"...okay, we'll be there to get you out. Stay hidden." Sally slapped her cell phone closed as she entered the barn that served as a hangar for Heavyarms, marching right to Trowa's side.
He looked up expectantly. "Heard from the others?"
"No, from Athena," Sally responded in a stressed voice. "Change of plans. She's in trouble - we've got to get to her before Romafeller does."
"Change in plans?!" Trowa glared. "I can't do that. Heero is going to need..."
"Face it, pilot," Sally snapped, interrupting in a commanding tone, "the battle for Barge will be over long before you or any of the others can get there. My agent, on the other hand, is wounded and being hunted down. We are going after her, and that's final."
"There must be something I can do, dammit." Trowa turned and punched the maintenance hatch of his Gundam, welcoming the pain that shot up his arm.
"Look," Sally said in a gentler tone, "I know you are all a team, but you can't get to Heero this time. He's going to have to handle it, and I have no doubts that he can. I doubt the others like it, either, but it's the truth."
"It fucking sucks."
She slapped his arm. "Language! Now how quickly can we leave?"
"Within the hour. That hurt, you know." He rubbed his arm.
Sally snorted. "He punches gundanium shielding without flinching, but it hurts when I hit him! You big baby! Can you track a cell phone signal?"
"In Heavyarms? Sure. We're taking my car?" Trowa was suddenly reminded of his fantasy of squashing reckless SUVs that sped over snow and ice. He grinned darkly. "Can we stop off for coffee? There's a Tim Horton's around the corner..."
"Oh... just grow up, Barton."
"Luca, we have to warn the people! Evacuate them! Something! If Dermail attacks, they'll be slaughtered -"
"Relena, think!" Noin replied tartly. "Dermail must have spies in the kingdom. If we put out any sort of warning, he'll know. We'll lose any chance we have."
"But we can't leave them ignorant!" Relena countered vehemently.
Captain Wilde nodded. "I'm sorry, Miss Relena, but Noin is right. Actually, I think it's too late. At the first sign of anything out of the ordinary, he'll move... at least I would -"
"No doubt about it," Dorothy cut in, rushing to the small group. "I've just heard from the old snake. I believe he plans to 'commence operations' tonight."
"What? Tonight? How -" Wilde sputtered, staring wide-eyed at the blonde.
"That's the inference I got from the conversation," Dorothy confirmed. "Remember, there was a Romafeller General Assembly meeting tonight. If all goes according to his 'plan' - and knowing him, it will - he'll have full control before it's over. Then he'll make his other moves. The colonies, the rest of the OZ and Alliance bases... Sanc."
"But Doro..." Relena said softly, "why -"
Dorothy sighed and looked solemnly at her friend. "He wants Sanc, Relena, and you. He told me he was moving ahead, to stay close to you because your guard would keep you safe..."
"Damn it, we're out of time!" Noin exclaimed.
Wilde nodded. "I'd guess the same thing. He gave just enough hints for you to make conclusions, Miss Dorothy. I just wish we knew exactly when, and how many."
"My best guess would be tomorrow morning," Dorothy replied. "It will take that long to get them in place and moving. As for how many... too many for your squad and Relena's guards combined, Captain Wilde."
"We need a plan, then," the captain sighed, "and some help."
"The plan is easy," Noin stated. "We alert our own people on the border. At least we'll know when they start moving in. I want the shuttle port ready to launch - shuttles, planes, whatever - so we can get Relena out first thing -"
"NO! I'm not leaving!" Relena yelled, grabbing everyone's attention.
"I said no, Luca, and I mean it," the girl replied. "I will not leave my country and my people unless I absolutely have no other choice."
"Miss Relena," Wilde cut in, and the blonde raised her hand to silence him.
"I understand your arguments, and I realise I'm more important alive and safe... But I cannot, in good conscience, just abandon everyone at the first sign of danger. How could I call myself a 'leader' if I run at the first sign of trouble?"
"No one would know!" Noin retaliated. "We have to -"
"I would know," Relena cut in quietly, "and I don't think I could live with myself."
Dorothy nudged the older woman as she opened her mouth to retort.
"I swear, Noin, if it comes to it, I'll get her out safely, no matter what."
"Fine!" Noin hissed, throwing up her arms. "I give up. Have it your way. But if things start going really badly, you are to get yourself on the first available means of transportation out of here, understood?"
Relena nodded solemnly. "I promise, Luca."
