Episode 26:
To the Stars Through Hardship

        November, A.C. 216. Josie Selvaggio has assumed command of the Preventers. However, several Preventers, disgruntled by the change of leadership, have rebelled against the Senate, after being encouraged by Milliardo's daughter in disguise. The Earth based anti-terrorist organization has split into factions; and history has begun to repeat violently.

        "Load the Basilisks! Get them up into space first! Our best and only bet is to take the battle into space! Get as much loaded as you can, and torch what's left! Gryphon squads one through three, get your suits and equipment loaded on the carriers and launched now!"
    Lady Une took a breath and resumed.
    "Everyone else, prepare for battle!"

        Amid the chaos that had erupted on the base, the pilots assigned to defense loaded up and took off into the azure sky,  holding formation in the air above the base.
    "So what are we dealing with?" Duo inquired.
    "If it's old OZ suits, probably Leos and Aries." Wufei noted dryly.
    "Where the hell did they GET that many suits in the first place?" Shino muttered, scanning the horizon for the incoming enemy.
    "Well, a lot of 'em were stripped of weapons and sold off or something, y'know." One of the other Preventer pilots cursed soundly after his remark.
    "I've got them on radar!" Meiran informed everyone, cutting the previous conversation quite short. "We should have visual confirmation in 3 minutes."
    "Got 'em too." Shino responded. "Looks like Uncle Wufei called it. Leos and Aries. Shouldn't be too big a problem."
    "You shouldn't underestimate an enemy!" Meiran and Wufei both scolded at the same time.
    "... Okay, that was disturbing." Duo sweatdropped.

        Meanwhile, on the ground, Lady Une was busy giving orders and organizing the extremely chaotic scene.
    "You heard me! We can't let the enemy get CLOSE enough to the base to use the base guns! The Gryphons will have to hold off the enemy long enough to get everything out of here!" She yelled at one worker who had questioned her. "Mariemaia, I want you to get out of here as soon as possible. Sally and I can take care of things here."
    "But,  I can use the-" Mariemaia began to object.
    "No! It's too dangerous. We'll try to get the suit out of here, but we may have to leave it behind and destroy it. Our priority is to get everything and everyone into space!" Une left little room for argument as she exited to go take care of another one of the multitude of tasks that had sprung up in the past hour.
    Mariemaia watched Lady Une go and pondered for a minute. Coming to a decision, she turned her wheelchair and left the room as fast as she could, her mind made up.

        "What's the status report?" Selvaggio inquired from where he was at work with technicians at the Senate HQ.
    "Commander Selvaggio, we can confirm that the Preventers have launched several mobile suits and intend to resist with considerable force!" The report crackled through. "Are you sure these old mobile suits are up to this?"
    "We outnumber them, and the old models aren't the only card we have to play." Selvaggio smiled. "If they intend to resist, then we're justified in using any means to contain this rebellion. Begin the attack!"

    The two forces faced each other for a brief moment, each waiting for the other to make the first move, when Selvaggio's order reached the attackers.
    "Here they come!" Duo shouted.
    In one fluid motion, the two forces surged forward and erupted into combat.
    "Bastards!" Shino growled, tangling with a pair of Aries. One fired its missile payload while the other tried to corral the Gryphon into the blast radius with a beam rifle. "I'm not gonna die here!" Shino rolled out of the way of the incoming missiles and backhanded the other with his suit's beam talons.
    "I better not have to intercept any blasts for you, girl." Wufei noted with a smirk as he came down on a Leo like a load of bricks.
    "You won't have to, Daddy." Meiran snapped back at her father while she blew the head off an Aries with her Gryphon's beam cannon.
    "Sorry, mister, but it's time for you to meet your Maker!" Duo rushed forwards at one of the few Tauruses on the battlefield and hit the cockpit with a beam saber. "Nothing personal, of course." He added as the stricken mobile suit sparked and plunged to the ground with an explosion.
    Shino ducked and weaved through a hail of bullets, aiming to take out a particularly irritating group of Tragos at the far end of the battlefield. He was cut off by a Leo leaping into the air and blocking his path.
    "Shit! A flying Leo? The hell?' Shino recoiled, barely dodging the offending suit's beam saber.
    "One of the flight modification prototypes." Wufei informed the younger pilot. "Seen those before."
    Lady Une muttered something under her breath back at base.
    "Die, brat!" The enemy pilot snarled, taking another swipe at Shino, who blocked with his suit's talons. "You aren't getting to those suits!"
    "Like hell I'm not!" Shino shot back, taking aim with the beam cannon on his suit's other arm. The Leo pilot saw this and grabbed said arm, forcing the cannon to face in a different direction when it went off.
    "Will you watch where you aim?!" Meiran dashed backward in time to evade the accidental friendly fire. I'd hate for my dad to have to intercept shots from our allies.  She thought with much sarcasm.
    The two mobile suits grappled midair for position,  the Leo being pushed back, but not loose, by the Gryphon's superior thrust power.
    His suit's computers beeped at him, and Shino looked over. "Incoming missiles?!" With a yell, Shino slammed down on the foot pedal and kicked the Leo firmly across the cockpit hatch, dislodging its hold. He got out of the way in a big hurry and the incoming missiles slammed into the Leo. Damn, I almost wish I had the Typhoon here!

