see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
AN: Dedicated to Dacia!
Huge thanks to my
beta, Anaitis, for smoothing over a couple of rough plot points. And thanks
to all of you who wrote, reviewed, encouraged, sporked and drew fanart
for me ^_^
+ Chapter 31
“With a gun barrel
between your teeth, you speak only in vowels.”
- Fight Club
It was dark. Wufei tried to move, but he felt constricted. Something was
holding him down.
He must be in Space. Strapped into Nataku. A moment of cold peace snatched
from the jaws of war...
"Wake him up."
The darkness felt cold. Had the Gundam been breached? Were heat and air
slowly leaking out...?
"Get him screaming. That'll get the other one to come out."
Wufei felt a frown cross his face, but the sensation was distant, as if
his body was a hundred feet away. What...? Who was speaking...?
"Yeah, that'll do it." There was an ugly chuckle.
I'm dreaming, Wufei realized. One more dark dream of the war, of Nataku.
Dreaming of OZ guards on the Lunar base. He was asleep, and that meant
he must be...in Freeport? He was asleep with Duo besides him.
He rather wanted to wake up now.
"Not the face!" someone said sharply in the dream (it had to be a dream,
he never let strangers near him while he slept).
There was a noise. It was quite near to - the bed? He was in bed...wasn't
he? It didn't feel like it though. And that noise...it was a sharp hiss,
like gas whistling from a pipe.
Alarm prickled over Wufei's skin. He...couldn't move his arms. This...wasn't
Burning! The smell! Scorched skin-
Wufei bucked, breath whistling through his teeth and he tried to roll.
"Hey, don't let him go!"
Burning! Stink-pain of seared flesh-
Had to put it out putitout putitout-
"Can't- hold him-"
Something slammed into Wufei's head. It knocked him to the floor. His
eyes flew open, though all he could see were sparks. But he realized the
burning sensation was fading, and it was nothing compared to the pain
that had ripped him apart when he'd been attacked with napalm- where the
hell was he?!
"I said, don't hit him in the face! Please!"
Please? Who said please to that kind of request? It was someone speaking
from some distance away. There was somebody else standing just above Wufei;
the man who'd hit him. That man hadn't said anything, he'd let his fist
do the talking. Wufei blinked, and his attacker slowly came into focus
through the fading sparks and the strands of his hair that had drifted
over his eyes.
It was Carver.
Hands were grasping his arms and hauling him up again, onto his knees.
They'd been holding him before, he could still feel their grip on his
skin, but he'd jerked free under the wash of pain and panic. What the
hell had burned him?
He blinked again, and focused on the welding torch in Carver's left hand.
"At least he's awake now. Hold him better," a patrician voice ordered
in the background.
A man right behind Wufei called the Preventer a motherfucking pig in a
harsh whisper and gripped his arm hard, painfully. His whole body was
hurting, particularly his head and a single burning spot near his neck.
Probably where the welding torch had made contact.
Wufei whipped his head around, staring past Carver and the threat of the
They were in the maintenance tunnels. No longer in the Troll pipes, no
longer in the undersector. Were they back in Kropotkin? What the hell
had happened? The last thing he could remember was Fred, slamming the
airlock shut a few second before Wufei could reach it. After that, his
memory was a huge, dark prickle of pain.
Armed men and women were scattered around him and his captors. Wufei also
spotted Ferret near a hatch; he'd been the one to shout. As Wufei watched,
dazed, Ferret drew another breath.
"Maxwell, I know you can hear me! You don't want us to go to town on your
buddy here, do you? Come out and bring the Troll with you."
Wufei started to struggle against the people holding him. Duo? He was
Fragmented recollections were coming back to him, fighting their way past
the darkness and the pain in his skull.
He'd been down in the undersector. Damaged containers lying around like
bodies in a morgue. The Breakers' headquarters. Wufei and Duo and Fred,
the Troll, had been running from the Breakers.
Fred had closed the emergency airlock. Duo had been on the right side.
