Alarums and Excursions

Chapter 11


Tadah! Despite tons of anime (and some raiding with our WoW guild), here is
Alarums and Excursions


I’m going to kill him.

Back in the passenger seat beside Haan, Heero watched stony-faced as the OZ soldiers raised the boom gates and waved them on.

I’m going to make him tell me what he did with Wing, and then I’m going to kill him.


He’s going to kill me. Well, he’s going to try. It was a surprisingly light-hearted thought, and Haan hid a smirk as he shifted Ryuukossei into gear. It would have been nice to finish the job without being found out... never mind.

If it had to happen, I think I’m glad it happened now. I can at least get a little personal satisfaction out of this, and it’s not like he’s found out everything.

Beside him, Heero finally stirred, speaking in a cold voice without turning to look at him. “You have roughly ten minutes to get us clear and find somewhere sheltered to park before I start demanding answers.”

“Sounds fair,” Haan murmured, smirk escaping his control for a moment. “Surprisingly restrained, too, coming from--”

“Shut up and drive!”

Restraint has its limits, I see.

It took considerably more than ten minutes for them to reach a safe stopping point, far enough away from the OZ roadblocks to be at least minimally secure, but the drive passed in silence -- externally, at least.

=haan will be okay? boy is angry!=

Suppressing the urge to roll his eyes and sigh, Haan surreptitiously patted the steering wheel.

=haan and boy going to fight? i can help.=

Oh boy. Frowning, Haan flicked the console with one finger and the truck’s engine noise hiccupped, grumbling.


A shaded side lane provided the necessary space, regularly used by trucks judging by the tyre and oil marks in the gravel but currently empty; Haan pulled over and unbuckled his seat belt, turning to open the door. “So, ask--”

Heero tackled him out of the cabin and down onto the dusty gravel, following up the bruising impact with two quick hard jabs to his floating ribs and an elbow in the back of the head. Ears ringing, Haan shook off the pain and spat out bloody dirt, shifting to get one arm under him only to have it kicked aside as Heero rolled to his feet.

“You’re going to tell me where the fuck Wing is, and who’s paying you, and what your plan is,” the furious pilot snarled, groping in his pocket for his knife. “Then we’re going to go get Wing back. And then--”

Twisting on the ground, Haan managed one sideways look that told him where Heero’s feet were planted... which meant his head was about there, he estimated. A sharp grin stretched his bleeding lip until it stung.

“’Kossei,” he said, not bothering to raise his voice. “Door.”


=haan is okay?= Ryuukossei’s mental voice was an odd blend of concern and smugness as the door to the sleeping compartment swung closed again, head-sized dent popping back into place with an odd little crinkling noise.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Suppressing a groan, Haan pushed himself up into a sitting position, favouring his right side. He cracked at least two ribs; well, I’ve got time to let them heal a bit. He’ll be out of it for a couple of minutes at least, that’s long enough for them to stabilise. Leaning over carefully, he picked up Heero’s knife from where it had fallen and tucked it away in his own jacket. “There, you got to help after all. Was it fun?”

=kind of fun. too short. maybe haan fight boy again?=


The next mental communication from the spirit in the truck was nearly a giggle, and Haan couldn’t help snickering in return.


Heero woke with a throbbing pain in the back of his head, confused for a moment. He had been in the truck, and they’d stopped at the roadblock, and--


A hard hand on the back of his neck yanked him upright, swinging him around to come up against a sun-warmed wall of metal with a headache-worsening clang.

“Had a nice nap?” Haan’s rough voice purred in his ear, and Heero struck backwards with a snarl. “Ah, no you don’t,” the smuggler went on, and the grip on Heero’s neck shifted to twist his wrists up behind his back. “Where were we? You had questions, that was it. Let’s see. Who’s paying me? Quatre is. What’s my plan? Getting all of you out of OZ’s trap safely. And as for where Wing is...”

