4-30-2002

Pyractomena Borealis Part 22

There was no one else on the train from Roppongi with us, which was to be expected at this time of night – hell, it was only recently that the trains had started running all night, even. It was a good thing, since we weren't exactly looking our best. All of us were liberally flecked with blood. Wufei was conspicuously lacking in the pants department, though lucky for him, Heero's shirt hung low enough that it covered all of the important parts. Heero's state of shirtlessness would have been a happy thing for me any other day of the week when I wasn't mad at him, but I had too much on my mind to even consider appreciating it.

Like the fire we were heading toward.

I'd known it was going to be bad the minute I'd seen the odd, false sunrise orange glow in the general area of the Oz base. It only looked worse the closer we got. There were no longer any stars visible; they were covered by smoke, no doubt. Even the streets were starting to look hazy, and you couldn't escape the acrid burning smell. You could only get used to it.

There wasn't a lot of doubt in our minds as to where the fire had come from, either. Johannes must have decided to make his attack, with his pet pyrokinetic in tow. We also knew that we'd end up helping Treize tonight, and that idea in particular was harder to swallow than anything I'd encountered so far.

This had to stop, though. I could tell myself that I didn't care if the Oz base burned to the ground and took all of its personnel along to hell, but the base was also in the middle of Tokyo, and fire had a real way of spreading. Especially in a city where most of the buildings were still made of wood.

A calm, recorded voice announced our stop, and we stood as one, ready at the doors before the train had even really started slowing. The subway platform was as deserted as the train had been. We headed up a set of stairs, toward the surface--

--and walked into chaos.

Everywhere I looked, there were emergency vehicles, all of them with flashing lights. Firefighters and paramedics wearing yellow hard hats were running back and forth across the streets. More firefighters were manning hoses that snaked in every direction, spraying down walls and roofs that were too near to the fire for comfort. The scene was surreal, every action looking jerky, strobed by the emergency lights.

Then there was the fire. It was busy consuming the barracks buildings near the entrance to the base. Almost nothing was left but concrete shells, and still it burned with unnatural ferocity, sending orange and yellow tongues of flame high into the night sky though the clouds of black smoke boiling off of it. I'd often read descriptions of fire as a living, ravenous animal. I'd never really believed them until now.

The strangest thing was that there were no crews attacking the fires. The base's gates were firmly shut, with armed and gas-masked guards standing in front of them.

I poked Quatre in the ribs to get his attention. "I think buddy Treize doesn't want anyone else coming in to play."

He nodded. "I'm just surprised there aren't military crews out. They should have one on base."

"Who knows what the hell vampires think." I shook my head. "We're not going to get in the front any way you slice it. Let's try heading around the base. There's enough commotion that we should be able to jump a fence somewhere."

It sounded way too easy, but that was what we did. We worked our way around toward the back of the base, dodging well-meaning emergency personnel, until we were by the large, building that housed the military administration above and Treize's little throne room below. The plan went off without a hitch, until we walked into the main entrance.

Johannes was waiting for us, sitting in one of the antique chairs in the waiting area. He looked like a painting where the contrast was a little off; beautiful, perfect, but just a little odd with his bright yellow hair. His hair was smoothed back and tied with a midnight-blue ribbon that somehow managed to bring out the color of his eyes. It matched the vest that he was wearing over his snowy shirt. Tony and Angelo were standing behind him, as always. None of them looked well pleased, though Johannes seemed to be taking whatever the hell the problem was a lot more calmly.

We didn't give them a chance to even twitch. I had my gun trained on Johannes as we walked in the door, and the guys had Tony and Angelo covered. "Don't move." I said.

"Ah, Mr. Maxwell. I have been waiting for you." Unfazed, Johannes pulled a gold watch out of a tiny pocket in his vest. "Though you are running a bit late. I expected you nearly an hour ago."

"Sorry, but we ran into a little delay," I gave him my most elegant sneer, "which you are no doubt aware of."

"Save your hatred of me for another time." Johannes said. "For now, I am not the cause of your troubles."

"Like I'm going to believe that."

Johannes stood gracefully, his eyes almost daring me to shoot him. I was sorely tempted, but I was also pretty curious about what he had to say. "You will have to, I'm afraid. It seems that the Council was displeased by my rate of progress. Thanks to them, the Master of Tokyo's challenge to me was intercepted and refused without my knowledge." his allowed himself a displeased frown. "I would have accepted, Mr. Maxwell. I do not quarrel with anyone but the Master of Tokyo."

"Okay, so let's say I believe you for five minutes. Who set the fire, then, huh? Who captured us and tried to put Wufei through the wringer?"

