The Beginning's End + Part 8
I lean back in one of the plush seats and sigh, bracing myself. We're about to exit earth's atmosphere, and even in a carrier ship the size of this one, that's always a bumpy, uncomfortable operation.
What a day. I mentally catalogue its progression in my mind, trying to be sure I don't leave anything out.
7:30 am:I woke up in Relena's bed.
1:00 p.m.:I went back to the old Barton complex, and activated Wing's self-destruct.
1:10 p.m.:I had to explain to all my friends that I wasn't trying to destroy myself, just my links to the past.
6:30 p.m.:I went back to Sank, and broke up with my wife.
6:42 p.m.:My first fifteen minutes of freedom were interrupted when an emergency newsflash came over the radio that a Gundam was attacking Asia.
7:00 p.m.:I rushed straight to Preventer headquarters with Quatre and Wufei, intent on figuring out what was going on.
7:05 p.m.:I discovered that there was indeed a Gundam in Asia.
7:35 p.m.:I found out that Une had a space base all set up and waiting for just such an occasion, in violation of treaties and oaths and public promises.
I scowl as I think of that. Not only did she have this illegal base, she didn't tell me. When I attempted to remonstrate with her about it, she informed me brusquely that she was busy, and didn't have time for arguing with me.
That's when I found out who knew about it.
Powerful potentate that he is, Quatre Raberba Winner is a sap when it comes to his friends. He can manage to conceal things from us for all of about twenty-seven seconds. Then he cracks.
He cracked when Une went stalking away after she brushed me off.
He knew about the base. He knew about the base!
Not only did he know about it, he had helped her arrange the funding, and had even given her a place to locate it.
The Preventers' secret space installation was located a hop, skip and a jump from Quatre's home colony.
He'd signed a treaty with her, allowing her to locate it there.
Their supplies came from a Winner family resource satellite.
Not only had Quatre authorized the placement of this base, he was profiting from it.
Not that I really think that that was his motive. Well, not his entire motive. But he knew! He knew, and he didn't tell any of us. That really annoys me on some level.
7:50 p.m. : I was drafted into yet another war, pulled back into a past that I thought I had exorcised for good not ten hours before.
8:00 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.: I got to deal with vast masses of unhappy, enraged, frightened people who all had the same goals: first, to demand that we solve the problems suddenly besieging the world, and second, to prevent us from doing anything that we were trying to do to solve the problems suddenly besieging the world.
One of those people was my darling wife.
I almost groan aloud as I think of that little scene…
"I refuse to allow it," Relena says coldly, her hands folded in her lap as she sits in one of the straight-baked chairs in Une's office.
Une's face flushes, obviously trying desperately to hold onto her composure. "Relena, we have to do our best to engage it at a point as far from the earth as possible," she points out. "If we can get a fix on it, we an intercept it from space; hopefully, we can keep it from coming back to this planet at all."
"And in the process you plan to take all of our defenses all the way out to L4?" Relena asks dubiously. She shakes her head. "Unacceptable."
I debate opening my mouth. Technically, Relena can't forbid us to do anything. The Preventers are supported by money from many nations, not just Sank. The force is based here, and Relena is tacitly recognized as a head of the Preventers because of her dedication to pacifist causes and her role in founding the organization. However, Relena's role is more of a figurehead than anything else. It's a very murky subject as to who actually holds the authority to sanction or deny Preventer actions. The only one who really has any clear authority is Une, and her power really hasn't been tested yet. Relena, if she played her cards right, could make things very difficult, politically. And if there's anything Relena's good at, it's political intrigue.
Une knows all that as well as I do, which is why she's obviously trying to avoid openly challenging Relena. "We can protect the Earth far more effectively from that old manufacturing satellite of Quatre's than we can here, Relena," she points out.
Quatre's old manufacturing satellite. How generous of him to offer it. But some sort of fabrication was necessary - the existence of a secret military installment is definitely something that should be kept from Relena.
Relena shakes her head firmly, stubbornly refusing to heed Une's logic.
"Miss Relena," Quatre interjects softly. Relena turns her head somewhat unwillingly. Quatre has become something of a political force himself over the last several years. She can't just ignore him with impunity.
"Miss Relena, at this point, with what we have, we can't defend the earth even if we stay here," he tells her gently. "We don't have enough weapons to be effective against a Gundam. If we stay here and try to fight it, we'll all be killed."
Relena's eyes widen softly, and her gaze sweeps across the room, touching each of our faces. For the second time today, I catch a quick glimpse of the girl she used to be, before that girl was swallowed up by the Queen.
"But…but how will you succeed any better in space?" she falters.
"We have more space weapons that earth ones," he tells her. "We have the chance to fight offensively rather than defensively, which will strengthen our position. If it becomes absolutely necessary," he continues reluctantly, "We can manufacture more weapons more easily in space than here on earth."
"Surely it won't come to that!" she cries, aghast.
"We hope not," Quatre says seriously, his blue eyes earnest. "But it's going to take much longer if we sit here on Earth, waiting for it to come to us."
