"Marcos! Dammit, Marcos, answer me! Barge security force, do you read me?! Dammit, Heero! Heero, can you hear me?!"
Duo was certain he felt his heart stop beating as he listened to Quatre yelling frantically over the comm. system. He felt cold all over, and he shut his eyes, not caring about the enemies that surrounded him. Mechanically evading enemy fire, he punched in the direct link to the Buddy and prayed. "Heero Yuy, answer me. If you can hear my voice, answer me."
He flipped to the Sweepers distress channel. "Shuttle Buddy - answer me!"
Empty static was all he could hear, and he shuddered, feeling the blood draining from his face. "Heero..."
As Deathscythe took a hard hit, he seemed to collapse in on himself. It just wasn't possible! Heero had to be alive! He had to be - maybe he was knocked out or too busy to answer, but he couldn't be...
"Dead. Just like everyone else," he whispered.
Deathscythe was rocked with another hit, and he screamed as he flailed and struck his head against the consoles, regardless of the confining safety harness. He was bleeding from several wounds by now, but he just felt... cold. And empty. Duo's breath hitched in his chest, and he felt tears coming, streaking silently as he stared at nothing. "Heero..."
His radio crackled, and Captain Wilde's voice came through, worried. "Duo? Duo, you have to hang in there! I'm sure there's something we don't know..."
"Noin here - we've got some incoming..."
Duo's eyes opened again, and he felt his pain and anger igniting in his chest. It was their fault - those OZ bastards who kept him away from Heero! "I'll take care of it. I'll take care of them all!"
"DUO!" Noin yelled. "Duo, you need to listen to me..."
"I'M DONE LISTENING!" he bellowed, striking out simultaneously at the swarm of enemy suits foolish enough to come within his strike range. "If I'd done what I knew I had to do, I'd be there with him, he'd be... God dammit, he'd be..."
He hit his thrusters and brutally smashed the scythe's handle through an attacking Aries before snatching away its pulse rifle and watching it blow to pieces with dead, emotionless eyes. "I should have been with him. Don't you dare talk to me! Get your fucking princess out of there now if you want to live, and stay the hell out of my way."
He didn't wait for an answer. Blasting free of the surrounding suits, he attacked without a sound and without mercy.
Quatre reached out with his heart for any feeling of his Japanese friend. He momentarily felt the loss of the men on the Barge, but he felt nothing from Heero; not loss, pain... nothing. He should have felt something if Heero were gone...
The Assembly's shouting grabbed his attention. The blond's anger and frustration grew. Good men had died for these people and they still denied what was staring them in the faces. They still refused to stand for themselves and protect their people. All they did was...
"Enough!" Quatre snarled, glaring into his view screen as he re-linked into the Assembly visually. "Hundreds of men just died trying to keep Romafeller's forces from attacking the colonies and all you can do is yell about the peace and security 'promised to you'? More may die defending the colonies themselves, yet you refuse to see what is going on?" he continued into the sudden silence. "Are you stupid as well as blind? This was Romafeller's plan all along! Lull the simple colonists with peace, remove any opposition, then move in and take control, bleeding the colonies dry!"
A quiet murmur began as he paused to try and calm himself. Suddenly, the representative from L1 stood, sweeping his gaze across the rest of the members.
"Surely you don't believe this nonsense?" he blurted out. "It's just a ploy -"
"A ploy?" Quatre growled, interrupting the man. "At this moment, each colony has squadrons of Romafeller suits moving into position to attack. At this moment, Sanc, one of the last remaining sovereign countries on Earth is being attacked. An unprovoked attack on a pacifist country... is this the action of someone promising peace and security? How many more must die before you see?"
"My son," Kahlid started, but Quatre shook his head.
"No, father," he said, sighing. "Regardless of your beliefs or those of the other members, we will defend the colonies. I beg of you all, however, at least give them warning. Then, if we fail, perhaps they will have a chance to save themselves."
Quatre cut the connection abruptly, bowing his head.
"Allah keep them," he murmured with a sigh, then opened a channel to the group with him. "All right, gentlemen, our ETA is thirty minutes. When we arrive break into a defensive perimeter and prepare to repel the attack."
"Acknowledged," a voice replied tersely, and the blond closed the connection.
"Now, one more try," he muttered, reaching out with his mind and heart. "Heero, please be all -"
A smile blossomed on his face as a tingle of warmth touched him.
"Thank Allah! Heero, you made it."
