Chapter 11

Changing Allegiance

Chapter 11


Quatre cursed as he slipped on a set of headphones. The threat screens were empty, but he could hear the approaching planes. That had to mean—

He turned to the battle table and quickly took in the positions of his troops. Quatre turned back to the communications table and the young Ensign sitting there. "I need to get in touch with Alpha Kilo4669-Oh. Now."

"Yes, sir." Quatre smiled to himself – they all obviously knew he was a Gundam pilot by the way they snapped to his orders.

He keyed his microphone. "Heero, this is Quatre, over."

There was a moment of static before Heero's voice came over the system clearly. "Alpha Kilo 4669-Zero to base."

"Heero, whatever's approaching is using…"

"Stealth technology. I know," Heero said dryly. "It's Howard. Call off the troops."

Quatre grinned and laughed. "Who else? We should have known!" He turned to the communications board again. "Ensign, have someone locate Lieutenant Walker, to report to us immediately."

"Yes, sir!"

He turned back to the console and thumbed the controls again. "Bring them right in, Heero. I'll give you all priority landing clearance. Recommend an approach from the East."

"Acknowledged."

Quatre removed his headphones and thanked the tower crew before he turned to leave. He would meet Walker out front and save them a couple minutes.

~*~

By the time three Sweepers freighters came to a halt on the tarmac, Heero, Quatre, Trowa, Wufei, Sally and the ex-Oz people were assembled to meet them. Howard was a sight to see – you could just see the collar of one of his famous shirts sticking up out of a voluminous green coat that made him look something like the marshmallow man in army fatigues. All four pilots grinned. Only Howard could manage to wear such clothing and retain the respect of his men!

The broad smile the man wore faded quickly, though, as he took in the crowd of people and, more specifically, the absence of a single person from it. He marched up to Heero, looking as menacing as he could manage in that green coat, and demanded, "Okay, hot shot, where's the kid?"

Heero shot Trowa a confused look – had the taller teen said nothing to Howard about Duo's condition? Trowa, suspiciously, refused to meet his eyes. "Welcome to Romania, Howard. Duo is still back in the infirmary…"

The sunglasses came off at that remark, and Trowa gulped as a fierce gaze was turned on him. "Infirmary, huh? And since he's not here to see me, I'd guess it was pretty bad. You've got some explaining to do, Barton. Take me to him!"

Quatre shook his head as he stepped forward. "One moment, Howard," he said politely, offering the older man his hand to shake. Still gripping the engineer's hand tightly enough to keep him from running away, Quatre steered him towards the waiting group of Oz people. "We have a few people here you should meet."

Wufei handled the introductions. "Everyone, this is Howard, the Sweepers boss. Howard, this is Dr. Sally Po," the two shook hands, "Lieutenant Kevin Walker," Walker looked almost awed, but somehow managed to shake his hand, "and these are…"

"I know who they are, boy," Howard snapped. He glared at Treize and his companions. "I suppose I should be grateful to you that Duo is alive, right?"

Treize took a deep breath and stepped forward. From what Wufei had told him of this man, Howard loved Duo liked a son, and hated Oz with a passion that was only refuelled every time Duo was injured in battle. "We are all grateful he is alive, sir. I'm sorry he was hurt. I wish it could have been avoided."

"Pretty words, Kushrenada," Howard spat, but he still reached out and shook hands with the ex-General. "Thanks, anyway." Breaking away, he briefly shook hands with Zechs and Lady Une, as well.

Finally finished with introductions, he turned back to Heero. "*Now* can I go see him?"

Quatre stepped in again. "Let's get the suits stowed and your planes under cover first, okay? We'll have another satellite pass over this area in about a half hour."

Heero nodded. "Howard?"

The sunglasses came back out as Howard turned towards the three planes. "Go ahead. Scythe and Heavyarms are in my plane. Wing and Shenlong are in the second plane – follow Rodney and he'll help you out," he pointed to a short, stocky redhead with a lopsided smile. "Sandrock is in the last plane – Gio can let you in to him," Howard finished, pointing to a small woman of medium height who was standing slightly off to the left. Quatre spared her a small smile. She looked nice enough… as long as you didn't cross her, that is.

Heero seemed to hesitate for a moment as Howard turned to go, and finally turned to Zechs. "You've seen Wing… I need to get Deathscythe housed. Could you take Wing into the hangar?"

The tall blond's eyes went wide for a moment before a grin broke over his face. "You need to ask? You'd let me *touch* your suit?"

