Relena Peacecraft.. now there was a person he wouldn't have minded fathering. She was strong, in her own feminine ways. Strong enough to have a powerful image that would lend legitimacy to their cause. Her own father, well, perhaps he would not have approved of the course Friedrich had taken, but he would have understood it, eventually. He understood the sacrifices that had to be made for Sanq, for pacifism, for peace in the world, even if he hadn't made the ultimate sacrifice himself.
Giving one's life and death to the cause was easy, but the king had never given up the one thing that would really have made it work: he'd never bent. He'd never been willing to accept a compromise of his ideals and morals. He wasn't practical about things, and in order to get things done in this world, one had to be practical. But, Friedrich supposed, maybe it wasn't the job of royalty to be practical. That responsibility had fallen upon the Jurgensens.
He looked carefully over the reports he had received from his associates, assimilating the data and revising their plans. If there was one thing he had first to ask, it was, why the hell was Heero Yuy still alive?
Perhaps it was his own fault. He had ordered the hit. He'd never done such a distasteful thing before. But Kellan had provided the contact, an unreliable one, it turned out.
No, he couldn't blame Kellan. The man was responsible for making so many of the Jurgensen dreams a reality. Kellan was the one that had really opened his eyes to the way of the world. He wasn't at fault for underestimating the skills of a long dormant Gundam pilot. No, this was that case worker's fault. Who had been assigned to Zero-One? Her name was Becca, Becca something or another. Yes, this was her fault. She had assured them that Zero-One no longer had a care for the world around him, that he was immobilized in a stagnant pond of inactivity and zero potential. She had been put in that position precisely so that she could neutralize him, slowly and naturally, and she had failed. He was supposed to have been ripe for a permanent removal. Had anyone punished her for her shortcomings yet? He would have to see to that.
That wouldn't change the fact that Heero Yuy was now on the loose. This was the very reason why they had started the process of eliminating the threat those pilots represented to the peace of the union. Yes, yes, they had helped to put an end to the previous wars, but they were unpredictable, given to anarchy and an arbitrary selection of sides. Look at the Chang fellow. Zero-Five. See what trouble he had stirred up? They should be glad he went astray so quickly. It was a relief knowing they had acted early, rather than letting their poison age and spread beneath a fašade of compliance and docility. Who knew what could set these discarded soldiers off? The Consortium was really doing them a favor, removing them from volatile environments. They were like time bombs, waiting for a trigger.
Or dominoes, maybe. After Zero-One got out, he'd somehow made contact with Zero-Two and convinced him to go along with whatever insane rebellion he had planned. When they'd encountered Zero-Three, their touch of madness had infected the next, and where once was a pliant, dependable worker, there was now a lost soul. In the tumult following the fiasco on Moon Base, Barton had somehow disappeared.
As had Noin and her two rescuers. There were scouts out looking for the elder Peacecraft and his lovely wife now. At least the loss of Lucrezia Noin could not affect their plans for Relena. The girl could not know that her sister-in-law was out of their hands and out of their reach. And now that she had been moved into the Jurgensen home, with her media access carefully monitored, she would continue to stay ignorant of the events swirling around her. She would only know what they wished her to know of the brilliant plan the EUW had come up with to recover from what otherwise might have been a catastrophe.
They had been worried when Yuy had escaped. Of course they'd been worried. He was dangerous. Events had proven it. But they'd turned that to their advantage. Until recently, they'd kept hidden the fact of his flight, cautious of any probes into their involvement, but he'd created far too many problems now for him to continue as he had.
Friedrich was expecting a phone call soon, a follow-up to the one from Kellan earlier that morning, informing him of the plan. Reports of Yuy's failure to report in to his keepers would be trickling through the levels of bureaucracy quite steadily, and very soon he expected it to be officially confirmed that the ex-terrorist had gone AWOL. Combined with the sudden disappearance of Maxwell and Barton, it would seem the government had a full-scale pilot revolt on their hands. How frightening.
