Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence.
Breaking the Rules
I didn't have help on Tuesdays. The three guys working with me were doing it for peanuts and a place to stay in a shack in the back of my scrap yard. They were on a 'call only when you need us' basis and whenever I didn't need them they were usually drunk and sleeping it off. For some reason, Tuesday seemed a particularly bad day for them. When you work on the thin line of going out of business, a trio of street people was about all you could get, so complaining wasn't an option. I was scraping by and missing meals, here and there, when money ran out, so I guess I was just a step up from them, only I hadn't started drinking yet.
I suppose location is everything. Buying a cheap scrap yard in a section of space station that was filled with them, was, in of itself, a bad move, but it was what I could afford on the 'soldier charity fund' set up by Relena Peacecraft after the war. I had fought, killed, and given up my youth, and, in return, I'd been given just enough for the down payment on a dirt lot full of rusting metal parts. Sucks, I know, but what's new? Like always, I took what I could get and scrabbled for the rest. It's not like I'd ever had it better.
As for the guys from the war, those other pilots that I had been, well, not fast friends with, but at least comrades in arms? We didn't walk in the same circles and it was just too hard to hook up or keep in touch. Hilde stuck around for a bit, but she found true love at a bus stop down town one day and decided that living with a gay man in a pile of garbage wasn't the kind of life to lead. She's happy, and I don't blame her, but it gets lonely now. Stray cats, and the occasional rat, weren't good company and my trio of drunk employees didn't see much point in being buddies with a guy who didn't share their passion for the bottle.
Sometimes, I felt like drinking. When I sat in the office shack, and the heat was up because the damned people in charge of the weather controls thought it'd be nice to have a hot summer day, when loneliness crashed down on me and I didn't see anything in my future but that dusty lot, that rusting junk, and ... no one in my life, I wanted to blur it and make that ache of 'loser' go away. Well, right up until I watched one of my 'employees' stagger from their shack and vomit, looking like a three week old corpse someone had just dug up. Yeah, it could get worse. It could get that much worse.
When a truck pulled into the yard, on a day that I felt my lowest, on a day where food had not been affordable, on a day where I'd just about tried my luck begging my employees for a bite to eat, I was more than eager to take whatever he had. To sell junk, you had to have what people wanted. Unfortunately, I was last on a list when it came to selling. They could get better prices at the other yards. That made deliveries like these, a cause for celebrating. I didn't lose any time running out to meet the guy.
He seemed nervous. Black combat boots, olive overalls, a cap that he kept taking off so that he could smooth a hand over the top of his crewcut. I hadn't lived this long by being stupid. Something was up and that something was probably illegal. Since I had led a life where I had never shook hands with the law, my only concern was 'how illegal?' and 'could I get away with it?'. The man eyed me and a look passed between us. He relaxed, not completely, but he knew we understood each other before we ever said a word.
"Paperwork?" I asked point blank. The man shrugged. I bit my lip. "Hot?" He shook his head, no, lifting his cap and running that hand over his hair again. A lie. "Traceable?" He shook his head again and I wasn't sure. "How much?"
"80%," the man replied, looking out over my scrap lot as if it was foreign to him. A newbie, I guessed, and grinned ferally to myself.
"I'm poor, not stupid. 60%, and only if you have some really good shit," I growled. "You won't get that from anyone else."
The man frowned and took long minutes to think about it. It was a war of nerves. Somehow, well, he only had to look around, he knew I was desperate. He wanted me to crack, promise him whatever he wanted. I waited him out, sweat trickling down my back. He finally looked down at me. I was thin and wiry and I still had that dopey, big eyed look that made everyone think they were smarter than me. Kid, my look said, just a kid with a big assed braid.
The man started to leave. I didn't panic. I let him. "Have a nice day," I called after him.
He stopped. I could feel him simmering. I didn't have to see it to know. Finally, he turned around again, scowling. He must be just as desperate as I am, I thought, but kept any smugness off my face as he held out a computer pad. I looked it over, basic sale that noted the contents as 'reworked tools'. Bullshit, I thought, as I put my thumb print to it after adding the amount I would give him on the resale. If he was handing me junk, he wouldn't get a dime. It was the only way, in my dire straits, that I could operate.