"Hn." Heero gave the tall blond a small smirk before he turned and followed Trowa out. Zechs hesitated only a moment before he turned to jog after Wufei.

Left behind together, Une turned to Sally and Treize, both of whom were smirking. "Am I going blind, or did I *really* just see Zechs Marquise practically *skipping* towards that plane?

Treize smiled, watching as his lover jumped aboard the plane and vanished inside. "*You* would be, too, Une. I remember how you were in flight school."

She snorted, and Sally was hard-pressed not to laugh.

~*~

Walking alongside Howard, Walker couldn't help his curiosity. He'd heard much about the man from Duo, and he couldn't help wondering… "Duo's been telling me a lot about you, sir."

Howard laughed. "Just Howard, kid. You call me sir, and I expect my father to be standing over my shoulder. Duo's a bright kid, and a damned good engineer."

Walker nodded his understanding. "I can tell, I just showed him the *plans* of the Tallgeese, and he already has several… Howard?!"

Walker yelped, as the hand on his shoulder tightened painfully.

"What… what did you call that suit?"

Walker frowned, confused. "The Tallgeese. Why – do you know anything about it?"

Howard grinned. "Know anything? Shit, I *designed* the damned suit! You telling me it's here?! You've been working on it?"

Walker nodded happily. "Yeah. I'm the chief engineer on Zechs' private detail."

Howard cracked a smile and threw a friendly arm around the young man's shoulders. "After I see my boy again with my own four eyes, we've *got* to talk…"

"Four eyes?"

Howard slapped Walker on the back in a friendly way. "These sunglasses and I go a long way back, Kev. Lead on!"

~*~

Howard pushed forward impatiently as they entered the infirmary. It was clear where they were going - there were armed guards outside the door. "You've got him locked up in there…"

Before anyone could stop him, he darted down the corridor and threw the door open -

"Hold it right there, pal," a deep voice growled, and Howard's jaw dropped open. The man in the doorway was holding a submachine gun, pointed right at his chest.

"Rad, it's okay…"

Howard cut Walker's words off as he collected his wits. "I don't care if that toy of yours is loaded or not - you're gonna get out of my way and let me see my boy, or I'm taking you *down*!"

Rad couldn't help a feeling of confusion as Howard stared up at him, still wearing that ridiculous coat. At a nod from Walker, though, he lowered the muzzle of his rifle. "I take it this one's a *friendly* friendly, then."

A female voice floated out of the room. "Well, *shit*. When will the bad ones get here?"

Howard started, though, as another voice spoke up groggily, "Uhhhh… who'zere?" He pushed past an amused-looking Rad as though he didn't exist and moved into the room.

His eyes were glued to the slim figure on the bed, and he forced himself to stop short at the injured teen's bedside, hands clenching. His jaw flapped for a solid moment as he tried to control his feelings. "Kid… Jesus Christ, kid, how many times do I have to warn you that the average Ozzie doesn't like a comedian?! What did you do - try to Tango with the Base Commander's girlfriend?"

Duo smiled up at his friend as best he could. "Something like that. I'm glad you're here, Howie."

Howard stifled something that sounded suspiciously like a sob as he sat at Duo's side and gently pulled the teenager into a hug. "Me, too, Duo."

Sally stepped into the room as Howard gently settled Duo back down on his bed. She stopped a few paces back. "I know he looks bad…"

The Sweeper turned to face her, and Sally was disconcerted to find herself staring at her own reflection in a set of dark shades. "He looks like shit, ma'am," Howard drawled, a note of concern in his voice.

She nodded her agreement. "Yes, he does, but he's healing."

Duo cleared his throat. "Um, I'm right here, guys." He grabbed hold of Howard's hand and squeezed it hard enough to make the older man turn to face him. "Be polite to the lady, old man. She's taken very good care of me. They all have. If I'm hurt, it's my own damn fault."

Howard swatted at Duo's bangs. "I don't doubt it was your fault, shorty. I'm just glad they beat you senseless before you could do *worse*." He grinned widely.

~*~

Heero settled himself in Deathscythe's cockpit and took a deep breath, as he looked over the familiar- and *unfamiliar*- controls with a little bit of awe. Most were the same or similar to the ones in Wing, but there were a few that he didn't recognise.

**Probably cloaking and heaven knows what else,** he thought, as he got the Gundam's main systems up and running. **I just won't touch them, for now. I'll get the schematics from him later... I *will* need to know these things for the mission.**

He got Deathscythe out of the carrier and headed towards the makeshift hangar, feeling the differences between this suit and his Wing.

