Title: It's the Pilot Part 17/18 Author: Truth Archive: The usual places, especially GW Addiction www.geocities.com/fenris_wolf0/ 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 at least. Warning: Strong language. Implied Shounen Ai. Violence and Death. Angst in progress. Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to somebody else, sadly. Feedback, comments and criticisms cheerfully accepted at email@example.com Additional warning: There are _SIX_ different POVs in this one and several switches back and forth. All are fairly clearly labeled, but pay attention. There will be a quiz later. ********** We left Maxwell with Chang. Chang's argument had been that Maxwell needed him. Not in so many words, perhaps, but that was what it boiled down to. Quatre agreed with him. Or at least, that was the impression he gave them. I knew better. There is something bothering Chang. Quatre obviously thinks that he and Maxwell can help each other, but I don't think that this is the best answer. It is fairly obvious that Maxwell is part of the problem. Surprisingly, Maxwell did not either join in or comment on the argument. More surprisingly, he accepted Quatre's decision with a non-committal 'hn'. He was doing an excellent imitation of Yuy overall, as a matter of fact. It was mildly unsettling to see him like that. He was rigid, restrained and totally lacking in charm. When he noticed that I was staring at him, he managed a fairly good imitation of his old manner, but that was all it was - an imitation. I cannot forgive G for this, above the rest. Maxwell has been forcibly changed, and it has left a permanent mark. It is something from which he may never truly recover. Quatre is sure that Chang can help Maxwell 'find himself' and that Maxwell will teach Chang something about being 'free'. We'll see. I doubt that it will be anything like that simple. We met Yuy at one of Dr. J's smaller labs on L1. Apparently, he had simply walked into J's main lab with a gun and announced that he wanted his new Gundam and an explanation. To J's credit, he received both of those things, and more. They really had been running an experiment to see how we would be affected by the loss of one of our own. But no matter what G may have said or even believed, I do not for an instant harbor the belief that J would have allowed Maxwell to return to us. Maxwell has had a 'humanizing' affect on us all, and it is most obvious in Yuy. J does not like the change, and blames it completely on Maxwell. He may be right, but Yuy will never go back to the cold, empty-hearted shell that he was. We have all had an effect on each other, now. Maxwell was just the obvious catalyst. Yuy was working at the diplomatic offices which the Alliance used on L1 as a base for their 'peace-keeping' operations. J had inserted him there almost instantly, and he had found, or rather - not found - some rather disturbing things. The Alliance was being manipulated by OZ. This was not such a great surprise, considering what I had found on Earth. The surprise came at the depth and complexity of the webs being spun by the OZ leadership, and behind them, the Romafeller Foundation. The rot was deep, and still OZ appears mostly unstained by it, despite the fact that it surrounds them completely. That means something, but I cannot tell what. For example, OZ knew that five Gundam pilots had left the Earth, but only four Gundams. There was an intensive but low-key hunt going on for that fifth Gundam - and they even knew which one they were looking for. Yuy was angry. He pointed out that none of this made any sense. The OZ forces seemed able to come up with some very accurate and damaging information. Maxwell's location and his employment as one of the Gundam pilots, is a good example. Then, the fact that Gundam 05 was still on Earth somewhere. On the other hand, although they had Maxwell's location and identity, they did not know _which_ Gundam pilot he was. How could they have his name and his circumstances and yet miss that vital piece of information? Especially as G's lab is on L2.... How could they have known that it was Gundam 05 that we left behind? With the transports that we took, we 'might' have been able to take it with us from the spaceport, but it could have been deduced that there were, indeed, only the three of us there that night. If they didn't know that Gundam 02 was Maxwell's Gundam, and they had not managed to positively identify the three that left the Earth together, how did they know that the one left behind was Gundam 05? And how did they know that Gundam 02 was in space, when they didn't know which one Maxwell had left with? And why didn't they know about the remodeled 02, which was _also_ on Earth? There were just too many questions. I had J send Yuy's information, along with this list of questions, to O. I wanted to see what conclusions Chang would draw from this data. We are all above average at almost every thing. We each have overlapping specialties. But being a Gundam Pilot means that you are not only exceptional at most things, you have a single talent that brings you far above the normal scale. Yuy's skill