Lawless Hearts

Part 23:Red Flag
by Kracken


Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warning: Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence.

Lawless Hearts

Red Flag

"Duo, stop whistling," Heero complained in exasperation.

"Sorry," I muttered under my breath and then smiled at the old lady in the transport train who was giving me the 'nutcase' eye. We were alone, so I could forgive her for looking ready to hit the emergency door and jump out.

I turned away and walked down the aisle towards the back as Heero said in my ear com, "You've said sorry every time I've told you to stop."

"Habit." I replied shortly and stuck my hands into my jeans pockets. I almost started whistling again and bit my lip. I contented myself with scratching behind my ear with my shoulder.

"Stop it," Heero told me, almost at once.

"Okay, how did you do that?" I wondered.

"Your tracking signal jiggles when you scratch the implanted chip,"Heero explained and sounded amused.

"Yeah, go ahead and laugh," I growled in a low whisper. "I'm the one tagged like a damned wild animal."

"Wildebeest?" Wu Fei suggested, sounding just as amused as Heero, damn him.

"Caribou," Heero countered.

"Shut up, both of you!" I snarled.

"Grizzly bear," Heero said and I could almost hear his smirk.

"I think so," Wu Fei agreed, but then sobered, "Now, if you two would practice mission silence, please. You're almost at your destination, Maxwell."

I'd been too busy being confused by Chang Wu Fei sharing a joke with Heero to notice. I bent and looked through a cracked and filthy window. Greenery began sliding by as we passed between lighted steel columns and then entered the city.

The woman left at the first stop and the late shift of grimy construction workers and system mechanics getting off work, piled on. I found myself being squeezed from all sides. When they left at the next stop, for the poorer section of the city, I looked down and saw that my shirt had dirt marks all over it from rubbing against their work clothes. I sighed.

"Duo?" Heero asked, worried.

"Go," I replied, our code word for all right. 'Stop' was trouble. 'Yellow' was discovered. 'Red Flag' was man down.

The next stops found me in a corner, watching people get on and off as the transport train made it's way to the Government section of town. It was there that I finally reached my stop. I got off; tired, nauseous from the constant rocking motion of the transport, and dirty. I looked like a scrapman, and I found myself adopting the cocky attitude of one, as I walked down the sidewalks, especially when people grimaced at me in distaste and said things to each other where they thought I couldn't hear.

It might seem strange, but I had one thing that I always did when I visited the city. I didn't miss it now. I swung by a large park of trees, grass, flowers, and fountains and sat on a bench to admire it all. A little bit of paradise. A little peace. A little reflection before I went into a situation where I might see blood, guts, and men dying.

My eavesdroppers didn't say anything. They could see by the tracking device where I was. Maybe they understood. I didn't push it, though. I left the park after only a short time and made my way into the heart of the enemy, a row of skyscrapers reaching impossible heights in the light gravity.

I couldn't just walk in. I had called ahead. My appointment had been immediate. They wanted to see me so badly that they were willing to let me have some 'hand' in the situation. I didn't fool myself into over confidence. They wouldn't do it without a reason or a plan to exploit it.

Paul Harker, Exterior Administrator, I read on the outside of the building in letters larger than I was. I kept my cocky attitude and entered boldly through the front doors, hands still stuck in my pockets and white shirt still filthy with dirt.

At least when you're famous, nobody mistakes you for the furnace mechanic. The guards took one look at me and all of them snapped to alert status.

"Duo Maxwell, you're expected, sir," One beefy man said as he made a little salute.

I have a sense about people. Looking at him, and the others, I knew that they didn't have a clue what their boss was up to and that their respect was genuine. I really hoped that I wouldn't have to hurt them.

They took me up a secure elevator and into a posh office space. Three secretaries ushered me into an oval office with expensive glass and Danish furnishings and art that I decided was genuine. The man I was supposed to rat on was seated behind a very large desk. Paul Harker was leaning back comfortably, the light from a large picture window making him look larger than life. If a place could have gods, he would be one of them, I thought. He and his fellow bureaucrats ran the lives of everyone on L2 from the air they breathed to the weather they endured. We were subject to their every whim and their whims weren't usually good ones.

