9-19-2003

"Domino" Episode 4

A Gundam Wing AU by Anne and Raletha

Feedback:

Anne: anneo @ paradise.net.nz

Raletha: geekpuella @ yahoo.com

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to Bandai, Sunrise and Sotsu Agency. We are not making any money from this, though we do admit to having fun and losing a lot of sleep.

Summary: While meeting for dinner, Quatre and Relena's different attitudes regarding pacifism lead to a disagreement fueled by their individual concern over the fate of the Gundam pilots. Trowa, enroute to Kenya in the custody of Lt Zechs Merquise, battles the effects of his injuries, and Heero and Wufei receive new orders.

Rating: PG-13

Pairings: Eventual 3x4x3, 1x2x1.

Warnings: action, violence, language, angst

Archive: http://www.angelfire.com/gundam/serendipity/domino/index.html

Notes: Just a reminder, the premise of this canon based AU is answering the question, "What if Quatre had made a different decision and not become Sandrock's pilot?"

************

Opening Credits

"Got you!" Duo appears from behind a pile of cardboard packing boxes. He is struggling to maintain his grip on something large and furry.

Rummaging through the box on the floor by his feet, Quatre throws Duo a carrot. "Here, this might help."

"Thanks," Duo lowers the rabbit into its pen and then wipes his hands down his trousers. "That carrot's all sticky."

"It's the lemon juice," Quatre smirks, "from Sakura's care parcel." He indicates the envelopes on the table. "You're supposed to be helping with these, remember?"

"And you're supposed to be helping with the unpacking," Trowa cuts in from the other side of the room. "We promised to have all these books sorted before they got back."

"All of them?" Heero raises an eyebrow.

"Hmm?" Wufei glances up from the book he is reading. "Maybe if you got your nose out of those computer books."

"So says the guy who's spent the last hour quoting passages from Middle English texts," Duo laughs. "How did Rel manage to escape?"

"She offered to help them redesign this room - the episodes are now going to be shorter and posted at six weekly intervals." Quatre frowns. "I hope the readers understand why there's been such a long time since the last one."

"I'm sure they will," Trowa walks over to give his lover a hug. "After all an international shift is a big thing and both Anne and Raletha have been really busy with Real Life lately."

The door to the Domino green room opens and Raletha, Anne and Relena enter, shaking water off their coats. "Nearly finished, boys?" Raletha asks.

"We need to have those thank you notes ready to send out with the new episode," Anne reminds them.

"I've done mine," Quatre clears his throat, "and I've done Duo's as well."

"Duo!" Raletha chastises. "After all we've done to.er. for you lately."

"But I didn't get any point of view in this episode!" Duo pouts. "And neither did Cat."

"We'll make it up to you in the next one," Anne promises. She takes the pile of cards from Quatre and reads aloud. "Lady Bast, Ruth, Sakura and Lorena .Thanks for your help and beta reading comments for this episode."

Enjoy the episode!

************

~previously~

An open-topped military jeep was approaching and the OZ soldier jerked Trowa to a stop. Trowa sensed the man holding him snap to attention - despite his hands being occupied - as the jeep came to a rapid stop. Two other OZ soldiers clambered out quickly to help restrain Trowa. One pulled a pair of heavy handcuffs out and pulled Trowa's arms together in front of the boy to clamp them on. Through this Trowa remained relaxed and unthreatening while he observed the third passenger of the jeep who exited the vehicle more slowly.

/Lieutenant Zechs Merquise./ The tall man wore the bright red jacket, sword, and high boots of a senior OZ officer. A peculiar masked helmet covered most of his face revealing only a fine, set jaw and long blond hair. /He's not the typical OZ officer,/ Trowa noted. /I bet his story is an interesting one./ Lieutenant Merquise carried himself with an air of aristocratic dignity and authority that was consistent with what Trowa knew of the hierarchy and history of the OZ organisation; the respect afforded him by the other three officers was palpable, and yet, something about this Lieutenant was too aloof and distant - more so than Trowa would have expected for a successful leader.

It was difficult to tell where the Lieutenant's attention was fixed, but Trowa didn't think it was on him. Rather the man seemed to be looking past him, perhaps watching the recovery efforts of the Aries suits. Trowa waited patiently. Presently, Lieutenant Merquise turned to face Trowa directly. A few long strides brought the man to stand only a few feet in front of him, and Trowa found himself subjected to a silent, enigmatic evaluation under the man's masked regard.

