Janus-Faced

by AKA Anonymous

See part 1 for warnings, etc.

Feedback to: theanonymous12000


Chapter Three

Even after years of draught, disuse, and the occasional destitute trolling through the debris, the ruins of the building were still standing boldly; charcoal black from the broken ribs of the ceiling beams to the scarred and buried foundation. Fine grains of dirt, dust, and ash lifted in every footstep within the wreckage, leaving a veil of dancing particles swirling in the wake and clinging to the intruder's clothing.

A solitary figure dared the ruins in the late twilight hours, walking confidently amid the crumbling stones with a distracted air and his face clouded with conflict. As the lights of the 'sky' overhead dimmed into a contrasting gray-gold hue the walker settled to study his surroundings from the cold perch of a fallen statue. One leg was held close to his chest while the other swung carelessly below, throwing a long, flickering shadow across his view.

/Flicker/ /Flicker/

His eyes glazed out of focus as the rhythmic movement soothed his confusion, much like the swaying of a mother's arms.

/Flicker/ /Flicker/

The colony was incredibly silent, giving his heightened senses a vague unease, but within his mind sounds began to echo among the broken stones.

The lounging figure took in a sharp breath as ghostly images crossed his eyes, assaulting him with faces and voices that his mind connected to but did not recognize. Little boys running, laughing, tugging playfully on the skirts of a young woman in black; little girls playing with dirty rags, tying them together into crude dolls, giggling at an old man in black who pats each on the head and smiles kindly.

The man and women in black. The figure felt drawn to them, magnetically, magically, methodically-- irrationally. He came to sit in the ruins of an unknown building to watch their ghosts flicker before him and to feel that strange, haunting ache of belonging before the visions changed.

They always changed. He didn't understand why. He knew, if only in the blackest corner of his mind, that the events were all in his head- -his own doing, somehow--but he still had no control over them.

Now the little boys shouted, though their words could not meet living ears, their eyes glow with anger and they begin fighting ineffectively against unseen forces. The girls screamed silently, their faces contorted with fear and hate. Now the man was struck down; there was a blinding light... And then the ghosts were gone and Duo was left in the half-darkness of the colony's pre-night, alone among the jagged sticks and charred remains.

"Why?" the young man asked the shadow-draped wreckage, trying to entice some clue to the mysterious play out of the cold stone. "Why do I feel that I know this?"

If he had not doubted his own sanity before, the realization that he was seriously talking to rubble might have made him think twice, but he had doubted, so he continued to listen.

And the burnt heaps did not respond. Duo clasped his other leg to his chest, resting his chin in the valley between his knees and waited. A few minutes pass before a small beeping sound was heard. Slipping off the fallen statue and turning the alarm off on his watch, the boy studied the jailhouse that loomed on the far curve of the colony walls.

"They'll have escaped by now. I wonder... should I've stop them?" Four faces recalled themselves from the recent memories, each a stranger, an enemy soldier, but also as vaguely familiar as the ghost- children, and each crisply preserved in his mind. He watched the shadows of the night shift the ruin's shapes around him and wondered if the four captive's ghosts would haunt him here, too. "How can I feel like I've known them?" Duo muttered. "It's not...possible?"

A sharp cry rang out from the ally ways behind him. Duo turned, ready to fight, but a wave of pain flashed through his mind. Not physical pain, but a memory of pain inflicted and also inflicting it. He covered his head with his arms, as if trying to block an attack, and his knees fell from under him. His head swam with images, some he could identify, and others that seemed as alien to him as could be. As if he were looking out the eyes of another. As if he had lived as someone else.

"Trowa! God, what did I do?" a voice panted, filled with anguish. "What did I do?!"

Duo wanted to raise his head and look for the speaker, but a cold intuition warned him that there was no one else there. The pained voice was actually his own, the Other presence who shared his mind. "W-who is Trowa?"

The name. It was so familiar to him; not from his crew nor one of his street friends; it wasn't a gang rival, either. They were all allies now, anyway. Who, then? An outsider? It was said most of them had left or been taken. Then, maybe...one of the prisoners? Their faces were sharp in his mind--lying unconscious in their cell, their tense reunion with their first spy. Duo had seen them from the jail security monitors; he had even worked along side them briefly to gain their trust. Then he had led them right into the trap.