"Master Harris." Johannes grimaced. "He was sent here to aide me by the Council. That was what I was told. What I did not know was that he had his own directives to follow. I find them highly...distasteful."

"So you're basically saying that he turned on you."

"He was never mine to begin with, Mr. Maxwell. I neither wanted nor needed his assistance." Johannes walked forward until he was only about a foot away from me.

I finally gave up the act and lowered the gun. As much as I hated to admit it, Johannes had some style going. I couldn't make myself shoot him now that I knew he wasn't the one that had been fucking with us. Damn morals, always getting in my way.

Johannes gave no sign that he'd even noticed I'd had a gun out to begin with. "Now that the truth is known between us, I will take my leave."

A little surprised by my own audacity, I grabbed Johannes' wrist as he turned to leave, making him pause. He gave me a piercing look. "So that's it? You're just cutting Harris loose and going on your merry way? No harm, no foul, no interference?"

"I am not involved in this particular battle, nor do I wish to be, Mr. Maxwell. I will meet with the Master of Tokyo, but it will be on my terms and in my own time." A small smile crept across his lips. "You are not the only person here that dislikes being manipulated."

"Heh." I let him go--or tried to, at least. Instead, he captured my hand this time, lifting it so he could inspect the bandage on my wrist, which had blood soaking through it.

"Take care not to get yourself killed. I should like for us to meet again." Johannes planted a kiss on the back of my hand. It was feather light; I almost didn't feel it. "Perhaps, if we are lucky, the circumstances will be friendlier." He squeezed a tiny bit of blood from the bandage on my wrist before letting my hand go. There was an intrigued expression on his face as he carefully licked the red drops from his fingertips. A strange shock passed down my spine, and I took a quick step back as his eyes fluttered shut and a blissful smile appeared on his lips. For one second, the air felt so heavy that I almost couldn't breathe.

Then reality abruptly resumed its course. Johannes pulled a crisp handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his fingers off. "Good evening, Mr. Maxwell." Was all he said before he and Angelo walked out the door.

Tony hung back for a moment, wearing an expression that I would have called 'shy' on anyone else. I raised an eyebrow at him. "Anything I can do for you?"

The sarcasm was lost on Tony. "Is the girl okay?" he asked.

"Girl?"

"Yeah. Girl. Blonde hair. You were with her a couple nights ago..."

"Relena? She's recovering okay, I guess." I gawked at him, suddenly confused. "How did you..."

Tony gave me a sheepish, pointy-toothed smile. "I thought you looked like you needed a hand. That's all. I gotta go...the boss needs me." He was out the door before I had a chance to collect my scattered wits.

"Duo?" Quatre asked.

I shook my head. It made my brain hurt, it really did. "Don't worry about it, man. I'll explain later." Tony the Tiger. Dear God, frigging shoot me now."What now?" Trowa asked.

I shrugged. "You guys can do what you want, I guess. We're not on anyone's side in this mess, so it's not like we have a mission. Treize probably doesn't even need to hear from us, since I think it's painfully obvious who the pyro in this scenario was."

"But." Trowa said. He'd known I wasn't finished.

"But." I flicked an imaginary particle of dirt off of my gun. "I'm not ready to go home quite yet. Harris has gotten himself on my shit list, pretty unwise, if you ask me. I don't owe Treize anything, but isn't this a 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' situation?" I favored Trowa with my best cocky grin. "Besides, I've been fucking keyed up all day. If I don't get to cap someone's sorry ass before I go home, I'm not going to be able to get my beauty sleep."

"Eloquent as always, Duo." Wufei muttered. "Does someone have an extra weapon I can use?"

"I do." Quatre pulled out a Beretta 9mm that he'd somehow managed to hide in his vest and tossed it to Wufei. No one made any move to leave.

Wufei clicked the safety off, nodding to himself. "Then I think we're ready to go."

* * *

It didn't take much effort to find our way to Treize's throne room. It was actually accessible by elevator as a sub basement. In Treizey-poo's defense, the elevator's CPU had taken some Heero-style persuading before it would take us down there. After Johannes had left, we hadn't seen another person, living or dead, yet. The hall leading to Treize's throne room was no exception. There were no bodies, no burn marks or signs of struggle. Hell, the carpet even looked like it'd just been vacuumed.

That changed when we got to the door at the end of the hallway. As we approached the ornate wooden doors, one of them broke in half as the biggest wolf I'd ever seen in my life got thrown through it. The wolf skidded across the carpet, stopping only a short distance from us. Its throat was missing. I had to start wondering what exactly I'd gotten us into.

