Everything Under The Sun... And Then Some!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do You Remember Macross? Part 1

This is the first movie, TV or anime review I've done and I hope it will be the first of many. I hope you find it insightful and will make you want to watch Macross. It's on Hulu, just so you know.

Do You Remember Macross?
Part 1

The 1980’s and 90’s rocked so hard. Having grown up in the 90’s I may be a little biased but think about it just for a second. Ever since 2001, the world has kinda sucked. The point I’m trying to get at is that we had a lot of good stuff that came out in that 20 year period. Just to name a few things: The Empire Strikes Back, MacGyver, Transformers, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, new Gundam shows, Home Improvement, Family Matters, Sonic the Hedgehog, Return of the Jedi, Van Halen, Top Gun, and let’s not forget Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. I say all this because I just finished watching what I believe to be one of the gems of the 1980’s, an anime series from Japan called Super Dimension Fortress Macross, better known here in the States as the first third of the 1985 Saturday morning series Robotech.

Macross was released in 1982 and is usually considered a franchise second only to Gundam in terms of popularity and impact on the pop culture of Japan. It expanded the terms of the real-robot sub-genre of anime that Gundam had pioneered and made it even more ‘realistic’ in that the pilots all fly the same damn mech and the only deciding factor is who’s plot-armor is thickest. If you had to boil down Macross to something that most other people could understand then I would unequivocally say that Macross is Top Gun meets Batttlestar: Galactica meets Transformers with a dash of Star Wars thrown in for flavoring. I don’t want to write out the whole story of Macross so I’ll just go with the basics. It’s a long series after all.
Macross’ story was a little convoluted by the time it got to TV. Most full-length anime series are around 50 episodes or so (unless they’re based on an ongoing manga then who knows how long it could take them. Bleach is up to 310 episodes and counting). Macross was originally scheduled to be 39 episodes but was then cut down to 26. At the eleventh hour it was lengthened to a final 36 episodes. The basic story begins in the year 1999 (remember that it was 1982 when the series premiered) with a massive 1200 meter alien spaceship crash-landing on South Ataria Island in the Pacific Ocean. This ignites a chain of events that leads to the formation of a world government and a massive project to rebuild and restore the alien ship. One of the first things that is noticed about this mysterious ship is that it is built for war. Naturally, the military immediately begins to reverse engineer the technology and is able to produce Macross’ signature transformable fighter planes, the VF-1 Valkyries. These fighters are not only deadly warbirds but they can transform into a humanoid combat form called Battroid Mode and an in-between form called GERWALK Mode. The reason for this is shown later in the series.
Fast forward to 2009. A large city has been built up around the newly christened SDF-1 Macross and the people are celebrating its imminent launch. Here we are introduced to many of the principal cast including stunt pilot Hikaru Ichijyo, Major Roy Focker, Captain Bruno Global, Lts. Misa Hayase and Claudia LaSalle and bridge operators Vanessa, Kim and Shammy. Also we are introduced to civilian girl Lyn Minmei, who will become very important later on. One thing to remember here is that many of the Japanese names were changed to American sounding ones for Robotech (for example Misa Hayase became Lisa Hayes; my family name rocks so hard). Anyway, the launch of the Macross is rudely interrupted when the systems detect alien warships de-folding near the moon. The Macross’ massive main gun opens fire. Now this is one frakkin’ A gun! It shoots across the earth’s surface and then hits the warships which are still thousands of miles from Earth, unintentionally igniting humanity’s first interstellar war. The Macross launches and after some false starts manage to get into the air. But with a massive alien fleet coming to say hi, Captain Global orders that the ship initiate a space fold (Macross’ version of FTL travel). The consequences of using this still misunderstood technology are immediately made apparent. The Macross does lead the aliens away from Earth, but instead of arriving near the moon, they arrive in the orbit of Pluto… along with every bit of South Ataria island and a huge chunk of the ocean surrounding it. Luckily for the civilians they were in shelters when that happened. The civilians are brought on board, all 56,000 of them (it’s a big ship remember) and they reconstruct Macross City inside the ship. The Macross then sets out on its long journey home. Along the way, Hikaru and Minmei are accidentally trapped in the bowels of the ship for 12 days after he saves her, igniting the start of the other thing that Macross is famous for… love triangles. But more on that later.
Now you might expect that a good chunk of the show would be spent with the Macross travelling back to Earth the slow way, but it’s not. There’s some nice exposition here and you have to remember that a lot of events in the series got compressed. You begin to learn about the aliens, which are called the Zentradi. They actually look very human with one not-so-small exception: The average Zentradi is TEN METERS TALL. That’s why the fighters have to transform into humanoid Battroid Mode. The Zentradi are portrayed from the start as a warrior race but only later do we really learn the extent of that. Several Zentradi characters that we are introduced to include one-eyed fleet commander Vriltwhai (pronounced bree-tye), his Archivist Exsedol and the blood-thirsty warrior Quamzin. At one point Hikaru, Misa and one of Hikaru’s pilots, Kakizaki are captured by the Zentradi and taken to their main fleet, which we learn is roughly 5,000,000 ships strong. Further surprises are in store as we begin to learn more about the Zentradi. The Zentradi are all about war. It’s all they do, day in and day out. They have no concepts of ANYTHING else. They can’t even fix their own ships properly because there are no engineers. They have no entertainment, no luxuries, no games and no romance. The very concept is foreign to them as male and female Zentradi are strictly separated and it is a crime punishable by execution for a member of one sex to communicate with a member of the opposite sex without authorization. This leads to a highly amusing scene where one Zentradi demands that the humans demonstrate the concept of romance and then completely freak out when Hikaru and Misa kiss. The Zentradi commander calls the act ‘proto-culture’ which will become important later on. Later, thanks to one of Hikaru’s other pilots Max Jenius, they are able to escape the Zentradi and return to the Macross.
The Macross eventually makes it back to earth but the reception isn’t so warm. The admirals and politicians have thrown them to the wolves so that they can buy time to organize a counter-offensive and be able to fire their Grand Cannon, an energy weapon similar to the Macross’ main gun but on a planetary scale. They completely ignore the reports of Misa and Captain Global and proceed with their plans, which of course don’t work out and just make trouble for everyone else. The Macross tries to find shelter for the civilians on Earth but after an unfortunate incident with their prototype barriers system, they are forced to leave Earth. By now though, Zentradi spies have brought examples of human culture back to the fleet and culture shock slowly permeates its way through the Zentradi soldiers. The effect is comparable to a blind man suddenly being able to see as the Zentradi realize that there is more to life than fighting and dying. It gets to the point where many of them don’t even want to attack the Macross and some even defect to the ship. Unfortunately this just makes the Zentradi main command move humanity to the number one slot on their ZOINKS list and bring in the whole five million ship fleet.
Here’s where things get interesting. The Zentradi fleet commander Vrlitwhai realizes that his fleet is in danger of being destroyed as well because it has been infected with the ‘proto-culture’ and he is starting to become a little enamored with culture himself. In a surprise move, he joins up with the Macross, providing information that can help the beleaguered earth forces fight the Zentradi. Still it’s a five million strong fleet and even the UN Space Forces’ Grand Cannon only reduces that by 1/5. But, against the odds, the Macross manages to break through to the command ship, causing the rest of the Zentradi fleet to scatter. The day is won, but at a terrible price. Before the Macross and Vrlitwhai’s forces were able to engage the main fleet, they were able to fire on Earth, wiping most of the surface and humanity. No exact figure is given, but fro the damage shown in later shows, it seems that somewhere between 90%-95% of the human population was wiped out.