“What did you do with it?” Heero hissed, kicking backwards but hitting nothing. “When did you move it?!”

“You saw me hide it,” Haan said cheerfully, hauling the pilot towards the back of the trailer. “I think I did a good job, don’t you?”

“Don’t give me that bullshit! It’s not in the trailer!”

“Not right now, no. ‘Kossei! Switch loads!”

The truck’s suspension groaned as the trailer sank, and Heero could hear the smuggler’s grin.

Now Wing’s in the trailer.”


One side of the trailer door was already open as they came around the corner, and Haan released Heero’s wrists. Before he could take advantage of the opening, a hard shove in the middle of his back sent him forwards into the gap.

The dappled sunlight shining through the leaves above glinted off the giant metal feet just inside.

“I don’t use a hologram,” Haan said from behind him. “And I haven’t modified Ryuukossei’s suspension. When I tell ‘Kossei to switch loads, that’s exactly what he does.”

“How?” Heero whispered eventually, twisting to look back over his shoulder.

Grinning, the smuggler lifted his hands and wiggled his fingers. “Magic.”

* * * * *


--should be successful. In addition to this, the modifications that G has proposed to the power supplies for Deathscythe and Shenlong’s energy weapons--


--further calculation leads me to believe that we can achieve at minimum a 15% increase in--


--and with accompanying adjustments in the blade projection systems, we can expect help me help--


The noise of typing paused, hands trembling over the keyboard; then, slowly, one hand moved up to the Backspace key.

*click* *click* *click* *click* ... *click* *click* ... *click*

Another, longer pause; then the typing resumed smoothly.


--we can expect to gain commensurate increases in their destructive power. There are also improvements to be made in shielding and movement--

* * * * *


Haan rolled his eyes. “So ‘magic’ is a bullshit explanation. It’s the only explanation you’re going to get, though, so I advise you to take it.”

“It’s impossible.”


“You can’t just-- how--” Heero waved his hands in a frustrated gesture, lost for words. “You can’t expect me to believe you’re, what, teleporting Wing elsewhere and teleporting boxes full of fake Ming vases in to replace it! Nobody’s ever achieved teleportation on more than a quantum level, and even that takes ridiculous amounts of power!”

“I’m not teleporting anything anywhere. I just swap the contents of ‘Kossei’s trailer with the contents of... mmm... call it a dimensional pocket.”

“That’s even more bullshit! The energy costs of creating--”

“Oh, shut up!” Groaning, Haan ran his fingers through his messy fringe, readjusting his headwrap. “It doesn’t matter how I do it, okay? Wing is there, I haven’t stolen it, OZ didn’t find it, those are the facts and if you’ll just accept them we can move on.”

“If I don’t know how you do it, I can’t judge whether or not it’s safe!”

“Define ‘safe’.”

“Reliable, of course! Reliably reversible. Not going to damage Wing.”

Haan shrugged. “By those standards? Yeah, it’s safe.”

“So by other standards, it isn’t safe!” Heero burst out, fists clenching again. “You--”

“Get in the damn trailer,” Haan interrupted, glaring at him. “You want to know what happens, fine, you’re getting a demonstration.”

Heero blinked, momentarily taken aback. “I thought you told Trowa--”

“It’s going to be a short demonstration. Get in.”


Heero watched suspiciously as Haan tugged the trailer door closed behind them. Wing’s armoured leg was reassuringly solid at his back, and he reached back surreptitiously to press one hand against it. Having it abruptly not-there and then back again had rattled him, and on some level he hadn’t really believed it was in the trailer until he’d been able to touch it.

“Ryuukossei?” the smuggler said quietly, tilting his head slightly as if listening for a reply. “After I get you to switch loads, count ten seconds and then switch back, okay?” After a slight pause, he nodded and then turned back towards Heero.

“Your truck’s AI is good enough to understand commands phrased that vaguely?” Heero asked, surprised.

