Title: It's the Pilot.

Part 16 of 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 second thoughts about some of the pilots. Probably OC as well, but I did my best.


First person stream of consciousness/POV.


Rated PG-13


Warning: Strong language. 


Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to someone else, sadly.


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


******


Life's been - interesting, lately.


And that's in comparison to being shanghaied, incarcerated, forced to do reams of pointless schoolwork, captured and beaten up.


And the explosions. Let us not forget the explosions.


We escaped the OZ goons fairly easily. I got all my stuff together and waited. Wu had rigged the rear cargo hatch of the shuttle, and it blew out with an impressive show of smoke and fire moments after we landed. The explosion shorted out the electrical circuits in the after half of the shuttle, so I broke out of my room, met Wu and we headed at speed for the rear escape hatch. We popped the hatch and took off running.


And that did wonders for my headache, let me tell you.


After about twenty minutes of high speed twisting and turning, we eventually ended up at a school, or temple - I'm not sure which. It was run by this gloomy old fella that Wu used to study with. Nice guy, though.


He got rid of my uniform and got me some new clothes, just like Wu's old ones, only in solid black. I felt better almost immediately.


Shinigami doesn't wear prissy uniforms.


I had just finished changing my clothes when Quatre and Trowa arrived. There was a great deal of hugging, something I'd expected from Quatre, but was rather shocked to receive from Trowa. I'm glad Heero wasn't there. The mental image of he and Trowa giving each other a welcoming hug was enough to overload the circuits in my brain. Urgh. That just does _not_ compute.


I've got a headache, and not from being knocked on the head. All right, I do still have a headache from that, but this one's different. I've been thinking.


Chen told me not to strain myself. I wish I'd strangled the little bastard when we roomed together. He has a right to be pissed at me, I mean, I did treat him like shit. But he's gloating - and I think that's laying it on a bit thick.


Yeah, I had a reunion with Chen, he came in with Trowa and Quatre. It'll never rank up there with my top ten 'happiest, most warm and fuzzy moments'. His comment, upon beholding my bruised and battered form, was something along the lines of, "Great Gods above and below! You risked our lives for _Him_?!"


I wasn't going to take that.... I gave him my best feral snarl - just before Wu jabbed me in the ribs. He didn't even look to see what my expression was, just muttered, "Drop it, Duo."


That shut me up. Wu's never called me Duo. Not ever.


Then we had a little discussion about the Alliance. Chen was an active participant, which sort of surprised me. It surprised Trowa as well. Quatre didn't even blink an eye.


The Alliance leaders appear to be sincere in their requests for peace, and the colonies are honoring that sincerity. But there's deep-seated rot and a decay so bad that it stinks even to those of us in space. 


At first, the smell appears to be coming from OZ, but that's not the case. The rot within the Alliance spreads all about the OZ Special Forces, but for some reason has not yet managed to work its way within. There are also problems stemming from the Romafeller foundation, where the stink of rot is almost worse than that coming from the Alliance. This begs the question; who controls the Alliance? 


The peace loving generals aren't making much headway, which argues for some fairly powerful opposition from within. But for some reason, I feel that the real danger lies elsewhere. OZ is threatening, yes, but there's more to it than that.


We're still missing too many pieces of the puzzle. Heero has gone to see Dr. J. Perhaps more information has surfaced since the others left Earth. We can hope so, anyway.


Quatre then came up with the brilliant plan that I accompany him and Trowa back to Earth to pick up Deathscythe. That sounded good. I _really_ wanted to get my hands on the new and improved Deathscythe. And that nasty little weasel that tried to take it away from me.... 


"Absolutely not."


We all turned to stare at Wu. I don't think he'd even realized that he'd said it out loud. He blushed for a second, but recovered fast. There followed a short argument between Wu and Quatre which boiled down to Wu's insistence that I needed some time to relax and come to grips with myself before trying to work with my new Gundam. He was also against my committing murder.


Quatre finally agreed with him.


Nobody asked me what I thought. I thought that I should probably be upset over that, but I wasn't. It was all right. The only reason that they didn't want me out murdering people is that they want to do it for me.


Sort of a get well present.


