Gundam Wing: Children of War
By: Ghost of the Dawn
Chapter One: Rumors of War
It was a beautiful day. The sun shined merrily in a cloudless sky, selflessly shedding its life giving rays over the peaceful Cinq Kingdom. A cool spring breeze danced in from the high mountains and teased the ends of Relena Peacecraft's long pony tail as she jogged at a moderate pace down one of the many tree lined sidewalks. Dressed in a light green T-shirt and loose, grey shorts, she was a familiar sight to the people of that area as she made her way along the path she took every morning.
Relena was never much of a health and exercise nut. She recently took up the jogging habit because she found it an excellent way to help relieve all the political pressure she had been feeling lately. Even though she just recently turned nineteen, the stress of ruling a kingdom and serving as a political ambassador of Earth still got overwhelming for her at times. Exercise, she discovered, was an excellent way to relieve that stress and it also gave her a chance for some quiet time to help clear her head. Now if only she could find some time where she could be completely alone...
Relena glanced back at the ever present body guards it was insisted she have. Two men in their late twenties huffed as they tried to keep up with her while looking indiscrete at the same time. She mentally sighed at this. Was there really need for all this security? Just once she would like to have some free time of her own, away from everything. But no matter where she went, there were those body guards as an ever present reminder that she could never escape her responsibilities.
The labored breathing behind her was becoming louder. They were getting tired. But the Peacecraft estate wasn't far ahead. Relena quickened her pace as they neared the grounds of her home. She sprinted the last few yards to the main gate. Quite winded from her race, Relena paced around the front of the estate, slowly coaxing her breathing down to a regular rythem while she waited for her two bodyguards to catch up. Puffing heavily, the two older men finally reached the finish line and nearly collapsed from their strenuous ordeal.
Relena simply smiled at them. This is what happened when she never got the same jogging partners day after day. She patted the nearest body guard on his sweaty shoulders.
"Good job you guys. I'm just going to head over to the gazebo now to catch my breath."
"Don't puff, puff wait on our account puff Miss Peacecraft," one of the bodyguards manage to say.
Relena simply smiled again and made her way across the well kept lawn to the stylish white gazebo kept in front of the Peacecraft mansion. The rose bushes planted around it were in full bloom and Relena took the time to admire them. She pressed her nose against one of the velvety flowers and breathed in its pacifying scent. She was so engrossed in the wonderful odors she didn't see the figure creep up behind her. A strong hand grabbed her shoulder while the other hand went over her mouth and pulled her close to a large body.
Relena tried to scream and struggle from her captor's grip.
"Don't move," a male voice threatened.
A brief moment of panic ran through her. But it disappeared just as quickly when out of the corner of her eye, Relena saw the swishing tail end of a long, dark braid.
"DUO!" Relena practically screamed as she pulled the hand from her mouth.
The grasp on her instantly loosened and Relena was finally free to turn around and face her attacker.
"Hey, you remember me, I'm impressed," Duo said with his trademark grin. "It's been a long time. You look good."
By now, Relena's two bodyguards were aware of the commotion. Though still winded from their earlier run, they were now making their way to the gazebo with their guns in hand.
"It's alright," Relena called to them. "He's a friend of mine."
The two bodyguards slowly lowered their weapons though they didn't look too convinced. Neither one liked how Duo smirked at them, as if he knew something they didn't.
"I said it's okay," Relena insisted. "Now go on." She shooed the two men away.
"Woa, what's with all the security, Miss Peacecraft?" Duo wanted to know. "Having armed body guards now? That doesn't sound like you."
Relena nodded. "They were Commander Girmaud's idea."
"Miss Noin put him in charge of all the Cinq Kingdom's military issues," Relena explained. "Come."
She led the way under the gazebo so she and her old acquaintance could have some privacy.
