“OK, lets do this right,” Heero said as he prepared to bring the shuttle into docking position at the designated place – the only place they could land and get away with it – suspended by a magnetic current in the outer skin of the shuttle to the underside of the main docking ramp. The craft’s cloaking device was on, blocking any radar from finding it, and all communication lines with the ship were off as well, lessening the possibility that they could be found via radio signals coming from their communications equipment. It was the most precarious landing that Heero had ever attempted in his young life, and beads of sweat formed on his brow as he concentrated to maneuver the ship into position. Then a funny smirk appeared on his face.
“What is it?” Duo asked.
“Nothing. Was just thinking that I feel like Han Solo making this crazy landing with this shuttle.”
“Han who? Oh, yeah, right... that guy in that old space movie.” Duo chuckled, a fleeting memory dancing on the edge of his mind about another Solo that he once knew of, briefly threatening to pull his emotion down into a spiral, but his attention was quickly averted back to business by the shudder that went through the ship as Heero engaged the magnetic generator.
When the ship was secured, floating in its magnetic trance a few feet away from the steel entrance gate to the Lunar base, Heero powered down all unneeded equipment, leaving the only the main generators running, and got out of the pilot’s seat. Together the two agents grabbed the backpacks containing all their surveillance equipment and slid them on, adjusting them so the loads were balanced on their backs. Then tossing Duo a clear, plastic dome, Heero began to zip up his suit in preparation to fasten down his helmet as well. Although there was an atmosphere actually in the Lunar base and its structures, there was none outside the boundaries of the hanger doors, so they would need to space-walk into the building before they could remove the helmets. Nodding that he was ready, Duo waited for Heero to lead the way.
Gaining entrance to the base had been reasonably easy. With the shuttle suspended out of the way, it was hidden well enough that someone had to know it was there to discover it. They had planned an arrival time for the middle of the night, lessening the chances of being found as they made entry to the hanger, and found it to be pitch black, creating a bit of ease between the two agents.
“God, I hate this place,” Duo said, remembering the last time he had an opportunity to be there. As Oz’s prisoner, they had taken liberties with him to get him to talk, leaving him in quite a bad condition by the time Heero had arrived to break him out. Just the smell of the place, burned into his memory banks, was making his skin crawl as he tried to push away bad memories. In all of his time as a Gundam pilot, he’d been captured and harassed by Oz countless times, but his lasting memories had always been of the Lunar base – the first of which being the creeping panic he’d felt while nearly being suffocated, and the second of being thrashed into the next week and wishing to die in a moment of weakness and agony. That had been the second time that Heero had diverted from his original plans to rescue him and bring him out alive. It wasn’t that he couldn’t handle himself either, but more so that he had always been willing to take risks, sometimes getting him into unplanned trouble. That and, he had a big mouth when he was angry.
Heero didn’t respond, but only looked ahead as they made their way further into the hanger and toward the doors that he knew would take him into the main parts of the base. Then safely into the realms of the man-made atmosphere of the base, he unlatched his helmet, waiting for his suit to depressurize, testing to see if he could breathe. Everything seemed fine, so he lifted the helmet off. The agents hid the helmets behind a stack of empty wooden crates.
Taking a look around, Heero commented to Duo. “Someone’s definitely been up to something up here.”
“These are just like the crates that were loaded onto that shuttle in Brussels,” Duo said, in a low voice.
Slowly the two agents began to make their way along the back of the hanger, searching through the crates to see if they contained Titanium, but they were all empty. That wasn’t surprising, though, since from what they both remembered, this specific hanger was merely the loading dock for the base – the place where the mobile suits had been being built was further into the building.
Slinking through shadows, they crept to the entranceway to the main building, which would take them to the other hangers as well, and went in. Being careful not to allow the door to click closed too loudly, Duo held his breath as he let the cold steel lean on him before he let the door slip closed. Heero was a couple of yards ahead already, moving toward a second hanger when Duo caught up to him, and they went through a second set of doors.
