"... Heero and Une are safely aboard Barge and coordinating with the commander there. We hacked Romafeller communications nets and found they're planning to activate the Libra, even though it's not finished or battle-ready," Zechs said on-screen, leaning back in his chair.
"And their plan is?" Quatre asked tersely, sharing a glance with Duo and Wufei. The long-haired teen rolled his eyes and snorted.
"Honestly, Q, what do you think? They're planning a ball?" he replied sarcastically. "Obviously, they're planning to attack, somewhere."
The blond lightly slapped his friend on the back of the head. "Yes, Duo, we guessed that. The question is where... or when..."
Duo turned to Quatre, ready to snap back when Treize leaned into view on the screen.
"Gentlemen! Would you like to hear the rest of our information, or shall I have Howard drag you to your rooms and ground you for acting like children in a playground fight?"
Quatre and Duo glared at each other one last time, then turned their attention back to the two older men on the screen.
Beside the sniping duo, Wufei sighed at his lovers. "They've been like this for the last day or so. Howard and I are ready to smack their heads together. Anyway, the rest of the information?"
"The Libra will send a number of suits and dolls to each colony, while the bulk of their forces head for Barge," the ex-general continued calmly. As Duo paled and opened his mouth, Treize raised a hand and shook his head. "No, Duo, don't panic. We've already warned Heero and Une, and they are going to evacuate the ship and retreat to the moonbase. That, too, appears to be in 'our' hands. Heero _did_... ah, offer to hold off the enemy, but Walker talked him out of it..."
Duo stared at Treize for a long moment, then nodded.
"Okay," he said, visibly relaxing slightly. "So, what are your plans for us?"
Treize turned his attention to Howard, sitting behind the three teens.
"Howard, how soon can you get them out?"
The Sweeper boss rubbed his chin. "Well, I sent Marie and her crew out to The Wizard last night. The Wizard is... well, I'd guess you'd call it kinda like a Q-ship, sorta. She's got a lot of defensive armament. We use her and her two sisters outside patrolled space..." He winced as he watched Treize's face darken. "Look! It's the safest place I could think to put her!"
"You sent my daughter to a FIGHTING SHIP?" Treize exploded, lunging forward as if he could get through the screen. "How could-"
Zechs grabbed his lover's arm and pulled him back. Wufei sighed again and rubbed a hand over his face.
"We all agreed it was the safest place for her," he said calmly, but the controlled tone of his voice indicated his annoyance with his lover. "They're outside the sphere of Romafeller's influence, and the enemy won't be bothered to send forces out that far for a couple of salvage vessels-"
"But," the ginger-haired man interrupted, "a fighting ship? How can that be safe for her?"
"Treize! Get a grip!" Duo shouted back. "She's not a fighting ship! She's a salvage and transport vessel, with souped up engines, electronic jamming devices, missile decoy systems... Hell! I even sent the cloak plans with Gio! She just has some defensive weaponry, that's all! Jesus! Do you really think I'd let them send the Cricket somewhere she'd be in danger? Do you think Wufei or Quatre or Howard would?!"
Duo's anger at the perceived insult was a tangible thing, and Quatre felt the braided teen's anger become his own. His face hardened and his eyes became like bits of ice.
"Since you obviously don't trust us or our judgement," he said coldly, "perhaps this alliance was a mistake after all..."
Zechs inhaled sharply, and there was a long moment of silence as the two parties stared at each other through the screen.
"No, this isn't about trust," Howard said finally, putting his hand on Quatre's shoulder. "Think about it... if it were one of your sisters in Marie's place, and you in Treize's..."
Quatre stared through the monitor, then shook himself slightly.
"I apologise, Treize," he murmured, bowing his head slightly. "That was uncalled for. You have every right to be concerned about the welfare of your daughter..."
"No, Quatre... I should be the one to apologise," the older man replied. "I know none of you would ever take a chance with her life... I... I just never knew she existed... and now..."
Quatre felt Duo's anger dissipate, and let go of the rest of his own to smile slightly at Treize.
"And now your mind thinks you have to make up for five years of not worrying about her," Duo piped up, smirking. "Ya know, I pity poor Marie when she hits her teens... Breathe Zechs! You're turning blue!"
Zechs exhaled the breath he forgot he was holding and dropped his head to the console in front of him.
"I can't take this," he nearly whimpered. "I've already had one heart attack... are you people trying to kill me with another?"
Wufei stared at his fellow pilot and best friend, then shook his head at the braided teen. "And they say women are the ones with mood swings..."
Duo arched an eyebrow at the Chinese pilot.
"Chang," he purred, "are you impugning my masculinity?"
