Hello, everyone! Here's the sequel to Weapon's Waltz that everyone's been waiting for! Well, I hope you've all been waiting for. If not, well, try and enjoy it anyway, okay?
If you haven't read Weapon's Waltz I can't force you to do it, but this story will make a whole lot more sense if you do. If you want the quick version, Weapon's Waltz is a retelling of Gundam SEED with some OCs thrown in to add in some new twists and to make it feel a little fresher. I know many readers don't like OCs, so as a warning, this story has many of them.
As mentioned in the description, this is going to run through the two years in between Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny. I have the dates listed before any main shift in location/time so please take note of them. I will be jumping from the past to the present fairly often (the first section of the "present" actually takes place before the very last event mentioned in Weapon's Waltz), so just take a quick look at the year. Also, I'm trying to do some recap where I'm able, but I'm not going to be doing everything, of course. Just note that I might be referencing events that had happened back in Weapon's Waltz.
Well, I'll stop babbling and let you all get to the story. Enjoy!
Mandatory disclaimers: I do not own anything related to Gundam SEED, Gundam SEED Destiny, or the Gundam franchise.
As we all know, the characters in SEED are all teenagers, but they tend to deal with rather adult concepts. I have not officially aged my characters (I might take the leap someday), but have followed canon in that regard. There might be some adult concepts they have to deal with, so please bear that in mind.
RPGs, FPSs and +10 Wisdom
CE 65: Scandinavia
It was just one of those days; make faces in the mirror bored, kick the dog angry, and throw a rock through a window adventurous. Namarra had done all but kick a dog, not even the one that its owner sent after her when she threw the rock through the window. Only cruel people hit animals and besides, Namarra liked dogs. Actually, the girl had a secret tendency to associate people with those furry things.
Don't laugh, she'd get pissed and call you a Shih Tzu.
Well, the boy she threw the rock at deserved what he got anyway. He was four years older than the young eight-year-old and was actually friends with Namarra's older brother Kai.
One of his damned flunkies to be exact.
The boy was obsessed with video games—no sleep for three days at a time obsessed. He called her a White Mage as she was walking back from the fruit market. Honestly, she had no idea what that was, but it sounded offensive so she picked up a rock and threw it. Blame her for the temper, but not the good aim. There's nothing a person can do about raw talent. Now she was on her way home to await her lovable brother.
And most likely tell him what happened.
The day was not going well.
She and her brother didn't live in the greatest area of town by a typical Scandinavian's standards but it was warm, the people minded their own business and the back window had a view. Sure, the window was too high to clean it properly and the spiders liked to reside there, but the bottom half was always clean. Often, Namarra missed the house her parents used to own, but two orphans couldn't afford such a home as one gifted by the Scandinavian Science Academy. Thanks to their parents' research, the kids had been living quite well.
But of course, good things don't last forever.
"Kai, I threw a rock at Clotho's window, I hope you don't mind," she yelled once she turned the key in the lock. The home was a modest one story with a kitchen, living room and bedroom. There was also a basement, but it was the moldiest-smelling place in the world so Namarra avoided it. Only Kai went down there to grab some food out of the freezer they shared with two other neighbors. The kids were only allowed a small amount of chicken and beef a week, but at least their rice, bread, and vegetables were constant.
"I said, I hope you don't mind." Namarra stepped further through the door and gave a sigh. Kai wasn't home yet from his job as an errand boy, but at least now she could say she told him. It was his fault he wasn't there to listen.
Kicking off her shoes, she ran to the bathroom to grab a hair tie, threw her black locks up in a bun then put some water in a pot to start boiling. "Rice for dinner again," she muttered, looking in the fridge to see if there were any green beans left. "Score," she said, grabbing the bag of fresh ones on the top shelf. Filling another pot with water, she went to the dining table to wait for them to start boiling. Lying there were a couple of books and pieces of paper, her homework for the weekend. Schooling was free so Kai and Namarra attended the nearby establishment, just under a different last name. After all, they would be split up and thrown into the system if anyone found out they were truly living on their own. An eight-year-old and a twelve-year-old—no matter what intelligence level—couldn't run a house all on their own.
She hadn't gotten far into her homework and was actually scratching an itch on the bridge of her nose with her pencil when the stove sizzled as the water boiled over. It startled her so much the eraser slipped to the side and into her eye. "Ow!" After rubbing the injured green eye, she put down the pencil and jumped over to the stove, turning down the fire before putting the green beans in one pot and the rice in the other. Making note of the time, she went back to her work.
She hoped Kai would be home soon because that night was movie night. Once a week the neighbors would invite them over to watch a movie with their kids. Actually, those same neighbors drove them to school, bought them clothes, and did pretty much everything a real parent would do. The thing was, they never let them stay in their house long term. Namarra admitted she loved them like parents sometimes, but the fact that they kept their distance made the young Natural realize that they were only doing it because they felt sorry for her and her brother, not because they genuinely wanted to support them.
Namarra looked up from her books when the front door handle jiggled. She tensed and looked over at the nook between the counter and the refrigerator. There was bat wedged in there, but it being so close, she decided to wait and see who it was.
The handle jiggled again.
A key turned.
The door opened.
"Nam, I think I need to do some work on this door again. Did it open easy for you?" Kai was tall for his age, a little over five and a half feet, but had the face of a baby. Namarra would remember how their father had gotten teased for such a face—their wavy black hair looking just a step older than a baby's fine locks—and if it wasn't for his height, Kai would as well. Because he was so tall though, however, he could pass for an older kid, which worked out in their favor.
"Yeah, it worked just fine," Namarra responded, relaxing back into the chair. "I think it's just you."
The boy shrugged and took his glasses from his nose, rubbing his amber eyes as he dropped a bag down on the table next to her books.
"What's that?" she asked before he had time to say anything.
"Some more hand-me-downs from the Buers. Nothing of Clotho's fits me anymore, but Jasmine's still around your size. You'll have to try them on later."
Namarra nodded and shrunk down in the chair. If he had talked to Mrs. Buer, that meant he knew about the window.
"Now, I have to change." He pulled at the hem of his grey uniform. It was too short for him and was fraying at practically every seam, but with a square hat and work boots he looked professional at least. Not very flattering, but, hey, it was work. "Keep an eye on dinner, finish your studies and then we can head over to the Genbrets' for the movie."
"Okay. Oh, Kai?"
"I passed by the Qualia's today and they told me to remind you about your eye appointment on Thursday."
"Yup, can't forget that one." He took his glasses off his nose again and examined the frames. There was tape on both joints and at the ends near his ears. "These barely fit anymore and, I think, have actually gone through the garbage disposal?"
Namarra smiled shyly at that and turned back to her books, pretending not to remember that incident. It was a hard time adjusting after their parents died.
"Oh, and don't think you're not going to pay back Mrs. Buer for that window. Walk home with Clotho and Jasmine tomorrow so you all can do some chores."
Namarra groaned, but the complaint was short lived, Kai tossing a square package on the table in front of her.
"And, sis?" She looked up to see him smile, a wink added in after he said, "Happy birthday."
CE 71 December 27: Mendel
Mendel looked the same. Lexi wasn't sure why she thought it might have been different—perhaps there was a bit of wishful thinking mixed in there—but the musty fragrance wafting into her nostrils the moment the redhead took off her helmet was enough to bring back some poor memories. They docked in the harbor opposite the one the Three Ship Alliance had been camping in during the Bloody Valentine War. The docking was harder than Lexi and Namarra had anticipated in their basic shuttle—since the port had been more damaged than the others—but it was closer to the Berserker info. Somehow, wasting a day tracking through the Mendel interior didn't seem worth the effort.
