Chapter Eleven:  A Thing of Beauty

 

            The monitors around the ship came to life in an uproarious fanfare.  Bright lights and loud music boomed out and filled the hold with a great announcement:  The Miss Macross Pageant had returned to Macross City.  The grand tradition was being brought back with all the publicity that Robotechnology could provide.  Women were already lining up trying to get into the contest.  Of course previous invitations to the contest would be honored.

 

            Duo leaned against the tree across the street from the line that had formed outside of the contest’s office.  A smile was plastered on his face as he lowered his shades over his eyes.  “Now this is the life, beautiful day, and beautiful women.  I could die happy right now.”

 

            “You might just get your wish if any of those girls realize you’re spying on them.”

 

            Duo didn’t even turn to see who it was.  He just put his hands behind his head and smiled wider.  “Don’t worry, Quatre.  I’ve already got all contingency plans made.  You don’t become an expert in covert operations without having an exit already prepared in case things go bad.”  He finally turned to look at the other Gundam pilot.  “So what are you doing here if not for the scenery?”

 

            “I’m here to keep you out of trouble.”  The blonde stepped up next to Duo and watched the line of girls as well.  “I’m also looking to see if anybody I know is here.  The waitress from the White Dragon is already entered.  I saw her earlier today.”

 

            Duo raised his eyebrows.  “So hitting on the waitresses, huh?”

 

            Quatre shook his head.  “Nothing like that.  She’s just a good friend.  Besides, she’s already got a someone chasing after her.”

 

            “Oh really?”

 

            “Yes.  Rick Hunter, the new hotshot that got his own squadron after rescuing Lisa Hayes from the Mars Sara base.”

 

            Duo shook his head.  “Why anyone would go back after that old bag is beyond me.”

 

            “She’s not that bad.  She was the one who came up with the Daedalus attack.”

 

            “Lucky shot.”  Duo scoffed.  “Everyone knows Une should be the executive officer on this ship, not that admiral’s daughter.”

 

            “She may surprise you Duo.  She is a very good officer and can think on her feet well.  Besides, Une is too busy with keeping us out of trouble.”  Quatre leaned against the side of the tree.

 

            Duo rolled his eyes behind his shades.  “Whatever.”  He spied someone he recognized in the line.  “Hold on Quatre, I’ve got to go lay on the Duo charm.”  He straightened his collar and walked over to a purple haired girl in line.  “Hey, Hilde!  Funny seeing you here, I figured you’d be in basic by now.”

 

            Hilde smiled at him.  “I don’t go until after the contest.  I told them that I was thinking about participating in the contest and they put my date off.  ‘Good for moral’, they said.”  She eyed him speculatively.  “So how’s the coward?”

 

            “Coward!”  Duo looked dismayed at the girl.  “I’m telling you, I’m really in the military!”  He looked over his shoulder and shouted at Quatre.  “Hey!  Come over here and tell this girl I’m in the military!”

 

            Quatre walked up to them and bowed the girl.  “Hello, I’m Quatre Rebarba Winner.  Pleased to meet you.”

 

            Hilde hesitantly returned the bow.  “Hilde Schbeiker, likewise.”

 

            Duo crossed his arms and tapped his foot.  “Come on, Quatre!  Tell this girl I’m in the military!”

 

            Quatre smiled at the girl.  “He’s in the military.”

 

            Hilde raised an eyebrow.  “Okay, which branch?”

 

            “Covert defense.  We’re pilots for the perimeter protection.”  Quatre said matter-of-factly.

 

            Hilde put her hand on her hip and gave him an unbelieving look.  “That sounded so made up.”

 

            “It’s true.”  Duo threw up his hands.  “I’m telling you we’re in the military!”

 

            “You’re just a couple of losers that had nothing better to do than stare at women while they’re standing in line.”  She looked up and down the line.  “In fact, I should call the cops on you guys right now.  There has to be an officer around here somewhere.”

 

            Quatre backed toward Duo.  “We might want to exercise one of those escape plans you were talking about.”

 

            “Somebody call for an officer?”  One of the girls in line stepped up behind Hilde.

 

            Hilde turned around to see a woman in an RDF uniform with close-cropped hair.  “Yes!  These two boys are trying to impersonate military personnel and they’re watching the line of girls like a couple of perverts!”

 

            Noin smirked at the two.  “Staring at women like perverts?  Really.  I’d expect that of you Duo, but you Quatre?  I expected better from you.”

 

            Hilde turned back to the other girl.  “You know these two?”

 

            Noin chuckled.  “Yes.  They can be pains at times, but they are good pilots.”

 

            “See!  There you go!  I’m in the military!”  Duo threw his hands up in a ‘touchdown’ motion.

