By: Kracken
Disclaimer:Don't own them Don't make any money off of this.
Warnings:Male/male sex, graphic, violence, language

Princes and Soldiers series + Part 17
Worse Case Scenarios

In the early morning light, Milliardo knocked back yet another pill to keep himself alert and a gulp of coffee so thick it was almost mud. He ignored the curious looks thrown his way. These people weren't used to seeing him at less than his best. They were used to a Milliardo who was well rested, devoid of any personal life, and always ready for the next mission in tip top shape. He knew that he had dark circles under his eyes, that he was slumping in his chair, and that his hair was caught back in a hasty pony tail to keep the bedraggled mess out of his face as he poured over map after map. He knew that he looked far from professional.

It was a hostage situation. Dissidents had holed up in a forested area far from any other inhabitants and taken with them the daughter of a very important dignitary, a rich dignitary. They threatened to kill her unless their demands were met. A regular swat team would have, usually, been dispatched to the scene, but this was different. It seemed that these desperate men had found the remains of a weapons bunker containing several mobile suits and the bare bones of a missile launch pad that the suits had been put there to protect. What their expertise was pertaining to these weapons, was an unknown factor, but they had threatened to use them.

The specs on the M.S. were interesting. They were newer models, not the automated kind, but sophisticated enough to give a regular pilot pause. Milliardo had been correct in his first assumption that Heero and Duo were both going to be needed to deal with them. Deciding on his next course of action was more difficult. He didn't want any hint of doubt about his reasoning for what he wished to do next, so he allowed the people around him to advise him.

Talk flew back and forth across a wide table as men examined specs and logistics covering the table top. Fingers jabbed, faces contorted, voices rose and fell. In the end, there was only one conclusion. "Sir, you are imminently qualified to deal with this particular situation," an advisor told Milliardo and the others nodded sagely in agreement. "While I don't recommend that commanders take to the field, I don't see any other option. A level head is needed and on site command decisions. Coupled with your knowledge of M.S, you are the logical choice to accompany Yuy and Maxwell."

Milliardo nodded as if a great weight were being put on his shoulders, but secretly, down deep where he kept it under tight control, he was thrilled and eager for a chance to go out into the field. It was difficult to sit through the rest of the meeting and, when it was over, he found himself quickly striding to the room where his men were awaiting his orders, eager to begin the operation.

"And then I said, 'Pepper is a very good sealant.', and he said, 'My ass, Maxwell!' So I stuck a hole in his radiator and poured the pepper right in. Stopped it right up!"

"You are so crazy!" A man grumbled.

"That's what HE said!" Duo replied in mock astonishment.

There were chuckles and derisive noises that ceased as soon as Milliardo walked into the large room. Everyone came to attention then, showing the same eagerness that he, Milliardo felt. Duo's eyes were fairly glowing and Heero looked tense and ready for action. They were all dressed in Preventer one piece suits, the logo emblazoned on the breast and arm, and they all looked professional and competent. Milliardo felt a wash of pride as he quickly explained the situation.

"Heero and me, then," Duo surmised at the end of the briefing, rubbing his hands briskly together in anticipation.

"Yuy?" Milliardo said and Heero looked at him expectantly. "Are you and Maxwell ready for duty?"

Milliardo knew that Heero would give him a true assessment whereas Duo might gloss over as much as possible to allow them to take the mission. Milliardo was well aware that their presence on the mission was crucial, but he didn't intend to make plans based on false assumptions about their abilities.

"Both of us have not slept," Heero reported despite Duo's roll of the eyes expressing his exasperation, "but we are trained to operate efficiently despite that. Duo is suffering from minor pains due to s-"

Duo elbowed Heero sharply in the ribs and stepped forward, grinning and saying jokingly, "Hey, Heero! No kissing and telling! I can do my job, don't you worry, sir!"