        Elsewhere, also en route to the besieged headquarters, forty mobile suits were marching through the Mexican desert, where they had recently been on 'official' Preventer business. (Dealing with terrorists to snatch parts for their mobile suits.)
    "Even if it's not the best circumstances, it'll be nice to see Master Quatre again!" Abdul noted to make idle chitchat during the otherwise rather boring trek.
    "... We're supposed to maintain radio silence until we get there." Rashid replied, sounding moderately Not Happy.
    "Timing's everything." One of the others interrupted. "Unidentified mobile suits are approaching at eight o'clock!"
    "What?!" A chorus of surprised voices replied, thoroughly ruining what was left of the previously ordered radio silence.
    Sure enough, vaguely visible through the heat haze in the distance appeared to be a force of considerable size.
    "Who are they?" Rashid mused to no one in particular.
    "No clue!" Auda answered.
    The Maganacs braced for a fight.

        Meanwhile, the unknown force was similarly preparing for trouble.
    "Hold formation. If those guys are who I think they are, they aren't our enemy." The grizzled commander instructed, one hand on his mobile suit held up in a sign to halt.
    "But Commander Noah-!" One of the younger pilots began.
    "No buts!" This Noah person barked, silencing the pilot. "If I recall my information correctly, those guys are the Maganac Corps, officially part of the Preventers, but working independently. Surprised they managed to hide those suits of theirs from New Romafellar for so long."
    "They've spotted us, Bossman. What now?" Another pilot piped up.
    "Think they're headed for Preventer HQ to join the New Romafellar attack force?" Another newbie pondered.
    "No, you idiot. If anything, they're dedicated to a good cause, and connected to one of the Gundam pilots. They're probably heading there to help the Preventer counterattack!" Noah shot back. "You guys stay put."
    "Yessir, Bossman!" The fifty or so strong group chorused, taking position, weapons ready.
    "... And for God's sake, put those things away before you start a war, you idiots!" Noah snarled as he threw down his suit's handheld weaponry. "You don't make allies by pointing excessive firepower and high explosives at them!"
    "Yessir." The pilots replied meekly, putting their weapons down.
    Boldly, the green and grey mobile suit marched forward, both hands in the air in the universal sign of 'Damnit, don't shoot!'

        Ariana glanced up as she heard a car come squealing into the driveway. Her mild curiosity turned to full-blown alarm when Sidra came pounding into the backyard where the Tallgeese and FalconWing were parked.
    "Sidra-? Wha-? Why are you back so early?! Where's Shino and Dad and Tiana?" Ariana boggled as Sidra rapidly threw on her flight suit and grabbed up her helmet.
    "No time to chat. Preventer HQ is under attack by Selvaggio, we're evacuating." Sidra explained rapidly as she climbed up into the Tallgeese's cockpit.
    "What?!" Ariana fell backwards in shock. "What about Dad and Shino and Tiana?! Are they all right?!"
    "They're fine for now. Gotta get there to help 'em. Destroy FalconWing and catch the first shuttle you can to Mars. Shit's hitting the fan big time." Sidra belted in and powered up the Gundam.
    "BLOW IT UP?!" Ariana shrieked. "But-"
    She didn't get the chance to finish as Tallgeese's cockpit hissed shut and the suit blasted into the sky, tumbling Ariana backward several feet.
    "Oof!" Ariana grunted upon impact with a pile of various metal parts. "-FalconWing doesn't have a detonator..."

        "Hey, Rashid, one of 'em is coming!" Abdul pointed out the obvious in true dramatic fashion.
    "He's got his arms up, though-" Auda blinked.
    "Hey, this is Noah Hathway of the Peacemakers organization. Lemme talk to yer boss." The pilot addressed the Corps on the comm.
    "Um... Rashid?" Ahmed sweatdropped.
    "His suit looks like a Serpent..." Rashid noted before getting on the comm. "This is Rashid, leader of the Maganac Corps. Who are you guys, what are you doing?"
    "Good. No nonsense. I like that." The Serpent's pilot could be almost heard smirking. "Gave Lady Une a ring earlier about her being on New Romafellar's hit list. I'd assume you and your men are heading there now?"
    "You didn't answer my question." Rashid replied.
    "Ah, right, right. Preventers probably got a little info on us. We're terrorists, y'see." Noah casually stated. "And under normal circumstances, we'd probably be trying to brutally blow each other to bits. But these are hardly normal circumstances. Une's on the run from the government, under attack, and I've never been one to just sit back when the government fucks up royally and does something this stupid."
    "Terrorists?!" The other Maganacs exclaimed, readying weapons.
    "So-" Noah continued in the same cynical tone, "I told my boys that 'hey, let's break out the big guns and go lend 'em a hand.' So, we got out our nice little patchwork toy mobile suits and started to make tracks. So I guess we're on the same team, then."
    "... I see." Rashid replied.
    "So, how about we stop dawdling around here wastin' time and pointing pretty phallic symbols at each other and get our armored plated asses up there?"
    "This guy's a piece of work." Ahmed remarked to Abdul, who nodded silent agreement.
    "...." Rashid remained silent for a long moment.
    "Well? The longer we waste time enjoying the lovely sunny weather here, the better the odds are we're gonna find nothing left to do there. And I doubt you guys wanna miss your ride to go see your little Gundam pilot pal." Noah could be heard tapping his fingers impatiently in the background.
    Swiftly cutting off what would have been a somewhat outraged torrent of remarks from the rest of the Maganacs concerning Noah's irreverent remark about their Master Quatre, Rashid finally replied. "All right then. Let's go."
    "You heard 'em, boys! Pick up the guns and let's MOVE!" Noah barked to his men.

