3-29-2003

Sins of The Fathers (1/?)

By Anne Olsen

Rating: This fic has been rated in accordance with the approved TTFF rating system.

OK (Oz/Kiwi spelling/grammar etc) - M - Mature readers - AU, angst, drama, romance.

Author's notes/warnings: This is the second story in the 'Echoes of the Rising Sun' series set in 1943 against the backdrop of the Second World War, and is the sequel to 'Shadowboxing'. Be warned that there will be some themes and events that some readers might find disturbing, but these were disturbing times and this will be reflected in what happens.

The writing soundtrack for SoTF is 'Memories' from the musical 'Cats'. The reason for this will become clear as the story progresses.

Pairings: 1+2, 3+4

Summary: After his capture by the Nazis, Duo comes to the realisation that his torturer's mental stability is...well...debatable. Can Duo maintain his own sanity long enough for his team to mount a rescue mission?

Archive: http://www.angelfire.com/ab7/shadesandechoes/echoes/echoes.html

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to Bandai, Sunrise and Sotsu Agency. I promise to return the boys in one piece, more or less, when I'm finished, but hold no liability for any broken bones or psychological trauma sustained by them in my fiction.

Thanks to: Bast for beta reading, and Sakura for beta reading, summary and the soundtrack. Also to all those people who have been nagging me for this fic for some time. You know who you are. J

Comments to: anneo @ paradise.net.nz

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Chapter One

Germany 1943

 

Even though all he wanted to do was crawl into a corner and nurse both his physical and emotional wounds, Duo forced himself to stand upright. Military logic dictated the importance of not showing any sign of weakness in front of Merquise, but the orphan who had lost firstly his family and now one of his closest friends wanted to launch himself at the bastard and break his fucking neck.

"If you answer my questions correctly and without hesitation you have a much better chance of enjoying your stay with us." The corner of Colonel Merquise's mouth twitched as he examined Duo closely. "Your vocabulary is very extensive, Priest," he noted, "and you need to be taught some manners." Running the back of one hand across Duo's cheek, he dragged the sharp tip of his ring over the skin to form a shallow cut. "I see you are also capable of silence when necessary." Merquise nodded his approval of Duo's non-reaction to the pain and smiled. "Interesting." He paused. "I'm keen to see if these stories of the self sacrificing tendencies of the Catholic clergy are correct, or merely myths." The SS officer gestured to the two soldiers flanking Duo, and poured a glass of water from the pitcher on his desk. "Remove the priest's handcuffs."

What the hell was the bastard up to? Duo flexed his fingers in an effort to return a sense of feeling to his hands. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the crimson stain of his wound spreading like dark ink across the blotting paper of his white collar.

Merquise offered Duo the glass of water and gestured for him to sit in the chair in the centre of the room. Duo refused both the request and the water.

"Who are you working for?" Merquise asked the question in heavily accented English. Was he suspicious of Duo's masquerade or merely exploring every available avenue? Duo struggled to conceal his surprise but managed to remain silent; at this point it would be prudent to feign ignorance of the language.

"Who are you working for?" This time the question was asked in German. Merquise sighed, his eyes searching Duo's. In response to a curt nod, one of the soldiers unsheathed his gun, his hand resting on the handle as it hung by his side, to reinforce the idea that sitting and taking the glass of water were not options open for debate. "I think you'll find co-operation to be a far more healthy option. I'm only doing my job; I dislike violence as much as I suspect you do."

"So killing defenceless women doesn't equate to violence?" Duo lowered himself into the sturdy leather backed chair with a deliberate slowness.

The laughter that followed sent a shiver through him. "Oh, but /I'm/ not under arrest for the death of Fraulein Schbeiker," Merquise placed one hand on Duo's shoulder, his thin smile reiterating the sick pretence of sympathy.

"Go to hell," Duo muttered, attempting to pull away from the other man's touch. Fingers closed around his chin to hold his face in a vice like grip while Merquise used his free hand to trace the bloody pattern his ring had made moments before.

