Wizard Of OZ
By Red Rose
My children. They were all my children. I stood in the control center, hand casually pressing buttons and turning knobs. The multi- screened display before me flickered, and images appeared.
Five boys, each one drastically different from the other. Separate, yet capable of functioning as one.
My children. Yet, they were not as I planned. Not entirely. But all things came in time.
I could not destroy them. Not now. They were entirely too useful. I would just have to find a way of harnessing their talents, even if it was without them knowing it.
I smiled thinly, studying each face.
Heero Yuy. He was the embodiment of destruction and chaos. My toy soldier. The dark haired boy lay on the top of a hill alone, the sunset crimson blood behind him. He held a set of binoculars in his hand and carefully watched the activities of a military base below him. He studied the planes as they taxied to a stop and their cargoes unloaded by powered loaders and mobile suits.
The boy's gaze narrowed. His hand flickered to his side. Nestled in his jeans, was the pommel of a pistol.
"Looking for me...young Heero? Yes, you're looking for me..."
Heero was my masterpiece. I was fortunate enough to complete my work on him before I lost him.
Duo Maxwell. A very uncommon thief who claimed to be the embodiment of death and the savior of souls. My death angel.
He sat poised in a tree, dressed in a loose fitting green tank top and a pair of camouflage pants. In his hand, he held a detonator. His finger hovered over the dead man switch as three covered trunks rolled underneath him. With a wicked smile, he clamped down on the switch. A blast erupted through the dense jungle around him and birds screeched in terror. A truck exploded into flames while the other two spun out of control. One tipped to its side and the other collided into a tree.
The honey brown haired death angel shouldered a submachine gun. He dropped out of the tree, long braided hair snaking behind him.
"Playing Robin Hood, my son? You still think life's a game, don't you? That will change soon enough. You are death. Never forget that."
Spying on them was easy. I had sources and satellites. There was no place they could hide. My agents were everywhere. It was just a matter of time.
Trowa Barton. The man who could be anyone and do anything. He was the ultimate spy. Yet somehow, he settled with being a circus clown. I'd never understand it. I sighed, watching the flax haired boy dance carelessly across a tight wire without a net below to catch him. No fear showed in his eyes, even as he cart wheeled onto his hands and began to walk. I watched him intently, admiring his acrobatic skills and agility.
Trowa was a work of art. He had no real emotions. They died when he was a child. I made sure of that. But then again, I made sure all the children were fit into my design.
Pity they were all failures.
Trowa continued his act, his stone face only once showing any sign of expression and even that was forced. He smiled faintly when the audience applauded at the end of his performance, then he took a gracious bow.
"You too look for me, but in another way, my young harlequin." I touched the computer before me and scrolled a file. "Yes, it was difficult, I must say. You're working with Heero to find me, but I found your cover, Mr. Barton. It's just a matter of time. I won't loose you."
Quatra Reberba Winner, the little angel with a heart and checkbook of gold. He was the most empathic of the group. Though he was only faintly aware of it, he was the first to awaken his true senses.
The pale blond Arab boy floated in a featureless room, lithe elven form relaxed in the free fall state. In his hands, he held a battered book and leafed though it intently.
"Newtypes first emerged in the one year war... 0079..." He read aloud, contralto voice singing off steel walls.
"Master Quatra." A large man entered the room, his dark eyes filled with vex. "Please, this can not be good for you. You are worrying me. Why can't you find enlightenment somewhere other than in a cargo bay of a ship?"
The young face brightened and the boy closed the book. "Humans became Newtypes because they were adapting to space and the lack of gravity, Rasid!" His body twisted and he placed his feet on the wall and pushed gently. Like all of his kind, the child quickly adjusted to free fall. He drifted down with just the right momentum. "It's important I do this. Please. I must discover more about myself!"
He was the undying innocent. I touched the screen, feeling the static from its face. "You, my little one are the embodiment of what your people should be. You are true, unlike the others. I will not spoil you..."
Chang Wufei. The dragon. He acted for justice, yet filled himself with pride. Like Quatra, he too displayed the gene of our people. Calm and controlled, he sat cross legged in a field of pastel flowers. He breathed easily, his young face drawn in concentration.
He too sought out his inner self, yet his way was different from the fourth boy's. Wufei's strength was his mind and discipline. He was unbeatable and patient.
In many ways, he was more deadly than any of the others. In the past, he's watched his enemies, his awareness of the world around him allowing him to miss nothing. Wufei was no one's fool.
Save perhaps his mentors.
And, of course, mine.
All of history was mine. I was the master chess player in every event of their lives, as well as the lives of all those of any significance.
I passed my fingers over a dial and the images turned to snow. A moment later, they were replaced by other faces, other children.
My children, the obedient ones, the ones I favored, went about their tasks. They were my final products.
Phase one of my plan was complete. Phase two was about to start. My forces had superior strength. Both the colonies and Earth were still licking their wounds from a long drawn out conflict.
It was time to move.
I spent the entire day in free fall and read. I had experienced free fall many times in space before, but it felt very different this time. This time, I was aware of how different my body felt. It was more comfortable and I moved more freely. Also, my senses were more alert. I felt Rasid at the door even before he entered the room.
