Chapter Five:  Prelude to Conflict

 

            The war room was filled with the chiefs of staff, element commanders, and Captain Gloval.  There were several items on the agenda for today, but after half an hour, they were still on the first item.

 

            “The Gundams are destroids!  They should be put under my Civil Defense Mecha!”  Colonel Septum was trying to get his point across.

 

            Commander Treize still had a nonplussed look on his face.  “They are not ours to give Colonel.  They are not regular army, and can’t be attached to any element.”

 

            “Treize!  It’s obvious they are under your command!  You’re the only one in the army with a Gundam!  They have to be under you!”

 

            “They are independent civilian forces.  I do not control them.”

 

            Septum brought his voice under control. “Well, even if you don’t control them, you should still turn the Tallgeese over to my command.  It IS a destroid.”

 

            Treize finally bothered to look at the Colonel who had been ranting the length of the meeting.  “The Tallgeese is a Gundam, not a destroid.  The Gundams are a new class of mecha that does not have its equal in any of the CD mecha.  You are continuing to make this meeting substantially longer than it needs to be with this line of argument.  The Tallgeese stays in my squadron and the other Gundams are not under the control of the RDF.  We cannot dictate where they go.  I see several other items on the agenda for this meeting and I believe that it is time to address them.”

 

            The Colonel was about to let loose with a line of expletives when the Captain interrupted him.  “Enough gentlemen!  We are not here to argue among ourselves.  I simply wanted information about the Gundams, not an argument over to whom they belong.  The whole discussion is secondary to the real purpose of this meeting.  We are here to discuss a counter-offensive.”

 

            “A counter-offensive?”  Treize asked.

 

            “How do you plan on doing that?”  Colonel Maistroff asked.

 

            The captain pressed a button in front of him and a picture of Saturn appeared behind him.  “We will be arriving at the planet Saturn in a few days.  I propose that we hide in the rings and ambush them when they try to follow us.  The veritechs will hide in the rings ahead of us and wait on the dark side of the planetary rings.  We will follow and trigger the ECMs.  We should be able to drop off their radar.  We will wait for their forces to follow us and then ambush them.”

 

            “Do we have the forces to pull this off?”  Commander Onegal asked.

 

            “We’ve already seen that our veritechs are vastly more maneuverable than the battlepods.  Fighting in the ice will greatly increase the effectiveness of each fighter.  I’m hoping to almost double the amount of kills per plane.  I was also hoping that one of you had some helpful information on the Gundams.  I would like them to join our veritechs in the ice field.”  The captain leveled his gaze at Treize.

 

            Treize remained expressionless.  “It would be hard to do that.  We’d have to announce the plan publicly more than likely.”

 

Gloval nodded his head.  “We will be announcing the plan to the public anyway.  They must be informed so that the community leaders can make sure that the city is prepared for the modular transformation and the battle.  We will simply put out a message that says any help in this effort would be appreciated.  They should get the message, even if it’s misunderstood.  We can still use them if they decide to defend the ship instead of joining the offensive.”

 

Treize nodded.  “Sounds good.  What do we do in the meantime?”

 

“Everyone will continue their regular patrols and combat duty.  We have to make it appear that we are still running to Earth and are vulnerable so that they stay close.  I’ve also discussed a new defensive measure with Dr. Lang.”  Everyone in the room lifted an eyebrow.  “It is called the Pin-Point Barrier system.  It’s a new defensive measure that intercepts individual strikes to the ship.”

 

“Why not just cover the whole ship?”  Colonel Maistroff interrupted.

 

“We don’t have sufficient power or technology to cover the whole ship.  We will make do with what we have and we’ll use this new measure against the aliens at the ambush.  Gentlemen, if there isn’t any other business, this meeting is concluded.  The documents you all received at the beginning of the meeting details each of your parts in the operation.”  Everyone stood, saluted, and started to leave.  “Commander Kushrenada, I would like a word with you in private.”

 

Treize stopped and nodded his head.  The two of them waited for the others to clear the room.  Treize retook his seat.  Gloval had not even bothered to get up.  “What is it, Captain Gloval?”

