I am officially having a Very Bad Day.
I surrender gracefully. By the time I kill the three bright sparks who figured out who I am, the other five in the yard will have figured it out as well, and then things will get beyond messy.
Since I didn't kill anybody well, here and now- they only beat me up a little bit before hauling me in to see the cheeses.
Heero is seething in my ear. He hates it when missions go south like this. He hates it when the baka gets captured and he has to go and bail him out. Or shoot him. I know that that's always a possibility. Heero has gone to extraordinary lengths to save me before, but I know that when those chips go down, so will Maxwell, if that is what is required.
I expect this, I welcome it. I'd rather die cleanly by a bullet than be tortured to death. But before we get too gutsy and dramatic about it-... I'm being held in a very minor station, the kind where deadbeats, bureaucrats and layabouts go to hide from the war. I've already spotted a few cracks in the security they're applying to me, though I've not been able to exploit any of them yet. Someone smart whisked a metal detector over me and relieved me of my weapons, but my cheese-wire and ceramic-alloy picks are still in my braid. I can break out of this crib on my own. I manage to inform Heero of this sub-vocally, hiding my words in grunts and yelps (which I wasn't particularly faking).
Yes, my lover is more worried about me finishing the mission than getting out alive. That's the way we're wired. I don't even blink, we understand each other on this.
"I'll get it." I mutter as I'm thrown before someone, my bruises informing me just how hard the floor is.
We're in the major's-
We're in the major's office! I can see my mission objective from the spot of floor I've been tossed to. Unfortunately right now it's a circus in here. There's a dour-faced lieutenant and a sergeant hanging around glaring at me, and a mess of soldiers yelling at me and each other.
And then there's the guy whose feet I'm at.
His tag informs me his name is Veneze. His pips inform me he's the major. His eyes inform me he's something a whole lot worse.
My eyes flick from his with the force of long habit. A habit I picked up from long before I was a Gundam pilot. My hands automatically flex against the cuffs. The reaction of a beast caught in a trap.
Right now he's pretty much ignoring me, listening to the babble of the men around me. The lieutenant is giving curt orders to go on high alert, look for explosives and computer taps, alert the authorities of what's happened here.
The major nods, gives a few orders himself. His eyes skip over me, slightly gloating, imagining himself presenting his prize to the higher ups for interrogation. He'll get a promotion out of this. Any cruelty in his eyes is drowned in that ambition. For now.
The blueprints of the base flash through my mind, I know that the man's room is next to his office. I know how far the brig is if they take me there instead. I know the difficulty of getting back here from there with the base at high alert. I know what I must do. The plan bubbles into my mind in a second, my training coming into force before I can stop it. And once I know what the plan is, I know I will follow it. I care too much about missions myself.
It's like voluntarily throwing myself into the sewer. Without the drysuit. But I know I'll do it.
You see, I know Veneze.
I've been running from Veneze all my life. I killed him twice before, but eventually I was be running from him again. He haunts the alleys of L2 slums, the ruins of war-torn towns, I even found him lurking on one of the sweeper ships. Howard shot him out of the airlock that time, but then I met him again and again... I know all about Veneze. I know how to kill him with joy!- and I know how to avoid him, but I know how to manipulate him too.
"D-don't hurt me!" It's half threat and half whimper. I writhe in the hands of the guards holding me, using my whole body to buck and squirm.
I hear a noise on the comms, like Heero dropped something. Or maybe he fell off his chair. He knows that I've been tortured to within an inch of my life and the only thing I gave my interrogators was a thorough list of all the ways they could fuck themselves.
I hope he doesn't say anything, or start yelling at me. I'm going to need all my concentration to get through the next half-hour. In fact...
I'm distracted. My body reacts automatically to the look Veneze is suddenly giving me, as he starts to see me as something a bit more than a chip to cash in for a promotion. His gaze lingers; a caress like the hand of dead things, slimy decomposing skin contaminating and letting hard bone rasp from beneath. I have to suppress the urge to whip my manacled hands from my guards and kill him on the spot. Instead I force myself to cower a little, a tempting mix of rebellion and vulnerability, one more mask. I hate myself so much at that point I almost hope this won't work and someone will take me out and shoot me, but that only lasts for a flash. The mission and getting out alive, those have to be the focus of my concentration. But it's not easy, instincts from years of being a chased L2 street kid are battling the training I received with G. I need to focus!