Wu was right - is right. I'm still pretty messed up. I've been living on my nerves for months. You can't do that without locking yourself up pretty firmly. I shouldn't be running around with a weapon capable of melting holes in bedrock.... No matter how much I want to.


Life sucks.


Anyway, back to my headache. It began with Wu's 'command decision' to keep me around. Why? After all the pain-in-the-assery he's been through with me, I'd thought he'd be happy to be rid of me. I could still've gone with Quatre and clown-boy, even if they wouldn't let me wreak the havoc and destruction I would've liked. But no, Wu wanted me to stay where he could keep an eye on me. 


He's _never_ struck me as the mother hen type. Heero? Sure. Quatre? No question. Even Trowa has his moments where he keeps one eye on the rest of us. But Wufei?


It got worse after he gave me back my laptop. I knew that he had it, of course. When Zechs and the goon squad tossed my room, the first thing they went for was the laptop. I almost freaked. I hadn't actually been erasing my thoughts and comments, just tucking them away out of sight. A serious code-breaker or someone really into computer systems would have found those files in a heartbeat.


It was Wu's laptop, of course, but I died a thousand deaths till they reported there was nothing in the thing. Which meant that Wu had my laptop and the diary. He'd know exactly where to look for those files. That was okay. At least the OZzies didn't have it.


I never actually thought he'd read the damn thing....


He didn't just _read_ it, either. After a few entries, he began making notes. If it'd been a regular diary, he'd've been scribbling in the margins. I guess the waiting around on the shuttle was harder on him than on me. At least I had homework.


Me, giving thanks for homework.... Armageddon is nigh, gotta be. But back to the diary.


It was a facet of my education (think Terrorism 101) never to write anything down. Well, everyone knows that sometimes you HAVE to write it down, so there are exceptions to every rule. In the case of those exceptions, you make sure to only write _some_ things down. In fact, my writing tends to leave out large, fairly important bits for just that reason. On the other hand, it works a bit like a code. Someone with similar training can usually figure out exactly where you've left things out, and sometimes what. The trick is to keep them guessing as to why.


'Kay, here's a bit of exposition, just to show you that my fancy, schmancy education isn't going to waste. Just 'cuz the way I write echoes my somewhat low-brow speech patterns, doesn't mean that I can't theorize with the best of 'em. (Yeah, Wu cleaned up my writing here and there. I write like this 'cuz it amuses me, not 'cuz I want better grades or because I give a flying fuck about my hypothetical audience's opinion. I _enjoy_ bad grammar, slang and sentence fragments.


Now, pay attention -


So Wu took my rambling and ranting and read it, every damn word. Well and good. He even apparently understood it. That's okay too, I guess. But here's where my headache took a turn for the worse.


Those notations he made weren't just random comments. I made some crack about how grouchy he was, and he added.... Well, it doesn't matter, but it shed infinite amounts of light on the way his mind works.


It made me curious.


So I re-read my whole diary, six months of rambling, ranting, raving and massive amounts of self-pity and doubt. Man, I can be such a pathetic whiner.... Wu read all this and still rescued me. I'd've left me to rot.


And those notations only appeared in places where I _had_ actually left out something - like my haircut. Or that nasty episode at the Prof's lab. Or the way I felt about certain of my schoolmates. And each time he wrote something, it was seemingly just a throw-away line. But to the person who'd written that journal....


He'd done more than read my diary. He'd _understood_ it. He'd seen that I was writing down all those things that I just _had_ to get out of my system or explode, and he'd understood that too. And I'd taken such pains to be sure that no one would.


It was disturbing. And those notes were for me. He hadn't been jotting things down to pass the time. Wu's got a mind like a steel trap. He remembers the damndest things and he analyzes the things he runs across as a sort of insane hobby.


But why?? Not that the end result wasn't therapeutic, in a sort of disturbing fashion. I felt like he'd been leaning over my shoulder through the whole mess - reassuring, but a bit creepy. Why did he bother to spend the time on it? 


So, I had a headache.


Then Zechs decided that he wasn't leaving without me. He left off the 'dead or alive' bit, but it seemed to be understood. Suddenly the entire colony was crawling with people who were searching for me.


I hate that man.


The first thing that Zechs did, upon finding an office at the local Alliance Headquarters, was to send for my roomies, Chang Lian and Chang Chen. Just flaming marvelous.


