Author: pyrzm

Lost Souls + Chapter 13
Tangled Web

There was no chance to speak privately with Zechs Merquise before he left to tour the colonies on his so-called mission of peace. Trowa saw him from a distance, speaking with Une and attending meetings. He looked younger in his ornate formal white suit and, Trowa had to admit, not nearly as hot has he had in his OZ uniform. Trowa wondered how much that had had to do with his little indiscretion back in Antarctica, or if it had just been loneliness and hormones, after all.

Trowa was a bit baffled by Une's welcome. There was no question of who Zechs was, or who he'd been, yet Une treated him with the utmost respect and seemed pleased with his new mission. They parted on friendly terms at a public ceremony and Zechs, now officially Peacecraft, continued on with his mission to the colonies.

Trowa chalked it up to experience, put the man out of his mind again, and concentrated on the mission at hand. He and Heero continued to test pilot the new suits. S and the other scientists were keeping up a good act. It appeared they were quite content to work for their new masters. Trowa kept his contact with them to a minimum, but knew they had somehow acquired the remains of Duo's suit and were creating a new one in secret.

Lieutenant Nikol remained suspicious of him, but Lady Une liked him, for some reason. Being her fair-haired boy had its advantages. His presence in the command center went largely unquestioned and he was able to pick up enough about the access codes to hack into the central database without being detected. This was how he learned that a new suit engineer named Tuberov was being sent up to the lunar base to oversee mobile doll production. The colonies were unwitting being milked of their natural resources to feed the military machine that would eventually enslave them.

He also learned with some dismay that OZ intelligence had learned that a former Alliance officer named Sally Po was believed to have somehow captured Heero's Gundam and Trowa's.

+

Une spoke openly of Tuberov a few days later at a breakfast for the young OZ pilots, and it was clear she disapproved of the man and his methods. Apparently she considered them an affront to what she called Treize Kushrenada's "vision" for the future. Trowa kept the charm turned on and made a point of quietly agreeing with her. In fact, Kushrenada aside, Trowa did agree. The thought of an army of mindless killing drones was horrifying. A man in a mobile suit might be your enemy, but he could still be spoken to, reasoned with, or at least met on a warrior's terms. The Taurus dolls were a serious threat to humanity, not just the colonies.

His unique position gave him access to Heero, too. He tested the security parameters, and learned that no one thought much of it if he dropped by the holding cell with the occasional technical question or order. Heero remained sullen, but cooperative. Trowa was still not entirely certain that Heero trusted him, but then, Heero had always been hard to read.

For all his success with Une, and among the other OZ test pilots, Trowa knew better than to let his guard down around Lieutenant Nikol. As his superior officer on the project, he had no choice but to be civil to the man but it was still clear that the man didn't like or trust him. Trowa was on his way to the construction bay to test out the new beam cannon settings one morning when Sergeant Aldovar caught up with him by the elevators.

"Lieutenant Nikol wants you in Security, Barton."

"Did Yuy do something?"

"I don't have any details, sir. He just said for you to come at once."

//Damn it!// Trowa thought. They'd been working so well together and Trowa's headway in accessing him in his cell was going well. He'd begun to think they might be able to formulate some exit strategy. Now what had that maniac done?

Armed guards met him by the elevator. "The lieutenant is in Interrogation D."

"I know where D room is," Trowa muttered, and noted that they accompanied him anyway.

Nikol and several beefy MPs were waiting for him, standing over a small figure slumped in a chair with his hands shackled behind him. Trowa recognized the black tank top and loose white pants even before one of the guards grabbed Chang by his ponytail and yanked his head up. Trowa had forgotten how young the arrogant Chinese pilot looked up close. He looked even younger now, with a bruise on his left cheek and blood dripping down from a split lip. But his expression was as proud and disdainful as ever as he silently locked eyes with Trowa.

"Do you recognize this boy, Officer Barton?" Nikol asked, watching Trowa closely for a reaction.

Trowa studied Chang for a moment, then shook his head slowly, knowing that both their lives might hang on his actions in the next few moments, and Chang's. "No, sir. Should I?"

"You're certain you've never seen him before?"

"No, sir."

Nikol turned to Chang. "How about you? Have you ever seen this fine young OZ pilot before?"

