see Ch. 1 for warning, notes, disclaimer
Preventors' Case #84309: Splicers + Chapter Twenty-Eight
"What did you do to my room?" Came Hilde's voice from the doorway. She picked
her way across the room staying out of arm's reach. Heero could smell her
trepidation; see it in the stiff way she moved towards the bed.
"We've left your room exactly as we found it." Wu Fei answered stiffly. He, like Heero, began to give the room a second look.
"Everything is gone," Heero said, "Except for this." He held up the sock catching Hilde's gaze for a second before she dropped her eyes, and focus, to the nightstand beside the bed.
"It was just clothes. My laptop and files are secure at HQ." She bent over the bed lifting the sheets to her face. She sniffed them then moved to the pillow then around the fallen lamp. "It was Nellie."
"You're sure?" Heero asked. He closed his eyes taking a deep breath. There were a hundred different smells permeating the room. The strongest came from Wu Fei, who smelled like wood smoke, and Hilde who smelled like blueberries. The other scents were random; none that he could definitely say belonged to Nellie.
"Yeah, I wouldn't forget her smell."
"You can smell her in this room? You recognize her scent?" Wu Fei questioned, his tone soft and inquisitive.
"That's strange. I was under the impression that only Duo, Kitten and now Heero could distinguish smells so acutely. How could I have possibly overlooked your talent?"
Hilde paled, her tail twitching behind her and like that, so many things fell into place for Heero.
"Gervais did your splicing. How long have you known about him Hilde?" He took a step forward. "How long have you known about Duo?"
She shook her head. "I promised to keep his secret."
"You promised who?" Heero asked.
"I don't care who you promised, Schbeiker. I want an answer. How long?" Wu Fei demanded.
"What?" Heero balked.
"I was so horrible to him Heero. I wrote him out of my life, told him to stop calling me, stop emailing me. I told him that my career was more important than hanging out with him. He begged me to keep what happened a secret and I couldn't say no."
"So you let your guilt override your sense of honor and duty as both an agent and a friend?"
It was hard to swallow, to think, to move. Fours years. Four years. So much time wasted looking for Duo and all the while the answer was just within his reach. He'd thought him and Hilde friends, or something close to it. He'd bonded with her in the first few months of Duo's disappearance, commiserating the loss of their friend and it was all an act. She'd looked him in the face, reassured him that this time, this raid, they would find Duo, when she knew the truth.
"How?" His voice was rough but quiet. "How did you find him? Did he come to you?"
He wanted to know why Duo didn't trust him with this secret. Why her after she drove Duo away and Heero only tried to bring him closer, did he confide in her.
"No. I found him. Maybe a week after he went missing."
His heart squeezed tight in his chest and it was suddenly hard to breathe. He stared at the carpeted floor, the backs of his eyes stinging, letting the information wash over him. She found him within a week while Heero searched for years steadily losing hope.
"You disgust me."
Wu Fei's anger was like a hard, hot slap to his face, jerking his head around to stare at the red-faced man. His anger was the acrid smell of Gundam servos overheating and on the verge of exploding.
"Do you know how we've suffered? Do you have any idea? Countless weeks and months thinking the worse while you walked among us pretending to care."
"I do care! I hurt just as much as you. Do you think this was easy for me?"
"Be. Quiet." Wu Fei's eyes narrowed. His words were low and quiet but the tone was venomous. "I gave up on ever finding Duo. After two years I stopped believing that we would ever find him. I mourned for him. I prayed that his spirit would find peace, that he would forgive me for not doing more to help him and now you tell me that you knew all along. You let us suffer for nothing."
"Wu Fei "
"No. I don't want your pity and least of all your feeble attempt at excuses. I want an answer. Now. What happened to Duo?"
She fidgeted, looking at the papered walls, the empty closet, the unmade bed, wringing her hands. For a moment, he thought she would refuse to answer before she took a deep breath, raised her head and spoke.
"It was an accident. He went out for a ride one night and lost control of his bike at an intersection and crashed into three pedestrians. Two of them walked away with minor injuries, but the girl she lost her leg. Duo was so torn up about it that he refused treatment. His arm was barely hanging on by a thread but he wanted the doctors to work on the girl and not him.
"Gervais was moonlighting at the hospital that night and he told Duo that he could fix everything. Make it like the accident never happened and Duo took him up on it. He helped Gervais sneak her out of the hospital and to his lab and Gervais did like he promised. A few weeks later, Priscel was walking on her own two legs."
"That doesn't tell me why Duo stayed on with him, hiding for four years. That doesn't tell me why he let Gervais clone him or completely rewrite his DNA."
