Title: It's the Pilot  Part 14/18
Author:  Truth
Archive:  The usual places.

AU - Wherein the Gundam pilots have known each other
for a little while, but the war is still stalled back
before the pilots return to space.  Meanwhile, the five
mad scientists have had sceond thoughts about some of
the pilots.  Probably OC as well, but I did my best.
First person stream of conciousness/POV.

Rated PG-13 at least.

Warning:  Strong language.  Implied Shounen Ai.

Disclaimer:  Gundam Wing belongs to somebody else,
sadly.

Feedback, comments and criticisms cheerfully accepted
at macros@skypoint.com

******

The first three days of our unplanned excursion weren't
too bad.  Maxwell caught up on his reading and did all
his homework for the next month and a half.  Apparently
Zechs played the 'Concerned Uncle' bit for all it was
worth and brought along all of the classwork that
Maxwell would supposedly be missing.  Which means that
he's theoretically ahead of me again.

At this point, I doubt that either of us was really
worried about who had the better class standings.

Zechs spent a lot of time in that suite doing paperwork
of his own, but always a good distance away from
Maxwell.  Maxwell himself was chained to the desk that
he worked at by one ankle whenever Zechs was present.
They were being cautious.  Too cautious.  Not even I
would believe that Maxwell could take over an armed
enemy shuttle on his own.  Well, not from a suite where
he was chained by the ankle and under heavy
surveillance, but it made me a bit nervous.

Nervous, that's right.

Zechs was treating a fifteen year old as dangerous
enough to do something that an experienced adult would
have trouble with.  And in this case, rightly so.

But how did he know?

Even given that Zechs knows that Duo is a Gundam Pilot,
how would the Lightning Count know Duo's other, more
interesting capabilities?  We had all been very
careful.  The only ones who had even been seen were Yuy
and myself.  We took our orders to remain concealed
very carefully.

So how did he _know_?

And Maxwell wasn't doing any talking, either.  He
answered when spoken to, sometimes.  The rest of the
time he was silent.  That worries me.  Maxwell needs an
outlet of some kind, or he'll self-destruct.  And I
don't mean with explosives.

I'll let the others worry about the how and the why of it all.
I'll worry about Maxwell.

As I said, the first three days weren't so bad.

When we reached L4, the next stop on Zech's tour,
Maxwell was locked up in his cabin with his homework
and a stack of novels and Zechs took almost everyone
off the ship with him.  He did not neglect to mention
to Maxwell that if the shuttle took off without him,
there were orders to shoot it down.

Oh well.  I knew it wasn't going to be that easy.
There were only five OZ soldiers left on the ship.
With a little luck and a lot of skill, I should be able
to loop the video feed from Maxwell's suite and drop in
to check on him.

I was worried.  I'll admit it.

In order to safely check on Maxwell, I would have to
wait until all five of the crew were settled down.  Two
were on watch and the other three were supposed to have
dinner and then go to bed.

But it didn't happen that way.

I watched the three off-duty soldiers wander down the
hall toward the crew quarters.  But they never got
there.  Instead, they stopped outside Maxwell's door.

I switched the view to the inside of the suite.
Whatever was going on, I wanted to be sure nothing
happened to Maxwell.

Maxwell was not yet in bed, though he had taken a
shower, and was dressed in a pair of pajamas.  He was
reading in the main room of the suite.  There must have
been a noise at the door, because his head jerked up,
and he stared in that direction.

I will forever thank the Gods above that I was watching
Maxwell that night.  If I had been doing something else
at that crucial moment, I would not have caught on
until too late.

As Maxwell turned to look at the door, there was a
flicker, and the image fizzled for a second, and then
he was staring back at his book.

I was out of my hiding place and running down the
corridor as fast as I could go.  If those goons didn't
want their commanding officer to know what was about to
happen, then....

I didn't want to think about it.

Maxwell is a very good fighter.  Thinking back, I may
have mentioned that I retreived him from the clutches
of a thug in a dark alley.  What I did not mention was
that there had originally been four of them.  Luckily,
Maxwell is not only a good fighter, but two of them had
been very drunk.

I'm good at what I do, (there is not enough time here
for a detailed explanation of the disciplines which
make a martial artist) which is fight.  Very good.  But
this isn't a Kung Fu movie.  No matter _how_ good I am,
I am not going to take on a trio of professional
soldiers who are older than I am.  Not unless I have
to.  When you're Maxwell's age, or my own, you are just
a bit more fragile than an adult and those extra few
inches of reach can mean the difference between life
and death.

As can those extra few seconds.  I was almost too late.

The door to the suite was locked.  I'd been expecting
that.  I hadn't spent three very boring days hooked
into the shuttle's communication circuits without
picking up the pass codes.  A minute later, I was
inside.

Maxwell was holding his own, barely.  All three of
these men knew how to fight, and they were not afraid
to be vicious with a much younger and much smaller
opponent.

As I came running into the room, his expression
lightened for a brief instant, and he left himself wide
open to a shot to the head from the opponent on his
right.

Maxwell went down like a stone as did the opponent on
his right.  The soldier, however, was screaming.
Maxwell had left that opening in order to crush the
older man's kneecap.  I had no time to worry about
that, as the other two men turned on me.

They were both injured.  The one on the left had a
black eye and possibly a broken jaw.  The one on the
right was favoring his side.  Broken ribs, I hoped.
It was no more than he deserved

Not that it mattered.  From the moment they laid eyes
on me, they were dead men.  Our only chance of escape
lay in my remaining undetected.

I'd have killed them anyway.

Cold-blooded?  Perhaps.  But I am a killer, when the
occasion calls for it.  It's a nasty black stain on my
honor, on my conscience, but when I became a Gundam
Pilot, I had to accept this.  I can kill from behind
and without warning if the occasion demands - even if a
part of me cringes and I hate myself for it.