They trusted him and he betrayed them. Duo shivered at the thought, but beat it down. He had only done what was necessary to protect his crew and bring about the changes necessary. Hadn't he? The conflicted reasoning ran through his brain like fire. Betrayal, loyalty, trust, pain...

They had said he had to be tested. Why? Because he had...almost turned against them, had been corrupted...but when? How? A wave of intense pain ran through his skull, scattering his thoughts randomly.

Resentment took hold as his head started to right itself. Why did the Preventors have to come here in the first place? They had finally unified the gangs, they had finally started rebuilding the colony the way it should have been and there was so much more to do! The young man tried his hardest to help his colony, but ever since he had seen the face of the first spy--a boy not much older than himself with striking green eyes that cut to his soul--he felt as if his mind had been invaded... Or maybe before that? Confusion fogged his head and he massaged his temples to soothe his skull, which seemed to be shrinking tightly around his brain. Finally his thoughts came back to order, but his visions and actions were still unanswered.

"Why wouldn't you just tell me what I wanted to know? Then I wouldn't have had to bring the others; I wouldn't be going insane with these damn visions...

"I wouldn't wonder why I'm letting you escape, though it may cost us everything."

Damn it. Who are you guys, anyway?

~*~*~*~*~

Heero led their group through the renegade colony's disheveled, silent streets. They moved slowly, cautiously, watching every shadow for their enemies and patiently allowing time for the pained movements of their comrade.

Trowa leaned heavily on his partner as they slipped out of the shadow of the prison that had held him for just under two weeks. His injuries were surprisingly light, if very artfully painful, and most of his weakness sprung from the lack of exercise and decent meals. Trowa stubbornly insisted that their lost comrade had been the one who had inflicted the wounds on him, but had also bullied the guards into bring him food (a conflict that gave them a flimsy hope); until the last few days, when he didn't come at all. And he now knew why.

That was when Duo Maxwell had met up with Heero, Quatre, and Wufei to plan Trowa's 'rescue.' Whether or not Duo had gone insane, as Trowa had stated so bluntly, he had played his part as a double agent with ease, delivering them to the hands of the rebels without raising the other Gundam pilot's suspicions until it was too late. The more they knew about his actions, the more they had been left confounded.

Why had he done it? Why betray and capture them, interrogate Trowa, and disappear, knowing that they would escape? If he had been able to keep up the facade of being their comrade he could have easily anticipated their moves. And yet, there were no barricades, no double shifts of guards, no back up alarms.

Heero's mind ran through various mental diseases, head traumas, and brain-washing techniques that would result in similar effects, but without more information he couldn't be sure about any, or how to treat them. He wanted to believe that Duo's actions were justified, somehow, but as the small group of Preventors raced through the dead silent city he knew he wouldn't wait for explanations if the other boy tried to stop them. His mission had been sabotaged, but they had not failed yet.

"Heero," Wufei spoke at half voice to catch the Japanese boy's attention. Quatre and Trowa reached them in a moment, the latter's breathing coming faster than normal, but not out of control. Heero studied the Chinese boy for a moment and frowned at what he knew was coming.

"We have to get Duo," Wufei whispered forcefully.

Quatre shook his head uncertainly, his hand unconsciously tightening on his lover's waist. Trowa, though, nodded his agreement. "It's the best way to accomplish our mission perimeters."

"What makes you think we can find and catch him? He won't come willingly and who knows how involved he really is in this coup," Quatre put in quickly. Yet even as he spoke his anxieties faded in place of rational thinking, ever the tactician and peacekeeper. Fear for his love and their comrades battered at his heart while worry and no small amount of anger lingered for the Deathscythe pilot. He wasn't sure how to act or feel about confronting the God of Death so soon, but he understood that capturing their betrayer would give them a higher rate of probable success when the other agents arrived to plan their assault. He sighed and shot Trowa a glance before grudgingly agreeing, "His capture would be a great advantage."

Wufei eyed the gray, lamp lit streets. "I know where he is, or at least I have a good idea."

The three tracked their eyes back to their silent leader. Heero regarded Wufei's confidence and reevaluated each pilot's abilities and injuries. Finally he nodded, giving quick hand instructions that direct Wufei to point position and took the rear himself.

Trowa slipped out of Quatre's protective grip, gaining new strength from their sense of purpose. He was finally back in a situation he had been trained for--his muscles and mind working automatically from the ingrained skill of a mercenary and soldier. He slipped into the mindset of a soldier like putting on a mask; a comforting armor of detachment and strength that he had learned long ago. One that he hoped would allow him to face his tormentor with his head held high.

