Updated: 1-4-2004

Title: He's Mine: Heart and Soul-Interlude #1 pt 1-2
Author: Perotessa Detwieler (cearda@ultimanet.com)
Category: dramatic, Shonen-ai, slight angst
Pairings: none in this section
Warnings: Coarse language and some violence

Disclaimer: Proof of ownership?! I don't need to show you no stinkin' proof of ownership! But suffice to say....I don't own them, except for any original character that pops up.
Those I own and keep in small bottles in my room. I am not making any profit, I am just borrowing them for a while. And maybe sneaking them off to stay with me after this project is done. :)

Rating: maybe R

Warnings: A little violence and some course language

Spoilers: None really. Set after the Series and Endless Waltz.

Author's Request: Please be gentle! This is my first try at a GW fic. If people are OOC my bad. *bad llama* I am open to feedback, but flames will be tossed in the old trash bin. You won't get a rise out of me...just crush my feelings and we don't want that now do we? Thought not.

Archived:At the DHML Fanfic Archive http://www.kikotei.net/gw/dhml/ficarch/index.htm
And my Perotessa D's Fanfic Archive: http://www.salinas.net/~cearda/gwing/fanfic.html

Notes: This is Interlude #1 of the He's Mine: Heart and Soul series. It takes place roughly 3 months after Duo has been crowned Imperial Prince.

Summary: Old deals that the Emperor made come into question, and Duo the newly crowned Imperial Prince pays them in full, in his own special way.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Interlude #1 - Devil's Night - part 1

Earth - New York City
August - A.C. 201

 

Don Angelo Torretta, head of the Torretta crime Family swept his cold eyes over the assembled heads of his lieutenants and soldiers. Over the past fifteen years the Torretta Family had become one of the strongest in the Empire. With careful management and ruthless culling of the masses, Torretta which had started out fourth ranked overall by accumulated assets and total wealth staged a coup, totally annihilating the third ranked Family. In response, the number one and two Families pooled their resources and combined into a Super Family.

All of this was in part to the dedication and smart thinking of one Stephen Mariucci who had clawed his way out of the ranks of associates and now stood as Under Boss. With Mariucci working as their contact, they had respect and access to more political figures than they ever had before. A little piece of information that was going to help them now especially in regard to one newly crowned Prince Duo Maxwell Mathis.

"I don't want anyone to approach the Prince." said the Don. He gestured towards Stephen in a lazy casual way. "I have requested an audience for Steve there next week. He will explain to the prince how things are now and gain his full cooperation and understanding in how things are done. He will not interfere with us. After all it's just business."

Across the table the dark sullen eyes of Joe Salvatore Colosi, an over eager associate based in Brooklyn, met his for a moment before flickering away. Torretta sighed softly. If there was going to be trouble, it would come from Joe; it always did.

He shrugged off his feeling of apprehension and rose from his seat. "I will get in contact will all of you after Steve's meeting. Now I want it known to all of you right now that no one is to approach the prince until after Steve gets back. His father might be toothless, but that doesn't mean he won't retaliate swiftly if we threaten his son. Leave the boy alone; I will deal with him when the time comes."

*~*~*

Earth - Washington D.C.
August - A.C. 201

His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Duo Maxwell Mathis was still getting used to the idea that people bowed or curtseyed when he walked past them. For a man who once was able to slip in and out of crowds of people unnoticed, to suddenly be seen, recognized, and acknowledged was a bit disconcerting.

It was just something he was going to have to get used to, but that didn't mean he had to like it.

Only four months had passed since his sudden discovery and rocket launched ascension into Imperial high society. There was so much still to learn! Etiquette and procedures and the by-play that went on behind the scene at the Imperial Palace! He really could have used another two months to figure out how things worked, how the government worked and what his role was within the microcosm that was Washington D.C.

For now he was using William Marcus Ramsey the Third, the nephew of William Ramsey, his father's personal secretary, to help keep his calendar and keep him up to date on his day to day schedule.

Most days it was like a mad house! There was always something to do, but that was to be expected. For now he had his plate full with Royal engagements, and learning what exactly went on day to day to really worry about the growing list of responsibilities that he was to start to take on.

A typical day's itinerary included sitting in on a session of congress, tutoring in the Imperial Charter which superseded the old Constitution, going to a hospital as the royal representative and seeing the opening of a new children's ward.

Then it was back to the palace for an afternoon war session and monitoring what were hot spots for the Empire. Then language lessons.

Surprising to the staff was the fact that he could speak Japanese and Russian. He could understand spoken Spanish, German and Mandarin, and had a basic comprehension of Hindi, French and Bengali.

The lessons were aimed to clean up his obscenity laced Japanese, and get him to be able not only to understand Spanish, but to speak it was well.

Duo shook his head and tugged at the cuff of his suit. "So Wills, what's on the agenda for today?" he asked his secretary.

Wills who seemed to have his day planner perpetually stuck to his hand, looked up adjusted his glasses and read off the schedule.