I barely hear Veneze ask the lieutenant when we can expect me to be picked up. I squirm inside when the lieutenant says that it will probably be by dawn tomorrow; he suggests I be held in the maximum security cell, and cemented to the floor for good measure. I'm not surprised when Veneze disagrees. He dismisses most of the guards before he continues. The ones that are left look amused. Scum.
"No point waiting for tomorrow to start breaking the little rodent." Veneze has a smooth voice, it's more cultured than that of the pervs who tried to paw me back in L2. He hides the animal well. "I think I'll make a head start. Jens, Mason, take him next door," his room, sure enough, "and shackle him." He gives no other instructions but the men leer. Hmf, sounds like he's done this before. Why am I not surprised...
The lieutenant's sour face creases with doubt and a little disgust. I suddenly like him a little. He's not rapist shit like Veneze. He's just the kind who'd slit his children's throats if ordered to. I wonder how they recruit people like this. It's gotta be on their posters. ‘Join OZ and be the most sadistic fuck you can be'. What else do you expect from an outfit that has a major schizoid like Une as one of the top dogs.
It's a whisper. The earpiece is well-hidden and the volume low, of course, but someone nearby might still pick up its tiny noise if he's not careful and Heero knows it. He's probably expecting me to give a signal I need some help breaking out of the joint.
"Leave me alone!" I snarl at the guards who are starting to drag me towards the door. I hope to god that's not the last words my lover ever hears from me.
*... Okay, but use a keyword if status changes. Keyword, Church. Got that? Shout leave me alone again if-*
"Leave me alone, you pigs!" I put a little quaver in it, for Veneze's benefit. He's looking at me like a piece of fine meat, before he turns back to the lieutenant who's arguing. As far as I can make out, the lieutenant is worried about security on one hand, and having me too badly damaged on the other. The guy's all heart.
I struggle a little as I'm dragged through the door to the adjoining room, and my shackled hands whip to my braid to palm my picks. The handcuffs are tough, though fortunately this measly little outpost does not have the more advanced high-tech manacles they've used on me in real prisons. I can bust out of these, despite the key-code combo, if I have time and my picks. I slide them up my sleeve, then reach up again to tear off the throat mike. Keyword be damned. I'll get out of this myself or not at all.
Unfortunately the guards jerk me by the cuffs and I can't twist away in time. Before I can try again I'm shoved against a solid metal chair that's backed up against a support pillar in the plain functional room. Veneze is pretty low down the food chain in OZ hierarchy, which is why he's commanding this shitty outpost. The guards refasten my cuffs so that my hands are tied behind my back around the sturdy pillar. They're sniggering, the sick bastards, but they're also careful, making sure the cuffs hinder my movements and are well fastened. Then they cuff my legs to the chair and leave with smirks. Good I have a little time-
"Heero, get off the mike. Turn it on again in one hour, and I'll report status." The picks tumble from my sleeve and I go to work on the lock.
"Just do it. I'll be fine." Hopefully that's not a lie. I can't think of any good excuse though.
*But the keyword-*
"Forget that, I'm not gonna crack in one hour, let's save the batteries on this thing."
*What?* Complete confusion. *There are no batteries-*
"Heero get off the goddamned mike now!" I snarl as I hear approaching footsteps.
I swear and start squirming, trying to rip the thing off with the edge of my jacket but it's glued on professionally and I'll need a solvent to get it off. The door opens. I hear Veneze checking with psycho guard one and two stationed outside the door, making sure they tied me up good.
*Duo what is going on? We've both been interrogated before-*
Yeah we have, and I didn't break then and I won't break now, I'll get the mother-loving cuffs off and the mission done whatever the cost, but I'm still human god help me I don't want my lover to go through this on the other end of the mike- my thoughts are a stream of anger and anxiety.