"Did you ask Dearka where he found that Bible thing?" Namarra asked, taking her helmet off after Lexi had. Her hair was pulled back into a braid that day, a mixture of having gotten up before her alarm and a boring shuttle ride contributing to the craftsmanship. With her hair pulled back away from her face, Lexi couldn't help but notice Namarra's eyes more vivid than usual. Perhaps it was the process of going from black space to the light of the satellite interior, but her two-toned eyes almost gleamed. Namarra had said it was the combination of the drugs she was forced to take when she was still at Blue Cosmos that forced one of her once forest green eyes to something of a vague grey-green. If it turned any more grey, it would match Lexi's own silver irises. "Any notable landmarks at least?"
"The area he had found the information had gotten pretty damaged thanks to the fallen Strike and CGUE," Lexi responded, the mention of Mu's old mobile suit making Namarra's eyes twitch with the memory. The young Natural had been doing alright with the most recent tragedies in her life, but if there was one thing nearly impossible to get over it was the death of a loved one. Tragic deaths seemed the hardest, but Namarra was coping the best way she knew how.
Avoiding the issue.
"Then we'll just have to do a little digging." She raised the shovel in her hand as if to stress the point.
Lexi nodded and flexed her fingers around the shovel in her palm. It was rather humorous to see the two of them resorting to manual labor—and practically an archaic version of—but there was little choice in the matter. The PLANTs had a couple restorative groups making plans to restore the satellite and were winning over the general population. The girls figured they would start reconstruction after the holidays so they had little room to work with. Hence the desperation where the shovels were concerned.
"From our location it should take roughly a half hour to walk to where the Strike had fallen," Lexi explained, taking the first step onto the vacant street. She slipped her helmet into the hook near her waist, taking a second to straighten out her short, red hair. There was no need for her to waste any effort on an elaborate hair design. She too had been up before her alarm, but a couple swipes with a comb and she was ready to go.
"Sounds fine," Namarra responded, and quick-stepped to match her stride.
Despite the damage a couple miles down the road, the area near the dock was still in good shape. If Lexi hadn't know for a fact the place was abandoned, she would swear people were still living there. Every now and again, a shadow would cross a window and make her turn her head, but there would be nothing there. She could tell Namarra was experiencing the same thing because the Natural would turn every once in a while too, even making a complete circle once when she thought she heard someone walking behind them. Silence did eerie things to the imagination, and even if the girls figured that was what was happening, they still couldn't help running their hands up and down their arms to brush off the chill.
Lexi had other reasons to feel a chill, however, most of those shadows reminding her of a particular fair foe her Berserker had killed rather gruesomely in that satellite. From her position, she couldn't tell if they were even close to the apartment she had squatted in, but the memories were still fresh. She was about to calculate their position aloud, but knew Namarra would just make some sarcastic comment and that would be the end of it. It was still a creepy environment and Lexi found herself releasing a breath when they finally reached their destination.
Dearka hadn't been holding back when he said the area was damaged. There was even a mobile suit-sized crater in the pavement and the side of the building where the battle had gone on. The building that was damaged the most had many folders and books flowing from the holes, but based on its stability—or lack there of—the girls weren't going to risk it. They walked to the side though, and bent down to look through the articles there.
Most were some genetic research papers about cloning and the Artificial Womb, but those things they had come across just by doing some basic searching. Some things they snagged, like a detailed description of DNA that had a small reference to Coordinators, but they couldn't gather much from the wreckage.
"There's a computer in there," Namarra said, shining her flashlight through one of the bigger holes. "And it looks to be in pretty good shape. We might be able to get some files off it."
Lexi saw where she was looking and found herself frowning. "It could be a long shot. I don't even think we have the technology to read that kind of hard drive anymore."
"I'm sure Lathan can come up with something," the Natural responded and weeded her way through the bricks and debris to get safely inside. Lexi doubted the structure would buckle, seeing as it had been standing for that long already, but she found herself filled with a nervous curiosity.
What else was in there?
"Got it!" Namarra announced, struggling a little with the machine in her arms as she carried it out. Setting it down on the pavement, Lexi watched her for a moment before slowly making her way towards the same opening.
"See anything else in there?" the redhead asked, using her flashlight to search around.
"Not really," Namarra admitted. "We could try the next building though."
Lexi jumped and based on Namarra's stance when they looked at each other, so had she. There was no way their imaginations were running away from them that time. There had been two distinct footsteps, the groaning of a door, and then the loud slam when it shut. As far as she knew, neither girl had seen a ghost or even believed in them. Hell, if there were ghosts walking around, Lexi would hate to know how many were following her around. Knowing the type of people she had killed in the war and only having a guess at the large amount, anyone could be haunting them.
But that wasn't possible, right?
"This is shit," Namarra said first, her voice making Lexi jump again.
"What, you think the wind did it? There is no wind."
"You're paranoid. C'mon, let's get this back and contact Lathan."
Lexi didn't argue and turned to help her manage the awkwardness of the computer. Looking back once, she didn't see anything in the windows, but the tension in the air had shifted. It was hard not to think about it as they were trudging back—and the redhead could tell Namarra was a bit unnerved by the tension as well—but even if they did call out to whatever had made the noise, what would they do if it even responded?
They got back to the shuttle in good time and contacted Lathan once they were able to set the computer down. "I can't do anything with it until I see it," he had said, but he didn't sound hopeful either.
"Should we go out again?" Namarra asked. It was a good question and despite her nerves, Lexi found herself nodding. They had come for a reason and despite the bad air, they needed some answers before her DNA decided to make sure she went ape shit.
They got back to the research point without any major incident. The shadows were easier to ignore the second time around, but that didn't mean they were comfortable enough to keep their safeties on. More flashlight work was done at the spot than actual exploring the second time. The hole Namarra had stepped through the first time was gone, the ceiling having collapsed on itself.
"Huh," was the only response made when they saw the damage. For something that significant, they were surprised they didn't hear anything. Apparently, they were meant to get that old computer and nothing more.
"We could check the facility Mu was at with Kira. I remember him talking about it."
Lexi nodded, remembering Namarra mention something before. It was a research lab mainly pertaining to Coordinators. Since it was close, there was no reason not to wander around.
They didn't get too far into the facility until it started looking more like a factory than anything for research. The large circular columns held up a ceiling well over two stories with a catwalk twisting across the second floor like a failing Tetris game. It looked like the paths went to nothing more than offices, but Lexi kept it in mind, adding another computer to the bunch might not be a bad idea.
"Holy shit," Namarra cursed, pointing to some cylinders a step below them. The glass was cloudy, a red haze carpeting the sides, but that wasn't the creepiest part. Inside were babies, or at least something that resembled a fetus at one point. Each one had its eyes closed, but the eyeballs were still bulging through, the round mounds still like two jewels waiting to be mined. The skin was a silky bit of muck, some pieces stretching down from the limbs and bobbing absently in the liquid. Some of the machines had been turned off, but most were still running, the umbilical cords pulsing with useless nutrients to the dead fetus.
"What was this place really?" Lexi asked, peeling her fingers from the railing, not realizing she had been gripping it so tightly.
"We might want to find out," Namarra suggested, the tone in her voice verifying that she really wasn't sure if she meant it as a statement.
"C'mon," Lexi said, pinching the fabric on her comrade's shoulder and pulling her further down the hall.
They didn't get too far down when Namarra started noticing drops of blood on the ground. The Natural merely pointed, neither girl saying anything about its possible origin. They followed the spots, however, stepping into a room. Pictures and papers littered the floor, gathering dust that would make anyone with a nose sneeze. Both did respectfully and walked further inside to examine the contents. Most of the computer equipment was broken and on the floor. They had the good idea to still grab the chips inside, but the poor combination of heavy machinery and dust kicked that idea in the mud.
