Chapter Five:

How Time Flies

Minutes after daybreak a small convoy silently left the Red River Base undetected. The inconspicuous company was made up of only one Gustav, in whom the four requested nurses resided, a snow colored Command Wolf, piloted by Levana and two armed that Gordos served as their protectors. Captain Hermann ordered the party to be as small as possible so as to avoid detection by Imperial spies. Levana was hesitant to leave the Red River base, but she couldn't override or refuse orders unless it was a life or death situation. Something deep within her gut told her that she needed to stay, that something important, not just for her but for everyone was going to happen and she was being sent away. Levana lost count on how many times she turned to watch the base slowly sink farther and farther from her view. "It's just nerves, nothing to concern myself with, it's just nerves," She tried to reassure herself, just as the base completely disappeared from view.

The whole ten hour trip was exhausting due to how frazzled Levana's nerves were, but like a true soldier she stuck it out until they reached the new base. As the command wolf came to a resting stop in the hangar Levana forced the uneasiness from her mind and exited the cockpit with a groan. Her muscles ached terribly but thankfully the head doctor and indirect cause of her problems quickly released Levana and the four other nurses to do as they pleased as soon as he made sure that the nurses sent were the ones he had specifically called for. Doctor Ulysses was a strict man in his early thirties who would have been fairly attractive with his dark chocolate hair and eyes if he hadn't been such a toffee-nosed prick with no sense of humor. He was perhaps the most disliked man in the Republican army, especially among the medical branch. However Levana had long ago learned to ignore his attitude, as he was one of the best doctors alive and one could learn much from him.

Levana and the four other nurses from the Red River base had to share a room due to the lack of free single rooms in the base, which were occupied by the doctors and soldiers. Levana didn't mind sharing her quarters as the four other girls were good company and semi-friendly with one another. All of them had been in the same medical classes and had lived in the same wing of the school before they were transferred. A couple of the girls sat on their beds chatting about nondescript things, while the other two left to find food after they had unpacked their things and settled in. Levana however stretched out onto her new, cold bed and within mere seconds blissfully unconscious and unaware of the world around her or the events that were beginning to unfold back at Red River base.

"I wish we could leave already, this place is so frigid even a steaming bucket of java couldn't warm it," Maria a young auburn haired nurse with flaring green eyes muttered bitterly under her breath after she stormed away from a displeased Doctor Ulysses. Levana hid her grin behind her newest patient's clipboard. "Just ignore him and do what you do best," Maria looked up from her abused clipboard and stared at the ever calm Levana Henley with awe. "How do you do that?" She asked slightly harshly, but the anger was not meant for the flaxen blonde nurse. Levana looked up and smiled calmly. "Practiced restraint and constant prayer," She replied simply. Maria's jaw dropped, before a wide smiled curved her lips and she laughed. "You amaze me Levana, you really do," Maria said with a smile. "You're telling me, Levana here is a saint on Zi," Camille spoke up with a grin as she, Alyssa and Rachel walked up to the two conversing nurses.

Levana shook her head rejecting the praise. "No I'm really not, believe me, everyone has a breaking point, mine is just… well hidden and buried." She confessed with a sad smile. "Even if that is the case, I still envy you," Maria said with a smile now in a better mood as she headed back to the frowning doctor to finish with her last patient of the afternoon. "She's right you know," Alyssa spoke up while she checked the IV drip of the patient next to Levana's. "But so are you," She continued when she knew Levana was listening. "Everyone does have their breaking points and in all of the time that I have known you not once have I ever once seen you come close to losing your temper." Levana's baby blue eyes flickered back and forth between her unconscious patient and the nurse. "Not to preach or anything because we all do it one way or another, but it's unhealthy for you to keep everything bottled up inside of you for so long. You'll end up destroying yourself if you do, believe me I've seen it happen first hand." Alyssa confessed in a sad, regretful tone before she quickly left to attend to the rest of her assigned patients.

Alyssa's words ran through Levana's mind for the rest of the day. Was she really holding everything in until the breaking point? Or was Alyssa just being too worried over nothing? It was true that many unspeakable things had happened in Levana's life, but she was fairly certain that she wasn't headed down a round of self-destruction. Her grandmother had even made her see a shrink when she was younger after she had been so abruptly and viciously torn from her old life. Levana loved her grandmother but sometimes the older woman was just too much. The shrink had quickly concluded that Levana was mentally stable and that had been the end of it. However Alyssa's words had caused Levana to question if the shrink had been right or not. Levana sunk down onto her cold bed with a tired sigh before she pulled off her shoes and slipped under the covers. It had only been four days since they had first arrived at the new base yet somehow it seemed like so much more time had passed due to doctor Ulysses working them like Zoids day and night.