"I see you priests still enjoy preaching about fire and brimstone." Merquise leaned in still closer, his breath hot and heavy with the stench of death, his eyes the ice blue of tempered steel.

/I can smell Hilde's blood on him./ It took all of Duo's will power to stay calm. /It's my imagination; it has to be,/ he thought frantically, his fingers gripping the edge of the chair. The smell seemed to permeate the air, seeping into his skin and through his hair - wherever Merquise touched him. He felt as though he'd never be able to rid himself of it.

"We like to ensure that those like yourself are well prepared for what awaits them in the afterlife." Taking a sip from the glass one of the officers placed in his hand, Duo was unable to keep the tremor completely out of his voice.

Merquise took a step backwards to lean against the solid wooden desk. He crossed his arms against his chest and examined his ornate dress ring with an intensity that Duo would have found disturbing even under different circumstances. "My father left me this ring before he died. Family is important don't you think?" An unintelligible something reflected in his eyes briefly and then was gone. "I consider those I serve with to be a part of my family, and I'm sure you feel the same way about your congregation." He laughed. "Of course a priest isn't going to understand the concept of what it's like to lead a squadron of men into battle, or have them depend on you for their very lives."

Pausing mid sip, Duo gripped the glass, trying to ignore the implications of where he thought Merquise was going with his story. There was a point to this, there had to be, and he was sure it wasn't one he would appreciate. Given the nature of the current situation, he would be much safer in the guise of a priest than that of an American air force sergeant. If Merquise found out who he was, his chance of getting out alive would drop below its current level of zero. At least the rest of his team were still free, and by now, along with Barton and Winner, should be making plans to leave the country. Heero had been given an order, and he always followed those orders by the book and to the letter. Whatever happened from here on in, Duo was well and truly on his own.

In a twisted way his current scenario was fitting, considering his inability to detach his personal feelings from the mission that should have been his priority. When he'd realised Hilde was in danger he'd allowed his concern for her to override common sense. There was no way Merquise would have been able to sneak up on him if he hadn't been drowning in his grief. [1]

"Who are the current members of the resistance in Berlin?" The question, coming directly on the tail of his captor's earlier rambling, took Duo off guard. The tone in which it was delivered was precise and cold; it suggested none too succinctly that the only correct answer was the one Duo was unable to give.

"What is your name?" Duo bit his lip to fight the automatic response of name, rank and serial number. Fortunately there was nothing on his person to give any hint that he was anything but the priest he claimed to be. Giving any name, either his own or an assumed one at this point would only make it easier for Merquise to discover that there was no one by that name currently attached to the parish of St Michael's.

"You may call me Father, my child." The smart-ass comment that rolled off his tongue was answered by a sharp slap across his face. The glass fell from Duo's fingers, smashing into tiny transparent slivers at his feet.

"Hmm," commented Merquise. "Interesting that a mere priest is so much more unco operative than his colleagues." The other man smiled cruelly. "I do not know why you persist in refusing to even tell me your name. I already have the other information I need." He laughed, a sharp staccato sound that echoed through Duo's mind long after the noise itself was silent. "Today has been of great disappointment to me. Blood makes it so easy to track one's prey, don't you think?" He shook his head sadly.

"Blood?" Duo couldn't help but ask the question.

"Surely you weren't so arrogant to presume that those who cross the Third Reich would be allowed to just walk away unharmed. Bullet wounds can be so messy," Merquise shook his head sadly. "All I require is your name, I have the other information I need."

Bullet wounds? Heero hadn't appeared to be injured, according to the glimpse Duo had gotten of him when he'd been taken from the café to the truck, and Wufei should have made it to the church okay to meet up with Walker and Palmer. That left Barton and Winner. Was it possible that one of them, if not both, had been shot? What if Barton hadn't managed to get the scientist clear? The Germans had recovered the plans; the success of their mission now hinged on getting Herr Doktor Winner to safety.

Please no. There was no way all this had been for nothing. Lifting his head high, Duo met Merquise's gaze directly, but said nothing.

"Do you deny that you knew the Fraulein?"

