Treize stared at the woman blankly, absently glad he had already been sitting down. He clasped his hands together as they began to shake. "That is preposterous, Madam. I cannot possibly "
Sally sat down on the table next to him and picked up Athena's note. "Cute, little redheaded girl with your eyes, probably about six years old. Our agent saw her arriving her grandfather was shaking her and yelling at her. The kid told her she was Mariemeia Kushrenada, and she reconfirmed it with an electronic bug in Dermail's office. I'm sorry you had to hear it like this, but that's the truth."
Treize held out a shaking hand. "May I read that, please?" Sally handed it over without a word.
Treize read: 'Arrival of four subjects in last two days. Wessex brought his test subject with him a young woman, maybe sixteen at most. More to follow on her as soon as I can get more information.
'Third and fourth subjects arrived this morning. First subject is a tall, balding man named Dekim Barton. He arrived from L3 to discuss the Enforcer program, but I have not yet found out what he came for, exactly. Only confirmation is that he is somehow connected with Wessex's test program. The test subject, Bravo, had apparently been part of Barton's program in the past.
'Fourth subject is a little girl who arrived with Barton this morning. The child's name is Mariemeia Kushrenada; she told me as much, and it was independently confirmed by electronic bug in Dermail's office. It was also confirmed that the girl is Treize Kushrenada's daughter by Leia Barton, Dekim's daughter. I have no other information.
'Whatever is going to happen, recommend immediate removal of this child. Barton was mistreating her he shook her and yelled at her in plain sight of several of us. She responded to it with a familiarity and discipline that suggests this is a recurring event. I will help if I can.'
He set the message down and stared at it. "Dear lord."
Sally reached out and clasped his shaking hands in her own. "Treize, I know you don't want to believe it, but it must be true."
He pulled away from her and stood, walking over to the window to stare out. "Leia Barton I was never so furious as I was then."
"Care to tell me about it?"
Treize closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the cool glass of the window. "It was out at Lagrange 3 Colony X18999. The Specials were called in to help quell a local uprising, and we'd won with remarkably few casualties, but then Out of nowhere, some kid was standing there with a rocket launcher, and he fired I don't remember much other than throwing the suit in front of the Command Module it would not have withstood the impact. I woke up in the hospital. I was all drugged up I vaguely remember the nurse she was blonde and cute, with these bright blue eyes "
Treize turned back to her and met her gaze. "I have no idea how it happened. One minute, I was asleep, and the next, all I could see was blond hair. I swear, I didn't know what was happening, not until too late. I thought she was "
**He only saw the blond hair. Oh God ** "You thought it was Zechs."
Treize hung his head. "Yes. I was so weak It was like a dream. Zechs and I we'd only just started going out, but I knew I was in love I was so confused! I could barely lift my arms to touch her, and it was then I realised she was already on me, and I couldn't stop her. I couldn't stop her "
Sally silently came up next to him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I understand that, Treize. That's not the point, though. The point is, you have a daughter, now. What should we do?"
Treize shook his head. "God, what will Zechs say? What will any of them say?"
He gave her a weak, painful smile. "We need to talk. To everyone."
Sally nodded. "Johann is waking them all right now."
Heero was woken by a knock and the door opening.
"Heero?" Ines called softly. "Heero? You need to wake up..." The Japanese teen listened as she walked closer to the bed, then answered her.
"What is it?" he asked softly, trying not to wake Duo if it wasn't necessary.
"Po wants you to meet her in the Conference room ASAP. Both of you. I'm assuming, from the look on Marco's face, that it's pretty important."
"Right. Can you turn on the light, please? And find some heavy clothing for Duo?" Heero asked, sitting up and turning to his sleeping lover.
"Rad should be on his way back now with some of my stuff - just some sweats and a couple of sweatshirts. They may be a bit big on him," she said as she turned on the light, "but they're heavy and they'll keep him warm."
"Thanks," Heero replied, then brushed a hand down Duo's cheek. "Duo... come on, Duo, wake up."
The sleeping boy mumbled something incoherent, and Ines had to chuckle softly. "He reminds me of my little brother," she said, grin widening. "Nothing short of a glass of water or a trumpet by his ear would wake him up."
"Hn, maybe they're related," Heero said, humour in his voice. "Come on Duo, open your eyes. We have a mission."
The injured teen's eyes snapped open. "Mission?"
