AN: PLEASE READ FIRST. A few notes about this story. First, this is a
sequel to 'The Lilac Princess.' You need to read it (all of it) before
beginning this fic, as I have referred to events in that story. Also, for the
purposes of my story Treize, Lady Une and Sally Po are all the same age,
meaning 6 years older than Zechs and Noin (Z & N are 12 when the story
begins, T & U are 18). I have incorporated selected bits of the Episode
Zero mangas, but it is not necessary to read those if you have not. If you would
like to read those, there are two
links on anipike.com to sites with translated Episode 0 mangas. Heero's and
Relena's are important to this installment, the rest later. For Treize and Une
fans, there will be smidges of their relationship scattered along as well. They
are my second favorite GW couple, so I had to throw them in somewhere. I'm not
sure that I managed to keep Lady Une in character, but I honestly tried. Very
long chapter here, so get comfortable and do not attempt to read on your lunch break.
Got all that? OK...let's begin…
Still Grows the Lilac
II of 'The Lilac Princess' trilogy
Chapter 1: The Road to OZ
long line of new Alliance cadets ran the length of the sterile gray hallway,
winding through the corridor in an uneven chain of unhappy children. One by
one, they presented themselves to the officer at the registration desk,
sullenly giving vital statistics and picking up their new uniforms and bunk
assignments. A young dark-haired girl, about twelve years old, stepped forward.
your name, last first," a bored young officer ordered blandly.
girl fidgeted a moment before responding. "Noin, Lucretzia."
rest of the registration process passed quickly. After the initial orientation,
the cadets were allowed to retreat to their bunks to settle in for the night.
Noin walked into the girl's barracks and took a cot next to the only window in
the dreary room. No one questioned her choice or attempted to fight her for the
spot. Some of the girls had witnessed Noin's rather hot temper earlier that
afternoon. Those who hadn't were warned before another incident developed.
the bus to the Alliance orphanage, an older girl decided to try her hand at
bullying the delicate looking girl sitting at the back. A few moments later,
the older girl was lying sprawled in the isle with the younger girl sitting on
top. Noin did enough to ensure that the girl got the point, but refrained from
actually hurting the other child. She hated to hurt other people, but her life
in the streets of Rome had taught her the importance of self-defense. For a
while, it seemed as though all she could do was fight. Then Sister Marguerite
found her again.
sadly gazed out the window, letting the events of the past year replay in her
mind. Her life with the nuns had been nice. It was a safe place with plenty of
food and a soft bed. There was even a small garden for her to tend. Best of
all, she was with Sister Marguerite again. They sang and talked, just as they
had when Noin was a small child. It would have been perfect if not for the
circumstances of their reunion. Noin bowed her head a moment, breathing deeply
to dispel the tears welling up in her violet eyes. If she had only been a
little faster, maybe…
voice of a female officer announcing lights out shook the girl from her
reminisces and she quickly stowed her bag under the bunk, stretching out on the
scratchy green blanket. She silently said her prayers, just as she promised
Sister, and made a feeble attempt to sleep, but soon gave up and resumed
stargazing. Noin thought wondered to herself at how a person's life can change
in a matter of moments. Four hours ago, she was at a small convent in Rome,
living peacefully with the nuns. Now she was on her way to being transformed
into another Alliance soldier.
was once again pulled from the safety of Sister's house and forced to a life
she did not want…and once again the Alliance was responsible. Sister Marguerite
had managed to hide the child in the convent for almost a year, tending to the
brilliant girl's education personally. Eventually, however, Noin had been
discovered and, per Alliance regulations claiming guardianship of any orphan
under the age of fifteen, the girl was sent to a military school. Marguerite
did everything but take up arms against the group to keep Noin, but without
success. The child was forced to live among the very people responsible for the
constant upheaval in her young life. The same people responsible for her best
friend's capture and possible execution. Noin shook away that last thought. She
wouldn't allow herself to believe her friend was dead. They caught him, but
that didn't mean they killed him. For
a surname, she chose the secret nickname her friend had given her, hoping the
boy might hear it one day and know she was still alive.
girl sighed sullenly. The stars had always offered her comfort but tonight the
night sky did nothing to ease her troubled mind. Noin had considered running
away again. She had actually formulated several plans on the way here, but the
thought of running away alone terrified her. She couldn't do it alone. Going
back to the convent was not an option, either. It was too dangerous for the
nuns. This was the second time the Alliance came for her. The last time, Sister
Marguerite scuffled with an Alliance soldier to protect her and the nun had
almost gotten herself killed. Noin wouldn't risk that again. Sister Marguerite
was better off never seeing her little "wild child" again. The last time, the
soldiers had come specifically for her
and only Sister's interference had saved the little girl. This time, thankfully, they only seemed interested in adding
another orphan to their new recruits roster. The girl reluctantly accepted her
fate, at least for now. The Alliance had the right to keep her until she was
15. After that, she could leave. Three
years. Noin only had to put up with this for three years.
girl bent over the edge of the bed and retrieved an ornate wooden box from her
bag. She cautiously unlatched and lifted the lid, careful to catch the music
box key before the music started and attracted attention. She surveyed the
contents of the box. It was full of childish mementos and small gifts she had
received over the years. A tiny bible, a small stuffed toy, and a variety of trinkets
cluttered the interior of the carved box. Noin gently fingered each piece in
turn, allowing a new memory with each. Usually, she didn't like to remember--it
hurt too much--but tonight she needed to remember. Her fingers paused on a
small bundle of cloth. She had dutifully preserved the little bundle for almost
two years. She never opened the bundle to look at what was hidden inside. It
wasn't her place. It belonged to someone else. She was merely keeping it for
him. Underneath the tiny package was a yellowed scrap of paper, carefully
preserved. She retrieved the paper and unfolded it to gaze at the hand drawn
image. It was a sketch of an old woman, a tow-headed boy and a dark-haired
girl. It was a rather good likeness of the three, or at least as well as the
little girl could remember. It was the only image she had by which to remember
her foster grandmother Ingrid and her best friend, Zechs. She folded the paper
and returned it to its place in her treasure box. Noin closed and latched the
lid. She unwillingly fell asleep, clutching the box to her chest.
dreams came, just as the girl knew they would. The old familiar images from her
childhood interspersed with new, more horrifying nightmares prevented any
useful amount of sleep. She tossed on the worn blanket as faces and voices
burned across her brain, painfully reminding the girl of all she had lost in
her young life. A garden of people slowly turning to stone. Noin walked among
them, cold and alone, gazing up at the familiar faces. Mrs. Katrina, Captain
Damon, baby Rena, Nana Ingrid. The last statue was of a boy. As her dream-self
gazed up at the stone boy, he suddenly sprang to life. She felt her heart leap
and ran to the boy, arms open wide. Just as she reached him, the boy burst into
flames, screaming in pain. Noin tried to pull the boy out of the flames but he
disappeared. She looked around. The garden was gone and the little girl found
herself in a forest, alone. Always alone. She was cold. There were voices
behind her…angry voices…popping noises…she stumbled and fell across something
soft. The girl pushed herself up and stared into the face of a little boy
dressed in white, his long brown hair spread around him like a blanket. She
gaped in shock as the face changed. It was now the face of a little boy with
sky-blue eyes and hair as pale as a cloud. Suddenly she and the boy were
engulfed in a sea of blood and swept away.
woke with a start, her heart pounding and breath ragged. She turned on her side
and curled up in a ball, staring out the window at the stars. She had to start
over again. Alone again. Noin was surrounded by hundreds of people and yet felt
as alone as the night she woke up in that forest. Seven years and Noin was no
closer to having a home than when she began her trek through the wilderness.
