Chapter one: Bright’s Decision to Act!
June 6th UC 0080,
Home. He was finally home.
Bright Noah stared out over the vast expanse of green that covered the hillside. He couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. The sun was high in the sky, obscured only by the giant, puffy, white clouds that drifted slowly by. The air was clear and carried the scent of the tall grass that swayed in the gentle, passing breezes.
Seized by a sudden urge to feel the wind, Bright undid the clasp on the collar of his uniform jacket and slid out of it. He dropped it in a pile on top of his duffle on the ground. Taking a bit of a running start, Bright dropped into a somersault and flopped onto his back, arms spread wide and chest heaving with laughter.
After a moment, he calmed somewhat and simply laid there, staring up at the sky he had played under as a child. He stretched his hands upward into the air, covering a large cloud with his palms.
"Papa, your hands are really big!"
Daniel Noah paused in the middle of his stretch and looked over at his son.
"That's a strange comment, Bright," he said, "what makes you say that?"
The seven year old held his own hand up into the air next to his father's. The tiny hand was so completely overshadowed as to seem a hopeless cause.
"My hand's little," said young Bright, "you can hold a lot of stuff in yours. I wish mine were bigger."
Daniel slowly lowered his hand and rested it on his stomach. "Bright," he said at length, "sometimes it's better not to hold so much at once. Don't be in such a hurry to have to hold everything in your hands, okay?"
"Yessir," Bright responded, not entirely sure what his father meant.
Bright's hand was still covering that cloud
several minutes later. Laying in the shadow of the cloud, he let
the old memories of the place come to mind unbidden.
The sun chose that moment to come out from behind the cloud. Bright would have been blinded but for the shadow cast by his hand.
"I get it," he mumbled to himself, "I get it now, father."
"There's a sight I never could have expected."
Bright jumped at the sudden interruption. He sat up and turned around to find the voice that had broken the silence that had previously only been broken by the wind.
Standing there, her brown hair ruffled by the wind and a suitcase in hand, was someone Bright had come to find he missed since the destruction of White Base.
"Mirai," he exclaimed, getting to his feet, "what on Earth are you doing here... on Earth, that is." Was his face actually feeling warm? Was such a thing descent of him? Proper? Possible, even?
"I heard you finally got some leave," Mirai responded, "and a visit to Earth suddenly looked quite inviting."
The two of them stared at each other across the expanse of grass for several moments, a cloud passing in front of the sun again and casting a new shadow over the scene.
"Should I not have come?" Mirai asked, finally.
"No!" Bright answered quickly. "Uh, no, no, it's... it's great to see you again."
Mirai, for her part was equally flummoxed by her presence in England. She couldn't quite tell what she was doing there. She only knew that it was somehow important for her to be there, then.
"When did you get here?" Bright asked.
"My shuttle got in from Side Six about an hour ago," she responded.
"I just got here myself," stated Bright, trying to make some small talk.
Mirai held up Bright's uniform jacket. "I can see that," she said jovially, "I don't think I've ever seen you out of uniform before."
"That doesn't count, you were ill."
Bright laughed a bit, picking up his duffle, taking his jacket from Mirai, and slinging both over his shoulder. "Well, I wasn't wearing the thing, was I?"
"No, but you were still playing the up tight CO."
"I was not."
“Yes you were, you kept calling the Bridge."
They wandered off in the direction of a small farmhouse placed serenely and stately at the very top of the hill, still joking and generally carrying on in a care-free manner. The sun peeked out from behind the cloud again as they left.
There was another place, high above those same
clouds, miles away in a spinning metal cylinder floating at one of the
geo-stationary Lagrange points. Laying in the similarly serene grass
of Side Six, Amuro Ray stared up at the opposite side of the colony's cylinder.
He had returned there to see what could be done about his father only to
find him missing once again. Given the aging man's lack of faculties,
Amuro feared the worst.
In the meantime, Amuro was trying to decide just where he belonged. Certainly, he could go back to Earth, live with his mother. But somehow he sensed that something between them had changed. So for now, while he made up his mind, space, with its lack of a proper sky and its fragile, contained existence, was his place.
Suddenly, Amuro was the landing pad for a rickety construct of sticks and paper that looked as though it had maybe, one day far in the past, been meant as a kite. He sat up with the thing in hand and looked around, confused.
"Now you've done it, Kikka," the unmistakable voice of the child Kats came to Amuro's ears.
"But it wasn't my fault," the younger Kikka shot back, "the string broke." Lets was nearby, pondering what he should do about the ensuing argument.
Amuro pushed himself out of the grass and stood up. He wandered over to the three kids, kite-like thing in hand. He adjusted the two sticks a bit, then held it up for the children. “I think it’ll fly better if you have the two sticks more like this,” he explained, handing it back to Kats.
“All right!” Kats responded, happily, retying the string to it.
Lets gave a small jump for joy. “Thanks, Amuro!” he practically shouted.
“Amuro!” a new voice drifted across the field, just barely reaching his ears.
Hayato Kobayashi came jogging over the expanse of grass, waving an arm above his head urgently. Amuro left the children to their own devices and wandered in Hayato’s direction. The shorter man still managed to cover the lion’s share of the distance. They met in the middle and Hayato stopped to catch his breath.
“Hey, Hayato, what brings you out here?” Amuro asked.
“Kai’s here,” Hayato responded between breaths, “he says he’s got some news and from the sound of it, I don’t think it’s good.”
“Did he say what about?”
“No, he said he’d rather only go through it once,” Hayato shrugged, giving a wry smile, “you know him, the less work, the better. He’s with Frau Beau right now.”
