Chapter Eight:  The Gundam They Called Zero

 

            Khronus was not pleased.  Here he was the greatest single Zentreadi warrior in Breetai’s fleet, and what was he doing?  Chasing some insignificant micronians to a red dirt ball in some backwater star system.   What a waste of a great warrior!  Was he not the greatest champion of the male forces, second only to Miriya Parino in the entire Zentreadi race?

 

            Khronus stamped back and forth across his bridge.  He was a little taller than your average Zentreadi, but nowhere near the stature of the great Breetai.  He wore the standard green officer’s uniform with a large buckle across the front.  His hair was an emerald green, and he had a scar running down the left side of his face, a souvenir from his last encounter with the Invid Regent’s forces.  Of course that was the encounter where he had earned his stature.  He had single-handedly, with a damaged battlepod, managed to defeat a whole pod of Invid shock troopers and survive to fight again.  The Masters had praised him greatly!  His reward was a special male battle armor made of one of Zor’s last gifts to the Robotech Masters, Gundanium.  It was also equipped with a buster rifle that was the earliest prototype of the main gun of Zor’s ship.  With that suit he was invincible.  Not even Miriya could destroy him in his suit!  After all, how can you kill him when you can’t pierce the armor?

 

            He finally settled into one of his command chairs.  Khyron’s trap had better work.  I’m never taking such a demeaning assignment ever again!  “Status of Zor’s ship?”  He shouted to one of his bridge crew.

 

            The soldier turned to him.  “The ship is heading toward the planet that the micronians call Mars.  We’ve herded them well.”

 

            “Very good.  Keep me informed if anything develops.  I’ll be in my quarters.”  He stood and walked to out.  I was breed for war, not herding!

 

 

 

            On the deck of the Prometheus, a large refitted cargo jet was taking off.  It looked vaguely like one of the old C-130 cargo planes with the forward wing towards the top of the fuselage.  There was a collar below each wing, one on top of the fuselage, and two spaced ninety degrees apart below the fuselage to allow for the landing gear to function.   Four extra rocket engines had been placed on the plane, two above the wings and two to either side of the top docking collar (the nozzles well aft of any Gundam docked there).  The hold was large enough to allow two destroids to fit inside.  Half of it was filled with supplies and extra ammunition, while the rest was open in case they needed to bring one of the Gundams in for repair.

 

            Sally Po was in the pilot’s seat.  She was wearing one of the brown air-sealed civil defense operations suits.  Several technicians were with her in the cockpit and hold area for maintenance and resupply.

 

            Sally toggled over to the tactical net.  “The Nest is away.  Treize, are your units away?”

 

            The main bay door of the Gundam staging area opens up.  Seven Gundams fly out.  Wing Zero and Zero-One transform into bird mode.  Treize brings his com gear online.  “Gundam units, report in.”

 

            Duo’s face appears on his screen with Deathscythe on the frame’s caption.  “Deathscythe ready and waiting.”

 

            Trowa’s face appeared next.  “Heavyarms fully loaded and operating at optimal levels.”

 

            Quatre popped up.  “Sandrock at one-hundred percent.”

 

            Wufei clicked on.  “Nataku is ready.”

 

            Zechs came on next.  “Tallgeese here, five-by-five.”

 

            The Wing Zero-One frame came up, but there was no picture.  “Heero here.  Gundam operating within acceptable parameters.”

 

            Treize narrowed his eyes.  “Is something wrong with your communications gear, Heero?”

 

            “The relay between my cockpit camera and the com array is damaged, nothing that would require immediate attention.”  In the cockpit of his Gunda, Heero finished removing an undamaged relay and put it into a storage compartment for safekeeping.  “We can proceed with the mission without it.”

 

            “Is there anything else wrong?  I want you to do a full diagnostic before we get out of communications range of the SDF-1.”  How could the technicians have missed that on the pre-flight checklist?

 

            “Diagnostic already complete.  Everything else is well within operating parameters.

 

            Something in the back of Treize’s head was buzzing, telling him that something was suspicious about this whole situation.  He shook his head to dismiss it.  After all, this was Heero, he would never do anything that would damage their mission.  “Okay.  Everyone proceed to the rendezvous point with the carrier.  We’ll proceed with the mission from there.”

