see Ch. 1 for warning, notes, disclaimer
Preventors' Case #84309: Splicers + Chapter Twenty-Nine
J taught him to see corpses as things not people but it was Chase who explained
"You can't put a face and name to every body you see. Sometimes, kid, sometimes they've just got to be a thing; a piece of evidence that leads you closer to solving the crime or you'll get too caught up in feeling sympathy. You start thinking that poor girl or that poor man and you never get anything done. Feeling sorry for them doesn't catch the bastard that killed them."
It was easy to take the words to heart when the body before him wasn't someone he knew personally; when it wasn't someone he cared about. He'd failed Chase and endangered Kitten's well-being for nothing. He was no closer to stopping Murai than he was an hour ago. The plan was to plant the device on Murai and follow the signal back to Kitten with Wu Fei at the lead of an improvised Hostage Rescue Team. He should have known that it wouldn't be so easy.
He was sitting before Chase's body when the agents stormed the room with Wu Fei at the head. They moved around him and Chase as if they didn't exist clearing the room before asking questions.
"Yuy, where is he?" Wu Fei called, lifting the shield on his helmet. The four other agents followed his lead, lowering their rifles.
Heero shook his head. "If we pursue he'll hurt Kitten and kill someone else."
"He'll kill someone else regardless of what we do," Weber said, coming up beside Heero. "You okay, Boss?"
He hugged his knees, shaking his head.
"What happened here?" Wu Fei moved beside Chase's corpse.
"He heard you coming and he killed Chase to punish me. It's my fault he's dead and Kitten " he trailed off unable to think about what Murai could be doing to Kitten. "I should have said no."
"This is what he wants Heero. You can't doubt yourself and you can't be afraid to confront him. If you do, this will never end."
"What will I say to Chase's family? I thought I was doing the right thing?"
"Yes, because it's all you could have done. Even if we didn't come, do you really think he would have let Chase live, knowing what he does about them?"
"Then don't give up this fight. We need to stop him."
"What's his next demand?" Weber asked.
Heero rested his chin against his folded arms staring at Chase's body. He couldn't make any more mistakes and he couldn't risk Kitten anymore than he had already.
"I'm going alone." He rose from the floor determined. He would go alone to meet Priscel and go alone to meet Murai. He had until noon tomorrow, so there was no time to waste with planning and discussion.
"Don't be foolish, Heero."
"I'm not. I won't risk Weber or anyone else."
"What about me?"
"Murai is going to target you next."
"Well that sucks."
"He isn't going to get anywhere near you." Wu Fei said with conviction.
"That's what he wants. You guys all focused on protecting me while he scopes out someone else. I'm not afraid of him and I don't want you going after him without backup, Boss."
Heero lowered his head, touching the tips of his fingers to his face. He knew where this was going. Murai wouldn't be caught, not until the end, not until Gervais was dead. He knew along the way there would be things he would have to do to meet Murai's demands, things he didn't want the others around to see. It would better for them all if they could truthfully deny being a part of the crimes he might commit. No. He would go alone and he would save Kitten.
I'm doing the right thing, he thought, willing himself to believe it. Leaving Wu Fei and his team to take care of Chase's body while he looked for Priscel was for the best. He wasn't sure of what he might find when he approached her. It took over an hour to find any concrete information on the girl. The accident report and hospital admittance forms from four years ago were all missing. Gervais and Hilde almost succeeded in covering their tracks. Almost, he thought. Neither of them were as good as he was and they left at least one glaring piece of information on the records; the missing persons report filed by Priscel Knightly's parents. There was no way to completely cover up a thirteen-year-old girl being hit by a motorcycle and kidnapped from a hospital.
The girl was only seventeen now, in high school and living with her parents. It was his hope that at nine at night the family would be at home settling down for bed. He stood across the street surveying the two-story townhouse. The exterior lights lit the front of the house and the empty driveway. The house looked empty from a distance but he could see two figures moving past an upstairs window. He waited a few moments for a light to come on and when none did, he moved towards the house.
