6-23-2004

Sins of The Fathers (3/?)

by Anne Olsen

Ratings/warnings: OK (Oz/Kiwi spelling/grammar etc) – R – AU, angst, drama, romance.

Author's notes: 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', and 'Father of Mine' by Everclear.

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 characters 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 the beta reading team: Bast, haraamis, Shadow and Misanagi. Also to Iniq for her location research - her help is invaluable.

Comments to: anneo @ paradise.net.nz

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Chapter Three

When the woman was shown into his office, Zechs gestured for her to take a seat. Taking the time to finish writing his report on the new prisoner, he noticed with some interest that she seemed calm and was not fidgeting in her chair. How close was Iria Winner to her brother, Quatre, he wondered. That fact would make all the difference to what approach would best serve his purpose.

Sibling bonds were not always as they appeared. For example, most believed that he and his half sister, Relena, were not close. This was not entirely true. Theirs was a strange love/hate relationship, at least on his part. He did love his sister; after all, society dictated that he should, but her mere existence only served as a reminder of their mother's infidelity. True, Relena had been born after his father had been killed in the trenches during the Great War, and their mother had since married Herr Darlian, Relena's real father, but it didn't excuse the former Frau Peacecraft's behaviour or lack thereof. Zechs had also never called the usurper "Father". He would never dishonour /his/ father's memory.

"I am Colonel Merquise, head of security for this project." Zechs placed his pen on the desk and closed the dossier.

"I'm aware of you who are," Iria answered. "Do you have news regarding my brother?"

"What makes you think that was the reason I wished to see you?" Zechs raised an eyebrow; he was interested in her response.

"You are head of this project," Iria's voice was calm, "and my brother works here. Therefore it stands to reason that either you wish to inform me that something has happened to him, or that you think I may have information as to his whereabouts." She paused, waiting for Zechs to answer. He didn't. "Has something happened to Quatre, Colonel Merquise?"

If Iria knew of her brother's whereabouts, she was hiding it well.

"Herr Dr. Quatre Winner is a traitor to the Third Reich," Zechs said, almost casually, watching her carefully for a reaction. "He killed his superior in cold blood and then stole the plans pertaining to the project that they were working on."

Iria shook her head. "There must be some mistake. Quatre's not a killer…"

"We are all killers, Doktor," Zechs replied. "Given the right motivation, it is surprising what a person is capable of." He picked up his pen and rolled it between his fingers, turning it this way and that. "Money is often a reason."

"My father is one of the wealthiest men in Berlin," Iria snorted. "The very idea is ridiculous."

"What do /you/ think would motivate your brother to kill?" A solitary ray of sunlight caught the gold plating on the pen between his fingers, and he smiled. Motivation was always such an interesting topic of conversation, and something that he was very familiar with.

"Quatre is not a killer," Iria repeated firmly, averting her eyes from his. It was an interesting reaction.

"I'm sure that his superior would disagree," Zechs shook his head sadly. He stood, slowly pushing his chair out from under him, the pen dropping with a thud onto the hard wood of the desk. "You're a doctor. A vicious blow to the head isn't a particularly pleasant way to die. Your brother was with the Herr Doktor at the time; if he wasn't responsible then why did he flee the scene? If he had nothing to hide, surely he would have called for help and at least attempted to save a life."

"Do you have witnesses placing him at the scene?"

"Yes," Zechs confirmed. "Several witnesses." He walked around the desk. Leaning against it casually, he rubbed the heel of one boot across the carpet. Blood stains really were quite difficult to remove, particularly when they were still fresh. "Witnesses who are prepared to testify that he was the last person to leave the room before the body was discovered."

"Witnesses are not always truthful." Iria watched the movement of his boot, her eyes widening very slightly, but she didn't comment. She also didn't dispute the fact that her brother had something to hide. Yes, Iria Winner knew more than she was prepared to divulge.

"Witnesses who are not personally involved with the perpetrator tend to have less problems with honesty than those who are." Zechs smiled at her. "Of course, things are not always as they seem."

"Oh?" Iria didn't return the smile, but her voice remained calm. The word revealed much of her state of mind. If she could not believe that her brother was a killer, she might be open to alternative explanations for his disappearance?

"You have been surrogate mother to your brother since your own mother's death have you not?" Zechs moved back behind the desk and opened the second dossier. "It must have been difficult. Family is very important."

"Yes, it is." Iria's answer wasn't a reply to his question. Did she presume that it had been rhetorical?

Zechs turned a page, the paper smooth against the roughness of his fingertips. He glanced at Iria, and then at the information in front of him again. "Herr Dr. Winner was last seen in the company of an SS officer who has since been revealed to be an imposter. It is possible that he did not leave by choice. This same person was also seen in the vicinity of the crime scene."

