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Shikami Yamino

As the two pilots gawked at the fairly substantial list of information on the glowing computer screen, Lady Une and Sally frowned at each other before coming up behind Heero and Wufei.  As the list began to scroll, a cheerful voice came from the speakers to narrate the data.

"Yo minna!  I guess if you guys are reading this then what I've discovered must be of some importance and maybe something happened to me." A laugh. "Taking a trick from you Heero, I backed up all my findings on this little thing for you, so down to business..."

"August of AC 196 on colony L2-V16753 while working in the salvage business and in contact with colony's administration, I found a small glitch in the files containing records of the colony's weaponry.  Little by little had been disappearing from the colony's store but I didn't think too much of it, I mean things are always disappearing ne?"

A list of the colony's armory records came up and the four viewers saw for themselves just exactly what Duo was talking about.  "After a month in which I noticed that a substantial amount had disappeared along with sudden decreases in the manufacture of steel and other metals, I decided to dig a little deeper.  I checked around in the records of other L2 colonies and found that the same thing had been happening to them.  Tracing some of the steel and ore crates, I found that those that had been shipped off the colony were usually sent to Earth or some other Lagrange point with a fairly up front and legitimate reason.  I don't know about you guys but I smelled a rat."

Record after record was pulled up as Duo went on. "Tracking one particular crate of titanium alloy, I discovered that after being sent to L3-R19023 and sitting in the spaceport for a while, it was shipped to a company called 'Koliber Manufacturers' which, after careful investigation," the voice turned cheeky, "by yours truly, stripped the crate of its identifying codes and shipped it right back to L2-H28143 where no more records of it could be found.

"After checking a few more crates and the same thing happened, I decided to pull up Koliber Manufacturers' registration records and what do you know?  It turned out to be dummy corporation registered under a false name and address...

"Moving on... after more investigation, yare yare you know the drill," a slight laugh accompanied the familiar phrase. "I found out that a man named Nicklaren Kotamo was running the show and backed a few large dummy corporations that were using the raw materials."

Upon the name, Heero's hands immediately shot towards the nearby terminal, intent on finding information but Duo's cheerfully grinning voice stopped him. "Heero, I know what you're thinking. And no, you won't be able to find the info right now through any database whether it be classified or not.  The man's as elusive as trying to spot a shadow in complete darkness, it took me months just to find out this much.

"Then came Christmas and the shipping tapered off so I stopped worrying so much and looked forward to the first real Christmas I'd have." A wry chuckle. "What an understatement.  First the Mariemeia incident that ruins my Christmas, and as soon as I get back to the colony, what do I find but more crates had been shipped out!" Everyone in the room could practically hear the rolling of the eyes when Duo said the sentence. "That pissed me off so I told Hilde I was taking a week off to sought out some issues - hey, I wasn't lying!  I was having nightmares at the time - and I reached H28143.

"After a few questions here and there with a few people I found that some of the extremists were unhappy - ch' that's an understatement - with the peace and were forming some sort of secret organization under the colony admin's noses.  So, being the curious little Shinigami that I am, I asked around and finally got to a meeting for recruits and got myself recruited."  A defensive tone colored Duo's next words. "Now I can hear you guys all going 'baka' at me now but what else was I meant to do?  They always said, 'If you can't beat them, join 'em!'"  The occupants of the room exchange slightly amused smiles at the tone of impishness that was present in Duo's voice.

But Duo's voice immediately lost all cheerfulness as he continued.  "So here's the more important information.  After joining the ranks of the Colonists' Liberation I dug around a big more and found the head honcho was none other than Nicklaren Kotamo.  From the looks of the higher-ups, they're planning something to start the War all over again but I doubt they have enough man-power for everything.  All the recruits I met were a bunch of sorry hero-wannabes who could never stand up to the blood.

"Anyways, I didn't feel too worried and decided I'd had enough so I left and colony-skipped for a while before returning to the business with Hilde.  By the way, did you guys ever get continuous nightmares?  I'm feeling like shit right now but I guess I'll live ne?  So after a few more weeks later I decided to check up on the CL's work and I hacked into their databanks.  Cracking through a few more blocks, I came upon something interesting.  It's being loaded up right now."