Thin lips quirked into a phantom smile before the Lieutenant spoke with the chill courtesy of nobility, "I believe we shall have much to discuss, Gundam pilot."

***********

The human race has ventured out from the Earth, seeking to build a future in the space colonies. But under the banner of justice and peace, the United Earth Sphere Alliance has seized control of these colonies, using its superior military power.

It is the year After Colony 195.

However, a few colonists rebel against this oppression and send new weapons to the Earth, disguised as shooting stars. But the Alliance has discovered the existence of Operation Meteor.

************

EPISODE FOUR - DAWN AT VICTORIA - Part One

************

Dinner with Quatre got off to a rocky start. The Winner heir ended up being a good fifteen minutes late, leaving Relena fidgeting irritably in the restaurant's foyer, completely immune to the charms of the handsome young bartender who plied her darkening mood with Shirley Temples. But when Quatre arrived, breezing in with his bright smile and an apology - which took the form of a bouquet of flowers and a kiss on the cheek - her annoyance vanished and she was once again pleased they had decided to meet this way.

Though they had both been chagrined by the attention of the press at first, they soon realised that it did give them the opportunity to meet frequently to discuss more sensitive issues. Quatre had already expressed grave concern about them being linked to the two escaped Gundam pilots, so they had adopted the facade of romantic involvement to divert unwanted attention.

It was a fun ruse, Relena decided. Quatre was a perfect gentleman: urbane, handsome, and solicitous - certainly a far more interesting dinner companion than any of the boys who flirted with her at school. Braving her so-called girlfriends on Monday would be a different story, but for now, she smiled graciously at her companion as they were shown to a table by the window, and thanked the /maitre'd/ when he pulled out her chair to seat her.

"You look lovely this evening," Quatre said once they'd been left in privacy.

"Oh!" she said, her face heating as she glanced self-consciously at the pale yellow dress she'd chosen for the evening. Her mother had deemed it too short and revealing, but had allowed her to wear the slip dress on the proviso that Relena also wear her crocheted cardigan - so as not to leave her arms inappropriately bare during dinner. "Thank you. You look very nice too," she smiled. He wore a three-button suit in a rich steel blue over a pale grey shirt and an abstractly patterned tie of violet, navy, and cream.

"Thank /you,/" his smile broadened. "This place was a good suggestion, Relena. It's very nice." She followed his gaze as it traveled the candlelit room. Only a few other tables were taken, and the murmur of conversation was barely audible, muffled by the tables draped heavily in linen, the velvet upholstery; and obscured gently by the soft strains of violin music.

"It's one of my favourite places," she said, recalling the lunch she had shared wither her mother before her trip to the Colonies. "Although the view is better during the day. The gardens, this time of year, are beautiful."

"I can imagine they are," Quatre replied before their initial small talk fell into silence.

"Um, so," Relena began, unfolding her linen napkin to smooth it across her lap, "it must be wonderful coming from a family with such noble ideals."

Quatre continued to smile, but it wasn't an entirely easy smile now. "It's... interesting," he said in a bland tone, a tone which roused Relena's curiosity.

"Interesting?" she echoed, before speaking brightly, "I think it's wonderful how you've managed to hold on to the ideals of Pacifism in the colonies, despite the hardships. I wish there were more people like that here, on Earth."

"There have been, but I suspect they're all dead now - either in spirit or actuality."

"What do you mean?"

"Pacifism doesn't tend to foster survival." Quatre spoke the words in a weary tone - as if he'd said them many times before, but their full significance eluded her.

"I don't understand." She frowned, confused by Quatre's sudden seeming cynicism. "Your family is one of the most noted supporters of Total Pacifism in the colonies."

"I know," Quatre glanced down, fingering the stem of his water glass as he tilted it this way and that. "But we don't all feel exactly the same way."

"You don't believe in peace?"

"Oh, I believe in peace. What I don't believe in is rolling over for the enemy." Bitterness had entered his voice.

Taken aback, Relena sat silently as the waiter served their salads, stammering her thanks as he left. She turned once again to Quatre. "That's not what Pacifism is about," she told him, but she wasn't that sure of her words.

"Oh? Would you care to explain it to me then?" Quatre's smile was far too polite as he continued with a flourish of his salad fork, plucking a glistening selection of greens from his plate. "I am rather clueless about the entire concept after all."