Trowa's eyes lingered on his partner for a moment, reveling in the presence of the person he loved and adding that unique strength to his determination. Quatre's eyes caught his and the blonde gave him a quick smile. He stayed close by Trowa's side, gripping his stolen pistol in both hands now. And, together again, they felt ready for anything to attack from the cemetery-like surroundings.

With grim faces the group moved into the dwindling twilight to accomplish their mission.

~*~*~*~*~

The only sound of greeting Duo received from the escaped prisoners was the slide-click of Heero's rifle cocking. His head dipped in acknowledgement as he lifted his hands, surrendering without a fight to the yet unseen force. As he turned to face his captures his blue- violet eyes caught a beam of residual light and they shown with a flatness that the others had never seen before.

"Duo," Heero's monotone seemed to carry not only recognition, but a twinge of questioning, also. The five heroes studied each other, four on one side, the last staring back with little sign of surprise or any other emotion. In silence they marked each other's weaknesses and strengths, searching for an opening, waiting for the other side to make a mistake.

"Gundam pilots," the boy threw back, somewhat mockingly in monotone. "I thought you'd be smart enough to get the fuck out of here while you could. Guess not." He lowered his hands and slid them the pockets of his black slacks. They were the uniform slacks of the Preventors, the rest of the military outfit had been replaced by faded black shirt, a similar style to that of the rebel leader they had been captured by. "So now what? Gonna try and take me?"

"Yeah," the ex-Wing pilot grunted. His chest tightened at his friend's strangely passive behavior. With Duo's new stance he couldn't anticipate what the braided boy would do next. He wanted to get Duo and get to a safe hideout as soon as possible without any injuries to either side, but it seemed less and less possible with every moment he watched his friend-turned-spy. Then Wufei took the responsibility out of his hands.

"So, this is Maxwell Church, Duo?" The Chinese boy put his gun in his waistband, knelt down and overturned some of the nearby rubble.

The American's face clouded, "Stop that." He shook his head quickly, as if clearing it of some unseen fog. "I don't know what this place is; just another lost dream, compliments of the Alliance."

"The Alliance? They've been gone for years," Quatre spoke, casting a questioning gaze upon their betrayer.

"Yeah, sure. The Alliance, Oz, White Fang, whatever. They might have a different name, but it's always the same shit. They steal our food and water, take kids right off the street if they can catch them and force them to be soldiers, they rape the colony of everything-- resources, people, money, and then they fight their bloody wars and innocent people die," the boy waved a graceful hand at the desecrated scenery. "This is where I grew up, welcome to Jigoku."

"Finally at home, Shinigami?" Heero demanded with a snarl. "You've lost your mind over this? A pile of rubble and resentment for three factions we defeated together?!"

Duo stepped back at the venom of Heero's words. For a moment he did nothing but shiver, his eyes clenched shut, but it was enough to worry his comrades. "Have to protect my home, my crew. Finally got things in order, right? This is all I've ever known...," his voice was hardly a whisper, "...isn't it...?"

Heero, Wufei and Quatre exchanged worried glances as the boy mumbled nonsense under his breath. He seemed to be staring at a blank piece of concrete, but his face was twisted in concentration.

"Maxwell?" Trowa stepped forward warily, "You alright?"

The braided boy jerked up right, his face draining of color before their eyes, the large purple eyes were suddenly round with emotion. "T-Trowa?" The eyes remained wide even after they broke away from the European's face. "If you're Trowa..."

"What's going on, Duo!" Heero commanded with more force, but the boy in black didn't respond. "Can you remember Trowa?"

The American's face wrenched at the question, his arms coming up to encircle his own body for comfort. "I don't know any Trowa," the voice was flat once again. "You should go. Before I betray you again."

"You had to be on our side to betray us at first, idiot. Maxwell, you're still one of us--somewhere in that mop-covered head--and we're taking you with us."

For a moment the Gundam pilots saw the a familiar, devious shimmer in the blue-violet eyes--Wufei's jest seemed to touch a cord of their old comrade--but the moment was swept away as sirens filled the colony. The shrill sounds cut the air abruptly and broke the spell of calm. Shouting could be heard in the distance, but it was barely discernable from the speakers overhead.

