by Dyna Dee
Standing in the docking bay apart from the other officer in the room who was awaiting any further instructions, stood the imposing man who was easily recognized as the authority figure of the training facility that housed the hope of the war-weary people of the United Federation. Commander Thomas Reid was impressive in appearance and bearing, his air of authority seemed to radiate like an aura of recognizable power all around him. He stood at approximately six feet tall and weighed a proper one hundred and eighty two pounds; an accomplishment that many men in their fifties fail to achieve. His full head of dark brown hair was made distinguished by the grey that sprouted from his temples and was combed back impeccably, not a strand out of place. He stood perfectly still, oozing confidence while his back was soldier-straight and dressed impeccably in his dark blue military uniform. The gold buttons and braided epaulets on his jacket clearly stated his rank as commander in the Federation's military and his entire demeanor was a silent declaration that he was a man to be reckoned with. He appeared, as always, to be cool and calm, almost bored with what was going on around him, belying the heat and humidity of the summer months that enveloped the island on which the training facility was located. Inwardly, however, he was a man who was impatient at wasting his precious time on a task any of his junior officers could have handled. But regulation and habit had forced his steps here today, to greet his new, incoming trainees; a task he had performed for the past five years as part of his job as Commanding Officer of the United Federation's Youth Training Facilities.
The sound of the ship locking into the docking terminal signaled him to set things into motion. "Have my Junior Officers reported?" he asked, knowing that his man, Captain Phelps, would be dutifully standing right behind him.
"Yes sir," the other man, dressed in a more casual military attire of a dark blue jumpsuit replied sharply. "They're standing right outside the door."
"Tell them to come in," the commander ordered, confident in knowing his word was the other's command to obey.
He didn't turn around as he heard the sound of the young men entering the room, knowing exactly who they were. The harsh sound of metal sliding against metal signaled to the room's occupants that the ship outside had docked and the crew was preparing to exit and consign their passengers into the Base Commander's care.
The heavy, grey metal door swung open and stepping through the porthole came the familiar figure of Major Byers, the officer who always accompanied the new trainees to the training school. He approached the Commander with a swagger in his walk, obviously relishing all the eyes in the room being focused on him, clip board in hand.
"Sir!" He snapped to attention and saluted.
"At ease, major." The Commander saluted back and gave the other soldier a brief, fleeting grin of hello.
The balding man in his late thirties remained stiff as he pulled the clipboard forward and read from it to the imposing man in front of him.
"Reporting today are fifteen conscripted students. Eight from various military academies, five from testing performed in public schools, and two...um, hesitant conscripts from a California juvenile detention facility.
The Commander raised a disapproving eyebrow at the announcement of the last two that only the officer in front of him observed. Otherwise, the man in charge of the training facility looked as cool and calm as he always did when he reached out his hand and accepted the clip board and gave a brief scan the roster of new trainees. The printout listed each of the boys' names and a brief background. The Commander recognized the surnames of several boys, most likely recruits from the military academies, their familiar names were the same as some of the top military commanders in the United Federation's Armed Forces. "The story behind the last two?" he asked without raising his eyes from the information before him.
"Both boys test very high in the intelligence and cognitive skills. Their reaction time and physical agility are well above the standards for conscripting. One of the boys tested above the other. In fact, his scores are reported to be the highest ever recorded by the testing panel."
The Commander did raise his head at this information to give an interested look to the major, who took that as his clue to continue. "Evidently, the one boy, Yuy, has had the benefit of an outstanding education, being the adopted son of a prominent college professor. The other boy, Maxwell, has had limited education, having been bounced from one orphanage to a series of foster homes and back before he ran away to live on the streets. It seems almost impossible that he could have tested so well, given his background and limited education."
"It's unusual to find two boys with the qualifications we're looking for in the same location," the commander commented as he shifted the papers on the clipboard, looking for any further information on the two the major had been speaking of. "The Federation never takes more than one child from any given location at a time. Why was not Yuy chosen and the other boy left behind?" he asked looking up at the other man questioningly.
The major facing him could not help but notice the unfamiliar look of puzzlement on the base commander's face. His eyes strayed to scan the area behind the commander to see the young officers awaiting their assignments. Lowering his voice so that only the commander could hear him, he continued. "There are evidently some mitigating factors at work here. Even with the promise of freedom from the detention facility and furthering his education, Yuy adamantly refused to leave the other boy behind. From my own observation, they are opposite in personality and temperament but watch each other's back. A benefit in a detention center for undisciplined and disturbed youths."
