Santa Clarita 3
I don’t own Gundam Wing.
Gypsiewolf_69 was awesome and typed a bunch of this chapter for me, reading my ancient ass handwriting.
Duo stared in the mirror, watching his face come into and out of focus. His head felt like an underwater vid-all wavery and undefined as if the air mixture was off-the life support gone hot and thick. Thoughts fragmented and refracted so he could hear himself lecturing himself about how such a little injury wouldn't have ever bothered him in the wars. Quatre lectured on how he wasn't a boy anymore and how he had responsibilities and he ought not be out getting himself in trouble. Didn't he even care what this was going to do to Heero?
"Shut UP! Q! You weren't there! You don't know. It's not like I killed the fucker!" Duo shouted at a hallucination of Quatre.
Outside the bathroom the new Dr. Sally stared at the door with wide open eyes. The very nice police woman stuck her head into the exam room, her taser already out.
Dr. Sally knocked on the bathroom door, "Duo? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah," he said, voice way less assertive. "Be right out."
< > < >
"You can't keep me here against my will," Hansel said, sounding every bit as tenured professor privileged as he could.
Heero's personal security staff was probably the best humanity could muster. Two security personnel blocked Hansel's exit from the lab. One of them was a burly man with a scar over one eye and an expression that said he'd be happy to wring Hansel's neck, given a little provocation.
"No sir. We got a message from Dr. Maxwell's office-saying you should be detained."
"Just how do you think that's possible? Dr. Maxwell works alone, so don't bother lying to me!"
"We'll have to ask Dr. Maxwell when we find him, now won't we? Maybe you can help us out with that? Last time we have him on surveillance he was coming into your lab, sir."
"Impossible! As you can see he's not here!"
"So what happened here, sir?"
"I don't have to tell you anything. Get out of my way before I call the police! Dr. Yuy doesn't want the police in here!"
"Call 'em. They're not gonna help ya if he gets back and we haven't found Maxwell safe and sound."
“He’s a boy. I am not afraid of a boy,” Hansel snarled.
Cranz arched an eyebrow before reaching out to give Hansel’s shoulder a hard shove, forcing him back into the room. “I don’t give a shit what you’re afraid of or what you’re not. Where is Dr. Maxwell?”
“How the hell should I know?” Hansel snarled, moving deeper into his lab, eyes narrowed dangerously.
The younger officer closed the door behind them, locking it, before he pulled out a small hand held sensor. “The blood is Duo Maxwell’s. It’s been out of body maybe fifteen minutes. There are only the three of us in here.”
“Nope. No brain matter in the air. If his body were in this space, it would still read as alive. He won’t have been dead long enough yet.”
Hansel’s face went pale, his eyes locked with Cranz’. Cranz had been Oz during the war and had come to admire Heero. After the wars he’d come to be head of security, answering directly to Heero, and both Heero and Duo felt like his own boys to him. Part of that was that he’d lost his son during the war and part of it was just the way human beings relate to each other. “I was an OZ colonel and I’m fucking terrified of Heero Yuy when he’s my enemy. You mighta been a little tied up in your work, so maybe you don’t know this, but this compound is considered a sovereign state, just like the Vatican, subject to its own laws and penalties. I can do anything I want to you and the only person I have to answer to is Heero Yuy. Duo Maxwell’s blood is all over your lab. He’s nowhere to be found. Doc, you ought to be downright terrified of me, even if you’re not scared of Heero. If we don’t have Duo secure and safe by the time he gets back, it’s gonna take all the stones I’ve got to face that boy. Now where is Duo Maxwell?”
“He’s a spoiled, entitled little shit and he’s probably just waiting for me to suffer before he comes back.”
Cranz’ jaw twitched. “If he wanted you to suffer, and he had the ability to be here, he’d be here. Heero won’t hurt you more than he needs to. Duo... I’ve seen him hurt Alliance soldiers for fun. He’s gotten a lot more peaceful since the wars. He had some anger issues back in the day. Just tell me what happened here, uh? Did Duo attack you?” Cranz asked, making sure his tone offered enough hope of sympathy to get the guy talking.
Blue eyes hardened as he looked around the damaged lab. Echoes of his past, of unwilling days in labs, of war and blood. It had been a long time since he had wanted to commit murder. "Violet gather all data about this lab and the work done here. Go through Duo's communications. Talk to his dogs. Find out which one can get into Duo's mail to send out that mail and send it to me."
Violet, a disembodied voice that had taken on some of Duo's speech patterns, but still sounded very female, said, "Duo prefers personal pronouns for his research partners. They are all male."
"Hn." Heero said, sinking to one knee as he examined the underside of Hansel’s control panel. “Have my primary tool deck brought over.”
