CHAPTER.05 – MEMORIES (1)

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第五章「追憶」1
CHAPTER.05 – MEMORIES (1)

The Maharaja Khan Memorial Research Institute.

After finally arriving at their intended destination, a sudden gun battle awaited the party. In the blink of an eye, Mehmet drew Arlette close. As they laid low in the shadow of the gate, several bullets flew over their heads.

The echoes of bullets ricocheting off the lab walls vibrated furiously against the visors on their normal suits. It was only luck that had enabled them to narrowly dodge this attack. Aware of the sweat pouring down his forehead, Mehmet calmly verified the situation.

It appeared the other soldiers under his command had been able to take cover nearby. He carefully raised his head, and scanned the surrounding area. The interiors of the lab were rather large, about the size of a small hangar. Inside, several testing devices were crammed in rows. The black box visible in the center was most likely the main server for this lab. Surrounding it were several consoles which appeared to be terminals.

The psycho frame data was, in all likelihood, stored inside that main server.

Seeing his objective finally in front of him, Mehmet unconsciously swallowed his breath.

“Mehmet…?”

“Don’t move.”

Again bullets zipped by overhead, and Mehmet ducked his head down.

The gunfire was coming from the opposite side, with the lab standing between them. They appeared to be coming from the entrance that led to the interior of Axis. They must have been the same ones who had attacked them at the settlement, and had sealed off the roads a while ago. Just as Mehmet’s group had arrived from the perimeter of Axis, they too had arrived at the same time traveling from the interior.

“Oh boy… I guess we’re just like peas in a pod.”

Now that things had come to this pass, there was little doubt that their objective was the Psycho Frame research data left here at this lab. But, most likely they had only just arrived as well. They probably had not gotten their hands on it just yet.

If so, then…

“Fine. These things are better when they’re simple.”

“What?”

Arlette raised her voice incongruously in response to Mehmet’s fearless grin.

“Stay hidden here, Arlette. I’ll finish this in 3 minutes.”

With those words, Mehmet leaped off the floor and dashed away.

× × ×

Meanwhile, the men who fired upon Mehmet’s soldiers were taken aback by this unexpected counterattack. To begin with, why were their enemies here? The Jegans should have already sealed off the route that led to here. Even if they had gotten through, there’s no way they could have reached here first.

So when they entered the lab, and were just about to start their search – and suddenly faced with an unknown group arriving from the gate leading in from the outside, they fell into a mild panic, and began wildly shooting their guns about. Even though that valuable research data might still be there inside.

The man tasked to lead the unit ground his teeth at this unexpected mishap.

They were called Birnam.

A private military group, they were shepherded by the Ronah family/Buch Concern conglomerate – a major corporate entity that had shown remarkable growth in recent years and was now expanding into politics. Acting on the orders of Meitzer Ronah, the group had in the past conducted a variety of illegal missions.

Having begun as a simple debris collection company, the Buch Concern eventually entered the field of mobile suit development, and in a short while began to establish themselves prominently – a successful rise which was secretly powered by their activities as superior industrial spies.

However, they remained nothing more than a private military collection of civilians. While many in their ranks had military experience, in terms of leadership they were no match for a real army. As Mehmet and the Mastema unit launched their counterattack, it took little time before their forces were disabled.

× × ×

“Hmph…”

After securing the man who seemed to be leader of the enemy unit, Mehmet let out a sigh of relief.

“You kept us busy there for a moment… But I wouldn’t quit your day job if I were you.”

“Damn…!”

Perhaps having lost any remaining will to resist, the man simply dropped his head.

“So then, we can take our time questioning them later. But first we need to fulfill our objective. Arlette, you can come out now.”

“Oh, okay.”

Having been called, Arlette poked her head out from behind the gate.

She could see the enemy troops – completely clad in black normal – scattered about the lab, captured by the Mastema members. But that wasn’t the sight which held Arlette’s gaze.

“Oh…”

Arlette was rendered speechless by the scene which unfurled before her eyes.

The Maharaja Khan Memorial Research Institute.

