Chapter Twelve:  A House Divided

 

            Time passed as it has a tendency to do, and the aliens continued their relentless assault on the SDF-1, wearing down the soldiers and widdling away their numbers.  Several pilots were rushed through training like Rick Hunter had been, one of which was a girl by the name of Hilde Schbeiker.  She had just launched on her first mission out of basic.  She flew her VF-1A into combat beside her wingmate.   Her squadron had been dubbed the ‘sirens’ since it was the first group that consisted entirely of women.  They had their slogan of, ‘Lure the enemies to their death with the sound of our engines!’ 

 

Hilde smiled as she rolled and squeezed the trigger on her control stick, lighting up another battlepod.  She reached for the guardian lever and switched over to the hybrid mode.  She spun and fired on another pod that was chasing her wingmate.  This was just like the simulators, even down to the pods predictability.  Of course they weren’t in the heavy sector like Skull and Vermillion, but for a first time out this was enough.

 

The battle was textbook.  Not to say that it was dangerous and difficult, just that it followed exactly what they expected from the unknown aliens.

 

All the sudden a barrage of energy bolts zipped across her field of view.  She mechamorphed into battloid mode in time to avoid the fusillade.

 

“Incoming!  Three enemy squadrons!  Fall back to the SDF-1!”  The face of her wing commander came on her com board.  She pulled back and hit the pedals to engage the rockets on the feet of her battloid.  The jet sped toward the monstrous spaceship with the other pods in hot pursuit.

 

The warning signals on her control board went off, filling the cockpit with alarm bells.  She turned her head and saw more pods incoming.  The two groups surrounded the Sirens in a pincer movement.  In her efforts to stay alive, Hilde lost her wingmate and the rest of her squadron.

 

She transformed into fighter mode and pushed her afterburners to their limit.  She had to reach the ship so that the civil defense mecha on the deck of the SDF-1 could lend their fire to her aid.  She cursed silently as four pods came from the side in an intercept course.  She morphed to battloid and fired off another barrage of shells.  She also let loose several missiles to keep the other pods off her back.

 

A hailstorm of enemy fire rained down on her mecha.  She spun wildly to try to avoid the bolts.  She took a grazing blow to the head of her machine and several shots through the arms and legs.  Her mecha continued on with its forward momentum until it collided with the ship’s hull.  She managed to maneuver her veritech to where she could see the pods coming for her.

 

“Siren Six calling Siren Leader!  I need help!”  She shouted into her com, but no response came.  She did a quick diagnostic and saw her communications was destroyed with the blow to her robot’s head.

 

“So this is how it ends.”  She commented to herself as she watched a pod come in for the kill, the others stepping aside to allow it the kill.  “All that training and I get killed on my first mission.”  She heaved a heavy sigh as time seemed to stand still.  Maybe I should have taken Duo up on his offer.  She thought absently.

 

The pod stopped in front of her as if to show off an arrogant attitude of a spider killing a bug with minimal effort.  The guns on the pods swiveled to where they were pointing at Hilde’s veritech.  She drew a sharp intake of breath for she knew this was the end.

 

Just as things looked their darkest, an arced blade of pure energy formed behind the enemy mecha, illuminating a black figure standing behind the pod.  The enemy turned to face the new opponent, only to be severed in twain by a broad sweep of the energy blade. 

 

The battlepod exploded in a red blaze.  Hilde got a good look at the robot that had saved her life.  It was a black machine of a make that she had never seen before.  It vaguely reminded her of a samurai in full black armor combined with the grim reaper.

 

More pods came in and opened fire.  The dark mecha shielded her with his body and seemed to be able to ignore all the blasts.  The mecha’s head lit up as the two machine guns on its head erupted.  The bullets ripped through a few pods and they blew up in a spectacular display.

 

When the black machine’s ammo ran dry, it charged forward with it’s energy scythe.  It mowed through the enemy like a farmer in the wheat fields.  She watched as it danced through with a deadly grace that she couldn’t believe was possible in piloting.  Hilde could almost believe that it was Death incarnate visiting the alien menace.

