Reminder: Episode Zero is the only manga that I'm using (because it's a past tense plot line). Just so you know, there are a couple references ahead.
By a week's end, the crews had completed the first section of the colony, officially giving the Mars workers proper living quarters, as well as an accessible medical bay. The achievement carried a double-edged sword with it. At first look, it was a great cause for celebration. But its official opening was also slatted to be a memorial for those crewmembers who lost their lives in this orbit.
Heero stood in the back of the large meeting room and communications' center on the new colony section. Relena was the designated speaker for the event, but she had yet to make her appearance. He lounged one hip against the railing overlooking the double row of communications consoles. Set up much like the supply ship, he had a nice view of the proceedings from here.
The second level door behind him opened and he turned to watch Duo and Quatre enter. Quatre had been issued a clean bill of health, but had yet to stop apologizing to Heero for not having informed Duo that his subordinates didn't know his past. Not that it probably would have done any good, but Quatre still tried to blame himself for the leak. Heero brushed it off time and again, and even Relena had tried talking enough sense into him to keep him from feeling bad about it.
But the other two former pilots had been kept busy for the most part. Their expertise had come in very useful with the building project, especially now that the lead foreman was detained. It had somehow fallen on Quatre's shoulders to help coordinate the effort, probably due to the fact that he was one of the most knowledgeable people out here. With the Romulus' Commander and supporting staff still in the med bay, they needed some sort of leadership.
Duo sauntered up beside him and crossed his arms to lean over the railing. Quatre stood beside him with his hands in his pockets, looking out at the assembly and waiting for the ceremony.
The side door across the floor opened to reveal Dorothy, who strode into the room carrying a collection of papers. During the week, she had officially gone from quiet investor in the Mars project, to full liaison between the fleet and Earth. Taking up the paperwork slack from the lack of official Commanders, she had easily thrown herself into the thick mess, detangling what she could of the personnel problems, and got the supply chains moving again.
Heero had honestly been impressed with her response to authority. And watching her and Quatre work together had been interesting enough.
The longhaired blond took a stance at the main communications' terminal in the center of the room, placing down a set of papers, more than likely Relena's speech. The two had become nearly inseparable during times as Relena did more than her share of problem solving as well, a fact that had initially worried him, but the feeling had passed. The two were different than they were at Relena's Sanq Kingdom school years ago. And it honestly got to be quite amusing to listen to them banter.
Not quite as amusing as Dorothy and Quatre. Although, putting all three of them in a room together was a vast mistake.
Finishing what she was working on, Dorothy managed to field a couple questions from the surrounding support group and then handed off the other pile of papers to one of the officers. Looking around, she spotted their group and flashed them a smile as she made her way around the room and up the side steps to their vantage point.
"May I join this little clique?" she asked as she made her way around them to Quatre's side. He mumbled a reply to her and she gave him a customary smirk before folding her hands under her chin, and turning to wait for the event.
Duo caught Heero's eye from his slumped vantage point. Making a gesture back to the two beside him, he wiggled his eyebrows and then rolled his eyes, a good-natured smirk in place. Heero turned away, fighting to keep his expression mostly neutral, as the other two stood oblivious.
The side door across the floor opened again and Relena was ushered in with Alli, Ry and Delano. The three separated themselves off to one side of the floor, staying close by. Relena moved to her position, shaking a few hands as she moved along. Flipping through the papers Dorothy had laid out for her, she placed her back to their group, facing the camera equipment that would broadcast the speech to the remainder of the fleet.
One of the ships' Chaplains stepped up beside her, designated to give the reflection prayer for the ashes of those they would be committing to space.
Relena had confided in him at some point during the week that she was very uncomfortable giving a speech for what was basically a funeral. But she had accepted the invitation, and he was sure that she had worked out any of her nervous jitters by now.
Heero knew it was bothering her though. Not so much the speech, but the idea that those lost here were killed—murdered—for some of the worst of human sins.
The back door behind them opened again as Zechs and Noin entered. Zechs betrayed only a small limp for his ordeal, and Sally had finally given in and let the man leave the med bay against her better judgment.
