Started 5-28-02 Ended 9-02-02
The Gundam Conspiracy
A young boy, no more than seventeen years old, stepped from the dim confines of the karaoke bar, blinking in the bright sunlight as he fully woke up. He yawned, flipping his hip-length brown braid back over his shoulder.
Man, Duo, you really need to lay off the jokes playing poker, he thought, looking around for anyone he knew. The guy even took my gun.
Duo Maxwell stepped out into the street, stopping a cab in the middle of the road. "Get out of the way, bonehead!" the cab driver yelled, revving his engine.
"Okay, okay, I just needed a ride," Duo said, stepping out of the cab's way. "And a good morning to you too!" he yelled at the guy's back bumper, which had a sticker reading "Pilots should die."Well, that went well, Duo thought happily. If he would have known who I really was I don't think he'd have stopped.
A car screeched to a halt beside him. "Well, Heero, aren't you up early on this admittedly fake morning?" Duo asked the driver. "Man, space is the place to be if you want to meet jerks."
Heero Yuy unlocked the passenger side door. "Quatre thinks that Marimeia's supporters are somewhere out near Pluto. He wants us to go check it out." As Duo got in the car, Heero wrinkled his nose. "Didn't you take a shower?" he asked.
"Nope. This really big guy kicked the crap out of me because he thought I was cheating." Duo brushed off his black pants. "Knocked me right out."
"You probably were cheating," Heero muttered. He shifted the car into gear and zoomed along the road.
"You're complaining about my clothes?" Duo asked. "Didn't you wear that yesterday?"
Heero glanced down at his loose green tank top and black spandex shorts. "At least my clothes are clean."
Duo opened his mouth, shut it silently. He didn't speak on the rest of the trip to the warehouse where he normally slept.
The warehouse wasn't really a warehouse. On the inside, it extended several decks down to the very bottom of the L5 colony. The top deck was mainly computer controls and weapons storage. The decks below housed the mobile suits used to fight the war.
Duo yawned, walking over to a door that led to the small rooms that they normally slept in. "Whatever's going on, tell me later. I need a shower and some sleep." He vanished through the door.
Quatre Raberba Winner walked over to Heero, staring after Duo. "What happened?"
"He was playing poker at a karaoke bar and cheated," Heero said. "Apparently, it wasn't taken too well."
"Well, our scouts say that there is something really big being built out near Pluto," Quatre said. "They think that it's another space station. We're preparing a strike force to take it out. The bad news is, we need everybody, and that means there'll be no one to guard the base."
"If it cripples SAM, then it's worth the risk." Heero looked around. "So when do we leave?"
"The Leos are being repaired, which will take several days, and then it's at least another day to load up on ammo and supplies, then about two days to reach Pluto." Quatre handed Heero a small belt. "All the data is in Wing Zero's computer."
Heero put on the belt, activated it, and vanished through a small hole in the floor. Chang Wufei passed him as he cam up.
"Where's Duo?" Wufei asked.
"Asleep, most likely," Quatre said, pointing at the door Duo had gone through. "He was playing poker last night."
"I see," Wufei said. He went below again. Trowa Barton, on an antigrav belt, zoomed over from the computer on the other side of the large room.
"Quatre, you should be down below preparing your gundam," Trowa said. "I've already finished with mine."
"Okay," Quatre said, picking up an antigrav belt and following Wufei.
Trowa, floating upside down, stared after him into the ordered chaos below. As he did, he couldn't help thinking, We gundam pilots always seem to be fighting. Is that to be our destiny?
Nearly a week later, a force of two hundred mobile suits, the five gundams, plus one capitol ship converged on Pluto. The mobile suits, designed like fifty-foot high human robots, were all piloted by grim-faced battle-experienced veterans of the last war. The five gundam pilots, though only teenagers, were no strangers to war either. Each of the five gundams were more advanced versions of the mobile suits, and all capable of decimating all two hundred mobile suits without hesitation.
It wasn't another armada of mobile suits that greeted them, however. It was a ship of such alien origin, alien wasn't even the right word to describe it.
"Wow," Duo said, examining his data "That thing is so big, I could have ten colonies in it and still be able to fit a swimming pool."
"Shut up," Heero said. "I'm trying to make sense of it."
His gundam jerked around him. "What's happening?" Trowa asked.
Quatre didn't know either. He opened his mouth to voice an idea but he suddenly found that he wasn't in control of it any more. Or anything else.
"Do not be afraid, humans," he heard himself say. "We have locked a tractor device on your vessels and are bringing them in to dock with our ships. If you try to fight, it may destroy you."
Heero stared at his screens, which displayed images of each if the other pilots. On it, Quatre was sitting with his eyes closed, perfectly calm.
"Quatre?" Heero stared at him. "What's wrong with you?"
"The human you call Quatre is currently unavailable." Quatre opened his eyes, staring straight at Heero. "Do not worry. He will be fine."
"What did you do to him?" Duo asked.
"We have merely taken control of this human. He is alive, just asleep in a small corner of his mind. We will wake him up as soon as we are finished guiding you."
"You keep saying 'we.' Who are you?" Heero asked.
"You would call us aliens." Quatre smiled. "It's an interesting concept, really. You call members of your own race aliens, after all."
"Why are you controlling Quatre?" Trowa asked. "To me, it would seem more logical to take control of a scholar or a scientist."
"We are capable of interfacing with this human more easily than any others present. Therefore, it is logical use the least amount of energy possible to accomplish the most results." Quatre tapped a control on his gundam's computer controls. "Now I will be occupied with reviewing your history. Do not disturb me." The channel cut off.
Heero was pleased to see that Duo looked absolutely terrified. "What if they decide that we're no good to have around and kill us?" he asked wildly.
Heero wished that he could reach through the screen and slap Duo, but he couldn't. Trowa, on the other hand, looked asleep and Wufei was reading a Chinese book.
"Wow," Duo said again. Quatre, still under the control of the aliens, looked at him curiously.
"Why does this surprise you? From what I have read, you are used to unusual circumstances."
"You may have also read that we have not had any previous contact with aliens before," Heero said. "The human race has a tendency to be afraid of what it doesn't know."
"Ah," the Quatre/alien said. "I see now."
A hidden door slid open next to them. Inside was what looked like an enormous medical facility. "What's this?" Duo asked.
"We must make sure that your bodies do not contain any material that, while helpful to you, will not prove harmful to us." Quatre laid down on one of the hundreds of floating beds in the chamber. "All of you must be scanned, to check for any mutations."
"If we pass will you help us?" Trowa asked.
"Yes." Quatre looked up them. "The scan cannot begin until all of you are ready."
All one hundred of the gundam pilots' men were soon on one of the floating beds. Just as Quatre yelled, "Don't do it! It's a trap!" the beds became giant tubes that began to slowly fill with a greenish liquid.
Heero writhed in the tube trying to escape. Finally, he grew drowsy. They don't even know us. Why are they doing this?
The asteroid containing the gundam pilots was launched toward another galaxy along with a partner, the other asteroid the pilots had seen on their way in. A ship escorted the two asteroids away from the solar system then vanished without a trace.
"Why is it that we, the heroes of the Delta Quadrant, get stuck destroying a stupid asteroid?" Tom Paris asked. "It had to have been floating around for millions of years. Why is someone just now taking care of it?"
Kathryn Janeway ignored the comment. "We're probably the only ship in the quadrant who can take care of this, and we don't have anything better to do," Harry Kim said.
"You should be happy," Chakotay said. "At least it's better than fighting the Borg."
"Captain, the asteroid is within range." Tuvok poised his hands over the firing controls.
"Launch torpedoes," Janeway ordered.
The bright balls of yellow energy impacted, making it hard to see anything. Then, "Captain, the target was not destroyed. Shall I fire another spread?"
Janeway nodded, and watched the two torpedoes hit exactly where the last two had hit.
"Same result," Tuvok said.
"Use phasers," Chakotay ordered.
"Captain, the asteroid is giving off unusual power readings," Harry reported. A little too late.
The asteroid suddenly shot golden beams of energy at the unprepared ship, tumbling it over like a twentieth-century yacht in a hurricane.
"All propulsion is offline!" Harry yelled over the alarms. "Weapons are offline!"
Just as suddenly as the attack started, it stopped. Janeway sat up from where she had been knocked to the deck. "Report."
"We have a lot of damaged systems," Harry said. "Basically, the only things we have are life support and maneuvering thrusters."
Janeway tried to stand, failed. "Casualties?"
"Twenty crewmen injured. No fatalities." Harry stared at her. "Make that twenty-one injured."
Janeway hoisted herself onto her chair. "How long until we get warp drive back?"
"B'Elanna can't give me an estimate, but she says that's her top priority." Harry rubbed his jaw. "I got knocked around pretty good, though."
"Same here," Janeway said. She tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to the Doctor."
"Doctor here. Any medical emergencies?"
"Just some minor injuries," she said lightly. "I only can't walk."
"Okay. I'll be down there as soon as I can."
"Shouldn't you say up?" Tom asked.
"Shut up," the Doctor muttered.
"Captain, should I go and see if he needs any help?" Tom asked.
"Go ahead." Tom stood and was almost to the turbolift when Janeway added, "But if the situation is under control, report back here."
"Yes, Captain." The turbolift doors opened and closed.
"Harry, can we broadcast a distress signal?" Chakotay asked.
"No, sir. All auxiliary power is being diverted to life support."
"Estimated time for subspace antenna repair is several days." Tuvok spoke coolly, as though an ion storm had just passed instead of a deadly weapon.
"Familiar feeling," Chakotay said.
"Captain, I believe that the asteroid has also stopped moving," Tuvok reported.
Tom reentered the bridge, this time carrying a medkit. "Anyone need curing?" he asked.
Janeway raised her hand like a kid back at school. Tom came down and scanned her leg. "You've got a broken ankle," he said, pulling something out of the bag. A few minutes later Janeway was able to stand. "Now just don't do any running and sit down when you can."
"Yes, mother," Janeway snapped irritably.
"Captain, the Delta Flyer is still operational," Tuvok said. "We may be able to use its subspace radio to send a distress call."
"Or maybe we could get a closer look at that asteroid," Chakotay suggested.
Janeway stood. "Tuvok, you, Tom, me and Seven will go see what we can find. After we clear the ship we'll broadcast a distress call. Chakotay, you have the bridge."
Five minutes later, Janeway was sitting in the copilot's seat. Seven was sitting directly behind her, and Tuvok was in the rear compartment checking the warp core.
"Broadcasting distress call," the former Borg said.
"Setting course for asteroid," Tom said, pulling one of the levers on his right.
"No sign of energy buildup."
"60,000 kilometers to the asteroid."
"At the fist sign of an energy buildup take us out at emergency warp," Janeway ordered.
They got to the asteroid without a problem, and Janeway moved to the empty station to start running scans. "I found a large opening near where we fired our torpedoes," she said. "More than fifty feet in diameter."
"Shall I set course?" Tom asked.
"Go ahead," Janeway replied.
As they neared the tunnel, Janeway tried scanning it. "It seems to lead inside. I think there are a lot of ships, but readings are being disturbed by an energy field." She hesitated before saying, "Take us in."
The tunnel was easily wide enough for the shuttle to maneuver. Tom went through fast, passing through the energy field without difficulty.
"Oh, my God," he whispered as he looked through the front viewport.
There were easily more than a hundred vessels in there, like robots. At the far end was even a sort of troop carrier.
"Atmospheric conditions are normal human," Seven reported. "I believe we do not need environmental suits."
Tuvok entered and handed them each a phaser and tricorder. "I have set the tricorders to beam us back to the Flyer if necessary."
"Okay, we'll split up into two groups," Janeway said. "Tom, you and Seven will go one way and me and Tuvok will go another. Meet back here in one hour."
They left the shuttle and split up, Janeway and Tuvok going inside the main structure while Seven and Tom checked out the vessels.
Tom scanned the nearest robot. "I think the hatch is about midway up in the torso."
Seven held up some belts. "I believe these can help us get to the top and figure out what these ships are."
Tom took a belt, put it on. "I'm going to see about this one. You can go check out something else."
He turned on the belt, felt a sudden feeling of weightlessness. He pushed himself up to the thing he thought was the hatch to get in. He tapped a control near the hatch, and the hatch opened.
Tom scanned the opening. For something fifty feet high there was only a one-person cockpit.
"Cool," he muttered, climbing in. The controls were easy to figure out, and soon he had it turned on. The screens began displaying different types of data, which Tom began recording.
After he was finished, he shut the thing off and climbed out. Seven was waiting. "I am finished," she said.
"So am I," Tom said. "Let's go see what else we can find."
The alien ship seemed to be made up of nothing but corridors the same blinding white color. Janeway was ready to give up and go back to the shuttle when she found a door.
"Finally," she muttered. It opened as she walked toward it, revealing a command area that explained why there were no doors for what felt like a mile. And it probably is a mile from here to the shuttle, she thought.
The bridge area was about two miles squared and several decks high, ringed with every control on the vessel.
"Where shall I begin?" Tuvok asked.
"Start anywhere. Just try not to activate that weapon again." She walked over to the closest console and began to hit things at random. Nothing happened.
The same thing happened at another console. And another. "We should bring a full team over to try and figure this out," Janeway said.
"Our hour is almost up," Tuvok informed her.
Janeway stood. "Let's go."
"The ships we found are called mobile suits," Tom said. They were back on Voyager. "The data I downloaded indicates that they are from Earth."
"That is impossible," Seven said. "No reports I've read indicate that any mobile suits or fighters like them were ever made."
"The data says that they're from Earth," Tom insisted. "Well, anyway, these ships or mobile suits have three different models. One model is called a Leo and it looks like this." He pulled up a schematic on the main screen. "They are designed specifically for space combat. There are approximately fifty of these."
"How many people piloted them?" B'Elanna asked.
"Only one. The cockpit is located in the midsection of the mobile suits. The second type is the Virgo, slightly more powerful than the Leos, also piloted by one person." Tom paused. "Then there are the five gundams, more advanced than the Virgos and capable of destroying every ship in that room within minutes."
"And how many people pilot those?" Janeway asked.
"According to the gundam's database, each of the gundams are piloted by one teenager from different space colonies." Tom paused again. "Too much responsibility if you ask me."
"Why build these?" Seven asked. "It would be illogical for just a reserve army."
"There was a war between the colonies and the Earth that these are from," Tom explained. "The war ended, but a group sorta like the Maquis kept pestering everyone." He shut off the screen and sat down. "That's all I know, Captain. Sorry."
The ship rocked violently for an instant before inertial dampeners compensated. Janeway ran out to the bridge and checked the sensors.
"The asteroid's gone," she whispered in wonder.
The starship wasn't the only vessel within several light years. The Borg would sense their weakness and come for them.
And, stranded several thousand light years from home, it was unlikely they would survive the encounter.
***Five Years Later***
Captain James T. Kirk was back exactly where he wanted to be. The captain of a starship.
Granted, it wasn't the Enterprise, but things weren't always perfect. Jean-Luc Picard had the new Enterprise now. And as much as he loved that name, a change was always refreshing.