It had once served as the only place she had ever belonged.

And now, she had returned.

She looked around, deeply moved. The white walls emerged in the faint light. A variety of devices used in various experiments were dotted throughout the facility. And there in front, lined up in orderly fashion, were several monitors and consoles. The data acquired there would be sent to the main server in the back.

One corner of the outer walls was glassed-in, and beyond it was supposed to be a hanger where the prototype mobile armors were stored.

But ultimately, those mechas would never be deployed in battle or experience any fighting, and the facility was abandoned.

Could they still be there, lying dormant?

Everything remained just as it was back then. She could remember the days when she worked here as if it were yesterday.

Before she knew it, Arlette found herself transported back in time to those distant memories.

× × ×

The One Year War.

An unprecedented tragedy in the annals of human history, whereby half the total population of the Earth Sphere perished. However, Arlette had barely any trace of acute sensation or memory of the war itself. While of course, she had been a young girl at the time, her lack of memory was due to living a life isolated from the outside world as an enhanced human test subject.

The Newtype research facility established by Side 6 – The Flanagan Institute.

That was her entire world at the time.

She could hardly remember anything of her life before being placed in the Institute.
By the time she became self-aware, she was living in a white-walled room, sharing a communal life with other children who were dressed in white just like she was. After the war, she had read several books written about the Institute.

They were typical of those kinds of publications – describing the dark acts of the military and inhumane experimental facilities, and Arlette found herself reading these accounts and feeling strangely detached – as if these were someone else’s affairs. In reality, it was believed that many inhumane acts were often conducted there. As proof, the many children around her began to decline in number – before she knew it, another, and then another.

But at the time, she did not think of it as out of the ordinary.

She accepted this as normal.

But then one day, something occurred.

Arlette was summoned by the officer in charge of her education, and went to the visiting room. There in front of her was a jumbled mass of materials. In those materials was every bit of personal data on her – recorded from the moment she had arrived at this facility.

Her physical abilities, kinetic vision, reflexes, decision-making abilities, etc.
A cold enumeration of statistics – detailed measurements of every single ability and skill that would be approximated as necessary for a soldier. And then the officer spoke in a voice which to her ears sounded just as dry as those stacks of numbers.

“○○…”

Hearing her name called, Arlette raised her head. She no longer remembered the name she was given back then. It could hardly be called a name – merely an identifying codename. Today, there was no one who would call her by that name anymore.

“You understand why you were brought here, don’t you?”

As she received those quietly spoken words, Arlette nodded.

No matter how generously one might view her, she could not be described as having high-level skills as a pilot. Compared to the other children who had entered the facility at the same time, her stats were exceedingly mediocre. If it were peacetime, the idea that a young girl like her could operate a weaponized mobile suit would be astonishing. But the children who were being researched and developed here were no ordinary pilots. Nonetheless, Arlette was unable to meet those expectations.

“So I guess I’ve outlived my usefulness…”

It meant that finally her number was being called. Her thoughts wandered to her comrades who had quietly been eliminated from the facility. She already no longer had much memory of their faces or voices – these children aged similarly to herself. She had no idea what had happened to them, nor did she care. Because the same thing would happen to her anyway. When she disappeared, nobody would care or notice… While she vacantly thought about such things, the door behind her opened.

“Well hello there.”

…?

Unexpectedly hearing such a friendly voice, Arlette was taken aback. It was not the voice of the Institute’s scientists or staff.

It was a young, male voice.

Arlette found herself turning back, and then she froze, her eyes widening. This young man who entered the room was wearing a strange mask.

Char Aznable – that’s what the man called himself.

“An… engineer?”

“Yes. You have a talent for that.”

Arlette was uncertain whether to believe these words spoken by Char. True, she did enjoy handling machines, and she even thought herself skilled at it. She couldn’t make any sense of operating the mobile suits. But on the other hand… When it came to structural studies and maintenance technology of the mobile suits – which were compulsory subjects for the pilots, she had earned high marks.

“Would you please come with me?”

Those words would change Arlette’s destiny.