"Yup," his lover drawled, smirking. "Our mission is to get you bundled up and meet Sally in the conference room."
"Jerk," Duo said, smacking Heero's arm with his good hand. "Help me up. Why is Sally calling a meeting at," he grabbed the other boy's arm and looked at his watch, "4:20 in the freaking morning?! Is she nuts?"
"No, I don't believe her sanity is in question," Ines chuckled from just inside the door. "However, I'm guessing it's something pretty important... ah, Rad, good. Get in here and help Duo into my things while Heero gets himself ready. You brought the pink set I hope...?"
"Nah," Rad said, barrelling in the door with a small pile of clothes in his hands, "I got the baby blue and lavender. Pink just isn't the little man's colour..."
Duo groaned and stuck his tongue out at both of them.
Quatre and Trowa, robes thrown over pyjama bottoms, waited outside the conference room as Heero walked towards them, his blanket-wrapped lover in his arms.
"What the hell is going on?" Duo asked softly when they reached the two other pilots. "One minute all is quiet, not a creature is stirring - you know the story - and the next we're being dragged out of our nice warm beds at oh-dark-thirty for some sort of meeting."
"I don't know, Duo," Quatre replied. "Marco just said it was important when he woke us up."
"It has to be something really hot," Trowa added, reaching for the door handle. "He looked awful, like he'd been on the go for the last 24 hours, at least..."
"Maxwell, somehow this is your fault," Wufei grumbled from behind them, Zechs beside him. "What did you do this time? Did you have Heero switch Une's shampoo with dye?" The Chinese pilot's tone was scathing, but his eyes were laughing.
"Oh, ha ha," the braided teen retorted. "I bet she wants to complain about the noise from your room... even if she and Kev aren't even staying anywhere near you guys!"
"Is that a complaint from you?" Zechs asked smoothly.
"You bet it is. All that noise... getting us hot and bothered and we can't do anything about..."
Duo's voice trailed off as the door opened and they all walked in.
Treize was slumped in his chair, head in his hands. Une and Walker were sharing a couch, both looking tired and rumpled.
Zechs and Wufei hurried over to their lover. "Treize, what's wrong?" Zechs exclaimed.
Sally stood and raised a hand, silencing any more questions. "Gentlemen, please take a seat."
She waited until everyone was settled; Quatre and Trowa sharing one couch, Duo, still wrapped in the blanket and Heero's arms, on another. Zechs claimed a chair beside his older lover, and Wufei took the seat on his other side.
"We had some information come in a short while ago, and we think you all need to hear it so we can plan accordingly. I don't really know how to say this, aside from just putting it bluntly..."
She looked around the room, meeting each person's eyes, took a deep breath and continued. "Treize has a daughter..."
The room was silent.
Treize looked to his lovers from where he stood, across the room after telling the story again Wufei met his gaze squarely, sympathy glowing in his dark eyes, but Zechs
The blond was almost shaking with emotion, staring down at hands clasped so tightly his knuckles were white.
Treize took a step closer. "Zechs, listen to me "
The blond looked up, his eyes gleaming brightly. "You slept with her and you thought she was *me*?! We're just a little different, Treize! How could you do that!"
Treize stepped closer. "Zechs, I told you I was drugged "
Ice blue eyes bled with fire. "I know we'd just started seeing each other, but you cheated on me with some *whore* of an L3 "
Trowa stirred. "Leia Barton was no whore."
Treize turned to him. "You knew her?"
Trowa nodded. "Leia Barton was killed shortly after Mariemeia was born. I didn't know her personally, but I know she was a slave to her family."
"How do you know this?"
Trowa shrugged. "The real Trowa told me so. I saw a picture of the child, once. She does look like you." Trowa turned his head to look at Zechs. "If Dekim set it up, Zechs, I doubt there was much he could have done."
Ice blue eyes turned back to Treize. "But how could you possibly "
Wufei reached out and rested a calming hand on Zechs' arm. "He didn't do it on purpose, Zechs. Step back from it for a moment and see with your eyes, not your hurt pride."
Duo nodded, from across the room. "I believe him, Zechs."
Zechs met the young pilot's eyes. "And if it was Heero who had cheated on you?"
Duo shook his head. "We've all done things we regret, Zechs. The important thing is to hold on to the good parts and let the rest of it go."
Heero gripped Duo's hand tightly. "There's something I should say. This is all my fault."
Everyone looked at the Japanese pilot, wide-eyed.