"Captain, approaching Deep Space 9," his helm officer reported.
"Open a hailing channel," Kirk ordered.
"Channel opened," his communications officer confirmed.
"Docking control, this is the USS Animorph requesting permission to dock," Kirk stated.
"Identity confirmed. Transmitting heading," the youth on the speakers said.
"Setting course. Staionkeeping thrusters only," his helm officer said.
Kirk sighed. Man, I miss my century, he thought.
But this was his century now. And no matter how much he wished, this was where he would stay.
The bridge shuddered slightly. "Contact confirmed," his first officer said. "Docking successful."
"Then consider yourselves on leave for a few days," Kirk said. "I myself plan to enjoy it."
He stood and left the bridge, walking down the corridors of the Intrepid-class vessel, not being able to help thinking of the mirror USS Voyager he had encountered recently.
Well, more than a year ago wasn't quite recently, but still. It had been interesting…
Kirk shook his head firmly. Don't think about that, he ordered himself.
It took only five minutes to get to the transporter room, then another five minutes to reach the restaurant where a small gathering was going on.
"Did anyone miss me?" he asked the group as he walked in.
"Not in the least," Leonard McCoy said happily. He walked over and gave his friend a good pat on the back.
"You haven't lost yourself in another Nexus lately, have you?" the old doctor asked quizzically.
"That phenomenon will not come back for at least another twenty-five years," Spock said from behind Kirk.
Kirk looked over the rest of the group. The senior staffs from the Enterprise and Voyager were assembled, chatting casually with one another.
However, when Kirk walked in everyone stopped talking. There was a flurry of excitement from the Voyager crew, who hadn't met Kirk since they'd gotten back.
"Jim!" Picard called from the corner, "We were just discussing our missions. Why don't you join us?"
"Sure, why not," he said, walking over. "Where's Geordi?"
"Fixing something on the Enterprise," Picard said. "He said he'd be here in a few minutes."
"My Doctor would be here, but he's talking with Doctors Crusher and Bashir about how holograms are given absolutely no respect," Janeway said. She chuckled. "I think they just wanted to hear about the mobile emitter."
"You know what, Captain?" Kirk said. "I think that I would have liked being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. It would have felt like being back home."
"Call me Kathryn if you want," Janeway said. "And I would have traded places with you any day."
"You can call me Jim," Kirk said. "Well, when's the feast?"
"You sound like Tom," Janeway said. "You would have wanted to lock him up in the brig if you'd had to put up with him for seven years."
"I heard that," Tom said.
"I don't think she was trying to keep it a secret," B'Elanna pointed out.
"So what happened with him?" Kirk asked.
"Got pardoned for all the things he's done in the Delta Quadrant and a Starfleet commission," Janeway said. "Still flies my ship."
"We could have used someone like him in my century," Kirk said.
The doors opened and four more people walked in. Three were from Picard's ship, and one was a face that was seen in a lot of sickbays. Janeway's Doctor walked over grinning.
"We had a very nice conversation on the species of the Delta Quadrant," he said happily. "They were quite fascinated about the Ocampa."
Deanna Troi was talking with McCoy near a kal-toh game between Harry Kim and Tuvok, and Beverly Crusher began talking with Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres. Geordi LaForge, passing by the kal-toh game, was studying the game. He put a piece in the game.
"Kal-toh," he said, grinning.
"I could have figured that out," Harry protested.
"Don't worry about it," Geordi said.
"Well, what ship are you assigned to now, Jim?" McCoy asked.
"The Animorph," Kirk replied. "Mirror image of Kathryn's ship."
"No pun intended, I hope," Picard said.
"None," Kirk said. At Janeway's blank look, he said, "Sorry, I'll explain later."
The door open and Admiral Paris walked in. "I'm sorry to break up this reunion, but we've received a distress call from near the frontier. A Galaxy-class starship has been crippled by what it reports was an alien ship disguised as an asteroid. The Enterprise, Voyager, and Animorph are ordered to investigate and eliminate any possible threat to the Federation."
The three captains in the corner squared their shoulders. "Aye, sir," they said.
"All your crews are being recalled to their ships. Depart as soon as everyone is on board." Paris handed Janeway, Kirk, and Picard a padd, then left, only pausing to pat his son on the shoulder.
All the command crews stared after the admiral. "I guess shore leave's over," Tom quipped.
"Everyone, report to their ships. Geordi, find Data and Worf and tell them what's happened," Picard ordered.
"Let's meet on my ship when we can," Janeway said. "Then we can continue our talk.
"Captain's log, stardate…hell, I don't know," Janeway rubbed her temples. "Computer, input stardate into Captain's log."
"Well," she continued. "We are three days out from Deep Space 9 and though we have three of the most brilliant minds searching, we have not been able to find anything in Starfleet records that matches the profile of the mysterious asteroid that incapacitated the Fortunado. We have another week at warp 6 before we reach our destination. Hopefully, in that time we will have found an answer." Janeway thought if there was anything she was leaving out. "End log."
There was a beep. Janeway flopped down on her bed intending to get a few hours of sleep.
"Bridge to Captain Janeway."
She groaned silently. "Janeway here," she said without lifting her head.
"Data and Seven think they may have something relevant," Chakotay said. "I've called a senior staff meeting for all three ships. We're meeting in the mess hall in an hour."
"I'll be there," she said. "Janeway out."
The comm clicked off. "Computer, alert me when forty-five minutes have passed from this time," she said.
"Acknowledged," the computer said.
Janeway was asleep.
"A few weeks after I joined the crew," Seven said, "we encountered an asteroid that effectively crippled us for at least three weeks. After we searched it, the asteroid vanished."
"What does this have to do with it?" Kirk asked.
"I do not know of any other asteroid taking out a fully operational starship with one volley," Seven said.
"So you think that this same asteroid took out the Fortunado," Picard asked.
"I find that highly improbable," Data said. "However, that is the only explanation that makes sense."
Kirk's chief engineer, Relena Peacecraft, studied the data that was displayed on her padd. Deanna looked at her curiously. "Is there something wrong?" she asked.
Relena snapped to attention. "No, sir. I was just thinking of an old friend."
Deanna knew that the engineer was hiding something. "What do you know about advanced technology?" she asked the younger girl.
"Not much," Relena confessed. "Warp drive is easy enough to figure out, but if that asteroid uses anything along the lines of transwarp or quantum slipstream, I can't help you."
"Maybe it's something from the mirror universe," Riker suggested.
"We eliminated that possibility," Data said. "The rock did not have the quantum signature of that universe."
"Well, we have a week to try and figure things out," Tom said. He yawned. "I think we should get some sleep and try to figure things out tomorrow."
There were murmurs of agreement around the tables. "Okay. We'll talk about it tomorrow," Picard said. "My senior staff is report back to my ship at once."
"With your permission, Captain, I would like to stay here and do further research," Data said.
"Permission granted," Picard said.
"Meeting adjourned," Kirk, Picard, and Janeway said at the same time. They grinned at each other.
The officers stood up to leave. Janeway looked at the empty kitchen area regretfully. Neelix would have loved it in the Federation.
"Captain," a voice behind her said. A very familiar voice.
"Kes!" Janeway exclaimed, spinning around. "How in the world did you get here?"
"The Caretakers came back, and I asked them to send me here," the young Ocampan woman said. "I heard about the incident with the asteroid and I thought I could help."
Janeway embraced Kes, then walked with her out into the corridor. "How did you here about the asteroid?" she asked Kes.
"At my request, the Caretakers kept me updated on everything that happened around here," Kes explained. "My telepathic abilities have faded a little, but I'm still an empath."
"I'll tell Starfleet you're here," Janeway said. "I think we have some quarters open for you."
"Guess who else I brought," Kes said.
Janeway's commbadge chirped. "Captain, we are receiving a hail from a cloaked ship traveling in our warp field. Shall I let it through?"
"Go ahead, Tuvok," Janeway said.
"Good afternoon, Captain!" Neelix's voice said cheerfully. "I hope you saved my kitchen. I have a lot of recipes I'm eager to try. And how have you been?"
"I've been just fine," Janeway said. "You've heard about our mission, right?"
"Right," Neelix confirmed. "I think those poor people from the Fortunado will be in need of a home cooked meal."
"As soon as we reach our destination you can come aboard," Janeway said. "For now, just hold tight. If we drop out of warp to bring you aboard the Ferengi might just get to the asteroid before we do."
"I understand," Neelix said. "Neelix out."
Kes beamed at Janeway. "Did you save the hydroponics bay?"
"Right where you left it," Janeway said, laughing to herself. Kes wasn't any different from her young, childlike self she had been when she'd served on board.
"Captain, approaching the Fortunado," Relena said. She had taken the helm of the Animorph.
"Onscreen," Kirk ordered.
A Galaxy-class starship, much like the Enterprise-D, appeared on the viewscreen, the only light other than the stars. And that light was just barely visible, the majority of the starship almost blending in perfectly with the backdrop of space.
"Any survivors?" Kirk asked. Even with all his experience he seemed touched.
"Unknown, Captain," his tactical officer said. "The energy residue from the asteroid is interfering with our sensors."
The young Ocampa woman was on Kirk's bridge. "I sense something, very faint," she said. "I think there are some survivors."
"Captain, Voyager and Enterprise are hailing us," Relena said.
The two other captains appeared on the screen. "What do you think," Janeway asked.
"I think we should send a team over for survivors," Picard said. "My scans indicate there is a large mass of vessels heading this way."
"Maybe we should send a team from one ship over to the Fortunado, and a team from the other two to the asteroid," Kirk said.
Janeway and Picard thought it over. "Agreed. Now let's hurry."
"I'm willing to bet that a Ferengi armada is coming," Janeway muttered. "I'll prep the Delta Flyer for launch."
Tom wasn't surprised as he piloted the Flyer into the asteroid. In fact, he'd been wanting to get another look at those gundams again.
"Approaching destination," he said over his shoulder. The back of the Flyer was slightly cramped, holding the teams from Animorph and Voyager.
Captain Kirk stirred from his doze. "How long?" he asked.
Tom called an estimate from the computer. "Three minutes."
"Get ready," Janeway said to the five people behind her. Four people per ship.
The shuttle touched down gently. "Two hours until the armada arrives," Seven said.
"Fine," Janeway said. "Split up into groups of two. Report back here in an hour and a half."
There were mumbles of, "Yes, ma'am," as the hatch opened. Relena looked markedly moved at the sight of the mobile suits.
She teamed up with Kes, who was lending her empathic skills to the search. "Are you all right?" she asked Relena in a whisper.
Relena nodded. "Just brought back memories."
The group began to disperse. "Let's check around here," Relena said, moving toward one of the mobile suits.
Kes looked up at the mobile suit. "How are we supposed to get up there?" she asked.
Relena picked up an antigrav belt from where the last people to come had dropped it. "We can use these to move around," she said, letting herself float upwards.
Janeway easily found her way back to the command room. Tom, Kirk, and Seven seemed disoriented by its size.
"Come on," Janeway said. "We've got to find weapon controls."
The four of them split up. Janeway started where she left off those five years ago.
After what seemed like days, they still hadn't figured the consoles out. "My brain is getting fried," Tom complained. "Can I go look somewhere else?"
Janeway stopped her frantic tapping on the console in front of her. "I'll go with you," she said.
They had been searching for an hour. And they had moved at such a fast pace that it took five minutes to get back out of the room.
"White must be these people's favorite color," Tom commented.
Janeway didn't say anything on that. "I'm reading a large room ahead," she said.
Kes walked out of the room ahead of them. "I don't think you'll believe this," she whispered.
They followed her into the room.
When Relena saw the stasis pods, she instantly knew who she would find. And she used the antigrav belt from the docking bay to start searching.
The pods were hovering at precisely measured intervals off the floor, ranging from waist high at the floor to just a meter or so from the ceiling.
Janeway stared at her from the floor. "Who's she looking for?" Tom asked.
Kes shrugged her shoulders. "By the way she's acting, it seems like she knows who these people are."
Relena zoomed down to hover upside down just in front of Janeway. "We should revive these people," she said.
"Anyone you have in mind?" Janeway asked, with just a hint of amusement.
"In fact, I do," Relena said. "He's just up there." She pointed. "I brought some extra antigrav belts if you want to see for yourself."
Janeway accepted a belt. "Show me," she said, putting it on and activating it.
Relena led the way to a pod in a corner near the ceiling. "He's a friend of mine," she said. "I'll explain later."
The pod contained a young boy, around seventeen years old, with shocking blond hair and wearing a white t-shirt and khaki pants.
Janeway looked for the controls on the pod. The pod itself was made mostly of a translucent material, with clear windows at the front so whoever looked after these pods could see who was inside.
"I think these may be the controls right here," Relena said, pointing to a series of different sized circles on her side.
"Push one," Janeway said.
Relena pushed the largest one, and immediately the greenish liquid began draining out.
Relena stared as the boy woke up. "Quatre…" she said quietly.
Quatre sat up so fast that Janeway jumped back. "Relena, where are we?" he asked shrewdly.
"Hard to explain," Relena said. "But first, we need to get to the floor."
Quatre looked down. It was a good twenty-five feet to the floor. He jumped.
Janeway stared at Relena. "Is he crazy?"
"No," Relena said. "I've seen someone who'd jumped from the twentieth floor of a building, slid down a thirty foot cliff, and got away with just a broken leg."
They went back to the floor, where Quatre had rolled smoothly to his feet.
"I thought Heero was crazy," Relena told him.
"Had to make sure it wasn't a dream," Quatre said. "I wouldn't be surprised if I had a dislocated shoulder."
Tom stared at him. "You sound proud."
Quatre shrugged. "I've had worse."
Kes interrupted. "Our time's almost up," she said.
"We don't have enough room in the shuttle," Tom said.
"I've got my own ride," Quatre assured him.
They made their way back to the shuttle bay. "Who is that?" Kirk asked.
"Ask your chief engineer," Janeway told him.
Quatre went over to the nearest gundam. "I'll follow you guys out," he called over to Janeway. He floated upward and vanished inside.
"That guy's been in stasis too long," Relena muttered.
"So you want to know how we know each other?" Quatre said. All three captains nodded.
"It's quite simple, really," Relena said. She had taken the few minutes since they'd gotten back to the ship to change into a simple, pretty skirt. Quatre had replicated a pair of jeans and was wearing the same t-shirt. "From what I know, we're from Earth, just a different Earth. And we're not from the mirror universe, either."
It was a few minutes after the teams had gotten back from the asteroid. By Data's calculations, there was approximately twenty minutes until the unknown armada arrived.
"If you're not from our Earth, then where are you from?" Kirk asked. He was the only one from his ship present. The other Captains had brought their first officers and CMOs. In addition, Troi and Kes were there. They were in the main briefing room on Voyager.
Quatre sat down, obviously uncomfortable. "The aliens communicated through me when they trapped us. From what I gathered, they were going to send us to another galaxy. To take the war away from home."
