Drums of Heaven

Part Thirteen: The One Comes Rushing In

And if I were fearless,
could you be my reckless friend?
And if I were helpless,
could you be the one comes rushing in?
--- Cyndi Lauper

Over the next two days Heero accompanied Hilde to eight more union meetings scattered through the asteroid city. Both nights he'd spent at least two hours in his hotel room before going to bed. Scanning the files systematically, he deleted every instance of Hilde's voice to protect her identity. The words and images of the people interviewed, however, he left intact.

The number of people on the picket lines had dropped due to growing fears on the part of the workers, and union meeting attendance had dropped dramatically. Union meetings were being bombed. Never enough to hurt anyone or damage the structure, but most of them seemed to go off just before or after the meetings. The fire fighting teams were taking on more volunteers to keep up, and the miners were looking haggard and jumpy from the tension.

The morning after Hilde's outburst, Heero had regarded the likelihood of another shared breakfast with trepidation. He was up and dressed in record time, sitting on the bed, braced to go get her if she was still mad at him. The problem was that he couldn't entirely figure out what he'd done, except in a vague sense, and he didn't want to really think about it. It was easier to focus on the job and ignore the strange tugging in his chest when he thought of the way he'd locked his gaze on Duo, staring at the other man across the dance floor.

But then Hilde breezed into his room as though nothing had changed, her voice a little too perky for that early in the morning. Heero wondered yet again how a morning person like Hilde survived hanging out with someone like Duo, who seemed to think mornings were a curse to be avoided at all costs. By the time they'd eaten breakfast he'd relaxed, hopeful that whatever had upset Hilde was behind her. She certainly acted as though she didn't remember the short argument.

The third day passed without event, other than the one time they were evacuated because of a fire in the union offices. The only injury was the filing cabinets. Meanwhile the union's ability to interact with the Interstellar Miner's Union seemed to be limited; rumors were spreading of viruses, server shutdowns, and email outages. It wasn't until the fourth day that it occurred to Heero there had been no word of sabotage in the mining holes.

Over a late lunch on the fourth day, in the nearly empty restaurant, Heero watched the girl across from him and decided to broach the subject.

"Hel," he started, and then stopped.

"Hm?" She chewed, swallowed, and gave him an expectant look.

"The... mining operations," he said, awkwardly, keeping his voice as low as possible. "They're... fine."

"That's right," she said, and speared another piece of lettuce.

"Are they supposed to be?"

"Things change," the girl said with a shrug. "Miscalculation, mostly. No reason to threaten the workers while at work if the real objective is to get them away from the picket lines. Making work dangerous would make them fearful to go to work, and that might add to the union's power. Make them able to argue they could protect the workers if a union existed."

"That's what I thought." Heero nodded, his brow furrowed. "So anyone who's an inspector... "

"Has ended up spending the week wearing a suit and doing nothing," she replied with a quick grin. "Life's tough."

The conversation ended. Heero stared down at his pastrami sandwich, unsatisfied. It took a bit before it sunk in that he was wishing for Duo's cooking.


The fifth day of their visit, the announcement came that the workers had voted early to accept the company's standing offer. The agreement was legally officiated and accepted, Hilde told Heero, which meant the union was out of the running until the contract expired in a year.

"Pack your bags, we're heading out," she announced after lunch. Her eyes were tired. She'd been slowly showing more of the strain from playing her role.

Heero had woken at several points during the night before, listening to the familiar tapping of a keyboard from the other room as Hilde wrote out her article about the union's devious methods and attached it to the three hours of edited video footage. Her slant had gone from pro-union to pro-union -- with the exception of this branch.

The photographer wasn't sure Free Earth News would print it, since their politics were devoutly pro-union, but he sensed the girl wanted to make up, somehow, for having played a role in injuring people. At the bottom of it all, she was as kind as Quatre, and he suspected she loathed the job she was doing. It didn't tell him anymore about why she was doing it, but it made him almost certain that the circumstances weren't entirely of her own choosing.

Heero watched Hilde collapse onto his bed as he carefully folded and packed their clothes. He lingered for a second over the silk shirt, his fingers smoothing the wrinkles.

"You can keep that," she said from behind him, quietly.

He looked at the shirt one more time, then put it in the suitcase as he shook his head.

"Really," she insisted. "Please."

