Beta Target: Chapter One - Embers of Another Fire Beta Target
By Famira Damaris

Disclaimer: I do not own Mobile Suit: Gundam Wing. I've only got about two dollars and seventy-five cents and a ball of blue lint from my sweater with me. I'm getting the feeling that's not suing material. : P
Author's Note: This is the second Target. It's not truly a sequel to Alpha Target, but it does have a *little* bit of Trowa in it (third person too, but like he said, there's no happy ending for him). This is my experiment with writing in third person (I'll try to switch back and forth from Chang Wufei to Sally Po – also, any suggestions are very welcome!), so bear with me. This one's not an angsty story (Omega Target *might* be tho – that's Duo's Target, but that all depends if I can get through the rest of the series! O_o), instead focusing more on getting the plot with the Rembrandt disease and how it connects with the chaos breaking out (it'll get worse in Gamma Target – Heero/Relena). Wufei is my favorite character in GW, but he's so hard to write as! Gyie! No fair. Well, it's been two years, so Wufei's *trying* to turn over a new leaf (not such jackass to everyone, but he can be a little harsh). No, I don't think Sally and Wufei are going to be a pair in this fanfic: instead, I'm trying to focus on Wufei's efforts to change himself from relying on old traditions, and the meaning of Sally's friendship is to him (but if anyone really thinks S+5 is a good pairing and say so, I suppose I could gradually fit it in. I guess I'm getting corny with my stories now. :P) I always thought that Wufei never really had any *true* friends, and so doesn't realize how important Sally Po is to him. ['s for thoughts, {'s for electronic stuff, \'s for subconscious stuff or remembered thoughts or words. I'll end up dividing the chapters into sections with the little lines more than I did in Alpha Target, usually to switch points of view or locations or slight time shifts to another scene. Thanks for reading my fanfic! ^_^

Cut thistles in May,
They'll grow in a day;
Cut them in June,
That is too soon;
Cut them in July,
Then they will die.
- Nursery rhyme "Cut Thistles in May"

Chapter One – Embers of Another Fire

AC 199, January 27
L4 Colony, Bell Meadows

It was snowing lightly. Suiting, in a way, for the occasion. The funeral was a modest affair; Quatre had requested it so, in any event that he was to die. Wufei took a moment of respectful silence, as he stood under the wilting maple tree of the cemetery. […Quatre…] The Chinese Preventer shook his head, closing his eyes. Things had seemed almost perfect for once – the former Gundam pilots had somehow each found a niche in the normal society. In one moment, that peace had been shattered, at least for two of them. [Where's Trowa? I would have expected him to be here…] Wufei glanced about, finally settling his gaze on the tall man.
Trowa was standing closest to the coffin, his head bowed. Like everyone else, he was dressed in the somber black signaling death, oblivious to the others around him. [Poor Trowa…it's painful to see him have to go through what I did when Meiran died. My Nataku…] Wufei was lost in brooding for a moment, then shook his head irritably [Don't think like that. If you can't get on with your life, you weaken yourself further. Keep that in mind] Wufei sighed, and approached Trowa. The others attending had long since left, leaving the former Heavyarms pilot and the Preventer as the last ones. Trowa, despite his recent injuries, had still insisted on coming.
"I'll…never forget him," Trowa suddenly said, "I just…just need to be alone, Wufei."
"I understand," Wufei didn't leave immediately however, "What're you going to do now, Nanashi?"
Trowa (it was close to impossible to think of him as No-name – Wufei had to always catch himself whenever he was about to call him "Trowa" instead of "Nanashi") was silent, olive green eyes boring into the shining surface of the ebony casket. Wufei wasn't even sure the other was going to answer him, for his silence continued for several long seconds.
"I don't know. I-I'm going to see him off…to space," Trowa refused to meet his glance, and Wufei didn't try to force him to. Quatre's body was to be put into space, not buried. Trowa was going to do it himself, going even to the point of accompanying Quatre in his own space suit, "I don't know what I'm going to do after that."
Wufei nodded. He was still worried about Trowa himself; the way things had been going, the Chinese Preventer was convinced that the other was taking things to an unhealthy extreme. Not now, of course, but when the Preventers had found him in Erich...that had been another matter. The man, that Trowa had said he had seen with his own eyes, responsible for Quatre's murder, was no where to be found, even with the sweep of the district. [If he continues going through what he has, he's going to break soon. But I can't try to run his life for him just because I think he's taking everything the wrong direction] Wufei shifted his position: Trowa made little reaction, staring ahead. [But he doesn't see the big picture anymore. The best thing that I can do is let him do what he feels is right. If I try to intervene too much, nothing good can come of it]
Just like nothing good had come on his visit the day Quatre had been shot.