What they found inside the doors was frightening, to say the least. Standing in neat, precise rows of shimmering metal in the dim, safety-lit hanger were tens, maybe hundreds, of brand new mobile suits of a shape and description that neither agent had seen before. They were nothing like any of the stock machines that Oz had been manufacturing during the wars. They were cleaner, more streamline, like a Gundam but not quite, as they lacked the distinctive gladiator-like features that the Gundams each bore, but standing all lined up in a small army the way they were, they were just as impressive as any Gundam had ever been.
“Ho-leeee shit,” Duo said under his breath as he stood before the lineup of mobile suits with Heero beside him.
Heero stepped forward to get a closer look. Reaching out a hand, he touched the brushed metal surface of the suite before him. “Feels like it,” he said, meaning that it felt like gundanium, which had its own feel to it. Although it was a metal, to the touch, gundanium felt somewhere between cold, hard steel and pliable plastic, a strange sensation altogether. It was the “feel” of the gundam, and the composition of the alloy that made them able to withstand temperature fluctuations in either extreme without either shattering from cold or heating up so high as to endanger the pilot, and this machine in front of Heero definitely had that feel to it. This was no ordinary mobile suit.
“Lets check them out,” he said, his eyes staring up at the open hatch above him. All the suits stood with their hatch doors open. Then in a flash, Heero was scaling the front of the suit with the guide rope and entering the cockpit. Duo took Heero’s example and climbed aboard the suit beside it and explored every inch of the machine’s cockpit.
Jumping back down to the hanger floor when he’d finished his inspection, Duo turned to Heero and said, “This does not look promising. We’d better hurry up and do what we have to do here and get word to Sally.”
Heero said nothing, only grunting a response, causing Duo to reply with a smart remark.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say.”
Heero glared at his partner.
The agents returned to the corridors between the hangers, only this time they followed them to where Heero knew would lead to the place where the mobile suit factory had been. What they found there was just as startling as their discovery of the hanger full of mobile suits.
Entering the factory, Heero’s eyes widened in disbelief as he looked upon the former Oz mobile suit factory, now retrofitted and updated, and running at full power. From the shadows of the corridor, he and Duo looked on in amazement, watching as a full crew ran huge, noisy machines that worked hot, glowing sheets of metal, presumably gundanium, into shapes that would eventually become mobile suit parts.
What shocked him the most though, was what he saw in the center of the huge warehouse-like room. There was a hole in the floor of the factory, an orange lit-up hole that seemed to go straight down into the surface of the moon as evidenced by the soil walls that could be seen under the layers of concrete that had been dug up. There were pipes and tubes of all sizes running down into the tube, probably oxygen supplies and exhaust tubes, and a conveyor belt rising from smack in the middle. As crude as the contraption looked for these times of technology, what someone had done here was fashioned a simple mine conveyor, and it seemed to work fine as bucketfuls of something were being lifted to the surface. There the buckets were being dumped into a pile, where a group of men shoveled the substance into what looked like a cleaning machine, and from the other end it came out pure, rinsed clean of the moon’s soil, ready to be melted down and turned into alloy. Heero imagined the trails and tunnels that probably existed below the surface of where they were standing, tunnels to various minefields that were being tapped from underground, and a concern went through him.
“It’s ore,” Duo said, his voice shaky with nervousness. “They’re mining for ore, just like you said.”
Without saying a word, Heero stepped out into the glowing, well-lit room and started to make his way over to the side of one of the metal forming machines that was closest to them. Concealed only by the deafening noise of the factory, he intended on getting a sample of what it was that was being pulled out of the mine, so that the lab could confirm exactly what it was that they were creating there in that plant.
“Heero!” Duo yelled in a whisper, trying to get his partner’s attention before he got too far away. “Where the hell...” Sighing, he remained in the shadow, deciding that it was probably better to just watch from afar than risk both of them being discovered. Duo was somewhat annoyed, though, as he watched Heero expertly stealth his way between machines until he was able to pick up a small morsel from the floor, a pebble that had rolled away from the main pile as it was being dumped. In a few more minutes he was back at Duo’s side, fingering a chunk of ore before him.
