Duke Dermail couldn't help gloating a bit.
It was too perfect, having all these old fools at his mercy, Weyridge finally forced to submit to his leadership... He could only smile as a soldier ran in and gave him a nod. He turned back to his captive audience. "Gentlemen, wonderful news. My new world order should be starting soon. As we speak, my troops will be deploying to sites all around the world, eradicating the forces of that rebel, Treize Kushrenada..."
"We should have listened to him," Picavet grumbled, glaring up at his captor hatefully.
"But you did not, Marcel," Dermail continued gleefully. "And now there is nothing left for you to do but ratify the document before you, making me the president of this assembly. You realise, of course, that your cooperation is but a gesture of goodwill on my part. There is no other option, my esteemed comrades. Your permission will very soon be merely a formality."
"I will sign nothing," Weyridge spat angrily. "You and your sickening delusions about a New World Order are not needed, either here or in space!"
"Bravely spoken for a man with a gun to his head," Dermail remarked dryly. "Perhaps you need to see just how pointless your resistance is, my dear Marquis..."
He turned to the slim computer set up behind him and quickly typed in a few directions. The main viewscreen went black for a moment before it came alive-
Weyridge felt his heart sink. So many soldiers and suits...
"This is but a fraction of the force I have prepared to descend on the Sanc Kingdom right now. They are awaiting my orders."
The room dissolved into shouting.
"He can't possibly..."
"They are defenceless..."
But everyone was cut off as explosions and fire suddenly made the screen in front of them go white. Dermail spun around, wide-eyed, just in time to watch as several carriers blew up and, in the midst of the chaos, a tall, looming shadow began to take shape, a scythe clutched in its robotic hands. All he could do was watch in shock as the Gundam attacked.
Noin whooped and hugged the soldier beside her as they watched Duo's battle feed. "Damn, I love that kid!"
"Don't let Heero hear you say that, Contessa," Dorothy remarked dryly, though her face was flushed with excitement, as well. The guard force was demolished in seconds, and Deathscythe turned its attention to the doll carriers that surrounded it and quite nearly demolished half of them before anyone could get a system online.
Everyone watching winced as the dolls began their counterattack and the Gundam was forced into a semi-retreat. It looked like it could easily be overwhelmed...
Treize Kushrenada couldn't help the grin that he was hiding behind the visor of his space helmet. "This is Kushrenada. All teams report."
"This is Zechs. Ready to commence operation."
"This is Kevin. Ditto what he said."
Treize smiled. That was Kevin for you. "One last time - we don't have the luxury of time or back-up for heroics. Accomplish your objectives and return to base. Is that understood?"
Adrenaline pumped in his veins as he flipped on the controls to his weapons. "Very well. All teams - commence attack!"
Heero almost felt bad for some of the pilots he'd trained. Almost - they had a job to do, and they were soldiers. He knew they had loved ones...
A pair of large, gleaming blue eyes came to mind, and he frowned sharply. Duo, are you on your way? Can any of you even get here in time? I won't die, I promised you...
His comm. link beeped, and he slapped it, shaking his head to get his thoughts back in the present. "Hai?"
"Heero, they are inbound to you right now. I still don't like this."
He managed a small smile as the first blips showed up on his threat screen. "I know, neither do I. I promised him, Une." He gunned the engines and sped far ahead of the OZ suits backing him up, his suit a cloaked, speeding menace.
He brought up the beam cannon and opened fire.
Duo grunted as he was thrown in his harness again. He needed to get into the air, and he knew it, but they were everywhere... He needed...
Grimacing as he sliced through yet more mobile dolls, he glared at their beam cannons. The damned things were actually causing him some trouble. Not for the first time, he wished he'd asked Howard to fit him with some extra firepower...
"Damn it, I don't have time for this!" He twirled the scythe handily as he managed to break free of his opponents for a short moment and, slicing off the attackers' arms, he deactivated the scythe and dropped it-
Duo bit his lips, knowing he'd have precious few seconds and it would be a huge risk, but...
Just as several attacking dolls opened fire, Deathscythe's huge hands lifted the disabled dolls' beam cannons, one in either hand. "Let's see how you like it when the tables are turned!"
Kevin winced as he was thrown hard in the suit's harness. "Damn, they're fast!" And they were evading his return fire. Easily. As though he was some kind of beginner.
He'd already lost two of his back-up, and they hadn't even reached the objective yet!
