Episode 7:
The Art of War

          The year is After Colony 216. Dissatisfied with the World Nation's inability to respond effectively to Venus's crisis in 207, Venus's governess, Nimeesha Pembroke, has declared war on the unprepared World Nation. However, preparing for such an emergency, Mars governor Milliardo Peacecraft has been building up a defense force of mobile suits, including several Gundams...

        Meiran is heading for Mars after defeating Wufei in a duel for the right to pilot one of the new Gundams. Duo is also heading for Mars, as is Trowa. Shino is already there, learning to take the controls of the Typhoon Gundam. Ariana has almost completed the FalconWing, not realizing just how dangerous that suit really is.

        Meiran stared out the shuttle window, still mad about her father's words at the end of their duel.

    "... You may be strong enough to defeat me with a sword, but you aren't strong enough to pilot a mobile suit."

    Her words at the end of the duel hadn't been too friendly either.

    "I hate you." Meiran sighed. She hadn't spoken to him since that. Not even to say good bye. He, even though she was dressed nicely in a blue and silver cheongsam (chinese dress), had told her to 'cover up'. Her mother, Sally, had tried to get the two to reconcile, but had failed. Meiran fiddled with the jacket in her lap, lost in thought.

        Siduri waited for Duo and Trowa at the space port, his music annoying anybody within 50 feet of his car. He had been assigned to pick Duo and Trowa, and later Wufei. Man, why am I stuck doing this? He spotted the braid. It was shorter than he'd expected it to be. But the all black outfit confirmed it for sure.
    "HEY! UNCLE DUO!" Siduri yelled out his car window, waving.
    "What'd he say?" Duo asked the less noticeable Trowa, whom he'd met up with upon arriving. Is that.... Siduri?
    "Is that Siduri, ya think??" Duo studied the car.
    "Judging from the volume of the music, yes." Trowa replied.
    Siduri had been blaring music since he was 5. They piled into his (bright green) car (with a giant smiley face painted on the hood).
    "CAN YOU TURN IT DOWN A BIT?" Duo yelled in Siduri's ear.
    "TURN. IT. DOWN!!!!!!" Duo yelled again.
    "WHAT!?!?! SPEAK UP!"
    The music died and all eyes turned to Trowa, who had just produced more volume than Siduri's
 surround sound stereo system.
     "..." Siduri and Duo both stared.

    "This is where we're building the suits," Noin let the two Gundam pilots in and shut the door in her son's face.
    "oof! MOM!!" Siduri was ignored.
    "Unfortunately, the PMS-"
    "The WHAT?" Duo interrupted. Trowa raised an eyebrow.
    "PMS." Noin repeated. Duo blinked. Hilde had told him about PMS...
    "Not the kind you're thinking of!" Noin smiled, "Prototype Mobile Suits, Inc. The group constructing and reconstructing the suits."
    "Where's Deathscythe!?" Duo looked around eagerly.
    "If you hadn't interrupted, I'd have told you. 'Unfortunately, the PMS' - hasn't finished your guys' suits yet."
    "Aw man...." Duo sulked.
    "You're welcome to meet the engineers working on your suits if you'd like."

        Siduri sulked in his car, waiting for Wufei at the space port now. Hey.... girl.... carrying sword? Is that... Meiran? Where's Uncle Wufei-? Oh well... Siduri decided to have a little fun.
    "HEY! UNCLE WUFEI- OHMIGOD! YOU GOT A SEX CHANGE?!?!" Siduri yelled over his music.
    *WHAM!* Meiran smacked her 'cousin' upside the head with her suit case.
    "Idiot!" She snapped.
    "So where's Uncle Wufei?" Siduri rubbed his head.
    "Not here."
    "Duh! So what are you doing here then??"
    "I'm here to pilot one of the new suits." Meiran sat down in the back of the car.
    "WHAT!? WHAT IS WITH THIS!? I don't get to pilot one, but SHINO does... YOU'RE going to! This sucks... I bet Ariana is gonna too! And Roku!"
    "Who's Roku?" Meiran blinked.
    "... Er.... Friend of mine." Siduri sweatdropped. Almost blew Sidra's cover. Who knows what Meiran would do or say if she knew. Eesh.

