At The End of the Day
~ Chapter One
May 13, AC197
-- La Roche Inter-colonial Spaceport, Colony L3-X17395
In the budding post-war era, being 17 and a war veteran was no different than being an ordinary teenager during peaceful times. Having been in the throes of war since before the birth of the youngest of soldiers, the newly unified nation composed of the Earth and the colonies experienced a novelty not since witnessed during the times of the great leader Heero Yuy and the Peacecraft monarchy. For the youngest, the times may have been new, but it was still a chaotic place where displacement was commonplace and normality was a goal too far away.
The same could be said for Trowa Barton who had only ever known war and nothing more. Since the end of what many would like to consider the end of all wars, life had been peaceful but dull, ideal but still inadequate. Feeling himself restrained by the redundancy of routine-filled days, Trowa left the circus and together with that, the only family he'd ever known in search of something that was still unknown to him. When Wufei called him not too long ago offering a position in the Preventer organization, he had declined because he believed that his service as a warrior of the people had ended together with the destruction of his Gundam. While that was true for the first few months, it wasn't for the rest of his days. Since then he'd spent time thinking about the offer until the day he called the Preventer main office speaking only two words -- 'I'm in.'
That was the reason why he found himself in the spaceport with a knapsack full of clothes in his hand. The rest of his clothing had been left behind, an assurance that he was to return to the circus for frequent visits. The feeling in his chest was a bit odd but most welcome. Now that he thought about it, nothing had felt more invigorating. Not even piloting Heavyarms, his once tool of destruction, had been this thrilling. Knowing that he was going to make a difference in the process of rearranging his life was a good feeling. Looking forward to a future, to a rewarding career was not something he ever imagined doing. That alone made him feel giddy and a bit nervous. Everything was so new and new things usually prompted an uncertain kind of chaos.
"Flight 383 to colony L2-V38555 will begin boarding soon. Please prepare your tickets for inspection at gate 3B. We will be boarding our handicapped, elderly, and passengers with small children first followed by our first class passengers, our business class passengers, and then our economy class passengers by seating. Please wait for your seating area to be called before proceeding to the boarding gates."
Trowa checked his wristwatch, a departing gift from one of the girls at the circus. Their knife-throwing sensation, Catherine, was also his adopted sister, the person he could proclaim as the dearest to him. Perhaps it was because she imposed such an odd relationship on him that he had no choice but to accept it. He had never experienced being pampered by an older sister. It was nice to be attended to every once in a while.
"No way! He was here a moment ago!"
"As much as I'm willing to take a bullet for him, I'm still tired of playing around with the kid! Where on the Earth and the colonies is he? If anyone puts one scratch on him, I swear..."
Black suits, black tie, black sunglasses, and matching earpieces - they were a bit redundant and not to mention cliché. The two, large men who had disrupted his nervous ponderings were bodyguards and they were painfully obvious. They were unconsciously emanating their presence throughout the entire area. Whoever it was they were looking for was both an important person and a difficult ward. Those were the conclusions Trowa came to as he watched them sweat and fret in near panic.
"The person you're looking for, how does he look like?" an elderly woman asked as she approached them. In an area filled with capable individuals, it seemed that the only brave soul tough enough to approach the domineering presence of the bodyguards was a seemingly defenseless old lady.
"He's uh, this short, wearing a dark blue..."
"Oh God! Who knows if there are pedophiles running around this area! Martin, you and me split up. Find him immediately before anything happens to him."
The next conclusion Trowa came to was that there was some kid causing trouble for the two. Whoever that kid was better get a lecturing from his parents when he got home. Having nothing else to do, Trowa resorted to playing with his newly acquired cell phone, another gift from Catherine. It had been the only condition upon which he could leave. In other words, he had no choice in the matter - not that he was complaining. A handy communication device was useful by its own means. Besides, only a few people had his number, ensuring that he would not be bothered by unsolicited callers.
"Hey mister, have you seen my mommy?"
Trowa raised his head, suddenly becoming aware of the presence of someone beside him. It wasn't just any person either. It was a little, lost kid, probably the same one the bodyguards were looking for.
"No," Trowa answered curtly. He could have been gentler, but he really wasn't an expert when it came to that kind of thing.
