"Coven?" Quatre repeated in a little squeak, shooting Atreusio a nervous look. The other boy only nodded encouragingly. "You mean...like witches?" he asked timidly.
Silverwolf looked amused. "You could call us that, yes," she affirmed.
Wonderful, Quatre thought miserably. Kidnapped by lunatics. If Silverwolf hadn't been acting so civil, he would have freaked. "So, um," he said lamely, "what did you want me for, ma'am?"
"Polite, ain' he?" one of the younger girls murmured, and her friends giggled. It was not a rude or teasing laughter; in fact, Quatre's Kokoro no Uchuu seemed to glow with quiet warmth in the presence of the group, and he got the impression that these people were kind, and meant no harm.
Silverwolf smiled gently as Quatre visibly relaxed. "Perhaps introductions are in hand," she observed, extending an arm to indicate the people behind her. "I will be brief," she assured him, before tilting her fingertips towards a girl almost directly behind her. She was the one who had commented on Quatre's manners, and as he looked at her she offered him a lazy, polite smile as if to say "no harm done".
"This is Ma'at. She's about your age. You'll have to excuse her constant sarcasm."
Ma'at tilted her head slightly in greeting. She had smooth rust-colored hair pulled back in a long, simple ponytail, and thin wire-framed glasses over intelligent, calculating green eyes.
"The Gigglers," Silverwolf continued with a fond little smile, indicating the girls beside Ma'at, "are Raven and Morgana." Raven, a tiny petite thing with tight brown curls and large hazel eyes, covered her mouth quickly to muffle another giggle, while Morgana- a tall girl with a no-nonsense look to her face and wild black hai -merely smirked. She looked like a rebel- the type of girl more comfortable in cut-off jeans than the dark brown sundress she was currently wearing.
"This is Lugh," Silverwolf said, turning to the tall man to her left. He looked older than she, witha grizzly beard covering a rough, handsome face, the laughter wrinkles under his eyes deepening as he grinned cheerfully. "..And his wife, Cateye." The woman beside him nodded her greeting, smiling in an almost mother way. She was short and plump, with a sloppy brown bun and twinkling blue eyes. Quatre liked her immediately, and smiled back.
"Here we have the cousins Basil and Sirus..." Two boys- older than Quatre -stopped play-fighting enough to offer their guest their idea of a solemn greeting. Basil was taller than his cousin, and lanky, while Sirus was an ordinary looking boy. Both had ruffled dirt-blond hair and brown eyes.
"You've met Harebell," Silverwolf nodded to the girl, "and this is Griffin, the newest member of our coven."
Quatre turned to face a boy standing a little away from the rest of the group, hands shoved in his pockets, gray eyes hooded. He offered Quatre a bland, unimpressed look, blowing a strand of wild black hair from his face. Quatre was undisturbed as he turned back to Silverwolf. Griffin was kind of like an older Heero- his cool attitude didn't affect him in the least.
"And I'm Quatre," he said, loudly enough for all to hear. "Pleased to meet you," he added curteously. "Now...could you please tell me what I'm doing here?"
"Why didn't *you* two tell him?" Morgana asked abruptly, staring at Neo. "First you scare the hell out of the poor kid, takin' him from his own home, and then you don't even have the nuts to *explain* things??"
Atreusio spoke up quickly before Neo's quick temper exploded. "That is Silverwolf's right. She's the one who wanted to see him. What right have we to tell him these things? He wouldn't have believed us, anyway. And besides," he added quietly, "we are no longer part of your coven."
Quatre shot him a startled look. Neo and Atreusio had been part of the coven?
"For good reason," Ma'at stated calmly, eyes hooded.
Silverwolf raised both hands to quiet the immediate hub-bub at this comment. "Enough! Drop it. That's in the past." When the others had calmed, she turned back to Quatre apologetically. "Please don't be alarmed by the...animosity. Things happened that should not have a few years ago, but that has nothign to do with what I wish to tell you."
"It has a *lot* to do with it," Harebell said shortly. "The Evil."
