Author: Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning: Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence, abusive situations.


Band Aids + Part 1

"Simpson had a complete meltdown?" Milliardo Peacecraft sat back in his office chair, as his neatly organized infiltration mission collapsed around his ears. "He was the perfect team leader. He spent months readying his men. He knew the area. He knew the targets. He knew the contraband items inside and out. What does Psych say about this?"

Une clasped her arms across her chest and replied, "Personal matters; a marriage gone bad. He couldn't handle the breakup. Psych recommends a desk job until he ceases to be a danger to himself."

Milliardo raised a pale eyebrow. "Suicidal?" Une nodded. Milliardo turned a personnel disc over and over in his hands and then he swore, "Damn good men who have relationships! There should be a regulation against it."

Une snorted. "We can't all be celibate hermits, Commander Peacecraft."

Milliardo glared and then he stood and grabbed for his briefcase. "I shall retire to my hermitage, then, and try to find me a new team leader."

"I've created a short list for you on the disc," Une told him, as she shoved her round glasses up higher on her nose, "but, I'm afraid, you won't find someone with half of Simpson's qualifications. He was our best infiltration man."

"Not even in our pet Gundam pilots?" Milliardo shot back.

Une frowned. "They're no one's pets, Commander. They come and go as they please and they bite if you aren't careful with them. Chang Wu Fei is at HQ at this time, but Heero Yuy is gone for the time being, without explanation."

Milliardo felt the heat of anger. Heero had spurned his sister, Relena, refused to follow the conventions of society, and still played fast and furious with life, either on the side of mercenaries or the Preventers, when it suited him. Not just a lone wolf, but a rogue one. Wu Fei could be just as unpredictable, but at least he fought consistently with the Preventers and within the law. They had a touch of madness, all of them, Milliardo often thought, a disregard for their lives and an arrogance that was unparalleled. Even Trowa Barton...

"Where is Barton?" Milliardo asked.

Une smiled tightly. "You won't get his help. He made it clear, after his first year as a Preventer agent, that he was through with law enforcement and fighting. If I can believe the tabloids, he's currently with Quatre Winner." She shrugged. "He's an undercover operative, Milliardo, not an infiltrator."

Milliardo said impatiently, as he headed for the door, "I do realize that, Commander Une, but at this point, I am allowed to grasp at straws."

She chuckled, but it was a dry sound and without any real amusement. "We have two Gundam Pilot agents, Commander," she said, "And neither of them have the skills you need. Don't use beam cannons when you need a pen light."

That rankled, but Milliardo let it go, because it was true. Pocketing his personnel disc, he went out of his office and found Chang Wu Fei standing in the hallway with a smug look on his face, his arms crossed across his chest in a perfect imitation of Une. Cut from the same cloth, Milliardo thought darkly. Honorable, but ruthless when they needed to be.

"Yes, Agent Wu Fei?" Milliardo asked tightly. "He didn't care for any of them. They knew too many of his faults, too many of his secrets, and he considered them all high risk. Beam cannons. Une had pegged them exactly.

"The ether was down, so I decided to deliver my mission report personally," Wu Fei explained as he handed Milliardo the disk. Milliardo knew that he would find it precise and bloody in it's detail. Wu Fei's expertise was only used when a site had to be forcefully secured or taken out completely.

"Thank you, Agent," Milliardo replied as he tucked it into his coat with his other disk.

"I over heard your conversation with Une," Wu Fei confessed and looked too much like a tiger sizing up juicy prey. "I have a solution to your problem. The only solution,"

Milliardo couldn't keep his anger and impatience under check. "Do not presume-"

Wu Fei raised a cool, dark eyebrow. "I know all the details of your mission. My companion is one of your team." He said 'companion' in a casual way, but Milliardo realized that he was speaking of more than a friend. "Since it is of some concern to me to see that he is successful," Wu Fei continued, "I wish his new team leader to be the best."

Milliardo's jaw worked. He wanted to hear Wu Fei's suggestion, not because he intended to take the man's advice, but so that he could make a note of who not to use. He didn't want a bloodbath on his hands, he wanted a man who could slip into any installation like a ghost on the wind and complete any directives he was given.