Of course, that _would_ be the logical thing to do. I escaped on L5, and was given aid both before and after my breakout. And my only two roommates at the school had both been from L5, and were even related. It looked awfully suspicious.


Wufei and Chen oblidgingly appeared before the Zechs-meister, thereby giving me the time I needed to read the above diary and give myself the aforementioned headache. I had lots of time in which to do it. Zechs held them both overnight, probably just because he could.


I am actually fairly impressed that Zechs managed to get so much done. The Alliance officers here cherish a real hate for the OZ Specials. Something about being stranded on the L5 duty post while the OZzies get to go charging about where ever they want.


I learned later that Wu had made a few cutting comments about my personal habits and then just let Chen rant for a bit. Zechs apparently came to the conclusion that I was no friend of theirs, and that I'd much prefer falling into his hands than those of my former roommates.


Wu's comments aside, I don't really think that he'd rip Zechs' 'platinum blonde' hair out by the roots, but the desire was certainly there and the OZ guys might have picked up on that. So I spent most of the night worrying. Zechs creeps me out in some ways. He always seems able to sense the things that you aren't saying.


That could spell trouble for Wu.


The cousins came back the following afternoon, both of them in a foul mood. It must run in their family. 


Chen is blaming me for the whole mess. We had a polite disagreement about that, until Wu smacked me in the side again. I turned to look at him, and froze in my tracks at his glare.


He must've been taking lessons from Heero....


"I _hate_ that," he snarled. "Drop that thrice-damned attitude and start acting like yourself, Maxwell - or so help me I'll _leave_ you here when I go back to Earth."


Yup, he was upset. So was I. I'd been drawling very sarcastically at Chen. My usual mode of attack would have been to shout and say something extremely rude with a cheeky grin. Lt. Maxwell strikes again, Goddammit.


I muttered some sort of shamefaced apology and went straight to my room. As I shut the door behind me, I heard him start in on Chen. I felt better almost instantly.


I went down to breakfast the next morning to find Chen waiting for me. "Something's up," he told me bluntly.


I helped myself to something to eat and waited for him to elaborate. It took him awhile to say anything else, and I amused myself by watching him squirm. My amusement went straight out the window with his next statement.


"I think Wufei's in trouble."


Next thing I knew, I was kneeling on Chen's chest, glaring down at him. "What the fuck do you mean by _that_! Who, what, where, when, why and how? Spit it out, man!"


Chen threw me across the room. I guess Wu's not the only martial arts buff in his family. I landed on my feet, thankfully, and managed to calm down. Chen didn't seem terribly upset about my reaction, just a little pissy as to my methods.


Turns out, Wu'd been summoned by the clan heads for a little 'chat'. I didn't see the threat in that, but Chen insisted that we go to the meeting and eavesdrop. Apparently, Wu's interview didn't start for another ten minutes or so, and Chen knew a place where we'd be able to see and hear everything.


I made a mental note to check out why Chen was being so damn helpful this morning, but went with it.


Note to self: 1. Learn Chinese soonest. 2. Never, ever go anywhere with some sort of audio or visual recording equipment. 3. Never, ever, ever piss Chang Wufei off.


This next bit will be a bit confusing, but bear with me.


So, I found myself lying side by side with Chen and some girl along a large skylight, peering down into a giant room. She was another cousin, I discovered. The Chang family is _huge_, but I guess Wu is a direct descendant of someone important, and thus significant. I didn't catch all of it. They were whispering and I was trying to follow what was going on below us.


It was a pretty cool scene. The room had a raised section along the outer edge on three sides. On the short side were seated five or six of the oldest human beings I've ever seen. Chen told me they were the clan elders. Deference to age is very important in their culture. I can respect that. In order to live to be that old, you've gotta be plenty smart or veeery lucky. 


The floor of the room and the walls were wooden and polished to a fare-the-well. The elders were seated on these red cushions that matched the hangings at the far end of the room. The Changs have a serious thing for the color red, I've decided.


On the left side of the U was a young lady, seated on another cushion. She was wearing what looked, to me at least, to be a very uncomfortable get up with about twelve layers. Chen and the girl (he called her Saiming) did not look at all happy to see her there.

Truthfully, she didn't look very happy either.


