Chapter 9

A New Day, A New Dawn

Three days had passed since the battle above Earth. The MS-Team had just begun to calm down and settle back into their usual lives. Rob was gone, and it was something that each of them had grappled with in their own way. Such was the way of an adaptable species like human beings. They keep on living, and adapt to any situation they need to in order to survive. The conference room of the MS-Team had been silent for three days. No one had been inside it even once since the battle. Though, there had been no real need. The rest of the UEC space fleet were arriving later today, and all the advance fleet had to do was hold their position until they got there. Everyone had expected a swift counter attack by the ESUF, but none had come. Things were eerily quiet.

Aboard the Silent Whisper, John and Amber were in the simulation room. "Ha!". John had taken the lead. They were competing to see who could score the most points, and stay alive the longest. It was a game, but both of them grunted with effort as they competed. They were taking it seriously. Rob had been more than their superior officer. He had been a friend to both of them. John fired another round into an enemy jet. It exploded, and his vision blurred as he remembered the night that they got back from the battle. After he had fallen asleep, someone had knocked on his door. He had pushed himself out of bed and gone to see who it was. It was Amber. She was dressed in her casual night clothes. A teddy bear face was sewn on the pocket. John remembered how surprised he had been seeing those clothes on her. He had almost laughed. He would have, had he not seen her face first. She had looked as if she was about to break down. John could tell that she was using the last of her will power to keep from crying. "What's wrong, Amber?", he had wanted to reach out and touch her arm. "About today.. there was nothing anyone could have done.. right?". Her words broke his heart. He knew what she was going through. He felt the same way. He felt that he should have been able to save him. He should have been able to stop that from happening. "Not as we are now. We did all we could. Right?". The two of them had looked at each other for a few seconds. Amber had started to move closer to him, but then she had looked away. John thought he had seen her eyes shining as tears welled up. "We'll just have to get stronger. So we can protect those close to us". He remembered her expression so vividly as Amber looked up at him. Her eyes widened as she stared into his with new life and fire. A smile formed on her lips a moment later and she wiped her eyes. "Ya. Lets get stronger. We'll protect those close to us".

His cockpit shook as a shell hit his leg. Suddenly shaken from his thoughts, John pulled the trigger again, destroying the tank that had shot at him. He looked over at Amber's mobile suit in the simulation. She sped over the top of a hill, gliding along the ground like he had shown her. She reached the top, and plunged her dagger into the top of a tank, immediately spinning to shoot another a short distance away. He smiled. "There you go!", he commented as he ran off in the opposite direction. "What are you so happy about?", she teased him. "I just took the lead back". John thought she sounded happy. "We'll see about that!". John's thoughts began to wander again as he moved off toward another group of enemies. He thought about how easy it was getting to pull the trigger. He no longer felt sick when he watched his enemies explode into nothingness. "What's happening to me?..", he wondered as he waded into another group of simulated enemies.

Meanwhile, in the cafeteria, Mike and Eve were eating lunch together. The rest of the squad watched them from a distance with playful glances. This was prime "pick on the captain" material. "What do you think they're talking about?", one asked. "I don't know, but I heard that they had lunch together yesterday as well". "Hey.. don't you guys think they look pretty good together?". They all turned to look at the two of them again. The ever cheerful Eve, with her big smiles and outgoing personality was a perfect compliment to the tough and big captain, Mike.

A short distance from them at a nearby table, Villeta and Ema were also enjoying lunch. The two of them had become recognized as the squad's best sharpshooters since the last battle. No one else even came close to their skill. They sat silently, only exchanging light pleasantries when etiquette demanded it. Every movement they made was no more, and no less, than what was needed to perform the act of eating their lunches. It was like clockwork. A pair of crewman walked up with their lunches, holding them out in front of them as if they wanted to sit down. "How would you two lovely ladies like to eat lunch with a couple real men?". Ema flatly ignored them. She closed her eyes, and continued eating, not caring to even hide the fact that she was ignoring them. Villeta giggled. She had always assumed Ema was the most polite member of the squad. She had always carried herself as if she were a princess. Now to see her rudely ignoring people, it was all Villeta could do to keep from laughing out loud. "Hey, we're talking to you", one of them men protested sharply. Villeta stopped giggling, and fixed the man with a cold glare. "Get lost. We're not biting. Go sit over there". Her words were demanding, and rang with authority. The men both looked at each other, and walked away slowly to eat somewhere else. After they had gone, Villeta looked at Ema. Ema opened one eye and looked over at Villeta. The two were as silent as they had been for a few seconds, before a rare smile spread across Villeta's lips. The two broke into a happy laughter. "I can't believe they actually called themselves 'real men'", Ema chuckled as she ate. Villeta laughed loudly, rocking back and forth.