"At nine thirty you have a private meeting with the vice president of the Senate. That should last about an hour. Then at eleven you have a photo session in the west rose garden with your father and members of the Inter City alliance. At noon, you have a business lunch with Johnson over at the CIA in regards to security details and your trip to New York for the National Day of Remembrance on September Eleventh. Then at two thirty it's back to the palace for your daily language lessons--"

Duo held up a hand, pushing his hand through his bangs in irritation. "Hell I've had mission assignments which were less stressful! So....at least I have an hour or so free between Johnson the CIA jerk who has the handbook stuck up his ass, and my daily torture session. Ugh!"

Wills cleared his throat in a way that Duo had quickly come to realize was a nervous habit. "Actually at one o'clock you have a meeting with one Stephen Mariucci. A representative of one of your father's business associates."

Wills wouldn't meet his eyes and faint color stained his cheeks.

Duo frowned. "A 'business associate'? Who is he really Wills?"

His secretary blanched. "I really can not say, sir."

"I see." said the prince softly turning away. <'So it looks like some people have special access to me. Looks like I'll have to change my staff around so they don't.'> He glanced at his secretary furtively with a look of disappointment. <'Guess I should make the best out of a bad situation.'>

"Well come on Ramsey we've got a full agenda today and no better time to start than now." Duo strode to the door intent on making his way to the dining room and breakfast with the Emperor. Behind him, he could hear the secretary scrambling to catch up.

***

"Thank God that's over!" sighed Duo, throwing himself onto a divan sprawling out in complete relaxed pose.

"I swear Johnson gets worst every time I see him. I mean honestly if it's one thing I know its security! Or rather how to get around it, over it, or through it." he smirked faintly.

Hesitantly Wills spoke up. "Your Highness, your one o'clock is here."

Duo's eyes snapped open and he growled. "Last chance Wills. Who is he?"

The secretary shook his head.

"Fine Wills, fine." The prince rolled to his feet. "So where is this meeting to take place?"

"The front library is open for use. It's small intimate."

Duo grimaced. "I don't know how intimate I want to get with a person I don't know, and whom you won't tell me about. Lead the way."

Upon entering the front library, Duo found it to his liking. It was a small space perfect for a simple one on one discussion. Dark wood paneling, and bookcases from floor to ceiling dominated the space. There was a large desk with one executive chair, and a single "client" chair in front of it. Behind and against the wall was a deep burgundy leather sofa.

"Would you like any refreshments brought in?" asked Ramsey.

Duo shrugged. "Depends on what type of guy this is, and you won't tell me. Why is that?"

The private secretary looked around slightly nervous. "I think it would be best if Mister Mariucci explained all of that himself. I think you would understand better if you heard it from him."

Frowning, Duo settled himself into the large leather chair behind the desk, straightened his tie, then made an imperious gesture with his hand. "Let's get this over with. Send him in."

For the first time, Ramsey had the feeling that the Prince wasn't as oblivious as he was perceived to be. He reminded himself that the young man used to be a Gundam pilot and that must count for something. Duo was no one's fool. If anyone could break the hold of Don Gino Torretta, it would be the prince.

Sighing, the secretary went to fetch Stephen Mariucci.

Alone, Duo turned the chair around and gazed out the window.

So it was that Stephen Mariucci was greeted by a very pensive Prince Maxwell Maithis. Wills cleared his throat. "Your Highness, may I present Stephen Mariucci."

Duo turned around slowly, his expression blank. "Mr. Mariucci. Pleased to meet you." He offered the man his hand. They shook, and Duo withdrew all without getting up from the chair.

"Please have a seat, make yourself comfortable."

Mariucci frowned slightly; already this meeting wasn't going the way he thought it would. The prince, he had heard, was very personable, outgoing, and extroverted. That was not who met him today. This prince was withdrawn and hard edged; his eyes shuttered and flat. Convincing him might be harder than he thought. He smoothed a smile over his features. This was exactly why he was so valuable to the family; he was very persuasive.

"Thank you your Highness. May I be the first to congratulate you on your coronation and wish you the best of luck in all your future ventures."

Duo gave a vapid smile. "You wanted to see me. You weren't really on my schedule and Ramsey here, won't tell me what you want. So Mr. Mariucci, what is it that you think I can do for you."

"Ah, your highness, its not what you can do for me, but what I can do for you."

That flat eyed stare slid over Stephen's form negligently, a brow rose in blatant disbelief. "And that would be what?"

Stephen frowned, clicked his tongue then said, "I think its time I explained exactly who I am and who I represent. Allow me to tell you a little story."

Prince Maithis sighed, but obligingly sat back in his chair to listen.

"As I am sure you've been told, twenty-three years ago, your father then Crown Prince Jonathan Maithis was the victim of two horrible tragedies.

The first was the abduction of Marguite O'Hare, however the second was the most devastating.

"His parents were on their way back to Washington when their plane went down. With the death of the emperor, your father was immediately named his successor.

"Now, I am sure I don't have to explain to you how chaotic the following months were. He had to make some tough decisions he knew he couldn't hold the Empire together by himself he would need help. Also he would need to be voted in as Emperor during a specially called Election set up seven months later.

"To have an election set so soon after the passing of his parents, and his fiancée, battling depression, fighting for control over an administration who were loyal to his late father, but with his father gone, no one knew if the prince would be able to win an election, so everyone was looking out for the themselves. There was no trust and while the prince and his advisors were desperately trying to tie up votes opposition was building. Not to mention the fact that the Alliance was now just waiting to pounce, sensing weakness within the Empire. Could you imagine that? The Empire torn to pieces because Maithis couldn't hold onto the throne?