This was supposed to be the end of the series but thanks to extension, the last nine episodes go into a post-war reconstruction arc. We rarely get this sort of thing; not even Gundam showed the immediate aftermath of the One Year War. The story picks up two years later and many of the refugee Zentradi who have been helping their Terran brethren rebuild earth have started to slip back into their old ways. This is good for Quamzin, one of the Zentradi commanders I mentioned earlier who seems to be almost immune to culture, gathers these rebels to fight against the terrans. Meanwhile many of the main characters are resolving their personal issues, including the love triangle between Hikaru, Misa and Minmei (more on that later) and now-Admiral Global realizes that the only way to ensure that humanity never faces extinction again is to spread themselves out among the stars. Quamzin eventually organizes the rebel Zentradi and they fix up a busted Zentradi warship, ironically using the techniques the humans taught them. They attempt to attack the Macross and the ship launches one last time along with Hikaru and the Valkyrie squadrons. Quamzin is defeated along with the bulk of the rebels, the humans initiate their plan to colonize the stars and a lot of personal plots are resolved… mostly.

This is mostly the story of Macross in a nutshell. I’m going to go into a few other things as I talk about the production of the series and the Characters I liked and hated but this is it. If I left anything out, don’t complain, go watch the show or read about on MAHQ.net.
As I mentioned before, it’s easy to get into this show because it has such a great story. There are characters you like, some you hate, the bad guys are classically bad (until they get culture) the good guys don’t spend a lot of time moralizing and oh-woe-is-me-ing and of course there’s dogfights galore and ACTUAL CHARCTER DEVELOPMENT. You don’t get a lot of this in many American TV shows. On American TV, character development will sometimes get spread out over the whole damn show and can be subject to, how do I say, illogic. This is one of the advantages of the way many animes do things. You only have, say 50 episodes for a character to mature, so if he or she is supposed to do that, they better damn well get their rears in gear!
There weren’t many things I actually didn’t like about the show and most of those things are a result of the way the series was compressed and uncompressed which no one has any control over. I would say that there weren’t very many opportunities to hate the villains of the story. Most of the named Zentradi characters end up on the good guys’ side and the ones who don’t aren’t really hate fodder. The ‘Final Boss’ Lord Bodole Zer, isn’t in the series much at all so you don’t care much about him although the fact that he orders the execution of humanity doesn’t exactly endear him to you. Quamzin is charismatic, making him a villain you LIKE to hate, not just outright hate. Then you also learn that the Zentradi were basically engineered to be what they are/were and it throws a sympathetic light onto them. No the one character I truly despise is a human and we’ll get to him in a minute.
Continued in Part 2