        Milliardo sat in front of his vid-comm, having just put a call through to Howard.
    "Yo! What's up?" Howard got on the line.
    "I'm sure you've already heard about the situation on Earth-" Milliardo began.
    "Yup. Noin called earlier and filled us in over here. So anything new develop?" Howard interrupted.
    "Anyways, the Preventers are going to attempt to evacuate and take everything they can with them, then destroy the rest so Selvaggio can't use it. I'm relatively certain the Preventers won't be able to take care of that second objective while fighting off an incoming attack and evacuating." Milliardo explained, tone thoughtful.
    "Pretty tall order for 'em." Howard agreed.
    "Is it possible to send some assistance undetected and in time to be of use?" Milliardo inquired.
    Howard smirked and nodded slightly. "Just leave it to me, Governor. Not a problem." Howard hung up before Milliardo could reply.
    "Where the hell IS that old fart anyways, Dad?" Siduri inquired, having sat listening to the conversation.
    "Space, I would assume." Milliardo answered after a moment.
    "And he can do WHAT from there?" Siduri raised an eyebrow at his father.
    "I have no idea."
    "... Great." Siduri rolled his eyes, then gained a more serious expression, "Do you suppose Sidra's out there fighting?"
    "Probably. It wouldn't be like her at this point to just sit idle when she's at ground zero." Milliardo sighed, still amazed at how drastically his daughter had changed in the past several months.
    "Fuck, I wish was there."
    "Watch your language." Milliardo glared at his son, but could understand why he desired to be there. He was, after all, Sidra's older brother by a small fraction of time. And extremely protective, as he had learned the hard way.

        "Commander! Report from the lunar base!" One of the operators informed Lady Une.
    "Go ahead." She replied, tense as she monitored the battle going on nearby.
    "They're under attack from Selvaggio's supporters and they're making it difficult to evacuate!"
    "Damn... why now?" Une swore. "Is there a status report?"
    "Our guys have control of approximately sixty-two percent of the base, however, the enemy has control over the launch facility!"
    "... I hate to do this, but order them to use whatever force they have to in order to break out and destroy the base." Une exhaled.
    "Um... some of our forces think they could hold the base..." The operator meekly noted.
    "... Are they insane?! I told them to evacuate!" Une mouthed some choice words under her breath. "Get me the lunar base commander!"
    "Putting you through now, Ma'am!"
    "Commander Une here." Lady Une growled as one of the lunar base personnel got on the comm. "I gave you a direct order to evacuate!"
    "But, Commander, we're regaining control of the base from Selvaggio's goons! We can hold the base and use it to strike back at him!" The officer replied.
    "It won't matter in a few hours whether the lunar base is intact or rendered useless! You can't hold that base against them until the end of this war without backup!" Une retorted harshly.
    "Without backup-?!"
    "Why do you think I told you to evacuate?" Une replied, rapidly losing her patience. "We're going to Mars to regroup! Why do you think I called their Governor before to send help?"
    "Won't that incriminate them, too-"
    "It doesn't matter at this point! Don't you get it?! They're sending some cargo ships so that we can get our people out of here instead of just being senselessly slaughtered!" Une shouted. "I GAVE you a direct order, Lieutenant Commander! I EXPECT you to follow it!"
    "Ur... yes Ma'am." Said officer meekly replied, closing the connection.
    "How are things doing outside?" Une quickly turned to other business, namely what was going down on her front doorstep.
    "We've taken some casualties, but overall, it seems that the enemy force is down fifty percent. Most of our forces are loaded and several have launched." One of the other operators reported.
    "Any of the carriers been shot down?"
    "One sustained heavy damage to one engine, but was able to get away, and two have had to make emergency landings. Most of their crews got away all right."
    "Good. Anything else?" Une turned to start issuing final evacuation orders.
    "Yes Ma'am!" The operator exclaimed with sudden enthusiasm.
    "What is it?" The tone gave Une pause and she turned around, wondering what had suddenly perked the operator up.
    "The Tallgeese has just arrived and is engaging the enemy!"