~ * ~
"[INSERT NASTY, FLUENT JAPANESE CURSING HERE AND LET IT GO AS LONG AS YOU WANT]..."
Heero Yuy ignored several alarms going off at once as he wrested with the controls of Sweeper shuttle 'Buddy.' The shockwaves from the exploding Barge had bashed him hard against his command consoles; there was blood trickling into his eyes and a ringing in his head. And what was worse - he had no idea where Une was or if she was strapped in when the blast hit.
I hope everyone else is okay - they must be panicking about now. I'm so, so sorry I can't call you and let you know...
He had to hand it to the Sweepers, though - the Buddy was holding up, and her cloaking system was still working. Praise Shinigami for small miracles.
He banked hard right, trying to avoid what looked to be a part of the space station's main cannon, still sparking as though it might explode, surrounded by the dark emptiness of space, taking out one last enemy in a final blaze of glory. Cursing and dodging debris, he knew he was fighting to remain conscious, and if he lost...
"Une! Une, dammit, I need you in here!" He couldn't even use his shirt to staunch the bleeding that - he could feel the burn of it now - was oozing from a cut above his left eye. He was still in his flight suit. "Une!"
"I'm here..." She sounded only slightly better off than he was, and he spared her a glance. The tall woman was cradling her rib cage, wincing and blinking as though her eyesight were blurry.
Heero's tone softened - she was hurt, as well. "Bring the first aid kit. Please."
"Aren't you going to call the others?" Une asked. She coughed hard, and it sounded painful.
He winced as the shuttle took another glancing hit from yet more floating junk that had once been a space station. "Not until I can... Enemies are still around - it's too risky. And I'm in no shape... no shape for evasive manoeuvres."
She nodded. "I understand. Just..."
"I know," Heero said, wiping blood from his eyes as he glared out the front viewscreen. "As soon as I can. Shit, Duo must be going ballistic by now."
She put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Keep your mind on the mission, Yuy. The sooner we get out of here, the sooner we can let them know we're alive."
Une winced as she headed back out of the cockpit, and it was only partly due to her injuries. "He's back to one word answers, again. Oh, joy."
Noin's worried eyes locked with the woman's on her viewscreen. "Manguanacs, he's... Jesus, the kid's losing it. I don't know if..."
"Contact Quatre," the young woman - Dawn - ordered her abruptly. "Get through to him and find out what's going on up there! I can't believe that he's..." The woman shook her head. "Patch him through to me as soon as you've got contact. And get out of Sanc - Duo was serious back there. Manguanacs, we've got incoming from the sea - get out there! Deathscythe and the Sanc Guard will have to handle the land threat. Acknowledge!"
There was a chorus of answers before Dawn turned back to Noin and gave her a small, cold smile. "Wish us luck."
As they cut the communications, Noin shuddered. "I know he's serious. That's what scares me."
She turned and straightened - behind her, Relena was staring into space, composed, but just barely, and clinging to Dorothy's hand for dear life. "Relena, we've got to leave. The Manguanacs are here - we can't do any more."
"But our people, Luca... what about them?" she replied as Dorothy pulled her towards the door.
"We managed to get out a warning. They're all evacuating or bunkering down in the metro tunnels," Noin answered, following them out the door and down the hall towards the small helicopter pad. "Even Romafeller troops won't murder innocent civilians, Relena. They'll be ok, I promise."
They made it to the waiting helicopter, and Relena paused, glancing towards the smoke from the battle just outside the city perimeter.
"Duo, be careful," she murmured as she climbed inside. Noin and Dorothy followed and the door shut behind them. The pilot revved the engine, they lifted off and flew off away from the twin battles.
He's not dead, Duo, she thought, tears gathering in her eyes. He can't be dead...
"Noin to all - we are clear. I repeat - we are clear."
Trowa's frown had slid into a ferociously grim scowl as the radio traffic continued to wash over a silent cockpit. He wasn't sure what was more disturbing - the continuing static coming from Heero's line, or the utter silence of Duo.
His eyes were cold as they scanned over the property just visible ahead. OZ troops seemed to be everywhere, some even accompanied by dogs as they searched. He shot Sally - squeezed in next to his seat - a glance. "Where would she be?"
Sally flinched. Trowa sounded about as happy as he looked, and he looked like hell. "I'm not sure. She went silent to hide..."
"WELL THEN CALL HER BACK, DAMMIT! I DON'T HAVE ALL DAY," he bellowed back at her, eyes snapping...