He turned, looking over his shoulder at her. She had gotten up and was swaying gently on her feet. He gave her a crooked smile.

"Only if you promise me to sleep for the next eighteen hours," he told her. "You've worked hard these past days."

"You noticed." The petite brunette sighed, rubbing her forehead as she crossed the room to the adjourning door.

"Of course," Heero told her dryly. "I've seen the symptoms before."

"Yeah." With that, the door shut softly behind her.


The asteroid's shuttle bay was busy, and no one noticed the couple moving through the crowd to reach a small ship tucked in a side bay. Hilde hit the keypad for the cargo door, her smile tight.

"Ready, Hito?"

"For what?" Heero glanced down at her, confused. Her tension had been growing since they'd left the hotel, and he was back to feeling lost. The girl's moods were sometimes hard to track, and he could feel himself falling back into that space where nothing made sense and the only option was retreating into mission mode.

But she was already shaking her head, offering him another Cheshire flash of a grin. "To sleep for eighteen hours," she said with a toss of her head as the hatch slid up. He followed her into the silent ship.


Duo arrived thirty minutes later.

Heero had finished putting away the clothes, giving Hilde her share before insisting she go lay down. He'd busied himself in the cockpit, reviewing the ship's controls. The thief was completely silent as he came up behind the Wing Zero pilot, and Heero did his best to cover his instinctive jump.

Hilde should put a bell on that boy, he thought uncharitably.

"Where's Hel?" Duo's voice was cold.

"Sleeping," Heero said.


"She's exhausted."

There was a creak as Duo sat down in the other pilot's seat. Heero didn't look over, turning to focus on the small computer screen at his right as he pulled up his folder of photographs and plugged in his camera. There were a few pictures he'd grabbed during the past few days, and he wanted to get them off the camera's memory drive.

"Any reason she's so tired?" Duo's voice was neutral, but guarded.

"She stayed up all night to write an article for Free Earth News," Heero told him. "Sent it off this morning."

Behind him, Duo snorted and tapped several more keys before speaking. "Trey should be here in a few minutes."

Heero didn't respond, and the silence dragged on as he reviewed the recent photographs. Behind him he could hear Duo's breathing soften and lengthen. Stealing a glance over his shoulder, he discovered the other man had fallen asleep in the chair. Curious, he turned, taking a better look.

Duo's face was drawn, with pale circles under his eyes. His chestnut braid lay over his shoulder, across his chest, rising and falling with his even breathing.

Heero was reminded of the boy he'd pulled out of the holding cell, that faint exhaustion tinged with tenacity. Later in the hospital, he'd watched Duo sleep. The Wing Zero pilot's mind had run in strange loops as he sat there, angry at Duo for getting caught, and upset that he'd not been able to prevent the whole thing. Duo didn't have his training, Duo didn't have his skills, Duo shouldn't be involved, his mind chanted.

That's not true anymore, Heero reminded himself sternly, if it really ever was. Duo most certainly had the skills. No one of them could move so silently through unfamiliar corridors quite like the longhaired man, nor could they hack so easily into servers and take them down with a few keystrokes.

Duo could hold his own, Heero thought, and wondered why he felt a twinge of disappointment at the realization.


A half-hour had passed by the time Heero completed cataloging his photographs. Shutting down the upload program, he spun the pilot's seat and got up, trying to be as quiet as possible while he made himself some tea. There were groceries on the counter, and he busied himself for several minutes trying to figure out where they went and putting them all away. He didn't want Hilde waking up, and he didn't want to disturb Duo either. After his efforts of being quiet, it was with some annoyance that he heard shouting through the open cargo door.

Stepping off the back ledge, he regarded the panic in the station bay with a worried expression. Absently he registered that it had been almost an hour and Trey hadn't arrived. His mug still in one hand, Heero strode forward and grabbed the nearest person.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"Hostages," the man replied, his breathing fast as he pulled his arm from Heero's grasp and headed on.

Heero frowned and grabbed the next person running past him.

"What's this about hostages?" Heero demanded. He didn't have time to be polite, he told himself.

"The union's saying the company was sabotaging them, and they grabbed three mining managers while they were at lunch," the woman said. Her eyes were wide, and she struggled in his tight grip. "Let go, damn it, I've got to get to my ship. The whole place is turning upside down!"