"Nam, look at this." Lexi held up a picture, one with an older gentleman and two young boys. All had blonde hair and blue eyes, their attire making them appropriate for Sunday morning church. "Do you think—"
"Mu told me a bit about what had happened and Murrue filled in the rest of the blanks," the Natural explained. "Le Creuset was Mu's father's clone, from what I gathered."
"Failed clone," she corrected. "Aged too quickly."
"So, is that why he wore a mask?" Lexi whispered, but in such a quiet room it was easy for Namarra to hear.
"You knew him better than I did."
"I don't think anyone really knew him," the redhead responded, a bitter taste on her tongue. Setting the picture back down, she rifled through the other things lying there. There wasn't much because the Three Ship Alliance had already come back and grabbed as much as they could. They were looking for information on the cloning, most likely, not any kind of Berserker info.
"What is this 'Ultimate Coordinator' business?" Namarra had walked over to the other table, picking up some of the papers and reading pieces. "You ever heard of it?"
Lexi stood, shaking her head. "What does it say?"
"'Day 30: The fetus is still dying. Despite all our efforts, it looks like we still have not perfected the artificial womb. There is one more specimen we can try. He has my genes so I'm sure he'll survive. He has to.'"
Lexi listened as Namarra kept reading. She paused at the end of the page and the redhead looked up. "What?"
She read. "'Finally, success! My son has survived and we get to see what we've all been waiting so long for. The artificial womb worked and an Ultimate Coordinator was born: Kira Hibiki.'"
There was a pause as Namarra and Lexi looked at each other. Namarra was the first to speak. "You don't think—"
"It would explain a lot."
"This is way too coincidental."
"Some god up there is having a good laugh right now," Lexi muttered. "'What do you get when you put a clone, the Ultimate Coordinator and two Berserkers in the same war?' It's as if we're being mocked." Her voice dropped in the imitation and they shared a shaky laugh afterwards.
It was probably true.
"Hold on, there's more." Namarra turned the page and cleared her throat. "'The boy came out healthy, but the cloning project is gaining too much unwelcomed attention. We've had humanists picketing at our door for over a week now. If they win their appeal to the Supreme Council we're done. I don't even think our lawyers agree with our methods. No matter how much we pay them, those moralistic bastards seem to be finding more fuel for our opponents than us. If the cloning project goes under, so does the artificial womb. We'll keep our research, however, and wait until the boy grows up so we can prove there is a species even beyond Coordinators. And something we can control. Nothing like that Berserker nonsense the Naturals are working on.'" Namarra paused, surprised she had just read that aloud. "'When we're finished, we'll make something even more powerful and perfect than the Ultimate Coordinator.'"
"So, let me get this straight," Lexi began after they had a moment to digest. "The artificial womb was just a step towards perfecting humanity?"
"From the Coordinator side of things. And from the Natural end—"
"The Berserkers?" Lexi made it a question.
"So, we were fabricated like the Ultimate Coordinator?"
They both shook their heads even before Namarra finished her statement. "Everything else we have learned points to the fact that we were born with the Berserker gene, not made."
"Perhaps the Ultimate Coordinator—or even Coordinators in general—were attempted in response to this ancient idea of a Berserker."
"That might be a little too much conjecture," Lexi responded, but even her mind was growing on the idea. "If the Naturals were trying to create Berserkers even way back then, they had to have succeeded somewhere, right?"
"I don't know. According to Azrael—" Namarra stopped, her eyes opening wide in a realization. "My parents were famous researchers."
"And I'm a Berserker. Do you think they were on one of the research teams and managed to conceive a Berserker with their methods? So, maybe I'm the experiment that worked." She started pacing, her hand flapping frantically with her rant. "And that was why they were killed. Because I worked."
"Now, now, Namarra, that's all speculation."
"But we are rare and only one at a time. Lexi, there's two Berserkers alive right now."
"There could be so many reasons—"
"They did it. The Naturals actually did it."
"Namarra!" Lexi yelled, grabbing the younger girl by the shoulders to steady her. "We have no proof so stop getting yourself worked up." She managed to take a couple deep breaths before nodding her head.
"Y-you're right. I'm jumping ahead of myself."
"Yes, yes you are."
They were silent for a few long moments as they gathered up the materials they found. They would copy it down and then give most of it to Erika since she was probably the only person who could understand and compile all the information.
"Y'know," Namarra began again as they stepped out of the room. "You must be gold to any Coordinator researcher still investigating this idea of the Ultimate Coordinator."
"Think about it. In a way, the Ultimate Coordinator was created to imitate the idea of a Berserker and you're a Berserker who's a Coordinator too." They paused again. "Lexi, if I am a successful experiment—and I'm not saying I am—and you are the prime candidate to the Coordinators, we should start addressing the idea that we might be hunted."
"I think I'm more worried about what might happen if we're caught. If we can be copied, what's to stop them from having another all-out war?"
"Who's to say there aren't already successful copies out there?"
CE 72 January 9: Space
Namarra's birthday was low key. Lathan—Lexi's older brother by three years—and Heine—his orange-haired roommate and ZAFT specialist—had a small get together at their apartment so it was just the four of them. Lexi's talk with a potential supplier the day before turned out fruitful so she got a nice goodwill present she actually wrapped before giving it to her fellow Berserker. It was some bullets, a gun cleaning kit, and a new scope for her sniper rifle. Namarra loved the present—of course—even if it was a bit odd for a fifteen-year-old. Heine and Lathan had a more age-appropriate gift, but the kicker of the night was when Lathan gave the girls their new aliases. With the world out to research their genetic make-up, different names on missions seemed only appropriate. Fortunately, with the world in a state of peaceful chaos there were ways to get new identities without having to alert anyone unwelcomed.
"Hey, I'm seventeen according to this," Namarra said, pointing and showing the fake date around the room. She sat at the dinner table, her dirty plate shoved towards the center of the table. "Yup, Coda Loire Almasy. And who are you, Lexi?"
Lexi stood next to Heine at the bar, the redhead looking out into the dining room as Lathan finished eating and Namarra bragged about her ID. Flipping the piece of plastic over, she read her name. "I'm Piper Eponine Palazzo. That's a lot of 'Ps', Lathan. And what am I, French? Italian?"
"Hey, people are mixed nowadays, sis. Just be happy you got the first name you wanted," Lathan said, stretching as he finished his meal and moved over to digest on the couch. Sometimes it was a blessing he couldn't see the looks on people's faces because she didn't want him to know how her nose crinkled whenever she saw his unnerving eyes. Being blind had bleached his once beautiful eyes but they still held a bit of humanity, unlike her pupiless Berserker eyes. Now she kind of knew why others made similar faces when her other half would show its ugly face.
"And look," Namarra continued, having jumped up from her own seat to join Heine and Lexi at the bar. Pointing down at the redhead's ID, she smiled. "You're eighteen."
"There's no way I can pull off eighteen," Lexi complained, but Heine was already jutting in to defend her.
"Au contraire. Us Coordinators have been known to look and act a bit more mature than we really are."
"And wars always add more grey hairs and wrinkles," Namarra added, her annoyed expression giving Lexi the idea she didn't like the Coordinator comment. She perked up right away, however, cutting off Heine before he could speak again. "I think we're missing the point here. Guys, I'm seventeen and Piper," she gestured to Lexi, "is eighteen. We can legally drink here in the PLANTs."
"Somehow I knew she'd say that," Heine muttered, turning away from the beaming Natural. "Should someone that young even be so excited about drinking?"
Lexi shrugged, leaning closer to Heine as Namarra turned to argue with Lathan. "I think it's a mixture of the EA's influence and lack of supervision among its ranks," she explained. Namarra had been a member of Blue Cosmos's team in the Earth Alliance during the war. Having the three Extendeds—who they lovingly called the Druggies—as teammates made for an interesting past.