I got my first clue as to what was going on when the hangings were thrown aside and Wu strode into the room. He was wearing loose white pants and a white tanktop with his white jacket hooked carelessly over one shoulder. His hair was pulled back into the familiar ponytail, though it was longer than it used to be, and his expression was severe.


My heart sank. This did _not_ look good. Wu said he'd gotten rid of the white....


Chen and Saiming were murmuring something in Chinese, and when I asked for a translation, I was told to hush up. I finally got Chen to tell me that the girl was Saiming's twin sister, but that was it.


The elders each said something that sounded ceremonial, ie rehearsed and boring. Wu didn't say anything, but bowed politely when they were through and waited.


There was a long silence. Apparently, they had expected him to make more of a response. Finally, the old guy in the middle spoke again.


This speech went on for some time, and he ended by gesturing at the young lady.


I had been watching Wu throughout this speech, cursing my inability to understand what was being said. I didn't really need the translation, though. I could see the knuckles on the hand clenching his jacket quite clearly and they began turning white about thirty seconds into the speech. His expression didn't change, but I could tell that he was getting angry. By the time the old guy finished up, I was wondering just what the hell he had said to so totally cheese Wu off.


I waited for Wu to explode, but he surprised me. Pivoting on one foot, he bowed to the young lady with exquisite grace. It even _looked_ more polite than the one he had given the geezers. He murmured a few short words to her, and she immediately looked a lot happier, then quickly schooled her expression back to looking upset.


I shot a glance at the old guy, and was sure he was going to fall over dead from apoplexy. Chen and Saiming were clutching each other for dear life, staring down into the room. Whatever was going on was obviously more than a little important, and I couldn't understand a WORD! I made a resolution to get Wu to teach me Chinese.


As the guy who had been speaking struggled for words, an old lady at one end of the little line of elders said something that sounded awfully condescending. Bad line to take with Wu.


He swept her a bow that was so deep that it was obvious even to me that he was mocking her. He then said one or two sentences and turned to leave again. That set up a general outcry. He paused, allowing them to shout at his back for a few minutes, then turned again.


"Oh man, is he pissed," I murmured.


Saiming looked at me strangely. "How can you tell?" she asked.


It was actually a pretty good question, his facial expression hadn't changed since he walked through the door, and his hands had relaxed again. I shrugged. "He looks just like that when he's about to kill someone," was the answer I finally gave her.


They both looked at me, horrified. I guess they'd never really considered their cousin as a cold-blooded killer. When will I learn to think _before_ I speak?


I shrugged irritably. "What do you think Gundam pilots _do_?" I hissed. "Play parcheesi with the OZ troops?"


Our attention was dragged back to the little scene below as Wu began to speak. His first sentence shut the rest of them up. This was when I made my mental note never, ever to get him angry at me.


He spoke for almost five minutes, never moving from the spot where he had turned, making no elaborate gestures and never raising his voice. At the end of his speech, he shook out his jacket and swung it around like a cloak, smoothly shrugging it on as it came to rest on his shoulders. 


Well, well, well. It wasn't white after all. The white had merely been the lining. The jacket that he wore as he stalked out of the room was black, unadorned save for the white dragon coiled between his shoulder blades. There was some sort of symbolism there, between the two colors and the way he didn't show which color it was till the last minute, but the meaning escaped me.


There was a long silence after he disappeared through the hangings, and then all five of the clan elders began shouting at each other. The girl in the fancy outfit took this as her cue to get while the getting was good and disappeared after Wu.


We exchanged glances and followed her example. As soon as we were safely out of earshot, I grabbed Chen and demanded an explanation. I didn't get it.


Wu rounded the corner and snagged me by my collar. "You can tell me later just what you were doing up there, Maxwell," he snapped. 


"But...I...Chen...."


"Never mind," he sighed. "Therein lies a very long, convoluted story, I'm sure. Come on, I've just made this place too hot to hold us."


"Like it wasn't already?" I asked, trying to disentangle his fingers from the high collar of my jacket. He wasn't letting go. He swung me to face him and glared.


"Before, they probably wouldn't have handed you over to Zechs. That man is damnably determined and at the moment it might strike them as an attractive way to rid the colony of all three of us," his voice was grim. 