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Break The World

Episode 2: Shooting Stars

            The White Fang support fleet had slipped under the radars of the Alliance as they had entered the L3 colony cluster. They were here for a very specific mission, the objective of which was moving closer and closer to where they hovered in space. It was a large bell-shaped transport, specially configured for atmospheric re-entry.
On the bridge of one of the mobile suit transports, the White Fang commander observed the incoming ship.
“Open a channel. We shouldn’t keep Mister Barton waiting.”
The communications officer did just that and an image of a man in a normal suit with an opaque helmet visor appeared on the main screen of the bridge above its viewports.
“We are the White Fang support fleet that the Barton Foundation has dispatched to aid you. Operation: Meteor is already underway Mr. Barton, so we should proceed to the rendezvous…” the commander was cut off as the pilot of the transport said, “You’ve got the wrong guy.” Nothing further was said on either side as the transport fired a pair of beam guns mounted on its nose. Within moments, the support fleet had been destroyed and the transport sailed on.
Inside the transport, newly named Trowa Barton grimaced slightly.
Operation: Meteor has already begun has it? Then a colony is being dropped right now.
Trowa quickly checked the course that had been pre-programmed into his computer.
So it’s from L5? That’s not good; by the time I get there it may be too late to stop it. He paused for a moment, considering his actions.
Freedom for the colonies cannot be purchased with the blood of two billion innocents. Even if I can’t stop it, I have to try.

Many thousands of miles away, a large group of MS carriers and support ships broke out of Earth orbit and began to head on a course for the falling colony. One of the carriers had a much sleeker design than the others. Colored in deep blue, this carrier more resembled a space shuttle than the blocky constructions that flew alongside it. Onboard the blue carrier, a man in an ornate red uniform and a very unusual white mask that covered the entire top half of his head, read data from a computer tablet he held in a gloved hand. This man’s name was Lieutenant Colonel Zechs Marquise.
“Hmmm, the satellite surveillance folks are practically blind. By the time they noticed that A0206 was falling we barely had time to scramble a response brigade.”
“The Alliance is scrambling as many MS units as they can from the other LaGrange points though,” pointed out one of the soldiers who were piloting the carrier. Zechs grinned, the only sign, because of his mask, that he was amused.
“You haven’t seen the latest intel reports, the ones that I’m reading. Seems that the White Fang rebels have launched simultaneous assaults in all Lagrange points and even on the moon. We’re obviously dealing with a well-coordinated attack that has been in planning for a very long time. The Alliance is not going to look good after this.”
“Because of the propaganda that the White Fang are a bunch of uncoordinated terrorists?” responded Lieutenant Otto, the other pilot of the carrier-space plane.
“Exactly. It’s one of the reasons that no one on Earth ever takes what’s happening in space seriously. I’m sure that General Septum of the Alliance Space Forces is preparing his ‘I told you so’ speech right now.”
“Won’t be of much use if everyone on Earth is dead,” said the other Lieutenant.
“A little dramatic Lieutenant. One colony won’t utterly destroy the planet but nevertheless we’ll have to fight harder than ever before to bring it down. Is my Leo ready for use?” Both Otto and his fellow Lieutenant looked at Zechs in shock.
“Colonel, you aren’t serious are you? You’re going to lead the expeditionary force from the frontlines?” asked Otto. Zechs merely grinned again.
“You guessed it.”
“If you’re set on doing that Colonel, then you should take one of our Aquarius space mobile suits,” said Otto. Zechs grimaced slightly at that.
“My Leo will be just fine Lieutenant Otto,” he said in a slightly clipped tone. Zechs didn’t particularly care for the OZ-10SMS Aquarius space mobile suit. As the first space MS design that the OZ organization had built for the Alliance, it was a case study in learning what did and didn’t work out in space. The suit was mostly based on the OZ-07AMS Aries Aerial MS, but it eliminated the legs, making it more of a fighter than a mobile suit. With large engines it was fast and highly maneuverable, more so than the OZ-06MS Leo suits that had to have adapter packs installed to function in space. The problem with the Aquarius was that it couldn’t carry much in the way of weaponry, small beam rifles and missile launchers mainly, making it useful only for interception, hit-and-fade and scouting. The White Fang rebels had stolen dozens of them and they, along with the Alliance Space Force took great delight in throwing the Aquarius’ at one another, earning the pilots a reputation as suicidal kamikazes. Zechs much preferred the more balanced aspects of the Leo.
“Sir, we’re receiving a transmission from the other ships on what our orders are,” said the Lieutenant. Zechs grimaced even more.
“Likely looking for an excuse to complain about the command style of an OZ officer. Tell them just to keep heading for the colony.” Zechs turned around and left the cockpit, heading into the inner recesses of the carrier, to the mobile suit hangar. The hangar contained only three MS on this command ship, one Leo and two Aquarius. Zechs gazed up at his personal Leo, styled in his colors of white with red stripes.
This will be the turning point of the Alliance. The people of Earth will unite together to stop the threat from outer space. Even if we manage to stop A0206, the outrage that the White Fang would resort to such measures will be like a forest fire. I wonder how the colonies who aren’t aligned with White Fang will react?