"The aliens put me in stasis along with our enemies," Relena said. "When they were revived by the Romulans, I escaped and enlisted."
"That explains how you got here," Riker said. "But what of this war?"
"In AC 196, a young girl named Marimeia Kushrenada found some mobile suits left over after the war that took place a year earlier, called the Eve Wars. She realized her mistake and came over to our side, but some of her former followers wanted to restore the dictatorship that had been the government before the Eve Wars. They call themselves the Supreme Authority Militia, or SAM. They restarted the war in AC 197, nearly destroying the Earth," Quatre explained. "I think that was their goal. The only thing that stopped them was us gundam pilots."
"It makes sense," Chakotay said. "Transfer the war somewhere else where more powerful parties could intervene."
"I've looked at your data and I believe that it is SAM forces who are on the way here," Quatre said. "Over a hundred mobile suits."
"We won't stand a chance," Picard said.
"We will if we revive the other gundam pilots," Quatre said. "There are five of us."
"Okay," Janeway said. "You and Relena go back with Data and Worf and revive the rest of the gundam pilots."
It took fifteen minutes to get back to the asteroid and revive the other four teens, which left just five minutes until the enemy forces arrived.
Quatre communicated with the Starfleet ships using a commbadge interfaced with the communications systems in his gundam. "Captain, I've told the others the problem and they've agreed to help us," he said to the image of Janeway on one of the screens in his gundam.
"Good," Janeway said. "But how will the five of you be able to defeat the enemy when they outnumber you twenty to one?"
Duo Maxwell, poking his head into the cockpit, overheard the question. "Twenty to one, huh? Sounds like they don't stand a chance." He grinned at the image of Janeway, Kirk, and Picard, all on separate screens, borrowed a tool, and vanished. Quatre didn't seem to have noticed the interruption.
"We're more experienced then the SAM forces," Quatre said. "Don't worry, we'll be okay. Relena said that she would revive some of our people if we needed any help."
"I still think that we shouldn't let these kids fight," Kirk said. "I mean, how can five gundams, though more advanced, go up against a hundred of those mobile suits and survive?"
Quatre's radar beeped. "Enemy ETA one minute," he said. "Listen, their radar can't detect gundanium. We'll launch a surprise attack behind them, and you can try to take out what you can." He powered up Sandrock, his gundam. "I'll talk to you later. Quatre out."
Four gundams lined up next to him. Heero was the pilot of the Wing Gundam Zero, Duo piloted Deathscythe, Trowa was in Heavyarms, and Wufei was in Nataku. "Quatre, you know more about this situation. What's going on?" Heero asked him. He'd been the last person revived. Not that the other three knew any more than him.
"We have enemy forces coming, and the people who woke me up don't know about SAM and what they can do," Quatre said. "I'll brief you after the battle."
Janeway stared at the empty viewscreen. "What's gundanium?" she wondered out loud.
"That's what the gundams are made out of," Tom said, recalling what he'd read about the gundams.
"Captain, we're being hailed," Harry said.
"Onscreen," Janeway ordered.
A young man, no older than Quatre, was sitting in the midst of a bridge that seemed to be made up of nothing but weapon and communication consoles. "Captain, in the name of the Supreme Authority Militia, I claim this asteroid and everything in it," he said coolly.
"Might I know who you are?" Janeway asked conversationally.
"Since you will be leaving momentarily, I do not think it necessary, do you?" the boy asked in the same tone. "I already know who you are. We have some useful contacts on Deep Space 9, and they keep us well informed."
The contact was cut. Janeway stared out at the warship that seemed to be the base of operations. "Captain, the gundam pilots are taking position behind the armada. Quatre signals they're ready," Harry said.
"Tell him we'll go after the main warship," Janeway said. "Contact the other Captains and tell them to do the same."
"They are 'springing' the trap," Tuvok said. Tom glanced back at him, then returned to his console.
The battle was on. Quatre checked his radar, then attacked the nearest ship. All around him, the other gundams were doing the same.
Somehow, amazingly, they were able to keep track of the other gundam pilots and they were having a conversation in the middle of the battle.
"So what's the deal around here?" Heero asked Quatre, voice a little strained because he was trying to take on five mobile suits at once.
"Watch behind you," Quatre warned. The mobile suit that was trying to ambush Heero ended up destroying his own friends when Wing Zero suddenly wasn't in his way. "Well, there's another Earth around here somewhere, but instead of space colonies there's a United Federation of Planets. Humans here have faster-than-light travel, and there are a bunch of different aliens around."
"No way!" Duo said. He was swinging his scythe around, apparently randomly. "You mean actual, friendly aliens?"
"You mean you thought we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy?" Trowa asked. Heavyarms's multiple machine guns were gunning down mobile suit after mobile suit, swinging around in a circle.
"Well, those aliens who put us in those tube-things weren't exactly friendly, were they?" Duo asked.
One of Trowa's guns almost hit Nataku. "Watch it!" Wufei snapped. He turned his flamethrower on a cluster of enemies near the fringe of battle.
Trowa's machine guns suddenly stopped shooting. "I'm out of ammo," he said. "Anyone got a spare beam saber or something?"
Quatre disabled an enemy Leo and tossed its weapons to Trowa. "Don't lose those," Quatre suggested.
One of the Starfleet vessels zoomed overhead. "I hope those were friendly," Heero said.
"They are," Quatre assured him.
The fighting grew so intense, Quatre didn't even notice the major damage that Sandrock had taken. When a near-gundam-like mobile came out of nowhere, Quatre jumped when small alarms went off.
"What the…" he asked, checking his consoles. The damage threatened to blow up the gundam.
Quatre did the only thing that made sense. He threw on a spacesuit and ejected from the gundam, hoping that no one would ram, shoot, or blow him up.
A small ship that definitely didn't look like a SAM or Starfleet vessel came zooming his way and picked him up, bearing him away into subspace.
All in all the battle lasted a half-hour, with Animorph disabling the warship and forcing the SAM forces to withdraw. And it was only then that Heero discovered that Quatre was missing.
Relena flew back to Animorph in one of the Leos that was in the asteroid, picking up Sandrock on her way back.
All the people affiliated with the gundams, Janeway, Kirk, and Picard were now in the mess hall on Voyager, where they were enjoying a meal cooked by Neelix. But that wasn't their only reason for being there. Everyone was discussing what they thought had happened to Quatre.
"Maybe SAM got to him when he bailed out," Heero said. "Sandrock was beaten up so badly that I'm surprised it didn't blow up."
"Data says that there was a cloaked ship in the vicinity," Picard said. "He thinks that it might have picked him up."
"But what would they need with one teenager who doesn't know anything about our time?" Kirk asked.
"Quatre is a limited empath," Relena said quietly. "Kes told me when we were coming back to the ship after he woke up."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Heero asked.
"The aliens communicated through Quatre when we were still back home," Duo said. "Remember? They said they could interface with his brain easier than they could with one of us."
Kes walked into the mess hall. "Quatre is an empath, just like me or Troi," she said. "I think that's why he was taken."
Heero stood up. "I don't know if this century can track an invisible ship, but I suggest we at least try. Quatre's life may be at stake."
Quatre didn't know who exactly had picked him up, but they didn't seem hostile. He didn't sense any bad intentions from them.
They were a motley crew, with just a few humans and a bunch of aliens that Quatre couldn't even begin to identify. The only aliens he had seen while on the Starfleet ships were a Klingon and a Vulcan, and there were only about three Vulcans and no Klingons.
A human girl, a little younger than him, brought him something to eat. He was in a cramped living apartment with at least three other occupants.
"Where am I?" he asked the young girl.
"Safe," the girl said. "Your confused, so I'm here to help you get familiar with this area. We know you're not from around here."
"Are you an empath, too?" Quatre asked. He'd taken off his space suit and piled it under his bed.
"Yes." The girl pulled a few devices that Quatre recognized as Starfleet padds out of the small pouch at her waist. "I will teach you as you eat."
"What's your name?" Quatre asked.
"Sora," the girl answered. She suddenly started laughing. "I've been talking like a Vulcan, haven't I?"
"Only a little bit," Quatre answered, not knowing how a Vulcan talked.
"Sorry," Sora said. "What's your name?"
"Quatre," he replied. "So what's the deal with this place?"
"Well, we're all people who've been put into stasis by the same aliens. The only thing we have in common is that we're empaths or telepaths." Sora said. "But on another ship, there are some people who were only acquaintances of empaths and have no extraordinary abilities of their own. We usually keep out of each other's way, but we sometimes meet to share information and supplies. There is no one place that we have to ourselves." Sora looked downcast. "Every time we try to set up a base somewhere, some rogue group steals our location from us. We just wander, picking up more empaths and telepaths, hoping that no one destroys us."
"Are you a military group?" Quatre asked, trying to take Sora's mind off the subject.
"First, you should at least learn about everything else that a kid knows around here," Sora said. She seemed to shake off the emotion. "A Vulcan mindmeld would be better, but all the Vulcans are on duty somewhere."
"We've had no luck in tracking the ship that took Quatre," Data said.
All three Starfleet ships were towing the crippled Fortunado back to Utopia Planitia. It was a difficult, time-consuming task.
All one hundred of the other men imprisoned in the asteroid had been released. Given permission by the Federation Counsel, they chose a small, out of the way star system to establish a military colony of sorts.
The four remaining gundam pilots were on their way to Earth with the Starfleet ships so they could enter Starfleet Academy, provided that they could keep up with the classes.
But still, Quatre's abduction weighed heavily on the four pilots. Even Wufei, who was as arrogant and antisocial as they come, worried about whether the young Arabian was alive.
"Have you identified what kind of ship it was?" Picard asked. The three captains and their senior staff were in Ten Forward on the Enterprise, which one of the few places that could hold all of them comfortably.
"It appears to be a Vulcan exploration ship," Tuvok said. "It was stolen about two years ago."
"I read all kinds of species in there," Harry said. "Vulcan, Romulan, even a few Vidians and Kazon."
Heero was pacing around the room. "Quatre being an empath is relevant somehow," he said, thinking aloud. "Why else would they have taken him?"
"Because maybe those guys are enemies of SAM too," Trowa said. "They might have thought he could help them beat SAM."
"But why not take the gundam too?" Worf asked. "The gundams are pretty effective weapons against those mobile suits. If they had the resources they could have duplicated it."
Kes was thinking in her own little corner. "There was something about that ship that didn't feel right," she said. "I think everyone on that ship had some sort of empathic power."
"There had to be over five hundred people on that ship," Harry said. "All of them couldn't be empaths."
"We have an entire race of telepaths," Troi said. "I don't find it unlikely that races all over the galaxy have some people who are empathic or telepathic."
"But how did Kazon get here?" Janeway said. "They live in the Delta Quadrant."
"There isn't enough time to figure out everything," Wufei said angrily. "Next time those creeps show their faces around here we should get Quatre and destroy them."
"It isn't that simple," Heero said. "Around here, these people try to not destroy their enemies."
"I have a feeling he'll show up again," Kes said. "Alive, and unhurt."
Quatre found himself at home with this collection of aliens. Sora introduced him around after his little education session, and then he found himself working with them as if he'd always been there.
The only bad thing about the ship was the food. The dispensers, which he found were called replicators, worked on minimum power so it could only replicate a small amount of food at a time, and then the food tasted like it had been exposed to an awful smell that it had absorbed.
An Andorian tapped him on the shoulder. "I need the tools," he said.
Quatre looked around, picked up a small toolbox on the floor near his feet. He handed it to the alien.
"Thanks," the Andorian said, choosing one and handing the box down the line. "What is your name, human?" the alien asked.
"Quatre," he replied. The Andorian must not be a telepath, he realized.
"The humans around here call me Bankis," the Andorian continued. "How are you adjusting?"
"Just fine," Quatre replied. He found that the empaths liked to talk as if they couldn't feel what others could.
Bankis dropped his tool on the floor. "It takes some getting used to around here," he said. "I've only been here for a year and I'm already acting like a human."
"I like it around here, but I've got to get back to my friends." Quatre sighed. "They're almost like family."
"Well," Sora said, coming up behind him, "I'm going to the Academy this term. Why don't you come with me? I'm stopping by Deep space 9 to take the entrance exam. And if your friends are there, you can just say you escaped."
"Tell me when we're going by DS9 and I'll go with you," Quatre said.
It turned out that they already were near Deep Space 9. Quatre said goodbye to his new friends and beamed over to the space station.
Warp theory couldn't be more boring, Duo decided as he left the classroom. His next class wasn't any more exciting, either.
Heero caught up to him. "What do you have next?" Heero asked.
Duo grimaced. "I prefer not to think about it," he said.
A freshman pushed past Duo into the warp theory classroom. "Sorry!" she called over her shoulder.
"Who would be in a hurry to get to that class?" Duo asked.
"Her," Heero said.
They started walking to the self-defense class, which Heero had next. Duo was stuck in an Andorian biology class.
A strangely familiar freshman walked past them as they stopped by the self-defense classroom. Duo stared past him. "Was that Quatre?" he asked.
"He'd have stopped to talk," Heero said.
Duo couldn't help thinking about the strange kid in his own self-defense class. He was so preoccupied, he didn't hear the teacher call his name.
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," he muttered as he stood up, the students around him snickering.
"Please demonstrate how to block this move," the teacher said. She went into a whirlwind of motion, coming at him so fast that he barely had time to react. He used a karate move that he learned when he was five to flip the teacher onto her back.
The sensei stared up at him. "Why did you choose to use that move?" she asked.
"You attacked so suddenly, that was the only technique that came to mind," Duo said.
"That was not the move I intended to show," the sensei said. "I was intending to demonstrate that later."
"I've known that move for years," Duo said.
"Show it again," the teacher said, attacking with a different attack this time.
Duo used a variation of the block to trap the sensei on her knees. "Can I sit down now?" he asked.
She nodded, catching her breath. Duo went to his seat and sat down, again wondering whether Quatre was attending the Academy without him knowing about it.
Quatre looked at his schedule. He'd arrived a few days late for the start of term, and while he hadn't missed much, he still got lost looking for classes.
He passed Duo on his way to warp theory without thinking about it, like he'd done about ten times within the past week. Sora had warned him to not talk about the empaths in hiding, and he knew that if he met up with the other gundam pilots he'd end up telling him about how he'd escaped the battle.
His teacher told him that he was to be given a new roommate. Heero Yuy. Quatre wasn't pleased with the news. That meant he'd have to explain everything to his friends.
Oh, well, he thought. I couldn't have hid forever.
He spent the entire class working on his biology homework in secret. He'd get the notes from someone else later.
He waited in his quarters later that night, blasting some twentieth-century music he found interesting. A Japanese group called Two-Mix. He was copying the warp theory notes he'd missed.
The door chime rang. "Who is it?" he called.
"Your new roommate."
Heero. Quatre sighed. "Come on in."
Heero walked into the room and dropped his stuff on the spare bed. "What kind of music is this?" he asked.
"Heero, shibaraku desu ne," Quatre said.
Heero glanced at Quatre. "Duo thought he'd seen you around here," he said. "It has been a little while."