Noin sighed. "I guess that will have to do. You do realise that if anything happens to you, young lady," she added, staring intently at Relena, "your brother will kill me... and Wilde... and Dorothy... and possibly even you!"
"I said I promise," Relena replied, not quite stifling an inappropriate giggle.
"Why me?" the brunette muttered, shaking her head. "All right... so, we need reinforcements," she continued, changing the subject. "Any ideas?"
"I may have one..." Dorothy said. "If they're still on the planet..."
Rashid rushed into the communications room and neatly slid to a stop in front of the video console. "Master Quatre!"
"Hello, Rashid," the blond said from the screen, smiling. "I trust everything is all right there?"
"Fine, Master Quatre -" the tall man replied, his train of thought cut off as Quatre's smile wavered. "Master Quatre?"
"Please, old friend, we've come too far for 'Masters' between us. Just 'Quatre', please?"
"I'm sorry... Quatre," Rashid said, relieved as the young blond's smile returned. "You are all well?"
"We're fine, but I think we'll need some help."
"Whatever you need, Quatre, you should know that by now," Rashid said bluntly, causing Quatre to chuckle on-screen.
"Yes, yes I should. How soon can you mobilise our forces for a space launch?"
Rashid tipped his head, thinking quickly. "If you mean all but a skeleton crew...?"
Quatre nodded. "I think we'll need as many people as we can get."
"Then we can begin launching within the hour, if necessary," Rashid replied.
"Excellent. We believe Romafeller will make their move soon," the blond informed him. "Treize intercepted some information. Apparently, Dermail's forces will be attacking the colonies and Barge. The bulk of their forces will naturally head for Barge, but there will be groups targeting each colony. We've alerted Heero and Une, and will try warning the various colonial councils, but you know they have no real defences to speak of if the mobile dolls get inside the range of the laser canons... We're not even sure they'll listen to us. We need you to defend the colonies, Rashid... I know it's a lot to ask -"
"Nonsense, Quatre," Rashid replied firmly. "Of course someone needs to protect the colonial civilians, and we're honoured that you would ask us to do so. We will begin launching within the hour, and..." he trailed off, thinking again, "we should begin colonial deployment within nine hours. Do we have any idea when Dermail will begin the attacks?"
Quatre turned to someone out of camera range. "Wufei, when -"
"Yes, I heard," Wufei's voice replied. "Hello, Rashid. According to everything we can find, we have some hours yet. There's been nothing from the Romafeller council meeting since they convened. I don't believe anything could actually start before tomorrow morning, even if they set things in motion now. Worst case scenario, given the logistical problems, they'll attack Barge in approximately eight hours, and the colonies shortly thereafter. My best estimate is 18 to 26 hours, though, which gives you plenty of time. "
"That long? Do you really think -"
"That long for the colonies, yes," Wufei said. "First they will want to disable Barge. Once that is out of the way, the colonies would be totally defenceless against an outside attack."
"Yes, I see." Rashid nodded and rubbed his chin. "Barge will buy us time."
"Right," Quatre agreed. "And we'll be joining you in space. We're en-route to our launch point. Shall we rendezvous at L3 in... twelve hours?"
"Agreed. L3 in twelve hours. Manguanac base out."
As he cut the connection, Rashid whirled to Abdul. "You heard Master Quatre! Let's get moving!"
Quatre leaned back in the transport's co-pilot seat and sighed.
"Well, that's one less worry. I just hope we all make it in time."
"Don't worry, Quatre," the Chinese teen next to him replied. "I've already radioed the base to be ready to launch us as soon as possible once we land and can move the Gundams into carrier shuttles, regardless of the previous plans. Duo concurred."
"I know, I try not to worry," the blonde replied morosely, "but you know, 'the best laid plans...'"
Just then, the inter-transport com signal interrupted, and Quatre sighed again as he hit 'receive'.
"Hey guys - switch to secure line delta -three-one. Noin is online and the shit's gonna hit the fan soon!" Duo's voice sounded strained and Quatre glanced at Wufei as he acknowledged and switched channels.
"Wufei and Quatre here," the Arabian teen said, "Go ahead, Noin."
"Thank God!" Noin exclaimed, stress and worry evident in her voice. "We've got a serious problem here. Dermail contacted Dorothy to warn her that... basically an attack on Sanc is imminent. We've been hearing rumours about naval movement towards the country, we don't have enough troops to defend the city, much less the country, Relena refuses to leave - "
"Whoa! Slow down, Noin!" Duo's voice replied, and Quatre raised an eyebrow at Wufei, as if to convey 'I told you so'.