The hours passed in peace. There was no sign of the enemy, and no sign of the UEC fleet. John sat at the large view port at the end of the pilot quarters corridor. The Earth was beautiful. He had not had the chance to truly admire it during the battle before, but he had taken every opportunity to see it since then. A few hundred years ago, all of humanity lived on Earth. John rested his arm on his knee as he watched the white clouds twist and spread across the planet, obscuring his view of the land beneath. "I wonder what it was like to live there". He looked over, and saw Amber standing next to him. She smiled at him, then looked back at the Earth outside the view port. John laughed. "What?", she asked as she puffed out her cheeks. John put his hands up as he shrunk away from her, still laughing. "It's funny", he said to calm her. "I was thinking the same thing when you said that". Her face relaxed into a smile. She looked back at the Earth, and John thought her cheeks looked as red as her hair.

Finally, the silhouettes of the UEC space fleet appeared on the radar of the Silent Whisper. When they arrived, an announcement came over the ship communication system instructing all personnel to assemble. The MS-Team had been told what to do in advance, and stood at the front of the assembly in their military uniforms. They were truly a sight for the rest of the UEC to behold. They were eleven strong, having only one casualty since the war began. Their reputation was already being spread around the colonies as a ray of hope in the war. At the head of the assembly, on a stage overlooking the entire crew of the Silent Whisper, the head of the fleet was a truly imposing sight. He was an old man with a fierce look about him. He wore a white eye patch over his right eye, and his uniform hat was two sizes too big.

He cleared his throat as he prepared to address them. "For your efforts against the ESUF thus far, all of you should be commended. You fought bravely and managed to secure this area from our enemy". His eyes fell on each member of MS-Team, causing them all to straighten with pride. "Because of this, I felt that I should be the one to give these orders to you, the crew of the Silent Whisper". John's eyes narrowed in determination. "Orders? I'm ready". The head of the UEC fleet continued. "Shortly, this ship will be leading the assault on Earth. I have little doubt that ESUF forces will attempt to interfere with both the initial assault, and your real mission". He paused as he gathered his thoughts. "It is with the utmost belief in all of your abilities, that I assign this ship, and her crew, with the mission to set up a forward operations base on Earth". There was an unheard gasp from the entire crew as they heard their suicide mission. The MS-Team, standing at attention in the front, made neither sound nor movement. They stood absolutely still, expressionless as they listened to their orders. Mike was immensely proud of all of them. He looked over at them. They looked like a real military unit. The head of the fleet let news of their mission set in before finishing his speech. "All of you have performed admirably in this war, but we have not won yet. The outcome of your next mission will no doubt determine the course of events to come. I wish you all Godspeed".

After the assembly broke up, Mike called everyone into the conference room. Everyone, still wearing their military uniforms, gathered together in the back of the room. Mike stood at the front of the room, looking every bit the captain that he was in his uniform. "It looks like we have our work cut out for us on this next operation. In truth, I already knew of this plan, and gave my support". Mike's eyes traveled to each of them, but hovered when they met with Eve's. On the outside, Eve stood at attention with the rest of the squad, but when he looked in her eyes, he could tell that she was both scared and sad. He gave her a subtle nod. She was stronger than the others gave her credit for. "I'm sure you all can see the military and strategic importance of a base on Earth". No one made a sound, their eyes were fixated on their captain. "We'll be landing in Eurasia, and setting up a base in the old Italian foothills". As he spoke, he pointed to the location on a map of the area. "The terrain is perfect, and we'll be on the sea to control the waterways". He paused again, expecting some kind of response from them. "As you are all aware, this will not be easy". John stepped to the front of the group and raised his hand. Mike lifted his hand toward John, allowing him to speak. John looked at everyone before speaking. "I understand the significance of this mission, sir, but what kind of plan could we come up with that will account for everything that might happen when we get down there?". Mike nodded. It was a sound question, and one that he would have expected Rob to ask if he were still here. He raised his eyes from the map on the table, and looked at John. Where once had been a kid who thought the mobile suits were nothing but toys and games, now stood a military man. He sighed, knowing that no one was going to like his answer. "I was wondering the same thing. We'll be carrying out this mission with only one other ship from the fleet. At least they have a few mobile suits, and pilots to fly them". It was not the answer John had been looking for. It was a suicide mission after all.