Breaking Free - Part 5
Duo's Friendship Arc 12
by Dyna Dee
Excitement glowed on Pierre's face when he greeted him between classes on Monday morning. "Dougal, guess what? You'll never guess!" he exclaimed.
The braided boy smiled in return, happy to see his new friend. "Then tell me." he laughed.
"Father said that, in honor of the holiday and your visit, he's going to take us to Monte Carlo for the weekend. We'll take a private jet from here after school on Friday and return Monday at five o'clock, in time for your phone call. Is that all right with you?" He asked almost breathless. "Don't worry about any cost, my dad is covering it."
Duo continued to hold his smile though his heart and hopes sunk a bit. He had hoped to get the information the mission required at Pierre's house that weekend, thus being able to return to the others. "That'll be great." he replied plastering on his fake smile. "I've never been to Monte Carlo."
"It's a wonderful place!" Pierre said happily, "I'll tell you all about it at lunch." and with a quick wave they parted.
That evening found Duo sitting in Deathscythe for a full hour, waiting impatiently and anxiously for the appointed time. On the way home from school that day, he'd heard a news vendor on the street shout out the latest headline new of the afternoon edition of the newspaper. The main headline announced an attack by the Gundams on a base near Moscow. He bought the paper and sat on the nearest street bench to anxiously read it. Unofficial sources stated that two gundams were spotted by civilian bystanders, attacking the base. They were met with heavy opposition and, according to those witnesses, the gundams were apparently damaged after destroying a building that had been heavily guarded by OZ forces. The gundam known as 01 switched into flight mode and scooped up the gundam 04. They escaped while destroying any pursuers. The article went on to report the list of damages to the base including the number of Leos and men lost in the battle.
Duo had rushed to the place he had hidden Deathscythe, anxious to hear if Heero and Quatre were safe.
At 8:00 p.m. Sanq time, he punched the code for Sandrock and waited. Five minutes dragged by and he began to chew on the cuticle of his index finger nervously. "Come on Quatre." he urged the blank screen to come to life. His communicator beeped as an incoming call came in. Flipping the switch, he blinked, startled, as his eyes raised to COM screen and he found himself looking at Trowa.
"Trowa!" he exclaimed with a sense of fear growing in him, and forgetting to use his code number instead of his name. He found himself unable to speak, fearful of what news he was about to receive.
The long banged, green eyed boy was obviously relieved to see the American, then observed the look of fear on his face. "You've heard about the attack on Moscow?" he asked.
Duo nodded his answer, his eyes wide with apprehension.
"They'll be fine." he reported. "Both 01 and 04 suffered some injuries, not too major, but 04 will be out of action for a week or two. He asked me to contact you to allay any worries you might have."
"Were you there?" Duo managed in a strained voice.
Trowa shook his head. "No, it was just those two. O5 is on a separate mission, and I just returned in time to give them both first aid.
"A slight concussion, stitches to a cut on his upper arm from flying debris, and a broken rib. 04 was hit repeatedly, he had a dislocated shoulder, two bruised ribs, numerous cuts and bruises, and one broken finger."
"I'm sorry." Duo looked despondent. "I should have been there."
"Listen, my friend," Trowa's voice called out to him calmly but firmly. "01 and 04 are competent warriors. In all likelihood, you would not have been given the same assignment. Don't berate yourself or take on unjustified, or undeserved guilt."
Duo nodded but remained silent, his eyes cast downward.
After several moments, Trowa began to talk again. "How are you?" he asked as his green eyes searched the monitor in front of him to ascertain for himself as to Duo's well being.
"I'm okay." he replied quietly.
Duo shrugged. "Fine. School is school." he raised his eyes up to look into Trowa's concerned green ones and smiled slightly. "I've made a new friend." he said, hoping the other pilot wouldn't break the communication yet.
"That's not surprising." Trowa remarked thinking of how people were always drawn to the appealing boy with the large blue/violet eyes.
