by Dyna Dee
A month after the news agencies reported the destruction of the notorious Gundam known as 02, David Miller stood in front of the brick administration building of the Woodward Public School in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Taking a deep breath, he adjusted his smoke tinted glassed that completely covered his large and very distinguishable violet eyes. He stood gazing at the building dressed in perfectly pressed, pleated blue dress slacks, a white long-sleeved oxford shirt, and a briefcase in his hand. His straight, dark blonde hair was parted down the middle and fell just above his shoulders with only a fringe of hair over his forehead.
He smiled at the picture he purposely presented. He'd been startled himself by his recent transformation on several occasions when he caught sight of his reflection in store windows or mirrored surfaces. The change in hair color and style, and the opposite style of clothing than what he'd previously leaned toward, were important steps for his mental and physical transition to a new life. Today was the real beginning of that new life. With determination he took one step and then another and entered the building where he would build a new future, one that Sister Helen would be proud of.
A short time later he found himself sitting in the principal's office, his papers clutched securely in his slightly nervous hands as he faced the head of the school.
Mrs. Nelson was a woman in her late forties with slightly greying brown hair falling in loose curls around her shoulders and framing her small, slightly pointed face. Her blue eyes were enlarged by the thick glasses she wore, which slipped down the bridge of her nose when her head lowered even a fraction. "I see Mr. Miller, that you're an emancipated juvenile."
"Yes Mam." he replied respectfully
"Why is that?" she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose to fully study the boy before her.
"Its not from any inability to get along with my parents or rebelliousness." he began, getting her full attention. "My father was a career military man. He and my mother were killed in the attack on the Nairobi base eight months ago." He was rewarded by the shocked look on her face which was quickly replaced with a look of sympathy.
"I was sent to live with my grandmother in St. Cloud." he went on to explain. "She's in her eighties and fell recently, breaking her hip and had to be put in a convalescent home. I was emancipated to relieve her from the burden of caring for me. I have a trust from my parents' life insurance policies and have a small apartment not far from school. I purposely chose to live here because of your school's excellent academic reputation."
He was pleased to see a look of appreciation on her face at his explanation. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the desk to peer at him from over the top rim of her glasses. "Do you have any specific goals in mind, Mr. Miller?" she asked.
"Academically, I would like to earn a scholarship and attend a high-ranking college. Personally," he continued, but lowered his voice, "I want to put the pain of my past behind me and make my own future." he replied truthfully.
Mrs. Nelson gave him an understanding smile and seemed pleased with the answer. She reached out her hand, silently asking to look at the papers in his hand. Her finely plucked eyebrows drew together as she absentmindedly pushed her glasses back to their proper position as she studied the information before her. "I don't see any school records here." She looked up for an explanation.
"My mother was a teacher." he explained. "Because we moved frequently, due to frequent transfers, she home schooled me. Any official records were lost in the attack on the base. I was hoping you could test me for placement in the proper classes." He smiled hopefully at her.
She nodded her head, her glasses falling forward again. "Very well." She rose from her chair. "Let me take you to the Counseling Office. Mr. Schmidt will be your counselor and will administer the tests. We'll start today and it should continue on through tomorrow. On Wednesday, we'll process the results and find you placement in the correct level of academic classes. You may stay home that day. Thursday, you'll start your new classes."
"Sounds great." the boy smiled and stood to follow. Mrs. Nelson's heart fluttered a bit at it. Underneath the nerd-like exterior, she recognized that this boy was extremely likeable and handsome.
On Thursday, David Miller found himself in Advance Placement Courses; including Advanced Physics, Calculus, Chemistry III, Economics II, World and Space History, and Physical Education.
He was content to stay to himself for a while, observing his fellow students. Watching them as he analyzed their behavior, got their names, and hacked into the school system to discover their grades and backgrounds. With careful study and deliberation, he chose four boys that he would attempt to befriend towards a future, working friendship, all according to his well thought-out plan.
Two of the boys he'd chosen were already friends, and he managed to sit next to them in several of his classes. He slowly eased his way into their conversations and was pleased to see he hadn't lost all his charm as the two, Mark Lile and Steven Hawkins, responded to him, and they quickly became friends. Though both were a bit nerdy for his former tastes, he had chosen them for their high academic records and their apparent lack of vices. It took a week or so for him to feel included as a friend, then David cultivated a friendship with the two other boys, Jeffrey Holland and Scott Ward, by using the same tactics. Slowly, he integrated the two pairs together. Each of the four boys had high grade-point averages and were in the advanced honors courses. Each excelled in different areas of academia.
David worked hard making up lost work so his semester grade would be complete. He met with the others several afternoons a week after school for fun and mostly to cement their growing friendship. By the end of the semester, the five were fast friends and, because of their advanced courses, their grade point averages were an easy 5.0. They celebrated in David's apartment with pizza and root beer floats.
