Chapter Seven:  Dark Shadow

 

            In one of the many dark corners of the SDF-1, a group of people gathered to discuss their plans for the future.  Several men sat around the room, but only two were speaking, the rest were waiting for their orders.

 

            The first man was looking over one of the men.  This soldier had been worked over pretty well; his face was stained with blood, and his arm in a sling.  “So what was your excuse?!”  He demanded.

 

            The soldier cringed at harshness of his commander’s voice.  He was also embarrassed at the cause of his injuries.  “It was a kid.  A Japanese boy with wild brown hair.”

 

            “Him again!”  The other commander snarled.  “That’s the sixth time!  How can one kid be so much trouble?!”

 

            The first one stroked his chin.  “The boy will have to be dealt with.”

 

            “We tried that!”  The second piped up again.  “He killed the entire force!”

 

            “He’s obviously one of Treize’s soldiers.”  The first thought some more.  “He may even be one of the Gundam pilots.  Treize is very protective of his secret force, that may be the reason.  He’s fielding a bunch of children!”

 

            The second held his chin in a thoughtful posture as well.  “You may be right, but what about Zechs?”

 

            “What about him?  He’s obvious just a puppet leader.”

 

            “Of course.”

 

            “But what if they are…”

 

            “What are you thinking?”

 

            “I’m thinking an opportunity may be afoot.”

 

            “What makes you say that?”

 

            “We’re on the run from those aliens out there, and we’re getting low on supplies.  We could leave the Gundams behind to stall their fleet enough to allow us to take on supplies.  They all die. Ms. Peacecraft, lacking protection, dies shortly after.”

 

            “Brilliant!”

 

            “AND…Without his ace in the whole, Treize is left defenseless.  We destroy him and his woman, and his squadron will be under our control.”

 

            “That just leaves one obstacle.”

 

            “Which is?”

 

            “Gloval.  We’d still have to take care of him quietly before the ship would be ours.”

 

            “We’ll deal with him in another way first.  There may have to be an ‘accident’ when we reach Mars Sara.”

 

            “Maybe something less barbaric.”

 

            “What do you suggest?”

 

            “We just start discrediting him, then we spread some bad rumors.  We force him to give us command, or face a lynching from Macross City.”

 

            “Your idea has merit.  We shall begin as soon as Treize is dead.  He would see through a plot like that and probably turn it to his advantage.”

 

            “He is a very crafty one.”

 

            “And very charismatic.  He easily sways people to his way of seeing things.”

 

            “An even better reason for him to end up a corpse.”

 

            “Agreed.  We deal with Zechs and the other Gundams, and then Treize.  Then there will be nothing between us and control of this ship.”

 

            They both congratulated themselves as their eager lieutenants looked on.

 

           

 

            Several days after the blitzkrieg the chiefs of staff were gathered once again.  They were all contemplating the grave situation they were facing.  Captain Gloval steepled his fingers in front of his face as he leaned on the table.  “Gentlemen, we face a problem.  Our supplies are running drastically low.  We have an opportunity to stop at Mars Sara for supplies, but we’re being pressed to close to stop.  Onegal has come up with a plan to slow them down, and give us a chance to resupply, but it requires a great sacrifice.”  His gaze went around the gathered personnel and stopped on Treize Khushrenada.

 

            Treize raised an eyebrow.  “And what would that be?”

 

            “Onegal’s plan is to leave behind a force of troops to mount a guerilla assault on the pursuing vessels.”

 

            Treize didn’t like where this was going, but, wisely, he allowed another to ask the obvious question.  Colonel Maistroff spoke up, “Who do we leave behind?  We’d have to leave an entire squadron behind to be effective.  We can’t afford to waste an entire squadron of pilots!”

 

            Gloval leaned back in his chair.  “I am well aware of that fact, Maistroff.  I would not have considered the plan if it cost THAT many lives.  His plan is to leave behind the Gundams.”  He watched Treize for his reaction.

 

            Treize tightly controlled his emotions.  His face never even twitched.  “Why the Gundams?”

 

            “They have the best chance of succeeding with minimal support troops, and they have the best chance of coming back; but there is the possibility that they won’t.  That is why I brought the plan before you all.  I cannot in good conscience order a suicide mission without consulting the other chiefs of staff first.  We will have a discussion of pros and cons, and then we will have a vote.”

 

            Septum spoke up first.  “As you already said, they have the best chance of surviving.”

 

            Treize spoke up.  “But it is a suicide mission.”

 

            Maistroff spoke next.  “It will allow us to get the supplies we need to make it back to Earth.”

 

            “It’s also better than losing an entire squadron, or the people of Macross City.”  Onegal added.

 

Treize spoke up again.  “It’s a waste of valuable technology.”

 

            Septum looked at Treize with contempt.  “That doesn’t matter.  They’ve only been sideline players the whole time we’ve been up here.  It’s always the Veritech’s and the Civil Defense Mecha that have been doing the real work!  Most of them are just armored Destroids anyway.  They are no match for the Veritech Valkyries!”