All she had now was a cot, a uniform and a scratchy green blanket that reminded
her of a painful past. Noin closed her eyes and held her treasure box as
tightly as she could, crying silently. This was her life now.
next day, the group's initiation into military life began in earnest. The
emphasis was on combat and battle techniques, but the academic courses were
challenging as well. Noin was glad that she would be able to continue her
education, even if it was in this dismal place. She, as expected, excelled in
all areas, achieving first place in the class rankings very quickly. The daily
martial martial arts training was welcomed by the young girl as well. She had a
natural affinity for the grace and discipline needed in such study. Her only
problem was finding a worthy opponent…or any
opponent for that matter. Noin had quickly acquired an unfair reputation for
fighting dirty and most cadets avoided her. Most lessons, she ended up sparring
with one of the instructors. She didn't mind, really. It was lonely sometimes,
but she wasn't interested in making new friends. Having friends meant the
possibility of losing them and the young girl decided she had lost enough. So,
she immersed herself in her studies to compensate.
excellent grades caught the attention of the commandant of the school and
Noin's name was submitted for officer training. The girl was not particularly
overjoyed with the prospect. The Alliance was the Alliance whether she was a
foot soldier or an officer. Noting the girl's reticence, Noin's astrophysics
instructor pointed out that, as an officer, she might have the opportunity to
train for space duty. The idea of finally making it to space intrigued the girl
and she found herself becoming anxious to enter officer training.
loved space, though she had never been there. At least, not that she could
recall. Noin couldn't explain what it was exactly that attracted her to space.
Maybe it was the idea that it was peaceful up there; maybe some memory buried
in her subconscious compelled her to seek her family there; or perhaps it was
due to the simple fact that stars were her first memory. All Noin knew was that
she needed to go to space some day and if the Alliance could get her there,
then she was willing to bear her present circumstances. She threw herself into
her studies with a new sense of anticipation.
was transferred to the Officers Candidate School in Paris a few weeks after her
basics were completed. It was a large school, but Noin noticed right away that
there were few females. She was one of only a handful of female officer
candidates in her class, a fact that made the other girls nervous. Noin, who
had spent a significant amount of time masquerading as a boy, was not
disturbed. The other cadets again kept their distance from the driven girl. She
was consumed with one goal. Space. Occasionally, when she saw a group of girls
giggling in the hallway of the women's dorm, Noin would feel a pang of
loneliness. She was not a natural loner, but isolated herself anyway, convinced
it was the best way to achieve her goals…and to protect her fragile heart. Her
aloofness had one advantage. None of the other girls wanted to room with her
and, since there was an odd number of female cadets, Noin enjoyed the luxury of
private quarters. That one consolation to her self-imposed seclusion was not to
day Lieutenant Une arrived at the OCS changed young Noin's life forever, though
neither could have recognized that fact at the time. There was a housing
shortage for female instructors and Une, being the youngest, was forced to room
with the cadets. She was also the only Specials member on the base and the
rivalry between the elite group and the regular military establishment was well
known. Her superior officers were anxious to make certain that the young
lieutenant learned her place quickly.
only available bunk was located in Cadet Noin's room. From the moment she
arrived, Lieutenant Une treated her young roommate like a servant. Noin was
expected to clean the entire room, not just her side, and act as Une's personal
maid. The younger girl resented the treatment she received at the hands of the
officer, but she tolerated the situation as best she could. Une was an
instructor and an officer. Noin would not jeopardize her chance to go to space
just to get back at a haughty instructor. Besides, Une was a good instructor
and Noin recognized that she could learn a great deal from the lieutenant. Noin
also reminded herself, sometimes several times in the course of a day, that it
was only for three years. Three years and she could leave.
first time Une struck the young cadet was during flight training. The slap
itself was not an unusual occurrence. Noin had witnessed other cadets meet with
the back of the lieutenant's hand for various reasons. Sometimes it was for
alleged improper conduct, sometimes for perceived insubordination. Most of the
time, Noin suspected, Une just thought the cadets needed a whack to teach them
who was boss. She was a bully in a gold-buttoned uniform, berating her students
for mistakes and unable to accept anything less than perfection…and Une would
not tolerate defiance. Noin made the mistake one day of questioning the
lieutenant's reasoning in a battle simulation. The younger girl had an analytical
mind that had been well honed by years of playing chess. She suggested a
different strategy--one that would not risk as many pilots--and was rewarded
with a sharp slap.
first instinct was to put her fist through the instructor's teeth, but restrained
herself just in time. Une was looking at her with something akin to a smirk
plastered on her face. It was a challenge, a dare to fight back. Noin struggled
with herself for a moment, fighting to maintain her composure. Striking a
superior officer was grounds for dismissal from OCS. Not the Alliance military,
just officer training. A mistake like that could result in Noin being sent to a
less reputable academy and life as a common foot soldier. After the incident,
Noin spent two hours in the gym beating the stuffing out of a punching bag. Two
years, eight months and twenty-six days, the young girl reminded herself, and
she could leave.
other cadets were lucky. At the end of the day, they could retreat to the
safety of their rooms and leave Une's constant criticism behind. Noin was not
so fortunate. Every evening the younger girl was expected to bring Une a meal
and clean up, before feeding herself. Sometimes Noin was not able to make it
back to the cafeteria in time to have her dinner at all. She started
squirreling away food in strategic places. The cadet's years in refugee camps
and living on the streets worked to her advantage in the situation. Someone
unaccustomed to hardship might have washed out of officer training after a few
weeks of such treatment, but Noin did what she always did--survived.
few months of this routine, however, significantly weakened Noin's ability to
turn the other cheek. The stress of her normal duties combined with the
constant barrage of verbal and physical blows from Lieutenant Une took their
toll on the girl. She grew more frustrated every day, the anger mounting to an
unbearable level. Noin was almost at the breaking point. One particularly
grueling evening, the cadet gratefully left her room to deliver a file for the
lieutenant to the commandant's office. She walked slowly, relieved to be away
from her tormentor, if only for a short time.
for a reply, cadet," Une ordered tersely as Noin saluted and left.
began to ready herself for bed, unbraiding her long chestnut hair and brushing
it methodically. One hundred strokes every night. It was a routine the
eighteen-year-old had adhered to for as long as she could remember, but did not
know why. She imagined that her mother had passed on the tradition, but she had
no memory of the woman, just a faded photograph kept carefully hidden among her
things. She had made up some fictional report for the cadet to deliver and was
glad to have the little brat out of the room for a while. Une enjoyed solitude,
but her life as a Specials officer allowed her very little.
young woman finished her evening grooming and stood from her dressing table,
knocking off a container of lipstick in the process. The gold tube rolled under
the Cadet Noin's bunk and Une scowled as she knelt down to retrieve the item.
