To The Death

Author's Notes: An aside from Wings To Fly. Why didn't Heero ever factor into the story?

Well…let's find out.

Mars Colony 5
June 9th, AC 198

Wing Zero turned away from its most recent battlefield, the central plaza of the evacuated Mars Colony 5. An urban setting like most colonies, MC5 might have been a large city anywhere on Earth, except for the war-torn look that had resulted from seven days of combat between the Preventers and the forces of the Outer Colonies. Combat that Wing Zero had just forcibly ended by killing all the combatants.

Even combat didn't excite him anymore, Heero thought somewhat glumly. Still, another conflict extingushed. If they were all this easy, the war between the ESUN and the Outer Colonies wouldn't last long. They'd run out of troops to fi-

The proximity alarm went off, and then Heero was thrown hard against his seat restraints as something hit Wing Zero from behind. Multiple caution lights lit up, warning of damage to the veriners, breached armor, secondary systems offline.

Heero logged the caution lights and then ignored them, ignored the pain from what was going to be another X-shaped bruise from his restraints, spinning to face his opponent, dodging left as he did so. He managed to avoid most of the second volley of missiles, but not all. Armor-piercing warheads blew chunks out of Wing Zero's shield and right arm.

Then he had to dodge yet again, because there was a third missile volley behind the second. He used the wing vulcans to shoot some of them down, which threw off or detonated some of the others, and managed to put what was left of a building between himself and the rest of them.

The Zero System has many advantages, but it also has some less-then-obvious drawbacks. The pilot has a direct feed into their head from the sensors and the suit's tactical and targeting computers, which does wonders for the pilot's situational awareness. If the pilot is paying attention. If they weren't paying attention to their surroundings, the mobile suit wasn't either. This meant that Wing Zero hadn't gotten a glimpse of its attacker, and so far as Heero knew those missiles might have materialized out of thin air.

That, of course, was highly improbable. Someone was out there. Maybe several someones. Newcomers or people he'd missed in the first go-round. They had missiles, which was a much greater cause for concern then beam cannon. Gundanium shrugged off beam cannon fire easily. It had a lot more trouble dealing with shaped-charge warheads. His opponent was quick, too, to be able launch three missile volleys and be out of sight by the time Heero got his bearings.

Heero didn't have to think up the MS specs. For a single suit to be his opponent, the only one he could think of with that kind of missile load was Heavyarms. But he wasn't dealing with Trowa. Trowa would still be shooting, because Trowa had near-parity with Heero and would push him, trying to harry Heero into a mistake. Otherwise, he was up against at least two Serpents.

A flash of white and grey at the corner of his vision…and then another missile volley incoming. Heero was sick of this game, and the twin buster rifle came up and fired at low power and high dispersion, destroying the missiles in flight. But his attacker wasn't there. They were definitely very quick. White meant Preventer colors.

Wing Zero had analyzed the brief glimpse of them. It turned out to be a bit of the suit's left shoulder and arm…or probably the suit's left shoulder and left arm. It was distinctive, sleek. Not something Wing Zero had seen before. Something new, unknown.

If there was anything Heero Yuy could be said to hate, it was dealing with unknown factors. He was trained to deal with unknowns, but he did not like to, and much of his training had actually not focused on combat but on intelligence-gathering so he could reduce the number of unknowns in any given situation he was sent into. Unknowns were dangerous things, yawning gaps of probablity into which months of detailed planning and preparation could disappear without a trace, leaving you confused, lost, and alone against a horde of hostiles.

He had to move. Staying in one place in a combat situation was only a good idea if that place gave you protection, which his did not. He worked his way down a ruined street, tense, looking around.

As he turned a corner, he came face to face with his opponent. It was just as tall as Wing Zero, with a sleek, sharp-edged design unlike anything he had ever seen before. But that was all he had time to register before it launched a giant swarm of missiles at him. The range was under fifty meters, no time to dodge, no time to get the buster rifle up or open fire with the wing vulcans.

Heero's last thought was that being good, even the best, sometimes just didn't cut it.

The Preventer suit stood absolutely stock still as what had once been the proud, unstoppable Wing Zero crashed to the ground, now an unrecognizable hulk missing huge chunks of itself. The Preventer suit was called Striker, full designation P02-MS(X). The X indicated it was a prototype, experimental. It hadn't been meant to see combat here, but was being transferred from an Asteroid Belt testing ground to the safer space of L5. Striker was buggy, with a glitch-ridden sensor system and nagging power problems. It had great promise, but just that: promise, not reality. It was not considered to be a combat-worthy design, though to be sure it would probably acquit itself well if challenged.

The pilot was twenty-two, female, a recent Preventer recruit who had only finished the Academy three weeks ago and been given this transfer assignment because it offered some relatively complex flight experience without being dangerous. She had no kills to her name, until her arrival here at MC5 no flight time in a combat zone. She had been on the verge of panic throughout the fight, unready in every possible sense of the word for the challenge of facing Wing Zero. Only by the slimest of margins had she not tried to flee, which surely would have killed her.

She had taken down Wing Zero. Her brain couldn't get around the concept, flat-out refused to believe what it was seeing. It was impossible, couldn't be true, Wing Zero was the end-all, the ultimate, the alpha and the omega of combat mobile suits, Heero Yuy the greatest MS pilot ever.

But it was true. And a quote from one of her Academy instructors echoed in her mind as she looked at the first and greatest of the Gundams in disbelief.

"Once, during the Second World War, an American commander said 'If you're not lucky, we can't use you.' He knew what he was talking about."