With a wary look at Quatre, Relena picked up her own fork. This was a side of him she had certainly not seen before. Undaunted, she rallied her own aristocratic tone, tossed her hair, and replied, "I doubt that. I merely felt you were mischaracterising the philosophy with your flip comment."

"I don't believe I was being flip, Relena," Quatre's tone grew more earnest; his words more serious. "A true Pacifist must be willing to stand by, idle, while everyone they love, everything they hold dear is destroyed. I'm not convinced that's a position of strength."

Her father had always told her peace was the goal of all his work, and that a real, lasting peace must be brought about through non-violent means, but before she could rally her thoughts to respond to Quatre, he spoke again. "Growing up, I've watched the freedom and prosperity of the colonies be chipped away bit by bit while the men of power - men like my father - did nothing."

"But peace has to start somewhere," she protested as she speared a small tomato and accumulated her thoughts to respond. "If we ever want a true peace between Earth and the Colonies, people have to stop resorting to violence to solve their disputes." She sniffed. "I think it's noble to take such a strong stance against violence."

"Noble? That may be, but you have yet to have that conviction tested. Sometimes, as unfortunate as it is, fighting is the only way to be heard, the only way for people to defend themselves. Other methods, talking - diplomacy - they only work when all sides are willing to both talk and listen. Diplomacy will never work with parties who barely acknowledge each other's humanity."

"Then maybe they have to try harder?" Relena was pleased to keep the petulant edge from her voice. "I fail to see how killing people could ever make a bad situation better. All it /will/ do is hurt people, make them angry, and drive them toward revenge. Revenge leads to more anger, more violence, more hatred."

Quatre shook his head. "I wasn't advocating indiscriminate violence or vengeful acts. I do believe if there is to be fighting, then it must be for a higher purpose. It must be strongly focused on achieving a greater good - like peace and freedom. If you aren't willing to fight and die for those things, how much do you really value them?"

"Freedom shouldn't have to be fought for. Peace shouldn't have to be fought for. Those are rights intrinsic to all people. Everyone has the right to be free and live in peace. Fighting is the thing that threatens them. It certainly doesn't secure them."

"Intrinsic rights? They're pretty words, but just that - words. There's nothing intrinsic about any human rights. You need only look at how quickly they can be stripped away to realise that. For every right you would bestow upon people, someone has to shoulder the responsibility for granting that right - for preserving and protecting it." He paused for a moment. "If a government doesn't take it upon itself to meet that responsibility, someone else must.

"For example," Quatre lowered his voice as he continued, "the Gundams. They're the ones trying to give freedom and peace back to the colonies. No one in the colonies is free right now. Do you think what they're doing is wrong?"

Relena thought of Heero. "Well, yes, part of me certainly does. It might seem noble and brave for them to be doing what they're doing, but consider the human cost! Not just on the people they kill or the families and friends of the people they kill, but on the pilots themselves. They're so young. It's not right that people be forced into positions where they have to kill."

"Is it right to force people into positions where they cannot communicate freely, access information, or, in some cases even feed their families? Is it right to orphan hundreds, maybe thousands of children in the process of conquest? Is it right to enslave tens of thousands of people merely for the economic gain of a few wealthy Earth nations?"

"No, of course it's not right, but..." she didn't get a chance to finish that thought since her companion cut her off, his words spoken with a vehemence that made her flinch.

"It's easy to embrace - from a position of physical freedom, security, and comfort - a philosophy like Total Pacifism, but I would challenge you to live under political oppression and fear and still hold to it."

Relena felt herself growing hot. Was he accusing her of hypocrisy? "But..." she interjected, failing to keep the anger from her voice.

Quatre ignored her; his only acknowledgement of her protestation was the raising of his voice. "Could you stand by and watch a child be killed, knowing that you could have done something to stop it? Could you-?"

Relena brought her hand down on the edge of the table, hard enough to make their plates rattle. Quatre blinked in surprise. "May I speak, please, Quatre?" she bit each word off in a cold tone.

"Of course," he said, suddenly contrite as he glanced away in embarrassment. "My apologies. I didn't mean to get quite so carried away."

"It is true. I have led a sheltered life. But I'm not stupid or completely ignorant." She softened her tone, "I have traveled to the Colonies. I've seen the people there. Most of them are peaceful and hardworking and have no desire for bloodshed. I'm not sure the Gundams are right to start a war in their name."