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AC 199, January 24

Wufei hadn't been with the emergency unit that had been called to the Edwin space-docks that night; he simply couldn't make it in time. When he had received the call from Trowa, he had done his best to get at least one Preventer agent in Erich, despite what the other had calmly told him to not to do. It wasn't like the Chinese man was in charge of the Preventers, after all. He hadn't been able to get any in, and it had been a struggle to get into contact with the local, meager police force. He had somehow managed to reach a compromise, and had made his way immediately toward the Pavilion Sector the next day.
Wufei had been able to meet the four of their officers halfway from the Pavilion Sector to the inner core of the Colony. Trowa was with them, his shoulder buried under a heap of hurried bandages.
"What happened to his shoulder?" Wufei had demanded. The four had exchanged glances, and the eldest shrugged.
"He was wounded when we got to the scene of the distress call," the stout man shook his head, "He was pretty much *conscious* when we got there, even with his shoulder almost gone," the police officer had a look of astonishment on his face, "Tough guy though. He's refused all medications so far, and he hasn't said a single damn word to any of us."
Wufei flicked a concerned glance at Trowa. Trowa wasn't looking at him, his face partially hidden behind his hair. Wufei frowned. [I seriously didn't think Trowa was the type for revenge. I was so stupid, coming like that. I shouldn't have given him everything he needed to get a start] Wufei nodded to the four men.
"Thank you for aiding the Preventers. I'll see if I can put a good word with your superiors," Wufei told them. He personally disapproved of such indirect ways of rising further in a career, but protocol was protocol, "You didn't see who did this to him, did you?"
One of the younger officers shook her head. She had probably been on duty herself when the call had come in, "There was a blood trail leading away, but we only followed it to a dead end, sir. We think there was some sort of gunfight or something."
"Thank you again for your assistance," Wufei said curtly. They took the cue and left. Wufei ushered the silent Trowa toward his car, keeping his Asian features blank. [Is he alright? From what he's been through, I heavily doubt it. But first we're going to have to see about his shoulder] Trowa had buckled himself in with his good arm without a word or sound, staring out the side window. The Chinese Preventer had started the car down the road, not bothering to try to start a conversation. It simply wasn't an appropriate time, and there would be nothing gained.
He was going to need medical help, that Wufei was certain of. From his information, Trowa had apparently been out-gunned. It was a miracle that he had only been grazed, otherwise he'd be minus the arm. Still, some of the bone was gone, and a lot of the flesh was pulverized. He'd certainly be spending a few hours at the surgeons, and even then, he'd have to rest. [But I'm not sure if leaving him by himself is such a good idea. With Quatre gone, and everything unresolved, he might try anything. I can't risk that]
Wufei kept this to himself, however. He also didn't tell Trowa how the situation with the L4 Colonies had progressed from bad to worse. In the weeks that had gone by, the other Colonies in the quadrant had gotten wind, and were in the same state of disorder as this one. Some aid from the other Colonies from the other quadrants had to be requested, and even with the help, it was constant rioting and clashes with the armed police and the civilians. The number of arrests made was astounding, and the L4 Colonies were calling for a leader to put everything back into order. This was trouble in itself – not only had the L4 Colonies been controlled by voted representatives from every Colony, Quatre had acted as a go-between: with him no longer here, the delegates might resort to fighting amongst themselves, in the worse scenario. [If only it was that] Wufei was far more worried about the