Chang shrugged. "You people all look alike to me."

The guard who'd grabbed Chang by the hair backhanded him hard across the face. The blow rocked Chang in the chair; only the fact that his manacled arms were pulled tightly around the back of it held him in his seat. Chang shook his head and spat blood out onto the leg of his pants, where it spread in a red stain. "No! I don't know him!"

"Well, now that we've established that, Barton, I'm sure you won't mind helping us out."

"Sir?" Trowa played dumb, but he knew what was coming.

"Well, since you're so chummy with our other prisoner, I'd say you're just the man to help us interrogate this one."

"Interrogate, sir?"

"Yes. You know a little something about Gundam pilots, don't you, Barton? You and Yuy have been getting along so famously. This one was captured in his Gundam last night. He just drifted in and gave himself up. But he hasn't had much to say. Loosen him up for us, Barton."

"I'm a pilot, sir. I'm not trained in interrogation methods."

"Wing it, Officer. That's an order. If you're going to be any use to us in the field, you have to be able to think on your feet." Nikol was clearly enjoying himself now. "Go on, Barton. Find out who he is."

"Yes, sir." Trowa moved to stand over Chang. "What's your name, pilot?"

Chang just raised a fine black eyebrow at him and growled, "Go to hell."

Trowa grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head back sharply. "I said, what's your name?"

Chang spit in his face.

"You little shit!" Trowa slapped him hard across the face. "Name!"

Chang glared. Trowa slapped him again, not holding back. He could see the print of his hand on Chang's cheek and his lip was bleeding more now. When Chang still kept silent, Trowa paused and looked to Nikol. "Sir?"

"Continue, Barton. Unless you don't have the stomach for the job?"

Silently marking Nikol for death in the very near future, Trowa dragged Chang out of the chair and punched him hard in the stomach, then slammed him into the wall and held him up with a hand around his throat. He pulled his fist back, then paused as Chang gasped for air. "This is the last time I'm going to ask nicely, kid. What's your fucking name!"

He made like he was going to punch Chang again, and the boy flinched at last. "Long. My name is Wufei Long," he gasped out through bleeding lips.

"Where are you from, Long?"

Chang allowed himself a derisive little laugh, stilling hanging in Trowa's grip. "Colony L-5, obviously. Or can't you see anything under that ridiculous mop of hair?"

Trowa released him and let him collapse to the floor, then kicked him in the stomach. He pulled the blow, but it probably still hurt. Chang curled up in a ball, crying out as if Trowa had ruptured his spleen.

"Put him back in the chair," Trowa growled at the MPs. They manhandled him into it, yanking his manacled hands behind the chair back again to secure him in place. Chang slumped over, breathing hard.

Trowa hunkered down in front of him and rested a hand on Chang's knee. "Let's start again, shall we?" he asked, his voice dangerously gentle. "You're from L-5 colony."

"Yes."

"You are a Gundam pilot."

"Yes."

"You admit you are the enemy of OZ and its peaceful mission."

Chang shook his head, but he caught Trowa's eye as he did so. Trowa slapped him again, hard, and Chang started to cry.

"Stop! Please, stop. I gave myself up, didn't I? I have no power, no food, no ammo. No colony will shelter me any more! Rumor has it that you've already caught the man I was working for!"

Trowa raised his hand again and Chang actually cringed. "Dr. O! That's the only name I have for him. I don't know anything else about him, I swear! He just gave me my orders! Please!" Chang was really letting himself go now. Tears ran down his face, mingling with the blood trickling down his chin. He looked utterly pathetic. "Please, I surrendered, goddam it. I-- I've got no where else to go!"

Trowa looked to Nikol and the man shook his head in disgust, but this time it was aimed at Chang. "What sort of heartless people send little boys in to do their dirty work, eh? This is why we're in space, Barton. To bring order to these lawless places. That's enough for now. Take him to the holding cell. Not you, Jones. Let Barton finish the job."

Trowa hauled the weeping boy from the chair and marched him down the hallway to the large, specially reinforced holding cell where they had Yuy.

He shoved him inside, ignoring Heero's glare and slammed the door.

"Not bad, Barton," Nikol said, handing him a handkerchief to wipe the blood from his hands. "Not bad at all."