Amuro nodded and he and Hayato took off back the direction the smaller man had come, back toward the neighborhoods of Side Six.
The farmhouse of the Noah family was situated
stately at the top of a shallowly rolling hillside. A white, two
storied, little charmer of a house dotted in places with blue painted gingerbread
in a vaguely Victorian style, it was surrounded on all sides by three or
four oak and hickory trees. Hanging from one of them in the front
yard was a small swing which Mirai plopped down upon after depositing her
bag on the ground near by.
“I’m starting to see what so many people see in living on Earth,” she said, swinging back and forth a few times, “this place is beautiful, Bright.”
“I like to think so,” Bright responded, flashing a smile at her.
They both heard the front door of the farmhouse open and turned to it. Standing in the doorway was a brown-haired but graying lady of fourty five years or so. She was a rather unimposing figure, hair tied back into a conservative pony tail which was draped over her left shoulder. She wore an elbow-length shirt of loose fitting green material and skirt of some sort of blue, soft denim. Over the skirt was a white apron of half its length tied at her waist. Standing there, she seemed startled to have heard voices in the front yard, but her shock turned into joy upon seeing who was standing on her property.
“Bright?” she breathed, taking an uncertain step forward.
Bright straitened out a wrinkle in his shirt and stood up as straight as he could, trying to look both the grown up and gentleman at once. “Hello, mother,” he said.
She stood there for a moment, as if trying to clear an apparition from her sight, as if she didn’t believe what she was seeing was true. And then, she was down the stairs in a moment, covering the distance practically in the blink of an eye. Bright dropped his duffle on the ground as she threw her arms around him and he returned the gesture.
“Oh Bright,” she exclaimed, “my boy is finally home.” Finally she caught sight of Mirai over Bright’s shoulder. “Oh, and who’s this?”
Mirai, who had been keeping a respectful distance, finally approached and took a respectful bow. “I’m Mirai Yashima, ma’am. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Noah.”
“Mirai and I served together aboard White Base,” Bright explained.
“Please, call me Gwynneth. White Base? You were aboard White Base? But, I heard that a bunch of mere cadets had had to take over the ship following the loss of almost the entire crew and… Bright?”
He had looked away from her, gazing off into the horizon, a flood of memories washing over his features in an instant. With the touch that only a mother could have, she brought his gaze back to her and looked into his eyes.
“Bright… you’ve changed… grown up so much… I…”
Mirai broke in when Gwynneth trailed off. “He took command when no one else could,” she stated, “you should be proud of your son, ma’am. We all are, that’s for certain.”
Bright’s mother put both her hands on his shoulders and replaced her unerring mask of happiness. “Well, what on Earth are we doing standing around out here as though we’re at a funeral? Come inside, both of you, and I’ll fix something to eat.” She wandered over to Mirai and clasped her hand. “Miss Mirai, it’s a pleasure to meet someone who served with my son. I hope you’ll be our guest for a few days.”
“I wouldn’t want to impose,” Mirai responded, “I’d planned on staying at the hotel in the town a few miles away.”
“Nonsense,” said Gwynneth, taking Mirai’s suitcase, “you’re welcome to stay with us, we have plenty of room.” She led the way into the house and Mirai and Bright hung back for a moment.
“You look a little unnerved, Mirai, are you all right?” Bright asked.
Mirai twiddled her index fingers. “Are you sure this is okay? My staying here?”
Bright shrugged, picking up his duffle. “Mother’s made up her mind. Trust me, it’s a done deal.”
“That’s not exactly the part I was talking about.”
“Mirai, I’ve said it before. I’ll always be here waiting for you.”
Smiling fondly, she nodded. “I don’t think I ever thanked you for that,” she said as they both went into the farmhouse. Bright closed the door behind them and deposited his duffle and uniform jacket on the floor of the foyer. The interior of the house looked as old as the outside in construction, but appeared quite modern in décor save for a few rather old looking heirlooms dotting shelves and floor space here and there. From the end of the foyer hallway, the smells of some sort of baking bread drifted in the air, a vague smell of cinnamon accompanying it.
Bright and Mirai wandered into the kitchen following their noses. Gwynneth was just closing the oven door when they entered. Two perfect loaves of bread were steaming on the stovetop, exuding their fragrance into the room.
“Clarisse’s bread,” Gwynneth explained, “she set it in the oven before running into town on some errands. It’s almost as though you followed your nose home.”
“Is that her cinnamon raisin, there?” Bright asked as he and Mirai plopped down in a pair of chairs at the table and Gwynneth handed each a glass of orange juice.
“It certainly smells good,” commented Mirai, “who’s Clarisse?”
“My younger sister,” said Bright.
“You never mentioned you had a sister.”
“Guess it never came up.”
The front door opened and closed out in the front part of the house.
“I’m home, momma!” called a girl’s voice at the top of her lungs.
“Hello, Clarisse,” Gwynneth called back, “come back to the kitchen. There’s someone here you’ll want to say ‘hi’ to.”
“Good, more people to celebrate,” Clarisse said as she came into the kitchen, “the paperwork on A-20 finally came through and…”
Clarisse was maybe a head shorter than Bright and definitely at least two years younger. Her hair was short, a well kept mop of dark brown curls which ended at the back of her neck. She was wearing an ensemble of blue leggings and a purple turtleneck, covered by a short sleeved jacket of green and a bright yellow scarf tied at her throat. She stopped short upon entering the kitchen, her eyes falling on the two seated at the table. Bright gave a sheepish grin and waved.