I shift, trying to loosen my shoulders. Not the position I was expecting, sitting down in a chair with my back to something. My mind, the part that never left the more sordid parts of L2, draws the appropriate conclusion. He's not just a rapist, he's a torturer, and he likes his victims to see it coming either way. I just hope Veneze's the type to gloat for a little while... My concentration slips but I haul it back by the scruff of its neck before I lose my feel for the torque I'm applying. Now is not the time to flip out, I tell my inner street-rat who can't believe I got myself into this fix on purpose.
Veneze closes the door, but doesn't lock it I notice, and I don't hear the guards outside leave, they're a shout away. That means he's neither stupid nor complacent. At least he didn't invite them in to watch. Or participate. I feel a bead of cold sweat run down between my shoulder blades, pulled back by the cuffs and my efforts to free myself. The room, dove-grey walls, dark grey carpet, cream white furniture that is almost too clean to be witnessing this, everything blurs around me as I concentrate, blind, on the feel of the lock behind my back.
The major looks me over for a minute, from a distance still. I finally look at him fully, burying my instincts to avoid any kind of eye contact. He's tall and fairly lean still, despite being in his later thirties. Not handsome but regular features and clear green eyes that look candid if you don't spot the glint at the back. His sandy hair is thinning slightly. His arms are crossed harmlessly on his chest, his body language predatory nonetheless. I think I'm in the presence of someone who really knows his way around a torture chamber. Lucky me.
"So this is one of the terrifying Gundam pilots I've heard so much about... I never imagined they'd be so... pretty."
There's a stir on the other end of the mike, then something like a grunt. Heero's finally caught on. If the words weren't a tip-off, the tone certainly was.
Veneze takes a few lazy steps towards me, eyes clinging.
*... You're in his room... * Heero is putting the rest together as well.
"Yeah. I'm not even the cutest." I snap. "Our Gundams are pretty sweet too, especially when they're kicking OZ butt all over the map."
Veneze's smile widens. I know how pitiful I sound, making threatening noises with my hands tied behind my back and my pick busy lifting the first pin, my fingers getting acquainted with the tension in the lock.
*Duo... you got yourself into this position voluntarily. Are you sure you can extract yourself from it?*
"Yeah-... I know what you want from me, pig."
*... Okay, remember the keyword.* His voice sounds tight, he knows he's over an hour away, and anyway, mission requirements mean he can't just plough in with Wing, he'd have to infiltrate too, and by then anything that's going to happen will, if I can't stop it.
"Just- get off!" I snarl, hoping that Veneze, who's still smirking at a distance, won't find the comment too odd.
"There's no point. I won't tell you anything, you sick-"
*No. Shut up or I launch the extraction now.*
I sigh and give up, I have to concentrate on the lock. Heero... Heero's a soldier, it's not like he's going to go to pieces or anything. He probably sees this as just another sadistic interrogation method. Nothing to get overly weird about. I struggle a bit and reach the same equanimity, and my fingers busy themselves on the picks while I dip my head in a mask of fear and confusion as Veneze smiles at me.
The feel of the first pin catching distracts me from the man taking a few more lazy steps towards me, pulling up a chair to sit in front of me. Long legs nearly brush my knee. I leave the tensioner in the keyhole to hold the pin fast while I flip my two other tools around, exchanging the pick for the hacking prod. I jab the later into the lock, feeling for the internal circuit pad. The little gizmo I invented well, Dr G helped- feeds electronic interference into the circuitry of the plug to cut the magnetic link between pin and driver, without having to input the key code the guards used to lock it.
"I'm glad to see you like to talk, pilot. I'm sure we'll get lots of information from you." He's at arms length. My fingers refuse to tremble. "Let's start with your name."
"Go to hell."
"Now that's less original. And not very nice. A beautiful mouth like that isn't made for such language."
I resist the temptation to show him the full extent of my L2 vocabulary, that wouldn't be in character. I just glare and look down, to hide the sudden hint of relief as the magnetic lock on the first pin gives and finally frees the driver completely. I apply more torque and flip prod and pick around again. Now the second pin.