"She was in a pretty tough program too, wasn't she?"
"I think some of the trials and observations they tried on her involved consuming alcohol. She was among the first test subjects so I'm sure they were just trying new things left and right."
Heine shivered, his expression shifting towards sympathetic. "So, her love of drinking either stems from addiction at a young age, or the fond memories she had made with her teammates while being intoxicated?"
Lexi nodded and shrugged at the same time, not having a chance to make a comment since Namarra's attention turned back to them.
Annoyed, the Natural hooked her arm around Lexi's and pulled her towards the door, even managing to grab the two IDs as she passed. "Well, it's my birthday and I say we drink."
"If I can't stop you," Lathan began with a sigh, running a hand through is strawberry-blonde hair, "then someone has to go with you. If you two are recognized—especially Lexi—then you need someone to help bail you out and I'm a terrible supervisor in my current condition so, Heine?"
"Sorry, guys, I'm not promoting underage drinking and false identifications."
"Relax, Nam, I know two people we can call. Dearka's around and so is Yzak."
Lexi had never seen Namarra's mouth twist into such a smile.
And it was rather scary.
No, they weren't drunk.
Despite Namarra's enthusiasm towards drinking, she rarely went past buzzed. It was interesting to dissect the battle in her mind over the whole ordeal. The joyful relief of going that extra drink into bliss against the soldier paranoia and plea to stay in control.
Lexi could always handle herself, the Coordinator in her adding an extra layer of stability their Berserkers already made. Their "supervisors", on the other hand, were having the most trouble, but that was mainly because they already knew everyone in the bar. Given Lexi's past run-in with ZAFT officers, Namarra was surprised she agreed to go to a military bar. However, watching her and the silver-haired guy—introduced as Yzak—she got it.
So, Lexi was a teenage girl after all.
Namarra had to give her props though, she was doing a fairly good job managing her time between the three of them. She never left the table Namarra was at, but she never lost sight of Yzak and Dearka—Yzak's best friend and both Lexi's and Yzak's old teammate—either. Yzak and Dearka were now the same height, Lexi haven taken the time to note it when they met outside. Yzak was thinner than Dearka, not in the sense of fat, but that one could bulk up easier than the other. Dearka—with his tan skin, blonde hair and dreamy smile—just looked like the ideal, magazine model of the ZAFT military, but Yzak never seemed intimidated. Listening and watching him joke with the other guys help her understand why though. He had a load of confidence built up in that body of his.
"Y'know, Yzak likes you."
Lexi stopped mid-drink. The Natural partly expected her to blush and make some kind of surprised remark—that's what all the other teenagers seemed to do—but Lexi impressed her with a shrug.
"And you like him."
That got a blush at least. "I know."
"And you're not going to do anything about it?" Lexi shrugged and Namarra started to get a little peeved. "You out of all people should know how ruthless and unpredictable life can be. Are you sure you want to do nothing?"
"And you out of all people should know my past with ZAFT. Yzak's on his way to commander."
"He's not getting promoted tomorrow, is he?" Her frown was enough of an answer. She was going through excuses, but Namarra had her cornered. The Natural couldn't help but smile. "Checkmate."
"Hey, Piper!" Yzak called, one hand resting on Dearka's shoulder as he waved the other in Lexi's direction. "And you too, Coda, get over here and solve something for us." The two of them were surrounded by four other guys, all of them laughing. The bar may have been noisy, but it was still too early to be terribly busy. Still, it was hard to hear what was said next; something about Dearka and Miriallia.
"Settle a debate for us, should Dearka date Miriallia?"
"That's the debate?" Lexi asked, stumbling slightly when Yzak put an arm over her shoulders and pulled her closer.
"These guys here think there's too much drama between the two of them to have a 'healthy' relationship." He even did the air quotes.
"There is a lot of drama," Namarra agreed, her voice trailing off. She wasn't sure how much information she should get into, especially since there would be no chance their aliases would have ever come in contact with the Three Ship Alliance. She locked eyes with Lexi who seemed to be thinking the same thing. Dearka had been a prisoner, turned rogue, ZAFT pilot when he had joined the Three Ship Alliance and thanks to some emotional stabbing—literally—his relationship with Miriallia—then a crew member aboard the Archangel—had started off ugly, but was slowly growing into something.
"C'mon, Yzak, we don't need to be getting the girls into this," Dearka said with a laugh as he took another swallow. It was an uneasy laugh and Namarra found herself wanting to defend him.
"But it's because they're girls," one of the younger officers said. He wrapped an arm around the Natural's shoulders, giving them a shake. She tensed, Lexi tensed in Namarra's peripheral vision and the guys just seemed to laugh.
"Actually, the fact that we have vaginas doesn't mean we know everything that goes on in the minds of others who have similar anatomy." She picked up his index finger and stepped out of his embrace. "After all, I can't tell what you're thinking."
"Okay," Lexi interrupted, taking one step forward to get between them. "That's enough for now." Thankfully, the soldier was a happy drunk because he just laughed it off. Lexi mouthed, "We're gonna go," to Yzak who nodded and downed his drink.
"Well, we'll have to see what happens then. Now, boys," he grabbed Dearka's elbow, "it's time we called it a night." A communal groan resounded through the bunch, but no one stepped in to physically block them. That was good because the only thing needed yet to make Namarra's birthday a success was a bar brawl.
CE 72 January 20: Orb
"Okay, so, Lathan, where we headed?" Lexi asked, opening the manila folder and trying to make sense of the contents inside. While the whole Hermes gig was a good idea, Lathan and Athrun had been trying to turn it into a business-like setting. Paychecks, paperwork, damage reports, reports in general, folders—lots and lots of folders—were good and all, but she had seen less paperwork in the ZAFT military and they had been known for its pointless signature-work. Hermes was a small organization form to keep the world from stumbling back into war. They were still getting their feet off the ground, but with some help from Terminal—and old part of the Clyne Faction—things had progressed beyond bumpy at least.
"Watch, it'll be some place cold," Namarra grumbled, trying to make sense of the same folder. Why they had bothered to make two copies was beyond her. They were on the same team, sharing the same apartment and even on the exact same mission. Come on, couldn't they at least be environmental friendly?
"You're headed to a town on the southern border of Mongolia—"
"—where we've located an underground facility housing some nuclear products."
"You mean, nuclear weapons," Lexi corrected but her brother shook her head.
"We don't know for sure what they are, only that they contain nuclear components."
"So, I guess just blowing this thing up from a distance is off the playbook?" Namarra closed the manila folder and set it down on the desk. By that time she had either memorized it or just plain got tired of holding it.
Lathan frowned and adjusted the glasses on his nose. Based on the scowl crossing his lips, the frustration painted there had to do with a little more than the girls' attitudes. His breakthrough on biomedical contraptions for war veterans was at a standstill until he got his own eyesight—or lack there of—under control. So far, he had made one thing, a device much like sonar that produced inaudible sound waves and bounced back to devices in his ears which created a mental picture for him. It worked fairly well, just needed a few tweaks because his brain wasn't built like a bat's. There were times Lexi had seen him talking to a dog sitting on the bench instead of its owner right next to him.
"We need this place infiltrated and the workers apprehended. There are other ways to get rid of nuclear waste besides just blowing things up and waiting decades for the radiation to leak through the earth."
"Geez, Lathan, I was just wondering."
"Is it just the two of us?" Lexi asked, trying to move the conversation away from the daily bickering. "According to this blueprint, that's a lot of ground to cover for just two people."