Relena took a seat on the porch swing which was stationed there while Duo remained content to lean against the opposite wall. In the silence that followed, Relena took the opportunity to study the young man across from her. During the war that had occurred almost three years ago she hardly had a chance to get to know Duo, even if they did attend the same school for a while. It had been almost as long since she had seen him last. He was taller now and quite thin. Dressed in black pants and a jacket over a red shirt, Duo no longer sported the rolled up sleeves look as the hem now went past his wrists. Relena idly wondered why he insisted on wearing such warm clothes in this weather.
Duo's face had also changed. He did look older even though he managed to maintain that boyish grin and those large, innocent looking eyes of his. But his hair was still the same, long strands hanging over his eyes with his trademark braid still swinging down around his thighs. Relena smiled. Even after all this time, she could never forget that braid of his.
Little did the young foreign minister know, while she was sizing up Duo, he was doing the same thing to her. Duo reflected on how mature she looked now. Her features has become more distinguished and feminine with lips full and eyes bright. Even in her jogging clothes he could see that she had filled out in all the right places. There was a more commanding, yet casual presence about her now. Duo still couldn't believe it had been almost three years. The young girl he had once met was turning into a beautiful woman.
"I thought for sure I had seen the last of you Duo Maxwell," Relena said, breaking the silence.
Duo shrugged. "Yeah, well life never goes the way we planned. I just happened to be in the neighborhood so I thought I'd stop by and see what you were up to."
"Oh? What is it that brings you out here then? I was under the impression you and the others had all gone back to the colonies."
Another shrug from Duo. "For the past year I've been floating around up in space, working on resource satellites and what not. A few of us lowly workers were just sent down to Earth to pick up some supplies we needed. And I figured, since our docking base was so close that I thought I'd take a personal break and pay you a visit."
Relena smiled at this. "I'm glad you did Duo, I hardly ever have time for visitors."
"Yeah, I can imagine," Duo chuckled as he made his way over to sit next to her on the swing. "I heard things were starting to get a little hairy in the political department."
"Oh, you have no idea," Relena replied. She pulled her hair out of it's pony tail and shook her head to let the breeze reach to her scalp. "There's all these rumors going on now days. Conspiratorial societies planning wars, colonies secretly building up their militaries, Earth's secret plot to control the colonists, the list goes on. Everyone is starting to get scared again." Relena paused to let out a heavy sign. "Sometimes it feels like the whole thing is starting all over. I was supposed to attend a political party up in one of the colonies tomorrow but Commander Grimaud is making me stay to attend a military conference about whether or not we should start sending troops out to space to keep an eye on things."
Duo stiffened and his eyes grew larger at the statement. "WHAT? You can't do that! What are those idiots thinking? That's what started a war in the first place!"
"I know, I know," Relena sighed. "But everyone is so afraid another war is going to break out. People are desperately seeking out ways in which they still feel like they're in control. I just hope this conference won't result in anything too drastic."
Duo folded his arms over his chest and nodded his head a little. His lips were pressed in a thin line as he brooded over the matter. Possibilities of another war so soon? He was still trying to get over the last one. Duo just didn't know if he or the others could handle another war.
Relena studied the dark cloud that seemed to settle over the young man's face and instantly felt guilty. She knew that was the last thing he ever wanted to hear. Though she could never fully understand what he and the other pilots had gone through, Relena hoped and prayed that not only the gundam pilots, but everyone would never have to see the horrors of war again. Maybe she could do better by changing the subject.
"Do you still keep in touch with that girl, what was her name...Hilda?"
"Hilde," Duo corrected. "I used to. We sure were close friends for a while. She was always happy to let me crash at her place whenever I needed it. Heck, we even lived together for several months. We had this plan to open our own shop and everything but..." Duo trailed off and looked down at his sleeve. "But it didn't work out. I moved out about a year ago and haven't seen or heard from her since."
Relena frowned at the story. She had meant to cheer him up, not bring him down more. The ex-gundam pilot was now fiddling nervously with his jacket sleeves, as if trying to hide his entire hands in them. Not only did Duo seem depressed now, but she could see something else in his eyes. Some deep dark pain that he was trying to hide from her. Something had happened to him during that time.
Relena wished there was something she could do to help, but in all reality, she still hardly new him. She just hoped Duo had a good friend out there with whom he could talk to. Besides, there was still a more important question she needed to ask.
