Author: pyrzm
Summary: Angst and action packed, but no naked self gratification scenes (well, not in this chapter, anyway). Sorry! *g*

Lost Souls + Chapter 10
Back in the Game

Despite the pleasures and distractions of living at the luxurious desert base, Quatre and Duo had also kept a careful eye on the ongoing political developments. With their hold consolidating here on Earth, the OZ commanders were, as Quatre had expected, turning their eyes to the colonies.

Their aims soon became clear. A news broadcast from the colony conference confirmed Quatre's suspicions. He and Duo were watching after dinner, as they always did, on the veranda overlooking the pool. The evening breeze over the oasis had turned cool and they'd both changed into their usual clothes. Duo was leaning against a pillar in his old black outfit and new boots, long braid over one shoulder and looking very much like the wild stranger Quatre had coaxed home with him. Of course, they were far from strangers now. Quatre still felt a little guilty admitting it, considering his feelings for Trowa, but Duo really was his best friend.

They watched the evening report on CNN with mounting disbelief and outrage.

"One after the other, forces of the former Alliance military unjustly stationed in each of the colonies have been forced to surrender," the CNN reporter said. "With the new and powerful OZ organization, operations have commenced for the removal of space mines. This should result in the reestablishment of communications between the colonies."

"They're *helping* the colonies? I thought OZ wanted to take over the colonies no matter what it took!" Duo exclaimed.

"They do. And they're using the dirtiest method of all," Quatre replied as it all came clear. "If OZ used force, the colonies would retaliate, but they knew they'd be accepted under the guise of assistance."

Duo sighed. "Most spacers take things easy, and they're worn out from fighting the Alliance. This will sound good to them. I doubt if anyone will question OZ's plan."

Quatre shook his head, angry at the whole situation, but seeing an opportunity, too. "I think it's time for us to return to space, with our Gundams!"

"Yeah," Duo agreed. "But how do we get up there without getting noticed?"

"We'll do just the opposite," Quatre told him, and grinned as his friend's eyebrows disappeared up into his bangs in surprise. "If OZ is falsely promoting peace while setting their sights on taking over the colonies, then they can't very well threaten the colonies to get to us!"

"But what if OZ drops their act?"

"That would mean revealing their true face to the colonies. I don't think they'll see that as a wise choice right now."

Duo's grin was positively manic. "Which means we can still fight 'em!"

"We'll have to steal some HLVs to get up there. I've been doing some research. The closest OZ base with launch capacity and a production line worth blowing up is in Singapore. I say we hit there. And then, if the others see us, maybe they'll get the message and fight, too!"

Duo laughed and wrapped an arm around Quatre's neck. "Yeah! Hot damn, I just love it when you get all leader-like and feisty! Let's go kick some OZ ass!"

Quatre covered his mouth and shushed him. "Not so loud!"

Duo blinked, then nodded. "Not taking the Maguanacs, huh?"

"No. They've done their part, and they belong here, protecting their real homeland in Arabia. Besides, we'd never be able to get that many transports in a raid. We'll be lucky to get two, you know. I give us about a thirty eight percent chance of success."

"Never tell me the odds, my friend," Duo scoffed. "Let's go do some damage!"

They packed quickly and slipped away without alerting Rashid or his men. Once they were in the cover of the oasis, making for the ravine where their transport was hidden, they could talk again.

"The big guy's gonna be pissed," Duo said.

"I know. I feel bad leaving like this, but it's the right thing to do. I left a delayed delivery email for him, explaining everything. He'll get it after we're gone.

At the transport plane, Quatre climbed up first through the cargo hatch and reached down for the duffles. Duo handed Quatre's up first, then his own and shimmied up after it. Quatre couldn't help noting that Duo's bag was unusually heavy. He shook it and heard a clinking sound.

"Hey, easy with that!" Duo warned, and then grinned sheepishly, scratching his neck under his braid. "I uh-sorta helped myself to some of that toothpaste and shampoo and stuff. You got me hooked on it. Hope you don't mind?"

Quatre laughed. "Of course not! I'm glad you like it. And it feels like you laid in a good supply."

Duo was actually blushing now. "Thanks for being a good sport, back when I first showed up. Guess I was kinda smelly. You've got me all spoiled, and proper like you, now!"