    "Wufei sent his daughter?" Noin looked at Meiran, who glared.
    "I was not 'sent'!!" She growled, "I earned the right to be here right now. It's not a problem for you, is it, Aunt Noin?" There was a lot of bitterness in her voice. Sent, feh! I had to kick Daddy's @$$ first.
    "No, not at all... I just called the engineers in. They should be here any minute." The door opened and group of women came into the room, in various stages of casual clothes and of various heights.
    "WOW!" Duo stared, "Instead of a bunch of old geezers working on my Gundam, it's a bunch of gorgeous chicks! I wouldn't mind running into these gals all the time!" Duo remembered how many times he'd run into the 'old geezers' during the previous war. Meiran hit Duo's head with her sheathed sword.
    "Uncle Duo! You're married!"
    "Owww! Is this any way to repay the uncle who kindly took you in and lost his hair because of it!?" He rubbed his head.
    "I'm repaying the aunt who kindly took me in." Meiran stated flatly. Even Trowa cracked a slight smile at that. A wrench hit Duo's head.
    "Wha-??" Duo looked at the short brown haired engineer who had thrown her wrench at him, "Here I am working on your precious Gundam, and all you can think about is our looks!?!"
    "Soooooorrrrry! Sorry already!"
    "We are called the PMS for a reason!" The girl retrieved her wrench and glared at Duo. ... He's cute. Too bad he's married.
    "You'd better be sorry." Another brown haired girl frowned, "Or else I'll attack you too. That's my sister who hit you." She crossed her arms.
    "ANYWAYS...." Noin sweatdropped slightly, "Stephanie here who just beaned you with her wrench is in charge of reconstructing Deathscythe. Her sister, Shannon, is head of PMS' finances and is also working on Sandrock. Jeanie," Noin pointed at the Korean girl wearing the kasa (straw hat), "was working on Typhoon, which is complete. She also is the group artist, responsible for the detailing on the suits." Noin looked over at Meiran, "Kiandra here is working on Seiryuu, the suit you'll be piloting."
    "All right." Meiran nodded.
    "Jenna was working on the Tallgeese and will probably have another project soon. Tiffany- Where is Tiffany?"
    The albino girl in question barged into the room.
    "Sorry I'm late! I had to chase your son out..." Tiffany explained.
    ".... Siduri... I'll have to lecture him later. Anyways, Tiffany is working on Heavyarms, and is also founder of the PMS."
    "Scary lady...." Duo looked at her.
    "OW!" Duo rubbed his now sore (again) head where Tiffany had whacked him with a screw driver.
    "Now that you're all acquainted..." Noin sweatdropped slightly, "... Meiran, you're welcome to sit in on some of the lectures or classes here. Duo, Trowa, you're free to roam about and I'd be really grateful if you'd maybe give talks in some of the advanced classes."
    "Sure!" Duo shrugged.
    "Are you sure that's a good idea?" Trowa looked at Noin, "He might be a bad influence on your students."
    "Wh-wh--- HEY!" Duo sputtered indignantly while Meiran snickered at him, "WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON ANYWAYS!?" Duo twitched.
    "Sorry, Uncle Duo! But he has a point. Especially considering what I've heard about you from Daddy..."
    "WHAT IS THIS!? Pick on Duo Day!?"
    "Let me check the calendar!" Jeanie cheered and looked at the Ranma 1/2 calendar that decorated the wall, then scribbled something in the date box, "It is now!"
    "AUGH!" Duo opened the door to go.
    "OOF!!" Siduri had been listening in and fell into the room.
    "I thought I told you to get out of here." Tiffany crossed her arms.
    "I did get out! It's not my fault I fell in!" Siduri stood up. Duo was laughing at him.