And then...Wufei shook his head savagely, trying to clear it. He almost
passed out again.
He couldn't remember much of what happened next. Only snatches of fighting.
Blood. A lot of it. The face of a stranger staring up at him as Wufei
jerked his sword out of the man's belly. And then nothing.
Apparently he'd been caught. His head was aching and his ears ringing.
It felt like he had a cut on the leg and bruises all over. And his muscles
were clenching and trembling on his right side. Either he was seriously
concussed and having a stroke - a distinct possibility - or they'd used
a tazer on him at some point.
"Well, maybe you'll change your mind when you hear your girlfriend squealing,"
Ferret laughed, greasy and loud and vicious. He turned towards Carver
and nodded, not that Carver was looking at him.
Carver grabbed Wufei's chin and tilted his head up. Wufei stared at the
hard features and the black eyes, curiously blank and unemotional, coldly
examining Wufei and judging the best way to break him. They held no particular
animosity; just a cold, clear determination. Wufei suddenly realized he'd
never heard Carver's voice. Maybe he was mute. Maybe he just didn't need
to speak, only needed to hurt and kill.
"Remember, don't damage his face. He needs to be recognizable."
The man who'd been speaking finally came into view over Carver's shoulder.
Morgenstern. It wasn't a massive surprise. Not as good as a manila folder
with 'Secret Breaker Plans' on it, as far as compromising the financier
went, but it was pretty damning anyway.
Morgenstern was looking down at Wufei with a curious mixture of resolve
"Do it," he sighed. The men holding Wufei laughed, the small, ugly laughter
of cowards looking forward to seeing pain applied to somebody else.
Carver let go of Wufei's chin and grabbed the collar of his shirt. In
his other hand, the torch's pilot ignited a small but steady burst of
flame, hissing softly, a dreadful promise of pain.
Wufei realized he wasn't wearing his jacket anymore. Or his sword, not
that that was surprising. Damn it, if he was going to die, he really wanted
his sword nearby...
Carver ripped Wufei's shirt open with a single vicious tug.
There was a sudden silence in the small circle around the Preventer.
Ferret stumbled forward to get a better look over Carver's shoulder. Morgenstern's
eyebrows had shot upwards.
"Ho-leee fuck! Looks like someone's done him already!" Ferret said, staring
at the burn scars twisting their way across Wufei's skin.
One of the men holding him had loosened his grasp to lean forward and
get a better look.
Wufei concentrated his chi and tore his arm away. He struck, clean, quick
and vicious at the man's jaw and ripped a dagger from the Breaker's belt
as he fell.
He slashed at Carver. If he could just get him. They could kill Wufei
afterwards, but he was going to get Carver one way or another-
Carver blocked the blow, catching Wufei's wrist. Wufei put his body weight
behind it, tried to force the knife forward, but Carver held him down
with ease, and the other Breaker, after a cry of alarm, was bearing down
on Wufei from behind.
"Hold him!" Morgenstern snapped, taking a few cautious steps back.
Wufei struggled against Carver's grip. Carver held his wrist, staring
down at him. Deep, deep in the black eyes, a dark light flickered, a small
hint of cruel interest.
Finally the knife fell to the floor as Wufei's strength gave out.
"Good," Morgenstern muttered, coming up behind Carver again. He gestured
at another man nearby. "You, help Sam, make sure he's not too badly injured.
Get him topside."
Somebody picked up the unconscious man Wufei had punched. Morgenstern
followed the man's assisted exit with a worried frown, then nudged Carver
on the shoulder.
"Get started. We have to get that Troll. Albert, any news from the search
"Yeah, they called in to report five minutes ago," Ferret muttered, still
staring in sick fascination at Wufei's chest. "But no trace of Maxwell."
"I don't really care about Maxwell," Morgenstern said. "He can't do us
much harm now. It's the Troll I need. We have to block any move the King
makes against us when he realizes one of his men is mixed up in this mess."
