Chapter 23

 

Changing Allegiance

Chapter 23


ADDITIONAL WARNING: Mental Heero torture... may be disturbing to some...

The room was silent, so quiet that Duo's soft breathing at Heero's side sounded loud and harsh in his ears. He turned to look deep into the braided teen's eyes as he began to speak with a shaking voice. "There's so much about me that I've never told you, and it's not that I don't trust you, not at all. It's that…"

He turned away. "What happened to me when I was a kid was not… pleasant." He shivered, and Duo clutched his hand firmly. "After Odin died, I was wandering for a while, but I had nowhere to go and no one to go to. I was on L-3, I had no money… and I got caught pretty damned quickly."

He smiled ruefully. "Not by the police – I was caught sneaking onto this estate, and I tried to fight my way out, but there were so many… It was the Bartons, of course. They threw me in this cell and left me there for at least a week. I don't even remember when they took me out of there. I woke up on this table, and I couldn't move. I was strapped down, and people in white coats approached.

"They just left me there. It felt like my whole body was on fire! I couldn't control anything, and they just *left* me there!" Duo wrapped his good arm tightly around Heero as he felt his lover beginning to tremble. "They didn't give me food or water until I stopped fighting them. They didn't even let me move…"

The rest of the room was in silent shock. Trowa, in particular, was close to screaming. He was guessing at what was coming, and if it was what he thought it was…

A tear slipped down Heero's cheek, and Duo brushed it away carefully, squeezing his hand warmly. "Please, go on."

Heero looked down at their linked hands. "I didn't have a name, so it didn't really matter to me when they told me they were giving me a name. They called me Alpha, and they told me I was to be the first of their advanced humans. Barton said… he said they were taking evolution into their own hands. It felt… it felt wrong, though. Odin used to say… he told me I had to follow my emotions and be true to them. But Dekim… he gave me drugs that blocked the *me* out completely. I don't know what happened – I know I did things, terrible things. And I had no choice in it – they didn't give me a choice, and any time I questioned anything…"

Duo's grip tightened on his lover as Heero fought off tears.

Sally prompted gently. "What did he give you?"

Heero stared down at the slender hand joined with his. "I don't really know. My controller would be able to tell you – he was the main architect of everything I went through. There was gene therapy, too, though. I'm stronger than I have any right to be. You know that already – you used gundanium cuffs to restrain me, last time you managed to catch me. I have extremely high endurance. I can hold my breath for very long periods of time – they held me under water to test that. I'm immune to almost all poisons and toxins known to man, and I will seldom, if ever, get sick."

He looked up and straight at Trowa. "My immune system has been tampered with, as well. You should heal very quickly, Trowa, and you're going to feel… energetic, for the next few days. I was designed to be a universal donor, so you'll get at least a temporary benefit from my antibodies. Maybe more."

Sally looked back down at the note in her hands. "Bravo thinks you are dead. Or did. Why?"

Heero shook his head. "I was not allowed to know any of the others. I knew they existed, but the only people I was permitted to meet were my trainers, the doctors, the Bartons, and my targets. Anytime I made a mistake… the room they put me in had a one-way mirror, and I think the other members of the project had to watch…" He shuddered hard and choked on tears as he fought them off.

He looked up and locked eyes with Duo. "The last straw – I was on a mission to blow up an Alliance base. I finished setting the explosives up early, and I was in a nearby park. God, I remember that day so clearly! It was bright and sunny-looking, warm… and there was this little girl there – she was walking her dog, and she gave me a flower…" He choked up again, and Duo stroked his back gently, his own eyes already hard and sorrowful. He'd heard this story before.

Heero continued, "That night, something went wrong. One of the explosions knocked a mobile suit off the base and right into a residential complex. An entire city block of sleeping, innocent people, dead just like that. I didn't know what to do, only that I had to at least *try* and find survivors. I found… I found…" His eyes closed tightly. "I found that little dog in the burned out remains of an apartment. I'd killed her – I'd killed them all. It was my fault."

Quatre struggled. He could feel emotions pouring off of Heero and Duo, both, and he knew things were going to get worse, still.

Heero was trembling, and everyone in the room felt how wrong it was. He was always so strong, so in-control... He was the Perfect Soldier, after all. Trowa met Wufei's eyes and gave a small nod in Duo's direction. Wufei nodded back – they could only imagine what was going through their friend's head, and none of what they were imagining was pleasant!

Heero grabbed the end of Duo's braid with his free hand and clutched it firmly, stroking the tightly bound strands slowly with his thumb. Using the braid almost as a visual anchor, he locked his gaze on it as he continued his story. "They dragged me back to the base - I had still been there when the emergency services arrived, and I was almost caught. Dekim was furious! The real Trowa was there, too – the two of them watched it… They bound me down on that table again and injected me with… something. I don't know what. It hurt, though, and just when I thought it couldn't get worse… I couldn't move a muscle without causing intense pain, and they had live electric cables in their hands…"

Duo's eyes lit with an unholy flame.