is computers and flight. We can all do amazing things with computers, but Yuy can do things that the people who _designed_ the computers would not believe was possible. His skill at piloting things that fly is equally amazing. But Yuy is not a killer. Despite his threats and his determination, he holds human life in high regard. He will not kill unless he has to, which actually puts him in the minority among the rest of us. Quatre can communicate. It's an underrated skill. Give him three hours alone with the heads of the Alliance and they would be agreeing with everything he said. That's the other part. He is a natural leader. The five of us are very different and in many ways completely unsuited to working as a unit. But we all listen to Quatre, and usually end up doing exactly what he wants us to. His other strength is his belief. He believes in our mission, he believes in himself, and he believes in us. Chang is our analyst. He can take a heap of raw data and come up with an answer that was seemingly plucked from the air. And that answer will be the correct one. He has a highly disciplined mind. He also has a highly disciplined body. I am the only one who can stand up to him in hand to hand combat, and it is a competition which is usually heavily weighted in his favor. He has high standards of honor and a strict moral code which will probably get him killed if he's not careful. Maxwell - that one is a bit difficult. Maxwell is the best actual pilot. He can make his Gundam do things which should be impossible on a regular basis. He is also the best killer. He does exactly what he has to, without compunction or hesitation of any sort. I am not saying that he is heartless or cruel, but once he has chosen a course of action he will go over, under or through any obstacles in his path without pause or regret. He will take the non-violent path if it is offered, but also will not hesitate to slit the throat of someone who is determined to stand in his way. But he does it because he believes that the end justifies the means. He will mourn the fallen once the mission has been completed. I could write a great deal more about each of them, but the fact remains that we are highly specialized individuals, each with our own skills and abilities. As a unit, we could conceivably control the entire human race, or at least destroy it utterly. That is why who we are is more important than what we are. We have given ourselves to the goal of stopping the Alliance's occupation, destroying their weapons base and bringing freedom to the colonies and even the Earth. That is what we live for, and that is why our existence as living weapons is tolerated. Tolerated. Not encouraged or supported, but endured. Even the colonies that we are fighting for do not comprehend what we have gone through and what we will continue to suffer so that they may eventually know freedom. We five are the only ones who can hope to understand each other. We are the only ones that know what has been sacrificed and is still being sacrificed. We are the only ones we can trust. I joined Yuy at the Alliance office the next day. Between the two of us, we combed through every file and examined every piece of data. We finally found a large part of what we were looking for, but by then it was too late. Too late for the Alliance. Too late for many innocent people. Too late for poor Chang. And almost too late to save ourselves. ****** Trowa's Part Ends ****** It was one of those historical moments. I've seen the old programs where people told where they were when JFK was assassinated. People remembering exactly what they were doing when the Challenger Shuttle exploded. I was combing through the various reports generated by my Earth-side contacts when it happened. There is a large screen mounted on one of the walls of J's lab and it is tuned permanently to the major news channel of the alliance. As I was turning from one file to the next, there came the two-toned chiming which usually preceded an emergency report. I looked up from my computer in time to see an end to the fragile peace that we had enjoyed for the past six or seven months. OZ had apparently discovered Shenlong. Its hiding place had not been chosen in order to conceal it from an intense, ground-level search, but to hide it from anyone flying overhead, or searching casually for a large, concealed object made of gundanium. It wasn't that fact alone that spelled the end of our efforts thus far. They had apparently also found someone to pilot it. The new picture showed Wufei's beloved Gundam standing in the smoking ruins of a stately manor, moments before Shenlong self-destructed. As the footage began to play again, a voice-over told us that the 'vicious and unprovoked' attack on Marshall Noventa and his family in their home had resulted in a massacre. He and his entire family had been killed. Also among the dead were his second in command and three of their staunchest supporters. Apparently there had been a gathering at the Noventa estate to celebrate his wife's birthday.... I passed out then. I awoke an hour or so later, my chest heavy and painful. I had been carefully