In truth, the two were indispensable now. They knew the members out here, knew the strategies and the practices. This was their home now, no matter what it shaped up like.
They were also taking on a new responsibility. Commander Une had gotten permission to set up a standing Mars Preventers section, reinstating the old "Fire" and "Wind," with or without their permission. As soon as Relena returned to diplomatic duties at home, her task would be to help supply the Preventers a budget to move personnel around out here as well. As it was, these two would be the permanent residents, others would move in and out, allowing for fresh blood with each shift change.
The two took positions on his other side. Noin—Lucrezia—Mrs. Marquese, whatever she went by now, leaned down with her arms against the railing. Zechs stood between the two, taking a look over his little sister below.
The center door to the room below opened for a group of officers, followed by Sally. Taking a quick look around she directed traffic for the four people with her and then casually made her way around to the side steps as well, coming up to stand next to Noin at the end of the row. The two exchanged a few words and he heard them chuckle over something together.
Heero took a casual look down the line of them, wondering how the group had honestly come to regard each other civilly. Of course he also decided that he didn't have to look too far for that answer, as he moved his eyes back down to the center of the room.
Relena. If the woman could get Zechs and himself to stand side by side, she could do anything. He didn't necessarily have to like that fact, but it was there nonetheless.
Relena stepped aside from the center of the banks as the Chaplain took the opening position. The monitors around kicked on and he began with an opening prayer for the souls of the lost. The group straightened for respect, but he was rather surprised when Duo and Dorothy both crossed themselves at the appropriate place.
Heero silently mused that Duo's priestly-looking outfits during the war may have been more than an odd coincidence, although he wouldn't have thought any of them were particularly religious. The others stood respectfully quiet during the opening and the blessing for the bodies. Heero vaguely wondered how many of them really prayed to God, or if they, like him, were more well-wishing that someone would hear them.
Looking aside, he watched Relena, her head bowed respectfully. Silently he figured that if anyone could honestly find God, it would be her.
The Chaplain finished and then offered the camera position to Relena who took it with a small thank you to him. She collected herself and started in. She centered on protecting the memory of those who lost their lives by living on for them, by continuing the work they were here to do. The group watched after her, following the words that fell easily and sincerely from her.
It was near the end that Heero started to notice a couple cracks. Just a few words that she lightly tripped over, or a phrase that didn't come out right. She barely glanced at the papers on the table in front of her, using them mostly as an outline. She was speaking from the heart, but he could hear something in her voice.
"In conclusion, I would like to speak frankly a moment," she began.
And Heero knew this was not originally part of her plan. Dorothy shifted down the line, casting her a quick look he was sure he saw her blink back a frown.
"I arrived here expecting to find the cause of an accident, and do my best to find a way to keep it from ever happening again. What I found was even worse. Not only was this caused by the petty actions of a few confused individuals… it is something that I cannot keep from repeating."
The whole group shifted at her words, becoming very aware of how close her emotions were to the surface.
Regaining herself, she focused on the camera again. "I can make no promises to any of you that there will never be a cause for this kind of terror again. In fact, I would be better off promising that there will be another time that you or your loved ones will face the same travesty."
"All that I can do is to hope and pray and offer my own voice with yours that intentions, like the ones that claimed the lives of so many, will be dispelled." She took a breath and placed herself back on track. "I had sincerely hoped that Mars could start fresh. That it would learn from the mistakes that Earth took so long to recognize. That humanity itself would know better by now."
"However…. There will always be emotions that can lead to these types of outbreaks. It will take dedication and observation from all of you to correct these mistakes. Peace is only created in one heart at a time. Everything else is out of our control, no matter how much we desire it to be different." She softened to a pause.
Looking up deliberately again, the monitors picked up on her strength like Heero had never seen them do before.
"I issue a challenge to Mars. I want to challenge it to be different. To learn from the past, and forge a future without the evils that have plagued Earth. I challenge the god of war to be a soldier for peace, to preserve the beauty of humanity and to fight the evils that threaten it. And therefore, I challenge each and every person here to vouch for their own intentions and purposes."
