Episode 30:
Between the Black and White

        One shot was fired. Meiran started to fall. Siduri panicked and fired back in the direction he'd heard it come from. Two more were fired back, another hitting Meiran, and one grazing Siduri's cheek. Siduri fired the rest of his clip into the darkness.

        Then there was silence.

        "Meiran!?" Siduri dropped his weapon after exhausting his ammunition. He came to his knees beside her. Meiran stared blankly up at him. She didn't respond.
    "Meiran!!" Siduri shouted at her. She was still breathing, as far as he could tell.
    "What was that-" Ariana emerged from the library, having heard the gunshots. "Si-siduri!? Meiran?? What's going on!?"
    "I don't know!" Siduri shouted at her. "Just... Just get help!!"
    Ariana nodded numbly and took off running.
    "Meiran, answer me or something! Come on!" Siduri lifted her head up. There was so much blood on Meiran's clothes and the ground. "Meiran... come on!" Siduri felt tears in his eyes. This can't be happening. No no no.
    "Ugh..." The raven-haired girl groaned and shut her eyes.
    "Meiran!? Can you hear me? Don't move! Ariana's getting help!"
    She was unconscious now.
    No... Why? Why?? Siduri shut his eyes tight, though he could not shut out the image from his mind as the scene replayed in his head.
    It seemed to him an eternity had passed before an ambulance arrived. Siduri and Ariana watched in a daze as the paramedics spoke medical jargon they didn't understand.
    Don't die... Oh God, don't die Meiran.
    "She's dead."
    For a moment, Siduri thought they were talking about Meiran, then he saw another paramedic looking over the body of a small woman in the shadows, lying in a pool of blood.
    "Wha...? No... no..." Siduri shook his head. I killed her!? I couldn't even see her!! I didn't mean to... I didn't want to. No! This isn't right! None of this is right!
    "Siduri, come on, we have to go to the hospital with her!!" Ariana tugged at his arm.
    "This isn't right..." He whispered. Ariana pulled him along.
    "Come on!" The younger girl shouted at him.
    "No, this isn't right! None of it!!" Siduri took off running.
    "Siduri!!" Ariana shouted after him, but didn't follow.

        Siduri ran until he was out of breath, coming to a stop in an empty parking lot. He slouched against a chain link fence, strength spent. I killed that woman... I killed somebody- You idiot. You've been killing all along in your Gundam... But I'd never seen their faces before... He had glimpsed the woman's face frozen in pain by death. Siduri shivered. I killed her... I didn't even think, I just fired... And Meiran... God there was so much blood.
    He covered his mouth to keep from vomiting.
    "Why!?" Siduri shouted at the air and slammed a fist against the fence. "If I'd just been more alert, or quicker... None of this is right!!" I don't understand it... Any of it!
    "Siduri?" He heard a voice.
    "Who is it!?" Siduri whirled around. Sidra stared at his face as the tears fell freely down.
    "It's me." Sidra walked over to her twin brother. "So what happened?"
    "What happened!?! What HAPPENED!?" Siduri shouted, though not really at his sister. "I killed her! And Meiran! Meiran! There was so much blood, Sidra..." He trailed off into choked sobs.
    "Who fired first?"
    "That... that woman did. She shot Meiran..." Siduri whispered.
    "So you fired back in defense?" Sidra raised an eyebrow.
    "I... I guess... I don't know. I just..."
    "If you hadn't shot her, she'd have fired again."
    "I know... but..." Siduri closed his eyes tight.
    "If you hadn't killed her, you and Meiran would both be dead." Sidra stated matter-of-factly. Siduri whirled on her.
    "When did you become so cold, huh!? It's not right! NONE OF THIS IS RIGHT!!"
    "It isn't supposed to be right!" Sidra snapped back. "That's what battles are about. Kill or be killed, no matter what pretty ideals you're fighting for! If she'd been piloting a mobile suit, would you be freaking out right now!?"
    "It still doesn't make it right! This wasn't even a battle! I never saw her until she was dead!! How can you be so numb to it, Sidra!? How the hell do you do it!? Do you have any idea how many times I fired!? I wasn't even thinking!! And Meiran, all that blood!! It's not natural, it's not right! I'm telling you, NONE OF THIS IS RIGHT! You didn't see them both lying there, in their own blood-"
    Sidra smacked him across the face, across the cut in his cheek. He shut up.
    "You didn't see Aunt Relena!!" She hissed back at him, tears in her eyes. "I watched her DIE! There wasn't a damn thing I could do!! What right do you have to call me cold!? Why don't you go to the hospital and see Meiran!? At least she's alive!! Or are you just going to run away from it all!?"
    "....." Siduri turned and started walking away. He stopped and looked back at his sister. "You act cold."
    "That's the only way to stay sane in this."
    Siduri didn't respond and kept walking.