"I knew her," Duo's voice cracked, "but I didn't kill her, you bastard, and you know it."

"Are you aware that she was working for the resistance?"

"Are you aware that murder is a sin.my child?" The comment was awarded by another slap across his face. Duo knew he was treading on thin ice but didn't care. His chances of getting out of this mess were growing slimmer by the minute, and his temper was beginning to get the better of him.

Merquise sighed. "I have been very patient so far, and yet you repay my kindness with such rudeness. You disappoint me."

"Tough. Life is full of disappointments." Duo knew he was digging his grave deeper but for some reason once he started it was difficult to stop. Was this some kind of delayed reaction to the shock of Hilde's death? He had to get a grip on himself while he was still in a state to do so. It was important to stay focused; annoying the hell out of Merquise now would only speed up his date with death. The longer he stayed alive the better chance he had of survival.

"Especially for you," Merquise nodded to his men and they pulled Duo to his feet, forcing him to stand behind the chair he'd been sitting in.

"Drop your trousers and spread your legs."

"Fuck you," Duo exclaimed. "What the hell do you think.?" He gasped as a fist connected with his stomach.

"When Colonel Merquise gives an order he expects to be obeyed," the soldier explained. "I believe he asked you to drop your trousers."

"Fuck you," Duo repeated. The soldier who had spoken aimed his Luger at Duo's head and removed the safety.

"Drop your trousers," Merquise repeated. "Blood stains are so messy, and brain matter is even harder to get out of the carpet." He rolled his eyes. "Maybe Fraulein Catalonia is correct and it's time I changed the décor to something that is easier to keep clean. Hmm, polished wooden floors might be a better option after all."

/It's better to do this than to die/, Duo told himself firmly, shaking fingers moving to undo the buckle of his belt. Surely Merquise wouldn't do this in front of his men. He was bluffing. He had to be. Fumbling, he bent to slide his trousers down to pool around his ankles.

"You're still over dressed, Priest," Merquise said. "Would you like some assistance in removing your undergarments?"

Duo obeyed the order, but deliberately took his time. The room was cold, yet did nothing to relieve the heat of embarrassment stealing through him.

"Place your hands on the arms of the chair," Merquise ordered, the soldiers pulling Duo's hands into the required position when he refused to follow the instructions he'd been given.

Two loud clicks and the coldness against his wrists told him that he'd been cuffed again. With no room to wriggle he was forced to lean over with his head bent in order to avoid taking in a mouth full of leather. The chair had been introduced to a shammy recently and the stench of the polish did nothing to help the nausea growing in his stomach.

Forcing his head to the side Duo attempted to work out the distance between the chair and the door. Even if he could free himself of the cuffs, there was no way he'd get through it without receiving several bullets in return for his effort. The window to his rear, although open, also wasn't an option with the several story drop below onto concrete.

Who the hell had designed the décor in this place? The white shag pile carpet would have to go. Something more along the lines of the dark red of the walls would work much better, he decided, thinking back to the bright colour scheme he and Hilde had used to resurrect the café. He pulled on one of his restraints, hiding a gasp of pain on the added strain on his arm. Damn it. Obviously this was the reason why Merquise had gone for the heavy and well crafted chair as opposed to something along the simple lines of his desk. Its position in the centre of the room had also been well thought out to leave no object within range to use for leverage.

He shifted his head again, glancing downwards.and stopped.

The crimson stain ingrained into the carpet pooled outwards like the ripples caused by the stones he and Hilde had enjoyed throwing into the clear waters of their favourite swimming hole at home in the States.

/Oh God, no./ Duo closed his eyes, and when he opened them again to turn to face Merquise he felt a shutter go down over his soul. /If I don't feel this, it won't hurt. If I pretend it's not real, it won't be./

"That will be all thank you, Mueller," Merquise stated calmly. "Your presence is no longer required. I believe you have other more pressing matters requiring your attention."

"Yes, sir." Please no. The bastard couldn't be serious. He couldn't be.

