Author: Mel
Principal Beta Reader and Suggester of Cool Lines: Christy
Pairings: 3x4, more later.
Warnings: Yaoi, language, crossover, AU, magic stuff.
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing, Sazan Aisu and the Mermaid Saga: don't own them, not getting paid, just having fun. Other programs and movies mentioned in this chapter are not mine in any way, and the comments made by the characters do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the writer. (Then again, they might. I'm not telling.)

Alarums and Excursions + Part 4

"They aren't even glancing inside," Trowa muttered, nodding towards where a squad of OZ soldiers were examining a truck. "Waste of a good hologram, or whatever it is you do to make the load look right."

"We might still need it," Haan shrugged, shifting gears and slowing down as they approached the queue of vehicles waiting to be checked. "Maybe they only look inside trucks that are big enough to take a whole Gundam at once."

"True."

The OZ squad covering this road had set up two boom gates, far enough apart to let in one vehicle at a time. One by one, each car or truck was let into the enclosure, where it was thoroughly scanned and its occupants questioned; then the other gate was opened and it was let out. Vehicles coming into the blockaded area got similar treatment, but the scanning and questioning only took about half as long.

Of course, Trowa thought wryly. They're looking for people -- us -- trying to get out, not in.

"Here." Haan's hand materialised in front of his nose, waving a couple of banknotes. "Go get us lunch. Put the jacket on first, though, it changes your profile."

"Let me guess," Trowa sighed, taking the money and glancing towards the small roadside cafe Haan was indicating. Half a dozen OZ soldiers seemed to be eating their own lunches at its outdoor tables, and there were probably more inside. "This is another time when if we act like we have nothing to hide, nobody will suspect us?"

"Don't forget coffee," Haan grinned. "Black, two sugars."

"The principle is sound, but I think you overuse it," Trowa said pointedly, shrugging into the jacket as he opened his door. Haan just pushed a CD into the player and turned the volume up, settling back into his seat as if he had all the time in the world to wait for the OZ troops to get around to him.

The European pilot had barely taken three steps away from Ryuukossei when there was a shout from further along the road. "Hey! You there, in the blue jacket! Where do you think you're going?"

"Boss wants lunch," Trowa called back, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at the truck and trying to sound bored.

"Hmph. All right, but make it quick! The queue's moving, you know," the officer said pompously, waving him towards the cafe.

"That's what he said," Trowa agreed, walking casually towards his destination while his heart slowly settled back into its proper place. Normally he wouldn't have been bothered by the idea of walking into a group of enemy soldiers -- he'd done it before, after all -- but this time he wasn't in their uniform, and they were specifically looking for him. Besides which, having his bangs slicked back over his head instead of hiding half his face was making him more nervous than he'd expected. This is stupid!

Stupid or not, it seemed to work. He was able to walk into the cafe, buy sandwiches and coffee, and walk out again without anyone else giving him a second look... or even a first look, in many cases.

Something's going on, he decided, as for the third time an OZ soldier looked past him to glare suspiciously at someone else. These guys are alert, they're professional, they're careful... everybody's getting checked out except me!

"Did you do something?" he asked under his breath as he climbed back into the truck cabin.

"What do you mean?" Haan asked, just as quietly, taking his coffee and sipping.

"There was a lieutenant comparing everyone's faces to a handful of Identikit pictures. He didn't look at me. All the other soldiers were paying attention to faces, but not mine. Did you bribe every OZ soldier at this roadblock to ignore anyone wearing this jacket, or what?" Trowa whispered, half seriously.

There was a long pause as Haan released the brakes and let Ryuukossei roll forwards as the queue moved; then he sighed. "Bribes don't work," he said obliquely, not quite answering the question. "There's always one person who takes the money and then turns around and tells his bosses about you anyway."

"All right, so you didn't bribe them. Did you do something else?" "You're entirely too observant for my peace of mind, you know." Haan glanced over at Trowa as he reached for a sandwich, and grimaced as his eyes met the pilot's intense stare. "Yes, I did something. No, I won't tell you what. Just keep that jacket on until we're clear."

Trowa might have kept arguing, but an OZ officer was walking down the line of cars and trucks towards them, carrying a datapad. Abandoning the issue to wait until they had privacy, he sat back and occupied himself with a sandwich, resolving to dissect his jacket down to its component threads at the earliest opportunity.

