Chapter Nine – The Big Fight Scene
Henrik Fousche is a spy.
That single line kept on echoing in Athrun's head. It wasn't proved yet, but hell if it wasn't true!
The first time Patrick Zala revealed that itty-bitty factoid to Athrun, his eyebrows immediately climbed up to his hairline – for the reason that he thought his father was joking. But he quickly squashed the thought. Because Yzak Joule would sooner admit that he was gay than for Patrick Zala to share a joke (which he assumed would not be happening any time soon).
The next thought that occurred to him was why in the blue hell was his father telling him that? Of course, he just had to ask and his father just had to give him the most unexpected answer in the book: because he wanted Athrun's skills. No, not needed, -wanted-. What was he anyway – some kind of equipment?
Now, any sane politician would have scoffed at the ridiculousness of Patrick Zala's plans. Why use his fifteen year old son? And a son that hasn't even grasped the concept of military discipline, no less.
But military discipline wouldn't be needed for the job that Patrick had in mind. No, what he needed was for it to be executed cleanly and quietly. No need for the citizens or his colleagues to be aware of it; it will only cause panic. Patrick had been tipped by one of his contacts that the EA would be sending a spy to the academy.
Athrun had been instructed to watch the spy's actions first, to determine what it was that Henrik wanted and when they had figured it out, he would 'deal with the Natural bastard', as his father so eloquently put it. Of course Athrun had tried to talk his father out of it; there were too many risks involved. Athrun had tried to persuade his father to enlist Mikhail Ayman's help, but his father would have none of it. It was a job for Athrun and the way Athrun saw it, a test of some sort. A test that he had to pass to gain not his father's, but National Defense Committee Chairman Zala's favor. And once Patrick Zala had made his mind, nothing short of an Armageddon could make him change it.
And now, he was stuck with that knowledge, the thought bearing down on his shoulders. Henrik wanted something… and he didn't know what to do about it. What was he supposed to do about it anyway? His father clearly stressed the secrecy of this 'operation'…
"Soldier Boy! Are you paying any attention?" Miguel asked irritably. "Your shoes are caked with dirt!"
Athrun mentally berated himself for losing himself in his thoughts – for the nth time that morning – and looked at his shoes. There was a speck of dirt on the otherwise polished surface of his left shoe – not exactly "caked with dirt", in his opinion. He fought the urge to roll his eyes. He had much, much important things to worry about other than dirty shoes.
Fortunately, he was saved from having to give an apt response because Miguel had moved on to the others. "You! Red! Did you even iron your uniform?"
Rusty bristled with either the "Red" nickname or the "ironing" comment. "This was how I got this damned uniform from the cleaners!" He grabbed the creased portion of his uniform, which turned out to be a small fold on the front. "Fuck! I doubt anyone will even see this!"
"What about you, Yzak?" Miguel roared.
Yzak glared at him. "What about me?"
"Fix that scowl on your face. That's too fierce…even for the tiger-look," Miguel answered, before moving on to Dearka. "You, Dearka! Brush your hair, for comb's sake!"
Dearka run a hand through his hair and smirked. "Ah… You of all people should understand why it looks this way, Miguel."
Miguel rolled his eyes but couldn't stop the identical cocky smirk from forming in his face. Then, he turned to his last victim. "And now you, Nicol." He gave Nicol a critical head-to-toe look. "Nothing's wrong… except you look like a girl."
Rusty, Dearka and Yzak all burst into laughter.
Nicol, on the other hand, just smiled. "Thankfully, I'm in a good mood today. So I'll just let that comment pass," he said, amiable smile still in place.
'It's the quiet ones you have to watch out,' Athrun concluded, while shaking his head in disbelief.
All heads swiveled to the direction of the voice, the source being an elegant-looking woman, with shoulder-length silver hair. Ezaria Joule, Yzak's mother. Yzak shot each and every one of them a look that plainly said, 'back off!' before moving to greet his mother.
"Mother," he muttered, trying vainly to block his teammates' view of what was to transpire next.
Ezaria smiled at him before giving him a fond kiss on the forehead. Yzak stiffened, and Athrun could see from where he stood that the boy's ears were red. Rusty was snickering softly, mouthing 'momma's boy' to Dearka and Miguel.
For one angst-ridden moment, Athrun thought about his mother. If his mother were alive, he would no-doubt be standing next to Yzak being smothered by kisses and being teased by his friends. But then again, if his mother hadn't died, he wouldn't be standing there in the first place.
Yzak muttered something under his breath. Maybe something along the lines of, 'Don't you have somewhere else to be, Mother?' (but more politely) because his mother gave him one last kiss on the cheek and went away. A flaming Yzak made his way back into their formation.
