Rebuilding + Chapter 12 (cont)

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Rashid's comm clicked, and Trowa's calm voice said < < We're moving. > > There was another click, then silence.

< < Finally! > > Faheed transmitted, able to break comm silence at last, and Rashid grinned as he pushed a button on his control panel. Explosive bolts fired, and the cargo hatch was blown open, venting its contents into space.

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"There's a firefight on the dock in segment E!" one of the control room staffers yelped, torn between horror and disbelief. "It's the miners from that WEI shuttle, they're shooting at... at... he's a smuggler. I know him, so it's miners against smugglers, I don't know why--"

A faint tremor vibrated through the deck plates, and red lights started flashing on the dock schematic. "Shit! The WEI shuttle just decompressed-- at least the cargo hold, I can't tell if the living quarters went as well--"

"Did somebody shoot them?" Belle asked nervously, leaning towards a screen that abruptly switched views, displaying the feed from an external camera. "Uh... Agent Chang?"

Wufei shook his head, watching the haze spread out from the open hatch, faintly visible as sunlight glittered off of dust motes and flash-frozen condensation. "So far, everything's going as planned... though it looks like somebody forgot to put their playing cards away," he added, smiling faintly as a scatter of larger objects tumbled into view.

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"Go after the kids!" the head smuggler roared, watching the screen and clenching his fists as one group of miners expertly shot at his men, providing cover for a second group who charged straight from the shuttle into the main area of the station, ignoring everyone who didn't try to stop them. His eyes narrowed as he saw a Preventer uniform at the head of the group. "He did get word out! How the hell-- fuck!"

"Boss, the Preventers are coming out!"

"I can see that!" The Preventers shuttle had opened its personnel hatch, spilling out agents in light armour who easily disarmed and captured the confused smugglers on the dock, who had only just turned around to meet the 'miners' head-on. "Get the kids, I said! If we have hostages, we can make demands and get out of here with our skins intact!"

"I'm working on it... I'm working..." The smuggler working the communications console abruptly swore, ripping his headset off and slamming it down in frustration. "Those fucking miners are all over the station, everywhere the kids are! There's a whole squad guarding the approaches to the school, they're taking everyone out without even breaking a sweat! We've got jack shit to negotiate with!"

"We've got one card left to play," his boss growled, stalking towards him. "Give me that headset!"

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< < I warned you what would happen if you tried to get out of our little 'deal', > > an anonymous voice snarled out of the speakers, blurred by static. The station vibrated slightly, and more red lights began blinking on the dock schematic; this time, they were accompanied by a buzzing audio alarm.

"They're firing their engines!" wailed the same staffer who'd reported the firefight, rapidly approaching hysteria. "They're gonna do it,
just like they said, rip the station open and kill everyone they can--"

Beside him, another staff member was typing quick orders into his console. "I've unlocked the station's clamps, but they've still got theirs locked," he reported, sitting back. "If we're lucky, they'll only decompress that dock."

"If they get the angle right, they can rip the whole side of the station off and pop hull seams all the way to here!" the other man screamed at him. "This station isn't big enough to have the sort of reinforcing needed to stand up to what they're doing!"

"I hope you were right when you said you had a way to stop this, Agent," Belle said quietly, eyes fixed on the screen. "I-- where did they come from?!"

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Faheed and Tariq skimmed just above the surface of the station, jets blazing, and thermal blades clutched firmly in the hands of their space Leos. They'd been chosen for this part of the mission because they were the best out of all the Manguanacs at high-speed precision strikes, and they proved their skill now, spinning sideways to fly between the station and the smugglers' ship.

< < Port clamps gone, > > Tariq's voice echoed in Rashid's helmet, followed a split second later by < < Starboard clamps gone, > > from Faheed. The ship lurched and rose abruptly, wobbling as its pilot tried to compensate for the sudden release, and Rashid swung his beam rifle on-target, smiling grimly as the faint beeping from the weapon's targeting computer turned into a constant tone. He waited just a second more, tracking the ship as it rose higher, away from the station and the other ships; then, he squeezed the trigger, and a beam of energy stabbed straight through its engines, sending a scattering of molten drops of metal out the other side.