Thanks to the continuing of colony A0206’s rotation, artificial gravity was being maintained. For the majority of the colony’s populace, it was life as usual. Of course everyone knew that the colony was falling to Earth but it just didn’t feel like it, unless one looked out a viewport. Master Long was contemplating a display screen that showed the colony’s approach with detailed readouts of velocity, altitude, attitude, etc. One of the clansmen approached him, bowed and said, “Preparations are complete Master.”
“Do they suspect?” responded the old master.
“No sir.”
“Good. Good. We will live with pride right until the very end. And no one, not the Alliance nor OZ nor these Barton Foundation deceivers will take it from us.” Wufei, I hope that you and Meilan can understand the course of action that we are about to take.

On the colony surface, Wufei waited patiently in the cockpit of the Shenlong. It was highly unlikely that the Alliance space forces would let the colony proceed unopposed so he was on standby for when some of their force showed up. He started slightly when his sensor warning went off but it was just one of the clan’s ‘appropriated’ OZ-06MS Leo suits, painted green with gold stripes. He knew without being told who was piloting it.
“Meilan, what are you doing out here in that suit?”
“I came to keep you company. It’s awfully lonely out here surrounded by the vastness of space, isn’t it?”
“Hmph, and I suppose if a battle starts you’ll just go back inside?”
“No! I forbid it! Take that suit back inside right now.”
“Come on Wufei, it would be just like in the legends. The noble warrior and his lady fighting side-by-side…” Meilan was cut off as she suddenly found the activated end of the Shenlong’s beam trident in her monitor.
“Listen woman! I cannot fight a battle and have you out here in a Leo at the same time! Go back.”
For a moment, Meilan was going to fire back an angry, scathing retort, but stopped before she did. Although she and Wufei had been married slightly less than a year, she had learned to read his intentions, especially when he didn’t voice them out loud. She’d found she’d always had a talent for that no matter who it was. She knew what Wufei was really saying was I am in a Gundanium mobile suit and you are not. I cannot worry about your safety and fight at the same time.
“Okay husband, you win.” She turned the Leo around and pulsed her thrusters, soaring away towards the airlock.
“This time,” she added. Wufei couldn’t help but smirk at that.
“Just what I’d expect from the woman brash enough to name herself after Nataku.” His musing was interrupted by an alarm from his sensor board. A display window opened up on his main monitors, showing a cluster of red dots moving towards the colony.
“They’re here.”
Meilan, who was floating gently towards the airlock, spared a final glance towards her husband’s mobile suit.
When the time comes I will fight beside you. I will do what I can to correct this. It’s bigger than clan and family honor Wufei, as much as I can’t believe I’m saying that.

The group of Alliance ships were almost to the point where they could launch their MS towards the colony. Onboard his carrier, Zechs was speaking to the captains and MS team leaders.
“So that is why our objective will be to destroy the colony’s fusion reactor. Hopefully the resulting explosion will cause the colony to break up and much of the damage that would have been done will be mitigated. Of course we will do our best to destroy any large remaining fragments. Prepare to sortie.” Zechs closed the connection and was preparing to leave when Otto called to him from the pilots’ seats at the front of the cockpit.
“Are you sure that you won’t wear a normal suit colonel?”
“Come now Otto. I have a reputation to uphold,” said Zechs with a slight smirk. Zechs Marquise was well known for conducting space ops without wearing a normal suit, what people called the pressurized space suits that all space travelers had worn since the dawn of manned space flight. It was generally considered suicide to fly in space, especially in combat, without one.
Zechs was about to leave for the hangar compartment when an alarm went off.
“What is it?” he asked
“We’re picking up multiple unfriendlies incoming. Looks like White Fang isn’t slow on the uptake. They really want this operation to succeed,” replied the other Lieutenant as he studied the readouts.
“Can they intercept us before we get to the colony?” asked Zechs.
“Unfortunately, yes,” replied the Lieutenant. Zechs smirked again.
“Then we’ll just have to cut our way through. The lives of countless hundreds of millions are riding on this.” Zechs Marquise would not admit that one of those lives was almost more important to him than life itself… and maybe one other. He left the command deck of the carrier, half-walked, half-floated into the hangar and climbed into his custom Leo. Armed with a standard beam rifle and a 250mm cannon (this is what I’m renaming the dober guns as. Dober doesn’t mean anything and I don’t know why they use it.), it would be a lethal opponent with Zechs at the controls. The rear of the carrier’s hangar split open and the three MS slid out and into open space. Without wasting a beat, Zechs fired his thrusters and soared out towards the oncoming battle.

