Out of Mind
When Duo left with so little warning, it triggered my paranoia. While it doesn't take much to do that, the whole business trip reeked of a cover. Hilde had conveniently left some copies of contract drafts on her desk when she went for lunch. Those lent credibility to Duo's story.
I wasn't convinced. The last smile he gave me before leaving hid something. I didn't know what - and I almost feared he was really planning to go see our common friends - tell them where I was, that I had a problem - or problems. What if he had already tired of me, given up on me? He had given me what I took as an 'all clear' to constantly remind him I wanted more than his friendship, but it still went on his nerves as much as his mind.
I couldn't relent, though. All I could do was hope the latter would crumble before the first.
I wasn't in a good mood when Hilde interrupted my brooding - and my own lunch.
"Heero, come look what we've got!"
With great enthusiasm, she pulled me out in the yard before I could give a reply.
The back gate was open, and a huge flatbed truck was backing up. On the flatbed was a tarpaulin-covered silhouette I could recognize anywhere. "A Leo suit..."
"Ah-huh. It was really set aside for Dyson's chopshop, but they were all booked up, so they asked if we could take care of it for them. We'll get most of the fee, of course."
I gave her a dumbfounded look. "They want us to dismantle this thing?"
She put her arms akimbo, grinned at me. "What, are you saying we can't handle it?"
To that, I merely snorted. Of course we could handle it. It would just take a while. At least we wouldn't go idle.
We unloaded the suit, and once the truck was gone, we inspected our latest treasure. It was in remarkably good shape, at a glance it seemed fully intact. It was definitely one of the space Leos from the battle of White Fang and Treize's alliance. There was some blast and burn damage to the surface, but nothing that suggested this suit hadn't made its way back home.
But it couldn't have. All those suits were dismantled almost right after the war. This one had to have orbited the planet as debris for a long time.
We calculated its subcomponents would fetch a pretty penny, putting us well over budget for that month. Hilde went back inside to find something to toast with - orange juice, I guessed.
I decided to have look inside. The hatch worked remarkably well, and with just a little push of a crowbar, I got it opened. The cockpit looked perfectly austere. With some maneuvering, I managed to lay down in the pilot seat.
The monitors were all dead since the engine was off-line. Looked like Dyson's crew had removed the fusion core before dumping this thing on us. That made sense, as the core is an expensive gadget that's easy to remove.
I looked about, trying to figure out what decommissioned the suit. Finally, I found it. Far to my left, a little back - a small crack in the structure with an old, dark spot around.
Ouch. I wrinkled my nose.
It wasn't the suit, it was the pilot. Air has a distinct problem resisting the pulling power of the vacuum of space. This guy must have loosened his straps at the very wrong moment. The result couldn't have been pretty. Or quick. Or painless.
I looked along the left side. There were other dark spots as well, what resembled claw marks. They reached for a small lockbox welded into the suit, but the fingers had never made it there.
My lockpicking skills aren't quite up to par with Duo's, but they suffice.
I still wish my curiosity hadn't gotten the better of me.
There was a picture - probably a backup, judging from the torn strips of duct tape on the main console - of the pilot's family. Husband, two kids. Looked like the man was military too. I quietly prayed his fortunes had been better than hers.
The real kicker was hidden behind it. A gun, and a tiny bottle of unknown, but easily guessed content. A quick fix to celebrate - and another quick fix to escape one death in favor of a marginally less unpleasant one.
I took a closer look. The gun chamber was empty, and I didn't see any spare bullets around. She'd gambled on staying alive, and I had to give her credit for that. It was more than I used to.
I wished the bottle had been empty, too. It wasn't much - certainly not enough to get drunk on, only enough for a victory toast, at best. Tentatively, I undid the cork, took a whiff of the contents, sudden sandpaper in my throat. I swallowed, frowned, ashamed I didn't even have to look at the label to identify what brand it was. Hurriedly, I put the cork back in place, disgusted with myself.
I looked at the gun in my right hand, the bottle in my left, felt the empty pit in my guts grow.
Were these two really my only options to deal with my problem? Give in, or give up?