“...Yes,” Haan replied after a slight pause, mouth quirking into a smile. “Also, he doesn’t like you very much right now, so don’t get any ideas about jumping me while I sleep tonight.”

Heero scowled, and the smile widened for a moment before Haan’s expression became serious again.

“This isn’t going to be fun,” he said warningly. “You’ll feel slightly better if you hold on to something, and don’t look at it for too long.”

“Don’t look at what?”

“You’ll know. ‘Kossei!” Haan said, raising his voice. “Switch loads!”

And the universe went mad around them.

He was standing... somewhere, Wing’s left leg at his back, Haan standing in front of him with one hand pressed to Wing’s other leg. On all sides, above and below, glowing red lines branched out from pale floating rectangles and sketched out intricate symbols and diagrams, forming a box the same size and shape as the trailer they’d been in up until now. Outside that box...

Impossible colours swirled, forming shapes and angles that made no sense and hurt to look at. He felt that he could see infinite distances, and yet at the same time he knew that there was more than he could see, cloaked from him somehow, hidden and threatening him with the potential for his utter destruction--

“I told you not to look for long,” Haan said, stepping forward to pin him against Wing’s leg. One hand grabbed Heero’s head, forcing him to look away from the screaming insanity around them, and he gasped as reality returned. Haan was real, solid, and somehow just the regular weave in the fabric of his shirt was a miracle of sane logic.

When normality returned, Heero discovered that he was clinging to Haan, hands fisted in the loose fabric of his shirt with a grip so tight it hurt. Faint popping noises told him that a seam had given way and was still unravelling, one stitch at a time. Haan was leaning into him, pressing him against Wing’s leg -- reassuring solidity indeed -- both arms caging him in, forearms flat against the Gundanium armour.

“Tha-- huh-- uh-- that w-was-- that was a lot longer than ten s-seconds,” he said numbly.

“It feels longer than it is,” Haan said quietly, not moving.

“Uh. I ca-- uh-- I can’t let go.” He was shaking, cold and hot at the same time, teeth chattering, and he couldn’t look away from the small patch of cloth in his field of view. There was a slight flaw in the weave, a thread with a thicker spot and a wisp of undyed fibre wound around it, and it was so real!

“Give it a minute.”

“Hhh-- how can you--”

Haan chuckled, a little ruefully, and Heero could feel the vibration in his chest. “I’m used to it.”

“Hhhhh used to it?!”

“As much as anyone can ever be. I should’ve told ‘Kossei five seconds.”

“Ffffff-- ffffuck you.”

Haan chuckled again. “Sorry. Think you can walk? I need to get the loads switched back before an OZ plane flies over and gets a scanner reading.”

Heero didn’t think the smuggler would swap Wing back into that insanity with him still inside the trailer, but the mere thought had him staggering on unsteady legs towards the door, still clinging to Haan’s shirt.

* * * * *

Nataku’s communications panel chimed quietly and Wufei reached out one hand to tap a button, eyes still shut. “Yes?”

< < Wu-man, I am bored out of my freakin’ skull. > >

“You could always meditate,” Wufei suggested, hearing his smile colouring his voice.

< < Noooo, I don’t think so. Remember the last time you tried to teach me how to meditate? > >

“If you’d actually tried instead of talking non-stop--”

Duo snorted. < < I have it on good authority that it’s just not my style. > >

Wufei opened his eyes and stretched, automatically checking displays for anything requiring his attention. There were alarms, of course, but it didn’t do to rely on them. “Did you just want to talk, or were you about to suggest something dangerous and inadvisable?”

< < I was thinking cards, actually, but if I’m allowed to suggest something dangerous and inadvisable-- > >

“You can suggest all you like,” Wufei interrupted, “but we are not going scouting--”

< < Spoilsport! > >

“--and I fail to see how we can play cards without both of us being in the one Gundam, which is also inadvisable given our current security situation.”