Another heavy hit broke him from his shock - the suit next to his had exploded, another good man gone just that quickly... His usual good humour completely gone, he slapped the comm. link. "We're not going to make it like this! Jackson, open fire on the incoming. When they start to evade, the rest of you, fire into their vector lines! Push them into the death zone!"
He gunned his engines. And now, one of them had to be the bait to pull the dolls in close enough...
With a scream, he dove for the enemy suits.
A comm. screen to Noin's right beeped. "Noin! They've broken over the border, but the fight is still centred on that Gundam. Christ, I hope that kid's okay..."
Noin turned to give the pilot onscreen, Captain Wilde, a small smile. "He's very tough - they all are. Are your men ready?"
She still felt bad about allowing Wilde to take command of the forward attack force, but she'd reluctantly agreed that her place was closer in, protecting Relena and waiting for news of the sea-based attack.
Wilde grinned. "We're ready and waiting, Noin. In fact since they're now within our borders, we're within our rights to attack them and take some of the heat off that kid."
"Good, do it," she ordered quickly. "And we'll..."
"Lieutenant Noin! Incoming from the water! We've spotted them!"
"Wilde, I've got to go," she said quickly, glancing over her shoulder. "They're..."
"I heard. Hey, Luca?" he said quickly.
She spared him a glance. "Yes?"
"I will. You, too."
Une and Marcos winced as they watched the battle playing out, inching closer to the now-undermanned Barge. Marcos could not believe it - the defenders were actually managing to slow down Dermail's forces, though so many had died...
The Gundam seemed to be everywhere and nowhere at once. Une's eyes glinted. The next time she saw Howard and her Kevin, she was going to kiss them both.
"Sir! The main cannon is armed and standing by."
Marcos nodded. "Aim for the command vessels and stand-by transporters."
"Tracking system engaged. Lasers at full power. Optics aligned."
Heero banked hard right as a beam of death exploded out from Barge, somehow managing to block out the screams on the comm. as pilots unable to evade were engulfed. Wing bucked and trembled as explosive shock waves bashed it, g-forces pressing him back in his seat with crushing strength.
It was getting harder to breathe as he tumbled, and he pulled back at the controls, trying to control his fall.
He stopped just in time to watch as the remaining carriers deployed their suits, and the soulless monstrosities blinked to life...
"Yuy! Get the fuck back here! You can't possibly take on that many and survive!"
Duo wiped blood from his forehead with his shirtsleeve, cursing as he tossed aside a now-useless beam cannon and re-engaged Scythe's cloak, fading back into invisibility. If there was one thing he'd learned early on, it was that his enemies would be even more frightened if he just... showed up out of nowhere. Especially when they knew he was there, but just couldn't detect him.
He'd followed the OZ troops as they poured over Sanc's border, forcing them to divert, forcing them to waste precious time turning back to fight an enemy they could neither see nor seem to overpower. Still, he'd taken some hard hits, and his head was pounding in tandem with his heartbeat, chest aching with each breath. "Dammit, Noin, where's my..."
Rifle fire tore through the early morning gloom just ahead of him, and Duo pulled up instinctively, watching in fascination as the suits he'd been chasing were mown down.
"Wilde here, sir. You didn't think we'd abandon you, did you?"
Duo grinned for the first time since the battle began. "About damn time, Wilde. And what did I say about the word, 'sir'?"
"I know, I..."
Noin's voice cut off their banter, though. "They did it! Guys, I can't believe it! The global communications grid just went down!"
Dermail was staring at an empty screen.
Correction - there was static buzzing across his state-of-the-art viewscreen, the empty sound of blank air pouring from speakers.
Up in the assembly, three men shared quick looks. They just had to wait a little bit longer, have some faith that Treize and his companions knew what they were doing...
"Get me the Libra! And someone find that dim-witted troll, Gates! I want answers!" Dermail bellowed to his soldiers, who all scrambled to do their Master's bidding.
Weyridge nodded subtly to Picavet and McKellar. Something had just gone terribly wrong for Duke Dermail, and it might just have been enough to save their lives.
His suit was at 40% power, and he had already lost life support.
Kevin Walker was breathing hard, his breath fogging up the mask of his flight suit. They'd destroyed the comm. beacon, but at such a cost... There was little he could do as mobile dolls swarmed down around him; he'd long since lost his buster rifle, and his machine guns were empty, not to mention useless against the speedy dolls. He closed his eyes-
"Walker! Hit the engines with everything you've got left to vector 61-Kilo-Heavy!"