As she fumbled blindly for the lipstick, her hand brushed against something
rough. The lieutenant grasped the object and pulled it from its hiding place.
It was a wooden box, intricately carved and fitted with fine brass hardware.
Une surveyed the box suspiciously. What was a nothing little cadet doing with
such a finely crafted heirloom?
young woman decided the other girl must have stolen the box and decided to
ascertain the true owner. She struggled with the complex latch and lifted the
lid. A sweet, tinny sound drifted from the box and Une noted that a music box
cylinder had been added to the hand carved box. It was nestled into a corner
with a small figurine crudely attached to the winding key. The figurine
depicted a quaintly dressed couple engaged in a waltz. As the key wound down,
the couple rotated, seeming to dance. It was actually quite a clever idea. Une
was rather impressed.
young woman closed her eyes and listened to the gentle melody. The rhythm was
the quarter time of a waltz, lilting and elegant. It was a familiar refrain, a
popular piece played at the royal balls she attended in her early teens. Her
duties as a member of the nobility required she learn to dance, to be gracious
and elegant. In truth, Une detested the trappings of her class. False charm and
gracious manners were not enough to rule the world; the aristocracy should have
realized that by now. Strength and dedication. Those were the characteristics
of true nobility and they had little to do with one's birth. Yes, she was Lady Une, a baroness and loyal
member of Romefellar, but she preferred to be Lieutenant Une, the warrior. She
commanded more respect as a Specials officer…she respected herself more.
much as Une disliked it, being a member of the Romefellar Foundation was
necessary. The organization was the only political outlet for the bulk of the
dispossessed aristocracy. After the Alliance consolidated power and effectively
took over the planet, the former ruling class found itself in a dangerously
unstable new position in the political arena. Only by banding together and
presenting a united front in the form of Romefellar were they able to salvage
what was left of their former glory. The foundation courted favor with Alliance
leaders by providing new technology and weapons, all the while plotting their
own return to power. The Specials Unit was actually a front for a carefully
planned rebellion called OZ.
pleasant sound of the music box faded out as Une allowed her mind to wander. She
rewound the key and lost herself in the vague impressions and bits of memory
the music brought to mind. She remembered little of her life before being taken
in by her aunt, a German countess. Memories were not something she sought to
recover, but occasionally the young woman felt the need to give in to the
obscure imagery and unintelligible voices that crowded into her brain. In those
moment, she felt a change in herself, a calmness descending upon her,
displacing the harshly disciplined soldier, if only briefly. It was that
calmness that enveloped her now as she watched the tiny couple spinning, locked
in an eternal embrace.
turned her head sharply to see an angry Noin standing in the doorway, fists
clenched. The two stared at each other intensely before the cadet spoke again.
said that's mine," Noin hissed through gritted teeth, "put it back!" The girl
took a threatening step forward.
are you trying to hide, cadet?"
voice was frigid. The lieutenant didn't really care about the contents, but she
would not brook such insolence from a mere cadet. The young woman held the
girl's gaze steadily, still holding the music box. Une idly ran her fingers
over the interior, fingering a small bundle of cloth. The moment Une's fingers
brushed against the soft cloth, Noin seemed to lose control. The younger girl
lunged forward and made a grab for the box. The lieutenant easily eluded the
furious cadet and stood.
did you steal this from, cadet?" Again, Une's voice was completely devoid of
mine!" The suggestion infuriated Noin even more, "It's mine and you don't have
have every right, cadet!"
a growl, Noin flew at the lieutenant, grasping for the box. The lid slammed
down on Une's fingers and she jerked away, accidentally flinging the box across
the room. Noin watched in horror as the box smashed into the wall, scattering
the contents across the cold concrete floor. Une flexed her injured fingers,
angered by the younger girl's defiance. The young lieutenant lashed out,
striking the cadet with full might. Noin hesitated only an instant before
making a tight fist and swinging. Her fist connected with Une's jaw with enough
force to send the taller lieutenant staggering backwards. Noin took advantage of
Une's shock and took another swing, but her anger robbed her of reason. She did
not put her martial arts training into play, instead reverting to her old
street fighting techniques. Une recovered herself quickly and just barely
ducked the blow, catching Noin as the girl spun around. The lieutenant held the
younger girl in place as the child kicked and growled in frustration.
commotion attracted a small crowd in the corridor. The other cadets watched
from the doorway, unsure whether to cheer for Noin or call for help. Une,
noticing her audience ordered the other girls back to their rooms, threatening
all manner of punishments for those who did not comply. Noin stopped struggling
and Une released her grip on the smaller girl, giving her a small shove. They
glared at each other for several minutes, a silent battle of wills that neither
was willing to forfeit. Une finally stalked out into the hall, heading for the
washroom to clean up and tend to her fingers. She casually called back over her
shoulder, "Have that mess cleaned up by the time I return."
stood her ground until the lieutenant was out of sight then set about
frantically collecting the strewn mementos of her childhood. The girl picked up
the box first and was relieved to see that it seemed relatively undamaged. The
hinges had been knocked loose and the latch bent, but Noin knew she could fix
both easily. It was upon peering inside her treasure box that the girl's breath
caught in her throat. The music box was broken. The tines that created the lovely
music were bent and the figurine that had adorned the key was missing. It was
ruined. Noin exhaled slowly, choking back tears. Everything always got ruined.
anxiously began gathering her treasures, crawling around the floor desperately
seeking the small porcelain figurine. She retrieved each and every item she had
stored in the box, one by one returning them to their special place. Every item
except the figurine. Noin crawled along the floor, passing her hands along the
gray concrete in the event her eyes missed the precious object. She moved
furniture, upturned bedding, not caring what state the room was in when Une
returned. The girl's only objective was to find that figure.
finally gave up and sat on the edge of her bunk. Noin held her treasure box on
her lap and stared at the floor, willing away the tears she wanted so
desperately to shed. Une would return any moment and Noin would not allow the
lieutenant to find her crying. She concentrated on her breathing, mentally
following it on its path through her lungs and out again. Breathe in, breathe
out. Two years, five months and twelve days and she could leave.
