"We are now over the Weddell Sea and the Filchner Ice Shelf at the South Pole and will arrive at the Barclay base in latest five minutes ."
The co-pilot Klaus reports this to Noin.
Below their eyes, there is only snow white ground, looking the same as clouds.
"Any sign of the enemy in the vicinity?"
At Noin's question, Klaus verifies with the radar and shakes his head.
"No sign, neither on the radar nor for any heat sources."
"I see. It may be better to think that the main force of Acht's investigation party will regroup and take the base by storm than to assume that they have given up on our pursuit. It's only a question of time."
Trowa nods at Noin's analysis.
"This is a correct judgement."
"Even in OZ there are competent soldiers" murmurs Heero.
Five minutes later, the cargo planes lands on a runway of ice. Zechs alone comes to meet them.
Noin leaves the plane and does a military salute.
"Major Zechs. I have brought with me both Heero Yuy and Trowa Barton."
"I appreciate your troubles. I am Zechs Merquise."
After Zechs has introduced himself to Heero and Trowa, he looks down at them through the mask.
He is seeing the pilot named Trowa for the first time, but it was his Gundam 03 which took Heero with him as he left when 01 self-destructed. Additionally, he had heard that the pilot named Wufei Chang, who attacked Noin's Lake Victoria base, was also a boy. Maybe the remaining two pilots are also boys, about the same age. But what is the meaning of all the Gundam pilots being boys?
Such questions rise immediately in Zechs' head.
"Are we shaking hands?"
At Trowa's mocking words, Zechs shakes his head. Then he suggests to the two "Let me show you the inside."
Saying this, Zechs walks away towards the base.
Even if it is a base, it was originally intended for mining of natural resources, which has been abandoned. There was no military purpose. The exterior has been left as it was, as if it had been truly abandoned. The impression is that it had been made to look ruined. Light cannot be seen from the outside.
The interior seems to have been straightened out rather well. Even the aisle has been quite neatly redecorated and also the temperature is kept to a comfortable level.
While walking through the aisle ahead of them, Zechs aks Heero who is immediately behind him "Heero Yuy, is it? That's the same name as the former leader who united the colonies. Is it your true name?"
"How about you? Is it your true name?"
At Heero's question, Zechs shows a bitter smile.
"Sorry. From now on, names will have no meaning whatsoever to us. We wanted to prepare the best possible reception. Please accept it without hesitation."
Opening a door at the end of the aisle, Zechs invites Heero in.
There is the mobile suit factory, which is the reconstructed former mining place. In a space easily wide enough for five suits, two mobile suits are standing.
One suit is the white prototype Leo which Heero fought with. It's Tallgeese.
Then, there's another suit....
"My mobile suit...?" mumurs Heero without being able to hide his astonishment.
There is no mistake, it is Heero's Gundam, Wing, standing there, whole again.
"You have it restored well up to this point."
Having seen the state of the destroyed Wing with his own eyes, even Trowa raises an admiring voice.
"I hope you are happy with this."
Zechs asks this of Heero, who has remained standing at the entrance and is looking up to Wing. That's where the engineer Maser comes running towards.
"Major Zechs, we could restore 01 completely. What remains is only the fine tuning of the handling characteristics."
Saying 'well done' with a nod, Zechs introduces Maser to Heero.
"Let me introduce you. This is Engineer Maser who is supervising the outfitting of your mobile suit. He's young, but certainly very skilled."
"Nice to meet you. What remains is only to adjust the cockpit to you."
Has Heero not noticed Maser's outstretched hand? He turns towards Zechs.
"When do we start?"
To this direct question, Zechs has a similarly simple answer.
"How about at 14 hours standard time?"
"That will be fine."
Having agreed on a time in twelve hours, Heero nods to Zechs.
Seeing this state of affairs, Noin spontaneously blurts out in a harsh tone "Heero Yuy, isn't there something you should say to Major Zechs before?"
"Noin, it's fine."
Zechs interrupts Noin.
Looking directly at Noin, Heero says "It's not my way to say thank you. I will kill Zechs. That is my way of thanking him."
Noin unconsciously steps back as if she had been pushed by Heero, who has given her a cold answer. For having accepted the restored Wing as if it had been very normal, these are negative words, but when she tries to think about it, they have done the equivalent of giving him the tool for a murderous meeting. That probably means she has to let him thank them in any way.
Zechs, whom they are speaking of, shows a smile at the corners of his mouth.
That is fine. For the soldiers who fight this battle in order to protect the colonies, this is a temporary obstacle. That's because I am nothing more than a point they have to go through.
"I have never done something like this before...."
Saying this, Heero holds out his hand to Zechs with a slight hesitation.
This fight... it's clear regarding Zechs, but she has the feeling that she can't let Heero die either.
While Noin is looking at the two exchanging a handshake, such thoughts suddenly go through her head.
When Noin has returned to her room after transporting Heavyarms from the cargo plane into the base, a call from the Lake Victoria base comes in.
"Miss Relena is coming here?"
The Lake Victoria officer displayed on the monitor nods with an apologetic face.
According to what the officer says, Relena has appeared at the Lake Victoria base in her private jet and has proposed to let her meet with Zechs and Noin. Afterwards, an information seems to have come in and she has left the base in a hurry. Having followed her way with the radar, it seems she's heading towards the South Pole, says the officer.
"We must have been caught in the Peacecraft information net. We may have to consider that this is also clear to Romefeller."
"Please be very careful."
