Author’s Note: Not much to say!! Sorry for the delay between chapters and thanks for reading !!!
Love is a Battlefield by Midii Une
What would His Excellency think when he found out that she was going behind his back on so many things, Officer Vier thought. Linnea Lang was not the girl Treize Khushrenada believed her to be. He had discovered that. Discovered her secret transmission to the Peacemillion. It had been encoded but he was an engineer and although he couldn’t decipher any details it was obvious she was working with the Gundams again, if indeed she had ever stopped. And she must have her reasons for repairing the 01. The work was slowing down the completion of the Tallgees II, not by much, but it was noticeable to him. Linnea Lang was up to something and when he exposed her she would be gone. Of course he’d thought that after the Epyon incident, but still she was here. Still she was in command of the entire engineering department. Why was it that in Khushrenada’s eyes she could do no wrong?
Vier paused outside the office door. He was taking a risk, but surely this information would be the end of Linnea Lang. The door to the office was slightly ajar so he peered in and saw that the General was not at his desk. He’d have to wait, it was early, but the General didn’t sleep much so he had to be up and about somewhere and when he came back he’d tell him everything. As he was about to take a seat he noticed that the other door in the office was open a crack. If His Excellency was still sleeping he’d better get out and come back later, he thought. He peered through the door to see if he was in there and what he saw made everything about the past few months fall suddenly into place. He couldn’t help opening the door wider and looking again to make himself believe it. He should have figured it out sooner. He worked so hard at things but nothing ever came easily. And he knew now why they came so easily to Linnea Lang.
He was sleeping with her.
Linnea heard a floorboard creak and sat straight up, startled into an alert state by the sound. In an instant she had the gun that always reposed on the nightstand in her hand, with the other she pulled the strap of her amethyst silk camisole up over her shoulder and pushed a few strands of hair behind her ear.
“What the hell are you doing here” she asked, raising the hammer of the pistol before she got a clear look at who was standing there. Treize kept guns around for a reason. Assassination was an ever-present threat. Then she recognized the other engineer and lowered the weapon although she kept a hand on the barrel warily. There was something about Vier, they were always at odds about everything. He never agreed with her on anything from the use of the available Gundanium in the Tallgees to the necessity of making repairs on Wing.
“You shouldn’t be here Vier,” she said slowly. She thought for a reason he would possibly come here, to Treize’s inner sanctum. “Is something wrong at the hangar? Some emergency?”
“I came to inform His Excellency that you were repairing the 01 without his permission,” he said in an accusatory tone. “That’s what is wrong at the hangar. It’s been wrong since you came here.”
“I don’t believe Gen. Treize is interested in every little detail of my department,” she said, getting out of bed and wrapping herself up in Treize’s robe, which hung over a nearby chair. The gesture showed Vier just how comfortable she was in this room, she had been here many times before.
Linnea saw the anger and frustration play over the man’s face. She had to nip this in the bud now, she would not tolerate any delays on the Wing repairs. Although Treize had said he would only pilot Tallgees she still hoped to convince him that Wing was the better alternative. He hadn’t listened to her last night, but maybe another time he’d listen. At least Wing could be a backup in case of damage to the World Nation’s signature suit, the Tallgees. The more functioning mobile suits in their arsenal the better the chances of success. Any schoolchild could tell you that much.
“You’re fixing that suit for the Gundam pilots,” Vier said, spilling everything he knew. He’d been so primed to reveal her that he couldn’t help but let her know that he had discovered all her secrets. “I found your transmission to Peacemillion, you see.”
“And exactly what did that tell you?” she asked with confidence she really didn’t feel. He was playing a childish game of one-upmanship with her that wasn’t helping the situation. They should be combining forces, not bickering over who Treize liked best. That was exactly this man’s problem she realized, he didn’t like it that she was the better engineer and he was trying to take her out of the picture. She was too young and confident in her own talent to sympathize with what he must be feeling. Too secure in Treize’s affections.
He flushed as he realized he didn’t know exactly what had been in her transmission and she read that failure on his face.