Une returned and paused briefly to survey the state of the room. For some
reason, the young officer chose to ignore the mess and went to bed. She turned
her back to the cadet sitting rigidly on the edge of her bunk. Noin was glad
the lieutenant turned away. If she had to look at the older girl's face all
night, she wasn't sure what would happen.
clutched her box and scooted back onto her cot, leaning against the small
window over her bed. It was a clear night and the stars were visible. The stars
were always there. The constellations shifted, the clouds sometimes hid them,
but the stars were always there. The only constant in the girl's life. Noin
felt the first tears begin to trickle down her cheeks, but did nothing to allay
the stream. Une was asleep, no one could see her now. It was safe to cry.
stellina..." she whispered quietly.
the room, Une stared at the plaster wall. She heard an occasional sniff coming
from the direction of the cadet's bed and tried her best to ignore it. She
wasn't sure why, but for some reason, Une was beginning to feel sorry for the
earlier incident. The box obviously contained what few personal possessions the
younger girl owned and Une knew it was wrong of her to have meddled with them.
It was the type of intrusion she herself would have punished severely. The
lieutenant frowned at her weakness and closed her eyes, attempting to sleep.
The tune she heard earlier began to replay in her head and her mind's eye
supplied the familiar fragments of memory that had haunted Une since childhood.
Places and people far away, voices just out of hearing.
rolled over and looked at her roommate. The child--and for the first time, the
lieutenant saw Noin as a child, not a brat---was sitting curled up with her
music box, staring out of the window. The girl often stared out of the window
at night in an almost trance-like state. Une tried to recall what her own life
had been like when she was twelve. It had been her first year in OZ, her first
year away from her aunt. The life of a soldier was harsh at any age, but
exceptionally so for someone who should still be enjoying the nurture of a family.
Une sat up and quietly walked across the room, picking up a handkerchief from
her dressing table as she passed. The young woman sat on the end of Noin's bunk
and offered the pristine linen cloth.
your nose. The sniffing is keeping me awake."
glared at the older girl, expecting to see an expression of annoyance. Instead,
Une looked a bit concerned. Confused, Noin took the handkerchief and obeyed,
eyeing the older girl suspiciously over the scrap of cloth. Une began to shift
uncomfortably as the younger girl watched her carefully. Noin had never seen
the lieutenant act nervous before. She wasn't sure whether to be amused or run.
is a lovely music box."
mine," Noin snapped, tightening her grip on the precious box to punctuate her
I know…I was just making an observation."
frowned at the older girl. An understanding, even sympathetic, Une was a
bewildering sight…not to mention unnerving.
your mother give it to you?"
asked the question with genuine interest. Noin scooted away from the wall and
sat the box in her lap. She ran her fingers over the delicately carved lid, now
sitting askew atop the lower portion. A mother had given her the box, but not
her mother. She didn't know her mother.
Noin finally responded, "a friend…when I was very young." Her voice was quiet,
heavy with seven years worth of suppressed emotion.
see…where is your friend now…"
dead, ok? They're all dead!"
She whirled to face Une, her tone just short
of a shout. Noin didn't know what game Une was playing, but she was not in the
mood to humor her. The young girl had been pushed beyond the limits of
tolerance and would not allow herself to be pushed around anymore.
alone…just…" Noin looked away as her voice quivered, "just let me be alone."
frowned a bit and, for a moment, Noin thought the lieutenant might try to hit
her again, but the anger that momentarily flashed in the officer's eyes was
replaced with something else. Something almost kind.
know it must be difficult for you here, but you should really watch your
behavior with officers. The Alliance doesn't tolerate…"
don't give a damn about the Alliance and I don't give a damn about you, so
spat the words out through gritted teeth. The last thing she wanted just then
was a lecture on proper military etiquette from a woman who took perverse
pleasure in bullying her students. The
young girl didn't care anymore what the Alliance would or would not tolerate.
Noin had put up with enough. She decided in that moment to run away, after all.
The thought of being alone frightened her, but anything was better than this. She would find a place somewhere.
Perhaps she could stow away on a shuttle…
do you hate the Alliance so?"
question and the gentle tone with which it was asked caught Noin off guard.
"They killed my friends…all the Alliance knows how to do is destroy…" The
girl's voice trailed off in a whisper.
why have you tried so hard to succeed in officer training?"
I can go to space." Noin blurted her answer out without thinking.
is space so important?"
paused this time before responding. She wanted to go to space because she
believed the answers to the riddle of her past lay there. Her future and her
past were there, among the stars. She dared not tell Une any of that so she
responded as simply as she could.
peaceful up there."
looked away again, unwilling to elaborate. The officer nodded and remained
silent for a short time. When Une spoke again, it was with a more commanding
believe it is far past lights out, cadet. Go to bed"
lieutenant rose as she spoke and stood over the cadet as Noin scooted under the
covers, holding her box the way a small child holds a doll. Une uncharacteristically
reached down and straightened the girl's blanket, pulling it up to Noin's chin
in an almost sisterly manner. Noin watched the older girl walk back to her own
bed and settle down to sleep. Une's behavior was unpredictable on a good day,
but tonight it bordered on the bizarre. Noin had never seen the stern
instructor behave so…nicely. As she
drifted off to sleep, the cadet wondered what species of alien she had been
talking to and who kidnapped Instructor "Uney Buns."
two unwilling roommates never discussed their altercation. Une seemed not to
remember the incident at all…at least she did not retaliate as Noin expected.
Both forgot the fight and Une's later kind behavior as they slipped back into
their familiar routine of put-upon student and hated instructor. Noin received
an unexpected, but all too brief, reprieve when Une was summoned to the
Specials command in Brussels. She would be gone for 8 days. Noin plopped down
on her bunk with an audible sigh of relief.
she murmured to herself as she drifted off to a well-deserved sleep.
Une scanned the report in her hands, checking for accuracy, as she walked
towards the Specials' main office. She was on her way to meet His Excellency,
the newly appointed leader of the Specials and her direct superior. In her
hand, the officer held a list of names, candidates for Specials training. The
Specials corps, a front for the OZ movement, was populated with only the best
and the brightest of the best and the brightest. Anyone considered for OZ
training had to be beyond reproach and intensely loyal to the cause…and hate
the Alliance with a vengeance.
preference was given to members of the nobility, though the group's membership
was not restricted as such. It was, however, very difficult for someone of
common birth to rise above the rank of lieutenant. Even Specials uniforms
served to provide an easy visual clue to a soldier's status. Alliance uniforms
were olive drab, one cut for everyone from the lowliest private to the most
decorated general. Specials uniforms reflected the ancient ideals of birthright
through complex trimmings and specific color designation. Higher ranked nobles
wore blue or white, lower nobility were identified by the use of red. Commoners
and cadets wore forest green uniforms of a simpler cut.
new young leader, Duke Treize Kushrenada, took a personal interest in
recruitment and all new recruits were approved or rejected by His Excellency.