 

            Treize shook his head.  “Are you really so blind…”

 

            Onegal jumped out of his seat and slapped his hands on the table.  “This is for the survival of people on this ship!  They are soldiers!  They would gladly sacrifice six lives for the survival of thousands!”

 

            “You don’t understand!  They’re just…” Treize stopped before he gave too much away.

 

            Onegal leapt at the opportunity to punch a hole in Treize’s seemingly impenetrable shield of calm.  “They’re just what?  Tell us!”

 

            “ENOUGH!”  Gloval’s voice stopped the room dead, his Russian accent started becoming more prevalent as he spoke.  “We have had enough discussion.  Nothing will come of shouting at one another!  We shall bring it to a vote.”

 

            They had their vote.  Treize lost three to one with the Captain abstaining.  The meeting was dismissed and most of the chiefs left, two of which patting each other on the back.  Treize approached Gloval before he could leave.  “I would like to have a word with you, Captain.”

 

            Gloval took out his pipe and packed some tobacco in it.  “I thought you might.”

 

            “Why did you even consider this plan?”

 

            Gloval lit the pipe and took a deep puff and blew it out.  “I would never have considered it, if we weren’t in such a dire situation.  We have thousands of mouths to feed, and while we can always recycle machines, we can’t recycle people.”

 

            “Do you know about the pilots?”

 

            “That they are all children.”

 

            Treize’s eyes widened.  “How did you…?”

 

            Gloval took another puff.  “It’s hard to hide something like that from the man who set up the staging area for you.  I am well aware of who they are, and that is what made the decision all the more harder.  I thought on it all night, but I could not come up with a better plan.  It was the only solution that had the least loss of life.”

 

            Treize narrowed his eyes.  “You do realize that Onegal and Septum are just trying to get rid of them?”

 

            “Of course.  I also know that the Gundams are invulnerable to a point.  There is a great chance that they will make it back.”

 

            Treize was about to come back with another argument, but stopped short.  “‘Invulnerable to a point’?”

 

            “I don’t profess to know everything about metallurgy, but I do know something about fatigue.”

 

            “Fatigue?  For the pilots?”

 

            “No.  Metals after been stressed many times repeatedly, it will eventually fail.  Nothing is indestructible Mr. Khushrenada.  Even the Gundams will pass.  Haven’t you wondered why they haven’t been on the frontlines?”

 

            “I have, Actually.”

 

            “The Gundams cannot be mass produced like Veritech fighters can.  If we made them frontline troops, people would idolize them as heroes or saviors.  When they failed, moral would drop to unrecoverable depths.  Not to mention no one would recognize the other pilots when they passed, because the Gundams would overshadow them.  I’ve kept the presence of the Gundams a secret from the general public for the good of the RDF as a whole. Do you understand?”

 

            “I do, but still why must we send the children on a suicide mission?”

 

            “They do not have to go.  They have that choice.  Besides, why do you let them fight in the first place?”

 

            “They have been trained for it their entire lives.”

 

            “Then they have the training they need, now they get the experience.  I do not like this operation, but I do think that they will be coming back, despite what any other chiefs think.”

 

            “So you do realize that this is a plot of theirs.”

 

            “Of course.  I only feign ignorance to…”

 

            “Give them enough leash to hang themselves.  I understand.  There is just one more thing I will add to this mission.”

 

            Gloval raised an eyebrow at the young commander.  “And what’s that?”

 

            “I will be going as well.”  Treize saluted and left the room.

 

 

 

            Treize was in the Gundam staging area briefing the pilots on their mission.  He asked around who would was in.

 

            Duo flicked his long braided ponytail over his shoulder nonchalantly.  “Of course The God of Death is going.  Deathscythe and I were made for this mission.”

 

            Quatre had a determined look on his face.  “For the survival of the city, Sandrock and I will do anything.”

 

            Wufei snorted.  “Nataku and I will deal with them easily.  Suicide mission, indeed.”

 

            Trowa gave Wufei a penetrating stare.  “I will go along.  I’ll make sure everyone keeps their mind on the job.”

 

            Heero just looked Treize in the face with his emotionless face.  “Mission accepted.”

 

            Treize stood up and put his hands behind his back.  “Good, we’re all agreed.  Now, we will be using a supply jet as a mobile ammo dump.  It will also act as a mobile base and repair facility.  Airlocks have been rigged that will allow the Gundams to dock to the outer hull and everyone can pass between the plane and their Gundam.”

 

            Heero narrowed his eyes at Treize.  “You said, ‘we’.”

 

            Treize nodded his head.  “I will be going as well.  I can’t in good conscience order you pilots to do something that I would not do myself.  I will command and Zechs will be second.  In the midst of the battle, Zechs still has authority.  Understood?”

 

            Heero nodded.  “Understood.”

 

            Treize started to pace among them.  “The only thing we need is a pilot for the supply jet.”

 

            Zechs looked up at him.  “Why not have Noin or Une do it?”

 

            “I want them to remain here.  Une will be in charge of the Oz squadron, and she’ll need Noin’s help.”

 

            “How about one of the other pilots?”