As they sat in the living room of the modest two-room apartment, the other boys expressed their awe and envy for David's independence. He looked at them thoughtfully. "I'd give it all up in a minute to have a family like all of you have." he told them sincerely and his words immediately sobered the lively group. He'd previously told them the same story he'd told Mrs. Nelson of being an orphan. He wasn't really lying, he told himself as they looked at him in sympathy. He was an orphan and he'd lost a lot in his sixteen years. Enough that the pain was still evident in his eyes. He never knew if it was a silent or spoken agreement between his new friends, but they collectively agreed to nurture and protect their new, smaller friend. They would be a buffer, a cocoon for him against any that would harm him or remind him of his painful past.
Their bi-weekly gatherings after school began to turn from not only sessions for the strengthening of friendship with fun and laughter, but slowly David began to steer the other four into discussions regarding their future. He announced that he was taking a full load of classes at the Jr. College during the summer months and urged the others to join him. Mark, the tall redhead and Scott the curly, brown haired gregarious member of the group, balked at the idea. But David, with the aid of the auburn haired, freckle faced and slightly pudgy Steven and the blonde athlete, Jeffrey, talked them into joining them.
Assisted by the high school counselor, they registered for the summer semester and pre-selected classes. David announced his plans to challenge several courses to get credit without taking the time to take the courses that were required for graduation from college, and not necessary to the knowledge he wanted from a college institution. The idea appealed to the others as well, and they began to plan their academic future.
The conflict between Earth and the colonies raged on far from the school, and the five boys buried themselves deep into their studies. Discussions of the war and the Gundams, White Fang, or any other aspect of the war was eliminated from their conversation because it made David visibly uncomfortable. He knew the Gundams had gone into space, but refused to discuss any aspect of the war. It wasn't going to affect his life anymore, he told them.
Time passed quickly, the summer came and went with all five boys achieving their personal academic goals. When school began again in the fall, the five looked forward to their senior year. The four of the five had grown and changed dramatically since forming friendships and most people on campus gave credit to the quiet, small boy named David Miller. He tried not to draw attention to himself, but his appearance alone drew all eyes to him. The other four boys, all taller than David, seemed to surround him and protect him from any unwanted advances. They kept him safe and sheltered, something that was new to him. David often told them that he felt like he was in a state of chrysalis, feeling protected by their friendship while growing and changing to become something more fulfilling. They all agreed to feeling the same way.
Word of their intellect was widely known in the school community. Their grades, hard work, good natures, and friendliness became the banner of what the Woodward Public School represented. The entire school referred to the enviable group of five boys as the Think Tank Five, a name that stuck.
Following the advice of their counselor, the five planned on graduating from high school in January, having more than enough credits than what was required to graduate, and not seeing the need to wait for the extra five months to graduate with their classmates. For fun in the previous spring, they had all taken the SAT test that produced two perfect scores by David and Steven. The others trailed by only 10 to 15 points behind them.
College scholarships were offered the five by numerous colleges. After an intense meeting with school counselors and the four's parents, the five adamantly stood firm that they would attend the same school. They accepted full scholarships to Stanford University, room and board included. A large celebration was held at Steven's parents home in which more than half the school seemed to be in attendance. The families of all four boys were genuinely fond of their son's seemingly shy friend, David. They all, to some extent, realized that this small in stature young man had been the impetus for their sons motivation to excel in school and for their academic success. They welcomed all the boys into their homes regularly and David into their hearts.
There was a general atmosphere of happiness and sadness as the five graduated early from Woodward and immediately caught a plane to San Francisco.
The war in space came to a dramatic end as the leader of Oz was killed in battle with a Gundam, and Wing Zero dramatically saved the earth from a catastrophic disaster by destroying the enormous fragment of the space fortress Libra before it could crash into the earth. The five watched the television screen with the rest of the world as the events transpired. Steve elbowed Jeff and motioned towards David. The dark blonde haired boy had removed his ever present glasses, revealing his expressive blue/violet eyes. There was an anguish of soul displayed in them as he watched Wing fall backwards into the earth. As the falling piece of the large ship was destroyed, the four jumped to their feet cheering loudly, but stopped abruptly as they each noticed David as he buried his face in his hands and rocked back and forth. They quickly shut off the television and tried to comfort their friend, exchanging worried looks.
David returned to his normal self the next day. As in the past, he didn't push his friends to do more than they were capable of, but he set the example for them to follow, challenging courses he felt he could pass and taking at least 20 units a semester. Not having a place to go, he informed them that he would take a full load during the spring and summer semesters. The others decided to stay also.
In December of A.C. 197, the conflict with Diekem Barton began. Relena Dorilin Peacecraft had been kidnaped. David withdrew from the television and media news coverage to the growing conflict. As the world watched the events unfold, he delved into his studies.