If I thought about it, I often had that feeling, but always disregarded it. I knew better now and reminded myself when my mind showed me things my normal senses missed. I felt like a caterpillar about to come out of its cocoon for the first time.
Stretching, I crossed the floor of my quarters and sat down in front of my computer. More than two months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to Ambassador Gunn about Newtypes when he was conducting an investigation on the assassination attempt on Relena for his government. He explained Newtypes were very common where he came from and let me have an audience with his medical officer, Doctor Karla Strife, about what to look for. She was a Newtype.
The meeting was enlightening. She showed me how to touch minds with thoughts. Karla also explained the collective consciousness and how it bound life together. She showed me how to reach out into this force and feel the world around me. Everything had a signature and when I learned to identify them, my new senses would be comparable to my eyes.
She, like Mr. Gunn, explained more about the Flanagan procedure and its side effects and compared the Zero System to it. They were concerned our enemy, Alexie, would use it against us.
It was the dawn before a great storm, I thought, sipping my jasmine tea. I cued up my computer and called up the Newtype file. My research showed the Zero System was a variant of a system akin to the Psycho-Gundam technology of the 0086 Titan War. Artificial Newtypes were used commonly in that war. All of them died. I scrolled up the ancient blue prints and studied them. The new Gundams I had designed had Zero Systems installed, but the systems were optional. I would have removed the systems from them, but after encountering Duo enhanced with the Zero Device, my instinct said we'd see more of it. In all truth, the Zero System had to be tamed. It gave too much of an edge to any pilot using one.
Unfortunately, the side effects were horrendous.
I brushed my bangs from my face and tapped my mouse. "I'm sure there are others like Heero and Duo, perhaps even myself. We'll fight them soon enough and without the Zero System, were in trouble." I placed my tea cup down and closed my eyes feeling tears. I couldn't bear the anguish the system caused my friends, but hadn't much of a choice.
That is, unless I could find something else, or our resident mad scientists invented something entirely new.
For now, we could only prepare and watch for Alexie. If he was going to move, it would be soon. The Outer Colonies sent a new formal delegation to our system. Since Mr. Gunn and his contingent were only sent to investigate Earth's space and didn't expect to discover life, they weren't prepared for diplomatic negotiations. In the end, new agreements had to be made with professional ambassadors, rather than a grunt Marine contingent.
Dorothy reassured Relena that the Romefeller foundation had no more involvement with Alexie, but I didn't trust her. She liked fighting and war too much and hid things from us before.
With a heavy sigh, I placed my tea cup down and stared longingly at a photo on my desk. It was of the G-team (that was what we called ourselves) in the cafeteria on the Peacemillion during the last half of the war. I smiled, fingers touching Trowa's gentle features. I missed him the most, but he was on Earth, helping Heero track down Alexie. Heero wasn't smiling in the picture. He looked lost in thought. Duo, of course, was making rabbit ears behind a smug Wufei and I was laughing.
I tightened my lip. Wufei and Sally were working in China, investigating some rumors of a terrorist group planning a coop. As for Duo, he vanished into the depths of South America. I received a postcard from him recently. He was concerned about some government activity and asked for some supplies and cash.
He also added he'd have no problem knocking over a bank if I couldn't supply what he needed.
I hoped he was joking.
I sent him a check with a long letter and two very large stuffed animals. Apparently, his little family was growing. Duo and Hilde had taken in an eight year old boy named Patrick. I also gave him a few names for locating supplies.
Duo was keeping busy and seemed happy.
Everyone seemed happy, except for me. I missed all of them immensely. Perhaps it was because they were my only connection to this Newtype business.
I also worried a lot about them.
Poor Trowa started on the medication because he had been suffering all along from head pains. I recognized the seizures shortly after seeing one of Duo's. Trowa didn't seem to mind and only told me he would miss the empathic contact we shared on occasion. Shutting down Newtype senses was an unfortunate side effect of the medication.
I fretted about him most of all. I loved Trowa and we shared a very sensitive relationship, though it was strained by his inability to show many feelings.
I wished we were more expressive with each other, but Trowa was reluctant about allowing our relationship to become anything more than the hand holding kind. It hurt, but I understood how difficult expressing his feelings was. In every sense of the word, something in Trowa's past killed most, if not all, of his feelings.
I was once told by Doctor S that he suffered from a unique kind of brain damage.
Trowa denied it of course, saying he gave up feeling when his life was only surrounded by death and war.
Besides, Duo and I seemed to do enough feeling for all of us.
I yawned and returned my attention to the keyboard before me. It was getting late, but I wanted to print out some of these plans and take them to Doctor S for assessment. Perhaps he and his colleagues could use them.
I stretched and finished spooling the document. A moment later, it began to print.
Exhausted, I stumbled over to my bed and collapsed. Tomorrow morning was another day in limbo. It was the dawn before the great storm. It was best to get rest while I could, because soon enough, I'd have many, many sleepless nights.
I sat on the edge of the jungle, camera in hand, and watched the soldiers move about New Sebastion's USAG base. Over the last month, I had been monitoring them carefully, photographing and recording their activities. They were not a threat to my present charges; I just didn't take very kindly to any repressive government and these guys were extremists. The New United South American Government was run by a bunch of bureaucrats left over from the OZ war. Shortly after the Outer Colonies arrived and while I was vacationing in the rubber room, a civil war broke out in South America. The continent was united with Brazil as its capital and anti-colonial sentiment as its political machine.
