Title: Two Roads Diverged - Prologue Part 2/? Author: Truth AU - The sequel to It's the Pilot - Wherein we see the Gundam Wing Universe as it might have been, had Duo not been sidetracked just before Noventa's death. First person stream of consciousness/POV. Rated PG-13 at least. Warning: Fairly dry reading, probably. No real plot Just a look-see at what's going on in someone's head. Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to somebody else, sadly. Feedback, comments and criticisms cheerfully accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org ********* It is an unusual day when I find myself at my desk after the dinner hour. However, for the second night in a row, I found myself regarding the not insignificant problem of the Gundams and their elusive pilots. Pilot 02 particularly seems to be the focus of chaotic forces. All of our carefully laid plans came to naught simply by his disappearance, and things merely became more complicated from there. It is vitally important that we, that I learn more about these Gundams and their pilots. It is not a line of enquiry that is particularly fruitful at the best of times, but Lady Une has been working very hard at finding and confirming even the tiniest scraps of available information. Her unceasing efforts have finally provided names and faces to attach to some of the stories and rumors, thanks being due in great part to Zechs and Noin. Which is why, as the midnight hour approaches, I am still at my desk contemplating the pitifully small amount of information that we have been able to collate on our adversaries. Heero Yuy. Duo Maxwell. Chang Wufei. Three young men. One bearing a stolen name, one self-christened and one from an illustrious family. All of them murderously competent. These boys are not at all what I expected. Truthfully, I am not sure exactly what I had anticipated the Gundam pilots to resemble, but these 'children' with their passion and their bloodthirsty ways are certainly not it. What are the pilots of Gundam 03 and Gundam 04 like, I wonder? I am almost afraid to find out. With the introduction of a single spy into the Gundam's support network, we had discovered enough to begin feeding their five controls misleading information. It was simple to manipulate their missions, but we still could gather no concrete information of our own. And then, with one act of supreme stupidity, those who controlled the Gundams have lost them. And they have become ten times as dangerous. Staring at the stack of reports on my desk, it occurred to me that no matter how much information I manage to accrue on the Gundam pilots, I will never truly know who and what they are unless I am given the opportunity to see and hear them for myself. Highly unlikely. I decided to review the information on the elusive Heero Yuy first. There was a single still picture in the file of a Japanese boy, seemingly unconscious and strapped to an examining table. The attached notes indicated that he had been admitted after a report of injury by one Relena Dorlan, or Relena Peacecraft, as she's known these days. I must speak to her brother about that. There was a short report of his general physical condition by the doctor in charge who had miraculously survived the carnage that the pilot of Gundam 01 and his rescuer had left in their wake. Pilot 01 appears to be remarkably immune to pain, if he managed to walk away from that leap out of the hospital window and particularly after the injuries he had sustained before his admittance. This was followed by a report made by the Alliance officer in charge who described both Yuy and his rescuer - a boy who had taken the time while rescuing his comrade to erase all the evidence on hand. A boy we now know is named Duo Maxwell. A most resourceful young man, by all accounts. But not resourceful enough. There were also several photographs of Gundam 01. There are only two remaining Gundams that we have clear pictures and technical read-outs on. Zechs is responsible for the information that we have on Gundam 01. The crew of his mobile suit carrier had used their time wisely while he battled with the Gundam and had gathered as much data as they could before it plunged into the ocean. It wasn't enough. Yuy had obviously not stretched his machine to anywhere near its full potential in that struggle. A very brief and sketchy file to be sure, but knowledge is power and I intend to know a great deal about both the Gundams and their pilots before this is over. Placing the nearly empty file back on my desk, I turned to the much thicker one on Duo Maxwell. I have a great deal of information on our cold-blooded young friend. It is hard to reconcile the Alliance Major's account of the risky, yet well-planned rescue of pilot 01 with Zechs' report of his encounter with Maxwell in the shuttle bay of L5. One was daring and flamboyant and the other was cold and vicious.... Which is the real Maxwell, I wonder? Zechs, atypically, will not venture an opinion. We have Maxwell's complete records from the academy, half of which are undoubtedly falsified, and several photographs. This is followed by a complete report of his appearance, mannerisms and habits from the moment of his capture until his escape. It is extremely fortunate that Zechs possesses a keen memory. All video and audio footage of Maxwell during his time as a prisoner of OZ was destroyed and it is Zechs' account of the circumstances that I