Heero let go, aware he'd probably left bruises on the woman's forearm. He hurried back to the ship, barely setting the mug down as he shouted at Duo.

"What's the frequency?"

"The what?" Duo sat up with a start, blinking at him.

"To contact Trey! What's the frequency?" Heero dropped into the pilot's seat opposite Duo and stared at the controls with irritation. Which ones were for off-ship communication on protected comm. channels? He cursed the day he'd stopped keeping up with developing interstellar ship technology.

"I'll do it," Duo replied, hitting a few buttons and opening a comm. link. Nothing happened, and the longhaired man swore under his breath. "Nothing. What's going on?" Duo continued to hit several buttons on the keyboard at his side.

"Hostages," Heero told him. "Three mining managers taken at lunch by union guys. They're saying the company sabotaged the unionizing attempts."

"And this is news?" Duo tone was sarcastic. There was a second of more rapid tapping, before Deathscythe's pilot slammed his fist down on the control panel and got to his feet. "Where's Hel?"

"She's still sleeping."

"Fucking-A, at a time like this," Duo swore, his footsteps heavy as he headed down the hallway to pound on the bunkroom door. "You'd better be decent, darling, we've got trouble," he hollered as he slid the door open.

Heero waited, his ears picking up the faint traces of a conversation as his fingers flew across the pilot keyboard, focused on hacking into the asteroid's systems. A minute later Hilde appeared in the hallway with Duo, stumbling up the passageway as she wiped sleep from her eyes.

"Gotta go after him," Duo was saying.

"Day, you don't know yet," she said, cutting him off. "Wait until there's confirmation."

"There's confirmation," Heero told them, turning in his seat to face them. "I got into the company's systems. There's a demand from the union that the company null the contract. Three men are listed as hostage, including a Trevor Barlow."

"Fuck," Duo said.

"Don't punch anything," Hilde warned.

Duo dropped his fist and took a deep breath. "I'm going after him."

"I'm coming with you," Heero replied, standing up.

"No, you're not," the longhaired man snarled. "You stay here -- and stay out of my way."

"You can't stop me."

"Watch me."

"Stop!" Hilde stepped between them, her eyes wide, then paused, waiting until both men stood down. "Hito, you stay here. Day, you go, but nothing fancy. Just get him and get back here."

"I am not staying here. I'm going." Heero glared at Hilde.

"You'd only get in the way," Duo replied. His voice dropped to a low growl, barely audible above the shouting coming from the docking station. "It's for your own good."

"Bastard," Heero hissed, tensing into a slight crouch.

"Enough!" Hilde stepped between them again, her hands held out as though she could single-handedly hold the two of them apart. She chewed on her lower lip for a long minute, while the two men reluctantly let their eyes be drawn to her rather than continuing the staring competition.

This is ridiculous, Heero berated himself. If Duo wants to go, I should let him. It's not my problem. I don't belong here. This is not my team. But the little voice inside his head was prodding him, aware that if he ever wanted to regain what he'd lost, there was only way to do that. Heero took a deep breath.

"I left once," he said, his voice calm. "I won't do it again. I'm in this now, and that means I'm coming with you."

Within a second of Duo's unenthusiastic nod, Hilde and Duo had sprung into action, Heero close behind them. In the meeting room Duo punched the underside of the desk ledge and it dropped open, revealing a cache of semi-automatic guns and a rack of ammunition.

Heero balked momentarily, remembering his wish to never kill again. The Kimber 1911 Duo handed him was cold, heavy, and too familiar. His breathing hitched as he looked down at the gun in his palm. Beside him, Duo was loading a magazine.

"Fire only in self-defense," Duo told him calmly. "We don't have mandate for killing." That distant smile had flashed onto his face the minute Hilde had nodded acceptance of Heero's statement. Back to business, it said. Duo held out his hand, showing Heero several small bombs. "Unless there's an accident, of course."

Heero nodded and cocked the gun, shoving it into the back of his jeans under his over shirt. He snagged a second magazine, filled it, and tucked it into his front jeans pocket. The weight was oddly comforting.

"Let's go," Duo barked.

"Lead the way," Heero replied softly, and there was a pause for a half-second as Duo shot him a look. It wasn't the God of Death looking out of those eyes, Heero knew immediately. That half-second was purely Duo, acknowledging the other man, before the longhaired man's eyes were hooded again. The thought reassured Heero on some basic level.