< < Well, yeah! Electronic cards. > >

Wufei twisted to look at the communications panel, one eyebrow lifting. “...Do you mean to tell me you actually got Professor G to install card games on Deathscythe’s processor?”

< < Hell no. > >


< < I programmed them in myself. > >


< < Dude, it’s not like I downloaded Solitaire off the internet and installed it viruses and all! They run in their own little virtual drive and everything. > >

“...I’m horrified, but somehow not surprised,” Wufei said weakly, one hand over his eyes.

< < Seriously, Wu, you know I wouldn’t do anything that would negatively affect ’Scythe. > >

“Oh, yes,” the L5 pilot agreed, not moving his hand. “It’s just that only you would consider installing card games on your Gundam’s computers at all.”

< < I gather I shouldn’t tell you about the private World of Warcraft server, then. > >

“The what?!” Back to staring incredulously at the speaker.

Duo’s wide grin was just as audible as Wufei’s smile had been. < < World of Warcraft. I upgraded the graphics, and because I’m running the whole thing on ‘Scythe’s processors I don’t need to risk discovery by going online. > >

“You must be joking.”

< < Hang on a sec. > > There were a few clicks and typing noises, and then the communications board chimed again. < < There you go. Now tell me I’m joking. > >

Wufei eyed the file folder that had just popped up on his screen with a strange combination of wariness and curiosity. “Duo... I am not going to install that in Nataku.”

< < Before you delete it, Wu, just tell me one thing: has Nataku’s processor usage ever hit levels where splitting off a one-terabyte virtual drive would cause problems? > >

“A-- really? That’s all it needs?” Wufei frowned, opening the file information and scanning it.

< < Less, really, but giving it one terabyte maxes out the frame rate. This thing was written in the twentieth century, Wu, they were working with the electronic equivalents of rocks and pointy sticks! The first few versions of it were less than thirty meg. > >

“...Huh,” Wufei muttered under his breath, opening the ‘readme’ text file.

< < C’mon, > > Duo wheedled. < < If you give it a try, a real try, and don’t like it, I promise to never ask you to play it again. And if you do like it, we can play together and I won’t be bored and wanting to go do something risky, will I? > >

“What are your criteria for a ‘real try’?” Wufei asked suspiciously.

< < Two hours of play and getting a character to at least level fifteen. > >

“That sounds... reasonable, I suppose,” he admitted.

< < Five credits says you end up playing a paladin. > >


Am I not enough of a game partner to amuse you any more?

“Not if you’re going to keep winning every single battleground and arena match we set up,” Duo muttered, muting his com.

I can’t help it if my PvP reflexes are better than yours.

“You’ve got no lag!”

On the private server, neither do you--



* * * * *

“There’s nowhere else convenient to stop on this stretch of the road, so unless you want to drive for another three hours we’ll be spending the night here,” Haan announced, slowing down as they approached a rest stop. It was nothing more than a gravelled area with room to park, a toilet block, one lonely-looking picnic table, an overflowing rubbish bin, and a large illuminated sign that read “STOP - REVIVE - SURVIVE”. The moths fluttering around the sign in the gathering dusk were the only sign of life.

Heero blinked, realising that Haan was waiting for an answer, and shrugged. “Here is fine.”

They’d been travelling in near silence since Haan’s demonstration. At first, Heero had been struggling to control full-body shivers and chills, unwilling to speak (and stutter), and apart from quietly asking if he was feeling better after the visible tremors faded Haan seemed happy to just drive. Even after the shakes had faded, Heero had stayed silent, staring blankly through the windscreen and biting at his bottom lip.

It’s in-- impossible, he’d told himself, hastily substituting another word for ‘insane’. It can’t be done. You can’t just take something that masses as much as a Gundam and, and shove it into some sort of metaphysical pocket!

And yet.

It doesn’t make sense! Even if you could do it, it would take... something, preparation, generators, equipment, whatever, more than a transport trailer on the side of the road!