"I expect a full report on our other guests in the morning," Merquise continued. "Use any means necessary to ensure their continued cooperation." He smiled at Duo, but it was an expression devoid of any warmth what so ever. "As I said earlier, blood is so easy to trace."

******

"Remember your priorities are the textbook and parcel and /not/ Zero Two." Lady Une's final words reiterated through Heero's mind as he removed his headphones. Reaching a decision, he repacked the radio set in its box and exited the sacristy to join Chang who had been keeping watch outside the door.

"Well?" Chang visibly relaxed, his hand shifting from where it had been resting on his gun, to fall at his side. Catching sight of Heero's _expression, he frowned. "Do we go after Maxwell or concentrate on our original mission?"

"Both," Heero informed him. "We do not abandon our own, and neither do we abandon the mission. Our instructions are to retrieve the plans from the hands of the Gestapo while we mount a rescue attempt. Both are in the same vicinity - I do not see any problems with the scenario."

"Good," Chang replied, much to Heero's surprise. "I may be vocal regarding my disagreement with the way your armed forces conduct themselves at times, but I would not have condoned leaving a comrade at the mercy of the enemy." He paused, his tone softening. "Walker and Palmer are still keeping surveillance outside so now would be a good time to tell me what /exactly/ Une's instructions were."

"What?" Heero glared at Chang. "The chance of this mission succeeding isn't high if you persist in questioning everything." Working together, they had a higher chance of pulling this off, but if Chang insisted on being difficult. Heero sighed. At least he'd had enough common sense to put forward his doubts while the enlisted men were not within earshot.

"I think I am entitled to the truth if I am to follow you in this madness," Chang pointed out, "and I doubt the instructions you relayed were exactly as you claimed." He paused, placing a hand on Heero's shoulder. Heero removed it. "Duo Maxwell is a good man," Chang continued. "I give you my word I will do everything I am able to help rescue him. However, retrieving the plans has to continue to be our priority."

"Our instructions are only to rescue Duo if we are able to do so without endangering the mission." Heero leaned against a nearby pew, his gaze darting between the heavy front door of the church and his ally. "Une made it very clear that if we made Duo's welfare our priority she would not be impressed." He snorted. "I am well aware of the importance of this mission but I do not perceive a problem in retrieving both him and the plans."

"What about Winner?"

"According to what I overheard at the café, the Gestapo seem to have some doubts as to whether the plans they have are complete." Heero shrugged. "It may well be that what Winner told them about his presence being needed to complete the project was a bluff, but there is no way of knowing for certain."

"I can give you a better idea once I've sighted the plans," Chang told him. "After all that is the reason for my presence on this team - to verify that these plans are genuine. I do wonder if the Germans truly have the technology and the know how to match the research being done in the States on the Manhatten project." [2]

While the idea of the plans for a weapon of such mass destruction being in the hands of the enemy didn't thrill Heero in the least, he wasn't exactly enthralled with the idea of the Allies having that same capability. He might be an American but he'd seen first hand just what his own people were capable of against those who could not defend themselves. Heero clenched his fist in an attempt to control his anger. What had happened to the so-called Bill of Rights? Damn Roosevelt and his executive order. Heero still remembered his mother's plea for him to take his father's name. "You're American, Heero," she'd told him. "Remember that and make your father proud." He'd protested, remembering how enthusiastically she'd taught him about /her/ people, but she'd insisted his safety came first. "You can't fight this war in an internment camp." [3] That final appeal was what had finally swayed his decision, but he still felt guilty for denying his heritage and using a name which, although legally entitled to, he didn't deserve.

"Getting Winner out of Germany and safely into the hands of the Allies is also a priority," Heero told him. "We are to destroy the plans so that the Germans have no way of duplicating the project, but HQ feels Winner is too high a risk to be 'allowed to remain in Germany'. If he falls into the hands of the Gestapo he might be persuaded to assist them."

Chang arched an eyebrow in disapproval. "Do they believe that Winner is to be trusted?"