        "Hey! Welcome to the party!" Duo acknowledged the white and red suit's rather blazing entrance.
    "No time for chitchat, Uncle Duo. Butts to kick, names to take!" Sidra tersely replied, crashing head-on into a Taurus and thrusting a beam saber through the suit's cockpit, resulting in a lovely explosion.
    "What about Ariana, Sidra?" Shino asked, working on knocking out a unit of Leos that looked like they'd been patched together from all sorts of old parts.
    "Told her to waste that suit of hers and hop a shuttle to Mars as soon as humanly possible." Sidra replied quickly, dashing out of the way of a Serpent's bazooka shot.
    "Too bad. We could use another Gundam here." Duo muttered. "Whoa! Hey, who you think you are, tryin' to sneak up on me!?" The God of Death spun midair, raking the Gryphon's beam talons across the offending Aries' left side, effectively blowing up one engine and cleanly removing a wing, sending the suit spiraling into the ground.
    "What the hell is that suit?!" One of the enemy pilots had time to shout before said suit darted around his shots and delivered Utter Flaming Death and Then Some with its twin megacannon.
    "Hmph." Sidra noted before turning her attention quickly to a Leo pointing a dober gun at one of the carriers that was lifting off. "Oh no you don't!" She flung the shield's heat rod at the suit, neatly snaring it around the midsection. "Now die!" With the flick of a switch, the heat rod warmed up and messily cut through the Leo's scant armor.
    "You're all weak..." Wufei sneered, tackling a Serpent and stabbing it through the back with his Gryphon's talons. Another Serpent opened fire at the back of Wufei's suit.
    Said Serpent abruptly found a beam saber jabbed through its side. As it toppled to the ground, Meiran's Gryphon was revealed to be firing at some other suits after swiftly retrieving the saber.
    "You should watch your back, Daddy." Meiran sounded quite smug.
    Wufei's suit leapt into the air and over Meiran's suit, shooting down a pair of Aries that were approaching.
    "So should you." Wufei shot back.
    "Gee, can't ya feel the love?" Duo wryly observed while poking a Leo full of holes.

        "Why are they trying to get everything into space?" Selvaggio growled, reading over the latest status report on the attack.
    "Sir, she gave orders to the other rebels to get everything into space, and I saw her talking to the Mars Governor. Something about sending help." One of the turncoat former Preventers explained.
    "Mars is helping her??" Selvaggio hissed, slamming a fist down on his table. "How long until the second force gets there?"
    "Sir, the Scorpios should be arriving at Preventer HQ shortly." An operator reported.
    "Good. What's the report from the lunar base?" Selvaggio tapped his fingers impatiently.
    "Most of the Preventers got away, but some are resisting. The ones who left are all aboard carriers and holding position in sector C-68." The operator read off from his console. "The lunar base itself has taken some severe damage."
    "Hm..." Selvaggio looked thoughtful, considering his options. "Can we launch the new Dracos to attack that space fleet before the ones escaping Preventer HQ can meet up with them?"
    "Yes sir. It'll take a little while though."
    "Not a problem. Launch the Dracos! Tell our forces at the lunar base to get what they can to join the attack!" Selvaggio bellowed before he went back to hounding the technicians doing the final checks on his personal mobile suit.

        "I can handle what's left. You guys all get your suits loaded and out of here!" Sidra told the others while pounding a Leo with the Tallgeese's heat rod.
    "What?! Your Dad will KILL us if anything happens to you!" Duo protested loudly.
    "But Sidra! What if they send some more goons?!" Shino also argued.
    "No buts. YOU guys can't get into space on your own with those suits. I can. So leave the tail end of this mess to me." Sidra countered, annoyed. "Without some cover, the carriers are sitting ducks. I can cover you guys and take off after wasting the base."
    "But-!" Duo was lacking a decent argument to that point.
    "... All right." Shino pulled back from the hazy battlefield. "Be careful, Sidra."
    "Right. Don't worry about me." Sidra clashed beam sabers with a Leo momentarily before cheating and taking off the enemy suit's legs with the heat rod.
    "But-!" Duo repeated himself.
    "Come on, Uncle Duo." Meiran encouraged Duo, also falling back.
    "... If you don't come back from this alive, I'll never hear the end of it from your mother." Wufei grumbled, retreating.