"So, now that this misunderstanding is behind us," Quatre said quickly, jumping in before Wufei could reply, "what are your plans for us, Treize?"
"Right. I'll have them on the sub tomorrow, early," Howard confirmed. "We should be able to launch at..." he scanned the information on the computer screen next to him, "at 12:32 pm. Wufei and Quatre should arrive at the moonbase roughly 8 hours later. Duo, having the longer trip out into no man's land, should reach you about 15 hours after launch. We're also sending a couple of technicians with him to give Kevin a hand."
"I'm sure he'll appreciate that," Treize said, nodding. "We've been afraid we're overworking him."
"Of course, I'll be expecting a proper welcome, Treize," Duo said with a grin. "You know, a band, streamers, cake... some fireworks would be nice -"
"Perhaps you have a small, empty room to lock him in," Wufei cut in, smacking the other teen in the back of the head.
On-screen, Treize smiled as Zechs chuckled.
"I think we can at least provide a few fireworks, Duo," the ginger-haired man said. "Especially if you don't mind helping to set them off."
"Mmmm... my favourite kind," Duo replied, grin widening.
"Good, then we're set," Zechs said with a nod. "Wufei, Quatre... good luck and stay safe. We'll see you soon, Duo."
"Yup! You will! And hey -" Duo rose to his feet and pulled Quatre up beside him. "You guys need some time with Wu-babe. I'll just take these guys with me and give you three some privacy, 'k? Bye for now!" He rushed out the door, the blond in tow, and Howard rose to follow.
"Stay safe," the Sweeper boss ordered, then stepped out, closing the door firmly behind himself.
Wufei waited a moment, then reached out to touch the video screen in front of him.
"Gods, I miss you two..."
Marianne stumbled backwards, blinded by the pain of her gunshot wound. The shot was ringing loud in her ears - she clutched at her bloody shoulder, furiously trying to remain conscious. Someone had to have heard the shot. Someone would come...
Gates kicked the door closed and stalked closer. "I should have known! What else would a cute, little thing like you be doing in such an old fool's household..." He shoved her roughly, and she fell backwards on the bed, screaming again as he pinned her down with his own body.
She continued to struggle madly, near-hysteria giving her a strength she never would have believed. As she snaked a hand free and managed to land a punch on his jaw, Gates saw red. He punched her hard in her wounded shoulder.
Marianne's world went white with pain, and she shrank back, barely feeling it anymore as the enraged man slapped her for good measure. Consciousness was fading fast...
"Get off her, you bastard!" She didn't even hear the door opening, but she heard someone yelling and felt it as Gates' body was roughly hauled off of her and tossed again a wall. Gentle arms cradled and lifted her, and she looked up through her tears to see a familiar face. Bryan, the butler.
He smiled and gently brushed her hair back from her face. "It's alright- you're okay. Christ, what did that monster do to you..."
She found her voice, shaky and breathless though it was. "He sh-shot me when I tried to g-get away... and he was gonna..."
"Hush," he soothed her gently. "He won't touch you again, I promise. You're going to be fine..."
She struggled against him, though, trying to get free. "No! I have to leave here! I have to go..."
"Not until we get that shoulder looked at," he commanded, pressing her back onto her bloodstained bed. "I'll go call the paramedics..."
He stopped and looked at her.
Marianne forced herself to a sitting position, grimacing as the ache in her shoulder redoubled. "He's an aristocrat, and you know how the law handles them. He'll make some wild claim, like I was spying on him, or something, and they will believe him over me, despite you as a witness! He'll get us both killed! I've got to get out of here before he wakes up, and you should, too."
Bryan, grimaced. "They couldn't possibly..."
"Yes, they can, and you know it," she said resolutely. "Now are you going to help me, or not?"
He sighed heavily. "I... Jesus, Marianne. Fine. Just... stay there while I get something to clean you up with." He turned to leave.
"Wait! What about him?" Marianne asked, pointing to the crumbled form of her attacker.
Bryan grinned. "Oh, I wouldn't worry about him. He's had that coming for a long time, and I might have been a little... over enthusiastic in subduing him."
As he left, Marianne quickly stripped off her jacket and ripped off the shoulder holster and gun, stowing them in her bag. That much being done, she collapsed back onto the bed with a grimace and a whimper. I will not pass out... I will not pass out... I will not...
Duke Dermail smiled coldly as he swept into his office suite at Romafeller Headquarters. There was a man sitting in a chair in front of his desk; from the amount of sherry left in the man's glass, he'd been there for a while. "Is the General Assembly ready yet?"
The man turned to look at him; his olive complexion was lit with excitement. "Oh, Picavet and Weyridge think they have been cautious, but they could not hide their objective. Sir, are you sure..."