"They haven't. We don't know for sure who is behind Operation M."

"But we do know they're fighting for the freedom of the Colonies. Attacking the Alliance is only going to cause more harm to the Colonies though, when the Alliance retaliates. Didn't the people who built the Gundams think of the repercussions?"

Quatre shrugged. "Since the Gundams are fighting independently - without sanction from the Colonies, they're - at worst - terrorists. Even on Earth, the Alliance can't spin punishing the Colonies for the actions of a few rogue agents. If you fight terrorists by killing innocent people, you become a terrorist yourself. This is possibly the only way the Colonies can fight a war against the Alliance and protect their citizens. They don't have the resources for a more honourable form of combat."

"Maybe, but how does this terrorism foster peace? Is killing more people really supposed to help? Two wrongs don't make a right. Even if the Alliance are the bad guys, it's still not right to kill its men."

"The aggressors in a conflict bring violence against themselves. They - the Alliance - made a choice to brutalise people. If those people fight back in defense, it is due to the actions of the aggressors. I refuse to view the Alliance as the victim here. So far, the Gundams have limited their attacks to military targets. They're fighting as fairly as they can."

"It just..." she sighed. "It doesn't feel right to me. For each man killed, you end up with more soldiers - his comrades in arms - wanting to keep fighting, to kill out of revenge. That's not all, you also have increased political support for Alliance aggression against the Colonies which results from the civilians affected."

"It's true that the Colonies would have a hard time winning a PR war on Earth with all the government sponsored propaganda. But I do believe that most people on Earth, if given the facts and the chance to decide freely for themselves, would prefer to see the Colonies relieved from the yoke of oppression. I mean, there are so many countries on Earth under Alliance oppression too. At times I think..." Quatre trailed off with a thoughtful frown.

"You think what?"

"I think the Earth itself is on the brink of revolution. There will be war, Relena. I'm certain of it."

"Do you really believe there's no hope?"

"There's always hope. But things may very well get a lot worse before they get better. So what do you do then?"

Quatre's question was aimed at her, yet Relena wasn't certain he was asking her what she would do, or for her advice on what he should do. "Fight the war by not fighting," she answered slowly. "At least that's what I'd try to do. Men like Gandhi showed the power of passive resistance. No matter how committed a soldier is, there's a big difference between shooting an armed opponent and shooting a peaceful protester."

Relena found herself regarded thoughtfully for a time until Quatre replied softly, "I'm not like Gandhi."

They ate in awkward silence with Relena picking at the pastry of the mushroom tart she'd been served while Quatre studiously attended to his own meal. Just as Relena's tolerance for the tension between them was reaching breaking point, Quatre finally spoke, "I really should apologise again for earlier. You must think me an utter bastard."

"Hm? No, not really. I think it's nice that you're so passionate about your beliefs. We can be mature enough to agree to disagree, can we not?"

"Of course."

"You have given me a lot to think about. I appreciate that. My father tells me things are often not as black and white as we would like them to be. I don't want to be naive, but maybe I am...?" she trailed off with a scowl.

"No, don't think that, Relena." Quatre reached across the table to place his hand on hers. "The world does truly need people like you. As you said before, peace has to start somewhere. Someone has to make a stand against violence. Why not you? But it's not easy." Quatre sighed and withdrew his hand. "Believe it or not, out of respect for my family and my father, I am trying to do so myself. It's frustrating though. I feel like there's so much more I could do if I only had the courage to do it."

"What do you mean? You would fight?"

"I don't know. I truly don't. I do know that sometimes I..." He gave a nervous smile. "I think I might envy those pilots."

************

Trowa closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on banishing the heaving in his gut. He wished the jagged buzzing in his head would stop. It was too hard to focus on the people around him, but he had to focus; the whine of the MS carrier's engines wasn't helping. He stifled a groan when rough hands tightened the straps holding him in his seat.

"Kid," came a cold voice, close to him. It was the only warning Trowa had before a slap stung his face. "I asked you a question."

It was a struggle, but Trowa lifted his head and opened his eyes. His vision swam, still lagging in a most sickening way when he moved. He swallowed, gritted his teeth, and turned his head to look at the man addressing him. The burning skin of his cheek at least gave him something sharp and tangible on which to anchor his consciousness.

"What's your name?"

