Chapter 1, Part 1 (1/4)

 

Space is quiet today, too.

The "United Earth Sphere Alliance" has had the colonies in their hands since 20 years. There were a few revolts of minor importance, but for the most part there has been peace. It seems the space government, which depends on the Alliance's military power, works cleverly.

Especially here... It's safe to say that nothing is going on in the surveillance satellites which surround Earth on the satellite orbit. There's nothing to supervise and there's hardly ever any movement. And if there is, it's usually just an old satellite or a small planetoid which enter the atmosphere.

That's probably why it isn't lack of reason which makes them judge that there is nothing remarkable about the five objects detected upon entering into the wave course for atmospheric entrance.

"I confirm that an object has changed its locations from the La Grange Point AY to the point GY. It will enter Earth's atmosphere in 600 seconds" says the radar surveillance officer.

Answering to the report, a young Alliance officer approaches floating. His body wants to keep moving because of the laws of inertia, but he stops it by grasping the surveillance officer's chair. In zero gravity one has to be careful even when making the smallest moves, but through long experience his movements have indeed become smooth.

"It's not only one" says the officer while watching the radar.

Five objects are mirrored on the green radar screen, approaching Earth from different directions.

"Yes. Five metal objects have been discovered by the radar."

After hearing this, the superior goes back to his previous chair without another look the radar and issues orders.

"First, relay this information to those below. Those are probably just pieces of primitive satellites or something similar, anyway."

"Understood."

The radio operator seated beside the surveillance officer takes the headphones and contacts a cargo plane flying inside the atmosphere.

 

**********

 

The mobile suit cargo plane is flying while the sun, which has appeared from the shadow of the Earth, shines on its blue hull and makes it glow. It's a hypersonic transport which has, besides the usual jet engines, scramjets in his hull and can fly with a speed faster than Mach 10 in the upper layers of the atmosphere where there's not much air. Now it's flying in the lower, warmer layers at an altitude of 100 km towards the East. 10 years ago, when a shuttle was launched to this altitude, the greeting "Welcome to Space" was heard from the flight captain.

"Lieutenant Zechs, 'upstairs' reports that satellites are falling down."

The soldier sitting in the co-pilots chair addresses the person sitting in the rear. "Upstairs" refers to the surveillance satellite.

"Where does the surveillance satellite have its eyes?"

The person has reviewed some documents and turns down the information with a soft voice. Then, putting down the documents, he asks the soldier in the co-pilots seat.

"Soldier Bruno, do you think that several satellites can fall to the Earth at the same time?"

"Well, as long as there are no miracles, I don't think it's possible."

His superior - OZ Special Lieutenant Zechs covers almost all his face with a silver mask. All one can see are his lips testifying of high nobility and his blond hair which has grown down to his hips. Rumours are that there's an ugly scar or that he's blind, but the truth is unknown. But the commander of OZ himself has authorized the wearing of the mask, so there's nobody who asks. Moreover, there's no room for doubts where the skills of Zechs as a warrior are concerned. Additionally, there's nothing to object about him as a superior.

"So, after all, it is as headquarters says..." asks Bruno of Zechs.

"It has to be the M-Operation of the colonies. How many can we catch with this cargo plane?"

Reacting to Zech's question, Bruno starts working on the computer terminal. Immediately the projected course of the five falling objects appears on the screen.

"It appears only one of them is falling east of the Eurasian continent."

"One should be enough. A front soldier is not bent on success."

There's a hint of self mockery in Zech's voice.

"That's really a official statement, isn't it?"

Bruno frowns at Zech's words. He can't imagine that a man, who is even trusted completely by the OZ general commander, would say such a thing. But he understands the meaning. Even if OZ is a part of the Alliance, they're a separate organization from the Alliance. You could say that the Alliance army is the master while the OZ "Specials" assist it. They are not to interfere too much in order to avoid being alienated too much from the Alliance army.

"I must have said it. I am a soldier to the end."

Casually, Zechs lets a self mocking smile linger on his lips and then says, addressing the pilot "Lieutenant Otto, change the course of the plane."

"Understood, Lieutenant Zechs."

In the pilot seat, Otto tilts the control stick slightly and changes the course.