        Milliardo paced in front of the class as they filed in for his lecture on war. He raised an eyebrow as a Chinese girl not in any sort of uniform came in with the other students, carrying a sword. He dismissed it for now. He'd talk to this person after the lecture. The bell rang and the students sat down.
    "All right. As I'm sure you are well aware of, we are preparing to fight a defensive war against Venus and it's respective colonies." There were nods and murmurs of confirmation.
    Roku glanced at the girl, who was leaning against a wall, but soon turned to her own thoughts on the 'defensive war'.
    "As you have seen, war can result in the deaths of people. Some of them your peers, as you have undoubtedly learned from Venus' attack a few days ago." Milliardo shot a glance at Roku, who's expression was completely unreadable because of the mask she wore, her head bowed slightly. "War is like an art. Different people have different views on it and therefore think of it differently and treat it differently. An ideal war would be a series of duels in which people would accept it when they are defeated, rather than resorting to dirty tactics."
    Meiran, the girl in the back by the wall, nodded at this. But that's only an ideal war. People don't fight like that. Not many of them, anyways.
    "But people don't fight like that, as was also demonstrated by Venus' attack. Rather than try to work things out through discussion, they outright attacked with intent to kill, and they will most likely continue to do so. I'm sure a lot of you are wondering exactly what caused the declaration of war." More nods and murmurs.
    "I'll update you on your history then. In A.C. 207, Venus suffered severely from a series of acid storms, which are a naturally occurring phenomena there. As you know, a long time ago the planet was not inhabited by humans and suffered from the 'green house effect' until terraforming began in A.C. 202. The acid level was reduced to tolerable levels, but occasionally it builds up in an area and results in highly acidic rains. A series of the acid storms destroyed numerous facilities and caused hundreds of thousands of casualties. To this day, Venus has not fully recovered because the lack of emergency aid funds. That is the reason for this war, or so they claim. They desire to leave the World Nation."
    "Why can't they just do it peacefully, sir?" One of the students asked. Meiran snorted in the back. As if they can't figure that one out on their own.
    "That's where we get into peoples' different views. The people of Venus obviously view the war as a revolution, and probably a chance to 'regain' or 'repair'. The people of the World Nation, ourselves included, are viewing this as an attack on the peace."
    "Aren't they aware of the loss of lives that could result?"
    "Probably not. Or if they do, someone in charge there doesn't care. It's a known fact people die in wars, but many people are blind to that fact." Milliardo snuck another glance at Roku, who had turned slightly away, gazing apparently at the door.
    "So are we going to have to fight them?" One student blinked.
    "Those of you who graduate will most definitely end up fighting them. It is your choice whether or not you'll fight. But be warned, if you do fight, the pain is almost unbearable. Dismissed." Milliardo stood back and waited for the students to file out of the room. Roku left with them.
    Meiran walked over to Milliardo.
    "And you are?" Milliardo asked. She LOOKED familiar.
    "Meiran Chang. Your lecture was a complete waste of time, Uncle Milliardo."  Meiran replied flatly.
    Nice girl. Milliardo thought sarcastically. "Oh? And isn't your father supposed to be here?"
    "No. I came instead. He has to work with the Preventers."
    "So he sent his daughter?" Milliardo raised an eyebrow. I wouldn't send MY daughter...
    "WHY IS EVERYBODY SAYING THAT!?" Meiran snapped. Milliardo backed away a step in surprise, "I was not 'sent'! I am not some homing pigeon who is 'sent' somewhere! I earned the right to be here!"
    "Yes!" Meiran scowled. Why did everybody think she was 'sent' anyways!?
    "How so?" This would be interesting.
    "A duel." Meiran put a hand on the blue tachi she wore.
    "I... see... So you'll be piloting instead of him?"
    "Yes. Is there a problem? Aunt Noin said there wasn't." Meiran was Not Happy.
    "No, not at all."