< < All right, assholes, > > a cheerful voice broadcasted, < < this is Preventers shuttle M-17. Secure any weapons you have on board and surrender, or we'll shoot you next, and we won't be so nice and precise. If we shoot you, you will blow up. --Nice work, by the way, Manguanacs; the helping hand is much appreciated. > >

"You're welcome," Rashid replied politely, swinging the beam rifle back over his suit's shoulder as the other two Leos returned.

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"Not precisely standard communications protocol, but it'll do," Wufei murmured, mouth twitching slightly as he suppressed a smile. I've got to remember to tell Duo about that line. He'll approve. He stood up and turned to Belle Anderson, nodding his head in what was almost a shallow bow. "That part went well, at least," he said calmly. "If you could give me access to an internal communications console, I can hook this in--" he showed his wrist unit "--and start getting progress reports from the other teams. In the end, we should capture enough smugglers alive to identify any agents they have in your staff."

Most of the people in the communications center looked happy at that thought-- even eager-- but one man stiffened and spun towards Wufei, bringing a small gun out as he did so, snarling, "If I'm going down, I'm taking you--"

Belle hit him in the side of the head as hard as she could, both hands clenched together into a double fist. The force of the inexpert blow spun her around and sent him sprawling, gun skittering along the floor, just out of reach of his clutching fingers. He scrambled after it and grabbed, hissing in triumph as he felt the warm metal slide into his hand, then froze as he heard an ominous double -click- from just above.

"Go ahead," Wufei told him coldly, glaring down at him over the barrel of his automatic, pointed unwaveringly at the smuggler's head. "Try it. You might actually manage to get your finger on the trigger before I fire."

"You're right-handed," the man whispered, licking his lips and glancing from the gun to Wufei's right arm, still resting in its sling. Amazingly, Wufei smiled.

"As a very good friend of mine once said," he told the smuggler, "in some things there's no point in being anything but ambidextrous." The gun lifted a fraction, centering more precisely on the spot between the smuggler's eyes.

With infinite care, the smuggler slowly let go of his gun and raised his hands.

Less than a minute later, Trowa and Auda's group of Manguanacs burst in the door to see a man lying on the floor, being enthusiastically tied up by two other staff members, Belle Anderson holding a gun dangling from her fingertips as if it smelled bad while she flexed her other hand painfully, and Chang Wufei tucking his own weapon back into concealment in his sling. Trowa raised one eyebrow at the other ex-pilot and smiled faintly, nodding; Auda and the other Manguanacs grinned and laughed.

"Master Wufei!" Auda called, flinging his hands out dramatically. "It seems you have everything well in hand here, but I suppose we should act as your protectors, anyway, until your Preventer bodyguard arrive. Master Duo would never forgive us if we allowed any harm to come to you, after all!"

"'Preventer bodyguard'?" Wufei asked dryly, tugging his sling straight. "I don't remember putting anything about a 'Preventer bodyguard' for me into the plans."

"You didn't really expect Quatre and Lady Une to let you get away without one, did you?" Trowa smiled.

"Actually, I did," Wufei admitted, slightly sheepishly. "I see I need to rethink my assumptions a little bit."

"Sir!" A small squad of Preventers ran around the corner with Nicklaus Assink in the lead, skidding to a stop as they took in the scene. Nicklaus blinked, then walked forward slowly, holstering his weapon as he looked around at the bound smuggler, enthusiastic station staff, heavily armed Manguanacs... "Well," he said calmly, coming to a halt in front of Wufei, "I feel superfluous now."

"If you brought me a command comlink so that I don't need to wire my wrist unit into a console, you aren't."

Nicklaus snapped off a crisp salute, marred only by his grin, and handed the comlink over. "Nice to see you so well, sir."

Wufei shot him a sardonic look and activated the comlink, listening to the sporadic, brief chatter as Preventers and Manguanacs sent reports back and forth. Waiting for a lull, he hit the transmit button. "Yui, this is Chang. Any problems?"

< < Not really, > > Heero's voice came back, sounding a bit sour. < < A few minor injuries, none serious. > >

"Judging by your tone... where did you get hit?" Wufei asked mildly.