"Of course I am, dear boy," Dermail replied, smoothing his hair with a practised gesture. "What I need to know now is... who will be on our side?"
The man shook his head. "Hard to tell, sir. McKellar and Zukov, naturally, can't be counted on. Damned liberals, the lot of them. Belton could be... persuaded, though, and I believe Gowrey will do anything you ask if it means wiping the smug look off Picavet's face. I don't think you can get a majority, sir. I think we should wait."
"Nonsense!" Dermail poured himself a glass of sherry and sipped it delicately. "All our assets are finally in place. If our dear colleagues are not yet ready for the future to begin, well... We have alternate means of persuasion at our disposal."
Dermail shot his companion a dark look. "We're not having second thoughts this close to victory, are we?"
The man shook his head vigorously. "No, sir!"
"Good." Dermail sighed as he sat behind the big desk. "In that case, we wait here. It is almost time, my friend. A great day for us all, I assure you. Now if you don't mind, I have a vidcall to make."
It actually took the newly-named Dawn Yuy a moment or two before she remembered her new name. She slowed from her run and turned, jogging in place, to find Abdul rushing to catch her.
She smiled as he came closer. "Good morning, Abdul!"
He smiled as well, ashamed to find that he was winded from his run while she didn't seem affected at all. "A five mile run every morning?"
She shrugged, and he quickly decided to let it slide. "Rashid asked me to find you and bring you to his office. He's heard from Master Quatre. He didn't give me any details, but something tells me we will be given orders and be moving out shortly."
Her smile grew brittle. "I'm not being left behind."
He stepped closer, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Miss Yuy, Damn, even if he wanted to leave you behind, something tells me Rashid wouldn't dare suggest it to Master Heero's sister. If you're capable of even half what he is..."
Her smile returned ever so slightly. "Glad to hear it. Race you back?"
His eyes widened. "What? But I..."
She took off running, her laugh trailing behind her. Growling slightly to himself, Abdul turned to follow, silently praying to Allah not to let him lose by too humiliating a margin.
Dorothy jumped as her personal communicator went off. Excusing herself from her class, she waited until she was in the hallway before pulling the device from her bag - she paled as she recognised the number, but answered immediately, plastering a smile on her face. "Grandfather! Nice to hear from you!"
His return smile was tense, missing the normal twinkle he usually had when speaking to her. "Dorothy. You should be ready to leave Sank on a moment's notice."
Oh, God. I thought we would have more time than this... "Of course, as you wish," she replied, cautiously speaking in as low a voice as she could. "I assume you will contact me with ample time to get out and away from danger?"
"I will try, my girl, but with how busy I am likely to be in the next few days, I may not have the chance. You are a smart girl - I'm sure you will manage."
Ice took the place of the nerves in her body. "Grandfather..."
He suddenly smiled at her. "I want you to stay close to the Princess; her guard will no doubt try and get her to freedom. You will be safe if you stay close to her, and it will make it easier for me to keep track of her with you at her side. Have I made myself clear?"
"Do you expect me to warn her, then?" Dorothy asked, raising one eyebrow.
He shook his head. "Just make sure you keep this communicator with you at all times. Be careful, dear girl!"
"You, too, Grandfather." His image winked out.
Dorothy quickly made sure the device was no longer transmitting before she took off down the hallway at a full run. She had to find Noin, someone...
Pargan caught her gently as she came flying around a corner towards a staircase, steadying her before she could take a plunge down the stairs. "Miss Dorothy! Are you alright, child?"
She stared at the old man, trying to reign in her panic. "Pargan, I... I need to find Miss Noin immediately. I have urgent news."
He nodded resolutely. "She is in the hangar with Captain Wilde and the other pilots, working tactics, I believe. I can take you to her."
"... you hear me? Marianne! That's it, slowly.. open your eyes for me..."
Marianne groaned as she became aware of her surroundings again. It hurt - she really hurt, and she felt so cold...
She opened her eyes to find the butler and cook leaning over her, concerned looks on their faces. "Hi," she managed to croak.
Bryan patted her hand gently. "You just remain still. We've called a doctor and he should be here shortly..."
"No!" She tried to push up off the bed, grimacing at the pain and her own weakness as her vision swam. "You don't understand! I need to go..." They were pushing her back down, and she couldn't fight them off.
"Just try and remain calm," the cook told her, brushing her hair back from her face. "You'll be just fine, dear..."
"Where's Gates?" she managed to ask.
"Oh, don't worry about him, dear, we took him into another room..."
Fear twisted in her gut. They were stalling her, weren't they? She no longer had a choice - she needed to get out of there, and she needed to go now. Knowing she would pay for it later, she groaned and started coughing, faking hyperventilation and fighting against the pain in her shoulder as she moved.
