[A.N.] Hello Everyone! Here is our first real chapter in the sequel to Missing Links! I hope you enjoy this story as much as we are. we will try to keep the chapters coming at a consistent pace but no promises! It's still the school year! Anyway! Read and Review to let us know what you think. we do take your advice and opinions into consideration. With no further ado, Enjoy!
She could hear their screams and see the explosions in front of her but she could do nothing. She could smell the ash and feel the heat of the flames as her beam rifle destroyed one target after the next. No survivors. That was the order she was given. She hated this. She effortlessly negotiated her machine through the small town demolishing buildings and destroying monuments. Leave no trace. Those were her orders. She saw faces, fear, anguish, pain. They didn't matter and yet they mattered more than anything. She was crying inside. She fought deep inside but it was down. The mission came first. The mission was all that mattered. Complete it was quickly and efficiently as possible and return to base. No questions asked.
The outstanding words of the order rang through her mind: no one was to lay sight on the gundam and live. She continued the onslaught of mechanical power. Men, women, children; destroyed in seconds by rifle and saber. She tried to beat desperately against the mental walls but her body wouldn't respond. This had to stop. This couldn't go on. Yet it did. In less than an hour an entire town lay in ashes, reduced to smoldering piles of rubble. She sat there, ice blue eyes taking in the damage. Her hand reached out and tapped the com-link.
"Mission complete." She heard her own voice say; it was cold, callous, unfeeling.
"Very good, Beta. Return to base."
"Rodger that." As she tuned to walk away from the sight of the desolation, the small echo of a crying child reached her sensors. She turned back, the metal giant towering over the tiny child, a stuffed animal clutched tightly as tears streamed down her face.
Serene bolted upright, a mixture of sweat and tears soaked her pale cheeks. She couldn't catch her breath. A panic attack began to tear though her chest. Another nightmare; they were getting worse. One night after the next each dream became more and more vivid. She could still smell the smoke and feel the heat of the charred buildings. She felt her stomach heave and ran to the restroom where she proceeded to vomit. Toby followed after her, pressing his large furry body against her legs as if sensing her need for support. Her knees wobbled and she found herself unable to return to the bed. She collapsed on the ground pulling her knees to her chest and sobbing uncontrollably. Toby licked her face and arms trying desperately to comfort her. She reached out and hugged him tight soaking his fur with her tears.
Why now? She was safe. She had started a new life. Why were these visions coming now? Did it have something to do with that voice? She hadn't told Kit-Kat about the voice; she was afraid to. What if she was crazy? What if all those twisted years under Dekim's harsh command had warped her beyond repair and the person she was now was a mere illusion to cover up the monster within? She shuddered and released Toby from her grasp. He licked her face once more before curling up at her side as close as physically possible.
She had committed horrible acts while under Dekim's control and yet she felt as though it hadn't been her at all. These dreams were only making her confusion worse. There couldn't be two of her, could there? She'd heard of split personality disorders; Colonel Une of Preventer had developed one. It wasn't impossible that she herself had one too. Who was that voice? Where did it come from and why was it still troubling her? She wanted to ask Treize; to talk to Kit-Kat or to confide in Constance and Daniel but she couldn't. She couldn't let them know what a monster she had been. She couldn't let them think that the monster still dwelt inside her. What would they think? Would they trust her around the children? Would she be still welcomed at the Villa? So many thoughts swarmed through her mind. She felt dizzy. Closing her eyes, she tried to focus on the present. Constance and Daniel loved her. Treize and Kit-Kat would never throw her out. Both she and Kit-Kat had a violent past; that, she knew for certain. Treize had done some things he admittedly wasn't proud of either. Surely they would understand?
Standing up, she walked to the kitchen. It was going to be another hot cocoa sort of night. Toby padded along behind her; the soft sound pf his paws on the wood floor was a constant reminder that she was safe. Part of her wanted to talk to Kit-Kat about the nightmare. Part of her wanted to run into the older girl's room and share a candy bar and laugh and tell stories as they did so long ago. But she couldn't; even if she wanted to talk to Kit-Kat about it her friend was on her way to Sanc kingdom to the United Earth-Sphere Alliance building. Kit-Kat said she needed to sort some things out with Relena due to a harsh falling out.