"'Scythe feels eerily alive, as though any of these extra switches would bring him to life... of course, that's just my imagination. But I can see why Duo always refers to him as *him*," the Japanese teen muttered to himself, lightly brushing one hand over the main console almost reverently. "I don't think I'll..."

Two comm buttons lit up, breaking into Heero's reverie, and he flicked them both on. Quatre appeared onscreen in one window, Wufei in the other.

"So, Heero, what's it like?" the blond asked with a smile.

"It's like..." Heero started, but was interrupted by Wufei.

"Heero, are you planning to go in the hangar any time soon?" the Chinese pilot asked pointedly, a smirk on his face. "You're standing in the doorway, blocking the rest of us. If you don't hurry up, I'm afraid Zechs is going to run off with Wing."

Heero could feel a blush creeping across his face, and moved Deathscythe into the slightly darker interior. "Sorry. Chang, tell your lover if he even thinks it..."

Wufei chuckled. "No worry, Yuy. He wouldn't get far. Chang out." His window closed.

"See you on the ground, Heero," Quatre said, smiling brightly, and cut his connection.

Heero sighed, stopped Deathscythe in the space indicated by one of the mechanics, and shut the systems down, brushing his hand across the console once more before leaving.

On the ground, he was met by Howard's other pilots, Gio and Rodney. Rodney gave Heero a jaunty salute.

"Don't worry, Yuy. We know the drill. We won't let anyone but ourselves near the kid's suit," he said with a grin. "The same goes for Wing, if you prefer."

"I do, thanks," Heero replied with a nod and started to walk to the door.

"Hey! Tell Duo we'll be in to see him soon, okay?"

Heero waved his hand in acknowledgement. "Roger that," and he was out the door, on his way to the infirmary.

~*~

Zechs rushed over to his Chinese lover, a grin on his face.

"That suit is amazing, Dragon! I could feel the power in it!" he exclaimed, grabbing the smaller teen into a hug in his exuberance. "I still can't believe he let me in it, even if it *was* just to move it to the hangar! Where..."

Wufei smirked, put his hand on the blond's chin and turned his head toward the door, without a word.

"Ah, yes, Duo," Zechs agreed. He stepped back, grabbed the younger pilot's hand and started to walk off.

"Quatre, Trowa, are you joining us in Duo's room?" he called over his shoulder.

"Right behind you, Zechs," Quatre called back, clasping Trowa's hand and following them out.

~*~

Heero rushed up the hall, wrenched open Duo's door- and found himself facing the muzzle of a semi-automatic rifle.

In a split second, his own pistol was aimed at the person holding the rifle... stalemate.

"Ah, um, guys?" Farley's voice came from behind Heero's shoulder. "Rad, Ines, this is Heero Yuy... Heero, Radoslow Dabrowski and Ines Santiago, Duo's and your body-guards. Um, you two can stand down now. In fact, you're off duty until at least tomorrow morning..."

Rad grinned at Heero and slung the rifle over his shoulder. "Damn... another *friendly* friendly," he muttered. Looking over the teen's shoulder, he nodded to Farley. "So, to avoid these little misunderstandings in the future, why don't you tell us who we're supposed to guard the little guy *from*."

"Right," Farley said, stepping back. "I'll call a meeting for... say one o'clock? We'll go over everything then?"

"Sounds good to me, chief," the mechanic said, pushing the muzzle of Heero's pistol towards the wall and stepping past him. "C'mon Ines. Let's grab a late breakfast. I've got that half-ton truck to work on."

Ines slipped past Heero, offering him a quirky grin, and followed off after Rad.

Heero blinked, looked at his gun, then jerked his head up at the sound of laughter.

Duo was wide-eyed with disbelief. Sally had a small smirk on her face. And Howard... Howard was laughing like a loon.

"Heero, my boy," he said, finally calming down, "put your toy away. No one wants to play with you."

The Japanese teen opened his mouth to growl a reply, then shut it immediately as soft snickers came from the bed, and he looked at his injured lover.

Duo was clutching his chest with his good arm, and there were tears on his cheeks, but he was smiling brightly and his eyes were shining. There was no way Heero was going to spoil the braided teen's good mood, so he tucked the pistol back into its holster with an obvious betrayed look, and mock pouted.

"Hn. No one lets me have any fun any more..."