"Spoiled, maybe, but not proper."

"Ha! Hey, that reminds me. I brought you a little going away present." Duo unzipped a pocket of his duffle and tossed Quatre a paper sack. Inside was a sizable bag of weed and some packets of rolling papers.

"I thought you were almost out!"

"I was. Luckily, some of your Maguanac boys aren't quite so devout as they'd like you to believe," Duo laughed.

"Who? And how did you find out?"

Duo just winked. "Ask me no questions 'cause I'll tell you no lies. Enjoy, Q-ball, but only in down time, remember?"

"I know, I know. You'll kick my ass, otherwise."

"Damn straight I will!"

Kneeling there in the shadowed hold of the transport, their Gundams looming behind them, the two boys shared a long silent look and Quatre felt his heart hurt a little, knowing that as much as they both looked forward to rejoining the fight, the good times they'd shared were over. Neither of them knew what really lay ahead. He felt the same emotion from Duo. Their eyes met and Quatre knew he understood.

Duo grabbed him in a tight hug. "There may not be a lot of time for mushy stuff from here on, buddy, so I'm gonna say this now. Thank you. These past few weeks have been the best of my life and I totally love you." He pulled back and wiped at his eyes, trying to pretend he wasn't crying a little. "Not in a 'do ya' way, of course! Just, well, you're the best friend I've had in a long time and I hope we come out of this together on the other side."

Quatre took his friend's hands in his. "Me, too, Duo. And--and I love you, too, Duo. Like you said."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Duo took a deep breath and forced a smile. "All right then. Let's blow this pop stand."

+

Singapore Base, AC 195

They took the base by complete surprise, but it was more heavily fortified than Quatre had anticipated. Resistance was fierce and he was doubly glad Duo was there with him. Back in his beloved Deathscythe at last, Duo fought with the same fury and skill Quatre had witnessed during the New Edwards raid.

Quatre fought hard, too, but he had to admit, he wasn't the strongest of the pilots. After an hour of close combat, he was sweating and dangerously close to getting his ass kicked. He went down once and Duo covered him until he could get Sandrock back up again.

"Hey, check out the news!" Duo yelled, his excitement crackling over the com.

Quatre called up the monitors and saw live footage of Sandrock and Deathscythe being shown worldwide and on the colony stations.

"Whoo hoo, Q-ball! Your plan worked! We're making headlines!" Duo cackled. "I bet the others are watching us right now, whaddya bet?"

// I hope so, // thought Quatre.

Just when things were beginning to look hopeful, however, a special broadcast cut in. Quatre didn't know the bespectacled young diplomat, but he recognized the colony symbol on the backdrop behind him.

"We wish to publicly announce a decision made by space colony Area D. The mobile suits known as Gundams are currently attacking the OZ facility at Singapore. These Gundams have nothing to do with colony Area D. We hereby declare that if the Gundams consider OZ the enemy, then we will consider the Gundams our enemies."

"Fucking hell, are you watching this?" Duo called over.

"Yes," Quatre replied softly, not believing what he was hearing. Area D was one of the largest, most influential sectors of the colonies.

"OZ has been fair to us," the diplomat went on. "It didn't take long for us to work out our misunderstandings. We hope that the Gundams are defeated in this battle. We further hope that the other colonies will follow the example of peace and cooperation we've set with this declaration."

"I knew it. I just fucking knew it!" Duo snarled, "But even so, it's still hard to swallow!"

"It's OK, 02," Quatre said sadly, firing back at an enemy suit. "We came down to Earth alone and in secret. It's OK if the colonies don't understand right away. I'm just happy knowing the others may be fighting back now, too. That's more than enough--"

Just then an unexpected hit shook Sandrock, blasting the big suit off its feet. The concussion knocked Quatre almost senseless and he felt something bad happen in his chest. He tasted blood.

"Quatre!" Duo yelled, then he let out a yell of alarm and the transmission scrambled with static. He was hit too.

Shaking off his own disorientation, Quatre struggled to get his suit up. Duo was being pounded by enemy fire. "Come on, Sandrock! Stand up! It's too early to be defeated yet!"

"Damn it!" Duo's voice resurfaced on the com, sounding strained, like he was in pain. "At this rate we're not gonna make it, but for the record, I still think you were right, Kat. Why is it we have to die in a place like this?" His voice trailed off again.

