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 email@example.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.