Miguel opened his mouth – and everybody knew that -nothing- good came out of that – and said, "Finished being hen-pecked?"
"Die, Miguel. Just curl up and -die-."
Miguel brushed the somewhat-death-threat with a casual wave of his hand. "Whatever." He turned to the other cadets. "Are you all ready? Remember that we're doing this for our country!"
Dearka scoffed. "Oh, cut out the false patriotism. Just how much booze are you getting out of this anyway?"
"Four cases," Miguel answered truthfully.
Rusty and Yzak rolled their eyes as if to say, 'Figures'.
Miguel laughed, but immediately sobered up. "Seriously though, and I mean it this time, all your parents are gonna be watching, as well as all of the PLANTs. One mistake and we're all done for. Of course, it doesn't help a bit that your parents are influential people in the government. Even if you think that we're just marching idiotically out there, this is actually a test to see how much discipline we have instilled in you." He smirked. "Think of the field as the stage, the audience as country club members, and yourselves as debutantes."
"DEBUTANTES!" Five equally grossed out voices protested indignantly.
Across the field…
Mikhail sighed. 'He used the 'debutante speech' again.' He inwardly chuckled. 'Though, it's good to know it never fails to illicit a reaction from the cadets.' He looked around at his rookies and felt confident. They would definitely win.
"Has Fousche arrived yet?"
"No, sir. He was complaining of a headache last night. Do you want one of us to check up on him?"
Suspicion immediately overrode his normally rational reasoning. "No. I will be going by myself. Kakijima, take over. If I'm not back in ten minutes, tell the OIC that your superior is dealing with a sick cadet. They'll send a replacement. Is that understood?"
"Sir, yes, sir!"
"Good." Just before he left, he turned around and said in his most stern voice, "I want you to beat Miguel Ayman's team."
No way in hell was he going to cough up four cases of beer.
Athrun narrowed his eyes when he noticed Henrik's absence. Something was definitely up. He observed and waited for a couple more minutes and when Mikhail left, he made up his mind.
Miguel paused in mid-speech and gave Athrun a flat look. "What's so important you just had to interrupt?"
"I need to go to the bathroom."
Miguel rolled his eyes. "Make it quick." And he resumed his conversation with Rusty and the others.
Something was up and -wrong-.
Of course, like every villain in an action flick, Henrik was waiting exactly for this event. The big event, wherein everyone would be too busy to care if a cadet would suddenly have a headache. But in his mind, he wasn't the villain, and if he -was- the villain, he would not fail in his mission to overcome the so-called 'heroes'.
Now that he had all the 'orders', it was time to 'make the delivery'. He was currently using one of his teammates' computers to send all the files that needed to be sent. Of course, he could've used his own computer, but he never did like using his things to do his dirty work.
That was his expertise.
And his grandfather told him that nothing good came from technology… oh, he could just picture the look on his grandfather's face when he learns that his grandson, the tech geek, single-handedly stole the plans for ZAFT's newest mobile suits.
He was about to press the 'Send' button when the door slid open.
Henrik looked up to see none other than Mikhail Ayman, pointing a gun at him.
"Do all officers point a gun at cadets who decide to play hooky?" he asked jokingly, but his eyes were hard and cold. Good thing that the computer table was hiding his hands from view.
"Only those who found out that their cadets are actually spies," Mikhail answered evenly.
Henrik laughed. "A spy? And what makes you say that?"
"Stop acting so innocent!"
"What if I -am- innocent?"
Mikhail hesitated and it was all it took for Henrik to pull the trigger of -his- gun. Mikhail's body swayed for a second before it fell back with a dull thud. Henrik shook his head as he walked towards the unmoving carcass. Amber eyes were frozen in shock, with blood pooling on his chest, directly where the heart was.
"I guess I overestimated you."
He was about to go back inside the room when a slight movement caught his eye. He fired several shots towards the witness, but he seemed to regain his composure and moved quickly out of the way. Henrik swore loudly and took it as an opportunity to make a break for it. He could recognize that blue hair anywhere.
Of all people to witness it, it just had to be Athrun Zala!
Miguel stopped mid-speech for the second time that day. But this time, it wasn't because of Athrun. A wave of nausea came over him and he clutched his head. "Anyone got an aspirin?" he asked weakly, to no one in particular.
Athrun stood in shock as he watched Mikhail's body fall back. Mikhail lay on the floor, obviously dead. But… Denial. His own two eyes saw it, but he refused to believe it. He watched as Henrik appeared from the doorway and knelt casually beside the unmoving body.
