Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
One week had passed since Relena's attempt to escape L2 had failed, and to her it seemed like the longest week of her entire life. She shifted her stance. Her legs hurt, and it felt like hours had passed since she first arrived at the distribution center and took her place in line with all the others assigned to receive their food allotment that day. She felt weak and dizzy and was desperately hungry from the lack of food; but all of those ailments would be remedied soon. Today she would receive her regular share of food and water for the coming week. After having a third of her rations cut the previous week - her punishment for disobeying the Guardian's order to remain in the apartment - the anticipation of having that much food had her feeling almost giddy, that is if she could actually manage to dredge up enough energy to feel something other than famished. She had never known this kind of hunger before, where her body felt as if it was about to cave in on itself.
The atmosphere around her was somber and morose as a funeral gathering or some other such morbid event, given the silence and languor of those standing in line with her. Their lackluster and sunken eyes, set in gaunt faces with cheek bones protruding unnaturally, gave the men and women the appearance of being living skeletons rather than that of human beings.
The line inched forward once more and she wondered what in the world was taking so long? Yet each step she took, every increment of progression, brought her that much closer to the front door. She was desperate to get through that door, and it seemed to be taking forever. Hunger, the desperate hunger she'd been feeling for the past few days, seemed to cause each and every hour of the waking day to stretch out in a slow, agonizing manner.
She cast a glance to the front window of the building, hoping the line inside was shorter. Her breath hitched and a small, horrified gasp escaped her after she caught a glimpse of her reflection. At first she hadn't recognized herself, but now that she did she couldn't get over the fact that she looked as pitiful and desperate as everyone else on L2. Seeing herself like that made her realize she might not survive her kidnaping, that L2 and starvation might be the death of her. Her body trembled with fear at that thought.
A hand reached out to steady her as she began lost her balance. "Hold on. Almost there." It was Kirk's gentle voice whispering reassurances to her.
"I'm going to die here, aren't I?" she asked, her voice quivering with emotion.
"Only if you give up," the haggard looking man replied bluntly. "L2 has never been for the weak." Kirk's brown eyes, framed by thick and long black eyelashes, momentarily held Relena's attention. "Do you want to die?"
It took a long moment before she shook her head. "It's just that I'm so hungry," she replied, her voice barely a whisper.
"We're all hungry. In fact, I can't remember when I didn't feel this way," he replied with a woeful expression.
Then Kirk's eyes narrowed and he looked at her as if he were searching her soul. "There must be something or someone you want to live for. Family? A boyfriend? Think of them when you feel like giving up. Either that or get mad as hell about what's happenin' here. Be angry for everyone who's died here from disease or hunger and center that anger on the UEC for causing our misery. Join us in wanting to tell those bastards in charge to stick their blockade up their elected arses."
"I have a brother," Relena said quietly, thinking about Milliardo, the brother she hadn't known about until after the first war had begun. They had mended their relationship after the second war and she'd truly come to love him as her brother and only living blood relative.
Kirk nodded. "Then make him your reason for living."
The line inched up and with Kirk's hand still firmly clasped on her elbow, Relena took two steps forward. "This isn't fair," she whispered under her breath.
"Who said life is fair?"
She turned to look at Kirk only to see disappointment in his gaze. "I'm sorry," she quickly apologized. "I'm whining again, aren't I?" He didn't answer, but took another half step forward, coming that much closer to the open doorway. "I'll try to do better," she said, hoping she had it in her to do so.
"We're all in this together," Kirk stated, his eyes shifting towards the door before coming back to rest on her face. "Eventually, we'll either live or die on this colony. Complaining doesn't get much done around here, other than to make other people more miserable and aware of their own suffering."
Relena nodded. She really did understand, and in that moment she vowed to herself to quit complaining. So what if she was hungry? Everyone on L2 was just as hungry as she was. She was finally coming to feel like she was truly one of them now. No longer was she a person of wealth or influence, a celebrity of sorts. She was just another hungry and desperate soul hoping to survive living on L2. She really only had two choices: she could sit down and cry about what had happened to her, or she could strengthen her resolve and do everything within her power to survive. Looking at the man at her side, still supporting her, she asked with genuine curiosity, "What do you use for motivation to survive, Kirk?"