“Big brother!” Clarisse shrieked, launching herself into a hug so intense that it sent Bright reeling backward, chair and all. “I knew it!” she continued babbling as Bright rubbed his now aching back. “I just knew you’d be coming back any day!”
“Hi, Clarisse,” Bright wheezed.
“I can’t breathe.”
Clarisse blinked, then looked about as if having just noticed for the first time that she and Bright had tumbled to the floor in a heap. “Oh,” she said, climbing to her feet. She grabbed on to Bright’s hand and pulled him up and he once again righted the chair. She gave him a bit of a punch on the shoulder. “Ha! I’ve owed you that for a year and a half.”
Bright’s eyebrow twitched. “So… that’s how it is, huh? C’mere, you!” In the blink of an eye, Bright had Clarisse in a headlock and was giving her a noggie. “Teach you, short stuff!”
“Let go, you fuzzy-headed bugger!”
“Bright! Clarisse!” Gwynneth snapped. “Not in the kitchen, you know better!”
“Yes’m,” the siblings responded in unison, halting their antics.
All this left Mirai giggling uncontrollably at her place at the table. “This is too much!” she exclaimed between laughs. “No one is going to believe Bright Noah acts just like a typical older brother. I can’t believe he’s almost acting like a kid.” She was overtaken by another giggling fit and couldn’t say any more.
Clarisse elbowed Bright. “Home from the war with a girlfriend, even. You have been busy.”
Bright felt his face grow hot and he looked away, indignantly. “It’s not… I mean… I know how it looks… but… you’re reading too much into it.”
“Oh look, he’s blushing,” Clarisse oh so helpfully pointed out.
“I don’t get it,” Hayato stated, flopping back
into the cushions of the overstuffed couch. “What’s the big deal,
Kai? They’re just mining Neotitanium.”
Kai, clad in blue jeans and his trademark purple running jacket, held up a piece of paper with a number of statistics on it. “It’s not just that they’re mining it,” he said to all assembled in Frau Beau’s apartment, “it’s how much. Before the war, the amount was much lower, almost a quarter. When the war started, the Federation upped it in order to mass produce their GM and Ball mobile suits. Now that the war is over, the numbers haven’t gone back down at all.”
“Well that doesn’t mean anything,” Amuro stated, reasonably, “with all the colonies that were damaged or destroyed, they’d need Neotitanium to rebuild.”
“Yeah,” Frau Beau agreed, “we need the colonies so that the Earth doesn’t become overpopulated.”
“I figured that was the case, too,” explained Kai, “but I checked on all that ore to see where it’s going. It’s not going to the colonies, it’s still going where it was during the war.”
“Mobile suit construction,” Hayato mused.
“Exactly,” said Kai.
“I guess I can see what’s got you worried,” said Amuro, “but just that doesn’t mean that anything fishy’s going on. I doubt you’d have come all the way over here if that was all there was.”
Kai leaned out of his chair, elbows resting on his knees. “Call it a gut thing,” he said, “I called Sayla down on Earth and gave her all the info I’ve got. She’s checking on a few things. There’s something going on and I intend to find out what it is.”
That Kai… that… Kai!!!
Sayla could have throttled him. She had the distinct feeling he somehow knew she would run into the Federation military in all this. But did he check this thing out himself? No-o-ho! He was up in the colonies and couldn’t make it!
This is what was running through Sayla’s mind as she frantically packed her things into her suitcase on the bed in her hotel in San Francisco.
After tracking some leads she got off the information Kai had given her, Sayla had come up with nothing more that a word, “abraxis,” and a web address for a parent company of the mining operation on Luna II. So, half an hour ago, she had sat down in her hotel room with her laptop and called up the address. When the page loaded, it asked her for a password. She had input “abraxis” and suddenly she found herself at some sort of military database. Dotted throughout the database were plans to send Neotitanium to various manufacturers. She went through the system, saving what she could for future reference, until finally it asked her for a password again. She input the same word and was led to still another document.
This particular plan was detailed, but it wasn’t the detail that sent Sayla into a panic. It was the fact that it was a plan to attack, invade, and occupy Side Six.
Her laptop alerted her to a tracking program and she broke the connections immediately and started packing to high-tail it. This was something serious and she had to tell someone, anyone, who could stop it. But who could she trust?
Marker. He was nearby in LA. It was a start. And maybe he could help her make sense of the attack plans.
Not bothering to check out, Sayla loaded her things into the rental car she had for her visit. Hearing a few distant sirens echoing through the night air, she climbed into the car, pulled out of the parking lot, and headed to the freeway.
Mirai awoke to the smells of baking breakfast
and the clinking of dishes. The Sun was pouring into the west facing
window of the Noah farmhouse guestroom, warming the room to a pleasant,
drowsy temperature. For a moment, she forgot where she was, but once
her mind was in full wakefulness, she settled back into the soft pillow
and enjoyed not having to be awake.
She pondered this place that she had come to on a whim. After spending so much time in space, aboard the nearly perfectly balanced environment of the colonies, this place seemed old, untamed, and completely and utterly wild to her. But of course, she knew that wasn’t true at all. The Noahs had been farming the land for generations, all the way back a few generations into the pre-Universal Century calendar. If anything, this land was practically terra-formed into what they needed in a farm.
Bright. Now, there was definitely something different about him here than there had been aboard White Base. Sure, he had had to do the balancing act of a commanding officer thrust into extraordinary circumstances at far too young an age, but Mirai had never associated him with a walking contradiction before. The war against the Duchy of Zeon had given him the life experiences of someone twice his age and he acted accordingly. And yet, now it was as if he had never grown up. Obviously, she was happy to see him finally taking some time to relax, but…
What was it that drew her there, anyway? What was she doing on Earth? Was it simply to see Bright act his age for once?
