Chapter Ten:  Tallgeese No More

 

            Catherine Bloom was in the middle of an acrobatic routine when the flap of the tent opened to reveal a familiar face.  “Trowa?  Trowa!”  She ran over and embraced the boy.  “I’ve been so worried about you!  Where have you been?”

 

            Trowa gently pushed her away.  He looked into her eyes and the events of the past days came back to him.  How would he have felt if it was her that was the target of assassination?  How would he have felt if he had not saved her like Heero had saved Relena?  “I’m fine.  I just had to go away for a while.”

 

            “Where did you go?  Why didn’t you leave a note or something?  We were all so worried!”

 

            “I had some business to take care of.   I’m safe now.  That’s all you should concern yourself with.”

 

            Catherine looked him in the eye trying to penetrate the air of mystery that still surrounded the boy she had befriended long ago.  “Trowa, are you in trouble?  Have you been charged with a crime?”

 

            “Nothing like that.  I just have other things to concern myself with than the circus.”

 

            She gave him a concerned look.  “Can’t you tell me?  I promise I won’t tell any of the others.  I just want to know that you aren’t in some kind of trouble.”

 

            He looked into her eyes.  He knew he could believe her, but he couldn’t break the vow of silence he had given to his cause.  His burden would be his and his alone.  “I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you.  I will tell you it’s important and no one else can do what I do for the safety of the city.”

 

            She looked him in the eye once again.  “Are you a member of the Civil Defense?”

 

            “In a manner of speaking.”

 

            “Why couldn’t you tell me that you were a mecha pilot?  Why are you working at the circus?  Doesn’t the RDF pay you enough?”

 

            “They pay enough.  I just need to be here.”

 

            She gave him a smile.  “For me?  Thank you, Trowa.”

 

            Trowa took an involuntary step back.  “No.  It’s not that.”

 

            She stuck her chin out and pouted.  “You don’t like me?”  She was pretending of course.

 

            Trowa held up his hands as he saw himself losing his only friend.  “No!  I like you!”

 

            Catherine laughed as her smile returned to her face.  “I was only kidding.  It’s nice to see that you have some other expression besides neutral.”  She winked at him.

 

            “Where is that useless kid?”  A shout came from outside the tent.  The flap opened to reveal the ringmaster.  “Trowa!  Where have you been?  I’d fire you if I could!”

 

            “He lost a lot of money cause you didn’t show up.  You’re quite the celebrity.”  Catherine whispered into Trowa’s ear.

 

            The ringmaster growled as her whisper was clearly audible to everyone in the tent.  “Just tell me when you leave.  Are you going to be here for the show tomorrow?”

 

            Trowa nodded.  “I’ll be there.”

 

            Catherine leaned on his shoulder.  “Will you be here tonight?  I’ve got something special cooking.”

 

            A trace of a smile played across Trowa’s lips.  “I think I can be persuaded.”

 

 

 

            Heero glanced over at his companion again as they walked through the park.  The blonde simply smiled at him and continued walking.  “How much longer to we have to walk around here?”

 

            Relena looked at him.  “I thought you would enjoy a walk in the park.  I thought you’d like a chance to get away from your Gundam.”

 

            “Quiet.  Someone might hear.”

 

            “Nobody is around Heero.  Nobody is left around here that would want to kill me, and nobody here would want to listen to a couple strolling through the park anyway.”

 

            “Why do you insist on dragging me around?  You already admitted yourself that you don’t need me to protect you anymore.”

 

            A hurt look came to her face.  “Heero.  Is it too much to ask that you simply stay beside me?”

 

            “I have other things I could be doing.”

 

            “You’d rather spend more time around machines than me?”

 

            “I can understand machines perfectly.”

 

            “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

            “I prefer to spend time around things that make sense.  Machinery and weapons make sense.”

 

            “You mean I don’t make sense?”

 

            “Correct.  When I’m around you I can’t even make sense of myself.  The week we spent together, I found myself doing things I would never have done before.  The fact that I even brought you along is against anything I’ve been trained to do.”

 

            “You mean you don’t like the fact that you saved my life?”

 

            “I don’t like the fact that I have no control when I’m around you.  I am a soldier.  You must always have command of a situation, or you will die.”

 

            “Sometimes, Heero…”  She turned and looked at the pond in the park.  “You have to go with the flow.  Let your emotions control you.”

 

            “Emotions get you killed.”

 

            “Emotions can also save your life.”

 

            “How do you figure?”