 

            “Nice of you to finally admit it, Duo.”  Noin deadpanned.

 

            Duo crossed his arms and looked at Noin over his glasses.  “Hey, the God of Death is always proud to serve.”

 

            Noin laughed.  “Serve himself, you mean.  Why is it that you’re piloting, again?”

 

            Duo shrugged.  “You know, the usual…protect innocents…save the world…pick up chicks.”

 

            Hilde’s mouth flopped open.  “You’re a pig!”

 

            Duo snapped his fingers and pointed at her.  “But I’m IN the military.”  He pushed his shades back on his face.  “So, baby, want to go out for dinner?  My treat.”

 

            Hilde gave him an ‘I can’t believe you’ stare.  “Absolutely not!”

 

            Duo shrugged.  “Oh well, later then.”  He slapped Quatre on the shoulder.  “Let’s get out of here.  I’ve seen all I want.”

 

            Quatre smiled at Noin and Hilde.  “It was nice to meet you, Hilde.  Nice to see you again Miss Noin.”  He bowed and walked off behind Duo.

 

            Noin laughed at the departed duo of pilots.  “They really are good kids once you get to know them.”

 

            Hilde shook her head.  “Quatre seemed like a nice guy, but that Duo was an absolute pig headed, arrogant egomaniac!”

 

            Noin smiled.  “Ah, young love.”

 

            Hilde rolled her eyes.

 

 

 

            Quatre turned and gave a brief glance over his shoulder.  “She seemed like a nice girl.”

 

            Duo gave him a thumbs up.  “She wants me.”

 

 

 

            At the trailing end of the line another contestant was waiting patiently with a little moral support.

 

            Catherine turned to Trowa.  “I’m so glad you came!  I just wanted someone here with me.”

 

            “No problem, Catherine.  I’m sure you’ll win it all.”  Trowa had a hint of a smile on his face.

 

            Catherine tweaked his nose.  “Thank you, you’re so sweet.  I knew I brought you along for a good reason.”

 

            Trowa looked at all the girls in line ahead of them.  “Why did you need me?  You could have done all this by yourself.”

 

            Catherine smiled and looped her arm around his.  “But I wanted to be the only woman with a handsome man at her side.”

 

            Trowa snorted.  “Is that supposed to help you win?”

 

            “No silly, it’s supposed to make the rest of the contestants jealous.”  She laughed and leaned into him.

 

            Trowa blushed.

 

 

 

            Preparations were being made all over ship.  Women were all prepping for the contest while others were preparing to air the biggest event in the displaced Macross City’s history.  They were all preparing to make history with the first beauty pageant in space.

 

            Of course not everything was wine and roses on the plane.  Several bitter rivalries still existed.  One of them was about to come to head in the observation deck below the bridge of the SDF-1.  Two commanders stared each other down across the small space that separated them.  Roy Fokker glared at Treize Kushrenada as he watched the planes fly by with their patrols.  “Why did you call me here, commander.  I’m a very busy man.”

 

            Treize turned to him and gave the blonde pilot a pleasant smile.  “I’m here to try and make peace between you and I.  We all have to work together if we are going to survive as a race.”

 

            Fokker clenched his fist.  “You want peace?  You’re the one who tried to take over the whole ship!  I don’t see why Gloval still lets you roam loose!  If it was up to me you’d be in the brig right now!”

 

            Treize shook his head.  “Fokker, we face a much greater threat in these aliens then we do to each other.  I’m only interested in the survival of the human species.  I’m not interested in conquest.”

 

            “Any more.”  Fokker crossed his arms.  “I know all about you, Treize.  I know about everything you did in the global civil war.  You’d turn on your closest officers if it suited you.   I know that you only play things for personal gain.  You’ve sent thousands of men to their deaths without a shred of conscience.”

 

            Treize shook his head.  “Those rumors will serve their originators to the bitter end.”  He said under his breath.  Louder, he continued.  “These were base rumors.  While I have ordered thousands of men to their deaths, I have done so with a great deal of conscience.  I have committed to memory the name of every man that has died under me.  I celebrate all of their lives and mourn their passing.  As to my loyalty to my officers, I surround myself with the best of the best.  I would never betray any of them for any price or any end.  Ask any of the men or women under me, and they will tell you.  I never break my word, nor go against the interests of those around me.  I gain my power through honor and loyalty, not threats and bloodshed.”

 

            Roy seemed unconvinced.  “You want me to believe that you have that much concern for your subordinates?”

 

            Treize looked at him.  “Tell me, Fokker, how do you remember your fallen subordinates?”

 

            “They never existed.  You can’t focus on their deaths or it will effect you in a fight.  The realization that you are indeed mortal doesn’t need to be in your thoughts as you pilot.”