"According to whatever Barton told them, he is, but I'm not so convinced. He's been working for them all this time, why the sudden attack of conscience now?" Heero had reservations about the entire scenario. If the Germans had received intelligence regarding the Allied mission it wasn't unlikely that they might plant a spy. Not all defectors did so for the reasons they claimed, and double agents were not unheard of.

Surely Winner seemed too young to be the brilliant scientist he claimed to be? His English was far too fluent, almost as though he'd undergone training to prepare him for his current role, and his ability to pinpoint which part of England Walker hailed from, after simply observing his accent, was unnerving. Heero snorted. The man must have inside information on his team, although he had no idea how. All English accents sounded the same, at least to his ear. And then of course there was Palmer's observation that Barton appeared to be on a first name basis with the Herr Doktor. Losing his objectively could be another reason why he could have been easily swung over to the idea that Winner was keen to change sides and defect.

"I agree," Chang nodded. "He will require watching."

The door of the church opened, and a woman entered. She walked up the aisle, pausing to genuflect upon reaching the front of the church, and crossed herself before taking up a kneeling position in the front pew.

Dropping his voice to a whisper, Heero continued. "A member of the resistance is to meet us here with information regarding the current situation. Hopefully this person might know something of the whereabouts of the elusive Herr Doktor."

"Hopefully," agreed Chang.

The woman crossed herself again, rose to her feet and made her way towards the exit, pausing as she reached their pew. "Excuse me, but I've lost my dog and I wondered if you might have seen him. His name is Toto."

"I haven't seen him, but I've been told he's following a yellow brick road." Heero examined the woman carefully after giving the counter phrase. She seemed a few years older than himself or Chang, but it was difficult to ascertain much more about her as she kept her head down, and kept glancing around nervously.

"Zero One?" Her voice was soft, yet firm.

"Dorothy?" The woman nodded her confirmation, one hand tucking a stray lock of blonde hair back under her scarf. "I believe you have information for me." Heero indicated Chang in answer to the woman's frown. "This is Zero Five, he can be trusted."

"I will be brief," 'Dorothy' said, "as I suspect I could well be under observation by the Gestapo." She glanced around again before continuing. "Your comrade is being held at Merquise's offices at the research compound. Several of the office staff frequent a local café after hours, The Jungfrau, which is on the corner two blocks south of the premises." Dorothy paused. "I have it under good authority that one of his secretaries /might/ be approachable and willing to be of assistance if given the right motivation."

"And that secretary's name?" Heero asked. This sounded rather too good to be true, but he couldn't afford to disregard it under the present circumstances.

"Fraulein Darlian," Dorothy replied. "But be cautious. This kind of information is not always accurate, but it's all I have available to give at present."

She turned to leave, but Heero placed a hand on her arm to detain her. "Can you give us any information regarding the parcel we are supposed to transport?'

"Parcel?" Her _expression hardened; for some reason she didn't seem impressed with the codeword he'd used. What was her connection to the Herr Doktor? Her response suggested that /something/ had provoked her less than favourable reaction. "Herr Doktor Winner, or your parcel as you so nicely refer to him as, can be trusted. I've known him for a considerable length of time."

"Do you know of his whereabouts?" Chang interjected. "It is imperative that we find him before the Gestapo do."

Shaking her head, Dorothy met his gaze. "It was safer that I didn't know. Quatre." she paused, "Doktor Winner is unable to travel at present and I doubt Tro.Herr Barton will be in contact until he is certain it is safe to be do so. Rescue your man, recover the plans and get across the border to Switzerland. If they are able to be there, they will be."

"You sound very sure of yourself," Heero couldn't keep the tone of disbelief out of his voice.

"I'm very sure of /them/, Zero One. Quatre's a very stubborn man and so is Trowa in his own way." She pulled her arm free of his grasp.

"I'm sorry, Fraulein, I did not mean to insult either you or the Herr Doktor but we have no information about him at all. Our original mission was only to retrieve the plans and did not include his safe passage out of Germany."

Dorothy nodded her acceptance of his apology. "I'm putting you at risk the longer I stay here." Her gaze darted towards the door again. "It's only a matter of time before the Gestapo begin tracking my every move."