 

**********

 

At the same time, a shuttle is about to enter Earth's atmosphere.

It's an official shuttle of the "United Earth Sphere Alliance" which is on its way back home to Earth from a space conference at the La Grange Point.

Inside the ship, the passengers' arms are slightly floating through the zero gravity of the inertia flight.

Then, a chime, "bong", resound. Subsequently, a female voice is heard over the intercom.

"This shuttle is about to enter the atmosphere. Please fasten your seat belt and don't leave your seat."

The purser, wearing adhesion model shoes, walks down the aisle as if verifying each step. He checks the belt of all the passengers, even if there are only four.

"Darlian, Sir"

The purser approaches the seats of the last passengers: a man in the prime of his life and a woman sitting beside him.

"Ah, that's fine."

The man called Darlian verifies the belt of the person beside him and nods slightly. The purser walks on with a smile.

Around the man's mouth there's a brown beard, the same colour as his hair. As the Alliance's vice foreign minister, he's on his way home from the colony summit which was opened on the Beta 3 colony in the middle of the L1 cluster.

Beside him sits a girl of 14 or 15 years of age.

She has a noble face, seemingly well educated. Above both ears, her hair is in tiny braids and, exactly like a hairband, the braids are clasped together behind her head. The rest of her hair hangs straight down her back. The hair peeking out between her back and the seat are floating in space.

The hair moves as if pulled at random. The girl has turned her face away from her father and looks out the window.

"What's the matter, Relena? Is it so unsatisfactory to return to Earth?"

"Yes, very."

The girl called Relena answers without hiding her discontent. Nevertheless, she restrains herself from using an overly biting tone.

"I'm sorry, it was only work. I couldn't even keep you company."

"Father, when we go to outer space next time, please try to have more free time."

Probably feeling guilty because he is usually pursued by work and can't keep his daughter company, Darlian lowers his eyes. This visit to the colonies with his daughter should have been a reparation, but his schedule got unexpectedly full.

If one thinks about the present situation of the colonies, how important is the existence of a diplomat from Earth? The opportunities to submit petitions are very rare. Besides, Darlian is a man who understands the reality of the colonies, something which is very rare in the Alliance. What kind of situation will result if the reign of the Alliance, based on military power, continues as it is now? Since only he understands this, he absolutely has to listen. The meetings were dragging on and consequently he had no time to spare for his daughter. Of course, the good mood of Relena is also ruined.

After looking at her father for a moment, Relena turns back to look out the window. A thick panel is sliding up from below, covering the window. It's a shield in order to keep out the high temperatures which arise when entering the atmosphere.

Soon even Relena, seated in the plane, can hear the thunder outside the machine. The shaking is transmitted with accuracy through the hull. The shaking is so bad that one starts to worry whether the hull won't break apart in the end. For someone traveling trhough Earth's atmosphere for the first time, the experience is almost enough to make you die with fear, but Relena has experienced it many times already since her childhood.

Besides, patience is only needed for a little while. A few minutes later, the shields are lowered and outside the blue horizon stretches like a bow. Beyond it, the rays of the sun can be seen.

Then, above, something reflects the sunlight and glitters.

Relena stares at the shining thing. It flares up blindingly red, but it does look like a white shuttle. But it's strangely small for a shuttle. The size is so small she can't imagine how even three people could board.

"Father, what is that?"

Relena asks her father. The reason is that her father has ample knowledge not only of matters concerning the colonies, but also in matters concerning the military.

As if lured by the voice of his daughter, Darlian, looking outside, furrows his eyebrows for a moment and murmurs bitterly.

"Operation Meteor?!"

"Huh?"

Relena turns towards her father with that question.

But not wanting to answer her question, her father closes his sharp-looking eyes, as if thinking of something.

When Relena's look returns to the window, she involuntarily cries out in surprise. The reason is that she sees the shuttle falling to pieces.

An explosion? Or could it be that it has melted with the frictional heat?

No, that's not the case. What appeared to be a shuttle was merely a cover for the real form. Because it has entered the atmosphere, the need for the camouflage is no longer there. Consequently the cover is blown away and the real form shown.

"What... is that?"

When Relena sees the white plane appearing from under the cover, the words die on her lips.

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