It wasn't the main colonies they were concerned with of course. It was the Outer Colonies and their negotiations. Apparently, like many other governments in the ESUN, the USAG were concerned about Newtypes and their status in the Outer Colonies.
I bit my lip and stared at a few techs as several cranes removed a large black mobile suit from its hanger. I had never seen the make before. It was larger than normal and very sleek in design. "Hmmm, baby's built for speed I see..." I said to myself. "Nice... " Yeah, but not as nice as my partner was. But, I put a rest to my fighting days, so it didn't matter.
The Death Scythe Hell Mark II was on the moon with Doctor G. Since I retired as a mobile suite pilot, they were keeping it there. I snapped several pictures with my telephoto lens and then exchanged the camera for my binoculars again.
But by the look of this, the USAG was building up quite an impressive arsenal. My gut twisted. Alexie hinted about his clients. I was beginning to think I knew who they were.
I chewed on my thumbnail uneasily. Since I started watching the base two weeks ago, I saw the influx of many mobile suits, all designs similar to the Gundam. I also saw the construction of tanks and planes. It had to be for more than just keeping the natives docile. Starving them seemed to be doing the job well enough.
My belly growled. "All this spying is making me hungry again." I said aloud. I already finished my last rice ball. My metabolism was quicker than normal now and I ate almost three times as much as I did before just to maintain my weight. Whatever tricks Alexie did to me messed up my system to the extent that it was uncomfortable.
I cursed to myself and watched a plane taxi in from the north.
Over the last few months, the state of the world was getting ugly. Alexie's attempt to have me assassinate Relena Darlian charged political accusations at the colonies for being uncooperative and trying to sabotage negotiations for universal peace.
Showing my face in the real world wasn't the best of ideas, so I was very content with working in the Mission. It wasn't a boring job. I spent most of my time trying to work with a bunch of uncooperative orphans and knocking over supply trucks for medicine and occasional food. I even worked the fields and did some net fishing. All in all, it was fun and I had a hellish tan. Hilde even liked it now.
Unfortunately, the Government didn't want us here and often redirected the Mission's shipments. It was the classic land dispute, but instead of condos, they wanted us out to extend their military bases. It was a real bummer on the environment to say the least.
The village was stubborn and so was the Mission. We fought every step of the way. I had to admire Father O'Connell and Sister Rose for putting up with their bullshit. But then again, that's were I came in. If the bullshit started to smell too much, I'd make things difficult on the shovelers. In fact, it was a job I actually loved and looked forward to doing each morning.
I, for one, would drop a few bombs on their capital and start a coop. But than again, I was a terrorist and a thief and called things as they were.
A small figure stepped out of the plane, followed by several uniformed men. The figure was a kid, roughly my age, with a head of impossibly bright red gold hair. He wore an elegant dress blue uniform with a ruffled collar.
"Hmm, pilot maybe?" I thought, studying the kid. He looked too whoosey to be a pilot. By the way he innocently smiled at his bodyguards, he was obviously pampered to all hell. Hmm, sort of reminded me of Quatra...Na!
My head ached.
Puzzled, I lowered my binoculars and rubbed my temples. Funny, I took my drugs this morning, so it wasn't a seizure.
A squirming, twisting sensation wracked my thoughts, as if something was leafing though my brain like it was a book.
I twitched, hands clawing at my brow. It hurt, yet it was comforting at the same time. Shivering, I closed my eyes, sure I was losing my mind. "Man, why can't this be a routine mission today..."
"Who are you?"
A voice in my head spoke. "You're like me."
I startled up, bumped my head on the branch overhead and flipped backward into the brush below.
The impact jarred my entire body and the binoculars, with my back pack, dropped heavily on my gut. "FUCK!!"
In the distance, alarms blared. Someone saw me...Or was it the voice? I wasn't about to wait and see. I hauled up my sorry little ass and began to book as fast as I could. Vaguely, I made out the kid staring in my direction as I fled.
One word came to mind (well, actually two, but I'm not picky).
Newtype. The kid was one of those Newtypes...
No. I wasn't a real Newtype, I had to remind myself. I was artificial and on drugs to inhibit whatever sensitivities I had because it would drive me insane. Quickly, I slipped into the brush and began to beat away thick vines and leaves from my path. The barking of dogs and shots of rifles echoed in my ears. It was going to be a hellishly long and bad day.
I hoped Hilde or Patrick had dinner done when I got home, 'cause I'd be starved after I lost these bastards.
A thundering blast exploded to my right and I was tossed back into a tree trunk. Pain washed over my thigh above my knee. I didn't need to look. Just by the searing agony, I knew I had taken a bullet and my leg was in bad shape. Buckshot by the feel of it. Damn, there goes another pair of good camouflage pants.
"Shit." I slid down the tree, clutching my leg. Already it was soaked with blood. "Ohh, Hilde, I'm gonna be real late for dinner tonight."
Now, where was the prick who shot me? Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a soldier approaching. Just great. He spoke into a radio in his right hand, while the other held a powered rifle. It wouldn't be long before I was swarmed by cronies and dragged off to a South American prison (where inevitably, the food would suck).
