Warning!!! This section contains THREE different POV parts. The shifts will be clearly marked, but please pay attention. This part will also be rather long as there is a great deal of plot exposition. Wufei: She means that she tried to squeeze a lot of stuff into too little space. Title: It's the Pilot. Part 15 of 18 Author: Truth Archive: The usual paces, 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 or PG-13 Warning: Strong language. Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to someone else, sadly. Feedback, comments and criticisms cheerfully accepted at email@example.com ****** I have finally gotten angry. Quatre said that it was past time, that I have too many problems with my emotions. I don't think that's the case. It's true that I am not very good at expressing emotions, I never have been. But I don't have problems with them, I just don't share them. We're a team, not a group therapy session. Trowa brought us a copy of Zechs' itinerary, and with it the information that had been sent on Maxwell. It was pretty sketchy stuff for the most part. I am beginning to doubt that G is the one who set him up as Zechs' nephew. Not that I'm going to go any easier on the bastard. Even if he wasn't the one who actually set Maxwell at the school, his betrayal was unforgivable. He put Deathscythe's pilot in the position where his capture became possible. Not to mention what he put Maxwell through with this business of a 'replacement'. Quatre insisted that we allow Rashid to feed the prisoner while we are gone. I did not agree, but was overruled. I am still going over the information that Trowa retrieved for me. The information provided to OZ is too sketchy. There are too many minor details missing. Things which would not have given away anything important, but would have been noticed by anyone who actually knew Maxwell.... It looks as though someone saw Maxwell and found a use for him. A use he would never allow, no matter what the circumstances. Our enemy chose Maxwell for convenience, and slid him right out from under G's rather prominent nose. So, we have a new enemy. I say this because the data received by OZ lacked several crucial facts about Maxwell which could have been of great use to OZ and that are certainly common knowledge around G's lab. Maxwell's strength, for instance. He was the wrong choice if they were hoping for someone who would fold under pressure, or would give the rest of us away. Maxwell _is_ Shinigami. He believes it, and that gives him an inner center of iron. He thinks we don't know that the antics he puts on are as much for our benefit as for his own. They might be annoying and are certainly distracting, but sometimes even we need distraction. Beneath his jokes there lurks someone much darker. It's hard to be strong all the time. Sometimes, it's impossible. Maxwell' tom-foolery allows us an outlet for our stress, even if we do not always appreciate it. But beyond his facade of gamine idiocy, he is a killer like the rest of us. G knows this, even if he has small patience for Maxwell's methods. Whoever set Maxwell up to be discovered seems to think that the foolishness is all that there is to him. That he pilots a mobile suit and occasionally blows things up, but has no other worthwhile skills; that he would not fight, that we would not go after him. That we would allow him to be taken away. G knows better. I believe that I now know what happened, and why Maxwell was taken away initially, but I will wait until I have G in front of me before drawing any conclusions. We all saw Maxwell's letter. Even Quatre will not forgive what has happened. Even if G is not _technically_ our enemy, he has a great deal to answer for. I'm not Wufei, but even I can see the injustice here. Justice will be served. Even if we have to do it ourselves. -- Leaving the planet was remarkably easy. We walked into the base that had provided Maxwell with such remarkable service and took two of their larger assault shuttles. Yes, there were explosions and mass slaughter. I filed a complete mission report and saved a copy for my personal records. I'm not going to go over it again right now. This meant that Quatre and Trowa could share a shuttle, as the assault shuttles easily hold two Gundams. It also made things easier mission-wise. We had decided that I would go to G and demand an explanation, while Quatre and Trowa would intercept Zechs' shuttle and retrieve Maxwell. Quatre is convinced that Change is also on that shuttle. I did not believe him until he received a message from Chang's cousin, stating what had happened. Apparently Chang knew that he would not have time to contact us and told the younger boy to keep us informed. It says something for Chang that he would trust something so important to someone else. Perhaps he is finally learning that you can't do everything alone. Trowa and Quatre will go to L5, which is Zechs' next stop, and wait for him there. They believe that Chang will seize the advantage that being on his home colony will give and take this chance to escape. Perhaps. We parted ways as soon as we cleared the atmosphere. G's lab is, naturally enough, over by L2. I would have the shorter journey. I did have enough time, however, to go over all of the available information