"Young Maithis wasn't stupid. He knew he would need all the help he could get by any means fair or foul. So to ensure his succession he cut a deal with the devil. He made a deal with the Five Families; Organized crime."

"He came to us, he asked for help. If we helped to ensure his winning the election, he would keep the federal government out of our business. The Families looked at it as a business transaction and felt overall that it was best for them to help out the prince than let him Could you even imagine that? America the beautiful and Alliance holding? A Base and training ground for their rigid dogma? The people would never stand for it, but if what I read is correct, the Alliance already had so many moles and sleeper agents set and primed within the infrastructure that they could have easily bought the election and ousted Maithis.

For our own best interests, the Five Families thought it would be best to support the Crown Prince in his bid for Emperorship.

"After he won, it was dicey going there in the beginning, no one really trusted anyone else...but our alliance held and has kept us both in power and stabilized the country for almost twenty years. Of course, after a while, it was realized that Maithis would never take a wife and that after he left office, the Empire would probably die out as well. We never expected for a long lost heir to suddenly show up."

He paused to gather his thoughts. "I want it understood that We, the Torretta Family, have nothing but good will towards you." the under boss said fervently. "However that being said, I want it also understood that any deals and agreements the Family have made, are exclusive to your father, and do not extend to you."

The prince nodded, fingers steepled, his blue eyes clouded.

Steve smiled. "I only tell you this to protect you, Your Highness. I can see, even now after just being in your presence that you are different. You weren't raised here behind palace walls, and while the Emperor may have a much wider view on life, and more knowledge than some of his predecessors he was still raised as a prince. He doesn't really understand what it's like to live hand to mouth like some of us.

"To have to claw your way out of the gutter and make something of yourself. He'll say: 'Yes Duo, that's a great program and I'll back it one hundred percent', but he won't really understand WHY it's needed and who it will really help. Not just the person adult stands in line at the office to get his stamps, but the children that person has at home who may be so hungry that the food those stamps are redeemed for, is the only food they may see that week. See, I understand where you're coming from. I want you to understand where We are coming from."

Stephen laid the last piece of his hand down and said softly: "The Torretta Family doesn't want to be your enemy your highness."

"I see." The prince fell silent for a moment contemplating his options which were granted rather limited.

"In other words you want me to turn a blind eye towards any corruption That happens within my sphere of influence."

"The agreements We and your father came to 20 years ago were for the protection and prolonged guaranteed well being of the country. Surely you can understand how fragile the balance is we strive to maintain-"

Duo held up a hand. "You don't have to try and convince me. I am sure if there was any other way for him to stabilize the country, he would have attempted it. However I can see that with only such a short period of time, he did what he thought was best. Now I must do what I think is best."

The prince turned and pinned Stephen to his chair with a direct and chilling gaze from his blue upon blue eyes. "I will adhere to any agreements you have with my father, provided that your organization leaves me and my interests alone. Are we agreed?"

Stephen swallowed a suddenly very dry throat. "Sounds very wise, Your Highness."

"In addition," <'Damn! Should have seen this coming!'> Thought the under boss. "It will be agreed that your Family is to have no involvement with my own personal or professional projects. If you are looking for the Crown Prince's consent on any 'agenda' you talk directly to me. You do not talk to my staff, or take their approval as my own. In any project that will infringe on my own, I want notification and you are to come to me separately from my father. Are we agreed?"

Now Mariucci was pinned. There was room for maneuverability of course, but not enough to fully renege on such an agreement. There was no other option but agreement. "Yes, your Highness."

Duo studied him for a few more moment with his flat Maithis blue eyes, then nodded.

"It set my fears to rest now that we have had this discussion, Mr. Mariucci. Please tell your Don that I would like to see him as soon as we can arrange a meeting."

Stephen knew a dismissal when he heard it. He scrambled to his feet trying to make it look like he wasn't scrambling to his feet. He cast a glance over at the prince's private secretary and wasn't too surprised to see a faint smirk on his face.

<'Shit. I'll not become the laughing stock of peons like you, you boot licker.'> Mariucci seethed.

He nodded politely to the Prince then turned and walked out of the office.

Hidden by the edge of the desk, Duo's hands had clenched into fists. <'Goddamned Mafia! What the hell happened 20 years ago that He felt he had to go into a partnership with that scum?!'>

Duo practically leapt out of his chair and ran out of the office heading for his own apartments.

Most of his time living on the streets had been spent keeping out of the way of Syndicates which ran the streets of L2. Trying to stay out of their crossfire whenever there was a turf war, and out of the hands of recruiters who would either sell off the street kids to child prostitution rings, or use them as unwitting drug runners, or even worst as guinea pigs for the L2 population control labs.

Duo had escaped all of those horrors, and now Second Chance helped the current generation of street rats to escape them as well. He never thought that he might have to work hand in hand with such evil. The thought sickened him and he felt a part of him, one which he thought had been buried deep with the end of the war, suddenly flicker and awaken.