"Do you know how Heero's been doing?"
Duo looked up as a crooked grin pulled at the side of his mouth. "I was wondering when you were going to ask me that. Suicide Boy and I bunked for a while after we disposed of our Gundams. Then one day, he just up and disappears. That's when I went and mooched off of Hilde for a time. Haven't heard from him since either. Sorry."
Relena smiled sadly. "It's okay. I should have realized Heero was the kind that never wanted to be found. I just hope where ever he is that he's happy."
Duo patted her shoulder sympathetically. "Me too."
Another stretch of silence occurred as each wrestled with their own thoughts. Relena once again was the first to break it.
"I'm glad you stopped by Duo," she said softly. "It's nice to be able to forget my responsibilities. Even if it's just for a while. And I really needed a break today."
"Get's pretty rough sometimes, huh?"
Relena nodded. "Sometimes I wish I could just drop it all and never come back. Maybe if my brother were here to help it would have been different. But he refuses to have any part with the Cinq Kingdom and my ideals. I think he still blames himself for what he did on Libra. And now, everyone keeps coming up with all these new ideas and it keeps getting harder and harder to defend my old fashioned views as a pacifist."
Duo smiled warmly and gave her a small squeeze around the shoulders. "Keep your chin up kiddo, you can get through this. Pacifist or not, you're a fighter just like the rest of us. A soldier of peace, if you will."
"Soldier of peace..." Relena turned the phrase over on her tongue. She liked the taste of it. "Thanks Duo."
"Well," Duo suddenly announced as he jumped to his feet.. "I think it's time I took off before the guys back at the base miss me too much. Catcha later Relena!"
Like a certain dark haired, blue eyed pilot before him, Relena wanted to run after Duo and beg him not to leave. It was so seldom she got the chance to have conversations with regular people. Not political discussions with opinionated old men. She had found Duo's company to be light and nonjudgmental. She encountered that so seldom these days. Now something inside her wanted to beg, even demand that he come back and visit with her longer. But she knew she couldn't do that.
"If you're ever in town again, don't hesitate to stop by," was all she could manage to say.
"Count on it," Duo called back.
"And if you ever happen to run into Heero, tell him..." Relena paused. Tell him what? That she missed him? That she still thought about him every day? That she loved him?
"Tell him that I asked about him."
Duo paused long enough to smile at her. "I'll do that."
And with a swish of his long braid, he turned and disappeared out the front gate.
Relena remained where she was a moment longer, gazing the direction he went as if expecting Duo to come back at any second. A reminiscent smile tugged at her lips. Almost three years since she had last seen Heero Yuy. Three very long years. She still thought about him often, though she was sure he never thought twice about her again. But still, she wondered where he was and what he was doing. Was he different now? How much of him had stayed the same? Relena looked skyward as she often did when thinking about him and wondered if she would ever get the chance to find out.
Far off on the L4 colony, Quatre Reberba Winner shifted agitatedly in his overly plushed leather chair. His large oaken desk was kept tidy and neat with his computer on one side and his paper and pens on the other. He was currently reading a report on one of the Winner family's resource satellites when a dark haired woman poked her head in.
"Yes Gloria?" Quatre replied, not looking up from his work.
Gloria, Quatre's secretary adjusted her glasses and flashed the paper she had in her hand as she stepped into the room.
"The list of all those invited to tomorrow night's party as you requested."
Quatre put down his report and smiled at her. "Good. I would like to know if Miss Relena will be attending."
"I'm sorry Mr. Winner, but I was informed Miss Peacecraft will not be attending for she has more pressing matters back on Earth. She personally sends her deepest apologies as says she'll try to make up for it."
Quatre smiled though it was hard for him to hide his disappointment. Now what was he going to do? Though he would never admit it out loud, he hated these political get-togethers. It was nothing but a bunch of strangers putting on false smiles for the congregation. And that wasn't even the worst part. Despite the fact that he was only nineteen, Quatre was the heir of one of the richest families in space and on Earth. This also made him one of the most eligible bachelors in most people's eyes.
