Author’s Note: It didn’t take much for me to realize that in the beginning of this chapter I sounded an awful lot like Dorothy Catalonia!! *rushes to mirror to check eyebrows* Anyway, it’s still not over, this chapter is evolving into more than I had originally planned so I’ve had to split this sucker into 3 parts. Make sure you’ve read 7A and find Chapter 8 posted right after this.
Love is a Battlefield
by Midii Une
There was complete silence and an extended dramatic pause as the military forces of the World Nation hung in space like so many sparkling ornaments shining in the cold starlight.
The pause was orchestrated by His Excellency himself, he wanted to impress this moment on his troops. This supreme moment when everlasting peace for the Earth they loved hung in the balance. It was a moment to be savored, a moment not to be rushed.
Then the magnificent hand of the Tallgees II unfurled itself elegantly and the mobile suit piloted by Treize Khushrenada shot unhesitatingly toward the enemy--Zechs Merquise.
Her very soul felt like it was afire, like it was trying to remain in her body while something was trying to extricate it from her by force. The slow, measured thud of her heartbeat became a quick, staccato rhythm and her lids flew open to reveal the startled eyes of velvety brown that they had hidden for so long. Eyes that hadn’t opened in several months.
Instantly the medical staff was galvanized by the familiar commanding voice, even as their brains struggled with the concept that she was conscious and standing before them. She seemed almost magically to suffer no after effects from her long struggle to live. A few of the younger medics even stared as if they were seeing a ghost.
In the hangar the technicians were just putting their tools away. The less experienced members of the team were still wondering why they had even bothered to install the space travel boosters on the Gundam that had been left behind. Practically every other weapon on Earth was now in space. The Wing stood alone, gleaming softly under the fluorescent lights, the sole representative of military power on the depleted planet. Every weapon gone, every pilot with them. The technicians grumbled but they knew that if Miss Linnea returned and found the suit incomplete they wouldn’t want to face the unforgiving flash of her deep purple eyes. Her eyes could harden till they resembled amethysts.
A hush fell over the vast, cavernous area and not even a mutter could be heard. Lady Une, helmet under her arm, spoke to no one. Her eyes scanned the men and the hangar and finally rested on the Wing.
If only Mr. Treize were here to appreciate the beautiful irony. She would come to him in outer space. She would be arriving in a Gundam.
On MO-II they were preparing for the worst. Linnea’s fingers itched, she knew that in a very short time the hangars would be filled with damaged mobile suits, if only there was some way to get a jump on all the work that was ahead. Almost on auto pilot herself, she directed the technicians to set up work stations and be ready for incoming damaged suits.
It was so quiet now, as if the very air itself was waiting, waiting for something to happen.
The gut-wrenching calm before the storm, the very stillness made her want to scream or destroy something, anything to break the awful silence.
And then a soft buzzing swept through the hangar. The storm approached and then broke over her. The Libra. The Libra was going to fire its main cannon at Gen. Treize. At the World Nation’s Forces. At the MO-II. The whispers of the men echoed softly through the hangar as Linnea turned on her heel and headed for the bridge, the low-level gravity of the resource satellite seeming to impede her progress like the sensation in a nightmare.
As she stepped through the doorway she could see the image on the observation screen.
“Treize,” she thought. “Why aren’t you moving? Move dammit . . .”
The Libra cannon began to glow eerily, the light becoming brighter and brighter till it was almost unbearable to look at. And still he didn’t move, facing down Zechs Merquise, refusing to be budged from his spot.
Everyone in the control room on MO-II shielded their eyes and braced themselves for the hit as a stream of pure energy emitted from the massive Libra beam cannon.
Only a slight tightening of his grip on the throttle indicated Treize’s feelings as he waited for the future he had been shown by Epyon.
He didn’t know that someone whose feelings for him were stronger than the effects of the Zero System had the power to change that future.
The light seared his eyes, forcing him to close his lids before the impact in a damnable act of cowardice. He had wanted to go out with his eyes open, unflinchingly standing his ground as a true soldier should. The impact that came was amazingly mild but he felt intense heat as the blast came close to him and then brushed past, moving onward to decimate a few corps of mobile suits and a portion of MO-II before dissipating harmlessly into space.
Treize opened his eyes and saw the smoldering husk of the Gundam Wing beside him. The hatch opened and the pilot emerged miraculously unharmed and floated delicately and gracefully as an angel toward the untouched Tallgees II. Perhaps this was death after all, he thought. Was the end only a strange and warped continuation of the lives people had lived in the Earthly sphere? Then the helmeted head of the lovely figure turned and the mask grew translucent so he could see the face beneath.