And yet, for those ten seconds -- ten seconds that had felt more like ten minutes -- he had been somewhere that was definitely not the inside of a trailer.

It could be faked. Drugs. Sonics. He even calls it a ‘trick’.

...But an OZ soldier had walked right through where Wing should have been. Wing had been gone, and then back again.

He couldn’t have moved Wing in and out of the trailer by any sort of conventional means. Not in that amount of time, not without heavy lifting gear, not with me there, not... he just couldn’t. But he did.

Unbidden, the memory of Haan’s grin returned. ”Magic.”

It’s impossible!

Now, Heero shook himself out of his thoughts as Haan pulled into the rest area, parking neatly at the edge of the gravel. “You know where the sleeping cabin is,” the smuggler said easily, a faint smile twitching at the corner of his lips for a moment. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” And he was gone, dropping easily to the ground and flicking the door shut behind him; the sound of another door opening and shutting, then footsteps crunching away told Heero that he was heading for the toilet block.

Leaving Heero alone in the truck.

...He didn’t lock anything. He’s expecting me to open and close doors, move around and so on. So whatever security systems he has... they have to be off.

The glove compartment held nothing but neatly stacked maps and music discs, mostly home-burned collections of the sort of ancient pre-Colony stuff Duo liked. Not useful. Of course, he could have practically anything hidden on those discs as well as the music, but I can’t check them without my laptop. What else? Some sort of lock on the ignition would make sense--

Ducking down against the seat, Heero peered up underneath the dashboard. A moment’s work with the screwdriver attachment on his knife -- returned by Haan after his hands had stopped shaking -- got an access panel open, and he reached up to trace the ignition wiring. Huh. I don’t see anything extra. Unless he’s spliced something into the electronics further along the--



Snatching his hand back, Heero resisted the urge to stuff abused fingertips in his mouth. Where did that come from?! The wires aren’t frayed and there’s nothing added that I can see, there shouldn’t be anything there that can shock me. Frowning, he started to reach forwards again, more carefully this time.

The seat underneath him vibrated as something rumbled, almost a growl, echoing through the truck’s frame from the engine compartment.

...The truck has an AI.

”--he doesn’t like you very much right now--”

Haan doesn’t need to leave the security systems on if the AI can control them. Stupid. Stupid mistake! Moving slowly, Heero latched the access panel back into place and sat up, wondering for a moment if he was going to find he was locked in until Haan came back. The door opened, though, and he walked back to the sleeping cabin, swearing at himself.


=nosey boy.=

Drying off after a quick wash in the handbasin, Haan groaned quietly. “What’s he done now?”

=poking at wires.= The next thought-image carried a feeling of bared fangs. =bit!=

“Serves him right,” Haan muttered. “Did he stop?”

=yes. in cabin. changing.=

“Good.” Leaning back on the cold concrete wall, he sighed, rubbing his forehead. “I think-- yeah, there isn’t anything he can actually reach that he shouldn’t see.” Of course, he could still get suspicious about not finding odd tech hidden away, but-- ahh, fuck it. I’m too tired for this shit. “Bite him again if he pokes at your wires, but otherwise leave him alone, okay?”


And now ‘Kossei is hoping Heero will poke at more wires so he can get all chompy at him. At least one of us is having fun.

Pushing away from the wall, Haan inspected himself in the mirror, twisting to see the patch of un-tattooed skin over his ribs. A faint, mottled yellow bruise was all that was left to show he’d been injured earlier in the day, visibly fading as he watched. Good. After Quatre nearly gave me a heart attack by noticing blood that I didn’t have a cut left to explain, I don’t need another damn observant Gundam pilot spotting an injury that then vanishes. Especially not this damn observant Gundam pilot.


