"And your final objective," Dr. J said and paused, while the fingers of his mechanical hand clicked in an erratic rhythm. "Your final mission objective is to leave no survivors."
Relena frowned. "Sir."
"You have your orders, 01."
"But sir, I don't agree that--"
Dr. J sighed and smoothed one hand over his balding head. "Do you accept your mission or not, 01?" he said in a tired voice.
Relena looked away, her fingers clenching over the keys of her laptop. Finally, she said, "Mission accepted," and closed the connection.
The OZ base was laid out like a Greek key. She guided Wing through the tight spiraling alleyways, waiting around each corner before ambushing the mobile suits sent out to intercept her. At the center of the key lay the weapons storehouses, guarded by several dozen Leos and Aries units. She immediately rushed forward to attack, bringing up shield and saber as Wing carved its way through the weaker mobile suits.
Half her attention was on the fighting, the slice, slash and parry of close combat instinctive after the hundreds of hours training in simulation. The other half was busy processing the readouts from her scanners. The storehouse just ahead contained five hundred megatons of explosives, less than her mission specs had projected. She furrowed her brow as she activated Wing's thrusters and jumped up onto the roof of the building.
She brought up the X-ray video feed, lined it up with the target guide, and without a pause, fired the buster rifle. The blast propelled Wing backwards and she used the thrusters to gain a little extra speed as she backed away from the resulting explosion.
"Not bad. A little flashy," said a voice out of nowhere.
She jerked in her seat. "What--"
It was coming in on a locked frequency. "On your left."
She jerked Wing around to see a mobile suit--wait, not just a mobile suit, but a Gundam--blink into existence. She gaped at it for a second before coming to her senses. "Who are you?" she asked, sending on the same frequency.
"I could ask the same of you. But seeing as my mission was to destroy this base, I think we can assume we're on the same side."
"Let's talk later, princess, there's a little unfinished business to wrap up first." And the Gundam lit up its weapon--a long curving laser blade in the shape of a scythe--and sped forward so quickly that it seemed to disappear.
Relena quickly scanned along the EM spectrum and saw nothing. "Cloaking mechanism. Has to be. I didn't realize that was possible," she muttered.
She watched the remaining scattered mobile suits cut down one by one as they tried to flee, in a string of smaller explosions around the periphery of the base. Every surviving mobile suit was destroyed in a casual slice of the laser scythe before it could even call out a surrender. Relena sat motionless in her cockpit seat, unable to tear her eyes away from the screen, while Wing too stood frozen with its shield half-raised.
The slaughter was quick, efficient and very, very thorough.
"All done," the other pilot called out cheerfully. "I have a safehouse that's about ten minutes away from here, if you would follow me."
Instead of responding, she stared at the burning remains of the base. She had seen death before but she had not seen, at least not directly, what damage a Gundam could do in such a short period of time, the same destruction that she dealt through Wing while pressing buttons and typing commands inside the haven of her small cockpit.
"We really should get out of here, princess."
She reached out to take the controls again. "Mission complete," she whispered before following after the other Gundam.
When Relena descended from the cockpit, the other pilot was already walking forward to meet her. A girl, who looked to be around her own age, with long blonde hair and an outstretched hand. Relena shook the hand. It was very white, the fingers elegant and slender.
"My name is Dorothy Catalonia. And that," Dorothy gestured at the black-and-white Gundam behind her, "is Deathscythe."
"I am Relena." She hesitated, not knowing which name to give. "Relena...Darlian. I pilot Wing."
"I know. I hacked into Professor G's computer before I stole Deathscythe, and I made sure to look at the records of the other pilots."
"Wait, you stole--and other pilots--wait, how many Gundams are there?"
"Five. You're the first one I've found though." Dorothy slid into a graceful mock curtsy. "Enchanted to make your acquaintance, Miss Darlian."
She curtsied back without thinking then winced as she saw Dorothy's eyes widen.
"Very enchanted," Dorothy murmured and drew closer, grasping Relena's chin and studying her face intently. Relena felt a flush rise to her face under the other girl's scrutiny, which seemed to drift from her face down the rest of her body before settling to meet her gaze. Dorothy's eyes, she realized, were extremely blue.