 

            The Gundams met with the plane several kilometers off the aft bow of the SDF-1.  Tallgeese docked on the upper collar, Sandrock and Deathscythe took the ones below the wings, and Shenlong and Heavyarms took the ones below the fuselage.  The two reconfigurable Gundams took up escort positions

 

            The extra rocket engines fired off and the cargo plane was on its way, the two Gundam Wings following close behind.  They made their way toward the place where they would stage their ambush, the asteroid belt of the Sol system.  They slowed their approach and searched for a suitably large asteroid to park the carrier behind.  After a bit of searching, they found what they were looking for.  The cargo plane shot out anchors from its nosecone to attach itself to the rock.  They reeled the anchors in and deployed support beams to keep a certain distance between the rock and the plane.

 

            After the ship had come to a complete stop, relative to the asteroid, she toggled on the tact net.  “Nest is secure.  Ready for deployment.”

 

            From his cockpit, Treize nodded his head.  “All right everyone.  It will be fifteen hours until the ships we’re looking for show up.  Duos, Wufei, detach and go to the far edge of the asteroid field.  Duo, your ECM arrays should be able to keep both of your Gundams hidden from their scopes.  Wait there until the ships pass and attack from behind when I give the signal.  Signal us when they enter the field.”

 

            “Yes, Sir” Wufei and Duo both responded.

 

            “Heero, you and I will dock on the vacant collars and refuel.  You might also see if there is a spare relay in the supplies.”

 

            “Not necessary, sir.  I can perform my duties without visual communication.”

 

            Treize shook his head.  What’s going on over there?  He get his first zit?  I’ll let it slide for now.  “Everyone else sit tight and wait for Duo and Wufei’s signal.  Grab a meal and stay alert.”

 

            A short while later, Treize, Zechs, Quatre, and Trowa were in the bay eating their evening meal packs.  Quatre looked around.  “Where’s Heero?”

 

            “Right here.”  Heero said evenly.  He walked over and grabbed a meal pack.  “I’ll be eating in my Gundam.  I have a few adjustments to make.”

 

            Treize turned to him.  “Did you find a com relay?”

 

            Heero shook his head.  “Negative.  I just need to realign my targeting system.  It had a one degree variance in the diagnostics.”

 

            Zechs snorted.  “Always a perfectionist.”

 

            Heero glared at him.  “Always.”  He turned and walked back to his Gundam.

 

            Suspicion tickled the back of Treize’s mind again.  He shook it out again.  If he’s hiding something, it can’t be too important.

 

            Heero walked back to his docking collar on the starboard wing of the carrier.  He opened the hatch to reveal one Relena Peacecraft.  “Did you get the food?  I’m starving.”

 

            Heero tossed her the meal pack.  “Here.”

 

            “Thank you, Heero.”  She gave him a radiant smile.

 

            “Your welcome.”  Heero’s facial expression and voice still neutral.

 

            Relena noticed something.  “What are you going to eat?”

 

            Heero reached behind to the small of his back and produced another meal packet.  “I took an extra.”

 

            Relena giggled and opened up her meal.  There were precious few times that she could act like a normal teenager.  She had always been trapped in her life as a diplomat from the time she been able to speak in complete sentences.  She was enjoying her little ‘date’ with Heero.

 

            Heero just watched her as she daintily ate her meal ration.  He thought back to why he had brought her with him in the first place.  First of all, this whole mission would be taking them away from the SDF-1 for a total of about a week, with the SDF-1 going at full thrust and them having to stay here and fight for a day.  This was the only way he could insure her safety.  Granted sneaking her into the Gundam was a trial, but he could pull it off.  Second of all, he always found everything easier to handle with her around.  Something inside of him liked being around her.  Could he have some feeling for her?  He had been watching over her for almost a year now.  Nah…

 

            Heero shook his head and dug into the meal pack, trying desperately to put thoughts of Relena out of his head.

 

            Around fourteen and half hours later, a series of apparently random beeps came over the radio.  Sally toggled on the short wave com.  “Duo reports the ships entering the asteroid field.”

 

            “All Gundams launch and take your assigned positions.”  Treize replied.

 

            The Gundams detached from the carrier.  The Gundam Wings took a position directly in the path of the oncoming cruisers.  Tallgeese and Sandrock took up flanking positions.  Heavyarms stayed close to the carrier for easy reload and protection of their supplies.

 

            Trieze brought Wing Zero’s double buster rifle ready.  It was almost an exact replica of the one that he had first used on the Tallgeese.  “Heero, I’ll probably only get one shot with this rifle.  We’ll both fire our busters and try to damage the ships as much as possible before the other Gundams engage.”

 

            “Understood.  Mission Accepted.”

 

           

 

            Khronus’ ship was in the middle of his battle group.  One of his crewman turned to him.  “Sir!  There are two mecha in our flight path!”

 

            “Whose are they?”

 

            “Not ours, but they don’t match the micronian’s usual front line flying mecha.”

