SD Gundam Fan Fiction ❯ Encounter ( One-Shot )

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This story and my author’s notes can also be viewed on my fanfiction account here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6059047/1/Encounter
000
The term encounter… has the specific meaning of an authentic, congruent meeting between individuals.
~Wikipedia
i
The first time they actually worked together was when the Black Musai was caught up in its invasion with Lacroa.
Grappler Gouf had been the Black Musai’s only active squad leader after the other two squadron leaders were killed. He had his work well cut out for him since his original deployment from the officer academy, but the persistence of the knight Gundams and the few surviving humans who managed to evade being turned to stone was draining the crew’s already dwindling resources rapidly. Grappler had not been worried in the slightest about the revolting stragglers of the otherwise doomed world, but Nightingale, who had been the Black Musai’s commander at the time, brought it upon herself to send off for help regardless of Grappler Gouf’s confidence. She had been less than pleased when the Magna Musai responded to her call though, as she apparently had a vicious disliking for that particular Musai’s commander. Sazabi was the head commandant in the Dark Axis invasion force fleet, but he had been the commander of the Magna Musai for over five years at that point. From what Grappler already knew, Sazabi had apparently taken a break from invading worlds to assist the other Musais. The Magna Musai was the largest of the invasion ships made to date, which consequently meant it had a large crew as well. The Zakos onboard would be a useful form of backup for Grappler’s own soldiers.
Grappler was standing on the edge of the Horn of War’s balcony after it had been spawned from the Black Musai sitting on top of Lacroa’s main castle. He had overlooking as the Magna Musai slowly lumbered towards them from higher altitudes. The ship was rather impressive looking as it hung against the dark purple sky like an ominous black thunder cloud, and Grappler detected Nightingale as she approached him from behind. The squad leader quickly turned on his heel to face her and he stood erect at respectful attention. « The Magna Musai has arrived, Commander ma’am. »
Nightingale was a rather intimidating femme who stood nearly three heads taller than Grappler. Her optic swept fleetingly over her squad leader before she looked towards the Magna Musai. « Good. With their added firepower, we should be able to successfully take this world within the next three solar cycles. »
« When do you want me to rendezvous with the other squad leaders? »
This caught Nightingale’s attention immediately. She turned her head to glance fleetingly at him. « Others? »
Grappler raised his optic ridge in surprise to her apparent confusion. « Surely there has to be more than one other squad leader on the Magna Musai. Its crew is twice the size as ours. »
Nightingale only laughed at that. Her tone was somewhat mocking, but that was a normal tone coming from her. « No, there’s only one squad leader. Commander Sazabi was always rather cheap, but I heard that the appointed mech is very good at his job. »
Grappler regarded her for a moment longer before looking back out towards the Magna Musai. It continued to descent downward until its massive hulking mass hovered over the very tip of the Horn of War. It dropped altitude slightly more, Grappler could hear the majestic working of the ship groaning from the gradational pull of being so close to the ground, until the massive Musai’s right side flanked their view entirely. Light from the barely visible sun hidden behind the dying atmosphere caused the Magna Musai to look like a giant black silhouette of tremendous intimidation, and Grappler Gouf had to adjust his optic’s contrast setting in order to make out the decals of the vessel. The Magna Musai was at least twice the size that the Black Musai had been, sporting a wide front deck, three minor command center heads with a much larger major at the peak of the ship’s hull, and two very powerful looking main cannon funnels that glinted hauntingly in the dwindling light with malevolent intent. It was a gorgeous looking vessel, perfectly crafted with the elegance of a piece of artwork, but with all the power equaling the devastating force of at least two Black Musais.
A bridge was dropped from the flank of the ship, stretching across to touch down on the Horn of War’s rim. Grappler looked at Nightingale. Behind her, he could see that Zako Black had finally arrived. The ebony dye cast Zako femme stood erect like an insentient statue with her small commander fin making her look slightly taller than her standard Zako cousins, but the low light allowed her purplish optic to shine menacingly. She looked at Grappler with a serene maliciousness. Zako Black always bothered him in the sense that her rank was even higher than his, but her presence also made him somewhat intimidated. Her ability to almost magically appear and disappear on a whim was incredibly unnerving to him.