“Why did you do that?” Duo said in exasperation.
“Needed a sample,” was all that Heero said, his face hard and emotionless.
“Obviously! Next time, can ya at least tell me before ya just waltz off into the center of disaster there?”
Heero said nothing, and put the particle in a pouch pocket on the inside of his suit.
“Yeah, still the same conversationalist as always,” Duo answered curtly, letting Heero see that he disapproved of his actions. He certainly did get a reaction this time as he found himself aggressively pinned by the shoulder of his space suit against the corridor wall, Heero’s face mere centimeters from his own.
“What is your problem?” Heero said in a whisper through his teeth, his eyes once more cold and harsh like spheres of blue ice, the way Duo always remembered them being.
“Damnit, Heero! Look at yourself, man! You aren’t J’s toy anymore. We’re in this together now! You can’t just go doing things without at least telling me. You just can’t do that anymore! You’re gonna wind up getting one of us killed, and somehow I have the feeling it won’t be you!”
Heero froze at the sound of Duo’s words, realizing at once that he had allowed his training and habit to take over his actions without thinking about the fact that he didn’t have to be a loner anymore. Sally wouldn’t tolerate him behaving that way, either. Relaxing his grip on Duo, he let go of his suit, dropping his eyes to the floor in shame. Duo roughly pulled himself out of Heero’s grasp, then began straightening his suit, looking on at his embarrassed partner, not uttering a word.
“I’m sorry,” Heero finally said, still ashamed to meet his friend’s eyes. “I... I’m sorry, Duo.”
“It’s... it’s alright.”
Heero looked up, his eyes more relaxed and apologetic.
“Look,” Duo said, solemnly. “Lets hurry up and do what we have to do here, and get out of here, OK?”
Heero nodded, then started off down the dark corridor from where they originally came.
By the time the two agents made it back to their concealed shuttle, they had been on the Lunar base about five hours, exploring everything they could explore without being discovered. The mining operation seemed to never stop, and they assumed that it was being kept running twenty-four hours. This enabled the men to snap ample photos of the scene with the digital camera they had with them, pictures that sent to headquarters as soon as they were safely back in the shuttle and away from the base.
A couple of bugs had been planted as well, one behind a wall unit bookshelf in what looked to be someone’s office, another in the control booth in the mobile suit storage hanger, and yet another behind some permanent piping along the wall in the actual are that the mining was going on. It was hard to tell if these were good places or not, or whether any good information would be obtained from these bugs, but they would have to do, since the base was beginning to wake up for another day’s criminal activity by the time they were securing the last one. They had just enough time to high tail it out of the storage bay where they entered, and jet away before the base was crawling with people once more.
It was after sending off the last of the digital images to headquarters via the shuttle’s onboard computer system that Heero apologized again to Duo for the way he’d behaved earlier.
“It’s OK,” Duo said once again, only more accepting of the apology this time.
“I’m trying... not to be a one-man army anymore, like I used to be,” Heero said, his eyes wandering his lap, too embarrassed to look at his partner.
“I know you are, Heero. Just...”
“Just be cool, I guess. Remember, they put us together because we work well that way, you and I. Always have.”
Heero smirked. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Either that, or they know that I’m the only one suicidal enough to put up with your crap.” Duo smiled a teasing smile as he checked a few gauges on the instrumentation panel, readying the ship for autopilot.
“Do me a favor?”
“Don’t tell anyone about that little... scene?”
Duo hesitated, then turned to look at Heero. “Don’t worry, man. I wont. I know things are tough right now for you. Just... try and not go soldier on me, OK? I really like this new Heero... the one that actually has an interest in talking to me about things other than the mission. You’ve already spoiled me.”
Heero smiled. “Gotcha. Thanks.”
In another sixteen hours and thirty-seven minutes, the little shuttle touched down once more in Brussels.