Fred. They wanted Fred as hostage. But why? The Breakers' cover was all
but blown now, surely. Having a single Troll hostage would not make a
difference. And Duo was very dangerous to them, how could they discount
someone of Duo Maxwell's influence so easily...?
Wufei licked his lips and tried to concentrate on the situation, but the
hiss and stink of the welding torch was eating away at his concentration.
They were going to torture him so that Duo would give himself up. It would
be foolish for Duo to surrender, when they might just kill him as soon
as they had Fred. But that would probably not stop Duo from either handing
himself over or trying something desperate. Wufei knew he would do the
same if the positions were reversed, and Duo was the one being slowly
burned to death. Unfortunately, Wufei couldn't think of anything he could
do at this juncture to stop the inevitable.
Morgenstern walked towards the hatch. It was an access to the Troll tunnels,
Wufei realized. No wonder they hadn't found Duo and Fred yet, if the latter
had recovered enough to lead Duo through the Troll kingdom. The Breakers
might have their own Troll on their side, but Fred was surely in a class
"Duo." Morgenstern's voice was loud but still so reasonable. "I know you
can hear me. You're not the kind to leave a man behind. You're nearby.
This is about to get very unpleasant. I have no desire to do this to someone
who once fought for the freedom of Space. I wish I could have convinced
you and Chang to consider- but I guess you'd both already made your decision.
And it's too late I'm afraid. But I don't want to hurt him like this if
I can help it. Please surrender, with the Troll, and I promise you that
we won't kill either of you."
Wufei noted how Morgenstern hadn't promised not to kill him.
There was nothing but silence from the tunnel. It was a silence with deadly
intent in it, though. Wufei also knew that Duo would be nearby. He wondered
how long he could stop from screaming when that torch touched his skin.
He could hold out for a little while. He held no delusions that he'd hold
out forever. He knew just how badly burning could hurt. It didn't take
long for the thinking part of the brain to switch off and leave nothing
but a gibbering animal trying to run from fire.
Morgenstern sighed and turned around-
Everybody looked up as a man came running down the tunnel.
"Alan, the Elders-" the man went right up to Morgenstern and started whispering
into his ear urgently.
Morgenstern's face became set. "Already...?" he murmured.
He was silent for a moment, eyes narrowed and staring blindly at Wufei.
"Change of plan," he said. "We move out now. Toruh, give the signal, make
sure they're ready for in the Esplanade."
Ferret tore his eyes away from Wufei's chest to glance at his leader -
it was pretty obvious that was what Morgenstern was.
"What? We're moving out now?"
"Yes. We've just run out of time."
"But what about this Pig here? And Maxwell-"
Morgenstern spoke decidedly, with the natural certainty and presence of
a born leader. "We need the Troll, but we don't have the time. We can't
lose momentum. And we cannot allow our enemies to get their act together
and counter our move, or that will be the end."
He turned towards a woman nearby.
"Sandra, rejoin Tor and the men hunting for Maxwell, and make sure they
find him and the Troll. Mainly the Troll."
"But we need to be with you when you-" the woman started to protest, but
Morgenstern cut her off.
"I don't think a few more people will swing things either way. This will
work, or this will fail. The fates are cast."
Sandra looked like she wanted to argue, but she turned away in the end.
She gave Wufei a single, venomous look and left.
Morgenstern walked up to Wufei. He put his hand on Carver's shoulder,
and the hulking killer straightened up and moved to Wufei's side without
a word, flicking off the torch and dropping it casually. He twisted Wufei's
arm behind the Preventer's back in a professional hold and tied what felt
like a length of cable around his forearms. There was a click, some sort
of lock. Then Carver jerked his prisoner around until Wufei was facing
Wufei stared up at Morgenstern who looked down upon him with regret.
"Well, Mr. Chang, I'm sorry it's come to this. I do have some respect
for you, despite your choice to fall in with Authority and the Earthers.
But I've run out of options. Your arrival here precipitated certain chains
of events that I was expecting, though not so soon. You and others have
forced my hand, but I am far from helpless. I have always been a very
adept strategist. I particularly excel at turning my enemies' moves against
them. Your Commander Une will regret having sent you here."