“I’ll tell you then,” she said a little vindictively. He was out for her blood after all and she had never done anything to him. “I was merely exchanging ideas with a technician I feel comfortable with. I’m sure Treize would approve of that, he only wants the best on this project. So go ahead and inform him. Of course in exchange I gave my colleague some help with his work on the Gundams. But of course you do know that His Excellency has a certain admiration for those pilots and would have no aversion to my giving them a small piece of advice.”
Vier’s jaw dropped. She was insulting him, saying that she’d had to contact her former colleagues to get help with the Tallgees. Help he wasn’t qualified to give.
“And, while you’re at it, I’m sure he’d appreciate hearing how you went through my files without permission as well as entered this room without an invitation. Feel free to tell him all of that Vier,” she said.
She had the upper hand again, as always, he thought. He looked at her, so beautiful standing there in a patch of sunlight, the dark blue robe pooling around her on the floor and making her look like a lovely depiction of a medieval saint’s statue. So far above him and untouchable. And the glare she gave him said it all. “Go ahead and tell what you know,” her look said. “It won’t make a bit of difference.”
“If I don’t say anything . . .” he said.
“Don’t interfere with my repairs to the Wing. That’s all I ask,” she said shrugging. “I have my reasons and they have nothing to do with the Gundam pilots. You have nothing to worry about on that score. Everything I do here I do for His Excellency.”
“I won’t interfere with you again, Miss Linnea,” he said, pulling the door closed behind him. He leaned against it, hate blazing in his eyes. Someday she would be vulnerable and he’d pay her back for this. But that day wasn’t now. He walked off with his fists clenched.
Linnea glanced at herself in the mirror. How much she had changed since she’d come to Luxembourg. She was as cold, calculating and imperious as any of General Treize’s officers. It was this place, these people. It was like a web of intrigue and you always had to watch that you didn’t get caught in it and bitten by the spider. She shuddered at her own imagery, how she hated spiders. She hated this place, why did she stay here she wondered, rubbing her fingers at her temples. Vier had thought she was working with the Gundams. It had been the one thing she had done lately that made her feel some satisfaction in her work. Why did she stay here where she was so out of place? She flopped back down on the bed and her eye caught sight of the little rosebud beside her pillow. She picked it up and looked at it, so perfect. It was so perfectly beautiful. A dreamy look came into her eyes and she rubbed her hands over her arms beneath
the satin robe. It belonged to him, held her as it held him, carried the soft perfume of rose bath oil. Treize, she thought and the other things she had been wondering and worrying about vanished like a mist.
It had reached that point in the story and Duo paused, unable to decide whether to go on. He could just tell Hilde that he’d kinda, sorta picked up DeathScythe somewhere and voila, there he was the 02 pilot. Or he could say that he’d met this girl, and as they’d worked together to build the DeathScythe they’d found themselves falling in love. And then in all the craziness and misunderstandings in this insane war he’d lost her somehow. Saying it would make it so true, but not talking about it didn’t change matters either.
Hilde was the one that had stuck by him for so long and he knew he’d do anything at all for her. But he couldn’t help drawing the parallels. The closer he got to Hilde the less he thought about Linnea. Even as he’d helped Hilde realize that OZ was the real enemy, Linnea had been playing her mind games with Treize and losing the battle. Every time he saw Trowa he thought of that. But how could you be angry with a guy who had no memory? Besides it wasn’t Trowa’s fault, there was no one but himself to blame that she had gone back there . . .
Hilde looked at him expectantly and a little anxiously. He was going to tell her about that other girl now? What if he said that he was still in love with her? How would she cope?
“Then I-I met this girl. We felt the same things, we had the same goals,” Duo started.
“What’s her name,” Hilde asked, trying to stay calm and unaffected by the obvious emotion in his voice.
“Linnea,” he answered. “She, I mean we, ummm--
Someone was knocking on the door and swung it open without waiting for an answer.
