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Soldiers and Fools
Part 03 -- Fanning the Fire
By LoneWolf
(kodoku na okami)

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(Sometimes fools take soldiers for a ride.)

The biggest problem with this particular town was that Duo was his roommate. The second biggest problem was that the town sat on a narrow finger of land stretching south into the ocean and the school was at the south end of town. The town's third biggest problem was that it was too small to have a decent public transportation system. It was a long walk through town. At least he was alone on the crowded sidewalk. He shifted his backpack as he waited for the light to change.

"Hey, Heero!"

A voice from his right -- the street. Heero turned. It sounded familiar, but he couldn't place it. One hand moved to the gun at the small of his back.

The voice had come from a person on a motorcycle. Heero couldn't see his face. He was wearing a black helmet with an even blacker halo painted on, a dark tinted visor, black, padded leather jacket, heavy black jeans, black, fingerless gloves and a black backpack. The bike was black with dark grey trim, a sport model, heavily faired to minimize wind resistance. When it was running fast, the rider could lay almost flat against the top of the bike behind the tiny windshield. The rider was waving a gloved hand at Heero, then tapped it against his helmet when he realized Heero couldn't see his face.

The motion triggered Heero's memory. He looked again and saw the braid just as Duo raised the visor on his helmet. "Hn." He took his hand away from the gun.

"Where're you going?" Duo asked.

"North." The light changed and Heero began walking across the street. Duo gunned the bike through the intersection and pulled up to the curb at the corner, taking off his helmet as he waited for Heero.

It would be useless to try to ignore him. Heero wanted to turn and go west to avoid Duo, but he knew the boy would follow him. He crossed the street and stopped beside the bike and its braided rider.

"Nice bike, huh? Howard had it laying around on his ship. He said I could have it if I fixed it up. Need a ride?"

"No."

"Oh. Well, where are you going?" Duo had grown accustomed to Heero's reticence over the past week. He had determined that the best way to deal with it was to ignore it.

Heero looked at him, not saying anything.

"Repairs or the mission?"

"You saw the assignment?"

"Of course." Duo grinned.

"I'll take care of it." /He might offer to help. I don't want his help./ "I need to make some repairs first." He'd planned to sneak in and blow the place up, but now, he'd rather walk out to Wing and avoid Duo's prattling.

"Then you do need a ride. I mean, it must have taken you half an hour to get here walking, and it's gotta be at least another two hours to get far enough out to, um, be safe. I can get you there in half an hour tops and bring you back when you're done."

"It will take all night."

"Naaniiii? I didn't know it was that bad. What's wrong? Want some help?"

Again Heero tried to find a way out. He hadn't expected the boy to offer to help with the repairs. He'd thought fixing the Gundams was something Duo didn't like doing. He really wanted the peace and quiet but he knew it would do no good to lie now. Duo would give him no choice if he thought he could help. "Four IR sensors."

Duo laughed. "That's good, Heero. Really, what's wrong."

"Hnnn." Heero glared at him. "I don't have spares."

"Uh, you're serious? You're gonna go spend the whole night with your soldering iron trying to fix four sensors knowing that the first time you take a decent hit they'll fail again?" He shook his head. "Did you research the target?"

"Of course." Heero glanced around to be sure no one was watching them. Duo was being reasonably discreet, but he never knew when the loud-mouthed baka would say something... dangerous. "It's a standard supply chain disruption. I can handle it myself after I make repairs."

Duo sighed. "You just looked at the building plans and decided you'd go get -- uh, well, y'know. But Heero," he leaned close and whispered in his ear, "this place makes the best IR sensors on Earth -- better than what's in the Gundams." The bite of cordite teased his nose. He liked it when it came from Heero. That thought disturbed him. He couldn't afford to be attracted to Heero. Not now, probably not ever. He forced his attention back to the issue at hand.

"So, do you want to come with me to pick up a few and help me burn the place down? Or do you want to go spend all night burning your fingers on your soldering iron knowing I'm going to be the one who gets to say, 'Ninmu kanryou' this time?" He drew back in case Heero decided to punch him, trying to make the withdrawal look casual.