       Lady Une sat across the table from Noin, Sally, and Wufei, quietly discussing the situation with the Preventers in Une's temporary office (aka cubicle).
    "We're going to have to integrate them into the MDC." Noin leaned on the table. "And it's not going to be easy."
    "I understand, we don't have enough resources to operate independently here on Mars. However, if it's possible, I'd like to make the Preventers their own division within the Corps." Lady Une nodded.
    "That shouldn't be too hard, our forces specialize in mobile suit combat, not covert operations. However, anyone who'd like to become a pilot can go through the training. It will expand your mobile suit units. We'll make a special division for Preventers. I know you like going off and doing things on your own, but I'm afraid you're going to have to be sure to consult the rest of us from now on." Noin smiled.
    "I can remember when I was giving you orders." Une gave a wry grin. "I'd like to put Sally and Wufei in charge of a Martian Preventer division. I think they're the most qualified for it, having been here on Mars for awhile. Do you think you two can handle it?"
    "You need to ask?" Wufei crossed his arms. "I'll take charge of the mobile suit units."
    "And while my husband here goes floating through space in a 50 foot war machine, I'll handle the important stuff!" Sally grinned.
    "Sally!" Wufei scowled.
    "I'm kidding, dear."
    "Ahem..." Noin cleared her throat. "Okay, you two will be the link between the Preventers and the MDC. You make sure the Preventers operate under MDC orders Lady Une receives."
    Those gathered nodded agreement.
    "It's mostly a formality at this point, but since we're working together, I assume the MDC would like to start producing the Gryphon and Basilisk mobile suits for use?" Une handed over a thick folder. "All the stats are in there- I'm sure the PMS will know what to do with them."
    The phone on Lady Une's desk rang.
    "Excuse me... " She picked up the phone, "Lady Une speaking... They're here. Hold on." Lady Une held the phone out to Sally. "It's the base hospital."
    "What?" Wufei stared as Sally grabbed the phone.

       "They should be done by now. We should be on our way out of here with the engineers." Zaid growled to himself. "Well, at least Ivan and Oren should be done. Giva's got a much larger job on her hands."
    "Eh, ish no big deal. Hey, lady! Can I have another one of thoshe Nureeki Shpecial thingies?" Zaid's companion Gavin was not overly concerned. The fact he was roaringly drunk helped alleviate his concerns about the mission.
    "... I think you've reached the legal limit, deary." Keetia glanced at Yancha. "Man, haven't seen them here before."
    "Nah! Aah shtill goods fer a few more!" Gavin held up his glass. Zaid shook his head.
    "Sorry, ma'am. Just give him some water in a shot glass. He can't tell the difference now."
    "Can too!"
    "Stop making a scene, you idiot." Zaid hissed under his breath. "How irresponsible..."
    "I'm shnot un idiot! I'sha dema-uh... demo...demo- AAH BLOW UP OLD BUILDINGSH."
    "Demolitionist." Yancha sighed.
    "Aah knew that."

       "The Changs?" The nurse looked up at Wufei and Sally. "One moment, I'll page the doctor."
    "Hey..." Ariana walked over to them.
    "What happened!?" Wufei demanded of the young woman. Ariana looked down.
    "I don't... really know... I heard gunshots, and when I ran out there... You'd have to ask Siduri... he was there with Meiran..."
    "Where is he!?" Wufei again demanded.
    "I don't know that either... I tried to get him to come with me in the ambulance, but he ran off..." She replied, getting teary-eyed.
    "That coward!" Wufei growled and turned his attention away from Ariana as the doctor approached.
    "Mr. and Mrs. Chang-" He was interrupted.
    "Can we see our daughter??" Sally looked at the doctor.
    "She's in surgery right now, but let me explain first. She was hit by two eight millimeter rounds. One in her front right shoulder,  just below the subclavian vein. The other in her left thigh near the profunda femoris artery."
    "English!" Wufei snapped.
    "Right front shoulder, slightly beneath the collar bone, and the other in her left middle thigh."
    "But it didn't actually hit the artery, right?" Sally being more able to understand the doctor's words.
    "Correct. As I said though, she's in surgery. Both bullets are in danger of shifting toward the lungs and arteries, respectively. When she's out of the O.R. I'll be sure to have a nurse inform you of her condition. It will be awhile before you can see your daughter. Please have a seat and wait, she's being well cared for."
    "Thank you..." Sally grabbed a tissue and wiped her eyes as they sat down. Wufei took her hand and stared at the wall. Ariana picked up the pay phone to the call her older brother.