My vision blurred and spotted. If I continued to bleed, I'd be unconscious in a matter of moments. I had to work fast. With supreme effort, I managed to unharness my automatic.
By the startled look on the soldier's face, he didn't expect it. I took him out with a bullet between the eyes. I then made a tourniquet from my shirt. Moments later, I was on my way. The pain jarred me every step, but I gritted my teeth, remembering how something like this wouldn't slow Heero down.
Seconds later, dogs bounded into the brush. Behind their barks and howls, I dimly heard the sound of machetes slashing jungle vegetation.
Damn, they were fast.
I wriggled through dense shrubs and vines, hoping to find my way back to the river and my boat. If I was lucky, my small size would allow me to squirm into places they needed to pause at and cut down. I was more worried about the dogs. They were just behind me.
My plight felt like it took forever. The entire time, I used whatever branches around or trunks to support my body. My leg ached so much, I couldn't put very much, if any weight on it. I only paused once to chop down some vines and leaves in my path and then broke out into a small clearing.
My head pounded so loudly and the pain in my leg was so intense, I failed to hear the river as it lapped the edge of the clearing. My boat was moored a ways down the bank, so I had to swim for it. I didn't bother with the dive gear stashed behind a rock. I knew what I was about to do would make the wound bleed more, yet I had little choice. I waded into the river and dropped down as the dogs burst from the palms behind me.
Hopefully, they'd loose my scent and I'd be able to drift downstream to the boat. With a trusty reed and lots of pain control, I kept myself submerged.
Letting myself travel, I became aware of the rippling and flickers of the shoreline as I moved. The water around me was pretty deep and well over my head a few feet off shore.
Still, I made out the forms of several men in uniform as they stepped out of the jungle and searched around the little beach.
The kid was there too. I felt a chill.
I closed my eyes, sucking in water from the reed. He too was looking for me, but with his mind.
"Blank your mind, blank your mind..." I repeated to myself without any idea as to how. What I did know was if the little bugger spotted me, prison and very unpleasant interrogations awaited.
"Who are you? Why did you kill?"
The voice asked evenly.
My head throbbed more, almost making me black out. "Kill or be killed." I thought back, wondering if he heard me. Fear made me think of Hilde and the kids. I had to escape, for them.
"You have a family." The kid's thoughts swarmed my consciousness, lifting whatever memories I had on the surface. I felt strangely vulnerable and very frightened. This kid was invading the only thing I felt sacred; my thoughts.
"Get out of my head!" I pleaded. A sudden flood of terror made me exhale bubbles and I almost released the reed. "Stop it, now!"
Hurt. I felt an overwhelming flood of hurt. The kid didn't intend on injuring or scaring me. "I don't want to hurt you. You're the first one I've seen. I've heard there were others, but never met them."
"Let me go." The river bank vanished, and I found myself grabbed by the current. If I wasn't careful, I'd be towed under, so I took one last inhale and released the reed. As quickly and efficiently as I could, I began to swim. The kid's mind still touched me, but it was fading. I wondered why he hadn't reported me.
I counted my lucky stars and said a prayer.
Perhaps the boy had a conscience.
I surfaced some distance from the shore, sucked in air and began my long swim downstream.
Within twenty minutes, I hauled my body into my boat and collapsed.
Impossible, was the first word that came to mind as I watched the television broadcast on my monitor. "Absolutely absurd." I whispered to myself as a woman reporter spoke emotionally in front of a burning building. Behind her, ambulances and fire trucks littered the parking lot and rescue personal swarmed the area around the disaster.
I made out the crushed hulls of broken and smoldering plane and shuttle wreckages in the distance. The terrorists responsible for the attack were thorough. I reached over the control panel and lifted a can of juice from the shelf above. Two hundred people died in the attack.
I eyed the video report once more and folded my arms, still not believing the words of the people on the screen.
"I'll repeat." The women said. The image on the screen switched. It showed three very familiar mobile suits, smashing the building and explosions blossoming around the air control tower. "Three specialized Gundams were filmed during the attack."
I studied the suits, recognizing the Shenlung Gundam. "But who tries to tarnish your name, my Nataku?"
The door to my study flew open and a tall flaxen haired women stalked into the room. Her blue eyes burned with the fire of anger and her lips trembled. "What the hell are you guys trying to prove?!"
I ignored her, staring blankly at the other mobile suits, the Wing Gundam and Heavy Arms. As far as I knew, both Heero and Trowa were investigating the location of Alexie Courthers in North America. They made no mention of a raid on the space port in South America. It was a civilian target and not one of our usual jobs.
A hand slammed down on the panel in front of me and Sally's impatient gaze captured my own. "Wu, I want answers."
I shoved her from my view and continued to study the screen. "So do I."
"You're not responsible?" She asked, relieved.
"Of course not. I'm rather annoyed you have so little faith in me." I told her, letting her hear a hint of my displeasure. Sally Po should know me better. We've worked together for some time now.
The reporter returned to the screen, her pretty face drawn. "It's rumored the anti-colonial group, Pure Earth, is responsible, but Pure Earth is denying it, claiming it's a colonial attempt to tarnish their anti-violence policy."
