Source Of All Things + Chapter 10
Svale ran from the centre of the darkling cirque, where the key and the book were sitting on a pedestal.
They all stared.
"Nothing's happening, Svale." Quatre sighed. Then perked up. "No, wait, I hear something!"
"Wishful thinking." Duo muttered, feeling not the slightest pull of power, any more than any other attempt these last two weeks. The sanctuary was more badly damaged then he'd thought. If only-
"Wait a minute- I hear it to!" Duo looked around, wide-eyed, as a slight keening noise scratched at the edge of his hearing. Heero was looking up towards the ceiling, eyes narrowing.
Trowa stuck his head through the archway leading to the cirque.
"Planet hopper, incoming."
Svale swore like a drunken sailor and sped out of the cirque, Trowa at her side. The others trailed behind.
The planet hopper wasn't any design they could recognize, in fact it looked like an intimate accident between several different ships, with possibly a boat thrown in for good measure. But the light hum of engines and the impressive array of weaponry indicated it wasn't to be taken as lightly as its appearance led to believe.
"Those are high Techno markings." Quatre muttered, hackles rising instinctively as he noted the hieroglyphs on the side of the ship.
"Are there any kind of shields to this place that can hold that off?" Duo snapped.
"If he wanted to attack us we'd be a puddle of hot rock before he even broke orbit." Svale sniffed. She didn't seem too tense.
The ship landed on the outer rim of the sanctuary, where it had room. Trowa and Svale walked towards it.
The hatch hissed and unfolded slowly into a ramp. The man standing there was as odd as his ship. Middle aged, with long tufts of hair on either side of a bald patch, a leery smile, a wide pair of sunglasses -which he'd apparently worn while piloting the hopper- a bright red shirt with white and pink splashes, and shorts over knobbly knees.
A figure of doom and destruction he wasn't. Everybody relaxed a little, except for Svale.
"Howard!" She snapped.
"Svale! You old relic! Why, you still don't look a day over five hundred, how ever do you do it!"
"You Techno pagan! Tell me why I shouldn't reduce you and that metallic monstrosity to dust and rust for defiling my sanctuary?"
"I've brought booze?"
"... good enough. Come on in but mind your manners!"
Howard waved the bottle he was holding in one hand -the other held a pink plastic shopping bag reinforced with twine- and sauntered down the ramp. Then he stopped.
"Hot mama, Svale! Gawd, are you collecting boy toys? Whooa- oh, hi Trowa."
"Howard." Trowa nodded with a slight smile. He glanced over his shoulder at Heero, Duo and Quatre, hanging back a bit and framed by two leystones. He had to admit they made one hell of a pretty picture. The later two were getting fussed at the 'boy toy' crack. Heero was apparently oblivious, he was looking at the planet hopper as if it were some kind of giant locust. Apparently the man didn't like Technologists, or at least, not their mode of transportation. Trowa filed that away and decided to keep a careful eye on Heero. Howard didn't look like much, but he was, in fact, the power behind the Techno cabal on Centre and in the galaxy, and one of the more powerful men on the planet. Not someone Heero should take a swing at. Fortunately Trowa knew from past experience that Howard's tastes ran to machinery first, then pretty blonde ladies next (though he suspected boys would do in a pinch) so at least he wouldn't be pulling a Svale on the sombre stranger.
"So, what brings you to this neck of the woods?" Svale was distributing disparate glasses around the table, skipping Heero who apparently didn't find any pleasure in eating or drinking whatsoever and considered them mere bodily functions to be tended to when needed and otherwise ignored. Besides, no one wanted to know what Heero would be like drunk...
"Oh, a few things... Who's the company?" Howard's eyes were flicking around, but he seemed to come back to Heero again and again.
"This is Heero, and this is Maxie."
"Duo Maxwell you old-"
"You already know Trowa, and the boy he's hanging on to is-"
"Quatre." Trowa said firmly. He was leaning against a wall, his arms loosely clasped over Quatre's chest as the blond leaned against him, just in case Howard decided the healer was pretty enough to do.
Some time was then spent talking. Svale and Howard had many common acquaintances, though they had not met too often; they moved in very different circles, the techno and the arcane. Apparently some of these common acquaintances were responsible for the visit.
"Rumours are flying in the higher spheres, Svale. I hear things have gotten lively in your pile of ruins recently. I heard your boy here-" nod to Trowa "-nailed Shinigami himself."
Svale snorted, sending a wave of liquory breath wafting across the table. "Don't make me laugh. That pissant? Trowa didn't even break a sweat. Shinigami has a high magical capability, whoever he -or she- is. That wasn't him."
"Oh really? But I heard you found some interesting loot in his baggage. Master Mage Arterio Willins would like his Jishin book back, by the way."
"Finders keepers, he should have shot the bugger himself!" Svale tossed back her glass, slammed it down on the table and glared. "Or he can come here and fight me for it!"
"Well, I don't care one way or another what you crazy magic users get up to. I've got bigger fish to fry. The biggest."
Howard's relaxed smile finally tightened as he dropped it. "Jusan."
Svale's glass exploded in her fist.
"What?" she whispered.
"I thought the order of guardians had wind of something big comin' this way." Howard queried, peering into his glass then grabbing the bottle. He looked glum.