"No, I mean a real friend..... like you guys." Suddenly a more serious look crossed his face.
"There's a problem." Trowa observed the change.
"The problem is, he's the mark. I needed to befriend him to get to his father's personal computer and download the files. Turns out, he's a really nice guy with a wonderful mom. I haven't met the dad, but he sounds...nice."
"You can't let your missions get personal, Duo." Trowa warned gently. "If you do, its hard to do what you must. Someone always gets hurt."
"I know." Duo answered. "But when I see this kid's home life, I find myself envying him. I wonder how different a person I might be, how much better and nicer I'd be if I'd grown up with two loving parents. I don't want to hurt them, but I know it'll hurt Pierre when he discovers what I've done after I'm gone. Then he'll hate me and believe me to be a horrible person that he trusted."
"Duo," Trowa spoke gently with a warm smile on his face. "You are a wonderful person, even without having the benefit of these phenomenal parents that your friend has had."
"Yeah right." Duo snorted derisively. "I'm a terrorist, a killer, the God of Death. I'm a great fricken kid." he answered snidely.
"You must be if this other great kid wants to be your friend."
Duo's face softened at Trowa's rationalization. "Thanks. You're a good friend, too." He said sincerely then added. "I miss you guys."
"Likewise." Trowa smiled in return.
"Tell the others hi for me and that I hope they're better soon. Okay?"
"Same time next week?" Duo looked hopefully at the other boy on the COM screen.
"Yes." Trowa agreed. "One of us will contact you, same time and day. Be careful, alright?"
Duo felt better as he climbed out of his gundam and secured the tarp that covered it, and locked the barn he had rented on the vacated farm, miles from the city. He would walk to the main road and hitchhike back to Geneva.
Friday afternoon came quickly. The two boys and Mrs. Lafaiete boarded a private jet and in no time, found themselves in Monte Carlo, Monaco. They were greeted by Pierre's father. He was a slender man, not quite six feet tall, with brown hair and small brown eyes which were nothing notable except for the kindness that radiated from them. He wore blue dress slacks and a white polo shirt.
"Papa!" Pierre exclaimed on exiting the plane by the portable stairs and grinning at the man standing below them on the tarmac. His mother and Dougal exited behind him. After the family greetings, Pierre motioned to Dougal. "Father, let me introduce you to my American friend, Dougal Maxum. Dougal" he turned to his braided friend. "My father, Colonel Marius Lafaiete."
The Colonel held out his hand to the boy. "Pleased to meet you." he smiled warmly as his eyes swept over the American.
"Likewise." Dougal answered with his most charming smile. "Thank you for inviting me."
Colonel Lafaiete directed the small group through customs and then to a car waiting outside the airport.
"Whose jet and car are we using, papa?" Pierre asked.
"Colonel Zechs Marquis was kind enough to leave them at my disposal." his father answered.
Duo stiffened at the sound of the name of the Lightening Count, a formidable enemy. His movement did not go unnoticed.
"Are you alright, Dougal." the Colonel asked and the boy looked up, startled that he had been caught having a reaction to the name. "I'm fine." He answered. "Flying doesn't always agree with me." he said in way of an explanation. Inwardly he cringed again. 'Oops, another lie.' he thought.
"I see." Pierre's father 's eyes closed a little as if he was trying to recall something. He then turned to Pierre, though addressing both boys. "There will be time for you two to walk through the city or the beach before dinner if you like. Dinner is at eight, so be dressed and ready by seven forty, alright?"
"We'll be ready, papa." Pierre assured him.
Duo somehow made it through dinner, Pierre's father had asked many questions in regards to his home and area where he supposedly lived. Since he had been to California several times on missions, he had researched and studied a specific region and its geography and demographics to answer such questions. He could make up the orphanage, he just patterned it after the Maxwell Orphanage. The questions got personal, even as to why he grew his hair so long and how unusual it was to have such a beautiful, thick and long braid.
