The room was beautiful, with high, domed ceilings and large windows. Each window was set with square panes, framed by strips of a highly polished silver metal. The curtains on each of the floor-to-ceiling windows, four of which were set into the North wall and two each into the South, East and West walls, were made of a cream fabric which was light and airy enough to be blown in the gentle breeze. The man who owned the room, and the palatial home it was surrounded by, was a strange one. He was not tall, about five and a half feet, and had pale skin. He wore a navy blue coat which had wide, golden cuffs and was edged in more gold. His pants were white and were tucked into black knee-high boots. His hands were as pale as his skin and his hair was always covered by a gray wig of perfect white curls.
The man's eyes were dark and were the only thing about him that betrayed his true nature. Multifaceted and without pupils, they looked entirely out of place in his face. He didn't bother hiding them, however, as many of his subjects looked even stranger than he.
The impeccably dressed man turned away from one of the Western windows, one hand dropping to rest on the sword hilt which rested on his left hip in a casual motion. The speaker was one of those who was stranger looking than he-- though to his eye, gundams were ugly, malformed beings. If he could stop them from reproducing more than he already had, he would. He declined his head in a slight nod, indicating that the gundam should step into the room and close the door behind him.
The gundam did so, but only after two other figures, identical in every way, slipped into the room after him. These two figures brought a smile to the man's cold lips when nothing else could, though they did not now. "Your report?" He asked, settling at a desk situated in the corner of the West and South walls where he could see all the windows and the door.
Pacing further into the room with the rolling stride all those who spent their lives on the deck of a sailing ship adopted, the gundam fixed the man with his one good brown eye. The space behind the brown eye was tinted red, though it had once been a clear yellow. The other was blacked out and he obviously took pains to keep the occupants of the room in view by refusing to set his left side or his back to any of them. The man was used to this tendency by now and didn't bother to reprimand him for it. "Word from Lacroa and Ark."
The man raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow. "I was beginning to wonder. Deathscytle and the General haven't contacted us in over three months."
"That's 'cause they're both dead."
Startled, the man leaned back in his chair, taking a moment to examine the three figures standing before him. The gundam was of the seafaring kind, a bastard like the siblings he had betrayed. Though stripped of his weapon at the moment, the mech was no less dangerous without it. The black feather-like structures which radiated back from his forehead like a human's hair, and much in a similar pattern, all the way down to cover his shoulders and the backs of his arms, were razor sharp. His torso was covered with a thin and flexible piece of armor patterned like a cream shirt, open at the collar to show his natural gray armor underneath. Over that was another piece of armor, this one cut like a vest, held closed at the waist by a thin black belt. His legs were colored black and his feet were encased in brown boots, also made of gundanium. His hands were covered by gray metal pieces that were shaped more like gloves than gauntlets. At his waist was an empty holster and scabbard, normally holding an energy pistol and cutlass. It wasn't hard to see, by the nicks and scrapes on his armor, that he was victim of a harsh life but had risen above it.
The two girls standing with him were inseparable as they were identical. They often stood as they did now, so intertwined that it was difficult to tell where one started and the other left off. Though their skin and hair was dark, their clothes and armor were constructed of material so white that it glowed, worn in such a way that it protected them but didn't interfere with their movements. One wore her hair in a tight braid, the other in a complicated top-knot. Though the man and the gundam did not fear them, they were among few who did not, as the two were extraordinary fighters and exactingly loyal to their master.
"Who killed them?" The man wanted to know, picking up a knife from the table to examine the blade of. The gundam's gaze ticked to it, then back to the man. It was the dagger which had taken the gundam's eye and they both knew it.
"A group made of humans and gundams working together. A Knight, the Princess, a Musha, a strange gundam from neither Lacroa nor Ark and his pet human." The gundam's voice was only one hair above a growl of hatred, causing the two girls to titter amongst themselves.
"Jealous?" One purred, departing the other to carefully twine herself over the gundam's shoulders. He shifted so his feathers grated across her armor, scratching the white surface, and raised a hand so that his index finger was bent under her chin.
"Not in the slightest," he growled back, a smirk clear in his voice. "I think our Admiral is glad the General is gone."
"So I am." The Admiral stood, pacing across to the windows again and gazing down on the ships moving slowly into and out of the harbor. "Lollie, Lottie." The two girls came to attention, Lollie leaving the shoulders of the gundam and returning to her sister's side, "Prepare the casting chamber."
The two left the room without another word. The gundam stalked over to stand beside the Admiral, also gazing down at the ships below. "Going to have the Queen cast the spell?" He asked, glancing over at the man.
The Admiral clasped his hands at the small of his back with a satisfied noise. "I've waited nine years for a summons and now our dear and glorious leader is dead, Talon. Surely you know what this means."