"Athrun has offered to join you, but I'm not sure how many others he is going to let do the actual mission. I think he's a bit wary of just giving you people to work with. Terminal gave me the contacts of two people they want you to work with though."
"Have you met them before?" Lexi didn't like the idea of her and Namarra working on such a mission with soldiers she didn't even know, but it looked as if she wasn't going to have a choice in the matter. Unfortunately, arguing with the people who provided the check wasn't a good idea.
Lathan shook his head. "Sorry, sis. Their experience is impressive and I think you guys will get along fine despite no previous contact."
"What about Heine?" Namarra asked, indicating Lathan's absent roommate.
Lathan shook his head. "Heine's still being a good bitch and has even been recruited to be part of the restoration crew. A sudden trip to Mongolia probably wouldn't fly very well with his superior."
"So, we'll meet Athrun at Orb then skip over to our target area," Lexi summarized, closing the manila folder. "Sounds good, but why are we handling it? Isn't this a job for the EA?"
"With the chaos the Earth Forces are in, they're lucky they know who their own personnel are let alone have an idea of who to send out." He shook his head again. "No, they passed this on to us."
"They passed it to us?" Namarra asked, noting the terminology. "Are you saying the EA gave this to us personally?"
Lathan winked, a twinkle of humor in his stark white eyes. "You two aren't the only ones who know some people in high places."
"Impressive," Lexi commented.
"And we'll get paid a hefty sum if you guys come out victorious and that means," he turned to Namarra, "no blowing things up."
"So, all this is about money. How materialistic of you, Lathan." The Natural crossed her arms over her chest, but was still smiling nonetheless. Despite their mantra, Hermes needed money too. While they had quite a bit from Athrun's father's estate and the siblings', Lathan and Lexi, parents' estate, it wasn't going to keep them afloat for every long. Terminal was adding as much funds as they could, but their involvement mainly consisted of contacts and materials.
"You two better get going."
"You'll be alright by yourself?" Lexi asked. "After all, with Heine out most of the time, you'll be there by yourself. And," she pointed to both his ears, "with that system still a bit glitchy, I have a feeling you're going to mistake the window for a door."
"Technically, it is a door," he joked, but patted her cheek before pushing them through the kitchen. "Relax, after you're gone, I'll just sit all lonely-like in my room and do nothing but stare at the wall."
Lexi frowned, not thinking that was much of an improvement, but she wasn't about to argue again. Call it character development.
CE 72 January 27: Mongolia
Lexi and Namarra—going by the musical names of Piper and Coda—had gotten used to the whole idea of a team when doing missions, but it was one thing to accept help from a pilot amid a chaotic space battle and another thing entirely to have someone literally giving physical contact as you're crawling through a dark tunnel. Lexi was going to unprofessionally opt for some kind of light—even going with night vision—but bit her tongue, not wanting to lose any brownie points with their new comrades.
They went by the names of Johann and Sebastian. While the initial thought was to believe that was their codenames—a little bit too obsessed with the great musicians—they had explained that was their birth names. Both were recruits from Terminal and, ironically, brothers-in-law. Sebastian never failed to make a jab below the belt when it came to spiting the young man who married his sister. Their relationship might have been funny if they didn't bicker like old women and Johann had a bad case of OCD, making prep for the mission one of the most tedious things the girls had done in years. Before they even ventured below ground they counted bullets, made sure they were usable, cleaned the guns, put them back together, tested the sharpness of their blades—which was a mission in and of itself given how armed Lexi and Namarra were—then proceeded to check clothing.
The girls didn't participate in that one.
"Really, Johann, we did most of this before we went through the tunnel," Sebastian groaned, checking the strap on his shoulder holster a third time. Johann didn't respond, counting the buttons on his belt and making sure he fitted the latch through the right hole.
They were just outside their target. Above them was a small city in Mongolia, the climb down through the sewers taking them to the main base and entrance of the supposed nuclear warehouse. The only saving grace about having to sneak up on potentially dangerous people underground was the fact that they could strip off their winter buff and wear something a little more comfortable. There were still about three layers between skin and holster, but at least they could move and the Kevlar vest kept in more heat than the girls thought possible. The guys seemed used to the attire and had dressed just as lightly, but—then again—they could have done that just so the prep work wouldn't take as long.
"How long you two been partners?" Namarra asked, stretching her arms into the air and leaning from one side to the other. They were in a safe pocket for now, the many corners underground helping conceal their position as their OCD partner continued his muttering.
"Going on five years," Sebastian replied, massaging the back of his neck as he did the math. In their first meeting, Namarra had found Sebastian a tad unnerving. No one had been their buffer for introductions, but Lathan had left names, descriptions and a location. The meeting was brief and the four of them separated to do some field work prior to the mission. There was really no time for formal chit chat so they pegged questions here and there just to keep things friendly. The unnerving part, however, didn't appear until Sebastian had explained what he would be wearing on the mission. Thanks to some areas, his lungs had sucked in an unhealthy amount of asbestos, grout and any other infectious particles circling the air. Johann had been lucky so far and thanks to his OCD he had been able to avoid the worst of it. Sebastian, on the other hand hadn't been so fortunate. He was forced to wear a helmet, working also as an air purifier. So, it kept his head from getting blown in as well as kept his breathing fresh. Too bad it was ungodly hot and while many of his senses were heightened, it needed an upgrade and had malfunctioned in the past.
Not very comforting despite his assurance it would work well.
Johann was in the middle of making sure his shoelaces were tied with the same amount of pressure on his boots when Sebastian slung the helmet from under his armpit and slipped it over his head. "This is the last thing he does," he explained.
"You're sure he won't do this in the middle of the mission?" Lexi asked, folding her arms across the chest. "I'll shoot him myself if we get compromised because of this."
Sebastian shook his head. "His mind is only on the mission now. Trust me, you have nothing to worry about."
"Alright," Johann said, jumping up and down a couple times as he slipped on a helmet of his own. It wasn't as elaborate as his partner's but they did look like an interesting duo standing next to each other. Both were covered head to toe in black, Johann with a goofy smile on his open face while Sebastian's eyes glowed red. "We'll begin in 3 minutes and 43 seconds."
Lexi blinked, looking at her own watch perfectly timed with his. Watching the digital numbers change, she realized what time it would be in 3 minutes and 43 seconds.
"We'll strike when the ghosts come out," Sebastian explained in his muffled voice, but the girls knew better.
It was just Johann's OCD again.
The main goal was to gain control of the complex and then make the call out to Athrun who was the leader of their clean-up crew. Athrun had left the "how" up to the four of them which was giving them a lot more freedom than the young Coordinator probably anticipated. If they could, Athrun wanted the information from the nuclear warehouse's databases, especially shipping records and inventory. Containing the nuclear components was a must as well.
Sounded easy enough.
Namarra and Lexi had been in charge of personnel count and rounds while the other two had read over the blueprint and schematics. There was just shy of 30 soldiers in the complex at one time, the people swapping out daily. Rounds were the basic on the hour, but even if they managed to come in before the rounds changed, they could take over the complex without many complications. Besides, Sebastian had explained topside that the complex was so big there was no way only 25 or so guards—and roughly six chemists—could patrol the whole complex, especially since they were paired up, according the Namarra's information.
The complex was two stories, consisting of two warehouses in the west (the rear of the building) and the second floor overlooking the goings on. The longest stretch of hallway was right after they entered the building, the architect probably having to wait until the stone proved weak enough to start building upward. They were supposed to be housing nuclear items in one of those warehouses and were even selling them to the highest bidder. There were rumors they had been making weapons as well, but that had never been verified. With their luck they would all fall into the nuclear goop and be a part of a nuclear massacre.