There was something in the conversation that felt like an interrogation. Was it because Pierre's father's job was that of a military man, or was he being paranoid. Was there something behind all the questions? He didn't know, but he was happy when at last the meal ended and he and Pierre made it to their room for the night.
Waking early, Dougal convinced Pierre to an early morning outing, hoping to avoid Pierre's overly curious father. They stopped at a café and had hot chocolate, made with heated cream and a thick chocolate liquid, with baguettes with marmalade. They hiked the steps up to the Palace of the King of Monaco and looked out over the harbor filled with luxurious yachts.
The two boys talked and laughed comfortably with each other as they made their way down to the beach. Walking along the edge of the water, their shoes in hand and the cuffs of their pants rolled up, they lapsed into companionable silence for a short while.
"Can I ask you a question?" Pierre asked cautiously.
"You mean you thought of one your Dad didn't ask last night?" Dougal replied with light sarcasm.
"Actually, I did." the French boy smiled.
"Okay, shoot." Duo replied.
"Why do you... no, um..." he paused as if to restate his original thought. "Why did you choose me for your friend. I mean, I'm not popular, kind of a nerd and a loner. Yet you started this friendship. Why?"
Managing to keep his stride slow and easy, Duo thought about how he should answer.
"I'm not sure, but I think that when I first looked up at you, from the floor," he reminded the other with a sardonic emphasis to the incident. "I guess I saw just what you explained. I've known popular kids and I can't say I think much about them. And being a nerd just means your intelligent and most nerds have creative ways of having fun. As for the loner, well, I've been a loner most of my life. My friends are loners, but together were unstoppable." He allowed himself to smile in recollection of what he and the other pilots working together managed to accomplish. "Plus," he continued looking up at the freckled boy. "I realized instantly that you're not phoney or pretentious, just a normal guy, and I admire of that."
"What is it about you that makes it so easy to like you. I think almost everyone at school does, well, maybe not some of the teachers you've managed to get riled." Pierre chuckled.
"What can I say," Dougal flung his hands out and shrugged. "It's a gift."
Pierre smiled back and the braided boy looked forward, his eyes lighting on something in the distance. "Let's run. Race you to that large rock."
Pierre nodded. "Go!" he shouted and both boys splashed through the water as they raced to the designated goal.
They returned to the hotel for lunch with Pierre's parents. As the day was sunny and warm, they ate at a sidewalk café facing the water front.
"Would you like to go to the museum with us?" Mrs. Lafaiete asked.
Pierre scrunched up his face. "Do we have to?" he asked in a tone close to a whine.
His father laughed with good humor. "Of course not. How about the two of you attend the cinema while we tour the museum."
At Pierre's questioning look, Dougal nodded his agreement. His father pulled out several bills from his wallet and the boys were off for an afternoon of freedom with a promise to return by five thirty to dress for a dinner show.
Late that night the two boys lay in their beds.
"So what's on the agenda for tomorrow?" Dougal asked.
"My dad has to work in the morning, but after that, we're to go on a yacht for the afternoon."
"Work, how can he work from here?" Duo asked, his mind turning back to his mission objective.
"He always takes his laptop with him." Pierre replied. "My mom hates it when he does, but we know his job's very important."
Duo mind began to race. Maybe he could get the information he needed this weekend after all. He was surprised to find the thought brought mixed feelings; sadness for leaving a friend and joy at the thought of rejoining the others. He then remembered Trowa's admonition not to get emotionally involved. The mission had to be accomplished regardless of his friendship with Pierre. Murmuring goodnight, he turned over onto his side, pulling his braid over his shoulder to hold onto it. With a deep sigh of regretfulness mixed with determination, he slowly relaxed into sleep.
His chance came during lunch in the hotel restaurant. Earlier, Duo had seen the lap top on the desk in the adults adjoining room. Colonel Lafaiete stood in front of it and stretched as the two boy's entered the room ready for lunch. Jokingly, Dougal asked if the lap top had any cool games on it. The Colonel raised his eyebrows in rye amusement. "I wish there were." he replied. "I would prefer a computer game to the reality of war." he sobered.
