Noin went through the data at the main terminal, dumping info onto disks and handing them out to the various officers waiting for messages from home.
"Anything for us?" Zechs asked when she was nearly done.
"Not sure…" she murmured, turning to give one of the younger Preventers her disk.
"Thanks." The girl smiled brightly.
"No problem, kid." Noin returned the smile before returning to the main transmission. She felt guilty for the younger ones assigned to the Mars Base; of all of them, they probably suffered from homesickness the most.
Zechs read over her shoulder, arm settling around her waist as she finished sorting.
"Here," Noin said. "There's something from your sister, I got something from Sally and…Lady Une wrote to both of us." Surprise registered on her face. When she had the time, Lady Une would write to Noin on occasion, but as of yet never to Zechs.
"Would you like to see that one now?" he queried.
"Sure, why not…?"
The message opened itself. Lady Une's face appeared on the screen, looking tired and overworked. To be expected, Noin thought wryly. "Noin, Zechs." Her image nodded. "Good to see you both. You're most likely wondering why I'm speaking to you now…I'm afraid it's a matter of grave concern." Noin was immediately worried. "Recently the executive government has been…talking. About prosecuting war crimes, from the height of the Federation to the most recent war; apparently they're serious.
"There've been plans for general amnesty hearings, there's a present four-delay for people from the Mars Base to send cases arguments… "I've enclosed the charges levied against both of you, as well as I. I thought you should know what I was going to have to face should these hearings be unsuccessful, one of you would have to help take over.
"It took a lot, but there's an agreement that I will take Mariemaia's charges as well, should there be any at the end. Quite frankly, it's almost guaranteed I will be executed…" Lady Une stopped, shook her head. "I wouldn't mind, seeing as I deserve it, except now I have Mariemaia to take care of. Noin, you have some serious charges as well; Zechs, I trust you know the extent of yours. I hope this turns out for the best; goodbye."
"Dear God…" Noin stammered, caught entirely off-guard. Zechs was silent at her side, but his arm tightened around her and betrayed his anxiety. "What the hell do we do now?"
L1 Cluster's capitol, March 24
Relena shut off the television set in a fit of anger, turning away and slamming her hand down hard on a stack of papers sitting on her desk. A few flittered off, one even left through the open window. She was too upset to care.
"That could have been important," a low voice commented.
Her head snapped up, relaxing only slightly when she recognized the voice's source. "Heero. What are you doing here?"
He looked nearly imperceptibly surprised at Relena's blunt greeting. "I assume you heard the news."
"Yes, I did," she gritted out. "I knew about it before this, I just…never thought they would go through with it. They have as much to lose as-as-"
Her voice broke and she looked out the window, burning fury still in the former princess's expression.
"How bad is it?" Heero asked quietly, standing next to her to look out the bay window of the suite.
"My brother could be executed," Relena whispered, nails biting into her palm to keep from crying. "Lady Une as well…possibly you. The rest of the pilots face much time in jail, Noin and just about everyone else fall into that same category."
"I see…" he was silent after that, now realizing why she was so angry. Having nearly everyone you knew face those harsh fates would be enough to upset anyone. The accusations against him were of no matter personally; he would not argue against anything they would levy against him. He deserved the punishment…but Relena didn't. "Would you be able to stop this?"
"There are others who want this to halt as well…" Relena hesitated. "A general amnesty hearing was part of the deal, I made sure of that. But beyond speaking there…not at all. I can't do anything about this."
"They have to wait for responses for people on the Mars Base…the transmission rate is rather slow between planets. Would that be of any help?"
"No. In fact, it will only give the Tribunal more time to place people who are more likely to vote against the amnesty on their panels."
"Could it work the other way?"
"I doubt it…Heero, I'm helpless in this. No matter how much political power I have, I can't stop something this big. These people have paid, most of them have died…it isn't just people I care about would suffer through this, it's that I know it's not just me. What if it starts all over again?"
"Relena…" It disturbed Heero that she was correct; she was in truth helpless. She would be viewed as too bound by familial and friendship ties to be "impartial." As if it were possible in this convoluted Sphere of politics.
"I truly hope this isn't the end of it."
Mars Base, March 26
It hit her hard this was going to be less of a trial and more of a reaffirmation of guilty parties. Society had ignored the crimes that had gone on; they had lived in a war-torn Earth Sphere for so long they forgot justice could be wrought. Now it was coming up again; it could potentially re-devastate Earth and the colonies…or bring a hard-fought closure to pain many colonists and Earth-born people had felt for decades.
Noin bit her lip as she read over her charges - 31 in all. It was a small amount, considering her twelve years in OZ. Seven had been spent as an officer, and three as a top official. There were some things listed she had long tried to forget, and nearly had…until then.
