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Little Wing: New Home

Chapter 2: Optimism

It was late at night by the time they arrived home. Civilians had to be escorted to safety and rushed to hospitals, and the casualties had to be tallied. Out of sight of the young Gundam Force members, Chief Haro's 'bots assisted the collection of bodies. Twenty dead. Haro, seeing the report, sighed behind his mask, walked into White Base's debriefing room, and tried to swallow back his regret before speaking. "Good work, today. If you hadn't intervened, the damages would have been much worse."

But, a hint of weightiness clung to his voice. Baku fiddled with his sword hilts. Zero's head drooped slightly, knowing instinctively that, again, there had been many he couldn't save. Shute beamed, and Captain responded, "Thank you, Chief Haro." Aleda was absent: her debrief, since she was a non-combatant and not an official SDG member, was being conducted with Bell Wood, who had more spare time than Chief Kao Lyn, the one fixing all of the damaged GMs.

"This event doesn't bode well, however," Chief Haro warned the team. "We could assume that it was done out of spite, but it's more prudent to believe that this was a test. We suspect they're planning a larger assault on the city in the future. Train hard. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Don't let your guard down."

They nodded grimly.

After the debrief, Shute had to be dropped off at home. Zero asked to go with him so he could pick up Fenn from Shute's house, and Chief Haro easily agreed. The boy waved good-bye to Captain and walked with Zero to the Gunperry docks.

As they neared the docks, their new winged guest passed into view, escorted by a GM. "And that way leads to the Gunperrys," the GM said, while Aleda nodded attentively.

"Hey, there!" Shute called with a wave.

"Hi," Aleda said, shyly squirming as he—and the Knight Gundam—neared her.

"Well-met, milady," Zero greeted. "I see you have finished speaking with Dr. Bell Wood."

"Yeah."

"I hope that he has made you feel welcome. He can be rather rude." Zero held up a fist to menace the absent offender. "If he has been inhospitable, then tell me so that I can properly—"

"Are you looking around the base?"

"Shute, I wasn't finished!"

Aleda, fiddling with her wing decal, nodded. "Yeah, GM-302 has been showing me how to find everything."

"Ah, that's great! I'm heading home for the night. Zero's riding with me."

"Lady Aleda," Zero said, recovering a smooth composure, "would it please you to accompany me to Shute's house? I would like to show you something that is very significant to Lacroan culture and history."

A shy dodge of the eye, a flit of a wing, and a trace of a smile escaped her. "Um, sure."

The Gunperry landed in the forest near Shute's house, let the three off, and then returned to base. The boy and the Gundams walked to Shute's house, where they met a cross Keiko at the door. "Shute, I saw your note, but that doesn't give you the excuse to disappear for so long," she rebuked him. "It's eleven o'clock—two hours past your bedtime."

"I'm sorry, Mom," Shute said. "I didn't mean to stay away for so long. Things came up…"

"Miss Keiko, please excuse Shute," Zero pled, raising his hand to gather magical energy for a rose-conjuring spell. "There was an accident that detained us—"

"Don't you start, mister," Keiko said in her best teacher voice, halting the spell on the tip of his fingers. "You shouldn't be keeping him out late! And you left poor Fenn here alone all evening! He's been crying for you."

On cue, the little fluff ball himself darted down the stairs behind Keiko, sobbing, and flew into Zero's arms. "Oh, Fenn," Zero said regretfully. "I'm sorry for leaving you here alone. I had a matter of great importance to attend to."

Fenn would have none of it; he took a deep breath. "Uh-oh!" Shute gasped, dodging to one side. Aleda blinked, then jumped as flames spewed on Zero, roaring out any protest from the engulfed knight. Eventually, with a volatile burp, Fenn's fire-breath subsided, leaving Zero charcoal-black.

Zero coughed. "Well, I hope you're satisfied," he said to Fenn hoarsely.

After a quick introduction between Aleda and Keiko, in which Keiko warned her not to let the boys get her into trouble, and a final scolding to Shute and Zero, the Lacroans departed with a little fuzzball in hand. They drifted a safe distance from the house, skimming over the moon-kissed grass, before Zero spoke up. "Well, you may not have had a good first impression, but this is the important thing I wanted to show you. This, Lady Aleda, is Fenn, an important Spirit of Lacroa. He's usually very friendly." He rubbed a finger under the Spirit's globulous chin. "Fenn, this is Lady Aleda. She is from our homeland."