    "Are you okay, Ari? You don't sound so good." Yoshino answered the phone. "Siduri? No, I haven't seen him. What happened? What!? You aren't hurt, are you!? I'll be right over with Dad." Shino hung up the phone and hurried off. It wasn't long before he arrived with Heero.
    Wufei glanced up as the door opened. Ariana ran over to Shino and hid her face in his jacket. Heero grabbed a chair and sat across from the Chinese pilot.
    "Apparently, this isn't the only thing to have happened tonight. I've got the reports from the military police about two other incidents."
    "Other incidents?" Wufei raised an eyebrow, secretly glad for the distraction. Heero handed him the files.

       Siduri wandered aimlessly through the base, unsure of where to go. He scratched at the dried blood on his face. I guess I should get this looked at... Though he didn't want go to the hospital. How could he face the others when he couldn't even face himself?
    "Siduri!!" A voice called out. He turned and saw his mom hurrying toward him.
    "There you are..." She stared at her bloodstained son. "....."
    "Don't look at me..." He whispered and took off running again, energy renewed for the moment.
    "Siduri!!!" Noin shouted after him. "Siduri! Damnit!" But he was gone once more.

       Siduri left the base, and wandered into the city, attracting some odd looks from those still out and about. He collapsed onto a bench at the bus stop and shut his eyes. Damnit... He heard the bus pull up and people disembark.
    "... Sid? That you?" A voice inquired. Siduri looked up.
    "Jesus Christ!!" Duo jumped. "What the hell happened to you?"
    "....." Siduri didn't answer and looked back down. Duo sat down next to the younger man.
    "What happened? Somethin' big happened, it's written all over your face, literally. Come on. I'll buy ya a band-aid or something." Duo nudged him. "I gotta go get diapers for 'Lena. Come with me. Can't just mope here."
    "Leave me alone." Siduri snapped.
    "Hey, hey! That may work on everybody else, but not on me! Your Uncle Heero's Death Glare doesn't even repel me. If you think your surly angsting teenager thing is gonna work, you got another thing coming! Do your parents know what happened?"
    "Probably by now...." Siduri shrugged.
    "Now would you please clue me in then?" Duo leaned back.
    "We were leaving the library..."
    "'We' being...?" Duo tried to coax some more information out of him.
    "Meiran... and then..." Siduri sighed. "Well... it all happened really fast..." He explained the events that had transpired to Duo, including his argument with Sidra. Duo nodded and listened.
    "Sheesh, she's taking more after Heero than his own kid is. Shino is fairly normal all things considered. Come on, we'll get some bandages and I'll fix ya up." Duo stood up and offered Siduri a hand.
    Siduri reluctantly accepted.

