2-27-2002

Pyractomena Borealis Part 20

 

"So this is what we have." I looked down at the map, which lay spread out across the desk in the room Heero and I shared. Its curling corners were held down by empty clips, of all things. "Ivan gave me all the locations before all Hell broke loose."

The guys all bent to examine the map. Wufei reached out and traced lines between the neat red circles, searching for some pattern.

I wished him luck. I'd been staring at the damn map since I'd finished drawing the locations on it, until the stark white and black started giving me a headache. The pyro attacks were spread in broad lines across Ginza, Akihabara, and Ueno, the central eastern part of Tokyo. I'd marked the Oz base off to one side with a large blue square, near the royal palace. There were two more circles, those bright green, that Ivan hadn't given to me. One was in Ikebukuro, the other in Roppongi--the two incidents of pyrokinetic activity that I had personally witnessed.

"I think that we can discard this one," Heero said, tapping green circle in Ikebukuro with a fingertip. He carefully avoided looking at me. "since this occured in the presence of that witch. I still believe that she caused it in some way."

"I am not certain if that is a valid assumption, but I agree that it should be discarded-the same with the location in Roppongi." Wufei said. "Neither of them fit into the region we're concerned with, and neither involved Treize's people. It may be easier to find a pattern if we save those for later exploration."

"Fine." I shrugged. "Whatever works." I still didn't think there was something there. I'd tried, damnit! I'd penciled a previous version of the map to death, searching for some kind of distinct shape in the nearly thirty locations. No spirals, rays radiating from a single central point, or ghostly pentagrams. Thank you, reality, for once again thumbing your nose at Duo Maxwell.

"We know that Treize is in Ginza, on base," Quatre said, "so it makes sense that his supporters are near him. What I don't understand is why there haven't been any incidents to the west." He shook his head. "Johannes is somewhere in Shinjuku, right?"

I nodded. "We know Treize's supporters are fairly spread out, though. I'm not going to to make the mistake of assuming that Johannes is sticking to just one location."

Wufei appeared to be deep in thought again; he had his chin balanced on one fist while he stared at the map. His fingers were drumming quietly on the table, something I'd never see him do. The drumming increased in tempo and volume steadily until we were all staring at him.

"What is it, Wu? You look like you're chewing on something tough." I said.

Wufei narrowed his eyes. "There's something..." he reached out and tapped a spot in Ginza, right by a cluster of red circles. "Isn't there a subway station here?" his finger traced southeast on the map, stopping at another spot surrounded by red circles, "And here as well?"

A jolt of recognition hit me. "Do one of you guys--"

"--here." Trowa interrupted me, holding out a much folded piece of glossy paper.

"Thanks man." I unraveled the paper and smoothed it flat, revealing the colorful mass of spaghetti that represented the Tokyo subway system. Quatre crowded in next to me, and we both bent to examine the map.

"There it is!" Quatre cried after only a few seconds. "The Toyoko line..." his finger traced a grey line through the mess from its start. It went right through the area we were looking for, taking a leisurely circle around the Oz base.

"Even better." Trowa said, cutting Quatre's triumphant crows short, "the Tokyo monorail runs from the Shinjuku area to Ebisu, where a switch to Toyoko can be made."

I looked at the map, an odd smile playing over my lips. "And from there, it goes to Roppongi before heading along to Ginza." I laughed. "So there's our source for the dickweeds that attacked me and Relena!"

"Or even a possible second base." Trowa looked up, his eyes shining.

"Hot damn." I grinned. "Wu--"

"--this station is fairly well surrounded by attacks." Wufei said, interrupting me. He'd all ready known what I was going to ask. "it's very possible that they will be moving on to the next station today."

"Can't be certain, though." I clapped my hands together. "So, since most of the fires were during the day, I guess we split up and try to cover the areas before dark. Look for suspicious people and all that."

"Just don't look too suspicious yourself." Wufei said, the corner of his mouth twitching. "With all of these fires, the police are no doubt out in force, looking for the same thing as we."

Quatre shook his head. "You know," he said, "for someone powerful and supernatural, this pyrokinetic is being very mundane."

"Don't complain too much, Q...maybe he's on a budget or something. He's making things nice and easy for us." I shrugged, suppressing the urge to whoop with joy. This wasn't going to be nearly as tough as Treize had lead me to believe. "You, Trowa and Heero take the next station, since it's going to have the bigger area to search. Wu and I'll take the near station and see if we dig up anything there. We'll go in with radios hot, since I doubt we'll have listeners--makes maintaining contact more simple."