I sipped at my juice and swished it in my mouth, savoring the taste. They would deny it and it was obvious it was all a set up, but for what purpose?
The video screen changed once more. Now its picture was a fuzzy, at best, black and white film taken from a security camera. "One of the terrorists was caught on camera leaving the building." I leaned over on the arms of my swivel chair. The figure was dressed in black with a priest's collar and had an unmistakable long braid down his back. Most odd, his face was covered by a black cap. "Duo???"
"They really want to frame you guys." Sally said pointedly.
I gave a quick nod. Duo dropped out of sight two months ago after he was conditioned to kill Relena Peacecraft at an ESUN meeting. This wasn't going to help his already bruised reputation. I folded my arms, annoyed. My Nataku was safely hidden in our mountain base. I hadn't moved it since we attacked the Romefeller Base in Bar Harbor. Now of course, I'd be reluctant to.
"Alexie. " I said softly. I looked to Sally, who lifted a brow. "This sounds like something he'd do."
"Why do you say that?" Sally asked, curious. She was fortunate to miss the scenario with Mr. Courthers and his mind bending process.
I looked back at the screen and pointed to the airport. "It's appropriate revenge and enough to distract us from locating him. He has bigger plans, Sally. Framing us is too petty for him. It's all part of a larger game."
The woman looked troubled. She sank beside me on the arm of my chair. Life just started to settle down for the both of us. She didn't look forward to conflict.
I, on the other hand, was impressed with Alexie.
He might be a worthy opponent. I smiled thinly and wondered if Heero and Trowa had seen the report. They most likely did. I was sure to get a call soon. With a sigh, I turned off the monitor and eyed Sally. Despite her impeccably rude manner, she was a strong woman. "We have work to do now."
She gave a half smile, unhappy no doubt that our relationship was on hold once more. "I guess so. I hope the others are OK."
"I'm sure they are. Do not forget, Heero has friends in high places."
Miss Darlian would ensure an effective investigation. There was hope for us yet.
I carefully removed the folded coveralls and ID badges from the battered old trunk in my wagon. With care, I ironed them and studied the fabric. All the wires and radio implants were in order and concealed as buttons and thread. Heero would be able to trace and listen to all of my activities when I entered the Evolutionary Science Research Foundation.
It was my last infiltration mission. After this, Heero and I would have the exact location of Alexie's headquarters.
The man was near to impossible to trace. He had contacts with both Romefeller Federation and former OZ affiliates. Apparently, he was a paid contractor, his specialty being bio-weapons.
Weapons no one on either side during the war would admit to having an interest in, save perhaps Doctor J and his associates. But again, everyone believed they were insane.
Behind me, the door opened and Heero stepped in. It was out of his character to knock, so I didn't object. We both had a silent understanding with each other, so we worked together flawlessly. "How are you doing?" I asked. The night before, he had complained about pain in his leg and insisted on it being from Duo.
Their gestalt had returned, informing both of us the medication they were on was becoming useless at its present dose.
"Better." He said dryly and crossed the room. The Japanese pilot seated himself on my bed. He was dressed in a pair of jeans and a blue T shirt with the insignia of the circus break down crew. "Were almost done tearing down the tents. Catherine says we'll be moving in a couple of hours."
"Good. Our alibi should be secure then." Catherine promised me she'd inform the crew we'd be traveling to the next location in her truck. Even though she disliked my involvement with Heero's work, she wanted to help me.
The sooner it was over, the sooner I could be her little brother again. I slipped on the coveralls and buttoned them up. I was posing as nothing too complicated; in fact it was very low profile. A janitor for a mega-corporation had unlimited access to many important offices housing top secret information. That is, if they had the skills to unlock it.
"We should go over the plan once more." Heero said firmly. "Things have gotten hot since we supposedly attacked that space port."
"I wonder about that." I said softly. The report claimed the Duo sighted was shot in the leg; the injury Heero thought Duo obtained when he felt the pain in his thigh the other night. Was it more than coincidence? Alexie had a strong hold on Duo. Was it possible he managed to capture his will once more?
It was a possibility, though Heero doubted it. He claimed he'd know. More over, none of us were involved in the raid, even though the press claimed our mobile suits were in use. Unfortunately, it was difficult to explain this to the authorities, so we were avoiding them. It was only a matter of time before someone showed to take Heero and I in for questioning. Sadly, save for lies, neither of us had a good alibi. At the time, we were spying on the ESRF.
"I go in, locate Mr. Wang's office and up load the locales of his offices and labs. Alexie should be in South America, under the name of ShunFe."
Heero nodded. "See if you can find out exactly what the USAG wants him to do. I have a feeling they are the ones who hired him to kill off Relena."
At first, we thought he was working for the Romefeller Foundation and OZ, but apparently it was a cover; one that even Dorothy and her affiliates were not aware of. Her grandfather, on the other hand, probably hired Alexie to initiate the Numbers Project when he was alive and Alexie took advantages of his resources.
Unfortunately, Alexie vanished with his research shortly after our attack on the island months ago.
I studied Heero and noted his brows were vexed. "You think the Pure Earthers want Relena dead?"
Heero shrugged. "It's possible. Her death will start a war. Sogran and the forces of White Fang knew that."