She paused forcefully. "To meet my challenge means determination and effort. To lose it… is to lose the values of life itself."
She took a glance back down at her notes again. "We commend the bodies of our friends and colleagues to space for their final rest." Looking back up, she held herself steady. "May we all allow them to rest in peace."
As the cameras clicked off, the monitors and the rest of the fleet were returned to the images of the ashes being released into space from one of the ships' storage hatches. Relena remained exactly where she was in the center of the room, as she silently gathered her notes in front of her on the table.
Her three security officers closed in on her easily from the side. But they were the only ones that could move. At the railing, Heero and the rest of the group looked down at her, still letting the words sink through.
Relena made a few comments to the others, obviously confirming that she was fine, before she slowly turned around. She met the gaze of the collective group, her eyes carefully picking out each one of theirs.
Finally they could see her sigh quietly, a small smile entering her expression as she looked back at them. Perhaps it was exactly the sight that she needed to see at that moment. A final reconciliation from all sides.
Perhaps, they manifested hope to her.
"Lady Catalonia," Quatre bowed as she opened the door to her room. Dorothy had taken over the private Captain's quarters as soon as he had been officially allowed to go back to normal life. It had been much more convenient for Quatre to share a room with some of the others, than it was to have both of them in a room alone.
With the first colony section finished, the resident crews were spending their first night off a ship. The Star Grazer was officially down to its skeleton crew for the trip home, which let the crew spread out as much as they wanted.
"Mr. Winner," she returned with a smile. She stepped aside, allowing him to enter if he wanted, but he didn't move. He did manage to take a glance into the room, which had also been neatly converted into her office. As usual, since the end of the conflicts, the bed was strewn with piles of papers, and the shelf below the windows was stuffed full of more.
Raising an eyebrow he glanced back at her, "Busy?"
She smirked easily. "Not for you," she cooed.
He shook it off and motioned back out into the hallway. "I was wondering if I could borrow you for a moment?"
She gave him a funny look, but when he extended a hand, she took it without much hesitation. Pulling her out of the room, he idly walked her down the corridor to the mess hall and allowed her to enter ahead of him.
Dorothy was already suspicious, but the when the doors opened to reveal the rest of the men arranged inside the room, she made no move to walk in. Quatre took it upon himself to push her forward until they were both inside.
Glancing at the row of faces, she turned back to Quatre and blinked. "This looks like fun," she mumbled, and he couldn't help but smile at the slightly nervous expression. He knew he'd chosen this task for a reason.
Without a word, he turned and walked off to the side to stand next to Duo out of the way of the Maguanac soldiers that faced her. She crossed her arms behind her back and looked up at Rasid in the center of the group… possibly prepared for a firing squad.
"Lady Dorothy Catalonia," Rasid bowed slightly. "The Maguanac Corp. would like to offer you a 'consideration' for your help during the past few weeks."
Dorothy blinked, took a quick glance over the assembly of ten soldiers, and shook her head. "That's not needed."
Rasid gave her a small smile and shook his head. "It is not our way to leave heroic actions un-repaid."
"Heroic?" Dorothy chuckled, her confidence obviously coming back to her. "As I recall, Captain, I wasn't very nice to you about getting out here."
Quatre tried to bite back the chuckle. Abdul and Manul had gone into vivid detail about how exactly Dorothy had talked her way into getting brought along, more than once. The story got worse each time it was told, but he was pretty sure he got the idea.
Rasid cleared his throat as most of the room attempted to hold back their chuckles as well. "That aside, Lady Dorothy, we are indebted to you." Manul and three other members stepped forward, creating a secondary rank among the men. "There are four volunteers among us that request to stay on Mars and look after things until you finish your work with the new Command staff."
Dorothy started, losing nearly all of her composure as she glanced first at Rasid, then at the volunteers and then at Quatre, and then back. "That isn't necessary. I couldn't possibly leave someone here. There is no way of knowing how long it will take to replace the chain of command."
