Disclaimer: Don't own nor profit from GW.

Warnings: slight language, innuendos

Why Tsuberov Really Pulled the Switch
Duo's Friendship Arc 17
by Dyna Dee

The pain from his aching stomach and ribs brought to his remembrance exactly where he was and why he was there. He was conscious of the softness beneath him, noting that it wasn't were he remembered having fallen asleep. Nope, when he'd been tossed into the cell, he'd landed on the hard cold floor and was too exhausted to rise. A slight smile curled up as he recalled the last hour of consciousness. At least that big behemoth of a scientist didn't hit him in the face and he'd gotten to see his beautiful Deathscythe being rebuilt. Oh, happy days are here again, he thought. But that merry thought fell away as he tried to move. He moaned, and with his eyes still closed, he eased himself onto his side after quickly finding out that sitting up was way too painful on his abused abdomen to seriously contemplate moving in that direction.

"You awake?" Wufei's concerned voice called out from a close distance.

"Death couldn't hurt this much, so I guess I'm alive and awake." the American answered with a groan.

He hadn't heard his friend move forward, but felt his weight settle on the edge of the mattress next to him. "Here, let me check your injuries." Wufei said as his hands began to pull the black shirt tails out of his similar black colored pants and raised it up to look at his torso. "Lie on your back." he instructed, and the braided boy winced as he slowly complied, moving back to his original waking position and then braved opening his eyes.

Wufei eyes narrowed. "Someone worked you over pretty well." he commented dryly. "I hope you left them no better off."

Duo shook his head. "Not this time, but we had to make it look good. It was the scientists I found along with our gundams. We couldn't let the Ozzies know they were building them in secret, so they made it look like they just found me and turned me over to them, earning brownie points for being the dutiful new employees."

"I see." Wufei answered, putting the pieces together. A slight humorous smile began to show on his face as he pulled the black shirt down again. "Right under Oz's nose." he chuckled.

"Clever bastards." Duo agreed and tried to laugh himself, but ended up groaning and clutching his stomach.

"Easy there." Wufei's hand settled on his friend's shoulder in concern.

"Let's just try not to say anything funny for a while, okay?" the braided boy suggested. He then took a moment to survey the room. "Where's Heero?" he asked. He knew his friend had been in here when he had first been undeservedly flung through the doors. He recalled Heero's unemotional chastisement for failing to destroy the moon base. 'Yeah right,' he thought to himself. 'Like I'd destroy the place my friends were being held in. Hum, maybe after I rescued them though.' he smiled to himself then continued thinking again. 'And who was Heero to get after him anyway? He wasn't the only pilot here, and the place was still perfectly in tact In fact, there were four of them present, he remembered. He'd briefly glimpsed Trowa dressed as an Oz soldier and guessed he'd infiltrated their ranks.

"He's being used as a test pilot for a couple of new suits the scientists built for Oz." Wufei replied in answer to his question.

Another thought came to the American. "Any one seen Quatre?"

"Not since that brief transmission just after we lifted off from earth."

"Me either." Duo shook his head thoughtfully. "I'm glad he made it though. He had me worried for a while that he was gonna do something drastic. Well, I guess blowing up you gundam is drastic, now that makes three of us trying to push the big button. I hope he's okay." he ended softly with a large trace of worry in his tone.

"Me too." Wufei's voice reflected the shared worry for the blonde. "It's a shame he had to sacrifice his gundam for our retreat. The war will be harder to win with just the four of us."

The two remained quiet for a few moments thinking of the difficult road before them. After a short time, Duo's eyes met his friends. "So, what's up here? What's Trowa doing in an Oz uniform?"

Wufei brought him up to date on his own and Heero's capture and described the new suits the scientists had built for Oz. Trowa had been selected to fly one of the suits and had actually been the one to capture Heero. Now, he and Heero were alternately being taken out for practice and training runs with Trowa to test the suits. Oz held the remaining pilot in the cell as hostage, insuring the gundam pilot chosen for the day would cooperate.

The door to the cell suddenly swished open and Heero, hands tightly cuffed, was pushed in. He stumbled, but didn't fall as Duo had on his entrance. The silhouette in the doorway looked to be Trowa and two burly Oz soldiers.

Duo and Wufei sized them up and mentally planned on how to take them down when they escaped.

The door closed as suddenly as it had opened, and the familiar sound of metal locking with metal signaled that door lock had been set.