“Lady,” he breathed.
His attitude changed, the feelings he had had since piloting Epyon disappeared. With her by his side again perhaps the visions of Epyon could be altered. They already had been. If only she could have seen the tenderness and love in his eyes as he watched her head for MO-II. He had to believe she could feel it, now they were one person, one mind. Again.
“All troops,” he announced, his voice confident and purposeful. He knew now he would be victorious, the supreme confidence he had always had in himself restored by Lady Une.
“Destroy Libra now.”
“Whoa,” Duo exclaimed. “That was a close one.”
The Peacemillion crew was observing the clash between the World Nation and the Libra on the screen.
“Now we have to make a choice,” Sally said. “Do we keep fighting on our own or do we join the World Nation and help destroy Libra?”
There really was no choice. The World Nation was the lesser of two evils, for now they would have to fight with Treize Khushrenada to end the threat posed by the White Fang commander Zechs Merquise and the hordes of mobile dolls he commanded.
Noin ignored the conversation as the pilots dissected their options. She was starting to understand what Zechs was planning to do. Starting to understand why he was doing this. Her heart swelled with pain, she hadn’t thought it could get any worse. Noin’s eyes were dry but they burned. For awhile she had doubted his actions, his purpose. But now she could believe again.
There could be only one reason for Zechs to act the way he was, one reason Zechs would fire on Treize. He was trying to bring about peace in the only way he knew how. Through battle. All the lingering questions in her mind were answered and a strange tranquility flowed through her, she didn’t have to fight him any more. He was doing what was right. He was still the perfect knight she had fallen in love with as an idealistic young girl.
She closed her eyes and saw that boy, the boy that would become Zechs Merquise, hiding himself in shame behind dark glasses or a mask because of what he had become. A Peacecraft who excelled in the art of war. A Peacecraft whose heart cried out for revenge. She remembered sneaking adoring looks at him across a table in the library at Lake Victoria as they studied. She had admired everything about him, his noble, royal beauty and his excellence as a student, as a mobile suit pilot and as a soldier. Indeed it had all come so easily to them both. And yet all that either of them really wanted was peace for the Earth and for outer space.
And when the others pledged to destroy Libra she closed her heart against them and made no such vow herself.
“Forgive me Zechs,” she thought. “Forgive me for not understanding you.”
The officers and staff on the MO-II bridge heaved a collective sigh of relief as the smoke and light cleared and the Tallgees appeared undamaged on the screen.
“How,” Officer Vier muttered, voicing the thoughts of all of them. It had appeared that Gen. Treize had intended to stand his ground.
“The Wing,” Linnea answered, making out the remains of the mobile suit as the sky cleared. “But who could have piloted it?”
She shook her head and clenched her fists. She had to do something, something productive. In her mind, with her eyes shielded against the blast, she had seen the mobile suit disintegrate until nothing was left. Nothing at all. Saw his blue eyes fade into blackness.
“Right,” she said. “What’s the damage report? Bring it up now!”
She looked at the findings. The damage to MO-II was negligible and required no attention, only an abandoned section of the satellite had been blasted, the structure had withstood the blast fairly well. The angle of the hit had resulted in the best case scenario for them. However, and she frowned, there were more than two dozen mobile suits out there that had sustained crippling damage from the heat of the blast, not to mention the 10 or so that had disintegrated in the path of the beam cannon. She blinked furiously trying to erase the vision she’d had of the Tallgees.
She had to do something or go out of her mind.
“I’ll need a transport shuttle and a crew, we’ll do onsite repairs and get some of those suits operational again. We can also bring in the survivors who can’t pilot anymore and bring in the suits that sustained too much damage to be repaired to use for parts. It looks like there’s a possibility of a drawn-out battle,” Linnea said. “We can’t waste anything at this point. There is no backup, everything we have is out there. We’ve lost too much as it is.”
She looked around the room.
“Volunteers only. We’re going out into the heart of the battlefield,” she added.
Was it possible that peace was unattainable?
Zechs was starting to wonder. He controlled his anger and frustration but he couldn’t believe that Treize had survived that blast, he had been planted right in its path. How could Gundam Wing appear in space like that to push him out of the way? Despite himself his clenched fist pounded on the bridge console and he gritted his teeth as his ice-blue eyes sparked dangerously.
“Can I accomplish nothing in this quest for peace,” he thought hopelessly. He hadn’t been able to destroy Peacemillion and now Treize escaped through some miraculous intervention. And now the World Nation had the upper hand and Treize would take full advantage.
