Chapter 29: Remembering Tatsuhiko Yuy
by Casey Valhalla
Solo was not the sort of demon who liked to win easily, and as such he
avoided playing board games with anyone who had lived for less than a few
centuries, and even then there usually wasn't much of a challenge. Howard,
however, being one of only a handful of elves he had ever met who were old
enough to actually *look* old, never failed to keep him on his toes.
"Battle cruiser to D-8. Fire at will."
"I hate you, old man." Solo studied the half-board in front of him, glowing
emerald eyes flickering over the positioned starships. He gritted his teeth
and added a red peg to the fighter holding at D-8, glaring over the
partition that separated his side of the board from Howard's. "I figured
out where your mothership is, yanno."
"Did you now?" The elderly elf-turned-pirate leaned back in his chair,
peering over a set of triangular sunglasses to regard his Relic with a
smirk. "And you haven't done a damn thing about it, I see."
Solo narrowed his eyes, the only part of him that was visible over the
partition, save for a fringe of flame-red bangs sticking out from beneath
the scarf that held the rest of his mass of unruly hair in check. "I'm
luring you into a false sense of security."
"And doing a fine job of it, my boy, a fine job." Howard grinned, pearly
teeth reflecting the artificial sunlight that poured through a
floor-to-ceiling viewscreen, currently displaying a tropical setting.
Howard's brightly colored shirt matched the scene perfectly.
The room wasn't terribly large, as captain's quarters go, but it was
carpeted, and furnished only with the sturdy, square table and two cushioned
chairs. The walls were a matte bronze metallic finish, adorned with
patterned cloth hangings and built-in shelves displaying ceremonial weaponry
and trinkets. Howard's collection of handmade paper airplanes hung from the
ceiling, turning slowly in the slight breeze of the ventilation system.
A series of bell tones sounded, forming the melody of an old elvish folk
song no one was particularly fond of, but that Howard found amusing for some
unknown reason, especially when it acted as his doorbell. Both elf and
Relic looked up from the game and towards the door simultaneously, a few
seconds of silence passing between them.
"You get it," Howard said, turning back to the board.
Solo whipped his gaze back to his controller fast enough to send the tails
of his headscarf flying through the air behind him. "Huh? Why me?"
"Because I don't feel like getting up."
"Fine." Solo raised a hand towards the door and paused. "You know who it
"I know exactly who it is. Stop stalling and open the door."
The Relic shrugged and waved his hand, but since the door slid open at the
same moment it obviously wasn't an idle gesture. Solo turned back to the
game before the door was completely open, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
"Star destroyer to F-11." He stood up quickly, pushing his chair back under
the table. "Now if you'll excuse me..."
One of the two individuals who had just entered the room cleared his throat,
and Solo finally looked up to acknowledge them. One face was familiar to
him as always, but the other belonged to a ghost. Solo let out a breath,
and it formed into a name.
*"Fucking Hells... damn it, Duo, let him go! He's dead!"*
Now there was a memory Solo would be glad to be rid of one day. He found
himself staring into a pair of cold blue eyes as though entranced, until a
hand appeared in front of his face and snapped its fingers.
Reality returned slowly, sounds coming back like the rush of starship
thrusters powering up. Solo shook his head in an inane attempt to clear it,
and his gaze came into focus on the one creature in the universe he would
ever willingly submit to. Duo had his trenchcoat slung over one shoulder,
braid dangling over the other, his eyes like violet glowbugs staring Solo
down. The redheaded Relic shrugged his shoulders and made the attempt to
brush off his sudden loss of balance by giving Duo a solemn nod. "Milord."
"Shut up." Duo's eyes narrowed and he smacked Solo playfully in the
shoulder, the beginnings of a smirk forming on his face. "Howard might get
"He's never that polite to me, that's for damn sure," the aging elf
commented from his position, still bent over the game board. "Especially
when he's reaming me at a strategy game." Howard pushed away from the table
slowly and stood, folding his arms behind his back with a kind of graceful
nonchalance. The young man in front of him was wearing Tatsuhiko Yuy's clan
colors and carrying Tatsuhiko Yuy's sword, wearing the same style of
chainmail glove but a decidedly less friendly expression. Howard peered
into his face like a child trying to remember where he'd met someone before.