Wufei's jaw clenched. Sorry, Trowa, he thought...looked like you were
wrong to trust me to keep my head down and stay out of trouble...it's
an obvious conclusion to my life that I can't do anything right...
He was hoping Morgenstern would take a minute to explain what it was exactly
he was going to do to Wufei, and what the Breakers were planning while
he was at it; if Duo was really nearby, near enough to overhear, it might
give him some vital information. But apparently Morgenstern wasn't the
kind to gloat over his clever plans, and he didn't consider Wufei important
enough to talk to further. The financier nodded at Carver, who forced
Wufei to his feet. Another tall, beefy Breaker grabbed Wufei's other arm
and held it fast. Breakers fell into step on either side of them as they
headed down the tunnel.
Surrounded by men taller than he was, Wufei couldn't see where they were
going, but the way the maintenance tunnel was growing wider and wider
indicated they were heading towards its exit. That would leave them in
the heart of Kropotkin though. Surely the Breakers weren't going to be
bold and brazen enough to drag Wufei through the streets. This was Freeport,
that sort of action was questioned here.
There was a growing murmur in the air. The sound of a large crowd. What
Wufei's head was clearing, and his muscles were coming under control.
The pain throughout his body was dismissible, and would not stop him from
acting if he saw an opportunity. But in this incomprehensible situation,
he wasn't sure how to act even if he had the chance.
The roof tunnel made way for the eternal metal sky of one of Freeport's
sector, and the sound of an angry, worried crowd engulfed them.
I particularly excel at turning my enemies' moves against them
Wufei was starting to get a very ominous feeling, and not only about his
own immediate chances of survival.
"Thank Jesus and his Saints!"
Wufei's heart stopped at that cheerful exclamation up ahead of them.
"I thought I'd lost him, but you guys went and found him. Can I have my
Blade back, please?"
"Maxwell?" Morgenstern said, as if he couldn't quite believe his eyes.
Wufei twisted in Carver's hold and managed to see over Morgenstern's shoulder.
Kropotkin citizens were walking by quickly, eyes wide and frightened,
staring at Morgenstern's little party as they passed. They streamed past
Duo who was straight ahead, leaning against a lamppost, hands in his pocket
and his half-grin firmly on his face.
"DU-" Wufei's shout was engulfed as Carver's large palm suddenly crammed
itself against his mouth. Wufei tried to bite, and twisted and threw his
whole weight against the other Breaker's hold. Carver pressed harder,
crushing Wufei's head back against his shoulder until the Preventer could
feel his front teeth creak. Wufei screamed in fury and warning against
the makeshift gag, his head starting to swim again. He almost missed the
"Where's the Troll?" Morgenstern asked quietly.
"Having a comforting cup of coffee with his buddies by now."
"I doubt it. We found a good amount of blood on your escape route, and
neither you nor Chang are that wounded. I doubt he could evacuate the
tunnels without my men spotting him. You left him somewhere safe. Where?"
"What in space can you threaten me with, Morgenstern?" Duo asked calmly.
Silence was his only answer. That rather confirmed that Wufei's death
was now assured, since his life was no longer a bargaining chip. He struggled
harder against Carver's hold, but the man was a pro and was keeping Wufei
off balance so he couldn't get any leverage. The other man had grabbed
the cable looped around Wufei's arms until it was biting into his skin.
"What are you doing here, Maxwell?"
"What do you think I'm doing here? You got my Blade, man."
Morgenstern took a deep breath-
"And I heard what your little puppet was saying in the Esplanade over
there," Duo added, voice suddenly hard and deadly. "I know what you're
"...Then maybe you should head towards that ship of yours and get out."
"Like fuck. Give me back my buddy. Or I'm coming with you."
Wufei twisted his whole body around, levered himself off of Carver's body
and tried to squirm away, shouting against Carver's hand. He couldn't
see, the sparks had invaded his eyesight once more.
"Let me talk to him."