"Revenge, that's what keeps me going, as well as my own stubbornness to defy a bully. If I could get my hands on those who are behind all this," he motioned out with his scrawny arm to indicate the decrepit colony, "I'd kill them with my bare hands."
"Though I like to think of myself as a pacifist, I'm beginning to believe that I would also like for them to suffer," Relena said in return.
"That's it, girly," Kirk gave her a decayed-tooth smile of approval. "You get mad, survive this hell and then get even. That's as good a survival plan as any, and it sounds a hellofa lot like my own."
"Sounds good." Surprisingly, the anger and frustration that had welled up inside of her seemed to be buoying up her energy and renewed her determination to survive.
They didn't speak for a long while, which gave Relena a chance to think. She recalled sitting in her office in her oh-so-soft executive chair and surrounded by polished wood, enjoying central heating or the air conditioning, as needed, a refrigerator stocked with both food and drinks while she'd read the many documents contained within the thick binder marked L2 Sanctions. How easily she'd believed the words that provided a list of reasons for the embargo on L2. She had voted in favor of the resolution calling for a blockade, as had many of those in the assembly. With a majority vote the UEC government thought they'd taken step towards convincing L2 to turn away from anarchy. Like many of her political colleagues, she had taken as fact the detailed report on L2 about gangs and an environment of anarchy, which made it impossible for ships to land safely on that colony to conduct their business. It seemed logical at the time to contain the lawless colony until things settled down and changed, but she never would have believed that the blockade would result in people starving to death. It was no wonder those still alive on L2 seemed to hate the UEC, because she too was coming to have a strong resentment towards the politicians who brought about such intentional misery. It sickened her to know that she was one of them. If she ever got back to Earth she'd...
"Got your card?" Kirk asked as they moved another step closer to the doorway.
Holding up the battered card, of which she had little doubt that had been taken from another person who was no longer suffering from starvation, Relena stared at the large F written with black marker on one side, then turned it over to reveal the number 3, indicating that she had no one but herself to take care of. She recalled Rida telling her that children and pregnant women were given a number 1 designation, first priority for food. Parents of those children had the rank of 2 on their cards, and single people, like herself, were given the number 3 card, meaning that no one was dependant of them and they got whatever was left over.
What would she do if she got to the front of the line and there was no food left? The idea terrified her, especially after Rida informed her that such a thing had happened quite often at the beginning of the embargo. The UEC had indeed sent humanitarian supplies to them once a month, but from what her roommates had said there had always been a shortfall. She'd been told that the first few months of the embargo had been nothing short of hell within the colony's walls, that people fought and often killed for food and water. Apparently the worst of L2's less than savory citizens had killed each other off during that time, with only a few remaining.
Then one day things changed, or so she'd been told, though it sounded more like a fairytale than reality. A ship had come to the colony, a black ghost of a ship that carried food and medical supplies, but there had been conditions attached to the much needed cargo. A meeting was called and the men and women who controlled certain gangs in the colony as well as every other adult on the colony were gathered together to "talk". That's when Rida said things had really changed. Some of the ruthless gang leaders, those who had survived the initial wars over food, who had caused so much pain and suffering, were reportedly spaced by their fellow L2 citizens, with the help of the newcomers. Under the direction of their mysterious benefactors, a number of citizens were called upon to organized themselves into a group of peacekeepers. They called their group the Guardians. The goals of this group were to keep order, see that food was apportioned properly, and to protect the innocent. Distribution centers were immediately set up in different locations within L2, where the food and necessities delivered frequently by these off-colony strangers were allocated. Rida's eyes had glowed with something close to worshipful awe as she spoke of the colony's unexpected saviors. The reason for there being any people left alive on L2 after all this time was attributed to that unidentified ship, its crew and the regular supply shipments they delivered.