The four men nodded absently. Manul smiled, "We understand that. We also know that you will be working directly with Mars Command, and that it would be of benefit to have honest reports coming back to you."
Dorothy balked and cast an accusing look in Quatre's direction. He tried to give her an apologetic smile for the slip, but failed.
"We each have experience with the operations here, and can easily be of service," Manul continued. "With the command structure the way it is, we understand that you could lose the supply line and other necessary control issues within days of your departure. We would like to prevent that."
Quatre knew that Dorothy was beyond just worried about leaving the Mars orbit, and he'd said as much to the men at some point. Losing a balance of power out here now would be disastrous. At one point Dorothy herself had considered staying on for a while, simply to be sure. It had been their own decision to offer her the help though, and he was deliberately staying out of their intentions.
Dorothy's hands slipped back down to her sides as she stared around her. "I cannot accept this kind of offer," she stated quietly. "If anyone needs to remain here, it should be me."
"We're not asking for you to stay, Lady. We are asking to be your liaisons," Manul answered.
Rasid held up a hand to her, coming forward and then laying it on her shoulder. "Allow us, Lady."
Dorothy looked up the fifteen inch height difference, looking like she was going to protest. Instead she surprised them all by swallowing and nodded slightly. "I wouldn't want to be disrespectful," she muttered. The group laughed easily and the four volunteers were applauded for their new commission.
Duo shook his head from beside him. "You guys have a funny way of showing gratitude."
Quatre smiled at him and brushed it off.
The group celebrated the accomplishments and Dorothy had come to terms with the offer, stating valiantly that they would be well paid for the time out here on her behalf despite protests. Quatre figured she'd get a little more used to it.
It was when the group, only half-jokingly, brought up giving her the title of "Mistress" that Dorothy nearly came unglued. He silently figured that the offer would expire if she began assaulting them, and stepped in gallantly in defense of her already-accepted title.
The group continued their celebration of a mission accomplished, and Duo had even given Dorothy a mock toast for his newfound paycheck out of ordeal. It seemed that the half-destroyed crew carrier had quite a price tag in the salvage market, and Dorothy had offered him a fifteen-percent finder's fee if he could get one of his resources to buy it. Needless to say, that was a few more zeros then Duo typically saw.
After the amount of eyebrow and grim reaper jokes he'd stopped, Quatre was happy they had found something to be nice to each other about. …No matter how temporary.
The group moved on to something else, and he noticed Dorothy move herself out from the central position she typically held. Slipping over to his side, she gave him a weary smile that he returned wholeheartedly.
Shaking her head, she slipped her hand up his arm until it rested on his shoulder as she wrapped herself around his side. "What am I going to do with you boys?"
She laid her chin over her own hand as they turned back to watch the group laugh merrily over something.
"Thank you," she whispered, her voice carrying that soft sincerity that revealed so much of her to him.
Relena stood at the windows of the observation lounge again, idly wasting time as the ship moved along through space. Heero sat in one of the chairs behind her, typing up another report sheet. She had heard enough grumbles between him and Sally—mostly Sally—to know that they had to be a pain.
Her paperwork wouldn't really start until they reached Earth again… a good thirty-six hours away.
She didn't mind. It was the calm before the storm. They could travel on for two days with the knowledge that the Mars crews were being well looked after, and that they had done them a great service.
She could forgive leaving with that type of send off.
They had made their good-byes to the other groups. Quatre, Duo and Dorothy were traveling along much the same way in the Star Grazer, towing the remains of the Romulus and the scout ship with them. Relena let a smile slip into place at the thought of those three restless with nothing to do for this long.
Poor Quatre. It was a good thing he was feeling better. She'd have to call and make sure he survived.
…And then she'd have to call Dorothy for the other half of the story. And when Duo and Hilde called… well, she'd pretend she hadn't heard.
The three had honestly been heartwarming. They had said their good-byes after ensuring that the colony was functioning correctly and that the crews were all safely moved aboard. She had said her good-byes to her brother and sister-in-law as well, leaving them behind to continue what they had started together.