On the screen, a long list of names appeared with some highlighted in bold letters.  Lady Une's eyes widened. "That's a list of the Earth Sphere Unified Nation's personnel - that's highly classified!"

Duo went on. "I didn't know what the hell that was but checking up a few of the highlighted names, I figured out that those were the most powerful people in the Unified Nation.  A tweak of the strings of power they hold and war could start all over again.  I don't know if this is of any help but maybe you should look the list over.  I certainly can't make any sense of it."

Four pairs of eyes scanned the lists and recognition flowed as some of the names jumped out at them.  Lady Une... Kenjo... Parloff... Alain... Ottas... Lotar... and Mileski.

"But there's something very interesting I want to show you Heero, if you can scroll to about the end of the list, you'll see a name that we're all very familiar with."

Heero frowned and scrolled until a very clear and bold name jumped out causing both women behind him to gasp.

"Peacecraft, Relena Darlian."

"I don't know what this list is for and certainly not what they're going to do with it but the fact that the ojousan's name is on it made me curious.  After a few more hacking sessions, I hit the motherload.  Nicklaren Kotamo is the younger brother of one Douglas Kotamo.  During the war, he was one of the Alliance's minor power-holders and you'll be interested to know that it was he and a few others who ordered the destruction of the Sanc Kingdom.  Douglas Kotamo was later assassinated by one Zechs Merquise... or Milliardo Peacecraft.  It could be that ol' Nicko still holds a grudge against the Peacecrafts or maybe not but then again I'm just speculating here.  Also hoping that all this will blow over without doing much..." Duo sighed.

"I think that's about all I have at the moment so I'll be going and getting some sleep now, I feel like Death warmed over."  The screen disappeared and Duo's tired face appeared but despite the dark circles under his eyes, he still managed his best devil-may-care grin.  "Hope this helped, and tell Quatre not to blame himself too much ne?" Duo laughed and waved at the screen. "Ja na!"

Duo's face clicked off and a list of the disk's contents appeared again.  The four occupants of the room just sat in silence as they digested all the information being bombarded at them in the space of one short hour.

A beeping from the terminal next to them pierced the silence and Lady Une pressed the button to receive.  Her secretary looked out at them. "Boss, Fire and Wind just checked in, should I relay them to you?"

Lady Une nodded, still a little shell-shocked. "Please... and any others that come in."

Soon Zechs and Noin's faces appeared on the screen and their eyes widened to see Heero staring back at them.  Zechs exchanged a wry smile with Heero. "I don't know why I doubted that you would be here..."

Noin gave Heero a warm grin. "How are you Heero?  It's good to see you again."

Heero managed a small smile and a nod at the both of them and let Lady Une take over.  "So what news?"

Zechs' face turned stony. "The name of the militia is the Colonists' Liberation and the leader is one Nicklaren Kotamo who is bound for Earth right this very second after three days on their base of operations colony L2-H28143.  We're pursuing."

Sally sighed. "We figured as much, Duo just gave us the same information."

Noin was stunned. "Duo...?  But I thought..."

Lady Une cut in. "We found a heavily protected disk on V16753 and Heero only just managed to crack it.  Duo apparently had some information dating all the way back to August AC 196.  Under false pretenses he joined the Colonists' Liberation and hacked into their databanks to retrieve a list of the Unified Nations' personnel, the important ones which were highlighted."

"Honto...?" Noin looked for confirmation and received it when Sally nodded.

Sally addressed Zechs. "Wind, you'll be interested to know that your sister's name is on that list... highlighted."

Zechs' blue eyes widened as did Noin's.

"You'll also be interested to know that Nicklaren Kotamo is the younger brother of Douglas Kotamo - the name familiar?" Wufei added.

Clear icy blue eyes narrowed and Zechs said the name in disgust. "Kotamo... I knew it sounded familiar..."

"Where are you headed?" Lady Une asked.

"Spaceport H13, we'll be docking there in two hours.  Kotamo's shuttle maybe ten minutes in front." Zechs answered.

"I'll send a few people over to tail Kotamo, meanwhile I want both you and Fire to proceed to headquarters for briefing, I really don't want to say too much now." Lady Une ordered.

"Ryoukai," Noin replied. "We'll see you in a few hours."  With that the vid screen flicked off.