Neo's eyes narrowed, but Silverwolf, after a brief hesitation, lifted one shoulder in reluctant agreement. "So it does," she relented a little sadly.
"You have nothing to fear from Quatre," Atreusio said firmly. "He's not the one Davarius is seeking."
"Let us hope not," Silverwolf said. "Now... listen to me, Quatre."
Quatre met her piercing, earnest gaze and gulped.
"Please hear me out," she insisted, "before you decide to leave."
Heero reached up to block the harsh sunlight from his eyes, squinting. The cold wind whipped against him, stinging his bared legs and arms, but he ignored it. This place...it reminded him of the place where he had fought Zechs that time Relena had interfered and discovered he was her brother. Ice and snow surrounded him, the sunlight reflecting brightly from the surface. He could make out a figure heading towards him, someone bundled up for the weather, and straightened against the leg of Wing, watching the person approach.
"Dr. J," he greeted in a monotone when the stooped old man drew near. He was practically hidden in the large fur coat he was wearing. "What did you want?"
Dr. J squinted up at him, his strange hair being blown roughly by the brisk wind. "You're alone?" he demanded.
"You should know," Heero grunted. "I'm sure you've been watching the radar for the others. No one followed." A brief image of Duo's furious face flitted in his mind before he pushed it impatiently aside.
"Hn." The scientist nodded. "Have you been trying to contact me?"
Heero lowered his hand. "Aa. No answer. The others have tried, too."
Dr. J gave a short, humorless laugh, squinting off into the distance. "That's because," he said quietly, "the others are dead."
Heero's eyes narrowed. Dead? All the scientists? "Nani?"
Dr. J peered up at Wing with something akin to fondness. "The toil of their work took its toll on them," he said raspily. "They were old men. As am I."
For the first time in a long time Heero noticed just how old the crooked scientist looked. He looked almost frail in this place, in a way he never had before. As if he was nearing the end of his lifespan and was resigned to it.
Dr. J cackled at him, as if reading his thoughts. "I'm not dead, yet, Heero," he pointed out. He crooked a finger. "I brought you here for a reason. Listen up."
Heero took a step closer, listening intently.
"I want you to meet someone," Dr. J said, muffling a cough. He pointed behind him, into the blinding snow. "Watch."
Heero frowned, but obediently looked in the direction the old man indicated. He didn't have to wait long.
Faintly the muffled booming of very large footsteps became evident, and his frown deepened. He would know that sound anywhere. It was...
Then the snow seemed to clear a little, and a new montrosity stepped into sight in the distance, coming steadily closer.
Heero straightened abruptly. Tallgeese? What was Zechs doing here?
No... this Gundam was different. It wasn't all white. There was what looked like purple streaks across the hull. He didn't recognize it. As it got closer, his suspicions were confirmed. It was a new Gundam.
Just as large as Wing, with a violet jagged pattern across a white body. One arm hung loose by its side with wicked looking claw-like hooks glinting at the end instead of a hand, while the other one was swinging what looked eerily similar to Deathscythe's weapon by its side. This one was longer, though, with plasma blades on both ends. He shot Dr. J a sharp look; the old man was watching the Gundam advance with the same fondness he had turned on Wing.
"Our newest creation," he stated unnecessarily. "We got it done as quickly as possible- thus, the weakness of my partners. We all worked together on this one, you see. It has almost twice the manueverability of your Gundams, with Deathscythe's cloaking system, Shenlong's extendable arm, Wing's jet transformation capability." He grinned dryly. "Meet Thundertalon."
Heero took a slow step forward, asking the question he already knew the answer to. "Who is the pilot?"
Thundertalon came to a halt abruptly, and the hatch hissed with escaping warmth as it opened.
"He calls himself Trinity."
A familiar smooth mop of dark hair appeared as the small figure at the hatch ducked the low opening before standing at the entrance, gazing down at them both.
"He's here to challenge you, Heero." Dr. J glanced up at him sharply. "He wants to test the ability and the motives of Wing's pilot. He is going to decide whether you are his enemy or not. I hope you're up for a fight, Yuy."
This was not good.
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