        "Commander, the enemy force seems to be virtually wiped out!" The operator told Lady Une. "We should probably get going now. The civilian shuttle with Tiana Pembroke has already launched."
    "Right." Une turned to exit the room, the operator following. They quickly got aboard one of the last carriers that was leaving.
    "All Gryphons are now aboard, we're all set to launch." The pilot noted.
    "Get the Tallgeese online." Une ordered, getting seated.
    "Yes Ma'am!"
    "Eh? What is it?" Sidra's face appeared on the comm screen. "Kinda busy right now,  y'know."
    "After we're all out of here, I want you to destroy as much of the base as possible. Got it?" Une informed the girl.
    "Got it. Get the hell outta here then, Lady Une." Sidra cut the connection, preoccupied in clearing the runway.
    The last remaining carriers launched into the air, and it was suddenly apparent that a second attack force was almost on top of the base.
    "What the-?!" The pilot exclaimed. "Commander, we got trouble!"
    "What is it?" Une looked over at the radar.
    "Another force, some kind of new model!" The operator yelped.
    "A new model?! When did they-?!" Une glared at the display. "Damn Selvaggio!"
    Sidra was also startled by the new arrivals, and suddenly the odds had tilted unfavorably for the Peacecraft girl. "Crap! I may be pretty good, but thirty-to-one odds are NOT good!" Sidra swore under her breath and darted out of the way of a volley of incoming missiles. The new suits were apparently ground-types, toting missiles on the hip armor, and any variety of different weapons on the shoulders.
    "Hey! We're in time for the fight!" In true anime fashion, help arrived just in the nick of time.
    "Looks like!" Noah cackled on the comm. "Let's go get 'em,  boys!"
    "Hope they left some carriers for us!" Abdul noted, joining the fire-fest that was springing up at the enemy force.
    "Who the hell-?!" Sidra yelped, taking to the air to get out of the way.
    "Commander! Another force of mobile suits arrived!" The operator exclaimed, showing Une the displays.
    "Looks like the Maganacs... and who are those other ones? Those suits look like they were scrapped together." Une pondered at the readouts.
    :"Hey, Une, y'hear me?" Noah got on the comm.
    "That voice-" Une gasped, grabbing up the microphone. "You're that guy who called hours ago, aren't you?"
    "The very same." Noah could be heard grinning. "Don't worry 'bout me and my boys. After this little sortie, we'll go back underground and keep stomping on New Romafellar's toes for ya."
    "Lady Une, are there any suit carriers left?" Rashid also got on the comm.
    "Yes, there should be a few left. Can you get all your men and weapons loaded and launched in time?" Une replied after a moment.
    "Shouldn't be a problem for us!" Ahmed smirked, opening the doors to one of the hangars.
    "Good. You guys do that, we'll cover ya along with that wild lookin' old OZzie suit." Noah gestured in the Tallgeese's general direction.

    A laser beam blazed past Une's carrier, scorching the armor and rocking the craft violently.
    "What was that?!" Lady Une yelped, grabbing hold of her seat's armrests.
    "We're being shot at!" The pilot squeaked.
    "I FIGURED that! By what?!"
    "One of the new models!"
    In the distance, one of the new mobile suits with some sort of elongated sniper cannon was taking shots at the fleeing carriers.
    "You're not shooting them down!" A female voice rang out on the comm as a beam saber sliced across the Scorpio's cannon.
    "Mariemaia?!" Une gasped, instantly recognizing the voice and the mobile suit that was intercepting the sniper.
    "Yeah,  I know you told me to get going, but I think you'll be thanking me later! Busy!" Mariemaia replied hastily as the Scorpio ignited a beam saber and got up to face the PNUCU-01.
    "Damnit!' Une mouthed a curse and got on the comm to the Maganacs who were hastily getting their gear ready to go. "Rashid, Mariemaia's out there, can you guys wait for her?"
    "Not a problem." Rashid replied before going back to ordering his guys around.
    "Time to die, bucko!" Noah yowled, riddling a pair of enemy suits with bullets from a strange looking triple-gattling weapon. He was rewarded for his efforts when the suits toppled over and/or exploded.
    "Whoa-!" Mariemaia yelped, dodging to one side to avoid the Scorpio's missiles, and swinging both her beam sabers at it's flank.
    "No y'don't,  little girl!" The Scorpio's pilot hissed, blocking with its own beam blade. The two suits battled for position momentarily before the Scorpio played dirty and powered up the damaged sniper cannon mounted across its shoulders.
    "Are you nuts?!" Mariemaia gasped, breaking position and diving out of the way of the blast.
    "Gotcha!" The Scorpio leapt at the PNUCU-01, beam saber ready.

        "We're stealing water." Tiffany sweatdropped slightly, "Water!"
    "Just be quiet and warn me if anybody is coming." Trowa glanced at the albino woman, "These shuttles use pressurized water for fuel. We're lucky they even have a fuel station for it."
    "I know that!" Tiffany hissed, keeping watch.
    "We probably should have left sooner than this... I wasn't expecting things to go downhill so quickly with the Preventers."
    "Gee, I was starting to enjoy having run away to join the circus." The engineer rolled her eyes.
    "You weren't much help." Trowa noted quietly.
    "Excuse me for being a urban chick. And I was being sarcastic." Tiffany crossed her arms, "... And I helped cook! So there!"
    "....." It'd been awhile since the trademark line of silence had seen action.
    "I also didn't particularly want to stand there and let someone throw sharp, deadly knives at me!"
    "Let's go."
    "Right, right. I can't believe we had to steal water, of all things." Tiffany made her way toward the Mars shuttle, followed by Trowa.