 

Gloval took out his pipe, tamped some tobacco into it, and lit it.  “Commander Treize, I am well aware of your distain for the troops of the former factions of the Global Civil War.  I am also aware that you have been trying to attract the best fighter pilots to your squadron.  I don’t know exactly what your plans are, commander, but I can almost guarantee you that they are not ideal for our situation here on this ship.  You need to be able to work with them.  We cannot have any division in the ranks if are all going to survive the trip back to Earth.”

 

Treize nodded his head.  “I understand.  I wouldn’t do anything to endanger anyone on this ship.  I will make sure that we make it back to Earth safely.  Is there anything else, Captain?”

 

Gloval took a long drag on his pipe.  “I also strongly favor the opinion that you control the Gundams.  I offer you bit of advice:  Make them a regular army unit, and put them under someone else’s control.  We need every fighter we can get, and we can’t always inform the public of our plans.  Also, if you take them into your camp, then the others will see to it that you do not last long on this ship.  They might even have you killed to gain that power.”

 

“What if I just turn my squadron over to someone else and I command the Gundams?”

 

Gloval shook his head.  “That would be unwise.  They would see you as trying to become a lone faction.  They would see you as having both under your control and would take action.  Leave them to someone else.  Make sure it is someone that can follow orders.”

 

Treize nodded his head.  “Good advice, Captain.  I will consider it.”

 

The right side of Gloval’s face came up into a sly grin.  “You do that.  I’ve included extra instructions for the Gundams in your package.  There are also instructions on how and where they will become a regular army unit.  I’ve cleared out the extra bay below the bridge to become their staging area.  They will have all the assistance they need, just like all the units on this ship.”

 

Treize smiled back.  “Thank you, sir.  I’ll see if I can contact them.”

 

Gloval stood.  “Very well.  Make sure they are ready.  That is all.”

 

Treize stood and saluted.  The Captain returned the gesture and left.  Treize looked down at the package in his hand.  The cover said ‘Operation:  Blitzkrieg’.

 

Outside the room, Lady Une was waiting for him.  “How did it go?  What did the Captain want?”

 

Treize smiled at her.  “Everything went great.  I think there will be some modifications to our plans for this ship though.”

 

Lady Une got a confused look on her face.  “Why is that?”

 

“Captain Gloval is an excellent person to run this ship.  There will be no need to replace him.  We just need to take care of the others.  Have we figured out which one is trying to kill Ms Relena?”

 

“Not yet, sir.  We still have our people looking into it.”

 

“Have any of the pilots tried to find anything?”

 

“Heero has been spending most of his free time looking.  He’s been taking it as an extension to his duty to her.”

 

“Very good.  I’ll have a package prepared for all of them for the upcoming mission.  Has there been any word on the Hunter boy?”

 

“He was finally convinced to join the RDF, but we were not able to bring him to our group.  Commander Fokker recruited him into the Skull Squadron.  Apparently they are old friends.  We wouldn’t have been able to take him away.”

 

Treize rubbed his chin in a thoughtful gesture.  “I wouldn’t worry about him too much.  I’m sure with the ability he showed at the airshow and the survival instincts he showed in the hold of the ship, he’ll have command soon enough.  We might be able to convince him to take one of our wings.”

 

Lady Une nodded.  “Yes, sir.  Anything else?”

 

“Tell Zechs that I want to see him in my office immediately about taking over the Gundams operations.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

 

 

Inside the main hold that held Macross city, Wu Fei stood in the park that overlooked the city.  He watched people go about their daily business seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were all trapped inside of a space fortress millions of miles from Earth.  He was amazed that so many people were able to accept living in this ship with the circumstances.  “Amazing.”

 

“It is, isn’t it?”

 

He turned to see a woman standing behind him in a Civil Defense uniform.  She was obviously older with long brown hair braided into two ponytails that came over her shoulders.  Wu Fei dropped into a defensive stance.  “What do you want?”

 

The woman held up her hands.  “Easy there!  No need for that.  I’m just here enjoying the view like you.  Do you come here often?”

 

Wu Fei didn’t drop out of the stance.  “This is my first time since the reconstruction after the first transformation.”