Heero moved to stand by Duo's bed. "How are you?" he asked, his eyes searching his friend's body for any visible injuries.

"Okay." he answered and with Wufei aid, he grunted into a sitting position. "Whatja been doing?" he asked.

Heero sat on the edge of the bed, noting that they all looked uncomfortable with their wrists clamped together. "I went out with Trowa. We captured Zechs in Tallgeese. He's now calling himself Milliardo Peacecraft. Says he's come to space to work for peace between Earth and the colonies.

"A turncoat?" Duo asked surprised and dubious at the same time.

Heero shrugged. "Hard to tell. But he seems sincere."

Wufei gave a derisive snort and both his fellows looked at him. "It seems to happen quite frequently lately that friends turn to foes and foes to friends." he stated.

"Yeah." Duo said quietly as he thought of the bitterness he'd felt when he realized the colonies' policies were turning against them. Sure, a lot of it was still rumor in the streets and debates were still going on in government houses, but the feeling was there that the Gundam pilots were to be expelled and rejected as the colonies protectors. It was a bitter pill to swallow after all they'd been through. Now Zechs had abandoned his rank in Oz for the colonies. Was Trowa still on their side, or had he, too, turned coat?

With a vexed look on his face, he looked to his friend for an answer. "Is Trowa still....with us?" he asked.

Heero shrugged. "Hard to say. My mobile suit is rigged with a detonation device which Trowa has control over in his craft. He's threatened to hit the button if I didn't cooperate. Said he'd be forced to do it." He raised his deep blue eyes to meet those of his two companions. "I don't think he would, but he's infiltrated pretty deep into OZ, I don't think he wants to compromise his position, even at the risk of taking me out to do it."

"He wouldn't, would he?" Duo asked shocked at the idea that their friend would willingly kill one of them. Sure, Trowa had destroyed Deathscythe, he might be able to forgive him for that some day, but to kill one of his friends. Duo knew if Trowa was forced to that he could never be able to live with himself.

Heero looked to Wufei and then shrugged his inconclusive reply. They sat quietly for a moment in contemplation before Heero looked directly at Duo. "Report." his voice had the tone of an order to it.

The braided American brought his cuffed hands up to scratch a spot on his nose. "Well," he drawled. "I didn't exactly go to school like you told me to." he began then found somewhere, anywhere else to look other than at the Wing Pilots disapproving face. He then told them how he'd hung out in the student lounges and met a girl dressed as an OZ cadet who talked to him of recruitment and training on the moon. "I saw it as a perfect chance to come here and see why you failed to destroy the base." Duo said in a matter-of-fact tone, but not quite able to keep the smirk off his face at the fact that Heero had earlier chastised him for failing what he himself had failed to do, blow up the base. He then continued. "Well, to make a long story short, I was captured." He looked up to the disapproving look on both of his friend's faces. "Hey, it still got me to the moon, and I couldn't kill the girl, she was the same one that "recruited" me," He used his fingers to make the quote marks, "and got me captured." he smiled crookedly. "She had a mixed-up but good heart." he explained and then his smile grew cocky. "In fact, after a little chat in the detaining cell, I made a friend, of sorts. She helped me later, after I escaped in one of their suits, and after a fierce battle, I crashed into the moon. She must have seen the light, because she became my back-up, allowing me to enter the base."

There was only a moment of silence before Wufei caught Heero's eyes and spoke up. "Wins them over, even in battle." He shook his head in disbelief and rolled his eyes.

"Hey, everyone has their own way of conquering." the braided boy chuckled. He then told them of his entry into the base to the point of being brought to their cell.

"So, now that we're here, all cozy like," his eyes twinkled with mischief. "when do we blow this place and cause some major destruction."

"We'll bide our time until your gundams are completed." Heero told both of them. "Then I want you two to get out of here by any means possible once they're done. Hide in the colonies and work separately to defend them until we can determine if a peace process will work."

"What about you Heero?" Duo asked quietly.

"I'm trying to figure out how best to help Trowa. He's in a good position to cause some major damage or leak information. I'm not sure how to take advantage of that just yet. If I can, I'll take the mobile suit I'm testing and, when the time is right, have Trowa join me in his."

"And the scientists?" Wufei asked, his eyes dark and hooded reflecting his attitude of seriousness with the situation.

"They're on their own." Heero replied. "The only thing I can do to keep them from helping OZ is to kill them."