The two were a beautiful example of new beginnings and she almost hated to let them go. But she also knew that their life on Mars would be far easier than on Earth. She would just make sure to call them regularly, no matter what.
Sally and the others were ready to be back home. Her three officers were ready for some downtime while she spent her time with the mound of office work she needed to complete. Sally seemed antsy to be back to normal working procedure… which Relena had a slight suspicion had a tiny bit to do with her partner that she had left behind for over two weeks.
She nearly chuckled at that thought. For all the grief Sally kept giving her, perhaps it was about time to start dropping a few hints of her own. Granted she actually had no idea what Sally and Wufei's relationship amounted to. But why let that stop her?
She'd actually met Agent Chang Wufei only a few times, and she had never walked away feeling as though he liked her. She'd written it off to just his normal attitude, but she couldn't tell, and didn't especially want to ask.
She supposed she should feel lucky that she had ended up with Duo and Quatre on her list of dear friends. She had no idea at all about their fifth, Trowa Barton. She'd never met the man, and had officially missed her chance this time around as well. But she thought she might get the pleasure yet someday.
Glancing back over her shoulder at Heero, she suspected that the group would end up pulled together again. She just hoped it would be over more pleasant circumstances… although she wouldn't wager on it.
Gazing back out at the stars, she really appreciated the solitude. She didn't know the next time she would get this kind of quiet.
She didn't notice Heero's approach until he stood beside her at the window, silently watching the perpetually-night sky as well. He must have known what her thoughts were straying to, because he didn't seem concerned with her introspection.
She looked up and watched him turn towards her, those deep blue eyes looking nearly black in the dimmer lighting. But she couldn't miss that soft expression. She didn't hold down the smile that tugged at her lips and he seemed happy to see it.
No matter what else came, she felt confident that he would stay by her… and that was all she really needed to know of what their future held.
Softly she stepped into to his side, slipping an arm around his waist, and he responded with a hand on her back. Leaning her head against his shoulder, they continued their own little reflections, looking out together.
…Finally realizing what that meant.
"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people." - Jawaharlal Nehru
"Manifestations" complete - June 2005.
AN: This is the last chapter for "Manifestations". I just found this to be such a wonderful stopping point that I decided to leave it here. For all of those reading primarily for the action scenes, you may stop here.
However, I do plan on continuing the story. But I needed a new start to being the "romance" segment again. And I have also decided that Quatre and Dorothy have grown on me so much that they deserved their own story, otherwise there is going to be a LOT of arc chapters.
Officially "Manifestations" will be split into two different sequels. Heero/Relena will re-begin in a story I have decided to call "Realizations". Quatre/Dorothy will begin their own play in what will be titled "Revelations." (Can you tell I like word puns?)
To all of my reviewers: WOW! I can not express how GRATEFUL I am to all of you. My avid reviewers, you guys were my lifeline, and still are! I never imagined how much great advice and insight I could get. I can't tell you how much this means to me! Thank you!
I leave you with a short, totally OOC, fun sideline story. This got brought up with a review that I let the voices in my head go WAY too far with. Don't hate me for going OOC, just enjoy!
Post: "okay was funny but i need some action or maybe some angst"
(Isisauthor, standing on the imaginary set with the "cast.")
Isis: OK, I'm game. (takes out her fanfic gun and shoots Relena)
Relena: What the?? Oh! Gack, ack, oh, you got me!
Heero: Reeeelenaaa! (scoops her up in his arms) No, no, don't go. Please Relena…. (Looks deeply into her eyes.) I have nothing else to do in this series without you.
Relena: (loses her acting skills) What? Is that it? I'm just something to keep you entertained, aren't I?
Heero: (blink) Well, I'm used to a lot faster paced storyline.
Relena: Just kill me already.
Isis: (directing) Relena dies.
Heero: (curses) Relena, you can't die on me now. (whispers into her hair) I… I… I will….
Relena: (whispers) Wrong scene.
Heero: Would you shut up! You're dead!
Relena: Just spit out some sappy "I love you" and get it over with.