tucked into a bunk, and I knew that Heero and Trowa had returned safely. J would have left me lying where I fell, as long as I wasn't too badly underfoot. The anger, the hatred and the heavy dull feeling that warned of impending violence made it difficult for me to think. I concentrated on the task at hand and managed to climb from the bunk. There had been children in the Noventa household, and innocent family members both of the Marshall and his visitors. There had been servants, employees minding their own business and that of their master. But the children.... Whoever had planned this attack had meant to cause a schism between the Earth and the colonies. The casual brutality of the gesture almost made me sick. I hung onto anger instead. Anger and a grim determination to find whoever had planned this outrage and make them pay. Duo's disappearance hadn't saved Noventa's life or stopped the violence after all. Oh God, Wufei.... What will his reaction to this be? The slaughter of non-combatants, innocents and children - all laid directly at his doorstep, as the pilot of Gundam 05. The pain grew sharper. I struggled to the doorway. I had to find Trowa and Heero. We had to do something. Find our enemy. Stop this stupid, pointless carnage.... ****** Quatre's Part Ends ****** We barely made it out of the Alliance base before all hell broke loose. We slipped into a nearby shop during the confusion and helped ourselves to clothing that was a little less likely to draw fire. The OZ Specials made mincemeat of the Alliance garrison. By the time we got back to J's small on-station lab, it was almost over. Trowa found Quatre lying half under the desk he had been using, curled up in a ball, obviously in pain. The chaos in the lab was worse than what was going on in the streets outside, and while Trowa took care of Quatre, I tried to find out what was going on. Someone played back the original footage for me, as the scene being broadcast had switched to OZ troops searching through the rubble for survivors. At that instant, a second emergency broadcast came through.... OZ is taking out the Alliance all across the Earth and in the other colonies. And everyone was howling for our blood, the blood of the five Gundam pilots. The colonies themselves had denied any knowledge or approval of our actions and cast us adrift. Trowa caught up with me then and we found J just as he was beginning the total evacuation of the lab. We agreed that we had to take Quatre and get back to Earth. We had to get Maxwell and Chang as well. Having all five Gundams reappear might lend some credence to any claims of innocence we might make. More importantly, we will need all five of us in order to stand against the monsters who would slaughter innocents and place the blame on others. I can only imagine what Chang must be thinking right now. When he left Earth, it had been with the implicit understanding that he needed to hide his Gundam from the doctors and from us. He had no way of knowing that the enemy would make such a concentrated search ground. No way of knowing that someone would find it and use it for such a foul purpose. Speaking of which, where did they find a pilot.... I'm not going to think about that right now. Our escape will not be easy as it is, and attempting to think logically while in the grip of a homicidal rage is...difficult. Trowa and I found Quatre clinging to the wall of the hallway. He was barely able to recognize us. We picked him up and carried him off, ignoring his protests that we had to find Chang and Maxwell. "We have bigger problems," I told him. "And so do they." Zechs Marquise was still on L5. Maxwell and Chang might have to fight their way past him to return to Earth. There's no room for two in the cockpit of a Gundam, not for more than a few minutes, anyway, and no way that Chang could fly his Gundam all the way to Earth from L5 in one shot, no matter how amazing the upgrades. And what about us? I have a new Gundam with a new, untested system. Wing has been disassembled for spare parts. The new Sandrock and Heavyarms arrived this morning, thankfully, and haven't even been unloaded. The older Gundams are already on their way back to their respective colonies, leaving us with totally untested machines. We'll have to take them directly to Earth and run tests there. Howard should be able to tweak them appropriately. But Maxwell and Chang.... I can't help worrying, especially judging by Quatre's reaction to events. I guess Chang and I aren't the only ones who can pull things out of the air. He was able to get it under control by the time we reached the hangar, thankfully. He'd have to fly his own shuttle back to Earth, we didn't have the time to transfer the new Gundams to a larger shuttle. We'll have to split up and try to re-unite once we reach Earth. May this arrival go better than the last one. Please. ****** Heero's Part Ends ****** O was cautiously pleased to see us. When I told him that Chen would not be replacing me after all, he became quite cheerful. Duo still doesn't smile very much, but he was at least looking around with interest. When we came to the new Gundam, he