As the digital clock changed to 3:00AM, Namarra took aim at the two guards standing at the metal doors and sniped them both while Lexi took out the two cameras right above. Sebastian and Johann led the charge, their standard military M16s down at their sides. Namarra and Lexi followed with their own M16s once they stashed their rifles. With the cameras shot out, they knew they had about 3 minutes (there was that 3 again) until more men would be at the gate.
And the two girls couldn't wait to see how radiation would compliment their Berserker gene.
"In," Johann announced, the digital keypad making a high pitch beep once he had successfully inputted the code.
Sebastian slid in first, his M16 braced against his shoulder. He stopped a couple of feet in, waiting for the other three to slide in behind him before leading the way down the hallway, since he was the walking map. The girls brought up the middle while Johann strayed to the rear. They worked very well for a team that had just been thrown together, the two girls splitting off to check rooms when there were some along the halls. Many of the rooms stayed locked and Sebastian would end up calling them off, knowing them to be used for more storage. Namarra and Lexi would shoot the digital keypad anyway to keep others from sneaking up on them.
They had been creeping down the hallway for a good ten minutes before they even came to the fork in the path. They were surprised no one had bothered to check the security breech at the front door, but didn't have much time to dwell on their fortune. To the right was the stairway to the control room and the left led to the main housing and workplace. The plan had been to have Namarra and Sebastian head to the warehouses while Johann and Lexi scouted the upstairs. While any combination would have made for good teams, Lexi and Johann were a little better at the technical aspects of the mission than Sebastian and Namarra. Besides, the workplace was a wider area and with Namarra's shooting eye and Sebastian's mental map, they would be able to get to the weapon's room with little to no disturbance.
"Break a leg!" Namarra yelled and Lexi gave a small laugh.
Johann, on the other hand, turned to his new partner and muttered under his breath. "Does she have to say that when we're the ones going up?"
Lexi patted him on the shoulder after she pulled him into an alcove. Four soldiers ran by, their uniforms looking like an offshoot of the old Earth Alliance uniforms. If she had Namarra beside her she would have asked if that was what the Blue Cosmos attire looked like, but she resolved to keeping her mouth shut. The main difference was the mask over the face, a version of Sebastian's that the redhead found rather unnerving. The insignia on both the breast and the shoulder displayed a blue world surrounded with a green stem, to represent a flower of some kind, she figured. There was writing on the badges as well, but the troops moved by too fast to make anything out. Leary, Lexi found herself glancing over at her partner for a similar design hidden under his clothing.
"I'm sure there's more than that around here," Johann said, inching out of their hiding spot and motioning her to move forward once he looked both ways. Lexi nodded, but made sure he walked out first, just in case there was an ambush waiting for her around the corner.
Running down two more corridors and up one flight of stairs, Lexi had to keep reminding herself to think the best of their comrades. It was one thing to be suspicious and another to outright accuse them. But Sebastian's helmet looked an awful lot like those Blue Cosmos soldiers.
"Control room's here." Johann motioned to the door ahead of them and slid against one of the doors. It was locked so it didn't slide open—one shot to the pad disabled it for good—and it gave a decent amount of coverage. Lexi was just as fortunate about ten feet down on the other side and she nodded, pointing at the door. Stepping out, Johann was about to make his advance when the door opened.
Lexi's first reaction was to shoot, but Johann had already done that for her, his barrage killing the first soldier. The one behind him, however, was using his fallen comrade as a shield, firing his gun over the shoulder or under the armpit. Johann's shots were precise, but given the caliber, the bullets probably were just shy of going through the body and injuring the one behind it.
Holding up his comrade and trying to fire a high caliber gun wasn't easy, so the Blue Cosmos operative had poor aim. Putting that to her advantage, Lexi leapt into a skid when the shooter was occupied. The small amount of momentum only made her go for a short distance, but she had thrown off his judgment long enough to crouch and get her feet under her. Grabbing the knife from her boot on the way up, she lunged at the gunner and stabbed downward. The blade sliced down the front of his leg, scraping against the shin bone as it descended before lodging itself snuggly in his ankle. The attack caused him to sway, Johann getting a hit on his upper chest to end that little skirmish.
"Piper, stay down," her comrade ordered, and she complied, keeping her ear just above the floor as she looked into the room and saw two more soldiers go down inside the room.
"Masks!" she yelled, grabbing the small smoke bomb near her waist. She flipped the switch and threw it into the room just as her other hand groped for her mask. Holding the material over her nose and mouth, she picked up her weapon once more before turning away from the door, resting her back against the wall.
There was some yelling, a bit of quick stomping then a small pop.
And six bodies fell to the floor.
Sebastian and Namarra reached the weapon's hangar long before Lexi and Johann had even ascended the stairs into the control room. They were trying to engage as few soldiers as they could so they stuck to the south wall and jumped behind debris whenever a couple Blue Cosmos soldiers decided to roam by. Namarra frowned when she saw another two heavily armed and racing towards their entrance point. Sure, Blue Cosmos had been an expected encounter, but somehow the whole thing felt too easy. After the war, Blue Cosmos had become one of the least liked organizations of the world, but that still didn't keep them from making buckets of money. So, while they were unliked, they were very much a stable group in the grand scheme of things. And that meant they could afford to keep nuclear buildings like this active, but the whole thing just seemed fake, from the limited number of soldiers running around right down to the insignia on their uniforms. That was the O.M.N.I. Enforcer patch.
Only the people connected to her and her brothers wore that.
Why then would there be common soldiers messing in nuclear waste wearing it?
"Namarra, the way's clear," Sebastian announced, the Natural's heart skipping a beat once again when she saw his helmet. It was so similar to the soldiers running around she found her mind overreacting whenever she turned to see him.
Nodding a response, she led the way, keeping her eye on her target. There was a set of double doors at the east then of the complex, a red light situated above and a keypad next to it. Namarra had faith they would hack the pad without their local wiz kids, but the problem was doing it before they were outnumbered. They might have been out of sight along the south wall, but that was thanks to the shipping crates and storage boxes. That door was surrounded by only one shipment of crates—about four boxes—and no less than fifty feet of open space in all directions. And they would only have one gun.
"All clear," Namarra announced, making eye contact with her partner and motioning them both towards the pad. Gunfire sounded towards her right and she looked up into the control room. She couldn't see much, but there were some bullets trying to punch their way through the glass, finding the material far more resistant than the typical household brand.
"I'll cover you," Sebastian said, pivoting to view the whole area as Namarra nodded and dropped to one knee. Her partner pushed off the top crate nearby and scooted it between them and the enemy. No one had noticed them yet, but it was only a matter of time before someone came in shooting. The box was big enough to cover his crouching form, but whether or not it was thick enough had yet to be determined.
"I hope there's nothing explosive in there," Namarra muttered, setting down her gun and feeling the deep rush of nervousness. She could only name a couple of times she had put down a gun in battle and neither time had turned out for the better. "I'm trying four codes, then I'm just gonna cut wires. Five wrong codes initiates the alarm," she announced, entering in the opening code while sifting through the many number combinations in her mind before she grasped onto the series of twenty that it could be. Lucky for them, the code changed every hour and there was no way of knowing which one it could be, seeing as it was all random. If they had had a fingerprint, things would have been so much easier, but since there were new personnel in the building each day and the other fingerprints erased—well—sometimes it was just easier to use force to break through.
"Incoming," Sebastian said, Namarra hearing him line himself up for the shot before he fired. She couldn't see whether or not he hit anything, but his cursing was a good indication he had missed.
"Two more," the Natural announced, clearing out the try and putting in another.
A stray bullet hit the metal door nearby, the bullet ricocheting randomly, but luckily out of harm's way. Three more followed suit and Namarra cursed, one bullet wizzing by her head. Maybe we need to invest in helmets, she thought, digging out her knife when the fourth code didn't work either. "Using force."
