A fighter raced across an arid landscape at high speeds. Smoke erupted from the rocket boosters strapped onto the frame and propelled the craft at speeds higher then it would normally be able to reach. Mounted under each wing closest to the main frame where two massive containers that housed Heavy Claymore, steel ball launchers. On the outer hard points where mounted micro missile launchers.

The pilot slowly moved the control stick and the pedals and caused the fighter to steadily move out of the way of a stream of machine gun fire from a pursuing fighter which was also outfitted with external rockets for added thrust as well.

As the first fighter dodged the fire the panels on the rear of the rocket mounted on the back of the fighter burst off the fighter accelerated up to over mach four. The pursuing fighter triggered his back mounted rocket and gave chase. However at these speeds machine guns, and even missiles, where rendered useless.

The pilot worked the controls of his fighter gently to make the machine move about steadily to make it harder for his opponents computer to lock onto him. His opponent tried to counter which only caused two long smoke trails to snake across the wasteland towards a battle field.

As they sped into the battle zone some friendly fire forced the pilot's opponent to eject his rockets and pull away letting the pilot speed ahead towards the frontline. As he sped over the friendly lines he watched as the massive Armour Slaves battle the enemies own AS units with varying weapons based on the pilots preferences.

The pilot's radio burst to life as an annoyed older woman shouted, "Damn it Zack! Where have you been? Get rid of those Linear Artillery! They have us pinned down!"

Zack laughed quietly then replied, "Copy that ma'am! Making my only needed run now."

The young pilot pulled back the accelerator and then reached to the button labelled with the boosters. The rockets burst off the air frame of the fighter as the targeting system awoke and began to target anything in the weapons range and area of effect.

Zack smirked as he closed in on the Linear Artillery's line and opened fire with the fighter's 40mm Vulcan chain gun, micro missiles and the Heavy Claymore Steel ball launchers. The effect was devastating. Any AS in the way was shredded by the steel balls, personal where cut down by the Vulcan gun and anything else was swarmed by the micro missiles.

The entire line was wiped out on a single pass…

The fighter pulled around and ejected the now empty Heavy Claymores and micro missile launchers before shooting off at high speeds. A massive AS armed with a huge sword and a linear cannon as well as a missile box on the shoulder stepped into the carnage and the pilot commented, "Nice work Zack. That makes things easier."

Zack smirked as his commander said that, "Thanks! How about you-"

"Not a chance." His commander cut off his sentence.

He grinned and laughed, "Ah well… worth a shot!"

Zack smiled as he watched his comrades and their employer's forces march towards the enemy base and open fire on the outer walls. His attention was drawn back towards the skies as a lock on alarm blared in his cockpit, "Shit!" he grunted as he thrust the accelerator as forward as he knew his SF-29 Vulture could handle and gripped the stick tightly in his right hand as he pulled it back and released several flares.

His eyes and head roamed all around his fighter's canopy as he growled "Come on! Where the hell are you?!" as he twisted and turned in the air dangerously. Suddenly his eyes landed on a jet black Zeta Union fighter, a ZF-7 Lancer, with insignia known to all Earth affiliated groups. The plane was piloted by the feared, Black Death of Endymion Crater.

The target designator in his helmet placed a tag on the Black Death, also known as Sin Fuhrer, and Zack growled, "Alright Sin! Let's go!" The verniers on Zack's Vulture erupted to life as he spiralled after Sin's Lancer and the two began to weave around each other in an attempt to shoot the other down. Several time's the two came so close they could see each other through their canopies.

Zack wore a white, blue and red flight suit and helmet. His yellow eyes never left Sin for a moment as his lithe yet powerful body pushed his machine as the two pilots duelled.

Sin smirked at his opponent with his eyes covered by his mask that never left his head, even going so far as never wearing a helmet in battle. His opponent was skilled and experienced enough to not make himself an easy target, however Sin was the better pilot.

The younger pilot, Zack, grunted as Sin zeroed in on his six and pushed both pedals down while slamming the stick down at the same time. His Vulture's nose flew up making the plane fly at an angle and slowing down giving Sin no time to shoot.

"A Cobra Manoeuvre? Impressive… let's see how long you can maintain it…" Sin laughed as he copied the manoeuvre as he came alongside the other plane. Zack glared daggers at the other pilot for a second before grinning broadly, surprising the older pilot.