 

The woman smiled at him and sat down on one of the benches.  “I come up here all the time to think.  I went to the old one before it was destroyed.  The feeling of nature and the view help to calm my nerves.  My name is Sally Po.  What’s yours?”

 

            The boy stood back up into a regular stance, but made no other visible efforts to relax.  “I am Wu Fei Chang.”

 

            “Why did you come up here?”

 

            “I came up here to see the city.”  To get a lay of the land.  “It’s amazing that it could be rebuilt so easily.”

 

            “Like the mayor said, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Macross City was.’”  She chuckled at the comment.  “This is a testament to the adaptability of the human race.  Imagine all those people going about life like nothing was wrong.”

 

            Wu Fei was slightly disturbed at her thoughts reflecting his earlier ones.  “But don’t they realize they could die at any minute?”

 

            “Of course they do!”  Sally frowned at him.  “But there’s no point in dwelling on that.  You can’t live every day preparing to die.  You have to spend your time living, not dieing.  These people undoubtedly know that they are most likely going to die, but they do their best to make the most of their situation.”

 

            The boy nodded his head.  “Indeed.  That is something I didn’t think about.  Why do you think the aliens are trying to destroy this ship?”

 

            Sally shook her head.  “I don’t think they want to destroy this ship.  They’ve had us outnumbered since day one.  They could have destroyed us at anytime if they would go all out.  I personally think they want to capture us.”

 

            “What for?”

 

            “Maybe this ship is important to them somehow.  Or maybe they’re a vastly intelligent race that wants to study ours.  Maybe they sent the ship to us as an experiment to see what we’d do with it.  Maybe they sent us to the edge of the solar system to see if we’d crack or if we’d survive.  All of this could be just a conditioned experiment of the human race.”

 

            Wu Fei shook his head.  “I think they are just too weak.  They want the strength this ship.”

 

            Sally regarded him with a questioning look.  “What makes you think they are weak?”

 

            “I’ve seen footage of the battles.  They’re mecha are vastly inferior to ours.  One of our veritechs can easily take out several of their pods.”  Nataku can wipe out an entire squadron without thinking.  “I think that they are trying to get stronger by stealing the ship and it’s technology.”

 

            “Maybe you’re right, but not all of this technology is ours.  Most of Robotechnology came from this ship when it landed.  We humans have really not done much in the grand scheme of things.”

 

            “Maybe those aliens weren’t the ones that sent the ship in the first place.”

 

            “Maybe, but I still don’t think that they are weak.  They do have superiority of numbers.  Even the greatest of beasts can be taken down by several smaller animals.”

 

            Wu Fei scoffed at her.  “They cannot take me or this ship.  They’ll be destroyed for being weak and cowardly.”

 

            Sally shook her head.  “I don’t think you get the full scope of what is going on out there.”

 

            The boy just stared at her.  I don’t think that you do, Ms Po.

 

 

 

            Inside the White Dragon restaurant, Quatre and Rasid were sitting at a table waiting for their food to arrive.  Rasid was tapping his fingers on the table impatiently.  “I don’t think that girl got our orders in.”

 

            Quatre smiled at his guardian.  “I think she’ll get our food out, and I’m sure it will be delicious.  You need to have some patience.”

 

            Rasid looked again at the waitress with a doubtful glance.  The girl was wearing a Chinese dress with her long black hair in two buns on her head.  “I still don’t think she has the, uh, abilities to waitress properly.  She seemed rather…vacuous.”

 

            The boy just continued to smile.  “Have a little faith.  Everyone says that this is the best restaurant on the ship.  If she’s the only waitress, she has to be doing something right.”

 

            “Sure she will.”  Rasid rolled his eyes.  “Anyway, I still haven’t apologized for the living arrangements.”

 

            Quatre frowned.  “What for?”

 

            “They’re aren’t up to the palatial quarters you are used to.”

 

            The boy smiled again.  “Don’t worry about it.  It’s fine, really!  I really don’t care about that.  I’m just glad to have a place to sleep and food to eat.  Besides, you really didn’t expect them to build a mansion here for me, did you?”