Despite the things I say, I am not fighting for honor.
Not the honor of the colonies, and certainly not my
own.

I am fighting for life, fighting for other children, so
that they may remain children until it is time to
become adults.  I am fighting to keep other children
from becoming like me.  I am fighting to give them the
chance to live the life that we should have had....

It turned out that Maxwell had broken that man's
kneecap for me.  The other two weren't too difficult to
put down, but the last one was nasty.  Had he been
uninjured, I might not have been able to defeat him.
At least, not without serious injury to myself.

When I managed to bring Maxwell back to conciousness,
it was heart-breaking.  The blow to the head that he'd
suffered had caused some cognitive problems.

He thought he'd dreamed the whole thing.

It hurt to be the one to tell him that his nightmares
were no less than the truth.  To see the look of relief
fade from his eyes was horrible.  To watch the Duo
Maxwell that I knew retreat and be shown instead only
the arrogant mask of Lt. Maxwell was worse.

I lost my temper, then.

I shouted at him for awhile.  Failing to get much of a
reaction, I took him by the shoulders and shook him.

Note:  These are two things that you really should not
do to someone who is probably suffering from a
concussion.  I knew better, but I was upset.

This combination of volume and violence snapped Duo out
of his fog and he began shouting back.  I am thankful
that everyone else currently on board was at the far
end of the shuttle, not that either of us gave a damn
at the time.

What ever happened to the 'cold, ruthless terrorists'
you ask?  Remember, all five of us are still only 15-16
years old.  Even an adult can only take so much strain
and abuse....  We were both due for an emotional
breakdown, he rather more so than I.

Predicatably, he broke first.  I'd like to say that I
planned it that way, to break through his barriers and
reach the Duo that I wanted so desperately to see
again, but I'd be lying.  It was luck, plain and simple.

He sort of folded over and shook for a while.  I waited
while he fought his way back to a more or less even
emotional keel and wrapped my arms around him, just to
let him know he wasn't alone.

He needed me.  This whole ordeal had been going on for
too long.  If he hadn't seen me heading for the shuttle
bay, if he'd believe that he was completely cut off, I
have no doubt that he'd have taken his own life on the
second day of this nightmare trip.

Had he been a normal boy, he would never have lasted
past the second week at Professor G's.  Duo had been
living with the strain and stress for almost six
months....

A normal adult male would have broken in three of those
months.  I think I might have lasted as long as four.
Duo is very strong, but enough is enough.

I couldn't leave him.  He needed to know that I wasn't
going to abandon him.  So I stayed, curled up around
him on the floor of the suite.

It was safe enough.  We would be able to hear Zechs'
escort when he returned, and there was no video or
audio feed from the suite to worry about.  I just had
to keep listening.

In the end, Duo fell asleep, and I did as well.
Luckily for us both, OZ soldiers tend to wear heavy
boots.

Zechs found Duo lying on the floor of the suite, a
massive bruise covering one side of his elfin face and
(I discovered later) a nice set of cracked ribs to go
with his concussion.

Lt. Maxwell greeted his appearance with a nasty comment
and passed out.

To give him credit, the man leaped to most of the
correct conclusions.  A doctor was brought in to see to
his 'nephew', the bodies were disposed of and the riot
act was read to the rest of the crew.  The two who were
supposed to have been on watch were court-martialed on
the spot (literally, I heard the whole thing) and new
crew were sent for.

Apparently, the five soldiers left on board the shuttle
had decided that they didn't want the captive Gundam
Pilot to live a second longer.  They wanted to 'punish'
him for his crimes.

I was almost sick to my stomach.  It's not Duo's fault
that horrible things happen during war.  If it hadn't
been him, it would have been someone else.

Then again, I can't help think of the five of us and
Duo's 'replacement'.  We are different, somehow.  Would
someone else have been able to make Deathscythe do the
things it did?  Would another boy have been able to
take Nataku to victory after victory?  Would anyone
other than Heero Yuy be able to put up with the
stalking habits of that Relena woman?

I am beginning to think not.

It's the pilot.  It's _always_ the pilot.  We five
together can do things that I do not think any other
five people could hope to do. Which makes this whole
situation even more  insane than I had thought.

I had hoped to slip out of the suite after things had
settled down and the lights had been turned out.  No
such luck.  I guess Zechs isn't the heartless bastard
he is rumored to be.

He sat by Duo's side all night, monitoring his
condition and waking him up every so often to check on
the concussion.  When Duo had a nightmare, he murmured
something soothing, and got him a drink of water.

I could have cheerfully killed him.  Twice.

How do I know all of this?  I spent the entire night
cursing my noble impulses for deciding to stay with
Duo and staring at a gleaming pair of black boots.

I suppose it serves me right for choosing to hide under
the bed.

*****************

Truth:  Ooooo.  'Duo' hmmm?  Whatever happened to
'Maxwell'?
Wufei:  Quiet, you!  How many times do I have to tell
you _not_ to read that!
Heero:  Why do you keep writing it down then?
Wufei:  I'm going on strike!
Heero:  Me too.
Duo:  Why you, Heero?
Heero:  I'm _still_ upset over that whole Sailor Moon
thing!
Wufei:  Me too!
Duo:  Come to think of it....
Quatre:  Yeah, me too!
Trowa:...
Duo:  Even Trowa's sick of it.
All:  We're on STRIKE!
Truth:  Then I'll just write the rest of the story with
the Ozzies and the Doctors.  Guess that means I can
feed you five to the bad guys right now.
All:  ARGH!!!
Truth *smirks*: It's good to be the author.