« We’re going in, » Commander Nightingale said, either oblivious to Nightmare’s arrival or entirely uncaring to her personal agent’s entrance. « Commander Sazabi insisted that we meet on his terms. Being that he is the head of the entire invasion force, I really had no choice but to oblige. » There was a hint of irritable detestability in her tone.
They entered the ship. As they crossed the bridge to enter the Magna Musai, Grappler could see his appointed Zako snipers with their crosshairs trained on the ground surrounding the base of the Horn of War in case of Lacroa’s resistance forces using their venerability to retaliate or attempt an assassination on either him, Nightingale, or Zako Black. There was none. They made it into the Musai entirely safe. When they reached the interior hangar of the ship, they were instantly met by several Zako guards adorning firearms and standing at attention. They stiffly saluted when Commander Nightingale stepped inside the ship. As Grappler flanked her left, Zako Black took her right and the drawbridge behind them began to recede back into the ship. The door hissed closed.
One of the Magna Musai Zakos saluted, seemingly the head of the group. « Commander Nightingale, Lord Grappler Gouf, Zako Black. Welcome to the Magna Musai. We’ve been instructed by Commander Sazabi to take you to his personal office in the upper portions of the ship. » The Zako’s voice was light and the Zako himself, despite addressing such high ranking officials, seemed very laid back and relaxed. Unlike any other one Zako on the Black Musai crew, whereas any one of them would have been entirely erect and tense, he was not. The mech was either consciously being very rude or was very well trained, but Grappler supposed it was the latter.
Instead of smiting the mech where he stood, she simply nodded. Undoubtedly, she was on her squadron leader’s same wavelength. « Very well, » she began in a light drone. She made a sweeping gesture. « Lead the way then. »
The Zako nodded, saluted again, and then turned to lead them. He was flanked by several other guards and, in turn, they fell back to form a protective barrier around he, Nightingale, and Zako Black. Grappler decided that the crew of the Magna Musai was well trained in the sense that the morale seemed much higher than that on the Black Musai. As soon as Nightingale set foot outside the hangar, the Zako soldiers who were still in it immediately relaxed and quietly whispered excitedly amongst themselves like children. The morale was very high, and the Zakos also seemed very surprisingly cared for and well organized. On their way to Commander Sazabi’s office, they saw several cleaning crews cleaning the hallways without complaint and there were at least three mechanics fixing wiring in the walls. They all stood at attention at Commander Nightingale’s passing, yes, but they also al acted very laid back in the same sense that their lead guard was. The crew appeared very childish and finicky, but not unwavering.
Grappler was positive that if any one of them was given a gun on a moment’s notice and pointed in a certain direction while being told to fight, they would do just that with incredibly effective force. It did not surprise him in the slightest though, seeing that they all under the command of the most notorious commander in the entire Dark Axis. They reached his office in good time, too.
When they reached the executive level of the ship, all of the guards except for the lead one waited behind while the head of the group led Nightingale, Grappler, and Black to the entrance to the main office. The Zako stopped beside the door and saluted. « We’re here. Commander Sazabi is waiting for you inside. If you need anything, just tell Commander Sazabi to call on me. Designation, Red. »
Grappler could have cared less for the Zako’s name. Nightingale seemed to have the same sentiments, but she seemed to put an effort into not scolding the mech for it. Seeing as he was not her soldier, she did not have the authority. It was unnerving to Grappler to see the femme commander in a place where she did not necessarily have power, but she appeared to handle it moderately well. She gestured for the Zako the leave without as much of a word. He did. Nightingale reached a hand to ring the room’s buzzer but the door hissed open before she could activate the mechanism herself. Without preamble, she stepped in and Grappler followed suit after her. Zako Black was on his heels.