"Duo Maxwell," Wu Fei told him, when Milliardo didn't say anything. "He's on L2 colony, working scrap and ready for a change. You know he's the best at infiltration. Simpson is nothing compared to him."

"How do you know anything about Maxwell and what he wants?" Milliardo finally replied.

Wu Fei shrugged. "He likes to 'keep in touch'. He bothers me periodically with a vid call."

Wu Fei eyed Milliardo. "You do know that he is the best. Call him."

Of all the Gundam Pilots, Duo Maxwell had kept the lowest profile. Psych had signed him off as incredibly well adjusted after the war, and, by all accounts, he had lived a rather mundane life, without so much as a parking ticket, since then. Once in awhile, his photo would appear in an article, wondering what the pilots were doing now, but even they were hard pressed to find something interesting to report.

"He's refused all attempts to assign him to missions, even important ones," Milliardo pointed out, "and Une considers him extremely untrustworthy."

"Untrustworthy?" Wu Fei snorted. "Woman," he growled and it was an insult.

Milliardo fingered the discs in his pocket. He remembered Maxwell from the war. Stupid grin, long hair, and an ability to get in and out of situations that had maddened him as the man's enemy. They had never met except over a vid line, but Une's reaction to him had convinced him that Maxwell was not Preventer material.

"I will take it under advisement," Milliardo replied impatiently. "If you'll excuse me?"

Wu Fei looked angry then. "If my companion dies because you chose the wrong leader-"

Milliardo glared at him, ice blue eyes like steel. "Is that a threat, agent?"

"Advice, " Wu Fei replied with a suddenly smooth look."You know who you need for that mission. Don't make the wrong choice because of the way the war turned out for you."

The man walked away then and Milliardo was left staring at his back, furious.

Duo Maxwell. Milliardo tried to fight reason for a full minute and then he took out his cell phone. "Records? Find me Duo Maxwell's current vid number."

Milliardo asked the cab driver to wait. The man frowned at their surroundings, but a few more credits convinced him to brave the neighborhood.

L2 was a mix of two areas, crumbling city and a surrounding wasteland of industrial lots. Metal processing, parts manufacturing, scrap dealers, and different types of machine shops climbed almost on top of one another in their bid for space. Looking up, Milliardo could see the bare bones curving roof of the hub and the patch of green that was the city.

The city was slowly being repaired, recovering from the war, but L2 had never been a rich satellite, and Milliardo was sure, from the look of so many projects left half done, that corruption was siphoning off the money as quickly as it was coming in. Nothing new there, and he made a mental note to file a report with the government. They didn't like to interfere with a satellite's autonomy, but things were different now, and they were a union instead of a loose collection of governments.

Milliardo straightened his coat and firmed his grip on his briefcase. He also checked his revolver in its holster at his waist, hidden by his uniform coat. He didn't expect that he would have to use it, but he was used to a lifetime of armed conflict. That particular habit died hard.

"Fancy," a heavy set old man snorted as he looked Milliardo up and down. "Lookin' for a business?" Milliardo was polite. He gave a small bow of his head. "Yes, sir. I'm looking for Trans satellite Scrap Dealers."

"Take fifty-eight lane to ninety-first, turn right, down to twenty- second lot," The man squinted as if he couldn't see that well. "Harbit never rates your kind. After Maxwell, then?"

Milliardo was surprised. He didn't see any point in dissembling. His business wasn't a secret. "Yes, Preventer business."

"Could see that." The man seemed disturbed, hitching thumbs through suspenders. He was wearing dirty pants and large, steel toed boots. His ragged shirt was grease stained. "Maxwell's okay. Young, and wild with it like they all are, but not a bad sort. Not in any peck of trouble, is he?"

"No," Milliardo replied with a small smile of amusement. "I'm here to talk to him, that's all."

"Good, good," the man drawled and then winked at Milliardo. "Watch yourself, sir. Things can get a bit rough down the lanes for Preventers in fancy coats. The police force is spotty."