Until he blinked and looked away miserably. "I'm sorry - that was uncalled for."
Sally's head hurt. God, Heero, you had better be okay up there! "Don't worry about it. Let's just find Marianne, okay?"
"Can you buzz her?" Trowa asked, setting Heavyarms down as quietly as possible within striking distance of the estate.
Sally was already on it, dialling on her cellphone.
Jason Farley had his hands full.
Between trying to monitor incoming messages, directing base operations, and trying to keep Walker among the living... He grabbed another lukewarm coffee bulb and grimaced as he downed it all in several quick gulps.
He was going to crash so hard when this was over!
Kevin was blinking himself awake as he walked into his room - Jason gave him a smile. "Welcome back, buddy."
"Shit... what the hell happened out there?" Kevin croaked, trying to sit up.
Farley put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Not yet - you've got to remain calm, Mr. Walker, or your girlfriend will go all scary on me."
Walker snorted. "Heaven forbid." He closed his eyes as he settled back. "Where is everyone?"
"Zechs and Treize are back out again with Wufei and Quatre," Kevin informed him as he worked. "A troop of Manguanac fighters are backing them up to try and intercept OZ's forces before they reach the Colony groups."
Farley was silent as he jotted something down on the chart in his hands.
Kevin's eyes opened, and he forced himself to sit up. "What about Barge. Tell me."
Jason put down the chart and looked the other man in the eye. "I'm not going to lie to you. The Barge team has not yet contacted us since the evacuation and explosion. We don't know what that means, but I have every confidence that both Lady Une and Heero are fine. They're too damn tough to let an exploding base take them out."
Kevin's hands fisted in the flimsy blanket in his lap as his face drained of all colour. "Not contacted... you mean, no one's heard from them?!"
Sighing heavily, Farley sat down so he'd be at eye-level with his injured friend. "Your Lady Une is under the protection of the single best soldier in the Earth Sphere, Walker. If anyone can get them through this alive, it's him, and you know he has something to live for, as well. They will be just fine, you got that?"
Farley's beeper chose that moment to go off, and he rose from his seat regretfully. "I'm being called back to the Bridge - I'll be back soon. Will you be okay?"
Kevin didn't answer and, knowing he wouldn't get a response, Farley left as quietly as he could.
As soon as the door closed behind him, he took out his comm. unit and flicked it open. "Yes?"
"Sir, we're receiving a signal from the Moonbase Delta sector. Encrypted communications - I don't know..."
It's them - it has to be them! Farley's eyes lit up as he began to run. "I'm on my way."
Several armed guards stopped cold, hearing the trill of a cellphone, and one of them pointed-
Machine gun fire tore through the air with absolutely no warning, and guards turned, horrified, to find a massive, red suit standing just behind them, guns smoking as it mowed them down. They were running, screaming...
Inside of Heavyarms, sitting at the suit's controls, Sally Po fought hard to control her shaking. It was one thing to see the suits in action, and another thing altogether to be the one at the controls. She didn't know how the boys did it - how they could stand it.
At that precise moment, though, she had other things to worry about.
Like making sure she didn't shoot Trowa by mistake as he dropped off of Heavyarms and ran to the pick-up point.
He was almost there, not bothering to hide his approach and shooting anyone foolish enough to get in his way...
The mansion doors were opening!
"03, attention at 7 o'clock! Someone's coming out!" Sally yelled into the communicator, cursing under her breath. She couldn't make the shot, not without hitting either Trowa or Marianne!
She watched him turn, a gun in either hand.
"Manguanacs to 02, over."
"02, this is Dawn Yuy, over."
Dawn gripped her controls tighter as she watched her men pulling back. The plan had never been to defeat OZ's forces - they hadn't a prayer of accomplishing that. But as soon as the princess was out and the population evacuated to safety, they were to begin pulling out and draw as many troops back with them as possible. Spare the innocents...
But Duo still wasn't acknowledging anyone. It would have helped if she could have at least gotten a lock on him, but with Deathscythe's hyperjammers still activated, she wasn't even going to bother. She keyed the microphone again. "Manguanacs, continue your retreat. 02 is not listening. repeat - continue your retreat, and reconvene at the loading point."
"He'd never leave us..."
She took a deep breath. "Manguanacs! No one is going to be left behind. Now GO!" She didn't stay put to see if they listened - she blasted off in Deathscythe's direction, alone.