 

            “It’s only two mecha.  Have the lead ship open fire.”

 

            “Yes, Sir.”

 

           

 

            Before Khronus’ order could be relayed, Treize gave his first.  “Operation, Commence.”

 

            Wing Zero brought the massive buster rifle to bear, centered his target on the lead ship, and then released a full power blast at the lead ship just as it was powering up its weapons.  The blast annihilated the first ship and a few ships behind it, and severely damaged several of the surrounding ones.  Wing Zero-One fired several bursts and finished off the damaged crusiers.

 

 

 

            Khronus had just barely pulled his ship up and out of the path of Wing Zero’s blast.  “What the blazes?”

 

            “Sir, they just destroyed half of our group!”

 

            “I can see that, you imbecile!  Launch pods immediately!”  He turned and left the bridge to go suit up.

 

           

 

            Treize checked the status on the buster rifle, still operating properly.  “Looks like the engineers did something right for once.”

 

            Heero’s voice came over the tactical net. “Sir, they’re deploying pods.”

 

            “Then it’s time to go onto the next phase.  Tallgeese, Sandrock, attack!  Heero, let’s go.”

 

            Sandrock charged in from the side, firing his machine gun.  He destroyed battlepods until his first clip ran out.  He holstered the gun and pulled his energy shorters and started slicing through the ranks like butter.  “I’ve got their attention on this side.”

 

            Tallgeese fired several canisters into the battlepods, destroying several with each shot.  “I’ve got this side.  No problems so far.”  Just as he toggled off the tac net, he fired another blast into a group of pods.  One of the mecha survived.  This one looked like one of the flight armor types that they had fought before.  The only difference was that this one was silver.  The silver mecha powered up its main weapon and fired.  Tallgeese shot straight up and avoided the blast.  “Guess I spoke too soon.” 

 

            The Tallgeese fired several more shots at the new mecha.  He missed the mecha, but destroyed several more pods in the process, the main reason for the fire.

 

            Khronus was getting angry.  “So, the micronian thinks he’s clever.  Let’s see how he likes my sword!”  The male battle suit pulled a scimitar from a compartment on his back.  The blade was surrounded by electric glow.

 

            Zechs saw the mecha pull out the sword.  He detached his canister rifle and pulled the beam saber from its casing.  “Round Two.”

 

            The two mecha collided with a shower of sparks.  They battled back and forth, charging, pulling away, and charging again.  They slashed and parried until finally Zechs landed a shot.  He was shocked when he only cut a large scar in the side of the opposing mecha.  It’s made of Gundanium!

 

            Khronus was really angry now.  He swung his sword in a wide arc.  The Tallgeese flew back enough to be out of the way and charged in after the sword passed.  Khronus fired his cannon at the Tallgeese at point blank.

 

            The Tallgeese was blown backward several kilometers.  After the light from the blast had faded, the Tallgeese was still in one piece, but it could not move.  Electricity was arcing all over the outer armor.  “May day!  May day!  The Tallgeese is immobilized!  I repeat!  May day!…”

 

            Just after Treize gave the command to attack, the Wings flared their engines and charged into group of battlepods.  Treize brought the combat system online.  He found himself immersed in sea of tactical information.  All of the sudden, he knew exactly what everyone was going to do.

 

            Zero charged forward, firing the Vulcan cannons on its shoulders.  It made its way to the densest center of battlepods and brought forth the buster rifle again.  The rifle split down the center, making two mirrored rifles.  Zero pointed a rifle to either side and opened fire.  It sustained fire and began spinning around, destroying all the pods in the vicinity.

 

            Treize was getting a high from the system.  I can see all the possibilities.  I can see every plan they will use and counter each one!  How can this system be damned?

 

            “May day!  May day! The Tallgeese is immobilized!  I repeat!  May day!…”  The tac net opened up.

 

            “Heero!  Take care of it.  I’ve got the front taken care of.”  Treize went on with his euphoric rush.

 

            Just then the Wing Zero cockpit went white.  Treize was transported into a dream realm.  He saw the earth surrounded by millions of alien battleships.  What?  How can they have so many ships?  His eyes went wide as he saw them all open fire on the earth.  NOOOO!!!  He watched as billions of people died right in front of his eyes.  He looked on as city after city was destroyed.  People vaporized from the blasts.  He was getting sick to his stomach.  There’s no hope.  The human race is done for.

 

            The scene changed to outer space again.  The SDF-1 flew forward with several more alien ships in escort.  Zentreadi ships alongside the SDF-!?  Zentreadi?  Where did that come from?  It’s the name of the aliens.  Why are they fighting with us?  Who are we fighting?  Who are the enemy?