Duo gave a small inarticulate cry, one hand clutching his chest, the other braced against the salmon pink wall. Panting he tried desperately to stem the tide of the darkness within him. <'NO! I don't need you! Not for this! Never for this! I can handle this on my own. Go back to sleep damn you.'>

The presence, the entity, the persona known only as Shinigami flexed then settled back down. Duo's mental walls held; the beast was pacified and went back to sleep.

Duo ran a trembling hand through his bangs. That was the last thing he needed; to go all Shinigami in the Imperial Palace.

<'Heh! They'd have me locked up in a psyche ward faster than you could say: 'He's nuts!'>

Feeling his heart rate slowing, he straightened up and continued on his way toward his rooms. However the thoughts still nagged at him. Who was the Torretta Family?

There was only one way to find out.

<'I don't HAVE to act on any information I find out. I don't. I'll just look that's all.'>

Half way to his rooms, Ramsey fell into step beside him, a faint smile on his face. "Your Highness? It's time for your language lesson-"

"Cancel it. I have something else I have to do right now. I don't think it's going to kill the tutors if I skip one day. Make sure I am not disturbed will you?"

He closed the door to his private rooms in the secretary's face.

<'Sometimes I really do hate my life....fortunately now is not one of those times.'> thought the prince as he rummaged around the massive walk in closet which was attached to his bedroom. <'I might not be as good at this as Heero, but that doesn't mean I never learned my way around a command prompt'>

Digging around in a couple of boxes he finally found what he was looking for, and pulled it out into the light. "Ah Ha!" he mummered softly. "Thought you could hide from me did you?" He pulled the black plastic wrap off the object and carried into his sitting room.

He placed the object on the fancy writing desk, and looked down at it uneasily. <'This changes nothing you know. I just want you to know that before we start. This doesn't mean I'll have to act on what I learn. But I must know.'>

Reaffirming this vow he clenched his fist and offered up a small prayer then pressed a button. There was a small whine then the sound of powering up. With a small beep, the lid unlatched with a 'click', and rose up into an upright position. Another beep as systems came online, and then internal scans started. Muted clicks and whirls of the hard disk filled the air then a green cursor prompt flashed on the screen.

C:\<Demon>: Black Demon self-diagnostic complete
C:\<Demon>: All components within operational parameters
C:\<Demon>: Black Demon Online
C:\<Demon>:___

Cracking his knuckles Duo placed his fingers on home row and typed in:

CONNECT TO LOCAL WIRELESS NETWORK

C:\<Demon> Connecting...

another beep was heard then:
C:\:<Demon>: Black Demon connected to local wireless network

CONNECT TO IP 234.55666.909

C:\<Demon> Connecting...
C:\:<Demon>: Black Demon connected to IP 234.55666.909

INITIATE INTERNET SEARCH PROGAM

C:\:<Demon>: Initiated
C:\<Demon>: Please enter parameters for Query
C:\<Demon>:__

Five Families + Torretta Family + Stephen Mariucci

C:\<Demon>: Searching....

Duo sat back, knowing that this search was going to take a while. Grinning he smoothed a hand over the Demon's monitor. Granted, he wasn't a super computer hacker like Heero was, that didn't mean he didn't know his way around a command prompt. Luckily for him, Professor G had given him the Demon so he could snoop around on the net. After Romafeller had usurped Oz and taken control of the Colonies, the Net was the only way for he and the other pilots to know exactly what the hell was going on. Alliances had changed so fast, had been hard to keep up. Only real time communications even had a whisper of a prayer for the pilots to know who exactly they were to set up an attack on next.

Of course, after the war Duo had kept the Demon not as a memento, but because it was a very useful piece of equipment. Never had the laptop disappointed or betrayed him. It was loaded with, what at the time, had been cutting edge software. Now though, it may be in need a complete overhaul. However for this little mission, it would get the job done.

The demon gave a double beep; it's search over.

Duo keyed up and started at the first result.

As he went through the results, a frown began to spread over his face.

*~*~*

"So how did it go Stevie?"

The under boss gladly sat down and gathered his thoughts. "Better than I expected. If I didn't know better I'd say this prince has had some dealings if not with a Family, with at least a syndicate. He knew a lot of the more subtle rules of etiquette. He also struck me as a man who could handle himself and is unafraid. That or he's really good at faking."

Don Torretta nodded as if everything Stephen said just confirmed everything he already suspected. "He probably has had dealings with a Syndicate. They don't have Families up there on the colonies like we do here. It's different up there. The syndicates up there are like animals. There is no subtlety to them, no traditions, no patiences. It's all different up there; cut throat ruthless. Stevie here's something I want you to remember when dealing with colony syndicates. Never risk more than you're willing to loose, okay?"

Stephen nodded obediently knowing that Don Torretta wasn't being patronizing, just trying to give him a little bit of wisdom. You didn't become boss of your own Family without remembering a few of the tricks that got you there in the first place.

He would remember this when it was his turn to be handed the reins to the Family. And he would remember the flat eyed stare of the Crown Prince. Now there was a man he didn't want as an enemy…

Ever.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Interlude #1 - Devil's Night pt 2

Earth - New York City
September 11 - A.C. 201

A little less than a month later, Crown Prince Duo Maxwell Mathis had pretty much forgotten his talk with Stephen Mariucci. None of the Torretta Family had tried to get in touch with him, and for that he was grateful. He wasn't sure how he would have reacted if they had. All he knew was his work with Second Chance, and establishing a half way house in Washington D.C. Finding and recruiting members of congress and the senate who held the same views as himself in regards to the underprivileged, and helping pass legislation which helped to protect children.