some of the potential people that might be picked at the sole leader for the whole quadrant. He knew of some examples that were making speeches and rallies: those were some of the dangerous ones. They could lie easily enough to get a position, and with power over all the L4 Colonies, could send all the laws and the very structure of the government crashing down. The problem with Colonies was that the central one in the quadrant had a master control to the rest of them: Wufei had reviewed the schematics, and cursed the very ancestors of the idiot engineers. The fools had given the master Colony controls over all Colony movement, limited weather control, and electrical power. A mistake like that was deserving of punishment, Wufei believed, even if it was just human lack of foresight or blunder.
They were almost at the core of the Colony when Trowa spoke up.
"I failed."
"The odds were against you," Wufei replied, keeping his eyes on the road. He hated to say this, but he felt he had to be blunt, "That was a really stupid thing you pulled back there."
"…I know. It doesn't matter, Wufei," Trowa's voice was low, and even then, filled with pain, physical and emotional.
"You could have gotten killed, even though the gun barely touched you! A few more hours out there and you would have bled to death," Wufei said. [Don't be like me, Trowa. No one else should have to go through that. And even when I lost my Nataku, I wasn't alone like you were! I had the Dragon Clan to support me! You don't have anyone: not even Catherine Bloom is going to be able to help you this time]
"I don't care."
"Stop it, Nanashi," Wufei barked. It was positively unnerving to be actually hearing these sort of suicidal words from Trowa. Trowa, who had been so rational in the past, the pilot that could always be counted on to never lose his composure or his goal. Completely opposite now from the Trowa that was sitting in the passenger seat now, nothing like the old Trowa.
Trowa only answered back with silence, and Wufei tightened his grip on the steering wheel. He could see his bones as the skin stretched over tautly.
"Ahrens Feldenheimer, was it? Was he part of some organization?" Wufei asked.
"No. His motive was purely personal." [Just like yours was, Trowa. You shouldn't have went after that man like that. You only hurt yourself more. That was really stupid of you…]
"Hn." Wufei frowned. The chaos within the L4 Colonies had seemed so orchestrated, like it had been planned. But now he was having his doubts – he had been so sure the man had been an assassin working under some employer. The car bombs in the same day were related to each other, however: both the residential building and the laboratory had been in possession of the same woman, a former scientist named Anne Shuwen. No one knew where she was; she was obviously in hiding. [Deal with the situation at hand, Wufei], "We're going to have to do something about that shoulder, Nanashi."
"It's not bothering me," Wufei saw through Trowa's mask however. He was lying, and in a great deal of agony. Wufei hoped his wound wasn't infected. That'd make things even worse than they were.
"Doesn't matter. I'm driving there anyway. You don't have a choice in the matter."
"But…" he wavered for the first time, "Quatre. W-where is he?"
"He's safe, if that's what you're worried about. He's where he was since the first week," the Chinese Preventer answered.
"I…I want to see him."
"After the surgery." Wufei replied, and gave Trowa a look that said he would not stand for any argument. Trowa stared silently back out the window with dull green eyes, giving up. Wufei concentrated on driving, troubled. [This isn't good. I should be more considerate, but there're also a lot of things happening right now. I can't keep concentrating on the individuals like this] But Wufei still felt responsible. After all, if he hadn't come to Trowa that day, the other wouldn't have felt so pressured by his words, and picked up on what Wufei had said about revenge. [I should never have come. It is as much my fault as it was his] Trowa paid no more attention to him. Wufei might as well have been invisible.