"I guess I overestimated you."
Unexplainable rage coursed through him and he unconsciously took a step forward. Mikhail couldn't be dead! He was alive a moment ago! What would Miguel say? He was a few feet away and he wasn't even able to do anything about it! The man died in front of him, and he didn't even do anything!
Unfortunately, Henrik seemed to notice his presence and immediately fired a few rounds in his direction. Coordinator instincts kicked in, and he hid behind the safety of the walls. He heard Henrik curse, followed by the sound of footsteps moving farther away.
Henrik was making a run for it!
"Damn coward," he muttered hoarsely under his breath. When he was sure that Henrik had cleared the area, Athrun went out of his hiding place and quickly made a beeline towards Mikhail.
He felt bile climb up through his throat and he covered his mouth with his hand to suppress it. There was so much blood; the redness of it contrasting greatly with the green of Mikhail's uniform. He closed the opened eyes with his fingertips.
"Sorry, Mikhail," he said shakily.
Athrun stood up and ran after Henrik.
Henrik used the elevator to lead him down, down the lobby. The whole building was abandoned. Even better, more suitable for his plans. Athrun Zala had to be killed. Such was Henrik's incredibly eloquent plan. The doors slid open and Henrik gritted his teeth in annoyance. If it weren't for Zala's meddlesome nature, everything would've been fine and dandy.
'Kill Athrun Zala.'
Henrik smirked. If only it were that simple.
Athrun reached the last step and he crept silently across the marble floor, gun in slightly trembling hand. He leaned against one of the lobby's many columns, using it as his impromptu hiding place. He willed his frantically beating heart to calm down. But he really couldn't blame it; it was his first time doing something like this.
First time getting ready to kill someone. But then again, he should've expected it the moment he accepted his father's orders. After all, 'deal with him' was synonymous with 'kill him.'
'And you better get used to it,' said a little voice in his head. 'After you graduate, after you become a full-fledged soldier, there'll be many more to come…many spies for Patrick Zala's military dog to kill.'
He shook his head ruefully to get rid of the awful thoughts taking flight in his head. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out to calm his stressed out nerves. He ran towards the column on his left.
He had known from the start that Henrik Fousche was a spy sent by the Earth Alliance. Henrik was no ordinary spy. Or should he say, Henrik was no ordinary Natural. He was able to infiltrate a military school for -Coordinators-, which was no mean feat. Not to mention that Henrik had been excelling and going head to head with the other young enlistees.
Henrik was a good actor. He had managed to fool everyone. Mikhail, especially.
And now, Mikhail was dead.
'Stop, Athrun. Don't go there…' he mentally reprimanded himself. He could still feel the blood on his hands. Mikhail's blood on his hands… He shouldn't have touched the corpse… He shook his head to get rid of the horrifying images. 'It wasn't your fault. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't your fault…'
His made-up mantra was interrupted by a gunshot. He instinctively ducked and clutched the gun harder. Several gunshots followed and he waited for a lull in Henrik's attack. Sensing that Henrik had stopped to reload his gun, he fired several shots in what he thought was Henrik's direction and ran towards a nearer column.
Henrik fired a shot and Athrun felt the bullet rush past his right ear.
After his back met the safety of the column, he held a hand up his ear to check if it was bleeding. Fortunately for him, it missed, leaving his ear safe and sound (no pun intended) and without a scratch.
He heard Henrik's footsteps getting farther from him.
'Well, at least I'm sure my ear is working just fine,' he thought dryly. He decided to gamble and he ran after Henrik. 'You've got no way out, you freak. Good luck trying to escape in a place swarming with Coordinators and with Patrick Zala to boot.'
It was clear that Henrik was running in circles. He was trapped. It was only a matter of time before Henrik realized it himself.
"You've got nowhere to run Henrik Fousche," Athrun muttered darkly. "Nowhere to run but to hell."
"Where the hell is Athrun?" Yzak asked no one in particular. He ran his hands through his hair in frustration.
"Are you worried, perhaps?" Dearka snickered.
Yzak snarled. "Not in the way that your dumb brain is thinking, bastard! What the hell's taking so goddamn long? It's two minutes 'til the exhibition and he still isn't here!"
"I don't think we'll be able to perform our drill exhibition, anyway, Yzak," Nicol said worriedly. He gestured to a pale-looking Miguel sitting on the grass with his head buried in his hands. "I think Miguel's sick."
"For the love of - !" Yzak stomped over to Miguel. "You're a freaking Coordinator, for god's sake!" he nearly yelled. "Why couldn't you have picked tomorrow as your sick day?"