        "Mariemaia!" Lady Une gasped, worried.
    The PNUCU-01 had barely avoided a critical blow, having tumbled to one side. But the Scorpio's beam saber had connected and severed the prototype suit's left arm.
    "I-I'm okay." Mariemaia gasped, the suit staggering back to its feet, the remaining arm clasped over the stub where its match had been cut off. "Damnit-! It shouldn't-!"
    "You're going down now, girl!" The Scorpio got ready to attack again. "Hey, why aren't you gettin' ready to fight again?" Confused, the pilot held back for a moment.
    "It's a cockpit system! The suit lost an arm- The suit!" Mariemaia cried out, voice strained.
    "Then why?! It shouldn't be- why does it hurt?!" Mariemaia yelped, flinging her remaining beam saber at the Scorpio and hitting it square in the reactor.
    "Mariemaia, are you all right?!" Lady Une questioned again on the comm.
    "I-I think so. Heading for the carrier now." Mariemaia replied weakly.
    "Damnit! And we can't get any of the technicians or med-techs to check her condition until we can get on board the Leviathans!" Lady Une clenched a fist.

        Ariana stood up and wiped her forehead as the last system check finished up. I can't just blow FalconWing up, and I can't just leave it here....
    "Promise me you won't take it into space, Ari." Shino looked extremely serious.
    "All right already, Shino! I promise." She sulked but relented.
    Ariana glanced at the comm that was blaring what was going on at the battlefield when a sudden report stopped the Yuy girl in her tracks.
    "Commander Une! The Mars ships have arrived and we're trying to get everything on board, but we're under attack! Some of our own Gryphons and some new model! AH-!" The transmission was cut abruptly short.
    "The guys up in space are under attack-?" Ariana glanced at the sky. "Mobile suit carriers are easy targets..." And Dad and Shino are on their way up there now-!
    Ariana spit a curse and ran to get her own flight suit and helmet. Hang in there, I'm coming!

        "We're all loaded and launching now!" One of the Maganacs reported. "Got that prototype on board, the pilot doesn't seem to be injured but is complaining about her arm. We've got her bedded down."
    "Let's just hope those ships from Mars can hold off the enemy..." Une exhaled. This was really just one of those days she wished she had stayed in bed.
    "In any case, we'll keep ya covered down here!" Noah noted, firing a couple of the precious few missiles the Peacemakers had been able to acquire over the years.
    The last carriers with the Maganacs on board lifted into the air and quickly were out of sight.
    "Thank you for your help, and good luck!" Une told the terrorists on the comm.
    "My pleasure, missy. Been in the business over twenty years, good to get some thanks for the job for a change. Like I said- we'll keep stomping on New Romafellar's toes for ya. You just get going and meet up with all yer buds over on Mars!" Noah responded. "Alright, boys, they're outta here, the enemy would appear to be beaten, let's move out!"
    The remaining terrorist mobile suits began to fall back when an explosion rocked the area.
    "What-?!" Sidra checked her readouts in surprise, being as she had been about to level the base as per orders. "A mobile suit?! Above me?"
    The Tallgeese darted backwards in time to evade another blast from above, and the new arrival flew down into view.
    "What the HELL?!" Sidra hissed, immediately recognizing the basic design of the enemy mobile suit.
    It was the Tallgeese.
    "The hell?! That's one of the Mars Gundams! Milliardo's, at that!" Selvaggio growled, the pilot of the blue and black Tallgeese variant. "Surrender, Governor! I swear I'll have you indicted for this rebellion!"
    Selvaggio was rewarded by a low chuckle on the comm.
    "You got the wrong person, Mr. Selvaggio. The Governor is still on Mars. And I won't surrender!" Sidra snarled, blasting into the air.
    "Then you'll die!" Selvaggio spat and darted up after her.
    "Damn, he's fast." Sidra muttered, spinning to face the interloper. And in atmosphere, the Vernier IIs aren't much better than the originals... they can just go longer in space...
    Noah observed the two suits momentarily. "Well, that's a young battle ready to begin. C'mon, guys, we don't want to be ANYWHERE nearby when that thing starts. I've seen what the Tallgeese can do, and now there's TWO of the bloody contraptions!"
    "Who the hell are you then?"  Selvaggio demanded, leveling the dober gun mounted on the suit's left shoulder at Sidra's suit.
    "Well..." Sidra replied, tone thoughtful. "I suppose you could call me a-" She ignited a beam saber and rushed at the other Tallgeese. "-distant relation to the late Zechs Merquise!" She snarled.
    Selvaggio fired his gun at Sidra, and the red and white mobile suit disappeared momentarily in the smoke, suddenly appearing again and swinging a beam saber.
    "I don't think so!" Selvaggio darted to one side and activated his own beam saber, clashing against Sidra's.
    The two mobile suits battled back and forth momentarily, very evenly matched in terms of speed and maneuverability.
    "Damnit, I gotta get outta here!" Sidra growled to herself, flying over Selvaggio's head and flipping midair to snare the blue suit's verniers with the heat rod. Selvaggio dropped altitude and the attack missed, spinning around in freefall to fire an explosive from the launcher in his suit's shield at Sidra.
    "Crap!" Sidra ducked behind her shield and looked around immediately after the explosion. Since it's dark out now, that suit of his is going to be really hard to spot, especially with all this smoke blotting out most of the moonlight. Sidra was roughly jolted out of her thoughts as something smacked into the side of her suit. Glancing at her screens, she saw the blue Tallgeese had body slammed her in the smoke and was trying to force her to the ground.
    "I don't think so!" Sidra hissed, flailing the heat rod at her attacker while maximizing the output of her own thrusters. The two suits spiraled erratically across the sky until Sidra was able to dislodge Selvaggio and put some distance between the two of them.
    This ain't going to be easy...