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AC 199, January 27
L4 Colony, Bell Meadows

Wufei headed down the pebbled path of the cemetery. He wasn't sure what he was going to do now. His orders from Preventer headquarters had been transferred to one of the senior agents, a middle-aged woman who was doing the best she could to keep the chaos to a minimum. He was at a loss of what to do. He couldn't accompany Trowa, that was for certain. The tall young man was going by himself with Quatre. It would be no other way. [It's terrible that it had to end like that] Wufei shuddered. He had experience enough with personal losses.
His cell phone rang with no warning. He fished around absently in his black suit's pocket, and held it to his ear, "Preventer Chang."
"Wufei." Sally Po. He hadn't seen her for a few days, was somewhat surprised to hear from her again.
"Nanashi is going to go up into space with Quatre soon, Sally," the young Chinese man informed her.
Sally's voice was genuinely choked, "I feel so bad about Quatre. How's Trowa?" Sally didn't approve of Trowa's name change, and still called him the original name that she had known him by.
"He's holding up. He's pretty strong-willed," Wufei headed toward his car, switching the cell phone to another hand as he pulled out his keys, "Still, I'd be worried about him. I'm not sure what he's going to do after he returns from space. He's got a lot to think about. Anyone could break under that pressure."
"You think he will?"
"I personally don't think so. But he's not going to be of the same mindset ever again. He's no longer suicidal, that's a relief."
"Good…"
"Was there something you wanted to tell me?" Wufei got to the point; "It's pretty risky calling me like this. The funeral could have been still be in progress: it would have been *very* disrespectful of you *and* of me."
"I'm sorry. But there's a reason I called," Sally's husky voice paused and there was the sound of rustling paper, "We've got a Preventer mission lined up."
"You and me?" Wufei hadn't liked to admit it, but Sally and he made a good team. Usually he worked alone as a Preventer agent, but when another was needed, he was usually paired up with Sally Po, usually with good results.
"Yes. You'll have to return to the Preventer HQ here and get a special permit so you can leave the Colony."
"Alright. I'll meet you there – fill me on the details later," Wufei opened his car door, putting the cell phone away. [A new mission? Right now, when all help is needed?] What poor timing. What could be so important that two Preventers could be pulled away? [Probably to put out another fire before it starts]
He glanced over his shoulder, toward the small rise. Trowa was still standing in front of the coffin, a black shadow that never moved. Almost like a statue. But he wanted to be left alone. There was nothing more that Wufei could do. It was bad enough that he had interfered. Trowa would have to sort everything out himself now. [Ancestors, pay special attention to him. He's going to be a lost soul, like I used to be. Help him recover from his losses] Wufei slid into his car, closing the door. [I did…but I wasn't hit so hard like he was…]
It would be a miracle if Trowa ever returned to his normal self, ancestors or not.