“Commander Cranz would like to know if you would like the suspect made available in the interrogation room.”
"No. Copy Trowa with all related information." Heero looked up from under the consol. Where his eyes rested, a ball of glowing violet energy appeared. "At a comfortable level, play Hell's Bells, repeat until I modify. All changes locked to me.”
Trowa didn’t actually work, not officially, at Heero’s center. His badge swiped him in, nonetheless. Duo had been missing for five days. Someone had leaked it to the media. Relena was working damage control, soothing the powers of the world that Duo Maxwell was neither starting another war or actually dead. Sweeper ships were clustering around Earth like a swarm of angry wasps. Various governmental forces were arranging against them, with the Preventers in the middle a harried teacher at a seethingly violent Lord of the Flies party. That Heero hadn’t responded to any inquiries wasn’t helping and even though Trowa new better, he could taste war in the air.
The first thing he did was check on their suspect, then order a strong sedative and a blanket. He covered up the screen Heero had installed, playing out the news. He couldn’t get the music off, but he wasn’t really that motivated. There wasn’t any real kindness in his actions. He wanted there to be some mental capacity left in the man when he got his turn to express his feelings to him.
Having read much of Duo’s research, all of Hansel’s work, following along with Heero’s adjustments to the system, none of that fully prepared him for the scene in Hansel’s laboratory.
Heero was waist deep in the floor, working on some part of the project that supported the larger arch. That he was naked from at least the waist up, with various burn marks on his back and shoulders, that, well, that Trowa could process.
It was the dogs that didn’t make any sense. Two of them were curled up on a pillow, watching. The biggest one, who looked way too much like a hellhound for Trowa’s tastes, actually picked up a spanner and handed to Heero when asked for that specific one. Okay. Trowa could deal with that one too.
The motley colored terrier sitting in front of a small robot shaped like hands, hands which were typing on Heero’s laptop, that was a little hard to process. Yes, Duo had been working on expanding the neocortex of dogs, and to be fair, Duo’s papers were technical and boring, but Trowa had read them, and only now, seeing the results, did he begin to understand exactly what that braided idiot had been up to. A hand over his mouth, he just stood there, watching Heero stand back to let the big one see what they were, evidently, working on together. A brown ball of light appeared over the dog’s head and in a dainty and feminine voice, the dog said, “It looks like crap, but you’re right. The readings seem like it will hold.”
One of the littler ones barked and then all eyes were on Trowa. “Heero, you’re seriously going to get this thing going again? After what happened with Duo?”
The one that had barked followed it up with a growl.
“Trowa.” Heero greeted him, boosting himself up out of the floor. “These are Duo’s research partners. Alfred,” he said, pointing to the one typing. “Twinkles.” The big one with the girl’s voice lowered its head in a bow. “Sacha and Boxer.” The one that had growled before gave him another growl. “And Voltaire.”
The one with the typing robot eyed Trowa for a moment. Its smile showed way too much teeth for Trowa’s taste. Its speech sphere was a shimmery white. Its a sweet mellow voice with a decided French accent. “I have longed to meet with you, Mr. Barton. Master Duo has always spoken highly of you. You look very distressed. I assure you we are doing all within our power to recover him.”
Trowa looked very firmly at Heero, wanting him to explain away what Duo had done to these dogs, that they were AI in little fur flesh suits or something.
Sacha’s speech sphere was smoother, still made of energy and appearing only when he was speaking, but it appeared a smooth red plastic and covered in spikes. “He’s an idiot. He has nothing useful to contribute. Go talk to Spike. Poets and humanitarians should sit quiety and leave the work to those with ability.”
Trowa’s face went long, green eyes wide as if it were the first time he’d genuinely been gobsmacked by surprise deep enough to undo his pre-planned options.
Heero burst out laughing. Dog laughter is decidedly not comforting to hear, well, except for Voltaire, whose laughter sounded human from his sphere, and a genteel cultured human laugh at that.
On his feet now, looking up at Trowa, though Trowa wasn’t sure exactly when the little dachshund had crossed the room, Sacha curled his lip back, pulsed the red spikes and asked, “You ARE aware that humans and dogs co-evolved? It took relatively little augmentation to enable us to function at this level. I’m sure if you asked the wizard, he might give you a brain too.”
The look in Trowa’s eyes suggested that kicking a dog across the room carried a significantly lower penalty than murdering human beings, and he’d already done quite a bit of that.
Boxer, who had ears like a butterfly and enough hair to rival even Dorothy, sat right down on Trowa’s feet, his speech sphere extending to a torus all the way around Trowa’s legs. “Please forgive my ill spoken husband. Duo started with him first, when he was very young, and he is emotionally compromised by what has happened here. You will forgive him, won’t you, please?”