Dressed in tank top and loose shorts (spandex might be ideal for wearing in his Gundam, but not for sleeping in), Heero finished stuffing the day’s clothes into his duffel and paused, one hand still on the down vest Haan had given him to wear. He’s going to want this back, I shouldn’t pack it. Duo called these things ‘Jedi Jackets’, they’re what Haan uses to pull off his other ‘trick’--

He froze, eyes narrowing in thought.

Once he comes back, the truck -- the AI, the security system, whatever -- will let him know I was prying into its systems, and he’ll make sure I don’t get another chance. I’m not going to find out how he does the trailer swap. This one, though, whatever he uses to do the distraction trick is right here--

Moving quickly, he yanked the vest back out of the duffel bag and spread it out on the floor, feeling for hidden wires or any sort of extra bulk tucked away in the padding. Nothing there, nothing there-- wait. What’s that?

Something rustled as he passed his hands over the back of the vest, a sound like thin paper crumpling. Pressing hard, he could barely feel the edges of something flexible, rectangular, a little longer and narrower than his hand. The panel of slick artificial fabric that made up the lining for the back was one uninterrupted piece, showing no signs of having been cut or patched to insert whatever-it-was, and he pulled the vest completely inside-out to check the seams. Small, neat hand stitches showed where a section of the bottom hem had been unpicked, then re-sewn shut.

Heero flicked his knife open and cut the stitches without a second thought, dropping it to the floor as his hand dove into the opening to pull out--

--a piece of paper?!

It was yellowish, stiffer than he would have expected paper that thin to be, and slightly translucent. One side was blank; the other was covered in black squiggles, small ones around the edges surrounding a bolder design that ran down the centre and then curled into a loop around an oval reddish-brown blob. There was a faint scent, something familiar, and Heero frowned, sniffing cautiously as he tried to place it. Not something I’ve smelled often. I think... Wufei’s calligraphy ink smells a bit like this?

Another, deeper sniff brought a metallic tang with it, and he pulled back, peering at the reddish blotch. Blood?

On closer inspection, the blob resolved into delicate lines and whorls -- a fingerprint, or a thumbprint judging by the size, stamped onto the paper rectangle in somebody’s blood. Haan’s? Why the hell would he draw a bunch of squiggles on a piece of paper, thumbprint it with blood, and hide it in the lining of a ‘Jedi jacket’?

Broad grin showing sharp teeth. ”Magic.”

This just gets crazier by the minute. There’s nothing else there, this has to be what he’s using to pull off the trick! There must be more to it than I can see! Heero held it up to the light, squinting, looking for embedded wires, circuitry, anything. ...Nothing. I don’t see fibres or a watermark, either, maybe it’s not paper after all? Could something be hidden by the ink?

Snatching up the knife again, he slapped the papery rectangle to the floor and scraped the blade roughly across its decorated side, scratching up flakes of ink and ragged bits of the surface beneath until it reached the thumbprint. One more yellowish shred curled up under the blade, lifting and breaking the first few lines of dried blood, and the entire design burst into white flames under Heero’s hands.

Shit!” He threw himself backwards, knife clattering across the floor as he slammed into the cabinets underneath the folded-up bed, setting plates and latches rattling. The combined sound almost covered the noise of the door to the sleeping cabin opening, letting in a cool breeze, the scent of dust and oil... and Haan, who stood there holding a towel-wrapped bundle, looking at the gutted vest and sprawled pilot with a rather jaded expression.

“Lovely,” he said eventually, reaching in to pick up the papery rectangle from the floor. It was unmarked except for the scraped line left by Heero’s knife, as if it had never been touched by ink or blood; he looked at it, rubbing it between his fingers, then sighed and crumpled it in his hand. “Well, that’s useless now. You do realise I’m going to have to make a new one before I can get Duo and your other friend out, don’t you?”

“Um.” Heero swallowed. “Sorry?”

Haan snorted, flicking the balled-up scrap at him. “Tell them that.”

End 'Alarums and Excursions'
Chapter 11


Chapter 12

Gundam Wing

















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