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I half expected that one or more of them would get suspicious, Haan thought, pretending to watch the approaching officer, but I definitely didn't expect it this soon! It's the first time he's used that jacket, damn it, and he realised right away that something was going on.

A lifetime's habit -- a long lifetime's habit -- was telling him to forget his contract, dump Trowa and Heavyarms somewhere and leave, abandon his current identity and vanish again before the Gundam pilots could find out anything more about what he could do... and what he was. And yet...

I took their money. Not much of it, maybe, but I took it, and I said I'd get them out. Without me, they won't get out without a fight. They might not get out at all.

It would prove Heero was right to be suspicious about me. It would prove that Duo was wrong to trust me.

Hell. I wish he didn't trust me! It would make this decision a lot easier if they were all acting like Heero...

"What can I do you for, Major?" he asked in a lazy voice, leaning out the window as the OZ officer walked up to his door and deliberately overestimating his rank.

"It's Lieutenant," the young man said stiffly, handing up the datapad. "If you could fill in the questions on this form before you reach the inspection point, your clearance through the perimeter will be expedited."

"Gotcha." Haan pulled the stylus out of its clip on the side of the pad and started to read the form, scrawling nearly illegible answers onto the pressure-sensitive surface. Filling in the details of his current false identity and listing Trowa as 'temporary relief driver, Tomas Brent', he watched the lieutenant march away and frowned.

How they're acting towards me is irrelevant, he told himself coldly. Look at the problem logically. If I forget the contract and go underground, I'll be significantly safer in the short term. On the other hand, OZ will get a serious advantage, maybe even enough to end the war here and now... and in the long term, that could be far more dangerous for me than anything the Gundam pilots might do.

I should stick with the contract, Haan decided, and tried to ignore the feeling of relief as he persuaded himself to do exactly what he wanted to do, anyway.

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"And you have a cargo of... ah..." The officer in charge of the small detachment physically examining vehicles peered at Haan's messy writing, squinting. Unlike the lieutenant Haan had 'accidentally' promoted, she was a real major.

"Vases and stuff," Haan shrugged. "Little statues. I can open a container or two if you want, but I'll have to get you to sign a note formally requesting me to break the seals. Insurance company requires it," he explained, sounding bored.

"I don't believe that will be necessary, sir," she said politely, hitting a key to advance the pad's display to the next screen. "Assuming our scans confirm the nature of your cargo, that is. Will this be your only trip through the area?"

"No. Got a contract for six more runs. Same company, different destinations, different cargoes."

"I see," she murmured, expression slightly sharper as she looked up from the pad. She had a good view into Ryuukossei's cabin through Haan's open door, and her eyes were alert as she checked him over... and then she looked at Trowa and visibly lost interest, bored eyes sliding away from his face and back to the pad. "So we'll be seeing you both again?"

"Just me. Brent's working his way south. I'll be dropping him off, same time as the cargo. I don't have a regular relief driver, but the insurance on this contract requires one, so I'll be taking temps with me on my trips out."

If anything should have made her suspicious, that was it! Trowa thought, keeping his face expressionless with an effort as the major just nodded, eyes on the datapad. He as good as told her 'I'll be driving a very large truck out of your search zone, several times, taking people I can't vouch for with me', but she didn't even twitch! The way they're running this checkpoint, we should be flat on the ground being searched, interrogated and fingerprinted right about now.

Pressing one hand against her ear as a faint crackle came from her tiny communications headset, the major nodded and then smiled at Haan, totally ignoring Trowa. "Well, sir, since my scan team has just confirmed your cargo, I don't see any reason to delay you any longer. Thank you for your cooperation."

"Be seeing you," Haan grinned, pulling his door shut as the reinforced boom gate ahead of him swung up out of the way. Haan drove in silence for almost fifteen minutes, getting clear of the roadblock and out of sensor range of the OZ forces covering it; then he pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, shut off the engine, and just sat there.

"...What's wrong?" Trowa asked quietly.

"Go ahead," Haan told him, looking straight ahead through the windscreen.

"Go ahead and what?" the European pilot asked wryly. "Get out and walk? Sing? Punch you?"