“Duo? Are you sleeping? A shuttle is coming in. Heero and Wufei are joining us here and . . .” Quatre said, breaking off as he noticed that Duo was not alone.
Duo almost laughed at the look of shocked surprised on Quatre’s face before the message registered.
“Hey! That’s great news,” Duo said. Quatre, however, continued to look at him searchingly. He could hardly believe it was true. Duo had really, truly given up on Linnea. But if he could have seen her face as he had that moment on Howard’s screen. She was somewhere out there, so confused and sad and lost.
He barely heard Duo introduce the girl in his room as Hilde Schbeiker, although he automatically greeted her in his usual polite and friendly way.
Hilde also barely paid attention as Duo introduced her to the other Gundam pilot. He had come in at such an inopportune moment, just when Duo had been about to tell her something very important. Who knew when they’d get another quiet moment together again, now that the other pilots had arrived . . .
As the reunited quintet of Gundam pilots greeted and eyed each other with varying emotions of happiness on the part of Duo and Quatre; suspicion and doubt on the part of Heero and Wufei and confusion on the part of Trowa; Sally Po and Lucrezia Noin did the same. Sally could see that Noin was not the confident representative of the Cinq Kingdom she had once been. Her eyes were red-rimmed and shadowed with heartbreak.
“Let’s leave these kids alone for awhile,” Sally said to Noin. “Why don’t you show me around Peacemillion. I have a feeling we’re going to be calling this place home for the duration.”
Noin nodded and stepped out of the shuttle hangar with the other woman. Her relief at seeing Sally was almost palpable. They had only met once but their feelings about the war, the Gundam pilots and almost everything had been in total, compatible, accord. Noin was also relieved that Sally was here because now it wouldn’t be so hard to leave them all behind. They would be alright in Sally’s more than capable command. She herself was falling deeper and deeper into despair until she felt she was becoming more of a burden on the crew of Peacemillion than the commander they so desperately needed.
“Thank God you’re here Sally,” Noin said, voicing her feelings. “I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to be a part of this. Half of me is pulling for these kids and the other half . . .”
Her voice trailed away and she hugged her arms around herself, she looked longingly out the portal in the direction of the Battleship Libra.
“Listen to me,” Sally said sharply, thinking that there was no way they needed an emotional breakdown from Noin at this point. The woman was a born leader and a damned good mobile suit pilot, one of the best she’d ever seen. In her skilled hands the Taurus suit they had on board was a necessary backup to the Gundams and those kids were going to need all the help they could get. “You have got to snap out of whatever funk you’re in and come to your senses. We’ve got to help these boys. They are the only ones here in outer space that can end this senseless war. Dammit Noin we need you.”
“I can’t fight against him, it’s just not in me to do that Sally. You don’t understand. I don’t know why he’s doing this and I hate what he’s doing. But I can’t hate him, I never could and I can’t go up against him either. I tried, I did try, but I froze, I just froze,” Noin tried to explain, her voice just above a whisper.
Sally looked at her in shock. “Him? Milliardo Peacecraft? Dear God Noin, what do you mean? Are you in love with him?”
Noin nodded silently. “The first time I saw Zechs I was only 12 years old and in the seven years since then I can tell you exactly how many times he’s touched my hand. I can tell you the length of time we’ve been apart from each other over the years since we graduated from Lake Victoria. Something’s wrong, something must have happened to make him like this, but I can’t abandon my feelings for him. I can’t.”
Sally admitted to herself that she did not understand. She had dedicated her life to fighting wrongs and the closest thing to the kind of passion that Noin felt for Zechs was her deep admiration and belief in those five young men in there. They were what it was all about, and they would find a way to win. She had the utmost confidence in them. It was the highlight of her life to be working alongside them now.
“Noin, please, how can you let these feelings cloud your judgement? I don’t pretend to know how you feel, but pull yourself together. Try to look at this objectively,” Sally pleaded. “We need you desperately.”
Noin shook her head. “I just wanted you to know. And I’m glad you’ll be here for them if I can’t be.”