Duo's eyes widened at his friend's statement. He knew what Hero said was true, but he owed G for taking him off L-2 and giving him Deathscythe. Even now, he was repairing his gundam. He hated to repay the old man by killing him.

"However," Heero continued. "since they've secretly been working on your gundams I'll give them the benefit of a doubt and leave them to escape on their own. I know their hearts are truly with the colonies, and the wily bastards will probably continue to scheme against OZ and anyone else who tries to control the colonies again."

Duo chuckled to himself. Heero was sounding like him more than ever. He'd make him more human even if it killed him. But he couldn't help but be pleased in Heero's decision. The boy he'd met at the beginning of the war may not have made the same decision. He thought for a brief instant how they all had changed because of the war and their association with each other. It was both good and bad, but today, good had prevailed.

The metal lock of their cell door sounded and the door behind them swished open. Three covered plates were placed on the built-in shelf next to the door. The guards backed out, obviously wary of the three notorious pilots.

"Food?" Duo asked hopefully. His stomach had been empty for a long time.

"Don't get your hopes up, Maxwell." Wufei frowned at the distant plates. "The food here is less than desirable."

Duo shrugged and slowly moved to stand, wincing at the pain he felt from most of his body. "At this point, I could eat half-cooked street rat." he mumbled as he cautiously moved forward, missing the look of distaste on the other two faces. Their friend had a strange way of reminding them that he'd had far worse than they'd ever experienced. In his offhanded way, he told them they should be grateful for whatever they got as it was more than what some unfortunate elsewhere had.

They watched as he awkwardly lifted the lid off of a plate and set it aside. Leaning over, he peered at the food and sniffed it. Without rising up, he turned his head to search out his friends. "I think it's suppose to be some kinda stew." he reported. "But it really doesn't smell like anything." he observed with a slight frown.

"Won't taste like anything either." Heero commented with the enthusiasm of a plank of wood.

Shifting his cuffed hands to lift the plate, he managed to grip it and walked back to where the others sat on his bed and resumed his seat. "How are we suppose to eat like this?" he complained pointedly looking at his cuffed wrists locked tightly together by the metal that covered most of his forearm.

"I'm sure you're figure something out." Wufei grinned on the sly as he stood to retrieve his own plate of food. Heero followed.

They each returned to their own beds and ate their meal in relative silence, not quite enjoying the tasteless food in front of them.

"Guess the supplies from Earth didn't include salt or pepper." Duo mumbled as he licked the gravy from his fingers after placing a piece of tough beef in his mouth. He looked to his friends. "Is it always this bad?" he asked.

"They can even ruin rice." was Heero's deadpan reply as he chewed endlessly on something that resembled gristle.

"I think it's a slow form of deliberate and sadistic torture." Wufei added, with a frown as he put another piece of.....something in his mouth..

"Well then, they're gonna fail." Duo laughed lightly then grimaced at the pain it brought. "I'll eat just about anything to keep from starving."

"We know." the other two said simultaneously and smiled fractionally at each other before returning their attention back to their tasteless food.

Several days passed with Trowa coming daily for Heero to pilot the new mobile suit. On the fifth day after Duo's arrival, Trowa came with the information that another gundam had been reported as having destroyed a colony. The young Oz pilot wanted Heero to go with him to investigate and capture the suit. Duo, having had some of the pain from his bruised organs recede and boredom and restlessness set in, stood and demand to know why he couldn't pilot, claiming he was a better pilot than 01. All he got for his little speech was a balled up fist that landed in his already tortured stomach area from Trowa as a warning.

Heero followed Trowa out with a meaningful look to his friends telling them to escape if they could. They all knew this gundam could possibly be Quatre, though it's actions were clearly out of character for the gentle Arabian, and it would be a good opportunity to escape and join forces again.

Wufei looked thoughtfully at the door after their departure, wondering out loud if Trowa had indeed switched sides. To his surprise, Duo chuckled and said they could trust Trowa. He slowly rose from his bent over position, still clutching to his sore stomach, But one of his hands moved forward, extended out, and he opened his palm. "A little gift from our friend." Duo smiled, though it looked a bit pained.

They quickly discovered the gift was a small projector. It contained the plans for Wufei and Duo's newly reconstructed suits. In awe, both boys studied the plans, marveling at the changes, excitement building in them to pilot the improved weapons of war. But not long after they'd viewed them, the sound of the lock being opened alerted them to shut off the miniature projector. The door swished open and several OZ soldiers came in and unceremoniously hauled Duo to his feet and began to drag him towards the cell door.

