NOTE: see part 1 for notes, warnings
AUTHOR: shira

Papillion + Part 16

The organization, as they'd found out with a lot of sleuth work and some payola thrown in for good measure, called themselves the Freedom Alliance. Comprised of a group of former Oz supporters and White Fang members, what they wanted was simple -- they wanted a better economy on the smaller colonies, and they wanted it now. Completely understandable, since the universal economy was currently in a downslide, partly due to the ending of the past wars -- the Nations were still in the process, years later, of rebuilding themselves and reinstating trade with one another, which promised better times in the future -- but apparently not soon enough for this group who thought they had their own remedy for it. To start another war. Very few laborers would remain jobless in the time of war. Families, those that weren't victims of it, would be fed by it, and since they now held the only running mobile suit factory, Freedom Alliance was in perfect position to make themselves heard. War or better aid for the populations of the smaller, less profitable colonies. That was what they wanted.

When the Preventer shuttles, six of them, were less than four hours away from reaching the Lunar base, Preventers headquaters sent a transmission to the base, ready to strike a deal with whomever was in charge. Basically, it was a plea for the offending party to relinquish the Lunar base without resistance to the teams of officers that were on their way, and a meeting would immediately be scheduled with the Foreign Minister and the Nations leaders as well. The negotiations were stated that all personnel working at the base were to be taken into custody by the Preventers officers until they could be safely transported to Brussels and an assessment could be made of the Lunar base and its activities. If they chose to comply, there would be special considerations before anyone was tried for conspiring to commit war crimes against peaceful nations, and every effort would be made to work things out to benefit all parties involved.

As she suspected though, Sally's requests were met with total opposition. Freedom Alliance was ready for a war and they knew it, and they also knew that they were the only ones in possession of mobile suits now, giving them a very strong upper hand.

"I urge you to reconsider your position and accept our invitation to discuss these matters with the Nation Leaders," Sally offered a last time from her video link in her office in Brussels while Une sat by to the side, listening to everything that was said. Each of the shuttles en route to the moon were linked and watching as well, awaiting their final commands. When she was repeatedly met with responses of hostility instead, she gave the final order after Freedom Alliance's video link with Preventers headquarters was terminated.

Sighing deep and long, she opened up a universal com link with all six shuttles. "Preventer units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, please continue as commanded. Proceed to the Lunar Base for the execution of Operation Stealth Brigade as planned. Good luck to you all."

+

As six shuttles continued on to the Lunar base, each one delivering one unit of ten officers, a pilot and one commanding agent, Heero's insides began to twist into knots. His was to be the third unit to arrive, the first two acting as decoys to attract the attention of whomever was either expecting or not expecting the arrival of Preventer shuttles. The following four units were to arrive half an hour later, radar shields up, unseen, so that they could storm the base by surprise. Once there, the second four groups would round up all personnel at the base and shut down the entire mining and manufacturing operation, then take Alliance soldiers into custody for transport to Earth. It was a clean plan if it worked, and though he realized that there was always an "if" involved with raids like this, something inside him didn't sit well. Something inside was making him anxious, and he thought it was probably the fact that now he was responsible for a lot more than just himself. There were ten other men and women awaiting his command, as well as five other shuttles full of the same, and he'd have to stay alert and cautions. As Duo had put it, he couldn't "go soldier" on these people, because if he did, he was risking their lives.

Then, there was one other thing that bothered him, too. Duo isn't with me. Duo wasn't with him. Duo was commanding the fourth shuttle. Wufei the fifth. They wouldn't be working together as they had during the Eve Wars, and sometimes during the Colony wars as well. He knew Duo was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, perfectly able to handle any situation the same as he, but Heero still felt uncomfortable. He still felt as though he needed to stand between the other man and any danger that might be present, even if he didn't know why. Before it had always been his sense of duty -- it was, after all, his job to be the one putting himself at risk. J had made it that way -- made it so that Heero feared nothing at all, and simply got the job done. This was different, though, because that sense of duty was this time replaced by genuine concern and care. He truly cared about what happened to the other man, more so than any other person in the entire six units. I can't let anything happen to Duo...he's...my friend. I...care about him. Heero's thoughts processed that statement over and over again as they flew closer to their destination. I care about him. No...I don't care about him...I...I... Heero could feel the feeling then, but he still couldn't bring himself to say it in his thoughts, the idea scared him so. He's the one who gives me that feeling, that tingling inside. It's him! I can't let anything happen to him. I can't...I don't have time to be worried about him right now, but I can't let anything happen to him! I can't! I can't! I can't because I...

+

Thoughts running rampant through his mind now, Heero was startled when one of his officers alerted him that the first two units had landed at the Lunar base and were being taken into custody by armed soldiers of the Alliance, as planned. The games were about to begin.

+

Aboard the fourth shuttle, Duo sat waiting, watching, as the first two shuttles began their descent to the Lunar base, all the while forcing away his thoughts about his partner who was aboard a different craft. They'd been separated because they were two of the best people to assume unit leadership, since they had more combat knowledge than the rest of the officers. If things got bad, and there was always a possibility that they would, it was them that would be able to get the rest of the officers out and home safely.

Watching as the Lunar base loomed closer on the ship's radar, Duo let his mind wander briefly, sitting in the co-pilot's seat as one of the officers in his command piloted. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about the confrontation, and the only thing running through his mind was whether he would ever see Heero again after it. He's going to do something stupid. He's going to go soldier, and do something stupid like blow himself up. Ah, God, please don't let him blow himself up. Please...gimme a chance first, before you go letting him blow himself up? Let me at least tell him how I feel, even if he does blow me off. At least he'll know the truth. Duo didn't even realize he was pleading out loud until his pilot broke in.

"Sorry, what was that, agent Maxwell?"

Duo snapped back into reality. "Oh...nothing Simms. Nothing. Was just...thinking, is all." Quieted, Duo forced himself to once more pay attention to what was going on around him.

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