Just as the group was turning away, another face appeared. "Lynx, checking in."

Sally frowned. "How's Wolf?"

"He's fine, sleeping right now.  He'll make a full recovery." At the inclination of Lady Une's head, Trowa continued. "I cross referenced the plastique stockers and the artillery manufacturers, they led me to a few major companies all under the power of a 'Koliber Manufacturers' - a - "

"... dummy corporation," Wufei finished for him.

One emerald eye widened slightly. "How'd you know?"

"We cracked the code on the disk.  It seems that Duo was suspicious of the operation right from the beginning.  He even joined the militia to hack a few files."

"How long before Wolf can be moved?" Sally wanted to know.

"His condition is stable now, he's getting moved out of Intensive Care in a few hours.  The doctors think it'll be two to three more days."

"I want both you and Wolf here ASAP, new developments seem fast in coming so something must be up.  Duo has made his way to Earth and so has the head of the militia and the more people here, the better," Lady Une said.

Trowa nodded. "Ryoukai, we'll be there ASAP.  Meanwhile I'll see if Wolf remembers anything else."

"You do that and any major developments report back immediately."

"Understood, Lynx out."

After the moniter had clicked off, Sally asked, "What do we do now?"

Lady Une paused but then said, "Heero, can you pull up that list again with only the highlighted names?"

As Heero did so, the three others checked off the deceased names, coming up with seven more, not including Lady Une's own.  The Director of the Preventers glared at the names before picking up the receiver and dialing her secretary. "I want a unit of ten Preventers stationed with each of the following Unified Nation's personnel.  They are not to leave their designated personnel under any circumstances and are to be on the look out for any suspicious movement within the area." As she rattled off the names, ending with Relena's, Lady Une said in a softer voice, "And get me secure communications with Cobra now!"

"Right away, boss."

Heero raised an eyebrow and repeated, "Cobra?"

Wufei snickered a little while Sally made a small grin. "Oh you'll see..."

Heero scowled but couldn't control his surprise when a familiar face appeared on the vid screen, smirking slightly. "Good morning boss, what gives me the pleasure of this visit?"

Controlling his face once more, Heero whispered the name that was so familiar. "Dorothy Catalonia..."

Dorothy's pale blue eyes widened and then tossed her long blonde hair back and laughed. "Heero-kun, nice to see you again..."

Lady Une interrupted the little banter. "Everything okay there?  Where are you?"

"Everything is fine, we're just relaxing for a while after a round of tours of less-fortunate areas.  What's going on?"

"How soon can you get to headquarters?"

Dorothy's eyes narrowed. "We can leave right now, there's nothing really big going on until a few days later.  What is going on?" the question was repeated more forcefully this time.

Lady Une shook her head. "I'll explain later.  I need you here ASAP for briefing and bring her with you.  She's not safe right now..."

Dorothy crossed her arms. "'Not safe'?  From what?"

"Duo Maxwell..."

Dorothy faltered for a bit before leaning over to see Heero and Wufei's serious faces and Sally's tired one.  "I see...  We'll be heading over to the spaceport then..."

"I'll have a unit waiting to escort you."

"Sure, we'll see you in a few hours.  Cobra out."

After Lady Une turned back, Heero raised an eyebrow at Wufei but it was Sally who answered.  "Dorothy decided to join after the Mariemeia incident and since she already knew the basics of combat and a lot of us, she was raised to our rank but she doesn't really like to go on missions that much, she prefers the political side of things.  With Relena being a frequent target and being of the same age and already being friends, we decided it was better to keep a twenty-four hour guard on her and that Dorothy was most suited to the job."

Heero took a sip of his coffee. "Does Relena know?"

"Oh yeah she knows.  But everybody else thinks that Dorothy is just an important member of her council and nothing more, and she knows how to keep quiet." Wufei replied.

Lady Une stood up and walked towards the door. "There's nothing else to do now so you should get some rest.  Especially you Heero, Wufei, you probably haven't slept since you found Quatre.  Save your strength while you can."

Wufei nodded and with Heero, who carried his laptop under one arm, made for their hallway.  As they neared the hallway, Heero asked, "Who else is here?"

Wufei shrugged. "This hallway is reserved for code red undercover agents.  As you can probably see by the doors, there aren't many of us.  A few of the suites are empty."