"Noin," Wufei said, ignoring Quatre's look, "what's your best guess for the ETA of enemy troops?"
"Captain Timothy Wilde, here, sir," a new voice said calmly. "Our best information - sketchy though it is - is six to eight hours before engagement. I have a full platoon of Leos on-hand, pilots are all Specials-trained with plenty of cockpit time. But what we've heard...
"One moment, Wilde," Wufei asked, quickly logging into one of the on-board computers and pulling up the latest OZ Forces Projection report. "Hn. You've got the 82nd, 23rd, and 17th ground units headed your way, complemented by the102nd airborne, Space Forces Unit 5 and Marine Units 20 and 92. That's a hell of a lot of firepower to take down one pacifist nation."
"Holy shit. I knew about the 82nd and Marine 92, but... There's no way we can stand against that. We need to start evacuating immediately, as much as we can," Wilde said. He and Noin had both gone pale as he read off the report. Noin managed to stammer, "Arrival time?"
Quatre replied, "The 82nd and 23rd are just beyond your borders. Marine 92 as well. The others will take a few more hours to get into place."
Duo's face was grim. "Our best bet will be to provoke at least part of the attack force into a pitched battle before the others are ready. Preferably while still outside of Sanc. Jesus..."
Quatre nodded his agreement. "I concur. Duo, you're closest..."
The braided pilot shook his head. "But Heero..."
Wufei spoke softly, "Duo, please listen to us. Everyone knows Heero wants you at his side. But Sanc has to stand long enough to evacuate and to get Relena to safety. We have no choice but to protect her. Yuy would be the first to understand that."
"What about Trowa?"
Quatre shook his head. "He's a whole continent away, and you know the limitations of Heavyarms' fuel consumption within the atmosphere. It has to be you."
Hesitating a moment, Duo finally nodded his head. "Fine, I just... I'm a few hours out, Noin, Wilde. You'll have to hold tight til I get there."
They both nodded. Wilde gave the pilot a small smile. "Until all the pieces are in place, I doubt that will be a problem, Mr..."
"Just call me Duo, everyone else does," the pilot mumbled, his attention elsewhere as he changed course. "This tanker will run outta gas before I can get there. I'll just ditch her over the Aegean and continue in on stealth mode."
"Thanks, Duo, I know this is not what you want to do," Quatre said. "I'll call Rashid and see what I can do about getting you some back up for when the battle moves into Sanc-proper. Just try and steer them away from New Port."
"That'll be tough against this many, even for a Gundam," Noin said. "Duo..."
"I'll let you know when I'm closer in. Maxwell out."
Quatre and Wufei exchanged glances, and the blond groaned. "He's pissed, very pissed."
"He'll be fine, Quatre," Wufei assured him gently. "He has to be."
Heero strode back into the Command Centre on Barge. "They are launching from MO-II now. Farley will be back on base to coordinate."
"Good," Une replied. Nodding. "We've gotten two transports off - we're sling-shotting them around the far side of the moon to throw off OZ tracking sensors..."
"It's not enough. We're all going to die here," Marcos said, not looking up from the threat board. The room fell silent around them as everyone turned to stare in shock.
"Mr. Marcos!" Une snapped, easily switching back into her 'Officer' voice. "The General is doing his personal best to save our lives! It is not your job to lose faith and trust! It is your job to be a Commander, yourself!"
He flinched, but didn't look away. "Ma'am, there is no way..."
"Actually, there is," Heero remarked. As he got two blank stares, he continued, "We have Space Tauruses, pilots, laser canons, and a stealth-equipped Gundam. I've fought and beaten prototype Mobile Dolls before. It isn't impossible."
Marcos' jaw dropped. "I can't ask my men to commit suicide..."
"Ask for volunteers," Heero said dispassionately. "We'll need about... forty or so, and you've got to program the base laser canons to fire at will with no discernible plan for the Dolls to analyse. Oh, and I'll need to give your pilots a crash course."
"Beating their own training and tactics," Heero replied, unable to hide a smirk.
Une shook her head. "Heero, I can't let you go. You're too strategically important..."
"We'll pull back when the last transport launches," Heero countered. "I'll bring Wing in and evacuate the Command team on the Sweepers shuttle."