"I'll do that," Milliardo replied and shook the man's hand after the man had wiped it on a bandana and held it out. "Milliardo Peacecraft."

The man's eyes went wide. "Ho! Ho! Royalty!" he chuckled. "I am honored, sir. Kirk Turko, Mayor of Section Eight."

Milliardo raised eybrows. "Section Eight?"

The man grinned. "We do have a sense of humor, sir."

"I see," Milliardo gave him a small nod again. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Mayor Turko."

"Likewise, Prince Peacecraft," Turko replied and nodded back. Milliardo made his way down the narrow lanes and wondered how they managed to get trucks or machinery down them. His question was answered when the dust, that pervaded everything, was kicked up and a transport lifted off carrying a heavy machine in its undercarriage.

The people he passed looked at him with suspicion and open curiosity. They were all mostly dressed in overalls or nondescript clothing that looked tough and ready for anything. Many wore scarves over their faces to cut down on the dust or the fumes from some of the lots. There were a few shops that catered to the workers, most of them bars, but they were ramshackle places made from odds and end building material and it was hard to tell where they started and a construction lot began.

An iron gate was the entrance to Milliardo's destination. In a place of space age plastics and aluminum, that was different enough to make Milliardo wonder. He entered and saw a trip light flicker. His presence was already being announced as he looked over the stacks of metal and old construction materials. Part of a ship hull was set like a center piece in the lot, very large and on end. Beyond it was a low building with something spray painted near the one door. As Milliardo came closer, he could read it. 'If you don't see it, we don't have it.'

"Maxwell's humor," a dry voice said from behind him.

Milliardo stopped from drawing his weapon as his mind reminded him that he was walking among civilians. He turned and saw a stick of a man with a crewcut and a laser scar along his scalp. His _expression was scowling, sour, and long suffering. He was taking off welding gloves, his face covered on one side with soot. His thick apron and sturdy boots were a contrast to the thin, filthy tank top he wore and the khaki shorts. He was a contrast in caution and foolhardiness.

"It's him you're wanting, I assume?" The man growled deep in his throat as if he was going to spit, but he didn't, instead, it seemed like a wordless comment on the state of things. "He's in there, filing. Never seen a boy who liked paperwork that damned much. He liked it so much, I kept thinking he was sneaking off to surf porn sites on the ether, but... nope... filing." He looked Milliardo up and down and there was a tinge of concern in his sour face. "He can't have done anything wrong.... boy's 9 to 5 and to bed at ten." He shook his head as if he couldn't understand it. "I was piloting pirate freighters at his age and tearing up the town every night. I'd expect more out of a Gundam pilot."

Milliardo frowned. "Does he live here?"

"Yeah," the man grunted and took out a rag to wipe at his face. "Didn't seem right letting him rent a shack on his own. Needs looking after still at that age... people around here... good for the most part... but some... they could get a young man into trouble with hot air and bad ideas real quick."

Milliardo looked skeptical. "From his file, I understand that he's been on his own from an early age. Your concern is admirable, but I doubt that you need to worry about him."

The man looked troubled. He scratched at his short cropped hair. "Well now, my first apprentice got himself killed after a gang talked him into making some quick money lifting plating from some of Edgar Heally's big rigs. He ended up hamburger in the gears. Boy knew better than to loosen certain bolts, but the idiots he was with now, they didn't. He was a street boy too. Second one, he took off, too, listened to some sweet talking girls and a man with some credits." He frowned even deeper. "Guess I won't tell you what happened to him, but it was... ugly." He shrugged. "Just trying to say, 'Smart is smart, but young is stupid', always has been."

"He hasn't done anything wrong," Milliardo assured him. "I simply wish to speak to him."

"Ah," the man replied with a knowing look. "You're wasting your time. Other folks who came to talk to him, didn't get nowhere. He don't want to fight, you know? He just wants to... file." The man made a grimace.

"I still have to try," Milliardo told him.