 

The mecha finished all the pods that came after her except for one, which turned and tried to outrun its destruction.  The black knight lifted its left arm.  The bladed end of the buckler on that arm split in two, and the entire shield shot out to the battlepod.  The shield spiraled as it flew and drilled through the enemy mecha.  Space lit up for another split second, as the last pod was gone.

 

The machine turned to face her, its blade still extended.  She was started to fear for her own safety.  After all, this mecha didn’t match any of the specs they had shown her in the academy.

 

 

 

Duo shook his head tried to reach the damaged pod on his com system.  He read the markings on the veritech once more.  “VT-139, do you hear me?  Do you need to be towed to a service dock?”  He muted the system.  “Damn rookie pilots don’t know how to use a radio.  This one was lucky the God of Death was in the area.  The damage looks pretty bad.  He probably needs the tow.”  What kind of guy would fly a veritech with pink trim?  He thought absently.

 

The other mecha tapped the side of its head with its last functioning arm.

 

            “Oh, your communications are down.  Okay, then lets try this.”  He manipulated Deathscythe to do hand gestures that he hoped would tell the other pilot to transform into guardian mode.

 

            Slowly the other machine complied.  Duo opened the service compartments on the fighter and detached the nosecone/cockpit section of the fighter.  “There you go, all safe and sound.  I’ll have you in one of the main hangers before you can say, ‘where’s the rest of my veritech’.”  Another veritech flew up and transformed into the humanoid mode in front of him.

 

            “Unknown battloid.  This is Siren One requesting you turn over the escape pod of VT-139.”  A female voice came over Duo’s com line.

 

            He smirked.  So they’re letting women out in the mecha now.  “This is Deathscythe.  You might want to keep a closer eye on your team in the future.  Here you go.”  The gundam handed the pod over to the veritech.

 

            “Thank you.  Who do you report to, Deathscythe?”

 

            “Treize Kushrenada, terminating transmission.”  He cut off the com line and engaged his boosters.  “Time to find some more pods to dispose of.”  He had a broad smile on his face in anticipation as he wheeled the Gundam back to the battle.

 

 

 

            A few minutes later, her squadron leader dropped Hilde off in the hanger bay.  The techs rushed in to secure the pod and make sure that she was okay.  She finally got away from the engineering techs wondering what sector the rest of her craft was in, and the medtechs gave her a quick once-over.  She complied with all the mess like procedure dictated and went about telling the salvage grew where to find her veritech and asking them how long it would be before she could get another.  Thanks to the wonders of Robotechnoloy, she would have to wait longer on her paperwork than for the construction of her new plane.

 

            After a few more piles of paperwork she went through the post-mission debriefing.  The battle had ended shortly after she had been brought in, so the rest of the squadron was waiting for her when she arrived.

 

            Some more time passed and Hilde was allowed to leave the base.  She heaved a huge sigh of relief and headed to the park.  She plopped down on a bench and tried to relax, but the picture of her dark savior would not leave her head.  He had danced around the enemy pods like they were standing still, and his accuracy was unmatched.  It seemed that two pods exploded with each movement of his energy blade.  She knew that he had acted to protect her.  She was touched.

 

            “Deathscythe.”  She spoke the name with a wistful tone.  Her squadron leader had told her the battloid’s name and commanding officer.  She knew that Treize had led the OZ squadron, but had stepped down some time ago.  In fact his whole officer contingent had dropped off the map.  There were rumors that he was heading a super secret flight squad, but all the older pilots were keeping their mouths shut about anything that happened before Mars.

 

            A small commotion on the other side of the park got her attention.  She looked over and saw lieutenant Hunter in civvies talking to the trio of women affectionately known as the bridge bunnies.  Hilde thought he was kind of cute, but if he had three girls chasing him now, she didn’t have a chance.  Besides, it was common knowledge that he had spent a long time with Miss Macross, lost below decks.