am forced to rely on. Apparently our young friends have a certain reluctance to allow their comrades to be incarcerated. Rescuing each other appears to be a bit of a habit with them. However, the hard copy in my hands contains such gems as Maxwell's height, weight, blood type and fingerprints. And we have the footage of his confrontation with Zechs on L5. Strangely, while we have at least vague descriptions of four of the Gundams, and files on both 01, 04 and the now destroyed 05, there are no eyewitness accounts of the activities of Gundam 02. None. Zechs also suspects that 02 is the Gundam that destroyed the ships and mobile suits during the initial, disastrous search for Gundam 01 - and is thus responsible for the unsubstantiated reports of the use of a thermal blade in the ocean depths. Maxwell seems to specialize in impossibilities. Little wonder that he calls himself Shinigami. Until he was betrayed to us we had no concrete proof that he and his Gundam even existed, save the trail of death and destruction left in his wake. And there are still no records of the Gundam at all - not so much as a blurred photograph. Zechs is luckier than he knows. Whatever possessed Maxwell to let such a dangerous opponent live? Such an act of mercy appears almost completely out of character, at least from the information that I have. The pilot of Gundam 02 is an impressive foe, but I find myself intrigued by his companion.... Chang Wufei. The Chang family is both wealthy and influential. They are second in power to very few other families and to find one of their number piloting a Gundam surprises me. The Dragon Clan is fiercely protective of their own, and it is obvious from the way that they were concealing him that Wufei is someone of some importance to them. For example, the files that once contained all his personal records have been completely wiped. We know from the files of others of his family that he does indeed exist, but that is all. The only reason that he was not wiped from the existing completely seems to be that his name appears in too many of them. It would have been impossible to hunt down and erase every single reference. The pilot of Gundam 05 appears to be very important to his clan. It will be a challenge to discover who he really is. The speed and efficiency with which his clan disposed of the relevant data argues that they are hiding something fairly significant. It is unbelievably tempting to send someone out to pick up Chang Chen, but I doubt that we would get much from him. He appears to be cut from much the same cloth as the pilots themselves and I am certain that they would react immediately and violently to any attempt to capture him. I do not want them to realize just how interested we are. He is also a mass of contradictions. The reports we gathered from his school mates at the academy indicate that he is a quiet, studious youth - albeit a very dangerous one. Watching his reaction to Zechs' murmured comment seconds after his capture argues that he is not a warrior by nature. Comparing that split second of complete surrender and retreat to the pitiless way he disposed of the men in the shuttle and the ruthless efficiency with which he destroyed over half of the squad waiting to re-capture his companion.... This only deepens the mystery as to his motivations and why his clan allowed him to leave them in the first place to champion an impossible cause in a weapon of mayhem and chaos. The Chang family specializes in harmony, study and...combat. Chang Wufei himself appears to echo this strange contradiction. A puzzle then, to study and wonder over. And what does he hope to accomplish now that his Gundam has been destroyed? I am still displeased with that entire episode. There should have been a plausible way to keep the Gundam intact. Not only that, but the rampage it was sent on was entirely unnecessary. A swift strike at the small party on the lawn should have been sufficient. There was no need to completely destroy the estate. I must remember to have a word with Lady Une about her... enthusiasm. But I suspect that she also did not intend for the destruction to be quite so far-reaching. What exactly happened there is known only to the Gods, as the only records went up flames with the remains of Gundam 05. The fourth of my files contains a single sheet of eyewitness accounts as to the appearance of Gundam 03. They are sketchy, for the most part, and contain such repeated words as 'red' and 'guns'. A very capable and cautious pilot would be my conclusion. Our 'eyewitnesses' were people who had seen the battle from quite some distance, usually through some sort of binoculars. Gundam 03, like Gundam 02, tends to leave no witnesses. The fifth file is actually thicker than the first one, though it contains nothing but pictures and technical reports. And it worries me a great deal. The first set of pictures are blurred and grainy. They show Gundam 04 from a distance, surrounded by its support troops. That's a completely different set of files and an entirely separate headache.... Those pictures were obtained from a security camera at a base that Gundam 04 and its allies leveled some weeks before Maxwell's capture. Through some freak chance, the camera had not only survived the attack, but it was one of the older models which still used actual video tape, and thus had been unaffected by the electronic signals used by the Gundams to fry the more