/Damn him./ Duo had him cornered. His hopes for a quiet evening, even if it was spent burning his fingers on the soldering iron, were gone. "Ryoukai." At least the bike would drown out Duo's mouth while they rode.

"Good." Duo slung his backpack down, rummaged through it and pulled out a green denim jacket. "Put this on -- it's your color, right?" He tossed Heero the helmet that rode on the seat behind him. "And this."

Heero looked at him, his face the usual stare that, for all its blankness, made it clear that he thought Duo was out of his mind.

"Look, Heero, even you will get a serious case of road rash if you fall off in nothing but that tank top. And hard though your head is, there is a helmet law in Japan. I, um, don't think either of us want the police arresting us, ne?"

Heero nodded just the tiniest bit, forced once again to admit that Duo was right. He pulled on the oversized jacket and the helmet and climbed onto the bike behind Duo.

"Uh, Ready?"

/Damn. He has miked helmets./ When he thought about it for a moment, it didn't surprise him. Duo would always want to be able to talk to any passenger he might have. "Hai."

"Then hang on!" Duo revved the bike and swerved into traffic, dodging between cars, zipping between lanes. He shouted at the other vehicles, "Brain donor!" and "Idiot!" and other, ruder things.

Flipping off a truck driver as he cut her off was too much. "Are you trying to kill us, Duo?"

It was the same, dispassionate voice, but Duo thought he detected a hint of fear. No, fear was too strong. Concern was more like it. "Aw, c'mon, Heero. You think I'd kill you this way?" He chuckled as they stopped at a traffic light. Heero was pressed tight against his backpack, arms wrapped around his waist so tight he could barely breathe. Duo didn't mind. /It's kinda nice, actually./ The light changed before he had a chance to think about that. He took off again, but forced his taunts to the other drivers into soft mutters. He didn't want to annoy Heero too much.

Ten minutes later, Duo drove them down an alley and around the back of a building, and stopped the bike. He scanned the walls, looking for an entry. "OK," he said, dismounting. "You saw the layout. This is one of those places they hide in plain sight. Security is mostly passive because they don't want to attract attention. I'm gonna set a, um, delayed incendiary in the clean room." He took a book of matches and a cigarette out of his pocket. "It's a high-oxygen environment so it ought to take off like a house on fire." He laughed. Heero looked at his eyes and knew Shinigami was with them now. "The chemicals they use in post-processing are flammable. If you strategically spill a few gallons to lead the fire through the packaging area and into the storage area, I'll do the same from the clean room to packaging. We'll have this place out of commission for months." He found what he was looking for. "Give me a hand up to that fire escape."

"When will you steal the parts?"

"I prefer to think of it as, ah, creative acquisition of materials from the enemy. And you're going to acquire them since you'll be in the storage area. You'll have about fifteen minutes before the fire starts and another three before it gets out of the clean room. Enough?"

It wasn't the stealing that bothered him -- that was just part of the mission. It was relying on Duo's plan that bothered him. Heero thought for a moment, visualizing the plans he'd located in the local building authority's computer. He made a few modifications. "Twenty minutes before the fire starts."

"Good enough. Give me a hand up to the fire escape."

Heero took three steps back, ran and jumped up to the fire escape, dragging it down to Duo.

"Damn, Heero. I didn't know... You're more than just plain human, aren't you?"

Heero walked quietly up the fire escape, ignoring the question.

Duo climbed up after him. Watching Heero in the gym, he'd begun to suspect that the people who had sent him had altered him somehow. There was no way a normal 15-year-old human could maintain Heero's physique with as little effort as he put into it. And the strength he packed into that small frame... only the serious lifters, seniors at that, could out-lift him. He put aside the speculation. Now the important thing was that Heero had something up his sleeve -- not that Heero had any sleeves in that tank top. Well, flexibility was his strong suit. If the details went a little different than he'd planned, that was fine as long as the end results were the same.

By the time he caught up, Heero was examining the padlock on the third-story door. "Allow me," Duo said, producing a small cloth from his jacket pocket. He unrolled it and selected a lockpick. A few seconds of careful probing were followed by a soft click. Duo pulled the lock open.