He was within six feet of the door when the smell hit him. Warm cinnamon, clovers and the smallest drop of honey that filled his body with heat and a rush of anger. He pushed through the open front door, ghosting up the stairs to the second landing. He drew his gun as he followed the unmistakable scent, pausing just outside an open bedroom door listening.
"Where are we going?"
"I don't understand. Who would want to come after me?"
"All i know is that G wants me to keep you safe, so we need to move."
He'd heard enough, He peeled away from the wall, stepping into the room in the same movement taking aim. It took less than a second to assess the situation. The room was small and pink, decorated with posters of dancers and famous ballets. The queen-sized bed was center stage with Priscel and Duo standing to the right, shoving clothes into a small duffel. The girl was dressed in all white, from the leotard, tights, slippers and long flowing tutu. Her face was decorated with glitter and sequins and her hair done up in complicated knots with white feathers. Duo was keeping her from a performance to further Gervais' plans.
"That's enough, Duo."
Duo reacted, shoving the girl behind him. "I'm not going to let you hurt her."
"I'm not here to hurt her, Duo, and I'm not going to let you kidnap her."
"Like I believe that. You always break into random girl's houses in the middle of the night?"
His aim faltered. "Duo, if this is a joke, it's not funny."
"I don't joke with people I don't know."
It must be the splicing, he thought, though at the same time he reminded himself that Hilde and his entire team were able to recognize him.
"Duo, it's me, Heero."
"I don't know anyone named Heero." It was a slap to the face and a confirmation of so much. Gervais was indeed controlling Duo, robbing him of his memories and sending him out to do his dirty work. He took a step forward. Was this Gervais' reconditioning?
"Now you can either turn around and leave or I can break both of your arms."
"Duo, listen to me."
"Saying my name over and over isn't going to make me know you, pal. Priss?"
The girl came to attention behind him. "Yeah?"
"Get ready to run."
She snatched the duffel off the bed, holding it under one arm as she moved to the side of Duo.
"Priscel Knightly, my name is Heero Yuy." He kept his gun trained on the floor as he pulled his badge from his back pocket, glad that Wu Fei convinced him to take it with him. "I'm a commander with the Preventors. I'm not here to hurt you. I just want to talk to you."
"We're done talking." It was the only warning Heero had before Duo came charging at him. Gervais' splicing gave Duo both speed and strength as Heero had no time to brace himself for impact. Duo took him hard around the middle knocking the wind out of him and landing him flat on back with Duo's solid weight pinning him.
He bucked underneath Duo reversing their positions long enough to land a solid blow to Duo's face. The urge to keep punching, to beat Duo until he submitted to him was strong but he didn't have the luxury to take his anger out on the other man. He hit him a second time hoping to stun him long enough to catch Priscel. He scrambled off Duo to find that she'd yet to move, rooted in place by the sudden violence. She flinched when he touched her, as if waking from a dream.
"Listen to me. The man who sent him has brainwashed him and if you go with him, he's going to do-"
He was ripped away from the girl and punched square in the face three times before Duo let him fall. White spots blinded his vision and his head pounded in pain but he forced himself up. He shook his head, blinking to clear his vision. He grabbed for the closest body and the girl shrieked loudly in his ear.
Duo growled. "Let her go."
He pushed the girl behind him backing away from Duo. "Stop fighting me," he snarled. "I'm trying to save you both."
"Save us?" Duo laughed. "From what?"
"You've got to be kidding me. I don't know who you are or what your deal is, but you've got three seconds to let her go or I start playing for keeps."
"He's been brainwashing you Duo. Using you."
"No one is using me."
The girl`s hands clutched at the back of his shirt. "Are you really Heero?"
"Yes," he answered never taking his eyes off the advancing Duo. He knew first hand what Duo was capable of.
"You know this guy, Priss?"
"No, but .you told me about him."
"When we were in the hospital, you told me about a guy named Heero. You said he'd jump off anything and he had to be a robot because nobody sets their own leg without flinching."
He could see Duo falter. "I did?"
"Yes, you told me stories about him all the time and about your other friends, too. You really don't know him?"