The child's response, as he suspected, was to cry and run off to look for his mother in another direction. The few who'd witnessed his unfriendly display sent him disapproving looks before going back to minding their own business. Perhaps someday he would have to learn how to deal with children but this was not the place or the time. He had other things in mind.
Two minutes of waiting became two hours and before he could successfully doze off on his uncomfortable chair; his cell phone went off, alerting him to his very first incoming call.
"Trowa speaking," he said, attempting to rub the sleep off his eyes.
"It's Wufei," the person on the other end responded. "Your flight will be delayed another hour or so. The space ports here at L3 are under security alert. There appears to be a suspected group of people who are planning an attack on a head figure originating from that colony."
"Just keep an eye out for trouble. I look forward to working with you."
"As do I," Trowa replied.
Cutting the connection, Trowa sat back on his chair considering his options. At that point, leaving for a short period of time and returning was not an option. There was no telling when his plane would finally board. He could have picked up a snack but he wasn't really all that hungry. Catherine's going away breakfast that morning, although not very savory, was enough to feed a cow.
There was no choice but to sit back and watch the bustle of people in the busy spaceport. Perhaps he could find something entertaining to observe. Thankfully, that did not take too long because before he picked up his cell phone to play around with, he spotted the bodyguards from earlier run up to the once lost child who had solicited his help. Considering that they should have been a little more discreet, the two men began to coddle the child. At least that problem was solved. The kid found his caretakers and the caretakers found their ward. Now it was time to scan the vicinity for other goings on.
This time, however, Trowa spotted something more familiar and a bit peculiar. From a certain angle, he could almost guess who he thought it was hiding behind a large trash receptacle. In a dark blue suit, the teenager was far too obvious. Trowa could spot him from his distance. Whoever it was he was hiding from would surely catch him in no time.
March 2, AC195
-- Secret Desert Compound, Earth's Middle Eastern Nation
"Do you really have to leave? I won't stop you. But at least tell me what your name is before you go. My name's Quatre Raberba Winner."
"I have no name, but if you must call me something, it's Trowa. Call me Trowa Barton."
"Goodbye, friend Trowa. We'll meet again."
May 13, AC197
-- La Roche Inter-colonial Spaceport, Colony L3-X17395
Trowa thought about it for a while. Did he really want to walk over there? It wasn't his kind of thing after all and there was no telling if his greeting would be welcomed considering the events that took place during the last time they spoke. He stood, taking the first step toward normalcy. There was no reason why he couldn't just greet a former comrade in battle.
Just as he was nearing his object of pursuit, a lanky, middle-aged man intercepted him. This man, however, did not seem to have any friendly intent, especially with the way he carried his glinting knife. The look on his face said that he was intending to stab with fervor and it was not just anyone he was going to stab. It appeared that they had the same target. It was hard to tell how the man had managed to pass through security with a weapon like that.
Not thinking twice, Trowa approached the man calmly and feinted tripping over him. That caught the attention of his target who turned their way from his position behind the trash receptacle.
"Trowa?" was the first reaction he got. It was perfect. He didn't even have to strike up a conversation and the suspicious man was now discreetly moving in the other direction.
"Trowa, is that you?" the teenager repeated again. He couldn't blame him. He was rather slow to respond considering that he was making sure that the knife-wielding man was no longer within their reach. However, Trowa could tell from the lilt in the other's voice that he was excited. His eyes seemed to light up. Even his hair seemed to go with the rhythm as it bounced when he stood from his crouched position.
Trowa nodded once, affirming that it was, in fact, him even if the truth of his espoused name would forever remain a lie.
"Wow! It's been a while! What are you doing here?"
Trowa had the urge to respond with a very sarcastic remark but decided against it. They were in the spaceport and it was obvious what one did in a spaceport. It was at least reassuring to see Quatre even if he would never admit it. He was also trying to become more approachable so that he could blend in less painfully with normal society.
"I took a new job. I'm meeting with Wufei on one of L3's newer colony clusters."
Cut short and straight to the point - it was Trowa's way.
"Congratulations!" was the enthusiastic response. Trowa could only seem to focus on the eyes that shimmered with glee. It wasn't like he'd won the lottery. He merely shrugged in response before noticing two approaching men who were a familiar source of entertainment for him not too long ago.