A faint snort escaped Haan, and he finally turned to look at his passenger. "I imagine you have a few things you'd like to say," he replied, voice just as wry. "Go ahead."

Trowa raised a sceptical eyebrow. "I don't know that it'll do me any good. I have several questions I want to ask, yes, but you haven't exactly been forthcoming with answers whenever questions have come up before."

"Good point," Haan murmured, mouth twisting into what was almost a smile. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel for a moment, then shrugged. "If they're about my methods, don't bother asking them," he said flatly. "If they're about my capabilities, or my motivations, I'll probably answer. Up to you."

"There's obviously no point in asking you how this jacket does what it does, then," Trowa said, tugging at the collar.

"Exactly."

"How about 'what'? What does it do? What are its limits? Does it run out of power? Is it good enough to make Lady Une ignore me, considering that she's actually met me before and knows who I am, or not? Will it make people ignore me even if I'm acting suspiciously?" Trowa ran out of fingers to tick points off on and stopped, smiling faintly. "Is that enough questions to start with, or shall I go on?"

Haan snorted again, sitting back. "It's a start," he agreed dryly, then drummed his fingers again as he thought for a second. "It... makes people lose interest," he said slowly. "They come up with their own reasons why -- decide they've already checked you, or you don't look right after all, or whatever -- but the end result is that they convince themselves you aren't the person they're looking for."

Trowa nearly choked, abruptly sputtering with laughter. "You mean this jacket does the Jedi Mind Trick?!"

Haan blinked at him for a moment, then slowly smiled. "I thought I was almost the only person who still remembered that movie," he murmured quietly.

"Duo," Trowa snickered, shaking his head. "Blame Duo. He has the weirdest collection of old cult movies and series on disk. All fifteen Star Wars movies, Star Trek, Blake's 7, It Came From Outer Space, X-Files, something really surreal called Mister Ed, the full Redemption Station series from the late 21st century, including the legendary lost episode... and that's just the ones he's managed to get the rest of us to watch. I'd heard of Redemption Station before, but all of the older stuff was completely new to me."

"I should have guessed," Haan sighed, then cleared his throat, wincing. "Anyway. The jacket has more limitations than the Force. If it's damaged in the wrong place, it'll stop working, and it can't do much if there's nobody else around for people to redirect their attention to. It won't work against anyone who knows you, it doesn't work if you're being watched through a surveillance system, and it won't work if you're caught clutching explosives in the middle of a restricted base, but it doesn't run out of power. Next?"

"You all right to keep talking?" Trowa asked, gesturing vaguely towards Haan's throat, and he grimaced, hand automatically going to his collar and tugging it up a fraction.

"A bit longer, yeah."

"Then it's probably a good thing I only have one more serious question. Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why everything," Trowa shrugged. "Why are you so secretive? Why are you helping us even though it puts your secrets at risk?"

"I'm helping you because you're fighting OZ," Haan began, and Trowa quickly lifted a hand to cut him off.

"And why are you so strongly against OZ?" he added, holding Haan's eyes with his own. "I know you've said they annoy you. Why do they annoy you so much that you'll take this sort of risk to help their enemies?"

Haan looked away first, staring out the windshield again, and when he spoke his voice had a more serious tone than Trowa had heard from him before. "My entire lifestyle, and sometimes my life, depend on my ability to vanish at will," he said slowly. "I change locations whenever I want to, I change identities, and I won't -- I can't -- give that up. Totalitarian governments keep tight enough track of people's movements and identities to make things difficult. At the moment, I can just stay away from that sort of country... but OZ are trying to become a system-wide totalitarian government, and if they win, I won't have anywhere to go. That's why I am 'annoyed' by what they are now," he said grimly, glancing at Trowa and away again, "and it's also why I am scared shitless by what they could become." He stared blindly out the window for a while, jaw muscles tight, then gradually relaxed. "As for why I'm so secretive," he said, reaching for the keys in the ignition, "it's because I have a lot of secrets that I don't want anybody to find out."

"Not even Duo?" Trowa asked quietly, and Haan paused halfway through putting Ryuukossei in gear.

"Especially not Duo," he said bleakly, shoved the gear lever forwards and drove off.

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[cont]