Each of the five naturally branched into different majors. David majored in International Business and Economics. The now tall, redheaded Mark, majored in his favorite, Chemical Biology, Steven studied Engineering, and Jeffrey slipped easily into Business law. Scott did a double major in Marketing and Computer Science.
While everyone on Earth and on the colonies watched as Gundam Wing Zero blasted into the Barton Stronghold buried under the ground, David came up with his first joint invention. As a Think Tank, they put their heads and individual talents together to make David's idea come to life. The concept: eye glasses that displayed information from the computer. A new type of lens needed to be developed, one that you could clearly see out of, yet could display print on the inside. It needed a miniature transmitter to receive the information from the computer. Combing their abilities and talents, the five worked to produce a prototype. David came up with the initial financial backing needed to begin and surprisingly, most of the technical ideas. They developed a prototype, tested it, and leaking information to the business word in Silicon Valley, they sold their patented Comp-U-Wear glasses for fifty million dollars, with rights to future sales profits. The money was split evenly, five ways, each young man an instant multi-millionaire before they were out of their teens.
But the monetary success was as equally sensational as their overnight popularity. They became an instant public curiosity, a phenomenon. The business, scientific, and communication businesses were abuzz with word of the five wonders. Soon magazines, newspapers, and the visual media were clambering for the story of the Think Tank Five. The media went into a literal frenzy when it was discovered that they were eighteen and nineteen year-old college students.
Their overnight success posed a major problem for the five. David refused to be interviewed or photographed. He didn't want to be in the public eye, and he was adamant and very agitated about the whole situation, much to the puzzlement of his friends. Gratefully, the university agreed to use it's security to keep the media away from the campus and from obtaining any academic or personal information regarding their famous students.
Jeff called a meeting several weeks later, announcing a solution. They all met in his new home in Palo Alto and awaited for the pizza to be delivered.
"Okay Jeff," David smiled warmly while looking up at his tall, blonde friend. "What's up, other than you four?" He chuckled as he noted the physical changes in his friend, and then the changes in all of them since they first met. They were all taller then he was, but then, so was just about everybody. Jeff had grown to be six feet tall, and was muscular from his weekend racket ball and basketball games. Gone from all of them were the nerd looks. Money and his own gentle suggestions for hair and fashion, plus the aura of success each bore, had turned awkward boys into handsome young men, each with an inner confidence that radiated from them. They all had women chasing them, attracted to their good looks and new found fame and money. David smiled pleasantly as he thought of the happiness the group shared. Jeff and Mark were both engaged. Their fiances were beautiful, intelligent girls who fit well into the Five. He was happy for them.
"I want you to meet someone and to keep an open mind" Jeff said as soon as the five sat in his living room. "I think we could hire this guy to pose as David for public pictures and functions, a decoy of sorts." Jeff paused a moment seeing various expressions on his friend's faces, from disbelief to curiosity and doubt. He continued on. "Listen, this guy could use the money, and if he passes your approval, we could train him to answer questions and just keep him in the background as the shy member of the group."
The doorbell rang and Jeff turned to answer the door. "Pizza." he announced with a smile and left the room. A moment later, he returned, the pizza guy in tow with three large pizzas and a couple of six packs of Coke.
"Hey guys, meet Ted." The young man in question looked uncomfortable, but gave a wide, generous smile. He was small in build, had light brown hair that poked out from under his Pizzeria Hat, and large brown eyes that reflected that his smile was genuine.
Everyone said hello, and Steve looked under the brim of the delivery boy's hat. "Mind taking off your hat?" he asked.
Perplexed, the young man hesitated, then slowly reached up and removed it to reveal a full head of thick, straight, light brown hair.
"What do you think David?" Jeff asked, seeming very pleased with himself.
All eyes in the room turned to the dark blonde who studied the newcomer in serious contemplation. David was still the smallest of the group at 5'6", and as slender as a young boy, appearing younger than his 19 years. He looked relatively the same as in high school, his hair was still dark blonde, straight and shoulder length, and he still wore tinted glasses, effectively hiding his unforgettable violet eyes, though the others suggested he have had laser surgery to correct his vision. His face had thinned a bit as he got older, and it was a bit more angular now. He seemed to smile more now than ever, and appeared his happiest when surrounded by his friends.
But even after all the time they had known him, he still had an air of sadness that seemed to descend on him at odd, quiet times. To the other four, their friend seemed lonely and often melancholy. All attempts to set David up with dates had been discouraged. When Scott sat down to talk to him about it, David told him he had been in love once, before he met them, and was hurt so badly that he found it hard to trust again. He assured him that after college he would think about becoming more social and maybe even try dating. Scott had informed the others of their conversation, and all attempts to set David up ceased.
"Well," David studied the young man before him. "I can see a slight resemblance."