No, that wasn’t it. And yet… it was.
No, no, it was connected to that in some way she couldn’t figure out, yet. Somehow, she felt as though she had to be there in order to help him. Just like on White Base. She was there to see both the kid in Bright and the commander/soldier once again.
Something was going to happen. Something…
Here? In this peaceful little place? No, her mind must have been playing tricks on her, she decided. She was here to visit with a friend, that was all.
Finally, after a fairly good amount of time, she decided to get up and walk amongst the living. She went into her suitcase and pulled out the same teal slacks and blazer number that harkened back to her first day at the helm of White Base. Mirai shook her head, wondering if she had meant to pack the thing, then put it on.
She left the guest room and fumbled her way downstairs through the unfamiliar house and to the kitchen. Gwynneth was there already, just setting the table with some breakfast foodstuffs.
“Good morning, Miss Mirai,” she said.
“Good morning,” Mirai responded, “you’re certainly up early today.”
Gwynneth laughed. “No, not really.”
“Is Bright awake yet?”
“Oh yes, I put him to work an hour ago. I think he’s out trying to fix the alignment on the Honey Wagon.” Gwynneth seemed to get an idea. “Breakfast is almost ready, would you mind fetching him for me?”
Mirai blinked at the slight look in Gwynneth’s eye, then nodded. “Certainly.”
Once again, Mirai was sent fumbling around the unfamiliar house. She made her way out the back door and heard a high-pitched whine of a hovercraft. She followed it around the corner of the house and found the machine whirring away, hovering above the ground due to the low levels of Menovsky particles its engine was generating.
Bright was at its front end, holding on to the front bumper with his left hand and fiddling with one of the propellant nozzles with his right. It looked as though he was trying to turn a rather stubborn nut. When he let go of the machine, it began to creep away from him, slowly, by inches, picking up speed bit by bit until Bright clamped his hand down on the bumper again.
Mirai suppressed a bit of a giggle and went over. She took over on the bumper. “I thought you were supposed to be on vacation,” she said.
“Guess I shouldn’t have come home,” Bright responded around a chuckle, smiling his thanks at her.
“Your mother says breakfast is ready.”
“All right, I’ll just get this nozzle back in alignment and… there.” There came a substantial click from the connection and something moved back into place, stopping the machine’s cock-eyed motion.
“So, this is a honey wagon?” Mirai asked. “What does it do?”
“You don’t wanna know.”
She gave and uncomfortable look and took a step back from the machine as Bright turned it off. He wiped his hands free of dirt and grime with a rag and they both returned to the kitchen for breakfast. Meantime, Clarisse had appeared for the meal and Gwynneth was just sitting down to eat as well when the comm unit out in the front sitting room chimed.
“I got it,” said Clarisse, jumping up and bouncing to the other room. She returned a few moments later to interrupt the small talk of the other three. “Hey, Bright?” she said with uncertainty. “There’s a guy on the line for you. Says his name is Amuro and he told me to tell you ‘tiger.’ Does that mean something?”
Bright and Mirai both paused, growing serious, then looked to each other for a moment before Bright took off into the other room. He donned the headphones of the comm unit and the three ladies heard him from the kitchen.
“Amuro, what’s happening? What? When? She’s going where? What about Oscar? They couldn’t have… Okay, catch the next shuttle that comes here, all four of you. Only split up if you have to. Do you still have your pager? Good, keep it on. Right. Okay.” And the conversation ended there.
Bright practically burst back into the room. “Mirai, it’s a Seven-R!”
“What?! Who?” Mirai exclaimed, standing.
“Amuro didn’t know yet. Sayla and Marker are on their way here, now. They’ve got all the proof.”
“Bright?” Gwynneth asked, looking about as puzzled as Clarisse next to her. “What is it, what’s going on?”
Bright and Mirai exchanged glances; what to tell them? Ultimately, it was Bright that answered. “Sorry, mother,” he said in all seriousness, “the less you know, the better. Mirai and I have to go somewhere for a while.”
They both rushed out of the room, leaving their partially eaten breakfast. After a quick stop in their rooms, they were both in the hover car that was sitting out front of the house.
Bright started the hover car and stepped on the gas as soon as they were both in. As they sped away from the farm house, Clarisse and Gwynneth standing on the porch still looking mystified, Mirai fingered the sidearm that Bright had pushed into her hand before leaving.
“Seven-R,” she mused, “I can’t believe someone is going to attack Side Six. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Not to us, anyway,” stated Bright, “but if the Federation attacks a neutral colony, it’ll start the war all over again.”
“Right,” agreed Mirai, “and it wouldn’t be just a fight between Earth and one colony, all the colonies would be outraged.”
“Exactly. Mirai, I have this sinking feeling that that’s exactly what someone out there wants.”
“And no one else knows anything about this, so it’s up to us to stop it. But who could have the military resources to do such a thing?”
Bright scowled and gripped the steering wheel tighter, gritting his teeth. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, “I intend to stop it, no matter who’s behind it.”
“Yes. If you put a tiger into a cage, it will eventually be tamed. But sometimes, a tiger is at its best when it’s untamed.”
“No! Absolutely not! I forbid
it!” Daniel Noah’s voice boomed through the house. “I will
not have any child of mine toting a gun and shooting at their fellow Human
beings! My children are not killers!”
“The R&D corps does nothing of the kind!” Bright snapped back. “And besides, father, if no one in the Federation fought, Zeon would wipe out the entire planet!”