 

            She sighed deeply and wished there was someone out there for her.  Of course there was the pilot of this Deathscythe mecha.  Maybe he’s the one for her, at least she hoped it was a guy in that destroid.

 

            “Well, if it isn’t a beautiful woman on a beautiful day.  How about you and I go take in some dinner on a sidewalk café?” 

 

Hilde rolled her eyes.  The cocky voice could only belong to one person.  “Go away, Duo.  I’m busy.”

 

Duo vaulted over the back of the park bench and landed in a sitting position beside her.  He was dressed all in black as usual with his ever-present black shades over his eyes.  “It doesn’t look like you’re doing anything now.  How about it?  You, me, a romantic dinner, and maybe some quality time afterwards.”

 

 “Go away, Slick.  I’ve had a bad day.”  She hissed at him.

 

“Come on, I thought you’d be in a good mood.  You went on your first mission and came back!  You had to have shot down a few bogeys!”  He smiled broadly.  “It can’t be that bad.”

 

“I was shot down, you idiot!  I wouldn’t have made it back, if it hadn’t been for one of the other pilots.”  She bunched her fists and prepared to pummel him.

 

“Hey!  Hey!  I didn’t know!”  He threw up his hands in defense.

 

“But you knew that I had a mission today.”

 

He smiled a sly grin.  “So I checked the duty roster, so what?  I’m in the military, I can do that.”

 

She growled at him.  “You were spying on me!”

 

“The God of Death doesn’t spy!”  He declared in an offended tone.  “Okay, maybe on some occasions he does, but not this time.  I was just making sure we only had our top pilots out today.”  He tried to recover.

 

“Go away creep.”

 

Crash and burn.  Oh well, time to re-equip with a new battle plan.  Duo stood up and pulled his shades down to where she could see his eyes.  “Well, if you change your mind, just look me up in the directory.  Duo Maxwell.”

 

“What?  You’re not listed as the God of Death?”  She asked with sarcastic ring in her words.

 

“Well they would only let me put two words in, and ‘God of’ is too open for interpretation.  I’d get calls from everyone!”  He smiled broadly as he strutted away.

 

Hilde put her hands on her hips and scowled after the brown-haired boy.  “Oooo!!!”  She steamed   After a couple minutes she managed to calm down some.  “Wait a minute.  God of Death?  Deathscythe?”  She shook her head.  “Naaaah…”  She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture and headed back to the barracks.

 

 

 

Duo strutted as far away as the edge of the park where he lost the cocky stride and settled back into his regular quiet walk.

 

“Why do you waste your time with that girl?  You should be training.”

 

The got of death didn’t even look to the side as he smirked at the newcomer.  “Well, Heero.  Some of us like a challenge.  We don’t always take the first girl that comes along.”

 

“Idiot.” Came the unemotional response.

 

“Careful, you don’t want to case a scene with your outburst of anger.”  He grinned broadly again.

 

“I think it’s sweet.”  Relena’s voice came from the side.

 

Duo spun around at that.  “Relena!  What are you doing here?!”  He suddenly was abashed.  “No offense about the first girl to come along crack, right?”

 

“None at all.”  She smiled sweetly.  “I just wanted to take a walk in the park, and of course I couldn’t go out without my body guard.”

 

“Let’s get this over with.”  Heero started walking forward.  Relena quickly stepped up to his side.

 

“Hey, Heero!”  Duo shouted after them.  Heero turned his head and Duo made a hand motion like he was cracking a whip, waved, and turned to leave.

 

“Idiot.”  Heero glared after him.

 

Just at that moment the entire ship was thrown in upheaval.  It was like an enormous earthquake had struck in downtown macros, buildings shook, windows shattered, fissures formed in the street.

 

 

 

A few minutes before, back at the staging area for the Gundam defense force, a great debate was going on.  Noin was glaring at Zechs as he went over the pre-flight check of Wing Zero.  The Gundam was currently in bird mode while Zechs was running diagnostics in the cockpit with the canopy open.  Noin was standing on the ladder to the cockpit.