"It is a shame negotiations are that unstable." I said folding my arms. The world around us was too diverse to have complete peace and now that a new element entered the pictures it was even more strained. "They want to make Newtypes look guilty. It's sad they are driven by fear, is it not?"
He made a fist and stood, annoyance showing across his young boyish face. "Yeah. And I want to kill the bastard who leaked out Duo was a Newtype. That meeting should have been more secure, but Relena insisted on having a policy of trust. Now things are in an uproar we can't quiet."
"These are things we can't help." I said coolly. "It's best to keep our minds on other things. I have a feeling we will discover the driving force behind all the hatred when we find Alexie."
Heero never ignored rationale. His angry gaze quieted some and the youth stopped his pacing. The mission was the only important thing. The boy nodded in agreement and turned to the exit of the wagon. "Ok. See you in an hour, in front of the lion's wagon."
He vanished out the door, leaving me to myself.
Alexie. I closed my eyes to the name, trying to recall why I felt driven to seek him out. It was more than just helping Heero have his revenge.
The name struck a deep cord within my own being.
I felt cold wash over my body and shivered. Heero and Duo refused to explain exactly what he had done to them. Duo especially, seemed terrified of the man; so frightened, he refused to have any part of him.
It was very odd behavior for someone who claimed he wanted to kill Alexie with Heero. It made me very suspicious. I unconsciously rubbed my arms.
Alexie. Did I know him? I adjusted the collar of my coveralls and donned a matching tan cap.
My hands began to shake and water filled my eyes.
Alexie. Why did he bother me so?
When I thought about him, I thought of helplessness.
Everything went smoothly. At nine thirty, I began my shift, cleaning offices. Roughly at ten, I effortlessly broke into Mr. Wang's computer system. I downloaded several files, only pausing to scan their titles to ensure I was obtaining the correct information. Over the last week, I took the time to read some of the text and realized it was important enough to steal. With luck, both Heero and I could delay whatever conflicts between the nations long enough to allow Relena and her colleagues to create peace among them once more.
I watched the screen as it blinked, trying not to think of Alexie. It disturbed me he bothered me so, but I didn't want it to distract me from my present mission. Unfortunately, Heero noticed I was distant earlier and asked me before I entered the research center what was upsetting me. I lied and assured him nothing was bothering me. Now he was waiting for me to return to our rendezvous point near the security hut downstairs.
I tapped my chin, gut tightening as I waited. It was taking too long and my instincts said I'd have to leave soon.
Again, I thought of Alexie. My mind attached a face to the man, so I was sure I had seen him before. I pondered where and came to the parts of my life that were foggy at best. Alexie entered my life when I was a child, fighting with the rebels on Earth.
Part of me knew the rest.
Somehow, I was processed. It explained the mysterious pains I often felt in the past. I had dismissed them as anxiety from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The computer blipped and spit out the disk.
I had time. I smiled and reached for it.
Something cold pressed against my forehead.
How did I miss its owner coming in?
Alexie, naturally. I let him muddle my awareness and lost tract of what was happening around me.
Without moving, I shifted my gaze to focus on a young boy's face. Piercing blue violet eyes peered out though a tangle of flax hair.
At first glance, I thought of Duo, but the boy's features were narrower. His chin and jaw, as was the hair, were almost identical to the American pilot's. I could easily see how he'd pass for the other boy with a cap pulled down over his face.
Of course, this was Duo's doppelganger, the boy who destroyed the space port.
I considered knocking the gun from his hand, but his gaze was focused on my muscles. He'd kill me if I even twitched.
"Put your hands up." The boy said. His voice was higher than Duo's, but similar enough for me to assume there was some sort of relation.
I followed his instructions and raised my hands. The barrel of the gun held fast to my forehead and the kid glared at me with death in his eyes. "I believe I am getting sloppy in my old age." I replied.
The scraping of shoes across the floor informed me another had entered the room.
"Very good, young Doze." An aristocratic voice said from the door.
I made out the shape of a tall man with darkish hair. Other than that, his face was shadowed. The voice, on the other hand, pierced me like an ice dagger. Frozen, I stood, hands in the air and terror gripping my heart. Sweat beaded from my brow.
I swallowed, aware I was shaking again.
"Hello, No Name. It's been a very long time. I've missed you." The semi-fatherly, yet patronizing tone twisted my stomach. I wanted to run.
Instead, I remained incapable of movement.
Alexie knew who I was. He remembered me.
"What do you want me to do with him?" Doze asked, clicking the hammer of the gun. "I can take him out now..."
"No, no, Doze. That's unnecessary. I have plans for him."
Strange, his words made the room tilt around me. My vision blurred and my head began to ache. I fell to a knee, confused.
"Welcome home, Trowa. I suppose both you and Heero thought you were getting away with something. Well, I'm sorry, but you're sadly mistaken."
Unconsciousness veiled over my world like a closing curtain.
He was late. I checked my watch, making sure of the time, then scanned the wall of monitors. The unconscious guard twitched where he lay, slumped over his desk. The tranquilizer I had administered to him was wearing off.
I didn't have much time left to wait for Trowa. This operation was supposed to be quiet. No deaths, no bombs, just a snatch and grab. The only thing we'd leave behind was a groggy security guard who'd be convinced he had fallen asleep on the job.