“So you’re just going to sink to their level, is that it, Bright?”
“I’m not fighting to conquer, I’m fighting to defend!”
“You’re acting completely childish! What’s gotten into you? Before the colony fell on Australia, you would never have even considered this. It’s like you’ve turned into some kind of wild animal, a tiger that needs to be tamed!”
“Even wild animals don’t ignore their own when they need to be defended.”
“My answer is still ‘no,’ Bright. I won’t have it!”
Bright clenched his fists at his sides, gritted his teeth and looked away. “I’m sorry to hear that, father. But I’ve already enlisted.”
“You heard me! I leave tomorrow for R&D officer training. I’m an adult and I have to make my own decisions.”
Daniel matched Bright’s particularly angry glare and his voice grew soft, menacing. “19 years is hardly an adult. If you leave for the war tomorrow, you’re no longer any son of mine.”
Bright didn’t even flinch. “Then, that’s my choice, too.”
Mirai sensed Bright’s tension and she reached
a hand over and put it on top of his on the steering wheel. “I trust
your decision,” she stated, “no matter where this leads, I’m with you all
“That’s a dangerous promise, Mirai,” he answered, “are you sure?”
Mirai looked forward toward the road ahead of them again. “Please don’t make me repeat myself.”
Unconsciously, Bright let go of the steering wheel with one hand and held on to Mirai’s hand instead.
“Thank you, Mirai. It’s a great comfort.”
The spaceport was bustling with activity and
Marker was extremely glad of it. It would be easier to make it through
security without raising any flags. Standing in line, only a few
places removed from the security check, he tightened his grip on the handle
of the case carrying his laptop. Depending on whether or not Sayla
made it through, it was very likely the most valuable thing he was carrying;
not for the computer itself, but for the data on it.
Next in line, Marker said one more silent prayer that his faked ID would process through just one more time with no problems. He finished just as he handed the card to the security guard at the checkpoint.
It seemed to Marker as if the swipe through the reader machine took hours on end. Hours compressed into a mere second and it fell upon him with a force that almost knocked him over. It was all Marker could do to suppress his flinch into a mere blink.
The guard read off the display on the reader machine. “Welcome to England, Mister Harrison,” he said, handing the ID back to Marker and waiving him through.
“Thanks,” Marker mumbled, scurrying through and away. Once he was a fair distance off, he allowed himself a small sigh of relief. He was safely in England and now it was a foregone conclusion that Bright would be able to see the data Sayla had collected.
Bright would know what to do about it.
A hand clamped down on Marker’s shoulder and he jumped, whipping his head around to see who it was. He found Mirai smiling back at him and sighed in relief once more. “Miss Mirai, thank goodness,” he said.
“Marker, you poor thing,” she responded warmly, “you need to relax. But first, where’s Sayla?”
“We split up for the security check,” Marker explained, “she’s coming out of terminal number five.”
Mirai turned to a section of wall near a corner of the terminal. Bright was leaning there, his eyes locked on the two of them as if waiting for some signal. Mirai held up her hand and waved nonchalantly, fingers splayed out in an array of five. Bright mimicked it back, then disappeared around the corner.
“C’mon,” Mirai said, grabbing Marker’s hand and pulling him along, “he’ll meet us back at the car.”
“R-right,” Marker responded, following.
As Mirai and Marker left, Bright headed down toward the far end of the terminal to find Sayla. Terminal five was about half way in the middle. Once he had arrived, there, Bright took up position by the back wall and waited, watching the security checkpoint for that familiar head of blond hair.
He didn’t have to wait very long. Sayla came through the checkpoint a few moments later and hastily shoved her ID into her pocket as though it were some sort of secret. She and Bright caught each others’ eyes and approached one another. Sayla glanced back over her should at the man going through the checkpoint after her, nervously.
“You made it,” Bright said.
Sayla responded somewhat differently. Out of the blue, she plopped her bag and her laptop on the floor, threw her arms around Bright’s neck, and kissed him full on the mouth. Following that, she hugged him closer.
“Call me Artesia and pretend I’m your girlfriend,” she whispered into his ear in a tone that told him he shouldn’t ask questions.
He did anyway. “Okay… why?”
“I told that guy I was visiting my boyfriend, He wouldn’t stop hitting on me during the flight.”
“Maybe you should take it as a compliment,” Bright said, giving Sayla an arm and picking up her suitcase, “c’mon, let’s get out of here before things get out of hand.”
Sayla agreed and picked up the case carrying her all-important laptop. She and Bright left the spaceport terminal, managing to avoid a security guard of the wandering variety on the way. Mirai and Marker were there waiting and they both gave Bright and Sayla strange looks. The two of them slipped their arms out of the others’ and Bright even cleared his throat.
“What about Amuro and the others?” Sayla asked as all four of them piled into the car.
“They won’t get here for a few more hours yet,” Mirai responded.
“I spoke with Oscar,” said Marker, “he was supposed to get here at about the same time as the two of us. Has he shown up yet?”
Bright practically slammed his own car door closed and his face deepened into a scowl. “Oscar’s been arrested,” he said bluntly.
Mirai, Sayla, and Marker all gasped in surprise, shock and puzzlement clearly evident on their faces. Bright took a moment to allow the news to sink in, then continued as he started the car. “Apparently, Kai asked him to check into another lead. He got a bit too much attention when he started poking around. According to Amuro, they arrested him just shortly after Sayla managed to hack into the database. They’re charging him with conspiracy.”
“Why conspiracy?” Sayla asked. “What basis do they have? Unless they know that it was Kai that tipped us both off.”