There were snickers, uncomfortable looks, and one or two expressions of disgust, but Duo had managed to divert Heero from exposing Milliardo and had taken the embarrassment all on himself. Milliardo felt a wave of gratitude, but he kept his _expression slightly irritated as he said, "You had better be right, Maxwell! I'll need you and Yuy with me. We will be infiltrating the sight and disabling the suits. The rest of the men will deploy on site and await our signal to advance. You have one hour to gather your gear and meet me on the tarmac."

"Saddle up!" Duo hooted, already well on his way to an adrenalin rush as he almost danced away to where the weapons and equipment were stored.

Milliardo watched Duo covertly, marveling at how handsome Duo was when he was flooded with so much excitement. Mind on the mission, Milliardo snapped at himself, and he forced himself to look away as he went to make his own preparations.

Reaching the target, required a hike into a wooded area. Milliardo's team moved quietly and even Duo managed to keep his joking banter to a minimum. Heero paced silently beside his partner, eyes ahead, mind perhaps working over the same variables as Milliardo. Milliardo couldn't help but wonder how well they would do working together. Milliardo couldn't imagine Heero allowing personal matters to inter into a mission, but Milliardo was finding it hard already. In trying to imagine disaster scenarios it kept coming down to, 'who will save Duo?'. That was a ridiculous thing to think, and Milliardo knew it, because Duo was more than capable of taking care of himself, but Milliardo couldn't help an instinctive urge to protect him, to make certain that nothing happened to him. He had to keep that urge from turning into action though. He had to maintain discipline no matter what happened. If he couldn't do that, then he needed to back out of the mission all together.

Milliardo evaluated himself harshly, even imagined Duo in a life or death situation. He swallowed hard. It was hard to know, absolutely, what he would do in such a situation, but Milliardo thought that he could maintain discipline. A girl was depending on him and so were the people who the kidnappers would surely threaten next with their M.S.. When Milliardo thought of that, there wasn't any question in his mind about what he would do, and that firmed his resolve to continue.

They reached their target point. Milliardo deployed his men around the perimeter and checked conditions one more time. The weather looked misting and threatening rain. If it did manage to rain, that would have been to their advantage, but Milliardo didn't hope for it.

"With me," Milliardo said briskly and made a motion for Heero and Duo to accompany him. Heero looked even more intense, if that were possible, and Duo was fairly vibrating, his eyes shinning and his grin at full strength. These two men had been Milliardo's worst enemies during the war. Remembering how much damage they had caused to machinery and installations, how many soldiers they had killed wholesale without hesitation, and how they had repeatedly risked their lives, Milliardo couldn't help feeling a sudden chill. They were under his command, as much ultimate weapons as the M.S. they were about to deal with, and one of the deadly pair was his lover. Remembering that wiry body, the passionate Duo groaning and moaning beneath him, Milliardo felt as if he had danced with Shinigami in earnest in the sheets and not a handsome young man claiming the name.

"Booby traps," Milliardo whispered as they slipped through the thick ferns and trees. Heero frowned as if irritated that Milliardo had felt the need to warn him. Duo only nodded, eyes already scanning everything minutely.

Heero and Duo were a team, Milliardo saw, working in perfect tandem. Heero looked one way and Duo looked another, keeping in a two person formation ahead of Milliardo. He almost halted them to criticize, but then saw that he wasn't excluded. They glanced back at him as constantly as they looked at everything else about them, checking to make certain that they weren't missing any silent signals from him. He was in command, those actions said, and Milliardo felt more confident.

They found several traps, Duo's sharp eyes picking them out. They didn't disarm them, for fear of arousing their targets suspicion. Instead, they found a way to circumvent each one and pass safely by.

"Proximity alert," Duo whispered and pulled out his gun. "Point?" he asked and looked for permission from Milliardo.

Milliardo nodded and watched Duo disappear into the forest ahead of them. Hunkering down with Heero, Milliardo waited. He noticed how tense Heero was. The man's gun was out and his hand was flexing on it, watching the spot where Duo had gone as if it was everything that he could do not to follow.