Heero looked up at Treize. "The whole reason you were in the hospital, to begin with because someone fired on you "
Treize's jaw flapped open. "That was you?!"
Treize stared a moment longer, before he burst out laughing. "We even expand into space, and it's still a small world."
Quatre stood and paced over to Treize's side. "There's another issue we haven't thought of yet, though. If Barton set that up he wanted Leia to get pregnant. He wanted to have a hold over you. If that really is your child, and I'm inclined to believe it, she is in a terrible position. Think about it."
Treize met the small blond's eyes, but couldn't find a word to say. Stumbling back to his seat, he collapsed into it and put his head in his hands. "I need some coffee."
Quatre looked up Trowa met his eyes and nodded, heading for the door.
Smiling to himself, Quatre rested one hand on Treize's slumped shoulder comfortingly. "Did the message say anything else of consequence?"
Sally shook her head. "No Wessex brought his experiment with him, but Athena doesn't know any details, yet. She'll get back to us when she can."
Une stood up and moved to Quatre's side, giving the teen a small nod of thanks for taking charge of the situation. "Okay. Let's get some coffee and breakfast and then let's come up with a plan. We don't have any time to waste."
Thirty minutes later, they had a workable plan, but were still arguing over who should go.
Wufei grumbled as he stared at Heero. "Why should you get to go?"
Heero held tightly to Duo's hand. "Did you know - Dekim Barton funded Doctor J's work? Including me. I've seen what that man is capable of. I'm going."
Trowa stood up. "I'd like to go, as well."
Quatre glared up at them. "I don't see why *you* two should get the mission "
Une put a calming hand on Quatre's shoulder. "You've confessed that Trowa and the others have more experience than you in infiltration missions. It makes them the logical choice."
Trowa gave her a nod of thanks.
Heero fixed the blond with a look. "Dekim he is nothing short of a monster, Quatre. He has no respect for human life or dignity. I've seen what he can do, up close and personal. I won't let him do it. I have to do this."
Treize gave Trowa and Heero sad smiles. "I feel like I should be the one to go "
Duo shook his head emphatically. "No offence, Treize, but stealth and sneaking around just ain't your style. You'd challenge Dekim to a duel over her and that would be that."
Zechs chuckled. "He's probably right, love."
Duo shrugged. "Wu, no offence to you, either, but Heero and Trowa are better at this, almost as good as me. Since I can't go, obviously "
Trowa looked over to Sally. "How do we get there?"
"Marco will get you in - as soon as he wakes up again, we can make preparations," she replied. "Now a couple ground rules, gentlemen. Your primary mission is to get Mariemeia out and back here safely. I won't tell you not to take any other targets out, if you get a chance, but you are not to go looking for them, either. While I'm sure you could get to Dermail or Barton and take them out, you'd set off the alarm, and you'd be dead, along with the child."
Both Heero and Trowa nodded.
She continued, "We're arming you with stun guns, as well as your normal setup. Do not use lethal force unless you have to. You don't know who Athena is, and I won't risk you shooting her blindly."
Trowa nodded again. "Anything else?"
"Yeah. Don't get dead," Duo added. It was only when you looked deep into his eyes that you could see how serious he was.
Duo leaned heavily on Wufei and Quatre, standing off to the side as Zechs and Treize helped Trowa and Heero load up the last of their supplies into the back of a small jet. "Shit, I hate this."
Wufei squeezed his friend's shoulder gently. "We all do, Duo. But they won't be gone long."
Duo shrugged as he watched the loading coming to an end - Heero and Trowa were already in their infiltration gear, dressed from head to toe in solid black, weapons strapped onto them and gleaming dully in the light of the hangar. He frowned - this should have been *his* mission. He was the stealth expert. It was one thing for Heero to take 'Scythe and trash a base... but this was *his* specialty. *He* could have gotten into that mansion, grabbed the kid, shot Dekim, Dermail and Wessex, and gotten away without anyone being the wiser. **But do I get to go? No! Damn it all!**
Une and Walker joined them as the four loading the plane finished and jogged back to the main group. Trowa caught Quatre's eye as he approached. "That's it, then."
Heero walked straight to Duo and wrapped him in a tight, careful hug. "Take care of yourself."
Duo squeezed him back. "*I'll* be fine - it's you I'm worried about."
One arm wrapped around Quatre's shoulders, Trowa approached and gave Duo a confident, small smile. "No need to worry. We'll be back soon."