 

            She stepped close to him.  “Life without emotions leaves you a husk of a person.   You live everyday waiting to die.  With emotions there is a point to life.  There’s happiness and love, two things that make life worth living.”

 

            Heero gave her an even gaze.  “There’s also sadness, hate, loneliness, and fear.  The bad obviously outweighs the good.”

 

            “It’s not about numbers!  It’s about living!  You have to take risks for the good.”

 

            “How do you know if the risk is worth it?”

 

            “You have to just do it, just reach out to others.”

 

            “I don’t need others.”

 

            “Yes, you do!”  She started into another flowery speech about the benefits of feelings.

 

 

 

            Unnoticed by the couple, another person was listening, not by choice, mind you.  Duo flipped his long braided hair over the back of the bench.  “Why don’t they just kiss and get on with it?  At least then I could enjoy a nice day in the park.”  He looked up at the sky provided by EVE, the computer that controlled the environment of Macross city.  “Heero has a perfectly good woman chasing him, and he won’t do anything about it.  I guess he really did take her along to protect her.  I wouldn’t waste my chances if a hot girl was throwing herself at me…”

 

            “Excuse me.”

 

            Duo turned his head and lowered his sunglasses at the purple haired, blue-eyed girl standing beside him.  “Yeah?”

 

            “Can you tell me which direction to the RDF enlistment office?”

 

            Duo looked her up and down.  “Why do you want to go there?”

 

            “I want to join the defense force.  I want to protect this city.”

 

            “Why would you want to do that?”

 

            “Because I feel like it’s my duty!  It’s not the old days where woman aren’t allowed to fight!  You should be joining with me, not lounging around in the park trying to talk me out of it.”

 

            “Who says I’m trying to talk you out of it?  I’m just curious.  Besides, how do you know that I’m not already a part of the RDF?”

 

            The girl gave him an amused smile.  “The lack of uniform is a big clue.  Everyone knows an RDF officer wears his uniform everywhere.”

 

            “Not necessarily.  He’s allowed to change when he’s off duty.  Especially since there is a need to keep moral high in these desperate times.”  He smiled back at her.

 

            “A wise guy, huh?  Okay, G.I. Joe, what branch do you work in.”

 

            Duo leaned back and put his hands behind his head.  “I’m special forces.  You know, covert operations, midnight raids, super secret stuff that keeps all of us breathing.  That sort of stuff.  Yep, I’m pretty much the only thing standing between this city and oblivion.”

 

            She chuckled at him.  “Well if all it took was ego than you’d be the greatest warrior in the universe.”

 

            Duo smiled a sly grin.  “Who says I’m not?  I’ll go ahead and let you in on a little secret.  I’m the God of Death.”

 

            “Sure.  And I’m Buddha.  Are you going to tell me where the recruitment offices or not?”

 

            “I really need to speak to my PR people.”  Duo muttered under his breath.  He raised his legs and dropped them, using the momentum to spring to his feet.  “Right this way my dear.”  He bowed with a flourish.  “Right this way to the adventure of a lifetime.  Might I have the name of our future soldier?”

 

            The girl with the deep purple hair giggled.  “Hilde.  Hilde Schbeiker.”

 

            “I’ll show you to the office, and then I’ll show you a fine dinner to celebrate your enlistment.”

 

            She smiled in amusement.  “I don’t think I could date a man that doesn’t fight for his people.”

 

            “Hey!  I’ve risked my butt dozens of times!  I’m the God of Death!  The aliens run in terror from me!”

 

            “Suuure they do.  That’s why you don’t have a uniform.”

 

            “What is it with you and the uniform?  A man can be a soldier without one.”

 

            “Sure, right.  How about you just show me to the office?  I’d like to enlist sometime today.  We’ll also see if you get saluted when we walk in the door.”

 

            “They wouldn’t know me.  I’m in special forces.”

 

            “Covert Ops, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Just admit that you’re to cowardly to join!”

 

            “I am not!!!  I’m already in!!!”

 

            “Where’s your ID?”

 

            “Bah!”

 

            Duo’s argument had attracted Heero’s attention.  “Idiot.”

 

 

 

            Wufei and Sally sat at a booth at the White Dragon restaurant.  The waitress served them with an overabundance of enthusiasm.  Wufei was slightly disturbed by the display.  “Is she well?  She seems…unbalanced?”

 

            Sally laughed.  “She’s a regular teenager.  Something you should be.”

 

            “There is no way I would ever act like THAT.  It’s so…so…disgusting.”

 

            “What’s wrong with being high on life?”