"They left me there again, and I thought I was going to die. I hurt everywhere… But I didn't." He opened his eyes again. "Dekim had ordered Doctor J to kill me, it seems. I had shown too much emotion. I was too independent, too headstrong. But J… I didn't understand it, then, why he saved me, but he did. He took me to L-1, and you all know the rest." He fell silent.

Duo wrapped his good arm tightly around Heero and kissed his forehead gently. "My Heero…"

Everyone watched in silent respect as the braided teen rocked his lover to a fitful slumber.

Duo gently settled his lover into the bed, and then purposefully swung his legs over the side, pushing himself to his feet with a steely glint in his eyes.

Sally started forward immediately. "Duo, get back into…"

He turned his gaze on her, and she stopped short in shock and fear. The look in his eyes… it was nothing short of homicidal. "You are going to follow me into the next room and take this god-damned cast off my arm. I don't care what it takes – Lase my arm back together, whatever it takes. I'm going back on active duty effective immediately."

"Duo…"

Wufei caught hold of her arm and gave her a little shake of the head as she reached for the braided teen again. She looked into his eyes and nodded. "I don't think you're ready for this."

Duo's eyes blazed in his face. "I didn't ask you for an opinion, Doctor. Move."

No one said a word as Duo walked out as well as he could.

Quatre immediately moved to the bed and put a hand on Heero's shoulder, gently rubbing it. "Allah…"

Zechs stood and moved to the bedside, speaking in a low voice. "You can't possibly mean you're letting him…"

Wufei looked up at his lover and shook his head. "Trying to talk sense to Duo right now will only get one of us seriously injured. Didn't you see his eyes?"

Une scowled. "I don't care! He doesn't belong…"

"Try saying that to Shinigami, if you have a death wish," Quatre said softly, his hard eyes belying his tone. "I wouldn't recommend going near him right now. I almost pity Barton, that sick fuck!"

Everyone started, unused to hearing any obscenities coming from the blond teen, but Quatre was almost shaking with tension and anger. "By the time we're done with him, he's going to wish he'd never been born. He's going to beg us to finish it."

"Quatre?"

The blond didn't answer, though. Standing abruptly, he stormed from the room, much as Duo had.

Trowa looked up at his friend. "Wufei? I can't possibly chase him down right now."

"Gotcha." The Chinese teen left to find Quatre, dragging Treize, Zechs and Une out with him.

Left alone in the room, Trowa stood and stumbled across to the bed, lying down carefully at his friend's side. Heero was crying in his sleep, silently. Trowa grabbed the sheet and gently wiped the tears away. "God, Heero, I'm so sorry."

~*~

"You're both crazy."

Duo and Quatre looked up - the blond was carefully helping his friend wrap his broken arm in a tight bandage under a black t-shirt. Duo ignored Treize's statement completely and reached for a black turtleneck sweater. Quatre raised an eyebrow, though. "Does this conversation have a point?"

Zechs pushed passed Treize and Wufei, who were standing in the doorway to Quatre and Trowa's room, and carefully helped Duo pull his hair free of the sweater. "You really think we're going to let you go, don't you?"

Duo looked up at the tall blond. "I'm going, whether you like it or not. It's time for that bastard to pay."

Wufei stepped forward. "Duo, listen to me. This isn't going to help…"

Quatre shook his head. "Yes, it will. You all want Barton removed, right? Well, if we're lucky, there won't be enough left of that piece of shit to mop up with a sponge. If we're luckier, we'll take them both down!" He bent to pull a bag out from under his bed, and pulled out two holsters, handing one to Duo while he strapped another on.

Swearing under his breath, Zechs turned on his heel and headed in the other direction.

Wufei watched Duo fumble with his holster for a moment before he reached out and untangled it gently. "Heero and Trowa are going to kill us for letting you do this."

"I don't think we should." Treize glared at his Chinese lover.

A glint of violet was all the warning Treize got before the *swick* of a knife was heard and he jumped back in fright- a well-tended knife was sticking out of the doorpost, just inches from where his face had been. Duo's poisonous glare met Treize's incredulous look. "You were saying?"

Wufei grabbed hold of Duo's good arm. "Duo!"

Duo's eyes turned to land on Wufei and chilled him. "Let go." He obeyed.

~*~

Zechs skidded to a halt outside Heero and Duo's room, and Rad caught him by the shoulders. "What the hell is going on, boy?"