That single comment sent Duo into peals of giggles.

**Ninmu kanryou,** the Japanese pilot thought, hurrying to the bed, climbing up and taking the braided teen gently into his arms.

Sally approached his other side. "Duo, we have just enough time before lunch for me to recheck those sutures," she said, lowering his gown and easing the bandage off.

Howard winced at the sight of the myriad of bruises on *his kid's* torso and clenched his fist, sitting heavily on the chair by the bed.

"Hey, Howie..." Duo said softly, "they're just bruises. Sally can explain everything to you, if you need..."

Quatre stuck his head in the open doorway.

"Hey guys! We brought lunch!"

The young blond pushed in the cart, followed by Zechs, Trowa, Wufei and Walker. Sally quickly rebandaged the incision and placed her hand on Howard's shoulder.

"Duo usually takes a nap mid-afternoon," she whispered to him. "Come and find me then. I'll tell you everything..."

~*~

Outside Duo's room, Rad leaned against the wall and seemed to wilt.

"Shit, Rad," Ines said, stepping beside him and crossing her arms over her chest, "I can't believe you did that! Do you have a deathwish or something? That took some serious brass balls..."

"Ines, my darling greasemonkey, don't remind me. In fact, tell me I *didn't* do that?" the older man said, sighing heavily.

"Sorry Rad, you did," she said chuckling and pulling him down the hall. "I'd even say the kid was impressed."

"Great, I impressed a homicidal Gundam pilot... yippee. Will you promise to put that on my gravestone?"

~*~

Lunch was over and the room's occupants were quietly discussing some of the modifications the Gundams and Tallgeese would need.

"We can work through the night, but there's no way they'll be ready by tomorrow morning. Give me an additional 24 hours, and we can have you good to go," Howard said, rolling up the blueprints that had been spread across the table.

The pilots looked at Duo.

"Will that be okay, Duo?" Wufei asked.

The sleepy teen nodded. "One day won't make a difference one way or the other."

"Right," Quatre said, seeing his friend's fatigue and motioning for them to leave. "Let's go and leave Duo to get some rest."

Everyone but Heero and Howard left, promising to meet back in the room for dinner.

Heero gently settled Duo comfortably on the bed, with Howard's help, then Farley knocked on the door and stuck his head in.

"Heero, can I see you for a moment?" he asked, nodding towards the hallway.

Heero raised an eyebrow, and nodded. "I'll be right back, Duo. Go ahead and get some sleep. Howard will stay with you until I get back," he murmured, kissing his lover lightly. "And Howard? Try and keep him out of trouble." Howard's chuckles followed him out the door.

"I thought you might like to meet all of Duo's body-guards," Farley said, leading the Japanese pilot down the hall. "Sally and I thought it best to get things set up now, rather than wait. No one is going to get past them." He stopped in front of a conference room, and opened the door.

Inside, there were six figures, seated around a large table. Heero immediately recognised Santiago and Dabrowski, then turned his attention to the other four. At first glance, he liked what he saw. They were all, obviously, veterans of some sort, seeming to range in age from late twenties to mid forties, and they all had an air of competence about them.

"People, this is Heero Yuy," Farley said, motioning Heero to the table, "one half of your assignment. You'll meet the other half later. Heero," he continued, sitting down, "may I present your body-guard detail. Sergeant Shani Murungi..."

A small, but well-muscled black woman, with a scar on her cheek, stood up and nodded to Heero. "Shani Murungi, Gunnery Sergeant, Fifth Platoon, Charlie Company, Third Battalion..."

"Damn, Gunny, did you forget we're not in the Alliance any more?" the man next to her snorted, receiving a glare, then he leaned forward and reached out to shake Heero's hand. "Sergeant Nico Santelli, *ex*-Alliance Master Sergeant, First Platoon, Able Company, yadda, yadda. Most of us defected with Po, along with the majority of the people in our platoons, so we've kept our ranks."

Heero shook the man's hand and judged Santelli to be roughly forty years old. He was average height, and well-built, with salt-and-pepper dark hair and laughing brown eyes.

"My turn," the next man said, mock saluting. He was part Japanese by his appearance-- slightly slanted brown eyes, dark brown hair, short but powerfully built-- in his mid-thirties, and was seemingly an easy-going sort. But appearances could be deceiving, as Heero well knew.

"Lieutenant Joe Takano, ex-Company Commander, Able Company... I won't bore you with the rest. Happy to be of assistance. Tossing out unwelcome visitors and breaking up bar brawls are hobbies of mine."