Today however he was representing the Mathis line at the annual National Day of Remembrance in New York City, site of the great tragedy, which brought down the old Twin Towers. Already they had read off the names of all the people who had been lost on that day, and there had been a moment of silence for those who were killed at the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania. Then a drum core made up of firemen in Scottish regalia had played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes for the firefighters and police officers and other emergency workers who had just been doing their jobs when the Towers fell; Heroes all.

Duo himself knew that he was a bit of a sap, and it was often enough that the media who were covering the event, got pictures of him dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief. <'Those are sure to make it into the next issue of "Royalty Today"> he thought with a cringe sniffling.

The mayor of New York City rose and gave a speech imploring all those gathered today never to forget those who lost their lives on nine eleven, nor those who died on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq, to help insure that nothing like that would ever happened again.Duo clapped politely along with the crowd. He was scheduled to give his own speech after the state's governor. It was his first time addressing a crowd outside of Washington D.C. as the Crown Prince.

Lightly he touched the note cards which were in his pocket. He was rather surprised at how nervous he was. He had been standing up speaking in front of crowds now for almost two years now. Granted most of those talks had been readings for "Confessions of a Gundam Pilot", but this shouldn't be any different. Sure this was being televised and beamed into millions of people's homes. No pressure what so ever. He felt his lips twitch as he tried to suppress a smile.

The governor finished. Again he politely applauded along with the crowd. Then he was announced. Nodding in acknowledgement to the mayor and governor he took the podium and looked out over the sea of faces.

Most there were decedents of people lost in the Twin Towers Tragedy. Some though were family members of soldiers or those who lost their lives on the two other planes.

The Prince cleared his throat and realized that the speech he had written had just been tossed out the window. <'Hell…I always did do my best work when I improvised.'> He thought and spoke.

"On September eleventh two thousand and one, a horrific crime was committed. We are here to remember those who lost their lives on the planes, in the buildings, at the Pentagon, on the street, and in a pasture in Pennsylvania. Our continuing internal and moralistic battle is not to hate the people who perpetrated this crime, but the crime itself. Some people will say that it makes fighting easier if you hate your opponent, or think of them as an enemy. As a former soldier myself it was the way I was trained.

"However, before I was a pilot, I was a foundling child taken in by a church-run orphanage. I was taught to turn the other cheek, and that to grant forgiveness took more courage and strength than to strike out at another person. But sometimes, words simply are not enough. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

"For me, one of the most searing images from that day are pictures of doctors and nurses prepped and ready for masses of people to fill the emergency rooms, and no patients coming in. To know that there were men and women from police, fire, and emergency services on site doing their jobs doing what they loved to do, helping people in need is indeed humbling.

"Today, this day September eleventh, after colony two hundred and one, is a day for remembrance. A day to think about those people who lost their lives and those who put everything on the line to help others.

"God bless all those who have lost their lives in this Tragedy. God Bless those who lost their lives battling so that we may never have our freedoms curtailed. And God Bless the Imperial United States of America."

The crowd leapt to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. Duo let out a small-relived sigh and went back to his seat. <'Well that went better than I expected. Thank God.'>

He glanced around and caught the eye of one of his bodyguards, and nodded to him.

***

Soon the gathering was over and Duo was hustled away, swept into a black unmarked limo and whisked away down Broadway. Duo never had been to the City before, not without having to keep his head down as a pilot, this was actually his first visit. Course he had to be back in Washington for a late dinner reception at 8 pm. He and his two closest bodyguards had plans to check out the city in those few hours left for exploration.

Inside the limo the Crown Prince rolled and shimmed out of his good clothes, and put on clothes much more suited to an everyday man; unassuming and unnoticeable. Flipping the collar of his blue denim shirt down, he buttoned the cuffs and smoothed a cap on over his head.

"So? What do you think?" He asked his two companions.

They gave each other identical looks, one brow arched. Duo snorted and rolled his eyes. "I'll take that as a 'Yes'." He chuckled. He put on his black sneakers and grabbed for his leather jacket.

No one was allowed to touch his jacket. It was his pride and joy. Of course something no one knew, except a few select people, was that it was also a sheath for a few concealed throwing knives, a broken down composite gun which wouldn't show up on x-ray, and had a very sophisticated tracking device sewn into the hem.

Duo studied his two bodyguards who had also changed clothes and nodded, pleased with the results. "Well if you two are ready, let's go! I am dying to try some food. Too bad we can't stay for a musical or anything. I hear this place has some killer nightlife."

The limo came to a stop in an underground parking lot at a ritzy hotel. The three of them slipped out, Duo waved to the driver who would make sure that the limo was cleaned up, prepped, and ready for the return trip up to the airport.

The two bodyguards: Casey and Monroe had been assigned to the Prince only six weeks ago. They didn't know him that well, but they were slowing getting to know him. Truth be told, they liked him. So when the young man threw an arm over both of their shoulders smirking, "I got my wallet, my camera, and my two best buds! I am ready to tackle anything!"