"Then they should have left the both of them where they were." Commander Reif frowned, knowing something was going on concerning these two boys that he wasn't being told.
"They might have been," the major replied, still keeping his voice low. "But after Yuy's results were sent to the Selecting Board, General Noventa himself went to visit the boys. "
The major felt quite proud of himself for causing the even tempered commander's eyes to widen at his new revelation. Feeling quite happy with himself, he continued. "After an hour's interview with both of them, the General signed a written statement, now an order, that the two would enter the training facility and that they are to be kept together and placed in the same unit that they're to be trained in."
"Where is this order?" Commander Reid barked, clearly unhappy about the new development. The boys in his school were placed in units according to their abilities and talents at his discretion. He'd never heard of such a request being granted.
"Under the roster." The major pointed to the clipboard the commander held.
The official envelope was quickly located and opened, and the commander's cool and aloof persona quickly disappeared as his face turned more red with each line of the order that he read. "This is highly inappropriate," he growled out as he refolded the letter with one hand and clipped it on top of the roster. "Since when do we allow a twelve year old boy to dictate what happens once he's signed his life over to us? We're here to train him, not coddle him and his playmate."
"I'm sorry sir," the major hurried to explain, not wanting to be blamed for something that was clearly not his fault. "But I was told the boys gave their terms for being conscripted, and it was accepted by General Noventa who wrote those terms into writing as standing orders. The general evidently believes these two boys could make a difference in any future conflicts we might have with the Allied forces."
The commander's eyes sparkled with resentment, but he held his tongue and anger. "Very well major, let's have a look at these new cadets."
The major promptly returned to the open hatch to the shuttle and disappeared through it.
"Attention!" The call to order was heard as the major barked out the command to the fifteen boys waiting nervously inside. Within moments, the first of the new cadets exited wide-eyed through the portal, each carrying one small bag of personal belongings.
Looking down at the roster, the Commander could see the details in print of the boys he was receiving. They ranged from the age of ten to thirteen years old, the prime years for training in military tactics and operation of the flying warships called armed mobile suits, or A.M.S. One by one the boys came out, their faces displaying either their anxiousness or excitement in seeing their new home. Thirteen boys exited the hatch and were checked off the list, and the Major, who had led them out, waited a moment before his features turned dark and he walked with a purpose back to the portal and re-entered the shuttle. Several long minutes later, a young, argumentative voice was heard and grew louder as it neared the open hatch.
"Alright, alright, I'm going. You don't have to be so damn pushy. Geeze, this was suppose to be better than juvie." The boy's voice sounded righteously indignant.
The room, now nearly half filled with teenage boys, watched with curiosity as a boy with a slight frame jumped through the doorway dressed in an orange jumpsuit labeled in black lettering CJDC. With a dramatic flare, the boy flung his shackled arms out in front of him, as if he were on a great stage. "Ta da," he sang out with a flourish. "Duo Maxwell is present and accounted for." The room of males of varying ages stared in bafflement at the boy as he smiled broadly at them all.
As his arms slowly dropped, the boy's grin never faded, fully aware that the others in the room began to take a visual assessment of him. He was small, his height lacking the five foot mark, and under the baggy and ill-fitting jumpsuit that hung loosely from his petite shoulders and waist, his body appeared to be thin and wiry. It would be obvious to a half-blind man that he was strikingly beautiful for a boy, with a heart-shaped face, cherubic cheeks, large unique-colored eyes, almost an amethyst color in the bright light of the receiving room. And then there was his hair, the most glaringly unique aspect of his appearance, being a warm, chestnut color and pulled back into a single thick braid that reached down to his waist.
After a moment of enduring the silence and study of every person in the room, the boy took a haughty stance, staring back at his audience with a snide smile and his chained fists on his hip bones. He took a look back to the hatchway and spoke to someone in that direction. "Hey Heero, come see the group of stiffs they sent to greet us."
The last boy to exit the shuttle door was dressed in the same exact outfit as his predecessor and stumbled through the hatch as if he had been strongly pushed against his will. He caught himself from falling and regained his balance as two grey duffle bags also labeled CJDC were tossed out to land near his feet. Major Byers stepped out a moment later with a grim look on his face.
It was now the dark haired boy's turn to be scrutinized as he glared at the room's occupants. He had unruly dark brown hair that seemed to shoot out at all angles. His darker, bronze skin gave the appearance of being part Asian and Caucasian. His face, though handsome in its own way, was stern in appearance and he bore the air of tense awareness. No smile or spark of emotion graced his face. The boy was the picture of stoicism. Once he finished looking into the eyes of each person in the room, causing many to feel flustered at the intensity of his study of them, he turned to gaze at his juvenile delinquent partner and quickly sided up to him until their shoulders touched. Together the two of them stood facing their future, and gave the appearance of being undaunted, fearless and unwavering at the men who held their future in their hands.