She sighed and stirred the cocoa. This was just one of the many nights that her dreams had gotten carried away. Toby had woken her up more and more frequently with a panicked yipping. On one of the nights she almost hurt him. She had debated forcing him to stay out of her room. For the first few nights, he stood outside and scratched and yipped and whined. It had taken a few days for Toby to finally show her that his forgiveness was unconditional; that and Treize and Daniel had complained that the dog's incessant pleading was keeping everyone awake.
She sipped the cocoa and closed her eyes, letting its warmth slowly travel through her. Toby nuzzled her leg and she reached her free hand down to scratch him behind the ear. If only there were a way to stop her nightmares; to heal the wounds and close the gaps made by the years of trauma. She just couldn't let go; couldn't forget the screams, the sounds of destruction.
As if summoned by the thought of chaos, Kit-Kat's kitten jumped up on the table; although kitten seemed a bit of an understatement. She gave a lazy stretch and laid down spreading full-length on the table top, belly up. She pawed out of Serene and mewed softly, as if begging to be petted.
"Oh no you don't, you little trouble maker. Your cute act doesn't fool me." The kitten purred and mewed again, rolling back over to stare at her. "Don't worry. She won't be gone long." Serene added. As if understanding, the kitted stood up and jumped into Serene's lap eliciting a small growl from Toby. The kitten curled up and purred, cool eyes staring at Toby, taunting him. "Now, now, play nice you two." Toby whimpered and bumped his head against Serene's hand. She laughed and stroked his ears, finally feeling calm for the first time that night. Between the heat of the cocoa and the soft purr of the kitten in her lap she felt herself begin to settle into quiet of the night.
April White exited her car and walked out in front of the seven-story United Earth-Sphere Alliance building. She adjusted her red wig under her floppy black hat and smoothed down her multi colored coat. April White's style was a little more on the boho/eclectic side than fashionable; going for a comfortable recluse writer instead of the catoure of a fashionista; at least, when it was public outing like this she was. No one would guess that beneath the red wig, crazy layers of clothing, and behind the blue glasses lay the long lost ward of Treize Khushrenada; and for the time being, that was just how she wanted it to be.
"April White" had replied to a request, via email, for a scheduled meeting with the world's youngest female ambassador to ever take the position of the Vice Minister of Foreign relations. It was just the 'in' she needed. Her worn black combat boots made a soft clopping sound, rather than the usual click of her stilettoes as she made her way into the rather large congressional office complex. It didn't take more than a quick glance around to see a depressing lack of security and she made a mental note to try and do something about that as soon as possible. After shyly going through a brief security scan where the few guards ran her guest badge through the machine, a quick pat down search and a metal detector she made her way to the elevators. Relena's office was on the sixth floor and while 'Thiana' could handle those many flights of stairs easily, April White could not.
As she reached the intended floor she noticed a difference in the security measures. Two guards stood vigilantly outside of one of the office doors, and next to them she noticed a codded alarm system on the door. She gave a small smile; she had an idea of who had set up the security for this floor, and if she was right, she expected there would be many more inside the office. She assessed the guards: stun-guns, fairly able-bodied, one in his late twenties, the other in his mid-thirties. Neither seemed to have any visible debilitations of any kind, and she applauded Boy for that much foresight. At a quick glance a general attacker wouldn't see any weaknesses.
As she neared the door, the guards stiffened and reached their hands down to their tazers, keeping them poised and ready. April White slowed down giving a look of mild alarm, her eyes widening and she raised her hands in defense.
"Um… I'm April White…" she stated, hiccuping as the nerves got to her. The guards neither moved, nor let any recognition show on their faces. "Um… the writer…" she continued before blurting out the rest as if it was one word. "I have an appointment today with the Vice Minister." She held up the visitor's badge and smiled her most disarming smile. The first guard took the badge and examined it while the other kept a good eye on her. She wondered briefly just what the former pilot of Zero One had said to them to make them take their post so seriously; not that she wasn't glad to see it.
"You may go in, Ms. White."