"He's cute." Aleda leaned in to get a closer look at the purring creature. Fenn opened his big eyes and blinked at her. "There are creatures like this in Lacroa?"

"Aye, there are many Spirits in our land, as well as humans and robots like us."

"What's it like there?" Aleda asked, straightening.

"It is a beautiful country," Zero said, his eyes taking on the shimmer of the stars overhead. "The castles are majestic. They rise high enough to see from miles away. The landscape is filled with natural wonders of beauty: rolling fields of elegant flowers, enchanting sun-dappled forests, and lakes with water so clear and pure that you can see to the very bottom. By day, Lacroa is bright and cheerful, and by night, it is filled with mysteries and awe-inspiring wonders. The stars can be seen by the thousands, and the moonlight from the two moons illuminates the earth magnificently."

"Better than this?" Aleda asked, lifting her green eyes to the starlit sky that they'd soon ascend to.

Zero followed her glance. "Yes," he said, "lovelier than this, if I do say so, myself."

"I can't wait to see it." The Gundamess's wings quivered with excitement.

Zero's smile died. "I am afraid, milady, that right now you would not be so glad to see it." Aleda jerked her gaze from the stars to him. "Lacroa is normally as I have described. However, two years ago the evil Dark Axis invaded the country and turned it all to stone."

"Turned to stone?" Aleda repeated. When Zero nodded, she gaped behind her mouthguard. "Really? But, that... I thought turning into stone was a... fairy tale thing?"

"I am afraid not, milady. I am the only one who managed to escape. Every organic creature in Lacroa—including humankind—has been petrified, and on my last visit, there were no Gundams in sight."

"Gundams?"

"That is what we are called. You, me, Captain, and Bakunetsumaru, although not all from the same place, are all Gundams. You noticed that we're very different from the mobile citizens, right?"

"Yeah. But, I didn't know there was a name for me—us. These people you're with—"

"The Super Dimensional Guard."

"Super Dimensional Guard. They've known about our existence for a long time, but they kept us hidden?"

"Yes. Well, sort of. The Neotopian Gundams have been hidden in the SDG for years, but Bakunetsumaru and I only met them recently. You, Baku, and I were born naturally, unlike the Neotopian robots, but somehow we have a lot of similarities with Neotopian Gundams."

"So...we can't go to Lacroa, now?"

"No, we cannot."

Aleda's wings drooped. "I really wanted to see it."

"Do not lose heart, milady. There is yet hope to save our homeland." He held Fenn out to her. "It is said in Lacroan legend that Fenn is the key to saving our world."

"When he grows up?"
"Uh…yes, I suppose," Zero said.

Fenn huffed indignantly but did not spew fire, much to Zero's relief.

Behind her mouthguard, the corners of Aleda's lips lifted into a smile. "Can I pet him?"

"Go ahead," Zero said. "He likes feminine attention."

Aleda, giggling, slowly reached out a hand and stroked Fenn's forehead with one slender metal finger. Fenn chirruped in happiness, so she continued to pet him, scratching his back and sides. Purrs rolled from his little body.

"See? He's taken a liking to you, already. You can hold him; he'll want you to continue petting him." Zero took one of Aleda's hands and gently placed Fenn in her palm.

"Thanks," Aleda said, blushing at the brief touch. "Hi, little Fenn," she cooed at the fluffy creature, rubbing him on the tuft of his head. Fenn's purr swelled louder.

"We had best be flying now," Zero said. "We must arrive at the base before midnight, or we may be shut out."

Aleda nodded. "Okay." The wing shapes on her back perked, and she rose away from the ground, followed by Zero.

"So, milady, may I know more about you?" Zero asked, flashing a charming grin.

"Oh. Uhm..."

"I am curious about your adopted family. What are they like?"

"Uh, well, they live out in the country, but we used to live in Neotopia." Aleda mindlessly rubbed Fenn's hair as she spoke. "Dad's a scientist."

Zero nodded. "A noble profession."

"I have six other siblings."

Zero beamed. "A lively household, then."

"Yeah. They've always treated me like part of the family. They even call me by a pet name."

Concealed by his visor, Zero lifted an eyebrow. "Oh? Out of curiosity, milady, what nickname did they give you?"

Aleda dipped her face into Fenn's fur. "'Little Wing.' After the song."

"I am not familiar with that song, but it sounds like a fitting nickname."

"I was little, and I had wings, and... um... so..." Aleda stuttered.