 

            “I’ve been trying to think of who I should pick.  Any suggestions?”

 

            Wufei raised his hand.  “I have a suggestion, but it’s not a pilot in the Oz squadron.”

 

 

 

            Some time later in the park, Sally Po was sitting on one of the many benches, watching the people stroll along.  She occasionally looked out past the trees and over the city.  She felt someone walk up behind her.  “Hello, Wufei.”

 

            “How can you always tell?”  The Chinese boy walked around and sat on the bench with her.

 

            “What other highly skilled person would try to sneak up on me in a public park?”

 

            “True.”

 

            “So what do you want to talk about today?  Still wondering why such weak people fight for their lives?”

 

            “No, nothing like that.  I was wondering if you were interested in helping a few of my friends and me.”

 

            She shrugged her shoulders.  “Why not?  From what you’ve told me, they’re all good kids.”

 

            “It’s actually going to be asking a lot.”

 

            “I know you’re a part of something with the RDF, but what could you be doing that is so serious?”

 

            “It’s a suicide mission.”

 

            Sally jumped as the third voice came from over her shoulder.  She leapt to her feet and turned to see Treize standing behind her.  “You!  I should have known only a sick bastard like you would be sending children to war!  How can you send kids to their deaths?!”

 

            “Do not believe everything that your superior officers tell you.”

 

            “Why not?  The evidence is here between us!”  She pointed at Wufei.

 

            “First of all, they have been raised to be who and what they are.  They are the perfect soldiers.”

 

            “But they’re kids!”

 

            “They are soldiers.”

 

            She took a step towards him and brought her fist up.  “You sick son of a…”

 

            Wufei stood up and held her back.  “Sally, please.  Hear him out.  You cannot make a decision in an emotional state like this.”

 

            Sally stopped in her place.  He’s right, but how can he be so loyal to this man! 

 

            Treize took a seat on the bench.  “This may help you with your decision:  I’m going to be going with them.”

 

            “That helps a little, but why those kids?  Why not send members of your squadron?”

 

            “Because these kids have the best chance of coming back.  They and their Gundams.”

 

            Her jaw dropped to the ground.  “They’re the Gundam pilots!”

 

            “They are also better pilots than almost any two of my others.”

 

            “So what do I have to do?”

 

            “All you have to do is pilot a supply jet.  You won’t be seeing any combat.  The jet is going to be our mobile HQ.”

 

            “What is the mission?”

 

            “We’re buying time so that the SDF-1 can stop at Mars Sara to resupply.  You are aware of the ration situation?”

 

            Sally nodded her head.  “I don’t like it, but it is necessary.  I’m still not convinced of your sincerity yet.”

 

            “Then how about if I throw sling some mud to match what your commanding officer has been feeding you?”

 

            “Come again?”

 

            “How about if I were to tell you that your commanding officer was a part of a plot to murder a child the same age as my Gundam pilots.”

 

            “I’d say you were crazy.”

 

            “Wufei?”

 

            The Chinese boy stepped up again.  “Two of the other pilots have already stopped five attempts so far.”

 

            “Six.”  Treize added.  “There was another one this morning.”

 

            “Okay, Six.”

 

            Sally couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  “That’s impossible!  He’d never do a thing like that!”

 

            Wufei nodded his head.  “Believe it.  Heero has been pretty much the only thing between her and death.”

 

            “Her?”

 

            “Relena Peacecraft.  Perhaps you’ve heard of her?”  Treize quirked a smile.

 

            “It can’t be!”

 

            Treize stood up in front of her.  “Give me a chance and I’ll remove all doubt.”  He held out his hand.

 

            She haltingly took it.  “Okay, but if you’re lying, I’ll slit your throat.”

 

            Treize smiled at her.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

 

 

            In the same hold where they were earlier, the two conspirators were talking again.  The first took out a cigar and lit it.  “Everything is going as planned.  We will control this ship within the month.”

 

            The second nodded his head.  “Yes.  I’ve made preparations for our ‘princess’.  She’ll be toast soon after the Gundams leave.”

 

            “And the repercussions?”

 

            “The Gundams and Gloval will share the blame.  I’ve already started the slander campaign against the captain.”

 

            “Excellent.  Even if the Gundams survive, they’ll be destroyed by the RDF.”

 

            They both shared in a moment of arrogant laughter.

 

 

 

            Later that day, Treize walked into one of the original bays that the Gundams were constructed in.  Laboring in a corner was a man with a long handlebar mustache.  Instructor H greeted his visitor.  “What brings you here tonight, Commander?”

 

            “I need an item.”

 

            “What kind of ‘item’?  Tallgeese need an upgrade?”

 

            “No, I’m looking for an older item.  Something that has never been tested.”

 

            “What would that be?”

 

            “I’m looking for the Gundam prototype.”

 

            “You already have the Tallgeese.”

 

            “I know about the real prototype.”

 

            “You can’t use that!  It will kill you!”

 

            “I have no choice.  I’m going with the Gundams on the next mission, and I’ll need a fighter that will keep up with them.”

 

            “But…!”

 

            “But nothing.  I need Wing Zero!”