"If you don't go now, you're not going to get out," the Deathscythe pilot offered. In the boy's eyes Heero could see a silent plea for them to flee, but the heart-shaped face was set in determination. Somewhere inside the old Shinigami still wanted them to survive, but the new Duo wasn't sure of them. He hardly seemed sure of himself.

It was again Wufei who moved boldly and secured a hand around Duo's wrist. "You're coming with us."

"What, for payback?" Wufei almost let go of the boy's arm in disgust, instead he turned on the American with a fierce scowl.

"No, you idiot. You're our friend, our comrade; no matter what we won't leave you in the hands of the enemy." With that he jerked the boy forward and dragged him from the ruins.

The others followed, watching all sides for enemies, but Wufei had stopped again. He turned and forced the braided pilot to do likewise.

"Do you see that?" He pointed at the black foundation they had come from, "That was what you fought for, Duo. Those people who died in the attacks are what you fought for; this bombing, the brutal force the military used against you, the plague..."

"That's exactly what Solo's been fighting against, and we're finally making a difference," Duo didn't take his eyes off the dark remains, but his voice sounded hollow and forced.

"Solo is dead, Duo, he died in your arms," Wufei spoke softly, but his impatience was beginning to soak through. "Whoever has done this to you, it's not Solo."

Heero silently added his own encouragements but never took his full attention off the dimly it street. Shadows flitted across the alleys, black on black figures that seemed to be insubstantial, but the Japanese pilot knew would prove to be all too deadly. "Enemy at twelve o'clock!"

The Sandrock and Heavyarms pilots immediately took positions to cover Wufei and Duo from the other side. Their senses were blurred by the wailing sounds overhead and the darkness around them, but they could tell instinctively they were quickly running out of time. The street runners didn't have to be militarily efficient to stumble across their group in the middle of the street.

"You have to run for it," Duo's eyes moved wildly, his body tense and shivering, "go now, please."

"Not without you," Wufei repeated harshly.

"I'm afraid I can't let you take him yet," a calm baritone spoke up from behind. One shadow in the night moved closer--taking on the shape of broad shoulders, black clothing, and blonde hair that fell to the shoulders. The rebel's leader held a gun in his hand, but pointed it at no one in particular. "Kid, I think it's time we moved on to the next phase, don't you?"

While Duo looked uncertainly from his former comrades to the older man, Heero took the hesitation to his advantage. With a single smooth movement he placed himself before the American, blocking him from the blonde rebel.

"Duo is coming with us."

The man's eyebrows moved together for a moment, as if the statement had saddened him, but the look quickly vanished. "I'm sorry it had to be this way," the blonde said with a small sigh. "Kid, listen carefully: you cannot leave with these people. You do not know these people. Your loyalty lies with Solo. The password is 'Blue Rhondo.'"

"Password accepted," the boy replied immediately in monotone. He gave no other sign of warning before wrapping his left arm around Heero's throat, the other shot from the waistband of Heero's pants to the Japanese boy's head, using the backup weapon that had been hidden there instead of going for the rifle still gripped in the other's hand. Not for long, though. "Drop it."

Heero spent a half a second thinking of every foul curse and painfully chronic disease he had ever heard of and wishing them upon the blonde watching the scene with a face of nervous impatience. Then Duo's arm started closing around his throat. From the corner of his eye he could see the other Gundam pilots staring in horror, but they made no move to intercede. The risks were too high. He allowed his fingers to loosen and his face flinched slightly as the weapon clattered on the pavement. Duo motioned to the others to follow his example, grudgingly they did.

The sirens kept wailing in the background, more shouting and a few shots of ammunition could be heard not too far in the distance. Heero studied the gang leader carefully even as Duo shifted behind him. The tall man seemed to get more nervous as the seconds ticked by and the noises from the silent colony rose. The hand that held the pistol pointed in their general direction was now gripped tightly enough to make the knuckles white, the man's blue-ish eyes jumped at every slight movement or sound that could be heard over the speaker's whine.

When Duo was finally by his side the man set a firm hand on his shoulder, looking for all the world like a father and son should-- complete with matching black clothes and the essential accessory for any rebel: pistols to aim at the good guys whilst escaping.

"You should head for the capital district, your backup should be there soon," and with that stunning news the man threw down a smoke bomb and disappeared into the night. Duo in tow.

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