An enemy, no, it was more - three flashes of light on the 360 monitor. About 30 minutes away from his position, 10 o'clock, Earthways. They were approaching, the notes on the screen told him, and approaching fast.
Kamille leaned forward to push the throttles into position, to maneuver and intercept them, but-- he felt nothing. No pressure from the acceleration, none of the rockets kicking in -- he checked his meters: no acceleration, no speed, nothing.
The lights on his screen advanced towards him.
He shifted the throttles from their position to neutral, and back forward. Still nothing.
Something's out, he thought, and I'll have to fix it somehow. He scrambled in his cockpit to find the joystick fusebox, 20 minutes until he was within firing range at their current speed, but it wasn't where it normally was, in the panel below either throttle - in its place, a smooth metal plate. Was he not in the Zeta...?
The numbers on the screen blinked: 10 minutes to contact.
He felt cold sweat and gut dread creep into him. This wasn't good. He hit the comms panel to page the Argama, and briefly glanced at the Minovsky particle reader - almost too dense to bring across any message at this time. No choice in the matter - he tapped the transmitter anyway.
"Hey, three enemy suits coming in at my 10, I can't move, need backup and a retrieval. How copy?"
Five minutes to contact.
"Can't move, need backup, how copy?"
He felt his voice crack.
"Can anyone - can anyone read me?"
He tried to adjust the verniers - they'd move, but they wouldnt power on.
Signs blared on the screen, alarms sounded, and whatever suit it was, it wasn't slowing down to attack. Its trajectory aimed straight for him, headfirst. He braced for impact, and...
He opened his eyes.
It was 6am, so the nurse said. It wasn't Fa.
Kamille blinked, and took note of his surroundings: a mostly dark room (the blinds were down), but he could make out an off-white ceiling that became increasingly familiar. To his right, a desk bolted to the floor. A chair he knew was too heavy to move without significant trouble. The nurse, preparing a needle, and her portable station. To his left, the bathroom door and the shelves, with his civilian clothes folded on them. He was still in the hospital. It was only a dream.
The nurse held Kamille's arm out gently on the side of his uncomfortable foam bed, and despite his urge to protest, he was too tired to act out over it. He rolled his head to watch as she drew his blood, and soon after she left the room, hot tears streamed down his face. He couldn't make a sound.
When you can't communicate otherwise, getting across a simple message is frustrating enough to break knuckles over.
He was in a group session. The room had a TV behind plexiglass, several of those heavy chairs scattered around, and tables with boxes of golf pencils placed on top. He'd been here many times, but in a haze - Fa would escort him to the room, and he'd follow absent-mindedly. Which is to say, he'd attended before, sure, but back then he felt trapped in his own body, as if someone else were piloting it and he was taking a backseat. This time, however, when the nurse in charge would ask a question, he found it in him to try to answer, to try to participate.
Most of what came out of his mouth was almost inaudible.
"Kamille?" the nurse said. She was taller than Fa, brunette, peppy in a way that barely fit the situation he found himself in. "Kamille, did you have something to say?"
She was trying to include him, and he appreciated it.
He couldn't quite repeat what he tried to verbalise. But he tried, sporadically, until a patient, significantly older than him, brought to him a pencil and paper - in a last ditch effort to get him to stop mumbling and gesturing vaguely, presumably.
"Here, kid - try writing it out?" said the man.
He took the pencil, and stroked the beginnings of a statement onto the page, but his hands wouldn't scratch it out fast enough, and the words weren't right, and he couldnt. He balled the page in his fists and begin to tear up, so close to expression he could taste it.
He swallowed thickly, and bit back a sob. This wasn't working. Nothing was working.
"Kamille, come on." Fa chimed in.
Kamille, in his slippers and civilian clothes, followed Fa to the quiet room. She sat him down and spoke gentle words to him until he could foresee escaping the night intact.
Kamille, alone in the quiet room once Fa had left, found himself wondering who was paying for this. He was never a soldier proper, and he still wasn't sure if the AEUG was reintegrated with the Federation, and if they had the means to pay for anything. He found himself wondering where he was going to live when he got out.
If he got out.
He was hospitalised on the Earth sphere, far away from anyone he knew besides Fa. The Argama crew, he figured, were still stationed out in space, trying to survive. Fa wouldn't say much more than what he'd already guessed.
So he tried to make friends. He wasn't going anywhere any time soon, and while people came and went, he found a lot of folk had something in common with him.
There was Iain, who had studied the same martial arts as Kamille. He stayed for two weeks, got his meds and a diagnosis, and left. Kamille hoped to one day spar with him.
And Atlee, who was discharged from the local MS guard before she came here. Kamille felt he could talk about his piloting experiences with her, moreso than any other patient.
There was also Ezra, a 20something engineer from Anaheim, who apparently knew a guy who worked on the Zeta. Kamille figured that was the closest he'd ever get to contact with someone he knows.
He was talking, now - mostly in sporadic conversations, things mumbled that were more articulate and louder than the other things. He'd attempted a joke and gotten a laugh out of some folk, and that felt good. It was moments like that, flashes of brief connection, of being understood in the most shallow sense, that kept him putting one foot in front of the other. He felt what was at stake, up in space. He fought that battle - but down here, it was no use worrying about that. He wasn't in any condition to rejoin the fight, not yet, as much as it pained him. Fa wouldn't fill him in on the details, and he doubted she knew anyway.