Chen put out a hand to disengage his cousin from my collar, but Wu just glared at him, and he pulled back his hand. "Thank you, Cousin," he murmured.


"Thank you, Cousin," Saiming echoed. She darted forward to hug Wu and then disappeared down the corridor. Chen made haste to follow.


"Just what the hell was that all about?" I demanded.


Wu gave me another one of those glares. "Not _now_ Duo!"


I deduced from his use of my first name that I had been provisionally forgiven. "So, if we can't stay here, where shall we go?"


Wu sighed and finally let go of my collar. Avoiding my eyes and the question, he put up one hand and removed the band in his hair, letting it fall free again. When I gave him a funny look, he shrugged and made an embarrassed face. "I'm not used to wearing it that way anymore."


I could relate. 


**


We didn't actually have to 'escape' the colony. We gathered our things and went to one of the smaller hangars. Wu was quietly arrogant to the man in charge and we walked off with a cargo shuttle. Figuratively speaking, that is.


I asked him about that, too. "Just how much influence does your family _have_?"


He shrugged. "It's our colony."


Which put him up there with Quatre, only with cousins instead of sisters. Except I doubt that Quatre would ever have Wu's unconscious arrogance. Somewhere along the way, Chang Wufei had become accustomed to the almost casual use of power. And there was more to it than that. He had given his clan elders the brush-off, and from Saiming's reaction alone I gathered that this was something which was simply 'not done'.


Great. Just as I start figuring the guy out....


"Where are we going?"


"To see Master O."


That shut me up again. When I finally recovered.... "Why? I mean, he was going to replace you!"


Wufei shrugged. "It wasn't his idea. Besides, he and Chen don't get along."


"CHEN!?"


I finally forced him to quit staring into the shuttle displays and come clean. While the Prof (May-his-soul-rot-in-hell-for-all-eternity, Amen) had wanted to see if replacing me was a viable option, Master O hadn't _wanted_ to replace Wufei.


But the elders did.


Again, this pointed to Wu being a hell of a lot more than he seemed. And he played right into their hands when he decided to put off his mourning. That young lady, Saiming's sister, had been produced as his new bride, no ifs ands or buts. So he hadn't if, and or but-ted them. He'd simply told them that it was not an option and stalked off. 


I knew that wasn't the whole story. It doesn't take a five minute speech to tell someone to fuck off and die. What else had he told them, I wonder?


I got the feeling that he won't be going home again, voluntarily anyway. I don't have any idea as to how that affects him, though. He shut up after that. It was a quiet ride to Master O's lab which was close to L5, just an hour or so away by shuttle.


I was still nervous. I wanted Deathscythe firmly around me before coming face to face with another one of those maniacs. Wu must've known how I felt, 'cuz he gave me another lecture.


It ended with, "...you can stay in the shuttle if you like, but I intend to get some answers - which I may or may not decide to share with you. And I certainly won't share them with Lt. Maxwell."


The bastard is determined to force me to drop all my defenses. Probably for my own good. If he were Heero, I'd throw something at him. If he were Trowa, I'd attempt to reason with him. If he were Quatre, I'd make big puppy eyes. If it were me.... I'd make me do this. 


Damn him. I went. We spaced Lt. Maxwell together, figuratively, anyway. I'm not sure if he'll be back or not. In a way, I miss him already. He made excellent armor. Maybe that's why Wu hates him so much. Wu's got the same problem, and I think that seeing Lt. Maxwell made him see his own mask clearly for the first time. I don't think he likes it anymore than I liked Lt. Maxwell.


So, I now have a new project to amuse myself with. Who is the real Chang Wufei? Why is he so determined to keep me around, yet won't willingly make eye contact with me? Like I can't figure it out.... I'm not _completely_ clueless, you know, previous track record aside. The only question I have, is...


...what should I do about it?


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


Duo *evil grin*: What to do, what to do?

Truth: Stop that.

Duo: Heh heh.

Heero: Hey, where's Wufei?

Truth: Hiding somewhere, probably. *points to the evilly cackling Duo*

Heero: Ah. I see.

Quatre: How long is this going to go on?

Trowa *silently passing out earplugs*:

Truth *translating* : Long enough. *sighs*


*All wear ear plugs and sneak away, leaving Duo to laugh maniacally by himself*