Duo returned, breathing hard and face looking pale. His grin was forced. "Guard eliminated. Entrance clear."

One guard? Milliardo was suspicious, but they were committed now. The guard's absence would be noticed eventually. Milliardo made a sign that asked for the mode that Duo had used to dispatch the guard. When Duo made a motion across his throat, Milliardo thought that he understood why Duo was so pale. The guard wouldn't be the one to give away their presence. Milliardo lamented the loss of life. He had to trust that it had been necessary.

Every instinct within Milliardo was warning him as they approached the solid, metal hanger doors. Through them was a ramp that led underground, he knew. Though it was some way from the main complex, the M.S. were the dissidents major defense. Leaving them so shoddily guarded, Milliardo had to assume one of three things. Either they were very few, they knew nothing about operating the machines, or, thirdly, they were all inside and waiting for them.

"Point," Heero whispered and Milliardo nodded. It was better to send one man in first to spring any traps rather than all of them getting caught.

"Point," Duo argued with a fierce look at Heero. "Experienced."

Milliardo glared at them both, wondering what Duo meant by, 'experienced'. He began to hotly motion for Yuy to go forward when Duo pointed to his back. It was a simple gesture, but the pained look in Duo's eyes was enough to remind Milliardo of the scars there and that Duo had escaped from impossible odds in a previous ambush. When Milliardo thought about that, about how disadvantaged Duo had been in that fight, he wondered how Duo had managed it. He seemed very confident that, if he was ambushed again, he could handle the situation.

"Go," Milliardo ordered.

Duo grinned even as Heero scowled in disapproval. He didn't hesitate as he turned and slipped through the hanger doors.

There were several crashes and shouts. Something slammed into the other side of the hanger door and then Duo came running out, dragging a man attached to his shirt. The man was hanging on grimly and raising up a handgun to fire. Duo spun, rammed an elbow into the man's gut and then kneed him in the face when he doubled over. Freed, Duo sprinted towards Milliardo and Heero, waving frantically with both hands for them to run as well.

They began running into the underbrush and the thicker trees, but, when Milliardo glanced over his shoulder, he saw that Duo wasn't going as fast as he could have and that he had one arm pressed close to his side. Heero saw it as well and moved as if to help his partner. It was then that a dozen men came crashing through the brush and the obstructing branches of the trees after them, weapons nosing for targets.

Milliardo stopped, shouting at Heero as he crouched, "Cover fire!"

Heero turned and used a tree for protection as he aimed his gun, but because of Duo and the closeness of the forest, he was forced to take slow, careful shots at their attackers. It wouldn't hold them back long, Milliardo knew, and pulled out his cell to call for his troops to extract them and move on the hanger.

"Duo's gone!" Heero exclaimed.

Milliardo dropped his cell into his pocket and scanned the forest anxiously. "He might be hiding," he suggested and then ducked and scrambled to get behind Heero as shots hit the trees and the dirt all around them.

"Trying to ambush them most likely," Heero replied and then fired a few rounds. "They'll rush us when they realize that we don't have much firepower, sir."

"No," Milliardo reasoned. "They'll fall back, to the hanger if they know how to use the M.S., or to the compound itself if they don't. I'm certain that they realize that we didn't come alone."

"Do you expect intelligence from men who thought that they could bargain from an indefensible position?" Heero replied tersely.

"Since we don't have M.S. to stop them should they use theirs, I hardly see their position as indefensible," Milliardo replied dryly. More bullets peppered their surroundings. One slapped the sleeve of Milliardo's jacket. He winced as he took aim and fired his gun at the spot where he thought the bullet had come from. The missing Duo began to bother Milliardo. When his men appeared and began firing, he fully expected Duo to make some move. When he didn't, Milliardo couldn't indulge in worrying about him. He had to give orders and deploy his men and it was some time before they could press forward and force the kidnappers to retreat. He could see Heero at point, eyes searching the brush and the ferns for some sign of Duo. By the grim, paleness of his face, Milliardo had a feeling that Heero was looking for Duo's corpse. The thought chilled him to the bone.