It was Duo's voice, right next to him. No!
"Wu? Calm down. Stop fighting them, you're gonna get hurt- take your hand
off his face, you shit! You're choking him!"
No, Duo, get out, get out...
He could feel hands on his face, hands that were achingly familiar, every
touch, every callus...fingers wiped sweat and strands of hair out of his
"Chang, look at me."
Wufei blinked savagely and cleared enough vision to get a close up view
of Duo's face.
Duo's lips moved. Don't speak. Let me do the talking.
Wufei managed to jerk his head in denial. No, Duo, run!
"If these bastards get their way, I'm going down too," Duo whispered at
him, pushing Wufei's hair back. "I'll do what I can. We ain't dead yet.
But I'm not leaving you either way. You wouldn't either."
Wufei stared helplessly. Even when Carver lifted his hand away, letting
Wufei breathe in short, hard gasps, he could only continue to stare at
Duo, powerless, unable to think of anything to say. If the positions were
reversed, there would be nothing Duo could say that would make Wufei leave...not
even the pull of the mission, because at this point, that was blown wide
open as well.
Duo patted him roughly on the neck and stepped to his side. Carver heaved
Wufei up and forced him to move forward.
"Oh, just so you know, you big fuck," Duo said conversationally, falling
into stride with Carver, "I don't care what goes down and how I do it,
but I'm gonna kill you. I owe it to a couple of friends."
Carver didn't say anything. Wufei was ready to bet the killer hadn't even
glanced in Duo's direction.
"Duo-" Wufei hissed.
Wufei tried to see his lover, but Duo was just a bit behind him, and Carver
was forcing him forward too quickly to turn properly.
"Shut up, Blade. Let your Handler do the talking."
But they know I'm a Preventer, Wufei wanted to scream at him, though at
this point saying that out loud in a crow would be worse than suicidal.
How could Duo think of keeping up the masquerade?
He hoped Duo had a plan, but he had the terrible sinking feeling that
his friend was winging it again. He hoped that Fred was really with his
fellow Trolls and telling them everything...but would the Troll King move
against the Breakers? There was a strange isolation around Recyc, they
stayed out of the colony's politics, unless they were hurt and then they
retaliated on their own and in their own way. Wufei didn't think the King
would move to help a couple of pawns caught between the Trolls and the
Breakers. Nobody would.
People were staring at them as they walked past, and Wufei could almost
feel the anger, hate and fear tainting the air. He couldn't expect any
help from anyone in Kropotkin. He wasn't sure what Morgenstern had told
them, but it looked like he and Duo were on their own.
Wufei realized that, above the noise of a crowd slowly edging towards
panic, he could hear a loud, clear voice shouting. It sounded like the
man was using a bullhorn. Wufei heard a snatch of words before the crowd's
growl drowned it.
"-they are here! In our colony! We always knew the Earthers would move
against us! The invasion has started! How many of them are hiding among
I particularly excel at turning my enemies' moves against them
And Wufei suddenly knew just how bad the situation was.
The crowd was a multi-headed beast chewing over the words 'invasion',
'attack', 'infiltration'...and 'Preventer'.
Up ahead, Morgenstern ploughed his way through the gathering and started
walking up a ramp. Carver put pressure on Wufei's arm and forced him to
follow. Wufei hadn't been able to see past his Breaker escort up until
now, due to his lack of height, but now he realized he knew where they
Kropotkin had what they called The Esplanade; Wufei had seen it on previous
visits. In contrast to its grandiose name, it was nothing more than a
gigantic pit that led down to the undersector. All sectors had these places
where huge cranes hauled up the massive containers full of essentials
the sector needed. Kropotkin had turned this necessity of life into something
useful; a platform hung over the deep pit down into the underbelly of
the colony. The acoustics of the pit and the buildings around it were
perfect for huge crowds of people to hear whoever spoke on the platform.
Kropotkin used this place as a meeting hall, to take communal sector decisions
and vote on important issues.