"Behave." Wufei called out in warning just as the cell door closed. He frowned as he stared at the door. 'Now why did I say that?' he asked himself. He meant to say be brave, but who knows, it may have been a Freudian slip.

The boy who piloted Deathscythe found himself sitting in a cold white room furnished only with a small table attached to the wall and the metal chair he'd been shoved onto. He was restrained only by his wrist cuffs and he fidgeted in his frigid seat as he could feel the cold of the room seeping through his clothing and chilling his skin. Damn, why did everything in space have to be so cold. He hated the cold. Closing his eyes, he began to steel himself against what he knew was coming. This certainly wasn't the first time he'd been interrogated, but he was heavily bruised and knew that pain was only a fist away.

The door swished open and several large soldiers entered, joining the two who had escorted him to this room. 'Did OZ only recruit giants?' he wondered to himself as he studied the two newcomers. As the two soldiers parted, Duo observed that someone had followed them in their wake. His eyes widened slightly as he observed an slightly smaller and ugly man dressed in the most hideous outfit the Deathscythe pilot had ever seen. It looked like something out of the eighteenth century. Despite his appearance, the man obviously had a pompous attitude. There was a definite cockiness in his bearing and the sneer on his face was anything but attractive.

"Well, well. Here we have the notorious pilot 02" the man spoke as he looked smugly down on the cuffed boy. "You're a pretty little fellow, aren't you?"

Duo raised an disdainful eyebrow at the man. There were several descriptive terms the American hated when people referred to his appearance. At the top of that list was being called pretty or little. If this guy wanted to trade insults, he'd met his match. Duo remembered what Wufei had called out to him as he left the cell. "Behave." That was odd, he thought. But it brought to mind that if he couldn't use his hands, he certainly had another tool to combat his enemies.

"What century kicked you out old man?" he asked the frowning, poor attempt at appearing to be an eighteenth century dandy. "What gives with the costume? Is this a masquerade party and nobody told me? No fair!" he produced a pout. "And you're the only one allowed to wear a mask? I don't think that's fair, do you guys?" he addressed the other four soldiers in the room. "Come on, mister. Take off the ugly mask, you're scaring me here."

The man's eyes narrowed and his wrinkled face and large nose reddened perceptively. "Watch your mouth young man. Smart and insulting remarks will get you nowhere here." he sternly warmed the boy as his beady eyes bore down on him.

Duo sat back and inwardly smirked. He'd gotten a reaction already and realized that this was gonna be fun, that is if he didn't push it too far. Once he got on a roll he usually had a hard time stopping. He decided he'd let the old fossil take the floor again, let him believe he was once more in control. Right!

"My name is Tsuberov, and you will confirm my information and answer my questions. Is that understood?"

An insouciant shrug was his answer.

"You are the pilot of gundam 02, correct?"

Duo rolled his eyes, but remained silent.

The ugly man pulled a hand held computer out of his pocket and opened it up. He began to scan the information before him. "Your fingerprints and DNA taken during your last incarceration states that you are on indigent from L-2." He raised his nose upward as if addressing a person from that decrepit colony was far beneath him.

"The records from L-2 indicate that you go by the name of Duo Maxwell."

No reply came from the braided boy.

"I would like some answers, young man." he leaned his ugly, pocked face closer to the boy, his large bulbous nose almost touching the pert nose of the boy whose face was raised defiantly. To his consternation, the boy's eyes crossed as he stared at the tip of his nose. Drawing back, the man frowned. "What are you staring at?" he demanded.

Again, Duo gave a casual, careless shrug. "The large pores on you nose are in a pattern that looks like my initials." he answered with a grin. "D.M."

The older man snorted with contempt, but couldn't help lowering his eyes to his nose, his eyes crossing. He caught the humorous look on the boy's face and brought his attention back to the matter at hand.

"I suppose you are not going to cooperate and we'll have to do this the hard way." he said, his facial expression showed no sign of remorse for what he was proposing. "I understand you are somewhat physically damaged when you were captured." he continued. "But I'm sure that fact won't bother these men." he indicated the two brutes standing on each side of him.

"They'll do whatever you say?" Duo asked, looking up through his long bangs.

"Anything." Tsuberov confirmed with an evil grin.