"What's the plan?" Talon asked, crossing the room to pick up the dagger the Admiral had been holding before, flipping it up and down in his hand, sometimes catching it by the blade, sometimes by the hilt. "The new gundam's from a place called NeoTopia. Sazabi couldn't crack it-- attacking it is what caused the downfall of even Gerbera."
"How many Knights are currently in Lacroa?" The Admiral asked idly, still watching the busy port quarter of a mile below.
"One," Talon replied, watching the man. The Admiral turned with a smile, walking over to the desk and causing Talon to retreat to the other side of the large wooden work bench. "The other, Zero the Winged Knight, is off with the Princess making sure the Dark Axis is really gone."
"Have the Queen give you two autonomous black BaguBagu and go there. One is for the King, one is for this other Knight. We need to turn them to our way of thinking."
"The Knight is young," Talon put in, only taking a slight step back when the Admiral's eyes raised to fix on him. "Only about three weeks old. The first to be created after the land was un-petrified. She's already out tracking down rogue Pawn Leo squads."
"All the more reason to turn her," the Admiral said with a smile. "Since she is the first, she will be powerful. The Spirit Tree will want to make up for the Royal Family not being protected. Take a drone squad and send it toward wherever this Gundam Force currently is. I want to encourage them to go home."
Though the attack had taken only one night and it had been three months since, NeoTopia still buzzed with repair crews working to patch the damage left behind. As night fell the frantic pace slowed but did not stop, lending a peaceful tint to the former utopia. Blanc Base, though it no longer needed to hide itself, was once again in its cloud cover, its commander striding in from his nightly patrol of its outer halls. After the attack from Cobramaru humans had joined the mobile citizens in patrolling its corridors but he still liked to make sure his people were safe personally.
Accepting a mug of tea upon his arrival at the bridge, Chief Haro settled into his chair and began trying to relax, gazing quietly over the night shift of his crew. Normally he would also be reviewing the latest reports from the various SDG teams scattered across NeoTopia, Lacroa and Ark but there was a strange feeling in the air, similar to the first time the Dark Axis had appeared. Leaving his tea beside his chair he rose and quietly walked over to the station monitoring the weather. "Anything strange?" he asked quietly, folding his hands behind his back.
"A high humidity and warm wind coming from the south is causing fog to form over the docks," the officer told him, not looking away from his screen. "Unusual for this time of year."
"That is odd," Haro murmured, leaning in for a better look. An abrupt crash and tremor shook the base and both he and the weather officer started, Haro standing up straight and bracing one hand on the back of the officer's chair. "Report," he demanded, turning toward where his now-alert officers were frantically typing at their keyboards.
"A Zakorello gate is opening on Receiving Pad B!" Someone shouted, over the blaring alarms, "identification code is the Gundam Force!"
"They're not expected back for another three days," the Chief stated. Shaking off his shock in a matter of moments he began striding toward the door, issuing orders as he went. "Get the support staff to the pad! Ready the mecha bay and the infirmary!"
First to step through the yellow edged purple trans-dimensional portal was Captain Gundam, his armor smoking from laser blasts. He was ushering a filthy and obviously shaken Shute through with him, the boy holding one arm with the other securely. A few moments later Zero walked through, his cape in tatters, his arms filled with the fourth member of their team, Princess Relijimana Miya du Lacroa, who had her arms around his neck tightly. Ignoring everything around him, and strangely still walking instead of floating, the Royal Knight Gundam was murmuring reassuringly to the young girl. Lastly came Bakunetsumaru, walking backward and using his swords to block what laser blasts he could until the gate finally disappeared, closing the dimensional tunnel.
"What happened?" Haro demanded, his tone showing his horror at how disheveled his best team was. Though Captain's mask lit like it normally did when he was speaking, no sound came from the soldier gundam.
Bakunetsumaru slid his swords into their scabbards with a disgusted grunt. "We were ambushed," he spat, turning to face the others. "I've never seen the like before. They were without honor, attacking Shute and Princess Rele like that-- we had no choice but to get them to safety!"
"They hit Captain with some kind of beam," Shute offered, his green eyes dull and his face pale. "He can't talk and none of his weapons work."
"That's enough for now. Inside, all of you," Haro ordered, pointing. "Captain, report to Doctor Kao Lin. Zero, Bakunetsumaru, make sure Shute and the Princess get to the medical staff."
"Shute has a broken left arm and the Princess a broken ankle," Juli reported the next day, her expression and voice thick with sympathy. "Doctor Kao Lin restored Captain's vocal patterns-- they had been erased-- and is in the process of replacing the chips fried by whatever it was Captain was hit with so he has control over his weapons once again. Bakunetsumaru's nano skin is healing itself."
"And Zero?" Haro questioned when Juli fell silent.
"Ah...Zero refused to be scanned," she said, glancing up. "He's also refusing to leave the Princess's side."
"Not unusual behavior, for him," Haro acknowledged. "Still. If it becomes apparent that he, or any of the Gundam Force, are pushing beyond their means I want to know immediately."