"Remarkable resemblance," Solo muttered under his breath, hoping only Duo
could hear the comment but knowing better.
"Fucking uncanny, I'd say," Howard declared, straightening and offering the
young man a hand. "Howard, of the Westshore clans, Niccon I."
Solo leaned in to Duo's ear, whispering sub-vocally in the hopes that just
*maybe* Howard's sensitive ears wouldn't pick it up. "Shit, the last I saw
of him he couldn't even walk yet. Or say your name properly, if I recall."
Duo snorted but didn't reply, watching as Heero completed the handshake
curtly and turned to the two Relics. Solo spread his arms and bowed
slightly at the waist. "Solo Dainan."
Duo snickered. Heero raised an eyebrow behind the messy bangs that covered
his forehead but didn't say anything, nodding to Solo in return. The
redhead grimaced, cheeks turning red in the effort to keep from chuckling,
but when Duo burst into gales of laughter he couldn't keep it contained any
Heero folded his arms petulantly. "What's so funny?"
Solo had to catch hold of Duo's shoulder to keep himself upright. "That is
such a lame joke."
"You'd think," Duo said between breaths, "that after two thousand years it
wouldn't be funny anymore."
"But it is!"
Out of the corner of his eye, Solo caught Heero throwing them a suspicious
look until Howard waved him over to the table. "Don't pay those two any
mind, they've got some kind of inside joke about Solo's last name that
they've never bothered to share with anyone else, and I don't imagine
they'll start now." The elf hooked his chair with a foot and pulled it back
under him. "Sit down, my boy, it's about damn time the two of us had a
Solo caught Duo --- who was still in stitches over the private joke --- and
hauled him by the arm towards the door. "We're going to the pub."
"Get the hell out of here," Howard growled after them. "Damn kids."
Duo slung his trenchcoat in the crook of his elbow and stuffed his hands in
his pockets, matching Solo's lanky strides down the corridor. "Are you sure
the pub is the best place to talk?"
"Too damn many people on this ship speak the old language. At least there
we might be drowned out." Solo paused to peer around a corner before
continuing on, stuffing a strand of hair back under his scarf idly.
"There's no time for anything more secure."
Duo opened his mouth to retort but the redhead waved at him and led the way
into the "open-air" restaurant situated on the corner of two intersecting
paths on the third level, steel posts the only thing separating the tables
from the causeways that circled the docking bay. The population of the
place was high, as one would expect in the simulated hours of late
afternoon. One table was steadfastly occupied by a red cat, who was busy
staring down an agitated barmaid, who understandably needed the table for
"That would be for us, Sy, sorry about that," Solo called out, signaling the
barmaid with two fingers. "The usual, if you would."
Duo gave the polished walnut furniture a cursory glance and sat down,
scratching Yoko behind the ears. "Good girl."
Solo folded his arms on the glossy surface of the table, green eyes peering
into the Eldest's impassive face. "You knew."
"I guessed." Duo slipped into the old language with an ease he had
forgotten, finally letting himself give his friend a long, ascertaining
look. Same red hair. Same slim, wide-eyed features. Same tendency to come
up with the oddest color schemes, although the green headscarf with a purple
surcoat and red knickers wasn't the most outrageous thing Duo had ever seen
him wearing. "How did you find me?"
"Mishide." Solo's gaze turned abruptly to the side. "He called me, said he
needed a favor."
"He asked you to take over for him."
"Yeah." The barmaid reappeared long enough to set two tall glasses of iced
blue liquid on the table. Solo poked at the straw, swirling the drink until
the cherry fell below the ice cubes. "I'm not a priest."