 

“You are NOT going out on this monster!”  Noin declared for the nth time.

 

“I have to pilot something.”  Zechs replied for nth time.  “With Tallgeese destroyed, I’ve got nothing to pilot but a veritech, and that’s not going to be enough to stop these aliens.”

 

“What about one of the new armored veritechs?  They’ve got the same destructive power as Heavyarms!”

 

“But it’s not Gundanium.  It won’t take the speeds and maneuvers I require of a machine.”

 

“Then take the Mercurius then!”

 

“For the thousandth time, I’m not going to take your Gundam.  I know I can’t stop you from going into battle, so I want you to have the most protection possible.”

 

She smirked.  “So you do care about me.”

 

He lost himself in the check.  After another few minutes he began to power up the engines.  “I’d suggest you move away before I power this monster up fully.”

 

“Nothing you can do can make me mooo-eeekk!”  She wind milled wildly as the vibrations carrying through the deck shook her off the ladder.

 

Zechs quickly shutdown the Gundam down, but the quakes continued.  “What is it?  Are we under attack?”

 

The shaking stopped abruptly, the platinum haired man leapt down to help the raven-haired girl back to her feet.  “Are you all right?  Anything injured?”

 

She nodded her head.  “Just my pride.  What was that?”

 

The overhead com came on.  “That was the Zentraedi fleet firing a warning shot across our bow.”  Treize Kushrenada’s voice filled the hanger.

 

“The Zentraedi?”  They pair asked at once.

 

The door to the staging area opened to reveal Treize and Lady Une.  “The Zentraedi are the aliens that have been following us across the sea of stars.  They allowed us to make a transmission to Earth, and minutes later they opened fire across our bow and issued an ultimatum.  We either surrender the ship, or be destroyed.”  Treize stopped and put a hand on his hip.  “We have no choice but to activate Wing Zero.  Launch will be in half an hour.”

 

“You can’t do that!  The system is dangerous!”  Noin yelled at him.

 

Lady Une gave her a hard stare.  “Yours is not to question.  The system will be mastered.”

 

“You’re not going to send him out alone, are you?”  Noin’s tone hadn’t lessened.

 

“Of course not, we’re sending out Heero as well.  That’s why we’re waiting half an hour and not launching now.  All contingencies have been taken into account.”  Une reassured her in a harsh voice.

 

“You can’t have covered ALL of them.”  The raven-haired woman muttered.

 

 

 

Exactly half an hour later, Heero and Zechs flew out of the bay.  Both Wing Zero and Wing Zero-One were in bird mode.  They started with some easy maneuvers to get Zechs accustomed to his new vehicle.  They shifted modes and began to fly among the asteroid field around the ship that had been formed by the Zentraedi’s demonstration.  The alien weapon test had also knocked out the communications tower for the SDF-1, the ship was blind in the water.

 

Treize, Lady Une, and Relena looked on as the paired darted around the asteroids, playing a deadly version of hide and seek.  They carefully monitored Zechs’ biosigns for any fluctuations that might be caused by the zero system.

 

In the cockpit, the Lieutenant Commander was amazed.  The machine was everything he expected and more.  The handling, speed, maneuverability, and the overall power of the machine was tremendous!  He couldn’t believe that this could be the menace that Noin was afraid of.

 

A flash of movement off the starboard side of his craft caught his attention.  He turned to see a flash of white disappear around one of the asteroids.  “Did you see that, Heero?”

 

“Yes, I’m going to investigate.”  Wing Zero-One’s afterburners kicked in as it picked up speed toward the large fragment.

 

“I’m coming in on your six.”  Zechs set his throttle to full in pursuit of the other Gundam.

 

The two turned the corner and ran into a squadron of battlepods.  They quickly changed to battloid mode and opened fire of the aliens, Zechs’ double buster rifle wiping out a score in one shot.  The other pods scattered and approached from several directions.  Heero put his buster rifle under his shield and drew his beam saber.  He shot up upward and began to engage them in close quarters combat.

