CHAPTER.03 – IN PURSUIT OF A RED PHANTOM (1)

twilight_logo第三章「赤い幻影を追って」2
CHAPTER.03 – IN PURSUIT OF A RED PHANTOM (2)

Some time earlier at the residence of the Federation Prime Minister on Earth.

A limousine departed silently, and in the back sat a stern-faced, middle-aged man surrounded by smoke. The vehicle glided down a gentle slope and onto a main road, lined with lush trees. As the car switched into cruise mode, the man pulled a bottle of mineral water from a cooler and drank it dry.

“…”

He took a deep breath, and the man to his side, who appeared to be a secretary, quietly began to speak.

“How did it go, Engeist?”

Engeist Ronah, the oldest son of the Ronah family, gave a short reply.

“It’s done.”

“Meaning?”

“I’ll report to father. After that, Meitzer and father will probably take care of the rest.”

“Understood.”

Staring out at the view beyond the window, Engeist sunk into his seat and muttered to himself.

“Looks like it’s time for Birnam Wood to make a move…”

×  ×  ×

Despite the grandeur of the Ronah main residence, it sat in complete silence. The Ronahs were a well-known noble family that had once flourished in Europe, but the current family head, Scharnhorst Ronah, did not carry the Ronah blood. His career began in a small junkyard. Showing a rare talent for business from a young age, he developed the company to become the Buch Concern, an enterprise that is active in places across the Earth Sphere in just one generation. He had bought the name “Ronah,” as a title befitting his status. In a back room, used primarily for personal business, Scharnhorst Ronah was listening to his son’s report.

“We just finished our private meeting. It’s been settled.”

Engeist’s deep voice rang through the room. The thick, soundproof walls made sure there was no chance of being overheard, even by their servants.

“A psycho frame recovery mission is being conducted for certain. There’s a high possibility that there are still research materials in the facility.”

“I see. Well done.”

Sinking into the sofa, Scharnhorst no longer showed the generosity of the man who had once been known as a monster of the financial world. But set deeply under his wrinkled brow were eyes that shone with the same sharpness and insight.

“After the First Neo Zeon War, the Federation confiscated Axis from Haman Karn and quickly handed it over to Char. There’s no way they could’ve examined that entire fortress in such a short time. A mistake on their part…”

“Yes.”

Engeist consented to the raspy but heavy voice of his father.

“The recovery mission is proof of their insecurity. The goverment, the military. They’re all scared witless. Scared that there’s something unknown out there…”

“Indeed. And thanks to them, we can make our move.”

Scharnhorst raised one eyebrow and let out a cunning laugh.

“We know what to do now. I’ll take care of the rest. You stay out of it from here on.”

“Understood.”

“We need you alive, in case something happens to Meitzer and I. If you can remain ignorant, you won’t likely be prosecuted. As long as the Ronah bloodline continues, there will always be more opportunities.”

“Understood, father.”

As his son bowed deeply, Scharnhorst softened his voice.

“By the way, how’s the construction of the new Side coming?”

“A name was decided on two days ago.”

“Hmph. Even after all this time, we’ve only got a name. So, what is it?”

“The Frontier Side.”

“Oh… Frontier, huh?”

Scharnhorst smiled cynically. Not fully understanding the meaning behind that smile, Engeist continued.

“However, it will still take some time before we can begin the actual construction.”

“I imagine it will. The Federation has grown too large. Everything takes too long, creating more problems.”

“Yes, Father…”

“A model example of letting the foolish masses rule…”

It was unclear whether Scharnhorst’s muttering was one of scorn or resignation.

×  ×  ×

“Turn left at the next corner.”

“Roger.”

Following Arlette’s directions, Mehmet and the Mastema Special Forces unit progressed through Axis’s interior smoothly.

“I’m amazed you can remember how to get navigate all these passages.”

“Isn’t that what you brought us here for?”

Mehmet smiled wryly at Danton’s sarcastic comment.

“I suppose it is.”

“I’ve always had a good memory.”

Danton studied Arlette’s smile as she spoke.

“You know, there are things that are better off forgotten, missy…”

Danton cut himself off at the last moment. He was in no position to lecture her, after coming this far himself. For now, it would be best to let her do as she pleases.

“You really never change.”

“Right back at you.”

Mehmet, ignoring the playful conversation, was deep in thought. These are two of the only remaining people with knowledge of Char Aznable’s mysterious past. I might be able to learn something about it by monitoring them. This was also for the sake of the mission, but Mehmet himself was curious.

Born Casval Rem Deikun, he was the orphaned son of Zeon Zum Deikun and eventually the Principality of Zeon’s ace pilot. Acting under the name, Quattro Bajeena, he was a key figure in the AEUG, after which he declared war against Earth as the commander of Neo Zeon. Mehmet had always held an interest, beyond his professional duties, in this man with many faces and a checkered past.

More than anything, Mehmet was interested in Char’s work as a technocrat. Since becoming a pilot, he had been actively involved in mobile suit developments, even more so after becoming Neo Zeon’s commander. His work alone played a major role in defining modern mobile suit development systems.

The final manifestation of that work was the pyscho frame, a next-level technology using microscopic computer chips with psycommu functionality and building them directly into a mobile suit’s frame at the molecular level. The results exceeded all expectations. Mobile suits equipped with psycho frames displayed capabilities beyond their specs, and it wasn’t long before there were reports of impossible displays of power.

The person who leaked the manufacturing methods to the Federation was supposedly Char Aznable himself. There are various theories about his motive, even pulp-style ones about how he just wanted to fight his longstanding rival, Amuro Ray, on even footing.

And now, standing before Mehmet were two people who actually knew the man. He couldn’t deny that their presence had him a little on edge. Of course, he wouldn’t let that interfere with the mission. They had already received a serious blow in the recent battle with an unexpected mobile suit. “This is Mastema, and we will carry out this mission, no matter…” As soon as the thought hit his mind, an uncomfortable sensation came over him.

“Oh no…”

There was no rationality for it. It was intuition – inuition he’d developed through countless battles as a member of the special forces – that told him something was waiting for them ahead.

“Stop!”

Mehmet’s voice rang short and quick.

“What’s wrong?”

While Danton and Arlette stumbled with their braking mechanisms, the Mastema members stopped immediately, without making a sound.

“…”

Mehmet’s previous expression of excitement was nowhere to be found, as he focused on the area ahead of them.

“Arlette, is the research facility close?”

“Huh? Oh, uhmm…it’s not far beyond the large passage up ahead…”

Arlette stuttered to answer.

“That explains it. It seems someone has beaten us to the punch.”

“What?”

Glancing back at the confused Arlette, Mehmet swiftly delivered signals to his subordinates with eye movements. They nodded and silently advanced toward the intersection, readying the minituare cameras equipped to their space suits and directing them towards the other side of the passage.

“What the…!”

As the images waere transmitted to each member’s visor display, Arlette and Danton instinctively let out a small gasp. In the passage ahead of them, in a slightly open space, stood a massive silhouette.

“A mobile…suit…”

Unlike the Gundam or Jegan they had fought earlier, it had a peculiar form with long arms extending from jutted shoulders. A vibrant shade of violet covered the large frame – a striking contrast to the cold, drab walls around it.

“The RX-160… Byarlant.”

Such was the name of this oddly shaped giant.