He didn't stop to think, just obeyed, forcing himself to turn and look-
Another suit seemed to appear out of nowhere, its gold and green surface gleaming as explosive rounds exploded uselessly at Kevin's last position. He felt a glimmer of hope. "Wufei!"
With an inarticulate scream of rage, Nataku came to life, ripping into the enemy suits like only so-many paper dolls. Kevin could only watch in horrified fascination as the Gundam made a mockery of the dolls' speed and precision. "Wufei..."
The last of the explosions dying out around them, Nataku turned in his direction. "Glad I got here in time. Can you make it back to base, Walker?"
Kevin nodded, only belatedly remembering that his viewscreens and cameras were as dead as most of the rest of his suit. "I think so. Yes."
"Good. Quatre's headed to Treize's position right now - Zechs radioed back in that you two were in trouble, and we diverted to your last known positions." Wufei's dry chuckle crackled over the radio. "I think we need to upgrade your suit a little."
His heart still beating overtime, Walker finally managed to take a deep breath. "Yeah, sure. Can I borrow one like yours?"
"Heero! Damn it all, get back here, that's an order!"
Heero glared at his comm. link. When the communications went down, there had been a momentary lull in enemy movements, and he knew Barge had taken advantage of it to launch another two shuttles, but the on-site command modules recovered admirably quickly.
His pilots were dead, and nothing was standing between Barge and the approaching slaughter but a lone Gundam and laser canons...
He grimaced. It wasn't like Une to sound so... scared. So worried. So desperate. Cursing under his breath, he pulled Wing up and engaged the cloaking mechanism, plotting a quick course around the invading mass of dolls. "Get in the damn shuttle, Une. I'm in-bound."
Marcos grinned slightly as he watched Une sink down into a chair in front of the communications console. "Damn kid doesn't know when to give up, does he?"
Une didn't look up. "You'll meet the others, Marcos. None of them do. It's part of what makes them so special."
"Lady Une..." Marcos sighed heavily as his eyes strayed to a now-useless communications console. There was no one left for them to talk to. "Go, Lady. Let me remain here."
He didn't look her in the eye. "We're only moments from a fatal shot, Lady. Get out of here, and tell His Excellency..." He gulped. "Tell him that we still believe. And I thank him for truly sending me his best."
"I can't leave you here, Frank," she insisted.
An explosion rocked the Barge, and both of them flinched as red lights began flashing, an alarm ringing as several monitors flashed danger signs. "Go, Lady. Get the hell off this thing, and let it die with honour."
She hesitated only a moment, then turned and ran, her eyes blinded with smoke and tears.
"Treize, give me a sign! Treize, come in! Do you read me?" Treize could finally understand the words that were ringing in his ears, and he groaned.
The voice was speaking again. "Zechs, sensors are telling me he's alive, but he's not responding..."
Zechs. Treize's eyes opened wide. "Qu-Quatre..."
The yell seemed incredibly loud, and he groaned again. "Please don't yell. I'm... here. I'm alive."
"Thanks to Allah for that." A board to his right sparked, and he flinched, but Quatre's voice was still speaking to him. "I'm going to tow you in to my shuttle for now. I apologise that I can't get to you and bring you in here where there's life support, but..."
"Understood, Mr. Winner. And thank you," Treize managed, his chest tight. He coughed a little, but fought to stay awake. "The others?"
"Zechs is pretty much okay, or so he says; he's on his way back to base right now, and Wufei is fetching Kevin for us."
There was an ominous pause. "Quatre, answer me!"
"Relax, Treize. Zechs is relaying information to me," Quatre responded, though his tone wasn't entirely reassuring. Treize groaned again, wishing he could remove his helmet and do something for the pounding in his head.
Quatre's voice finally came back, and it was shaking and hollow. "Treize... Barge is surrounded, though it seems they managed to get most of the crew off. No news on your man, or on Heero and Une."
"Damn! We need to..."
He felt a jolt as Sandrock grabbed hold of his suit firmly and began towing it back to a hidden shuttle. "We need to get you back to safety, Treize. We'll never get there in time."
"What about your friend, Winner?! What about Heero? And Une? All those men! They looked up to me..." Treize practically screamed.
Quatre's voice hitched as he replied, "They have to be fine, Treize. I have to believe that."
"That isn't good enough for me."
"Dammit, Kushrenada!" Quatre finally exploded. "You think I like this?! I can't help them right now, but hopefully, I'll be able to do more from the ship. To talk to them, at least!"
Treize grimaced. "Promise me."