"So? It's not beyond your abilities."
"That's exactly what he told me."
Duo gave him an ironic smile. "How many of the others did you call?"
"I offered Fiana an all-expenses paid vacation to Absaloth. She didn't
bite." Solo shrugged slowly, bending further over the table and taking a
sip of his drink. "Howard still owes Tetsuhiko a favor, so I convinced him
to come after you two once I was sure I couldn't get out of it."
"You couldn't anyway, you're the only one who can make contacts freely."
Duo mirrored the redhead's position, staring directly into Solo's eyes.
Solo abandoned the straw and took a long swig, licking his lips as he set
the glass back down. "Sometimes I really wish we could get drunk off this
stuff." He sighed and pushed the drink to the side. "Rainen called me.
They found it." When Duo didn't answer immediately he continued. "It was
the dig site just north of Kudaru, like you thought. There's a problem,
though." He rapped his knuckles nervously against the tabletop. "Someone's
already in there, using the lower levels. Rainen doesn't know who, yet."
Duo had leaned back in his chair, one arm across his stomach, the other
propped by the elbow, fingers rubbing his chin. "It's enough to act on."
"Kirin already activated the override. Disruption begins in forty-eight
The Eldest's head jerked up, eyes flashing dangerously. "Forty-eight ---
dammit, Solo, you were supposed to wait for my command!"
"We couldn't contact you in hyperspace, and Kirin couldn't wait any longer
or the patch would have degraded to the point that one of our controllers
would have noticed something was off." Solo cocked his head to the side.
"Yours is the oldest. Had any trouble?"
"Yeah. Heero's already noticed something. I think I managed to throw him
off the scent though. I can't lie to him." Duo deflated and leaned forward
against the table again. "How long will we have?"
"There's no way to tell. Maybe a week, Kirin thinks."
"And we'll need every second, or two decades of planning will be shot all to
hell." Duo dug his fingers into his bangs, the heel of his palm resting
against his forehead. "Damn. Forty-eight hours."
"But I didn't expect it to happen in the middle of a fucking war. I
expected to have more time."
"Shit, Duo, we didn't expect a lot of things. Like Vista Runair's
daughter!" Solo barked a laugh and leaned back in his chair, slinging his
arms over the backrest. "She was supposed to run away with Westley
Catalonia to be a good little Modicum clanwife, not an ISG fleet admiral!
Rainen and his crew took ten years out of a projected five. Didn't realize
Torreldaeo was that damn big of a planet." He reached up, pushing his scarf
back to scratch at his bangs. "The patches turned out all fucking screwy,
and without Mishide..." Solo paused and looked into Duo's eyes, his own
glow wavering. "You didn't expect to betray a controller..." He let the
sentence hang; Duo knew the rest as well as he did.
*You didn't expect to have to betray a controller with the same face as the
man I had to pry out of your arms on Galgadion.*
The Eldest dropped his hand and switched back to the basic language
abruptly, backlit eyes frosting over. "You're way out of line, seventh."
"First." Solo leaned back and slid his drink back in front of him, turning
the glass between his fingers. "Apologies."
Silence stretched for a moment before Duo sighed and tapped his straw in
irritation, reverting to the old language once again. "What's our
"Kirin's vacation starts tomorrow. He'll be there before us, securing the
dig site and trying to find out who the hell is down there." Solo took
another long pull from his drink and swirled the ice thoughtfully. "Now
that I think about it, I wish we had Naki in on this."
"She's already been Restrained. No sense getting her into more trouble."
Duo picked an ice cube out of his glass and dropped it in his mouth.
"Besides, she hates me, remember?"
"She loves you."
"That's why she hates me." Duo propped his chin up with one hand, ice
clicking against his teeth, and focused on the condensation running down the
side of his glass. "It's a risk."
"I'm not crazy about solitary, but I don't mind the quiet." Solo's grin was
wry and flat.
"I already owe you too many damn favors." Duo's eyes narrowed teasingly.