The office was terribly dark. Grappler could immediately deduce that the cause of the darkness was from the lack of sufficient lighting and the huge metallic shutter over the place where the window should have been. Blocked out and leaving him and Commander Nightingale to the mercy of the inky abyss. The light that pooled in from the open door however, was enough to light the room enough to the point where Grappler could clearly make out the form of a red Zako soldier adorning a small commander fin. Zako Red looked up and made optic contact almost incautiously with Zako Black, straightening to attention at the sight of his sister brethren. Zako Black followed suit with his example and they stared at one another as though they were communicating in a silent language. Grappler didn’t doubt the prospect in the slightest. If anything, the Zakorello Color Guard was certainly an odd bunch. Both Char and Nightmare — Zako Red and Zako Black — were unquestionably no exception to that same rule.
The door to the hallway behind them closed, submerging both he and Nightingale in the darkness. Light from Zako Red’s lilac hued optic illuminated the room, but his was not the only source of light. Behind the desk of the huge office, the pink luminescence of another presence glowed.
At first glance, Commander Sazabi looked like a regular sized mech sitting behind his desk in the darkness of his office, but it was only when he stood that Grappler was able to come to terms with how big he actually was. Then, even coming to stipulations with the fact that he was still slightly shorter than Commander Nightingale, he was sill far more intimidating than her. Whereas the femme commander was cynical to the point where she sounded less like an authoritative figure and more like a snobbish wench who only just so happened to be an authoritative figure, Commander Sazabi certainly lived up to his name as the head of the entire Dark Axis invasion fleet. Every move that he made was brilliantly calculated and flawless — Gouf had to wonder with a dreamy sense of awe if the commander had practiced the sweeping gesture he made with his hand for him and Nightingale to sit in the two seats opposite of his desk — but the commander’s real grace came when he spoke. His vocalizer’s register sounded as though it would be far more adequate belonging to a high powered political figure or attorney rather than an invasion commander, and it gave the head of the Magna Musai a deceivingly peaceful tone of character. Grappler, however, knew better. Being the tactician that he was, the cobalt squad leader could almost immediately deduce that Commander Sazabi was the most dangerous mech in the room hands down.
Nightingale snorted, her voice hinting a disapproving undertone. « Commander Sazabi. »
Commander Sazabi’s optic brightened slightly, showing his own discontent for the femme. « Commander Nightingale. It’s certainly been a long time, hasn’t it? Glad to see that we can still be moderately civil in one another’s company. »
« Spare me the pleasantries, » the femme commander said bitingly, her tone withholding a cool hiss of displeasure. « Our business here is nothing but formal. »
Sazabi gestured for her to sit. She immediately declined. Grappler Gouf was almost able to immediately analyze that the two of them absolutely despised one another, although they both did an excellent job maintaining their professional airs as to not to let that undying hatred show. Commander Sazabi seemed to pull the feat off in a slightly more elegant manner than Nightingale however, as it was obvious that there were some points during that meeting where Nightingale very clearly wanted to spout something vulgar at the other commander on several occasions.
Sazabi seemed to shrug off Nightingale’s coldness and he sat in his seat, a gesture that was equally daunting as it was non-threatening. He turned his fiery cold gaze onto Grappler. « You must be the one surviving Black Musai squad leader I’ve heard so much about. I’ve heard you’re an ace. »
Grappler Gouf snapped to attention, both awed and slightly unnerved that he was being addressed by the most successful commander in the Dark Axis invasion fleet since Commander Tetra. « Yes sir, and thank you sir, » he said with a nod. He tried not to look away out of submissiveness to receiving such a high compliment, but he could not help letting his optic wander.
Someone was standing to Commander Sazabi’s left, head downcast so that the light of his dark red optic was directed towards the floor. Grappler would have never seen him otherwise if he had not been looking in his particular direction. There was a moment where Grappler could not help but to completely turn his head to stare at him. The other mech did not seem to notice. In the low light, he could make out the mech was definitely not a Zako soldier, and that he was adorning a standard squadron leader fin.