"I suppose so," the man replied and jutted his chin at the door. "He's in there. Main office right in front."

"Thank you, sir," Milliardo said and opened the door.

The room smelled like cigarettes. An ashtray on the long, scratched and dirty counter, was full of them, stubbed out. A sign said, 'Put it out or I'll put you out.'

A finger appeared from the other side of the counter and pointed to the sign.

"I don't smoke," Milliardo said.

Two amethyst eyes peeked over the counter at him and then Duo appeared as he sat up sharply. "Most people do around here, sorry," he replied cheerfully but there was a wariness in his eyes. "You're Peacecraft, right? I've seen you on the vid."

Duo was short with wide, rounded shoulders. Slim, yet compact, Milliardo saw as he approached the counter and looked over it to the low table where Duo was seated and working. It was full of file cards, floppy transparencies for a computer storage system that looked ancient. He still sported his very long braid but it was attached to his belt by a tie, presumably to keep it out of machinery. His bangs were as wild as ever and his rounded face would have been devilishly impish if he hadn't worn that wide, good natured smile on it. Dressed in overalls, he looked cleaner than his boss, but there were still work stains all over him.

Milliardo reached over the counter to shake Duo's hand. Duo's grip was firm, his fingers blunt and thick. "Commander Milliardo Peacecraft," Milliardo introduced himself formerly. "I'm with the Preventers and I've come to talk to you about a mission that needs your level of expertise."

"Yeah?" Duo blinked at him and the smile never wavered. When Milliardo released his hand, he settled back into his chair again, fingers drumming the table lightly. "What would you need me to do?"

"Infiltrate and acquire information on our target, with a highly skilled team at your disposal," Milliardo told him.

"The name of this target?" Duo wondered.

Milliardo glanced around them nervously.

Duo snorted. "Nobody here, but us... and if you don't trust me now, it wouldn't work out anyhow."

"Liddobeau Industries," Milliardo told him and didn't feel confident about revealing that.

"Okay," Duo replied and then asked, "What kind of info am I supposed to get?"

Milliardo gave him the laundry list. Duo whistled at the end of it.

"And you think you need an entire team of experts to get in and get out of this place?" Duo wondered and smirked.

"Their programs are secured with encryption, alarms, and delete key codes," Milliardo explained. "When we tried to breach their systems, our information unraveled and our systems were rifled with viruses. It is our opinion that an inside team could breach these systems."

"Because security wouldn't be that destructive on the inside systems?" Duo surmised. He turned to a small computer and connected to the ether. "Well, that's assuming a lot. You're willing to risk men's lives on that bit of faith?"

"Our information-," Milliardo began, but Duo snorted and shook his head.

"Just like the old days," Duo grumbled. He picked up a coffee mug that had the logo and name of the scrap yard on it. He sipped at his coffee, put the mug down, and then began to type quickly on the keypad of the computer. Milliardo could catch the flickering rapid change of screens, but it was angled too much for him to see completely.

"Look, Peacecraft," Duo said. "I have a lot of work to do. Pappy out there thinks this place runs on sweat and grease, but someone has to keep the records, make the orders, and keep the inventory straight. That someone is me. I like it. I'm happy. I ain't giving it up to run suicide missions for you. That's Fei Fei and Yuy. What happened to them? They run off chasing cars again? I hear if you fix bad dogs, it makes them nicer."

Milliardo frowned and tried not to remember that he had called Yuy and Wu Fei mad dogs on more than one occasion."They are otherwise engaged. Chang Wu Fei suggested that I contact you."

Duo raised eyebrows. "Yeah? That explains a lot. That man thinks he's a yenta or something, I swear."

"Yenta?" Milliardo was confused.

"The solar system's matchmaker," Duo looked a little embarrassed. "He thinks he owes me, you see. I saved his ass in a big way one time and there's this debt he thinks he has to repay me. He asked me how he could do that and I told him..." Duo trailed off, but his fingers never slowed in their typing.

"Yes," Milliardo prompted.