You didn't give people that much power without them wanting to use it, wanting to flex that muscle and make everyone dance. I suppose that was why the man in charge of the weather liked to make everyone miserable. He had the power to and probably got off on bestowing good weather every once in awhile... when he felt magnanimous. I had a feeling I was looking at someone just like that only he was going after the money end of it to. Harker was going to make a Gundam pilot dance and make money off of him too, so I was braced when he said very simply, "I am your new boss."

Of course Harker had waited until my moment of seemingly greatest desperation, when I finally came crawling to him with no other option. Of course, he would cement the statement with a threat and I tried not to look bored as he flashed a computer disk at me and then tapped his chin with it idly.

"You've been dealing with unlicenced dealers, Mr. Maxwell," he told me seriously. "And your taxes seemed to have been doctored most artfully."

Okay, I frowned at that. I couldn't imagine Wu Fei making a mist- Oh, I got it, "You changed them." It wasn't a question.

"Quick," Harker chuckled, "Very quick. Are you also able to add up the years in prison I could sentence you to for that crime alone?"

I bowed my head, jaw working. He was mean and blunt, but I liked a man who didn't play with his food. "What do you want?" I asked tightly.

"I told you," Harker said as he put the disk flat on his desk and moved it around idly. "You are now working for me. You like to break the law, I'll give you the chance to be in on something big, not," he sneered, "not doing scrap deals with L2 trash."

I stared a hole into his carpet, looking very pissed. "I had a bad year. I can pay the fines, throw myself on the mercy of the court, do community time..."

"As if I'd let you," Harker snorted. He put the gloves back on in the next instant, almost purring. "Maxwell, surely you can see that you're rotting all of your talents out there in the scrap heaps? A war hero deserves so much more." He waved to his office. "Surely you have a desire for the finer things in life? I can give you anything you wish, a penthouse apartment, a very generous paycheck, any entertainments you might desire..."

I tried not to shiver, knowing he was talking about something other than the usual girl on each arm. I wanted to punch his lights out, or whoever had given him the impression that I was in to weird things."Don't believe everything you hear," I grated, fists clenched.

"I don't," Harker told me with a new intensity. "Which is why you'll have a trial period, closely guarded, until you prove your loyalty."

He was so sure I was going to accept. I could feel it on my skin, his absolute sense of superiority and strength. I wondered how long it had been since anyone had crossed him, had said 'no' to him.

"They would have so much fun with you in prison," Harker said regretfully. "I've heard terrible rumors... Do you really want to find out, personally, whether they are true or not?"

Prisons on the other colonies were humane rehabilitation and incarceration units. Gone where the days when a prisoner would be thrown in a general population of like criminals to fend for himself. On L2, however, they still had the Oz model for serious criminals: four metal walls and a survival of the fittest environment. I knew that I could hold my own, but I didn't relish having to go through it. I let that trepidation show on my face as I looked up at the man.

"I... " I looked despondent now as I paced away from him, stopped, and held myself tightly. "I guess I don't have any choice..."

"None," Harker agreed, pleased. "Welcome aboard, Duo Maxwell. I'll have someone show you to your new quarters where you can... freshen up. " I heard his distaste at my filthy state. "We'll have our first strategy meeting later today."

He wasn't wasting any time. His stuff had to be red hot for him to be that impatient. I wondered if I hadn't shown up that day, whether he would have come after me at my lot to strong arm me there.

"Deiter! Get in here!" Harker said in a com unit.

I turned back around, looking resigned, as a big security guard came into the room. He looked like a Dieter; a body builder, a rock of muscle that probably had been chosen for his likelihood in taking care of a Gundam pilot if that pilot decided to double cross his new boss.

I licked nervous lips and then made it look like I was putting a good face on things. "Do I get... something to eat?"

"I suppose food has been a problem with your slim income," Harker smirked. "You may order anything you like and Dieter will see it delivered to your room." He gave me an intense look. "Anything," he stressed.

My skin crawled. How could the man put so much raunchy meaning into a simple word?

"Anything," I repeated as if warming to the notion. I nodded and bowed my head as if ashamed at my own eagerness. I could see Harker grinning, thinking he had me firmly on his hook. Yeah, he was falling for the open, boyish, 'Maxwell's a fool' face. I doubt anyone would have been so sure of themselves with Heero or Wu Fei. A street kid from L2 was sure to have a price, but men like them... I could almost feel bitter about that, until I reminded myself that this was a con and that I wasn't really selling myself out.