He puts a mockingly delicate finger on my mouth carefully, afraid I'll bite- then grips my chin with bruising force. I remember to flinch, though I've gotten worse from Heero when I misjudged his state of relaxation. That reminds me that he's listening and my fingers almost slip. Veneze is closer, I can feel his breath faintly against my cheek, it smells a bit of cinnamon. I hope he doesn't no he wouldn't dare try to kiss me. I hope not, I rather like cinnamon. I wouldn't want to be turned off of it for the rest of my life.
"You might as well tell me your name, you know. I'll get it out of you eventually. It's so much nicer knowing what to call you in the next few hours." Cue small but deliberately sadistic smile.
Oh good. Relief explodes in my chest. He is a gloater. And he thinks he's got all night. If I can stay concentrated, this won't be too bad, I'll get the cuffs off before he's even finished warming up and then I can take my time killing him slowly.
"Go to hell." Yeah, I know, even he doesn't think it's original, but I've got my mind elsewhere. My pick slithers under the second pin, catching it. I'm sweating as I try to keep any hint of movement out of my shoulders and arms, only my hands moving. He probably thinks it's a cold sweat of fear.
"Tsk." The hand turns my head this way and that, then drops to my throat, pressing a hard thumb into the little hollow at the base. I choke a bit and lean back. He drops the hand to my chest which the movement had lifted towards him in a caress. The small part of my mind that isn't busy playing a tiny three-D jigsaw puzzle or gibbering with disgust admires his technique, the way he's twisting this to make me look like a participant. Well that's okay, I guess, I can stand the pervert stuff for the next five or ten minutes, much better than some other things he could be doing to me. My hacking prod jabs at the lock.
Veneze's hand is almost motionless on my chest and I quickly remember to keep my mask up, look disgusted (well okay that's easy) and afraid and angry. He smiles, and leans back, hand still on my chest.
"Name? Or do I just call you pretty boy."
"You can call your mother pretty boy if you want you-"
His hand on my chest flicks and twists my nipple, hard.
I gasp. The pain is bearable, Deathscythe gives me bigger burns on the command chair when turning a tight ten-G curve. But the feelings that go with it- Shit! The second pin slips my pick just as my hacking prod was about to crack it. Back to square one with that one. Fortunately the cracked code of the first tumbler keeps it from relocking unless I do something massively stupid and clumsy and with Veneze's hand still on my chest I just might.
*Just give him your name Duo. He'll be dead before long.*
It's such a tiny whisper that I think it's my subconscious speaking. Yeah, my subconscious often speaks to me in Heero's voice, if it's not Father Maxwell's. Father Maxwell tells me to be patient and kind to others. The Heero in my head tells me to kill things and be efficient about it. You can see why I seem so confused sometimes.
But my conscience is not located in my left ear, last time I checked, and I remember yeah, I'd almost managed to forget- that Heero is listening in. He didn't sound particularly upset. Well he wouldn't, he's got the same tone of voice while he's talking politics or killing people. Still... I should be upset that he's not more disturbed, but I'm not. Heero thinks Veneze is a walking corpse. I intend to prove him right.
But I'm not giving the sick fuck my name I bite my lip on a cry as he drops his hand on my knee in an almost seductive gesture and twists his fingers into the joint, hard. I feel the stress on the ligament, the sudden pulse of blood crowding into bruised flesh. But I refuse to give him my name, or the time of day for that matter, and anyway while he's concentrating on my name maybe he'll forget my ass, which is where this is gonna end up if I don't get my act together. Boosted by Heero's whisper in my ear, my hands fly over the second pin and I manage to jam it open and hack the code before I jerk away from the hand slipping over the knee to the inner thigh.
My concentration is running ragged though. I need well, I need to vent. Veneze is well and truly caught now, he won't go anywhere, I can be a little out of character.
"Get your stinking hands off of me, you mother-fucking son of a two-dollar skank!"
He takes his hand away, and he frowns. Maybe a bit too much there. I don't particularly want to be gagged; if I can't talk I'll go apeshit. Plus Heero will launch a rescue op if I can't give him the keyword anymore, and that will compromise the safe-house where Wing would have to take off from. That's not gonna happen, not for a stupid door that opened at the wrong time!
But I instinctively know that Veneze is not going to stand for insults yeah, I know, how sick is this guy, he's got his hands all over me but he won't stand for street talk from his victim, somehow that offends him. But however his sick mind works, I've got to play with it.