Up close, the suit was even more frightening than she had imagined, especially surrounded by the burning remains of its prey, smoke billowing and partially obscuring it. Dawn landed right in front of him, beam sabre drawn and ready. "Duo Maxwell, this is Dawn Yuy. Acknowledge."
Deathscythe's head turned in her direction, and she felt a moment of very real fear as the scythe swung up into the air and back down at her, faster than she could possibly move to deflect-
And stopped short. She breathed a sigh of relief as the scythe was drawn back. "Duo, talk to me."
The crackling of the hyperjammers finally died down, and a quiet voice spoke over the radio, "Get out of here, Dawn. It's not time for you to die, yet."
The suit turned to leave, but she flew up in front of it and blocked the movement. "It's not your time, either. Come with me. We have space for you to launch with us and rejoin the others in space."
"It doesn't matter. Tell Quatre..." Duo's lifeless voice faltered for a split second. "Tell him I'm sorry."
Michael Gates cursed as he rushed outside. He'd only seen glimpses of the attacking Gundam, but he knew for certain that his chances of survival would be better outside the house. He opened the door-
"Hello," Trowa said coldly, and fired on him.
It hurt too much to scream - Gates collapsed back against the doors, gasping for air as he clutched at his chest. He watched in disbelief as the tall young man who shot him reached into the bushes and gently pulled Marianne to her feet, wrapping an arm around her waist to hold her steady.
She was giving him a wide-eyed look, and then turned to her companion. "That's... that's Mr. Gates! One of the Duke's right-hand men."
"Really?" A gun came up almost lazily.
Gates vaguely realised that his last thought was - he didn't even know who was killing him, and that totally sucked.
"Une to MO-III, over."
Jason felt such a wave of relief at hearing her voice that he nearly fell lout of his seat. "Une! We read you! You're okay!"
Her voice sounded slightly unsteady. "Jason... we're... we're both alive, tell them that. And tell them we're safe..."
"Where is Heero?"
Une's voice cracked over the line, and Jason was suddenly very concerned that she hadn't put on the video. What didn't she want him to see? "Heero is here. He is hurt, but he piloted us out of that... hell. The five doctors... they are looking after us..."
Abruptly, a new voice took over speaking. "Sit down, Lady - I swear, a stiff breeze would knock you over right now... Who is this?"
Jason frowned. "I am Lieutenant Farley of the Revolutionary Brigade."
"Oh, okay." Jason frankly stared down at the monitor, Who the hell was this? "You can call me G, son. Now listen up - you need to contact Winner and let him know that the Terminator, here, is hurt, but will be just fine. Oh, and if Duo asks why he should believe any of that, to tell him that 'the Mophead' said so."
G's voice laughed. "He'll understand. We will take care of Heero and Une, for now."
Duo was panting heavily, his Deathscythe the last suit standing in what could only be called a technological graveyard. And yet more suits were coming - he knew it. Romafeller would not stop until he was defeated, and he...
"Duo Maxwell, I hope you're listening to this, because I'm heading into a battle, and I can only say it once. You have to calm down - Heero is alive and in the doctors' care. G asked us to tell you 'the Mophead' is taking care of him; I don't know what that means, but I'm assuming that you do. He will be fine, Duo. I know what you're thinking of doing - I'm ordering you not to. Heero is alive. You thought he'd left you behind, but he hasn't. Don't leave him behind in your place..."
"Quatre..." Duo's voice was cracked - an ugly, harsh sound. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Quatre?"
"Duo... oh, thank Allah," Quatre's voice rolled over him soothingly. "I just heard from Farley, who heard from Une and G on the Moonbase. They are okay!"
"Oh, God..." There was a long moment of silence as Duo pried his hands from his controls. They were shaking. He took a deep breath to try and calm himself, even while tears of relief trickled down his cheeks unheeded. Heero was okay...
"Duo, listen to me," Quatre instructed, a hint of steel in his voice. "Romafeller's forces are all over the place out here - we're going to at least attempt to keep them out of the Colonies, but I doubt we'll be able to hold for very long. We need you out here. Heero needs you here."
Duo rubbed a hand over his face, trembling from the sheer emotional drain he'd put himself through, to say nothing of the physical. "Roger that. Your... you know your Manguanacs sent Heero's sister after me?"
Quatre barked an extremely short laugh. "Get out of there! Shoo - before more bad guys show up."
"I love you, too, Q-bert," Duo joked softly before his expression sobered. "Be careful, yourself. These dolls... just... don't die, okay?"
"I'll do my best."
Gundam Wing II
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