Work on the base had halted; most everyone had received charges in one form or another, the majority charged as a group, as Sally and the medical branch of the Alliance had been. The same was not true of the 14 surviving OZ top officials, which included Lady Une, Noin, and Zechs. They were charged as individuals; most of them had committed serious crimes.
A good deal of the OZ soldiers would be lacking the defense of being children coerced into military service; the Federation had made living situations so awful joining Specials, or the Alliance, was a quite viable alternative. Noin knew she had been treated relatively well as a child in Specials/OZ; it helped that Zechs was known by an influential family - the Bartons.
"At the time of the trials, we'll have to go back to Earth," Zechs commented quietly. He was seated across from her on a table in the deserted mess hall. "The trials will be held in Luxembourg and Brussels."
"I know," Noin responded in kind. "Some of these…Lady Une was right, she would be executed if they tried her…she doesn't deserve this, neither do you. Horrible things happen in war, I understand all of us did things we shouldn't have, but still…"
"Noin, I stand a good chance of being executed as well." Zechs appeared tired as he looked at her, hand closing tightly over hers. "Particularly with the charges from White Fang…it's almost as certain as Lady Une's. Possibly more so."
"Zechs, I don't want to think about that." She shook her head fervently. "The amnesty hearings haven't been conducted yet. These trials could be waived yet."
"It's unlikely," he said bluntly. "There were others with even more serious charges, if it were possible."
Noin looked away, straightening the sleeve of her Preventers jacket in an attempt to keep from meeting his eyes. "Some of the allegations against me…they're quite serious, Lady Une was correct. While I most likely won't face execution, it's still a good deal of time in prison."
"Should this come to trial, you can leave most of the accusations," Zechs informed her pointedly. "Many of them were joint for us, as I technically outranked you in most simply say they occurred under coercion."
"No, dear," Noin stated firmly. "I'll never do that. I committed these crimes just as voluntarily as you did."
"Noin-" Zechs started to argue.
"I'm not going to talk about this." She looked away again, a mixture of anger and guilt in her eyes. "It's bad enough as it is, we don't have to be so pessimistic."
Preventers Headquarters, March 27 early morning
Lady Une rubbed at her eyes, blinking in an attempt to see her computer screen clearly. The television was on mute next to it as it usually was. It helped her concentrate not to have noise; at any rate it was inconvenient to have to continuously switch off the sound on various items to speak on the phone, et cetera.
At the moment she wasn't thinking particularly clearly; she wasn't even sure what day it was. She'd lost her watch at one point, she wasn't sure when. The harried work and public statements had made her lose her sense of direction and time.
"Mother?" Mariemaia's timid voice carried over the office. The redheaded child pushed herself up to Lady Une's desk, head tipped curiously.
"Marie-chan." Lady Une's voice was dull as she acknowledged her adopted daughter. "I thought you went home."
It had quickly become custom for Mariemaia to stay at Preventers Headquarters after school. Lady Une allowed her to do so only because she understood the child wouldn't be happy alone at home, with only the cross maid for company. Normally Une would bring her home; it reminded her she should be there at a relatively decent hour, at least a few times a week. The past few days, however, had not been following that regime.
"You never told me to," Mariemaia responded easily. "It's three in the morning you know."
Lady Une gave her a mild look. "You know you're supposed to go home if I'm working too late."
She shrugged. "I didn't want to. I took a nap here, you can't really complain."
"Your headmistress will if she discovers I've been letting you stay around an intelligence agency's office 'til odd hours in the morning. You don't want to have the orphanage come and take you, do you?"
Lady Une picked up Mariemaia from her wheelchair, cradling the girl in her lap. Mariemaia snuggled into her, glad for the contact. She frequently received the impression Dekim had never hugged the girl, for a good while Mariemaia avoided any form of touch.
"They won't. They're afraid of you," Mariemaia said calmly, head resting on Une's shoulder. "What has occurred with the Tribunal that makes you stay late so much? The amnesty hearings aren't for another three days."
She was alarmed at hearing her speak of the impending trials. "I thought I told you not to watch the news."
"They tell us to at school. You can't keep me entirely in the dark…although you have been rather effective. I still don't know what they charged you with."
Good, she thought. Mariemaia was intelligent; she would understand what the penalties were immediately. Lady Une didn't want to put her through that until it was entirely unavoidable…as of yet it wasn't.
"You won't if I can help it."
"You're still a child, Mariemaia, no matter what Dekim did to you. These are repercussions of disregarding humanity itself during war…you'll learn about it soon enough. But not while it still affects us personally, or harshly."
Well, should we go see what everyone else is doing, or go straight to the hearings?