“Fire the cannon again,” he ordered.
Only to be informed that it had broken down yet again. He clenched both fists so tightly that blood seeped from his palms where the nails dug through his gloves into the tender skin. Thwarted, thwarted at every turn and if Treize was victorious now it would all be for nothing.
He had to get out of there, away from the eyes of Dorothy and Quinze. He had to do what he was best at. In Epyon he could destroy them all, Treize and his army, the Gundams and the Peacemillion. The mobile dolls could hold off Treize’s deployments for awhile, he’d take care of the Gundams himself.
Linnea concentrated on the repairs, perhaps it was foolish to be out here but at least it was quiet and she didn’t have to think about what was happening around her. Flashes of light barely made it into her line of vision as the glare of battle did little to cut through the darkness of space.
She really didn’t want to know, she thought, at least not till it was all over. As long as she was working on a mobile suit she could keep her mind from straying, from seeing the ones she cared about being decimated by beams of killing light.
Linnea turned in annoyance as one of the technicians grabbed her arm and shook her to get her attention. She shook her head at him then gave up and turned her sound system back on.
“Mobile dolls,” he said. “Headed straight for us.”
“It’s moving,” Sally said. “The Libra is leaving the battlefield and heading toward Earth.”
Her young, resilient eyes met Howard’s eyes, eyes that were still young in a face that had seen so much over the years.
The Peacemillion was his pride and joy. But everyone had to make their sacrifice to make peace possible.
“Alright,” he said. “We’ll ram the Libra.”
All the players watched as slowly and inexorably the Peacemillion maintained its course toward Libra’s main cannon. The information Hilde had risked her life for showing them that they were definitely on the right course, at this trajectory the weapon that made the battleship so fearsome would be taken completely out of the picture.
It seemed so strange to those watching out in space, all battles seemed to suspend themselves as the main drama focussed on the two ships. The collision was soundless as watching a silent film, it seemed so unreal as the smaller ship gracefully forced itself into the heart of the larger battleship like a dagger wielded by a vengeful god.
On Libra Heero lay on top of Relena in the darkness, the weight on top of him symbolic of his life as a soldier, the weight of the universe, the weight of all mankind around his neck. It was his mission. The chunk of wall that threatened to crush him was nothing compared to all that. Despite the feel of her, warm and soft and trusting beneath him, he could only think about Zechs. Now Zechs would be forced to make a move, now his plans had been turned back. Heero knew that the main weapon had been destroyed.
He heard her voice soft and confident in his ear. She saw what she wanted to see. All he saw was that she was the hope for the future and that he and Zechs would have to fight one more battle to make that future a reality. And yet, from a place inside him that even he had forgotten existed, he bent his head and pressed his cheek against her neck, feeling the softness of her hair against his face like the brush of an angel’s wing and the warmth of her breath against his ear, he smelled her fragrance, the innocent scent of lily of the valley invaded his senses.
Then, almost angrily he braced his muscles and called on a reserve of almost superhuman strength and flipped the heavy piece of debris off them. He helped her up bruskly and ignored her thanks for his protection. It was time for him to find Zero, time for him to get Relena out of here.
The mobile suits they had come to repair were still useless, unable to move for the most part. Even if they could move they couldn’t outrun those mobile dolls, certainly the transport they’d arrived in couldn’t either. Linnea bit her lip trying to think as the small group of White Fang’s mobile dolls headed for them, picking up the mobile suits they were programmed to destroy. They weren’t alive, they wouldn’t see they were just a group of unarmed technicians floating helplessly in space. Why did she always act without thinking? She didn’t care much for herself but the others shouldn’t have to pay for her mistakes.
Not for the first time she wondered why she could be so smart about some things and yet continually made stupid mistakes like this. Too often she ignored common sense when she was frightened or hurting.
She screamed as suddenly the dolls were upon them and a blast took out half of the damaged mobile suits and the technicians and pilots working on them. As a unit the dolls turned toward the rest of the group . . . but instantly a green glow lit the sky and the White Fang weapons evaporated, the blast shoving the technicians back with it’s force. When the light faded Linnea could see it.
“What the hell are you people trying to do out here,” a familiar voice sounded in her ears.
She couldn’t answer, someone shook her again, but she didn’t respond, her eyes glued to the Gundam.
“We’re technicians from MO-II out here repairing these World Nation mobile suits, we had to reclaim these, we’ve lost too many,” someone answered for her, for which she was eternally grateful.
Linnea wished her eyes could see through the Gundanium. See Duo.