 

            Treize shook his head.  “That is the type of foolish sentiment that I am trying to stamp out.  That was a person that died.  Don’t dishonor them by saying that they didn’t make a difference to the world around them.  Every person makes their mark on the world, some greater than others.  Their memory should not be tarnished by asking everyone to forget them.  Every one of them should be remembered so that the price for victory is always on the forefront of the people’s mind.  People need to realize that the freedom and security that they enjoy didn’t come cheap; it was paid for by the blood of men and women fighting for their cause.  Each one made a difference and should be honored for it.

 

            “As to a soldier knowing his own mortality, each soldier should be aware of their mortality.  It would keep them from pulling foolish stunts that would get them or their fellow officers killed.  They also shouldn’t be fighting if they think they are invincible.  That only leads to death and destruction.  Everyone should keep the goal of what they are fighting for in their minds.  To go along with that every soldier should have a reason for fighting other than they are getting paid for it.  For me and my men, we fight for the safety of the people and for soldiers of the future.”

 

            Fokker eyed him speculatively.  “So you want wars to keep on going until the end of time?”

 

            Treize shook his head.  “Again you do not properly understand my intentions.  Each person is a soldier, fighting each day for life and happiness.  Nothing is truly appreciated unless it is worked or fought for.  I fight for them, our children and our children’s children.  I fight for those that would fight after me, those who would fight for a better tomorrow.”

 

            Treize turned and stared Roy directly in the eye.  “I do not lie when I tell you any of this.  I do everything I do for a better future.  I do nothing to further my own ends.  I fight for everyone else’s happiness, and in doing so, gain my own.  Now that you know my motivations, can you really believe everything you’ve been told about me?”

 

            Roy shook his head.  “I’ve hated you for a long time, Treize.  Although your words ring of truth and honor, I still can’t just instantly accept what you are saying as truth, but what I can do is give you a sporting chance.  If I see that what you do truly is as you describe it, then you will have my respect, but until then, I’ll keep an eye on you.”

 

            Treize nodded and looked out into the sea of stars.  “Indeed commander.  I would have it no other way.  For a man can say anything, but his actions truly show his inner self.  If my actions deviate from what I have said, then inform me of my own hypocrisy.  Unlike other men, I want to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”

 

            Roy turned to leave the deck.  He turned his head back over his shoulder.  “This chat has been most…informative.  I’ll think about what we’ve talked about.  You’d also better believe that I’m going to be keeping a close eye on you.”

 

            Treize nodded and saluted him.  Fokker returned the salute and closed the hatch behind him.  Treize turned and watched the stars again.  “For the soldiers of the future, we are the defenders and the pioneers.  All this we do now for a brighter tomorrow.”

 

 

 

            The day of the contest came with more fanfare and publicity than the initial announcements.  Nearly every RDF officer was present as most patrols were taken down to skeleton crews.  Some places only had a single mecha patrolling.  In fact one of the pilots had taken out the new experimental armored veritech.  The armored veritech was based on the Gundam Heavyarms with its modular multiple missile compartments.  The Robotech engineers collaborated with the Gundam engineers to create the next stage of the veritech fighter.  They chose not to copy the chaingun of Heavyarms.  Instead they opted to stick with the GU-XX line of gunpods.  The pilot took the experimental prototype out for a spin.  After all, if you’re going to be the only one stuck patrolling, why not do it in style?

 

            Duo worked hard to get all the pilots front row seats for the whole affair.  He kicked back and extended his feet out as far as he could.  “Yup, guys this is the life!  Beautiful ladies and nice comfy seats.”

 

            Heero crossed his arms.  “I still don’t know how you managed to talk me into this.”

 

            Duo slapped him on the shoulder.  “Come on, man!  I know you got the same hormones I got going through me.  You’ll love it!”

 

            Heero rolled his eyes while Relena sat beside him watching the whole event with great interest.  Relena had taken Wufei’s place since he ‘didn’t want to watch a parade of weak women.’  She turned to Heero.  “Isn’t this exciting!  All these people having a great time and coming together as a whole!”

 

            Heero shook his head.  “I don’t see how this does anything useful.”

 

            “Just enjoy the show, Heero.”  Relena smiled and leaned over onto his shoulder.  Heero only sat there with a look of indifference on his face.

 

            The contestants were asked several questions about their hopes, ambitions, love life, etc.  Then they went through the various dress contests, starting with the swimsuit competition.

 

            Among the first contestants out was Lucrezia Noin.  Quatre and Duo made a lot of noise, clapping and cheering her on as she walked by in her daringly cut one-piece swimsuit.  She recognized her cheering section and winked at them.  She saw something reflect off a metal object in the crowd.  She smiled as she realized that it was the helmet of Zechs Merquise.