Far away from the colony, Duo Maxwell’s carrier capsule flew towards the falling colony. He couldn’t really help it as that was the course programmed into the guidance computer. He couldn’t deny though, that something seemed to be drawing him towards the colony.
“Ah, what am I thinking? How the heck am I supposed to stop a gigantic thing like that? Well, the God of Death has never backed down from a fight before, why start right now?”
In the distance, he could see streaks and flares of light near the earth-facing side of the colony.
“Well, guess there’s no helping it now. They’ll probably come after me if I try to go past ‘em. Better get Deathscythe warmed up.”
What Duo, Zechs and everyone else was not aware of was that three other capsules were also making their way towards the colony. Aboard his capsule, the newly-named Heero Yuy kept his ship on a straight, unwavering course to his mission objective. Trowa Barton stared at the falling construct with a look of sadness and disappointment on his face. Quatre Raberba Winner couldn’t keep the shock from thrumming through his system at the sight. How could people be so inhuman as to believe that this course of action would bring peace to the colonies? And so it was that one young man already standing sentinel on the precipice of fate and four others who flew towards him drew closer to destiny.

Zechs had just destroyed his fifth suit of the engagement, all the while appearing completely relaxed, when he received a transmission from one of the team leaders.
“Sir, we’ve spotted three reentry transports heading for the colony!”
“Hmmm, reinforcements perhaps?”
“Possibly sir but the transports only look large enough for one or two suits. One of them appears to be some kind of space plane. It’s coming our way!”
Zechs rotated his suit and caught sight of the object. It definitely was shaped like a graceful bird, a perfect shape for a reentry vehicle. Zechs wasn’t sure how this fit into the White Fang’s plans but at this point everything that wasn’t on their side was an enemy.
“Shoot them down! Now!” he ordered. Suiting action to words he aimed his Leo’s beam rifle and fired off three shots. The other suits nearby fired their weapons as well but the plane kept taking the hits and kept coming.
“What the…” Zechs hissed as the plane zoomed past him, smoke trailing from the hits it had taken.
Aboard the transport, actually a shell for a very special mobile suit, pilot Heero Yuy calmly monitored the systems. He frowned as the computer informed him that the reentry shell was now pretty much useless, having been shot up by the enemy mobile suits. Only one option left now.
“Mission objective confirmed. Engaging the enemy to ensure operation success.”
Behind him, Zechs’ Leo took aim with the right arm-mounted 250mm cannon.
“This ought to wake you up a bit,” said Zechs as he pulled the trigger. The cannon belched forth two hypersonic rounds. They struck true, causing a large chunk of the plane to break off and sending it into a spin. Inside the cockpit, Heero grimaced and jabbed the button to eject the plane-shell. The remainder of his reentry shell glowed and then blew apart into a million fragments, revealing the full form of his machine’s flight form.
For his part, Zechs stared at the sight with equal parts fascination and trepidation. Just what was this new weapon that White Fang was fielding?
“All nearby units, be aware that the enemy has a new fighter-type weapon. Be careful.”
The fighter banked around (and don’t think it doesn’t take skill to bank in space!) and barreled straight towards the Leo and Aquarius suits which immediately opened fire on it. Heero tried to get a solid lock on the suits, but they were more maneuverable than him, one of the reasons why MS were so adept at space combat.
“Let’s see how they handle this,” he said grimly and pulled a control handle over his head. The nose of his fighter and the big gun that was attached to it broke off. The remaining body of the fighter broke off and unfolded itself. Arms reached out and grabbed the nose, which now served as a shield and the massive rifle. The plane now bore the form of a white, red, blue and gold mobile suit of familiar design. Zechs just stared at the newly transformed mobile suit, completely floored.
“It transformed into a mobile suit!” he gasped.
“Colonel Zechs, what kind of suit is that?” asked one of the other pilots.
“No idea,” he grunted back. I thought only the Alliance and OZ had the capability to build mobile suits? This is completely beyond anything I thought the White Fang capable of fielding.
“Colonel, it’s coming towards us!”
“Engage it but be careful!” Zechs replied. He would have joined his troops but a blast from an enemy Leo demanded his immediate attention. Turns out it was good that he didn’t try to attack the new suit. In his cockpit, Heero observed the incoming enemies… and smiled.
“Locked on target,” he said and pulled the trigger for his suit’s massive rifle. A gigantic burst of highly energized particles erupted from the gun’s barrel. The Alliance suits, unprepared for this massive assault were consumed. Zechs stared at the carnage in horror.
“He destroyed six suits in one shot? What is this monster?” He was about to engage it when another pilot called him.
“Sir, we’ve engaged an unidentified mobile suit above the colony!” Zechs spared a moment to look and was again shocked at what he saw. A white and blue mobile suit that looked an awful lot like the one now coming straight at him was engaging Alliance suits with some kind of beam saber-like weapon. Zechs didn’t have anymore time to worry about it as the first new suit fired its rifle at him.