"If I'd known where you were, I'd have stopped to talk," Quatre said. "The music is twentieth century Japanese pop."
"Oh." Heero sat on his bed. "Can you at least say where you were for the past few weeks?"
Quatre finished with his work and sat back. "Are you hungry?" he asked Heero.
Heero noticed the subject change. "Just some soda."
"What kind?" Quatre punched a few buttons on the small replicator set into the wall next to the desk. "They've got root beer, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Cocoa Cola, and several other kinds that supposedly are fruit flavored."
"Root beer sounds good," Heero said. "Is there any room left on that desk? I have some homework to do."
Quatre ordered the root beer and cleared his padds off the desk. "So what have you been doing?" he asked Heero.
"Nothing much," Heero replied. "Worrying about you, doing homework, fixing Wing Zero."
"Heero, the people who picked me up don't want anyone knowing about them," Quatre said. "I've been busy with homework. There was no time to find out what happened to you."
The door chimed again. Quatre seemed to freeze for an instant. "Come in," he said.
Sora Takenouchi paused in the doorway. "I didn't know you had a roommate," she said.
"I had one before, but he dropped out. Sora, this is my friend Heero," Quatre said, knowing what Duo would ask if he came in. Which he did.
"Quatre, do you have a girlfriend?" Duo asked. "And, by the way, where have you been?"
"I'll explain it to everyone at once. Or have Heero tell you," Quatre said irritably. "I have to help Sora with some homework."
"Computer, stop music," Heero said as Sora and Quatre left the room. "He wasn't telling the entire truth."
"Well, what do you expect?" Duo asked, taking a sip of Heero's soda. "That kid was probably rescued by the Romulans or something."
The rest of the year went off without a hitch. Quatre soon started acting normally again. The only difference being that he often went off to help Sora with homework. It didn't seem all that unusual to Duo, but, as Heero put it, "Quatre doesn't seem like the kind to have a girlfriend."
"Quatre, are you going to take the summer classes?" Heero asked him as they were packing up at the end of the year. "I hear that you can take classes during the summer terms and get out a few years quicker."
"That was what I was planning," Quatre said. "I was looking forward to serving on a starship soon."
"Well, we have a few weeks before the summer term starts," Heero said. "We should go see how our friends are doing."
The soldiers that were making a base somewhere else. They had kept in constant contact with Heero, and he was apparently going to take Wing Zero, newly outfitted with a warp drive, and go help them.
"Good idea," Quatre said. "Give me the coordinates and I'll follow when I can."
Heero fiddled with a padd and handed it to Quatre. "I'll see you in a few days," he said, picking up his stuff and leaving.
Sora passed him on the way into the room. "Are you going to come with me?" she asked.
"I have an obligation somewhere else," Quatre said. "Your empathic friends are nice, but I have other friends that need me."
"You can contact my friend Tai Kamiya on Deep Space 9," Sora said. "He'll get in touch with us." She left. Quatre finished packing and went to the shuttlebay, where an upgraded Sandrock waited for him.
A young boy, no more than seventeen or eighteen years old, presided over the bridge of the warship Gundam Destroyer, amused at the fear his crew was radiating in droves.
"Captain Sanpura, sir, the enemy gundam is departing from Earth," his radar controller said.
Justin Sanpura already knew that. "Make sure the cloaking device is in working order and follow."
The Destroyer followed Wing Zero swiftly through space, invisible to all but the most advanced scans.
Soon, rebels, we'll destroy you for good, even if we have to take the entire Federation down with you, Justin thought eagerly.
Warp was definitely an improvement, Quatre decided as he piloted Sandrock into the hastily made docking bay on the new base planet.
Duo, Wufei, and Trowa were already there, helping to build the base that would serve as the headquarters of the movement to eliminate SAM for good, though they were hoping to have them surrender instead of destroying all of them.
The planet was orbiting a star very much like Earth's sun, with twelve planets orbiting the star. The star had been named Nihon, the Japanese name for Japan. The planet was officially called Nihon IV, but the gundam soldiers had unofficially named it Bintura, the name of a soldier's murdered wife. The base was called Gundam Central.
Gundam Central only had a few well-constructed buildings, such as a control center, and about a dozen temporary barracks that were slowly being renovated. But Quatre had to admit, Bintura was a beautiful planet.
It was a relief to be in an environment without strict regulations. The Starfleet cadet uniforms seemed to be made for discomfort, no matter what size it was worn in or modifications made to it. Quatre had almost missed life as a rebel.
One of the generals, Sinjuki, ran up to him. "Master Quatre, welcome. Heero told us you were coming. I'll show you to your room if you want."
Quatre followed Sinjuki into one of the barracks, watching everything carefully. He thought he saw Wufei carrying a sack of tools and bolts to one of the under construction barracks, and Deathscythe was helping five Leos install a well-armored wall on what looked like the cafeteria.
"What all needs to be done around here?" Quatre asked Sinjuki.
"Well, all the buildings need to be well armored and able to withstand an attack for quite a while. Then the main computer needs to be hooked up to the shuttlebay computer, and remote sensors need to be put into place, and we need to ask Starfleet for some shield generators, plus dozens of upgrades on the Leos and Virgos, but if we work hard we can be done by next year, maybe," Sinjuki said.
"Well, if we came to visit every vacation the work could get done a little faster," Quatre said. "When do you guys eat, anyway?"
"Well, we have scheduled meals, courtesy of Starfleet replicators, but hardly any of us eat," Sinjuki said. "There's too much work to be done."
Quatre caught a flash of worry from behind them. He was still getting used to being an empath. "I've just filed a request for shield generators," Heero said. "Starfleet says it could be more than a year before we get them."
"Well, the buildings better be well built," Quatre said lightly. "Not only are we near the frontier, but SAM could have ways of figuring out where we are." He hefted his backpack. "This is starting to get real heavy. Where's my room?"
"Right here," Sinjuki said. "I've got to get back to work. See you later." He ran out of the building to help with a broken generator.
Quatre opened the door and dropped his stuff inside. "What needs to be done?" he asked Heero.
"I think everyone is working on the cafeteria," Heero said. "I was going to get my gundam and help Duo with the walls."
Even with warp drive, it had taken several days to get to the Nihon system. Quatre was quite tired of the cramped cockpit.
"I'll pass on that," he said. "I'll be helping with smaller projects."
The two weeks of break seemed to pass by like a dream. All five gundam pilots hardly slept, ate sparingly, and generally had a good time. Everyone regretted when it was time to go back to the Academy.
Quatre packed up the last of his stuff, wishing that he hadn't signed up for the extra classes. It would have been great to stay and help, but as a Starfleet cadet he couldn't help more.
Heero's face appeared on the computer screen on the desk next to the bunk. "The transport is in orbit. The others have already left."
"I'm coming," Quatre sighed, sensing Heero's bitter disappointment at having to leave, though he knew the other would never admit it. He left for the docking bay.
The building had been strengthened, turned into an armored haven for the one hundred-plus mobile suits stored there. And Starfleet had given them a prototype antigrav generator to test, based on the antigrav belts the pilots had used before. It worked perfectly, so Quatre had no trouble floating up to the main hatch on Sandrock.
"You can launch when ready," Sinjuki said over the comm.
Quatre blasted out of the docking bay, pausing to look over what had been done over the last two weeks. The cafeteria had been completed, several other small buildings had been upgraded, and, though it couldn't be seen visually, the main computer had been hooked up to the smaller computers and the power generators were all operational, along with the backup electrical sources.
Quatre had never been told which ship was to take them back to Earth, but he nearly broke out into laughter when he saw which one it was. None other than the Fortunado, the ship that had been crippled so badly that three Starfleet ships had been assigned to drag it back to a starbase. The ship that had caused the gundam pilots to be found.
He opened up a subspace comm channel. "Sandrock to Fortunado. Requesting permission to dock."
"Permission granted, Sandrock," a young woman said.
"What's our ETA to Earth?" Quatre asked.
"Two days. Plenty of time to get back in time for the summer term. Fortunado out." The subspace radio clicked off.
Quatre had a few minutes to think while he was maneuvering into the main shuttlebay on the Starfleet ship. Since he was going back to the Academy for the summer term, which many students liked to skip, he would officially be a second year cadet, but half of his class would be complete strangers, the summer first year class of the last year. The only students he would know there would be the other gundam pilots.
Oh, well, he thought to himself. At least I can get out of the Academy faster. That was definitely a plus.
As he powered down in the shuttle bay, the same young woman who had answered him out in space contacted him again. "Cadet, you have an incoming message from one Tai Kamiya, on Deep Space 9. You want it in your quarters?"
"Sure. Just tell me where they are." Quatre looked around, saw the other four gundams nearby, but nothing else familiar.
"Deck ten, cabin 5-B. Lock keyed for voice access." The comm channel clicked off.
Quatre made his way to deck ten, the corridors crowded because the ship was also dropping supplies off for Gundam Central. It took a good five minutes to get to cabin 5-B, which, it turned out, he had to share with Duo.
He dropped his bag onto a nearby chair and went over to the desk, where a small button was flickering in the corner of the computer screen. He pushed the button and sat back.
Tai Kamiya was about his age, with brown hair sticking nearly straight up and brown eyes that looked as though they had seen their share of violence. "Are you Quatre?" he asked.
Quatre nodded. "You're Tai, I take it."
"Sora said I could contact you there. How's Nihon IV?"
"Just beautiful," Quatre replied. "The colony is coming together perfectly." That's what everyone thought Gundam Central was. A colony, albeit a military-type colony, but a colony nonetheless.
"Well, Sora wanted me to tell you that I'm signing up for the Academy. Just in case you need some company," Tai said. "There's also Matt Ishida, Joe Kido, Izzy Koushiro, and Mimi Tachikawa, just in case me and Sora aren't good enough company."
"You can meet my friends too," Quatre said. "I'll see you at Earth." He signed off. A sudden idea hit him. "Computer, can you identify whether any of the mentioned individuals is on this ship?"
"Matt Ishida is currently in the mess hall."
"Then I'll meet him," Quatre said quietly.
Captain Janeway almost missed the adventure of the Delta Quadrant. The most exciting thing to happen lately was the assignment of a new officer. And the kid was slightly crazy, in her opinion.
Ensign Tai Kamiya was going to be a pilot, so Tom Paris was letting the ensign get acquainted with the helm while Tom ventured into the world of Captain Proton.
Tai was a kid who'd been found a few years before trapped in a temporal fissure, and he had been found in a stasis pod similar to one that the gundam pilots had been found in. He looked to be about fourteen years old at the age of around twenty or so, but the doctors at Starfleet said that that was probably an effect of the temporal fissure. He was rather mature for someone of his age.
Janeway stared at her new orders. She was to pick up Quatre Winner from the Nihon system, where he'd been for the past few weeks after graduating from the Academy. But they didn't have to leave at the moment. Trowa Barton was coming aboard, gundam and all.
Chakotay leaned over on his armrest. "Kinda boring?" he asked.
Janeway rubbed her temples. "I have a feeling that our new personnel are going to be a headache."
"The two gundam pilots sound at least sane," Chakotay said. "Tai had a habit of getting into trouble."
"Tai has a leadership quality that'll be good when he makes captain," Janeway said, "but it's a bad thing for me."
Tai glanced at her from the helm. "Sorry, Captain. It's a habit."
"Report?" Janeway asked.
"Well, the warp engines are fine. I'm all settled in and eager to have a little bit of time free to say bye to some friends still at the Academy," Tai said. The hint was obvious.
"Be back before 0500 tomorrow," Janeway said.
Tai practically bolted into the turbolift. Harry stared at him. "He has way too much energy," Harry commented.
"He needs to find something to keep himself occupied," Chakotay said. "I hear that he doesn't play anything on the holodeck."
"According to Academy disciplinary records, Tai had a habit of vanishing from the Academy on several occasions," Tuvok said.
"And several strange readings were recorded in his quarters on the occasions he disappeared," Harry said.
"Enough talk about Tai," Janeway said.
"A ship is approaching," Tuvok said. "It appears to a gundam."
"Trowa is already here," Harry said.
Tom emerged from the turbolift. "It's Quatre," he said. "The gundam's called Sandrock."
"Give him permission to dock," Chakotay said.
Justin Sanpura was not happy, and he made sure that his entire bridge crew knew it. Each time he tried to follow a gundam pilot, they had gone into warp, which was a capability that his ships did not have yet. And he was getting fed up with those renegade empaths, who seemed to be everywhere where he wanted to put his base.
"Captain, one of the gundam pilots has been assigned to Deep Space 9," his communications officer said from the left.
"Are we anywhere near that region of space," Justin asked irritably.
"At top speed, we can be there in two days," the young woman said.
"Take me there. And if the pilot has left by the time we get there, I'll execute everyone responsible," Justin growled.
Wufei was rather bored as he walked down the Promenade, making his way to one of the many places to gamble. He'd gotten a few bars of latinum off someone looking the other way, and gambling seemed to be one of the major pastimes around.
He noticed that girl, Sora, walking out of a restaurant. There was something not quite right about her. He decided to follow her.
Sora walked over to a communications console nearby, aware that she was being followed. She decided not to let the guy know that she knew, so she ignored him and made her call.
Matt, stationed on board Animorph, informed her that all was going well. The empath ships remained undetected and therefore uncaptured.
The station rocked. "All personnel, report to emergency battle stations."
Wufei abandoned following Sora and made his way to one of the many docking bays. He might not be able to help, but at least he could try.
Justin was pleased for the first time in a long time. The gundam pilot had come out, just as he'd planned, and had been quickly overwhelmed by the mobile suits. The pilot was being interrogated by his best men, but, unfortunately, he had been trained very well by Starfleet. He was resisting very well.
"As soon as word gets around," he said to himself, "the other rebels will come to save him. And that is when we'll have them."
Quatre's jaw almost hit the floor when he heard about Wufei's capture. SAM hadn't been heard from for nearly two years, the entire time he'd been at the Academy. Neither had he heard from the empaths, either.
The other gundam pilots had come to Gundam Central as soon as they'd heard, along with Relena Peacecraft. Voyager, Animorph, and the Enterprise had come to try and figure out what happened.
Gundam Central was a fully operational war base now, with a mobile suit manufacturing plant located underground and Federation citizens arriving every few months to help. These were people who had meant to join the Maquis but hadn't, and they were eager to fight any enemy that was available. Officially, Starfleet did not know that Gundam Central was a war base, but off the record Starfleet encouraged a military presence near the border of a potentially hostile sector of space. Several Starfleet officers were there with their families, helping to upgrade everything from the toilets to the underground emergency shelters.
Construction was under way for a proper colony on the other side of the planet, where colonists wanting to come but not willing to enlist in a military could stay. This was where the captains of the starships and the four gundam pilots, plus Relena, met, guessing that SAM would not look for them in the relatively undefended area
Janeway paced around the room. "Why would they risk attacking a fully operational space station on an assumption that one enemy would come to oppose them?" she wondered.