Zero nodded. "Very fitting," he repeated. Then, he spoke, "You have spent many years in this world. When did you learn that you were from elsewhere?"

The Gundamess extracted her faceplate from Fenn's fluff. "Dad told me a couple years ago, though I'd already figured it out by then." With a rueful smile, she added, "I look different from the mobile citizens here."

"Let me assure you, lady, that there is nothing wrong with your appearance," Zero interjected. "You look quite beautiful, forgiving my brashness."

"O-Oh, no, it's fine. Thank you," the Gundamess said, blushing.

"It is only right to praise a deserving lady."

Above them, they could see White Base's hand-shaped cloud cover intruding on the edge of the moon; they were near. "Um... So, Lacroa is a feudal world like medieval times, right?" Aleda said.

"That is correct."

"And the rulers are called kings and queens, and their children are princes and princesses?"

"Yes."

"Who're the king and queen now?"

"The rightful royal family is the Miya line." His eyes sparkled with delight at the memories. "The king is Richard, the Queen is Marilyn, and their daughter is Princess Relejimana. As a knight, it was my duty to protect Her Highness..." Zero's face fell. "A duty which I failed," he admitted softly.

"Oh…" Aleda averted her eyes. "Well, she's only turned to stone, right?" Zero nodded. "Then, when Fenn saves Lacroa, he'll save her, too, right?" Aleda said with a smile.

Zero smiled weakly back. "I pray to Mana you are right."


"Where is that pansy?" Bakunetsumaru demanded. "He's been gone for 25 minutes! It doesn't take that long to get to Shute's house and back."

"The new girl went with him. Maybe that has something to do with it," Guneagle chuckled.

Baku's eyes bugged out. "What?! Aleda, too?!"

"Yeah. Man, I'm jealous."

Baku dashed to the nearest window and pressed his face to the glass. He searched in vain: all he could see was black and the reflection of the lights within the base. The samurai peeled himself away. "Zero, you womanizer! We gotta go find them!" Baku dashed for a door that led towards the launch deck.

"Where are you going?" Guneagle asked.

"To drag them back before curfew!"

"Why would they take another 45 minutes to get back?" Guneagle said, flying after the frantic Arkian.

They arrived outside on one of the base's "fingers" just in time to see two Gundam-sized figures approaching from the air. "See? I told you," Guneagle jabbed at Baku as the Lacroans touched down.

"'Told you' what?" Zero inquired. He and Aleda walked towards the pair, Aleda passing Fenn back to Zero in the process. Fenn whined in displeasure.

"O-Oh, nothing," Baku said, a bead of moisture sliding down his helmet.

"Right," Zero sarcastically spat.

"You guys were gone so long that he thought he was gonna have to check on you," Guneagle said with a sideways glance at Baku.
"Oh, we were only…" Zero began. Then, his eyes widened. "Bakunetsumaru! How dare you even think that!"

"What? What is it?" Aleda asked.

As the other two Gundams gaped at her in shock, Zero said quickly, "Nothing, milady," and bowed and offered a hand. "My dear Lady of Lacroa, let us enter. You still need to be assigned a room."

"It's 346. They assigned it while you were out," Guneagle said.

Zero noted the number without acknowledging the one who spoke. "Would you give me the honor of escorting you?" he asked the Gundamess.

Aleda flushed red as she took his hand.

Zero beamed. "Thank you, milady. I am honored!"

As Zero started to guide her towards the open hangars, Aleda hissed to him, "What was going on?"

"Nothing that you need concern yourself with. Bakunetsumaru is having absurd thoughts. Come, milady."

"Fre~nn?" Fenn blinked in confusion.

Once they were in the main hallways, Aleda said, "Zero?" The knight met her gaze attentively. Her face was still red, and she appeared quite uncomfortable. "Zero, you could let go of my hand, now."

"Oh…If that is your wish," Zero said, relinquishing his grasp.

Bell Wood came walking by. "Hey, you two!" he greeted them with a wave. "What's up?"

"I'm escorting the lady to her room," Zero said.

"Ah, yeah, been a long day, hasn't it?" Bell Wood said.

The Gundamess gave a shy, silent bob of her head in response.

"Hey, I've been meaning to ask ya, Aleda: can I see that portal detector of yours that ya mentioned earlier? I'll give it back, but I wanna see how it works."

"Sure," Aleda answered. She held out her hand, and a bulky black device poofed into existence in her palm.