"He was sick for a long time after that. He only let Gervais treat him enough to keep him alive until Priscel was one hundred percent, then he let Gervais heal him. After that, he stayed on to help Gervais. He told me he felt useful with Gervais, that he was making a difference."
"Then why keep it from us. Why let us carry such a burden if everything was alright? Why go out of your way to ruin Heero`s career and help a fugitive when you could have told us the truth, let us help?"
"I made a promise, Wu Fei and I stuck to it."
Heero could hear Wu Fei's teeth grinding as he watched the other man fight to stay civil.
"Is that what you'll tell the others? That you kept your promise? Is that what you'll tell the other agents who risked their lives in search of Duo?"
"No one can know about this. If any of this got out, every case that I've worked will be overturned. Hundreds of terrorists, arsonists and rapists would be back on the streets. Even you can see how important it is that this stays quiet."
Wu Fei narrowed his eyes. "You never answered the question. How long have you been spliced?"
She hesitated, shifting her weight for left to right. "Almost three years."
"After splicing became illegal. You, a Preventors agent, allowed yourself to be spliced. I see now how someone with no redeeming skills was able to move so quickly through the ranks."
"You bastard. I did it to save lives."
"There is no excuse, Schbeiker. Turn your resignation in to your Director by the end of the week."
"What? You can't force me to quit."
"Then I'll have you brought up on criminal charges. Criminal negligence, aiding and abetting, kidnapping and splicing will only be the beginning. I won't allow someone like you to remain a part of this organization. You have no understanding of what you cost us all, including Duo. Turn in your resignation, Schbeiker and don't show your face here again."
"He was right. Murai was right." Heero murmured. He looked into Hilde's eyes trying to understand. "You've been helping Gervais all along. I defended you and you've been lying to me for years.
"How did you find him, Hilde?"
"His bike," she answered softly. "He never rides it on the colony, said because it's vintage it only belongs on real asphalt on Earth. I tracked it to the accident. then him to the hospital and found the footage of Gervais with Duo. After that it was easy to find him."
"And you went without me, without any back-up?"
"Yet another reason why you shouldn't be an agent."
Hilde glared but didn't rise to Wu Fei's bating. "I wanted to talk to him alone. I wanted to apologize."
"I've heard enough. Heero, we have what we came for, let's go."
"Hilde, do you know what else Murai said?" He gave her time to answer with a small shake of her head. "He said Gervais was using Duo like a slave, a toy, to help him achieve his goals. He was right about you Hilde. Was he right about that, too? Did Duo stay because he wanted to or because Gervais made him?"
"I I don't know."
"I hope for your sake that he was wrong, because if I find out that you left Duo with Gervais, let him use Duo, I will kill you."
He was disconnected from the conversation happening around him, replaying Hilde's words over in his head. He couldn't understand what drove her to leave Duo with Gervais. Did she ever see him floating in that tank? Did she never question who Gervais was? His intentions? Little by little Gervais was becoming a villain in his eyes. It was clear to Heero that to Gervais achieving his goals was more important than anything else and in some ways it made him more dangerous than Murai.
"They've recovered over sixty bodies in the last couple of hours," Heero looked up as Gemmell spoke, watching as she combed her hair away from her face. What was left of his team, including Wu Fei, was stationed around the conference table trying to put the pieces of their case to together before Heero's scheduled meeting with Murai. Gemmell took up the entire right side of the table with numerous files scattered around in front of her, while Weber sat to the left of the table sorting through his meticulous stack of papers. "I don't see how we missed this. How did we not know about all these bodies?"
"The fallout shelters are vacuum sealed to protect against depressurization and air leaks. There was no way for us to smell the bodies and by the time we found a splicing location, Murai had moved on," Weber answered.
"We've been playing catch up this entire time. We know who he is and what he wants, we need to get in front of him and stop him," Price added. She sat beside Weber drumming her fingers to a staccato beat against the table.
"We don't know him. We don't know why he's so adamant about killing Gervais or why it was important that we knew how many people he's murdered." Wu Fei stood beside Heero's chair at the head of the table, his arms crossed. His mood, like Heero's, had yet to improve since their meeting with Hilde.
"We know his dad traveled between two families and from what I've dug up he was no father of the year. There are a slew of domestic violence reports from both families. It looks like he beat up on one family and when the police were called ran off to the other family to start all over again."
"Did he abuse his children or just the wives?'
"Both. He beat the mom's and used the kids as ashtrays. Eventually both moms' put out restraining orders against him but they never actually met each other until after his death."
"How old was Murai then?" Wu Fei asked.
"Thirteen," Gemmell answered.
"What happened to him after that?"
