The Winds Speak: Metamorphic Mentality

//** denotes computer
/ ** denotes Lance's thoughts

Time: AC 200 October 7th 1400 hrs
Place: Harring AFB and MS Testing Lab
He reached his workstation and turned the power on to his table, the lights of the readout screens flaring to life and going through usual testing procedures, numbers by the infinite design racing madly before entering the diagnostics programs and awaiting input. His fingers danced over a keyboard with his left hand, entering data for the new oxygen mixtures that would be used if they passed the tests. Lance asked for the project because he liked doing modifications. He'd given them schematics and plans, theoretical data and even test modules to run over. The boys in the R & D department had been very supportive of him and even provided the mixture for him. He was told that it would be on platform B along with a few other supplies that were being brought in. To identify it, they placed a red tag on the handle for him so he knew which one it was. He checked his watch and nodded, flicking on the normal system check programs that would run through the space Leo he was given. He then hopped up and grabbed the keys to one of the hanger trucks.

"Hey! Lance! Where ya going, buddy," said a voice as he was about to start the engine. Lance turned and heard the familiar voice of Jake Telson, one of the mechanics that had seemingly followed him upon his request to base transfers. Jake was an intelligent person and was more or less a good friend. "Ah, I'm heading to the docks to pick up a surprise. Wanna come?" "Hell yeah buddy, let's go!" Lance gunned the motor and they sped off and down the white roads, between parts of MS that had been either destroyed, blown up, or were targets for other tests, a pathway to freedom more or less.... for unfortunate pilots.

"So, Lance, what you been up to man? I haven't seen you since karaoke night last week."

"Well, besides normal work and the new oxygen mixture I'm gonna test today, just the basics and such. A few games of pool in the rec room every night, reading a bit here and there, singing in the shower. You know the deal. What about you?"

"Gods man. You shoulda been there. Last night there was this gorgeous chic there. Tall, blonde, and to die for. I'm no ladies man like you, but we did have a good time and she gave me her number as well."

"Lemme guess, you acted like a fool and she bought it?"

"Bingo. Hey, she had a friend. Remember that brunette I was trying to point out to you while we were singing?"

"You mean the one in the silver dress? Why, was she asking about me? Why? You know I've never been on a date before! What the hell am I supposed to do?"

"Lance. Buddy boy, you really need to loosen up man. Go out for yourself! I swear, you could have nearly any girl in any town. Your voice is wonderful, you can actually carry a tune, and none of your scars are hideous. Some are downright sexy."

"Are you coming on to me, Jake?"

"Nah. But you are a handsome guy. You have to admit that."

"I'm not admitting to anything...hold your ass..."

"What?? " "GOD DAMN!...Christ Lance....I didn't even see a shadow, how did you know?"

Lance looked at Jake, and swallowed and turned the truck around and continued to drive towards the docks.

"I didn't. I just felt something cold over my arms and reacted. It's nothing new."

Jake looked at him and just busted out laughing."Lance..the man with cold feelings and cold feet."

"Shut up or I'll run into the next suit."

"Yeah on speed racer!"

The two continued on the path towards the docks, exchanging conversations of this and that. They joked and laughed, sang to the radio, Jake's voice always slightly off key but still better than no accompaniment to Lance's golden vocals. As they reached the docks, there was apparently an argument being held by two deck hands, pointing to the mess of white canisters that seemed to have been knocked off a palette. Lance stopped the truck and got out and walked over towards them. "Uhm..scuse me?" He wasn't heard. They kept bickering over which was which canister stack, a lot of different colored tags upon them. Lance saw three different canisters instantly that might have been what he wanted.

"Uhm...Hey...Scuse me..!!" A dock hand looked up. "Yeah, whatta ya want?" "I'm from the testing facility. I was told that there was a white canister with a red tag for me?" " must be that one at the end." Lance turned and saw what the dockhand was pointing to and looked at it. There was canister with a small black box on it's side attached, along with a red tag. But the strap looked as if it had been broken and retied. Maybe it was just a spare tag they had laying around. /Oh is R & D after all. Always reusing tags here and there. Wouldn't want one of them to fix my lunch though./ Lance called for Jake to come over and help hip roll the big canister into the truck. It weighed a bit lighter than a normal oxygen tank. Must have been the new mixture's advantage. Lance didn't work with weight in his calculations for his testing, so he had really no way of knowing that the actual mixture was a bit heavier than normal, and that this canister had been mislabeled. They rolled it to the edge of the dock and then jumped down, baring it's weight between them and carried it to the truck, rolling it into the bed and tying it down. "Wheeww..that's some load you got there for just being air, Lance" Lance chuckled and shook his head, and said the only load of air at the moment was Jake.

They got back into the vehicle and drove back to the hanger, the events no more eventful on their drive, because no more suits would be falling from the sky like hunks of lifeless metal. The canister in the bed rocked a bit, and the tag pulled itself free and fluttered into the sky and towards the dusty road, left alone to never be seen again. As they came back towards the hanger, Lance signaled for a lift to come install the canister into the Leo's supply feed. As this was being done, Jake came over with him and they looked over the specifications that blipped across his monitor.