 

            Toward the middle of the line of contestants, Catherine Bloom walked out in a bikini that seemed to be a single piece of wrap around cloth for the top and a wraparound sarong over the bottoms.  She spotted Trowa on the front row.  She tilted her head and smiled at him.  He even managed to return the smile.

 

            Later still, Hilde Schbeiker came out in a string bikini that complemented her figure well.  Duo gave her a wolf whistle, whooped, and hollered.  “Hey, baby!  Looking good!”

 

            Hilde rolled her eyes and finished her walk.

 

            Other contestants came out.  One of the most notable was Jan Morris, a local movie star that was on Macross for the launching of the SDF-1 and was caught up in the madness.  Everyone believed that this was all just a promotional deal for her to make a comeback.  Most people thought is was all going to be rigged in her favor.

 

            One of the last contestants out was Lynn Minmei, the waitress from the White Dragon.  She was dressed in a fairly conservative blue one piece bathing suit.  Quatre cheered on his friend, and she fell over something on the stage.  A massive intake of breath came from the audience as their hearts went out to her.  She had a forlorn look on her face as the stagehands helped her up.  Quatre yelled out that it would be all right.

 

            “Well, there goes her chances of winning.” Duo kicked back and put his hands behind his head.

 

            Relena smiled.  “Don’t be too sure.  She is pretty popular with all of her customers.  She will probably win by a sympathy vote.”

 

            Duo rolled his eyes.  “Man, what a lame way to win a contest.  She probably did it on purpose if that’s the case.”

 

            Heero shook his head.  “She doesn’t have the acting ability to fake that.”

 

            Relena turned to him.  “How do you know that?”

 

            Heero shrugged.  “You saw her sing before.  She has terrible presence.  She’s going to need a lot of lessons to be that good of an actor.”

 

            Quatre chuckled.  “Who would have guessed?  Heero, the acting critic.”

 

            Duo watched as the last few ladies were coming out.  “Yeah, yeah, Heero’s got a lot of acting experience.  He acts like a loser all the time.”

 

            Heero looked at him, showing no emotion.

 

            Duo shrugged.  “There you go again, throwing a temper tantrum.  This is the second time you’ve done that in front of Relena.  You really need to keep your emotions in check.”

 

            Relena looked at Heero, looked at Duo, and then back and forth again.  “You call that a temper tantrum?”

 

            Duo laughed.  “After you’ve been around the guy as long as we have, you’d know that this is a fit.  It’s the most emotion he ever shows.”

 

            Heero leaned slowly back into his chair.  “You’re an idiot, Duo.”

 

           

 

            The Treize’s quarters, he and Lady Une were watching the events on his personal monitor.  They were stigging on the couch with Une leaning onto Treize’s shoulder while his arm was around her.  Une had her hair down and her glasses off, shedding the look of harsh military and embracing a look of stunning beauty.  She was dressed in a skin tight blue dress that came down to about mid-thigh that showed off a pair of very well shaped legs.  Treize was in his uniform pants and his undershirt, looking like he had just opted to take off the uniform top to be comfortable.

 

            Une scooted a little closer to him on the couch.  “So who do you think will win?”

 

            Treize shrugged.  “I have no idea really.  I’m betting on the Minmei girl.  She may have fallen down, but she has an excellent voice and a good grip of the common person.”

 

            Une nodded her head.  “She does know a lot of people.  She was practically a celebrity after being pulled from the depths of the ship with Hunter.”

 

            Treize nodded.  “Speaking of Hunter, how is he coming with his new squadron?”

 

            “Doing pretty well.  They’ve done some maneuvers and combat.  There is one exceptional fighter in his flight, Max Sterling.  Is he one of ours?”

 

            Treize got a thoughtful look on his face.  “Sterling.  I know I’ve heard that name before…”  He sighed and relaxed.  “It’s not really important.  I can find out later.”

 

            Une smiled and cuddled up to Treize.  “Do you think I should have entered the contest?”

 

            Treize smiled down on her.  “If you had entered, there wouldn’t have been any contest.”

 

            Une grabbed his head and hauled him in for a passionate kiss.

 

 

 

            The contest continued apace, although Treize and Une stopped watching.  The contest came down to five finalists, three of them were Jan, Noin, and Minmei.  The votes were tallied and the winner announced:  Lynn Minmei was the new Miss Macross.

 

            The cheers from the crowd shook the amphitheater, everyone was happy with the selection, except for Jan Morris who had thought the contest in the bag.  The crowd went home happy and feeling a lot better than they first came.  Everyone went home, oblivious to the problems of the outside world.  They were also very oblivious to the significant battle going on outside the hull as Rick Hunter in the armored Veritech took on a Cyclops recon pod carrying three Zentraedi spies…