again. I began with Chang' rather interesting ramblings. I'd wondered about that coat. First Maxwell, then Chang and last I saw, Quatre was carting it around. By the end of my reading, I was almost to L2. I left the shuttle and took Wing out into space. I blew up the shuttle and took off for G's lab. Upon reflection, you would think that OZ would learn to rig those things so that when we stole them, they' be able to track us. So far, however, I haven't found a single one of them with any sort of locator system. Maybe we should steal them more often. Sometimes I think that the OZ design crews actually work for us. It didn't take me long to reach my destination. They were not surprised to see me. Unhappy, yes, but not surprised. G told me everything. It's amazing how well a beam cannon works when it comes to interrogation. I simply positioned Wing outside the lab and waited until he contacted me. I think that he was afraid that it would be Maxwell who came for him, and was actually relieved to see me. Yet another indication that it was not he who had set Maxwell up. Shinigami has a decided taste for evil revenge, another quirk that G is intimately familiar with, though I doubt Maxwell indulged around the Professor more than once. Maxwell would take sadistic delight in telling his captors all about G, if he could figure out a way to do it that would not implicate the others involved in this project. If he escaped, he would take equally sadistic delight in hunting down G personally. G told me everything. The Doctors had decided that the five of us were growing too comfortable together, too attached. If one of us died, we might actually grieve, or have trouble accepting a replacement. To test that theory, they decided to 'temporarily' remove Maxwell. A 'simple experiment in relationships and problem solving' as G put it. How temporary the replacement was going to be depended on our reaction to the new Deathscythe pilot. He didn't tell me which particular reaction would have brought Maxwell back to our little group, and I didn't ask. Instead, I told him exactly what I was going to do to him if we did not get Maxwell back in one piece. He took it rather calmly, and offered me the life of the person who had been responsible for Maxwell's discovery and subsequent capture. Apparently, one of the senior mechanics had been seeing this woman on L2.... You can probably figure out the rest. The concept makes my head hurt. Did he have no idea of the lives he was putting at risk with his careless behavior? He hadn't told her anything terribly revealing, but enough so that she had apparently put two and two together. When G attempted to contact Maxwell at the school, he had found that he was not listed as Maxwell's legal guardian and that this dubious privilege had been accorded Zechs Merquise. He had realized that we had _all_ been double-crossed, and immediately began a search for the culprit that would have done the Spanish Inquisition proud. Maxwell and Chang aren't the only ones who study. He finally came up with this mechanic, who admitted that he had perhaps said a little too much about the spastic Deathscythe pilot who was being replaced. G locked the man up in a small cell (I didn't really want to think about those detention cells and the reason why he would have them handy) and began looking for a way into the school. Chang beat him to it. So did Zechs. G then began a search for the woman. Interestingly enough, he found nothing. It was as if her life had begun the night that she picked up that mechanic in a bar. They'd been seeing each other for almost a year before he let anything slip. There was little enough to be found out about her. It was as if she hadn't existed before that night, and once Maxwell had been sent to the school, she vanished again. Sounds like a set-up job to me. I made a note to hunt down that woman. Between us, Maxwell, Chang and I should be able to find her. From there it would only be a matter of time before we discovered who sent her. I made him send me all the data files, but found no more than he had. I then asked to speak to the mechanic, and G sent one of his assistants to fetch the man. The assistant returned, a bit pale and trembling, to report that the man was dead. Murdered in his cell. That got my attention. G was furious. He _demanded_ that I get to the bottom of this. I politely declined, citing my previous mission to retrieve Maxwell. I told him that _if_ we retrieved Maxwell in one piece and _if_ Maxwell was feeling forgiving, we might help him with his little 'problem'. But not before. I also pointed out that the only thing keeping me from destroying his lab and him with it, was the thought that Maxwell would probably like to do it himself - with the new Deathscythe. I could see him wondering what had happened to the other 'pilot'. I smiled, once, and cut the connection. I left, heading for Dr. J's place. Whatever was going on was larger than I'd thought. This wasn't OZ's style, and a lone free-lancer wouldn't have gone back for the mechanic once we already knew everything that he had to tell, and G was convinced that the man had spilled his guts. I got a slight knot in my stomach thinking about that. I could torture someone if I had to, and do it well. That