"You mean *starting* brawls is a hobby," the last man said, his voice a low growl. Heero looked at *him* sharply. He appeared to be the same age as Santelli, but was his polar opposite. He was tall and thin, pale hair in crew-cut, with cold, piercing grey eyes that the Japanese pilot knew missed nothing. To a civilian, he would look very menacing and dangerous. To Heero, however, he seemed oddly reassuring.

"Cole Gillen, Captain, ex-Alliance Special Forces," he continued, nodding at the teen. "Farley has given us the details of this assignment."

"Details?" Heero questioned.

"Yes. Our duty is simply to keep one Relena Peacecraft," Gillen gestured to a photo in front of him, "from coming into any contact with Duo Maxwell, by any means necessary, short of serious physical injury or death. She is not to be allowed entry to his quarters at any time. Consequently, she will be allowed no access to you, while you are in those quarters. If you wish, on the few occasions you do leave the room, one of us *can* accompany you and at least keep her at arms length. We'll be on duty around the clock and working in pairs. Does this meet your requirements, Mr. Yuy?"

Heero nodded. "Yes, thank you," he said, hiding his mild surprise at the whole situation.

"Good. We'll begin operations as soon as Miss Peacecraft's presence is confirmed. If you'll excuse us, we'll go set up our roster," Gillen continued. He nodded once more, and all six body-guards quickly vacated the room.

Heero leaned back in his chair, and ran a hand through his hair. "Farley, what the hell is going on?"

"Well, Heero, we decided to take this problem out of your hands. Neither you, nor Duo, need the added stress that having one Relena Peacecraft on this base will cause. Trust me, those six people will not let her into the room, or anywhere near Duo. Heck," Sally's assistant continued, "if we're lucky, they'll scare her off the base..."

"Hn. That I doubt. If she knows I'm here..."

Farley laughed. "To quote Sally, 'They'll terrorise her! I couldn't have chosen better. I can just see Gillen tossing her into the snow on her ass!'. If nothing else, this little episode will be amusing..."

A small smirk crossed Heero's face at that thought.

~*~

Sally sank gratefully into a chair and accepted a cup of tea with a tired smile. Between the excitement of the Sweepers' arrival that morning and a serious trauma case, where one of the base's security guards broke both legs - among other things - when he fell from a guard tower, the day had been eventful, to say the least. It seemed almost decadent to be sitting back for afternoon tea, but she wasn't about to complain.

Poking at her slice of lemon with a spoon, she turned curious eyes on Une, Treize and Quatre, who were all watching her speculatively. "Did I miss something when I scrubbed down from Surgery, or something?"

Treize broke off his stare immediately, a slight touch of colour touching his face. "I'm sorry; it has been a long day for all of us, I think."

She shrugged and took a sip. "Well, you said you needed to talk to me. So here I am."

Une and Treize looked to Quatre, and he nodded back to them before turning his gaze on Sally. "We have a bit of a dilemma we were hoping you might be able to help us with, Sally. Tell me, what kind of intel resources do you have in North America right now?"

She blinked. "Um, we have a couple people on the ground, but it depends what you're looking for. Could you be a little more specific?"

Une sat forward in her seat. "Duke Dermail has been moving a lot of troups out of there, specifically out of the Rust Belt area, as it is called, stretching from around Chicago to Pittsburgh. Knowing him as we do, we can't help thinking that he's up to something. To top it off, my people over there can't get close. They've tried, but Romefeller either already knows who they are, or has become very good at spotting them."

Sally hid a small smile behind her teacup, watching the other three avidly. "The Rust Belt… I might have someone close by there. But I think I might have something even better."

Treize lifted one well-groomed eyebrow. "Is that so?"

Sally took another sip, then carefully sat her cup down. "What if I could tell you that Duke Dermail had three visitors yesterday, all three of which were served tea, though none of them drank it?"

Une's jaw gaped open. "You've got someone inside? But… *how?!*" Quatre smirked.

Sally poked at her lemon again. "As you said, Romefeller knows your people. They don't know mine."

Quatre lifted his own teacup for a quick sip. "Can you tell us anything about it?"

Sally nodded, leaning her forearms on the table. "I would have told you about this earlier, but I had no way of knowing if this partnership would work out. Since it seems to be working, though… Back when we first noticed the strain in senior Romefeller leadership, we decided we needed to have someone watching both camps. Only two agents were assigned at first - one shadowing you, Treize, while another began infiltrating Dermail's headquarters, outside of Boston. No offence - it became clear which faction was coming out on top, and we grew an entire operation around it. It has evolved into quite an information ring, code named 'Olympus.' Its head agent is known as 'Athena,' and she is the one who has made it into Dermail's very household."