Heero: (Looks down at her and blinks, confused) But… I do love you.
Relena: (loses her "dead" appearance) Oh, Heero. (HUG!)
Isis: Nope, (shakes head) done too much. (erases the blood stains on her and they both stand. Takes out gun again and shoots Heero)
Heero: (shrugs) It's just a flesh wound.
Isis: (empties the clip into his chest)
Relena: Heeeeeeerrrrrroooooooooo!! (Catches him as he falls)
Isis: I refuse to type that… again.
Heero: Re… le… na.
Relena: No, no Heero, please hold on. You can't die. You never die! Heero, I… I love you.
Heero: …I know…
(Both look up at her)
Isis: Sorry, my OOC sap alert is going off.
(erases all blood stains and both stand again. Isis looks around the room with a new clip in, pointing at each character)
Duo: Hey, no shooting the comic relief guy!
Isis: hehee. (bang)
Duo: (falls over and dies.)
All cast: (blink, then look around at each other)
Duo: (rising) Helllllllooooo!! Dead guy here!
Isis: It's really too bad I didn't give Hilde a part. (erases blood again, and takes new aim)
Ry: Bit part.
Alli and Del: (nod)
Wufei: Injustice! I demand we draw straws!!
Sally: You know you like me too much.
Isis: Hummm…. (considers)
Quatre: (Gulp, nervous laugh) Um… I'd really prefer that—
Quatre: Why me? (falls over)
(all 40 Maguanacs enter and surround him)
All: Master Quatre!! No!
(Dorothy fights her way to him)
Dorothy: Quatre! No! Don't die! I don't have a part without you. (shakes his body violently) You selfish, son of a (beep)! Stop being a wuss and get up! (Rasid pulls her off of him and tosses her up on one shoulder) Put me down! Quatre, I do not give you permission to die!
Isis: (holding her ears) Enough!
Rasid: Send in the sisters.
Isis: Oh bloody hell! (erases the blood and Quatre stands back up)
Dorothy: Oh Quatre!! (runs to hug him and knocks him back onto the floor.) I missed you!
Isis: (pulls out gun again and shoots Dorothy)
Dorothy: (jumps back to her feet) Why you miserable, no talent, poor excuse for an author! (stocks towards Isis)
Isis: Save me!!
Quatre: Dorothy! You've been shot!
Dorothy: Out of my way! I'll give that little worthless wench a piece of my—
Isis: (shoots her again, missing and it goes through her hair)
Dorothy: (stops instantly) ...my hair... You shot my hair…. You (beep)!!
Quatre: (holding her back with the rest of the Mags in tug-of-war style) Dorothy, I really think you should calm down and let me take a look at—
Dorothy: No, I'm going to— (blinks, then looks down at the original bullet hole in her chest) Oh… crud…. (falls over)
Quatre: No! (cradles her to him)
Dorothy: Get her for me Quatre…. (dies)
Quatre: (stares at her. Then his eyes shrink and he slowly begins to laugh, harder and harder.)
Rest of cast: (BEEP)!
Heero: Quick, where's Trowa?
Isis: I didn't write him a part, remember?
Relena: How could you not write him a part?
Isis: I didn't have a spot for him!
Quatre: (gets up and moves forward) hahahahhahahahahahahaaa!!! I'll kill everyone! Hahahhahaahhaaaa!!
Quatre: I'll kill you, stay away from me, or I'll kill you. (bad Darth Vader breathing)
Isis: (erases blood on Dorothy) Help! You're the closest thing we've got!
Dorothy: No way! You tried to kill me! Although…. (walks up behind Quatre and wraps her arms around him, doodling with her fingers on his chest) Quatre dear, have I ever told you that this a real turn on?
Quatre: I'll kill—Huh? (goes back to normal) Uh…. (nervous laugh and blush)
Isis: (sweatdrop) Dang, I should have done angst….
(The cast bows and curtains close)
"I have never written a thing; I have only been privileged enough to have read a few things before anyone else." – Carolyn Woerner
Proofed by: Lisa. Thank you!