the cockpit.
As Celvice took Leo's hand she suddenly remembered something.
(This feels like that time over at the church almost a year ago.) She thought. (Leo, I wonder if you even remember that. I know that you probably came to save me then because you were my friend, but what about now?)
As soon as Celvice got in, the cockpit closed.
"All right, ADA, get us out of here before that thing reactivates." Leo ordered.
"Understood." ADA replied and then Jehuty started to take off.
Leo then turned to Celvice. "Celvice, are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine, Leo." Celvice answered. "I'm still a little woozy from whatever it is they used to knock me out when I was captured, but other than that, I'm all right."
"That's good." Leo said with a sigh of relief. "Celvice, I...I want to thank you for being there for me for so long. You always supported me; even when I wasn't the most agreeable person, you didn't leave me. I...I've never thanked you for that, before. Maybe it was because I didn't appreciate what you did, or maybe I just didn't see it until now."
"Is that all you have to tell me?" Celvice asked, trying to conceal the disappointment in her voice.
"No, there's more." Leo answered and he looked at Celvice face to face so that they both could see into each other's eyes. "Celvice, when Viola shot you, back on Antillia, I felt like something in me would have died if you had. I was really relieved when I heard Thunderheart tell me that the wound wasn't fatal and I was really happy when I came back and saw for myself that you were going to be all right. I...I didn't understand why I felt that way, but I do now." Leo paused for a moment before speaking again. "Celvice, I love you. I only wish I'd realized it sooner."
Leo then felt Celvice's head rest against his shoulder as Celvice embraced him.
"Leo, you have no idea how happy I felt to hear that." She said. "When you said that you loved me...I'm glad Leo, because I love you too." Then she raised her head and the two of them kissed for the second time. Both of their hearts feeling content.
Suddenly, a warning signal beeped, interrupting them.
"What is it, ADA?" Leo asked.
"It appears as if the false Anubis has reactivated." ADA answered. Leo looked down and saw the frame slowly get up. It looked up at Jehuty, before vanishing.
Leo quickly put his hands on the controls, causing Jehuty to quickly turn around and counter the incoming blow with its blade.
"I applaud your ingenuity." Nohman's voice said over the intercom. "You're the first one to have ever done that. But don't celebrate just yet. I've just set this little toy of mine to self destruct in five minutes. You'd better destroy it quick, otherwise, the blast will destroy you, Jehuty, and the girl."
"Don't count on it!" Leo shouted. "I won't let you get away with trying to trick me into killing Celvice!"
"Let's see if there's iron in your words then." Nohman replied.
As the fake Anubis prepared to use its zero shift ability, a red object shot out from the shadows and struck the frame. The both of them crashing into the ground below.
When the dust cleared it revealed that the new frame was Crim's Crescent, and it was grappling with the enemy frame.
Leo immediately opened the communication line.
"Crim, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Leo shouted. "That frame's going to self destruct in a few minutes."
"Well, I guess that's all the more reason for you and Celvice to get out of here and quick." Crim's voice replied, but his face didn't appear on the screen.
"What about you?" Leo asked.
"Don't worry about me." Crim replied. "I'll meet you outside, don't worry. I'll just stop this thing from moving. Now get going!"
"Fine." Leo said reluctantly. "But you'd better keep that promise."
Jehuty then sped down the tunnel it had come in from, leaving Crescent and the fake Anubis as the only frame there.
Crescent struggled to keep its opponent pinned down, which prevented it from using its zero shift ability. Crescent then took out its scythe and then used the blade to pin itself to the enemy frame and to the ground below it.
Later: Jehuty's Cockpit:
A few minutes later, both Leo and Celvice heard the loud explosion that rocked the old mine and caused several pieces of the tunnels roof to collapse around Jehuty. This lasted for a few minutes until the shaking finally stopped.
As soon as it was over, Leo noticed that Celvice was clinging to him and that his arms were wrapped protectively around her. His face reddened slightly, but not as much as it usually would have.
Celvice noticed what she was doing and then blushed furiously.