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L4 Colony, Preventer HQ

Sally Po was waiting at the lobby, lounging out in one of the waiting chairs. She didn't see him at first, her eyes glued to the television that was broadcasting news on the L4 situation. Wufei nodded a greeting to the receptionist as he passed her desk. There were a few other people in the lobby – two Preventers that Wufei didn't recognize, and some of the International Guard that had volunteered to aid the Preventers. [This is getting out of hand] Wufei cleared his throat as he came to a stop behind the blond woman. She jumped: she had been completely oblivious to his presence.
"Wufei! I didn't know you were here," she stood up, towering over him. It still rankled mildly that a *woman* was taller than he was. But then again, a lot of people were. It was hard to get rid of old prejudices, though Wufei was trying to remove all the negative traditional views. He simply would have to try harder. She gestured at the TV, "Sorry, I was watching the news on another rally for leadership. I should have been watching for you."
"It's alright, Sally," Wufei crossed his arms over his chest. He had changed from his funeral suit to his Preventer uniform before coming to the Preventer HQ of this quadrant in space, "What's the mission?"
"Miss Une requested that I brief you in. Follow me," Sally tossed on of her braids over her shoulder, and motioned for him to follow. She headed was heading toward one of the ground level offices, still speaking as she walked, "There's a potential fire on Earth. It might be linked somehow to the bombings – you remember the bombings? – at least, that's what Miss Une thinks."
"She's actually *here*?"
"She flew in last night. We're starting to suspect that Quatre's death might have been planned."
"But Nanashi himself said that it was purely personal, that Ahrens Feldenheimer wasn't part of any organization," Wufei objected. [This is making no sense now]
"Miss Une said that if Feldenheimer hadn't gotten to Quatre first, someone else would have eventually. There's evidence of it too," Sally sounded angry, her voice thickening with the emotion.
"What do you mean?" Wufei hadn't known of any of this.
"That day at Indigo Falcon, we had intercepted a man trying to come in through the back exit from one of the wings. We had him searched," Sally shook her head, "He had a small sniper's rifle – one of those newer models – and a silenced handgun. He's still in custody, but he won't say much in the interrogations. He probably doesn't know anything about his employers, only what he was ordered to do."
"So you're saying he was hired?" Made sense. But Wufei still wasn't clear about a lot of the things that Sally was saying. Hell, he hadn't even known that the Preventers had intercepted another assassin, "If Ahrens Feldenheimer wasn't there, and you didn't intercept this man, Quatre would have been killed anyway?"
"Yes. Not only that, but we think that Trowa and the representative of the core of the Colony would also be dead. He kept indicating that it had been part of his orders to kill all who were on the stage."
"Shit," the Chinese Preventer breathed. [I never knew about this], "So how could this man be linked with the car bombings?"
"He admitted that he rented two cars and parked them in separate locations, very close to the target buildings. He outfitted them with the timed explosives, to go off exactly around the time that he would dispose of Quatre and the others. His goal was to send the Colonies into chaos."
"Instead, Ahrens Feldenheimer got to Quatre first, and didn't kill the others. But the results were the same."
"Yes," Sally Po opened the door of the office, and closed it after Wufei, "Feldenheimer might as well have been in league with them."
The office was small, holding only a series of pull down maps and a moderately large desk. All the chairs were pushed in: there had no meetings here for a while. Why would there be? The Preventers had more important things to be doing than sitting around cooling their feet. Wufei had accepted Sally Po's Preventer offer years ago, because he had thought that being a Preventer would give him a goal, that he would always be so busy that he could never think or worry. But he had been proven wrong. Same worries, different uniform. And now he had to not only be concerned with himself, he had to watch out for the others. Joining the Preventers had been a mixed blessing. But he wouldn't leave it now for the world. This was his home now.
Sally crossed the room, pulled down one of the maps. She turned, and Wufei saw it was a map of the continent of Europe. The blond Preventer pointed at one of countries, as Wufei approached the map to study it. She was pointing at an obscure area, where a dotted line had divided two areas. The map was laminated, with no labels. It was probably drawn on in meetings with dry-erase ink. Made sense. It was more resourceful that way.