"Whoever it was, they knew how Wufei would react," Quatre said. "And since they have the gundam, they have access to warp technology. It will only be a matter of time before they get the information they need out of Wufei and come for us."
"We should start training everyone to pilot the mobile suits," Heero said. "We have about a hundred available pilots and two hundred mobile suits."
"Before we get ahead of ourselves, we should work on a way to save Wufei from SAM," Picard said. "Then we can work on defensive strategies."
"If you captains help us, you could very well get thrown into prison and out of Starfleet," Duo said. "I don't think it's worth the risk."
"We could always say that you mutinied and kidnapped us," Kirk said.
"That wouldn't work, because we plan on taking a different ship," Trowa said. "That way, we won't be recognized."
"It still isn't worth the risk," Duo said. "You guys should just let us handle this."
"I'm going," Kirk said. "It'll make me feel more at home."
"So am I," Janeway said. "You could use my help."
"If it's settled," Trowa said. "We should work on offensive and defensive strategies. Not to mention a plan for rescuing Wufei. "
Before they started planning, there was a soft tap at the doorway. Quatre knew, without looking, that it was Tai in the doorway.
"A survey vessel claims that they've found an unauthorized settlement near the Neutral Zone," Tai said. "It could be SAM."
"I'll investigate," Heero said, getting up and leaving. Tai hovered in the doorway.
"I'd like to help if I can," he said tentatively. "So would some of my friends."
"We'll talk to you later," Duo said. Tai left.
Relena started fiddling with a padd. "We've started installing warp drives in the Leos. We have more of those than the Virgos. I estimate a week before we're done, and we still have to build this settlement."
"Wufei's our top priority," Quatre said. "I'll be helping with the Leos." He left the room.
"There's something wrong with him," Trowa said. "He's been way too serious lately."
"He hasn't been the same ever since we've been here," Duo said. "He's been hiding something."
"No time to worry about that," Kirk said. "We have a rescue to plan."
Two weeks later, the planning was done. Quatre reported that all of the Leos and most of the Virgos had warp capabilities, and he began helping the other pilots gather resources for the rescue.
Janeway walked through Gundam Central with Picard, trying to convince him to come with. "We could use your help," she said.
Picard shook his head. "I'm no mercenary. I won't be any help."
"Still, if you stay behind, you'll have to answer some questions," Janeway said.
"That is precisely why I should stay behind," Picard said. "If I'm available to answer questions, I could try and keep them from finding out about our involvement."
Janeway sighed, frustrated. "Makes sense. Okay. Just try not to get yourself court-martialed."
Picard grinned. "I wouldn't suggest that particular course of action."
They split up, Picard beaming up to his ship, Janeway continuing on to the hangar.
Tai fumed in his chair. "Why can't you lend us a ship?" he asked.
Bankis twitched an antenna. "It would risk our exposing our presence to Starfleet and this SAM organization. We are all in agreement. It is not worth the risk."
"What about stealing a ship for us?" Tai asked. "We desperately need one."
"I'm sorry, but we can't help you. Bankis out." The comm screen went dark.
Sora walked in. "Couldn't get a ship?"
"No," Tai said, managing to check his anger.
"Don't worry," Sora said. "Izzy said that he can hack some databases and get us a cargo vessel big enough for everything we need."
"How did we even get involved?" Tai asked rhetorically.
"So what are we going to do again?" Duo asked Heero.
Heero, wearing his normal tank top and shorts, hoisted a crate full of weapons and tossed it to a soldier waiting for it. "It'll be a typical gundam pilot rescue," he replied.
"See, that's what I thought you'd say. And we're going to use normal guns instead of phasers?" Duo asked, picking up a crate full of machine gun clips and setting it down on top of a stack near the door.
"The leader of the SAM forces will be expecting us to take full advantage of the Starfleet technology and will have taken measures against that." Heero leaned up against the wall. "They won't have defended themselves against our traditional weapons."
"At least we have a slight advantage," Quatre said, poking his head in the door. "Our Starfleet training."
Duo left the shuttle and dodged through the mass of Starfleet officers and the soldiers, the Starfleet personnel having left their uniforms back up on the ships. He himself was wearing the same outfit that he had worn on that morning when Heero had picked him up outside of the karaoke bar.
Quatre watched Duo leave. "Wasn't he the one that always loved storming into the enemy fortress?" he wondered out loud.
Without warning, alarms started blaring. "Isn't that the attack alarm?" Heero asked.
Quatre jumped to the floor of the main docking bay, then rebounded up to his gundam. "What's happening?" he asked, punching the communications button so hard he jammed his finger.
"SAM patrol," the Starfleet officer reported. "Your orbital patrol is taking care of the problem."
The alarm stopped. Quatre rubbed his right knuckle. "At least it was a good drill," he muttered as he let himself float back to the ground.
Tai ran up to him. "Sora's been captured," he said. "SAM ambushed her convoy and everyone but her escaped."
We've got to hurry, Quatre thought to himself. Before all of us are captured one by one.
Wufei paced around the dark cell. That was all he'd done over the past few weeks, pace. He could swear that he'd worn a groove in the floor.
Sora rubbed her temples. "If you don't stop that I'll be forced to knock you out," she growled. "I'm trying to think of a way out of this mess."
She got up and started pacing with him. "I wish there was some way to contact the other pilots," Wufei said, flopping into a corner.
Sora pulled a small device out of her pocket. She began to tap the buttons on it. Wufei stared at her curiously. "I'm contacting some people that I know," she explained in response to Wufei's unspoken question. "We'll be out of here soon."
"So how exactly are we going to get in?" Kirk asked.
A few days out from Gundam Central, he still had a few doubts about the mission.
"The Leos are going to attack up front, to draw the attention of the defense forces," Heero said. "We're going to sneak in, get the captives, and sneak back out. Understand?"
At least we're not acting like typical Starfleet, Quatre thought. Since Starfleet hadn't ordered them to go on this mission, even forbade them from taking any action, everyone was wearing typical civilian clothes. Which was okay with everyone.
Tai had been acting weird ever since he said he'd gotten a message from Sora. He carried around a bag everywhere but wouldn't say what he had inside.
Quatre left the small cockpit and went to the storage bays, checking that all the guns and ammo were okay. Janeway and Kirk still disapproved of using what they called antiquated weapons against a force that would surely be using phasers, but they couldn't deny the logic of it.
Duo wandered into the cargo bay. "Hope this works," he said simply before leaving again.
It was going to be a long week.
"Sir, our sensors have indicated a small cargo vessel leaving the Nihon system with a cargo of mobile suits," a junior officer reported.
Admiral Paris wasn't surprised. "Send a ship to intercept."
"Sir, they have a three day lead on us and at their current speed, any ship we dispatch will have to enter the Neutral Zone to catch them."
"Then have a ship wait for them on the border."
Sora paced around the cell. "They should be here by now," she said.
"Who?" Wufei asked.
Sora glared at him. "Who else?"
"Oh." Wufei sat in his corner and watched Sora go back and forth. "SAM would be better off killing us," he muttered.
"I'm not ready to die that easily," Sora said.
The cell door opened. "We have a surprise for you worms," the guard said with an evil laugh. "You better hope it kills you before we do." Something was tossed roughly inside and the cell door closed.
Wufei got to his feet and stared at the thing. It jumped up so suddenly that Wufei nearly jumped through the wall.
It was a pink bird, about the size of a hawk. "Who's here?" it asked in a high-pitched female voice.
"Biyoumon!" Sora said. "I'm glad you could make it."
"You know this thing?" Wufei asked.
"Long story. Now we wait for the rescue."
"What rescue?" Biyoumon asked. "Why not just break out right now?"
"We have no way out of here, and I don't know how to fly a mobile suit." Sora pulled a deck of cards from somewhere. "Poker anyone?"
"I can't believe you got us lost," Kirk said.
Duo longed to punch Kirk in the face. "How long have I been around here?" he asked instead.
"A few years. Plenty of time to memorize star charts," Kirk said. "So how far off course are we?"
"Well, we've been going the wrong way for about three days, so it'll take at least that long to get back on course. Then we'll have several more days until the base, assuming that Starfleet doesn't try to stop us." Duo punched a few coordinates into the navigational computer as he spoke.
A console behind them shorted out. "Looks like we won't have artificial gravity for a while," Kirk said. "I'll go help to fix it."
"I'll go. I've had more training in zero-g than you have." Duo squeezed around Kirk and walked/floated down the hall.
"We need some people to fix the artificial gravity generator," Quatre said over the intercom.
Duo shook his head. "Why not just go without gravity for a while?" he said into the small radio he had with him.
"I don't want to discuss it," Quatre said.
Duo passed Heero on his way to the artificial gravity generator. "Having fun yet?" Duo asked cheerfully.
"Don't make me kill you," Heero muttered. Duo knew he meant it.
"Are you at least going to help fix the generator?"
"Not if you are," Heero said. "Right now I'm going to lunch."
"Suit yourself," Duo said. He continued down the corridor.
"Someday I'll end up killing him," Heero muttered as he made his way to the mess hall. Neelix had volunteered to come on the trip instead of going with Kes back to the Delta Quadrant, and Heero was curious about what the Talaxian had made this time.
He ran into a small, orange, t-rex-like dinosaur floating in the middle of the corridor. "Uh-oh," it said, darting into a cabin nearby.
"I sincerely hope I was just seeing things," Heero said.
Tai stared at a shadow in the corner of his quarters. "You say Heero saw you?" he asked.
"He thinks he was seeing things. I heard him say that."
"Augumon, we can't risk showing our hand before the time's right," Tai said. "You should be more careful next time."
"How much longer till we get there?" Augumon fidgeted in the corner. "If I don't blow something up soon I'll explode."
"A week, maybe more. I can send you back until we're almost there."
"Then who'll protect you?" Augumon wondered.
Quatre didn't think Heero's story was all that crazy. He'd seen a large pink ball with long ears hopping around a few days ago.
"Keep an eye out," he suggested. "Catch it if you can."
Heero stared at his food. Neelix had tried to make an Earth pizza, and it turned out tasting more like ravioli. Heero wasn't very fond of ravioli.
It was almost two hours since the artificial gravity generator had blown, and Duo had managed to restore gravity to only a few sections of the ship. One of which happened to be the mess hall.
Quatre looked around the small room. There were no replicators on the ship, and they had enough food to last one month without rationing it. Most people didn't eat very often, so they were virtually alone in the room.
"I don't understand how a dinosaur could stay hidden for so long," Heero said. "People would mention if they saw a dinosaur."
Quatre sensed Janeway enter the room. "Actually, I think most people would think that they've been in space too long," she said. "When I was stuck in the Delta Quadrant, I often thought I saw my dog everywhere. Don't tell anyone, though," she whispered. "No one else knows."
"I've spent most of my life in space," Heero said. "And I know I saw a dinosaur around here." He dumped his food in a trash bin and left.
"I hope we get to that SAM base soon," Janeway muttered. "I could stand seven years on a Starfleet vessel. It feels like I've been here twice that long, and I think I'm beginning to go crazy."
"I brought some music to listen to," Quatre said. "It's in the ship's computer under 'Japanese Pop.' I find it very relaxing."
"I'll give it a try," Janeway said. "Now I've got to get to the bridge." She got up and left, leaving Quatre the only one in the room other than Neelix.
Five games of poker had not distracted the prisoners from their predicament. Three days had gone by since Biyoumon had been thrown in there with them, and just a few hours ago they'd been told that they would be executed in one week unless the gundam pilots showed up.
"Know any other games besides poker?" Sora asked in a tired voice "You already owe me three hundred bucks."
"You can have my latinum," Wufei said. "I won't be needing it soon."
"If you won't be needing it, then neither will I," Sora said. "I have some dice. Know how to play Yahtzee?"
"Sure, why not." Wufei said. "Anything to distract me."
Biyoumon was playing around with Sora's device. "How long until they get here?" she asked.
"Tai says soon," Sora said. "Until then, we just have to keep ourselves busy. Now come play Yahtzee."
"I'll just play solitaire," Biyoumon said. She began flipping the cards so fast that the deck soon ran out. "The only problem is, the way I play it, the game is over too quickly."
"Keep playing," Sora said.
"Sir, the cargo ship seems to be off course. The ship we dispatched to patrol the Neutral Zone would be able to catch the freighter before it entered the Zone."
Admiral Paris analyzed the data. "Proceed."
"It's been five days and the artificial gravity generator hasn't been fixed," Trowa said. "Why did we agree to use this wreck?"
"Just pretend we're back home," Duo said cheerfully. "I mean, the ships we used didn't have any gravity half the time."
"You can say that I've adjusted," Trowa said.
They were tossing a ball around in the hangar. Heero would have disapproved of that, but, as Duo put it, "I'll go crazy unless I do something other than watch the stars zoom by outside."
Trowa tossed the ball in the air, watching it zip up to the ceiling and rebound into Duo's hand. "How much longer until we get there?" Duo asked.
"About three days, but Tai thinks that they'll get killed by the time we get there." Trowa abandoned the ball and went over to tune Heavyarms's machine guns. "I think that kid is hiding something big."
"I'm going to get some sleep. Maybe when I wake up we'll be there." Duo punched the tennis ball into a crate and left Trowa to his fine tuning
"Where could they be?" Sora asked, pacing around the room again. Even Yahtzee had lost its appeal.
Wufei was playing Biyoumon at cards. "They'll be here. Somehow, we've always been able to show up in the nick of time."
Sora sighed and flopped down next to the card game. "We've got a trump card in reserve, but it won't be much use unless we can get to a ship and get out of here." She sighed again. "What are you playing?"
"Blackjack." Biyoumon dealt another hand. "Wanna join?"
"No, thanks." Sora started playing around with her device. "I'll talk to Tai and see how long until they get here."
Wufei stared at her curiously. "How exactly do you talk to him?"
"Something called e-mail that's not around any more. It was used in the twentieth century as a means of talking to people on the other side of the planet." Sora didn't look up. "We have our devices linked up to a secret network that allows our messages to travel all over the Federation in seconds." She pushed a last button on the device, which made it chirp cheerfully. "Tai should get that message in a few minutes."
Waiting was the only thing to do, but it was very worrisome thing to do. There was only two more days left until the execution.
Quatre jumped. "What's that?" he asked.
Everyone in the room stared around for the source of the quiet beeping. Tai choked on his food and hurriedly pulled a small device out of his pocket. He flipped the top of it open and tapped a button. The beeping stopped.
"Sorry," he said, embarrassed. He busied himself with the device.
Quatre stared at him. Tai, seeming to feel that he was being watched, tossed the rest of his food in the trash and left hurriedly.
"What was that about?" Quatre wondered.
Tai checked his device. A message from Sora. There were only two days left until the execution was scheduled to take place. It would be fine timing.
He tapped the buttons on his device. "Don't worry. We'll be there before time runs out." He sent the message, then went to his quarters, where Augumon was waiting.
"Be ready to fight," he told the animal. "We're going to arrive soon."
A day and a half, no more. Then they could give those SAM forces something to be scared of.
Hold on, Sora.