Heero managed a small smirk. "Reserved ne?  The reason being the 'merchandise' in the closets?"

Wufei grinned back. "Part of it... the other part would be that this area is the most secure wing in the compound, linking directly to the boss' office especially because we don't stay here a lot and the helipad..."

Heero made a small appreciative noise in his throat before stopping at his door and thumbing it open, managing a small wave at Wufei before the door slid shut.  Inside, Heero glanced at the clock which told him that it was eleven thirty in the morning and warm pre-midday sunlight angled in slightly through the thick bullet proof windows.  Emptying his duffel which he'd carelessly dumped on the bed and replacing the guns and explosives in his closet.  Heero walked over to the window to see recruits training in the field below and smiled slightly before pulling the thick curtains which cut out almost all the sunlight and the lights automatically flipped on when he moved.

Realizing that he hadn't slept in two days, Heero suddenly felt a wave of tiredness wash over him and without bothering with his clothes, fell onto the soft bed and promptly fell asleep.

Waking up slowly, Heero rolled over onto his back and blinked up at the unfamiliar ceiling.  As he blinked, sleep gradually left his mind and he stretched before glancing over at the clock.  Eighteen forty five.  Rolling out of bed, Heero headed towards the bathroom and when he came out ten minutes later, he towelled his hair dry and pulled on a crisp new uniform, shrugging on his insignia jacket against the slight chill of a December night.

Walking out, Heero automatically headed for the base of operations and pressed his thumb against the pad only to see Sally sitting at a terminal, working away.  "Welcome back Heero, sleep well?"

Heero smiled a little and walked to the ever-working coffee machine.  Sally continued. "Wufei woke up a little earlier and since there are no new developments, the boss suggested that you take some time off.  There's no point in staying here and you deserve a break..."

Heero sipped his coffee before asking, "Zechs, Noin and Dorothy?"

"They arrived two hours ago, they should be done with briefing now and I think Zechs and Noin are sleeping it off in their suites at the moment.  Dorothy probably went to find Wufei."


Sally grinned. "She's probably with them too...  Why don't you go down and relax a little?  They're in the fencing salle in the basement.  I'll report if anything new comes up."

Heero placed his empty cup in the wastebasket and smiled. "I think I will..."

Sally's last words were "Have fun!" as Heero walked out the door.

In the large fencing salle Heero walked in and gazed at the many bodies clad in the white protective gear and the helmets working away on the mats.  Pausing to watch some novices' bout, Heero spotted a head of familiar coal black hair in a white uniform watching two others fight.  When he walked up, Wufei gave him a little smile and without saying a word, pointed him in the direction of the change rooms.

A few minutes later, Heero came out and stopped at the rack of blades.  Tucking his helmet underneath one arm and selecting one that felt right in his hand, Heero returned to where Wufei was and found him still watching the other two fight.  Heero came up to stand beside the Chinese boy and watched with a trained eye for a while before asking, "Who?"

Wufei snickered a little. "Oh you'll be surprised."

With that abstract comment, Heero turned back to the bout to see one fighter curl his sword around the other like a snake and twist deftly to wrench the sword from the other's hand.  Then in the same movement, the tip of his sword came up to rest at the other's throat, effectively ending the bout.  Wufei clapped, smiling, and Heero watched in interest as both fighters, heaving for breath, reached for their helmets.

"That's two out of three," a familiar feminine voice taunted and Heero's eyes widened.

"You were lucky." The loser tugged the helmet off to reveal a long pale blonde pony tail that had been tucked into the helmet.  Heero gazed with incomprehension at the two girls that stood before him.

Wufei grinned. "Quite a shock ne?"

Dorothy Catalonia shook out her long pale blonde hair and grinned at the spectators. "So, Wufei, how'd I do?"

Relena Darlian Peacecraft smiled at Wufei also but her gaze was inadvertedly drawn to the slightly shocked figure beside him.  "Heero!" Dropping her helmet, she stepped down from the mat and smiled up at the familiar face before throwing her arms around him in a friendly gesture.  "How are you Heero?"

Heero shook himself out of his daze and smiled slightly before hugging the smaller girl back gently. "I'm fine, you?"

