Tadah! Despite tons of anime (and some raiding with our WoW guild), here is
I’m going to kill
Back in the passenger seat beside Haan, Heero watched
stony-faced as the OZ soldiers raised the boom gates and waved them
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
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
“Sounds fair,” Haan murmured, smirk escaping his control for a
moment. “Surprisingly restrained, too, coming from--”
“Shut up and
Restraint has its limits, I see.
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,
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
“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
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
“’Kossei,” he said, not bothering to raise his voice.
=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
“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
“Not right now, no. ‘Kossei! Switch loads!”
suspension groaned as the trailer sank, and Heero could hear the
“Now Wing’s in the
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
“How?” Heero whispered eventually, twisting to look back over his
Grinning, the smuggler lifted his hands and wiggled his
* * * * *
be successful. In addition to this, the modifications that G has proposed to the
power supplies for Deathscythe and Shenlong’s energy
leads me to believe that we can achieve at minimum a 15% increase
--and with accompanying adjustments in
the blade projection systems, we can expect help me
The noise of typing paused, hands trembling
over the keyboard; then, slowly, one hand moved up to the Backspace
*click* *click* *click* *click* ... *click* *click* ...
Another, longer pause; then the typing resumed
--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.”
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.”
don’t know how you do it, I can’t judge whether or not it’s
“Reliable, of course! Reliably reversible.
Not going to damage Wing.”
Haan shrugged. “By those standards? Yeah, it’s
“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.
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
“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,
“...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
“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
“Don’t look at what?”
“You’ll know. ‘Kossei!” Haan said,
raising his voice. “Switch loads!”
And the universe went mad around
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
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
“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.
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
“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
Haan chuckled, a little ruefully, and Heero could feel the
vibration in his chest. “I’m used to it.”
“Hhhhh used to
“As much as anyone can ever be. I should’ve told ‘Kossei five
“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.
< < 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. > >
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
< < 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
< < 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
< < 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. > >
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
< < 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
< < 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
< < Two hours of play and getting a character to at
least level fifteen. > >
“That sounds... reasonable, I suppose,” he
< < Five credits says you end up playing a paladin. >
Am I not enough of a game partner to amuse you
“Not if you’re going to keep winning every single
battleground and arena match we set up,” Duo muttered, muting his
I can’t help it if my PvP reflexes are better than
“You’ve got no lag!”
On the private server, neither
* * * *
“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.
realising that Haan was waiting for an answer, and shrugged. “Here is
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.
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
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
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.
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.
memory of Haan’s grin returned. ”Magic.”
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
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.
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--
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
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
”--he doesn’t like you very much right
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
Drying off after a
quick wash in the handbasin, Haan groaned quietly. “What’s he done
=poking at wires.= The next thought-image carried a feeling
of bared fangs. =bit!=
“Serves him right,” Haan muttered. “Did he
=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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Another, deeper sniff brought a metallic tang with it, and he
pulled back, peering at the reddish blotch. Blood?
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.
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
“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
“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?”
Heero swallowed. “Sorry?”
Haan snorted, flicking the balled-up scrap at
him. “Tell them that.”