 

            “I think she’s on something else.  Cocaine maybe.”

 

            Sally shook her head.  “Just enjoy your food.”

 

            Wufei rolled his eyes.  “Whatever.  I just think she’s a flake.”

 

            “You really need to learn what being a teenager is all about.”

 

 

 

            Zechs was just putting in the final adjustments to the Tallgeese’s manual controls.  He was cursing under his breath with each turn of a screw. 

 

            “Are you still fuming?”

 

            The voice over his shoulder startled him enough to start and hit his head on the headliner.  “Noin!  What are you doing here?  You’re supposed to be on leave.”  He went back to finalizing the repairs to the Tallgeese.

 

            Noin climbed into the cockpit and sat in the pilot’s seat.  “Who says I can’t spend my leave here?  You are.”

 

            Zechs harrumphed.  “I have to get the Tallgeese in operational order again.  We could be called to combat again at any time.”

 

            Noin traced the lines in the chair.  “You’re just still angry about Heero and Relena spending a week alone together without you knowing about it.”  She looked around the cockpit.  “I understand that his cockpit is much more cramped.”

 

            Zechs started turned bolts faster.

 

            “Oh come off it!  She’s her own person!”

 

            “She’s only fifteen!”

 

            “You were only twelve when you joined the army.”

 

            “I had a mission.”

 

            “But you still thought you were old enough to make mature decisions.  Why don’t you give her the same chance?”

 

            Zechs looked up at her.  “Because she’s the last living member of Peacecraft monarchy.  She has to be protected…”

 

            “From what?  Love?”

 

            Zechs glared at her.  “Against people that would use and hurt her.”

 

            Noin rolled her eyes.  “Heero would never do either of those.  I bet he didn’t do anything that entire week.”

 

            Zechs bristled at the mention of the amount of time that the two had spent together.  “I bet he did.  It’s the quiet ones that always surprise you.”

 

            Noin took the wrench out of his hands.  “Look.  Just because you don’t want to show your feelings, doesn’t mean she can’t.”

 

            “She has to be protected.”

 

            “Heero did that.  That’s why she’s still breathing today.  He’s saved her life countless times.  Why don’t you just leave them alone?”

 

            “Give me that!”  He reached for the wrench, but Noin pulled it out of reach.

 

            “Not until you admit that she’s your sister and admit that you care about her.”  She held up her finger when he tried to speak.  “And none of that protection bull!”

 

            Zechs rolled his eyes under his mask.  “Milliardo is dead.”

 

            Noin lifted the helmet to look at his eyes.  “He looks alive and well to me.  He just needs to relearn how to live.  He’s so concerned about his precious revenge that he doesn’t believe in himself.  He has his revenge, why doesn’t he live?”

 

            Zechs looked into her eyes and found he really had no answer.  They stared at each other for what seemed like hours.  He was starting to get lost when the communications gear piped up.  “SDF-1 is coming to rest at Mars Sara Base.  All Destroid units disembark to protect the supply trucks.”

 

            Zechs pulled his helmet back down.  “Looks like we’ve come to a stop.  I need to test out the Tallgeese, want to join me?”

 

            Noin smiled from the chair.  “From here?”

 

            “No, with your Mercurius.”

 

            “But this would be so much more fun.”

 

            “Get out before I throw you out.”

           

            Noin laughed.  “Fourteen or fifteen more rejections and I’ll leave you, you know.”

 

            “If only you weren’t so stubborn.”

 

            “If only you weren’t.”

 

            Zechs laughed.  “I guess we are a match, aren’t we.  Now go get your Gundam.  I need to make sure Tallgeese is operational.”

 

            Noin threw up her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay.”

 

            A few moments later the two Gundams launched from the bay.  The Tallgeese made a few corkscrews and loop-de-loops.  He pulled his beam saber and made a few slashes in midair.  “Everything seems to be back in order.”

 

            Noin studied Zech’s maneuvers.  “You’re operating at only eighty-five percent efficiency.  You still need to do a few more repairs.”

 

            “Let me take a few more turns.  I’m sure that everything is fine.”

 

            “You’re lucky you’re still alive.  I checked the Gundam’s logs.  That was one powerful suit you faced out there.”

 

            “I’m sure I can handle it if it comes back.  I’ll be more prepared this time.”

 

            “Sure you will.”  Noin sneered at Zech’s image on the com gear.

 

            They took off and landed near the Mars Base.  They stared at the base.  There were no visible signs of damage, but the base was still lifeless.  Zechs sighed.  “Why did all these people have to die?”