Relena pulled back and waved her hand about. "Oh this and that... you know how it is with politics..."

Heero looked from the grinning Dorothy to the almost-sniggering Wufei and raised his eyebrow. "This is what a total pacifist does?"

Relena's blue eyes glinted mischievously up at him. "Oh no, this is not fighting, this is sport!  Dorothy's teaching me."

"And well, it seems," Wufei commented.

Dorothy sized Heero up and grinned predatorily. "So Heero-kun, how about a re-match?"

Before Heero could answer, Relena dragged Wufei off. "Wufei, can you teach me that move you used earlier...?"

Heero stared for a second after the two of them before muttering, "She's changed."

Unexpected, Dorothy answered with a small smile. "That she has... she's more understanding now of what she hasn't experienced... developed a sense of humor too."  Dorothy laughed. "Having second thoughts Heero-kun?"

Heero shook his head. "Iya... we're better off as friends."

Dorothy nodded knowingly and put her helmet back on and held up her sword. "Now, how about that re-match?"

Wufei and Relena moved through the specifics of the drill slowly, Wufei often correcting her stance or her position.  In the past year, the Chinese boy had grown to like the Peacecraft that had annoyed him so much before.  One reason could be that she no longer chased after Heero with the high-pitched voice, but the main one would have to be that the girl had come to realize her naivety and was working with a more open mind than ever before.  And Wufei admired that.

"That's it," Wufei stepped back as Relena finally got the movements down and began to repeat them, going faster and faster each time until she'd gotten the hang of it.  Wufei had to admit that the girl was a fast learner, since a year ago when she'd started learning, she could now hold off for a while, if not beat, a few of the more senior fencers around her.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Wufei suddenly felt a tap on his shoulder and looked up to see a masked fencer.  A deep voice asked, "You are Dragon, correct?"

Wufei nodded stiffly as he wondered at the tinted mask that only gave a rough outline of the speaker's face and Relena paused to watch the exchange but the stranger continued. "I'm told you're one of the best fencers here.  If I may, one bout?"

By now a group of younger officers had crowded around the two, sensing a challenge, and Wufei could do nothing but accept by putting his helmet on his head.  As the two prepared, Relena glanced around and saw that everybody else had stopped to watch either Wufei and the stranger or Heero and Dorothy on the other side.  Content to stay where she was, Relena watched in interest as both Wufei and the other fencer moved in a serious of complex thrusts and parries, each trying to end the bout as soon as possible.

Wufei's hand switched to autopilot as soon as the bout started, using pure instinct to block, parry and taking the chance to swing the sword into any opening that was available.  Wufei's mind was solely concentrated on detecting the other person's tactics and after ten minutes, Wufei really began to use his head.

The other fencer became clumsier and blocked hurriedly as Wufei attacked the other's weaknesses and after a few more minutes, Wufei whipped his sword around faster than the eye could detect and in a tenth of a second before the other could recover, had the tip of the sword leveled at the other's heart.

Everyone clapped as the nameless fencer stepped back and bowed.  Wufei did the same, pulling his helmet off but still keeping his eyes on the young man, trying to determine exactly which part of the stranger unnerved him.

"Thank you.  Now I see why you are the best," the man offered before another bow and walked off the mat.  Wufei's eyes narrowed as they followed the man's walk towards Relena but before he tensed, the other only bowed to the seated girl before moving towards the door.  Relena cast a confused glance at Wufei who didn't notice.  Instead, narrowed onyx eyes were fixed on the retreating back of the other fencer.

As the fencer, still masked, reached the open doorway, he turned for a second before moving off, tugging at the helmet as he went.  Just before he disappeared from view, the helmet came off and a bright violet-blue eye glinted at the still watching Chinese boy before the fencer vanished in a flash of white fencing suit and a swirl of a rich chestnut braid.

Wufei was shocked but pure instinct allowed him to take off instantly after the vanishing boy. "Kisama!  Stop!!"

On the other side of the salle, Heero and Dorothy both halted at the sound of Wufei's shout and turned instantly to see Wufei dashing through the open door.  Sensing something major had happened, both threw down their swords and dashed after the Chinese boy, tugging at helmets along the way.

Side by side, Heero growled at Dorothy. "Stay with Relena."