doesn't mean that I'd enjoy it and I pray that I'll never show the casual acceptance of it that G does. If Maxwell doesn't come back here for a reckoning, I will. ******* Heero's part ends here. ******* I finally escaped from Duo's suite. He had to convince Zechs to leave and get them to turn the lights off, first. I was stuck there for almost eight hours, and was nearly too stiff to move when it was finally safe to come out. I had muscle cramps from the tension of having to lie perfectly still and remain calm while Zechs read a book only a few feet from my hiding place. When I finally crawled out from under the bed, Duo noticed how I was moving. He had me sit on the bed and sat on the floor at my feet. He obligingly rubbed my legs until I felt I could walk again, and thanked me for coming to his rescue. He didn't specify which rescue, and I didn't need to ask. He has regained his center, his balance, even if Lt. Maxwell tends to come rather strongly to the fore. Duo and I needed to talk and had to whisper, so as not to be overheard, and keep our conversation short. I had a plan for leaving the shuttle and escaping to the relative safety of my family once we reached L5. I had to hunch over and whisper in his ear. It was a bit uncomfortable and terribly distracting. Duo was cautiously in favor, merely cocking an eyebrow and murmuring something about my penchant for explosions. I hate Lt. Maxwell. I hate him with a passion. He's beginning to strangle the real Duo, and there seems to be nothing I can do about it. Idiot. When did I start caring so much about Duo? When did I lose my objectivity? And why do I feel that the answers to those questions don't really matter.... When I felt I had enough control of my legs to perform a decent 'sneak' I finally left the suite and made my way cautiously back to my hiding place. This course of action could cause trouble for my family.... I finally decided to leave a few subtle 'clues' to my identity.... With luck, they would conclude that I had stolen a ride on the shuttle from Earth, and had no connection with L5 at all. You can't rely on luck, but I had to do something. The day or so of our trip was difficult. Duo was having trouble with headaches, unsurprisingly. None of the crew would come near him. I wasn't surprised. They blamed the deaths of those three crew members on him. They weren't to know that I was the one who had so viciously crushed them. I don't care to dwell on what I did. I am not usually cruel, but for some reason I had chosen to destroy those three men, rather than simply kill them. Oh, they were just as dead in the end, but it had been brutal and painful. Not because it had to be, but because I had chosen it to be so. I am still not sure why I did it, but it makes me feel sick. I'm not a monster. Am I? Zechs was unfailingly polite to Duo, who accepted this new, gentler treatment without comment. It was beginning to make me nervous again. Zechs was spending entirely too much time with Duo. Even more than he had previously. What was going through that man's head? What is he hoping to get out of Duo? Is this simply a 'good OZ, bad OZ' routine? Is Duo falling for this friendly act? I am beginning to obsess over this? Probably. I need to get Duo _off_ this shuttle. I need to find Master O and discover just what all this means. I need to find Professor G and kill him with my bare hands. Slowly. I _am_ obsessing. This is not good. We'll get to L5 tomorrow. Duo knows what to do once we land. We'll get out of this mess first and worry about O and G later. I turned back to my plans, but found myself staring at the monitor which showed Duo's suite as Zechs brought him lunch. Prepared with his own two lily white hands, no less. I'm going to kill that platinum blonde creep. See if I don't. ******* Wufei's part ends here ******* Trowa and I let Heero go after G. I wasn't sure that I would be able to handle him the way it needed to be done. Trowa had announced his intentions of burning G's lab to the ground if he had to come into contact with the man, so we decided that he ought to come with me. Trowa handles betrayal a little more personally than the rest of us. Perhaps it's because he's had more experience with it. I didn't ask. When he wants to talk about it, he will. Anyway, I was sure that Wufei would try to get Duo away when the shuttle reached L5. Trowa didn't have any better ideas, so we headed that way. We arrived with almost a full day to spare. Infiltration was difficult, to say the least. Finding a place to dock a stolen OZ assault carrier was more than a little challenging. Trowa managed it, somehow. He has contacts _everywhere_. Maybe it has something to do with his casual use of the name Barton. I had arranged for Chen to meet us and we found ourselves holed up at his parent's house. I only speak a few words of Chinese, and Trowa's knowledge is on par with mine. Chen had to translate for us once or twice, but luckily most of L5 uses languages that either Trowa or I actually have some working knowledge of. Wufei is respected here. Not particularly well-liked, I noted, but respected. Half the colony is related to him, and most of them are well aware that he is the pilot of Gundam 05. They take family loyalty and respect to great