Major Byers composed himself and straightened his jacket before approaching the two. "Let's get a move on," he ordered.
"Lead the way maj," the braided bundle of apparent mischief chirped. Being led past the other conscripts, the two walked by them, completely ignoring the disapproving glares of the two officers and the junior officers dressed in red jumpsuits with yellow stripes on their sleeves who were silently praying that the last two that had exited the shuttle would not be placed under their command.
"We have our work cut out for us with those two," Captain Phelps muttered as his eyes followed them as they were escorted from the room.
"Put them in a separate room from the other new cadets," Commander Reid instructed. "We can't allow their insubordination to be seen as acceptable. I want a few moments to gather all the records I can on those two before I place them in any unit."
The Captain nodded and turned to leave the room in order to follow the commander's instructions and Major Byers moved forward to ask permission from the Commander to return to his own base, relieved to have discharged his duty of delivering the new trainees. Having accomplished that, he could now return back to his base and home where his wife and two blessedly very well behaved children were waiting for him.
An hour later, Commander Reid entered the room set aside for the two boys from the juvenile detention center, having passed the guard who had been set to keep the two questionable boys interred. The other students had been assigned to their new units, and now it was time to orientate the two who promised to be a challenge. The room he entered was empty except for the bench in the far corner where he found the two boys sitting close together, shoulder to shoulder. He approached them with three junior officers in tow and looked curiously at the handcuffs lying on the floor then up to the two boys before him. One pair of eyes sparkled with mischief, the other glowered.
"Who removed the handcuffs?" the Commander asked with a frown, knowing he hadn't given the order.
The braided boy shrugged.
"In the training corps we don't answer a question to a superior officer or a teacher with a shrug," the man told the boy. Blue-violet eyes raised to meet the challenging grey.
"Ah, okay," the boy replied with a cheeky grin. Then there was a pause before he spoke again. "I took them off 'cause they were uncomfortable, so shoot me."
"You took them off?" The man clearly looked like he didn't believe the boy.
"Yeah," the boy gave a crooked smile. "I'm kind of a natural."
"Pickin' locks, breakin' and enterin', liftin' wallets." He gave an insouciant shrug. "I'm a thief, and a damn good one at that." He gave a wry smile and another shrug, showing then that he wasn't apologetic or regretful for his admission of having such criminal talents.
"I see," the Commander said while studying the boy. "Hopefully your 'natural talent' can be made into something more useful as a soldier. But until then, we would all appreciate you not using those skills against us on or the other trainees. You'll find that stealing here at the training facility has very stiff consequences," the man warned.
"So what are ya gonna do, kick me out or somethin'?" the boy asked smartly with a gleam in his eyes and his pert nose stuck in the air. The term that came to the commander's mind in defining the boy at that moment was 'brat'.
"That is a strong possibility," he answered. "Or cleaning the bathroom for a full year with your toothbrush might prove a proper deterrent to breaking the rules."
The boy grimaced, then looked aside to his companion who remained stiff backed and silent, his eyes glaring at the man looming large over he and his companion. But as the braided boy continued to gaze at his friend, the darker haired boy broke his fixed stare at the commander to look back. They locked eyes and there seemed to pass between them some form of communication, though not a word or gesture of their hands were exchanged. Then suddenly, the braided boy broke off his gaze and looked up at the grey-eyed man above him. "Okay," he replied. "No stealing as long as Heero and I get to stay together."
The Commander frowned. It wasn't the norm for a person in his position to compromise, bargain or make allowances with children entrusted into his care for training. Not only were these boys trying to get him to meet their terms, but they had already done so with the higher-ups who ordered that the two were to stay together, citing extenuating circumstances.
He reminded himself to try to be objective, but he was still angry about the call he'd made to General Noventa's office. The General had spoken to him in a polite but abrupt manner saying that no further explanation would be given, that the information he requested was held at the highest of security levels of which Commander Reid was not cleared for. As the Base Commander, he certainly felt it his place to know what was going on and why these two boys were so special and had vehemently argued the point with Noventa; but his arguments had gotten him nowhere. The general curtly told him to mark the boys' progress and pass any pertinent information along to him and to him alone. The whole conversation and situation rankled the commander, leaving him feeling uneasy and in the dark. "Why is it so important that you two stay together?" he asked the braided boy, who seemed to be the speaker for the two.