He insisted that all candidates be orphans. Anyone with a family was rejected
outright, regardless of their other qualifications. The young duke did not want
to compete with a loving family for the loyalty of his officers. The new
candidates were also expected to be disciplined and highly intelligent. Most
members of OZ scored at genius level or higher. Finally, and most importantly,
they must have a personal motivation for rebelling against the Alliance. As a
result of these new rules, most new OZ members were war orphans with huge chips
on their shoulders. A sea of dispossessed children, looking desperately for
something to believe in…and OZ gave them just that.
Une had yet to meet His Excellency, and was looking forward to the opportunity.
His reputation as a charismatic leader preceded him and Une was anxious to
judge the man for herself. OZ was her life, her mission. If its new leader
failed to live up to the organizations standards…
in, Lady Une."
stood in the doorway, hand poised to knock. The young man standing behind the
antique oak desk did not look up as he spoke. He busied himself, not with
paperwork as would be expected, but with a vase of roses adorning the credenza
behind him. Une took the opportunity to glance at the papers on His Excellency's
desk. On top of a stack of paper, right in the middle of the desk was her
personnel record. He had been checking up on her. It was expected, of course,
but Une found that she was slightly irritated anyway.
lieutenant returned her gaze to the young man. She watched as the duke
carefully removed and replaced several blooms, his broad shoulders slightly
hunched. She stared at his back, unaccustomed to being kept waiting in favor of
a floral arrangement. His Excellency fussed over the elegant hothouse flowers,
arranging them to his satisfaction before turning to face Une.
Treize was every bit as handsome as his picture, the young woman noted, but he
was much taller than she expected. The ornate trappings of his uniform caught
the sun streaming through the picture window, creating points of light that
seemed to radiate from the man himself. His ginger-colored hair glittered in
the morning glow, setting off his sky-blue eyes perfectly. All and all, he was
a remarkable sight. The youthful duke would have impressed any woman.
Lieutenant Une was not just any woman. She decided to reserve her judgment of
the young man. Standing at attention, she executed a crisp salute.
Lady, I prefer that this meeting be free of such formalities." His voice was
rich and smooth, fitting his appearance perfectly.
walked around the large desk, extending his hand. Une responded to the
unfamiliar gesture hesitantly. Most high-ranking officers, Alliance and OZ
alike, were sticklers for protocol. It did not surprise the young woman that
His Excellency had used her aristocratic title rather than her military
rank--most members of OZ preferred the reminder of their noble status--but his
expression puzzled her somewhat. The young man was peering at her intently, a
slight smile brightening his handsome face as he gestured to a pair of chairs
by the picture window. Une shook off her curiosity and sat across from the
duke, handing him the file folder she brought.
are my recommendations for new recruits. They have all completed first level
training and are fully prepared for battle testing."
glanced over the contents of the file and asked, "You selected these cadets
Each has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities and piloting skills.
I've listed them according to class standings."
Excellency flipped through several papers and frowned. "The name at the top of
the list…this cadet's history seems incomplete."
Noin doesn't have much of a personal history, sir."
looked up, smiling, "Please, call me Treize."
you wish, Mr. Treize." The young man's smile broadened at Une's insistent
formality, then looked back at the list. Une continued.
Alliance found her hiding in a convent a year ago. Before that, she was living
on the streets of Rome. No family to speak of."
believe in such situations, a minor title can be conferred upon promotion to
that is your recommendation?"
Une paused briefly. She didn't actually approve of conferred titles, either one
was a member of the aristocracy or not, but the cadet in question did indeed
demonstrate great potential…assuming the girl could overcome her discipline
problems. There was a deep seeded prejudice among the members of Romefeller
against the initiation of cadets of low birth. The new commander could prove to
be one of those narrow-minded men. Une admitted to being an elitist herself,
but the young lieutenant truly believed Cadet Noin would prove to be an asset
to OZ. Une was, however, unwilling to
jeopardize her own career in the organization on behalf of a street rat with an
understood Lucretzia Noin well enough to know the cadet would not remain with
the Alliance willingly, certainly not fight for them. The girl hated the
Alliance military. Noin might not accept an appointment to OZ, either, but it
was worth a try. The old adage, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend,"
crossed Lieutenant Une's mind. Common foe, mutual goal. The cadet might welcome
the opportunity to fight the Alliance. Une was not certain of any of this,
however, and that made Noin a bad choice. The logical choice was to recommend
the girl be transferred out of officer training all together, so the lieutenant
was at a complete loss to explain why she was willing to risk her own
reputation to help the other girl go to space. Sometimes one must act on
instinct, not calculation. Une cautiously responded to the duke's question,
choosing her words carefully.
believe talent should be recognized where it is found. OZ's ultimate goals are
paramount." She locked gazes with the young man across from her, "If we do not
recruit her to our cause now, the Alliance will have another formidable soldier
for OZ to contend with…it defeats our purpose."
what is our purpose?"
believe, sir, that the purpose of the Specials is to identify the brightest,
most capable cadets and train them to serve Romefeller, is it not?"
"One purpose, yes." The duke crossed his legs
and leaned back in the overstuffed chair. He regarded the other officer a
moment before speaking again. "I'll consider your recommendations and get back
to you. I'm preparing to leave for space soon and…"
Mr. Treize, I'm aware of your mission to colony x-18999. That is actually why I
requested this audience."
was relieved to see that His Excellency was not irritated by her interruption.
"Yes, sir. I believe the cadets should accompany you on your training mission.
Experience in routine colony defense would be the perfect opportunity to test
their skill and worthiness."
trial by fire of sorts?"
the fate of a new colony in the balance?"
cadets in question are currently considered Alliance recruits, sir. Should they
fail to live up to expectations, it is the Alliance who will bear the shame. If
they succeed, we make certain the public knows they are Specials recruits…brave
young soldiers defending the new colony. Romefellar will have a public
Excellency looked at Lieutenant Une for a few moments as he considered her
request. The mission to x-18999 was a routine defense exercise, or so he had
been told. His personal sources on the colony informed him several hours ago
that a coup attempt was eminent, most likely within a day of his scheduled
arrival. It would indeed be quite an accomplishment for his Specials recruits
to put down a rebellion. The noble knight of Romefellar leading brave young
soldiers in defense of a colony. Even his uncle would be pleased. The young woman
across from him shifted uncomfortably under his continued scrutiny. He had read
Lady Une's file earlier and it was impressive, but Treize had to admit he would
have been quite impressed with the lovely young lieutenant regardless of what
her file stated. She was obviously an ambitious young woman, but idealistic as
well. Just what an OZ officer should be…a zealot. The almost fanatical devotion
of its members was what made OZ such a strong organization. Uncompromising
devotion was what he expected of all of his officers, yet could not produce in
himself. Lady Une seemed to have a surplus.
well, Lady Une. I accept your recommendations. Have the cadets report to me
three days from now, gear packed."