"I'm rambling," Duo replied, annoyed with himself. "That's got nothing to do with you... or, it didn't until he decided to mix you up with me. Just forget I said it and take yourself back to HQ, or whatever you call Preventer central. Tell Wu Fei to keep his paws out of my life while you're at it. "

"Maxwell," Milliardo retorted in frustration, "You're not making any sense. I agreed with Wu Fei's assessment of your abilities, or I wouldn't have come here seeking your assistance. This mission is extremely important. If action isn't taken, civilians could die in great numbers."

"Which is why I'm helping you this time," Duo told him as he slipped a floppy out of the computer drive and handed it to a stunned Milliardo. "There's your information, nice, easy, and bloodless."

Milliardo looked down at the floppy in his hand, stunned. "This is..."

"Yeah," Duo assured him. "Safe and virus free. Better get on it. I can never tell if they have logs on access information. They might see it and bug out."

Milliardo opened his laptop on the counter and began uploading the information to Preventer HQ. On his cell phone, he called to confirm the receipt of the information. When that was completed, he put away his equipment and looked at Duo, who was methodically filing again as if Milliardo had already gone away.

"My best men couldn't accomplish that," Milliardo told him.

Duo smiled, but didn't look up. "I just have a knack for it."

He couldn't go, Milliardo decided. Duo Maxwell was a living, breathing, genius. Without any reference or research, he had hacked into a system that had defeated the best minds and his best technology... while carrying on a conversation. Duo Maxwell had to become one of his men. Talent like that couldn't be wasted.

"You're not leaving, are you?" Duo grumbled at last.

"No," Milliardo replied, "Not until I speak with you further."

Duo sighed. "Damn that Fei...."

"Maxwell?" Milliardo wondered.

Duo looked up and his dark purple eyes had hints of blue as well, Milliardo saw. Indigo, Milliardo thought.

"For a complete bastard," Duo fumed, "Wu Fei is really good at figuring people out. He's playing you. You didn't have to come all this way to get me to do that. He could have told you, or called me. He wanted us to meet."

"Why?" Milliardo replied. Maxwell was sounding decidedly unstable.

Duo looked embarrassed. "He owes me, I already told you that."

"Owes you what?" Milliardo persisted, getting irritated now.

Duo became even more embarrassed. "I told him... I've had a whole lot of lonely in my life and that I could do without it. If he could do something about that... I wasn't freakin serious! I was just talking out of my ass, trying to be funny, trying to flip him off, you know? Let's not talk about it anymore, okay? You're just another in the long line of people he's shoved my way.... though, why you, I really don't know. You're a lot different from the others."

"Others?" Milliardo blinked and wondered if he were dreaming. It would explain Duo's skill and their odd conversation.

Duo retorted, "Look! I told you, let's forget it! You can go now. I am not going to join the Preventers or anyone else. I'm not going to pick up a gun and be an agent. That's final, so save your breath." He waved broadly. "Bye now!"

Duo turned to his work and began filing, head down.

The thought of Wu Fei playing matchmaker didn't make any sense. Milliardo couldn't believe it for a moment. Duo was playing some game, he decided. Perhaps he wanted Milliardo to think that he was foolish and unstable in a bid to get rid of him? That was more likely.

Milliardos' eyes wandered to the thick window of the building, at the scrap beyond and the ship hull. "I want to purchase that. How long to repair it and get it ready for delivery?"

Duo looked up, startled. "What?"

"That ship hull," Milliardo pointed it out. "How long?"

Duo's eyes narrowed, suspiciously. "Four weeks. It's in bad shape. What are you fitting it into?"

"Class B-643 cruiser," Milliardo rattled off.

Duo grunted, "You know your ships and you know that will fit into one... with some work. It's expensive, though."

"Money is not a concern," Milliardo replied.

"Of course not, because it's the people's money," Duo retorted."I'll do what I can to cut costs for them." He warned, "Hang around all you want, but you're not going to convince me to join Preventers."

"I don't give up easily," Milliardo replied under his breath as he looked out of the window and wondered how he would explain his newest aquisition to Une.

[part 2] [back to Kracken's fic]