Interestingly, there was no protestation regarding this new theory. Perhaps this was something that she was more prepared to believe.

"Are you concerned for your brother's welfare, Doktor?" Zechs nodded before she had a chance to reply. "I know that I would be if our situations were reversed. This must be very trying for you." He paused, allowing concern to enter his voice. "If he was taken against his will, I fear for his safety, once he outlives his usefulness."

"Yes, I am concerned for his safety," Iria answered, after a long silence. "But I can't help you, as I have no idea as to his whereabouts."

"Of course you don't," Zechs said, sympathetically. "How could you if he was abducted?" He closed the dossier slowly, his tone grave. "If you wish to save his life, you need to give me any information you can. We've had dogs tracking the traitor, and they've found blood. If Herr Dr. Winner is injured, we need to find him. It's difficult to survive on the run, and it's only a matter of time before his captor decides that your brother is a burden he cannot afford to carry." He paused. "You want to save your brother's life, don't you? Or am I mistaken in thinking that he's important to you."

"He's my brother, Colonel," Iria replied simply. "Naturally, I want him to live."

Zechs nodded. "I, too, would prefer him to live. It seems as though we are in agreement on this."

She didn't reply to that statement, but then he would have been surprised if she had. Loyalty was important between family members. It was something that could be exploited, from several angles. Iria Winner had seen her brother recently, of that Zechs was certain; her reactions to his questions were too calm. Surveillance had suggested that the Winner siblings were close. For the moment, Quatre's location was unknown; Iria would be more useful if she were allowed to continue with her work. She was a doctor; if her brother needed medical attention, he might go to her.

It was a scenario that Zechs couldn't afford to dismiss.

He stood. "Thank you for your assistance, Frau Doktor. Our discussion has been most enlightening. I will be sure to contact you if any more information comes to my attention."

"Thank you." Iria rose to her feet but waited to be dismissed. She was well mannered, as was her brother. It was almost a shame that such a family of such standing had been involved in something such as this, but Quatre should have considered the consequences before making the decision to betray his country. Enemies of the Third Reich were always caught, and justice was always served. It was a simple fact of life.

"However, before you take your leave, I have need of your skills." Zechs was amused by her startled reaction; people often dropped their guard slightly once the interview appeared to be at an end. "I have a prisoner in need of medical care."

"How severe are his injuries?" Iria's tone was all business; she covered her slip well. "I don't have my medical…"

"That won't be a problem," Zechs replied. "We have medical supplies here if you require them. As for his injuries, you might say that they were self inflicted." He opened the door for her. "If you'll follow me, I'll take you to him."

"Thank you," Iria nodded. "I'll help him if I can." She followed Zechs into the corridor and towards the holding cells.

"That would be greatly appreciated," Zechs admitted. "This prisoner has been extremely uncooperative. I'm hoping that you may be able to help him; I've tried and failed." He sighed. "Why, I don't even know his name."

******

Heero took another sip of coffee before surveying the patrons of the Jungfrau Café again. He was nervous. Undercover work wasn't one of his strengths; he was the team's communications expert, able to construct a working radio from the most basic of materials and handle any communications technology thrown his way. This scenario, however, scared him more than the knowledge that he was an American soldier in enemy territory, hiding in plain view.

But, unfortunately, if their unit was to proceed with the mission, this had to be done. Before being taken in for questioning, Iria Winner had given them the name of a possible contact. It was imperative to discover if Duo was still alive, and if so, formulate a plan to rescue him.

It was doubtful that Duo had been killed. Logically, he was Merquise's only link to Winner and the missing plans, and therefore more useful alive, either as a source of information, or as a pawn with which to bargain. While it could be argued that there was no proof that Duo was connected with the Resistance, he had been found grieving over Hilde's body, and the SS knew that she had given refuge to their prey.

The door to the café opened, and a young blonde woman entered. She ordered coffee and then took a seat at a table near the window. Heero observed her carefully, comparing her description with that which he and Wufei had been given. He sighed. Wufei would have been much better suited for this, but the Chinese man had insisted, even before Heero had lost the coin toss, that Heero should be the one to meet with Miss Darlian.

As much as he would have preferred not to admit it, Wufei was right. If the plan that they had tentatively formulated had any chance of working, Wufei needed to stay out of sight until he was needed or he would jeopardise his cover.

Heero just wished that he had more experience with women. Hell, any experience would have been helpful considering what he was about to attempt.

Not attempt. Do. He couldn't afford to fail. Not with Duo's life at stake.

Taking a deep breath, he picked up his coffee cup and walked over to the table where Miss Darlian was sitting. "Is this seat taken?" he asked, cursing the extremely cheesy pick-up line.