Though he tried to meet the man's eyes, Trowa found his eyes kept slipping to the collar of the OZ officer's uniform. It was easier to focus on this than watch the man's features wander all over his face. The stitching on the man's jacket twisted along the edges of the hem like a red and gold snake. It reminded Trowa of...

That thought fractured as a rough hand grabbed his hair and jerked his head back. His stomach tried to crawl up the back of this throat while his brain pounded on the inside of his skull.

"Hey, I'm talking to you. What's your name?"

His jaw protested when he opened his mouth for speech; his tongue felt thick and dry as he groped for a name to go with the face of the man glaring at him. "Walker?" he croaked.

"/Your/ name, you fu..." Trowa watched the man raise his hand as if in slow motion, but the blow never landed. A new voice entered the mix.

"Stand down, Ensign." The new voice belonged to the one called Walker. Trowa almost smiled at his success.

The man who had been questioning him snapped to attention. "Lieutenant!"

Trowa let his head loll forward and studied the smooth metal of the cuffs around his forearms. The metal was glossy and dark; he couldn't readily identify the alloy.

"Lieutenant Merquise ordered that the prisoner be treated with respect. I advise you to follow that order."

"Yes, sir."

"Go find some water, he doesn't look too hot. We'll need to be careful if we want to get any information out of him."

"Yes, sir!"

Cool fingertips touched his temple, and Trowa flinched away from them, immediately regretting the sudden move as a new wave of nausea swelled.

"I'm not going to hurt you," said Walker. The words may have been reassuring, but the tone in which they were delivered was not. "You probably have a concussion."

"Yes," Trowa managed through his clenched teeth, suddenly needing to convey to anyone the urge uncoiling in his belly. "I think I'm going to be sick."

"If you want to vomit, go ahead. But I'm not going to unstrap you until I'm ordered to do so." Walker stepped away from him to sit in another seat nearby. "Do you know where you are? Do you remember your name?"

/Remember my name?/ The words tumbled, meaningless, through Trowa's head while he panted and sweated, desperate to keep from losing the meagre contents of his stomach.

Then realisation dawned through the haze of his disorientation. Amnesia was a potential symptom of a severe concussion - whether retrograde or anterograde [1]; he could use this to his advantage. He didn't remember his name anyway, so to say 'no' would be the truth. He nearly laughed, except such an action would have jarred too much.

"Do you remember your name?' Walker asked again, speaking slowly.

"No," Trowa whispered in response, closing his eyes and trying to relax in his restraints now that the most recent bout of nausea had subsided. "Sorry."

Walker didn't speak again immediately, but when he started to, the commanding voice of Zechs Merquise cut him off. The senior officer's words pierced through the engine hum as the man entered the aircraft. "Apparently he's called Trowa Barton,"

"Barton?" asked Walker. "Are you sure, sir?"

Trowa cracked an eye open to see the other men sitting and fastening their seat restraints in preparation for take-off. The steps of the carrier's pilots rang up the external stairs before they entered the cockpit to take their own seats.

"No, I'm not," said Zechs, and Trowa found himself uncomfortable under the masked gaze.

Fortunately that attention was diverted as the carrier was secured for takeoff. No one addressed him again until they had reached cruising altitude, and Trowa began to wonder if he were ever going to get that drink of water. He imagined the ensign standing on the runway, water in hand, protesting the takeoff of the carrier.

In the absence of any other available course of action, he forced himself to listen carefully to the radio traffic and to the men around him. Trowa catalogued the information, mentally repeating everything to himself to reinforce it. There were two carriers. This one carried a suit called Tallgeese and was Lieutenant Zech's personal craft. Heavyarms had been loaded into a second carrier that followed them. They were headed to the Lake Victoria Base with an ETA of five and a half hours. An old classmate of Zech's was the chief instructor there, a Lieutenant Noin, who claimed that Zechs had come to be known as the Lightening Baron, a title the man seemed to protest. Trowa filed this information especially away for later. Zechs Merquise had enough invested in his own ego and image - the mask, the aloofness, the admiration of his men - it could be exploited later. Perhaps.

So they were headed to Kenya. Trowa fumbled through his scattered concentration trying to dredge up everything - anything - he knew that would be helpful. They trained pilots at Lake Victoria - pilots for space combat in the new Taurus suits that were built there.

"Trowa Barton, is it?" Zechs was addressing him. Trowa opened his eyes and was relieved that his vision had steadied considerably, although pain still clawed the inside of his head.