Dorothy ignored the order and kept running. "She's right behind me, trust me, she doesn't like to be left out of things..."

Turning slightly, Heero saw that she was right and that Relena was running right after them.  Cursing under his breath, Heero kept his eyes on Wufei in front as he reached into his belt for the gun he'd concealed there.  Folding his fingers over the familiar shape, Heero switched off the safety and speeded up, managing to catch up to Wufei in a few seconds.

As soon as he drew side by side with Wufei, Heero saw what had caused the normally calm black-haired boy to react so violently.  A hundred meters in front was a rapidly running figure that was nondescript, except for the thick chestnut braid that bounced at the runner's back.

Just as Heero was taking aim at the unprotected back, the figure turned and raced up a stairwell leading up to ground floor.  Giving chase, Heero and Wufei pounded up the stairs, hearing two other sets of footsteps behind them.  Reaching the top of the stairs, Wufei barely caught sight of a disappearing brown braid around the nearest corner and took off, at once realizing that Duo was headed for the large bay windows that bordered the hallways of the reception building of the Preventers complex.

As they raced down the long hallway, Heero caugh sight of the large window that Duo was heading for and fired a warning shot. "Stop!!"  The bullet buried itself in the hand-carved wood of the window and before Heero could fire off another shot, he saw Duo's hand come up and a small black object fly from his hand towards the window before the white-clad figure threw himself to the ground.

Struggling to stop, Heero knew that from his angle, Wufei couldn't have seen the explosive that Duo had tossed and yelled, "Wufei, get down!" before throwing himself at the two girls behind him, pulling them to the ground.

Wufei speeded up when he saw Duo fall but reacted too late to Heero's shout and instantly a loud explosion sounded that rocked the building on its foundations and the sound of shattering glass followed.  Too late to drop himself to the ground, Wufei felt the pressure of the explosion lift his body to throw him back as flying shrapnel dug themselves into his skin despite the padded fencing shirt.

Glass and plaster rained down on Heero's unprotected back and he felt the boiling heat of the explosion as he covered Relena with his body and Dorothy lay next to him, smart enough to keep her head down.  As soon as the harmful rain of shrapnel stopped, Heero was on his feet and running, taking a flying leap out the now-broken window to land safely on the ground outside without losing a hair of speed.  Seeing a white figure dance into the trees, Heero followed, holding his arms up at the snapping branches and trying to keep his eyes open and focused.

But night's cloak was fully black and with a new moon, there was no light to light up a white-clad figure in a dense forest of trees.  Soon Heero couldn't even hear the fading footsteps anymore and he stopped, breathing heavily and scanning the surroundings with night-darkened cobalt eyes that looked almost as black as Wufei's.  Growling but getting ready to turn back, the sharp retort of a gun sounded and immense pain blossomed in Heero's right leg.

Even as he fell, Heero pulled off a few shots in the direction of the retort but heard nothing other than the ricocheting of bullets as they hit the hardwood of the tree trunks at an angle.  Falling, Heero heard faint footsteps fading away and before he could aim again, he hit the dirt and the sound had completely faded.

It was then that the high-powered searchlights on top of the Preventer buildings switched on and began playing over the nearby forest.  Heero snorted as he pulled himself up and limped back to the building, quickly tearing his white jacket off for a makeshift bandage for his leg.  It was too late, the braided baka was long gone by now.

Climbing back in through the window, Heero was greeted with a ruined hallway and Wufei looking in pain where he'd been thrown by the force of the blast against a wall at the far end.  Dorothy and Relena hovered by his side as did a younger officer who held a first aid kit and Dorothy gently tried to remove the shrapnel from his body.

Relena looked up from her position next to Wufei and jumped up to wedge herself under Heero's arm as a human crutch.  Heero was grateful for once for the support because this wound, he knew, was much worse than the last time Duo had shot him in the leg.  Placing Heero down next to Wufei, Relena dropped to her knees and cast a worried look at Heero's pale face and the red-smeared fencing jacket tied on his right thigh.

Heero glared and the shaking officer and growled, "Get them to turn off the searchlights, he's long gone."

The young man hastened to oblige. "Yes sir!"

Dorothy raked her gaze over Heero and commented, "You don't look half bad..."

Wufei opened pained eyes and glanced at Heero before closing them again. "He's used to it..."