I followed Deiter from Harker's office. The plan was for me to get away and infiltrate. If Harker was going to announce his plans later that day, I needed my backup to tell me whether it was worth hanging around for. Doing that, when there was likely going to be surveillance devices everywhere, was the problem. I hoped that Heero would get that and tell me what to do without having to ask.

I scratched at the chip behind my ear. It was driving me crazy. My skin was rejecting it, wanting it out. I made myself stop with an effort. If I made the spot raw, they might notice and, if I scratched too hard, it might come out. It was the only thing letting Heero and Wu Fei know where I was.

"He'll expect you to wait for the meeting," Wu Fei said quietly in my ear. I almost jumped. The connection was very clear. "Don't. All the information we need is in those files."

I'm sure Harker knew that too. I frowned. This was too easy. One big guard and a sweet deal. I had to hope that Harker was over confident, that he was too certain that I wanted what he was giving..

"Go," I whispered. All right. I wasn't making the calls. I had to trust that Heero and Wu Fei had figured this guy out already.

I caught myself scratching again. I shoved my hands into my pockets and nodded to Deiter as he opened a door and motioned me inside.

"Want anything?" Deiter asked in a tone that let me know that he thought I was trash.

I grinned at him. "A steak, twice baked potato, cheese souffle, some fine red wine, chocolate truffles in cheery sauce, and oranges."

Deiter's eyebrows went up to his hairline, incredulous. "Oranges? Why not fucking ask for a stack of gold bars while you're at it?"

I took my hands out of my pockets and looked ugly. "The boss said, 'anything I want'. I want oranges."

Oranges had to be shipped. For some reason they hated the L2 climate controls. Anything that had to be shipped through space, was so precious you could use them for money. Deiter scratched at his head and then shrugged. "Anything else?"

"Yeah." My grin widened. "A whore."

"Whore," the man repeated and then looked even more disgusted, but he asked, "Male, female, other..?"

"Male, young." I replied.

"How young?"

"Not legal, young" I told him and winked. "Red hair, bill of health, and green eyes."

"You better be worth it," Deiter growled as he turned to go. "Or Harker will cut off your perverted balls and make you eat them."

"I'm worth it, don't you worry," I told him arrogantly.

I wasn't surprised when Deiter locked the door behind him when he left. I heard the null field and the heavy duty bar locks slide into place. I didn't make the mistake of breaking my cover. The hairs on my neck were prickling. I was sure I was being watched. That was all right. I had a solution for that.

Taking a small ball out of my pocket, I began nonchalantly tossing it up and down as I looked around the apartment. It was very richly furnished. I was impressed. There was a mini bar as well, but I resisted the urge to take a stiff drink.

"Jeez! It'll probably take that ape all day to find a red head," I muttered for effect. "I should have asked for a blonde."

I went into the main room and then began bouncing the ball off the walls. I made it an obvious game, grinning and laughing as I successfully caught each, seemingly, wild toss. 'Seemingly', because I was making very sure to keep one side of the ball from hitting the wall until I was absolutely sure where the surveillance node for that room was. When I had pinpointed it, I flipped the ball and tossed it directly at it. The metal plated side of the ball hit it dead on and there was an audible pop.

I didn't want them to panic. I tossed the ball a few more times on the safe side and then yawned. "Maybe I should rest up.... take a nap... I'm going to put that whore through his paces, that's for sure. I need my strength for that." I laughed evilly and made myself feel sick with disgust.

I jumped on the leather couch. It made a loud, whoosh!, noise and I settled, yawned again, and then went quiet. Very carefully, I rolled off the couch and made my way, not to the front door, but to a window. It was thin paned and a straight drop to the pavement far below. Only a lunatic would try to go out that way, so it wasn't locked or set with alarms. I popped the service tabs and opened it outward.

Pulling a round, puck like, device from my pocket, I pressed it against the outside wall and pushed a button. A gel oozed out and seeped into every pore it could penetrate in the wall. That gel then dried instantly, a rigid seal that nothing short of a large explosion could dislodge. Pushing another button, a climbing wire released. I pulled, paying the line out as I measured the drop to the next window by sight. Once I thought that I had enough line, I locked the line down and attached one end to my belt.

I had to trust that, if anyone happened to look up, they would think I was a worker. I couldn't take the time to worry about it as I slid out of the window and defied death as I made my descent. Deiter would be awhile finding my oranges and my underage, health card carrying, red haired, whore, but he wouldn't be forever.