"You may call me that if you wish," Trowa spoke softly in reply, watching Zechs carefully as the man unfastened his seat belt and rose to approach him.

"Would you like some water?"

Unwilling to allow Zechs any weakness to exploit, Trowa nevertheless spoke a quiet, "Yes." He had to somehow remain useful to the man while not divulging too much information. Not that he had that much to divulge...

"Here." Trowa found the lip of a cup pressed to his lips. He was permitted a few sips before the cup was taken away. "Now," Zechs began, sitting opposite Trowa and crossing his long legs. "What can tell me about the Gundams?"

Trowa moistened his lips, frowned in confusion, and asked, "Gundams?"

"There are at least four of them, including yours. I want to know what you know about them. In particular, what can you tell me about the one that landed near the Yangtze River?"

/He's not buying it./ "I- I don't know." This much was only partly true. Trowa had tracked three other Gundams through news items and hacked Alliance transmissions. The Gundam in China had been the easiest to keep tabs on; the other two had been more elusive. He wasn't even certain both were still intact. Doktor S has said there were meant to be five Gundams supporting Operation Meteor. Whether they were allies or not remained to be seen, but they were all combating Alliance interests.

"What about the acts of treason you mentioned in your flight recorder?"

"I don't..." Trowa bowed his head in apparent despair. "I don't remember."

"Interesting." Zech's tone was skeptical; Trowa kept his eyes lowered. "Perhaps you'll choose to remember later. It is in your own best interests to do so." The man stood. "For now, you may rest."

************

Heero resisted the urge to shift again. His bones still ached - especially his femur. It was the ache he'd come to associate with healing, but that knowledge didn't make the pain any easier to bear. As used to it as he'd become, it still interfered with his ability to sleep or rest (which would be perhaps the best thing to do while his body healed). Instead, Heero had found that the best way to deal with the physical pain was to keep his mind occupied. Wing had taken enough damage that concentrating on cataloguing the suit's required repairs kept his mind occupied. Almost.

Two things made it more difficult for him to focus on his task and ignore the itching ache of his bones. The first was to be expected. His muscles were hell bent on cramping painfully at every opportunity. J had warned him that overstressing the augmented tissue would result in stiffness and cramps, but this was the first time Heero had actually experienced it. He straightened his left leg and leaned over it a little to relieve the cramping in his hamstring.

And there was his 'host', Duo. Duo Maxwell talked incessantly: whether it was to gather intelligence or because he couldn't keep his thoughts contained within his own head, Heero wasn't sure. The result, however, was that every time he'd managed to find some respite from his discomfort, the other boy would pipe up with questions or commentary.

No sooner had Heero isolated the problem with the insulating tiles under the front of his suit's armor than Duo decided to make another attempt at being helpful. Heero tried to ignore him, but the other pilot was persistent.

"Hey? Hey! Listen up!"

"Insulation levels in the chest panel are down to 2800," Heero spoke aloud to himself so that his ears could focus on his own voice and the current diagnostic data.

"HEY! You, Superman! I'm talking to you."

Heero didn't respond in the hope that Duo would leave.

"Yes, you there. What the hell are you doing? Why do you have to be so goddamned stubborn? I /told/ you, it'll be way easier if you let Howard and his guys repair your suit alongside mine."

With a sigh, Heero relented and spoke, "I don't want any strangers touching my suit. That's all." He couldn't fathom why Duo even wanted to help him. Despite the similarities of their suits, Heero was unwilling to count the other pilot an ally. He'd never worked with a partner on a mission, and he saw no reason to start now.

"Oh, come on! You don't even have replacement parts." Duo's voice drew closer as Heero heard him jump up onto Wing behind him. His muscles tensed in preparation to remove the other boy from his suit - forcefully if need be. Duo continued in a tone laden with sarcasm, oblivious to the danger in which he placed himself. "No matter how good an engineer you are, if you don't have the parts, you can't make the repairs. Your suit's not like your arms and legs, understand?"

Heero ignored him as best he was able, bending his head to stretch an uncooperative neck muscle. He heard Duo sigh in momentary defeat and, in his peripheral vision, saw the boy drop to a sitting position.

"What was I /thinking/ when I saved this guy's life? Antisocial, stubborn, /and/ creepy. God, what a dork."

Heero wasn't sure if he were being called a dork, or if the statement were self-directed. He pinched his eyes shut, while Duo continued, turning his words to Heero once more.