"Did someone put you up to this Priss?"
"No," she cried.
"What about Quatre, Trowa, or Wu Fei? Do you know them?" Heero asked.
"And your son, Rhys?"
"Now you're making shit up. I don't have a kid. I'd know if I had a kid."
Heero dug into his pockets again this time pulling out a rumpled and worn photo. It was a copy of the intake photo of Kitten from the hospital after the Auction raid. It was the only photo Heero had of Kitten and he hoped it was enough to convince Duo of the truth.
"This is him. His name is Rhys Dilandau Maxwell, but he goes by Kitten. You told me you named him Rhys because Cromm Cruach would give him a complex."
Duo gingerly took the photo, staring at it with a mixture of awe and confusion. "It's the human name of a death deity from a series I read." He looked to Priss. "You let me borrow the book you had with you."
She moved from behind Heero to Duo's side looking down at the photo. "He looks just like you."
"Duo, I'm going to take Priscel to the Preventors headquarters where she'll be protected and kept safe. You need to come with me."
"No. I need to go back to G. He'll he'll explain it to me. I must have hit my head or something. That's why I can't remember."
"Duo, don't go back there. What if Heero's right and Doctor Gervais is messing with your head?"
"He wouldn't do that. He doesn't do that. He helps people like he helped you."
"Why didn't he tell you about your son? Why didn't he remind you?"
"Maybe he doesn't know about him?"
"He knows Duo. He " Heero paused trying to find the right phrase for such a situation. "He helped bring Kitten into this world."
"I must have told him not to tell me."
"Why are you defending him? He's lying to you! Hiding things from you!" Priscel yelled as if she were channeling Heero.
"I don't know that. I don't know if this guy is for real, if you haven't been tricked or coerced into lying to me. Maybe this is exactly why G sent me to find you."
"Or so he could cover his tracks. Duo, the Preventors are good guys. They wouldn't lie to us. We can call. Right, Heero? And they'll tell us that you're really an agent?"
"Yes." Taylor was on standby for such a call.
"No. I want to talk to G myself."
"Do you know where he is Duo? Where is his lab?"
"It's " he turned gesturing towards the window with a blank expression. He blinked a few times before turning back. "I don't know. I'm supposed to get Priss and take her back with me but I don't know the way."
Heero watched a dozen emotions and questions chase across Duo's face.
"I need to go."
"Wait," he called grabbed Duo's jacket. He used a trick Duo himself taught him, using sleight of hand to reactivate his transmitter and press it into Duo's pocket. "Where are you planning to go?"
Duo shook his head. "Take her with you. Keep her safe, okay? I gotta find out what's going on."
Heero watched him walk away wanting nothing more than to grab him and drag him back to HQ where he could keep him safe from Gervais. The urge was overwhelming in fact, he found himself moving after Duo, but thoughts of Kitten stopped him. If he didn't find Gervais, he couldn't save Kitten.
"Duo, please, don't go," Priscel begged.
Duo turned back. "Where is he? My kid?"
Heero didn't answer right away. Telling Duo the truth could make his plan at catching Gervais tonight a bust but
"If you're telling the truth, don't start lying to me now."
"He was kidnapped by a man named Murai. Gervais knows him and he's the key to catching him and bringing Kitten home safely."
"Preventors HQ, right? That's where you'll be?"
"Good. I'm going to get G. I'll see you there."
"I'm sorry to call you in so late at night," Heero said to Doctor Walker as she entered his office. Yates made sure to reassure him a dozen or so times that it was still in fact his office, that he was a commander with a team of his own and that he had the full backing of the Preventors and its resources at his disposal. While a small part of him appreciated Yates efforts, a larger part still stung from the betrayal. Trust would be hard to come by for a while.
"It's no problem at all, Commander. You said you wanted me to sit in on an interview?"