Quatre's voice returned as little more than a growl. "They are important to me, too, General. Never forget that. I won't forgive myself if anything happens to either of them. We'll get through to them somehow."
The Colonial Assembly was once again underway.
Khalid Winner pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. With rumours from Earth running rampant - everything from Treize Kushrenada rising from the dead, to the dissolution of the Romafeller Foundation council - it never took long for the shouting to begin. He was tired - simply tired of the conflict, of the hatred, the mistrust.
Worried for his son, of whom he'd heard nothing since the damn fool boy had disappeared...
As the main viewscreen broke into static, though, the shouting ended and everyone looked up in surprise. There was no one missing, no reason to vid-connect to anyone else...
Winner felt his anger rising as the screen cleared and a young man in an OZ uniform sat before them. He rose from his spot. "Just what do you think you're doing breaking into..."
"Please, don't," the man replied calmly, although everyone could now see red flashing lights in the background, and vaguely hear the sounds of a pitched battle going on around whoever was at the far end of the connection. "I have some important information that you need to listen to, and I don't have much time. The Barge will soon be overrun by enemy forces."
"Ha!" another delegate laughed out loud. "And since when is that our problem? Where is the vaunted peace you promised us when you took over the security of the Space Colonies?"
The man's eyes flashed for a moment, but he visibly restrained himself from speaking. "Let me start over. I am Captain Frank Marcos of the OZ Specials. I do not serve at the whim of the Romafeller Foundation - I was appointed as leader of my men by General Kushrenada, himself. And I am calling you now as a gesture of goodwill and warning from my commanding officer. You must..."
"Treize Kushrenada is dead!" a man yelled, but it was too late. Pandemonium set in. Winner clenched his fists in anger - why did it always have to come down to this?
"SILENCE! ALL OF YOU!" Marcos was visibly upset now, eyes darting around quickly. "I don't have time for your foolish arguments and parliamentary bullshit! My men are dying here, and I'm trying to protect you and yours! Romafeller will come for you, too!"
"This is clearly a trap - another OZ ploy to undermine and discredit us..."
"You may not want to listen to him, but you will listen to me."
Winner went cold at the sound of another young man's voice. Please, Allah - tell me I'm imagining things... He collapsed back into his seat, ashen-faced, as another image came onscreen.
A pilot sat at the controls of what was clearly a mobile suit, his visor still lowered over his face. "I am a Gundam pilot, designation 04, pilot of the Gundam Sandrock. You fools have waited too long. I'd be surprised if your home colonies are not under attack as we speak. My allies and I are headed to meet and help you, but I fear we will be too late. You must contact your home governments immediately and prepare to defend yourselves. Our forces have bought you some time, but it will not help you if you can't see the plain truth before your faces!"
"You!" A representative from the colony cluster at Lagrange-point 3 stood. "You are one of the arrogant, war-mongering devils who have put us in this position! If not for you, blood-thirsty vermin, OZ would have let us live in peace..."
"You call that peace?!" the unknown pilot yelled in anger. "A peace of cowards! A peace of blindness and disdain! I was born and raised a pacifist, but I learned what none of you can see. A peace without equality and freedom is just tyranny through rose-tinted glass!"
Winner stood, clenching shaking hands together. "You do not understand... you are too young..."
"No, sir, I am not." They all waited with baited breath as the pilot reached up and worked the seals of his helmet. A shocked silence fell over the room as the pilot removed his helmet to reveal a steely set of aquamarine blue eyes in a young face, surrounded by touseled blond hair. "I'm sorry, father. I respect your ideals and your purity of purpose, but I can't believe that pacifism means the complete absence of war. It *should* mean a deep enough respect for life to only resort to acts of war when no other course of action is feasible. I have chosen my path."
"Quatre Winner..." Whispers broke out through the room, but all eyes were on Khalid Winner as a tear fell from his eyes. "My son..."
Marcos broke back in. "04 is correct. Gentlemen, the Romafeller Foundation is making nothing less than a total grab for power. They mean to enslave you all, as well as the rest of the Earth Sphere. My master, Treize Kushrenada, is fighting to stop them, but he can not help you unless you are willing to help yourselves. They are coming for you..."
Everyone jumped as there was a loud explosion and a flash of red on the screen before it faded back to static, and finally to the sound of Quatre Winner's voice. "Marcos! Dammit, Marcos, answer me! Barge security force, do you read me?! Dammit, Heero! Heero, can you hear me?!"
And the shouting began again.
Gundam Wing II
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