"I want to go back just as much as they do," Levana shifted onto her side, with her back facing the rest of the room. She disliked the new base as much as the other girls did. It was cold, dark and impersonal which was something none of them were used to, except Levana and Alyssa. Both of them had been in such environments before and had escaped but now they were thrown back into what they never wanted to ever return to. The past was something no one could ever escape no matter how badly they wanted to. Levana's face scrunched up in a grimace when her head began to throb painfully. Levana rolled over and grabbed her rarely used headache pills and downed two before she finally let herself fall into a light, restless slumber filled with flashing memories of the darker side of her childhood.

"Levana, hey Levana wake up," A distorted, faraway voice slowly roused the sleeping nurse from her doze. "What is it Maria," Levana was too tired to care that her voice sounded scratchy and low or that her headache had not yet gone away. "Here," A voice that sounded like Rachel's spoke before a glass of cool water was placed before the half-asleep nurse. "Thank you," Levana whispered and took the glass with trembling hands only to spill more on herself and her bed sheets than she got into her mouth. The tired nurse blinked a few times and sat the half empty glass down before she pulled her lethargic body into a sitting position. "Sorry to wake you but we thought you might like to hear the news," Maria burst out with so much happiness that Levana couldn't help but smile even though she was confused. "What news?" She then asked. Her blue eyes scanned the four smiling faces before her. "We're going back to the Red River base tomorrow morning!" Camille suddenly burst out unable to keep quiet any longer. Levana's eyes widened slightly in surprise and she was only able to mouth the word 'oh'.

"This is great news huh? All of my stuff is packed and ready to go. I don't understand why we can't leave now, but even this is great…" Camille continued to rant on and on about how badly she wanted to leave that instant. Maria quickly joined her along with Rachel, but Alyssa eased herself down beside the disorientated Levana with a worried frown. "Are you alright?" She asked quietly but didn't wait for an answer before she placed her palm on the blonde's forehead to check for a fever. "I'm just tired," Levana replied with a slight smiled that barely reached her eyes. "You're lying." Alyssa responded bluntly. "Now tell me what's wrong." She ordered in a stern voice that Levana was unaware she even possessed. "I just have a headache. It's not a big deal." Levana confessed with a sigh but was quickly cut off from making another excuse.

"When did it start?" Alyssa was going to be a really good nurse one day Levana mused. "What time is it?" She asked instead of answering. "It's almost time for the lights to go out." Alyssa replied, her face becoming more and more worried by the second. "Then I've had it for almost seven hours," Levana supplied after a moment of thought knowing that the lights went out at ten and she had to have left the medical wing around four in the afternoon. "Seven hours?" The younger girl asked in bewilderment. "Have you taken anything for it?" Levana nodded in response and pointed to her bottle of pills. "I took two before sleeping," Alyssa snatched the pill bottle up and examined the label before she snapped off the cap and dumped a couple of the pills out into her hand to inspect.

"How often do you take these?" Levana blinked once before answering. "Not often. I rarely have headaches anymore. This is the first one I've had in over two months," Alyssa's eyes narrowed in thought as she rebottled the pills and put the bottle back onto the small table beside the bed. "They should have worked, two is more than enough to get rid of a headache," Alyssa mumbled with creased eyebrows. Levana sunk back down into her warm bed sheets when her headache still persisted to grow worse. "You're not running a fever but still you looked flushed," Alyssa continued to mumble about Levana's symptoms unaware that Levana had began to drift in and out of consciousness. What happened next was all pretty much a blur with vague snippets of rushed conversations and images. At one point when she momentarily regained consciousness she was able to see that she was in the medical wing with Dr. Ulysses at her side.

The next time she regained consciousness she was vaguely aware that she was no longer in the base at all and instead in a Gustav with the four other nurses, as she was alert enough to fleetingly take notice of her surroundings. Alyssa's blurry face leaned over into Levana's spotty vision and gave the half-unconscious girl a small reassuring smile. "Dr. Ulysses said that we could head back to Red River earlier than planned. He concluded that the environment you were being subjected to wasn't good for your health due to your past medical history." Levana gave a sleepy smile to the worried girl before she drifted off into the soothing darkness of sleep. The next time she woke, this time for good, her headache was gone and she was back in her old room at the Red River base. Cautiously Levana stood from her bed and tested her weakened muscles and equilibrium. When she found that she could walk and stand normally she took a quick shower and re-dressed, before leaving her room.

The atmosphere of the base had changed since she had left. The air felt tenser than normal, but nothing seemed to be out of place to her eyes. Levana headed straight to the Captain's meeting room, hoping to see a familiar face or two along the way. Much to her surprise and disappointment she didn't meet anyone in the halls. It was almost like the place had been deserted, but she was certain that Captain Hermann would never abandon the base while part of the Imperial army was so close by. It didn't take long for her to reach the meeting room. Just as she was about to knock the door opened and the person exiting nearly ran into her. Levana backed up as Lieutenant O'Connell came stumbling from the room and into the hallway. When he regained his balance, he looked up and froze before words of apology could even leave his lips. They stared at each other for a moment before the lieutenant grinned and suddenly wrapped the blonde haired girl in a tight hug that she returned. "I'm glad you're awake Levana, the Captain and I were starting to really worry since you came in unconscious this morning."

Levana gently pulled out of the hug and gave the exuberant lieutenant a smile. "It's good to be back and you really shouldn't have worried, as you can see I'm fine." She tried to reassure the lieutenant, who though doubtful of her words, let it pass. He was just glad that she was back where she belonged. "The Captain is waiting outside if you wish to speak to him. That's where I'm headed if you'd like the company." O'Connell told her after seemingly being able to read the unasked question in her eyes. "Thank you, I would much appreciate it." She replied with a smile. As they walked through the deserted hallways Levana and O'Connell caught up on what had happened while they were separated. Levana purposely left out details of her sudden headache and was thankful that the teal haired lieutenant didn't ask about it much. Apparently the troops were busy running drills due to Captain Hermann having a gut feeling that something was going to happen soon. "The sleepers were destroyed?" Levana repeated what she had just been told in astonishment.

"Yes, actually they were destroyed before you left, but word didn't get back to us until you had already left." The lieutenant told her with a thoughtful frown on his face. "Is that why everyone is on edge?" Levana asked tentatively, as the destroyed Zoids seemed to be a touchy subject. "Yes, the Captain thinks it was Imperial soldiers." He replied monotonously and Levana squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. "Don't worry everything will turn out how it should be in the end." She smiled and playfully nudged the Lieutenant in the shoulder. "I hope so," He sighed, still in a gloomy state of mind. "Oh, when did you become such a pessimist Travis?" Levana poked the downtrodden male on his cheek with a grin. The lieutenant's eyes drifted to his side to glance at the nurse upon hearing his first name that was almost never used anymore. He was actually surprised that she even knew his name, but somehow that one mundane thing cheered him up. "Sorry Levana," He apologized and gave a smile back to which Levana's grin turned into a large pleased smile. She was quite proud of her accomplishment.

Levana's eyes squinted when the harsh afternoon sunlight hit her sensitive vision. It only took a moment before her eyes adjusted and when they did she was greeted with polite nods and smiles from passing soldiers. She returned the greetings with a smile of her own, as she and the lieutenant made their way over to the blonde Captain who looked to be lecturing a few of the younger soldiers. Levana and Travis shared a grin behind the Captain's back. When they got closer Levana brought her pointer finger up to her lips in a shushing motion, so the soldiers wouldn't alert the Captain to their presence. They seemed a little apprehensive, but didn't make any further motions, as Levana eased up behind the tall blonde man. She stayed there for a moment listening to the Captain point out what they had done wrong and how they should have done it differently. "This was just a mock battle and be thankful for that. Otherwise I would have to send word to your families that their son's died in battle because they refused to follow orders."

The Captain's tone and words were harsh and anger was clearly his predominant emotion at the moment. However what the soldiers failed to know was that their Captain was placing more of the blame for their mess-up on himself than their inexperience. Levana felt sorry for the soldiers so she decided to speak up on their behalf. "Excuse my interruption Captain, but I believe they now understand what they did wrong and won't do it again." The Captain immediately turned around to reprimand whoever had interrupted him in mid-lecture, but stopped when he saw Levana's smiling face. "Right," he coughed into his hand to regain his composure and turned back to dismiss the soldiers who quickly saluted and walked away. "It's good to see you up and about Levana." He told her with a smile and clapped her on the shoulder gently. "It's good to be back, Captain." She returned and stepped back and away so that whatever the Captain had sent the lieutenant after could be reported.

While the two men were adamantly discussing the lieutenant's report, Levana spotted the old Command Wolf and walked over to him. Her fingertips gently trailed over his giant white muzzle and the Zoid gave a low growl of recognition. "It's good to see that you made it back safely." She told him quietly, happy to see that they hadn't left him at the old base. "He was taken good care of." Levana turned to the captain who had spoke and gave a thankful smile for the kind gesture that she was sure not many would have done if they were in his place. "Maybe now that all of my subordinates are back where they belong, this place will fall back into proper order." He said with a smile and Levana nodded her head in agreement when a sudden realization struck her by surprise. She had forgotten in all of the chaos that was going on that the anniversary was tomorrow. Levana's hands fell lifelessly from the great muzzle of the metal wolf Zoid. "Tomorrow," She unintentionally whispered aloud and immediately both of her companions understood the meaning of the utterance.

"Well, I had better get to the infirmary and check up on everything." Levana suddenly spoke up, her voice and face strangely joyful. The happiness however, did not reach her eyes as she bid good-bye to the Command Wolf and her two friends. The two men watched her walk away and wondered if they should let her burry herself in mounds of charts and paperwork like she was no doubt planning to do. Reluctantly they let it go, but decided that they would not let her spend all day tomorrow in a gloomy state or buried in work. On her way to the infirmary Levana remember that the thief was probably still in the cells and she decided that she would pay him an unexpected visit beforehand. She had yet to even learn his name. With a new destination in mind she headed towards the cells in a slightly improved mood.

It didn't take long to reach the holding cells, which were unsurprisingly not guarded as all of the soldiers were running drills. It was even easier to find the thief, who was unaware of her approach. Silently she observed him for a few minutes. He was languidly stretched out on the uncomfortable looking cot that barely passed as a bed, with his hands pillowing his head. His clothes and messy brunet hair gave him a scruffy appearance, but his face was smooth and unmarked. He was actually quite handsome and definitely the type her grandmother would disapprove of. That thought brought a smile to her face. "Are you gonna stare at me all day or introduce yourself?" A teasing voice suddenly asked and Levana jumped at the unexpected noise, but relaxed when the speaker turned to glance in her direction a smirk tugging at the corners of his lips.

"I'm sorry, I thought you were asleep." Levana apologized sheepishly. The brunet just grinned and moved to sit up on his cot. "Dunno how anyone can sleep through all the racket they've been making." He commented easily and Levana smiled. "Yes, it would be rather difficult." She responded chuckling softly. "I'm Levana Henley." She then told him and habitually went to shake his hand but stopped herself short with a laugh when she realized her mistake. He laughed to and introduced himself with a grin. "I'm Irvine, just Irvine." Levana tested his name on her tongue and found that she liked the way it sounded. "Say, Levana you wouldn't happen to know the whereabouts of a black and maroon Command Wolf, would ya?" He asked with a raised eyebrow. Levana took note of the subtle flirtation but tried not to respond back to it, wanting only to get to know him as a friend would. "It's in the yard and no one has messed with it." She reassured him. He looked pleased at this information and stood to his feet. He rolled his shoulders and slowly made his way closer to the bars.

"You don't look like a soldier, what is it that you do here Levana?" He inquired with a slight cock of his head. Levana noted that he was quite tall and muscular and even better looking up-close when she could get a good look at his one uncovered eye. "I'm a nurse stationed under Captain Hermann." She replied in a friendly conversational tone. "A nurse," He questioned with a disbelieving grin. "Now that's almost as unbelievable as you being a soldier." Levana cocked her head to the side. "Why is it unbelievable?" She asked confused. Irvine just grinned at her for a moment before he answered. "Because you're so petite and actually pleasant to be around, all of the nurses I've known were stiff and cranky." Levana laughed at his answer. "You must have only known a few then." She commented and Irvine shrugged. "I'm not too big on visiting infirmaries." Levana smiled, liking his fresh personality. "Not many people are and they're not the best of places to be so I don't blame you."

Levana found Irvine to be quite pleasant company, despite the occasional flirting on his part. "I better get going, before it gets too late. It was nice to officially meet you Irvine." She smiled apologetically and stood to her feet, after having sat down and conversed with the would-be thief for almost an hour and a half. "Yeah, same here," He responded with a grin and watched as the blonde nurse turned and walked away. When she completely disappeared from his sight he collapsed back onto his cot. That hour and a half had been the highlight of his whole stay at the base. Not only did he get her name, but they had actually had a long friendly conversation and she didn't seem to judge him for breaking into the base despite knowing his intentions. "That girl's something else," He muttered aloud and rolled over to get some sleep, after all that was just about the only thing he could do while stuck in a cell. His escape plans wouldn't work because the Republican soldiers were too ready for an attack so he would just have to bide his time, for now.

A/N: I played around with the timeline of the original story line a bit so I could work what I had to into the story and as for O'Connell's actual firstname, well I made it up as I couldn't find it spoken in the anime or on any official websites, so I hope no one is too bothered by my slight changes. In the next chapter Levana will meet Karl for sure and I don't plan for it to take so long to be posted, so look forward to that.