Kamille never had any visitors.
Visiting hours were a bust for him, he learned quickly enough. He spent the time in his room, reading old manuals, scratching out loose schematics divorced from any real-world application. Sometimes Fa would join him, and chat with him idly about nothing while he drew at his desk. That's what he was doing when the announcement from the nurse's station called him into the cafeteria, during visiting hours, for the first time.
His first thought was: Oh, I left something there.
His second: Wait. That can't be it. What'd I do now?
"Kamille?" Fa said.
He looked up from his current sketch, plans for some fantasy machine or another.
"Kam, you should go."
He tucked his papers into a folder and wandered over to the cafeteria.
He turned the corner, then he turned another, and he was there, Fa in tow. The ward wasn't all that big, but he slowed his roll as much as he could, fearing the worst. He was nervous, for the first time in a while - he felt the tremors in his hands, in his chest, the question of "who is it / why am I being called here" running rampant. Fa placed a hand on his shoulder.
Who could it even be? Char was dead, and Amuro wanted nothing to do with this war, and the Argama was fucked off in space still, and yet he felt a familiar presence somehow, and --
He looked up from his slippers. Amidst the heads and the chatter, there they were: Char Aznable and Amuro Ray. They looked up and waved him over. There was no mistaking it.
Everything in him screamed at him to run, to bolt out of the room and sneak out of the ward and just fuck right off. That wasn't an option here, though, and -- while he doubted that he'd have it in him to speak to them, he willed himself to proceed.
As Kamille and Fa sat at the bench in front of the visitors, Char took off his sunglasses and placed them folded on the table. Kamille avoided his stare.
"You have some nerve, showing up here after ditching the Argama like that-" Fa began. Kamille glanced at her, and shook his head. It's alright, he wanted to say, but couldn't quite connect the thought to the action of speaking it. She likely understood the sentiment, at least somewhat.
Char opened his mouth to speak, grimaced instead, and opted not to. Amuro was the first to explain:
"Kamille," he said. "We- we wanted to pop in and check on you."
Kamille wanted to shout. Why aren't you fighting? The Zeon were still at it, from the news they'd received on TV and what he'd heard from Fa. There was a battle to be waged. The Argama needed more help than ever before. Why aren't you with them?
"It's been hard, y'know," Amuro continued. "What with the Neo-Zeon thing, and."
"I'll spare you the details while you're in here. What's important is, how are you keeping?"
Before he could think to stop himself, Kamille spat out: "How do you think?"
He frowned and looked down at his lap. That wasn't what he wanted to say. What he wanted to say was on the tip of his tongue, unformed and amorphous - a strong sentiment that he needed to express, but couldn't. He felt tears well up, then dry out.
Char, ever disciplined, placed his hands on the table, folded over eachother.
"Kamille, we came to apologise to you," he admitted.
"You owe him more than that," Fa stated.
Kamille's eyes flickered up to meet hers, and he mumbled: "Fa, it's fine."
"Char and I," he started, "We've been talking, since the battle. Char?"
Char looked down at his sunglasses.
"Kamille, we owe you so much," said Char. "I'm deeply sorry about what happened, and..."
He lifted his gaze from the sunglasses in front of him to meet Kamille's eyes.
"...and I'm offering to pay what the AEUG won't."
Fa's eyes widened.
"There's more than that," Amuro added. "We've since, y'know, we've recently found a small place near Harrogate about forty minutes South, and- and if you need any help getting back on your feet when you get out, anything at all-- we'll do it."
Kamille found himself unable to respond.
"When are you getting out, anyway?" asked Amuro.
"It's under discussion right now, but.. he won't be in forever."
Kamille felt a bit of relief at that.
"Good," said Char. "We've got space at ours if you don't at yours, Fa."
"Kamille, if you need a place to crash or even just wanna visit, we'll welcome you. You and Fa," Amuro continued.
Something seemed off about this to Kamille. Were Char and Amuro living together now? He wanted to ask, but...
"Visiting hours are about over," stated Fa. "You guys, thanks for.. thanks for coming in to check on him."
"Oh! Before I forget-"
Amuro grabbed a scrap of paper from the table and scribbled two phone numbers on it. Amuro's, and Char's.
"Here's how to contact us. Let us know if you need anything, yeah?"
Kamille nodded, staring at the page. He stayed seated as Amuro and Char stood, Char giving his shoulder a firm grasp. Fa saw them out.
As they exited the ward, he finally figured what he wanted to say.
Kamille had a dream that night.
He flew the Zeta, in Waverider form, within Earth's atmosphere. He flew over Leeds, York, Harrogate, over Scarborough and above the sea. He doubled back and landed in a field somewhere between Knaresborough and Scarborough, and when he got out of the cockpit, the Argama crew both dead and alive were there to greet him. It was them, and Fa.
The ocean stretched itself to meet his feet. He took Fa's hand in his, stepped into the water, and laughed.