We didn't stop to think or change our minds, though. Like the pack of utter idiots we were, we ran right into the room, guns at the ready.

Someone was waiting for us just inside the doorway, leaping as soon as Trowa, our rear guard, had stepped in. He didn't even blink, just shot it. Once in the chest, twice in the head. We didn't even stop to check if it was male or female. We had more pressing issues to deal with.

Like the fact that the entire fucking room was on fire. The hangings were now streamers of flame, and I could see several charred bodies lying across the floor. The air was heavy with the smell of cooked flesh and burnt hair. We moved our way cautiously forward, guns at the ready. We could hear the sounds of heavy conflict ahead, but there was nothing to see yet.

My necro senses gave a little tingle, and I turned to the left, leveling at the nondescript, brown-haired woman running toward me. Not an Ozzie, not a wolf, looked like a good target to me. I shot her in the knee, to slow her down. She screamed an obscenity at me as she fell. A bullet through the top of her skull shut her up.

"Any sign of Treize? Or Harris?" I called back to the guys.

"None--" Quatre started.

And then someone grabbed my arm. My gun barrel was shoved into the soft part of his chin before my adrenaline addled mind realized that it was Ivan.

"Mr. Maxwell!" The relief in his eyes was almost frightening. "The Master said you were coming. I've been looking for you."

"Great, then give us a situational report."

"My Master is currently facing off with Harris and his group. He can't fight them directly, since he is concentrating on keeping our people safe from the fire-summoner." Ivan's hand was shaking on my arm. I noticed that there was blood running down the side of his neck, coming from his hair, and there was charred line marring one cheek. "We are at a stalemate now, reinforcements will be late in coming; the Master will not use the regular troops, and most of our nearby supporters perished in the earlier fires or were driven away."

"Great. Let's get to it." We hurried toward the back of the massive room. The battle sounds grew closer with each step, not to mention it got hotter, until we came upon the heart of the inferno--a massive ring of flame surrounding a group of vampires.

Treize stood on one side. He had seven vampires with him and a handful of his werewolves, all of them locked in combat. His eyes were closed in concentration; every time a tongue of flame from the circle tried to come in close to them, he would make a sweeping gesture, and it would blow back to the fire's main body. The vampire that I recognized as Harris was on the opposite side, fighting with Une. Both of them were the worse for wear; Une was limping and seemed to be having problems with her left hand. Her teeth were red with blood. Harris had a large wound in his chest.

I shook Ivan's hand off. "We can't get through that." I jerked my head at the fire. "We can try to take distance shots, but the conditions aren't what I call favorable." I peered around, searching. We had one easy solution to our problem. "Where's Harris' monkey boy?"

"There." Trowa tugged on my arm, pointing.

He was right. Feld was almost hidden by the wall of fire. He stood on the outside of it, far enough away that he could see the entire fight. His eyes were closed with concentration as well, and a nimbus of blue flame surrounded him.

"Great." I hauled my gun up, took aim for the center of his chest, and fired.

The bullet vaporized before it reached him.

"Tell me that didn't just happen. Fuck!"

Before I could fire again, though, Heero pushed my gun barrel to one side. "I'll take him." He said.

Well, if anyone could do it, it would be Heero. "He's all yours. Wufei, can you keep an eye on his back?" I turned back to the main fight, leveling my gun at a vampire with purple hair and a werewolf that were locked in a wrestling match on the floor. The werewolf had its teeth in the vampire's shoulder; the vampire was trying to gnaw into the wolf's neck. "Wolves are the good guys, right Ivan?"

"Yes."

"Fucking great." I pulled the trigger, the peaceful feeling of a perfectly lined-up shot washing over me. The vampire screamed and let go of the wolf, just long enough for the wolf to change tactics and go for the jugular. It wasn't a pretty sight.

"Duo!" Wufei yelled.

I didn't like the sound of that. I turned just in time to see Feld open his eyes...and for a ball of blue-white flame to engulf Heero.

I couldn't help it. I screamed. "NO!"

Then came the real fucked up part. The flame just blew away, revealing Heero, completely unharmed. His normally unruly hair was standing almost on end, and he had his on fiery halo surrounding him, one that was such a pure, bright white that it hurt to look at.

We all just watched, momentarily forgetting about the fight. Hey, it's not something you see every day.