“They don’t appear to,” stated Bright, “otherwise they would have come for him already. Which means…”
“The connection is White Base,” Mirai realized, “so, they’ll be coming for us eventually.”
Bright didn’t answer, choosing to silently drive the hover car down the road ahead instead.
The answer was apparent, even so.
Amuro and Kai waited anxiously at the spaceport
terminal. Before leaving Side Six, they had agreed with Hayato and
Frau that they did, in fact, have to split up. Kats, Lets, and Kikka,
not wanting to be left out, had volunteered their “services” as part of
their disguise. Frau, Hayato and the three children had taken the
flight as a family on holiday and Amuro and Kai took it as business partners.
They were on the same flight, but split up for the security check.
And so, Amuro and Kai were left waiting with still no sign of either the “family” or of Bright. It was going on ten minutes before Kai tapped Amuro on the shoulder and pointed to a section of wall along the back. Bright was leaning there, dressed in civvies, looking straight at them. Amuro almost looked straight past him, but was caught by Bright’s uncanny ability to communicate his intentions with eyes alone.
Don’t come, I’ll find you.
Amuro nodded, then Bright moved off down the terminal.
“C’mon, Kai, let’s get out of here,” Amuro suggested.
“I’m all for that,” Kai agreed, “but where are we going without Mister Bright?”
“Parking lot.” Amuro picked up his bag and started off toward the exit.
“Parking lot?” Kai inquired, stupidly, scrambling to gather his own luggage. “But how do you know that? Hey, Amuro, wait up!”
Hayato had to admit it to himself; it felt
so right. Okay, so maybe the threat of a looming conspiracy to attack
Side Six wasn’t right, but the sleeping Kikka leaning on his shoulder…
He felt like he had a family, somehow. And that… that was what felt
Still, this was no time for such things. They had to find the others, quickly. At his elbow, Frau Beau was also scanning the terminal for one of the other three they were to meet. She and Hayato spotted Bright at the same time. He nodded with his head for them to follow, then headed toward the exit. Frau gathered up Kats and Lets, who had plopped down on the floor and were amusing themselves with Haro, and the false family was off to the parking lot.
Once outside, Bright fell back and allowed them to catch up.
“Hello, Mister Bright,” Frau said as warmly as she could given the situation.
“Frau Beau, Hayato,” Bright returned the greeting, “wish this was happening under better circumstances.”
Lets elbowed Kats. “Who’s he?” he asked.
Kats looked at Lets as though he had just grown horns and sprouted wings. “You idiot, it’s Mister Bright.”
“That can’t be Mister Bright. He always wears a uniform.”
“You’re an idiot, Lets.”
“You’re just a big, mean dork, Kats!”
The two boys’ “conversation” had picked up volume to the point where the three adults had been able to hear every word. Bright put his hands on his hips and looked skyward for patience.
“Geeze, I didn’t know I was that stiff.”
General McAllis was a massive mountain of a
man. At age 51, he was still very much in tip-top military shape.
It was a mark of pride for him. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of
the Earth Sphere Federation, it was important for him to set a good example.
Appearance was all-important to a Feddie officer and McAllis followed this
tradition to the letter; hair short and kept clean, uniform pressed and
crisp, boots polished to a gleaming shine, and posture straight, tall,
McAllis was one of the Feddie Forces elite and wasn’t too proud to show it. He was a veteran of the battle of Luum and the mastermind behind the Solar Flare System employed at the Battle of Solomon.
But now, the One Year War was over. So, what was he to do? Rub shoulders with the dirty Zeke soldiers he would just as soon have killed six months earlier. And not just Zekes, but whiney, scared, nervous colonists of all kinds.
He was on his way to still another such disgusting meeting, cursing it on his way, when his assistant, Lieutenant Kutani Hadagawa, came rushing his was carrying a folder.
“General McAllis, sir!” Hadagawa called, catching up with McAllis and saluting. He continued only after McAllis saluted back, as an officer should. “You asked me to keep you informed on the Ophiucus situation, sir.”
“You have new information?”
“Yes, sir,” Hadagawa responded, handing McAllis the folder he had been carrying.
The General opened it and found a collection of still photographs that were obviously taken from a security camera video somewhere. Wordlessly, McAllis looked to Hadagawa for an explanation.
“These were taken at a spaceport in England about three hours ago.”
McAllis’ face twisted into a deranged half smile as he paged through the photos. He held one up closer to his face to get a better look.
“Well, well,” he mused, “if it isn’t that Newtype Gundam pilot of White Base; Amuro Ray.”
“Yes, sir. And that man with him is Kai Shiden, the former pilot of White Base’s Guncannon. That’s the picture that gave us positive ID on them both. The rest are all partial profiles and fragments of faces.”
McAllis closed the folder and handed it back to Hadagawa. “Any word on Sayla Mass?”
“Nothing conclusive, sir, but a security guard at that same spaceport reported seeing someone who matched her description. Also, a man and a woman who might have been Hayato Kobayashi and Frau Beau, both also of White Base.”
McAllis studied Hadagawa for a moment. “You must forgive me for saying so, Lieutenant, but you look like the proverbial cat that swallowed the equally proverbial canary. Is there anything else?”
Hadagawa’s face twisted into that same rather disturbing smile that McAllis was wearing. “I ran a check, sir. It turns out Bright Noah’s family owns a farm in that area of England.”
McAllis grunted out some satisfaction in the back of his throat. “So, the gang’s all there, then. Is this enough to arrest them all, get them out of my hair?”
“Unfortunately no, sir. For all the courts know, they could just be having a reunion, with the exception of Miss Mass. We can, however, get a warrant to search the Noah farmstead.”