Duo thought that an unusual thought coming from a career military officer in the OZ organization.
The plans were to leave for the yacht after lunch. Duo waited for the meal to arrive before he gasped slightly. Three pairs of eyes turned to him. "I forgot my motion sickness pills." He exclaimed softly. "I need to take them forty-five minutes before getting on a boat and with food. I'm afraid I don't do well on the ocean without them." he explained.
Colonel Lafaiete looked at his watch. "We have forty minutes before we need to depart." He told the boy.
Duo stood. "If you'll excuse me, I'll run to the room and take them."
"But, your lunch." Mrs Lafaiete looked concerned.
"If I don't get back shortly, I'm sure they will wrap it up for me." he replied.
Pierre made as if to stand.
"No, Pierre. You enjoy your lunch. I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?" Duo hurried to stay the other. He couldn't download his father's computer with the boy next to him.
Pierre sat back in his chair. "Alright, we'll wait for you here." he responded.
Duo turned and walked quickly from the restaurant. Once out of sight, he ran to the rooms.
Using his pass card, he went to his duffel bag and retrieved a small pouch, then moving through the connecting door, he entered Pierre's parent's room. It took only a moment to power up the portable computer sitting on the desk. He unzipped the pouch and inserted a small disc into the computer. The disc was the latest in gadgets the pilots and scientists cooked up to open any computer, bypassing codes or passwords.
He didn't have time to download all the files, so he decided to scan them quickly and pick those that pertained to his mission.
There were files on mobile suit refinements and improvements. The location of key bases to be used in production and shipment of suits were listed. But the file that caught his eye was titled Gundam Pilots. While downloading the other files, he opened his file and was surprised to see his face pop up on the screen. A description of him was sketchy, as were the blurred pictures. But the detailed description of his decimated targets was a long list that followed beneath his description. He sat stunned for a moment at the tallied number of lives lost that were attributed to him alone.
"I'm disappointed, but not surprised." a deep male voice sounded behind him, causing the Deathscythe pilot to instantly jump into a battle stance as a matter of reflex, his fingers working behind him to shut down the computer and remove the disk.
"I'm sorry." he began, hoping to talk his way out of this situation. "I was curious to see if you had any games."
Colonel Lafaiete stood in the connecting doorway between the two rooms, his feet spread apart and his hands behind his back. "You can do better than that Dougal, or shall I call you 02?"
Hearing his code number seemed to switch the boy's demeanor and attitude from embarrassed and innocent, to a look of cunning and danger. The boy's eyes narrowed as he sensed the peril he was in.
"Now, none of that." the Colonel admonished and then shook his head in disappointment. "Pierre is going to be hurt by this."
Duo's face softened minutely as well as his stance. "I'm sorry." he said again, but this time sincerely. "I like Pierre, and he is a good friend."
"After recognizing you from the description given to me, I suspected you attached yourself to him to gain access to me, and that you'd make a move today." The taller man stated.
Duo nodded, looking the colonel in the eye. "At first, that was my objective, but I really do like Pierre. He's a cool guy and......so are his parents." he said almost apologetically.
"You let this mission get too personal, didn't you, 02?" he asked, not moving from the doorway.
Duo didn't answer, but looked quickly at the doorway leading to the hallway, calculating his chances of reaching it.
"I can't let you go." the colonel said, seeing the glance.
"And I can't let you capture me." Duo replied then jumped forward in a rush for the door leading to the hotel hallway.
He heard something pop, and at the same time, he was struck in the shoulder. He reached the door when he felt another strike his left buttock. A deep, drugged weariness settled over him as he reached his hand back and pulled an object out of his skin. It was a syringe dart he realized. Even as he slid down the door to collapse on the floor, his body succumbing to the drug, he raged inwardly at being taken prisoner before his mind fell into darkness.