"Wouldn't you like to review their performance records
first, sir? Discuss my selections?"
afraid I don't have the time. You have obviously given your choices a great
deal of consideration, Lady, and I'm willing to take a chance with your
recommendations. I believe in heeding the advice of my officers…especially
officers of your caliber."
officers stood. Lieutenant Une raised her hand to salute again, just as His
Excellency offered his hand. Treize smiled as he reached up and pulled the
young woman's hand down, grasping it in a handshake.
was a pleasure to finally meet you, Lady Une. I look forward to seeing you
noted that odd expression again and was embarrassed to realize she was
blushing. Releasing his hand, the lieutenant excused herself and quickly
Une scowled as she left. The duke had accepted her proposal, but made it clear
that he did so on her word alone. Her reputation as an officer was now on the
line. If her recruits failed, her career faltered. She would not have her
ambitions damaged by the incompetence of a cadet…nor could Une stand the idea
of having Mr. Treize think badly of her. The cadets simply had to succeed. She
had three days to ensure the cadets would not fail her. Three days to double
their assignments and increase their hours in flight sims. Une picked up her
pace as she made her way back to the return shuttle. She had cadets to train.
Lady Une vacated his office, Duke Treize Kushrenada once again perused the list
of names in his hand. They seemed to be perfect candidates…on paper. Treize had
learned long ago that the true test of a soldier lay in the battlefield. All of
the simulations in the world could not prepare one for the realities of war.
Add to that the extreme youth of the candidates and the potential for disaster
was great. The average age was fifteen. Treize was an experienced soldier by
the age of fifteen, but he had been raised to it. His uncle, Duke Dermail, took
over the youngster's political and military training upon the death of the
boy's mother. Treize had been twelve. The same age as his young ward, Zechs
shook his head in amusement as he considered the boy's chosen pseudonym. Zechs Marquise. Sixth Marquis. Clever. The
young duke rose and walked back to his hopelessly ornate desk, pausing to
summon his assistant on the intercom. The young lieutenant scurried in,
listened dutifully to His Excellency's orders concerning transportation for the
new recruits and scurried away. Treize glanced at the grandfather clock across
the room and noted the time. He was late for fencing practice.
Excellency ordered his car and returned to the Eighteenth Century mansion he
inherited along with his antiquated title. It was an expansive structure, but
not something he would call "home." His ward certainly would not. Treize
entered the vast dwelling and went to his suite to change into his fencing
outfit. The young man made his way through the impeccably furnished rooms and
pristine marble hallways to the fencing room. Zechs was already hard at work,
putting his unfortunate sparring partner through quite a workout. Treize
remained in the doorway to watch the match…if it could be called that. The
young count's opponent was certainly not his equal.
boy had made a great deal of progress over the past year. His frequent mood
swings and violent outbursts had become less frequent. His manners had
certainly improved, due, Treize supposed, to the fact that the boy merely
needed reminding. The two never discussed the boy's true identity or anything
pertaining to the fall of Cinq Kingdom, but the subtle reminders were there.
The boy's manner of speaking, his bow, all indicating the culture he was born
into. All in all, the boy was progressing nicely. He was becoming every bit the
charming young aristocrat he should be. In addition, he was already beginning
to attract a great deal of female attention. Any nobleman visiting the estate
was sure to arrive with a granddaughter or pre-teen niece in tow, all
graciously welcomed. The boy played the part well, but Treize knew Zechs used
his aristocratic façade to hide an obsessive need for revenge.
the moment Zechs began his new life as Treize's protégée, his goals were made
dangerously clear. He wanted to learn to fight, grow strong and destroy the
Alliance. Every action, every lesson, every moment of the boy's life was
dedicated to that one goal. If that meant enduring the nauseating chatter of
bored aristocrats, he would do so without complaint. If becoming a skilled
warrior meant playing the role of elegant nobleman to a host of blushing
debutantes, Zechs would do so. No price was too high to pay for his revenge.
was passed off as a cousin of the young duke, a minor count from an obscure
principality. It was a comfortable charade and the boy mastered it well. The
natural grace and charm the boy inherited from his lovely mother were carefully
cultivated. He played the dutiful ward to Treize at balls and parties, enduring
the incessant and inane conversations common to such events. There was a
constant flutter of young girls around the boy count--moths to a flame, as
Treize put it—all politely attended to. Aside from the fact that the boy
refused to take dance lessons, he was proving to be quite the little gentleman.
have the match, sir." Exhausted, Zechs' sparring partner, held out a
congratulatory hand to the boy count and left with relief.
"You favor your right."
looked up to see Treize standing a few feet away, blade in hand. "You're late."
me, but I was in a meeting with a particularly lovely lieutenant...punctuality
didn't seem as important at the time."
rolled his eyes. He hated being paraded out for Treize's latest conquests. He
was expected to play upon their maternal instincts, pointing out what a good
man the duke was to take in a lonely orphan. Treize's lady friends adored the
idea of the generous benefactor caring for the sad little boy. It was crap, but
Zechs played along out of a sense of obligation. Treize had taken in the
runaway, promising the resources and training necessary to become a
soldier. The young duke lived up to
those promises and the boy was genuinely grateful. Zechs was learning
everything he needed to know in order to defeat the Alliance. The former prince
did, after a time, come to look upon the young duke almost as an older brother.
He trusted Treize to a point, though Zechs could never bring himself to confide
in the young man the way he had with Noin. The boy swallowed at the unexpected
thought and gritted his teeth against the anger stirring inside him. He could
never trust anyone like that again or allow anyone to trust him in turn. It
would only get someone else killed.
"So will I have to meet this 'lovely lieutenant' or is she
temporary?" Zechs gripped his epée, anxious for another match.
be rude, Zechs," Treize responded as he took up position, "Besides, you know I
don't fraternize with my female officers."
just noblemen's daughters...or wives."
a bit young to make such an crass observation, don't you think?" Treize
retorted in amusement. "En garde."
verbal sparring ceased in favor of the actual duel. They fought for a while in
silence, each concentrating on the movements of the other. Treize moved with
the ease of a man accustomed to courteous duels, fluid and graceful. The
younger boy, though equally graceful, showed none of the ease that marked his
opponent's demeanor. He took everything much too seriously, Treize thought as
they sparred. Zechs' only goal was to defeat his enemy. Fencing wasn't an
exercise to the boy. It was a serious mission. What he lacked in gracious
sportsmanship, Zechs made up for in intensity. Treize possessed superior
technique and a height advantage. The younger boy had speed and focus in his
favor, but in the end, Treize won the match…as usual.
smiled at the younger boy and offered his hand. Zechs was annoyed at yet
another loss, but took his guardian's hand and complimented the duke's skill.
Manners first. It was the mark of 'good breeding,' as Treize always insisted.