advanced digital cameras used at most of the OZ and Alliance bases. Secondly, there are the reports from Noin's squad. The pictures gathered there are slightly different from the earlier ones. The Gundam appears larger and has a slightly different shape and color scheme. And the technical read-outs? When compared to those of Gundam 01 and Gundam 05, Gundam 04 is more sophisticated by several degrees of magnitude. And that bothers me. The logical conclusion would be that this is _not_ the original Gundam 04. Which means that we may no longer have only five Gundams to deal with. Of course, Noin's report states that she feels the pilot was experienced but unfamiliar with his machine. As one of our best instructors, she has the background and training to make such a judgement call accurately and I am inclined to believe her. Which leads me to my next worry. Where is Gundam 02? We can theorize from the various reports concerning Maxwell and his adventures at the academy that he took the Gundam into space with him. As a matter of fact, our unwitting informant was a technician who claimed to be working to rebuild Gundam 02, but that was unconfirmed and must be considered a rumor. Sadly, he was not indiscreet enough to let slip any details about the Gundam itself. Zechs rather gloomily predicted that if he saw the thing and then survived to report the color, it would be black. I did not ask why. According to my reports, the other three Gundams left the Earth two months ago. Three Gundams returned to the Earth four weeks ago, followed last week by one more. Gundam 05 never left the planet. That is a total of five Gundams, all present and accounted for. However.... I reached out and picked up the sixth file on my desk and opened it. This was the slimmest file of all. It contained a single sheet listing the physical description of the boy they'd sent to replace Maxwell. I have no record of his arrival on the Earth. Which isn't terribly surprising, as I also have no record of Gundam 02 leaving, and the logical conclusion would be that the two young men used the same method. Which would argue that the new boy would have brought Gundam 02 back with him, just as Maxwell took it away. Which means that if we count the four that recently arrived, the seemingly invisible Gundam 02 and the destroyed Gundam 05...that we had _six_ Gundams. That is, assuming that the three which returned are also rebuilt models, and the late arrival would have been built from scratch. I'll stick with that idea, thanks. The idea that there are three _more_ Gundams running about loose, older models or not, disturbs me a great deal. Following that line of reasoning, if Gundams 01, 03 and 04 have returned to Earth, and Gundam 02 was already here somewhere - the extra Gundam must be a new Gundam 05. Which leads me back to Chang Wufei. This is, of course, entirely supposition on my part. But it feels right. Lady Une has brought me a new set of reports. Maxwell's obvious anger at being betrayed had struck Zechs as unfeigned. Lady Une was not convinced of that, especially after what happened on L5. It seemed odd that Maxwell would not take this opportunity for revenge on his former allies.... But the Gundam pilots seem determined to allow no one to divide them, and perhaps that is where to find the key to recent events. Maxwell was betrayed not by his comrades, but by his commanders. Hence the attempt to replace him. I say 'attempt' as the newest file reveals that the boy has been locked up and left to rot by his unsympathetic captors. If the pilots have indeed turned against those who sought to control them, the situation becomes a great deal more dangerous. It also explains why half of Lady Une's net of operatives has simply disappeared. Maxwell and Chang are apparently holding a grudge. Something which probably would not have been allowed by their former over-lords. And yet, Zechs was allowed to live.... Very strange. That extraneous sixth pilot could be most beneficial. The Alliance has been destroyed and the Gundams now appear to be free agents. If I can convince them.... But I need more data, and now there is a source of that same vanishingly rare information. This is an opportunity that I cannot afford to pass up. Which makes me suspicious. But this course of action promises the most benefit. Therefore, I will take it. I need those Gundams, if not to support me, at least not to oppose me. Let the fighting end here. There is no further need for the senseless power struggles that seem to delight the old men of the Romafeller foundation. If only.... ************** Duo: Hey! Let me see that! Truth *holding a printout behind her back*: Go away! It's none of your _business_! Duo: C'mon. Pleeeeeease? Truth: Not a chance! Heero: You said it was Treize this time. Let us see. Truth *indulges herself in a brief sigh, stars momentarily visible in her eyes. She suddenly snaps back to herself*: Hey! Since when were _you_ so nosy, Heero? Back off or I'll finally get around to finishing that Sailor Moon story! Heero: ..... Quatre: It really isn't fair to tell us that you're going to be posting something Treize wrote and then not let us see it. Wufei: It's not just! Trowa: Certainly not. Truth: It's not as if I let him read what _you'd_ written! Wufei: And how do we _know_ that? Truth: If you're so interested in knowing what he had to say, I suggest that you ask him yourselves. All: ..... Truth: I _thought_ so.