“Damn,” Duo said. “Who the hell thought up a crazy scheme like that? You better get your asses back to MO-II right now, screw the suits, the shit’s about to hit the fan.”
He blasted off again leaving a trail of light behind from the space boosters Howard must have fitted the DeathScythe with.
“Duo,” she whispered.
Wufei had been waiting for this for a long time. He could see Treize, see his skill evident in every blow he struck against the mobile dolls. They weren’t worthy opponents but they had ability, he had to admit that, they were difficult to destroy.
At last they were going to meet on a battlefield, and now the weapons would not be swords. He could use Nataku with honor this time and with Nataku he could not lose. He relived their last duel, his weakness, his humiliation. His shame that the enemy had proven to be an honorable foe after all. It was so much easier to hate a dishonorable, weak enemy and he despised himself for the reluctant admiration he felt for Treize Khushrenada.
He continued destroying the mobile dolls as Treize did the same. And when outer space was cleared of the soulless warriors they would purge themselves of the meaningless victory and take on each other.
She was shaking so badly someone had to help her off the transport shuttle, Linnea didn’t think she’d be able to stand without a hand to hold her up. She was grateful now for the low gravity that had slowed her down earlier.
She pulled off the helmet and leaned up against the wall, her head on her arm, seeing the suits and men disappearing in the light. And Duo, he had been there, he had saved her from that. And she hadn’t deserved to be saved. She knew that she was trembling not only from the close call but from seeing him again, seeing DeathScythe appear in between her and death like some dark avenging angel.
“Ma’am,” a voice said softly. It was a young technician, just a beginner, he’d volunteered to go with her. They were probably actually about the same age, but she felt so much older. He was looking at her with concern and reached to touch her forehead with his gloved hand. “You’re hurt, bleeding,” he said, showing her the red on his fingertips, talking to her as if she were shell-shocked or hard of hearing.
“I’m sorry,” she choked. “It was all my fault, those men . . .”
“We did the right thing, Miss Linnea. We needed those suits,” the boy said. “It was really something, better than staying around here. Did you see that mobile suit that saved us? It was a Gundam. I’ve seen a Gundam!”
She looked away. Like so many others he thought she was brave and smart, but she was nothing, nothing but a frightened, stupid little girl.
“I oughta kill you guys,” Duo said, cocking his gun and glaring at the huddled group of wizened scientists. The ones who had engineered this whole mess. The ones who had stuck their dirty little hands and/or metal claws in everybody else’s lives. Did they actually think their little scheme of messing with the Libra’s main cannon was enough to compensate for all they’d done?
Professor G looked at him knowingly. Duo hated that piercing look. It was as if the old freak could see what was hidden far below the surface of his mind. Just like when he’d wanted to blow up DeathScythe before even going to Earth. The professor’d read his mind and talked him out of it, turned it all around so it seemed like his own idea to go to Earth and wreak the vengeance of Shinigami.
“If you destroy us you won’t be getting rid of the problem,” Professor G said, seemingly nonchalantly. Dr. J looked at his comrade questioningly. He wondered what the hell he meant by that but decided to let him continue. “We’re old and getting useless, our time is past. Killing us won’t mean a thing unless you finish things up by destroying Lang’s daughter.”
Duo’s eyes widened. Linnea? What the hell did he mean by that?
“That’s right. Lang’s daughter. Our legacy to this world, in case it should ever need the Gundams again. She will know what to do. Our priority in sending her to OZ was to keep her alive through this. She’s the future, the safeguard of the peace to come,” Professor G explained. “And what safer place to keep our trump card than right inside the enemy’s camp?”
“Now stop being foolish Duo and get us over to Peacemillion so we can save the Earth,” Professor G said, hoping he hadn’t gone too far with the words about Lang’s daughter. The girl was as in the dark as anyone else but she had played her part to perfection, responding to their expert string-pulling like all the good little puppets had. Her Epyon was one of the necessary and integral pieces in the complicated puzzle that would result in peace.
“Fine,” Duo said shortly. “I’ll take you.”
Professor G looked triumphantly at the others. When it came to his pilot he knew exactly which buttons to push.
He never knew how much Duo wanted to kill him in that moment.
As he dashed through space carrying his nasty little cargo of scientific blight that had probably done more than anything to bring about this war, his mind strayed back to her. He’d have to find Linnea after it was over. Find out what her intentions were. Her name and memories of her face still had power over him. He had to find out what that meant for both of them.
If it wasn’t for her he would gladly have killed them. But he had a deeply-ingrained sense of justice, belied by his easy smiles and laughter. It was true that if he killed them it wouldn’t matter, as long as Linnea lived. And his heart couldn’t tolerate that thought of that, not at all. Professor G had known that and used it to save all their miserable lives.