Duo looked at the two and nodded. "They look like a couple of lackeys who'd follow you anywhere." he commented, making the old man smile even more at the recognition of his power. "Though I'm sure they follow more out of morbid curiosity then loyalty. You know, like what you'd really do with children, animals, a cadaver, or a bowl of Jell-O."

The two guards who had brought him here from his cell were unsuccessfully trying to stifle their amusement. That was until the old man gave them a sharp reproving stare. His face was red now as he turned back to the boy, and paused to compose himself before looking to the soldier to his left.

"Sargent Fredericks, I want you to make this boy talk." he ordered.

"Talk?" Duo asked, his eyes brightening. "You want me to talk?" he asked again as if to clarify the situation with the old man and hold off the advance of the large soldier. "Did you do any research on me?" he asked, cheerfully dubious.

Tsuberov frowned as he looked at the boy, then quickly scanned his information scrolling down from his hand held computer. "There is little know about you, Mr. Maxwell, other than you have a smart mouth and can out swear any soldier in OZ." he frowned as he relayed his information out loud.

"Well," the boy smiled crookedly. "If you want someone to talk, you've come to the right guy. I'm actually the talker of the gundam pilots. Pick a topic and I'll tell you all I know about it." He then proceeded to prove his claim and rambled on aimlessly about the cold of space without pause for five full minutes before Sargent Frederick stepped forward and grabbed him by the front of his shirt and hauled him bodily out of the chair and lifted him up to his snarling face.

"He said talk, not chat like your at a tea party."

"Well, I can't tell you anything if I don't talk, now can I?" he replied as his legs dangled above the linoleum floor and he turned to look at the old man, rolling his eyes at the others ridiculous statement. "Where'd you find this genius?" he asked. "Hard to believe he beat out a million other sperm, isn't it?"

The soldier opposite them chuckled and Frederick and Tsuberov gave him a chilling glare, then extended it to the other two who were snickering behind their hands.

"On man, Frederick." Duo began in a surprised tone. "I didn't know you swung that way."

"What?" the soldier holding him asked, confusion written on his face.

"You know." Duo insisted, rolling his eyes towards the other guard still standing next to the old man's side.

"I don't know what you're talking about, this swinging." he told the boy with confusion on his features.

'Look, man." Duo whispered, yet making sure he was loud enough for everyone to hear. "I saw you staring at that guy's crotch." Suddenly the American found himself abruptly and, without care for his well being, flung back into his chair.

"I was not!" Frederick shouted, his face now red, matching Tsuberov's.

"Hey, it's okay man." Duo smile as he put on his best reassuring face. "It's a free world."

"I didn't!" he insisted and looked towards his fellow soldier with a look pleading for understanding. "Really, Jackson....I didn't."

There was a moment of awkward silence before Duo began again. "Well, deny it all you want, your secret is safe among friends, huh fellas?" he looked to the others to see them all looking uncomfortable. Good.

The other soldier, now identified as Jackson, stepped forward and grabbed the boy in a similar manner as the other had, pulling him out of his chair and off the floor.

"It's no use little boy. You can't turn us against each other."

"Is that what I was doing?" Duo asked innocently, blinking his eyes. "I would never split up a couple, besides, I don't swing that way."

"We're not a couple." Jackson shook the boy. "I know what your up to, so you can stop it right now!" he ordered.

After the stars in his head ceased from the violent shaking, Duo focused his eyes on Tsuberov to confirm he had his attention then looked at his present personal captor. "You know, you're a frickin genius." Duo declared with a snicker and tried to hold back from a full out laugh, but it was hard when he was having so much fun. "I can see why Freddie is so attracted to you. The smart, strong, and silent type." He chanced a glance over to Tsuberov again with a look of long-suffering forbearance. "This one's so smart, I don't think I'd allow him to breed." his voice dripped with sarcasm. "Though I don't think that's a big problem with Freddie added to the equation." He looked back to Jackson. "But if your I.Q. reaches fifty, I'd sell if I were you."

"Shut the hell up!" Jackson shouted. He was shaken again at this point and dropped once again onto his chair.

"We're getting nowhere this way." Tsuberov observed in barely veiled frustration.

"Yeah," Duo began again, bringing his bound hands up to his head to try and stop the spinning sensation he felt, and inwardly acknowledged his personal warning claxons that were sounding internally to go forward with caution. "There should be a policy in OZ about couples working together. It gets waaay too emotional, don't you think? And it's plain to see Jackie is Freddie's personal favorite. But you, Tsuberov." He turned his attention back to the homely man. "You're special. I can tell you probably bring a lot of joy to the people around you---when you leave the room, that is. Have a knack of making strangers immediately?"

The old man elbowed Jackson away from in front of the boy to take up the position himself. Bending over he glared at the exasperating boy. "Shut. Up." he gritted through his clenched teeth his red and twitching face was only inches from the captive's face that began to screw up in disgust.

"Oh, man!" Duo moaned and brought his hand up to shelter his face. "What the hell have you been eating old man? Your breath smells like a ten year old can of sardines. This is harsh torture. I'm sure that some of my human rights are being violated by your breathing on me."

"Shut up!!" all three men yelled.

"You wanted me to talk." he yelled back, matching their tone and pitch. "And dammit, I'm gonna talk. Geeze, you guys need to make up your minds. First ya threaten me to make me talk and then tell me to shut up just as I'm warming up!" Duo's voice was now loud and grating on his captors' ears. "Who's in charge of this B-film show anyhow? Whoever it is, must have been beaten as a child with the stupid stick. If he were anymore stupid you'd have to water him twice a week. Damn, but what village is missing their treasured idiot? Newsflash, look here folks, the idiot is running this friggin show. What show you ask? This two-bit, flea bitten, big guy eyeing his partner joke of a show."

He paused for only a fraction of a second to look at one of the guards. "Stop it Frankie." he frowned at Sargent Frederick. "I mean, man, don't look at me like that. Jackson is gonna get jealous and the last thing we need here at this flea circus is two flapping, flaming fly boys going at it in front of the dried up, sour apple faced court jester here." he motioned to the shocked face Tsuberov. "He'll pop his buttons and then we'll have a real freak show happening. Talk about grounds for cruelty. I want to speak to my lawyer. Hey, Tsuberov, do those wrinkles all over your face extend all the way down?" the braided boy visibly shuddered at the thought and wrinkled his nose. "Eew, never mind. The idea makes me wanna turn inside out and lose that nearly inedible slop you served for breakfast. And who did you employ as a cook on this base anyway, someone without a tongue and tastebuds? Or maybe one of the brilliant Oz recruits who can't read a cookbook? I swear, a five year old could cook better than the refuse we've been getting. Did someone in your organization come up with a brilliant invention to produce food from the sewer treatment plants? Cause man, that food tastes like shit!"

It was Jackson who seemed to crack first, with Frederick a close second as both men reached for the loud, obnoxiously loquacious boy. Duo could hear the other two guards standing at opposite walls struggling to contain their laughter, but the braided boy had eyes only for the three red faced men before him.

"Get.... him..... out..... of.... here!" Tsuberov sputtered as he yelled, throwing spit halfway across the room as he spoke his order.

"Oh, man." The small pilot complained as he was pulled from his chair by the two guards and dragged towards the door. "I didn't need a stinky shower, old man." he complained, then spoke sharply. "Jackie, stop looking at my butt. I swear between the two of you guys it's a wonder you can make it out of your rooms. Does Une know you're a couple?"

The door swished open and Tsuberov could hear the boy's lingering comments.

"I wouldn't worry about it, I think she has a chippie on the side herself."

As the door closed, welcoming silence filled the room. Tsuberov had concluded that the interview had been a total disaster. The muffled sound behind alerted him to the fact that the other two guards were still in the room. He turned to glare at them as they fought to keep the humorous grins from off their faces. "You're dismissed." he told them with a sharp disapproving snarl. They quickly left the room. Silence, blessed silence. He closed his eyes to relish it. He knew the braided boy would no doubt still be haranguing the two who were dragging him back to his cell. He thought it was probably a just punishment for the other two gundam pilots to be imprisoned with the jabbering, insufferable idiot. Yet the pilot of gundam 02 had information he wanted, about the operation and his machine, now destroyed. He shuddered at the thought that he'd probably have to interview him again. He brought his hand to the bridge of his nose and pinched it to quell the pain starting to grow from there.

A communication device in his pocket sounded. Glad for the distraction, he pulled it out and flipped it open to display the face of a soldier in the control room. "Sir." the man addressed him. "Lady Un reports that the new gundam has destroyed both of the Mercurius and the Vayate, the status of the pilots is questionable. She will be returning to the base immediately."

"Thank you, I'll be up in the control room in a moment." he replied and shut down the link. He smiled to himself. His plans to take over the base were falling into place. He had soldiers who would back him, upset by Une's change in personality and style. They saw her as an unstable leader, especially since she seemed to coddle the young rebel pilots. Well, he'd take care of that immediately. With Une's new hot-shot pilot and gundam pilot 01 most likely destroyed in the new suits, the two in custody would be easily dispatched and Une's position of power would topple, first from the inside of her base and then concluded with a quick battle in space. He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. Well, he thought, no time like the present to do what needed to be done. Screw the information on the gundams, he felt a smug satisfaction in anticipation of silencing the boy who'd just gotten the better of him.

The cell door swished open and the boy dressed all in black was unceremoniously thrown in, landing flat on his chest with an "oof" as the air was knocked out of him.

"Now shut up!" followed the exasperated order from one of the two soldiers silhouetted in the doorway. The doors then quickly shut and the lock engaged.

Wufei looked over with concern at his friend sprawled out on his stomach. "Duo? Are you okay?" he asked worriedly when he saw his friend's body begin to shake. His eyes narrowed dangerously. "By Nataku, what did they do to you?" he hissed as he made his way quickly to Duo's side. Using his cuffed hands, he carefully turned the slender boy over and onto his back, cautious in case he suffered any severe injuries. Surprise lit his face when it became apparent that the American's shaking came not from any torturous pain, but from laughter, and the sound of his mirth spilled out and filled the cell with his almost hysterical guffaws

"Duo." Wufei growled out his frustration at being frightened for his friend's welfare only to find it was wasted energy.

"Oh man, Wu," he gasped as he tried to control his laughter and gain his breath. "That was so much fun. Too bad they won't keep a recording of it." He continued to laugh for a few minutes before he was able to contain his mirthfulness. "Don't think they'll be wanting to interrogate me very soon after that round." he chuckled.

The Chinese boy allowed himself to fall back onto his posterior dumbfounded at his friend returning unhurt and obviously very pleased with himself. His eyes narrowed as Duo gained control of his laughter. "What did you do, Maxwell?" he asked darkly.

"I did what they wanted." Duo smiled back with a knowing grin and awkwardly wiped the tears from his eyes caused by his laughter. "I talked."

"What did you say?" The Chinese boy frowned.

The Deathscythe pilot waved off the obvious concern of the other that he'd spilled his guts. "Ah, nothing important." he smirked. "But I saw an opportunity and seized the day, verbally, that is." His chuckle returned as the memory returned of his "interrogation".

"Do I even want to know?" was Wufei's dubious question.

"Sure ya do." Duo beamed. He then went on to describe the entire, nearly one-sided conversation and continued as Wufei clutched his aching side as he fought to stifle his laughter.

He ended his story recounting his conversation in the corridor with "Freddie" and

"Jackie" as he wished them a happy life together and hoped they'd make it legal one day. But to do that, they needed to stop looking at other guys and try being a bit more discreet.

The Chinese boy wiped the moisture from his eyes and shook his head. "Maxwell, you're crazy." He said, wondering how the American got out of that room alive after they way he'd taunted the soldiers and their superior.

"Never claimed to be any different." the braided boy replied as he reached for the miniature projector Trowa had painfully given him. "Now, let's see what my new buddy has to offer."

It was as he was studying the plans projected on the grey wall that both boys noticed a change in the atmosphere. The constant quiet whisper of air as it was forced through the vents of the cell ceased. Both boys looked at each other, their eyes wide with realization and shock.

"What the..." Duo tossed the projector to Wufei as he stood. "They turned off our oxygen." he said with alarm. Moving toward the cell door, he began to bang on it, screaming at the top of his lungs. "You think you got the last word old man? Well, you haven't. Deathscythe will be my final word. Just you wait. Ill get out of here, and when I do I'll..."

"Duo!" Wufei sharply called out his friend's name. "You're wasting our oxygen" he chastised his friend, then seeing that Duo came to his senses, he returned to studying the projected image of his rebuilt gundam.

"This is a crummy way to die." Duo pouted as he walked back and threw himself down next to his fellow pilot.

Tsuberov, alone in the control room with his hand on the oxygen control handle, cackled aloud for a few moments. And because he was all alone in this deed, he began to talk to himself, verbally patting himself on the back. "Not only will I deprive Une of two of her little pets, but I'll not have to interrogate that infuriating boy ever again." He looked up sharply as the doors to the control room opened and Lady Une entered the room with an air of determination settled about her.

Well, we all know what happened after that, don't we?


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