Duo gave the taller teen a warm smile, but then turned to his own boyfriend and kissed him soundly, trying to convey how much he loved and needed the other boy in that one single kiss.
Heero cupped Duo's cheek. "I know, love. Me, too."
The braided teen nodded, then hissed, "You damn well better be careful and come back in one piece, or so help me, I'll make the rest of your life a living hell! You got that, Yuy?"
"Loud and clear, Maxwell, loud and clear." Heero kissed his lover one more time, then turned and jogged to the jet, climbing on board without a backwards glance. Trowa kissed Quatre quickly and followed.
Treize stepped up, supporting the rapidly weakening teen, as the jet revved its engines, then taxiied out of the hangar and down the runway. Once it had taken off and was out of sight, the taller man scooped Duo into his arms.
"They're off, they'll be fine, and you're going to bed," he said, walking briskly to the infirmary.
"No buts, young man," Treize said with a scowl. "I don't have the patience to argue with you about this right now..."
"Practicing your 'daddy' skills on me..."
"Duo, I think I've been more than patient and restrained until now," Une called, hearing his protest, and jogged forward to join them. "You've been up and out of your room since 0430 this morning. It is now 1400 hours. I'll say it once. Duo, bed, now!"
The braided teen sighed dramatically. "Yes, *mommy*..."
Howard felt slightly guilty disturbing Treize after Duo had told him what had happened this morning, but the ex-General and Sally needed to know what was going on. He had put it off long enough, not wanting to intrude on what had to be a stressing situation for the young man, even though Heero and Trowa were off to retrieve the little girl. And, heck, maybe this would take the ginger-haired man's mind off it for a little while, at least...
The base loudspeaker crackled slightly. "Colonel Po and General Kushrenada, please report to the command centre... Colonel Po and General Kushrenada, please report to the command centre..."
Howard leaned back against the console and patted the soldier's shoulder. "Thanks, boy," he said cheerfully, "that saved me having to hunt them down."
"No problem, sir. It's part of my job, after all."
Five minutes later, Sally and a strained-looking Treize rushed into the building.
"Howard?" Sally asked. "Is there a problem?"
"Nope. Just got word from Cosmo that they're about two hours out. Two transport planes, chocked to the gills with parts and equipment, a crew of 15 on board..." He rubbed his chin. "That'll bring them in just between satellite passes, from what this boy tells me," he nodded at the young soldier seated by a radar screen. "I figured you'd want to be informed so you could make arrangements. They've also got their own camouflage nets, so you don't need to worry about the planes being spotted on the ground."
"Howard, you're a gem," Treize said, sitting down in one of the chairs. "You've thought of everything."
"Of course," he replied with a smirk. "One other thing. There's a third plane coming in, probably tomorrow night. It's a full load of refined gundanium."
"Gundanium? Full load?" Sally asked, eyes widening. "What do you need with that much?"
Howard sighed slightly. "As I told you before, the 'additions' I can do to the suits are minimal right now. I'm going to have to upgrade all of them, including Deathscythe. That may mean remodelling as well. They're good now, but if they have to go up against fully functional mobile dolls..." He shrugged. "I'm not letting that happen without doing everything I can to give them the edge."
"You know about the dolls..." Treize said, more statement than question. Howard nodded.
"Kev told me... and gave me the specs he got from Duo. I have to talk to my kid and see what he thinks we need to do, but I've got some ideas of my own. With the stuff coming in, and with Duo's help once you let him into the hangar, Sally, I think I can give them all active cloaks. Heavier armour, especially in the cockpit areas, more power, stronger weapons... I think we'll also do the upgrades two suits at a time. That way, there'll always be four of them ready to go. One at a time would take too long..."
Sally raised her hand. "I think we get it, Howard!" she chuckled. "And I have to agree with you. Treize?"
"Hmmm... Howard, what about space manoeuvres?" At Sally's quizzical glance, he explained. "There is a good possibility that our battles may take us to space. I don't know about the Gundams, but Tallgeese isn't space-ready..."
Howard nodded. "You have a good point. Deathscythe, Wing and Shenlong are space-capable. From what I've seen, neither Sandrock nor Heavyarms are." He pulled a small notebook from his pocket. "I'll add that to the list. Hmmm... thrusters... I hope they brought enough..." Howard walked absent-mindedly out the door, poring over the notes in the book.