Feld narrowed his eyes. His hand twitched and a tendril of fire sprang from the floor, lashing at Heero. It disintegrated before it touched him. Heero cupped his hands together, his face a mask of concentration. To us, it looked like nothing was happening...but Feld suddenly had a look of pure terror on his face. His clothing began to smoke, and his hair. With a scream that tore at my ears, he burst into flame, as bright as a piece of magnesium that someone had just put water on.

There was more screaming, this time from Harris. He too, was starting to burn, just like his servant. In less than five seconds, they disappeared in a flash, not even leaving ash behind. Heero fell to his knees, exhausted. And then he began to laugh with an un-Heero-like hysterical edge to it.

I almost went to him. I really did. But we had other things to worry about. With the death of Harris and his servant, the ring of fire blew itself out with a sound like thunder. Treize stumbled, but caught himself before he fell. He raised one hand and pointed at someone attacking one of his wolves, causing wind to spring up around him...and the vampire in question to start tearing into pieces, shrieking all the while.

Like the smart boy I was, I went running into the melee, trusting my so-called 'affinity with the dead' to point me toward the vampires. I should have known that it would point them toward me as well. The other guys followed me, separating into the crowd of blood suckers to find their own targets.

Two vampires jumped me at once. I shot one, a woman in a yellow dress, before she could touch me. The other, a man in black jeans, grabbed my shoulders and slammed me into the floor. Straddling my hips, he tried yank my gun away from me, breaking my index finger in the process. He looked truly surprised when I flipped out a knife with the other hand and stabbed him in the throat. It wouldn't have been a mortal wound for a vampire, but it surprised him enough that he let go of my gun. I shot him in the head, then kicked him off and pumped one into his chest, right between the nipple rings, for good measure.

What an idiot.

"Duo!" Trowa yelled. Three were mobbing him, and since I was the closest, it was up to me to assist. I ran forward and grabbed a female vampire by the hair, yanking her head back and putting a shot right into her left temple at close range. As she dropped, the second grabbed me by the throat, fingers digging into my jugular veins. Black spots began dancing in my vision as I struggled to dig a fresh clip out of my pants pocket. The used one dropped to the floor and I slammed the loaded one home. Shortly thereafter, the vampire had a severe case of lead poisoning, and I was sprawled on the ground, waiting for the blood to return to my brain.

The last vampire grabbed Trowa by the chin and tried to force him to look her in the eye. He took care of that one himself, shooting her in the hand to make her let go and then delivering the killing shots.

While Trowa was dealing with his own situation, clawing hands grabbed my shoulder from behind, hard enough to cut the skin. "Damnit!" I pulled another knife and tried to stick the vampire in the arm. No dice. My wrist got grabbed and twisted to where I almost thought it was going to snap in two. A wave of heat suddenly washed over the vampire and me jerked back with an inhuman shriek. By the time I got turned around, he was all ready well on his way toward becoming a pile of ash, engulfed in orange flames. Across the floor, I saw two more vampires that had been bothering Wufei and Quatre burst into flame. Wufei shot one more vampire, and then, inexplicably enough, there was silence.

I felt another vampire behind me, and spun on the floor, finger all ready pulling the trigger. Only Ivan appearing and yanking my arm to one side saved Treize from getting a bullet in the chest.

"Shit! Sorry. Sorry. Didn't mean to do that." I jerked my wrist away from Ivan and lowered the gun.

Treize didn't deign to comment on almost getting perforated. Instead, he offered a hand up. "You may stand down, Mr. Maxwell." His white gloves where stained with ashes, and there was a faint spatter of blood on one side of his face, but other than that, he was as neat and unruffled as ever.

No buddy-buddy for me. I stood up on my own and made a big show of dusting my pants off.

Treize let his hand fall, making even that movement graceful in an almost unholy way. "Thank you for your most timely assistance."

I waved a hand. "No thanks wanted. We didn't do this for you." Boy, almost getting my ass killed seemed to have a bad effect on my tact. "Don't think this is the start of a beautiful friendship or anything."

"I am not so naive as to want to believe in anything of the kind." Treize said carefully. I couldn't help but feel like I'd put him off balance. Now that was a thought to make my week. Treize extracted a handkerchief from his breast pocket. Absently wiping the blood from his face, he surveyed his people. "It's over, Mr. Maxwell."

I took a look around as well. I guess it hadn't gone too bad--all of them were dead, in exchange for two of Treize's vampires and three werewolves. All of the guys seemed relatively unharmed--just a little bloody. My eyes found Heero, still kneeling on the floor. He wasn't moving, didn't seem to even be breathing, but I knew he was alive, at least. He was staring at his hands, a blank expression on his face.

"Yeah, you're right." I clicked the safety on the Browning. "We can hope."