"You'd better remember it," Duo said, ducking to the side to kiss Hilde on the cheek as he past her. "Keep the engines warm, babe, we'll meet you in the outward bound lane in a half."

"Comm. lines open," she hollered down the passageway as the two men headed out the cargo door. Duo raised his hand over his head, and the Gundam pilots were gone in the milling crowd.


Duo ran swiftly through the crowd in the asteroid city's passageways, slipping and turning easily through the shoving people. Heero lagged a few feet behind. He wasn't out of breath; he just couldn't seem to move as fluidly through the pressing bodies as Duo. He barely managed to come to a stop when the shorter man halted. The union offices were ahead, and the two pilots were partially hidden behind a newsstand.

"Start with the main office," Duo said. "Third level."

Heero didn't reply, and was going to nod until he realized Duo hadn't even looked at him. The dark-haired man rolled his neck, allowed himself a small grin at the rush of endorphins flooding his system, and waited for Duo's lead.

At a break in the crowd, Duo sprinted across the street and down an alleyway adjacent to the meeting building. Heero was right behind him, and ready to follow when Duo swung up onto the emergency steps going up between the structure and its neighbor. Any noise made by the two young men's progress on the metal grate stairs was thankfully covered by the population's noisy chaos.

Heero wondered why he was surprised that Duo needed no directions. The thief had probably spent more time memorizing schematics and plans than the rest of them put together.

The third door was easily unlocked. Heero's gun was already out, instinct and training kicking in after so long, and he covered Duo as the shorter man moved in.

The man walking down the hallway had his head down over several papers, and Heero recognized him as one of the union's local organizers. High enough rank to possibly have some knowledge, and Heero grabbed the man, slamming him up against the wall. The papers fluttered to the floor.

"Where are the hostages?"

"Uh... "

Heero slammed the man up against the wall again, while Duo stood at his back. The shorter man's eyes had darkened into that amethyst glint, and he tossed a grin over his shoulder at the union man.

"Better answer," he said. "We're cranky today."

Heero pulled the man towards him and shoved him back again. There was a loud crack, but the man's eyes only got wider and he swallowed convulsively.

"They're in the back office on Level Two."

"Day?" Heero asked, and punched the guy once, solidly, in the stomach. He went down without a sound.

"Got it." Duo called, and pulled open a storage closet door. "Put him in here."

A minute later the two were back down the stairs, and Duo was fiddling with the lock on the exterior door. They slipped back inside, falling instinctively into the protective formation they'd used so many times before: moving side-by-side, each turned a little towards the outside, ready to fight back-to-back if surprised.

They paused at a corner; Heero waiting while Duo peeked. The longhaired man flashed a tight grin as he whispered to the Wing Zero pilot. "Four at the door." He pulled out a small object and cocked it. Stepping around the corner, he tossed it expertly in the opposite direction down the main corridor.

Two heartbeats later the explosion radiated from the corridor to their left. Almost immediately three of the men were pounding in that direction so quickly they didn't notice Heero and Duo standing just around the corner. Heero was about to snag the men, but Duo held up his hand.

Once the man had passed, Duo darted around the corner. Heero followed, his gun at the ready. In three long strides Duo was at the door, taking down the last guard with a flat-handed chop to the neck.

"Day," Heero said. "Door's locked."

"On it," Duo replied, kneeling down to jimmy the lock while Heero stood at his back. There was a click that echoed in the corridor under the sounds of shouting down the hallway. "We're in. Bring the sleeping guy."

Heero dragged the guard in, dumping him unceremoniously on the floor as Duo headed straight for the three figures at the back of the office. Trowa was in the middle; one of the other men was Tom. Heero didn't recognize the third. By the time Heero straightened up, Duo had already slit the mechanic's tape holding Trowa and the third man. The dark-haired man freed Tom as Duo helped Trowa to his feet.

"Status," Heero barked, to no one in particular. He was a little surprised when Tom answered.

"Bruised, mostly," Tom said, and then gasped as he came to his feet. "In the ribs. Same for Mike and Trevor. Although Trevor got it worst. I know I heard stuff crack the last time they worked him over."