Relena smiled grimly. "Deja vu, ne Heero?"

Heero grunted an affirmative as he shifted to apply pressure on the bandage to stop the blood.

Relena looked down miserably. "Thanks for saving me again Heero..."

Heero shrugged but Relena's next question caught his attention. "Demo... why is... why is Duo trying to..."

Dorothy didn't look up from tending Wufei's wounds. She merely answered Heero's unphrased question. "She didn't attend the briefing."

Footsteps ran up and Sally's face appeared around the corner.  "Oh Lord..." She turned back and yelled, "I need the medics here and two gurneys!"

Heero waved Sally off at the mention of a gurney and said, "I can walk."

Wufei agreed. "We're not invalids Sally... and it's only a few steps to the infirmary..."

After two hours of treatment, Heero and Wufei, both bandaged, lay on the beds in one room in the infirmary with Relena and Dorothy perched on chairs as Sally and Lady Une talked to the doctor outside.  Soon they came in a closed the door.  Sally was the first to speak. "Wufei is essentially fine although he has multiple deep cuts and abrasions that have been aggravated by the heat and plaster.  He also had a dislocated shoulder from where he'd slammed into the wall but that's all fixed now."

Wufei grimaced and clutched his left shoulder in rememberance of the moment.

"Heero, the bullet just grazed the bone so you've got a fractured leg and it also tore some tissue, you're to stay off the leg for a few days."  Sally leveled an I-am-to-be-obeyed look at Heero who glared right back at her.

Lady Une cut in heatedly. "What I want to know is how he found a way into one of the most secure compounds on all of Earth and its colonies without being detected!"

Wufei shrugged. "Hey, we were trained for this... remember how many times we penetrated well-guarded OZ facilities without detection?"

Lady Une glared at him but sighed after a second. "You're sure it was him?"

Dorothy answered, "You can't miss the braid."

Lady Une glanced at Relena's downturned face and said, "Relena, I don't want you anywhere outside the facility.  We'll give you a suite on the secured floor but you're not to go anywhere without one of these people or Zechs or Noin to escort, do you understand?"

Relena nodded. "Perfectly... but why is Duo...?"

"Dorothy will explain it to you and she'll take you up to your suite." The Director of the Preventers gave her a wan smile. "I must be getting back... the President wants to know why there was an emergency at the compound."

Relena cast a sympathetic glance at Lady Une's back but whipped her head around as soon as she heard the beds creak.  Heero and Wufei were both getting up.

Sally planted her fists on her hips and glared. "And where do you think you're going?"

"To my room," both answered in unison as they made their way to the door

Sally was about to say something else when Dorothy, followed by Relena, walked after the two, advising with a wink, "I wouldn't waste my breath Sally.  We'll make sure they don't faint along the way..."

As Heero thumbed open his door, he stumbled in before collapsing on the bed and crawled in under the covers before falling into painfilled, exhausted sleep.

Heero woke up to a bright morning streaming in through the windows and was startled when his door buzzed and Relena announced her presence.  "I've got breakfast."

Realizing his stomach was growling softly, Heero pressed a switch by the bed and the door slid open to reveal Relena with a laden breakfast tray and Noin behind her.  As Heero sat up in bed, Relena placed the tray on his bed and took a seat by the bed and Noin perched on the end of his bed.  As Heero reached for the coffee, he scowled. "How did you know I was awake?"

Relena stammered and lowered her head but the faint blush on her cheeks and Noin's amused expression told all.  Heero growled. "I was drugged."

Noin chuckled. "It's the only way to make sure you would at least get off that leg enough...  Believe me, Sally would have protested a lot more insistently against you two leaving the infirmary if you hadn't been drugged with painkillers and sleeping pills."

Heero glared, suddenly losing his appetite.  "How long have I been asleep?"

Noin glanced at her watch. "Approximately thirty five hours.  It is now zero eight hundred on the 20th."

Heero gawked at her for a second before cursing and trying to swing himself down off the bed.  He froze when he heard the cocking of a gun.  Looking up, he saw Noin playing with a small pistol in her hand and a smile on her face.  "Since this is the only way to get your attention, did we forget to mention that the reason we're here other than to make sure you eat is to confine you to bed?  Under the doctor's and the boss' orders.  Now eat!"