“Shut up, Boxie,” Sacha growled, storming off to their pillow.
Trowa’s mind, over taxed by all the recent events and the scope and intensity of Duo’s work, his mind snapped for a moment and he imagined getting at least one of his lions augmented and then his mind went to places that no one would ever find out even if they copied his entire neocortex. “Yes, of course. I hope you’ll forgive me. I had never considered myself a speciest, but flaws are best discovered and cured than unknown.”
“Here, here,” Voltaire said.
“Heero?” Trowa said, letting the dogs go for the present. “Why are you repairing this equipment?”
The last thing he wanted was for one of his dear friends to follow another into death. It was obvious to both of them that if Duo had survived the time shift, he’d have been back by now.
“Why are you here,” Heero asked.
“To talk you out of what you’re obviously set on doing.”
“Would you like me to explain the proper procedure to gain access again,” Shelby asked, with as little irritation as could be managed.
Heero’s center didn’t have much for a reception area. It didn’t accept visitors. So a single ‘receptionist’ in a black suit over body armor served in an area the size of a dentist’s waiting room and no visible doors except for the one to the street.
Relena Peacecraft’s presence made the room uncomfortably small. Dressed in a tailored pale blue suit, her blonde hair pulled elegantly into an up do, she was her own kind of viper danger, wrapped in lace and will. By herself, she felt not the slightest guilt about leaving her security detail at the shuttle port. She smiled, charming and beautiful, a perfect princess as she opened her slightly sparkly matching hand clutch purse. “I’m sure I have some identification,” she said, just a tiny bit too much inept confusion in her voice. “Heero will want to see me, I promise. The sake of the world is on the line!”
“Ms. Peacecraft,” he said, grinding his teeth for a moment, searching for his words.
She held up a spray bottle of swishy pink princess supplies and sprayed him in the face. He blinked a couple times, a look of confused bliss twisting his mouth as he started to say... something, even as coherent thought fled him, slackening his face and body. She gave him one more spray as he dropped to the ground.
Lips tight, eyebrows lifted, a look of satisfaction on her face, she put the ‘perfume’ back in her clutch, before reaching down to take his badge. “Prejudice will get you in trouble,” she told the unconscious man. She hadn’t had access to all the education and resources the world could offer to become and ineffective player. A moment later she stepped through into the most secure lab in the world. She made it two and a half steps before being surrounded by security androids. Holding up both hands she said, “I am Relena Peacecraft. The best course of action is to take me to Heero Yuy.”
The display screen that served for a face for the lead android took on Duo’s face, laughing, eyes twinkling. “Oh ‘Lena! You make sure to tell Heero that I win that bet. Hot damn! It’s gonna be a good day. Don’t piss him off, ‘Lena. I gotta live with’em, ya know.”
Relena's heart nearly stopped. "Maxwell!"
"Sorry," he said, not looking sorry at all, "just a recording, Queenie. You do know I'm fucking Heero, right?"
Irritation flared, then ebbed. A recording-It was just a recording-a ten year old recording made by a younger and more fragile Duo.
Missing an acidic and aggressive Duo was the last thing Relena had ever expected to feel. That longing gave her a warm tenderness for her one time rival.
"Take me to Heero. And send someone to help the man in reception."
Still surrounded by androids, she was escorted to Hansel's lab.
More of the floor was ripped up and a power train from a Gundam was being integrated into the system to convert power and smooth out the system.
Trowa was nearly upside down, leaning over the hugely out of place piece of probably illegal anywhere else on Earth. Heero was half in the floor, arms raised over his head, sweat running down his bare back.
"What in good grace are you doing? Are those power cables?"
"Yes," Trowa said. Sparks flared, landing in Trowa's hair, sizzling on Heero's shoulders. When neither of them moved to knock the embers off, Relena rushed over and smothered the smoldering in Trowa's hair. Neither of them looked up from what they were doing. It took another twenty minutes for them to finish installing the coupling.
Wiping his hands after the coupling was securely attached, he looked up at her.
There were dark circles under his eyes and it took him half a moment to recognize her. "Why are you here?"
Relena stared down her nose at him. She had long come to understand that if she wanted to have the semblance of conversation with the Maxwell-Yuy household-she needed to be talking to Maxwell. If you wanted something out of Yuy-you needed to sound like Maxwell.
"Where the Fucking Hell is Duo?"
Heero arched an eyebrow. "I believe he was shot and passed through a time portal."
"I think he's dead." Trowa said without pausing in his next task.
"We're getting him back." Heero said firmly.
"How can I help?" She asked as she slipped out of her jacket.