"It's all right, Celvice." Leo said, smiling at her. "You don't have to worry, I'll protect you."
"Leo Stenbuck, are you teasing me?" Celvice asked with a slight frown.
"No. I was being serious." Leo answered. "I will protect you, Celvice, and this time I won't fail to do that like I did back on Antillia."
"Leo..." Celvice said, blushing even more. She then changed the subject. "We probably should contact Crim now..."
"Good idea." Leo agreed and then he suddenly chuckled a little. "You know, he's probably going to make some kind of remark about the two of us as soon as he receives our communication, but I doubt he's expecting us to actually have gotten together."
"Have we got a surprise for him." Celvice added with a giggle. "I bet the look on his face will be priceless."
"I hope so." And the he looked at the controls. "ADA, can you contact Crim, please?"
"I shall contact Instructor Graves." ADA replied. There was silence for a few minutes before she spoke again. "I am unable to make contact with Crescent."
"What?" Leo asked and suddenly a feeling of dread came into the back of his mind. "Can you locate, Crim's frame?"
"I will try." ADA answered. A minute later she spoke. "I am sorry, but I cannot locate Crescent."
"Then that means that Crim... back there..." Leo wasn't able to finish as he realized Crim's fate. Then he struck the side of the cockpit in frustration. "Oh God... Damn it, that's not what you promised Crim! Why did you have to go and do something so stupid?!"
"Leo..." Celvice said as she put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. "Leo, I know what you're feeling. Crim was my friend too. So please don't think that you're alone in this. At the very least I'm here for you and I always will be."
"Celvice..." Leo said as he embraced her. "Thank you."
"I am receiving a transmission." ADA spoke. "Would you like for me to patch it through?"
Leo was silent for a few minutes, before answering. "Go ahead, ADA."
"Well, it seems as if you and the girl survived the explosion." Nohman's voice said. "May I be the first to offer my congratulations, you're the first ones to make it this far."
"Shut up!" Leo shouted. "I don't want to hear any words of praise from you, you sick freak! One of my friends is dead because of you!"
"Oh, so the pilot of that frame that was caught in the explosion that was meant for you was a friend of yours, eh?" Nohman asked mockingly. "My condolences."
"You..." Leo said angrily, but Celvice interrupted him.
"How could you do such a horrible thing?" She shouted. "You've tormented Leo mercilessly, why?"
"My dear, this is merely a game." Nohman replied. "Your late friend cast his lot into it and lost, that's all. Fortunately for you, in his doing so you ended up surviving."
"You're a monster." Celvice said.
"Call me what you like, girl, it doesn't matter to me. Now, allow me to continue my conversation with the boy. Mr. Stenbuck, I will be waiting for you outside this mining facility and there we will fight for real. Don't think you can escape, I know of every single exit from this place, and don't expect your ship to come and save you like last time. Adieu for now." And the transmission ended.
(Nohman. You'll pay for this.) Leo thought as he clenched his fist in anger. (I promise.)
Meanwhile: Outside the Mining Facility:
Unknown to Nohman, a watcher observed him from a concealed spot inside an orbital frame. And inside the frame's cockpit, a shadowy figure smiled.
"Now things are all set." The figure said. "When Jehuty arrives, I'll have a little surprise in store. This is going to be very interesting indeed."
AN: And that's the end of chapter 8! Sorry for those of you expecting some mecha-action in this chapter, but I ended up exchanging that for some Leo x Celvice fluff (I've been watching way too much Onegai Teacher and Ai Yori Aoshi). Don't worry, I'll try to update as soon as I can. Once again, I apologize for not updating sooner, but things have been pretty hectic with school and all. One thing though, this story has only two or three more chapters and an epilogue to go until it's finished. Anyway, please R and R.
Anime Quote of the Day:
"KEI! Are you cheating on your wife already!? That ain't cool man!" (Minoru to Kei Kusanagi) (Onegai Teacher Vol. 1) (Manga) (He looks so creepily funny in that panel!)