< < Left calf, > > Heero growled. < < Shrapnel wound. > >

"Sorry to hear that."

< < I'm fine. As for the smugglers, they have six dead and about fifteen with debilitating wounds, a lot more with minor scratches and bruises. I sent McKenzie's team to help the Manguanacs secure the school area, and I'm expecting to get a report from her any-- > >

< < Yui, we've got a problem here, > > Leah's voice snapped over the link. Wufei's hand clenched a little tighter on the comlink as he heard children crying in the background.

< < What sort of problem, McKenzie? > > Heero asked sharply.

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"Nothing we can't handle," Leah said coolly, keeping her gun extended, rock steady. Behind her, a Manguanac whisked the last two children around a corner and out of harm's way, one still crying over a forgotten stuffed toy. "The kids are all clear, but one of the teachers was a smuggler plant; she's taken one of the other teachers hostage."

"Tell him what I said!" the woman shouted, face distorted by anger and fear. The other teacher, kneeling in front of her with his hands flat on the floor, winced as she yanked his head up further by his hair and dug the muzzle of her tiny gun into his temple. "Tell him what I want, or I'll start shooting pieces off of this guy!"

"She's demanding safe passage off the station, with her hostage," Leah informed Heero, not taking her eyes off the woman. "We haven't changed our position on that sort of thing in the last five minutes, have we?"

< < No. > >

"Didn't think so. I'll call you back when this is resolved." She pushed the button to shut off the comlink and dropped it into a pocket.

"What are you doing?! You have to keep talking to him, pass on my demands or--"

"Try not to be any more of an idiot than you already have been," Leah said contemptuously. "The Preventers don't give in to terrorist demands, which is what this amounts to... admittedly, on a very small scale since we've taken out the ship that was holding the whole station hostage." She blinked in mock surprise at the woman's look of horror. "You hadn't heard? They weren't waiting for you or your friends. They tried to leave, and they were stopped. You don't have anywhere to run to any more, so why don't you just let him go and surrender?"

"No, I... I... I've still got him! If you do anything, I'll shoot him!"

"And then there won't be anything stopping me from shooting you, idiot!" Leah snorted. "Think it through, if you still have a few synapses working. You kill him, I kill you. You harm him, I wait for a good opportunity and I still kill you. You stand there dithering too long..." She smirked, cocking her head to the side. "Think fast, moron."

"You bitch!" Tears of frustration running down her face, the woman swung her gun up to aim at Leah, finger tightening on the trigger. "See if you can still laugh at me around a bullet--"

Leah fired, hitting her in the shoulder and knocking her backwards, away from the hostage. The other gun fired an instant later, the low-calibre bullet bouncing off the Preventer's body armour, leaving a slight scar.

"McKenzie to Yui," Leah transmitted, stepping to kick the little gun away to one side. "No more problem." Leaning forward, she looked down at the woman, who was gasping in shock, not yet feeling the pain from her wound.

"Normally, I wouldn't lower myself to do anything this petty," she said conversationally, "but I hate it when people hide behind innocents and won't come out and fight cleanly. So... Ha. Ha. Ha."

"I'm really glad you're on my side," the male teacher said shakily, breathing hard.

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Wufei let out a slow breath, closing his eyes for just an instant as he allowed himself to relax slightly. "Report," he said clearly, transmitting. "Are any teams still encountering active resistance?"

< < Negative. > >

< < No, sir. > >

< < No, Master Wufei-- er, sir! > >

< < None, sir. > >

The responses kept coming in, all negative, and Belle slumped into a chair, hands shaking. "Thank God," she whispered, examining the bruise coming up on the back of her left hand with a sort of detached interest. "It worked..."

Wufei was lifting the comlink to his mouth again when Trowa plucked it neatly out of his hand. "She's right," the European pilot said quietly. "It worked. Heero can handle any necessary clean up, I will call Lady Une and report... which leaves you free to call Duo, and let him know that you're alive and well. Now, before he worries himself sick again."

There was only a second's hesitation before Wufei nodded gratefully and turned to the nearest communication console.

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