"Well, make it quick."
Wedging the knife tip under the device, she pulled outward, trying to make the cover pop back, however, it was a little more stubborn than anticipated.
"Shit, I'm out!" Sebastian cried.
Namarra had already dropped what she was doing and picked up her weapon before the words "Cover me," even came out of his mouth. Sebastian ducked down while she turned, firing a barrage towards the opposite end of the hangar. The place was a mess, really, Sebastian hitting some of the products and starting small fires. Gasoline had even started leaking from one of the vehicles and a soldier was trying to stop the flow before it blew up behind their makeshift line. Aiming, she fired, but a precise shot at the right time forced her aim to the right, taking out the soldier instead of the vehicle.
"Alright, go," Sebastian ordered, having reloaded and already issuing a barrage of bullets.
Namarra didn't wait for another chance. Dropping back to the ground, she chiseled off the panel and cut the yellow wire.
The door opened.
Johann had to take down two more soldiers in masks before he announced the all clear and the duo went inside. Dropping his weapon, he pushed one of the bodies off the chair and sat down. Stretching his sleeve over his hand, he wiped off the keyboard quickly before starting his own typing.
"Seriously?" she hissed, but he made no witty comeback and merely focused on the job as she stood watch at the door. She made sure to camp out at the right side, to get a quick shot in before the door opened all the way. Johann had been smart enough to position himself at the far end of the room, at the chair nearest to the wall on the side that the door didn't open. Whatever amount of time they could grab, they wanted.
"Alright, sending a copy of the shipping lists to our dear employer," he finished a couple of sequences then pressed a button loudly, "now." He did some more typing. "And the list of contacts, now."
Lexi heard some stamping down the corridor and aimed her gun about waist high. While she wasn't particularly tall, it would be a shame if she got a nice bullet in the stomach because her adversary was a midget.
"Inventory list. Send."
The door slid open and Lexi took fire, clipping the soldier in the left side of the chest before he could get off a shot. He fell with the momentum, hitting the door as he tumbled to his right. Two more soldiers tried coming in after, starting their advance with some blind shooting. Neither of the two were right in front of the door, however, the bullets wedging themselves into the glass. She took out one before he could step inside, her bullet hitting his left hip. His fall slowed the next advancer and she managed a shot at his throat.
The door closed.
"Employee list sent."
"Any day now."
"Patience, darling, patience."
"So says the guy with OCD."
"Weapon schematics sending," he pressed the "Enter" key loudly again, "now. And just for the fun of it," he continued, reaching into his pants pocket and pulling out a flashdrive. Slipping it into the computer, his fingers went back to the keyboard and produced a melody Lexi found on the verge of obnoxious. It was as if his mind couldn't even work without being in intervals of three. It reminded her a bit of the triplet movement in music, but she had no time to either sing or dance along.
The door inched open and Lexi aimed.
"Here's a little virus in case our allies don't get here in time."
A small grenade rolled inside.
"Jump!" Lexi yelled, and scrambled to the window. Putting the gun in front of her face, she lunged at the glass, picking the spot where the bullets had weakened it the most. She heard another smaller shatter before the grenade exploded.
Then she heard nothing else.
The shooting stopped the minute the door opened, but neither Sebastian nor Namarra knew why until they had a chance to turn and look inside. On a series of shelving units rested hundreds of nuclear missiles, ranging in size from big to biggest depending on how far back into the storeroom the person looked. Any stray bullet could puncture and then kill them all.
"Convenient," Namarra muttered, Sebastian and her walking towards the opening as they kept their weapons on their adversaries. She could tell a long string of curses was running through each mind just based on the scowls twitching on each lip.
The best thing to do at that moment was to hold their ground. Their enemy could either fire on them—probably blowing them all up in the process—or run and leave their stock to save their own skins. If Lexi and Johann had done their job correctly, Athrun should have the information already anyway.
"Perhaps you should phone the boss—" Sebastian started, but the sequence of two high pitched clashes then a loud explosion made everyone turn toward the north. Two people were up in the air then down, crashing onto some sacks and barrels of waste. The blast actually improved their chances of survival, pushing them out further to land on something other than crates of unassembled weaponry.
Broken bones and glass shards are a small price to pay for a broken spine or neck.
"Oh shit," Sebastian said and Namarra could only agree. They had lost their upper hand.
Half of the soldiers in front of them—only four—broke off to get Lexi and Johann. Those two were in a pickle already though, three soldiers aiming down and firing at where their bodies had landed.
Sebastian acted first, running after the four who fled. Namarra couldn't blame him and covered his ass, running at the remaining four while aiming a stream of bullets waist high. Two went down immediately, but the other two had managed to come out unscathed.
One to her left brought his gun up high and she ducked, using the butt of her gun to punch his kneecap. The tendon gave under the pressure, swirling to the other side of his leg as he grunted and kneeled. Kicking the gun from his hand, she shot two bullets into the calves of the final soldier—hopefully, Sebastian managed to evade his shots—and hit him hard over the head. Her first victim grabbed her ankle in a futile attempt at stopping her, but there was no pressure there. She hit him too before turning to the mess Sebastian had run off into.
The first thing she noticed was not the little explosion—both up above and below—but the small droplets of blood leading into the fray.
Lexi didn't know how long she had been out, but when her eyes opened, she saw the Blue Cosmos soldiers aiming down at her. Cursing loudly, she turned to her left and managed to reach out and push Johann out of immediate danger. Johann fell behind some cover, but Lexi had very little. A barrel of something fell onto her back, knocking the little wind she had managed to gain out of her lungs again. It blocked the bulk of the bullets, but many grazed her legs, making them burn as if thrown into an inferno. They were small targets, but there must have been something covering them to give such marksmen hard times.
Her ears were still deaf from the explosion, but she felt each bullet, as if the barrel was a valuable shield and not crushing her ribs with its weight. Even her Kevlar vest was doing little to pad the barrage, her teeth pounding into one another painfully. She had no idea how the others were faring and couldn't tell any difference until the shooting stopped.
Ringing came back first then she heard someone yell. And Sebastian heaved the barrel off her, offering a hand.
Namarra took one to the chest. Her Kevlar stopped the bullet easily, but it still hurt. The momentum forced her backwards between two crates, her hands scraping against the edges while slivers embedded themselves in her skin. She thought she heard someone shout her name, but her head was too foggy, her skull rattling between the crates. How could she have been so careless? She had managed to take out the ones in the burning office, but had had too much faith in her partner, it seemed, since she was ambushed by one of the four that followed him. She cursed, a string worthy of her lost brothers and one that would have made her dead mother blush.
She stayed like that for a while, calculating what hurt and what didn't. It wasn't until she saw a shadow cover her that she did move to bring up her weapon. Pressing the trigger, she fired two shots.
Both over Sebastian's shoulder.
The older man sighed and shook out his hand, the heat and velocity from the barrel of the gun most likely making his fingers tingle something fierce. The weapon still leveled toward him, he hit it down with his forearm and offered the other hand to help her up.
"Damn kids," he spat, but despite the tone, she could tell there was no malice there. His masked face always looked menacing—and even his compressed voice only added to the discomfort—but somehow the whole getup was growing on her.
She took the hand.
Athrun—known to Sebastian and Johann as Alex Dino—crossed his arms over his chest, watching the rest of his backup team putting out the many fires before they secured the arms in the nuclear room. He had shed his coat a long time ago, the fires warm enough to make everyone sweat even in the minimal layers. He had reduced himself to a Kevlar vest over a long-sleeved shirt and comfortable pants. He didn't look comfy then, however, tapping his fingers against his elbows as he watched his team get bandaged.