"Um, looks like Murai was in and out of trouble for years. Vandalism, petty theft, and fighting. All the earmarks of a psycho in the making."
"Maybe or he was just a troubled teenager from a broken home. As far as we know he never maimed, tortured or killed a single human being before Brandon's death."
"But there's gotta be progression right? You don't go from nice animal doctor to cold-blooded killer overnight," Weber said.
"Brandon's death was definitely the stressor that sent him over the edge and into killing people but he's killed before."
"The animals. We live on a colony," Gemmell explained. "There's no room for unwanted animals or overpopulation. Hundreds of pets are put to sleep everyday. Who's to say he didn't get into the business for the opportunity to kill living creatures everyday and no one`s the wiser."
"If that's the case, he's been building up to this for years and there is no telling what he did to those animals," Price added.
"We don't know if any of this is right. I mean we're taking shots in the dark and we could be way out in left field. Why didn't he kill Nellie? If Brandon's death was the stressor and she talked him into the splicing and was standing right there, why didn't Murai kill her first?"
"She suffered," Heero spoke.
The chair groaned under his weight as he sat forward. "He told me I looked like a man who knew how to suffer, that he liked that about me. Nellie's suffered as well."
"You're not kidding about that. Nellie's history makes all of ours combined look a like a day at Disneyland. Her dad was a real piece of shit. He didn't just sell her for sex; he let those psychos do whatever they wanted to her." Weber pulled a small stack of photos free, keeping them face down as he slid them across the table. . "I'm warning you, it's bad."
The photos were dated years back and by the angles, the close and wide shots were taken by an investigator to document the damage. The first few were of her face. Her left eye was swollen shut, the plump skin dark with bruising. Blood caked her face with cuts still oozing as the photos were taken. The next were of her upper body. Most of the blood was cleaned away to show the fresh jagged cuts mixed in with scars made from cuts and burns all centered around her breasts. They were puckered and marred, the nipples lost under heavy scar tissue made from repeat damage.
He was almost unwilling to turn to the next set of photos, to see the rest of the damage, but it would be worse to look away, to do anything other than acknowledge what she suffered. He flipped to the next photo gasping through his nose as his mind tried to piece the image together. When she told him about the scars between her legs he pictured thin, fading scars curving across the insides of her thighs. Painful but unremarkable. The scars she had were anything but.
Her inner thighs were mottled with thick scar tissue soaked in bright red blood that ran down from her uncovered sex. The lips were ragged, as if chewed, one smaller than the other. The photographer made sure to get every angle possible to show just how extensive the damage was, how badly she was torn and ripped.
He struggled to turn to the last photo his hands shaking all the while. He had to turn the picture on its side and stare for few moments before he could understand it. Letters. A word carved, no, butchered onto her back. He pictured the hands of drunken men, dull knives and broken glass destroying her body for a few moments of sick pleasure. Like a red neon sign, the word whore screamed off the picture, off of her back and Heero knew the image would stay with him forever.
"Tell me," Wu Fei swallowed and started again. "Tell me the people who did this are dead."
Weber shook his head. "Not all of them. Two died in prison, the others are kept isolated from the other inmates and the dad's on the lam."
"What kind of father does this to his own child? What kind of father lets men into his home to do something like this?"
"He was a drug addict."
"That's no excuse."
"I know. I'm just saying that's why he did it. To get high. He used the only thing he had available. Her."
"He should have sold himself. It should have been him cut up like that."
Heero shot of his chair, startling his team. Wu Fei's anger, Nellie's past and Hilde's story were converging, mingling into a dark thought. He grabbed Wu Fei's arm pulling him away from the table and out of the conference room and earshot of the others. "What if his DNA was all he had to give?"
"You think Duo gave himself up for Gervais' tests to save that girl?"
"If the experiments failed they both could have died. There's nothing to gain from that."'
"Gervais convinced him somehow, convinced him that he could save the girl if he gave himself up."
Wu Fei sighed deeply. "As much as I want to understand Duo's part in all of this, we don't have time to consider every nuance and possibility. We need to focus on saving Kitten. Once we've accomplished that then we can concern ourselves with Duo."
"Do you think Murai set this all up to throw me off?"
Wu Fei thought for a moment. "It's a possibility. You were getting too close and now he's found a way to keep you at arms length but for what, I'm not sure."
"He's planning something. We profiled before that he was trying to become famous. This amount of killing will gain him notoriety but he's planning something more."
"Killing Gervais. For all his faults, Gervais has made breakthroughs in splicing. He could save millions of lives with his advancements and no one else has come close to that. If Murai kills Gervais then all that potential will die with him. They'll credit Murai with the death of those millions."