"Starship approaching cargo vessel," the young officer said. "Shall I order it to engage?"
"Yes," Admiral Paris said. "They are not to enter the Neutral Zone."
"What's going on?" Heero shouted as the ship rocked beneath him.
"Starship approaching!" Kirk yelled. "They fired on us!"
"Launch mobile suits!"
"We're being hailed," Trowa said.
Janeway squeezed into the already cramped cockpit. "Let's see what they have to say."
"You captains should keep out of sight," Trowa said. "Hopefully, they don't know you're here, and you don't want to get into trouble." Janeway and Kirk left the cockpit.
Heero pushed a button on the console in front of him. The ship was a rather old one, with controls just like those of the original Enterprise. The gundam pilots were comfortable with those types of consoles, since it was similar to the technology from their gundams.
"By order from Admiral Paris, you are ordered to shut down and prepare to be boarded. You are all under arrest."
"Sorry, pal, but you can deal with us when we get back," Duo said from the doorway. "This ship is in a hurry."
"We are ordered to use any means necessary to apprehend you," the captain of the other ship said. "Power down your weapons and prepare to be boarded."
"We have to decline," Trowa said. "If we don't complete this mission, two innocent people will die."
"If you don't comply, then we will be forced to cripple your ship and some of your people may be killed."
"Sorry, but this arrest will have to wait," Heero said. "Your threats are meaningless, and we have somewhere else to be right now." He cut the transmission. "Are any mobile suits launching?"
"Quatre and Alpha Squadron have launched. Why did we have to give our troops such stupid names?" Duo asked.
"We didn't." Heero pointed to the weapons station. "Make yourself useful."
Duo took control of the highly advanced weapons station, the only good thing about the ship. "Waiting for the right moment," he said with a grin.
They watched through the viewport as ten mobile suits plus one gundam began attacking. Duo fired a phaser barrage through a portion of the shields that Quatre managed to weaken. The Starfleet ship spun around out of control.
"Sending Quatre our warp heading," Trowa said.
In a compact formation, all of the vessels went to warp, leaving the Starfleet ship stranded out in space.
"Sir, the vessel we sent to intercept the rogue ship has been crippled."
"Send a rescue ship," Admiral Paris said. "We'll have to deal with these criminals later."
"Shall I send a ship to wait for them?"
"No," the admiral sighed. "They've already proved they can take out a Starfleet vessel. Maybe the Romulans can stop them."
The door of the cell slid open. "It's time," the guard said.
Sora, Biyoumon, and Wufei walked into the brightly lit corridor. They looked at each other. "Don't we get a last meal or something?" Sora asked.
"Shut up and start walking," the guard said. Sora turned around and started walking down the corridor.
"Don't we get a phone call at least?" she asked.
"Don't make me tell you to shut up again."
"Hmph." She crossed her arms in an angry way. "You guys don't follow the rules on executing prisoners, do you?"
"I'm warning you…"
"Because, you know, we'd at least give you a good meal before we killed you. It's only right." Sora danced around the corridor almost happily.
"Are you purposely trying to annoy me?"
"Is it working?" Sora asked hopefully.
"I'll be glad when they kill you."
"Are you always a party pooper?" Sora asked.
Wufei stared at her. "You can call this a party?"
"Can't a girl have one last bit of fun before she dies?" Sora asked.
"No," the guard said. "Now move."
Fie minutes later, they emerged into a large, open stadium of sorts. It looked like the entire base was crowded around in the area.
Sora grinned. "Perfect."
Wufei stared at her again. What was perfect?
They were led onto a large platform. Sora put a hand in her pocket. "Ready, Biyoumon?" she murmured.
"Get ready," Sora warned Wufei.
"Entering orbit," Quatre reported.
"We may be too late already," Tai said.
"I think everyone is in that area right there," Heero said, pointing to a spot on his screen.
"Mobile suits are launching," Quatre said.
Tai was busy with his device again.
Sora's pocket beeped. "Now Biyoumon!!" Sora yelled, grabbing Wufei and diving off the platform. She held up the hand that had been in her pocket. The small, palm-sized device in her hand glowed with a brilliant white light.
Wufei shielded his eyes, but when he was able to see again he couldn't believe his eyes.
Biyoumon had changed. Instead of being a small pink hawk, she was now an orange bird, as large as a small twentieth century jet.
"Birdramon!" Sora yelled. "Pick us up!"
Birdramon's large talons closed around them. "Hold on," she warned, taking off into the sunlit sky.
After a brief stop so that the two humans could climb onto the large bird's back, Birdramon headed for the large docking bay that was a good three miles away, that was how large the base was. Sora pulled out her comm device and began typing a letter to Tai.
"They've escaped!" Tai yelled happily. "They're heading for the docking bay.
"It'll take them a few minutes to get there," Heero said. "They've got a huge base down there."
"They're not walking," Tai said. "Are the transporters working?"
"Then I'll see you in few minutes." Tai left the cockpit and ran down to the shuttlebay, only stopping for a second at his quarters.
"Tai's coming," Sora said. "Maybe we should wait for him to get here."
They were just landing outside the docking bay, where several soldiers waited for them. "Now what?" Wufei asked.
Sora's comm device beeped. "Birdramon, Tai says you need to get smaller so he can beam us up," she said.
Birdramon shrank, becoming Biyoumon again. Before the soldiers could react, they were caught up in a transporter beam.
"You okay?" Tai asked them.
"Just fine," Sora said. "What took you so long?"
"Several things," Tai said. "I'll explain later."
"Beam me into the cockpit of my gundam," Wufei told Tai. "I'm not going to let those creeps use Nataku to terrorize everyone in the Federation."
Tai tapped a few buttons, and Wufei vanished into a transporter beam.
"Now that he's gone, you mind telling me what happened?" Sora asked.
"Yes," Tai said. "I'm trying to drive!"
He froze suddenly. What's happening?
You are just dying to know what we're going do, aren't you? The voice was cruel, triumphant, and strangely familiar.
Who are you? Tai asked the voice.
I am what you are, the voice hissed. A freak, unable to admit your deformity to even your best friends. Now, would you like to know what we're planning?
Well, there's a Romulan armada heading towards Federation space. They're going to help us conquer that weak alliance and rule the entire quadrant!
Why tell me this?
Just so you know why you were destroyed. I can't have another telepath like me running around, able to identify my spies, now can I?
Tai gasped, struggling to fight the pain suddenly raging through his skull. "Stop," he murmured to the voice. "Stop it…"
Too late, insect. You're already finished.
Tai blacked out.
Sora pushed Tai out of the pilot seat, too worried about getting back to the cargo ship to think about Tai. "Does that junkheap even have a name?" she wondered.
"I think it's called Hopeship. Not that it has much hope," Augumon said. "What's wrong with Tai?"
"Check and see. I'm trying to get us back to that hope ship in one piece," Sora said. "I'd like to escape dying again."
With a loud thump, they landed smoothly on the shuttlebay floor of Hopeship. "What do we do?" Biyoumon asked.
"Hide somewhere. I'll find the clinic around here and see what's wrong with Tai. Wait for me in Tai's quarters." Sora put one of Tai's arms around her neck and hoisted him up off the floor. She half-carried, half led him out of the "borrowed" Starfleet shuttle and made her way through the ranks of people coming back from space. Quatre saw her and ran to help.
"What happened?" Quatre asked.
"I don't know. He just passed out." Sora looked around. "Where's the infirmary around here?"
"Just follow me," Quatre said. "Where's Wufei?"
"He said he had to get his gundam back when we were on the planet," Sora said. "I'm sure he'll be here soon."
Justin Sanpura sat back in his seat, grinning. Even though the prisoners had escaped, there was one less threat to worry about. He hoped.
"Sir, do you think it was wise to tell that rebel our plans?" his first officer said.
"Even though they know what's going to happen, they will be powerless to stop it," Justin said confidently. "And if you question my actions again, I'll kill you."
Voyager's Doctor wasn't optimistic about Tai's condition. All he would say was that something had overloaded his neural relays, but since there wasn't much else to go on everyone just sat back and waited.
Sora familiarized herself with the ship, then vanished for several days. No one even noticed.
"Too many repairs to be done," Duo mumbled as he discarded a tool and picked up a different one. "Why did we choose this hopeless ship?"
"Why is it called Hopeship?" Wufei asked. "And pass me a large wrench."
Duo tossed the tool across the room. "Because it was the hope of trade a while back. A long while back."
Wufei caught the wrench before it hit the bulkhead. "Not much hope left anymore."
"That's an understatement," Duo said. "The artificial gravity generator went out a few weeks ago and we still haven't got it working properly."
"I noticed," Wufei said. "I nearly floated out of my bed last night."
"I just sleep floating around in my room," Duo said. "It's easier."
"And you're crazy," Quatre commented, leaning against the doorway. "So how are things in here?"
"Well, there was some damage to the warp core, so that's what we're trying to fix right now," Duo said. "The mobile suits are carrying us through subspace right now, but who knows how long they'll be able to do that."
"Who knows how long it'll take to fix this if we don't get back to work," Wufei said. "Just so you know, we have several shifts working on this. If you want to help, the shift after this one could use an extra hand."
"When does the shift end?" Quatre asked.
Duo's twentieth-century watch beeped. "Right now." He stood, brushing off his hands. "Heero should be here in a few minutes. Have fun." Giggling insanely, Duo followed Wufei out of the room.
"I wonder how he ever became a pilot," Quatre muttered, picking up Wufei's discarded wrench and starting where the other pilot left off. "Relena thought I was insane when I woke up, but I think stasis has permanently messed up his brain."
"You and me both," Heero said.
Quatre jumped, banging his head on the console. "You could at least give a guy some warning when you're eavesdropping," he muttered. "You can start over there if you want. That's where Duo was working."
Heero ducked under the console and picked up a tool. "So how's your friend Tai?"
"Don't know," Quatre said. "I've been helping to fix the artificial gravity generator. Haven't had much free time."
"Well, I think Sora's vanished," Heero said. "She hasn't been seen for a while."
"She's probably in her quarters writing to her friends," Quatre said. "I'll check on her after we get finished." He discarded the wrench and picked up another tool. "When will we get finished, by the way?"
"About five hours," Heero said. "Better get comfortable."
Quatre groaned. "Can't I go back to fixing gravity?"
"Nope. Now pass me that wrench."
Sora rubbed her head where she had hit it. "There must be an easier way," she muttered.
The door opened. Quatre poked his head in. "Oh," he said, reddening slightly. "I knocked a few times and I didn't think anyone was in here."
"I was asleep," she said, picking a hairbrush out of the air and running it through her hair. "I just woke up a minute ago."
"Well, Heero mentioned that he hadn't seen you in a few days and I was just wondering where you were," Quatre said. "I think I'll leave now."
"How's Tai?" she asked.
"I was about to go and see the Doctor about it," Quatre said. "Want to come? It's better than spending five hours in a room with Heero."
"I'll be by in a few minutes," Sora said. "See you then."
"Okay," Quatre said. "See you." He left.
"That was close," she muttered. She checked a mirror, then followed Quatre into the hall.
"He's in a coma," the Doctor said. "There's nothing I can do until we get back to Gundaì¥Á7
"ˆ7|7|†#ÿÿÿÿÿÿl he could wake up in two years. I hate to say it, but I just don't know."
"Where is he at least?" Sora asked.
"Through that door over there," the Doctor said. "But don't get your hopes up."
Quatre walked through the door into a small hallway. There were other doors branching off into what were undoubtedly examination and operating rooms. And, Quatre reminded himself, recovery rooms too.
The Doctor tapped Quatre's shoulder. "Turn left at the end of the hall. Third door on your right." The hologram was through the door before it closed again.
"Whoever designed something like this must have been drunk or on drugs or something," Quatre muttered.
"You talking about the infirmary or the Doctor?" Sora asked,
"According to the schematics I looked at, this entire area is just a honeycomb of rooms and hallways," Quatre continued. "Granted, there was a bigger medical staff and a lot more people on this ship back then, but it's still ridiculous."
Sora was already halfway down the hall. Quatre ran to catch up. "So what happened when we rescued you?" he asked.
"It's a secret," Sora said. "All you need to know is that we broke away from the guards escorting us to our execution."
Quatre snorted a little. "We don't keep secrets from each other," he said.
"Sorry, but you wouldn't understand even if I explained." Sora stopped by a door. "I think this is it." She pressed the door release.
It was a depressing sight. Tai was hooked up to several monitors. They weren't meant to be life support. There were several devices on his temples that seemed to be recording brain activity. The only physical sign that Tai was alive was a small gasp every few seconds. The door closed, shutting them in almost complete darkness, the darkness only broken by the glow of the monitors.
"Some telepathic contact can do that?" Sora asked.
"Yeah," Quatre said. "There are some very powerful telepaths out there that can reach a person halfway across the galaxy with just their minds. It's just a matter of knowing how to use the contact to your advantage." Quatre glanced at Sora. "You should know this. You are a telepath aren't you?"
"I lied about that. I'm just really good at reading people." Sora continued staring at Tai. "He was the telepath of our group, he was just afraid to admit it."
"That explains a lot," Quatre said. "So, who do you think did this?"
"A powerful telepath who didn't want a rival," Sora said. "You know anyone who fits the description?"
"He probably does," Quatre said, staring at Tai. "It's just a matter of contacting him."
"And you think that you can do that?" Sora asked. "If you connect with his mind, you could very well be drawn into a coma too."
"Or it might bring him back," Quatre said. "Make a decision. He's your friend."
Sora flopped down into one of the available chairs. "Fine, but I'm not taking the blame for anything."
Quatre pulled a chair up to the side of Tai's bed. "I hope I learned enough about the Vulcan mind meld at the Academy," he muttered. He touched Tai's temple. "Here goes nothing."
With just a little bit of concentration and a whole lot of willpower, he was suddenly swimming in a sea of memories. Memories that weren't his. Quatre watched, fascinated, as a small boy chased his younger sister around a dark city at night, the chase ending up in a fight between a large, orange dinosaur and a bird that was just as big.
"That was the incident that locked my fate," a voice said from behind Quatre. Quatre spun around to see Tai, just a younger version of Tai.
"What happened?" Quatre asked.
"My younger sister Kari found a egg that came out of our computer. Before we knew it, it had become a dinosaur that wrecked our room and tried to blow up a bus." Tai stared at the sea of memories around them. "Is there some reason you came here?"
"I need to know what happened to you," Quatre said.
"A lot of things have happened to me," Tai said. He stared around. "You creeped out in this place?" he asked.
"Never noticed." Quatre stared around, trying to pick out a relevant memory.
"We should go somewhere else," Tai said.
Quatre blinked. They were suddenly in a small apartment, circa twenty-first century. Tai wandered around the living room.
"You like it?" Tai asked. "It's where I lived before all the advanced space-age stuff."
"Tai, I need to know what the last thing you remember is." Quatre sat down on the couch and stared at Tai.
"What's the rush?" Tai asked.
"You could die," Quatre said.
"I thought I was already dead," Tai said.
"Nope," Quatre said. "No such luck."