Heero reached for the doorknob. Duo grabbed his hand.

"Alarms. Uh, give me a hand up." Heero nodded, cupping his hands together and boosting him up. Duo examined the top of the door carefully, then chuckled -- Shinigami's chuckle. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a thin sliver of metal and slid it into the thin gap at the top of the door. He examined the rest of the door frame, placing more bits of metal at the bottom. "Magnetic sensors," he said, seeing Heero watching him as if he were crazy. "I put magnets in them to keep the contacts closed." He opened the door. Silence. He examined the door frame and nodded. "Got 'em all." He handed Heero a paper gorilla mask. "Wear that so they can't identify you if the video survives the fire. Let's go." He pulled on a skull mask and pointed Heero off to the left as he went to the right.

Heero looked at the mask. Duo was right again. It made him angry. Of course, the baka had forgotten that his braid was a dead giveaway. He made a few more adjustments to the plan, dropped the mask on the floor and went left.

Fifteen minutes was plenty of time to spread chemicals not just in the packaging and storage areas but in the office areas too. It was also enough time to put his other modifications in place. He was ripping the wires out of the punch-down blocks, disconnecting the phone lines, when Duo's voice surprised him.

"Ahm, five minutes until ignition. Where's your mask?"

"I handled the security office. The video is off and the tapes won't survive the fire. The fire alarm is off. "

"And the phones, I see," Duo said, discarding his own mask. "Uh, did you get the parts yet?"

"No." Heero said, looking at his handiwork.

"Good thing I did." Duo held out a plastic bag containing at least twenty sensors. He waved a set of datasheets in his other hand. "The worst part about this plan was getting that cigarette going. Bleah." He coughed. "Let's go. I don't want to be in here when the place goes up." Heero nodded. They walked back the way they had come.

Duo handed him the bag and papers, pausing to close the door behind them and lock the padlock, then hurried down the fire escape to the bike, two steps at a time. Heero was standing beside the bike reading the spec sheets. Duo glanced at his watch. "Uh, Heero," he said, pulling on his helmet and getting on the bike, "We have about two minutes before all Hell breaks loose."

"Shut up and drive, Duo." Heero said, mounting the bike.

"Ninmu kanryou, eh, Heero?" Duo asked as they sped up the alley, Heero holding on tight again. There was no response.

Back on the street, Heero thought he would go mad as Duo drove them slowly away from the building. /It seems slow. He's probably just driving the speed limit so he doesn't attract attention./ They had been riding for ten minutes when they passed three police cars and a fire truck racing back the way they'd come, sirens blaring. Another minute and they passed a car with Oz insignia on it. An explosion shattered the air behind them followed seconds later by another, larger explosion.

"Ninmu kanryou."

"Heeeeeroooo, what was that?"

"A pound of C-10 set at each of the four major supports. They should have gone together."

"Damn!" Duo thought he sounded disappointed. "Four pounds? You're lucky you didn't take out the whole block." Maybe he was disappointed. His plan hadn't worked perfectly, and that was important to Heero. He cut over three blocks and traced a winding route north through the city, speeding up as they got further away from the scene of the crime. "Uh, where'd you get four pounds of C-10?"

"It's easy to make. You just need a large metal container to keep it in for two days while it sets."

Duo remembered the pot he'd peeked into. "THAT WAS C-10!?!? BAKA! YOU MADE C-10 IN THE ROOM!?!?" Duo started laughing. "And you think I'm crazy." At a traffic light near the northern edge of town, he asked, "Did you see anyone following us?"

"No," Heero said. He was certain they hadn't been followed. Duo's strategy had worked.

"Neither did I. No cop, not even an Oz cop, is smart enough to catch Duo Maxwell."

"Take the next right. Follow the old coast highway north."

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I knew a guy in college who claimed he could make the equivalent of C-4 from stuff you could buy at most grocery stores. O.o I never asked him to prove it -- just in case. He was one of those people you could believe might actually know...

Duo's motorcycle is (in my mind) a Honda CBR1100XX. I picked it because I liked how it looked. The one on the hondamotorcycle.com website just happens to be in a nice shade of titanium grey. <g>