    "It's just not right, Uncle Duo... Any of it." They sat on the bus, heading back toward base.
    "Well, hell, I could have told you that. Of course it isn't right." Duo sighed. "There isn't any 'right' in war. It took me some time to realize that. There's only what you believe in."
    "What do you believe in?" Siduri glanced at Duo.
    "Me? I believe in 'Lena's future. I believe she'll be able to do anything one day." Duo smiled. "She just can't do anything right now. So I fight... so I kill, to protect that belief, and that future."
    "... But what about before that?"
    "I didn't know what the fuck I was doing." Duo grinned. "I thought it was for the colonies, but I was in over my head. We all were. I guess I just believed in Death. After all, you don't see miracles happen, but you see death everyday. Which would you believe exists? God or Death? But hey, I was just another surly angsting teenager back then, despite the goofy antics. I think that's why Heero put up with me."
    "I guess I try to be like that too..."
    "No shame in it. I think it kept me sane. Somebody has to try and smile. It saves yourself and those around you, just a little."
    "I don't think I can do it anymore. I don't know what I believe in... I don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going. All I ever wanted to do was look after Sidra, but she won't let me anymore." Siduri sighed and closed his eyes.
    "Maybe it's not Sidra that needs looking after anymore, but rather, somebody whose life you saved tonight."
    "... I don't think I saved anybody..."
    "Meiran's alive because you acted, isn't she?" Duo raised an eyebrow at Siduri.
    "Yeah... unless something has happened since the ambulance got there."
    "Perhaps you should, like, go find out?" Duo suggested the revolutionary idea with a slight grin.
    "I can't... I can't face them." Siduri shook his head.
    "What? Afraid of old man Wufei?" Duo grinned. "I'll go with ya. I'm sure Hilde will understand."
    "It's not that, but now that you mention it... Still though... I just... don't know anymore."
    "Word of advice," Duo placed a hand on Siduri's shoulder, "Don't get back in the cockpit until you know what you're fighting for. Promise me, all right?"
    "Yeah.... Promise." Siduri nodded as the bus stopped. I don't know if I'll ever get in the cockpit again.

Ariana and her family long since left, leaving Sally and Wufei to themselves. They sat in the hospital room, Meiran lying unconscious in bed, various equipment monitoring her. The door creaked open, and Duo and Siduri stepped in.
    "Duo? Siduri!" Sally sat up straight. Wufei jumped up, but Duo stood between him and Siduri.
    "Whoa, whoa-"
    "You coward! Running away and leaving her there!? I want to know exactly what happened!"
    "Wufei, let him be!" Sally stood up. "Ariana was there, and the ambulance had already come, it was all right."
    "Yeah, it's not his fault, man!" Duo held up his hands. "For cryin' out loud, he saved your daughter's life, don't you think you should try to be a little more grateful!?"
    "Then tell me what happened!" Wufei snapped and looked at Siduri. For the third time that night, he quietly recounted what had happened to Meiran's parents. Sally hugged him.
    "....." Wufei sat back down. "You're still a coward."
    Siduri cringed and looked down while Duo shot Wufei a withering look to rival Heero's patented Death Glare.
    "Running away. You're no man, you're still a boy!"
    "Stop... it... Daddy." Meiran groaned, coming to. "Stop it... he saved... my life."

       "Ma'am, uh..." A Venusian soldier walked into Kwannon's small office aboard the Aphrodite spaceship.
    "Yes?" She looked at him, uninterested for the most part.
    "A group of about fifty VMF soldiers went AWOL with a mostly complete Erinyes cruiser from the ship yards. We don't have any idea where they went. They were able to hold us off until they escaped our defense perimeter."
    "Excuse me!?" Now he had her undivided attention. "How the hell could we just let them waltz out with one of our ships! Who's responsible for security around the ships!?"
    "I'm, uh, not done, ma'am..." The soldier cringed.
    "There's MORE!?" Kwannon snapped, then regained composure. "Go on."
    "It appears to have been a complete inside job. Apparently, a guy named Donovan has gained a lot of respect from people who have lost loved ones in the New Year's Massacre."
    "Oh, damnit." Kwannon sighed. "They're going to go to Earth, I bet. You're dismissed."
    "Yes, ma'am." The soldier left quickly. Kwannon picked up the phone and dialed.
    "It's Kwannon Yokoshima. Put me through to Nimeesha. Now."
    Moments later Nimeesha came on the line.
    "This had better be important. Do you know what time it is down here?"
    "Sorry. I don't think this can wait until morning. 50 soldiers have vanished with an Erinyes carrier, under the lead of some man named Donovan. I have reason to believe they're heading to Earth to retaliate for the destruction of V-L7DBC2068. Should we notify the Earth Sphere?" Kwannon explained.
    Nimeesha was silent for awhile, thinking.
    "Not that they'd believe us... But it's certainly not something we can just sit back and allow to happen. Send out forces to locate the ship and detain the people on board. As many as we can spare. Hopefully we'll find them before we end up in Earth space. We don't want a battle yet." Nimeesha sighed.
    "I'll give the orders immediately."
    "Humanity cannot afford another V-L7DBC2068."

To Be Continued in Gundam Wing, A New Era, Episode 31:
Fiat Justitia, Ruat Cælum