"Do you really think you can do it?" Marcos asked. Heero gave him a confident nod, and the man returned it. "Then you'll have your volunteers."
Dawn Yuy looked up from her packing as a knocked sounded at her door. "Come in!"
Her eyes went wide as Rashid walked in. "Sir! I'm almost ready for the launch..."
He shook his head. "We're altering the plan, Miss Dawn," he said smoothly, trying to hide his nerves in what he was about to suggest. "News from the Sanc Kingdom is that they expect an attack imminently, and from such overwhelming numbers... It's big enough that one of the three Gundams that were going to be launched to space is being diverted to try and provoke an early attack. Master Quatre just radioed in to ask us to send some forces to back up that pilot."
"Who is it?" she asked.
She blinked. Heero's lover? "What would you like me to do?"
He sighed heavily. "Your performance on our simulators has been remarkable to say the least... I'd like you to take the lead of what forces we can divert to Sanc."
Dawn's eyes went wide. "You want..."
He nodded. "I'll send Khaled and Abdul with you, and a force of about ten suits. Will that suffice?"
She didn't hesitate. "That will do just fine. Thank you, Rashid; I won't let you down."
Zechs' excitement at being back in Tallgeese's cockpit was marred by the knowledge that Treize would only be driving a Taurus. It was ridiculous, and he knew it - Noin has never outgrown that suit class and was quite deadly with it. And Treize...
The bloody man was as giddy as Duo at being back in a cockpit.
Ducking his head in for a final check on the pilot, Walker grinned at Zechs' expression. "You remember he helped train us, right? Earth to Zechsy!"
The blond glared half-heartedly. "It isn't funny, Kevin. Wufei would kill me if..."
"Wrong," Kevin interrupted. "He'd murder me and chain you to a fluffy, four-poster and only let you free if you begged. Treize is a professional - we all are. So act like it."
Zechs felt a flash of anger, but let it go quickly, his face settling into a pout. Getting angry with Kevin was useless, and he knew it. "Be careful out there, Kevin. This one's going to be very rough."
"I know. Pretty cool, eh?" Kevin grinned. "I've only ever faced Dolls in a simulator before, and I got my ass kicked at least seven times."
"You're completely mad."
"Seven out of twenty-three runs, hotshot," Walker quipped with a hurt look. "You're not the only pilot who learns quickly."
"Hn. Just remember how sadistic your girlfriend can be when she's upset," Zechs replied, allowing himself a small grin.
"Bastard." Walker grinned and kicked off from Tallgeese's hatch, floating to his own waiting Taurus.
Zechs hit the switch to seal the cockpit shut and carefully put on and set the seals of his helmet. The comm. link beeped - he grinned widely, seeing Treize's excited face staring back at him. "Ready to go?"
Treize nodded. "Definitely. I'm worried about Barge."
Zechs nodded soberly. "We can buy them more time to evacuate, at least. Be careful out there!"
"I will be - you, too." Treize smiled and cut the link.
Taking a deep breath, Zechs toggled the comm. link again. "This is Tallgeese. Go for launch and waiting clearance."
"This is Deathscythe. I have the target in my sights." Duo was trying hard not to grin -was OZ really this smug? The 23rd and 82nd were indeed waiting just on Sanc's borders - waiting with a minimal guard force, soldiers bedded down for the night...
"Roger that, Scythe," Noin's voice came back to him. "Status?"
"Ready to go, here. The carriers are loaded with minimal visible guard. I should be able to get in nice and close without anyone being any the wiser."
"Good luck, Maxwell."
"Thanks." He cut the radio and lifted off the ground, unconsciously holding his breath as he ghosted past two sentry suits. There were six carriers sitting nose-to tail, armed sentries patrolling around them...
Without dropping the cloak as yet, Duo activated his scythe -
The closest sentry suit turned, scanning for an invisible threat, not finding it...
Duo hovered just for a moment before he gunned the engines. Green-tinted fire shredded through the night as he accelerated and slashed mercilessly through the waiting carriers, like ducks.
Sirens blared all over the camp, and Duo couldn't help a chuckle as the men closest watched, mystified and terrified, as their carriers blew up. "It's time to dance, boys."
He dropped the cloak.
"Holy shit! It's a Gundam!" He laughed as he heard it. They were just too predictable. Arming his machine guns, he opened fire.
Gundam Wing II
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