Saying her thanks, Noin cuts the connection.
In this new era, the number of people who want to flatter the Romefeller foundation will most likely be countless. Defeating Zechs, who has taken to protecting the Gundams, is a good pretext to do the foundation a favour.
Realizing that the pursuit by the investigation party will be intense, Noin sighs with a gloomy feeling.
Just then, a voice suddenly comes flying.
"Relena is coming?"
As Noin turns around, Zechs is standing at the entrance to the room. Since when has he been there?
"It was not my intention to eavesdrop, but I ended up hearing it."
"Please forgive me."
"It's not your fault, Noin. This fight will be longer than this. If possible, I would wish that no obstacle would appear, but...."
Noin quickly raises her hand and salutes.
"Please leave it to me. I wish to show you how I will do my best to stop the investigation party."
"Noin, I was thinking about an important person of the Peacecraft family, honoured Imperial Guard."
Zechs says this while laughing slightly, then he leaves.
Watching him go, Noin shakes her head.
"No, Miss Relena is very important to you. With protecting her you are able to fight purely."
So, like the Gundam pilots, he will not be thinking about unnecessary matters. Zechs now has too much interference.
Noin listens closely for a long time to the slowly fading footsteps of Zechs.
"He doesn't trust me, does he."
After approaching Trowa, who is looking up at Wing in a corner of the factory, Maser complains in this way. Heero has declined Maser's offer to work together on the tuning, and is carrying out the last tuning alone.
As Trowa hears this, he smiles slightly.
"That's not so. He doesn't want other people to touch his mobile suit. That's all there is to it."
Alone, more time is needed, that can't be helped.
As Maser wants to say this, Heero comes down from the cockpit by using a wire.
"Isn't the self-destruct circuit connected?"
"I was told by Major Zechs that it wasn't necesssary."
At Maser answer, Heero's face becomes serious. As if considering something, he turns around towards Wing.
"Maybe the reason is that he had regrets in the prior battle. It seems he wants to fight to a finish this time."
After Trowa has murmured this while thinking of the fight in Siberia, Heero leaves Wing and goes towards Heavyarms, which is standing beside Wing.
"Aren't you fighting with your mobile suit?"
Heero nods to Trowa, who has asked this question, and answers shortly "I will have to use your mobile suit after all."
"Why is that?"
"With too much charity up to now, the battle feeling is becoming dull."
"This shouldn't limit you."
Trowa can't imagine that Heero can't fight anymore because of this. And just as he has thought, Heero shakes his head.
"No, it's him."
Trowa emits a sigh at Heero's answer.
Zechs is adjusting the targeting system in the cockpit of Tallgeese when he hears this from Maser.
"I see, so he will not be fighting with 01, but with 03."
Zechs takes this calmly, as if he had been expecting it.
"What are really their intentions?"
"Maybe it seemed to them that there was too much charity. However, my feelings are the same."
"Major, shall I return Tallgeese's left arm to its original condition? If we do it now, it's still possible to take out the spare parts from 01."
The chief engineer responsible for the mainenance of Tallgeese asks this of Zechs. He has used parts of Tallgeese's left arm for the restauration of Wing's right arm.
"I don't care. It's fine as it is."
After jumping from the cockpit to the aisle, Zechs tells this to the chief engineer.
"This is the conclusion of the fight in Siberia. At that time, Tallgeese's left arm was done for. You may think of it as a justified obstacle."
Maser exchanges glances with the chief engineer.
"Chief Engineer, I guess this is the difference between pilots and engineers."
"It is indeed, he is probably a guy with the pride of the battle field, which we, working in the background, don't know."
After nodding to each other as if saying 'it cannot be helped', the two engineers go away through the aisle.
"No, this is the fault of my weakness."
Zechs murmurs this in the direction of the two backs, then he turns his eyes towards 03, which is in the corner of the factory, about fifty meters away. He can see a bit how Heero and Trowa shift a crane and other servicing equipment from 01 to 03.
"Ten hours remaining...."
Looking at his wrist watch, Zechs' expression under his mask becomes sharp.
Even if it's late in the night, Heero is performing the fine-tuning of Heavyarms. Because he has declined the help by the engineers, it takes some time. Keeping him company, Trowa hands him tools and meters.
"What time is it?" asks Heero.
The fatigue is indeed clearly visible in his face. His body has not yet returned to its former condition. It's not in a state to be completely effective.
Trowa looks at his watch and tells this to Heero.
Heero takes away a panel to the feet of the pilot's seat. After he has completed his checks, he wants to put the panel back in its original position and frowns. The left arm cramps and the panel is not lifted.
"Leave the rest to me."
Trowa addresses him. Without being able to use his skills, also Heero can't do anything. Responding obediently, he crawls out of the cockpit.
"Don't worry about it. If you use my mobile suit, you have to win."
After Heero has left for the room assigned to him with totally tired steps, Trowa goes into the cockpit. He can finish the fine-tuning Heero left undone. When he comes out of the cockpit the next time, he heads towards the crane's platform of operation.
"With the condition of his left arm, this weight will be hard."
After lifting Heavyarm's left arm by manipulation the crane, he slips into the cockpit and and removes the left arm's Gatling canon. Suspended by a chain, the barrel sways in the air. Additionally, he takes off the arm and pulls this up too with the crane. Heavyarm's left arm now ends at the ellbow.
"Four hours remaining...."
Trowa murmurs this after a glance at his watch. Then he exits the cockpit and heads towards Wing.