Heero stared at her for a while then turned to Relena who nodded with a determined gesture and sagged back into bed.  He may have been suicidal but he was not dumb to the point of doing what was forbidden when he was held at gunpoint in his own bed.

Noin laughed when he picked up his coffee cup again and leveled chilling blue eyes at her over the rim.  "Don't feel bad Heero, I'm sure Wufei is getting the exact same treatment in his room with Sally and Dorothy."

After two days of confinement to bed, both Heero and Wufei were getting a severe case of cabin-fever and against everyone's wishes, though they knew that this was as long as the two former-pilots would stay in bed, were allowed out.

Heero limped slightly to the base of operations and walked in but didn't sit down, preferring to pace as he endured the slight uncomfort of his leg.  Minutes later, Wufei walked in and with a nod, he flicked on the terminal to check for updates.  Since there was only the two of them in the room, Wufei said, "What do you suppose Duo was aiming for?  He didn't make any kind of threat towards Relena at all..."

Heero sat down and flicked on his own moniter, pulling up the list of names again to look at. "The best explanation was if the baka wanted us to know he was after Relena..."

Wufei gazed at the ceiling. "It's as if he wants to test us..."

Heero grunted. "Iya... since Kotamo is calling the shots, maybe he's getting nervous about us..."

The communications terminal beeped and Trowa's face appeared on the screen with Quatre's slightly strained one.  "Minna!  We heard about what happened, daijoubu ka?"  Quatre's voice was worried despite his own injuries.

Wufei smiled at the Arabian. "We're fine Quatre... how about you, are you okay?"

Quatre grinned. "Painkillers work wonders don't they?"

Wufei laughed and Heero smiled before asking. "Anything new?"

Trowa replied, "We just finished talking to the boss.  After an investigation by poison experts, Mileski's cause of death was finally determined as a lethal, very rare and barely traceable poison that primarily attacks the brain and thus makes its victims look like victims of seizure."  Not waiting for an answer, Trowa went on. "Quatre is sufficiently recovered so we're making our way back now."

Wufei sighed in relief. "It'll be good having you back..."

Quatre nodded. "Aa... we'll trade stories when we get back.  Ja na~"

As soon as the vid screen clicked off, the door buzzed and Dorothy's slightly hauty voice rang through. "Is this a private party or can anyone join?"

Pulling the switch to the door which slid open, Dorothy stepped in while Relena stepped in behind her, also clad in a Preventers uniform.  She explained. "We thought it would be easier for me to get around undetected."

Before either Heero or Wufei could answer, Lady Une's face appeared on the vid screen.  "Heero, Wufei, where's Relena?"

Relena stepped up. "I'm right here..."

Lady Une sighed in relief and said, "From now on, I don't want you to let her out of your sights even for a second understand?  With everything as it is, we can probably hold together but if Peacecraft-sama dies and the majority of the population finds out that it was the colonists, we'll have another civil war on our hands..."

Relena gasped. "What happened?"

Dorothy, Heero and Wufei leaned forward also to catch the words uttered in a tone of barely suppressed outrage in Lady Une's voice. "I don't believe this... but even under guard by a unit of ten Preventers, Duo was able to complete his objective and get away undetected..."

Dorothy frowned. "Who?"

"Ambassador Keats was shot through his bedroom window with a high-powered sniper's rifle last night while asleep."

Relena's eyes widened and she took a few steps back before collapsing into a chair.  "Ambassador... Keats..."

"Until Trowa and Quatre get here, I don't want any of you to leave the room.  Any requests, send them to Sally and she'll bring them but I don't want Relena in any danger, understood?"

"Ryoukai," Wufei answered.

Dorothy dropped herself into a chair and muttered, "Hope we can do something soon..."

Lady Une grimaced. "So do I Dorothy, so do I..."

In a small shabby apartment, Duo Maxwell grinned as he sent the email message with the satisfying words of 'TARGET ELIMINATED' once again in the body of the message.  Pulling a knife out of his boot, he flicked it open and ran it along his fingers, satisfied when a thin line of red appeared before any sign of pain.

Leaning back in his chair, he stared at the only picture left on the computer screen and chuckled.

"And then... there was one..."


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