"02! 02, respond!" Quatre shouted, but got no response. Deathscythe was face down on the ground, not moving.

"We *are* doing the right thing!" a new voice shouted over the com link.

Checking his outside monitor, Quatre saw with a thrill that a third Gundam had arrived on the scene. He recognized the dragon headed gun at once. It was 05! He tore into the enemy line like a tiger among sheep, blowing them up and smashing them down. He really was a magnificent fighter.

"It's that guy!"

That was Duo! He wasn't down for good after all! Quatre took heart and forced Sandrock up, in spite of the growing pain in his chest.

"The ones who are right have to be strong," 05 said. He opened visual channel and Quatre got a glimpse of a handsome, grim looking Chinese boy dressed in white. Wasn't that the Chinese color for death or mourning? It was as strange as the priest shirt Duo wore. 05's hair was pulled back tightly from his face and his black eyes were filled with determination. He fought steadily, spreading destruction even as he spoke. "Status?"

"We just got the shit kicked out of us, but we're still breathing!" Duo replied.

"If that's all you guys can do, then so be it. The rest of us will take it from here."

"The *rest of you* will take over?" Duo shot back, voice heavy with sarcasm as Deathscythe lurched to its feet. "I don't think so, pal!"

05 laughed. "That's more like it! You'd have a hard time explaining it to your comrades if you were defeated here."

With new heart and added firepower, they made headway against the suits guarding the launch field.

"Hey, check out channel 9!" Duo shouted.

Quatre keyed it in on his monitor and saw other Gundams on the news, fighting somewhere. His heart missed a beat as he recognized Heavyarms. Trowa was still on Earth, after all!

"Nice going, 04!" Duo cheered.

"They got it!" Quatre exclaimed, overcome with relief. "They understood our message!"

"Oh shit!" Duo yelled, but he sounded like he was overwhelmed with joy, rather than fear. "That's Wing! I don't know how, but it is! 01's alive!"

There wasn't time to do more than acknowledge the miracle; the big white suit and the way it moved were unmistakable. That was Heero Yuy!

Fighting shoulder to shoulder, they made it to the mobile suit HLV silo and Quatre laid down covering fire while the others went down to secure launch vehicles.

"Hurry up, Quatre!" Duo shouted, quickly loading Scythe into one of the pod-like vessels.

"We're surrounded again!" Quatre replied, taking in the reality of their situation. "They'll shoot us down when we try to lift off. I'll hold them until you two are free and clear. Go!"

"Have you lost your mind!" Duo yelled. "We all have to make it!"

"I know! That's why I have to back you up," Quatre told him, trying to concentrate on hitting the enemy and watching his ammo levels. He was nearly out. He took another heavy hit and heard Duo's strangled cry, but could tell from the monitor that he was already safely inside one of the HLVs. "Please, Duo, just go! At least you two have to make it. I can't hold them much longer!"

"Quatre!" Duo sounded frantic now. Quatre prayed he didn't so something stupid, like stay and fight.

"I am grateful," 05's voice came calmly over the com. "The only way to show my appreciation is to make it into space."

At least he understood. Quatre sighed, fighting to remain conscious, then wiped a trickle of blood from his eyes and calmly hit the self-detonate button. It was the best and only option he had left, to protect the others.

But the man who'd designed Sandrock had had a different idea about self-destruction than the one who'd built Heero Yuy's Wing. As the red warning lights and the alarms went off, Sandrock raised its shield and popped the hatch.

"What is it? You want me to get off?" Quatre gasped in surprise. But he didn't waste any time pondering it. As Sandrock began its final autopilot march toward the enemy, Quatre let himself down on the hand line and staggered to the stairway leading down into the silo. Once there he dragged himself into a shuttle, set it for auto launch sequence, and used the last of his strength to struggled into the flight suit and belt himself in. After that, things got sort of hazy.

// Guess I got hit worse than I thought, // he realized as the force of lift off swelled the pain in his chest and drove blood up into his throat. His mind began to wander as his vision blurred. // Oh well. We all made it out anyway. Good-bye Earth, you were so beautiful . . . Good-bye, Sandrock, my good friend . . . //

The massive concussion of Sandrock exploding below him and the thought that he'd left Duo's gift of weed behind were the last things he remembered before everything went black.