Zack suddenly slammed on the after burners while wrenching back the stick and flinging himself underneath Sin's Lancer and opened fire with his Vulcan cannons. The Black Death nimbly avoided the fire and disappeared in the sun's glare.

"Well now, this has been amusing. However it is time to end this!" Sin roared as he suddenly flew down behind Zack and opened fire. The depleted uranium rounds tore the fighter's armour to shreds and Zack barely managed to pull the ejection lever before his fighter erupted into flames.

Cosmic Age 128, Humanity has entered a new era as they have begun to spread into space. Massive space colonies have been constructed at the five Lagrange points around the Earth as well as colonies on the moon and hundreds of Asteroids are transported to Earth orbit to serve as resource satellites.

The Earth and Space are divided into many nations. Earth is split into the ruthless and oppressive Pacific Union, consisting of the former nations of Canada, the USA and Mexico, the Oceania Union, consisting or former Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines, The Eurasian Confederacy, consisting of former Europe, west Russia and northern Africa, The United Asian Republics, consisting of all of East Asia, The Socialist Republics of South America, and Samzeed Empire in southern Africa.

Space is divided into the Earth Sphere Alliance who control the Earth, the Moon, the resource satellite turned military stronghold Luna 3 and the newly constructed L3 colonies, The Zeta Union who originally only had the L2 colonies but now controls the L4 and L5 colonies clusters as well, the only other remaining force in space is the neutral nation aligned to the Earth's Oceania Union, the Helios Alliance at the L1 Colony Cluster.

On February 11th of Cosmic Age 128 the Zeta Union declared war on the Earth Sphere and quickly conquered the L4 and L5 Colonies Clusters using mass produced war machines called Armour Slaves. Up until that day Armour Slaved had only been produced in limited numbers and heavily customized by their pilots. The Zeta Union unleashed millions of standardized Armour Slaves that quickly overwhelmed the Earth's AS units.

Earth is losing the war and only the sheer number of soldiers the Earth Forces are fielding is holding back the relentless Zeta Union armies. It is now July of CA 128 and not a sole could imagine that in just a few days the tide of the war will shift…

Zack groaned as he slowly opened his yellow eyes. The bright white light of the hospital room was glaring painfully into his retinas and he squeezed his eyes shut and tried to lift his hand to shield them from the burning light only to find he didn't have the strength to lift his arm. A voice next to him laughed, "You'd think you'd learn how to not get shot down after the thirteenth time, don't you think?"

"Hardy freaking ha, Sumika, hardy freaking ha." Zack grunted back from where he lay on the soft white sheets of the hospital bed. His soft medium length black hair with blonde streaks flowed down his head and onto the white pillow as he regained his ability to move and brought his hand up over his eyes at last, "Why is the light so bright?" He asked.

"Probably a result of the concussion you received when a gust of wind caught your parachute and slammed you into my AS." Sumika shrugged as if she didn't care.

"No wonder I have a headache…" He replied and touched his forehead finding a bandage wrapped around it. He must have really slammed into that machine pretty hard.

Zack blinked as he felt Sumika's feminine, yet callused, hand on his shoulder, "You rest up, kiddo." She said in a soft, caring voice almost totally unlike her normal self, "We have an important mission we need you for in a day or so." With that Zack's friend and mentor stood and left the hospital wing of the Beowulf Mercenary Company's battleship, Hyperion.

Three days later the Hyperion docked with the Elpis Colony in the L3 Cluster and several crew members began to disembark. As they floated out of the airlock towards the hatch leading into the colony they where followed by the suddenly cry of, "WHEEEEE!!!" as Zack shot past them in his white and red flight suit leaving his comrades baffled.

Sumika, in her red and black flight suit, simply shrugged, "It's his first time in Zero Gravity." She commented as explanation.

Several minutes later the group had changed into casual clothing while Zack kept his flight suit on hand in a briefcase as part of the mission. He wore a white t-shirt along with green camo cargo pants, an open red vest and brown boots. He completed the outfit with a pair of fingerless black gloves.

Sumika walked up next to her younger team mate and smirked. She was wearing a pair of black form fitting jeans, black boots and a red and black jacket as he long dark hair fell down her back in a pony tail. She laughed at the grin Zack was pulling and commented, "For someone who is a third generation space born you haven't seen much of the colonies have you, Kiddo?"

Zack rubbed the back of his head and laughed, "Come on, Sumika… My folks moved to Australia shortly after I was born. And you know how I love seeing new things!"