Both felt pangs of remorse for what they were about to do. For while the two were loyal to the Mathis Royal House, they also knew who paid their wage: The Torretta Family.

***

Four hours later found the three men walking through Chinatown and Little Italy on their way back towards the hotel in downtown.

They had gone through Central Park and Rockefeller Center, then swung past the Empire State Building before entering the Village. If there was ever a place Duo would like to go on vacation it was Greenwich. The place was cool and fit his own eclectic tastes to a tee.

Now however the day was almost totally spent, and it time catch their plane and head back to Washington for that dinner the prince had to attend tonight.

Casey took point, while Monroe brought up the rear; the prince walked along totally oblivious to the betrayal about to strike; or so the two guards thought.

Actually Duo was highly aware that their path had deviated from Canal Street, and that they were now walking in a direction directly parallel to the one he wanted to go in. His internal warning system going off with full bells and whistles screaming at him: <'Wrong! Wrong! Something's Wrong!'>

It was reinforced when he looked around, and realized that Casey had directed them into an alleyway with only one way out. Instincts long dormant since the war were reawakened with a jolt, and rushed towards the surface of his consciousness.

Casey and Monroe would never know how close they came to having their brains blown out by one thoroughly pissed off Shinigami. Duo had never ignored his instincts while they called for flight, he knew intellectually, that there was no place for him to go. The alleyway that Casey and Monroe had directed him to made pretty damn sure of that.

It didn't help matters that the darkness was slowly welling up, and he had to fight to keep it walled away. It was a chagrined looking Casey who said softly: "Please your Highness. He just wants to talk to you." as if trying to appease him.

Duo struggled internally with the darkness that was demanding to be let out and attack something. Somewhat distracted he ground out through clenched teeth: "Who does?"

A chuckle skittered out of the shadows. "That would be Mister Colosi."

A form detached itself from the shadows, a smoking figure heavyset, deeply tanned with dark hair and eyes. He took one last long drag off his cigarette then tossed it to the ground. Duo's eyes tracked the small projectile, watching the end flare then quickly die.

"Don't worry. He doesn't bite too hard. He's waiting for you. This way." Duo's new guide lead him deeper into the alleyway, to a large rusty riveted metal door. He gave two knocks paused then a third.

The scrap of a lock was heard, then the door swung open groaning in protest. "After you, Your Highness." his guide said mockingly. Duo felt a calmness wash over him, a complete confidence in his abilities, all his previously conflicting, screaming nerves and emotions quieting and honed to one purpose. Head high, shoulders back he strode inside. Behind him a faint snort of derision as the door was pulled shut.

He let out a low breath and continued walking forward, towards a lone hanging warehouse lamp.

"Afternoon Your Highness." a voice from his left was enough to make him stop, just at the edge of the circle cast by the lone bulb. "I am Joe Colosi. Welcome to my city."

Colosi was short, had dark eyes, and a dark expression on his face. He smirked faintly, hands in the pockets of his expensive looking tailored jacket.

The Prince softly snorted, looking the man up and down and making it clear that he found him wanting. "Heh, at least you're not a smoker." Duo crossed his arms over his chest and struck a nonchalant and unconcerned pose.

Colosi's smirk deepened, and he shrugged nonplused. "Thought it'd be rude. I'd offer you a chair, but I don't think we're gonna be here that long. I just wanted to let you know, that whatever arrangement you have with Mariucci and Torretta, it don't mean jack shit here. This City is mine; given to me by the Don and I run it the way I want." He paused shooting Duo a look full of meaning, then relaxed slightly grinning as if letting Duo in on a secret.

"Now the Don, he doesn't know what it's like. He doesn't even come down here anymore. He's too busy living in his big cushy house across the river to worry about the dark streets down here. Yet he's willing to cut you a deal; to stay out of your business if you stay out of his. Don't make me laugh. There are only a few ways keep business going if you know what I mean, and one of the best ways are the kids." His stance changed becoming more aggressive, a sneering tone entered Colosi's voice.

"Now you listen here. I don't give a fuck what you do or say, but these streets are mine, hear? You just can't come in here and stake claim to all of my workers. I've need of them and they are mine. Now this is what we are gonna do. I don't want you moving your little goody two shoes operations in there. If I find out that you have, I'll shoot up a few of your shelters. This is my territory I make the laws, I enforce them. I don't want you here."

Duo clenched his fists, dropping his eyes, his back stiff with tension and he knew he was out maneuvered and out gunned. A tactical retreat was in order.

"I'll need time to think about it." He said smoothly. "The mayor, senator, and governor approved the plan three weeks ago. When you have a plan this high up in the infrastructure you just don't say: 'oh by the way, forget it.'" he gave Colosi a condescending look; any idiot would know that. "It will take time to explain why Second Chance may be scaling back its operations."

He wasn't going to give Colosi the gratification of an out and out win, but in this he knew he was beat for now.

Colosi gave a thin oily smile, knowing he'd won this round. "Sure you go talk about it with your 'friends'. Just make sure they don't start poking their noses into my business. As long as your answer is one I want to hear, we won't be having any trouble." He smiled, a hard glint entering his eyes.