"Thank you, sir," Trowa replied, forcing a smile. Nikol was definitely at the top of his hit list as of now.

+

The guards kept Heero's hands shackled in front of him when he wasn't being used. He was in his usual spot, slumped against the far wall across from the door when Trowa dragged a new prisoner in and dumped him in a heap on the floor. His hands were shackled behind his back and he fell flat on his face when Trowa let go of him.

Heero had only seen Chang in person once, but he'd seen him fight several times and had a hard time believing that this whimpering, bloody mess was the same proud young pilot.

"We brought you a friend to keep you company," Trowa said, his voice cold as ice. "Heero Yuy, say hello to Wufei Long. Have a nice time, boys."

Heero said nothing, just glared at Trowa and the guards until they left him alone with Wufei. According to Trowa, this cell wasn't monitored, but he kept his voice down anyway as he whispered, "How bad are you hurt?"

Chang struggled up to his knees and tried to wipe his face against his shoulders. "I think he cracked one of my ribs." His voice quavered and he crawled over and collapsed beside Heero, leaning his head on his shoulder. "That guy Barton is a real bastard!"

"What the hell are you doing?" Heero whispered.

"Getting close enough to talk without yelling," Chang hissed back impatiently, then snuggled closer. "And letting anyone who might be watching continue thinking that I'm just a kid who broke under pressure."

"Hn." It was hardly a method he would have chosen, but he could see the logic of it. At least Chang was a quick thinker. "Take it easy, kid," he said, raising his voice a little, but that was the extent of his acting ability. "What happened?" he whispered.

"I was out of options, fuel, ammo, everything. The only place I could go was home and I didn't want to compromise their safety any longer. But I understand they have a very nice selection of repair parts and ammo here at this base."

"You surrendered so you could escape and resupply?"

"And do some damage on the way out. That was the plan, anyway, but security may be tighter than I thought. I also suspected you might be here. I didn't know about Barton. Has he turned?"

"I'm not 100 percent certain either way. Just go with it for now."

Chang shifted a bit and let out a grunt of pain. "Then I'm glad I didn't blow his cover yet. He's either quite the actor or he doesn't like me much."

"Have you had word of anyone else?"

"Just one brief transmission from 04, a couple of days after we left Earth."

"Yes, I heard that, too. 02 was alive, too, last I knew. I'd expected to hear from him by now."

"Yes. I was glad he escaped."

Heero snorted softly. "He didn't. I saved his sorry ass. But maybe it will pay off later."

"Perhaps. I need to rest a bit now. If you'll excuse me?" Chang stretched out on the floor beside Heero and tried to get comfortable, but with his wounds and his hands pulled behind his back like that, it was impossible.

Heero watched him shifting around and saw the way he grimaced in pain. He assumed Trowa had a good reason for working him over like this, but Chang really did seem to be hurting. He hesitated, scowling uncomfortably, then said, "You-ah, you might be able to get comfortable if you put your head on my leg."

Chang arched an incredulous eyebrow at him. "That's quite all right, thank you."

"Don't be an idiot. You said yourself you need to rest. You're never going to get comfortable like that."

"I can take care of myself." Chang pushed himself up cross-legged against the wall and closed his eyes. Within a few minutes he was either deep in meditation or asleep. It was hard to tell which, but Heero was impressed.

+

Beating up Chang, even to protect both their covers, had unsettled Trowa more than he wanted to admit, even to himself. He tossed for a long time, trying to sleep, but the images just kept replaying themselves over and over again in his mind. When he did finally drift off, he found himself back in that room, with all those armed men watching, but this time it was Quatre helpless before him. In the dream Trowa punished him mercilessly, until that sweet face was bloody and he was screaming in pain.

Trowa woke up covered in cold sweat with tears running down his face. Badly shaken, he pulled on sweats and went to the pilot's gym to work out. He pushed himself hard, running circuits until his legs were throbbing and his lungs burned, trying to outrun doubt and guilt. He'd been here for weeks and despite the success of his infiltration, he was no further toward destroying the base. He hated this mission. Battle was cleaner, and easier on the soul.

[ch. 12] [ch. 14] [back to Pyrzm's fic]