He had been through all of it before. Foreign delegates, ambassadors, dukes, and people of all kinds would come up to him in droves to introduce themselves--and their daughters. It seemed everyone was always trying to hook him up with somebody. And being the nice person he was, Quatre always found it hard to tell them no. Thus, he was manipulated into going on many an uncomfortable date with a complete stranger whom he knew nothing about. All for the sake of being polite.
After such experiences, Quatre would often wonder why people thought it such a crime for him to be single. Heck, even his old friends the Manganacs who had remained on Earth still had time to call him up every once in a while and heckle him about getting himself a girl before "all the good ones were taken".
Even so, Quatre appreciated the thought, he really did. But he would rather find someone he could love and care for in his own good time. He just wished there was a way to get people to understand that. Fortunately, until people did, Quatre had developed a plan to channel away much of the match making.
At a similar type meeting, he had managed to run into Relena Peacecraft who also happened to be attending. Quatre soon discovered that she was having the same problem with delegates trying to hook her up with their eligible young sons, grandsons, nephews, ect. Having once realized both had the same problem they had decided to start attending such meetings together. Luckily this proved to benefit both their situations. But this time, Quatre was forced to face the dangers of being single alone.
After taking the guest list from Gloria, Quatre excused his secretary as he went back to work.
You owe me for this one Relena.
The grass grew wild around a small gravestone as it patiently waited on the rise of a green hill. A lonely figure made his way slowly up the slightly worn path towards it. The newly dug earth was soft under his feet as he reached his destination. He gazed upon the epitaph with his dark, brooding eyes. Eyes so young. Eyes that were not meant to see what horrors they had already beheld. With those eyes he read the name on the headstone over and over.
Her body was hardly a day old beneath that freshly planted grass and already he was off to leave again. Off to fight with his new metallic companion, the Shenlong. Off to fight for his colony--to protect the weak, to uphold his honor, to defend his justice.
Justice, he thought bitterly. I did not understand this word until I met you. And now I promise to fight for what you gave your life for. For your justice, always.
The lean figure knelt down to lightly touch the stone. The coldness of it deepened his sense of reality for the situation. Meiran was really gone. And now it would be his time to leave as well. Slowly he got back to his feet again.
"Farewell my Nataku," Wufei whispered as he turned to go. "Farewell...my wife."
And those eyes, those young, innocent eyes turned hard with hurt and hatred. They steeled their gaze on the new path which lay before their master. They would not betray him and show the pain raging inside. No, they would not show weakness for that was something they could never afford.
Several months from that time, those same dark eyes watched helplessly from a gundam cockpit in space as their beloved colony was destroyed. The eyes widened in shock. For him-- they all died for him. His people, his clan, his sensei, the grave of his wife. All destroyed. He was alone now. And those eyes, those wonderfully faithful eyes wept as they betrayed their master. Thick, hot tears poured out in grief for their failure. For they had shown weakness.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
Wufei awoke to the insistent beeping of the early warning system. Feeling a bit disoriented from his snooze, he almost fell out of his chair as the alarm shoved him back into consciousness. After regaining his balance, Wufei looked around in confusion. What a strange dream. He hadn't had anything like it for years. This left him wondering why his subconsciousness decided to bring it up now.
He was kicked back into the here and now when two other men ran into the room. Each were wearing the standard Preventers uniform--much like his own.
Wufei instantly straightened. He couldn't let them know he had fallen asleep during his watch. He mentally cursed himself for letting his guard down like that. Weak. Just another thing to add to his unbearably long list of weaknesses.
"What's going on?" one of the men asked.
Wufei shut off the alarm as he turned to the surveillance screen. He switched through all the cameras stationed around the parameter of the Preventers base.
"Nothing outside. I'm checking the satellite."
His nimble fingers punched in a number of codes as the satellite was accessed. A grid appeared on the large screen, displaying several locations both on Earth and in space. A large blinking dot blipped slowly across the screen.
"What on Earth..?" Wufei wondered to himself.