lengths. Apparently they feel there is no danger in Wufei's calling being known to his entire family. And we found out about Meiran.... No wonder Wufei has always been so focused - and so angry. Marriage and death are very serious things, particularly to someone our age, and particularly to someone of his culture. Grief is a difficult burden to bear at any age. That he could do so and still retain his loyalty to us and his skills as a pilot speak of depths that I did not know he had. Wufei is a very complicated person. Unfortunately, he is also tied up in knots. Until he comes to a better understanding of himself and his feelings, he is still going to be lost. I think I need to stop analyzing people. It's a hobby that tends to give you a headache. We found ourselves secreted in the hangar when Zechs' shuttle docked. No sooner had it touched down than there was an explosion by the rear cargo bay. As the local OZ soldiers scrambled to fight the fire and the shuttle crew evacuated, I felt more than saw two slender figures slip away from the far side of the shuttle. There was an emergency hatch there, I remembered, standard for that class of shuttle. As we reached the spot where they had disappeared, a red-coated figure and two soldiers _also_ dropped from the rear escape hatch. Zechs is a very canny man. We had not come unprepared for this eventuality. Two of Wufei's family, heavily masked, appeared and held guns on Zechs and his companions until we were safely away. I hope those two volunteers managed to escape unharmed, but I didn't really have time to worry. We had to find Duo and Wufei. When we finally caught up with our comrades, they had taken shelter with one of Wufei's old teachers. It was a slightly strained, albeit joyous, reunion. Duo looked so different without his hair, and it was obvious that the strain had been getting to him. He was still wound up very tightly, unable to relax even now. It would be some time before he really accepted that he was free. He has a whole new set of mannerisms, and they scared me a little. Not that the mannerisms themselves were too bad, but the fact that he was having trouble letting go of them. They were bothering Trowa as well, but I could see that it was Wufei who was most hurt by them. If Duo looks strange, Wufei looks like an entirely different person. With his red on black clothing and his long hair floating loose, I might have mistaken him for someone else. He has finally lost that nasty focus which I now realize must have been his pain over the death of his wife. It is still there, but it no longer forms the core of his being. His expression and manner have changed as well. I can no longer believe him cold and uncaring. Now that he has begun to heal, it is as if there is a whole different person underneath waiting to be discovered. But he still has a long way to go. I can see the sweet-tempered, shy scholar that his aunt described so fondly, not that he'll ever return completely. Wufei is a Gundam pilot now, and like the rest of us, changed forever. But it's nice to know that he is no longer focused on self-destruction. But there's still a fragility there, as if he's changing too much, too fast. We have all been changed by this experience, I think Duo and Wufei most of all. But I can feel the changes in myself and even see them clearly in Trowa and Heero. I think that we are stronger, if slightly sadder. We are more than just soldiers in a common cause. We are allies, friends - family. This will not happen again. Trowa and I will leave Wufei here. Wufei showed his old self quite decisively and insisted that he would seek out Master O and take the new Shenlong from him, in the name of Truth and Justice, no less. He is angry, almost exceedingly so, and is letting his frustrations show in his determination to take control of this situation. I did not argue. I could sense that he was close to exploding with pent up emotion and it would be safest to let him come to terms with this on his own. We left Duo with him. Wufei would not even consider allowing us to take him away. The two seem to find support in each other, forming a partnership which will do them both good in the long run. I know that Wufei will help Duo deal with his emotional problems. I know that they can take care of themselves and each other physically. I also know that Zechs is not they type to give up easily.... Heero's report reached us that night. Trowa and I are to meet him at J's place. We leave in the morning. If all goes well, the new Sandrock and Heavyarms will be brought to us there. If not, we will go to S and H and _take_ them. It is time to take action. After seeing what happened to Duo and taking in the reality of what has happened to him, Trowa and I are as one in our resolve. We aren't going to be victims for anyone. Not ever again. *********** Whew. That was long. Duo: Woo Hoo! And I have Part 16 ALLL to myself! Truth: You seem cheerful. Duo: Of course! I get to see Wufei *urk* *Wufei and Truth tackle Duo and cover his mouth* Trowa: Don't give away the plot. Quatre: It's nice to know that you're excited, though. Heero: Don't get too worked up. She's still got three parts to go, and I don't think that she's going to make this easy on us. Truth: Don't worry. All: Riiiiight.