Commander Sazabi was speaking again. « So Commander Nightingale, I suppose this is where I offer my assistance to you. Is there anything in particular you need help with? »
Nightingale snorted. « Resistance. Our bagubagu resources have run aground and there is a major organic retaliation force that was not petrified in the initial surge. It consists entirely of mages too, which is a problem because of their pesky magic and charms that protect them. »
« What of the Gundams? »
Nightingale snorted again, this time scathingly. « Deathscythe and Talgeese took care of the royal elite guard, but there are still several lower ranking knight Gundams who remain in hiding with the rest of the resistance. We’ve been taking them down easily enough in their weakened states, but its tedious work and we’re rapidly running out of resources. »
There was a malevolent glee to Commander Sazabi’s next words. It came out as more of a direct statement instead of a question. « So you haven’t been handling it well. »
Nightingale did not answer. Gouf could feel anger steadily rising from her form at Sazabi’s ridicule. « If you don’t have anything nice to say, » Grappler thought. « Don’t say anything at all. »
Sazabi was nodding. « Good. Your inability to deal with their presence means that Gundams won’t expect such a violent reprisal from us. The Magna Musai’s main cannon will make short work of them once we find their camp of operations. In the meantime, I suppose it would be best to deal with the rest of the organic infestation. » He reached to grab a small box compartment on his desk. Grappler had originally presumed that it was simply a decoration, but now it occurred to the cobalt mech that it was something else entirely. Commander held the box up for Nightingale before briefly showing it in Grappler’s direction. The squad leader was honored to receive the acknowledgement.
The Magna Musai commander flipped the box open.
Nightingale faltered. « What in the Pitt…?« 
Grappler felt his vents unconsciously hiss in surprise. « Is that…? »
Sazabi nodded. « It is, but it’s not just any spirit egg. It was produced by Professor Gerbera’s science committee in the Dark Axis fortress for this particular assignment. The creature within is a special new brand of our standard bagubagu. » He stopped there, ostensibly attempting to build tension. No one dared speak. When this happened, Sazabi waited patiently for several more moments before resuming. « Within this egg is a giant bagubagu, capable of growing to a tremendous size with an elongated lifespan and capability to spawn its smaller brethren. It’s an experimental prototype, so there’s an… off chance that it could potentially be violent towards mechanical beings as well as organic. »
Grappler had only heard of spirit eggs spouted around by the human prisoners they took in for questioning. They would boldly claim that the Dark Axis would never conquer Lacroa for as long as there were spirit eggs to hatch their spiritual saviors before Nightingale either got fed up or bored and ordered the raving human to be acquainted with several bagubagu before hurling the statue over the side of the kingdom’s conquered castle. Now, seeing one for the first time — despite the fact that it was more or less artificial — Grappler could understand why the humans fancied them so much. The egg was a brilliant crimson color — he briefly supposed other eggs came in different hues, but he found the red most appealing — and it seemed to sparkle in the darkness regardless of the room’s extreme lack of sufficient lighting. The egg was translucent and looked more like a gemstone at first glance, throwing Grappler Gouf for a loop as to how it could have hosted any beast — never mind a giant bagubagu — within its depths. The egg was a curious thing as well as fascinating.
Nightingale made a face, responding to Commander Sazabi’s previous comments. « Towards Gundams or us?« 
« Both, rather unfortunately, » he started dully, « but we can deactivate it remotely if it appears as though it tries to turn on us. » The Magna Musai commander expertly twirled the spherical stone within his fingers with an elegance that was highly reminiscent of a predator. He stared critically at the crimson egg with a calculating silence before resuming. « If our plan works to perfection however, there won’t be an opportunity for it to turn against us. Gerbera plans for this egg to animate and hatch into the giant bagubagu at the refugee camp for Lacroa’s organic resistance. The brute would make short work of your remaining enemies there. Even with the slight risk we run of whoever delivers the egg themselves getting potentially attacked, the bagubagu’s instincts will take over and it will be too preoccupied with the organics to care for any measly automatons. »
Commander Nightingale nodded. « Excellent then. » She reached her hand out to take the egg.
Sazabi quickly snatched back his hand with the egg as though he had been nearly burned, holding it suspended away from Nightingale’s prying reach. « Not a wise idea. Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve been saying so far? »
Nightingale seemed to be loosing her patience. She narrowed her optic. « What’s the matter? Afraid I’ll drop it? » She laughed mockingly at that, but there was no mistaking the malevolent irritation in her voice. The invasion to Lacroa had been hers after all, and Sazabi’s interference was partially unwanted as it was.