"If I were you, man? I'd hate my personality so much I'd try to kill myself too."

With a frown, Heero turned his head to look at Duo. The boy was seated, kicking his legs against Wing in exasperation and glaring at his feet. What did this idiot know about him? If only it were that easy. "Hey!" he finally addressed Duo.

"Oh, what is it? Changed your mind, huh?" Duo looked up at him with an annoyed grimace. "Well it's too late now..."

"Will you just shut up for a while?"

Duo blinked, his expression momentarily blank before he slumped forward and slid to the ground. "Yeah, whatever," he said, his tone flat. "Sorry to bother you..."

A sound Heero was beginning to dread interrupted: the alarm associated with a new mission. He had to obey it.

Without further thought, he leaped up and slid down into Wing's open cockpit. He settled in the seat, upside down and tapped the comm panel. A message from J. He scanned the orders quickly, oblivious to Duo peering down from his perch at the cockpit hatch.

"A new mission," Heero spoke, readying a voice message reply, and evaluating his options for getting Wing serviceable by the morning. He would find a way. "The enemy will be transporting gundanium alloy." A small part of Heero was curious to know how the Alliance had come by so much gundanium, but he didn't need to question the orders from J. That these were his orders was enough. Heero relaxed a little in the knowledge that he had something left to do, just as part of him silently hoped this would be the last mission. "Roger," he told the computer, "I will intercept the carrier tomorrow morning."

He stared at the screen while it reported the progress of his message as it encrypted and sent the data off to J.

"How are you going to do that with this beat up suit, huh? You can't do anything," Duo said from above. Something in his voice made Heero pause. The boy's words were softer with an emotion Heero couldn't identify. He shook his head; it was pointless to dwell on such things. Fortunately, he had the beginnings of a plan to get Wing ready for combat. As Duo had been so insistent to point out earlier, their suits were nearly identical. Scavenging parts was a viable option; he needed only wait for Duo, Howard, and the other men on the barge to succumb to sleep.

He almost smiled. "Maybe you can't. But I can."

************

Wufei glanced toward the trees where Nataku lay hidden in her bedding of camouflage net. It was peaceful here, the plaintive cry of the solo kestrel echoing through the valley as it continued its aerial reconnaissance. He shaded his eyes against the sun; the large rock he'd climbed provided him with an excellent view of the area.

/It's so beautiful. I've never looked at flowers this way before./

Why had Meiran only seen the harmony and balance in nature, as she'd lain dying in his arms? He'd buried her amongst those flowers she'd fought to save from being trampled. She'd had the strength to fight for their clan; it was only right that he carried on that fight now that she couldn't.

He sighed. In taking on this mission he'd merely exchanged one field of flowers for another. With Nataku's help he would save the world from its own insanity and restore the balance within that humanity currently lacked. This war needed to end and the fools insisting on supplying the means to continue it, destroyed.

Upon leaving the Indus Supply base, his orders had been straightforward - to destroy the training establishment at Lake Victoria, thus removing the threat of both OZ troops and the suits they were being trained to pilot.

However, before he'd reached Kenya, those instructions had been modified. Wufei was not about to waste his energy figuring out how exactly a Gundam pilot had permitted both himself and his mecha to be captured, but agreed that the breach of security needed to be dealt with promptly.

The original plan had been simple - plant explosives under the cover of darkness and blow the base before dawn. Unfortunately the increase in security accompanying the Gundam pilot to Lake Victoria had made it impossible to get close enough to do so.

This new scenario held more of a challenge than the previous one - Wufei had not anticipated any problems in an enemy consisting of raw recruits with no experience. He still did not anticipate any problems.

A full on attack would at least give them the opportunity to fight like the warriors they had chosen to be. So far those he opposed had persisted in underestimating him; it was a misconception that would prove to be their downfall.

At dawn he and Nataku would attack the base and destroy anything or anyone who opposed them.

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Notes:

[1] Retrograde amnesia is the loss of prior memories (largely effects long term memories); anterograde amnesia is the inability to lay down new memories (largely effects short term memory & learning).

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To be continued

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Next on Domino

EPISODE FIVE - DAWN AT VICTORIA - Part Two.

Quatre contemplates his options while thinking over recent events. Trowa is interrogated by Lt Zechs Merquise, and Wufei launches his attack against the OZ base at Victoria.

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