Duo caught Heero's eye with a series of easily decoded quick hand gestures. You carry him. I'm point. At close range Heero could see Trowa's face was already turning into a mass of bruises, with a black eye and a swollen nose. His conservative shirt was ripped at the collar, and his right arm hung significantly lower than the left. Dislocated. Heero braced himself, grabbed Trowa's arm, and jerked it backwards and up. The joint slid back into place with an audible pop, and Tom paled. The third man swayed in place, his hands shaking. Trowa didn't make a sound.

Heero slipped one arm around Trowa and pulled the taller man's arm over his shoulder. He briefly considered throwing Trowa over his shoulder, but decided against it. Carrying the man that way would aggravate any injuries to Trowa's torso, and possibly exacerbate any cracked ribs.

"They found... " Trowa started to say, but his words faded with an inaudible groan as Heero shrugged him upright.

"Shut up. We're leaving now," Duo snapped, and Heero was startled to see Trowa nod as his green eyes slid shut. The thief glanced at the two men standing a little behind Heero. "Keep your head down, your mouth shut, and follow my lead."

Duo ducked out the door, and a second later waved for the four men to follow him, Heero and Trowa just behind him, Tom and the other man taking up the rear. The third man still hadn't spoken, his eyes glued on Trowa's battered form.

The longhaired man led the procession through the warren of hallways, listening at corners before waving the group on. Though it had been a roundabout way, Heero finally recognized their original entrance up ahead. Trowa's weight was growing, indicating the taller man was losing consciousness. Heero gripped Trowa a little tighter around the waist and focused on watching the corridor in front of Duo.

Two figures stepped out from a side hallway, guns at the ready. Heero automatically brought his own piece up. Duo had glanced behind him to check the group's status, and turned his head back quickly when he caught Heero's reaction. One of the men was aiming at Duo. He fired.

Heero fired at the same instant.

A splash of blood, a yell, and Duo had thrown himself forward, rolling on his shoulder as he came up under the second man's gun. Launching himself upright, he slammed into the guard's chest with his hand. The man was thrown backwards, hitting the floor with a solid thud.

Duo glanced over at the second man, down with a bullet to his chest. Heero had switched target-point at the last second and shot for a non-fatal injury. The dark-haired man spared a moment to roll his eyes as Duo grinned at the fallen figure.

"Almost there," Duo called over his shoulder, appearing oblivious to the blood pouring down his thigh. Heero's practiced eyes knew instantly the shot hadn't hit an artery. Even with Duo's obstinate strength, Heero thought darkly, the wound would still slow Duo down.

Gritting his teeth, Heero half-dragged Trowa forward, thankful when Tom stepped forward to assist. Trowa groaned as Tom moved his injured arm. Behind them, the third man was shaking badly, his pupils dilated so far they were completely black. He was staring at the bodies in the hallway, unaware three of his companions were already out the emergency door.

"Move, you idiot," Duo shouted, pushing the man forward and guiding him down the stairs. At the bottom of the steps, Duo shoved the man one last time, then turned to Tom. "Get him out of here."

"What about Trevor?" Tom hesitated.

Heero hefted Trowa up again. "We're fine. You just take care of him." He nodded to the man, standing in the alleyway behind them, his eyes unfocused.

"Take care of him," Tom said to Heero. "He's a good guy, even if he did catch all the chicks."

"We will," Heero replied. His lips twitched, amused at the idea of Trowa spending the week chasing skirts as part of his cover. Trowa groaned, his eyelids fluttering. "Stay awake, man, we're almost safe." Heero felt the taller man's nod, and was relieved as some of the weight came off his shoulders.

Duo was already leading them through the crowd, his gun tucked away as he pushed past the people congregating around the union hall's entrance. There was a lot of shouting, and Heero caught some of it as they passed.

"Why the hell is the building on fire?" He asked, not really expecting an answer.

Duo tossed a rictus grin over his shoulder, and held up a small transmitter. "I set off the rest of Hel's gifts just before we left," he replied, tucking the small pad back into his pocket. "Hel, we're on our way," Duo said, his voice muffled as he spoke into the comm. on his shirt collar.

Duo and his explosives... some things never change, Heero thought, amused. Steadying Trowa, he followed Duo's slim figure, watching the braid slap against Duo's belt, as the longhaired man led the way to the docking station.


On to Chapter fourteen

Back to chapter twelve

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