The tall blond scowled. "Quatre and Duo, that's what. I need to see Heero. Now."

Ines shook her head. "Sally gave him a shot - he really needs some rest…"

"Shit!" Zechs ran his hands up into his hair and yanked. "Is Trowa awake?"

Ines shrugged. "Dunno. I'll find out." She slipped into the room.

Rad pointed down the hall. "Go talk to Lady Une and Sally. I'll go after them."

"Thanks," Zechs mumbled, already turning away.

Rad swore and took off running.

~*~

Sally looked up as Une forced a hot mug of tea into her hands. The shaken doctor nodded her thanks and sipped slowly.

Une perched on the corner of the desk and sighed, patiently waiting for her friend to speak. She, herself, was more than shocked by the incident earlier. It had been disturbing to hear Heero speak of his treatment by Dekim Barton. *That* had been enough to get her protective instincts up in force. But his braided lover's reaction had been frightening. Throughout the story he had been calm, concerned and extremely supportive of his Japanese partner. Once Heero had fallen asleep, however, Duo had become a hard, cold killer.

**My God,** Une thought. **I always assumed that the nicknames 'Shinigami' and 'God of Death' were just that - nicknames. But today...**

"I swear, Une," Sally said, cutting off the other woman's internal monologue. "If I hadn't done as he wanted, I don't know what he would have done. I don't *think* he would have really hurt me, but there was so much rage in him..." She sighed and shook her head. "I guess I don't need to say he scared the hell out of me..."

Une took a deep breath. "No, if you felt half as frightened as I did, you don't need to say it. And Quatre... I *know* he is a Gundam pilot, and he's certainly ruthless when it comes to tactics and plans... but I never thought I'd see him so - enraged? Vindictive?" She sighed worriedly. "You don't really think Treize is going to let them leave, do you?"

Sally snorted mirthlessly. "Would you want to try to stop them? No, I think Treize will try to talk the boy out of it. I also don't think he'll stand in the way if reason doesn't work. And it won't. The man is many things, but stupid or suicidal is not one of them."

She stood up and paced across her office. "I just know he's going to make himself worse. And what about Heero? I had to sedate him, for God's sake! What's he going to do when he wakes up and finds Duo gone?"

"Maybe Treize can talk some sense into them - Quatre, at least." Une said, doubtfully. "Or maybe if we get Howard..."

Both women jumped as Zechs burst into the office.

"They're both out of their minds! Sally, tell me you have a tranquilliser gun, please?!" he yelled, sliding to a stop in front of her. "They're on their way out and we have to stop them!"

"Whoa, Zechs," Sally said quickly. "I don't have a trank gun, and I'm not even going to try to get near enough to either of them to use a needle. I do *not* have a death wish."

She raised her hand as the blond started to protest. "I know, Zechs. I'm worried too. But I can't justify putting my people in danger just to stop him. At this point, we're just going to have to hope they come back, no worse for the wear... tell Farley to be ready for anything once we figure out when they'll get back. I'm going to assume this is going to set Duo back. His arm is still broken; it hasn't had time for the bones to set. I've had the bronchitis under control, but it's far from gone, and any real strain *is* going to tear the stitches in his chest... not to mention re-separate the ribs." She sighed and brushed some loose hair from her face. "Of course, there's always the chance that other things could go wrong..."

"Sally!" Une snapped. "Enough! We know what could go wrong."

Zechs slumped against the wall. "Okay, we can't stop them. We make sure to have everything ready, medical-wise, for their return... what else can we do?"

Une looked him straight in the eye, and when she answered him, her voice was hard. "Pray."

~*~

"Tower, this is Sweepers Oh-Three, ready to rock." Gio slipped on her headphones and grinned.

The radio squawked. "Roger that, Oh-Three. You are cleared for departure off lane two."

"Hi, Auntie."

Gio jumped and smacked her head on a console. "Jesus Christ, kid! You don't have to… Holy shit! Duo?"

He gave her a dangerous smile. "We need some help." Quatre stepped forward to Duo's shoulder, the same dangerous look on his face.

Gio frowned. "No bloody way. Don't even *think* about it; I don't want to hear anything…"

"That bastard tortured him, Gio," Duo said in a soft voice, his eyes glowing with the need to find and hurt Dekim Barton. "Used him like a fucking science experiment! He had his daughter *rape* Treize Kushrenada and beat that poor little girl up! He's a fucking *monster!*"

Gio looked over at Quatre. "What the hell is going on?"

The blond lifted an eyebrow. "Simple. Dekim Barton hurt one of our own. He deserves to die. We need a ride to Boston. You are going to take us there. Any questions?"