 

            Faces began to superimpose themselves over the scene.  The first two were Onegal and Septum.   They were going to be killed in Operation Daybreak anyway.  The next faces startled him.  The first was Duke Dermail, the supreme commander of the Romefeller foundation, followed by the other leaders of the foundation.  They’re all my enemies?  My commanders are my enemies?  The aliens are my friends?  What does all this mean? 

 

            “AAAAAHHHHH!!!”  Treize shouted as he doubled over.  He pulled off his helmet and puked into cockpit sanitation system.  He coughed up the rest of the contents of his stomach.

 

            The Gundam started to rock from multiple impacts.  Treize finally found his voice again.  “What does it all mean?  WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!?!?!”  He grabbed the controls again.

 

            Wing Zero joined the two smaller rifles again and unleashed another full power blast, annihilating all the pods and several of the surrounding ships.

 

            Treize collapsed on his control panel, breathing heavily.

 

 

 

            Zechs was seeing his life flash before his eyes.  His controls were locked and he was struggling to bring life support back online.  He sealed his suit and prepared to eject, hoping he could survive the periphery of the blast.

 

            Khronus brought his sword to bear again.  “Prepare to meet your creator micronian!”  He swung down with a double-handed overhead chop, only to be stopped by another beam saber.  “What?”

 

            Heero swung his beam saber to the side, causing the alien scimitar to swing to his right.  He brought up his shield with the buster rifle tucked underneath.  He opened fire, full blast.

 

            Khronus was blown back toward his ship.  His status boards were going nuts.  None of his weapon systems would come online.  The only thing that would work were his jets.  He chose the better part of valor and rocketed back to his ship.

 

            The landing bay opened up for him as he approached his ship.  His mecha crashed into the back of the bay.  “Recall the units!  Prepare for a fold!”

 

            “Sir, from the damage, only our ship can fold.”

 

            “Then we fold to Mars!  We know where they are going!  Tell the rest to retreat!”

 

            “Yes, sir.”

 

 

 

            Heero watched as the ship vanished from sight.  “Why didn’t you follow that mecha?”  Zechs asked over the com.

 

            “I couldn’t risk there being more where that one came from.”

 

            “Couldn’t leave me alone?”

 

            “Couldn’t risk taking damage.”  With that Heero peeled off back to Treize’s position.

 

           

 

            Treize couldn’t move.  His whole body had seized from shock.  He watched as more pods came to replace the first.  He could only stare as the approached.  He was surprised when they all started to explode one at a time.  Tracers flew past the view port of Wing Zero.

 

            Gundam Heavyarms continued raining bullets and missiles into the pods.  “Commander Treize, the remaining ships are retreating.  You need to give the signal for Duo and Wufei to finish them off.”

 

            Treize coughed again.  With a shaking hand, switched to the long range channel.  “Duo, Wufei,” His voice was weak.  “Close the circle.”

 

            “Right away, boss!”  Came back Duo’s reply.

 

            “Of course.”  Wufei put in his part.

 

            The remaining Zentreadi were routed and destroyed.  Sally detached from her rock and flew toward Treize.  “Do you need the repair bay?”

 

            Treize forced himself to sit back up.  “The Gundam is undamaged.  I just need help attaching to a collar.  The system…”

 

            “What about it?”

 

            “It’s alive.”

 

            Trowa helped Treize attach to on the top collar.

 

The other Gundams arrived.  Quatre had the Tallgeese in tow.  “Open up the hold for the Tallgeese.   It’s still repairable.”

 

            “Roger.”  Sally signaled the technicians to secure for decompression. 

 

            After the Tallgeese was secured, the other Gundams began to attach to the collars.  Heero held back.  “Extend the refueling rod.  I’m not attaching.”

 

            “Understood.”  Sally extended the rod that would refuel the Gundam with the mysterious energy that powered Robotech.

 

            After Heero was refueled and the other Gundams were locked down, they all head headed back toward the SDF-1.  The whole way Heero just attached long enough to refuel and take some rations.  The maintenance crews noticed a shortage in the supplies, but could never figure out the source.

 

 

 

            A week later they closed on the SDF-1.  Two veritech squadrons met them.  Treize was in the cockpit of the transport.  “What’s going on?

 

            Sally looked at them with a confused look.  “I don’t know but they’re hailing us.”

 

            “Put it on the hands-free.”

 

            “Gundam unit.  Surrender and submit yourself to arrest.”

 

            Treize narrowed his eyes.  “What is the charge?”

 

            “The murder of Relena Peacecraft.”