A little ways away from the main engagement, Duo’s capsule coasted towards the colony. A group of Alliance MS soared towards it, guns blazing. The capsule took several hits and then exploded as the particle beams found vulnerable fuel tanks. The suits were about to turn about and head back to the main engagement when a dark form emerged from the smoke and vapor of the destroyed transport. A flash of green plasma arced over the suits and then the thing was in among them, slicing the hapless Alliance MS to ribbons. The resulting explosions revealed the form of Duo’s Deathscythe.
“You’ll all die. Anyone who sees me has got a date with his Maker,” said Duo with a grim smile as he took off towards the battling MS forces.
Nearby the same kind of event happened twice more. As Alliance MS approached one of the other capsules, it exploded of its own accord. From within the debris emerged an orange and white mobile suit that bore a very strong resemblance to the other strange mobile suits that had appeared on the battlefield just now. This one raised a massive gattling cannon mounted on its left arm and twin panels on its chest opened up, revealing a quartet of gattling guns mounted in the chest. The new suit opened fire, shredding all nearby MS. Inside the cockpit, Trowa Barton frowned slightly and then thrusted his suit, the Heavyarms, towards the rest of the engagement.
At the same time, a pair of giant blades carved up the front of the last reentry transport and a dark blue and white mobile suit burst out of the bow of the transport.  It raised its curved blades, now glowing with intense heat and sliced through a pair of Leos as if they’d been made out of paper.
“I don’t want to fight you if I can help it! Please get out of my way!” said Quatre grimly as he blasted through the MS formations.

Zechs’ day was steadily getting worse. The strange winged mobile suit had fired another one its giant beam cannon blasts again and had clipped his Leo, forcing him to retreat as several of his comrades moved in to distract the suit. He glanced at his monitors and saw that the colony was rapidly approaching the Point of No Return, the point on its descent where even if they caused its breakup, the pieces would still cause catastrophic damage to the earth.
“All nearby mobile suits, this is Lt. Col. Zechs. Anyone who is not currently engaged with the enemy, follow me into the colony, we are rapidly running out of time!” He suited words to action, forming up with two other Leos and rocketing towards the inner hub of the colony.
Meanwhile Heero Yuy continued to engage the enemy. He had just blasted a pair of Aquarius suits when his threat alert went off, indicating an enemy coming in from his left. He was just about to orient on the suit and open fire on it when a three-pronged beam weapon penetrated it from behind. The suit’s reactor overloaded and the Leo blew itself out of existence. As the explosion faded away, it revealed the form of the Shenlong, which sent a shock of déjà vu thrumming through Heero.
“Who are you?” he asked as the Shenlong hovered beside him. Inside its cockpit, Wufei was having the same reaction.

Above the colony’s main ring, a similar event was occurring with the other three Gundanium mobile suits. After shooting down several enemies, the Deathscythe, Heavyarms and Sandrock came face to face with each other and each of the pilots had the same reaction to seeing the others’ similarly styled suits.
“All right, what the heck is going on here?” said Duo over an open channel, “Who are you guys and why do your suits look like mine? Are you with the White Fang?”
“No I’m not,” responded Quatre, his helmeted face appearing on one of Duo’s monitors. “I was completely shocked when I got underway and found out what the details of Operation: Meteor were. I have no intention of helping to carry it out.”
“Neither do I,” replied Trowa somberly.
“Well then. It seems that the three of us are in a similar boat. And it looks like none of us were told some pretty important details about the operation. I thought my buddy Deathscythe was the only one of its kind.
“I thought the same with the Heavyarms,” said Trowa.
“So if none of us want to have anything to do with Operation: Meteor, then what are we doing here?” asked Quatre.
“Maybe you guys feel like trying to throw another monkey wrench into the White Fang’s plans?” said Duo with a grin.
In his cockpit, Quatre looked at the image of the Earth, now grown to gargantuan size as the colony fell ever closer to Earth.
“How can we stop this? The colony’s getting close to Earth,” said Quatre.
“The best course of action would be to find some way to destroy the colony’s fusion reactor,” replied Trowa
“Geez, this guy doesn’t do things halfway does he?” said Duo. Scratching the back of his helmet in confusion, “Exactly how do we keep ourselves from getting blown up in the process?”
“We’d better figure that out as we go,” said Trowa just as the three pilots’ threat alarms went off. A large group of MS was barreling down towards them, guns blazing.
“Lets break through to the nearest hatch!” cried Quatre as they engaged the enemy suits.

Heero was wondering if he should attack the mobile suit that looked so similar to his own when his comm screen activated, displaying the visage of Doctor J.
“Heero, we’ve received word that Alliance mobile suits have infiltrated the colony. You must stop them at all costs!”
“Roger that,” replied Heero as he turned his mobile suit away from the melee above the colony and rocketed towards one of the spokes that connected the colony’s ring to the central hub. It was a few moments before he saw that the doppelganger of his suit was headed in the same general direction as him. He decided that he would keep an eye on it and as soon as it made a hostile move, he would destroy it.

As Zechs had expected, the White Fang had stationed MS inside the colony as well. However, it seemed to the OZ ace as if these suits seemed to be a little more well equipped than the other enemy suits outside.
“Keep pressing men! We must get to that reactor as soon as possible!” Zechs glanced at the stopwatch display in the corner of his right hand viewscreen. The precious time they had before breaking the colony up was rapidly diminishing. If things had been a little different at that point, Zechs might have paid for his distraction with his life. His threat alarm shrieked and he looked up just in time to see a White Fang Leo rocketing towards him, beam rifle prepped to fire. There was a flash and for one horrible moment Zechs thought that his life was over but the rebel suit was the one that exploded.
“What in the…” he began but cut off as a familiar form soared over his suit and landed in front of him. He thought it was the bird-like mobile suit from before but this one was orange and white and had a HUGE gatling cannon on its left arm. It opened up with the cannon, sowing a line of devastation across the ranks of the White Fang suits.
“Colonel Zechs! It’s more of those strange suits!”
Zechs brought up displays on his monitors that showed the Deathscythe and the Sandrock joining in the fight.
“What do we do sir?”
“Look like some of the rebels’ pilots aren’t in favor of Operation: Meteor. Pay them no mind unless they fire on you! Keep pushing to the reactor!”