 

Zechs opted to continue using his buster rifle.  The double-barreled rifle slit in two and were aimed to either side of the Gundam.  Wing Zero began to spin in a pirouette of death.

 

A high of information rushed of the man in the cockpit of Wing Zero.  He saw all the pods movements before they happened.  It was child’s play to eliminate them, several at a time.  The targeting computer locked on them all and Zechs followed the attack scheme laid out in front of him.

 

Suddenly, the targets began to swirl around him, blurring in a miasma of electromagnetic fields.  He began to breath heavily as he fought to keep control of his craft.  Perspiration caked under his helmet as his teeth began to grind, he could feel consciousness drawing away from him.  A white flash went off in the cockpit.  He became flooded with images, each more frightening than the last.  Images filled his head of comrades dieing, of millions of enemy craft filling the heavens, and most of all images of Heero and his sister.

 

Images battlepods running amok through Macross City ran across his vision with no Gundams in sight.  One had his sights on Relena and opened fire.  Another blur and he saw Relena standing in a grand reception hall, dressed in a magnificent and beautiful dress that was the garb of the queen of the Sanq kingdom.  Above her Heero stood on a balcony.  Zechs watched in horror as he drew his pistol and pointed it toward his sister.  I’ll kill you.  Came words in Heero’s voice.

 

 

 

“NOOOOO!!!!!”  Zech’s began firing wildly around him with the split buster rifle, destroying asteroids and battlepods, but the intended target continued to elude him.

 

Heero pulled g’s that would have destroyed a lesser man as he avoided the blasts from the other Gundam.  “Zechs!  Pull yourself together!  It’s the system!”

 

“No, it’s you!  I’m not going to let you kill her!”  Wing Zero brought the two halves of the double buster rifle together and swung the barrels around toward Wing Zero-One.  The plasma formed around the tips of the barrels a full charge built up.  The weapon belched out a beam to rival that of the main gun of the SDF-1.  The other Gundam nimbly evaded the blast in the time it took for it to charge.

 

He lost track of the boy in a haze as the universe began to swirl again for Zechs. He suddenly saw a ghost image of Wing Zero-One standing in space, unmoving in battloid mode.  He could see that the Gundam had sustained massive damage.   He swung the rifle around for a final shot.  Time seemed to slow down as he pulled the trigger on the buster rifle.

 

Seconds drew out into minutes.  He could see the swirl of light around each tip of the gun, congealing into a ball of massive destruction and death.  He smiled a grim smile as the ball began to travel forward.  You will never harm Relena!  He thought smugly.

 

All of the sudden, the image of the other Gundam winked out of existence and was replaced by the SDF-1, specifically the back staging area of the ship.  He could only watch as the beam lanced out toward the ship.  In his mind’s eye he could see Noin, Treize, Une, and most importantly, Relena staring back at him in shock with looks of being betrayed.  He stood rooted in his spot as he knew that he had killed them all.

 

A streak of white shot in from the side.  Again time slowed to reveal a quite intact Zero-One charging in front of the deadly blast.  It twisted at the last minute to allow the rear armor absorb the double buster beam.

 

The space around them was illuminated in a fire to rival the sun itself.  The light dimmed down to reveal a badly damaged Wing Zero-One.  The back wings and boosters were completely obliterated.  The Gundanium alloy armor was burned away to reveal a sparking power plant of the wounded robot.  The right arm and left leg were completely severed as the other limbs were missing all armor.

 

A deep sense of déjà vu swept over Zechs as he had seen this scene before.  This was the same ghostly image he had seen before he had opened fire.  He stared in disbelief as the Gundam drifted in space.  The machine knows the future!  The thought blazed across his stunned mind.

 

A soft, but urgency filled voice came over communications array.  “HEEEEEEERRRRROOO!!!”  Relena’s tears could be heard in her voice as she cried for an answer.