"We can't let him get close to Gervais."
"Then we need to act aggressively."
He was literally being dragged by Nellie through a series of tunnels, working deep into the heart of the colony through the interconnected fallout shelters. She held his tightly as she led him, a skip in her step and a song vibrating in her throat. If she and Murai thought the myriad of twists and turns would stop him from later retracing his steps they were sadly mistaken. Even as he spoke to her, he was building a map in his head and if that weren't enough the small tracking device he brought along was relaying his exact coordinates to his team.
"Are you really going to let him hurt Kitten, Nellie?"
"We're not going to hurt him," she said without stopping. "We're just babysitting him for a little while."
"Is that the lie Murai told you?"
She stopped, looking back at him. Her eyes glowed a golden yellow in the dim lighting. She had Murai splice her to match him, to make them a mated pair as she claimed. "Gabby doesn't lie to me. You like Kitten best, so if we have him then you'll give us what we want."
"I know what he wants, Nellie. What do you want?"
"I want Brandon back, but," she paused her face growing dark, "I can`t have him can I. So I`ll settle for Gervais' heart. Gabby says I get to eat it"
"Why him? What did he do to you?"
She dropped his hand, her anger rolling over him like a tidal wave. "He didn't save Brandon. He saved Duo, but not my Brandon. Why couldn't he save Brandon?"
"Nellie?" came Murai's voice down the tunnel, "Are you giving away our secrets?"
Like a switch being thrown her anger left her just as quickly as it came and she grinned grabbing Heero's hand to pull him the rest of the way. They ended in an open shelter, the metal plated walls indistinguishable from all the others before it. Murai sat before him, like a king on his thrown with Chase bound and gagged, kneeling at his feet. He was not surprised to see the man being held against his will after hearing of the destruction left in his small apartment from the agents assigned to find and protect him. Heero locked eyes with his mentor hoping to convey with his gaze that he would save him.
"Heero, I assume you spoke to Hilde?"
"What is she talking about Murai?" Heero asked nodding his head at Nellie as she moved around him to sit on the arm of Murai's chair within touching distance of Chase.
Murai frowned, giving Nellie a sidelong glance before answering. "I doubt that my connection to Gervais is nearly as remarkable as Hilde's."
"Remarkable enough to keep it from me." He wanted information just as badly as Murai and was determined to get, even if it menat playing word games with the older man.
"You really didn't think there wasn't some connection between us, did you?'
"The only connection we've found is your profession."
"Hm," Murai said leaning back in his chair, "He did work as a vet before the war."
"Is that when you met him?"
"Is that when Hilde met him?"
Heero's fist tightened. His first instinct was to race across the room and claw Murai into unrecognizable pieces, but Nellie had already warned him that Kitten was hidden away for that very reason. He couldn't risk hurting Kitten by hurting Murai, but it didn't mean that he was without a plan.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Tell me what the girl had to say and maybe I'll answer your question."
Heero glowered, sighing heavily through his nose. "You were right."
"I'm right about a lot of things, Heero. Please, be more specific."
Heero growled, nails biting into his skin.
"She knew about Gervais and Duo. She knew where he was, what he was doing, all of it."
"How did Duo and Gervais meet?"
"After an accident. Duo crashed his bike into pedestrians and Gervais saved them all."
"Were they dying?"
"No. No one was hurt fatally, just permanently maimed until he came along."
"I see. And I take it that Gervais managed to save the day?"
"Of course. He can work wonders when he chooses."
"What do you mean when he chooses?"
"When it will benefit him the most. Saving Duo gave him a guinea pig for his experiments. Saving your agent got him in your good graces. Saving Milliardo Peacecraft and the other agents will give him all the good publicity anyone good ask for, but when I called him to help save Brandon; he stood by and watched him die."
"You were helping him too," Heero said only mildly surprised. His team had at one time speculated that Murai could have been Gervais' assistant trying to outdo his predecessor.
"He came to me years ago wanting my help in collecting samples so he could start his project. After that his visits were few and far between until he needed my help with Duo. Hellbender salamander and Great Horned Owl DNA are not easy to come by unless you have my contacts."
"Did you see him? Did you see Duo during that time?" He wanted to stay on track, keep to the facts and details that might help him save Duo but he couldn't resist asking, couldn't resist knowing everything there was to know about Duo's lost years.
"No. Gervais was very tight-lipped about what exactly he was doing but I saw photos of Duo's recovery. He was always happy to brag about his accomplishments."
"If you never saw him, then how do you know he's being brainwashed?"
"Because he told me, Heero."
"He-" It was like a slap to the face. "He told you?"