    Several miles overhead, three extremely large ships had arrived, and were trying, with minimal success, to get the retreating Preventers aboard.
    "Incoming unidentified craft!" One of the Draco pilots noted when his radar beeped at him. "The heck is that? Some kinda new fighter?"
    The 'fighter' closed in on the battlefield and suddenly changed mid-flight.
    "Wait a second-! That's not a fighter-!" One of the former Preventer pilots exclaimed. "That's a mobile suit-!"
    "Damn right it's a mobile suit! And it's MINE!" Ariana shrieked, opening fire on the attacking suits.
    "It's a Gundam?!" One of the Draco pilots yelped. "Shit!"
    The FalconWing grabbed its twin buster rifle and swept across the battlefield with the weapon's infamously large beam.
    "What the-?!" Shino gasped. "Ariana?! What are you doing here?!"
    "What?!" Heero, who was monitoring the battle from the carrier he'd hopped a ride on, looked up suddenly.
    "What's it look like I'm doing here?! I couldn't detonate FalconWing, so I'm putting it to use!"
    "Ariana..." Heero stared at the radar displays.

        Tiffany stared out the window, slightly awed by the battle that could be seen from afar, or rather, mostly the explosions from the battle. It was a sight she'd never seen before, and one she wished she didn't have to.
    "... People are dying out there..." Tiffany whispered, unable to take her eyes off the scene.
    "... Yeah." Trowa answered, more focused on getting the shuttle set on a course for Mars than the battle in the distance, "What are you thinking about?"
    Tiffany glanced over at the pilot briefly, a bit surprised by the question.
    "... I'm thinking I should have become a doctor. And work in the E.R. like my mom did." Tiffany answered flatly, "But you know why I didn't?"
    "I didn't think I could stand losing a patient." She sighed, "But at least then I wouldn't be involved in this whole mess. It's stupid. Pointless."
    "It's happening, and it's too late to change what's happening. So there's no point in thinking about 'what if'." Trowa pointed out.
    "I'm not thinking about 'what if'. I'm thinking I should have become a doctor. And that's easy for you to say. The war in A.C. 195 never really affected me personally. My dad quit his job as a mobile suit technician when mobile dolls started become the weapon of choice. Of course, he was just lucky he was able to KEEP the job until then." There was a edge of bitterness in Tiffany's voice. Trowa debated inquiring the reason behind it. He figured he might as well, after all, she'd dragged his past out.
    "And why's that?"
    "After my mother died, he started drinking-"
    "So that's where you get it from?" Trowa raised an eyebrow.
    "I'm not nearly that bad." Tiffany glanced at Trowa and glared at him for a moment, "... But yeah, that's probably where I get it from." She went back to staring out the window.
    "....." Trowa looked over at her, "You're right though... It is stupid."
    "You've got to be sick of war by now, Trowa." Tiffany didn't look at him.
    "I hadn't given it much thought... I suppose it could be I'm just used to it now."
    "How the hell does somebody get 'used to' something like that?" She blinked, quite sure she herself would never get used to war. No, that she wouldn't let herself get used to it even.
    "Probably the same way you get used to drinking." Trowa replied after a moment of thought.
    "....." She whipped out the trademark line of silence. That's just... depressing.
    Trowa was actually the one to break the long silence that followed.
    "... Are you going to be all right?"
    "Oh... probably in a few years." Not exactly the answer he'd been hoping for or expecting.

    In the smoke-filled skies over Preventer HQ, two mobile suits were still dog fighting, one trying desperately to escape into space, the other doing its damnedest to prevent the escape.
    "Damnit.." Sidra growled, firing the twin megacannon at Selvaggio, who blasted out of the way and returned fire. I can't shake this guy!
    A large shadow fell over the already dark base, unseen by either of the suits.
    "Die, whoever the hell you are!" Selvaggio yelled, firing another round from his shield's launcher, following it up with a volley of shots from the small double beam cannon on the suit's left wrist.
    "Not today, bastard!" Sidra retorted, shooting down the explosive with her suit's head vulcans and dodging out of the path of the beams.
    The two suits were abruptly interrupted in their battle as the base below burst into flames, a series of explosions rocking the region.
    "What the-?!"
    Selvaggio checked all his equipment, but the source of the explosions couldn't be found.
    Sidra checked her equipment, with similar results. Did they have time to set up explosives to detonate the base? They couldn't have!
    Another series of explosions drove Selvaggio back, and Sidra took advantage of the unknown distraction, putting her weapons away and blasting into the open sky.
    "This is Sidra, the base is destroyed, and I'm on my way upstairs now!" Sidra shouted on the comm, rapidly ascending to where Selvaggio's suit wouldn't be able to follow.
    "Damnit!" Selvaggio cursed soundly when he found that his target had gotten away.