Relena's gaze remains locked with his for a moment, and her struggle is apparent on her face. "Very well," she manages after a moment. "Une, you may go, and you may take two of these pilots with you. Heero and the other two will remain here on Earth, to oversee operations in your absence…"
Most of the rest of her sentence is drowned out as several voices raise loudly in protest. Wufei's face darkens with anger, Duo jumps up from his seat protesting loudly, and Commander Une shakes her head so vigorously that I wonder absently if she made herself dizzy. Quatre waves his hand, trying to get Relena's attention. I stand, waiting for the din to die down before I say my piece.
The only one who doesn't speak
is Trowa. He remains in the same position he has been in through the entire
conversation, leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, face
set in that expression of studied blankness. But even his empty gaze is
fixed firmly on Relena, and I feel that he will not easily accept being
left on Earth.
"Relena," I say quietly, my voice cutting through the last of the protests.
She looks at me defiantly, obviously determined not to change her mind.
"We can't send half a force against an unknown enemy," I tell her evenly. "They'll be killed. Then the enemy will return to Earth and we'll be killed."
Talking so bluntly about the possibly consequences of failure shakes her. She wouldn't be swayed by any thought of personal danger; she believes herself to be immortal. But danger to more expendable people she can believe.
"We can't leave Earth undefended," she maintains.
I shake my head at her. "You can't send half a force against an unknown enemy," I repeat. I wave my hand, encompassing everyone in the room in the gesture. "Don't waste their lives because of what has happened between us."
Perhaps that wasn't tactically sound. Now she looks angry.
"How dare you accuse me of…"
"Don't waste my life because of what happened between us," I interrupt.
She glares at me, her lips pursed. "If I refuse?" she asks challengingly.
I shrug. "We take it to the World Council, and delay everyone's departure. They decide in their own sweet time. Meanwhile, the enemy has time to regroup, and possibly attack again. An amazing amount of bad publicity is generated for the World Council, the Preventers, the Sank Kingdom, and all of us personally. Possibly, many people die because of the delay."
Her frustration is apparent. "How can I argue?" she spits angrily. "You have me backed into a corner - you place the blood of innocents on my hands if I refuse to allow you to leave the world defenseless."
I smile sadly at her. "Welcome back, Relena," I say softly.
"To what?" she demands furiously.
I sigh. "To war."
That's about it for my list. That's the end. War.
Why is that always the end result? How am I - are we - constantly dragged into one bloody mess after another?
I open my eyes as I sense a presence near me, and see Duo plop into the seat next to mine. Trowa gets up out of a chair across the area, and quietly exits to another part of the ship.
Speaking of bloody messes…
"I feel like I'm playing god-damned hide and go seek," Duo grouses. "Every time I walk into a room, he walks out of it. It'd be damned funny if it didn't piss me off so much."
I sigh. The trip to the base is going to take several days. This carrier is huge, with several sections for storage, maintenance, living quarters, meeting rooms and so on, but I have the uncomfortable feeling that it's going to feel very close before much time passes.
"I'm sorry," I say miserably. This is all my fault. I am the reason behind the schism between Duo and Trowa.
"What?" Duo asks, startled.
"I'm sorry," I repeat. "I know it's my fault…"
"Hey, hey, wait," he interrupts. "You still thinking that, Heero? It's not your fault."
I blow out my breath in disbelief. "I'm the one who got drunk and…and…well…hit on you," I manage. I feel myself blushing, feel my face get even hotter when he grins.
"Is that what you did?" he muses pensively. "I thought you…"
"You know what I mean!" I interrupt, flustered.
He chuckles. "I know what you mean," he concedes. He leans back in his seat, stretching his arms up and lacing his fingers together behind his head. "It's not your fault, Hee-chan," he says softly, not looking at me. "It's a problem between us. Trowa…Well, let's just say that I didn't think Trowa would react like this."
I swallow. And if he had, he wouldn't have done it, I finish in my head. What a price to pay for pity sex.
"Did you…Were you able to talk to him after you left us?" I ask tentatively.
He laughs mirthlessly. "Yeah, it was real informative," he says sarcastically. "He thinks I never loved him, he doesn't want me to touch him, and he was planning on leaving the planet and running back to L3."
"Back to L3?" I repeat, dazed.
Duo nods. "Be careful what you wish for, huh?" he asks dryly.
"Why was he going to L3?" I ask, frowning, trying to make sense of all this.
Duo turns his head and raises a brow at me. "Why were you blowing things up at the ol'battlefield this morning?" he asks significantly.
I blush again, but nod my understanding. Of course. Trowa has demons to exorcise too.
"Anyway…He doesn't want anything to do with me," Duo finishes gloomily.
I stare straight ahead of me. I have no idea what to say. Despite Duo's reassurances, I am sure that this is a breach that is, at the least, mostly my fault; a breach that was caused by my actions.
Duo sighs loudly, and stands up. "I don't know about you, but I'm getting some shut eye," he announces. "It's been a bitch of a day."
I nod my agreement, and murmur a farewell as he wanders away, leaving me alone.
My marriage has ended.
I had about six hours of being at peace with my past.
The world has been plunged once again into mobile suit warfare.
Two of my best friends have a rift between them that is possibly permanent, because of me.
I'm doing what I can to help with the world-level crises. I must also do my part to try to ease our more personal dilemmas.
I have to talk to Trowa.
I stand up, and sway suddenly. I glance at my watch; it's after two in the morning.
Tomorrow. I'll talk to Trowa tomorrow.
I have the grim feeling that I'm going to need to be fully rested for this mission.