"Let me just take you on a tour around my mind," Tai said. "So that way you could at least understand me."
Quatre groaned inwardly. He didn't know how long it would take, and he didn't know how much time he had.
"How could you let Quatre do this?" the Doctor asked. "You very well know that he isn't a Vulcan."
Sora sat in her chair. "He would have done it no matter what."
"He could die, you know," the Doctor said.
"It was a risk he was willing to take," Sora said.
"Well, I can't do anything about it," the Doctor said. "All we can do now is hope Quatre is as good as he thinks he is."
Quatre watched the environment around him change yet again, from the school that Tai had attended to an outdoor setting. "What's the point of this?" Quatre asked.
"You wanted to know how Sora and Wufei escaped from SAM, correct?" Tai asked. "Well, I'll be happy to explain, but first you need to know about us so you can understand."
"We don't have much time," Quatre said. "If what you told me is true about the Romulan armada, then the Federation could be under attack right now."
"It isn't," Tai said. "Just trust me." He walked through the trees that ringed a small clearing. "This was a summer camp that I went to a few years before being put into stasis. It was a strange camp, because it snowed the day we got there. But just watch, and you'll understand."
Quatre watched as seven kids who apparently didn't know each other met up, then get sucked into a special rift and vanished. "What happened there?"
"We were taken to a digital plane, where we met these creatures called digimon," Tai explained.
"What do digital monsters have to do with you getting put into a coma?" Quatre asked.
Tai hung his head. "I guess it would be too much to ask for you to be patient. It's a long story, and I don't have much time." He perked up, motioned for Quatre to follow him. "Shall we?"
Quatre had been in the mind meld for nearly twenty-four hours, with no indication that either person would wake up soon. The doctor constantly buzzed into the room, muttering about patients and equipment, annoying Sora so much she finally locked the door and put a "Keep out…I'll call if something happens," sign on the door.
She sat by Tai, opposite Quatre, who was oblivious to anything, staring into space as if someone had turned off the "occupied" sign in his brain.
"You both are nuts," she muttered to the boys as she waited. "Now, not only will we lose a good member of our team, but the gundam pilots will have to find a new pilot for Sandrock. Figures."
She continued staring. "I suppose it would be pointless to ask if you're hungry?" she asked.
The two boys didn't even fidget. "You know," she said, studying Quatre, "You are kind of cute."
Quatre blinked. "What time is it?" he asked.
"Nearly the time when you went into that stupid mind meld," Sora replied. "You know you are one of the craziest people I have ever met."
"Really?" Quatre asked. "Thanks."
Tai stirred, opened his eyes. "Where's some food?"
"That is so totally like you. Scare everyone half to death, then the first thing out of your mouth is, 'where's lunch?' Typical guy," Sora muttered, going to the intercom panel near the door. "Hey, Doc, the sleeping beauties are awake."
"Okay. Unlock the door and I can check on them."
Sora unlocked the door and took down her sign. Tai busied himself with making sure everything was in working order while Quatre sat back in his chair, eyes closed.
Tai paused to stare at Quatre. "Now do you know why I showed you everything?"
"Wakarimasu," Quatre said. "And now I know what that pink ball with long ears was."
"You didn't tell him?" Sora asked. "Why did you tell him? I thought we agreed not to tell anybody."
"Unless we needed to," Tai said. "And I needed to tell him."
"Your choice," Sora said.
Quatre stood. "I'm going to find some food. If the Doctor looks for me, that's where he can find me." Quatre glanced at Tai. "And don't think I didn't hear you mention I was cute," he whispered to Sora as he left. The Doctor came in a few minutes later.
"You feeling all right?" the doctor asked. Sora left the room, still blushing furiously.
"So what are we going to do when we get back?" Quatre asked. He picked around the funny-looking peas on his plate and munched on a cracker.
"Haven't thought that far ahead," Heero said, not eating anything. "Starfleet is probably going to be clamoring to put us in prison, which will give SAM the opportunity it needs to take over the Federation. With Romulan cloaking devices, we won't be able to see the mobile suits before they attack, and look what fifty mobile suits did to a Starfleet vessel. Starfleet won't stand a chance if they use hit-and-fade tactics."
"Then what are we going to do?" Quatre asked. "We don't have enough people to stop a full-scale invasion, and Starfleet definitely won't believe us unless we can prove an army is coming."
They both sat in silence for a few minutes, thinking about the problem. "If that should happen," Heero said, "We will have to become outlaws again."
"Too bad," Quatre said, giving up on the casserole he was eating and pushing it aside. "These people were starting to grow on me."
"A Betazoid would know that we weren't lying," Heero said. "But they know that you're kinda telepathic, so they might think that you were influencing the Betazoid somehow."
"My brain feels completely fried right now," Quatre sighed. "Being in a mind meld for a day does that to a person. I'm going to sleep for a while. Just call me if the Romulans attack." He dumped his food and left, yawning.
Tai passed Quatre on his way into the mess hall, carrying what looked like a small, pink head with long ears. Quatre took one look at the thing and went on by, ignoring it. Tai went over to Heero's table and sat down, putting the strange stuffed animal on the empty chair beside him.
"So, have you figured what to do about the invasion?" Tai asked.
"Not yet," Heero said. "I was going to think about it tomorrow after a few hour's rest."
"I'll be around," Tai said. "Is the food any good?"
Heero looked around for Neelix. "No," he whispered.
"Oh." Tai pulled something out of his pocket, took the wrapper off of it, and popped it into his mouth. "Good thing I brought something to snack on."
"So how was it, being in a coma?" Heero asked.
"Weird. I was like I was back in my past, until Quatre showed up and made me explain myself. It took a while." Tai noticed an untouched cracker on the table. "Is this anybody's?"
"I think Quatre left it," Heero said. "They're okay."
Tai broke the cracker in half, chewing on one piece but keeping the other one in his hand on his lap. "I'm just glad to be back in the real world."
The way Tai said it made Heero look at him strangely. "You sound as if you've been to a different world before."
"Just in my dreams," Tai said. "I like to imagine what I'd be doing if I hadn't been put into a stasis pod and thrown into a temporal anomaly."
"What would you be doing?" Heero asked.
"The same old things. Finishing school, hanging out, that sort of thing. Would have gotten boring after a while, but it's better than being killed out in space with half-strangers." Tai brought his hand up from under the table, found it was empty. "No offense to you."
"None taken." Heero sighed and stood up. "Nice talking to you, but I need to get some sleep. We gundam pilots are on call in case we need to go into battle. Good night." Heero left Tai at the table to decide whether to eat or not.
Tai took the stuffed animal off the chair. "Feel like trying the casserole?" he asked it.
"Sure," the head said. "That cracker was good, but you know how much we eat."
"Fine. Stay put and I'll be right back, Koromon." Tai went to the short line at the food counter and brought back a strange-looking tuna casserole. Tai sniffed it. "I don't think you should eat this. It doesn't smell right."
"Neither do you." Koromon wolfed down the food as fast as he could, which was surprisingly fast considering he had no arms.
"I know. The shower was going to be the next place I was headed." Tai leaned back in the chair, glad that no one noticed him talking to a stuffed animal. "I hope that everything here is fixed before the really big problem hits."
"So we let the gundam pilots take care of this and we concentrate on saving two or more worlds."
"It's not that simple," Tai said. "Without the others, we don't stand a chance, and for all we know, they could be stranded somewhere in time or several thousand light-years away."
"Momentai," Koromon said. "Don't worry. We'll find them."
Tai mumbled something under his breath and hung his head over the back of the chair. "I wish I could be as sure as you. And what does momentai mean anyway?"
"Take it easy." Koromon pushed the plate way from him. "I'm finished. Now shall we hit the showers?"
"Not funny, Koromon." Tai picked up the animal and left the tray where it was on the table. "Sometimes I wish that I was still in stasis so I wouldn't have to bother with you."
"I wish you were still a little kid that liked to play soccer."
"Then I'd be using you as the ball." Tai chuckled. "I don't know how you do it, but you always make me laugh when I need to."
"What are friends for?"
Tai laughed. "Be careful, or I may dunk you in the shower with me."
"That would be fun."
Tai made his way to the nearest turbolift. "You are incorrigible," he said.
"I try to be." Koromon winked up at Tai. "That doesn't mean you have to point it out."
Quatre listened in on Tai's side of the conversation, chuckling to himself. Being a telepath instead of an empath is really strange, he thought to himself. Eavesdropping when I'm not even there is not a good thing to do, but I don't know how to stop. It's kinda fun, though.
"Guess I'll just have to ignore it for now," he said aloud. "I need to sleep."
He rolled over in his dark cabin, attempting to fall asleep, failing because tuned into something he wished he hadn't.
"I get the hint," he said irritably, turning on the lamp by his bed. "Guess I just have to keep my mind occupied until I dose off or something.
He got up and went over to the computer terminal on the desk. "Some music sounds good," he muttered to himself. He accessed the music files he downloaded to the computer database just before they left the Nihon system. The group Two-Mix started playing as Quatre pulled up a story he was writing.
"War: the Story of the Gundam Pilots," he read out loud. "It sucks, but it keeps me occupied."
He started typing, ignoring the several conversations in his mind that persisted in bothering him. The door chimed.
"Come in," he said without thinking.
Duo paused in the doorway. "How can you listen to this?" he asked. "This is worse than what my roommate at Starfleet made me listen to."
"If you don't want to hear, then leave," Quatre said without looking up. He stopped typing. "Sorry. What music do you like?"
"None at all."
Quatre punched a button on the computer. The music stopped. "What made you stop by?"
"Wondering how you were doing," Duo said. "You don't seem the same."
"You wouldn't be the same if you were able to hear someone having sex three decks up," Quatre muttered.
"I thought you were just an empath," Duo said.
"So did I," Quatre said.
"Well, I was just wondering what went on when you were in that mind-thingy," Duo said. "It kinda creeped everyone out."
"I can't explain," Quatre said. "It was too weird." Which wasn't true. Quatre was keeping a secret that only Tai and Sora, plus a few of their friends serving in Starfleet, knew about.
"I just hope you can still pilot Sandrock." Duo paced around the room slowly, looking around. "Starfleet has sent more ships to intercept us, and we are still several days away from Gundam Central."
"Don't worry," Quatre said with a slight grin. "I won't be preoccupied with anything you think about."
"Good," Duo said, pausing by the computer. He read a few lines of Quatre's story. "This sucks, you know."
"At least it keeps my brain occupied. You wouldn't believe what everyone else thinks about." Quatre wandered over to a cupboard. "You interested in a few games of poker or Monopoly?"
"Monopoly is too boring, and I already owe Heero about hundred bucks." Duo looked in the cupboard. "Why not chess? I can improve my game."
"By getting your butt kicked," Quatre pointed out.
"I'll set up the board," Duo said. "Find some good music."
Quatre looked over his story, then deleted it. "I think I'll just write a biography or something." He tapped a few keys, searching for some music that he enjoyed and wouldn't drive Duo nuts. He programmed a playlist consisting of songs, English and Japanese, from the twentieth-century TV show Digimon: Digital Monsters.
Duo started to make a snide remark about the music, then shut up as the game started. Quatre paused to listen to the lyrics of the first song.
"Seven young kids go to camp for the summer, and wind up living in a digital land where everybody gets to meet his own digi-monster, a digital companion, a digital friend. A digimon in training will digivolve to rookie, and digivolve to champion and ultimate, too. Gonna save the digital world for me, gonna save the digital world for you."
Quatre smiled slightly at the lyrics. "Explains most of it perfectly," he muttered so Duo couldn't hear him. He then proceeded to beat Duo at chess no less than five times in a row.
Duo left in a bad mood. Quatre flopped on the bed, somehow even more awake than before. He listened idly to the music still playing, a Japanese song called "Three Primary Colors." It had been recorded for the third season of digimon, called "Digimon Tamers."
The song, sung by three of the digimon Tamers, talked about fighting and working together, or being the primary colors. It had a relaxing kind of mood, and Quatre was almost asleep when the intercom came on.
"Attention, all gundam pilots. Starfleet vessel approaching. Report to your gundams immediately."
Muttering, Quatre dressed quickly and made his way through the crowd of people so he could reach the shuttlebay. Since everyone had a job to do, they were making their way toward their assigned posts, causing the trip to the shuttle bay to take several minutes longer than it should have.
By the time Quatre got there, Heero and Wufei had already launched out into space. Trowa was already getting ready to launch, and Duo, the last person to leave usually, was getting into his gundam. Quatre hurriedly checked his gundam over and launched right after Duo.
There were three Starfleet vessels this time. All three seemed to have been modified to take on an entire army of Leos and Virgos.
"Rebel vessel, you have violated the treaty regarding the Neutral Zone. You are under arrest."
"Not this again," Duo muttered.
Quatre opened a channel. "Stand down!" he cried. "We have important information that could save us from a Romulan invasion!"
"Our intelligence has had no word of an attack of any kind from the Romulans," the Starfleet officer said.
"We have just learned about it ourselves," Quatre said. "You can have a Betazoid confirm what I've said, but time is running short. I don't know how long we have."
"Please wait one moment." The comm shut off.
"Hope they believe us," Heero said.
"They have to, or we could be in serious trouble," Trowa said.
A few tense minutes passed, then, "We believe you. Please return to your vessel and we can talk."
"Thank you." Quatre shut off his radio and gave a relieved laugh. "They believed us."
"You should have known they would," Duo said. "You seem to know about everything else."
"Shut up," Quatre muttered. Heero murmured a question to himself.
"Now what is this about a Romulan invasion?" the captain of the Fortunado asked.
"During our rescue mission, a member of our crew was contacted by someone we presume to be the leader of the SAM forces. The link was telepathic, and just before the crewman was driven into a coma the enemy told him everything," Quatre said. "He told us about it after he got out of the coma a few days later." He didn't want to mention Tai, or how he'd come out of the coma.
"And why exactly did the leader of the enemy forces tell this crewman about their plans?"
Quatre shrugged. "Don't know. Probably didn't expect him to come out of the coma." Quatre shuddered suddenly, remembering what Tai had told him. "He said that it wouldn't matter because it would be too late."
"I see." The captain leaned back in his chair, looking toward the Betazoid sitting beside him. The alien nodded, saying that he believed Quatre.
"I shall have to report this to Admiral Paris," the captain said. "In the meantime, we have to keep you aboard to make sure that you don't try to skip out on us. You are to stay in the quarters assigned to you until we decide what to do with you."
Quatre stood, along with Heero and Trowa. "We'll be happy to stay," Trowa said.
"You should just hurry. SAM could strike at any moment," Heero said.
"I have a strange feeling," Quatre said, more to himself than anyone else, "That soon, we will have a bigger war to wage than any previous one fought before."
That drew strange looks from everyone in the room, but he was ignored. "My security officer will escort you to your quarters."
Quatre followed, unable to shake the feeling that something huge was about to go down, something bigger than anything in history.
"Return to your base at once," Admiral Paris said via the viewscreen in the pilots' borrowed quarters. "Do what you will to prepare to take on these enemy forces."