She turned her back on Sally and walked away before she could see the tears sliding down her pale cheeks.
It had been 14 hours and 45 minutes since she’d last seen Zechs.
Sally and Howard studied each other silently, sizing each other up as they awaited the return of the Gundam pilots and Noin from another skirmish with Milliardo Peacecraft. They’d saved the colony that OZ had taken hostage in order to subdue White Fang, but they’d been unable to stop the Libra from firing on the Earth.
Sally wondered how Noin must feel now. Would her stubborn attachment to the White Fang commander be able to withstand this latest blow? Perhaps it had shaken her resolve not to fight him because she was apparently returning with the three Gundams who had gone out to protect the colony.
In a corner of the bridge Wufei silently meditated on the course that should be taken. The one sure enemy was the Libra. It must be destroyed before they could even think of doing battle with Zechs Merquise . . . or Treize. His eyes narrowed as he remembered his last battle with the OZ commander, now Sovereign of the World Nation. He relived the humiliation of being the weaker combatant, of having to acknowledge that Khushrenada was an honorable foe. The next time he met him he would have Nataku, they would fight on his ground and . . . but he was digressing, letting himself be distracted from the initial goal. The Libra.
“What exactly do we know about the Libra,” he asked suddenly opening his eyes and startling the others on the bridge with the sudden announcement. He had been so quiet they had hardly remembered he had been there.
“That’s a good question,” Howard said, considering the remark. “Not enough. Not enough at all. Now if I could get my hands on their data then we’d really know where we stand. We could plan. If I had the schematics we’d know where they’re vulnerable. We’ve got limited fire power and we have to use it wisely. What I wouldn’t give to have that information. But we don’t and we just have to live with that. It decreases our odds but it’s no use thinking about something we don’t have.”
“Hmmmmm,” Wufei muttered, closing his eyes and becoming silent again.
Hilde paused in the doorway listening. She had come to make sure that Duo was okay and after hearing that he was she had lingered to find out what exactly they were planning on doing next.
“If only we had that data,” she thought to herself, folding her arms over her chest and slowly walking down the hallway. “There must be some way.”
Quatre knew very well that the angle of the Earth from the sector in space that Libra was situated on meant that the beam cannon’s blast had decimated a lightly populated area somewhere south of the Equator in the western hemisphere. Still, it had sent such a jolt through him. If something happened to her he knew he’d crack, just like when Father and Iria had died . . . he looked at Sandrock, swarming with Peacemillion technicians. They looked like ants crawling over the damaged, massive hulk of the Gundam. He felt a little sorry for them, every time they took the suits out meant hours of intense repair work for the technicians. How she would have loved it. What he wouldn’t give to look up and see her there . . . Linnea . . .
“Quatre? Are you alright,” a voice beside him questioned.
“Sorry Trowa, I was just thinking. Wondering what we’re going to do next,” Quatre answered, regretfully pushing away his memories and trying to focus on the situation at hand.
“I’m just hoping they can repair HeavyArms in time for the next encounter,” Trowa said, looking at his mobile suit with what could almost be described as a fond look. “Now that I remember things I don’t want to fight again without it.”
“Now that you remember I’m wondering if you’ll ever be able to forgive me for what happened to you,” Quatre said, letting his gaze shift from Sandrock to the Wing Zero.
“Forgive what,” Trowa asked simply. “There’s nothing for me to forgive you for Quatre. I’ve seen the Zero System now, lived it. Seen what it can show a pilot . . .”
His voice trailed off a little as he saw himself destroying the colony he had gone to save, destroying Cathrine, instead of protecting her. Only an illusion, he repeated to himself, unclenching his fists, an illusion.
“Thanks for talking me through it,” he said, glancing up at the other pilot.
“I’m just happy you didn’t make the same mistakes I did,” Quatre answered.
Trowa picked up a wrench and tossed it up a few feet in the air, catching it easily as it descended again. “Still, I wish Howard would at least let me help repair my Gundam. I have the feeling it won’t be long until we’re out there again.”