Wufei was still a little perplexed by the appearance of a mobile suit that looked so much like his own and seemed to be receiving the same orders as he was. His confusion deepened when he arrived at the battle ground inside the colony’s main ring and saw the Deathscythe, Sandrock and Heavyarms seemingly fighting alongside the Alliance forces.
“Master O are you receiving this? There are more mobiles suits like mine here! And they’re fighting against the White Fang forces!” Master O, the man that built Wufei’s Shenlong didn’t respond. Wufei hesitated and then a mobile suit fired on him. Out of reflex he swooped down and slashed the offender with the Shenlong’s beam trident. It was only after the suit exploded that he realized that the suit was a White Fang suit. He had just killed an ally.
Meanwhile Heero had opened fire on several Alliance MS when he caught sight of the other suits that were like his. He too was momentarily confused that they were firing on White Fang. Where they allies and had received orders that Heero had not? Suddenly his radio crackled to life and the voice of Doctor J said, “Heero it seems that there are other Gundanium mobile suits participating  in this mission. Our superiors have determined that they have gone rogue. You have new orders to stop these rogue suits at once but try to recover them intact if possible.”
“Roger that mission. Engaging.” Heero raised his rifle and fired a monstrous beam of energy right into the middle of the engagement. When the smoke cleared the other three Gundanium suits had turned to face him. Off to the side were Zechs and his Alliance special forces, creating something of a Mexican standoff.
“Sir, what do we do?” asked one of the Alliance pilots.
“These new models are extremely powerful. Make no sudden moves, we’re only going to have one shot at this,” replied Zechs.
Yes, they are incredibly powerful. The cannon of the red, white and blue one probably has a greater output than anything that even OZ has theorized about. There’s only one materiel in the Earthsphere that could allow for such a weapon…
In his cockpit, Wufei was jus beginning to wonder why everyone had stopped shooting when a comm window opened up on his monitor, displaying the helmeted visage of Quatre.
“The two of you seem to possess mobile suits that are much like ours. I have to wonder then, why are you helping the White Fang drop this colony? Don’t you realize what this will do to the Earth? Peace for the colonies cannot be attained through mass murder.”
“That doesn’t matter to me,” replied a cold voice and Wufei guessed it was coming from the suit with the large rifle that he had been following.
“So you just don’t care? Look pal, I may not be the greatest guy around but there’s no way I can take this. It’s gonna cause more problems for the colonies than it will solve!” said Duo.
“You are to surrender and hand over your suits,” stated the cold-voiced pilot.
From his cockpit, Zechs gripped the throttles of his Leo, ready to make a break for the spoke tunnel that led to the colony’s central hub.
“Wait for our chance men.”

In the Hall of Elders, Master Long was observing the battle on a series of monitors with the other Elders of the clan, their retainers and the strange men in suits.
“What the hell is going on here?” asked one of the suits angrily, “Why are the Deathscythe, Heayarms and Sandrock fighting against us?”
For Master Long’s part, he didn’t much care why these other suits were rebelling against the White Fang. It was time for the Long Clan to do a little rebelling of their own. Catching the eye of one of the Elders he then pressed a button on the console in front of him. A panel slid open, revealing a large red button. With a whispered prayer, the venerable Master reached forward and pressed the button.
“Hey! What are you doing?” said one of the suits as he reached into his jacket and pulled out a gun.
“Master, look out!” cried one of the retainers, jumping forward to wrench the gun out of the man’s hand. With a resounding blast, the gun went off.