"Like I said Heero, he likes to brag. How did he put it? `Duo is the perfect vessel. Bending him took some time but I've finally made him mine.'"
"The perfect vessel?"
"Yes. He complained that with each animal he spliced Duo with he was forced to recondition him. But of course by the third time he`d mastered the process."
Every splice reconditioned? Heero's mind faltered over the words. If Duo was an exact match to Kitten, then he was spliced with at least eight animals. He thought back to the raid that found Duo floating in a tank and Gervais' words.
" if I release him now the work that I've done will go to waste. We'll have to start the final step all over again."
The final step. Had they temporarily stopped Gervais in the midst of reconditioning Duo or was he on to something more drastic, more permanent? He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. Duo wasn't the priority here and Murai would no doubt say whatever it took to distract him.
"None of this tells me why you want to kill him. Why you blame him for Brandon's death. The recombinant he took was bought off the internet, not from Gervais."
"That same recombinant that I used on those spineless yuppies is what he and Nellie used. Tell me why Gervais could save your agents but not Brandon? Why was he able to reverse what happened to your agent but not him?"
"I don't know."
"Because it didn't benefit him. Brandon didn't mean anything to him, wouldn't further his research or his career so he let him die. He came into my home and stood over his body watching the light go out of his eyes. After all I did to help him; he didn't even touch him, as if he couldn't be bothered with getting his hands dirty."
"So this is revenge for that night? You're going to kill Gervais because he couldn't help you?"
"Not couldn't, wouldn't."
"Why him? Why not the owner of the site, the one who sent the bad recombinant?"
"Oh," Nellie said while running her bare foot up and down Chase's back, "We've already killed him."
"Those hundreds of people, why them?"
"Because idiots like them started this ridiculous trend. People like them made it acceptable to run from their problems with splicing and Gervais plans to use it to his advantage. I don't want to simply kill him, Heero. I want to destroy everything he stands for."
Heero could see it. Splicing completely outlawed because people were afraid of the consequences, not just from the number of deaths but because of how lethal a weapon a vial of recombinant could be. Destroying splicing's credibility wouldn't be enough, not for Murai at least, he would destroy every shred of good Gervais had managed to create by using the techinique.
"You're going to kill Kitten," Heero said hollowly.
"No," Murai said with frown, "He's innocent in all of this. I even think Duo is innocent. Gervais preyed on him in his time of weakness and used him for his own gain; he didn't ask to be made into an abomination."
"Abomination," he repeated shocked by the depth of Murai`s loathing for splicing, "Is that what you see when you look at Nellie?"
Murai turned, staring up at the girl. "No. She's just as much a victim as the rest. She loved Brandon and he loved her. I don't blame her for Brandon's death. "
He could taste the lie on his tongue, sharp and acrid with a cloying sweetness. Nellie smiled with delight, hugging the man's neck, blind to Murai's hate for her.
"Do you know where Gervais is now?"
"If I knew that Heero, I wouldn't bother with you. When Brandon died, I told him I would kill him. He's hidden himself from me ever since. I'm surprised he stayed with you and the Preventors for so long. Maybe, for a time, he thought you would protect him."
"If he thought that he would have told us about you, given you up to save is own life."
"He plans his every move precisely, nothing is wasted. So what did he need from the Preventors that you helped him gain, Heero?"
Heero shook his head. "You said it yourself. The agents and all the good press it would gain him."
Murai smiled and stood. "You're right. I see why Nellie likes you so much." Nellie stood, preening under Murai's pseudo-compliment of her good taste in men.
"Unfortunately it's time that we depart. I want to know all about this pedestrian, Heero. Are they in Gervais' employ? Was Duo's accident really an accident? We'll barter with Weber's life this time. I don't believe I've hurt him yet. As for Chase " He looked down at the bound man, then Nellie`s eager face, "Kill him."
"No!" Heero cried, running forward to be stopped by Murai's hand. It was like crashing into a brick wall head on. It staggered him long enough for Nellie to get a good grip around Chase's head.
The snap of Chase's neck was deafening in the small room.
"Why? Why?! I gave you what you wanted."
Murai fisted the front of Heero's shirt dragging him close, his warm breath washing over Heero's face as he spoke.
"I can hear them Heero. Your agents, scurrying around like rats above our heads. Did you forget my promise?"
He stared at Murai wide-eyed his plan crashing around his ears and fear finally starting to settle in. He'd underestimated the older man, thinking he could get the jump on him and end things tonight but he'd only made things worse. Now Chase was dead and he'd put Kitten in danger.
"Please, don't hurt Kitten."
"I warned you, Heero."
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