 

            “Yes, but to be living in an apartment building…”

 

            The boy waved his hands in a calming gesture.  “It’s okay!  I like living there.  Plus, all of you have taken the rest of the rooms on the floor.  I think it’s great that I get to have all my friends as neighbors.”

 

            The Waitress walked up and placed their orders in front of them.  “There you go!  Is there anything else I can get for you?”

            Quatre smiled at the bubbly girl.  “Not at this time, thanks.”

 

            The girl looked at him.  “I thought I knew almost everyone on this ship, but I don’t recognize you.  My name’s Lynn Minmei, what’s yours?”

 

            “Quatre Rebarba Winner.  Pleased to meet you.”

 

            Minmei bowed slightly and smiled brilliantly.  “Pleased to meet you too!  Enjoy your meals.”  She bowed again and went back to serving the other customers.

 

            “See, she even got our orders right.  She’s okay with me.”

 

            “Whatever you say, Master Quatre, but I still think she’s a flake.”

 

           

 

            The crowds were roaring as they were anticipating the show.  They were all ready for the first circus in space.  This was their third performance, but the crowd had not lessened in the least.  Soldier and civilian alike all enjoyed the relief that the entertainment provided.  Behind the scenes, the ringmaster was attempting, unsuccessfully, to gripe out one of his performers, a boy with brown hair with bangs down to his nose.   “You can’t keep running off!  You have to come to shelters with us during the alarms!  It isn’t safe to keep running off alone.”

 

            The boy just looked at him with an unemotional glance.  “I show up for every performance and perform well.”

 

            “That’s not the point!  I can’t have my new star die from a piece of falling debris or an explosion because he didn’t go to the shelters in the emergency!”

 

            “I’ve always been fine before, why wouldn’t I be now?”

 

            The ringmaster was about to pull his hair out.  “It’s about time to start.  We’ll finish this after the performance.”

 

            “I’m leaving after the performance.  I will be back in the morning for rehearsal.”

 

            The ringmaster threw up his hands and stormed off toward the center ring.

 

            Trowa almost had a hint of a smile on his face.

 

            Catherine walked up behind him.  “You know you can’t keep doing that to him.”

 

            Trowa turned and saw her wearing her small pink performance outfit.  “I just tell him how it is.  I’m always here for the practice and performance, that’s all that should matter.”

 

            Catherine shook her head.  “Trowa…We just worry about you.  You’re a great acrobat and animal tamer.  We’d hate to lose you to a simple accident that could easily be prevented by going to a shelter.”

 

            “I’m in no danger.  If anything happens to me, it won’t be an accident.”

 

            “So where do you go?  You go to another shelter, or are you one of those veritech pilots that hate to wear a uniform?”  She smiled at him.

 

            “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

 

            Catherine laughed, but Trowa was still wearing his emotionless mask.  “That’s very funny!  So what are you doing after the performance?  Going to see your girlfriend?”  She added the last question with a wink.

 

            “Business.  Personal business.”

 

            “Oooh.  Mysterious!”

 

            “You keep saying that.”

 

            The crowd roared again as the show started.

 

            “Well, that’s what you are, big mister, cloak and dagger.  You’re always hiding where you go and what you do.  The only time I see you is at the performance and rehearsal.  I’d like to know more about you.  I’d like to know what you do for fun.”

 

            “I don’t have any need for fun.”  Trowa put on his half mask.  “It’s time for the performance.”

 

            Catherine watched him walked for a couple of seconds.  I’ll find out what makes you tick. I think I’ll follow you tonight and find out where you go.

 

            After the performance was done for evening, Trowa changed into his street clothes and walked out of the front entrance.  Catherine followed him a few paces behind.  She ducked behind trees and into alleys, trying to avoid notice.  Trowa rounded a corner on a building.  Catherine quickly walked up and took a look around the corner.  Trowa was gone!  She stepped around the corner and looked around for him.

 

            Trowa dropped down behind her.  “Stop following me.”

 

            Catherine nearly jumped out of her skin.  “You scared me!”

 

            “Stop following me.”

 

            “I’m just worried about you.”