The man waved me towards the truck and tucked the pad under his arm. He was looking sour, not pleased by the sale, but making the best of it. Yep, damned hot stuff if he wasn't willing to shop around.... or maybe he had and he'd been turned down already? That made me cautious. I didn't think the man would be stupid enough to give me contraband, or something I clearly didn't have the contacts to resell, but you'd be surprised at how stupid some people can be when they think the law can come down on them at any moment. Since they'd been breathing down my neck since my earliest memories, I didn't share the same fear.
I opened the back of the truck and clambered up into it. I was wearing a gray tank top and a loose pair of jeans. I knew I'd have to lose them as soon as I got down from the truck again. Everything was caked with dirt, as if the cargo had been buried for some time, and oil and fuel was soaked into the bed of the truck. Opening a crate, I was confronted by gleaming metal that looked brand new. I recognized the gyros for what they were instantly and the hair stood on the back of my neck. Military grade gyros for suits. Shit!
My hands trembled as I replaced the lid of the crate. I almost couldn't walk as I turned to look down at the man standing outside of the truck. "Where in holy hell did you get these?"
The man looked smug. "What's it matter? I need them sold."
I wiped my dirty hands on my pants and licked nervous lips. If I managed to sell them, I could put my feet up for ten years, in Tahiti. I said, "All right!" just an exclamation of excitement as my brain worked on the details, feverishly thinking about who I knew who could take the lovelies off my hands.
Like I said, I hadn't lived that long by being stupid. Survival instincts finally kicked my greedy self in the butt and pointed out just who I was and what I was being offered. It didn't add up. I went cold.
"Uh, wait a minute," I stammered, starting to get down out of the truck. "Maybe I should reconsid-"
A gun was suddenly in my face and I found my old, war time buddy, Heero Yuy,
standing beside my 'customer'. His gun was as black as his suit and it gleamed
in the sun, deadly and unwavering. His blue eyes glared at me and he said, in
a voice like an undertaker, "Too late."
I slumped against the window in the back seat of the sleek, black car. Heero Yuy sat beside me, gun still out and resting on his knee so that the barrel was pointed at my heart. I didn't look at him. I kept my eyes on the window, looking at the scenery, the curve of the space station as we passed from the stacked dirt lots of the scrap dealers, to a warehouse district, and then into the better parts of the sprawling metropolis. Here was greenery and I couldn't help looking longingly at cool shade trees in their planters and strips of green grass set in park squares between office buildings and shops.
I tried to ease my wrists. The manacles clinked. My hands had been cuffed behind my back and my shoulders felt as if the joints would pop. I was covered in sweat, dust, and things from the truck that I had climbed into earlier. I stunk like fuel, grease, and dirt. My clothes were grimy and one of the men, that had come boiling into my lot at a call from Heero, had torn my tank top pulling me out of the truck. It hung raggedly off of one of my shoulders, showing an old scar, jagged and pink against the darker tan of my skin.
I felt like a bum, sitting there in that ultra clean car and seated next to a spit and polish Heero Yuy. He even had a faint smell of after shave. Because of this man, I was now a criminal bum, being taken to Preventer lock up to have my ass interrogated and booked. I suppose that I should have been more upset about that, but all I could do was muster a black depression. Maybe it was the hunger. I couldn't remember my last meal. Maybe, after a sandwich, I would manage some outrage at being framed.
My own mind pointed out that I had been going to sell those illegal parts. I growled at it to shut the hell up. I didn't want the truth just then, or blame. Being in denial was far more appealing, thank you very much. Instead, I used up the time from the scrap yard to the tall, gleaming building of Preventer headquarters, to wonder why they had wanted to net a fish as small as me. I might have done a few under the table deals, but they'd been more along the lines of stolen metal plating and general equipment. Otherwise, I'd stayed in my dirt lot and kept my nose clean, a pretty big accomplishment when you consider my skills and my past. I could have done some real damage if I had chosen too, and made myself rich enough for a king by hacking into systems and bank accounts. Maybe that's what this was all about? Maybe they couldn't believe that Duo Maxwell, ex Gundam pilot, could refrain from dipping into trouble that big.... but then, how did they explain my hand to mouth existence? It didn't add up....