“They mean well,” Quatre said, naturally understanding the motives of the others. “We should rest up for tomorrow I suppose.”
“There’s still something bothering you, isn’t there? Something besides the repairs and my forgiving you,” Trowa said.
Quatre sighed. “I’m just worried about someone-- the people on Earth. Do you really think he’d destroy it. Can he be serious?”
Trowa shrugged, “anything is possible. We just have to try to keep that from happening, the destruction of Earth isn’t the way to true peace. He’s wrong about that.”
“Have you seen Duo Maxwell,” Hilde asked, tugging on the sleeve of a gray-haired technician.
Desperation had led her to seek him out in the hangar. She still felt like a stranger amongst this group of technicians and the other Gundam pilots. She felt like she was in the way and not being much help.
“Hello young lady and who are you,” the strangely-dressed technician said. “I’m Howard and Duo’s up there in the cockpit. He sure does wreak havoc with those systems, I’m making him recalibrate the controls and he’s none too happy about it.”
“I’m Hilde Schbeiker,” she said, smiling a bit shyly at Howard. “I’m a friend of Duo’s and that description fits him exactly. He sure hates being bored.”
“That’s for sure,” Howard commiserated. “It wasn’t easy getting him up there to work on it. I don’t know how Linnea managed to get him to do it every time.”
Hilde was on the verge of asking this Howard to give her all the details about Duo and Linnea. She must have been someone who worked on DeathScythe at one point or another. But Duo’s voice rang out in the hangar, interrupting her chain of thought.
“Howard!! I’ve had it, I’m coming down,” he shouted. She watched him descend from the cockpit.
“Then I guess it’ll have to do,” Howard said, shaking his head. “There are still a few more systems to test but . . .”
“Can it Howard. DeathScythe is just fine. When did you get so uptight about all those recalibrations and stuff? It’s not like you man,” Duo said, slapping the older man on the shoulder.
“Hi Duo,” Hilde said, waving her hand in his face. “Do you have some time? We really need to talk.”
Before he could answer a boy about their age appeared beside them, suddenly and silently almost making Hilde jump with his abrupt arrival. He merely glanced at her, flicking his bottomless blue eyes over her unemotionally, almost as if he were deciding whether she was a threat or not. Then without a word he turned his attention to Duo.
“We’re going to go over some strategy on the bridge. Are you coming,” Heero announced.
“Strategy? I think the only choice we’ve got is to destroy them before they destroy us,” Duo said.
“Suit yourself,” Heero said flatly, turning to leave.
Duo rolled his eyes in annoyance but he turned to Hilde and said, “I’ve gotta talk to those guys I guess. I’ll catch you later, okay?”
All she could do was nod as he took off after the other pilot.
Howard looked after them as they left the hangar. “I hate to say it but Duo’s right. Without any information on the Libra strategy planning does seem kinda pointless.”
Hilde walked slowly out of the hangar. Her mind was humming with so many things. But what Howard had said was foremost. How could they plan without any knowledge of the Libra. There must be some way. She paused in the doorway and looked at the Peacemillion’s fleet. There were the Gundams, Noin’s Taurus and Sally’s carrier shuttle. And there was a Taurus mobile-suit type shuttle. She knew how to pilot those, she’d been one of the few in her unit given the additional training.
What would she be willing to do for peace, to help out Duo and his friends she wondered. She remembered telling her parents she was going to become a soldier. They had come near to forbidding it.
“Why risk your life for something that can never come to be,” her father had said. “Let the fools that are already involved take care of what they’ve started. We’ve stayed out of it and that’s the safest way to be.”
She loved her parents but their apathy almost made her ill. And if she didn’t do anything now she’d be as bad as they were. She wasn’t like that. One person could make a difference. She could make a difference.
Hilde turned on her heel and went over to examine the Taurus shuttle.
TO BE CONTINUED . . . Stuff will actually happen!! . . . I promise!! . . . As this story plods along to its inevitable conclusion!!! . . . Just one more chapter and an epilogue left!!