The Magna Musai commander’s optic brightened and he showed her the egg again. « Has it ever occurred to you why this egg doesn’t hatch now, and why I’ve implied that it will once it’s delivered to the refugee mage camp? The hatching process is activated in the presence of Mana, the « magic » energy force of Lacroa. »
« I don’t possess Mana. »
« No, but you’ve been in the presence of it long enough to undoubtedly set off the hatching anyways. Being in possession of a strong sense of self preservation for myself, my crew, and my office space, you’d have to pry this egg from my cold dead hands before I let you touch it. » He suddenly leaned forward in his seat, his expression going from grim to humorous. « But feel free to take it once you’re off the Magna Musai. I’m sure you’d be a wonderful guinea pig to test its hostility towards sentient mechanisms. »
Nightingale, although not happy about it, receded and drew her hand away. « How do you plan on delivering the egg to the refugee camp, then? None of your crew knows where the humans have been settling, and even we’ve been having trouble tracking their movements. In the name of the Pitt, how do you plan on finding them where we failed? »
Commander Sazabi looked over his shoulder. « Zapper Zaku? »
That was when the figure who had been standing in the darkness to Commander Sazabi’s left moved forward at attention. He was huge. He was not nearly as big in the same manner Sazabi was, true, but his form was still hulking in comparison to Grappler’s own nevertheless. His left shoulder was adorned with black and yellow striped spikes and straddled against his right shoulder was a huge gattling gun that was at least two heads taller than him when standing from the ground up in a vertical position. His armor plating was heavy, signaling that he was either very skilled at close combat or better suited for shootout scuffles. Grappler honestly thought that he was more than likely skilled at both. His movements were slow, deliberate, and his optic flared a shade darker than Gouf’s own. His gaze was just as piercing as it was calculating but, unlike Commander Sazabi, there was the definite fire of a warrior’s passion concealed behind the optical glass. Aside from the look gleaming within his eye and the fact that the vents on his face were a uniquely styled vertical instead of the standard horizontal, one of his most defining features was the knight styled visor resting on his forehead just below the place where his commander fin jutted out of his plating.
Grappler’s fuel pump randomly fluttered and his engine felt as if it was about to stall. He almost choked on his own air intake, but managed to lightly cough to cover it up. No one seemed to notice his newfound discomfort.
Zapper Zaku addressed his commander. His tone was rough and gravely with a deep register, at least an entire octave lower than Grappler’s own voice. « Commander, sir? »
Commander Sazabi turned his head to address his squadron leader. « Seeing as this particular cargo is far too valuable for our troops to wield, I’ll leave it in your care for the meantime. » He placed the egg back in its carrier box and handed it to his squad leader.
Zapper Zaku took it and quickly subspaced the package before saluting. « Thank you, sir. »
The head of the Magna Musai waved him off. He turned his attentions back to Nightingale. Zapper Zaku looked up with him.
He met his optic with Grappler.
The cobalt squad leader felt that strange sensation return to his chest, but there was no coughing fit this time. Instead, he almost unwilling found himself deadlocked in a staring match with the other squad leader. Zapper Zaku momentarily looked caught off guard. His optic flashed and his visage faltered to a softened expression of what looked to be a combination of profound bewilderment and intense puzzlement. Grappler imagined that his own expression was similar. Out of the corner of his vision, he saw Zako Black glance at him once before turning away. He could have cared less for the Zakorello Color Guard agent, but Nightmare’s sideways glance was enough to snap Gouf out of his daze. He looked away, breaking optical contact with Zapper Zaku. The other mech seemed to follow Grappler’s example hastily.