Duo prayed he hadn’t let himself make a horrible mistake by giving in to sentiment for a girl he wasn’t sure how he felt about.
The tall woman flicked her unreadable brown eyes over her appraisingly as if trying to find something in her that would give her the answer to something. Linnea stared back, this was Lady Une.
A mere child. A mere child with the mind of a genius and a pretty face, nothing more. And yet she had meant something to Treize, had been there for him when she could not be.
Lady Une wondered vaguely what it might have been like to have lived as only a woman and not a soldier. She had let the soldier in her take over her life, her voice was the voice of command; her touch hard, not soft; she had locked the feelings of a woman deep inside. Sometimes his touch had nudged something deep in her, made the hidden woman move restlessly but she had always put her back to sleep again. There was no room for such things in the life of the soldier. She had forced herself to live an austere life and deny herself love and pleasure for his sake.
The girl before her hadn’t had such scruples and a sharp prick of jealousy touched her heart for only an instant. When he came back and the world was at peace it would be different. She would be different, her true self would emerge finally like an enchanting butterfly from its cocoon. Her eyes softened to a velvety texture and her face fell into gracious lines.
“Miss Lang,” she said kindly. “We’re so glad you made it back unharmed.”
And she meant what she said.
Linnea studied her as well. She’d heard rumors but there was nothing concrete. Treize’s right hand, Lady Une had done anything, not even short of murder for him. But had there been anything between them? She didn’t seem terrifying at all, as the tone of voice of gossipers had indicated. She managed a faint, crooked smile back at the older woman.
“Thank you,” she said, puzzling over the differences in the severe soldier she’d met briefly when Trowa had brought her to OZ headquarters and the woman she saw now. Professional, yes, but dedicated and concerned and she seemed to have gathered an aura of gentleness around herself.
His voice interrupted their thoughts.
“Lady,” he said. “How many have died today?”
Wufei faltered in his resolve. Could the aristocratic noble really understand the concept of what others sacrificed for him and the meaningless battles he had surrounded himself with? For the first time in his life, despite what had been shown to him by the Zero System, he was unsure what to do. Was killing Treize the solution? Would he feel victorious? Would his cause be vindicated? Would it be justice?
Out of the corner of his eye something broke through his meditation in the pause of battle. The blue and white mobile suit was blasting toward him, weapons raised. He could almost hear the battle cry of Treize Khushrenada as the suit blurred toward him. He raised his beam trident instinctively and it embedded itself into the midsection of the other mobile suit. Arcs of energy wreathed the fatally-damaged Tallgees.
“Nooooooo,” Wufei shouted, tears of weakness streaming down his face. “Why Treize . . .”
The screen flashed pure white and then there was blackness.
A shudder went through Lady Une and her hands opened and shut helplessly on the console before her as the screen remained empty. Empty. And then the picture reappeared to show nothing but smoke and debris floating in space. Stronger than her despair, was her love and adoration, undiminished by the absolute proof that he was gone. He was gone and it was all up to her now. She couldn’t let his death be for nothing, that would be tragedy indeed. She had loved a soldier and he was gone. But his sacrifice would live forever and he would be a hero, she would see to it. But for now she had to save the Earth. The Earth Treize had loved above all things, herself included.
For Treize she would even endure the humiliation of surrender. Theirs had always been a union of the mind and spirit. He would never really be gone from her, in a way now he would always be hers. Alive in the depths of her heart and her soul in all his magnificent nobility. His spirit had but melded now into hers and they would always be together until someday she joined him in that other place. Their own Valhalla . . .
Linnea clearly felt the physical presence of Treize disappearing, leaving her behind like the slow caress of a rose petal against her skin or a breeze playing with the ends of her hair.
How could he be dead, the most vibrant presence in her life? Her protector, the only one it had seemed who had thought she was necessary. His approval the glue that held her together in the face of all her indecision in this crazy mess of a war. Why wasn’t she falling apart now? Had she ever really needed him? Or was that only what he had made her believe?
Her body ached realizing that it would never feel the touch of that rose again, screamed for the release of tears. Her mind was stunned to discover that the world was going on without him, that she had never needed him. It had all been an illusion designed to keep her at his side.
And she had sacrificed everything to that flattering illusion.
TO BE CONTINUED . . . don’t worry, it was just getting too long again, I terribly underestimated the length of this chapter. Chapter 8 is coming later this afternoon, I’m home sick (probably from writing on this fic) so I promise it later.