The boy had the audacity to smile at him in a fresh manner. "Well, that's for us ta know and for you ta find out," he replied. "Just believe me when I tell ya that we need to be together to function well." He then paused for a moment, studying the commander's disapproving glare. He leaned forward, his eyes looking up at the older man's in earnest. "Listen," he began again, his smile fading. "Don't get mad at us because we're like this. It ain't our fault. Heero is the best at everything, and if ya want him ta learn and do well, he needs me ta be with him. That's all I can tell ya." The smaller boy then closed his mouth and leaned back to rest against the other boy's shoulder.
The commander realized the boy had shown his cards. He was, in his own way, explaining how things were, though somewhat cryptically and definitely in poor English that would have to be corrected. He understood the Yuy boy had some sort of a dependence on the long haired boy, but why? It was too much to analyze at the moment, but he would recall and dissect all the boy said later, in his office.
He had seen the Yuy boy's scores and they were unprecedented. The more forward boy, Maxwell, had scored as high as the other conscripted boys, but they were all well behind the taciturn boy sitting stiffly before him. These two would be an interesting study and, ultimately, he had power over them. He now knew their weakness. If Yuy didn't cooperate and behave, he would simply take the Maxwell boy away from him.
"I'm placing you both in Captain Winner's unit, Red 5," the commander told the two boys. A blond boy about their age with large, blue-green eyes stepped forward and nodded to the two. "And his first lieutenants, Barton and Chang." A boy with reddish brown hair combed forward over one eye stepped forward as did the Chinese boy just to his side. The first boy had a placid look on his face and the second, a scowl.
"You stand up to greet or salute officers greater in rank than you," the blond said, not unkindly or harsh but rather in a manner of instruction.
Heero stood first and pulled his companion to his feet. "Heero Yuy," the Japanese boy introduced himself with a slight nod of his head.
Next to him, the long haired boy executed a perfect curtsey. "Duo Maxwell," he said with a smirk on his face. The two lieutenants behind the blond looked unhappy at the second boy's actions. The commander carefully watched Captain Winner to see how he would handle the situation.
"You really shouldn't make a practice of doing that, you know," the blond said with a look of disapproval. "With your long hair and a movement like that you might be teased as being a girl and given a name you'd rather not live with for the years you'll be living here. Being effeminate is not a trait of character that bodes well in a military training center."
"Effeminate?" the long haired boy repeated indignantly, his blue-violet shade of eyes sparked with sudden anger. "Are ya calling me a sissy?" Those unusual eyes narrowed on the blond boy and his fists came to be planted at his waist.
Captain Winner looked a bit nervous but answered. "Your silly, playful actions could be construed as such."
"Well I'm as girly as the Commander here," the long haired boy sneered and pointed his thumb at the commanding officer. "And listen, I've busted other guys for less than calling me girly," he warned. "Besides, if any one messes with me he has ta deal with not only me, but Heero too. Believe me, we haven't lost a fight yet."
The Commander remained silent as he watched the five boys size each other up. They might be young, he mused, but there was something about the stance of the two newcomers that said they were anything but inexperienced when it came to fighting. Captain Winner then turned to him.
"With your permission, sir, I'll take them to our quarters and see that they're settled in."
"Permission granted," the Commander replied.
The young but capable junior Captain told the two new cadets to take up their bag and to follow him. Barton and Chang took up the rear position, intending to follow the other three out the door. The commander watched the five move towards the exit. "I wonder if we have to ask permission to take a pee?" he heard Maxwell say to his companion, loud enough for him to hear and just before he was ushered out of the room.
Taking a seat in the place the two had just vacated, the man in charge of the United Federation Training Facility contemplated the scene just played out before him as well as the added report he'd requested and promptly received from General Noventa's office. The man obviously had anticipated his request the moment the two had been taken from the detention facility and sent to his training center. The report, quickly reviewed in his office, stated that the boys seemed to work in tandem, despite their different personalities. Maxwell, the gregarious, outgoing and spunky boy, was reported by the Juvenile Detention Counselor to be mischievous and devious when needed, as well as crafty, spontaneous and quick. It was underlined that he did not respond well to authority figures. Yuy, on the other hand, was noted to be silent, reserved, methodical and thorough in anything he undertook, from homework to beating up any one who posed a threat to himself or his sidekick. Unlike Maxwell, Yuy functioned well under the guidance and direction of authority, especially when the instructions were exact, the parameters clear and concise. Just from the counselor's notes alone, Heero Yuy looked like the perfect candidate for being a good soldier.