"You believe us?" Quatre asked, not able to cover his surprise.
"Your story would explain some activity along the Neutral Zone that we have observed over the past few months," the admiral said. "I suspect that we do not have very long before the Romulans show up, and with SAM we won't stand a chance unless you help us."
"We would have acted whether you wanted us to or not," Heero said.
"Then hurry up and get back to Nihon IV. I'll send people to fly those mobile suits of yours."
"I'd recommend people like Tom Paris," Trowa said. "They are the just the kind of people we need."
"Fortunately for us, we don't have many people like that. I'll start checking. Paris out." The screen darkened.
"Let's go," Quatre said. "We have to hurry, or it'll be too late to save everyone."
Heero stared at Quatre as the other pilot left for the transporter room. "Is it just me, or has that kid got his signals crossed?"
"That's something Duo would say," Trowa said. "But I would trust him. He isn't the same kid who went insane and destroyed a colony once, you know."
Heero snorted. "If he still was, then we'd be in major trouble." As he left, he called over his shoulder, "Nice to see you have a sense of humor."
"Nice to see you have one, too," Trowa called after him, finishing his drink and leaving.
The Starfleet personnel were all too glad to get back to their starships a few days later, and Duo couldn't blame them. Even with the Fortunado's help they hadn't gotten the gravity working again, and Duo had slept the last few days still floating around in his cabin.
Quatre wandered around Gundam Central several hours, taking in what had been completed within the last month.
Several soldiers greeted Quatre warmly, waving as they went about transferring supplies to the as-yet incomplete colony on the other side of the planet. Quatre waved back, having given up on trying to block out the thoughts of everyone and sifting through everything in the back of his mind.
Janeway walked up behind the young pilot. "Something on your mind?" she asked.
"I know something bad is going to happen after we fight the Romulans, but what's bugging me is that I can't figure out what," Quatre said. "You ever get that feeling?"
"That's what kept me alive in the Delta Quadrant," Janeway said. "Here's some advice: If you think something bad is going to happen, then trust your feelings. Chances are, you're right." She looked around. "What happens if you have to abandon this place?" she asked.
"We've built it so that we can pick the buildings up whole and transfer them onto a ship within a few hours," Quatre said. "Just in case a scenario like the one we face comes."
"Ingenious." Janeway yawned. "I have to get back aboard Voyager so that I can get some sleep and write out my report. See you tomorrow." She tapped her commbadge as he kept walking.
Tai walked up behind him as soon as Janeway vanished. "I hope you're wrong about this feeling of yours. If you're right, then it could destroy all of us."
"I hate being right," Quatre muttered.
Sora stared at the computer screen in her Gundam Central quarters. On it, a map that was made up of hundreds of little squares was slowly vanishing, as one square at a time got deleted.
From behind her, Tai asked, "Still no change?"
"At this rate, it'll be deleted in about three months. Which isn't a lot of time, considering what's going on around here." Sora sighed. "We can only hope that we find them soon."
Several days after they returned to Bintura, a transport full of fresh young Academy cadets arrived to begin training to fly the Leos and Virgos that the underground factory was putting out at a rate of five a week, which was pretty fast considering everything that went into making a mobile suit.
Quatre, eager to think about anything other than the coming war, volunteered to train the cadets to pilot the mobile suits.
Quatre, showing a demonstration of the weapons systems, picked up a small whispered conversation with his mind. "Would you two like to show everyone here how to operate a submachine gun while firing a beam cannon at an enemy?" he asked pleasantly.
The two boys reddened. "No, sir," they said together.
"Good. Then don't talk while I'm trying to show you something that could very well cost you your life in a real battle." Quatre enjoyed the alarm on the kids' faces. "Because all of you will have to do this at least once in your career if you live long enough." Quatre turned the demo tape back on. "As I was saying…"
Duo watched the exchange through a window near the blackboard where Quatre couldn't see him. Without pausing in the least, Quatre reached behind the screen and pulled the old-fashioned blinds shut.
"Damn." Duo grinned. "And it was just getting interesting."
Duo walked out toward the mess hall, intentionally walking by a window to see what Quatre was doing. Quatre looked up at him, a "Don't you even dare," look on his face. Duo grinned innocently and went to see what Neelix had tried making this time.
An actual Earth pizza waited for him as he entered. "I hope it doesn't taste like spaghetti or something," he murmured to himself as he grabbed a plate and loaded it with several slices.
As he passed Tai, Tai looked up at him. "The pizza's all right," he said, then went back to eating his slice. Duo could hear something on the floor scarfing what sounded like the other slices of Tai's pie.
"I'm not even gonna ask," Duo muttered as he went to a relatively empty table.
Half an hour later, Quatre came in and sat down opposite Duo. "Pizza any good?" he asked.
"It's not Pizza Hut, but it's good all the same," Duo said, finishing his eighth slice.
"Is there even any left for us?" Quatre asked wryly as he stared at Duo.
"How did you…never mind." Duo picked up another slice and started munching. "I forgot."
"I wish I could," Quatre muttered. He vanished into the crowd of people. Heero passed him on his way toward Duo.
"How on Earth can you eat an entire pizza and still have room for more?" Heero asked.
"Don't know," Duo said. "We do plenty for me to work it off, though."
"No kidding," Trowa said from the opposite end of the table. "I think that since Duo has so much energy to burn off, he should take the next patrol shift in addition to his own."
"Good idea," Heero said. Grinning, he left the table with Trowa, who was laughing.
"When did those two develop a sense of humor?" Duo wondered.
Quatre was waiting for Heero and Trowa as they left the mess hall. "Nice one," he said, applauding. "That ought to shut him up for a while."
"Don't you have another class to teach?" Heero asked.
"Yes," Quatre said. "I hope I wasn't like these kids when I went to school."
"We all probably were," Trowa said. "Except for Heero, of course."
"I wouldn't be too sure," Heero said. "I hate to admit it, but I was prone to playing practical jokes before I learned discipline."
"Heero was actually a kid once?" Quatre exclaimed exaggeratedly. "Wait'll I tell Duo."
"If you tell him, I'll kill you," Heero said. "I don't want Duo teasing me about that."
"Why not put those practical joke skills of yours to use?" Quatre asked. "He wouldn't ever guess it was you."
Heero thought for a moment. "I have the perfect joke. But first, let me see if I can teach those kids something."
The practical jokes were a success. Duo couldn't bear to admit that he'd been had, so soon everyone became cautious of just about everything. But the two practical jokers were primarily going after one another, so Quatre thought himself relatively safe until he came up with a live toad in his chicken pot pie. After that, he calmly told the two that if he found another joke being played, he'd play a joke of his own. Knowing what Quatre could do, they limited their jokes to startling each other in unexpected places.
It took just a few weeks to train the young cadets to pilot the mobile suits. Relena Peacecraft, who'd been transferred to DS9 just before the rescue, returned to help put the finishing touches on the latest mobile suits.
After another few days, the practical joke war ended, forcing everyone to focus their attention on the war ahead.
A few weeks after the jokes stopped, a call came from Starfleet HQ announcing that the war had begun. Immediately, Quatre was put in charge of distributing their meager forces of just over four hundred mobile around the galaxy to aid the Starfleet vessels with the fighting. More people than ever came to learn to fly the mobile suits, which made the manufacturer's work that much harder.
Quatre studied a map of the quadrant, trying to figure out what SAM's next move would be. Janeway studied the same map, evidently puzzled.
"Your tactics make no sense to me," she said. "I guess it's because of the way you fought when you were back at your own Earth."
"Right. We had to make up tactics as we went along, and they usually worked," Quatre said.
"If you call working tactics being captured by Oz," Duo muttered, hovering by the terminal in a corner. "Oz was the former SAM, by the way."
"We always managed to rescue everyone."
"What about that time you destroyed that colony?" Duo asked.
"Now that was different. You'd go nuts too if you saw your dad blown up and your sister killed and there was nothing you could do about it," Quatre said.
"Oh," Duo said.
"Let's get back to this," Janeway said. "It's been several weeks since the last attack, which has given us time to make about twenty more mobile suits. Where do you suggest sending them?"
Quatre stared at the map, calling up the locations of all the Sam attacks. He reviewed the data quickly. "We've been assuming that DS9 has had enough firepower to withstand an assault, but we need to send ten of the mobile suits there. I've noticed a thinning of the defenses ever since Bajor was attacked. DS9 has been sending most of its reserve forces to help Bajor recover. It's the perfect target for SAM to attack next.
"On it," Duo said, relaying the commands with a few sharp taps. Janeway stared at the data.
"Amazing," she said. "The Romulans would never guess that a teenager is coordinating these attacks."
"We're not out of the woods," Quatre said. "They've still got the advantage of cloaking technology."
"I've been working on that," Duo said. "We just have to scan for unidentified energy signatures that wouldn't seem out of place and look them over carefully."
"Like looking for a Venus Fly Trap in a jungle if you didn't know what it looked like," Janeway commented. "Good idea."
Quatre sat down, puzzling over the data. All the attacks had seemed random so far, but there was an underlying logic that could not figured out by the best minds in Starfleet.
An idea hit him. He pulled up a diagram of a chessboard, not the 3D kind but the old-fashioned board. The attacks seemed to coincide with moves in a chess game, but since they hadn't known about it Starfleet had fallen right into every trap.
Janeway studied the board for a minute, then understood. "Duo, send this to Starfleet, encrypted. We don't want the enemy to know we're onto them."
"Brilliant," Duo muttered. "Quatre, only you would have thought of that."
"Using chess moves. We never would have thought of that," Janeway said. "It's like using a golf club to stop a bowling ball."
Duo paused, thinking that over. "How?" he asked.
Duo tapped a few controls, then yawned. "I have to go to DS9 tomorrow. I need to get some sleep." He left the room, still yawning.
"I'm gonna have to go with him," Quatre said. He followed Duo, pausing at the door. "Think you can play a game of chess?"
"I think I can figure it out," Janeway said with a small grin. Quatre left the room.
Admiral Paris double-checked Quatre's conclusion. It made since, though he hated to admit that a kid was able to figure out what his tacticians couldn't.
Score one for the gundam pilots, he thought.
"Sir, Deep Space 9 has just been attacked," someone said behind him.
"Outcome?" the admiral asked.
"Quatre, Duo, and a team of mobile were successfully able to drive the enemy off. Casualties to our side were minimal."
Admiral Paris updated the map in front of him. We stopped a checkmate, he thought. But now where will he move?
Quatre woke up suddenly from his small nap. He was still out in space, halfway through the two-day journey back to Gundam Central.
You must think you're smart, seeing through my strategy like that, a voice at the back of his mind said.
You must be the guy Tai met, Quatre said. How nice of you to stop by. Now leave.
I just got here. Why would I leave?
Quatre sighed. Can I at least know your name?
Certainly. Justin Sanpura at your service.
What do you want? Quatre asked.
Merely to congratulate you. Quatre could almost see Justin smiling in his head. I would never have thought that you were capable of such strategies. Now shall we keep playing?
I would rather go back to sleep right now, if that's all right with you. Quatre leaned back and tried to go back to sleep.
Now that's rude. Don't you eve talk to people?
Not if they're my enemies.
Pity. I'm sure that we could have reached some sort of agreement. Sayonara. Justin was gone as abruptly as he'd come.
"Now maybe I can sleep," Quatre muttered, adjusting his cockpit chair as well as he could.
Two months later, the galactic chess match was over. The final battle had been over Gundam Central, where Justin Sanpura had desperately fought to get rid of not only the gundam pilots, but Tai and Sora as well. No one thought much about it, except that all the gundam pilots had found out about the digimon and Duo suspected that Justin had been trying to destroy them for some reason.
Quatre leaned back in his quarters on Bintura, in the colony instead of the military base. He was intent on getting some sleep before they left the next day to for a Federation Council meeting that they were required to attend.
Sora burst into the room. "Quatre, we need to hurry," she said.
Quatre, startled, leaned a little too far in the chair and fell. "What do we need to hurry for?" he asked as he picked himself up.
"You know that really bad feeling you had at the beginning of the war?" she asked. "Well, you weren't crazy. There is something wiping out the digital world and our friend Izzy thinks that it'll bioemerge into the real world. We can't even stop it."
"And how do you expect me to help?" Quatre asked.
Sora shoved something in his face. It was a device, similar to Sora's, but very different. "What does this mean?" he asked.
Sora grabbed his arm and yanked him along after her. "You'll find out," she said.
Heero, walking through the underground mobile suit construction facility, was startled by Quatre plowing right into him. He picked himself up and glared at the Arabian
"What's the rush?" he asked.
"We are in big trouble," Quatre said.
"How?" Heero asked. "SAM has been defeated."
"Not from SAM," Quatre said. He grabbed Heero's wrist and dragged him into a small room nearby.
The other gundam pilots were there, apparently having been forcibly dragged there. Also there were Tai, Sora, and four other kids that no one had seen before. With them were six stuffed animals.
"So what is this about?" Heero asked irritably.
"You know that dinosaur you saw on the cargo ship?" Tai asked.
"How'd you know about it?" Heero asked.
"The dinosaur told me about it," Tai said. The pink ball with ears glowed briefly and transformed into the dinosaur. "Well, it's a creature from a parallel plane. But it's not really important."
"So then what is?" Trowa asked.
"The world that these digimon are from is slowly being erased by a lifeform that could soon emerge into our world," Quatre explained.
"And how would you know about it?" Duo asked.
"I've been there," Quatre said. "But I brought you here so that the digidestined could explain everything to you."
A few days later, Quatre was walking through the corridors of the Enterprise. The starship was currently orbiting Earth.
They'd explained the new situation to the Federation Council. The Council had called them crazy. But they'd also made the gundam pilots' army an offshoot of Starfleet, which meant that, technically, the pilots were Starfleet officers. But all five pilots had politely turned down assignments on board starships, with the excuse that they'd prefer to stay in the Nihon system and protect the budding colony there.
The real reason, however, was to look into the digidestined's claims about something that was going to attempt to "eat" the real world. Of course, since Quatre was the only pilot able to travel to the other world, he was the only one who could do anything about.
Quatre reflected on that. In just a few hours, the Enterprise would leave to return to Nihon IV, and then what would happen? He didn't know.
"I've got to do something else besides mope," he muttered to himself. He went to Ten-Forward and sat by a window, just looking at the Earth, reflecting on the first time he's seen it.
People's surprised questions brought him back to the present. He looked down at the Earth with a start.
A large red mass, so huge it could be seen from space, had appeared where San Francisco had been. Several other red masses could be seen all over the United States and Canada. As the planet turned, more red masses could be seen in all the major countries of the world.
"So it's finally here," Quatre said. "And sooner than we thought…."The End
Want to know what happens? Well, sorry, but I guess you'll have to wait. I haven't even started writing the next one yet. And it's going to primarily Digimon and Star Trek, so I don't think it would qualify for the Gundam Wing Shades of Grey fanfic list. I will post it at my site when it's finished, though, and post when it's done at the Shades of Grey group. Enjoy it!!!