"Here, try this." Jeff took the glasses from off of David's face and put them on Ted. All five hummed and nodded their heads approvingly. There was a similarity, but anyone would be hard pressed to match David's good looks.
"Ah..... can I ask what's going on here?" Ted asked nervously, the three pizzas still in his hands.
Mark stepped forward and took the pizzas out of his hands as David answered. "Well Ted, we're looking for a business associate. Would you mind sitting down and telling us about yourself?" he asked and motioned for the delivery boy to take a seat on the leather couch.
The pizza guy looked at the expectant faces surrounding the shortest guy in the room and saw that they were serious. He was never one to pass up an opportunity, or at least listen to one. He sat at the indicated spot and waited for the others to sit before he began his story.
He started by telling them that he had dropped out of high school when he was a senior, that was when his father had died of cancer and he needed to get a job to help support his mother. He worked at the Pizza Place and saved his money in hopes of buying the franchise one day.
The five then proceeded to explain who they were and asked him questions that were a little more personal in nature; what he did in his off time, did he drink, smoke, or do drugs? They were up front with him that, if hired, he needed to have a clean record and live his life in a way that was beyond reproach. They explained that, if the job was offered, he would be representing David in public, as the small blonde wished to maintain his privacy, even though the public was clambering for more details. He would in effect, be a decoy, and paid very, very well for doing a good job.
After the questions were asked, they asked him to wait in the kitchen so that the five could discuss the situation in private. Five minutes later, the high school dropout was offered the job of a lifetime.
Within a month, pictures of the Think Tank Five were published in ten major magazines along with their individual stories. David's story began with the day he entered Woodward.
Together, they graduated at the age of twenty-one and far ahead of schedule. They set up business together in Los Angeles. David coordinated the work and headed Research and Development. In a short time they developed a fool-proof, anti-theft device for automobiles, a portable, invisible personal force shield designed for police forces, political dignitaries, and celebrities who might have concern for their personal safety and could afford the costly form of protection. They also developed an in-ground guidance system for automobiles that would follow a tracking system in the pavement, allowing the car to be programed to its destination, permitting the driver to work or sleep while commuting or traveling. Sensors strategically placed around the vehicle were developed to detect cars or objects around it and fed the data into the car's computer, instantly adjusting the speed or applying the brakes. After testing and tweaking it into perfection, the system was found fool proof. The projected sales were in the billions as governments and car companies endorsed the system and began to implement it.
Life was very good indeed for the TTF and their silent partner.
Quatre Rabbara Winner, head of the Winner Corporation, tossed down the latest Time Magazine, followed by the Business Weekly and Who's Who in the World Magazine, plus several others. Each cover showed the same group of five young men on their cover in various poses, The Think Tank Five, or the TTF as they were commonly referred to. This group of young geniuses were responsible for world-changing inventions, self-made billionaires before the age of twenty-one.
Quatre's personal investigator picked up the discarded magazines and studied them.
"I'm thinking of contacting these guys to talk about a combined business venture." Quatre began.
"But you want to know more about them before the first contact?" The other asked as he leafed through the Who's Who Magazine.
The blonde smiled. "You know me so well."
The other smirked. "You and all your sordid secrets."
"Me? Sordid secrets?" The blond replied feigning umbrage as he sat back and leaned into his comfortable chair.
"Well, let's see," The other leaned forward. "a runaway at fifteen, a secret male lover since you were sixteen, a Gundam pilot, engineer of Wing Zero, and embarrassingly bested and wounded by a girl with a sword in a duel."
"No fair." the blonde pouted. "You're hitting below the belt."
"Sorry," the other sat back with a wicked smile. "That's Trowa's job.
"Very funny." The head of Winner Corporation stuck his tongue out at his friend. He then shrugged and leaned forward again. "Anyway, there are five of these guys, all living in Los Angeles. From what the articles say, they are very close, having gone to school together and planned their careers as a team. Find out the usual, their habits, any vices, or if they pose any working liabilities, their backgrounds, assets, what their employees think about them, and anything else you may think is pertinent."
"Alright." the other stood and picked up all the magazines. "I'll leave tomorrow and report in every couple of days. It might take me a couple of weeks to do a proper surveillance since there are five of them."
The head of the Winner Corporation stood and moved from behind his desk and embraced the taller man. "Hurry back Heero, we'll miss you."
"Thanks Quatre. Tell Trowa I'll see him when I get back."
"Will do. And you might give Wufei a call at the Preventer's Office. He might have additional information on the TTF, and would be offended if you went to Earth and didn't get in touch."
"Alright." The Japanese man easily agreed.
"And be careful."
"Yes, mother." Heero teased. "But I don't think those five look like they would pose any danger to me." Heero scoffed at the idea. He ducked as Quatre took off his expensive loafer from off his foot and playfully threw it at him, missing completely.