"Yes." He rose from behind his desk leading Dr. Walker out of his office. Priscel was waiting in one of the many interrogations room. He was tempted to start the interview long before Walker arrived but he couldn't be sure if what he learned from the girl was truth or lies planted by Gervais. He was still reeling from his encounter with Duo and while he waited for Walker, he spent the time following Duo's transmitter. So far, the other man seemed to be walking the streets of L1 with no certain destination in sight. It was his hope that Gervais would make a move soon.
"I have a witness to Duo's accident leading up to his meeting Gervais and possibly the first few weeks of their partnership." He stopped in the middle of the hall and Walker paused beside him. "Duo was there when I went looking for her. I think Gervais sent Duo to recover her and possibly erase her memories of that time."
"Why do you believe that?"
"Duo had no idea who I was, or his son Kitten, or even where Gervais was. He only knew his instructions to bring Priscel back with him."
"Where is Duo now?"
"Wandering the streets for Gervais."
`Is that wise?"
"I'm hoping to track Gervais through Duo."
"For now I'm hoping to get a better understanding of what happened."
"And you would like me to observe her behavior to gauge if she shares some of the same characteristics as Duo did during my interview with him?"
"Yes, and if possible tell me if she's lying or holding back."
"That isn't one of my specialties but I'll do all that I can."
They continued down the hall to the open doorway where Gemmell and Priscel were talking animatedly about the girl's ballet performance. Gemmell was once again out of full uniform wearing just the army green button-down, navy tie and slacks. She leaned against the wall opposite Priscel smiling with ease.
"We were just to the part where I kiss the prince when Duo showed up."
"I bet he was cute too."
"Yes," Priscel wailed. "I was so looking forward to it."
"Maybe we can get you a do-over. We can call your school and say the Preventors want to see your ballet."
"That would be great."
"Priscel," Heero said interrupting the two before Gemmell made her any more promises. "This is Dr. Rose Walker. I asked her to sit in while we talk. Agent Gemmell will also stay as a witness."
It was unnecessary to keep Gemmell in the room but he noticed Priscel's hesitant eyes flicks. She was afraid of him or at least his appearance.
They moved to sit across from the girl. Her side of the table was littered with sequins and glitter that she peeled from her face while waiting for Heero's return. The silver decorations brought out her bright blue eyes and pale skin making her look ethereal under the fluorescent lighting.
"I want to reassure you that you are not in any trouble and you're not in any danger. I just want us to talk about what happened four years ago."
"Do you have any questions?"
"Then start with the accident."
"Okay. Well, um, I was on my way home from ballet practice. I remember taking the crosswalk. It was me and a few other people. All of a sudden I heard screaming and I remember hurting and the next thing I knew I was in the hospital."
"Do you know what hurt you?"
She lowered her head. "I know it was Duo. He told me himself when I woke up. He was sitting by my bed. I remember he so bloody and his arm didn't look right. He wouldn't let the doctors near him, he kept telling them not to help him until they fixed me. He even punched a nurse in the face who tried to sedate him."
So far, her story was consistent with everything Hilde told him about the accident, but he was hoping for more. She knew something more than Hilde did if Gervais was willing to risk Duo to capture her.
"Tell me about your leg."
She hesitated, picking at the sequins on her face. "The doctors tried to save it but they said the damage was too severe. I think I cried for a whole hour."
"Because you wouldn't be able to dance?" Walker asked.
"Yeah. I know they have prosthetic legs, I mean I knew it then but it just didn't click. I couldn't dance if I didn't have my legs, you know?"
"Is that where Gervais came in?"
"Yeah. He talked to Duo. I saw them outside my door, and then Duo came to talk to me. He said that Gervais had a way to fix everything and he wanted me to give it a shot. He said he'd go with me and make sure nothing bad happened."
"And you agreed."
"How did they get you out of the hospital?"
"They wheeled my bed into an ambulance and drove off."
"You didn't tell your parents?"
"No. I knew they wouldn't understand and Gervais said that we needed to move quickly. He was persistent about it; like he had a deadline to keep and he didn't want either of us to talk to anyone about it."
"Tell me what happened when you got to the lab."
"Gervais started giving me injections. He said it was different reptile DNA to make my leg grow back."
"Did he explain the process to you at all?"