I stepped up to the computer monitoring the rooms and halls of the ESRF complex and began to reset the scans. I had looped their images so they wouldn't record anything but previous film between 10:00 and 10:30 PM. This way, Trowa could break in without being seen. But now, his time was up and I had to abandon my post.
Besides, something told me Trowa was in trouble and perhaps reactivating the security cameras would allow me to see what kind.
The mission was salvageable.
Every camera fuzzed out with static, then came back on line.
Armed security guards swarmed the halls. Trowa hung limply in the arms of two thugs in Mr. Wang's office. He had been captured.
"God damn. How the hell did they clue into us?"
My mind quickly calculated the positions of every man and how long it would be before they'd discover me. Security swept every level from floor one. I was located on the second floor and they guarded all entrances on the first floor.
One group would reach me in less than five minutes.
My only escape route was the express elevator to the roof. Unfortunately, I'd reach that in about six minutes at my top speed.
With no more adieu, I grabbed my submachine gun and sprinted out into the hall. For now it was quiet, but I could hear shouts down the twisted corridor.
They were getting closer. I picked up my run, knowing the floor plans enough to realize they'd be able to cut off my only escape in no time. Then I'd have to suicide.
Death was preferable to what Alexie had planned for me. I bounded down the hall, breath even and paced. In my condition, I could run for hours without exhaustion. All I needed to do was avoid the soldiers long enough for them to give up their search of the building. However, it was harder said than done. If I knew Alexie right, and I was sure he was behind all of this, he'd never give up the investigation.
I skidded around the corner and spotted the elevator at the end of the hall. As I calculated, the door hissed open.
My gun was ready. Not surrendering my pace, I let loose a low spray of fire from the machine gun in my hands. The six men trapped in the elevator splattered crimson over the walls behind them and dropped to the floor. I kept firing on them to make sure they were dead and leapt into the car. I pounded the close button with my fist.
Five other security guards rounded the corner in a dead run. My back kissed the side wall, away from the abrupt explosion of gunfire riddling the back of the car.
The door breezed shut.
I slapped the keyboard and programmed the elevator to ascend sixteen levels and stop at six different floors. A moment later, I pressed the basement button (In theory, it should make the elevator go down, unless someone desired to use it on the higher levels). Using the bodies around me as props, I climbed up to the trap door in the ceiling and banged it open with my gun but. The elevator would stop on the seventeenth floor, but I wouldn't be there. The plan was to confuse them into chasing me on the floors the elevator stopped. In reality, I'd escape through the trap door and climb up the elevator shaft to the top floor. There I'd wiggle into an air duct and crawl my way to the top.
Kicking the bodies so they crumpled back to the floor, I jumped up and grabbed the opening of the hatch. Effortlessly, I wormed my way to the top of the elevator cab and rode up to the sixteenth floor. I closed the hatch quickly and grabbed onto a few cables over head. In seconds, I grappled my way up the cables like a chimpanzee. Distantly, I heard gunshots and voices below.
Part of my mind registered their words, the other part focused on a rapid ascent.
The elevator dropped down.
The guards were discussing an investigation on the lower floors.
I shimmied my way to the back of the elevator shaft and ducked into a shadow behind some hanging wires and metal girders.
As I thought, the guards opened the elevator doors and peered in.
I was small enough to hide and very pleased when they missed me. I wouldn't be that lucky next time. When the doors closed, I continued my climb up and stuck to the dark. I reached the end of the shaft in a few minutes.
Below, the elevator rolled up rapidly. There was little space between the wall and the elevator and I'd be mincemeat if it reached me. Quickly, I scanned the walls.
The vent I needed was on the other side. Using the cables over head, I swung over to the other side, kicked open the vent's grate and dove in. Seconds later, the elevator hissed over the opening, cutting me off from the shaft.
Without hesitation, I squirmed my way down. I'd be arriving at the outside ducts in a matter of minutes, then I'd be home free on the roof. With luck, I could climb my way down the building and run for the cover of the surrounding trees.
The clatter of running feet echoed from below.
I froze, my gut telling me I might be heard.
Sure enough, a young boyish voice spoke. "He's here somewhere." Despite the muffled metallic sound, the voice was very familiar.
"We searched this floor. There isn't anyone here." A soldier's voice spoke.
I heard shuffling of cloth and footsteps. "I feel he is near..."
A cold hand swept over my thoughts. I rubbed my mouth and gripped my gun. I had a half clip loaded in the weapon and a full clip at easy access in my jacket. If a fire fight happened, I'd be ready. From the sound of it, the kid below wouldn't be fooled for long. "Who are you?" I thought to myself. Whoever it was, he had to be one of Alexie's Newtypes. The chill I felt was him probing for my mind.
I braced myself.
"Over head!" The boy's voice shouted.
Gunfire followed, puncturing holes in the metal behind me. I quickly pivoted myself into the opening grid a few crawls ahead of me and tumbled out onto the floor below. With pulse fire, I sprayed bullets down the hall and pulped several guards. I spun the gun around, nailing more men as they barreled down the hall.
A boy with long hair dove to the side an instant before I moved and rolled away from my gunfire.
Damn he was fast. I spun on him, just making out his features. Duo?