Once on the hanging platform, Carver and the other big Breaker forced
Wufei towards the thin guardrail that was the only thing that separated
him from the dizzying drop down into the undersector. There was a six-foot
span between the platform and the grounds of the Esplanade; the platform
was higher than the sector floor, so everybody was getting a good look
at him. Wufei stared out over a sea of worried and angry faces, melding
together until there were only multitude of eyes and a feeling of undirected
panic centering around him and Duo.
"And here's Alan Morgenstern! We all know him! He's served this sector
selflessly for decades!"
The man who'd been speaking earlier was a thin, leathery strip of meat
who seemed to be trembling with the energy of his message. It was stressful
just watching him wave and scream at the crowd, even if you weren't listening
to what he was saying. Wufei wondered if this man was just an innocent
victim of Morgenstern's machinations, or if this was one of the Breaker
agitators who had started riots and rebellions on the colonies this past
"Alan has brought us proof! Proof that we've been invaded! Proof that
we've been betrayed at the highest level!"
Shit, shit, shit.
The danger wasn't only his own and Duo's. He wasn't sure what Morgenstern
was reaching for, but it felt like he was going to protect the Breakers
by turning them - and everybody else - against Freeport itself, against
the Elders, maybe against other sectors...start dissension right here,
as he had in other colonies. And Wufei had played right into his hands.
Morgenstern moved to Wufei's side, while Duo stayed on the other. The
financier looked grave, though Wufei, who was right next to the man, could
see how the intelligent eyes were skipping over the crowd and gauging
the amount of panic generated, like the director of an orchestra judging
if the various instruments were ready to perform yet.
"My friends," he said, his voice quieter than the agitator that had come
before. By degrees, the crowd quieted to hear. Wufei took a quick and
rough headcount. Morgenstern had staged his little show right when the
workers were coming back from the satellites, factories and shipyards;
the whole of Kropotkin was out there, and a few inhabitants from other
sectors too by the looks of it. There were Red Bands around too, of course,
but they looked as confused and scared as everybody else. If the Elders
were around or had been warned, Wufei couldn't see them. He didn't know
where the Elders featured in Morgenstern's plans, if they were potential
allies or enemies, but he was ready to bet the financier had managed to
take them out of the picture until things went too far to stop.
"My friends, I can't tell you how devastated I am to say this. But yes,
it's true. The running dogs of Authority were never going to leave Freeport
in peace. We all knew that. And now it has started."
The crowd thrummed like one gigantic fiddle tuned to fear. Wufei had been
in Freeport long enough now; he knew how tired, how anxious people were,
with death and disaster constantly one accident away from their home.
The people here were strong, amazingly strong, but their fears could be
"They've infiltrated us, they are here, on this station, moving towards
"Whoa! Hold your horses!"
Wufei cringed. No, Duo, don't try to stop this. It's too late. Much too
Duo's voice echoed around the buildings, carried on the Esplanade's acoustics.
"For God's sake, people, don't turn this into a riot!" Duo shouted. "Come
on, most of you guys know me, and you know this man too, if you'd just
take a second to look at him instead of freakin' out. It's Chang, my Blade.
This man works for me! Do any of you think I'd hurt this colony?! I live
here too, I fought for this place and the whole of L2. If Morgenstern's
gotta problem with my Blade, he can talk to me, but I say we get a couple
of Elders down here now, because this is getting out of control-"
The name 'Maxwell' had been echoing through the crowd, as people near
the platform recognized Duo. Maybe it might have worked. Duo wasn't trying
to lie or deny anything, Wufei realized, but he was trying to break Morgenstern's
momentum, get the situation stabilized so that when the whole truth did
come out, it wouldn't lead to a lynching and a riot.
But Morgenstern really was good at turning his enemy's moves against them.
Wufei saw the financier make a gesture towards the back of the platform.
The reaction was immediate, a single breathless shout from the crowd,
a few screams even, that completely drowned out what Duo was saying. People
were even staggering away from the platform in a movement of panic.