 

            “I will not tell you again.  This is my business, and mine alone.”  Trowa leveled a severe gaze at her.

 

            Catherine unconsciously took a half step back.  “I’m sorry.  I was just curious.”  She thought for a second.  “When will you be done with your ‘business’?”

 

            Trowa went back to the neutral expression.  “Why?”

 

            “I thought maybe we could go get something to eat if it’s not too late, a kind of apology.”

 

            Trowa stepped past her and waved his hand dismissively.  “I don’t think so.  These things always last well past curfew.”

 

            The brunette turned to watch him walk off.  “Maybe breakfast?”

 

            The boy waved his hand, but didn’t look back.  “Sure.  I’ll meet you in front of the tent at seven in the morning.”

 

            “Okay!  See you then!”

 

            Trowa just kept walking.

 

 

 

            Inside bay 516, Zechs Marquise was smiling.  It had been a long time since he had done that, but he was enjoying it.  His hands wrapped around the controls of the Tallgeese.  He had already attached his thinking cap into the system of the Gundam.  He was ready for the test.  “Tallgeese ready for takeoff.”  He radioed to the bridge.

 

            “You’re cleared from bay 516.” The reply came back.

 

            Zechs eased the controls forward and the Tallgeese took the steps away from the gantry.  He stepped into the enormous airlock.  He was still amazed at it.  The door had not changed since the Visitor had crashed on Earth, but it was the perfect size for the Tallgeese.  He guessed that the aliens liked a lot of headroom because the Tallgeese was taller than any of the skeletons they had found on the ship when it had landed.

 

            The airlock cycled and the outer door opened up.  The Tallgeese stepped out and fired the large Vernier engines on its back.  Zechs made the same mistake that Treize had made the first time he had piloted the Gundam.  He went to full throttle.  He was pressed back into his seat and strained to pull the controls back.  After struggling for a few seconds he finally pulled the throttle back to half and still found that he was traveling at an enormous rate, but now he was in control.  He started to go through a few battloid training exercises.  He couldn’t believe the power of the Gundam.

 

            Back in the control room of the bay, Treize, Lady Une, and Dr J watched the Gundam maneuver on the monitors.  Dr J looked on with pride.  “Looks like he has a greater grip on the Tallgeese than you, Commander.  No offense.”

 

            “No offense taken.  Zechs has always been a great pilot.  I had hoped to build another Gundam for him, but this will do just as well.”  Treize turned to the engineer with a serious look on his face.  “I noticed some Gundanium was unaccounted for in your reports.  Where did it go?”

 

            Dr J nervously ran a hand through his hair.  “Remember the prototype we abandoned.”

 

            “Yes.”

 

            “It was actually completed.  We just sealed it away for safety’s sake.  The tests were…disturbing.”

 

            Treize frowned.  “When did you test it?  Why was it tested and not the Tallgeese?”

 

            “It was tested inside the hanger, all simulations.  We realized then that we didn’t want to use it.”

 

            “Would it not fly?”

 

            “No, it’s just the piloting system we put in it.”

 

            “What was wrong with it?”

 

            “It didn’t…function…as well as expected.  It almost killed the test pilot.”

 

            “In a simulator?!”  The engineer nodded his head.  Treize was taken aback.  “Then I guess it’s a good thing you sealed it away.  Why haven’t you scrapped it?”

 

            “We still use it as a template.”

 

            Treize nodded and went back to watching the monitor.  “Tell Zechs the Tallgeese is all his and he has field command of the Gundams.  Sending me the reports after you are done.”  Treize turned and left the room.

 

            Lady Une approached the doctor after Treize stepped out.  “You still have the template, right?”

 

            “Yes.”

 

            “Can you build another Gundam?”

 

            “Yes, quite easily.”

 

            “How about two more.”

 

            “Yes.  Why?”

 

            “I want to have a spare pair of Gundams for Treize and I.  I have a feeling that this is not the end of Treize’s time piloting a Gundam, and I want to be at his side the whole way.”

 

            Dr J nodded his head.  “Sure.  It will take a while.”

 

            “One more thing…”

 

            The doctor turned to her.  “What?”

            “Can you make them better than the other Gundams?”