"That's some readout there, bucko. If this works, stranded pilots will have better chances of life support. A good twenty four hours by the results."

"I know. That's why I thought it up and worked it out. It's a very high pressure system, and you only need to let a little of it out at a time, using the heat and pressure difference to increase the volume capacity of the molecular differeintia-"

"Hey hey. Not so much technical lingo. I only repair the damn suits, I don't go much into that tenichal bullshit. What's it really do?"

"Simply, by heating the air a bit by a small generator, it'll expand this modified oygen mixture in the tank as it's pumped to the pilot."

"So, basicly it just makes it easier to breathe?"

"Yes. Much easier."

"Well. That's good. Nothing like heavy breathing in space, huh? Eh eh?"

" are a hornball..."

"Yeah, so are you. Least on the stage you are. Care to share some of those phone numbers with me later?"

"Maybe. Here, I'm going to go test this sucker out."

"Hey..shouldn't you use a module or something? What if the mixture is deadly?"

" think I'd get into something that would kill me? No worries. I'm MS tech remember?...I know what I'm doing"

"Whelp..goodluck. I'll come by the test tanks in the middle to see how you are doing, kay?"

"Alright. Catch ya later, Jake."

Lance chuckled and tapped more information into the console of the diagnostics controls and then turned them off and began climbing the mounting ladders and entered the Leo and closed the cockpit. The worker with the lift finished with the canister installation and blinked. Everything looked alright. He closed the hatch and got down and went to other areas of the hanger. Lance flipped the cockpit to life and tapped away at the keys, entering his pilot code, and turning on one of his infamous black boxes that he always had installed somewhere or another. The systems booted up nicely and the display came clear to life.

// System Analysis.....100% Complete. All Systems Check
// Pilot: Lance Gregory, Mechanic class S.
// Testing Access............GRANTED
// Fuel........OK
// Sensors.......OK
// Backup......OK

The onboard computers ran energy into the line and tests the air in the cabin, and then checked for pressure leaks. Small hissing was heard on the outside of the Leo as valves quickly opened and closed, testing all rerouting methods. The new canister was opened and gas pumped through the lines and then out the vents of the Leo's engine bay. So far, no mess ups.

// Life-Support.....OK

Lance breathed out and smiled. / failures yet. Maybe this morning was just a freak accident. I did go to sleep a bit late...oh well..let's go/ He grabbed the controls and the hissing of the stabilizers engaged as the Leo's legs grated against the floor and then stepped forwards, carrying it forwards. Techs and mechanics walked around, stepping out of the Leo's way naturally, as if were just another day. The Leo made it's way to the Vacuum Domes, specialized chambers that made the insides as cold as space, or close as earthly possible, and vented all air out of them. Lance opened the doors and walked in, letting them close behind him, hearing the hydraulic hiss as they were shut and sealed. He looked around the place. There was dirt and formations of mountains for suits to test in, sometimes used for close combat testing. The Domes were quite huge, needing four HPC ( High Pressure Chamber) generators to keep them pretty much airtight and cold as hell. Lance grinned and began shutting down basic power systems and activated the override switch. Everything went black, save the small red light that always came on dictating emergency power had been activated. Placing his helmet on his head and closing his eyes, he waited for the oxygen to be pumped in, which it was for a good few minutes. He tested it. It was breathable, and he smiled. /Another success for the books, Lance. You done good, m'boy./ He closed his eyes and went through lil designs in his head. He'd be in here for a couple of hours or more.

"Did you load all the canisters of oxygen decoys to be disposed of?" A man in a red coat nodded and saluted. "Good. The shipment should have gotten there by now. We've been shipping fake supplies and junk to that test sight for a good week or so. I guess it's time to see if we can make a good old fashioned pipebomb gentlemen." The man walked over to a control device and flipped on the display. A radar flipped to life and the markers lit up like streetlights on it's screen. "Gentlemen if this works...we can kiss those damn Gundam Pilots goodbye if they try to steal our supplies again." Another man in black stood up and spoke, " I don't know if I like this. Shouldn't we at least alert some of the staff of the bomb in that canister?" The man in white raised an eyebrow. "And why should we do that? They are nothing but lackys anyway. We can replace them. Besides, if it fails, we can just blame those damn Gundam pilots for sabotage." The man in black inhaled and grunted and then looked out a window. The man grinned and pressed the detonator switch.