Wufei stared, completely nonplussed. What- they weren't even looking at
him now; they were staring at something behind him.
"Bugger," Duo said off to one side, his voice lighthearted and feral,
a tone Wufei recognized from the bad old days when five child-soldiers
had had their backs to the wall and nothing more to lose.
Wufei struggled in Carver's hold, and the killer let him turn, apparently
wanting to see as well.
A projector had been erected at the back of the platform, it was casting
a large picture against a nearby building behind them. The picture was
huge, taking up half the facade. It was quite clear, despite the windows
punching holes into it.
It was Wufei's Preventer ID form, with his photo, name, registration number
That was very clever, Wufei thought weakly, a cold sinking feeling in
his guts. And it wasn't just the fact that the crowd could now identify
him with ease.
Those nearest the platform were staring from him to the gigantic picture,
and drawing their own conclusions. Confirmation was moving from mouth
to mouth, to those behind who couldn't see him as well and out into the
crowd, a slow, deadly wave. But even those who weren't near enough to
Wufei to see who he was were staring up in fear and fascination at the
gigantic picture of a hard-faced man in uniform, staring down at them
as if repressive Authority had become manifest, a huge, looming threat
suddenly in their midst. The crowd's voice was starting to echo with panic
Wufei swallowed painfully and glanced at Duo, wondering if his friend
realized what this meant. Duo was staring blindly up at the picture, but
Ferret, who'd stepped up to the guardrail behind the smuggler, caught
Wufei's glance and chuckled.
"Yeah, we knew you'd be coming to us sooner or later, Pig. Alan left you
a few crumbs to follow, when he realized things were coming to a head
too fast. We knew we'd catch you sooner or later, somewhere you didn't
belong. Didn't expect you to go through the sewer tunnels. That was smart.
We nearly missed you. That would have been very bad for us if we had.
You got so much further than we thought you would. But we got you now.
You're so dead, copper. And Maxwell, you're dead too. I'm gonna make you
pay for what happened to Herb."
"You're what happened to Herb, Al," Duo said without turning around.
"You-" Ferret took a step towards Duo, fists rising, but then he cast
a frightened glance at Carver, who'd shifted behind Wufei. Apparently
cowed by a look from the killer, he slunk away.
Wufei stared up at his own crushing image. So it had been a trap. The
men from Kropotkin who'd attacked them a week or so ago...those two men
had been pawns, which a desperate Morgenstern had coldly sacrificed to
draw Wufei into his clutches. Wufei's investigation had forced the Breakers
to move before they were ready, but Morgenstern had turned Wufei's presence
here into a trump card. And now what? Were they going to start a riot?
March on Lao Tzu? Take control of the-
A loud, strident whistle suddenly pierced the growing fracas of the crowd.
It went on and on, trilling up and down and ending in an incongruous upward
note that sounded oddly jaunty.
People stirred. Wufei craned his neck.
Off to the right, the crowd was drawing back from half a dozen people.
One of them was taking his fingers out of his mouth and glancing around,
judging the effect of his interruption and obviously ready to do it again
until he had people's attention. Wufei felt his eyes widen in confusion.
It was Mako! And- that man standing at his side, tall, ruined and gaunt,
was Ravachol, the ex-rebel turned drug-dealer who'd threatened Wufei and
Duo a few months back.
"Well played, Morgenstern," Ravachol said, loud enough to be heard all
the way to the platform. "But this is all going to stop. Now."
Wufei turned to Duo, but the smuggler looked as perplexed as he was. They
never had figured out where Ravachol fitted into the Breaker organization.
He had to fit in somewhere though, considering how he'd maneuvered to
block Duo's investigation. It had looked like he knew Wufei's identity,
as well. To top it all off, he was a hard-line anarchist, a drug-dealer
and a criminal.
But looking at Morgenstern's face, at the sudden tension in those calculating
eyes, Wufei realized that whatever else he was, one thing Ravachol was
not; he was not on Morgenstern's side, and he wasn't part of the Breaker's
[chap. 30] [chap 32] [back
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