Title: It's the Pilot Part 7/18 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. Warnings: None this time, I think. Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to somebody else, sadly. Feedback, comments and criticisms cheerfully accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org ************************ Maxwell has been missing for six months. We have turned the world inside out searching for him. Missions have gone undone, orders ignored. The fate of the colonies and indeed the Earth has been allowed to slip by the wayside while we hunted for our missing fifth. Quatre seems to see all of this as an exercise in male bonding. He knows that I keep a diary, I didn't bother to ask how, and he asked me to add a precis of the events which led up to the 'discovery' of our new Gundams. Strangely, only Duo's was rebuilt. The rest of us were slated to receive completely new Gundams. Except for Wufei, that is. Apparently Quatre was to be gently remonstrated with, not replaced. Why? Yet another question to ask our former mentors...when we catch up with them. As I said, after Duo's initial disappearance we spent a great deal of time and effort searching for him, to no avail. This indicated that he had left under his own power. There were several ways that it could have been done, but he covered his tracks too thoroughly for us to be able to figure out which one. I had not thought he had the patience or the discipline to give us the slip so easily. It was probably someone else's plan. Something else to work on. Who would have gained by Duo's disappearance? Other than OZ, that is. Although, from the little that we have discovered, OZ didn't _want_ Duo to disappear. And that really worries me. There is something about all this that we have missed. Something that we lack the political acumen to see. OZ is most dangerous not because of its military capabilities, but because it is run by a very intelligent man. God help us all if he ever manages to slip the leash of the Alliance. However, there remained the question of Deathscythe. Duo would never simply turn it over to someone else. Shinigami's relationship with his Gundam was that of a lover. That meant that whoever was aiding him either had no interest in the Gundam - which was highly unlikely, or was someone that he trusted with it. Trusted them with something that he valued more than his own life. That narrowed the list of suspects quite nicely. Practically eliminated it, in fact. But I still couldn't figure out how he could have managed to disappear so completely and for such an extended period of time. That meant that he was in trouble. To borrow Wufei's comment - Typical. And the only three suspects that I had all denied any knowledge of Duo's whereabouts. Quatre was rather peeved when I brought up his own name as one of the suspects, but I do know that Duo could and has allowed Rashid and the other members of 'the Fez Patrol' to work on his Gundam. (The Fez Patrol is Duo's nickname for Quatre's little group of sworn soldiers. Abdul is actually rather fond of the appelation, Rashid rather less so.) But no possibility should be overlooked. No avenue of inquiry left unexplored. Yes, I do watch crime shows. I also read spy novels. I'm not into escapism and like to stick with what I know. When Wufei pulled a similar vanishing act, I became worried. Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. Although in this case and in our particular circumstances, once is usually enemy action. Reading the information that Quatre so carefully 'forgot' to hide from us on the day that we discovered Wufei's disappearance, several things became clear. The first was that no communications from our so-called leaders could be trusted. The second was that we were now completely on our own, able only to trust each other. Yeah, I said trust. The third was that we had to get Duo back and liberate his Gundam. Why? Because if they succeeded in 'replacing' one of us, that would mean that anytime we did not measure up to their standards, they might replace the rest of us. And we know too much for that replacement to be less than of the 'permanent' variety. We are the best. It's not bragging or boasting to admit the truth, and that is the truth. There is no one, anywhere, who can do the things that we can. This new...person will never be Duo's equal, no matter how hard he tries. It's the pilot, not the Gundam, and Duo is one of the best pilots I've ever seen. He can call forth nearly impossible reserves from his Deathscythe, and has done things that I'd never believed anyone could do. And I'm not easily impressed. His personality, however, needs work. Two weeks after Wufei disappeared, Doctor J sent a message stating that Professor G had 'reluctantly' decided that he would have to replace Duo, and that this person and a new Gundam would be arriving soon. I wanted to see that Gundam, badly. I wanted Trowa to look it over as well. If it had indeed been built from pieces of Duo's Gundam, we would be able to tell. And then we would be able to take steps. Don't waste your time feeling sorry for the pseudo-pilot. If he was indeed Duo's replacement, he would be able to take care of himself. If he cannot defend himself, then he has no right to be operating a Gundam. Ergo, we're all better off without him. Cold, you say? Perhaps. But we cannot allow all the effort, all the blood and all the pain that has been expended thus far to have been for nothing. We need to remain the best, and substandard performance endangers not only the pilots of the Gundams, but the future of the human race. The stakes are just too high. We cannot afford even the smallest of errors. Which reminds me to have a word with Duo about sneaking off like that. Doubtlessly it was under orders. Strict ones. Duo's normal interpretation of 'don't tell anyone' seems to be 'then it's all right to leave them a note'. Orders or no, that still does not excuse him. The world was against us before, but we had our mission, we had support from the colonies and we had each other. Apparently the various Doctors and Professors have decided to change the mission, which no longer includes at least some of us. Now there is nothing left for us but each other and our determination to complete our original mission. Quatre and I had a brief talk about that. Actually, he talked and I agreed with him. He seemed surprised. I don't see why. It's only practical to trust the people you may need to guard your back. He meant to have a talk with Trowa as well, but he's disappeared. Perhaps I phrased that badly. Trowa went off to look for more information. Heavyarms is still here, and I know approximately where Trowa went. I was able to tell Quatre that Trowa agreed as well. That surprised him even further. Not that Trowa agreed, but that the two of us had discussed it between ourselves. Just because we don't talk very much doesn't mean that we don't think, or that we don't have anything to say. I keep a diary so that I can remember the important things. I don't need to talk about them, it's enough that I remember. Rambling seems to be contagious. Quatre's plan was simple enough. Wufei would take Duo home to his colony for the winter vacation. (I know that they don't have seasons in space, but every school I've ever been to has had vacation times based on the traditional format.) A permission form would have to be sent to his guardian, of course. We would simply intercept it and return it, completed. An easy enough task, particularly as the OZ core military communication systems were completely open to me. I cracked their codes ages ago, and it usually only takes me a day or so to readjust when they change them. I only wish that they were stupid enough to have similarly guarded personnel files. That school was a tougher nut to crack. I did some research and it appeared as though its reputation is well-deserved. Despite repeated attempts, Wufei is the first assassin/terrorist to actually infiltrate the place. I don't count Duo. What happened to him was more like incarceration. The systems were as secure as humanly possible, and the computers they used for outside communication were in no way connected with the ones used for school records or security. Clever, that. I can't hack in to something that hasn't got any outside connections. That's why we had to get _them_ to send _us_ a communication. Or rather, send Zechs a communication. OZ's personnel and security files are not quite so well guarded. They need outside lines for remote access while in the field. I _could_ hack those files, but it might take weeks, and I would need uninterrupted time. I would only get one really good chance, and I will not waste it if I am not sure that I will be able to finish the job. I'd been reading Zechs' mail every day for a week. Despite his lurid nickname and mysterious habits, the man had very boring correspondence. Very secure correspondence as well. Nothing of interest to anyone like me ever showed up in his mailbox. A canny man, our Zechs. Not that it mattered. I was only waiting for one specific piece of mail. Then I'd never have to hear about Lucrezia Noin's summer vacation plans ever again. If I had to hear her ask him even one more time if he was _sure_ he couldn't come along, I was going to consider a freelance assassination. I'm sure that Zechs would thank me. Not that I'd be doing it for him. **************** Duo: Wow. I think that's more than I've _ever_ managed to pry out of Heero. Heero: Hn. Duo: See! Wufei: Stop pestering him, Maxwell. Quatre: Come on. Can't we all get along? Trowa: Probably not.