There was a click.. Lance's eye opened up quickly. He looked around and didn't feel different. No. Wait. It was a bit colder. He blinked and found his vision a bit fuzzy. Too much oxygen was escaping. He tapped at the keyboard and lowered the pressure a bit, and nodded. And then he heard the click again. /Click? MS don't go click. What the hell was that? /

Hell was right. A third click and the detonation was complete. The black box on the canister flared white and exploded, searing the valves of the oxygen lines, throwing the supply hatch to the ground and jetting a quick flame out the rear of the Leo. Thruster lines with fuel were cut open and ignited near instantly and the Leo shot forwards. Lance's eyes opened madly as he found himself and the suit being thrown forwards harshly, the ramming into a mound of dirt. It lurched over onto it's front, the cockpits escape hatch blocked by the ground below. Lance breathed in finally able to catch his breath, and oxygen, cold and compressed rushed into his suit, some of it entering his mouth. The feeling was deathly chilly as it ripped down his throat and into his lungs, nearly freezing the mucus membranes of his inner muscles and lungs, his vocal chords turned brittle and shattered as a scream rushed from his lungs in pain. The helmet became clouded and Lance'' head shot forwards, shattering the glass upon the cockpit's console, the unwanted oxygen spreading into the air. The fire in the fuel mixture raced down it's lines and hit the main tank, exploding and ripping off the waist of the mobile suit sending it's upper half rolling forwards along the nearly perfect-vacuum made environment. As the suits body tumbled forwards and down a hill, the automatic safety systems of the Dome engaged and opened the doors, the seals released and air rushing in quickly, filling the oxygen-free environment with air and bringing more life to the flames upon the Leo's crippled body. Lance Ripped off his safety harness and kicked the manual override lever to open the hatch of the Leo as it tumbled, jarring his body back into the seat and then against the side of one of the panels, electric wires exposed and flickering with their current. As the Leo stopped, he quickly climbed out, turning around just as he was about to drop off and run, and reached back inside, hand clamping down upon his own black box and then pushed back, using the jump boot function of his suit.

Unfortunately for Lance, it was not quick enough. The secondary fuel mixture caught fire and exploded, ripping the hull of the Leo to metal slag, a spinning jagged armor plate whizzing by and ripping through Lance's arm, right below the left elbow. In what seemed like slow motion, Lance's eyes turned towards his arm as he saw it drop away from him and into the explosion of the Leo, his own body going down and crashing into the dirt and rolling backwards. He tried to scream, but no words came out, just blood in small spurts from his lungs and his throat. And then it all went black.

Jake sat in the waiting room, pacing back and forth like a worried panther. He kept looking at the clock and shaking his head. A few of the other guys had come along as well. Some were smoking, some were drinking coffee, but all were chatting about Lance. Jake couldn't take it anymore, he had to know. He gritted his teeth and was about to step through the medical bay doors when a doctor stepped out. "I'm looking for a Jake Telson?" Jake walked over and sighed.

"How bad is it doc?"

"He'll live."

"That's great-"

"I'm not done son. There were some complications."

"Complications? What do you mean complications?"

"We had to severe his vocal chords completely. There was no way to save them. So he won't be able to talk more than a whisper if anything normally. "

"Oh no...."

"We were fortunately able to give him use of his left hand though. We grafted a cybernetic exoskeleton to an interchangable socket on his elbow. Given time, he'll be able to use just like his own arm, if not better. And since we know he's a mechanic, we kinda expect him to make improvements to it."

"Least he'll be able to go back to work, I suppose. It would devistate him if he couldn't work on the suits. He's like a mad genius when it comes to those things.

"That's not the worst of it though. It seems there was an incredible amount of oxygen in certain areas of his brain. Now, this normally doesn't do anything to the brain, but it was a very concentrated amount that was given, and it's done some odd mind tricks."

"Mind tricks?"

"To put it simply, we had one of our telepaths try to bring him out of shock. And we found two personalities."

"Lance is NOT A PSYCHO!"

"We know that. He's had a good bill of mental health. It's just that somehow the accident triggered some internal effect in him. Now we've talked to our telepath, and she recommends that Lance not drink any alcohol and he'll be fine. I don't really know why nor can I explain the reasoning for this, but she apparently didn't like what she saw, or was somewhat offended."

"Is he gonna be okay?"

"He should be. He remembers who he is. He thinks the explosion was his fault, but that's not my feild. Maybe your boys can find this 'black box' he keeps thinking of. Anyway. You can go in and see him if you wish."

"Right...I..think I might."

Jake walked down the hallway and towards the visitation rooms and saw Lance in one of the beds. His face was slightly stiched up from minor cuts, and his cybernetic arm was almost creepy to look at. The doctor was right. It was nothing more than an exoskeleton, and unfortunately it was see through. Lance was breathing through an oxygen mask for the time being and there was this thick black line around his throat, results of the scarring of the oxygen mixture and it's freezing of his throat. His eyes were clear though, until they landed upon Jake. "Hey ya feeling?" Lance blinked and then leaned over the bed and puked, spilling his food into the local waste receptacal. The telepath told Jake to leave and to come back later, slightly blushing at what she had sensed on the mental scale.

Jake did come back later. And Lance did throw up again. And everytime one of the rather good looking nurses or ordalies came in. No one really knew why either... save the telepath, and Lance pleaded her not to tell. She didn't.

Lance was let out of the hospital a week later with a good bill of health, and was allowed to go back to work. And he became distant. No more singing. No more jokes. Just work. If he worked, he figured he could forget his problems. Just more problems. He eventually transferred to another base.

Nothing would be his fault again.