Heero was getting ready to fire another blast from his buster rifle as it looked like the rogue pilots weren’t going to comply when an alarm began blaring throughout the colony. In a pause created by this new development, a mobile suit suddenly roared over the battlefield, armed with a 250mm cannon and headed straight for the spoke tunnel. Wufei gasped in shock, he’d know that green and gold color scheme anywhere!
“Meilan! What are you doing?!” he yelled.
“I’m sorry Wufei but this is bigger than clan and honor,” she replied. Heero had also noticed the rogue Leo and instantly swung his rifle around to fire on it.
“NO!” roared Wufei as he charged forward. Heero couldn’t bring any weapons to bear in time and was jerked violently in the cockpit as the Shenlong slammed into his Wing.
“Now’s our chance men! Go!” yelled Zechs and shoved his throttles to their stops, launching his Leo into action.
“It’s our chance as well!” said Trowa, “Let’s move.” The Heavyarms, Deathscythe and Sandrock took off in the wake of the Alliance MS, Heavyarms unleashing a hellish barrage of missiles at the remaining White Fang suits. Only a couple of the missiles impacted near Heero and Wufei but their superior MS shrugged off the effects as they continued to grapple. Wufei wrenched the buster rifle out of the Wing’s hands but this left him open to the Wing’s machine cannons. This kind of weapon wouldn’t harm a Gundanium mobile suit but it did cause Wufei to reflexively back off, dropping the rifle to the ground. Heero lunged forward, picked the rifle up and aimed low along the ground at the Shenlong. He fired, tearing an artificial canyon in the colony surface, detonating when it hit a building. This blew Wufei into the side of another building which crumbled around him. Wasting no more time, Heero and the Wing took off after the others.
Wufei was just crawling out of the wreckage when a comm window opened up and the face of Master Long filled it. But something was wrong, there was blood dribbling from the side of the old Master’s mouth and he looked deathly pale.
“Wufei…” he gasped.
“Master? What has happened? What is this alarm I’m hearing?”
“Wufei… remember to live with pride… and integrity… and remember that we too never abandoned our pride… we lived with pride right to the very end.”
“Master Long! What are you saying?”
“Wufei… beware of the White Fang, the Barton Foundation and OZ… and take care of Meilan…” With a groan, the old Master slumped against the console and stirred no more. Wufei was transfixed for a moment and then he remembered Master Long’s last words.
“Meilan!” With that cry he powered up Shenlong’s thrusters and took off after the other mobile suits. As he cleared the buildings, he saw an explosion inside the spoke tunnel.

Inside the tunnel, Duo was very bemused to find himself flying alongside the Alliance.
“This has been one strange day, I’ll tell ya that much,” he said. Suddenly a threat alarm rang out.
“Uh oh, looks like the guy with the big gun is back. Hey, other big gun guy! Blast him would ya?”
Trowa smiled, flipped around and opened up with every single gun that the Heavyarms had. The barrage of bullets slammed into the Wing but Heero wouldn’t be deterred so easily. He pulled the trigger and sent a wave of charged particle energy streaming out of the buster rifle. The bullet barrage had knocked his aim off though and the blast struck the tunnel, blowing a huge chunk of it out into space. With the interior now exposed to the vacuum, all pressure began fleeing outside causing an instant gale inside the tunnel.
Wufei, who was soaring up the tunnel behind Heero found the sudden acceleration from the winds a big help as he rocketed past Heero.
“Meilan!” he cried as he saw her suit bounce of two Alliance Leos and head straight for the hole.
Inside his Leo, Zechs was struggling to avoid the same fate.
“This is almost getting ridiculous,” he grumbled. Suddenly an alarm rang out in his cockpit, an alarm that MS pilots very, VERY rarely heard. Zechs could only gaze in wide-eyed astonishment at the words now glowing on his left-hand monitor: RADIOLOGICAL ALERT.
“Forget trying to stay in the tunnel!” he bellowed. “Get out of here!”
Wufei wasn’t paying attention to the alarm as his only thought was his wife’s suit being blown towards him by the escaping atmosphere. But, just as the two approached one another, Meilan spotted the Wing aiming its buster rifle at the Shenlong. She acted without thinking, grabbing hold of Shenlong and using her thrusters to turn herself into the path of the blast. Wufei, unfortunately, realized what was happening too late to stop her. A thinner, more low power beam shot out of the barrel tip and impacted Meilan’s Leo just beneath its ‘head.’ Wufei cried out in horror and then they were both out of the hole and back in space.

As Zechs’ Leo careened out of the hole in the spoke tunnel, he immediately broadcast to all friendly units in the area.
“This is Lt. Colonel Zechs! ALL units are to disengage and move away from the colony! Its reactor is about to blow!”
Duo, Trowa and Quatre took advantage of the confusion speed away from the area as fast as they could. Wufei stared in shock at his wife’s mobile suit. The Wing’s blast, though low power, had still blown a giant chunk of the Leo’s torso away… leaving the cockpit compromised.
“Meilan! If you can hear me, respond…” Wufei tailed off as the Wing swooped down in front of him, buster rifle aimed squarely at Shenlong’s chest.
“Go on then! Finish it!” Wufei snarled. But just before Heero could pull the trigger, a bright flash drew their attention.
The colony reactor blew itself out of existence, consuming the central hub. The spokes that connected the hub to the main ring shattered into so much shrapnel and blew out and away from the force of the shockwave. For one moment the nuclear fireball was visible before it snuffed itself out in the vacuum. Then, the docking boom at the bottom of the hub tumbled away, propelled by the shockwave on a collision course with the atmosphere that would shatter it. The ring, which had still been rotating, buffeted by the powerful shockwave, blew apart into dozens of pieces, wreaking terrible havoc amongst he ships and MS that were all still nearby. Though Duo, Trowa and Quatre had tried to get away, they were caught up amongst the debris.
Wufei could only gaze in horror at the carnage, that is, until the shockwave hit him and Heero, ripping Meilan’s mobile suit out of the Shenlong’s hands.
“No! Meilan!” Wufei screamed just as a large piece of debris hit the Shenlong and he was jerked violently in his seat and then he knew no more.