"Unit B," Milliardo ordered, "extract the hostage."

Men broke off and disappeared into the trees. They would do what they could, but, like Duo, Milliardo couldn't be distracted by one life from a danger that might cause many people to lose their lives. The M.S. had to be taken out.

"Bodies!" Heero called and he bent to examine them. They were very close to the hanger again. Milliardo waited with his heart in his throat and then Heero reported in relief. "They were killed with a razor knife. Duo's knife."

Milliardo frowned. His mind worked on scenarios as they moved forward and he didn't like the ones that kept ending up with Duo acting without orders and returning to the hanger. It was logical, Milliardo knew, especially if the targets had sent most of their men out to repel their attack. Still, to act without clear orders, not knowing what Milliardo's plans were... Milliardo felt concern and the slow burn of anger at the same time.

The hanger doors were well guarded. Shots and pressure bombs flew. Milliardo and his men crouched behind blast shields and returned fire. The shell of the building was too thick for an aerial bombing, protected by the rock and a material that was laced with gundanium. The only way in was through the hanger doors and Milliardo had brought a weapon powerful enough to take them out. He had thought to take the M.S. by stealth and with the least amount of bloodshed, but their options had narrowed. Either they broke through the defenses or he would have to give the order to take out the inside of the entire complex. There wasn't any telling who was inside or what damage they might ultimately do. It was a gamble, but one Milliardo might be forced to take.

Suddenly the shooting stopped. Milliardo called a cease fire and waited. His men were prepared already for any order he gave them. He only had to give a hand signal. He could afford to make certain that the men inside the hanger weren't about to give up. When he saw the girl thrust outside of the hanger, her hands tied behind her back and a gag in her mouth, he gasped. The machine gun pressed to her forehead was an obvious threat. They weren't surrendering.

"Permission to move in and extract the hostage when there is an opportunity?" Heero requested in a hard voice at Milliardo's elbow.

"Granted," Milliardo returned curtly. "They are buying time for some action, that's obvious, and I may have to order the target taken out despite the casualties, Yuy."

Heero nodded and moved forward to position himself to best advantage. There still weren't any demands. The girl was simply held in place, a shield that they must have hoped would hold Milliardo back. That they didn't have any plan beyond that was too much to hope for. Milliardo looked into the frightened girl's eyes and then looked away, gritting his teeth in frustration. He waited, grasping at the slim hope that some sort of demand would be made eventually, that the dissidents would want to bargain, but nothing happened.

"Yuy!" Milliardo called at last, "Stand down." He reluctantly made a motion towards the men manning their most powerful weapon and then gave the order for the rest of his men to fall back.

Milliardo knew that his hands were shaking, knew that he was on the thin edge of wanting to scream against the murder he was about to do, but he also knew that he had been left without any other choice. A little girl was about to die and Duo.... if he had gone back into the hanger, was about to die too.

It was all on Milliardo's head. He had killed in war many times and had been taken over by the zero system and contemplated worse mayhem than any man could imagine. His hands were steeped in blood. A few more lives shouldn't have mattered, yet Milliardo felt a blackness over taking him, a sickening knowledge that this was different. He couldn't manage the cold detachment of a general. He couldn't make himself stand by with the comfort that it was necessary. Milliardo turned, gave a curt order to his second to take command of the operation, and then took a high powered machine gun from one of his men. Without saying anything more, he began walking back towards the hanger. It was a moment before he realized that Heero was pacing beside him and that he had an air about him that dared Milliardo to order him back. Milliardo only smiled tightly and nodded, giving him silent permission. They had five minutes before weapons were powered up and ready to discharge; five minutes to save a life or commit suicide in a hail of bullets. Milliardo found that much more acceptable than doing cold murder behind a blast shield.

[part 16] [part 18] [back to Kracken's fic]