"That used to be Lithuania," Sally stated, "But sometime before AC 176, it was annexed back into Russia. People usually think it's a part of Euro-Asia, but for a short time, it had been its own country," She traced a thin finger down the dotted line, and stopped near a small mountain range, "There's a small town right on the border between Russia and what used to be Lithuania. It was established early in AC 190. It was rumored that OZ scientists used to live there, using it as a site for experiments and such. We actually don't have many recent reports about it, however, nor do we have any information on what experiments where conducted there."
"But we do know that the majority of the population came in during AC 198. Mostly scientists, a few businessmen and farmers. When we checked the assassin we intercepted through one of our scanners, we matched his face with one Vytis Tuvini?ius, age thirty-seven, hometown Geletautus."
"We're going to this village?"
"Correct," Sally pushed one of her plaits of dark golden hair over her shoulder, "Miss Une suspects that it's not the peaceful little rural town that it appears to be. We're going to investigate it, so we may have to stay as long as necessary. It's known for certain that some of the more ambitious scientists from the Colonies (the ones that were going to get out of hand) were exiled over to this village. The Russian border guard used to make periodic inspections. But most of the people living there now are scientists, not dangerous criminals. We shouldn't have to worry too much. We only have to find what this village has to do with Quatre's assassination and report to Miss Une."
"Understood," Wufei said. [This seems rather sudden to be leaving from the situation here…but duty's duty] He helped Sally roll the map back into its holding case, "What about Miss Une?" Everyone called her "Miss Une". That, or plain "Une". Wufei had opted to be more respectful – she was his elder for one thing, and the head of the Preventers. [Still, surprising that a *woman*-] Wufei got himself off before he finished the thought, "Did she assign us the mission?"
"She thought us capable enough. I'm sure she can handle the problems here as best as she can." Sally gave one of those half-grins, "We'll just have to focus on our job. She'll do fine. Really too bad that Lucrezia isn't here. She would have helped out a lot."
Wufei nodded. But Noin was on Mars, not here.
"Well, we're going to have to get those special permits," Sally sighed, "Otherwise they're not going to let us out of the Colony. I can tell it's going to take awhile to get them: whenever it's space or air travel, it's always unorganized. Probably take several hours."
"I'm prepared to wait," Wufei answered stiffly. Was she goading him? She did that sometimes, pulling his leg and making harmless jibes at his views on tradition and his bearing. Wufei didn't necessarily approve of it, but he did his best to tolerate it anyway.
Sally laughed her deep chuckle, "Sure, sure. We won't be leaving today though, so you can catch yourself some sleep."
"Where should I meet you?"
Sally bit her lip, thinking. She thumped her fist into her hand as she decided on the meeting location, "There's a little café near the St. Paula space-port. It's called the Hueneme. I'll get a small breakfast or something while I'm there. Just be there around nine, okay?"
"Fine with me. Don't be late," Wufei said over his shoulder. He didn't say anything to Sally, but he was harboring a bad feeling about this mission. He didn't think it was as easy as she was making it sound. Or maybe he just didn't share her confidence. [Oh, stop it. You're superstitious enough as it is. You can't be backing out just because you might have second thoughts about it. Face it, Wufei, you've never backed down from a single mission yet. There's no room for mistakes and cowardice] It wasn't fun and games, even if Sally might appear to feel laidback about this mission. She was always serious about a set goal, no matter how she might act. That was one of Sally's pluses: unlike Wufei (who was a horrible actor), Sally could say one thing and mean another easily enough. She might treat the start of their mission like it was simply a walk in the park, but she was completely serious about it and determined to accomplish what she set out to do, without letting things that might affect her personally force her to stray from her path. That was one of Wufei's faults: he could be sidetracked. [Like…when I fought Heero. It had to take *him* of all people to open my eyes…I was so ignorant. I still am. But at least I *know* now]
Wufei headed down the steps of the Preventer building. He had been staying in one of the residential rooms that had been constructed primarily for Preventers. He might as well try to get whatever things he had still to do finished. He'd probably be too busy later to think. Which was going to be good, during these times. There was too much suffering and chaos for him to want to have a chance to brood.