Treize began to laugh lightly. "What is it with females in charge of spy rings?"

Quatre wisely didn't comment. "How often does Athena report in?"

"Part of operational security," Sally said, nodding to the blond. "She doesn't. A courier receives her messages and transcribes them before passing them to yet another courier, who reports in to us. He is quite appropriately called 'Hermes.' We've been very careful to preserve her detachment from any suspicious activities." Une nodded her head approvingly.

Quatre smiled. "How often do you receive reports?"

"I've been hearing from Olympus once every other week for five months now," Sally answered him. "They are waiting for orders, and keeping a low profile until they get them."

Treize sipped his tea. "We need to know what's going on over there. They believe I am dead, and I need to know how to best use that against them."

Sally smiled. "That can be done. But the latest report is something you should hear about first."

"We're listening."

"Lord Wessex was one of the three visitors. Do either of you know him?" Sally asked.

Treize rolled his eyes. "The man is as mentally challenged as he is morally corrupt. I've had the displeasure of meeting him on several occasions."

A small grin broke over Sally's face. "That was Athena's impression, as well. He was there - he'd just flown in from Montreal with news about some project he's been working on. He called it the Enforcers. She had no other information, except that she'd never heard the term before…"

Une grimaced. "But where Wessex is concerned, it's better to expect the worst. Montreal. I don't have anyone even remotely close to there. Quatre, does your network…"

The young blond flinched at the word 'network.' "Our communications with our controllers has been minimal at best, and they were our prime source of information. I *do* have a few other resources, though. I can put out some feelers on it."

Une turned an inquisitive stare back to Sally. "Does Olympus have any other deities in residence?"

The doctor laughed. "A couple. Hephaistos and Artemis are also waiting for orders, and Ares is on standby. Quite an extensive ring, actually."

Quatre quirked an eyebrow. "Who did you have following us, if I may ask?"

Sally shook her head. "It wouldn't be fair to those individuals to smoke them out. Besides, we may reach a time when having a communications network behind the scenes will prove very useful."

"Fair enough," Une commented, her estimation of Sally rising. The other woman was smart enough to be protecting her assets, even from their friends.

Treize grinned. "Can we get something through to your agent?"

Sally shrugged. I suppose we could. What, exactly?"

"Just a note," Treize replied. "We discussed how to best destabilise Dermail and decided that 'haunting' him for a little while, while we gathered information would be a better idea than coming right out. We'd only do that if it doesn't pose a risk to your agent. It is too early in the game to lose that playing piece."

Sally nodded thoughtfully. "Athena can handle it. I'll need to get it over to Hermes, though… can you have it ready by tomorrow morning?"

"Certainly," Treize said, watching her carefully.

"Great," she said with a smile. "In that case, Apollo can take it with him on his next trip out." She drained her tea and stared down into the cup regretfully.

"Want a refill?"

She looked up at Quatre Winner, who was holding the teapot, and smiled. "You just made my list of top ten nice people, Quatre. Congratulations."

~*~

"Sergeant Santiago, Sergeant Dabrowski, report to the infirmary! Sergeants Santiago and Dabrowski, report to the infirmary! This is not a drill!" blared out over the base's loud speakers, breaking the pre-dawn's silence.

Rad fell out of his cot, threw on some clothes, and grabbed his rifle, bolting out the door of his barracks and nearly bowling over Ines. The other mechanic steadied him, and they both looked off toward the runway, at the small jet landing under the lights.

"Son of a bitch!" the older man exclaimed. "I thought she wasn't due until midday, if at all! What the *fuck* is she doing here at oh-dark- thirty?!"

Ines shrugged. "You know the story - 'the best laid plans', and all that. C'mon, let's get to our station. From what Yuy says..."

"Yeah, I know, the brat is a bloodhound, a stalker, psychic, psycho, whatever. As soon as she's on the ground..."

A teenaged girl's semi-shrill voice floated across the compound.

"Where's Heero?! I want to see Heero, now! Where..."

Ines and Rad shared evil grins.

"Oh, goody. My lucky day. The 'Unfriendly' Friendly has finally arrived..."

TBC


 

On to Chapter 12

Back to Preventers' HQ

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