McAllis nodded. “Do it. I want this little leak in Ophiucus secrecy plugged before the next day is out. Dismissed.”
“Sir!” Hadagawa saluted, then turned on his heel and went back the way he came.
McAllis paused in the hallway for a moment, considering the situation that was brewing.
“Bright Noah, huh? Well, my young Mister White Base commander. Just what do you have in mind, hmm?”
Bright wasn’t sure whether to laugh or weep.
Here they all were, together again, in order to fight a conspiracy to kill
several million people living aboard Side Six, and what were Mirai, Sayla,
and Marker doing when he finally got back to the farmhouse with the others?
Looking at baby pictures with his mother and sister.
He recognized the photo album almost immediately and a sudden sense of total dread and unease filled the pit of his stomach, Jesus, they were never going to take him seriously ever again!
That was it, the last straw. Bright flopped down in the nearest sitting room chair while everyone else crowded around the book of photos eagerly.
“Why me, God?” he muttered to himself.
“Hey, momma, find the one with the newspaper bin and all the drool,” Clarisse chimed.
Bright jumped up and was across the room in an instant, snatching up the album and snapping it closed. “This is hardly the time, you know,” he said, dejectedly.
“Nonsense,” countered Gwynneth, “you all seemed so tense about something, it seemed to be the perfect time for something amusing. Not that you’d tell me what’s going on or anything, will you.”
Bright hugged the photo album close to himself and looked away. “Mother, I… I can’t. It’s just too dangerous.”
The room was silent for several moment. Bright finally handed the photo album back to his mother, then headed for out of the room.
“Bright, where are you going?” Gwynneth asked after him.
“There’s something I have to go and do,” he said simply before exiting through the back door of the house.
Gwynneth shook her head. “What on Earth has gotten into him?”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Amuro ventured, “I think Mister Bright deserves a little more credit than that.”
“What do you mean? And just who are you, anyway?”
“I’m Amuro Ray, ma’am. And what I mean is… well, he’s the one who’s got a big decision to make. And believe me when I say that he’s not keeping this from you because he doesn’t trust you.”
Gwynneth stared at Amuro for several moments, not entirely certain what he was saying.
“He trusts you completely,” Amuro elaborated.
The sun finally dawned on Gwynneth. Her eyes widened and her shoulder dropped with sudden realization. “Dear God in heaven,” she murmured.
Clarisse, still confused, looked from one to the other and back again, trying and failing to suss out the situation.
Daniel Michael Noah.
Three words. Three words that comprised a name and three words that Bright had never before been forced to see chiseled into stone.
Sitting at the top of a hillside under a large oak tree, overlooking the entire Noah farmstead, the marker seemed to Bright to be small, cold, and entirely too dead. The Sun had just gone down and twilight was setting in over the farm, like a blanket of darkness that threatened to blot out the light forever.
Bright sat down on the grass just in front of the memorial marker and studied it. Aside of the three words etched into it at the top, there were several smaller words, as if there was a need to explain what had happened.
“Daniel Michael Noah. 0037-0079 UC. Loving husband and father. Now unmoored in the sea of the sky.”
He had been aboard White Base for almost
a week already, but the ship still amazed him. The capabilities of
it, the sheer size and power! Bright was going over some new information
that had just been declassified for his level as he sat in the Mess, eating
Menovsky particle propulsion system and stealth, fully computerized flight systems, and the biggest fighter storage capability of any ship in the Federal Fleet. The Federation was pulling out all the stops for the V Project, and how! Bright had never been one to listen to unsubstantiated rumors, but he had overheard from a group of enlisted men that there was even the possibility of Federation Mobile Suits.
Continuing his reading, Bright absently pushed a banana into his mouth and began chewing. So fascinated was he by the new ship specs that he didn’t even taste the piece of fruit, let alone notice the shadow that fell over his place at the table.
Bright looked up to see who was so rudely interrupting his studies and found Captain Paolo Cassius standing over him. He shot up out of his seat, mouth still full of banana, and saluted crisply. “Fir! Caget Noohh pweshent, fir!”
Paolo raised and eyebrow at him. “You can swallow, Cadet,” he said.
Bright managed to swallow the banana in one gulp. “Sorry, Captain.”
Paolo shook his head. “No, no, it’s my fault for bothering you when you’re off duty.” The captain paused as though bracing himself to let the other shoe drop. “Mister Bright, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. We just received the daily status report from Jaburo and there was a message for you attached to it. I’m sorry to say that your family has informed us that your father has been killed in a shuttle accident while on route to Side Six.”
Bright stood there numbly for a moment before he managed to say anything. “I… don’t understand, sir.”
Paolo patiently elaborated. “It appears there was a thruster malfunction and the shuttle plunged back into the atmosphere too steeply. I’m sorry.”
The enormity of it finally managed to sink into Bright’s brain. Ignoring protocol, he plopped back down into his vacated seat and stared at the table as Captain Paolo silently turned to leave. The captain was only a few steps away when Bright got to his feet again and called after him.
“Captain Paolo, sir?”
“Yes, Mister Bright?”
“I know that White Base is supposed to be on radio silence, but… sir, is there any way I could get a message through to my family? Any way at all?”
Paolo shook his head sadly, obvious empathy in his expression. “The V Project is too sensitive. I’m afraid there’s no way.”
Bright nodded. “I understand, sir. Thank you for telling me.”
“I know what you’d say, father,” Bright said
to the stone marker, “how could I ignore my family in favor of the war
when they needed me the most?”