Another step forward and Relena found herself only two feet away from the open door. She licked her chapped lips and folded her arms tightly around her flat, aching stomach, anticipating her next meal. She'd have to be careful, she firmly reminded herself, not to eat more than she should, spreading out her allotment of food in order to make it last until the following Friday. Another week of hunger, such as the one she'd just endured, was more than she could bear to think about.
Hearing a sniffle from behind her, she glanced over her shoulder to see an older woman standing behind a silent, vacantly staring Rida. A tear escaped the woman's faded eyes even while they remained fixed on the doorway just ahead. Seeing the desperation on the elderly woman's face caused Relena to feel ashamed of herself. Here's she'd been thinking only of her self, and it was quite evident that she wasn't the only one suffering. Every person in the line she was standing in was hungry. The need to cry was almost overwhelming, but yet again she refused to allow herself to give into tears. She had to be strong, stronger than she felt at the moment.
Milliardo. She closed her eyes and imagined her brother, just as Kirk had suggested. She could see in her mind's eyes the worry that would be etched on his handsome face as he wondered what had happened to her. She would get back to Earth, she determined, straightening her spine as she came to that decision. No one would say, after hearing of her experience here, that she acted like a weak female and cried about being hungry when everyone else around her had struggled for years to survive. What would Herro, Dorothy or any one of a dozen people who had sacrificed during the wars say if they knew she'd almost given up? No, she wouldn't be able to face anyone if she didn't comport herself as a true Peacecraft, a survivor against all odds.
She thought again of the man she'd caught only a glimpse of the week before. Trowa Barton, Preventer and former gundam pilot. What had he been doing on this colony? Though he'd been too far away for her to see any sign of recognition in his eyes, she hoped that even if he hadn't recognized her, some kind of recognition might come as he thought back on the woman who had called out to him in need. Surely he had heard her call out, but then why hadn't he come to investigate? Questions began to multiply in her head, yet no answers came to mind. Perhaps one day she'd be able to ask Trowa about that day and appease her curiosity.
It was almost a relief to step past the threshold of the distribution center and enter the stuffy room. It smelled of bad hygiene. Then again, she thought, what was good hygiene compared to the promise of your next meal?
It was several minutes later that her attention was captured by someone entering the room. A small woman, whom she guessed was about her own age and with black hair, had just stepped out of a curtained doorway on the opposite end of the room, behind the make-shift counter. Despite the altered appearance, she thought she recognized the girl she'd met during the first Eve War. It took another moment before a name popped into her head, matching it with the memory of what the girl had looked like before. It was Hilde Schweibecker, the colony-born, teenage freedom fighter she'd met aboard Libra. She'd learned later that Hilde had taken word of her presence on that ship to the gundam pilots, which precipitated Heero's arrival in an attempt to rescue her from her brother.
Somehow, Relena managed to contain her excitement at seeing someone she knew until she was in closer proximity to the counter. She waited until Hilde finally moved closer to her position in line before she called out the other girl's name. Large blue eyes made more prominent by starvation shot up and recognition flashed within them. Hilde looked shocked when she asked, "What the hell are you doing here?" Relena tried to smile as she held up her card, displaying that this was her day to get her food allotment.
"Holy shit!" A look of understanding then flickered in the other young woman's blue eyes, and Relena could only guess what it was that Hilde had realized.
A spark of hope flickered to life within Relena's heart. Maybe she could appeal to Hilde for help. If she could manage to get a position at the Distribution station she might be able to make contact with whoever was bringing their supplies. Perhaps Hilde knew of a way to get word off the colony and back to Earth. Yet as quickly as hope had replaced her despair, it was just as rapidly dashed when the other young woman gave her a sad frown and shook her head before turning away, resuming her work. Like everyone else in line, Relena was left to wait until it was her turn and, from Hilde's dismissal, she'd not expect any preferential treatment, even from an old acquaintance.