was all over it, crawling across its surface and poking his head into the cockpit. O waited for me to lose my temper and shout at my companion, but I ignored him. Duo needed something to think about, and I'm... less sensitive about my Gundam than I used to be. Not that I'll be letting any of the others put their grubby hands on it.... O also smoothed things over with the elders. That took a great deal of diplomacy, and I admire his patience. I should not have lost my temper, but after my first marriage, that they would _dare_ I had to stop there. I pushed away the laptop and found some peace in meditation, but I am still very angry. It will doubtless fade with time. I said a few things that I shouldn't, but apparently I had at least one ally among the elders, as my second-hand apology was accepted. Duo and I went back to the main colony. Saiming appears to have taken quite a shine to Duo and she is forcing both her sister and Chen to spend inordinate amounts of time with his former roommate. Now that flashes of the real Duo can be seen, Chen is actually becoming rather friendly. As Duo cannot leave the house, due to Zechs' continued search, they are playing a great many board games and card games together. I spent most of my time with O, running tests on the new Gundam. For some reason, I cannot seem to call it Nataku. That name seems firmly rooted to the first Gundam. Strange. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Thinking about Meiran. Thinking about the Gundams. Thinking about death. Thinking about Duo. On the fifth day after our first visit to the lab, I was wandering L5 with Duo and Chen. We were sticking to the back streets, and Duo had found a baseball cap somewhere, covering his haircut to make it less obvious. He had also bullied someone (probably Saiming) into altering his new clothes until they resembled his original outfit. True, she had only changed the collar and the sleeves, but it looked right, somehow. I was wearing my own black and white and Chen was rather remarkably resplendent in his school garb of black with red dragons. I should have been paying more attention to the recent events on Earth. I shouldn't have been concentrating on such stupid, petty, personal things. I should have known.... I was watching Duo tease Chen when one of my aunts came running down the street. She was grim-faced and her hands were shaking as she drew us into the nearest house, which happened to be that of Chen's eldest sister. She wouldn't tell us what was going on, merely seated us before one of the video screens and turning it on. I watched the unfolding scene for almost a full minute... ****** Wufei's Part Ends ****** ...and then he passed out. Well, actually, he turned this interesting shade of white and _then_ passed out. Chen was looking pretty green too. I didn't need to have Wu's analytical prowess to figure out what we had to do next.... We were almost to the shuttle bays when the shooting began. Chen and Saiming were carrying our duffles and I was supporting Wu, who was still pretty much out of it. Unsurprisingly. I sent Saiming and Chen home. There was no point in getting them killed. We _had_ to get out of here before the dust settled. The only thing that had saved my butt thus far was that Zechs' search for me had been hampered by the need to kiss ass for the Alliance higher ups. It didn't take a genius to look at the fire fight by the Alliance mobile suit bay to figure out what was going on, or who would come out on top. And OZ wanted me worse than ever now. No doubt so I could be publicly executed as an evil baby-killer. I had to get out of here. I had to get Wu out of here. Too many people around here knew who that particular Gundam belonged to, and without knowing the full story, might feel obligated to turn him over to OZ. Over my dead body. Probably. I managed to get Wu to snap out of it. It took more time than we could really spare, but I wasn't going to be able to do anything useful if I had to drag his unresponsive carcass around at the same time. I finally had to haul Lt. Maxwell from the grave to do it, too. That got him, though. He took his own duffle and his sword (he picked it up after the fight with the elders, I have no idea from where, but it's fancier than the one he usually uses, nicer too) and I drew my gun and we headed toward the shuttle bays. Wu was a very, very, very unhappy camper. He hadn't wasted any time on pain or grief for the victims, though I knew he felt them. He was sure that every single one of those deaths was the result of carelessness on his part and he was going to beat himself up over them _after_ we got away. That's what makes a Gundam pilot, ladies and gents. Survive first, angst later. I made a mental note to shout at him about the whole guilt thing later. He couldn't've known what would happen. It was _not_ his fault. But in the meantime he went straight from shock to fury. I believe I already told you about my resolution never to make him angry at me.... If only I'd remembered _why_ Zechs gave me the creeps. But I was busy worrying about my hat, which I'd lost somewhere along the way. ****** Duo's