It was tempting to ask what was going on, to try and breach that stone wall that was the man sitting next to me, but a gun waiting for the twitch of a finger to fire, doesn't make you want to disturb the man who owns the finger. Why, would have to wait.
When the car pulled into a special area, and I was dragged almost by my hair out of the car by an agent half again my size, I heard another agent tell Heero, "We used a search warrant. He didn't have much. I had the stuff sent to your partner. He's waiting for you."
"Hn," just a low grunt from Heero of acknowledgement as he came around and checked my manacles. When he pulled on them, I hissed in pain, but didn't do anything else except bow my head with a scowl. What was there to say? He knew they hurt. He knew how tight my arms were locked backwards. He wanted me that incapacitated though. A trained Gundam Pilot was damned dangerous, so I didn't really blame him. Didn't stop me from being pissed though.
Heero finally tucked his gun back into its holster under his arm and let his coat fall down over it to hide it. He was among friends now, everyone armed, everyone ready to take out Duo Maxwell if he so much as blinked the wrong way.
"What's a matter, Yuy?" a man joked as he passed us by. "Only way you could get a date?"
Heero didn't smile or reply, but the man seemed used to that. I was red in the face angry. Yeah, I did have a really long braid, but I didn't look like a girl. I had a guy's face. Asshole, I thought, to make myself feel better as we threaded our way through a maze of lock down doors and entered the secure side of the building. Heero took me into a featureless room with a table and a few chairs. Yeah, just like in the old movies, 'Just the facts, ma'am.' and all that.
Chang Wu Fei, his partner, was waiting for him along with a large box, tipped over on the table, with my belongings spilling out of it. My anger turned to embarrassment in an instant. As Heero kicked a chair away from the table and made me sit in it with a hand pressing down on my shoulder, Wu Fei grimaced and nodded to my things as he said, "Nothing of interest."
Wu Fei was dressed in grays and blacks. A normal suit, but he managed to make it look very oriental. He still wore his hair pulled back tight into a pony tail. I wondered if it made his brain hurt. Those dark eyes, with those long dark brows, were as disdainful as ever, and he had that exact expression I remembered from the war, the glare down the nose that managed to convey an impression that he considered everyone in range of it, a bug.
I had a phenomenal memory, by the way, one of the things that had made Dr. G take a chance on me; that and my breaking and entering skills. I kept a lot of things in my head, my less than upstanding contacts as well. It was much safer that way. They weren't going to find anything to get me on unless my contacts hadn't been as circumspect. If one of them had ratted on me, or put down something incriminating... but that still didn't add up. The truth of the matter was, that petty theft and laundering minor items wasn't that big of a deal. It certainly didn't warrant all of those agents, a sting operation, and the intense way Heero and the arresting agents had acted. It lead me back to the fear that I was being suspected of something a hell of a lot bigger.
Wu Fei pushed a few porn magazines to one side distastefully. Guys cheescaked on the covers. I felt my face catch fire, but I just sat and glared. Guess that cat was out of the bag now, though I'd never actively kept it from anyone. Why an agent had felt it necessary to include them in an evidence box was beyond me.
Wu Fei flipped idly through a few notebooks, filled with the kind of thing you do when you're doodling while talking on the phone. He had my desk calendar too, filled with the same kind of cryptic scrawls, phone numbers, and random expletives that I couldn't say to whoever had been on the other end of the line at the time. He also had some photographs and a few news clippings that I had laminated. War time stuff, me and Hilde, a couple of photos of me and the guys getting our 'you did a good job now get lost' awards, and one photo of Heero half turned from the camera. I had snuck that one and I'm not sure if I blushed hotter about that than about the porn magazines. They, at least, could be explained.... the other. Okay, so the guy is hotter than a shuttle on re-entry and I couldn't leave that damned 'after the war' party without getting a shot to ...uhm... look at once in awhile.
Heero finally spoke while I looked down at the table, tracing the scratches and dents with my eyes. "You are being charged with intent to buy and sell contraband suit gyros. That carries a minimum ten year sentence."
"Get less for murdering someone," I grunted under my breath sourly.
Wu Fei's cool voice replied, "Is that supposed to help your defense?"