Psychiatric notes that were included in the forwarded information stated that the two boys, who reportedly had no previous acquaintance before meeting in the detention facility, had almost instantly formed some kind of connection, and the evaluator stated his surprise that the two usually got along, despite their glaring differences. However, his report cited his concern for the Maxwell boy as he had been attacked several times in their early acquaintance by his friend and twice landed in the infirmary during the six months of their incarceration and subsequent friendship. It seemed that when under duress, the more stoic of the two would lash out violently towards his friend, putting the smaller boy in need of medical care. Despite counseling, advising him to avoid the Heero, Duo would always return to his friend's side.
After the smaller boy's last stay in the infirmary, in which he had suffered from a cracked rib, split lip, and two broken fingers, the facility's administrator deemed it necessary to separate the two. It was reported by the doctor in charge that both boys simultaneously stopped eating and drinking and seemed to experience some pain, especially the Maxwell boy. After a week, the Warden relented and put Duo back with Heero accompanied by a stern warning against any further violence perpetrated against the smaller of the two. That incident was roughly dated three months ago and no further incident had happened since that time.
The Commander allowed himself the slight comfort of a deep sigh. Captain Winner was the best in dealing with difficult boys, and the most remarkable strategist he'd ever seen pass through the school. The boy's reasoning skills were well beyond his years, yet he did not enjoy fighting or physical competition. He did, however, have an uncanny talent for strategic planning, and enjoyed a deep sense of pleasure when a forming plan and accomplishing a task, whether dealing with a problem in school, with the other trainees, or on the simulators that taught the boys about the machines they would be trained on for future battles, should they arise.
After reading the confidential reports on the two boys he'd placed in Winner's unit, he knew the only suitable placement for them would be with the blond junior Captain. Quatre Winner had a gentle manner about him. His low-key authority would not be abrasive to the Maxwell boy, and he was compassionate and competent enough to intervene in any dispute between the braided boy and Yuy, should that happen. The Commander was privy to the information that the Winner boy, monitored by the government from the age of three to see if he was a worthy candidate for the training school, was empathic, he could sense other people's emotions. He, if anyone, would be able to tell what was going on between the two newcomers in his unit and report the information directly to him. The man smiled, he'd given the young captain those exact orders. He felt assured that he would figure out the two newbies yet. Even with all the reports he'd read regarding them, he sensed there was still something important missing, a piece of the puzzle that, when brought to light, would make the rest of their story make sense.
Leaning back against the cool surface of the beige painted wall, the Base Commander thought about the other facts included in both boys' history that were so bewildering. Duo Maxwell was an orphan who, at the tender age of six months, had been taken in by the government's Child Protection Agency. There were no records of parentage when the baby was placed from that agency into the State of California's foster care system. The child named Duo was view as a difficult infant and toddler to those into whose care he was placed. He first began to run away from numerous foster homes at the age of five and by the time he was ten, he became one of the many homeless children living on the streets, where he acquired street savvy and the skills of a thief in order to stay alive.
Heero Yuy, likewise, had been adopted from an orphanage in California when he was eight months old, his records stated that he had been abandoned. The boy was fortunate enough to be adopted by a college professor and his wife who tutored the academically gifted boy at a much higher grade level than other children his age. It seemed the young boy was unusually endowed with enate talents with regards to the computer, so much so that he became a hacker at the age of eight years old. He was arrested and put on probation at ten years old for breaking into the Defense Department Security grid and shutting down all the weapon systems that were controlled from the Pentagon. A newspaper article that had been sent with the boy's records stated that it had been a fluke that Heero had even been caught at all. One of the system's operators returned to work in the middle of the night after an argument with his wife and realized what was happening. He put a new, high-tech tracer on the hacker and the young culprit was found. At six a.m. the following morning, Professor Jay Yuy opened his front door to a multitude of government agents with a search and arrest warrant. They were obviously shocked to learn the hacker was a gifted ten year old boy. A little over two years later, Heero violated his probation by hacking into the files of the IRS from a school computer and was put into the juvenile detention system one day after Duo was arrested for pick pocketing.
There was no mention in the files of how the two now inseparable boys met or what caused them to bond so completely. That was yet another mystery that was nagging at the Commander's need to understand the whole situation before making decisions. Standing, he began the walk back to his office, his curiosity had definitely been piqued. He would use his considerable clout to open up adoption and court files regarding the history of the two curious boys. He was going to solve the puzzle that was Heero Yuy and Duo Maxwell.