        "That Gundam's distracting the enemy and we're getting our carriers on board the Leviathans, Commander!" The operator informed Lady Une.
    "Ariana's out there..." Heero informed her on the comm.
    "Can we launch any support?" Une inquired.
    "It'll be a bit awkward, but we should be able to." Another operator replied.
    "Good. I don't care who, just get some of our pilots out there to support that Gundam!" Une barked the order.
    Heero stared, dumbstruck, as his daughter attempted to single-handedly deal with the enemy force.
    "Dad, I'm heading out!" Shino got up into his Gryphon's cockpit and prepared to launch.
    Duo was similarly getting ready for another sortie, mentally kicking himself for letting Ariana get her hands on all that junk in the first place.
    Heero glanced at the displays tallying the number of suits darting around the three large cargo ships, then at the visual. Ariana doesn't have enough experience... why is she fighting? Doesn't she know she could get killed- Responsibility abruptly came down on Heero like a load of bricks and he responded instantly, bolting to one of the Gryphons on the carrier he'd gone into space with.
    "Whoa,  you're coming, Heero?" Duo looked and sounded surprised at the intense look on Heero's face as he belted in and powered up the suit.

        "Kiss this!" Ariana growled angrily after having taken a couple of hard knocks. Chasing down the offending suits, she swiped wildly at them with her beam saber. She'd already gone through most of her charge packs for the twin buster rifle and found herself having to rely more and more on her melee weapons.
    "Ariana! Get out of here now!" Heero came on the comm as a group of Gryphons launched from the huge wedge-shaped Leviathans.
    "I can't, Dad!' Ariana shouted back, ramming an old space Leo through the midsection with the pointy nose of her suit's shield.
    "You're too young for this!" Heero attempted to reason with the girl, his concern clear in his tone while he forced his way through the thick of the enemy force. "You'll get killed!"
    "Didn't stop you, Dad!" Ariana shot back, matching Heero's intensity with her own. "I already made my choice, and I'm sticking to it!"
    "Chick on a mission." Duo sweatdropped while he and Shino helped defend the Leviathans while they continued to load their cargo.
    "Ari! You promised me you wouldn't take it into space!" Shino joined the debate.
    "Well what else was I supposed to do? I couldn't just LEAVE it there!" Ariana snapped. "And the ships came under attack and woulda been sunk by now if I hadn't!"
    "Ariana, get on one of the ships!" Heero shouted at his incredibly stubborn offspring.
    "I can still fight, damnit!" Ariana yelled. "Shino said piloting a mobile suit's a big responsibility, and I see it now! I choose to accept it! So damnit, don't try and stop me! I've worked hard, I'm not gonna give up and get killed here!" The incensed Yuy daughter snapped on the last charge pack for the twin buster rifle and took aim.
    "Get back!" Heero yelled on the comm, getting out of the way of the impending blast.
    "Aw, crap." Duo muttered. "She'd better get a bunch of 'em then!"
    "Locked on." Ariana glared at the targeting cursors on her monitor.
    After making sure that all the friendlies were out of her line of fire, Ariana pulled the trigger, sending a sizable number of enemy mobile suits on a one-way trip to the afterlife.
    "All carriers are on board!" One of the Leviathan crew members announced. "Get those suits on board and we can ditch the last of the attacking force!"
    "Roger that and all that military-type jargon." Ariana exhaled, suddenly exhausted, as she made tracks for one of the Leviathans.
    "... We'll have to work on that." Heero muttered.
    "Sorry I'm late! Got held up and you won't guess by what." Sidra spat a curse as she finally rejoined the group. "And something totally wasted the base."
    Hastily, the group got back on board the ships, which sped off and quickly left the remainder of the attack force behind.
    "Any further word from the lunar base?" Lady Une asked wearily. "Did those holdouts actually manage to pull it off?"
    "... There's been no word, Ma'am." One of the operators replied quietly.

        Wufei was waiting for Heero in the mobile suit bay.
    "I thought you said you couldn't fight anymore." The Chinese man noted, "But it's quite clear why you went out. I don't envy you. Your daughter is far worse than mine."
    "I heard that." Meiran glowered from the door way.
    "Thanks." Heero replied flatly and made his way to the door. Meiran stepped aside.
    "However... You are weak, Heero." Wufei watched him.
    Heero didn't turn around.
    "You could have gone out and fought before, and that could have made a difference."
    "I don't have to kill the little girl anymore." Heero whispered, and walked off. Meiran was left confused by the exchange that had just taken place between her father and her uncle.

Continued in Gundam Wing: A New Era, Episode 27:
"Thus Go the Fates of Men"