The redhead's grin turned wicked, leaning across the table until he was
almost nose-to-nose with the Eldest. "If it would ease your poor troubled
conscience I could always spill to the Ministry."
"You wouldn't dare." Duo glared at the smart-aleck expression for all of
two seconds, then pulled his straw out of his drink and threw it at Solo.
"You and Kirin both, snotty little bastards."
"Kiss my ass, Maxwell." Solo shifted to the edge of his seat, eyes glowing
dangerously. "And eat ice, while you're at it."
Duo ducked, but didn't quite manage to dodge the handful of ice Solo scooped
out of his glass. He stared at the redhead in shock for almost a full
minute before his eyes darkened. "Oh, you are *so* asking for it."
Yoko licked one paw and watched the two dash haphazardly through the bar and
off down one of the causeways, tracing their path by the sudden parting of
bystanders in various areas.
Yoko looked up to see the barmaid looking over the table with a mask of
tense frustration over her otherwise pretty face.
"So, kitty, do you pay in cash or plastic?"
Heero didn't say anything as the gray-haired elf pulled the game board apart
and packed it away, settling each piece carefully into place. He found
himself staring at the gigantic viewscreen that covered the entirety of one
wall, sunshine over a clear, sparkling beach, probably located on some
resort planet or other. His eyes caught in the flickering of water pulling
in and out along the line of sand, the reflection blurring his vision to
white, and he nearly jumped when the elf finally spoke.
"Let me have a look at that sword."
The assassin snapped to attention and offered Howard a brief scrutiny before
nodding and unbuckling the scabbard from his belt, laying the sword
reverently across the cleared table. Howard grabbed his right hand
suddenly, turning it over, watching the chainmail sparkle in the false
sunlight from the viewscreen.
"The infamous family curse." Howard chuckled to himself. "Had any trouble
"None at all, sir," Heero replied, tones clipped.
"Good to hear." The elf drew the blade out slowly, holding it up to the
light, studying the edges and the blood-groove, weighing the tang against
the blade, checking the length for warping, eying the leather wrappings on
the handle and a tiny ding on the hilt.
"That was already there," Heero remarked defensively.
"The Inter," Howard commented without looking up from his examination.
"Niccon III. That was before the ISG took over the system. Got clipped by
a broadsword. You sure as hell take good care of this."
"Of course I do." Heero had the urge to fold his arms and slouch backwards,
but didn't feel comfortable enough yet to drop his guard. He settled for
glaring, that was always a safe fallback plan. "You seem damn familiar with
it. Care to explain yourself?"
"I made this sword," the elf growled. Heero couldn't tell if he was glaring
too, for the sunglasses.
"For my father?"
"For his grandfather. Tatsuhiko Yuy was nothing but a damn whelp when he
died." Howard set the sword down abruptly. "Not much older than you are
now. Not planning on following in his footsteps, are you, boy?" Black
glasses stared Heero down.
"No, sir," the assassin swallowed.
Howard sheathed the sword quickly and handed it back to Heero, one hand on
the hilt, one on the blade, as though presenting it to a clanmaster. "Good,
cause that kid did nothing but look for trouble, and he damn well found it."
He sat back once Heero had taken the sword, propping one elbow on the
armrest of his chair and tugging his mustache. "But, I owe a debt on that
sword. This is your opportunity to call it in."
Heero frowned, brows drawing together. "I don't know what---"
"Don't underestimate us just because we're pirates, boy. The Network has a
large enough force to significantly compliment the Resistance fleet, and
intelligence coming out our eyeballs. All you have to do," the elf drawled,
leaning forward over the table and dropping his glasses to meet Heero's
eyes, "is ask for my help. The Network is ready to jump on this. The ISG
police forces are serious thorns in our sides, for obvious reasons, and
besides that, we really don't like them all that much. All we need is an
excuse, and you're it, Operative Wing."
