Part Six: Last Impression
Releena barely managed to keep the blow up from happening until they were in a fast car heading for the Gundam Peacekeeper's hangar bays. "Why on Earth does it have to be you?" she finally asked Noin angrily.
"There's nobody else," Noin answered quietly, "who's piloted a Gundam or even fought one before and lived, who's available to the Preventers."
"What about Wu-fei?" Releena demanded.
"He was badly injured getting casualties out of the Preventer headquarters fire." Noin saw the worried look on Releena's face and quickly added "A piece of the roof fell on him. He'll be all right, but he's in no shape to try piloting a Gundam for a while."
"What about the other Gundam pilots, then?" Releena asked more softly, but something in the tone of her voice said she already knew the answers.
"Trowa and Duo are both basically unreachable," Noin said with a sigh. "Duo's become a professional rogue and wanderer from one end of the solar system to the other, and Trowa seems to have found some measure of peace as a member of the traveling circus," she said softly. "And I don't dare call in Quatre."
Even Releena had to agree with that. Quatre Rebaba Winner had become one of the driving forces behind the reconstruction of the Earth and the Colonies, as well as a major political force. His loss would be devastating to everyone. "And that leaves..."
"Our two former boyfriends, the Lady Une and me," Noin concluded. "The first two are... way, way out of reach, and there's no chance in hell I'm going to let a woman with a serious bullet wound climb into a mobile suit."
"You know something, about what happened to Heero and Zechs. What is it?" Releena asked Noin quietly.
"That colony ship Heero was leaving on," Noin said, focused on the road ahead of them, "I found out Zechs boarded it as well."
"Zechs and Heero," Releena said to herself softly, an very odd look on her pretty face. She smiled, a small, nervous giggle escaped, then she just broke out and laughed. Noin looked astonished, but found the laughter too contagious, and soon both of them were wracked with laughter, so much so that Noin had to pull over to the side of the road until they stopped.
The two grinned at each other a moment, about to speak, when the cell phone chirped and interrupted the moment. Noin pulled it out, and both of them heard Lady Une's voice come in loud and clear "Epyon has launched! I repeat: Epyon has launched! Noin, you've got less than two hours to try and intercept it, understood?"
"Got it!" Noin barked. Then she floored the gas pedal, moved them back on the blacktop with a screech of tires and down the road at top speed. Releena was silent, lost in thought.
"I understand you have to do this," Releena said as she stopped Noin at the cockpit hatch, "but please, make sure you come back to me."
"Of course," Noin said softly, then she grinned at Releena, "we do have a wedding to go to, remember?" Noin leaned over and kissed her, then climbed in and sealed the cockpit. Releena watched the suit launch, a silver and black figure soared into the sky.
Releena's eyes widened as something about the suit's appearance clicked with a memory. 'The silvery knight from my dream,' Releena thought, 'and in it Noin slew the red dragon. Could that be Epyon?' She shook herself and waved, even though she wondered if Noin could even see it, but she didn't really care. Noin would know, that she was sure of.
Noin smiled as she shut down the rear view camera as Releena's image shrank in the distance. She had to focus on the battle ahead, not on who she was leaving behind. She carefully ran through her checklist as she moved, and declared each aloud as she finished "Disrupter Blade, check!" She received the tracking data and studied Epyon's flight path to plan where she would need to intercept it. "Shield, check!"
'That's an awfully inefficient route to take,' Noin thought, 'but she probably wants a chance to show off the suit. Epyon will have more of an impact that way when she tries to rally the colonies behind her with it.' She grinned ferally, 'Gives me more time to reach her, too.'
She opened the throttle and tore upwards to the edge of the atmosphere, up where Epyon hung, and waited for her. "Space drive, check!" It rested there, saving it's fuel as it rotated with the Earth until it reached the proper moment to move out into space. The dragon-like flight mode was a sight that had struck fear in men during the last war, and now they wanted to revive that terror. 'Not if I can help it,' Noin thought, and fired a demolition charge!
The explosive threw Epyon into a short lived nose-dive, but it quickly recovered and rose again even as it changed into it's own mobile suit form. The dragon wings stretched outward, the energy blade ignited and the chain weapon unfurled, ready for battle. Noin's video screen came on and she saw Hilde's face smile out of it at her.
"Well, well, well, it's Lt. Noin. Fancy meeting you here, of all places" Hilde said to Noin with false cheerfulness.
"We don't have to do this," Noin said to her simply. She continued calmly "Hilde, if you power down your weapons and follow me down, we can try to fix things."
"Oh, really?" Hilde said wryly. "Somehow, I doubt Lady Une would be so quick to forgive me," the last part said with real emotion in her voice. Before Noin could reply, or even begin to wonder what had once been between Une and Hilde, she attacked, energy blade swinging! Noin parried, her own blade stopping Epyon's cold!
"Releena would," Noin answered her calmly, only to be answered with a snarl of anger and a series of slashing attacks from Epyon's sword! Epyon drove her backwards, but Noin was too fast for Hilde to get any solid hits in!
As they fought, Noin realized this was a very poor copy indeed, not nearly as fast as her own suit, much less the first Epyon! They bobbed and weaved together along the edge of the atmosphere, their weapons fired as Hilde tried to shoot down Noin, and Noin worked to find a way to disable her foe. Noin had an real advantage in speed and maneuverability, but Hilde fought with a burning fury and little self control.
Noin ran through her suit's arsenal, and fired restraint device after restraint device at Epyon with little or no effect. She shot to disable Epyon's joints but was unable to cleanly hit them. Finally, Noin realized she had only one weapon to stop Epyon with, and as they fought, she began to conceive of a plan to use it!
"Releena," Hilde suddenly growled to Noin angrily! "I hate her! I could have been a great pilot, an ace! But she took the war away from my generation! But now I'm undoing that mistake!" Epyon's tail snaked out and wrapped around the Peacekeeper's arm, heated white hot, but strangely the forearm armor was undamaged!
"Thank god for Gundanium," Noin muttered, and quickly yanked the off- balance Epyon towards her by the tail! Before Hilde could recover, Noin took her disrupter blade and slashed across the chest of Epyon, and right through the cockpit and Hilde's own body!
The scream tore through Noin's cockpit speakers, as Epyon went limp in space with all it's command systems shut down at once. Noin brought her suit in close and gently, carefully cradled Epyon in her arms as she prepared for the long trip home.
Lady Une looked into the antisepticly white hospital room and leaned heavily on Noin and Releena's support. Hilde lay unmoving there in the hospital bed as the monitors tracked her condition. "Will she make it?" Une asked them quietly.
"Hopefully," Noin said softly, a bit of sadness in her voice. "We've only rarely had a direct hit on a person with the disrupter blade, and the long term effects are simply unknown. The doctors are optimistic that there's still brain function and neural response."
"Good," Une said, and smiled darkly as she continued, "I want her alive and awake to face her trial."
Noin rolled her eyes and Releena looked at Une disapprovingly. "Lady," Releena started, only to be cut off.
"Releena, she betrayed her oath, her friends, and me personally," Une said seriously. "I'm not prepared to easily excuse that." She looked at the pained expression on Releena's face and smiled a bit at her, adding more gently "I'll try, of course. But it'll take time."
They all went back to Une's room, where she quite painfully lay back down again. "We'll be back to see you soon," Noin said softly. Une smiled to herself as she saw the two of them leave together, holding each other's hands.
'I wonder when the wedding will be?' Une wondered to herself drowsily before she finally fell to sleep.