"Guess I should be asking for a lawyer now, right?" I snapped back.
"You haven't been officially charged yet," Heero told me and I looked up in surprise. "If you cooperate-"
I snorted and sunk down in my chair, trying to ease my shoulders. "I don't know anything."
Wu Fei was playing bad cop, I guess. He frowned darkly and said, "There is a ten year jail sentence and a bunk in a jail cell with your name on it, Maxwell. If you don't want a lot of hard up men appreciating your long hair, you had best tell us what we wish to know."
I laughed. "You need to practice that more," I told him. "Try, 'Unless you want to bend over for a guy named 'Bubba'."
Heero was more direct. Yeah, good cop, though he didn't seem much different from bad cop. "Cooperate or we will book you right now."
I had an itch on the end of my nose. I struggled to scratch it on my shoulder as I said, "Why don't you ask me something and I'll try and answer it? Like I said, though, I don't know anything... well, unless you're interested in two bit fences and borderline scrap dealers?"
Heero exchanged a look with Wu Fei. Wu Fei blinked and that seemed to communicate something to Heero. Heero asked point blank. "Do you know a man named Ryffio?"
"No, should I?" I was genuinely mystified. I frowned, puzzled, "Look, I don't do contraband gyros. Yeah, I had a moment of weakness, but, honestly, I don't deal with that shit or anyone who does. I would have had to contact contacts of contacts to find someone to take them off my hands..... ahhhhh..." I exclaimed suddenly. I got it, finally. "You're looking for a stoolie, undercover, snitch in the business."
Wu Fei looked annoyed as he put the box level with the table and swept my stuff into it with a rake of his arm.
"Bingo," I said, amused, but then shook my head, "No can do. Duo Maxwell is a lot of things, but he's not a-"
Heero suddenly twisted a hand into what was left of my tank top. His eyes were like molten blue lava as he said, with that deadly tone of voice that always sent a chill up my spine every time I had heard it, "All I have to do is make one call and you will be spending life in prison, not just ten years. Do I make myself clear? We need your contacts and your expertise. You will cooperate. No, is not an option."
"I may be wrong," I told him calmly, "But I think you just broke about half a dozen laws. I want a lawyer... now."
Was I scared? Hell yeah! They had me dead to rights and, lawyer or no lawyer, I was looking at serious time in the slammer. There's something you learn, though, when you've lived like I have; to play poker well and to never let them see you sweat. I had to deal, I knew it, but I needed some serious 'hand' right then and there.
Heero gave me a very long and very steady look, and then he straightened. That silent, whatever it was, passed between Wu Fei and him again and it was Wu Fei who grunted, crossed his arms over his chest, and said, "There would be some... compensation for your cooperation." I could tell that the very idea of paying me off was sticking in his throat.
I grinned. "Okay, but I want to know one thing, this isn't a 'rake up the little fish' operation is it? You're going after some big and dangerous dude, right? 'Cuz, I'm not turning in anybody that's just scraping to feed himself and his family, okay?"
"The man we are after is very big and very dangerous," Heero replied.
"Okay..." I took a deep breath, quickly went over everything in my mind, checking and double checking that I was zero on options, before I said, "Done deal."
Wu Fei inclined his head. Heero just grunted.
I rattled my manacles. "Can you take these off now, before you have to amputate my arms?"
Heero moved to comply. When my arms were free, I bent over them, trying to work back some circulation into them. While I did this, Heero went to the box on the table and began to lift it, I guess to give it back to me. He paused and fished out the photo of himself. He studied it and frowned.
"I was trying to get photos of all you guys," I said nervously. Okay, that was THE most lame assed excuse... there wasn't pictures in there of anyone else by themselves and it was way too obvious that I had cut someone else out of the picture to have him by himself. I sure as hell hadn't wanted him standing by Relena Peacecraft! Anyway, Heero didn't buy it, I could tell, but, I wasn't sure just what he WAS thinking. His expression was muted... stone wall like... damned hard to read, is what I'm saying.
Heero finally put the photo back and brought the box to me. I stood up, intending to take it, but then the fact that I hadn't eaten in, however long it had been, caught up with me. I passed out cold.
on to Chapter 2