Zero gaped behind his faceguard. Bell Wood chuckled. "So, you can do that magic stuff, too, huh?"

Aleda nodded. "A little," she said. "You can keep it if you want," she added as she handed the small device to Bell Wood. "Dad gave it to me, but it's served its purpose."

"Cool, thanks!" Bell Wood briefly turned over the device before addressing them, again, with "Well, I better let ya get to sleep. See you guys around."

"'Bye, Bell Wood," Aleda said.

Bell Wood went on down the hall, whistling to himself.

Then, the Lacroans noticed another whistle coming from the fuzzball in Zero's hand. "That was quick," Aleda commented, watching Fenn's tiny body fall and rise with his breathing.

"Yes. It usually takes him a long time to succumb to sleep. His tears tired him," Zero said regretfully. His eyes rose to peer curiously at Aleda. "You didn't tell me you could conjure magic."

"Sorry. I didn't think much about it," Aleda replied, looking away bashfully. "Making small things appear and disappear is all I can do. I've done that since I was little. No one taught me; it was just instinct."

Zero grinned. "This is good news, milady! You already have the potential for magic! I could help you develop your abilities and teach you more advanced spells, if you so wish."

"I could use magic like yours?" Aleda asked.

"Well, it would take some time before you could cast some of my spells, but I believe that is a level you could reach. What say you, milady?"

"That sounds nice." Aleda fingered the edge of her skirt piece anxiously. "Um..." Zero's smirk faded at the Gundamess's unexpected hesitance. "I'll think about it," she said.

Zero nodded. "If you ever wish to, just give me the word."

"Um…Well…I guess I'll be going to my room."

"Should I escort you?" Zero said eagerly. "I mean, to the door?" he quickly amended.

"No, but thank you." The Gundamess bent down and lightly kissed Fenn on his forehead. The Lacroan spirit made soft "Fefe" sounds, but did not wake. "Good night, Fenn," Aleda whispered with a giggle. Then, with a smile, "Good night, Zero." And she turned and floated away.

Zero gazed after her until she drifted around the corner. He growled to himself once she was gone, "By the Spirits, I've fouled it up! I've surely frightened her!" He shook his head regretfully and stroked his Spirit friend. "I'm just so excited to see another Gundam from Lacroa, Fenn, that I can barely contain myself..."

Zero carried Fenn to his room and set the little fuzzball down on his bed. "Sleep well, little one," he said fondly before returning through the sliding doors. He was not going to sleep quite yet; he had some unfinished business to take care of, and it rhymed with...well, what did rhyme with Baku's name?


Meanwhile, Aleda laid down on her bed with a sigh. The room was an average bedroom size, like most of the other quarters in White Base. The walls were off-white, the bed and furniture plain white, and the ceiling was, again, white as a sheet of paper. Against one wall stood an unadorned dresser with a mirror above it. A nightstand rested beside the bed. A robot recharge station waited in one corner, and a table in another corner. A shuttered window without curtains was set in the wall to the right of the bed. Overall, a pleasant enough room designed for use by either humans or mobile citizens. Some personal articles would be needed before it felt homey, though.

But, the décor was not on Aleda's mind at the moment. She stared at the ceiling, thinking. At last, she had answers: Lacroa, a land straight from a fairy tale, with princes, princesses, kings and queens, castles, magic, swordfights, enchantment, and, not least of all, knights. Knight Gundams, especially. And, a certain Knight Gundam was her link to this other world—her only link, as far as she knew—so she couldn't let him go. And, yet...

Being near him set her GunSoul pounding and filled her stomach with tingly sensations. A touch of his hand sent a jolt up her arm that spread to her entire body. Whenever Aleda saw him look at her, heat rushed into her cheeks. I must have looked like an idiot, she thought, groaning. And even worse, the handsome knight's presence seemed to fritz her logic circuits as well, clouding her judgments like fog clouding a window. Like when I made him let go of my hand…Oh, what was I thinking?! And I want to learn more magic, don't I?!

Aleda sighed wistfully again. She could not call it love; after all, she had only known him for one evening. But his sensitivity and bravery charmed her, and he had even saved her life. I feel so stupid, Aleda thought. Why am I already so... Ugh! With a frustrated huff, she turned on her side. Maybe I just like him because he's from my homeland and he rescued me. Maybe this will go away, soon…

Aleda hugged herself, curling as tightly as she could under the blankets. I can't feel this way. It'll end up the same. It always does.


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