Trowa shot me a sharp look when I picked Wufei as my partner instead of Heero, but didn't say anything. I was grateful for that. I still wasn't quite ready to talk to Heero, and that would sure limit our usefulness as a team. "We'll grab the Meguro line--two stops, and we can change to Toyoko. Let's go, guys!"

* * *

We only had a few hours until sunset when we arrived at our appointed location. Wufei and I did a sweep around the area without spotting anything other than already burned buildings. We couldn't even get too close to the buildings, since they were surrounded by yellow fire line tape, and each had at least one police officer. They hadn't even really been cleaned up; apparently, the arson investigators were being kept so busy that they were pretty far behind.

I had to feel sorry for the arson guys. They could probably tell that the fires weren't accidental, but there also wouldn't be any accelerant or other indication of how the fire started--assuming I understood how pyrokinetics worked, of course.

The dying sunlight was turning the buildings around us rich oranges and reds when Wufei and I made our way back toward the subway station. It was a little discouraging that we hadn't found anything, but considering the size of the city, it'd been pushing our luck to think we'd score information on our first try.

I hit the call button on our radio, figuring that I'd contact the other guys while Wufei was doing one last check of the area. "Zero-two to zero-four."

"Zero-four here. What's your status?"

"Big fat nada, man. What about you?"

"Same here, zero-two. No--" There was an abrupt pause.

"Zero-four, come in."

"Zero-two, we just had an explosion." Quatre's voice said calmly. I could hear sirens in the background, shrieking through the radio. "We're going to investigate."

"We'll join you shortly." I said. "If you can't get in close to the fire, meet us at the station. We'll contact you when we get there."

"Affirmative."

"Out." I hooked the radio back into my waistband and cast around for Wufei. He had said he wasn't going to search far, but he wasn't within my line of sight any more. A cold shiver of fear ran down my spine and I grabbed my radio again. "Zero-two to Zero-five. Where--"

"I'm right here, Duo." Wufei said, popping up behind me.

I yelped and almost dropped my radio. "What the hell are you trying to do, Wu, get yourself shot at? Jesus." I carefully put the radio back, trying to shake the 'Oh Shit!' feelings of impending doom I'd been having just a moment ago. "I got a hold of Quatre--"

"--I know. I heard." Wufei looked serious, even for him. Way too serious. "Before we leave, I think I've found something. Come."

Puzzled, I followed him away from the train station, to a nearby apartment building that had been gutted by fire. We veered off at the last instant to go into a basement ramen shop. It was a pretty old place, all dark wood and smoke-stained ceiling, which sucked up the light coming from the overheads and the few windows in the front. It was also desserted except for a couple of secretive businessmen, probably since the dinner rush was past. Wufei paused for a moment so that our eyes could adjust to the dimmer light before continuing on, heading straight for the back of the restaurant.

We stopped at a two-person table near the tiny hallway that lead to the bathrooms and what was presumably a janitorial supply closet. There was a tiny Japanese girl sitting at the table, wrapped in a stained, ivory-colored shawl. Her head was bowed, revealing several tiny braids in her hair that were woven with glass beads.

"Aria." Wufei said, his voice surprisingly gentle.

The girl looked up, eyes wide in her pale face, making her look like the Japanese version of a French porcelain doll. There were tear streaks on her cheeks. There was also an odd scent on her that was purely mental -- it took me a moment to recognize it. I guess I'd just been hanging around so many older-than-dirt vampires that I had a hard time noticing the weak, new scents.

Repelled, I took a step back, reaching for my gun. The girl threw herself at me with a frightened whimper. She clung to my legs and began crying, babbling 'Please don't hurt me!' in an unending stream. At the same time, Wufei grabbed my wrist with an iron grip. "Don't," he growled.

I gave Wufei a long, hard look before holding my hands up. "Okay, fine. Mind telling me what the hell is going on?"

Wufei reached down and grabbed the girl by the arm and hauled her to her feet. "Control yourself." he said sharply.

That's Wufei. Sure got a way with the ladies.

It worked, though. The girl, Aria, took a gulping breath and stopped being quite so vocal, at least. Tears were still running down her face, and she was shaking like a leaf. I suddenly felt really bad, like I'd just kicked a puppy or something .