"Thank you." She said, giving another shy smile before pushing her glasses back up her nose. The second guard opened the door and she stepped inside offering them a now more dazzling smile.
The door led into a generic space with a reception desk which she guessed was supposed to be for the secretary or assistant. The chair was empty and had obviously been that way for quite some time because there was already a defined layer of dust forming on the pens in the cup which wouldn't happen if they were being used regularly. She shook her head and continued on to the oak door past the artificial greenery and raised her hand to knock when she noticed the door was slightly ajar. She peeked inside to see the young Vice Minister looking over her paper work.
Thiana took a deep breath and a step back. What would she say? She had practiced her words a dozen times and yet, standing at the door, nothing was coming to her. As her mind wondered over the possibilities, she began to remember all their little bonding moments over cocoa and candy, a candy she happened to have with her in her purse. She smiled and pulled the red-wrapped candy out of the confines of her woven bag and quietly pushed the door open. She opened the wrapper and snapped the bar into two separate pieces.
"Kit-Kat?" She said.
The younger woman's head shot up with those few words. Their eyes locked; black-blue to aqua. Surprise, disbelief and a few other emotions flashed through the young Vice Minister's eyes.
"I knew it was you." Relena said, a small smile of triumph on her face as she stood.
"Oh Really?" Thiana found she wasn't that surprised; mostly when Relena tapped the book on her desk.
"You made it a little too obvious for those who knew you."
"I thought I'd try and let the people closest to me know I was alright."
"That was very thoughtful of you. I knew you didn't do it by accident. You're far too careful for that."
A small silence spanned the space between the two young women. When last they met they were on the threshold of adulthood, neither having any idea who they were yet and no way of knowing what would befall them in the short time that followed. Their last meeting had ended in an argument, harsh words flying like the dagger that almost hit the younger girl so long ago. Thiana had said something she regretted and wasn't all too sure the younger woman would forgive her. Now, standing in the same room together, neither seemed to know what to say.
"You look like you're the one who's seeing a ghost, old friend." Relena joked. "You're the one who's been missing. Isn't it my job to look stunned?" Relena walked closer, smiling. Soon, the younger woman was just a few feet away and stood looking at her. Thiana didn't know what to expect. If Relena wished to hit her, she wouldn't blame her. If the younger girl wished to yell at her or guilt her for the way their last encounter ended then there was little she would do to stop it. She didn't regret leaving so suddenly, but she did regret how cruel she had been to Relena when she did.
"Relena, I came here today to-" However, before she could finish that sentence, she found herself enveloped in a hug. Momentarily stunned, she finally embraced the young woman back. Relena's frame was always small but the young diplomat was obviously malnourished. Thiana could almost feel the girl's bones through her pantsuit.
"Welcome back, Thiana."
"I'm sorry, Relena. What I said back then; I was wrong."
"No, don't apologize, Thiana. You were right, and everything you said that night made me realize in time what I needed to become. In the toughest moments during the war when I felt like giving up I remembered your words and suddenly I knew I needed to press on."
"There is so much I need to tell you; so much to explain."
"You don't have to tell me anything, Thiana. I'm just glad that you're alive."
Thiana returned the younger woman's smile before looking around. Her eyes landed on the mounds of unfinished paperwork and the phone that Relena had "accidentally" left off the hook.
"I see you've been busy." Thiana said, eyes gesturing to the desk. Relena sighed and turned.
"Yes… The universe doesn't sleep and neither do those who wish to destroy the peace. As the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs it's my job to make sure the little disputes do not grow into uncontrollable outbreaks."
"Ah, so they are the children and you are the nanny?"
"It feels that way sometimes."
"How about we go to lunch? You obviously need a break, and I am famished!" She watched as Relena looked at the unfinished work. "Come on; how often do you have an old friend come back from the dead?" That comment caused the younger girl to laugh, lighting her aqua eyes. Thiana smiled. It was good to see her old friend laugh.
"So?" Thiana pressed.
"I suppose one hour wouldn't hurt with how many more I'll still be spending here."
"Excellent! Get your coat, we'll take my car! I know this lovely little bistro downtown that makes the most amazing Italian food and pastries." The two girls made their way out of the office and down the hall leaving rather perplexed guards standing in their posts.