"Duo," Heero whispered anxiously. "Why is my monitor showing you on the OUTSIDE of the building?"

"Because I am," I told him with a small laugh that was stoked with adrenaline. "Every other level is a hallway with offices. The hallways end with a window. I'm heading for one of those windows right now."

"Too risky!" Wu Fei snarled. "You were supposed to break out of your room!"

"Couldn't do it," I replied sharply. "Too many bugs in the room. Null fields and bolt locks make a lot of noise. Don't worry, Fei-Fei, I have it under control."

"Maxwell!" Wu Fei snarled, but Heero was there suddenly, a calming presence.

"I trust you," Heero told me.

"Go," I said simply, but managed to put some warmth in it.

It was a busy building, but I was sure that most of that business happened on the lower levels. These upper levels were reserved for 'private' business and flunkies. The hallway I saw, as I peered through a dust covered window, was empty. I didn't push my luck that it would stay that way for long. I opened the window and tossed my ball at the surveillance node. After a satisfying pop, I slipped inside the hallway and closed the window.

It was hard not to be cocky as I pulled a pack from under my shirt. Inside was a vacuum sealed uniform, with all the appropriate badges, that Wu Fei had supplied me. After I opened it, it sprang back to its original size and I put it on. The long braid, as always, was a problem. Workers didn't wear hats. My only option was to tuck the long tail under my uniform back and pull up my collar.

"Go," I said again and began walking, tossing my jeans and shirt into the nearest garbage receptacle as I rounded a corner and headed for the more secure parts of the building.

There's a sense of security people get when they think the normal citizenry have been effectively kept out of an area. There were guards, security measures, and pass points where ID had to be okayed by verifiers. That sense of security makes people stupid.

I stopped at an ID point and stood, looking chagrined, as I held a card in one hand. A man came up, slid his through, and looked at me curiously. He sighed in a long suffering way and asked, "Sticking again?"

"Yeah," I commiserated, looking over my fake ID card. "Third time in one day. I'm new. Harker is going to think I can't do my job if I keep getting hung up here."

The man was my sympathetic buddy at once. "He does have a short temper.... Why don't I let you through this time? You can go get another pass card when you're done."

I beamed at him. "Thanks! I really appreciate that!"

It was hard not to call him the dumbass he was as he helped me get through the checkpoint. Beyond the checkpoint, there was a huge room filled with computer banks, cubicles, and bored looking employees. I only had to check three stations to find someone who'd stepped out for coffee or gossip and left themselves logged onto the system.

Six seconds, that's all it took to figure out that Harker liked his own name enough to use it for his correspondence files and that the Iliad was a running theme with the man. What would a man like him use as a password? Agamemnon, of course. I kept from snickering as I downloaded everything to Preventer headquarters and then followed that up by uploading all the main frame core files there as well. Duo Maxwell is nothing if not thorough.

I had to get myself out now. That's always been last on my list and I don't think I've ever planned an escape. Getting the mission done had always been priority one. Life of the pilot, had always been dead last... as in dead... as in, I used to think I wasn't going to make it out of those missions alive. Sure, I did the dog and pony show for Heero and Wu Fei, made them think I had it together, but, even now, I still hadn't bothered really formulating something.

I considered repelling, window to window, until I was below security levels, but then nixed that. As I stood and began to leave, I noticed a full waste basket. I cheerfully grinned as I picked it up and emptied out the bag. Tying it in a neat knot, I rounded a cubicle and waved it at the irritated man sitting there with a pile of work to do.

"I'm new. Can you tell me where the garbage goes, please?" I asked.

The man snagged his own bag from his wastebasket and held it out to me. "Third level, end of the hall. There's a chute and a compacter. Paper goes in the chute, aluminum goes in the compactor. Mind taking mine?"

"Sure thing." I grabbed his bag, knotted it up, and added it to mine. I was given four more bags by other employees seeing my errand before I could get out of the room.

A distraction. Taking out the garbage. A compactor. Compactors had to be emptied. There had to be an access way to the compactor. I had found Harker's Achille's heel. All I had to do was slip through the access and down to maintenance. That would bypass the guards at the main doors.

"Go," I said cheerfully and Heero sighed in relief.

"We have the information," He told me. "Une is so pleased she said she would have your first child as thanks. I told her you had other plans."