It was one of the first and most repetitive lessons Zechs was required to learn
under the duke's tutelage. Zechs had never enjoyed the inane ceremonies
essential to royal life. Having spent half of his life free from such concerns,
it was difficult to return to the old habits once adhered to so diligently. He
preferred the life he had in Italy. There he was just like any other boy, or at
least he had pretended as much for as long as possible. Zechs knew now, that he
was not fated to a quiet life in a quiet town. He was destined for something
much different. He rubbed his palm roughly, gazing down at the hand that had
been too slow to save his best friend…the hand that had taken a life. He wished
he had understood his true purpose sooner. Fate might have spared Noin if Zechs
had not been part of her life. If only he had realized it earlier. His destiny
was stained with blood.
gave the frustrated boy a friendly pat on the shoulder and suggested they
partake of some refreshment…wine for Treize, juice for Zechs. As they sat in
Treize's study sipping their drinks, Zechs thought, not for the first time, how
much the room reminded him of his father's study. The imposing desk, the
impossibly valuable chairs…even an antique chess set in the corner. It wasn't
his father's study, though, nor was this his country or his home. He had no
home. He was a prince without a country. No…he was not even a prince. It had
been many years since he thought of himself as a prince and he refused to do so
now, despite his surroundings. At heart, in the darkest corner of his soul,
Zechs knew he was nothing better than a murderer. Even if it were safe to do
so, the boy couldn't possibly take up his title again. He couldn't bear the
honor of the Peacecraft name. He deserved no such consideration.
you like to have a game of chess?"
looked up, a bit startled. "Pardon?"
were staring at the chess set," Treize nodded to the hand carved game pieces
lined up on the pedestal across the room, "I assumed you wanted to play."
they moved to the game table, Treize watched his young ward with concern. The
boy always had an air of melancholy about him. Zechs never spoke of his life
before Treize rescued him from an Alliance prison, nor did the young duke
inquire. It seemed too much of an intrusion. In any event, the events of the
boy's past were just that, past. He had a new destiny. Treize was grooming
Count Marquise to be his right hand, the sword he would wield against the
Alliance. Zechs was an apt and willing student, devoting himself to his
training with a ferocity that seemed misplaced in one so young. Most children
his age, on the other hand, had not had to give up a kingdom.
boy's nightmares worried Treize the most. He was a tortured little soul and the
young duke felt helpless to aid his young friend in banishing the ghosts.
Treize knew those ghosts. They had haunted him as well on occasion.
the day, Treize could convince himself that his sometimes unconscionable
behavior could be justified. There was a greater good at stake. Might makes
right and all that. Nighttime was different, especially those last moments of
darkness just before the break of dawn. In the cold gray, the ghosts of those
he had destroyed made their presence known. Five hundred and twelve lives. That
was the number. At least, that was the number he took responsibility for
personally. There were others of course, deaths that he had contributed to
indirectly, but those five hundred and twelve lives were his burden alone. So
far, Zechs was only responsible for one death--that young cadet named Karl—but
Treize was certain the boy held himself accountable for the death of his family
and the friend Karl killed. It was too
heavy a burden to be born by one so young.
began the game and talked about the day's events. Zechs was in the process of
preparing for his entrance exams to the Lake Victoria Academy, the only
military academy operated exclusively by the Specials. Lake Victoria was the
breeding ground for OZ's new young leaders and Zechs would soon join their
ranks. The boy's tutors were complimentary of his work and indicated that the
boy would soon be beyond their instruction.
young count received special praise from his art instructor, who felt the boy
had extraordinary talent. Treize encouraged the boy's art studies, believing
that his artistic tendencies curbed the overwhelming feelings of repressed
anger that Zechs struggled to contain. Earlier that day, Zechs had accompanied
his art instructor to a special exhibition at the Museum if Fine Art in the
city. Zechs relayed his opinion of the exhibit as they played. He and his tutor
had gotten into quite a debate over the symbolism in a particular piece,
resulting in an assigned essay detailing his opinions and reasoning. Treize was
pleased to see the boy excited about his assignment. He generally showed little
real enthusiasm for his studies. He was simply too anxious to begin his
Zechs announced as he placed his knight.
done…but not good enough I'm afraid…checkmate." Treize moved his bishop and
smiled at the expression on his ward's face.
heck," Zechs mumbled.
do you leave for space?"
looked incredibly amused by the timing of the question as he answered, "Three
long will you be gone?"
nodded. One could almost hear the wheels in his head spinning. He was growing
annoyed with the fact that he had yet to defeat Treize in anything. Fencing,
chess, billiards…Treize won at everything. The boy scowled at the chessboard,
replaying every move in the game to determine where he went wrong. Three months
to improve his skills. He would play everyday—against the computer if he had
to. The next time he faced Treize in a chess match, Zechs was determined he
would be the victor. Treize kept putting off Zechs' entry into Lake Victoria
Academy on the grounds that the boy still had much to learn. Zechs was
convinced that once he managed to beat Treize at something—anything—he would
allow the younger boy to enroll and begin his life as a soldier. He had to beat
him next time. He had to.
following cadets remain behind after class…Becker, Rolf, Lothian, Provsky,
Noin. Everyone else, DISMISSED!"
five cadets stood nervously, wondering what they had done to be detained. Noin
knew, better than most, that Lieutenant Une was likely to have just chosen
their names at random and singled them out for underserved punishment. Whatever
Une had planned, Noin wouldn't have to put up with it much longer. She finally
formulated a workable escape plan and had been preparing for the last two days.
The cadet had stockpiled food and managed to use her scavenging skills to
'acquire' a few items to sell. She should be able to raise enough money to make
it back to Rome. A few stolen wallets later and she might be able to make it to
me," Une commanded and the cadets dutifully fell in line behind the stern
instructor. She led them around to her small office and lined them up, at
attention, in front of her desk.
are your new assignment schedules."
walked down the row and handed out stacks of papers. Noin glanced over the
schedule, noting the increase in flight training and battle simulations.
According to the list, she and the other unfortunate cadets would be in classes
from sunup to sundown and beyond. Twenty-minute breaks were allowed for meals,
six hours for sleep and bathing. "That's it," Noin thought angrily, "this
time she's gone too far."
over your new assignments carefully and report to me tomorrow morning at five
a.m. You will be reassigned to a new training facility in three days. Your
orders are in your files. Until that time, you are still mine, cadets! Don't
forget it! Dismissed!"
followed the bewildered cadets back out into the hall and walked towards the
officer's lounge. She paused upon noticing Cadet Noin standing rigidly in the
corridor. The cadet looked furious, her hands clenched the new orders tightly.
She looked as though she wanted to say something…shout something, actually.
hesitated, deciding whether to have it out with the officer once and for all.
Maybe she should just wait until Une was asleep and spike the officer's
lipstick with red pepper. She wisely decided to let the matter drop, fearful
that the instructor would confine her to quarters and preventing Noin's escape.
I suggest you read your orders and get some sleep. You have a long day tomorrow
and it will start sooner than you think."
turned on her heel and walked away as Noin began flipping through her papers.