"If you don't leave me alone, my boyfriend is going to kill you. Slowly."
That line bubbles up within me, with Heero's comforting presence in my ear. I think I hear him grunt on the end of the line.
"Oh a boyfriend!" Veneze smirks, leaning back and crossing his arms again. He thinks he's gotten to me, loosened up something private from my mind. He looks disdainful, surprised I slipped up so easily. "Is he also a Gundam pilot?"
"You'll know that when you see him. You'll have a few looong hours to figure it out." I make my voice quaver a bit, trying to sound a bit vulnerable still, try to keep him interested.
Veneze leans forward again well so much for that attempt- and puts his hand back on my knee, dipping between my thighs again. I jerk my leg away but realize that this is just another sick game. I can either squeeze my thighs, catching his hand yuck- or I can move my leg away leaving him a clear path to my groin, either way I'm playing his game. My tensioner catches the third pin, my pick lifts it. His hand slides up my thigh. I shrink back.
"He's going to tie you to a chair, but he's going to start off straight with the knife, because he wouldn't want to touch you with his bare hands!" I snarl. I'd noticed the knife in Veneze's belt. He must have picked it up in his office, he wasn't wearing it before. I have a feeling I know why he picked it up. Any minute now he's going to cut away my clothes. "I think he'll start by sawing one of your teeth in half. One sideways, one lengthways, like that you get a matching set." Veneze's smirk sours a bit, but his hand lingers on my groin and all of me shrinks back from that cold light trailing touch- before caressing up to my chest again. He's having fun, trying to break me without even hurting me yet. "While he's there he might cut out the tip of your tongue, you'll be amazed how much that hurts."
I keep talking. I keep an edge of fright in my voice so Veneze won't gag me I think my threats amuse him- but the list I make is complete and exhaustive and I hope that Heero is taking notes. The thought keeps me centred, as he slips the buttons off my shirt and toys with my cross. I manage to ignore this, as the third pin slides free.
Veneze drops his hand to my belt. I shudder and squirm away, keeping my hands steady. One more pin to go, come on Maxwell! You can do it!
I ignore the hand pulling my belt away slowly. Since he's going for the privates, so do I. "I'll let him borrow my best knife, the one that cuts like a scalpel. Are you circumcised? If not, you've just saved yourself some money!" The belt slides off, and Veneze grins as he passes it around my head. I jerk away. The pick has lifted the pin, the hacker darts in.
The belt loops and tightens around my neck and Veneze's hands dip down my pants. He's getting hard, I notice, despite trying not to, but I think he's going to want to hurt me a lot more before he gets down to- I twist my head to avoid chocking, almost glad of the distraction as he starts to paw me.
The code is about to break. I'm still pinned down and chocked by a much larger man, my legs are bound and I'm weaponless. This can go either way.
"Love you babe." I choke out. Veneze jerks his head up in surprise, removing his hand a fraction.
The shackles spring open with a click. Before they hit the carpet I've grabbed Veneze by the back of the neck with one hand, whipped his blade out of his belt with the other and jammed it through his Adam's apple. I rip out the blade sideways and smash his neck against my shoulder, burying the whistly keening sound in the cloth of my uniform, my other arm clamping him firmly until he stops jerking. His chair flips backwards but makes little noise on the carpet. Wet warmth spreads down the front of my uniform as his movements slow. The stink of arterial blood, sweltering raw meat and iron, clamps down on my nose and throat. The whistling sound at my shoulder dies down in a damp gurgle as blood sucks in and out of his windpipe, slower and slower, until it stops.
I listen carefully, knife ready, but the guards on the other side of the door make no sound.
*Duo?!* Worry and relief. Heero knows a death rattle when he hears one but he also realizes the bets weren't all on me.
I jerk the belt away from my neck, gasping air and rubbing the bruise. I let the body slither down my knees to the ground silently.
"M' okay, babe." I whisper. I quickly bend to free my legs. Good think I like picking locks...
*Good. Can you complete the mission?*
"Yes." I mutter. "If the guards outside will go down as easily as their boss did."