        Roku sat down in the cafeteria. It'd been a long lecture, even though she had resolved to take revenge for her classmates, it still stung. She watched somebody who was definitely NOT a student walk in. Uncle Duo?
    The braided pilot walked past her, stopped, walked backwards, and stopped in front of her.
    "Zechs?" He blinked. No.... Zechs didn't have boobs.... Not at last check anyways...
    Roku twitched.
    "I think you're mistaken." She said in a low voice, clearly indicating 'go away'. Duo studied her for a few moments.
    "Mind if I sit down?" Duo asked, completely ignoring Roku's tone. Now who do I know who looks like Milliardo with boobs-?
    He sat down anyways. Roku glared behind her mask. Go away Uncle Duo, before you make the connection!
    "Hmm... I'm Duo Maxwell, you?" Duo opened the conversation.
    "Roku." She sounded Not Happy.
    "Roku what?" Duo pressed. Man... I know somebody who looks like Zechs! Who... OH! OH! I KNOW! I KNOW! Siduri! Er.... No. SidRA. The Sid with boobs! Why did Milliardo and Noin give their kids names that sounded so much alike...?
    Roku studied Duo from behind her mask and watched as realization finally hit him.
    "SIDRA! Long time no see!" Duo slapped her on the back, "Taking after yer ol' man?"
    All eyes turned on the Lightning Countess and the God of Death. Roku calmly stood up and poured her cup of hot tea all over the front of Duo's pants.
    Then she walked out. Her classmates began questioning Duo while he recovered.
    "Sidra as in Sidra Peacecraft?? That's Roku Merquise! She's like, the best student at the academy."
    "She's already been in a battle!"
    "Oof...." Duo squeaked, "I'm... pretty sure.... that was Sidra Peacecraft, as in Milliardo's... daughter.... She's just wearin' one of her dad's masks or something...."
    "Are you sure, mister??"
    "OF COURSE I'M SURE! I'm her uncle for cryin' out loud! ... oh, ow..." Duo winced. Pain...

        "You want me to put WHAT on Heavyarms?" Tiffany looked at Trowa with a look of disbelief. He shrugged.
    "You want me to put a half CLOWN mask on it?? Covering part of the optical equipment and hindering it's abilities? WHY?"
    He shrugged again.
    "Well... I suppose I could get something like a one-way mirror for it... but still! That's just... weird!"
    He shrugged again. Tiffany threw up her arms in exasperation.
    "I can't work with you if you don't communicate with me. Speak! Is there any practical reason for putting a freaky looking half clown mask on a giant machine??"
    "... No, not really."
    "THEN WHY???"
    "It was just a request, you don't have to put it on if it's that big a problem..."
    "It's not that it's necessarily a problem, it's... just strange! You have some kind of clown fetish or something??"
    "I work in a circus."
    Tiffany shut up.
    "....... I guess I'll talk to Jeanie about the detailing then." She sweatdropped slightly, "It's still strange though." She stood up and smiled, "I'll see what we can do, Trowa. Later." She poked his nose and walked away, leaving a very confused Trowa in her wake.

        On the other side of the hangar..
    "What happened to you, Duo?" Noin studied him. Stephanie snickered from behind.
    "Sidra dumped her tea on me... Said her name was Roku though. What's up with that?? You guys not notice her or somethin'?? She's a little hard to miss!"
    "Oh!! Sidra!" Noin cursed to herself. She knew she had forgotten something. She had meant to warn the pilots about her daughter's little scheme, but had forgotten about it in all the other things that needed doing.
    "Yeah. Sidra. What's up with her? AND WILL YOU STOP SNICKERING BACK THERE!?" Duo glared at Steph, who grinned, razzed him, and ducked back behind the incomplete Deathscythe.
    "Milliardo didn't want her joining the defense force, so she ran off and disguised herself. However, when we found out where she was and what she'd been doing, we had her transferred here to the main academy and acted like we didn't know it was her to sort of teach her a lesson. She doesn't know we've known all along."

        Siduri listened intently from the other side of the wall. How could they!? How could they do this to her!? Their own daughter! She was so upset after what happened and they were trying to teach her a lesson!? He took off for the dorms, despite how much he wanted to burst in and scream at his mother for what she'd done. He felt it was more important to tell his younger twin about this.

    Sidra will know soon enough, Mom, Dad.

Continued in Gundam Wing: A New Era, Episode 8: