Educating Quatre - Part 1
Duo's Friendship Arc 18
by Dyna Dee
Oz Headquarters of Operations in Brussels, Belgium.
Lady Une shut off the screen of her vid-phone and leaned back into the unnoticed comfort of her blue leather executive chair. Her two index fingers pointed upward and gently touched her chin as she thoughtfully assimilated the new report she'd just received. "So," she spoke out loud to herself, her office empty of staff and general boot lickers. "the Gundam pilots seem to be working together again, a united team it appears as they destroyed another vital mobile-suit parts factory. The colony terrorists are, indeed, very effective in impeding our efforts to get into space." She closed her eyes and contemplated her next move when the vid-phone chimed. Leaning forward, she activated the screen and sat ram-rod straight as she recognized the caller. "Treize." he whispered reverently.
"Good day, Lady." He said smoothly, his tenor voice was warm and as inviting as his handsome face. "I trust you've read the report of the latest Gundam attack on the factory." he said.
"Yes General, just before you called." she answered sitting at attention.
He nodded. "I must say, I'm impressed with the skill and determination of these young pilots as well as their display of courage and tactical skills." His face suddenly seemed somewhat less poised as his eyes narrowed. "However, this cannot continue. They thwart our cause and must be stopped." Une nodded her agreement, adjusting the glasses on her nose, and continued to listen to the man she inwardly vowed to follow to the end of the earth and colonies. "These pilots are hiding effectively around our citizens. We must discover their whereabouts and take them into custody. They have to be stopped." his voice was adamant.
"I understand." she replied, knowing what was about to happen.
"I'm told the newly developed tracking system is functioning. Is the team you've assembled ready to fulfill their assignment?"
The tall, statuesque woman allowed a prideful smile to light her usually placid features. "Yes sir." she replied.
"Then Lady, I leave this problem in your capable hands, knowing full well I can expect the outcome to be to our benefit. And please remember my directive concerning the capture of these pilots." Treize reminded her, then gave her a smile of pleasure that melted the Colonel of Oz Operations every time he graced her with it.
"Yes, and thank you, General Treize." she answered warmly and the connection faded from his side of the link. She then closed her eyes and allowed herself to a moment of pleasure enjoying the memory of his visage and voice. She felt almost euphoric at the trust the General placed in her abilities to carry out his wishes. She would not fail him. When she opened her eyes, they were hard and determined and she immediately hit the intercom switch.
"Yes Colonel Une." A male voice answered over the speaker.
"Get me Colonel Braun." she demanded in a chilly authoritative voice that made men jump. This time was no exception.
"Yes Colonel, right away."
Twenty minutes later, a slender man of medium height in his mid forties stood at attention in front of her. His short black hair, coloring white just at the temples, was slicked back and he was dressed in full military uniform before the woman most people had learned, with reason, to fear. There was a gleam in his faded blue eyes that bespoke of self-assurance and confidence.
"Is your team ready and assembled?" she asked briskly, not one to waste time with pleasantries.
"Yes, Mam." he smiled tightly. "We can be ready to move out at any time."
"Very good." she nodded as she observed the seasoned soldier in front of her. "You are up to date on the latest series of Gundam attacks?" she raised a questioning, delicately plucked eyebrow.
"Very well." she gave a brittle smile. "Have your team assembled together and in the hanger three in ninety minutes. I'll personally meet with them before your departure."
"You're dismissed." she announced curtly and pivoted to move back towards her desk even as the soldier sharply turned and briskly walked to the door.
Entering the hanger exactly one hour, thirty-one minutes later, Lady Une was pleased to see the six elite, specifically chosen soldiers trained for this assignment. The six were dressed in the dark blue uniform of Oz's elite soldiers and were standing at attention, awaiting her instructions.
She walked in with her determined steps echoing in the hollow sounding hangar and at a grunt from the first man, they saluted their commanding officer. She returned their salute, then nodded in acknowledgment of the teams commander, Colonel Braun. She had viewed their training from a distance, and approved their selection to the elect team so that she was familiar with their names and rank. She moved to the center of the line to stand before them and turned, facing the five men and one woman, the team that called themselves The Predators.
"At ease." Colonel Braun crisply told them and waited the fraction of a moment it took for his team to respond to his order. With a nod from him, Colonel Une began to address them.
"You have been assembled and trained in anticipation of this day, when General Kushrenada has given me the order for you to begin your mission. That mission being to capture the Gundam pilots. You are the best of OZ," she told them with pride in her voice. "trained specifically in tracking and capturing the elusive colony rebels. We know little about these terrorists other than they are young, clever, talented, and move within the communities, blending in with young people to avoid detection. We have learned, however, that they have been working as a unit, and when at all possible, live as a unit. This will be their downfall." she assured them. "Several of the five have been photographed, their descriptions are well known to you, though two have yet to be caught on surveillance cameras. But with the knowledge and photos of the three and the new tracking system we've developed, I have full confidence in you that you will be able to complete your mission of capturing all of these pilots and bringing them in. It is General Treize's wishes, however, that the pilots be brought in alive, with as little damage to their physical beings as possible. However," she narrowed her eyes at the team and her voice lowered in warning. "they are dangerous and, when cornered, they will fight with all their abilities to escape. They will not hesitate violence against you in such a situation. You may use whatever force necessary to achieve your goals of bringing them in, without undue injury to yourselves. Any questions?"
The six stood quietly, their deadly serious eyes watching her. Seeing no questions were forthcoming, she stepped forward and extended her hand to the team leader. "Good luck, Colonel Braun."
The colonel stepped forward and took her hand in his and shook it firmly but briefly before releasing it. "Thank you, Mam." he replied with a nod of his head.
She moved next to stand in front of the next soldier to Colonel Braun's right, a slender young man in his mid-twenties with hard slant to his eyes, his brown hair cut extremely short in a military crew-cut, style. "Mr. Crew." she saluted him in return to his salute, and was amused at the surprise in his eyes as she used his team appointed nickname. In fact, she new all their nicknames and planned to use them today showing the hand-picked team she knew much more about them than they realized.
"Red." She moved to the next man and repeated the action, as she did with the willowy blonde standing on the right of the tall, burly redheaded man. "Stiletto." she observed the striking good looks of the tall slender woman in her early thirties. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a french twist and noted that, if it wasn't for the cold hard gaze of indifference in her eyes, she looked more like she belonged in a fashion layout then in a military specialists group. However, her skills and abilities had rightly put her on this team. She was as cunning and ruthlessly efficient as the other men she stood with.
"Joker." she acknowledged the smallest member of the team who always had a retort and a cocky smile on slightly pock-marked face. He was short in stature with dishwater blonde hair that was pulled back into a small ponytail. But what he lacked in height he made up for it in bulk. He was built like an ox, strong, stout, and all muscle.
She moved to the last man at the end of the line. "Ghost." she returned his salute. This last man was tall, thin and wearing black sunglasses. He was an albino who stood out no matter where he was because of his phantasmal paleness. He was almost refused his place on the team because of this, but his uncanny abilities to ferret out an enemy and intimidate people to confess by his looks and frightening manner alone proved to be most valuable. His white hair and skin and pink ruthless eyes that were, at the moment hidden behind the shaded glasses, seemed to unsettle most people and even the Colonel. She also wished him the best of luck.
"Begging you pardon, Mam." Joker spoke up. "But it's not luck that will get the job done, but our skills and training." he spoke proudly.
Colonel Une turned and gave the cheeky young man a chilling smile. "With the Gundam pilots, you'll need both, plus all the luck in the world."
Trowa Barton walked casually down the narrow streets of the busy German city allowing himself to enjoy the sights, sounds, and oddly enough, the smell of urban life. His hands were tucked into the pockets of his tight blue jeans, fingering the money for the food he was out to buy for the next couple of days. He and the other pilots had arrived one by one at the newest safehouse only last night and each one of them had collapsed exhausted into their beds, too tired to care about necessities such as food. That lasted only until Duo had awakened at the crack of dawn and began nosily rummaging through everyone's bags looking for something to fill his ever-hollow stomach.
By ten in the morning, he and the braided pilot were making their way to the open market located several blocks away. Duo chatted amiably about their surroundings as they walked side by side, complaining once in awhile about the last series of abrupt and hurried moves they'd had to make. It was becoming a disturbing routine of late to quickly vacate and then set up a new safehouse after having been forced to re-locate four times in the last two weeks. Each of the safehouses had somehow been compromised, and they'd had to vacate with only a moments notice, Oz hot on their heels. Each of the five had been particularly cautious in this move. Heero had found the apartment they were currently using over the Internet, and with an electronic funds transfer from an account set up with only a little over three months rent in it, they were left a key under the door mat and one by one straggled into the shabbily furnished but clean apartment during the night. Each pilot had hidden their own Gundams in the forests and warehouses in and around the city.
The apartment was suitable for their needs, but a howl of protest came from Duo shortly after he'd cleaned out their bags and ate enough food to take the edge off his appetite allowing his curiosity to take over. His search of the apartment brought about a harsh discovery, the furnished apartment came without a television.
"Do you think we can rent one, Heero?" he asked the sleepy looking Wing pilot as he followed him into the kitchen around eight-thirty that morning. To those present, it was clear by Heero's pained expression that Duo had been at him for a while on the subject.
"I said I don't think that's possible, Duo." He replied firmly, again, and followed up his opinion with a wide yawn after which he stopped to stretch, popping the bones in his back in the process. "We might not be here that long."
"But I'll go nuts without some form of entertainment." the American pouted then turned to look at his friends sitting at the kitchen table with a gleam in his eyes. "I guess that just means I'll have to become creative. Kinda keep things lively around here." He wiggled his eyebrows suggesting mischief.
That statement caused Trowa to look up from the from the book he'd been reading in relative quiet until the other two entered the room. Quatre and Wufei were also present in the kitchen, but had been sitting and talking quietly with each other. The tall boy stared warily at their long haired friend, a shiver of something close to trepidation went up his spine. When Duo decided to become "creative" bad things usually happened. But then the look on the American's face changed to a more thoughtful expression, lessening his uneasiness slightly.
"Hum, maybe I could steal a television." he thought aloud.
"No, Duo." Trowa's voice had a definite tone of warning to it. The others nodded their agreement.
"Borrow one?" the other asked with a look of hope on his face.
The Heavyarm's pilot shook his head with a crooked, rueful smile.
"Well, in that case." Duo smiled back genuinely. "You, Trowa, are officially proclaimed my entertainment advisor, and right now food would certainly be a great form of entertainment."
They dressed, and not much later the two were walking towards the marketplace the owner of the apartment had circled on a map of the city, which they'd found on the kitchen table the day before, to help orientate them to the new city. They entered the busy pedestrian trafficked thoroughfare, finding the cobblestone street was blocked off from motor vehicles for several blocks, allowing vendors, along with their booths, to be set up on the sidewalks facing out into the street were the citizens of the city shopped for the fresh produce and the homemade goods they offered.
Trowa smiled pleasantly, he liked shopping for their food, especially in a market like this. He went from stall to stall inspecting the fruit and vegetables and talking briefly to the vendors. After the fifth stall though, it was quite apparent that his partner was quickly becoming bored with the slowness of his pace.
"Man, where's the good food?" Duo complained looking all around him.
Trowa sighed with feigned forbearance. "Why don't you go down to the end of the street. I think I smell food being prepared." He suggested then looked down at his smaller friend. "Got any money?"
The long chestnut colored braid flicked back and forth as they boy shook his head looking like an innocent waif. Not surprised by the other pilot's answer, as Duo never seemed to have any money, Trowa withdrew several of the bills out of his pocket and gave them to the grinning boy in front of him. "Don't go too far." he warned him and was rewarded with a cheerful wave as Duo turned and made haste to the fragrant smells wafting in the breeze that came from the far end of the street.
The market was busy with mostly women carrying baskets of various sizes on their arms that were loaded with the fresh produce. Trowa had his purchases placed in plastic bags. Having procured enough fruit, vegetables, and bread for several days, he looked around for his friend. They would need to go to a market to buy some meat, milk, and juice before returning to the safehouse.
Suddenly, a tingling sensation brought him to alertness. Slowly turning, he scanned the market. Someone was looking at him, he could feel it. He noticed a few eyes on him, but they were quickly dismissed as he recognized the look of female appreciation. Still, the feeling persisted as well as a growing sense of danger. He'd not dismiss those feelings as he learned long ago to act on his instincts. His head turned forward again and he spotted Duo in the distance. He stood in front of a booth about two hundred feet from his position. His friend had a plateful of food in one hand, a mouthful of something, and he was pointing to what was probably a sweet pastry.
Trying to act as casual as possible to keep up the appearance that he hadn't detected anything was wrong, he nonchalantly made his way towards his friend, stopping at food booths briefly on the way to appear like he hadn't suspected a tail. As he approached, Duo looked up and smiled, a bit of cream at the corner of his mouth. Trowa walked close by without stopping or looking at him. "I'm being followed." he whispered as he paused, then stooped over to pick up a non-existent coin on the pavement. "Meet me at the market's point of entry in ten minutes." he said aside to the other pilot as he stood and then continued ahead in a casual manner down the street.
Duo blinked with a start then turned back to face the pastry booth he'd been contemplating. He then angled himself around the corner of the booth to get a view of the direction Trowa had just come from and glanced at the people around them. They were mostly women with a few men mingling about. Then in the distance, his eyes lit on a large built, red-headed man dressed in a dark blue tee-shirt and blue jeans. Not so unusual at first glance, except for the way he held himself, like a soldier, straight backed and fully alert. The man's eyes were focused past his own position to where the American guessed was Trowa's back.