Part Ends ****** I am a very lucky man. For instance, I am still alive. It was sheer luck that I survived to make this report, and not at all to my credit. I will never underestimate that young man again. I knew that Duo Maxwell was still on L5. I could _feel_ it. I also knew that when the take-over began he would make haste to the nearest escape route. When he reached the topside shuttle bay, I was waiting for him. Treize once asked me what I thought made the Gundam pilots so successful. I told him that it was their basic unwillingness to accept defeat. I should have remembered that. I won't forget it again. Duo Maxwell is an enigma, and I have always been fond of puzzles. He intrigues me. His school records stated that he was fifteen years old, but he looked much older. Part of it was probably the haircut. There was a picture of him in his student file dating from before his first military haircut, and he looks much younger. Much more alive. He wears his identity as a Cadet like a mask, although he did allow me to see beneath it once or twice. If all five of the Gundam pilots have as much going on beneath the surface, the entirety of the OZ Special Forces may not be enough to stop them. A lone fifteen-year-old boy should not be able to do the things which our reports say that Maxwell has done. But I do not think that he _is_ a boy, actual birthdate aside. His eyes are too old. He is a man and a killer of men and very, very dangerous. The soldiers under my command thought me mad to have him chained to his desk when I was working in the same room, but I knew that he could have killed me, just as easily as I could have killed him had our positions been reversed. The aftermath of the fight in his suite had puzzled me and I should have pursued that, but I was too worried that he might have suffered permanent damage from that blow to the head that he took. Everything is obvious with the benefit of hindsight. When the two young men burst into the hangar, I was waiting - a squad of troops with me. They paused for a moment, giving me a good look both at Maxwell and his companion. I should have realized that Chang 'Lian' was the real pilot of Gundam 05. I should have realized from his school records that Chang was not only easily capable of killing my crew, but was also more likely to be the avenging angel type. Those men, it occurred to me belatedly, had died without the usual marks that indicate blocking a blow with their arms or legs. They had all been very good at hand-to-hand combat. This means that their opponent(s) had to be that much better. That argues for either great skill, or a willingness to attack from behind and without mercy. Resolved: Never get into a hand-to-hand fight with either Chang or Maxwell. As realization dawned, I realized that I had hesitated a fraction of a second too long. It would have been quite beautiful to watch, if only it had been happening to someone else.... Without pausing or exchanging a word, the two pilots sprang in opposite directions, Maxwell producing a firearm, and Chang suddenly swinging a gleaming sword. And here is where the training programs of OZ failed. Being vastly outnumbered, with their enemy between them and their goal, holding no logical hope of winning, the two Gundam pilots moved forward. I lost six of the twelve men in my squad in the first twenty seconds. They were taken by surprise. After all, an out-numbered enemy is supposed to retreat.... Maxwell shot two of them before his gun jammed, and he continued to move forward, ducking and swaying as he crushed my sergeant's larynx with a single blow. He evaded the falling body, using it for further cover, and continued moving inward, speed unabated. Chang moved faster and more gracefully. His sword cleared a path for him and blood actually fountained from his opponents, such was the speed at which he was moving. A slash to the side of the neck or the abdomen will do that.... And my squad hesitated, not sure of how to react to two such lethal children.... I was down to three men before I managed to make my own move. Swordsmen have a weakness, and it is probably not the one that you think. Chang made a slash at the lone soldier still standing on my right, and the man moved in just the wrong direction. Steel grated on bone, and for an instant, his weapon was held fast. That instant was all I needed. A single move and I had the pilot of Gundam 05 exactly where I wanted him. ****** Zechs' Part Ends ****** I took down the last soldier between me and Zechs, but when I looked up.... "Damn you," I breathed. Zechs had Wufei pulled up against him, facing me, and a gun to Wu's temple. He was looking rather grim, and I couldn't blame him. We'd just destroyed twelve trained soldiers in a little under two minutes. I was looking to make it thirteen.... It must have showed in my expression, because I could see his knuckles tighten on the gun. I forced myself to relax. Wu wasn't doing anything. I looked at him more closely. "Oh shit...." Zechs noticed the direction of my gaze, but did not look down himself. "I'm afraid that the shock of earlier events has finally caught up to your