Duo didn't have to pretend to shiver. This type of scum he killed quickly efficiently; they didn't deserve to live. He held on tightly to his self-control, and wrestled the Shinigami back into its dark dungeon.

The prince turned and started toward the door. Instincts left over from his training screamed at him that he was putting himself into a vulnerable position, but he had to get out of that room before he did something monumentally stupid. Just as he made it to the door, Colosi called out: "Oh yeah, don't worry about the kids. They'll be just fine."

<'Bastard!'>

The heavyset guy who had led Duo into the building now was "kind" enough to open the rusty door to let him leave the building, but thankfully didn't follow him out.

Duo left the alleyway, striding down the street, leaving Casey and Monroe to chase after him in some confusion. He knew that if he let it, his anger would find an outlet, and something bad would happen. It was in a very soft yet tight voice that he said to the two bodyguards: "Find your own way back. Or better yet, stay here since you seem so complacent with my safety and those I would protect."

He left them there and melted into the busy foot traffic of the Manhattan City streets.

He walked three blocks before he felt calm enough to fish out the cell phone and call his driver. He told the guy to come pick him up; they were going back to Washington immediately.

***

Two hours later, it was a rage simmering Prince Mathis who stalked down the hallway to his suite of rooms. He brushed past Wills and slammed the door in the puzzled assistance's face.

The Black Daemon sat on his desk; it's screen blank waiting for him to revive it. For a timeless span he simply stared at the laptop which sat there so innocently; a tool he could and would exploit to it's fullest capability if he decided to follow this dark and shadowed path that loomed before him.

<'He threatened my kids. He threatened innocents. No one controls him; he's like a mad dog. He should be eliminated before he harms more innocents.'> In his mind stratagems and weapons manifests were already taking shape. What he would need to get this job done, where he would and should strike first, who he could contact to get information from for a strike, how to effectively and efficiently erase any and all traces of his own involvement once the job was done.

He grimaced and clenched his hands into trembling fists. <'Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!'> ran through his mind.

Was he really capable of doing this again? But who else could he trust to carry out this mission? If the corruption was as deeply rooted as he suspected it was, there were moles everywhere. His staff had been compromised! There was no one to trust not even security could be trusted.

He was on his own.

Duo felt this gut tighten in anxiousness and disgust. If he didn't do this, who would? Within him, the Shinigami broke out of its bonds and spread through him; a cold black rage filled him. Decision made he turned, hooking a hand on the chair which mated the desk, and sat down. A dead calm washed over him, smoothing out his features and steadying his hands. With no hesitation at all, he pressed his finger firmly to the touch pad of the laptop identifying with it by his fingerprint thus his password.

The system unlocked the screen flashed and the disk beeped in recognition.

C:\< Daemon >: Black Daemon Online

He placed his fingers on home row and began typing up lists of equipment, he called up the files he had saved from his last search into the Torretta Family pulling up a pictorial tree which illustrated the whole structure of the organization. He truly doubted that the FBI had any new or different information on the Family which would help him, it was just as deeply corrupt as everything else.

Pleased with what he had for now, he saved the lists and then turned the Daemon 's processing power to something else. He had the laptop link up to a Sweeper owned communications satellite and made a call to L2. The computer ran firewall after firewall, routed and re-routed, and tried socket after socket trying to connect. Duo knew that it may take some time before the computer found a stable enough connection, ran it's snooping software and found it secure enough for communication. He didn't mind, not really. He would need all the security that the Daemon had for this call.

After all it wasn't everyday he talked to Sean Maxwell, the head of the Maxwell Syndicate.

Sean was the head of the Maxwell Syndicate; a group of dissidents who used guerilla tactics against the administration of L2. He believed in using any means fair or foul to get rid of the rot of L2; those he held responsible for the death of his beloved uncle Father Douglas Maxwell. It really was ironic that Sean and Duo, while on the same side had wildly different ideas on how to rid the colony of it's corruption.

Duo believed in helping the people and to work slowly with the system. Sean wanted revenge for what he believed was a preplanned murder of innocents. He wanted to take the fight to those in power even though he realized that most of those who had been in power when the church was destroyed, were now either dead, had moved on to other colonies or earth or were dead. However his thirst for revenge spurred him on.

Duo Maxwell had met Sean Maxwell just last year in August, just before he started his book tour. The man was ten years Duo's senior, charismatic, well connected, extremely well financed, and afraid of nothing. He had moved his operation from L3, after taking over from the old Boss. He choose to move the bulk of his operation to the old area around where Maxwell Church used to stand.

The fight over who got to keep the Maxwell name, and the territory was settled only after Duo gave Sean a glimpse of the monster that still lived within him. It was the terrifying presence of the Shinigami that helped to secure the territory after Sean's Deathstrike team attacked the safe house in an attempt to force Second Chance out of the sector.

Duo and Sean came to an agreement. Second Chance would allow the Syndicate to stay within the territory and not report any of their activities to authorities as long as Deathstrike patrolled the territory, the safe house, and extended protection to any and all who were considered friends of Second Chance. Maxwell Syndicate agreed, feeling that a turf war was counter productive to their long range plans.