Lexi had up to six separate grazes on each leg—leaving her to look like a diseased Leper from the waist down—a sprained left wrist, concussion and bruised ribs. She was drinking out of a water bottle, laughing at a joke shared with her fellow comrade, Johann. He was being treated for a broken right leg and forced to wait as various shards of glass had to be pulled from his back. They had not been in deep enough to cause spinal damage—thanks to the Kevlar—but he had some decent nerve damage and the size of those pieces made Namarra's military knives look thin.
Namarra saw Athrun take another breath. That was his fifth in as many seconds. "He's pissed," she said, wincing as another splinter was pulled out from her knuckle. That one scraped against the bone that time, she knew it. Then again, her concussion was making her believe she had all sorts of pains. Aside from her damaged hands, she had a good-sized bruise on her left knee and a gash in her left index finger.
"Well, we didn't leave much to gather," Sebastian admitted, taking a swig of the offered vodka. At first Namarra had thought he had gotten out unscathed, but the blood droplets she had seen were from a bullet he had taken through the back of the ankle; cut the Achilles. That plus three broken fingers equaled a hard-fought mission.
"Piper," Athrun said, remembering to use her fake name as he took a step in their direction.
"Ah, so it's my fault," she muttered and Namarra smirked. It sucked being best friends with the big cheese.
"Who should I blame then?"
"How about you say thank you?"
Athrun sighed and shook his head. One of his soldiers ran towards him, tapping him on the shoulder and he was pulled away.
"So, why is he mad again?" Johann asked, examining the top of the crate in front of him. He was counting each shard that was pulled from his back and making sure they were all there. That was a better habit than the one he pulled before getting treated. He had ordered his weapon brought to him and started freaking out when the magazine had an even number instead of an odd one. So, to save his own sanity, Sebastian grabbed an odd magazine when he wasn't looking and swapped the two before Johann could start his counting the second time. It worked.
At least until Lexi put an even magazine in its place before he started his third count.
"He's just frustrated because we made a mess," Namarra explained. "He thinks too highly of Piper, I'm afraid."
Lexi frowned and sighed, turning to the side when Athrun came walking back. Namarra couldn't help matching the look. Their original mission might have been to merely secure the complex, but they had managed to take out most of the opposition and gain control of their target. Not to mention, they had managed to send valuable information before the main control room went boom.
"Despite my dislike for the methods," Athrun began, leaning against the same crate that Lexi was sitting on. "I can honestly admit you guys did a good job given the circumstances." He smiled lightly and Namarra gave a sigh of relief. "The EA has been notified. A liaison and some other members will wait for them, but our job here is finished. I can—at the very least—give you all a ride back to Orb."
No one was going to argue that at least.
"Wait!" Johann shouted, holding up his hand. "I have to check and double check the seatbelts and make sure they're working before we go anywhere."
"What if I told you there weren't any?" Athrun said and cocked an eyebrow when Johann started to mutter to himself. The others shook their heads, telling him not to ask.
CE 65: Scandinavia
Namarra didn't like it, but she followed the Buers home. Kai would be proud of her, actually, because she didn't even grumble. In fact, she smiled the whole time. She helped with the cleaning around the house, dusting the rooms in the two story a lot more thoroughly than anyone before her. Not that dusting wasn't attempted, more like it wasn't done well. The person before was consistent, just not good. There were clean streaks on the furniture, but just not clean furniture.
She had just gotten done with the upstairs television room when Mr. Buer walked through the door. "I have great news!" he shouted, Namarra hearing his briefcase falling to the floor in excitement. Mr. Buer wasn't a tall man, so she heard him shuffle across the wood as he made his way to the living room where she last remembered seeing his wife. Mrs. Buer was actually taller than her husband, which often made Namarra chuckle silently, but they worked so well together her laughter was often short lived. The girl stopped cleaning, tiptoeing to the door to listen.
"Darling, what—" Mrs. Buer began, but her husband cut her off.
"I got promoted! Stanton had a heart attack—okay, not the best circumstances—but I'm now Vice President of the company!" Namarra heard Mrs. Buer gasp and then laugh, probably getting swung around by Mr. Buer. "We can finally move; get out of this money pit!"
She stopped listening, backing away from the door when Jasmine and Clotho—have been cleaning the kitchen and bathroom respectively—came in to join the celebration. Setting the duster down on the TV stand, she opened the window and climbed out onto the tree. The descent wasn't too bad. In fact, she got down without dropping more than five feet. Sneaking back to the front door, she opened it, reached around the frame and grabbed her backpack. She didn't want to disturb the happy family.
And she couldn't help feeling jealous.
Rounding the final corner to her house, Namarra slowed. There was a strange car parked across the street. She called it strange not because cars were unfamiliar, but because she had never seen that one before. It had been an unofficial contest of sorts between her and her brother to memorize the vehicles in the area. Sure, it sounded pointless, but it was a way to know who was moving and when. Call it paranoid more than anything. It didn't seem more impressive than the other vehicles in the neighborhood just, "Different," she decided.
"Nam, inside, now!" Kai hissed, pulling his sister's arm hard. The force startled the young Natural at first, but trust was enough to let him drag her inside. After shutting the door, he ran to the window and shut the curtains.
"It's the orphanage," he said, running over to the couch and propping some of the pillows under a playground ball. Namarra knew what he was up to and nodded, running to the side closet and unscrewing the mop head off its pole. Hurrying back to the kitchen, she plopped it on top of her extra-large teddy bear already sitting at the kitchen table.
The finishing touches meant turning off the front lamps, turning on the ones in the back and then turning on the radio. Namarra moved without being ordered, sitting down at the kitchen table and pulling a study book out of her backpack. Slamming it on the wood, she started making idle conversation with the teddy, exaggerating her movements for the unwanted viewers outside. Kai played his part well too, setting down a dinner plate in front of the playground ball and interacting as enthusiastically with the object as he could.
To any onlooker, they looked like a happy family.
It was well after dinner time when the car drove off and the two settled down again to make their own meal.
"I wish they'd just leave us alone," Kai whispered, but Namarra still heard.
She always heard.
She would tell him about the Buers later.
A/N: So, what'd you think? It's a fresh review slate so I wonder who's going to give me the very first review. XD Hm, how about whomever reviews first gets a character in my story (if you want to, of course). What I've been doing with my good friends is turning them into characters. They pick the name, looks and possible profession (and quirks; I love quirks) but I've been molding the characters to fit where I need them. For example, I need some fellow comrades on missions, contacts to get both information and supplies, plus, I might even need some friends for Yzak, etc. There's many new characters I need for the past events as well. Anyway, I'd like to do that for the first reviewer, but if anyone is interested, please PM me and we can sculpt the character together.
I wanted to mention something about the rating shift since Weapon's Waltz. I didn't want to change Waltz's rating mainly because I had started with it and didn't get into too much violence worthy of the mature rating until later in the story. Knowing where my story ended up, I probably should have changed it to Mature, but in the end decided not to. This one, however, I'm pushing up to Mature, just knowing my niche probably won't change when it comes to my more violent scenes. Plus, my characters like to swear.
Special thanks to my Beta, Death-Scimitar. She's been with me since Day 0 and I don't have a grand enough vocabulary to express how much I appreciate her helping me muddle through this story. If I had virtual, FanFiction money to pay her, she'd be rich.
Please let me know what you all think about this new format. With no real timeline for me to be bound to, I get a lot of free reign in this story so if you have any suggestions, feel free to share. A lot of things can happen in two years, so if you have ideas, send me a PM.
Corrections to the Narrative:
Nothing so far. It's only the first chapter.
Nothing yet! Kinda nice. :P
Thank you everyone for your support and I hope you liked the first chapter of the Weapon's Waltz sequel. I'll see you all in the next chapter!