friend," he told me. Shit, shit, shit. I should have known. Zechs has some kind of sixth sense, I swear. He must have realized who Wu was within moments of seeing him come into the hangar with me. And he was right. Wu's eyes had gotten all far-away again. I could almost hear what was going on in his head. It all started with the cliched line, "it's all my fault, I deserve to die...". Speaking of cliches, "Let him go, Zechs. It's me you want!" He cocked an eyebrow at me....I swear. Did I mention how much I hate that fucking mask? "This is true, but why settle for one if I can have you both?" Hell, Wu had the right idea. The desire to bury my hands in that long platinum hair and tear it all out by the roots was well-nigh irresistible. I squelched the urge. Now was not the time for fantasizing. I sighed and pulled out my back-up gun. "If you shoot him, I will shoot you," I told him with a sigh. "And I don't think either of us wants that." "I only need one pilot," Zechs told me softly. "I would prefer to have you. All I have to do is keep you here for another ten minutes and another squad will arrive to back me up." Decision time. Please, don't let Wu be in any shape to hear or remember this.... "You can't have Wu. And after all the trouble he went to, I can't let you have me, either. I have a mission to fulfill and if I have to shoot you both to achieve it, I will." I glanced at Wu's unmoving form. He'd do the same." ****** Duo's Part Ends ****** I was shaken. He had gone from angry to laughingly resigned to cold-blooded determination in just a few sentences. "You're bluffing." He peeled his lips back from his teeth in what might have been called a smile by anyone who was half-blind and stupid. "I run, I hide, but I never lie...." Maxwell was easily twice as dangerous as I had guessed. He was _not_ bluffing. Well, there were several other things that I could try. I was not going to let him get away without a fight. I stepped away from Chang, allowing the slender youth to sag to the ground. Maxwell did not move, and kept his eyes on me as his friend sank into one of the numerous pools of blood now spotting the hangar floor. "Get lost, Zechs," he told me. "And don't ever cross my path again." I didn't move. Maxwell's eyes narrowed. "Leave," he told me. "Now. I'm letting you live because you didn't just shoot my companion out of hand. I'm not known for my generous impulses, so don't push your luck." "I'm not going to turn my back on either of you," I told him. He smiled at that, a cold, bone-chilling smile. "What, you think we might be untrustworthy? That's a good one coming from someone who just framed an blameless young man for the massacre of almost a hundred innocent people." I frowned. "That was none of my doing." His smile grew nastier. I hadn't thought it possible. "As long as you willingly serve OZ and they serve Romafeller, you are condoning their actions." Ouch. I had been right. This boy was no child. And he knew too much.... But he still didn't know just what had happened at the Noventa Estate. I knew what had been supposed to have happened, and the events which were to be known as the Noventa Massacre were not it. "Wu?" Maxwell had not taken his eyes off me, but was now addressing the boy lying almost at my feet. Chang twitched a little. I made a mental note to chase down that name. I was just assuming that he was a Chang, and Wu was obviously a diminutive of some kind. But I would find out who this other boy was. They were fascinating. I could not think of a single full grown man who would have put himself through what Chang seemingly went through for Maxwell, though I could see why the Chinese boy did it. "What's your name?" I asked suddenly. "You can call me - Shinigami." The God of Death. More and more interesting. "Your real name." Maxwell raised his eyebrows. "I don't have a given name." That surprised me. "What?" His lips twisted bitterly. "I'm gutter garbage, a homeless orphan. I don't even know how old I am. I gave myself the name Duo, and I took the name Maxwell for...personal reasons." That triggered something. "Maxwell... You pilot Gundam 02." His eyes widened. "I hate it when you do that." I smiled sweetly and made a second mental note. Research the Maxwell Church massacre again, soonest. However, in order to do so, I would have to survive this encounter. So I holstered my gun, bowed politely, and walked away. He didn't shoot me. I'm luckier than I deserve. I did not come out of that encounter empty-handed, either. He will regret not shooting me when he had the chance. I actually feel bad about that. Believe it or not. ****** Zechs: That was nerve-wracking. Duo: What's _he_ doing here? Quatre: And why didn't Trowa say anything about himself? Wufei: And why did you leave us in that stupid hangar? Heero: You do realize that there's only one part left with which to wrap all this up, don't you? Trowa: And you spent half of today giggling with Rhina instead of writing. Truth: Hang on! Rhina's working on something very cool that she wanted my permission for! All: What? Truth: Never mind. If you're very lucky, she'll post it. And you all ought to be flattered.