"No, not yet." Miss Darlian gave him a smile. She seemed amused, and Heero mentally groaned. This did not bode well. The blonde gave the waiter a nod as he placed her hot coffee in front of her. "Thank you," she said.

Heero decided to try again, this time with a more direct approach. He slid into the vacant seat. "I hope you don't mind the intrusion, but you seemed to be alone, and so was I."

"But I've only just got here, Herr..?"

"Lowe. Heero Lowe." He held out his hand. "I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, Fräulein."

"My name is Relena," she replied, shaking his hand. "Relena Darlian. It's nice to meet you too, Herr Lowe."

"Heero," he said. "Call me, Heero, please."

"Only if you call me Relena." Relena took a sip of coffee. "You're American, aren't you?"

"How did you know?" Heero was surprised. He'd thought that his German was flawless.

"Your accent." She laughed at his reaction. "It's good, but not quite right."

"There's nothing wrong with my accent," Heero glared at her, before he remembered that he was supposed to be convincing her to go out with him. The glare faded quickly to be replaced with a sheepish smile.

"It's not local," Relena told him. "And I knew someone once with an accent similar to yours. He came from Chicago."

"Oh," Heero leaned back in his seat, trying to think of something witty in reply. He had never had a girlfriend; he and his friends had gone out in a group, and Heero had always been the odd one out when they had paired off. It hadn't bothered him at the time, although he did wonder if there was someone out there for him.

"So what brings you to Germany?" Relena asked. She appeared to be doing most of the talking, although Heero was certain that it should have been the other way around.

"Business." Heero gave her a curt nod before forcing himself to smile.

"That's a shame." Relena turned her attention to the outside of the café. "It's supposed to rain later today. I miss the rain; it's been unusually dry for this time of year."

"Why?" Heero blurted out. When women began talking about the weather, it meant that they were changing the subject. At least that was what Wufei had told him during the briefing.

"I don't know," Relena admitted. She lowered her voice. "Are you working on some device that can predict weather patterns? Is that what your business is here in Germany?" She frowned.

"No," Heero felt confused. "I meant why was it a shame? That I'm here on business, I mean."

"Because if you're here on business, you probably don't have time to take me out for dinner tonight." Relena shrugged and returned her attention to the sidewalk outside.

"What? How?" Heero stared at her, completely taken aback. He pushed away his building indignation. This wasn't how the conversation was supposed to proceed. The plan had been for him to pick her up, not the other way around.

"Dinner," Relena repeated. "Tonight. You do eat dinner, don't you?" She smiled at him. "You sat down at this table and attempted to pick me up."

"No, I didn't!" Heero felt his face grow warm. "How dare you suggest such a…" His voice trailed off. "Umm, yes I did." There was no point in denying the obvious, and Relena clearly found the whole situation amusing.

"You're not very good at it," Relena chuckled. "I've seen a fifteen-year-old do better."

"Maybe you'd prefer a fifteen-year-old to take you out to dinner then?" Heero turned his head away and folded his arms. He wasn't sure whether he'd just been insulted or not.

"I'd prefer if you did," Relena answered quietly. "If you're interested, that is. You must excuse me if I've misread your intentions."

"You didn't." Heero felt a moment's guilt, regarding his true motivations in pursuing the dinner invitation. She seemed like a nice woman, attractive and intelligent. He would have to be careful. "And I would like to take you out for dinner tonight."

"That would be wonderful." Relena smiled. "Thank you for your gracious invitation, Herr Lowe…Heero." She paused and, reaching into her handbag for a pen, scribbled down an address and telephone number on the back of a small card. "I'll be ready at seven."

Heero took the card, read the address, nodded and turned it over. "Seven, then." He rose to his feet, hoping like hell that Iria Winner's information had been correct. "I need to go. Until tonight, Relena."

"Until tonight," she repeated, watching him leave the café.

Once he turned the corner of the street, Heero leaned against a wall and took deep breaths. "What the hell have I done," he wondered aloud, reading the name on the other side of the card again. The address that she'd given was the same as the one that they had discovered for the SS officer who had captured Duo.

Colonel Zechs Merquise.

******

The truck lurched suddenly, and Quatre bit down on his lip. "Are you all right," Trowa asked, after Sister Helen had apologised for the state of the road.

He would have preferred, because of the state of Quatre's health, to wait a few more days before relocating to Lehnin [1], but it was too dangerous to stay where they were. It was only a matter of time before the Gestapo was on their doorstep, and Trowa was not prepared to take the risk of either himself or Quatre being captured.

The long journey between the Klosterkirche and the Luise-Henrietten convent had taken its toll on Quatre, although he was hiding it well.