There was no forthcoming response from the stone.
“Damned unfair of you, you know. To go and get killed like that. How the hell am I ever supposed to stop being angry with you now?”
In the space where there might have been an answer, Bright realized he had been sitting there for a while and that twilight had given way to stars and moon when a succession of blue and red flashes split the darkness and caught his eye. He stood up and from his vantage point on the hill, he could make out two cars, one from the local authorities and one from the Military Police, coming up the farm’s private drive. He muttered a swear under his breath and took off toward the gate.
He ran as fast as his legs would carry him, slowing down only to take a shortcut through the cornfield. Bright burst out of the corn and back out on the drive near the gate just as the two cars were pulling up.
From out of the MP car came a Japanese man who looked only a few years older than Bright, wearing a pristinely pressed uniform of a Federal Forces lieutenant. Bright nonchalantly leaned on the gate as the soldier walked up to him, pulling out a piece of paper.
“Lieutenant Bright Noah?”
“Something I can do for you, sir?” Bright asked calmly, not moving from his place against the gate.
“Lieutenant Kutani Hadagawa,” said the officer, unfolding the paper and handing it to Bright, “and I have a warrant to search your family’s farm, Lieutenant, from the office of General McAllis of the Joint Chiefs.”
Careful not to stop leaning on the gate, even as Hadagawa reached for the release in order to open it, Bright skimmed over the warrant. He breathed a slight, inward sigh of relief, then turned back to Hadagawa. “Sorry,” Bright said, handing the paper back, “but this warrant isn’t valid here.”
“What do you mean?” Hadagawa growled, glaring knives at Bright.
Bright pulled out his own small piece of paper from his pocket. “As of two days ago, this farm is protected by the Federation’s Farmland Protection Act of 0076. Formerly known as bill A-20. The Noah farm has class B protection as a minor historical site. Any search warrant that’s valid here has to contain the related preservation clause. Under A-20, I can’t let you in until you’ve got that.”
Looking over Bright’s piece of paper, Hadagawa growled under his breath, his glare deepening.
“So,” Bright said, snatching the paper away again, “General McAllis, huh? Wasn’t he behind the Solar Flare at Solomon?”
The muscles in Hadagawa’s jaw jumped as he ground his teeth together. “We know what you and your White Base pals are up to, Lieutenant Bright.”
“Do you really, now? Well good, then we all know what to expect. I suggest you leave, Lieutenant Hadagawa, before you get caught up in red tape.”
Hadagawa stalked back to the MP car, waving the other three officers along to do the same. “We’ll be back, Noah,” he said, just before getting into the car and driving off.
As soon as the two cars were out of sight, Bright wasted no time and took off back up the drive toward the house. He burst back into the sitting room where everyone was gathered and trying to relax somewhat, huffing for breath. Everyone looked up at him and there was a pause. It only took a moment for the old White Base crew to recognize Bright’s time-sensitive-trouble face.
“How long?” Mirai asked.
“Morning,” Bright responded, “let’s get moving. Everyone come with me. Mother, Clarisse, someone’s going to come by in the morning. Feel free to answer any questions, you two have nothing to hide at all.”
Everyone but Gwynneth and Clarisse began to file out of the room, grabbing the bags they had arrived with on the way. Bright was poised to be the last one out of the house when Gwynneth caught his hand and stopped him.
“Bright,” she said as he turned back to her, “you seem to have some very capable people with you.”
“You might hear things about me in a few days…”
“I know. And I trust you. You just do what you have to do. Your sister and I will be just fine.” She pulled his head toward hers and planted a kiss on his forehead. “Now go.”
Bright hesitated, desperate not to leave his mother’s grasp, but took a step back at length and straightened into a crisp salute. No further words passed between them before Bright turned and left and joined the waiting group outside.
Gwynneth and Clarisse watched out the front window as Bright led the group down the hill and they all disappeared like ghosts into the dark cornfield. Once they were all out of sight, she collapsed onto the sitting room couch, face buried in hands and weeping. Clarisse sat down next to her and they shared a frightened embrace.
Clarisse continued looking toward the place where the White Base crew had vanished.
She knew where Bright would take them.
Next time on Mobile Suit Gundam: The White Base Rebellion…
“I’ve been going over these plans,” Marker broke
in, “it takes a massive amount of Mobile Suits. But not just any,
they have to be small enough to enter the colony’s power management core.”
“But the Federation doesn’t have any Mobile Suits that small,” Amuro put in, “they’d have to be not much bigger than an actual person.”
“Like HSS-79,” Bright mused to himself.
“Listen, Mirai,” he ventured once they were outside, “about Bright…”
“I think I know what you’re going to say, Amuro, and yes I do know.”
“I’m just worried, that’s all. You both seem a little distracted. And, White Base was one thing, but with this…”
Bright took a step back upon recognition. “Clarisse!?”
Bright’s sister looked ten times as speechless as any of the White Base crew upon seeing the new Mobile Suits. “I didn’t know this is was you guys were doing! Bright, are you guys in some kinda trouble or something?”
“Miss Clarisse, what are you doing here?” Amuro exclaimed. “Mister Bright, what are we going to… Mister Bright?”
“What have I done?” he gasped out.
“Mister Bright?” he vaguely heard Amuro’s concerned inquiry. “What happened? Were you hit?” Amuro shook Bright’s shoulder, desperately trying to get his attention.
“That was… that was a GM Mobile Suit,” Bright breathed, still in a haze, “those were Federation soldiers. What on Earth have I done?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to steal the Gunmarauders.”
Chapter two: Steal Away Silently, Gunmarauder! Who will survive?