+

Trowa and Heero were hiding out in a mountain pass in Mexico, living out of a tent and backpacks, when they caught the news reports of the Gundam offensive in Singapore.

"They're alive. All three of them. That's good," Heero said, already reaching for his gear bag. "I don't know what they're up to, but I say we join in. Let's go knock over that base at Cancun."

"Yeah, OK," Trowa mumbled, still watching the battle. He only had eyes for one Gundam, though, the white and gold suit armed with the curving blades. Quatre was alive and fighting!

// I'm with you! // he thought, wondering if the empath could pick up his thought. He and Heero struck the Cancun base hard and fast. It was only a small suit plant, but it felt good to be back in action.

They both kept their monitors up, keeping tabs on the fighting in Singapore. A lone news reporter was giving an hysterical play by play in Mandarin, but it was clear that the others were having a tough time of it.

Trowa knew he couldn't allow himself to be distracted, but it was hard not to be.

"I think I know what they're up to!" Heero called over, dispatching the last of the Aries suit resistance and heading for the fuel towers. "There's an HLV base there. They're heading for the colonies!"

Just as they were mopping up, the visual feed from Singapore was knocked out.

"Fuck!" Trowa cried, slamming his fist down on the screen. He scanned frantically for an audio report in some language he understood. A moment later he found what he was looking for, in French.

"It appears the fighting is over at the Singapore OZ base and Taurus plant," the woman was saying. "It is confusion there, but two HLV suit transports were seen taking off, and it is presumed that at least two of the rogue Gundam pilots escaped. A third suit self-detonated on the ground. I repeat, one Gundam has apparently self-detonated."

"Which one, damn it!" Trowa shouted, slamming his fist down again. A one in three chance Quatre was alive; he didn't like those odds.

"Calm down 03!" Heero ordered, scowling at him over the monitor. "What the hell's wrong with you? We have to get out of here!"

"One of the Gundams self detonated!" Trowa told him, realizing Heero couldn't know.

01's expression didn't change a bit, though. Still frowning, he just shrugged. "There aren't any HLVs within range. I'm going to ditch my suit underwater and take a shuttle up to L-1. I suggest you do the same. I'm picking up long range response already."

"What?" Trowa stared at him, trying to process the fact that Heero didn't even seem to care, and that he was leaving. Just like that.

"I'm bugging out, 03. Do the same! Copy?"

"Yeah, I copy," Trowa muttered. Heero was right, of course, but it still seemed pretty cold. He thought he'd come to see something else under that tough, emotionless facade Heero kept up. But Heero was in full mission mode now, and perhaps that was for the best. Shaking off foolish emotion, Trowa pulled up nautical charts, looking for a good hiding place.

One in three, he told himself, forcing down fear and worry and compassion, just the way he'd been trained. One in three. It was better than zero.

+

Quatre drifted in and out of consciousness, dimly aware that the emergency response units in his suit had kicked in, trying to stabilize his blood pressure and stop whatever bleeding he might be doing. A sore place on his forearm told him that in suit meds had been deployed, too, morphine and epinephrine from the way he was feeling. All the same, he could tell something was badly damaged inside.

Maybe it was the meds, but he wasn't scared. Gazing out the front port of the shuttle, he watched the beautiful stars shining against the blackness of space. In a way, he'd already made it home.

He drifted off again, and resurfaced feeling weaker, but calm, and wondering if the others had made it back to their own colonies. He saw on the monitors that he was drifting into L-1 space. Was Trowa out there somewhere in the stars or safe inside a colony? He hoped so.

Struggling to focus, gasping at the tightness in his chest, he managed to open the shuttle's com link and key in the frequency Heero Yuy had used on the field. It was a secure frequency, but no blocks appeared and no password was demanded. Puzzled but grateful, Quatre tried to think what he wanted to say to his friends if they were listening.

"This is Quatre, Quatre speaking," he gasped. "To all of my good friends who have returned to outer space, let us work together to protect the colonies . . ."

That was as far as he got before he slipped far past the bounds of consciousness, triggering the suit's emergency diodes.

[ch. 9] [ch. 11] [back to Pyrzm's fic]