The lieutenant turned the corner and stopped abruptly as she heard a girlish
squeal of delight behind her and the patter of cadet boots running towards the
dorms. Une shook her head at the undignified episode and walked on, relieved
that she would finally have private quarters.
Noin burst out of the building and yelled into the night air, "I get to go to
stopped and leaned heavily on a nearby tree, out of breath. The girl looked
over her orders again, confirming what she thought she read moments earlier.
Training mission. Colony x-18999. Leave in three days. Noin looked up at the
star field above her and laughed. "I did it, Nana…I'm going to see the stars."
She walked on to her dorm room, more lighthearted than she had been in almost
two years. Free passage to space. Once there, she could run away, just as she
had intended. She wouldn't have to wait now. She could find a place to live in
space, make a home, grow up and come back for him…when she was old enough. She
was sure she could find her best friend. She just had to grow up…they could go
back to space together, where it was safe…no wars, just stars.
next three days passed more easily than the previous three months for the young
girl. Though her workload was now twice as heavy, she made it through
relatively unscathed. As Noin packed her few meager belongings in her duffle
bag, she tried to imagine what it would feel like to be weightless. Was it like
floating in the bathtub as she had when she was a small girl? She had heard
some people suffered from nausea in low gravity environments, but Noin was
certain she would not be afflicted. As the girl walked to the plane, her mind
churned with questions, all of which were about to be answered.
in the dorm room she once shared with Noin, Lieutenant Une sat at her dressing
table to apply a fresh coat of lipstick. As she peered into the mirror, her eye
caught the reflection of a tiny object lodged in the loose baseboard behind
her. She rose and walked to the wall, kneeling to retrieve the object. Une held
it up to the light. It was a tiny figurine…a couple dancing. How odd. The young
woman closed her eyes, removing her glasses as she squeezed her eyes closed.
She was beginning to feel strange. There was the hint of a song playing in her
mind, a vaguely familiar tune…a waltz. Where had she heard that melody before?
as quickly as the feeling washed over her, it faded. Une stood and replaced her
glasses. The figurine was not hers, so, logically, the lieutenant assumed it
belonged to Cadet Noin. She left the room and walked to the tarmac, hoping to
return the tiny porcelain figure to Noin before the girl left.
Noin was standing in line with the other cadets, waiting dutifully to board the
plane to Brussels. As Une approached, the cadets all quickly turned their gazes
to the pavement at their feet. No one wanted to risk the wrath of Une at the
very moment of their escape. To the relief of the other cadets, Une called Noin
out of the line. The younger girl walked rigidly to her instructor, jaw tight.
It would be just like Une to hold out the hope of space to Noin, only to snatch
it away at the last moment.
believe you left this in the room, cadet."
extended her hand and Noin stifled a gasp. It was the figurine from her music
box. She quickly took the figure from Une.
you ma'am…I thought," Noin paused and glanced up at her instructor, "I thought
I lost it."
have been given a rare opportunity, cadet…don't disappoint me, Noin." Une
glared at the younger girl.
in line, cadet." Une turned and walked away, Noin's curious gaze following her.
Instructor Une acting nice twice. Weird.
Noin boarded the shuttle and took her seat. She looked at
the porcelain ornament in her hand, running a finger gently over the tiny
couple before stowing it in her uniform pocket. She took a breath as the plane
departed. Excitement, fear and curiosity melded together in her mind as she
peered out of the window, watching the base grow smaller. The cadet had given
little thought to her new duties, her main concern was the trip into space. It
didn't matter to the girl what the Alliance expected her to do on this mission,
she wasn't planning to stay long. Noin just wanted to bide her time until she
could make her escape. She was on her way.
A few hours later, Noin and the other cadets disembarked
in Brussels. They were met by a young officer in a Specials uniform who quickly
gave them instructions and herded them to the temporary barracks. They were all
given bunks in a row, no one seeming to notice that Noin was a female. There didn't
seem to be separate quarters for female cadets and Noin made the best of her
awkward situation. She waited patiently for the other cadets to shower and
finish readying themselves for lights out before making her way to the communal
bathroom. She showered quickly and changed into her uniform for the next day,
reasoning it would save time and embarrassment to sleep in her uniform.
The girl straightened her shirt and hung the uniform
jacket by her bunk. They had been given new uniforms for this assignment. She
and her fellow cadets were expected to wear the green and white uniform of the
Specials unit. Noin had heard of the Specials, all cadets had, but she did not
know that much about the group. The Alliance regulars seemed to detest the
Specials, a good reason to for Noin to admire them. Une was a Specials
officer…a better reason for Cadet Noin to hate the entire unit. She didn't want
to be part of an organization that would commission a woman like Une. Noin
dismissed her idle thoughts. She was on her way to space. If she had to
masquerade as a Specials recruit for a few hours, no big deal. It wasn't like
she was staying.
Noin once again found it impossible to sleep, though it
was a result of her excitement instead of nightmares. The night passed slowly and
she filled the hours by running over her escape plan. She would stay with the
other cadets until they received their duty station assignment. There would be
time during the transfer for her to sneak away. If she timed everything
correctly, she could blend in with the crowd at the spaceport and stow away on
an outgoing shuttle to another colony. Home free…freedom. That's what drew her
to space. The idea that she could be free of war and poverty, pain and
loneliness. The stars were constant, space was peaceful. She would finally know
what it meant to go home.
End Chapter 1 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
fully expect to get flamed for the "Uney Buns" thing, but the Evil Chibi
thought it was funny, so I left it in.
I'm back! Thank you to everyone who sent suggestions for titles. I'm sending
everyone a cyber lollipop (as soon as I can) because most of your suggestions
will be used as chapter titles. I really appreciate your ideas. They were
great! I appreciate all of the great reviews of the first part of this budding
'epic' and I hope you like part II just as much. The next chapter reveals more
about what Zechs has been going through and introduces a new character.
thanks to Evil Chibi (stop reading this and go do your homework!), The Major
and Johnny Rage for letting me bounce ideas off them and/or letting me rant. It
helped a lot to brainstorm and get your opinions. Thanks!
thanks for the coffee, Dwayne…@-@
title I chose comes from a poem by Henry David Thoreau and here it is:
Still grows the vivacious
a generation after the door
and lintel and the sill are gone,
unfolding its sweet scented
flowers each Spring,
to be plucked by the musing
planted and tended once by
children's hands in front-yard plots,
now standing by wall-sides
in retired pastures and
giving place to new-rising
the last of that strip,
sole survivor of that
I ask you...is that perfect or WHAT? Go Uncle Henry! Impress your friends by
Disclaimer: Yeah, great. More
disclaimers. Gundam Wing and its fab characters do not belong to me
[sniff...why, oh, why can't they be mine?]. This fanfic [all 15 to 20 chapters,
I haven't decided on the length yet] is for entertainment purposes only. No
copyright infringement is intended. So keep your slimy lawyer hands to