"Brother Dominic?" Trowa asked, using the cover name that they had agreed on. Hiding in plain view, although not an ideal situation, at least gave them more options. For the duration of the journey, Quatre was Brother Dominic, he was Brother Francis, and they were assisting Sister Helen in delivering supplies to a neighbouring convent. The heavy brown robes of the order would also help to hide their identities and the fact that Quatre's wound had begun to seep.

"I'm fine," Quatre mumbled, turning his head away from Trowa's gaze. "Just tired." He gripped the wooden beads hanging from his robe, his breath hissing after the truck jerked again.

"I'm sorry," Sister Helen said again. "This particular stretch of road hasn't been very well maintained for quite some time." She crunched the gears, muttered something very unfitting for a nun, under her breath, and the truck lurched forward before picking up speed again.

"I'm fine," Quatre repeated, dropping the rosary into his lap as he fell forward. Trowa caught him before he hit his head on the dashboard. "What?" Quatre seemed puzzled.

"You nearly passed out," Trowa frowned. He placed a hand on Quatre's forehead. Not surprisingly, the other man felt hot. "You're not fine, you have a slight fever. You need to rest."

"Well I can't, can I?" Quatre snapped. "We're almost there, we can't stop now. It's too dangerous." His eyes began to close, but he opened them again, his body jerking awake with a start.

"Try to at least sleep," Trowa suggested. "I'll wake you if necessary. Your body needs to…"

"What my body needs is a bath and a good night's sleep," Quatre admitted. "I'm sorry I snapped." He managed a weak smile, his eyes closing again. "Maybe I will sleep, I…" He went limp, losing his fight to stay conscious before he had managed to complete whatever he had been going to say. Trowa placed his arm around Quatre's waist, discreetly holding him in an upright position to avoid arousing the suspicions of anyone they passed on the road.

Sister Helen took her eyes off the road for a moment to nod in Quatre's direction. The cab of the truck wasn't very large, and Trowa pulled Quatre, who was sandwiched between them, closer towards him, to give her more room. "The medicine seems to have helped with the worst of the infection," she said. "Do you have any left?"

"No," Trowa shook his head. "I gave him the last of it before we left." He paused, brushing Quatre's hair from his face and adjusted the hood of the monk's robe so that it covered him fully. "He'll have to fight the rest of the infection himself. The Gestapo will be watching any hospitals or doctors in the area."

The last three days had given Trowa more insight into Quatre's personality; he had enjoyed the time they had spent together, even though Quatre had passed a lot of it sleeping. Quatre was gentle, intelligent and possessed a good sense of humour. He was also very stubborn and needed to rid himself of his growing paranoia and poor self-esteem.

Trowa sighed. Despite only having really known Quatre for a short time, Trowa knew that he was in danger of developing feelings of more than just mere friendship towards him, but he couldn't afford that. Not now. Their very survival would depend on their ability to react quickly and think clearly, without any distractions and emotional attachments clouding their judgement.

A low moan filled the cabin, and Quatre shifted in his sleep, his head slipping to rest on Trowa's shoulder. Without thinking, Trowa brushed his fingers against his friend's cheek before slipping his hand into Quatre's. Quatre's hand tightened around Trowa's, his lips turning up into a smile; although he didn't awaken, his breathing evened, and he sighed, moving in closer to Trowa.

Could there be a chance that Quatre felt the same way? Although Trowa had been watching him for several months, Quatre had only been aware of his presence since that day on which Trowa had helped him when he'd lost his footing in the courtyard outside his office. They hadn't known each other long enough for anything more than friendship to develop, and if the events following Dr. J's death hadn't thrown them into each other's company, it was doubtful that they would have even exchanged more than a few words. Quatre Winner had been an assignment, a possible collaborator in the fight for freedom, nothing more.

Sister Helen slammed on the brakes, and Trowa had to struggle to keep himself and Quatre in their seats. She cursed under her breath, and Trowa wondered, not for the first time, what her background had been before she'd joined the convent in Germany.

"Brother Dominic, wake up!" she hissed under her breath. "We've got company."

Glancing out of the front window of the truck, Trowa took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. He adjusted his disguise and Quatre's and placed the rosary beads back in Quatre's hand as he woke him.

The road in front of them was barricaded to prevent anything from passing through, and in front of the road-block were several armed soldiers. To the side of the road was three feet of barren ground; it would take several minutes to reach the cover of trees on either side, even if Quatre were capable, which Trowa very much doubted. The only way out was to meet their enemy directly and hope that he believed their cover story.

"What?" Quatre's eyes were unfocused; he seemed confused. "Where am I?"

The German officer exchanged several words with his comrades and walked over to the truck. "You are all to exit the vehicle slowly," he ordered, raising his weapon.

******
Notes:

[1] The Luise-Henrietten convent, is in Lehnin, outside Brandenburg. It is approximately 200 miles from the Klosterkirche, where chapter two was set.

******

End of Chapter Three