"Thank you for your help."

"Take care," Dorothy said, turning to go. "And may God go with you. All of you."

Before she'd reached the front door of the church, it opened and two SS officers entered. Heero and Chang quickly took up a position of prayer in the nearest pew in an attempt to appear inconspicuous.

"Fraulein Doktor Winner?" asked one of the officers.

Winner?

No wonder she'd been so sure the Herr Doktor could be trusted. Heero continued to fix his gaze on the altar, interlacing his fingers tightly to fight the urge to turn and see what was taking place behind him.

"Colonel Merquise wishes to ask you a few questions," the officer continued.

"Merquise? He's head of security where my brother works, isn't he? Has something happened?" Dorothy's surprise seemed as genuine as her concern. "Is Quatre all right?"

The man ignored her questions. "This way please, Fraulein." The heavy door banged shut behind them.

Her brother?

Heero swore under his breath. Winner's sister was part of the resistance? Chang was at his side the instant he rose to his feet. They needed to leave immediately; this church had outlived its usefulness. Dorothy.no, Fraulein Winner, he corrected, could describe himself and Chang to the Gestapo. How loyal to the cause would she remain if her brother's life were threatened? There was also the disturbing thought that if he were a double agent and she were unaware of that fact, she might pass on valuable information to the enemy unwittingly.

"There are several empty rooms in the apartment building by the park," the quiet voice of the parish priest took him by surprise. "You will be safe there temporarily until you are able to leave Berlin." Father Hansen had given them permission to use the church as a base of operations when they'd arrived. He had, however, voiced his disapproval very clearly when Duo had heard the confession of one of his parishioners. "Iria Winner is a good person, she would not intentionally betray you. However I am aware that this is of little reassurance; I've seen lesser men and women crack under Gestapo interrogation. The other young man, the one masquerading as a priest when he was arrested, what is his name?"

"Why?" Heero asked.

"If the Gestapo ask questions I can corroborate his cover, but tell them he had only just arrived, and therefore I do not know him well enough to give them much in the way of information. It is safer for all of you the longer the deception remains intact." Hanson frowned. "I know of Merquise's methods. It is only a matter of time before your comrade reveals information of some kind."

"He would never." Heero began to protest.

"We hope he would never but unfortunately there are no guarantees." Chang shook his head. "If he has his wits about him he'll give as little information as possible. The priest has a point."

"You'll be putting yourself in danger with this information," Heero still wasn't convinced.

"Your friend is dressed as a priest. It's only a matter of time before the Gestapo begin searching the churches in the area for more information about him. When I first offered the use of this church I placed myself in danger." The priest placed a hand on Heero's shoulder. "Our Lord would never turn away someone in need, my son. We help where we can. What is his name?"

"Maxwell," Heero replied. "His name is Duo Maxwell."

"I'll keep young Father Maxwell in my prayers," Hanson told him. "Now go while you still can. You can't help him if you are occupying the cell next to his."

"Thank you, Father," Chang said, giving a small bow. "We appreciate your support."

"Thank you, Father," Heero echoed the sentiment, his mind already racing ahead to formulate a plan based on the information they'd received from Iria Winner.

This mission was becoming more complicated by the minute. Firstly the capture of their team leader, followed by the disappearance of Barton and his charge, and now the only other contact they had with the local resistance had been taken in for questioning.

/I'll retrieve you along with those plans, Duo./ Heero's promise to his friend repeated itself along with the revised mission parameters. The present scenario wasn't impossible, it would just require adjustment to take into account the change in circumstances. Heero Yuy had always risen to every challenge life had thrown at him thus far and this time would be no different.

******

End of Chapter One

******

[1] Refers to events that took place in 'Shadowboxing', the first story of the 'Echoes of the Rising Sun' arc.

[2] The US Atomic Bomb Project.

[3] On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 resulting in the eviction and internment of people of Japanese ancestry. You can read more about this here - http://www.geocities.com/tulelakecommittee

******

TBC