By this time, another person had entered the room. A tall woman with golden hair and full red lips. Her deep blue eyes held a bit of fatigue--it was obvious she had been sleeping. But she pushed her tiredness aside as she pressed passed the two men and sidled up to the Chinese man at the controls.
"What have you found Wufei?" Sally Po asked as she eyed the dot curiously.
"Looks like some sort of shuttle," Wufei replied as he continued to type furiously. "It doesn't look too big. But it's ascending far too fast to make any type of landing. I've tried to hail the pilot but it looks like their equipment is out. It's going to crash."
Sally pressed her lips in a firm line. "Where will it impact?"
"About five miles East of here. We'll have impact in about ten minutes."
"Alright, I'll take a small unit to check it out," Sally announced. "Wufei, I want you to come with me. You two," she turned to the other two men. "Take his place and keep us informed on that shuttle's course."
"Yes ma'am!" the two men saluted.
Wufei only stood and gave a slight nod.
"Let's move!" Sally announced as she ran out the door to rally others. Wufei was hot on her heels.
The two men stood at attention until their superior was gone before they slouched in their seats in front of the screen.
"Man," the first one whined. "We never get to go anywhere."
Not even the moon is out at this time of night, Wufei thought to himself as he watched the big, black sky.
He sat on the passenger seat of the jeep Sally was driving. Behind them followed the medical truck Sally had ordered to go with them. They were far away from the city now with the head lights of their vehicles as their only source of light. Using binoculars, he could now see the ascending object. It looked almost like a shooting star from the heat it acquired when entering the Earth's atmosphere.
"What is going on up there?"
Wufei turned his head when he heard his partner mumble her question. With the falling object now visible to the naked eye, Sally was watching the sky more than the road. Both passengers were jounced from their seats as the jeep ran over a large rock.
"Woman driver!" Wufei barked at her. "How many times must you be told to watch the road! I did not survive an entire war to be a victim of your recklessness!"
Sally gave an inaudible growl as she narrowed her eyes on the road ahead. Wufei was more irritable than usual when he took the late shift. She was about to comment on how the ex-gundam pilot's driving skills weren't any better when the radio crackled to life. Wufei reach for the mic. Sally smirked as she grabbed it first.
"This is Sally," she announced as Wufei sulked in his seat.
"Major Sally," a young man's voice crackled on the other end. "It appears like the shuttle is trying to change course."
"WHAT?" Sally screamed as she slammed on the breaks.
Wufei, who was not wearing his seat belt, plunged face first into the dash board while the medical truck screeched to a halt mere inches behind them. The former was cursing all the women in the world and their collective intelligence while Sally's entire attention was turned to the voice on the radio. By now the shuttle was reduced to a flaming fire ball. Where ever it landed it would cause serious damage.
"Where is it headed?" Sally demanded.
"A large lake within the forest area."
Sally held her breath. A navigation computer would never do that. Which meant someone was steering that flaming rubble. She was about to ask for the coordinates of that lake but was drowned out as a large fire ball shot through the sky and crashed through the thick growth of trees they were traveling around. Sally put away the radio. She didn't need anyone to tell her which way to go.
She motioned to the other vehicle to continue on--only to slam on the breaks again as an explosion made itself known from somewhere beyond the tree line. No one dared move or speak. Even Wufei, who had to pry himself off the dashboard again, didn't utter a word.
The small group reached the impact point and Sally stepped out of her jeep to survey the damage. The shuttle, which did not make it all the way to the lake, left a large crater where it landed. The mini explosion which followed after swallowed up a radius of about 50 yards, damaging only a small corner of the lake. Sally walked into the dead zone with her flashlight and examined the place the shuttle had hit. There was hardly anything left to speak of save a few pieces of scrap metal.
Not even worth bringing the medical truck, Sally thought dismally, suddenly feeling sorry for who ever was the pilot.
The other men from the truck had followed her into the burned area and were now inspecting the remains as well. Wufei, however, did not follow. He took his own flashlight and started around the parameter of the explosion. He was almost half way around when he noticed something glistening wetly in the light. He approached the tall blades of grass and rubbed them between his fingers. A thick, sticky substance came off onto his skin. Blood. Human blood.