"Yeah. Yeah we did. I've been... taking steps, following lines, reeling stuff in... " She glanced at Heero. "But Jusan... by the hairy balls of Basht, what does the scourge want?"
"Regeneration, apparently.Destroying the five most powerful races in the galaxy must be tiring."
"Does he plan on leaving Centre intact this time?"
"Are you shitting me?"
"Oh hell... "
"That's what I said, and I don't even believe in it!"
"Is that why you came?" Svale looked at him curiously.
"Well, I came for several things. First, when I heard about Shinigami-"
"He wasn't Shinigami."
"Well, I didn't know that. Shinigami stole some artefacts from us, awhile back-"
"What? He's after techno stuff too? The guy's a magpie!"
"He didn't take much, and his selection was... interesting. I was hoping you'd found some of it."
"We'll let you take a look at what we found, Howie, but don't get your hopes up."
"Well, no matter. The next thing is, I heard you are reactivating the guardian sanctuary."
"Trying to, is the keyword you're missing here."
"Oh. Okay. And final rumour... I heard you found someone interesting at the end of a powerful line."
"And if I did?" Svale looked at him carefully.
Howard put fingers on either side of his glass and twisted it into the rough wood table. He seemed hesitant, almost reluctant.
"Well, if you have, I think I might have a present for him."
Svale blinked. "Uh?"
Howard picked up the pink plastic bag and set it on the table with a metallic clunk. He undid the twine, peeled away the plastic.
Inside were several pieces of metal. The biggest was a curved L of metal several handspans long. Then there were two metal wrist guards, what appeared to be a metal anklet, another chunk whose purpose was unclear, and the hilt of a bladeless sword. The metal was grey with slightly blue tinges, and blue and gold paint on the biggest piece. It had to be pretty light, since the plastic bag showed only slight signs of warping under the weight of all that metal.
"Very nice, what is it, modern art?" Svale grunted and nudged a piece.
"It's something very special. Unique, now. And very dangerous." Svale removed her finger. "It's gundanium, in case you were wondering."
"Gundanium?" Quatre asked as Svale hissed. Duo was frowning, puzzled. Heero looked bored.
"It's the techno name for Dragon Scale." Trowa said calmly.
"Whoa!" Duo started. "You mean this is Dragon armour? No way! Or else it's in bits!"
Howard flashed his dark glasses his way. "It's all there and functional, though not fully, more's the pity. I think it will come in handy. I think that whoever takes on the job of leading the fight against Jusan will need all the help he can get. I'll give this to whoever takes the job. If he can handle it. Do you think your boy wants to try?"
"Hmm." Svale's eyes drifted to Trowa's and they stared at each other for a minute, before Svale shrugged.
"Well, at this point... he's a free man, I guess. Heero, you interested?"
Heero looked up.
Heero just stared.
Svale sighed. "He's a bit strange, but he means well. I hope. I'm not sure about this, Howard. This could be... dangerous, and, well, I don't know Heero all that well-"
"I don't want that." Heero was looking at the armour as if it had insulted him.
Everyone was silent except for Howard, who gasped, and Duo, who dropped his cup.
"Hey there, Hee-man, c'mon, that was a bit abrupt!" Duo grinned at him, eyes a bit wide. "This nice guy is bringing you a present and you turn him down? Okay it doesn't look like much-"
"It is mechanical. It means nothing to me." Heero said, glaring first at the metal then at Duo, who hesitated, lost.
"But-... but it's a weapon, man!"
Heero had been turning back to glare at the armour but at those words he speared Duo with a glare.
"That is no weapon. It is mechanical."
"Lad... " Howard said gently, caressing his chin "this is probably the strongest weapon you will ever find... "
Heero turned slowly to look at him, then dropped his eyes to the metal, shining dimly in its improbable pink plastic wrapping. "Weapon." He said, as if tasting the word.
"And fortunately it doesn't require brain power to use." Howard muttered, but then saw Svale shaking her head quickly. Heero did not pick up the insult though. The others had not been able to determine how intelligent he was, but they were beginning to suspect he was a good deal smarter than he let on. A good deal. But he also didn't care enough about most things to let it show. Insults flew right over his head.
Heero extended a hand towards the metal but didn't touch it. He scowled as if frustrated.
"Weapon." He muttered.
"Yes lad. And I might just let you borrow it. I have a test first though, and it'll be a lot harder than you think! I can't just let anybody use-... "
Howard's voice trailed off. Heero's eyes had concentrated on the metal as if he could dig holes in it. His hand was as firm as a rock, an inch above the metal. Everybody stared, they'd never seen him like that. The silence dragged, no one dared say anything.
"Weapon... " Heero murmured.
Then his eyes widened, and -Duo, who was closest, blinked and felt his mouth go dry at the sudden softness in the granite face as the ghost of a look of wonder haunted Heero's features.
"He has a name. I can feel it." Heero whispered.
The silence could be cut with a knife as everyone else turned towards Howard. He no longer looked like the cooky old man either. His eyes were narrowed and highly intelligent behind the dark glasses and they fixed Heero. He didn't bother explaining the rest of the test, since it was obvious now that Heero would take it whatever he said. He smiled without humour.
"Yes. Yes it does. Its name is Wing."
[chap. 9] [chap. 11] [back to Maldoror's fic]