The smell of fresh baked bread and garlic danced through the air enriching her senses. Relena took a bite of her food and savored the taste of the rich sauce and perfectly cooked noodles. Thiana had taken her to a small bistro that was owned by someone she said was an old friend. The man had welcomed them like family and promised to keep The "Vice Minister's" presence at his restaurant from being public knowledge. For the first time in months Relena found herself able to eat a meal in peace.
She listened as the older girl told her details of years of training and preparations for the many battles she'd had to fight. She had a feeling Thiana was holding a lot of the truth back to spare her but that hardly made a difference. The fact that Thiana trusted her enough to reveal even that much made her feel more at ease than she had in a while. Thiana had been her first real friend. Now, sitting at the table with her she felt the same comfort she had during their late-night talks another lifetime ago.
"So, let me get this straight," Relena began as she looked at the older girl. "You have a ward now?" She laughed over her plateful of linguini. Thiana had told her many details about her past that Relena had never even dreamed possible.
"Out of all that I've told you, that's what you're questioning?"
"Well, I mean, it isn't that the other details haven't shocked me, but your past is your past. You've provided more than enough of an explanation to your upbringing and your actions regarding the war. However, I guess I just never really pictured you as the type to take on a ward."
"No, I only meant that you seemed like such a loner. Taking on a ward is a big step, especially since no one knows you're still alive yet."
"True, but this is a special case. I have known her since we were kids. She's like a little sister to me."
"I see." Relena knew by the tone of her voice that Thiana's ward had to have been a child she had trained with. There was clearly much more of a story behind Thiana's relationship with the girl, but if she wanted her to know, then Thiana would tell her.
"So what are you going to do now?" Relena asked, breaking the silence.
"Well, I am going to be doing many things, but first I am gpomg to make a public appearance at the ball being thrown by the ALPHA Corporation. Have you received your invitation?"
"Yes, I just found it today, actually." She admitted, embarrassed.
"Yes, I noticed you seem to have a bit of an organizational problem."
"Well, in a job like mine it's hard to find good help. If I'm happy with someone Lady Une isn't. If Lady Une is happy with someone then Heero isn't. I can't seem to win, so I have lost more help than I've gained."
"Heero?" Thiana asked. She had recognized his work in the security of her office and floor but in matters of a secretary she was confused on why he was involved.
"Oh, Yes." Relena replied, keeping her voice diplomatically neutral. "After the Christmas Eve Incident, Preventer hired him temporarily as a consultant on my security and staff. They send him emails and resumes and he makes the final choices."
"Well, I suppose the hero of the Eve Wars would be a good one to consult about such things."
"Yes, in theory."
"Heero is a perfectionist. I have only seen him a handful of times and yet he still has more power over the way my life is run than I do."
"I see." Thiana looked at her with those black-blue pools, her brow raised. "Well, if you don't like it, then why not do something about it?"
"It's your life, Relena. No one knows how to live it better than you. If you want to have control over your security and staff, then take it."
"It's not that simple."
"You think not?" Thiana scooped one last bite of pasta into her mouth and smiled.
"You have any ideas?"
"I may. Give me some time to think about it. For now, you just prepare for the ball. Remember, no one must know that it's me."
"Would I ever spoil such an important surprise?"
"That's my girl." Thiana held up her glass of wine and Relena gently clanked it with her own.
"So are you going to go with red hair?"
"Oy, shut it." Thiana laughed as she gently pulled one of the red curls. "This is April White." She said, as she gestured from her red curls to the oversized cream sweater and black cropped vest to her olive green leggings, and lastly the vintage black combat boots. "A little bookish but she has her wild moments. She's a recluse who likes to people watch, let loose by going dancing all night once a year, and is a horrible tease. Are you saying you don't approve?"
"Oh no, I highly approve. So where do you think I can get a wig like that?" They were both quiet for a moment each giving a very serious look before the laughter broke free. Relena laughed so hard that she felt tears form in her eyes. It felt great to laugh again. As she wrapped her arms around herself still unable to stop, she knew this was the renewal of a wonderful friendship.