Nightingale scoffed. « You’re assigning your squadron leader to deliver the egg? Are you forgetting that this is my invasion, Commander Sazabi? You have no–« 
« I have every jurisdiction to do as I please here, » Commander Sazabi quickly snapped. « In case you’re forgetting Nightingale, I am the head commander of the Dark Axis invasion force. I therefore also have the power and right to intervene with any other Dark Axis invasion, regardless as to whether or not it is my own or if I have been hailed to do so. » He scowled, optic glowing with a threatening malice. « If you have anything to object, I suggest you report to General Zeong and express your disdain to him yourself.« 
The prospect of dealing with the General immediately shut the head of the Shadow Musai up. Nightingale conceding did not go in vain however. She glared spitefully at Commander Sazabi when she spoke next. « Fine then, but I’m sending my own squad leader with yours. Grappler Gouf? »
Grappler snapped to attention before she could finish pronouncing his name. « Commander, ma’am. »
She addressed him sternly. « Prepare for immediate departure. You will aid Zapper Zaku in delivering the spirit egg to the human resistance camp. »
« Yes ma’am. »
With that, both Commander Sazabi and Commander Nightingale forced both squadron leaders and the two Zakorello Color Guard members out of the office to continue their meeting in private for sometime longer. Zako Red and Zako Black waited outside the office like obedient guards while Zapper Zaku and Grappler Gouf silently moved across the ship back to the hanger bay to await deployment. No escorts met up with them that time around.
Zapper Zaku spoke up, addressing him for the first time. « Youngest squadron leader I ever met, » he mused in a light drawl, undoubtedly trying to make conversation. He turned his head to look at Grappler Gouf with a questioning expression o genuine curiosity. « You new? »
« I’ve been a squad leader for two stellar cycles, » he replied said, falling into routine with the flow of their conversing. Zapper Zaku walked slightly slower than he did, and he kept his own pace unconsciously slow to keep in step with him. « You? »
« Three, » he said. Then, « How old are you, anyways? »
Grappler told him. « What about you? »
« Add ten years. »
An almost uncomfortable silence overcame the both of them. Grappler tried to think of something to say as they made a familiar turn. The cobalt mech could see the hangar entrance and several of the Zakos outside the chamber caught sight of them and scampered in.
One of the Zakos ran up to both squad leaders and saluted. « Lord Grappler Gouf. Zapper Zaku. »
Zapper Zaku saluted back. « Red, status report. »
Surprisingly, Red seemed even more laid back around Zapper Zaku than he had been around Grappler. The Zako threw his thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the hangar. « Weapons and ammunition re-supply to the Black Musai Horn of War is almost complete, sempai. Do you want us to start shipping the extra bagubagu canisters over as well? »
« Negative soldier, » Zapper Zaku said. « Those can be sent back to the Hellwise Musai. We won’t need them. There’s been a slight change of plans… get the boys from the armory to bring up my machine guns and extra magazines. I also want two ground parties set up. One is going to find the Gundam resistance camp while the second looks for the human civilian refugee camp. The group looking for the knights won’t engage them, but call up the Magna Musai instead and give them the coordinates so the cannons can take them out instead. The unit going after the civilian camp… » Zapper Zaku grinned with menace. « Go nuts. »
Red laughed a bright, very cheerful cackle. The Zako soldier was very obviously close to Zapper Zaku on a personal level, and it occurred to Gouf that that was also more probable than not to be the case with the rest of the Magna Musai’s troops. « What about you? »
« Lord Grappler Gouf of the Black Musai and I are going to find the mages’ main camp to release our secret weapon, » he said.
The soldier, Red, saluted. « Yes sir. »
Slightly unnerved that Zapper Zaku had more or less taken over his operation, he felt obligated to turn to address him. He offered to merge his own troops with Zapper’s own and the other mech steadily agreed.
That was how it all started.
While Grappler Gouf returned to the Black Musai Horn of War to retrieve his weapons for his and his new temporary partner’s mission, he could not help but continue reminiscing about him. It was absolutely maddening. Even when Grappler finally made it to the darkness of his own room to fetch his favorite weapon attachment — he wielded his grappler claw while he holstered his rocket launcher away, confident he would not need the nuclear warhead anyways — all he could see in the darkness of his otherwise barren quarters was the indistinct silhouette of Zapper Zaku. He was not actually physically present, no, but he was there in Grappler’s mindset mentally. That bothered the cobalt mech a great deal. He couldn’t exactly understand why he couldn’t stop thinking about the other warrior, but he could not deny the feelings that brewed up inside of him whenever he laid his optic on the other mech.
Oh, he was certainly going to have some fun with Zapper Zaku on their mission for sure.
Fin