Licking his fingers and wiping his mouth, he tossed the napkin that had held the cream puff he'd just popped into his mouth and the plate of unfinished food into the trash receptacle. There. His sharp eyes lit on another person, looking out of place at a fruit booth across the street from the redhead. This man was taller with white hair and the palest skin he'd ever seen. He wore dark reflective sunglasses, but he had seen the man nod in the direction of the redheaded man he'd first spotted. They both began to move forward, the redhead taking the lead, following the direction Trowa had gone. The American's eyes narrowed. They were a tag team and their sites were on his friend.
Making sure their eyes were not in his direction as they made their way forward, Duo eased himself down into a crouched position behind the booth. He quickly gathered his braid and slipped it down the back of his shirt and pulled his black cap out from his pocket and placed it on his head, his sunglasses were pulled from his pocket and put in place.
Once he was properly disguised, he lifted the canvas material covering the sides of the tables that displayed the vendor's pastries and crawled under it. The old woman who had just sold him the pastry looked at him in alarm. He put his finger to his lips and tilting his head so she could see his eyes over the top of the glasses, and gave her a reassuring smile as he winked at her. After a moment of stunned surprise, she smiled and winked back, then returned to calling out for customers to taste her fine homemade delights.
Cautious to make no sound, the Deathscythe pilot scrambled under the tables to the front where the canvas overlapped and eased an edge open. After a moment, he was rewarded, first by seeing the red haired man weave through the crowd, trying to look inconspicious, then a moment later, whitey came following behind. Both were unaware of his scrutiny as they passed the booth of homemade sweets. He waited until they were a safe distance away but still visible when he started to move. He stopped suddenly before completely turning away, his eyes caught sight of another figure passing by that seemed out of place. A tall blonde woman dressed in fitted jeans, a yellow form-fitting sweater, and long legs that seemed to go on forever walked by with an air of confidence that made her stand out among the other shoppers. Her eyes were fixated on something in front of her. Added to that suspicion, she didn't carry a purse nor a basket for her purchases, and he could see that she wore an earpiece that she tapped once in a while. Then she gave herself away as she raised her right arm and talked into her sleeve.
Duo hissed. "Damn, how many are there?" he wondered. After she passed his hiding place, he made his way back to the opposite side of the booth from which he'd entered and made a quick exit by crawling under the canvas again. In his most causal manner, he stood and looked around, his trained eyes taking in every detail around him. After assuring himself that there weren't any more of the tag team following Trowa, he wove made his way back to the point he and Trowa had entered the market. Seeing a man on a cell phone reminded him of his next responsibility. He moved towards the man, an obvious produce vendor, and reached into his pocket and into a place he'd specifically sewn into the inner pocket of his pants. He caught the man's attention by waving an obscenely large bill in front of his face. The man paused in the middle of his sentence.
"Can I help you?" he asked, cautiously eager.
Duo smiled and nodded. "This is yours" he waved the bill in front of the man's face, "if I can use your cell phone for two minutes."
"Gotta go, Hans." the man said into the receiver and the phone beeped off. He promptly exchanged it with the long-haired teenager for the large bill. No questions asked for that amount of money.
"Thanks." the boy smiled at the exchange. He immediately dialed Heero's cell and took a few steps away from the man. After two rings, a click was heard and a "Yes?"
"Heero, we're compromised." he whispered as loud as he thought safe.
"Impossible." was the bland disbelieving reply.
"Three are tagging Trowa right now."
"Positive. Military types in civilian clothes; two male, one female."
"Get to Trowa and give him my instruction for a rendezvous, then split and make your way there."
"Take the main Autobahn north exactly one kilometer from the last exit leaving the city. The area is densely forested and there's a ravine one hundred and fifty feet to the east of the road. Follow it north until you come to an abrupt drop in the path and a small fall of water over several boulders. Wait there for the rest of us. Got it?"
"Got it." Duo acknowledged.
Turning the cell phone off, he turned and walked back to the man he'd borrowed it from and handed the phone back to him with a carefree smile. "Thanks." he tried hard to look like a typical kid. "Had to check in with my folks." he explained with a long suffering look.
"Your welcome." the man smiled and fingered the bill now safely tucked in his pants pocket that represented several day's profits.
With a quick check around to see if anyone was taking particular notice of his actions, and not seeing any, the pilot of Deathscythe melted into the growing crowd of shoppers and headed towards the market's point of entry.