 

            Noin raised her goggles.  “Moral died and the place became a den of discontent.  People started killing each other over lost shoes.”

 

            “I wonder if that would ever happen to Macross city.”

 

            “I don’t think so.  We’ve got a lot of people that know that their lives depend on the next person.  They’re also doing a lot to help moral around the ship.  Did you here they were planning on bringing back the Miss Macross contest?”

 

            “What’s that?”

 

            “It’s a beauty contest, numbskull.”

 

            “Nyuk, Nyuk.  I don’t see how that can help moral.”

 

            “You really have no sense of people, do you?”

 

            Their conversation was interrupted by an explosion followed by several battlepods erupting from the surrounding canyons.  Zechs toggled over to the tac-net.  “The base is under attack!  Repeat, the base is under attack!”

 

            Sammy’s voice responded.  “We’re trying to lift off.  There’s something holding the ship in place.”

 

            “Where’s Hayes?”

 

            “She’s exploring the base.”

 

            “Great.  We’re under attack and the X-O is off playing hide-and-go-seek.”

 

            “Heads up!”  Noin yelled at him.  “Incoming.”

 

            The pods came across the field toward them.  They both ignited their beam sabers and charged at the pods.  Veritech fighters joined in the effort.  Noin noticed that Zechs was only using his beam saber for combat.  “Why aren’t you firing the canister rifle?”

 

            “It doesn’t have any ammo.  I didn’t reload it before our test flight.”

 

            “Great.”

 

            “But the saber’s more than enough for these pushovers.”

 

            Just as he finished the communiqué, the ground around the Tallgeese erupted.  The same silver suit that he fought at the asteroid belt popped from the ground, bringing his sword down and in a double-handed chop.  The Tallgeese blocked the blow with his Saber.  The Mercurius slashed from the side.  Khronus withdrew and slashed at the knees of the red Gundam.  He managed to cut open the knee actuator before pulling back for a ranged attack.  He stopped in the red sand and opened fire with his main cannon.  The blast was blocked by the Mercurius’ shield.

 

            Khronus howled in anger and charged in again.  They exchanged blows several more times.  Khronus managed to battle both the Gundams to a standstill.

 

            “We’ve got to do something!  He’s going to take us apart at this rate.”  Noin shouted as she dodged another slash from the enemy mecha.

 

            “I’m trying to think of something.”

 

            Just then a transmission came over the tac-net.  “Clear the area!  The Mars Sara  main reactor is about to explode!  Clear the area!”

 

            “We can’t stay here!”  Noin brought her firearm to play against the other mecha.  The shells bounced off his Gundanium hide.

 

            “Sammy!  How long until the reactor melts down?”  Zechs shouted over the tac-net.

 

            “Thirty seconds.”

 

            “Noin.  Leave now!”

 

            “Why?  What are you doing?”

 

            “Just go!”   He pushed the throttle to full and rammed the alien toward the base.  As the G’s pushed him against his chair and his ribs started to feel like they would break, he brought the Tallgeese’s arms around to grab the silver mecha in a bear hug.  The two mecha went on their collision course with the base.

 

            “What are you doing?”  Noin shouted.

 

            “Catch me.”

 

            “What?”

 

            “Catch me!”

 

            Tallgeese’s hatch opened and a figure dropped and was whipped into the wind and blown back behind the two mecha.  The two mecha struck the base just as it exploded.  Noin caught Zechs and brought her shields around to protect them from the blast.  A secondary blast went off in a much more brilliant display of light and destruction.  A red veritech flew out with another figure clasped in one of its hands.

 

            “What did you do?”  Noin asked over her external speaker.

 

            “I set the self-destruct on the Tallgeese.  It was the only way.  Now let’s follow Hunter’s lead over there and get out of here.”

 

            “Roger that.”  The Mercurius turned around rocketed from the still exploding base.  They raced toward a rising SDF-1.

 

 

 

            After the dust had settled and the mecha had cleared the planet, there was movement from the wreckage of the Mars Sara base.  The form of Khronus stood up from the wreckage.  His power armor was hanging off of him in tattered bits.  By all rights he should be dead from the lack of atmosphere, but there were legends of Zentreadi that could withstand the rigors of space unaided.  Some say that it was a strong constitution and hard skin.  The truth of the matter is that a determined Zentreadi does not allow himself to die from a little thing like a lack of Oxygen.

 

            “I will kill you micronian!  This I swear!!!”  He screamed at the top of his lungs as he held high the disembodied head of the Tallgeese.