"Master Quatre, where have you been?" the first one near-yelled. Trowa recognized him as the bodyguard named Martin.
"Master Quatre!" the second one echoed, but his with a more reprimanding tone.
As it turned out, the ward the two had been looking for was Quatre. Trowa frowned at such irresponsibility but could only sympathize as he watched the two burly men attempt to bodily check him from head to toe. It looked more embarrassing than uncomfortable for people their age to be treated like a child.
"Master Quatre, is this kid bothering you?"
Trowa raised an eyebrow. If there was anyone who looked like a kid among the bunch of them, it was Quatre, not him.
"Huh? No. He's an old friend," Quatre managed to answer as they checked him for non-existent injuries. Trowa could only watch as the poor teenager was barraged with questions. Trowa supposed that he'd been causing them trouble by running away from their well-meaning protection. It wasn't even past lecturing when they turned their suspicious gazes at him.
"We need an identity check on this kid," one of them said while the other proceeded to pull a strand of hair out of his head. Trowa did not protest, but thought it necessary to send a glare toward the direction of the offending hand. The same offending hand placed the strand of hair into a small plastic bag and marked it as specimen 503. It was excessive and unnecessary. The two must have been new to the job.
"Guys, he's fine," Quatre said in embarrassment. "He's a friend," he repeated. Trowa nodded in agreement though he would never admit to anything more than just that.
"Master Quatre, it's time we left. Your space shuttle awaits you," the man named Martin interrupted, giving him little time to protest. "We should be on our way."
Defeated, Quatre followed the two but not before retrieving a business card, scribbling something on it, and tossing it Trowa's way. The card did not quite make it to Trowa's hands and landed a few feet away from his old, worn-out shoes.
"Call me," Quatre signaled with his hand as he was lead to his boarding gate, or rather, as he was dragged there.
Trowa nodded, picking the card up from the floor and pocketing it without a glance. At least that took care of some of his boredom. Now he had less than twenty minutes to wait for his economy class seat to be ready.
September 15, AC197
-- Sanq Kingdom University, Earth's European Nation
The ambiance was decidedly less than intellectually sound. With several of society's youngest and richest converging in every corner of the campus, one would expect the decorum and grace once bolstered by one of the most premiere universities on Earth. Instead, he found himself surrounded with the best-dressed, brain-dead of society. One could only wonder what the brats of society had been doing while there was a war going on.
"He... Hello. You look new. Do you mind if I tag along seeing as we're both new? I'm a little intimidated by all the people running around."
Spineless - that was another word that came to mind. The richest of the rich tended to be spineless, spurned from their parents' inability to expose them to real life out of the confines of their sheltered lives. His newest acquaintance very easily fit into the category.
"My name's Constantine Fitzgerald, but people call me Kon. You are?"
Constantine Fitzgerald? The kid was a perfect target for kidnappers. If he was not mistaken, the kid was the son of big money. His parents were the owners of the biggest shopping mall chain on Earth. The helpless, little thing might as well have screamed out the words 'kidnap me!' with the way he announced his heritage as if it was nothing.
Of course, his false name was not one to be carefree about either.
"Wait, just like the name of the former leader of the colonies, Heero Yuy?"
Heero blinked. The kid sure was more informed than most. Not a lot of people on the Earth knew who Heero Yuy was. At least that earned the guy a few positive points in his eyes.
"So Heero, why did you pick this university?"
The most obvious and sarcastic answer would have something to do with the university being the best that side of the Earth. It was easy to choose when this one clearly had the name. Still, the more important reason why he picked the university was that he could.
Back when he was a child, a man named Odin Lowe, a father figure to him, had told him to get a life and go to school. It had been hard back then, especially with the death of the man by the hands of the Barton Foundation. Instead, he found himself picked up by an old scientist and used as a well-trained soldier of war. Odin Lowe had been forgotten for the time being; only to be remembered when peace finally became a reality.