The first word out of Heero's mouth was, "How---"
Howard slammed his palm down on the table. "Where to you think you get your
intel from, boy? Hackers! Where would you imagine hackers most likely to
"Pirate ships," Heero deflated. "I'm --- honestly, overwhelmed by your
"Not my offer, your demand. Your favor." Howard winked and sat back.
"But I'll need to---"
"You'll be wanting to discuss this with your commanding officer, I'm sure."
Howard lifted a panel off the table and punched a button with his fist.
"Razz! Get the blond up here, pronto."
"Which one?" a tinny voice asked.
"The short one. Scoot your ass!"
I don't want to do this. I don't want to do this. I really, really don't
want to do this.
*Your duty is clear.* Zero's voice was an unwanted caress in his mind at
the moment. *And so is his.*
Quatre tapped on the door and waited patiently, straightening his vest,
until a hidden, whirring mechanism slid the panel open and he found himself
staring into the face of an annoyed assassin. Quatre looked him over
quickly and peered past him to see an elderly elf in sunglasses lounging in
a chair, arms crossed behind his head. Quatre looked back to his operative.
"I need to talk to you."
"What a coincidence," Heero muttered gruffly. "I need to talk to you."
"Nothing's private on this damn ship." Heero waved him in and closed the
door. "This is Captain Howard, of...?"
"Niccon I. It's a pleasure, Master Winner." The elf didn't rise, but threw
one arm out to the side and dropped his head in mockery of a bow. "I can
step out, if it would make you more comfortable."
*His presence is not necessary.*
"Thank you, it would," Quatre replied, as politely as possible, although he
was feeling decidedly less than polite. Once Howard had disappeared into a
side room, Quatre gave Heero a questioning look.
"Apparently the Space Pirate Network has been looking for an opening to ally
themselves with the Resistance," Heero began, folding his arms and leaning
back against the wall, relaxing just enough that Quatre could read his
disconcertion. "Apparently I am that opportunity. What do you think? How
far do we trust these people?"
*That is a reasonable question.*
"According to Duo, with your life but not your wallet." Quatre managed a
half-smile, turning to walk along the wall, examining the shelves of display
weapons and tourist souvenirs from various locations across the lower
galaxy. "They're already in the Resistance, you know. They just need a
viable..." he picked up a jade carving of a raptor, possibly a hawk, turning
it over and over in his fingers, "...excuse to move as a unit. That's what
intel keeps telling me, anyhow."
"Are you suggesting I accept?"
Quatre set the carving back on the shelf with a sigh, but didn't remove his
fingers from it. "It doesn't matter now."
*You're stalling, young one. If you are unable to do this, how can you hope
to lead thousands?*
The blond wasn't looking up; he couldn't read Heero's expression or his body
language, and the characteristically closed assassin generally didn't slough
off emotional feedback like a normal, well-adjusted human being would. "I
received a coded transmission from Delta."
"No, Trowa's on the surface. Some information has come to light, Heero.
Extremely serious information." Quatre took a breath and continued before
the operative had a chance to speak, or before Quatre himself had the chance
to stop. "The ISG has a price on your head. They know your name, your
title --- Allah, Heero, they know your codename." He kept his eyes focused
on the little figurine still between his thumb and forefinger, memorizing
the thousands of tiny cuts in the stone. "They have your picture. It's
plastered all over Janico."
For a moment all Quatre could hear was a series of clipped breaths. He
forced himself to turn, to look up, to meet Heero's gaze. The assassin's
face was schooled to a blank, arms stiff at his sides, eyes chilly and
*He's ready. He knows what you're going to say. What a waste...*
"I don't want to do this, Heero. I honestly can't afford to do this, but
even you must realize how severely this compromises our position." Quatre
searched the older man's face, dug at the wards keeping his empathic
signature closed away, and mentally beat himself against Heero's cold
*He knows you have to.*
He knows I have to, Quatre told himself, and opened his mouth.
"As of 2100 hours today I am officially relieving you of duty.