Miguel groaned in protest. "Stop yelling in my ear. Ugh. I think…I'm gonna…barf…" he mumbled weakly.
Rusty, who had been uncharacteristically quiet for the past minutes, suddenly spoke up. "Hey, I'm going to go look for Athrun, okay?"
"Just don't go M.I.A. on us," Dearka joked good-naturedly.
"Heck if I will," Rusty replied. He gave Miguel a pat on the back and rushed off to the direction of the research facilities.
Miguel suddenly belched on Yzak's booted left foot. "I think, I'm gonna hurl…"
Yzak screamed bloody murder. "You just did, you disgusting ass!"
Henrik Fousche was not an ordinary Earth Alliance officer. He was one of the youngest and most outstanding in the entire Atlantic Federation. He had undergone severe training – years and years of hard work and his pride wouldn't let him lose to someone like Athrun Zala.
His ego wouldn't let him.
And his strength, power and cunning will help him.
Almost everyone was in the field, witnessing that idiotic drill exhibition. For him, Athrun was just as alone as he was at the moment. He had trained long and hard for this mission and nothing would get in his way.
He fired several shots in a random direction; the sound of Athrun's footsteps was almost non-existent. Silence permeated the entire facility. Those Coordinators truly were arrogant to have left the entire facility defenseless. And Patrick Zala was even more arrogant to have sent his own son to get him, one of the best, if not the best, spy of the Earth Alliance.
It was almost bordering on insulting.
And if there was one thing that Henrik hated, it was being insulted.
The sound of a door closing caught Athrun's attention. He risked a glance and he saw the Henrik had entered the room – whatever room it was. He quickly ran towards the aforementioned room and pressed his back on the wall beside the door. If he was lucky – which he doubt he was – Henrik would be stuck in a store room or something. But if he was unlucky… well, he didn't want to think about it.
Fearing that Henrik might escape using the windows, he gathered his courage and kicked the door open, gun ready to fire. He breathed a sigh of relief when he realized what the room was.
'Windowless,' Athrun thought with a smirk.
It was the flight simulation room and there were at least twenty machines from which Henrik could hide in. He closed the door behind him and hid behind one of the bulky machines. Finally, sensing that it was time for that hero-villain pep talk, Athrun asked the question that had been plaguing his mind. "Why did you have to kill Mikhail?"
There was silence at first and then a scoff. "Are you an idiot or what? That's my job!"
"But he was…"
"He was my supposed superior officer – nothing more, nothing less. He wasn't my friend. None of you are," Henrik answered truthfully. What surprised Athrun was that his voice held no malice whatsoever. He sounded so annoyingly detached. Not even a hint of remorse, disgust, or anger could be detected from his tone.
Athrun opened his mouth, but after realizing that he did not know how to respond to that, closed it again. He gritted his teeth in annoyance. Mikhail wasn't overly friendly like his brother was, but still the thought of someone dying – someone he knew – served fuel to his anger.
"I do not kill in cold blood. I kill because I have to. What about you Coordinators? Wouldn't you have to kill me, too?" Henrik countered. His voice sounded farther away than before – he was moving around the machines. What ever his plan was, Athrun was prepared for it.
But what Henrik said caught Athrun off-guard. In the end, it all boiled down to the fact that they were all doing their jobs. Even so… couldn't they go against it? Question it? Like Miguel said? Athrun shook his head. There were more important things to consider than just one's principles. Sometimes, one has to do what one was ordered to do. He decided to follow the sound of Henrik's very faint footsteps (good thing Henrik was wearing those ZAFT-issued military boots).
He stood up and felt something click behind his head. Another thing he felt was something cold poking him in the back.
"I'm going to kill you, Zala. But that's only because so I don't get killed."
Author's Notes: Eeek! Cliffhanger! Erm… for flames or rants please do not review. :D just kidding. No seriously, please review. Let me know if this chapter is unsatisfactory or not.
Erm… yeah. I planned to kill of Mikhail right from the start. No one's crying bucket of tears over him, that's for sure. I liked him but he was too…bland. Poor Mikhail. Poor Miguel.
Anyway, I take it everyone has pretty much grasped the concept and plot of this story? If not, well… inform me and I'd gladly answer any questions.
Special thanks to: my beta-reader, Lia lostsmile (kudos to you girl friend!).
And to the reviewers: Princess Ashes, Maryam Khanoom, lightyearsaway, Mutsu, dark.retreat, koyuki-san, Warp Ligia Obscura, Meira Kurosaki, MapleRose, Allie Night, Kageharu Kaco, Krilyn, Belldandy and plushoo.