*Is that a yes or a no?* He growls.
"If you don't hear from me in a few minutes, then it's a no." I snap sub-vocally, my nerves all over the place, my skin still crawling as I zip up and settle my clothes and put my belt back on. I wonder if kicking the body will make me feel better, and doubt it. Well at least he didn't get too far. I've been in worse spots when I was younger. The stench of his blood is making my head spin. I keep telling myself he didn't get too far, or even hurt me, over and over but a part of me is still squirming. Fortunately I have a mission to concentrate on.
The guards are talking amongst themselves in low voices, but their ears are cocked for the first screams. Fortunately the good ol' eyes-front habit gives me an edge, I ease the door open slowly, in time with their words, hoping the smell of blood won't give me away.
"The bastard is sure taking his time with this one."
"Well, sure, cute thing like that, he's not gonna rush. I bet you a hundred bucks we won't hear more than a whimper for at least half an hour."
I don't wait to hear if psycho guard one thinks that's a sucker bet or not. The wire loops around his throat, I twist once, savagely, then drop one end of the wire to dart the major's knife into the throat of the second guard who's only just started to open his mouth for a scream. He makes much the same noise as Veneze, only louder since I didn't get the vocal cords this time. I grab him by the lapel and jerk him through the open door before he can bleed in the hallway, drop the knife, catch the trailing end of the cheesewire as the first guard finally manages to dig it out of the flesh of his neck, and twist it again. He makes a sick strangling noise as I use it to haul him back into the room. I slam the door shut with my foot and then wait for the guards to die.
"Whew, three down, none to go. Score one for the good guys." I whisper. I'm starting to feel better already, nothing like a little death and mayhem to put a bit of ugliness like Veneze into perspective. Good thing I wasn't expecting a cheer from Heero, cause I didn't get it. I think I hear a faint Hn, but maybe that was just a grunt of annoyance. More action less talking, Maxwell!
I lock the door behind me carefully and break into the major's office. Finally I meet my intended date for tonight. Veneze's safe. It's a high quality model, I crack my fingers in anticipation.
"This guy just collects vices like others collect stamps!" I whisper under my breath as I fish my picks out again. My more serious equipment is unfortunately being torn apart by OZ technicians somewhere else on the base, this will have to do. "You'd think he'd be too busy torturing and raping people to worry about blackmail and extortion."
*I'm guessing he's using the later to cover up the former. Even OZ has some standards.*
I share a concerned look with my date a sweet little Luder-Yale special with solid steel underpinnings, lovely- as I wonder what possessed my boyfriend to speculate on something that wasn't immediately related to the mission. He actually used two sentences, and didn't say Hn once!
Time trickles by like fine grained sand, the kind that you don't notice, to start with, until you realize you're covered in a million small points of individual discomfort. But ironically, my little detour through purgatory spared me hours of waiting for the people in the offices around me, and the major himself, to leave their desks and let me access the safe. I'm actually ahead of schedule. Maybe that's what's making Heero so relaxed and chatty. The image of a talkative Heero, as well as the rest of my internal jokes and jibes, stop me from smelling the blood on me, or feeling a lingering touch on my thigh.
When the lock finally gives up and goes away to sulk, I lift the records from the safe. I don't read them, I don't have time. Our reports tell us that Veneze has enough dirt on high-ranking OZ officials and politicians to cause one hell of a scandal. It's been keeping him out of the stockade for years. Using these paper weapons seems a little low key after blowing things up with a Gundam, but Quatre thought it was worth diversifying. We can buy some good computer codes or base plans with this shit. It will make the blowing things up part a lot easier. Yay me.
I quickly take photos of all the documents to be on the safe side I'm going to have to take the perfumed way out, don't want to risk getting gook on the only copies after all they've cost me- and leave as silently as I can.
The wave of near hysterical merriment, part relief, part stress-produced opiates, gets me out of the base, back into the sewers I let Heero have it again, but I think he can tell I'm not really concentrating- then up the shaft in the treatment plant and out into the night air again, back to the stolen car.
Then adrenaline and all that nice sort of stuff lets me down with an almighty thump.
On to chapter eighteen
Back to chapter sixteen