I chuckled and then stopped walking. Six armed men, Harker, and a pissed looking Deiter rounded a corner. Guns charged and they were all aimed at my chest. Harker stepped forward, blue eyes snapping with fury. I guess they hadn't been fooled by my surveillance trick.

"Red Flag," I said under my breath and dropped the garbage bags.

"Scan him," Harker barked.

A man nervously stepped forward with a hand held wand. He found my com unit right away. He dug it out of my ear viciously and then crushed it with his boot.

"Son of a bitch!" I howled as I clutched at my bleeding ear.

The man used his wand again. My tracker was cloaked. He passed by it.

"Nothing," he reported and stepped back

"You had your chance, Maxwell," Harker told me, suddenly going cold. His eyes said, 'killer'. "Take him to the box. I want him to die slowly."

Deiter grinned. "Looks like we're taking out all the garbage today."

"Make sure the other garbage gets incinerated," Harker growled cryptically. "I want to threaten them with their brats, not actually keep them and start a day care."

Sometimes, you don't have to have things spelled out. This was one of those times. I knew enough about the ugly side of life to believe anything of people. I wished Heero and Wu Fei were still listening. I wanted the calvary to ride in, not to save my ass, but to stop what I suspected was about to happen to children.

They hustled me away, two men gripping me by the arms while they held their guns to my head. I guess my reputation had them scared. I really hoped that they didn't have nervous trigger fingers. Guns like that had a light touch. Deiter followed, smiling in a way that made my skin crawl.

"Every find that whore for me?" I couldn't help shooting back at him, knowing that I had probably made him go to the 'professional' quarter and ask for a boy.

The blow wasn't unexpected. The man on my right was surprised in a bad way, though. His gun went off as I was shoved forward by the force of the blow. The shot just missed my head and punched a hole in a wall. Metal shrapnel cut my cheek. I wiped at the blood and grimaced, still staggering a little from the double fisted blow Dieter had given me to my back.

"Open your mouth again and I'll make sure he takes off your head next time," Deiter threatened.

I'd gotten out of the habit of almost dying. I couldn't help a shiver, even while my mind, always the cynic, wondered if I should make them kill me. It didn't sound nice, what they had in store for me.

We started walking again and then went down a lift to the first floor. This was the section I had been trying to escape to. Storage units, extra parking, garbage, and catering access. There was a fenced section, topped with razor wire, that was open to the sun. This was where trucks pulled in to drop off or pick up loads and this was where they took me.

The storage units were four sided metal boxes with locks. Two were empty. I knew one was about to be filled... with me. I had a very good idea how long I would last in the heat in a metal box like that. Long enough to suffer, just like Harker wanted.

"I want my mama!" a child wailed.

"Shut up," A male voice snarled. "We're taking you to them, so be quiet and do what you're told!"

I turned and saw a group of very small children being led to a truck by a group of armed men. Pig tails, wide, innocent eyes, and pudgy thumbs in mouths... babies... They were all just babies. When I saw one drop her teddy bear, I was ducking out of the grasp of my captors to retrieve it. I heard guns power up, but they paused when they saw me lift the teddy and crouch by one of the little girls. I smiled at her. She looked terrified, tears streaming from her blue eyes, and wasn't reassured.

"It's okay," I crooned to her. "You heard him. You're going back to your parents." I knew it for the lie it was, but I needed time. I scratched hard at the chip in my neck and the thing came out. I jammed it into a seam of the teddy bear with my finger, making a hole in the soft material. Handing her the bear, I said, "Hold him tight. He'll keep you safe."

"I will," She intoned seriously, as if she perfectly understood that I had just given her my only chance of getting rescued.

"Come on, play time's over!" Deiter snarled and jerked me up by my braid. He kept dragging me by it and I let him, even though murder boiled through my blood. I couldn't make trouble, not just then. I had to let that girl, those babies, get away without suspicion.

My neck was bleeding. I managed to keep that side turned away as they tossed me in the storage unit. Metal clanged as I rolled and slammed against the back wall. It was already damned hot. I struggled up to get away from the burning metal.

"I wish I had a camera in here," Deiter said as he looked at the four walls appraisingly. "Be nice to see your ass squirm."

And then the doors were being slammed shut and locked and all that was left was for me was to fry.

see Kracken's original, published yaoi fiction, The Angel Within, at under Kracken
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