Bryan jumped to his feet. "We've got to get her calmed down..."
Mary, the cook, no longer sounded calm as she barked. "Go and get some water and more blankets. I don't care who that man is, I'm not letting her go through the pain..."
Gates is awake. Shit! As Bryan ran from the room, Marianne doubled over, using the movement to mask her good hand slipping into her jacket - her gun was gone. She would have to do it the old-fashioned way.
Gritting her teeth, she uncoiled as quickly as she could, her good arm coming around and striking the older woman hard in the chest. Unprepared, Mary flew backwards and slammed into the chest of drawers, hitting her head with a loud crack.
Marianne didn't bother to check on her condition - she knew she didn't have the time. Swearing under her breath, she found her bag and threw the strap over her good shoulder, taking only a short moment to find and pull her switchblade from the front pocket.
Clutching at the wall as she got her feet steady under her, she made her way to the window. There would be people posted in the hallways, she was certain, but the gardens were sufficiently shaded that she'd at least have a small chance of slipping out.
And then what? She allowed herself to fall into the bushes and lay in their shade, panting, but forcing herself to move. She didn't have the time to feel pain.
One thing was certain. If she survived this mess, she was retiring!
Marcel Picavet couldn't help the expression of disgust on his face as the doors opened and Dermail strolled into the General Assembly, fashionably late and utterly full of himself.
Dermail strode to his seat and loudly proclaimed, "My apologies for my tardiness, Mister Speaker. I had a... family engagement that could not be avoided."
The Speaker was an older fellow with glaring, shrewd eyes. "I see you have finally deigned to grace us with your presence, Dermail. Please take your seat. You have disrupted this assembly enough."
Remaining on his feet, Dermail glared back. "Sir, I had only meant to apologise..."
"And it is noted. Be seated." Dermail flushed with anger, but sat, arms crossed over his chest.
Picavet shot a look across the room to Weyridge; the other man was looking in his direction, as well, eyes flashing a sign of danger. He nodded back - Demail was an expert in parliamentary policy. This slip in manners was inexcusable, and Dermail knew it...
Zukov leaned over from his spot. "Marcel..."
"Not yet." His eyes scanned the room, expression blank as yet another delegate rose to address the Assembly. Une, what more do you know? Where are you, now?
All heads turned as Dermail stood again, blatantly disrespecting the other delegate, who had been in the middle of his speech. The man smiled slyly. "Must we truly sit through all this... useless banter? I feel we are missing our collective calling in devoting our attention to such mundane matters as these."
"Duke Dermail!" The Speaker glared daggers across the silent room. "You will sit down and mind yourself, sir, or you will be excused from our session! Have I made myself clear?"
To the surprise of many, Dermail simply laughed. "Ah, Julius, I grow tired of this nonsense. I regret to inform you that you are no longer needed here. I must ask you to resign your post and step down."
Everyone began talking at once, and Picavet stood, unobtrusively trying to make his way to Dermail.
Julius Lord Robinson, Speaker of the Assembly, trembled with anger. "I am tired of your insolence and disrespect, Dermail. You have gone too far."
"I have not yet begun to overstep my bounds, Julius." Dermail rose quickly, pulling a handgun from inside his jacket and aiming across the room before anyone could react.
What happened next was such a blur of motion that most who saw it would never truly be certain what they saw. The gun in Dermail's hand went off, but a body knocked into Dermail's arm just as he pulled the trigger, knocking off his aim so the shot went wide. Guards were flooding into the room as Picavet knocked the gun away but froze as another gun was cocked and pointed at his temple at point blank range.
Weyridge rose from his seat, fists clenched.
"Why am I not surprised, Marcel?" Dermail sneered, staring down at the Frenchman. Picavet could only glare up at Dermail and his apparent lackey - that spineless ape, Gutierrez.
"Why am I not surprised, Gutierrez. It would be too much to suppose you could think for yourself, wouldn't it?" Picavet spat.
Eyes glinting cruelly, Gutierrez pistol-whipped the Frenchman, watching with satisfied eyes as he collapsed to the ground.
"Guards, seize those..."
Dermail laughed again and once again took aim and shot. The other delegates stared in shock as the Speaker went down, the force of the shot knocking him from his feet. Belatedly, they realised that the guards all seemed to have their guns trained on the rest of the Assembly, not on Dermail or his compatriot.
The Duke strode from his spot, calling over his shoulder, "Gutierrez, keep watch on Weyridge as well, won't you?"
As he reached the floor of the Assembly, he turned to face his former comrades with an utterly smug look on his face. "Gentlemen, let's talk business, shall we?"
Gundam Wing II
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