Whatever could have set them off? he pondered, amused. Perhaps hearing about the tragic accidental death of their old comrade, Quatre Winner, the week before. That seemed a likely trigger for a psychotic post-traumatic stress-induced break. Yuy's psychological profile would support it, he was sure.
Perhaps that poor soldier boy was flashing back to the war. Perhaps he thought he had to take care of unfinished business from the war. Perhaps he was just a soldier to the core, and couldn't live without war and conflict. His profile would say, after all, how terribly he had adjusted to a post-war life. It would explain why he had burst out of the warm, supportive environment with which they had provided him, to run amok and disturb the lives of his fellow ex-terrorists, and even worse, to drag them into his delusions.
They had to stop him before he became a threat to the entire world nation. The corpse that Yuy had left behind on L3 was surely only the first of the innocent victims that would die by his dangerous, misguided hand. There could be no peace so long as there were such lunatics running around. No, that wasn't right. They needed to help Yuy, not kill him. If he resisted, of course, then he would have to be put down. Fortunately for the EUW, Yuy was sure to resist. He'd threaten them all with wild stories, and then the world government would see for themselves that pacifism did not and could not mean allowing such subversive elements of society to roam free and unchecked.
The general populace, of course, had never found out the identities of the Gundam pilots, and they wouldn't now. They couldn't afford to start a panic, or to confuse the issue with miscellaneous political disturbances that would only get in the way of their getting things done. No, the old terrorists would be transformed into new terrorists for the sake of the public, and how lovely that the unknown origin of these new terrorists would call for government action, widespread nets and precautionary raids.
In the meantime, they knew exactly whom they were seeking, if not where. When Schaefer had reported hearing voices in that alley behind the dressmaker's, it hadn't been too large a leap to assume that it was Heero Yuy. It had to be. Who else would have the utter audacity to do such a thing? Who else would have been able to inspire the Peacecraft girl to such heights of foolishness?
They'd lost his trail again after that. Schaefer was a personal guard, nothing more. He didn't know to report in immediately. They'd checked all the major ports, secured the locations of the other pilots and their old comrades, reinforced their own places of activity, but nothing. Zero-One and his rogue companion hadn't shown up anywhere until they had hit MO-18, where they should have been detected and captured, if not for that traitorous Zero-Three.
They were ready for them at Moon Base, but Zero-Three, corrupted by their wild influence, had joined their cause. That was enough of that. The hit on Zero-Four had been executed even before Zero-One's in another obvious move. The titular heir of the Winner clan had been a brilliant strategist. And Zero-Five was kept under very close wraps. He invited them to go pay their last comrade a visit. They were ready.
Yes, the trick to this was to stay ahead of the game. Already their production schedule had been pushed up. Now, just one last piece of the puzzle. "Karl," he called across the room.
His pansy of a son perked up from the inventories with which he had been struggling. "Yes, Father?"
He doled out a task that was well within the boy's reach. "Fetch your mother. I need to apologize to her."
"Oh?" Karl stood, straightening out his clothes. His mother did not approve of a rumpled look.
"Yes. I realize she's put a lot of work into this already, but I'm afraid she'll just have to change some of her plans. We're pushing up your wedding."
And now she was stuck in a room with the two of them again, only now the tension was even worse. They'd just been immature boys before. Nothing she hadn't had to put up with at the academy, both as a student and as an instructor. Now there was another tension between them, a tangibly adult tension. It wasn't obvious, but it was there. She probably wouldn't have noticed the subtle edge to their words and actions if she hadn't seen Yuy trying not to squirm in his seat the next day. Yuy wasn't the squirming type. He hid it rather well, too, but it wasn't anything else she also hadn't seen in her Academy days. They'd gone at it fast and hard, just the once, unless she missed her mark, and maybe it had seemed like a good idea at the time, but there was no afterglow for them. They were more interested in forgetting it now.
Well, they were big boys now, and could take care of their own silly problems. She took her turn at forgetting and quite pointedly ignored them as they paced around the small office, getting up, sitting down, leaning against the wall, peeking out the shuttered window. Once stirred from their stupor, they had once again become men of impatience and action. Now, they waited on the sidelines while the Sweepers took care of their salvaged cargo. The human cargo came after that.