Shining his flashlight into the deep foliage, Wufei could make out a vague trail of blood and broken twigs that progressed deeper into the forest. He followed it cautiously--one soundless step in front of the other, ears straining for the slightest noise. Wufei paused as the trail stopped abruptly. He shined his flashlight all around but it was as if who ever had come this way had simply vanished.
Wufei knitted his brows as he combed the area with his flashlight. Not a sight, nor sound, nor scent of anything. It just didn't seem possible. He turned his head back the way he came when he heard Sally calling his name. Wufei made a grunt to voice his displeasure, but at the same time he realized his search would be pointless now. After taking one last look around Wufei turned and headed back for the rest of the Preventers.
But little did he know, high in the trees, something saw the young man's retreat. A figure shifted noiselessly among the branches and watched with wild eyes as the light slowly left and the forest went dark and quiet once more.
Hands. The hands were everywhere. Pushing him, prodding him, checking him, poking him. Hands with needles taking stuff from him and putting other stuff into him. Always testing him, always wanting to know. Know what? Sometimes he didn't know himself. His strength, his endurance. He would give it to them but they would ask for it again tomorrow and the hands would return.
Pain, there was always so much pain. Ignore it, they said. Be hard. Be strong. Be ruthless. Don't feel.
Don't feel the needles in your flesh. Don't feel the eyes boring into you day after day. Don't feel the hopelessness of this repetition without end. Don't feel the fear and wonder if this day will be your last.
What you feel is not important. You are not important. The mission is important. Very important. More important than you. The mission is your purpose. Purpose is all.
Oh no! The hands! The hands are back! What do they want now? Where are they taking me? This word they use...pilot. They want me to be a pilot. They want me to learn to fly. How?
What is that? It looks dark. NO! Stop pushing! Don't make me go inside! They're strapping me in! What is this place? The looks on their faces...they are angry with me. They see my fear. I'm not supposed to show my emotions. I'm not supposed to have any emotion.
No! Don't go, don't leave! They're closing the door! No! Please! I try to struggle free. But I can't get loose. The door closes and I am trapped.
It's quiet now. My breath, my heart--they're so loud. My hands are hot and sweaty. It's so dark. It's so small. My eyes widen in fear and panic runs through me. It's too small! The walls are closing in! Too small! I can't move! Can't breath! It's too small! I'm going to die! Let me out!
"LET ME OUT!"
Heero subconsciously heard his own voice scream along with the sound of shredding cloth. He felt bound, captured, trapped. More ripping as he fought the thing holding him. He fell off the bed and his eyes popped open as he snapped awake.
The sudden collision with the floor brought Heero back to reality. He was alone in the bedroom of his small apartment. The torn white cloth scattered around him was what remained of his bed sheets. He must have gotten tangled in them during the night and ripped them when he tried to break out in his dream.
Heero paused as his heart jumped in his throat. The dream. He couldn't remember having such nightmares since before his gundam days. They were nightmares of his past. Nightmares he was sure he had over come. But now...
He stood and saw his reflection in the mirror. His eyes widened as a sickeningly familiar sense of panic rose in him. He couldn't stop it, the impulse was too strong. He felt constricted, trapped. His breathing became labored and heavy. Was he running out of air? Tight. Everything felt so tight. Was the room becoming smaller? The walls were reaching out to him, trying to smother him.
"NO!" Heero yelled aloud as he shook himself.
He couldn't loose control now. He had mastered this once. He could do it again. He was strong.
Then why was his heart still beating so fast?
With a growl of frustration, Heero thrust open the window and glared at the large, full moon. It was so much bigger on the colonies and always full.
"Why? Why is this happening now?" Heero demanded of the moon. "WHY?"
The moon gave no reply as she continued to shine gently on the sleeping colonists. She could not know why he hurt so. All she could do was continue to offer what comfort she could with her soft light. But it could never be enough. Her Heero would not be sleeping any more tonight.