"Not really. I don't think he wanted to waste time explaining the details to a thirteen year old girl, but Duo asked a million questions."
"So Duo stayed close to you?"
"Right next to me. He never left my side. Not for a second. I don't think he even slept."
"Why did he stay so close to you? Were you afraid of Gervais?"
She peeled another sequin away, pinching it between her teeth. "A little. I didn't like how he touched me."
"He touched you?"
"Not like that! He never even looked at me like that. It's just, it was like I wasn't a real person. I was a thing, his experiment and he'd touch my leg like it was a prize, like he'd won a new car. Me and Duo were creeped out by it but what he was doing was working."
"Did he ever put you into a tank?"
"Ugh, yes, I hated that thing. It sucked going in and coming out but Duo was there and listening to his stories made it bearable."
"Duo talked to you while you were inside the tank?"
"Yes. He told me a lot about you. Did you really blow yourself?"
"You really are indestructible."
He ignored Lucy's chuckle and pushed on. "How long did it take for your leg to grow back?"
"About a month and a half? I'm not really sure. We never went outside and there was no TV or calendar."
"Once you were healed, what happened next?"
"I did some therapy to get used to my new leg. It didn't take very long, after a few days it felt like I'd never lost it. I could walk, run and pirouette"
She frowned, fidgeting in her seat. "He got sick. He wouldn't let Gervais treat him until I was okay. He was falling apart, literally."
"What do you mean literally?"
"His arm just fell off one day. It was turning all black and green. I begged him to let Gervais help him but he said it was his fault I was hurt and he'd suffer until I was whole again."
"And after you were?"
"Gervais put him in a tank and sent me home."
"Just like that?"
"Yeah. I think he couldn't wait to get rid of me. I shouldn't have left. I should have stayed with Duo like he stayed with me."
"Priscel, what's happened to Duo since you left was not your fault. From the sound of it, Duo would have done what it took to see you safe at home."
"Yeah but he doesn't even remember his best friend or his own son."
"But he's alive and that's more important than anything else."
"Before tonight, did you see Duo after you left?"
"No. I was happy to see that he was okay. I worried about him."
"Was there anything else going on while you were in Gervais' care? Was he working on any experiments that you know of? Did you see anyone else in his lab?"
"He had a few assistants and every now and again business men would come by."
"Well I don't know if they were business men but they were wearing suits and they were rich. I know one of them; I mean I've seen him on TV a lot."
"Quatre Winner." The shock and surprise didn't register. He was past feeling such emotions when it came to the secrets his `friends' kept from him. Deep down he knew Quatre was involved with Gervais. That level of anger and resentment was too sudden and forceful for a man he claimed to have never met.
"Are you sure it was him?"
"Yeah, everyone knows his face."
"Was Duo there when you met him?"
"No. That was one of the only times I was ever away from Duo." That reassured him somewhat, that Quatre had no part in Gervais' schemes to use Duo.
"What did Quatre have to say?"
"He was impressed with what Gervais was doing and agreed to help fund him."
"And the other men did they say the same?"
"Do you think you could remember the others if you saw pictures of them?"
"I think so."
"That's good. I want you to stay here in HQ until we have everything sorted out."
He rose from his seat with Walker following suit.
"You're going to help Duo right? And get his son back?"
"Finding Duo's son is our main priority and I plan to get Duo--" He stopped at the sound of Gemmell's phone ringing. All eyes turned to the blushing red head as she dug into her pocket.
"Sorry, sorry. Hello?"
Her eyes widened. "Heero, it's-"
She didn't answer and he knew without a doubt something was wrong. The feeling was like a hand squeezing on his chest waiting to crush him. The muffled voice on the other end sounding like a death knell.
He watched her face smooth over and the light go out of her eyes. Her shoulders slumped, her body going lax and passive.
She snapped the phone shut, tucking it into her coat pocket with slow deliberate movements. Heero called to her again and she raised unfocused green eyes, pulled her sidearm and fired.
[ ch. 28 ] [ ch. 30 ] [ back to Singles a-k ]