When the door at last opened, Noin couldn't have been more relieved. Howard came in first, followed by the person that was presumably their contact. Jean entered after, and invited Noin out to talk about her arrangements. The other two closed the door and sat down, measuring each other before Howard introduced them. "I think you guys have all already met."
Duo scratched his head, waiting for recognition to hit. When the lightbulb turned on, he chuckled darkly. "Shouldn't you, like, have a fez on or something?"
The man ran a hand self-consciously across the surface of his close-cropped black hair. "A red fez is not a common fashion accessory these days," he apologized. The rest of him had conformed as well to shirt, jacket and jeans.
"You're, um..." The image matched up, but not quite the name. "Abdul, was it?"
"Auda," the Maguanac answered, bobbing his head in a respectful bow.
"Oh. Sorry. The glasses..."
He pushed the clear lenses back up to the bridge of his nose. "Ah, understandable. He wore those little sunglasses all the time, but these are real. My eyesight is not so sharp anymore."
"You guys still... doing your thing?" Duo gestured vaguely at the air. He never did get the whole story about them from Quatre.
"We do what we can in these times."
Howard pushed things forward. "They knew when to keep their heads down, too, like the Sweepers. Keeping in touch with the Winner kid after he got folded into the program. Only he was much more cooperative with these guys than our kid was with us."
Heero ignored their sour glares at each other. "Did Quatre get out?"
A pained look passed over Auda's face. "Ah, no. He decided that that was not the best idea. We simply, er, made sure he had more freedom than was officially allowed him."
"Is Quatre here?"
There was a long hesitation before Auda answered. "Master Quatre... was involved in an accident two weeks ago."
"A suspicious accident?"
The man shrugged uncomfortably. "He was at one of his project sites when a pallet of bricks collapsed the upper floor and fell on him. If not for, er, I mean... He, um, is no longer..."
Duo rolled his eyes. "You mean, you let everyone know he died and now you've got him in hiding somewhere, right?" When Auda's eyes grew wide with astonishment, he hid his face with his hand for a moment. "Oh, please. And you people all wondered how I managed to clean you out at poker that one time. You guys are terrible liars. It's like you think that wearing black will be enough fake mourning for you or something."
Heero was forced to agree. Quatre and the Maguanacs were in real trouble if Auda was their front man. "Can we see him?"
Now that the secret was out, Auda regained a measure of confidence. "He is in hiding right now. He is not taking visitors."
"He'll see us." No demand, no arrogance. Just a statement of fact. "Does he know we're here?"
He shook his head. "No. In fact, I did not know you were here until just before walking in this door. We were only told by the Sweepers that they had someone they thought we could help."
"Since when are you guys smugglers and such?" Duo asked. He couldn't imagine them doing a very good job with it.
"They have connections," Howard explained before turning back to his local contact. "Look, these guys are trustworthy, and they need your help. Call your crew. Talk to the boss. See what they say."
Auda considered for a moment more before nodding and getting out of his chair. "Excuse me." He left the room to place a call.
"Quatre has projects?" Heero thought he should be jealous, but he wasn't.
Howard leaned back in his seat, settling in for the wait. "Yeah, sure. He was the Winner heir, after all. The official party line is engaging you boys in productive segments of society, or some sort of crap like that. Even if they seem to have completely missed the boat with you two. They kept him from gaining too much power there, and made the company restructure a bit to make sure of it, but yeah, he wasn't as disconnected as the rest of you."
Quatre wouldn't have allowed it, Heero thought. Quatre had a brilliance of the mind that had to shine. They wouldn't have been able to lock him into a stagnant position, or convince him to stay low and out of sight. He would have risen to attention, no matter where they stuck him. He would have seen the patterns behind the government's plans before it was too late to care. That was why Heero wanted to see him. Quatre had vision. Quatre had ideas. Quatre was a leader, and here were two men just waiting, needing to be led in some direction.
last modified : 1/14/2006 23:52:01 PST