"Heartless Shade Phoenix"
by James Thorne

*WARNING! WARNING! Pass code:*******-*; seven gears approaching.*

I woke up startled. What the Hell?, I wondered. How can a gear get out here? Few gears have got space flyin' thingies. I called up my gears system and contacted Central.

*Message: "Situation?" send
Central: "Pass code:*******-*; Seven gears aproaching. Six gears are class D. Seventh gear is class AAA. Eight AA squadrens are on an interecept course" send
Message: "Really need me?" send
Central: "You are to provide support if neccessary." send
Message: "Affirmative. Time until gears reach Eldridge?" send
Central: ".... ....47 minutes." send*

I rested for a moment before wondering what time it was. I called up the gear's clock. The time read "7:12:13 Dec 10, 12197" Man, at least I got a good six hours of....! I looked at the clock.

*Message: "Request time." send
Central: "7:12:19 Dec 10, 12197" send*

I looked at the clock on my screen slowly flash the time for a full minute.

*Message: "Request date." send
Central: "Dec 10, 12197." send
Message: "Request date." send
Central: "Denied." send
Message: "DEMAND DATE!" send
Central: "Denied. Prepare for gear interception." send*

I stared at the screen for another minute. 10,161 years? I've slept 10,161 years? What the Hell? I just took a nap in my gear? I couldn't have slept that long! Realizing that someone was probably playing a joke on me, I checked my gear's armor, weapons, and fuel. To my surprise, everything was in terrible condition. My armor was cracked, my gun was not functioning, my missles leaked and were cracked, and I was dangerously low on fuel.

*Message: "Central, all my equipment has been fried. Anything you want to tell me?" send
Central: "Your job is not to question your commanders." send
Message: "Okay.... Still, all of my stuff is worthless. Sending a list of everything screwed.
R-78A rifle- broken
R-78/GG ammunition- deteriorated and cracked
EGL-3500 armor- cracked, broken, rusted
EGL-IRI missles- cracked/leaking and propulsion systems fried
Fuel- 7%
Request a total replacement of equipment." send
Central: "Granted. Proceed to dock **. The process should take 14 minutes." send*

I led my gear to dock A3 to have my broken equipment changed. Waiting as various machines removed my gears quipment and replaced it, I thought about the time. A good 10,000 years? When these other gears are taken care of, somebody is gonna pay for scarin' the Hell outta me.

*Message: "Are the gears confirmed as hostile?" send
Central: "Yes, they are confirmed. 13 class D gears were destroyed." send
Message: "All right. Are they any threat?" send
Central: ".... ....Yes. But they cannot withstand the power of 32 class AA gears." send*

The repairs were complete. I maneuvered my gear out of the inside dock and through the gear-sized halls of the Eldridge. I reached launching dock B3 and stood, slowly turning on my gear's engines. My gun was ready, and my sword was at my side.

*Message: "Systems ready. How long do I have?" send
Central: "Seven minutes. Just check your map for the position." send
Message: "Got'cha." send*

The doors to the outside opened, and I brought my jet engines to 70% power. I quickly blasted out of the dock, but stopped when I saw the sight before me.

*Message: "Central! Where the Hell is this?" send
Central: ".... ....Earth." send
Message: "Earth? What are you blaberin' about! What is this huge rock thing?" send
Central: "You have six minutes. You are on Earth. It is merely a rock." send
Message: "Like Hell it is! What is this? Where on Earth am I? And, what the? This isn't the Eldridge?" send
Central: ".... ....This is base 'Merkava.' You will receive answers to your questions after your mission is completed." send
Message: "Damn straight I'm gonna get some answers. Over and out." send*

I looked back at what I thought was the Eldridge only to see a large rock-like mass. It stretched out as far as I could see on either side, and it's top was hidden in the clouds. Looking at the ground, I saw that it's base spread out beyond the horizon. I was going to get answers. That was one thing I knew. But, for now, I guess I'll check what all this ruckus is about.

I flew along the rock's side, following my map. I nearly reached my destination when I was again contacted.

*Central: "Your time is up." send
Message: "I'm going. And you yerself said that I was only to provide support- if needed." send
Central: "Then go provide support. Four of our Eagle Class gears are downed." send*

Four gears already? They really were tough. I increased my speed until I could see the battle on my screen.

Several gears were fighting on the ground, attacking several Eagle Blade gears. I checked the stats of three of the gears and saw that they had weak attack power, armor, Ether amplifiers, and things of that nature. But I was amazed when my scanners showed that several of the gears had an Animus/Anima alignment. Then I saw it. The AAA class gear. Xenogears. Code name: WelTall. It was no wonder that we were losing. They had Xenogears. I immediately contaced the Xenogears pilot.

*Message: "Xenogears respond." send
Xenogears: "What do you want?" send
Message: "Who are you, and why do you attack?" send
Central: "Do not attempt contact with Xenogears. You are now to destroy all enemy gears." send
Message: "Hell with you! Xenogears! Answer!" send
Central: "Do not attempt contact! You are to-" message blocked by Eagle Armor ****-***
Xenogears: "You Solarian scum! Have you and your comrades not caused enough havoc in the world?" send
Message: "You are to surrender immediatly!" send*

I landed my gear on the ground and kneeled. The missle pods attached to my gear slowly opened. I prepared to fire them.

*Central: "You are to attack." Eagle Armor ****-*** message block overridden///send
Message: "Why do they have Xenogears?" send
Central: "Project: WelTall was captured. You are to destroy the gear." send
Message: "What? Why?" send*

I closed the missle pods and moved my gear into a neutral position. I watched as chaos fell about me. Here I was, a fighter, not fighting. But too many questions were left unanswered. The date, the condition of my equipment, the strange rock/base thing called "Merkava," the appearance of Xenogears, and the aloof attitude of Central.

I watched as the various gears fell to the ground. How could they lose? I sent a probe and checked their boxes. Looking at the results, I saw they all suffered from the same fate. Self-destruction. It took me a few minutes, but I realized I was the only one left standing. I looked at the seven gears before me. They stared back.

Panicking, I tried to remove my helm. The mechanical helm connected my brain directly to the gear, giving me complete control over it. But I could not remove it. I could not move my arms. I could not feel my arms.

*Message: "What's happened. I can't feel my arms!" send*

No response. I couldn't feel anything. I couldn't feel myself breathing. I couldn't feel myself blink. Why didn't I notice this before?, I thought.

*Message: "Help! Central! What's happened to my body!" send
Central: "You have been melded." send
Message: "What? Melded? Why? I don't want that!" send
Central: "Your body has long since rotted. You have been melded so that you can still serve." send
Message: "No! NO! I WANT MY LIFE!" send*

I opened up my missle pods and fired all missles at the seven g