"Glad to, um, meet you as well," she said and quietly pushed Dorothy's hand aside.
At that, Dorothy's smile only widened. "Well, let's go in and make our mission reports, shall we?"
But instead of writing, Dorothy peppered her with questions. Did Relena always live on L1? How did she meet Dr. J? When did she learn to pilot? Relena tried to avoid answering them by appearing to be engrossed in finishing her own report. She didn't know yet if she could trust this Dorothy Catalonia.
"Out of all the pilots, yours had the least information. I'm rather pleased to have met you first; I've been the most curious about you. Although you are not helping me assuage my curiosity in the slightest!" Dorothy made a moue of disapproval.
Relena made a mistake of looking up and meeting that intense blue gaze. She blushed--and blushed even more at Dorothy's slow, considering smirk. "Well, you haven't told me anything about yourself."
"Oh, pardon me, I've been awfully rude, haven't I? My mother always despaired of teaching me to be a proper lady." Dorothy drew her legs back and crossed them at the ankles, her hands demurely resting on the arms of her chair. "As you may have guessed, I am a scion of the house of Catalonia, though a lesser one to be sure and a female one to boot. In the eyes of my grandfather the Duke, that makes me insignificant."
Relena immediately reached for her gun, holstered inside her jacket. "You're the granddaughter of Duke Dermail?"
"Yes, you're wondering how I of all people ended up in charge of a Gundam. Well, let it suffice to say that I do not see eye to eye with my family on many political issues."
"You mean to say that you believe in independence for the colonies?"
"Well, no, not as such. I believe in the inevitability of war. And I believe the Romefeller Foundation is so caught up in its own self-importance and complacency that it cannot possibly win in the long run. I like to choose the winning side." Dorothy twirled a strand of hair around her finger as she watched Relena, that sly half-smile still hovering around her mouth.
"I see." Relena released the grip on her gun.
"And you, Miss Darlian. Do you believe in independence for the colonies?"
She answered in a low voice, "I believe in peace. But sometimes there can be no peace without justice."
Dorothy leaned forward. "Intriguing."
"And sometimes," Relena continued, even more quietly, "there can be no justice without mercy." She met the other girl's gaze. "You are merciless."
Dorothy sat back in her chair. "Ah. Well. I was just following our orders."
She wanted to retort but instead forced her attention back to her still unfinished mission report. She resumed typing.
After a while, she heard rather than saw Dorothy get up and walk towards her, the click of the heels ringing on the concrete floor. Step by step, they came closer and closer until they stopped, next to her chair, and she could feel the burn of Dorothy's eyes on her face.
She looked up, and Dorothy breathed, "Very intriguing, Miss Darlian." She reached forward, brushing back a stray lock behind Relena's ear, then curving the palm of her hand around Relena's face. Dorothy's hand felt cool and dry against her hot cheek. Relena's eyes involuntarily slid closed.
She felt Dorothy's breath ghost across her lips. "You're right, princess. I am merciless." With that, she felt the other girl's lips against her own, pressing hard and insistent, the grip of Dorothy's fingers on her face almost painful now, a narrow, wet tongue teasing at the edges of her lips until her own mouth opened in a gasp.
She reached up with both hands, clutching at the thin, smooth fabric of Dorothy's shirt, her fingers scrabbling up until they met smooth skin, the curve of collarbone, the soft flesh of the neck.
Dorothy abruptly let go and pushed away, leaving Relena dizzy and reeling. They stared at each other in bewilderment--mouths half-open, as if about to begin another kiss--before Dorothy whirled around on her heel and walked away. The door slammed shut behind her.
Relena ran her tongue over her lower lip. She let out a shuddering breath.
The next morning, Relena woke up and found only one Gundam, Wing, waiting in the hangar. There was a note, written in exquisite cursive, addressed to her.
"Dear Miss Darlian," it read. "I look forward to our next meeting. With utmost respect, Dorothy Catalonia."
She folded the note up carefully and tucked it away in her pocket.