At first Heero spent most of his days wandering around the colonies, not knowing how to continue with his life. It struck him one morning as he was passing by a local elementary that he did have a dream once and that dream was to go to school. It only became apparent to him then that the reason why he had so forcefully hidden himself within scholarly academies during missions was to do what he loved. He loved to study and even with a war going on, he indulged himself in the atmosphere of school and the lessons taught even if his true objective was to make the school's dormitories a hiding place from OZ military forces.
In a strange way, Odin had made the dream possible. The account the man had put under his former pseudonym was filled to the brim with unheard of amounts of money. Heero could only suspect that most, if not all, of those were a result of wages earned from successful assassinations performed by the greatest assassin he had ever known. Even from the grave, the guy still managed to look out for him. For that, he was grateful. He was grateful enough to be able to spend that money doing something he could only dream of as a kid during the times of war.
"No reason," Heero chose to answer. He wasn't really up to sharing his life story with a stranger.
"What's your major or haven't you picked one yet?"
For a shy newcomer, the guy sure asked too many questions. He suspected that the timid demeanor was just a farce. Still, Heero felt like he was being interrogated. He almost felt like he was hiding something, but in reality, he no longer had very much to hide. In fact, his former profession was the only aspect of himself that had to be kept hidden.
"Philosophy," was his one word response.
Heero began to wonder if he'd become paranoid. To think that some harmless kid was trying to take him down was a little too extreme. He could be honest. He could be carefree. Surely, blending in with normal society wasn't that hard.
"Interesting... I'm taking Business Management. My parents are forcing me to take it," his newest acquaintance said with distaste. "What made you pick Philosophy?"
"No reason," Heero answered although there was a very valid, very significant reason behind it. It wasn't that he didn't want to sound stuck up. He just didn't want to get into detail.
"Good answer," Kon replied. He let out a jolly laugh that wasn't quite fitting with his stature. Standing at least two inches shorter than Heero, the guy looked like the typical geek who was bullied at school. He was skinny enough to be pushed around but looked too affable to be denied attention.
"Since our departments seem to be close to each other, I have a feeling we'll see each other again at the dorms. Where are you staying?"
Heero almost gagged while saying it. He didn't think that the University would name an entire dormitory after Zechs, but he supposed that with the man's contributions to the Mars project and his heritage as a Peacecraft heir, his existence could not be denied. To top that off, Zechs was also considered a war hero despite his attempts to completely annihilate life on Earth. It was so preposterous that Heero could not understand their reasoning. Still, it was just as well. The former Sanq Kingdom still acknowledged their family, so it was easy to let a little detail like that slip by.
"What's wrong? Do you find their accommodations less than satisfactory?"
"Accommodations?" Heero questioned, only then remembering that Kon was speaking of the dormitories, not of the person from whom the dormitories were named..
He found that sometimes, he became too caught up in the memories of war that he dazed off for certain periods of time. Surely it wasn't psychosis of any sort, but it still bothered him. It made him look odd.
"I... just remembered someone I know who had the same name."
"Ah, you mean someone you know is also named Millardo, like Millardo Peacecraft of the former Sanq Kingdom?"
"Something like that."
On the other hand, Heero wasn't too repulsed of the name Peacecraft. It was, after all, the heritage of Relena who now called herself Relena Dorian after her deceased, adoptive father. Relena was the headstrong and stubborn idealist who balanced Zech's partial insanity. All in all, it worked out quite well.
"Millardo Commons, huh? I don't remember if I'd been assigned to the same dorm. Well, I guess we'll find out later," Kon said in a carefree manner. "I suppose that if fate still had some use for us, we'll see each other again. Until then, goodbye Heero. It was nice meeting you."
Heero took the hand that was being offered to him and shook it. He was surprised at Kon's firm grip and the way he held his head high while walking. It must have been involuntary, such as the way he'd been trained since birth. At least the guy wasn't like the rest of the brainless fools running around.
Walking toward his orientation corner to the north side of the campus, Heero was reminded of Quatre. The former pilot of Sandrock, while carrying an air of vulnerability, also exuded the dignity that could not be found in too many people. They both carried a certain kind of charm that drew people to them. That made Heero decide that Kon would be an acceptable person to be around just because Quatre was one of the few people he could stand. The other three -- well, they had their problems… not that he didn't have problems himself. He estimated that out of all of them, Quatre would be the most successful in blending back into society. At least, that was his best guess.