Sumika just rolled her eyes as the automated electric car rolled to a stop in front of the collective Mercenaries and the whole team piled in, much to Sumika's displeasure. Being the only female on the team seemed to make her Zack's groping cushion all of a sudden as they sat down, she replied to his advances with an elbow to his forehead.

As the car started driving to their destination Zack pulled out his digital note pad and brought up the file on their mission to review it quietly. Noticing this Sumika simply smiled, Zack may act immature most of the time but he always took his job seriously. Even when he messed around in the heat of battle his mind would be on his objective and he'd ensure he succeeded.

The young man's eyes scanned across the screen as he read through his mission. He was to be the newest test pilot for an experimental Armour Slave that has never been successfully activated before. Apparently it was one of the oldest Armour Slaves in operation but over 90 of it systems remained untested. He came to a note on the report that recorded the previous pilots and noted all where dead except one, the last and his eyes shot open. "Sumika…? Why is your name listed as this machine's last pilot?" He asked quietly.

Sumika blinked, "What's the serial number?" She had only piloted a few machines in her time and for the life of her she couldn't understand why her name came up.

"Let's see…" Zack replied as he scrolled back up the report and spotted the number in question, "Here we are, AS-X01, it's called Astray Genesis according to the report…" He looked over at Sumika and was shocked at her reaction.

The elder woman was staring at Zack with hide terrified eyes as the colour drained from her face and her breath quickened. Slowly she started to shake her head and quickly buried her face in her hands as her entire body began to tremble. After that she refused to speak to anyone for the rest of the trip to the compound the Armour Slave was stored in.

As the team approached the door they where greeted by a middle aged man wearing a long white lab coat, a light blue dress shirt and dark blue pants along with shiny black shoes. His grey hair was neatly combed and his sharp brown eyes watched the team approach through gold rimmed round glasses.

He greeted them with a smile that Zack could only call evil and said, "Ah, I welcome you all to my Lap. My name is Professor Amadeus Lloyd, I'm sure we will all get along quite well." He grinned as he looked over at Zack, "So you're the young pilot, such a pleasure to meet you." He took the young mans hand and shook it firmly.

Amadeus glanced over the rest of the group until his eyes fell over Sumika and he raised his hand to straighten his glasses as his face broke out into another evil grin. He spun on his heel and began to walk into the lab, "Come, let's not waste any time now!"

The team entered the compound and Zack changed into his flight uniform and entered the hanger room where the massive machine was stored. He looked up at the massive curtain hiding the Armour Slave from view. Amadeus stood beside the curtain and in a theatrical cry declared, "I present to you... The AS-X01 ASTRAY GENESIS!!!" He grabbed a cord and pulled, causing the curtain to collapse and lights to flick on putting the Armour Slave on display.

The machine stood barely under twenty metres and featured limited armour over a skeletal frame, totally unlike other Armour Slaves, with it's feet being formed by three toes, two at the front of the foot and one at the back. It's head featured two yellow eyes and a golden v-fin assembly white the armour was painted mostly white with the chest being blue and the sides of the torso painted red.

Sumika stumbled away from the machine in terror while Zack looked up at the machine quietly. He took a deep breath and looked over at Amadeus and deadpanned, "You seriously want me to pilot this piece of shit?"

Amadeus stared at Zack for a moment then spluttered, "W-What did you say?!"

Zack prepared to make a reply when something flashed within his mind and he roared, "EVERYONE GET DOWN!!!" He spun and threw up his arms as and explosion ripped the lab apart.

Smoke and dust cleared to reveal the team completely unharmed while the area behind them lay in ruins. Zack blinked and looked above and behind him to see something that shocked him. Kneeling protectively over them was the Astray Genesis Zack stood for a second before walking towards the open cockpit and grabbing the winch that began to pull him up.

Sumika ran over and screamed, "Zack! Wait! That thing… that thing will kill you!!" Zack looked back and saw the naked terror on her face and he smiled down at her.

"I can't explain it, Sumika, but I feel like… it wants me to pilot it." He explained with a strangely calm voice. Both Sumika and Amadeus stared at Zack in shock as the cockpit hatch closed. Zack's voice came from the machine and said, "Everyone, get to safety. I'll handle things around here." He looked over the controls and gripped them before moving them slightly.

As the massive machine stood Sumika and Amadeus gathered the rest of the team and began to run. The Astray Genesis' eyes flashed ominously as the fires and smoke caused it's body to appear as a black silhouette within their haze as a massive explosion rocked the facility.