BY ANY OTHER NAME

It's peacetime now and Dorothy is Miss Relena’s aide, sitting pretty in the outer office. She cannot keep track of the days anymore; they all seem the same to her. One violent death is enough to make headlines on a slow newsday. Dorothy remembers when there used to be thousands. When she ruled the army of mobile dolls and was courted for her advice and her military force.

She can hear someone come down the hallway and puts on her polite smile for Miss Relena’s ten o’clock. But the girl limping through the open door isn’t Lady Une, even if she does carry a red rose in her corsage. She's a slight, almost childlike figure and she leans heavily on a stick. A row of angry red stitches is half hidden by the unruly mop of purple hair.

"Good morning," Dorothy says automatically. "Do you have an appointment, Ms…?"

"You should be in jail," the girl says, slamming down her fist on the desktop. The L2 accent is thick with emotion. "How come they let you walk?"

Dorothy doesn’t have any ready answer for that question. After capture, she sat in her cell, waiting for her trial. She would eat, sleep, stare at the ceiling and think about how the drums would drown out the sound of gunfire as she crumpled against the brick wall. Then Miss Relena showed up one day, sat down on the bunk and said things about their time together in Cinque, peacetime, second chances, new starts and how she needed an aide really badly. Dorothy knew the last part was true and so she went along with it.

"I slipped through the cracks," she says, still smiling, but no longer polite. "Who are you?"

"Someone you tried to kill, you murderous bitch."

The blue eyes are steely and Dorothy hasn’t felt this alive in weeks, maybe months. The girl has the stance of a soldier. Perhaps she has come armed. Perhaps Dorothy’s own blood will spray the walls and soak the ancient Persian rugs at their feet in a matter of seconds. How exciting that would be.

"There were so many," she says with studied nonchalance.

Indeed, there were thousands upon thousands until Quatre Raberba Winner came to wrest the Zero System from her, then, in his exquisite, infinite cruelty, left her alive. His friend, who isn’t Trowa Barton, would have killed her, but Winner wouldn't have it.

"Treize kept count," the girl says, voice low and dangerous. "Whatever else he did, he knew who had died for him and who had died by him. Who was wounded and who could still fight."

She rips the rose from her breast and throws it on the floor, like a challenge. Red petals scatter.

"My name is Hilde Schbeiker," she says, "and you can start with me."

Then she's gone. Dorothy listens for the uneven gait until it fades into the distance.

Slowly, hesitantly, she picks up a pen.

FIN