With Second Change and Maxwell Syndicate coming to an agreement, Duo Maxwell and Sean Maxwell also came to an understanding. Duo explained to Sean, after a night of getting to know you' and a bottle of wine, about Father Maxwell and why he was so important to him, why he had taken the man's name as his own. In exchange, Sean told Duo about his memories of a beloved uncle who had always been kind and gentle. A man of god; kind, wise, and forgiving.

After that night the two called each other 'cousin' although they were not close, they were uneasy allies bound together through pain and one man's ideals.

The connection buzzed twice then was picked up. "Maxwell." was the terse greeting.

Duo felt his lips twitch in a faint grin. "Hello cousin." he replied softly.

"Well well. If it isn't the new Prince Mathis calling on the poor and unfortunate relations. Hello Duo, and what do I owe to the honor of this call?"

Duo turned and glanced at the laptop's monitor. Sean Maxwell was 31 years old, strikingly handsome, with sable brown hair and cool grey eyes. He had a way of looking at a person that would put the fear of god into them, much like his uncle, Father Douglas Maxwell. Duo remembered that look very well. Now however wasn't the time to think of the past. "What do you know about the Toretta Family?"

Sean blinked and put down the sheaf of papers he had been handling. "You mean the Toretta Family who practically owns the Eastern Seaboard of the Imperial United States? Who have a stranglehold on all drug traffic into and out of Miami, and also control most of Canada? That Torretta Family?"

Negligently Duo drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. "That would be the one."

Sean grimaced. "What did I tell you about playing nice with those people down there, cuz? Damnit Duo! You can't just go around pissing people off-"

"I didn't piss them off; they pissed me off." said Duo flatly. He shifted slightly in his chair, then said deceptively soft: "Sean, they threatened my kids."

The Head of Maxwell Syndicate sat back in his chair, eyes wide. If it was one thing he knew from painful personal experience, it was never never never under any circumstances, threaten Duo's kids. You could make all the threats and maneuvers against him you wanted. He would take it, tolerate it, hell welcomed it! However, you never threatened a child who Duo had claimed as one of his own.... He was very protective of his kids and would kill to keep them safe.

"This is a business call then." sighed Sean. He leaned forward resting his elbows on the desktop. "So tell me, how can I help you, cousin?"

"I need your advice. The situation here is tenuous at best. A month ago the Family came to me to ask for clarification of my own agenda. I told them basically what I was going to do and to stay out of my business. They agreed.

"However, today I found out that not everyone is willing to play by the rules. One of their members, a Joe Colosi has his own agenda. He's not willing to play along. He is deliberately disobeying a direct order from his Don. They both must be held accountable; the Family must realize that my hands may be tied, but that won't keep me out of action."

Duo paused then said: "I need your help. I need you to look deeper into the Family for me. I need to find targets that will make nice examples for the others."

The Syndicate head, and pseudo cousin ran his fingers through his fringe and studied Duo for a moment. He knew how Duo's temperament could run hot and cold. Sean also recognized the signs of the Shinigami peeking out around the calm facade Duo now wore. Whoever this Joe Colosi was, he had just signed his own death certificate. There was no way that the Shinigami would tolerate letting him live.

Sighing Sean nodded, "I will do everything I can on this end, of course. However, we are almost 400 million kilometers away. We aren't exactly close to the action, and any searches we conduct will be slow no matter how good my connections."

Duo shrugged. "Time doesn't matter. I'll strike when all elements are in correct position. Besides I trust you. I have no one here I can trust with this Sean."

Sean's eyes flicked down then back up boring into Duo's own. "You have my full support in this Duo. Whatever you need I'll get it for you. Be it weapons, people, equipment just ask."

A chilling smile spread over Duo's face, and he chuckled softly. "Have I really converted you cousin? Or are you still feeling echoes of the ass whipping I gave you all those months ago?"

Sean shook his head faintly. "Truth be told Duo, the system down there is almost as corrupt as the one up here. I know that you want to make a difference peacefully in a legal way, but sometimes you have to step outside of the law. I just hope you can put this whole thing behind you when it's over."

Duo gave an anguished laugh. "It's never over Sean. You know that as well as I do. It's never over." He looked down at his hands, seeing them bathed in red, dripping with imagined blood.

"Thanks for your offer of help, cousin. I'll be in touch."

His 'cousin' looked faintly disturbed by his reaction. "Duo...", he said softly.

The prince reached over and pressed a key on the laptop, the connection was severed. He turned the chair so he was facing the window looking out over the darkening twilight outside.

<'God damn them!'> He raged silently. <'Damn them to hell!'>

He knew he could trust Sean, but other than his pseudo cousin, he was alone in this venture. He had allowed others to pick his staff, and only now realized how foolish that was. He would have to dismiss all of them and rebuild picking out people that he could get along with; people he could trust.

<'So much work, but I have time. I also have plans to make.'> He turned the chair around and keyed up a request. After a moment the Daemon found and loaded up the pictorial tree of the Torretta Family.

Duo studied the picture for a moment, running a finger down a line from the Don to Colosi who was classified as a Capo. He smiled faintly, the cold smile that was all Shinigami's, and murmured softly: "Oh yes. You just might benefit from a little pruning."

~End Part 2: to be continued in part 3~