No. Not Duo. Someone related to him possibly.
I fired on him again just as the boy came out of his roll with a pistol drawn.
I missed him.
Pain lanced into my body as a bullet slammed into my right arm and ripped though the back of my shirt. I immediately kept the flashes of anguish to the back of my mind and forced my fingers to remain on my weapon.
The kid was good.
I tried to dive out of his range just as he fired once more, this time in my thigh. My body jolted painfully as I hit a wall.
The kid was standing, his gun leveled at my head. "Stop right there, Mr. Yuy!"
Death was preferable and I still had my gun. I let my legs give and I fell to the floor. I depressed the trigger and showered the walls and floor around him. He danced away from each shot effortlessly, seconds before I could tag him.
"God Damn Newtypes..." I grunted. The mission was a miserable failure and despite my resolution to kill myself if caught, I knew I had to escape in order to warn Duo and the others. Alexie's Newtypes were on the loose now.
With a swift jerk of my hand, I released a compartment on my belt and a small disk dropped into my hand.
Soldiers thundered down the hall a few meters from the kid. I didn't have time to mess with them or play with the Duo impersonator anymore.
Before the boy could react, I chucked the grenade down the hall.
There was a muffled boom and blast of hot air.
The kid bounced out of the way, but lost his balance and hit a wall.
I broke into the fastest sprint I could muster with my injuries and raced down the hall to the exit.
Without looking behind me, I changed clips and blasted the door open. I tossed my shoulder against it, shattering its hinges, and dashed up a short set of stairs. I made work of the second door at the top in the same way and broke out into the night air.
Spot lights danced over the roof and the whirls of helicopter blades beat air above me.
Undaunted, I continued my run.
More guards and soldiers flooded the roof from the doorway, surrounding me like a rabbit on a fox hunt.
This mission was supposed to be a simple snatch and grab.
We fucked up. My mouth went dry. The edge of the building came up at blinding speed. I stumbled to a halt, almost careening over the edge.
A blinding spot of light glided over the roof, its brilliance blasting into my face.
I tossed my arms over my eyes and squinted, visually impaired.
A clatter of guns and trigger fingers rumbled over the roof.
I was caught.
"Why Mr. Yuy!" Alexie's voice boomed from a speaker above. "Welcome home! I must say, you're almost as rude as young Duo. You know I don't like it when my children break in without a formal invitation."
"Go suck your dick!" I shouted back into the light. I removed another grenade from my belt and palmed it. I was caught, but Alexie was there. By the direction of his voice and the thumping of air, the helicopter he was in hovered at 2 o clock. I had a very strong arm. I could take it out. The blast would destroy a great deal of the roof and most likely take my head off, but at this point, I didn't care.
For what he did to Duo, Alexie deserved to die.
I clenched my teeth, readying to toss the grenade.
A blast of air and the purr of engines exploded from behind me. The spot light vanished and I made out the squeals of chopper propellers as they spun out of control.
The guards shouted and scattered as gunfire rained down from just above me.
"HEERO!!" A women's voice called out. "Give me your hand!"
I didn't need to look. I tossed the grenade into the sea of panicking soldiers and jumped.
My hand connected with another and I felt myself being lifted up as an assault helicopter hauled me off the ground.
Below, fire bellowed on the roof and hot air burned into my face as my grenade connected with the men. I tried to stare through the white blast, wondering just what happened to Alexie's helicopter. If it had gone down, we would have heard it by now, so his pilot must have gotten control over the vehicle. I cursed with clenched teeth.
"You really know how to get yourself into trouble, don't you?" Sally Po said as her hand tightened its grip. She leaned out of the helicopter, arm wrapped tightly about a side handle. The woman's strength was unbelievable; and she wasn't augmented like I was. Moment's later, her strong arms hauled me up into the helicopter's cargo bay.
Wobbly, I sagged to the floor. The day could have gone better. The only thing I came back with was a headache, a couple of bullet wounds and a first regretful encounter with a Newtype who looked suspiciously like Duo. I punched the floor, frustrated. It might have been better to die on the roof than to face Wufei's patronizing scoldings.
The constant gust of rushing air came to an abrupt stop when Sally closed the bay door. She poised her hands on her hips and scrutinized me.
"You have him?" Wufei's voice asked from the cockpit.
"Affirmative." Sally Replied. "Not in one piece, but he's safe."
Safe, I thought angrily. I clenched my teeth and punched the floor. I had lost Trowa.
Alexie was one step ahead of us.
If it wasn't for that bastard, Trowa and I would be together still.
There was no telling if the bastard was dead or alive. I glared up at Sally, thinking how I might have taken Alexie out if they hadn't arrived when they did. But then again, Alexie might have compensated for that too. The mission wasn't over and I needed to stay alive, more than ever now.
"Alexie. He's back."
"We know." Sally said regretfully. She touched my shoulder tenderly. "And he's trying to make your lives as miserable as he can."
"Yeah. And doing a good job of it." I climbed to my feet, legs wobbling some. The pain in my head flashed a little more, blurring my vision. Gingerly, I rubbed my brow, then met Sally's gaze. "We have to get Duo. I'm sure he's going to be Alexie's next target. I'll explain later."
Continued in EPISODE 1, Chapter II