She stared at him, wide-eyed. "Maybe we should talk to Howard, first…"

Duo reached out and put a gentle hand on her arm. "Gio… you're like a Mom to me. I don't want to have to hurt you. Take me to Boston, please."

She shook her head. "Duo, you need to calm down. I'm supposed to guide our other two planes in, not go joyriding…"

"Please, Gio." A tear fell down his face. "I need this, I really do."

She stared at the two teenagers, both fixing her with serious stares. She finally sighed and broke the standoff. "Howard and Heero will kill me for this."

"Only if we let them, and we won't, will we, boys?"

They turned around to find Rad standing right behind them. The tall, older man grinned down at all three. "I've never been to Boston." He grinned. "*Someone* has to come with and look after you, after all. And I *am* your bodyguard..."

"Sweepers Oh-Three, you are cleared to taxi. You have a five minute takeoff window," the radio squawked.

Quatre sat at the co-pilot's seat and began strapping himself in without a word.

Gio sighed and waved the other two back into the plane. "Thanks, tower. Let's go."

~*~

"Howard! The shit just hit the fan" Rodney yelled, flying into the hangar. "You are going to kill the kid... and Gio..."

Howard jerked, rapping his head on a conductor coil, deep in Deathscythe's power plant. With an audible curse, he crawled his way out of the Gundam, worked his way down the scaffold and glared at the other mechanic. Walker, hearing the yell, rushed to his side.

"What the hell is going on?" Howard bellowed, rubbing his head. "What do you mean 'the shit hit the fan'?"

"I just went to see Doc Po about this cut," he said, slightly out of breath and pointing at the gash on his forearm. "I heard her talkin' to Colonel Une. Something happened in their little meeting - don't ask me what - but Duo lost it. She said something about him leaving and the colonel said something about 'them' leaving. Heero's sedated, and the General won't be able to stop 'them'."

Rodney winced at Howard's scowl and Walker's frown, but kept going. "Then I heard someone running and ducked into a closet. It was Marquise, and he asked for a trank gun. Then Po went on about how Duo's still injured, and his arm's still broke, and he'll tear his stitches... and I hightailed it out of there. On the way here, I saw Duo and Quatre getting onto Gio's plane, that burly bodyguard behind them." He took a breath. "Howard, you know Gio. If he gives her a reason, or no other option... she'll go along with him. She won't even take the chance of hurting him to stop him..."

"Son of a bitch!" Howard roared, racing out of the hangar towards the control room, Walker and Rodney on his heels. "I am going to *kill* my kid!"

~*~

"Sweeper One to Sweeper Three... What the *hell* is going on! Get back here right now!" Howard snarled into the radio, causing the radio operator to wince. "Damnit, Gio, answer me or by God I'll come up there and shoot you down so fast..."

"No can do, Howie," Duo's voice said, low and cold. "I've got a mission, and Auntie Gio is helping me accomplish it."

Howard shivered when he heard the braided boy. He knew that voice, and it wasn't his Duo's... not exactly. "Duo," he said, tone soft and calming, "tell me what's going on. What happened? What about Heero?"

"Heero is why I have to do this," Duo replied. "Dekim Barton is a monster!" he snarled, "and it's time he paid for his crimes. I'm going to send him to Hell where he belongs!" Then, his voice softened, a hint of the 'child' Duo slipping through. "I have to stop him, Howie... he hurt Heero... he hurt Treize... now he's hurt little Marie. He's like all the predators on L2. I have to stop him, before he hurts someone else. Please, Howie... tell me you understand?"

Howard rubbed at his eyes, and slumped over the communications console. Walker put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed supportingly. "I understand, kid. I don't like it, but I understand. "Promise me, kid, you'll come back, safe and sound, so I can beat the daylights out of you for this stunt," he said, worry clearly audible in his voice.

"I promise, Howie. I'll be back. Sweeper Three out."

Static filled the room, then Howard cut the connection. Looking at his bent shoulders, Walker thought he had aged ten years in the past few minutes. The older man hauled himself to his feet and looked around, resolve and acceptance on his face.

"Okay, Rodney. Radio Cosmo, tell him things have been delayed a bit, and to hold position until you get there," he said, fully in command of himself and the situation. "Once the next satellite has passed, take your butt up there and guide them in. Walker," he continued, turning to the young engineer, "find Une, Treize and Sally, and let them know about the slight change in plans. Also, see if Sally has any operatives that can keep us apprised of what's going on with Duo over there... ETAs for return, that sort of thing..."

"Palmer," he said to the radio operator, "Keep sweeping the channels. Let me know the minute you hear anything from Duo, Quatre or Gio..."

Palmer nodded. "Yes, sir. Will do."

Howard sighed. "I guess all we can do now is wait."

TBC


On to Chapter 24

Back to Preventers' HQ

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