"Sit." Wufei said. Without pausing a beat, Aria sat. "We will not harm you. Will we, Duo." He gave me a sharp glance.

"Yeah," I agreed, "of course not."

"I'm so sorry." she said. Her voice sounded as thin as the rest of her looked, and it was full of catches that could only have come from a prolonged round of screaming. "I just saw...and assumed...I've heard very terrible things about Mr. Maxwell."

Internally, I flinched. "It's okay, really." I said. I reached into my jacket again, but this time, I brought out a wadded up handkerchief. It'd seen better days, but hey, better than nothing. She took the hankie from me with a watery smile. "So, can you tell me why Wufei here thought it was so important for me to see you?"

Aria nodded, dabbing tears from her face with a shaking hand. "I used to live in the building next door." she whispered.

"Were you witness to the fire?"

"Yes. Yasuhiro and I...we were sleeping in the basement, since it was during the day."

I glanced at Wufei, who shrugged. How nice, it was up to me to grill the girl. "Who was Yasuhiro?"

"My human lover." Aria looked up at me. There was finally a spark in her dead eyes, as if she were daring me to say something disapproving.

I wasn't going for that bait. "Okay. So you were in the basement."

"It was nearly sunset, because I was able to wake. The room felt very strange and hot, and I wanted to leave right away." she said, her lower lip beginning to tremble. "I reached over to wake Yasuhiro, and he..." Aria covered her eyes with the handkerchief, her thin shoulders shaking.

"He burst into flames, right?"

All she could do was nod.

I let out a low whistle. "Then what?"

It took her a minute, but she went on. "He started screaming and screaming. I tried to put the fire out, but I couldn't. I was afraid, because if I touched it, I would die too. So I ran. The shadows in the alley between these buildings were dark enough that I got here safely, and I hid in the supply closet."

"Was there anything unusual?"

Aria let out a bitter laugh that was far too old for her looks. "What, other than the fire itself?" she shook her head. "I didn't see very much, and I remember less...I was so frightened. I remember that there was no smell of gasoline or matches when the fire started. I also remember that I saw an American man as I crossed the alley, standing near the fire. He had very odd, orange hair, I think. That's all I know."

I glanced at Wufei and he gave me a very slight nod. It was all the story that he'd gotten out of her as well, so if she was lying, she was lying consistently to the both of us. "Do you know what Yasuhiro did for a living?"

"He worked at the military base. He was a soldier." she answered without hesitation.

Well, that made sense. "Thank you for the information." I said. I wanted to just turn and leave, but at the same time, it didn't seem right to not help her, for all that she was a vampire. "You got somewhere to go?" I asked.

She shook her head.

I sighed. "If you want, I'll buy you fare to Ginza. Go to the Oz base. I can't imagine they wouldn't give you a place to stay there, if you don't mind the fact that you'll end up working for them."

"All right." she whispered, subdued once more. "I have no other options."

Yay me, Duo Maxwell, savior of maidens everywhere. Whoopdee shit. "Come on, then."

Wufei and I walked Aria to the station, since it was now dark enough for her to be out, and put her on the next train heading for Ginza. As soon as the train was off, I yanked the radio up off of my waistband. Quatre and the rest were probably wondering what had happened to us. "Zero-two to zero-four." I started.

"Duo." Wufei grabbed my shoulder. "Look across the platform."

I turned, suddenly having a very bad feeling about all of this. Static crackled out of my radio. Across from us stood an American man with short, orangey-red hair. I recognized him instantly from the night before--the vampire Harris' human servant. Yeah, Feld.

"Wu--"

Wufei was all ready dragging me toward the station's exit by the sleeve. The air around us was beginning to feel hot, almost to the point that it was painful to breathe. Without any other option, I dropped the radio and drew my gun, taking aim. Shoot first and ask questions later sounded like a good idea to me.

The platform exploded in a blaze of fire and light, showering us with chunks of concrete and ceramic tile. Wufei dropped to the scorching ground, taken down by a tile to the head. It was my turn to drag him toward the exit as the fire behind us grew, greedily sucking up all the oxygen it could get a hold of and giving off streamers of thick black smoke in exchange. I was being shoved in all directions by a stampede of screaming people, buffeted by elbows and feet as waves of suffocating heat continued to roll across us. It was like staring into the mouth of Hell. I couldn't breathe...

With one last shove from behind, I fell to join Wufei. The world went dark.