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Preventer Suite

He kept perfectly still as the thin smoke curled away from the stick of incense. [Meiran…I respect you. I respect your ancestors. Your strength was far greater than mine, and I had misunderstood what your strength represented. I understand now, and I ask your forgiveness, as I had taken the wrong path. May your memory guide me through my life and to the right direction] Wufei slowly opened his slanted obsidian eyes. No sense of fulfillment, just one of gentle relief. He still missed his late wife, true, but he felt he was more than ready to get on with his life. The Chinese Preventer leaned back on his haunches, his thin wrists dangling from his knees. That's what *she* would have wanted. You got stronger by learning from your weaknesses. She had known that, even when years ago, she had insisted on challenging him. Now that he thought of it, she *had* become stronger from that battle, because he had ferreted out her weaknesses. Wufei smiled wistfully. Sadness, yes, but it wasn't the bitter fire that it had been only three years ago. [Ironic that I'd have to be taught strength from her, whom I had thought then as just another weak woman. I had been so taken with my teachings then. I relied on them too much. But then again, so had my little Nataku. Two of the same we were] But time had passed: he didn't think quite the same as he used to all those years ago, when he had been younger. Not that he was in any way old. Merely a little wiser, less brash.
Wufei stood up, though his legs were threatening to fall asleep on him. He still felt guilty: he had been so busy recently, that he hadn't the time to sit down and give his respects to his wife. It hadn't been his fault of course, but habit was habit. She'd probably laugh at him. Not that he would have minded.
It wasn't that late into the night. Only about ten o'clock, Colony-time. The flight to Earth would take several hours, though, and he should probably try to catch some sleep. He knew that he and Sally probably weren't going to take any priority flights, otherwise the trip would be much faster. There was little outgoing traffic from the Colonies, the few shuttles had to be cleared before leaving. The fastest shuttles were only used if it was very important and haste was needed. And if being obvious didn't matter. [She never said we were going undercover. But she also never said that we're going to go in flashing our little Preventer ID's] So it was probably best if they didn't draw too much attention to themselves. He wouldn't be packing his Preventer uniform then. His casual clothes would do – he tried not to wear Western clothing if he had a choice; they were too oriented toward appearances and not comfort, and almost always hampering one's movement. One reason why he preferred his Chinese tunics and trousers. [I've never had to worry about silly little things like what *clothes* I'm going to wear before…times have changed] Wufei shook his head. [When was the last time I ever packed anything?] He couldn't for the life of him remember. He hadn't ever gone on a trip like this.
Certainly not on a vacation. He had always thought vacations were frivolous, time-consuming, boring outings.
He might as well try to get some work done. He knew he didn't want to do it in the morning. [No point in sitting around any longer. No disrespect intended, Meiran] He was about to turn his back on his makeshift altar, when abruptly the incense stick went out with a little puff of wispy smoke. He froze, his body suddenly ice-cold. The hairs on the nape of his neck started to stand on their ends. The little wooden stick was cooling quickly, the red ember that had been at its end pitch black now. It had been the first time that his offerings to his dead wife had *ever* gone out.
A bad omen.
Suddenly Wufei didn't feel so overly cautious. [Are we going to be in over our heads?] He could only stare at the incense, and shiver. The first time. [This has to *mean* something] The Chinese Preventer shuddered again, glancing over to the right. He'd left the window open – that was probably how it had gone out in the first place. An errant gust of breeze. But still…[I hope I'm just getting overly superstitious] Wufei strode over to the window, throwing the altar a worried glance. He pulled the sliding pane of glass shut, and drew the neutrally colored drapes across it, blocking out the Colony of night. He turned toward the altar, a frown fixed on his face. He eyed it for a bit longer, but it did nothing. Most likely just a coincidence. It didn't *really* mean anything, probably. That was it. Just a chance of the moment. He'd been worrying himself over nothing, even if it was terrible for him to be so irresponsible to let the incense go out like that. [Idiot. You always were one, and now you're reminded that you are. What a fool]
Wufei turned his back on the altar. [Enough's enough. There's other matters that must be attended to] He'd better start getting ready for tomorrow. He'd have to remind himself when to wake up; his biological clock would do the rest, as he not only was a light sleeper, he had limited control of when he could wake up or go to sleep. It was all part of his training from the Dragon Clan. He still felt uneasy about the altar going out like that, but he was able to focus on the matters at hand.
For a moment, he wondered how Sally Po was doing. [Probably all the paperwork. I'm glad *I'm* not the one having to wade around in that stuff. I know I don't have the patience for it]

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Preventer Headquarters, Office

Sally Po was, in fact, stuck with all the paperwork. Again. As always. Even when there were computers and machines to do almost any manual task at this era, things like this still had to be done by hand. Irritating, especially when it was merely busy work. The young woman grunted, tapping the end of her pen against her red lips. [This is so boring. But I have to finish the forms by tonight. I don't have a choice] She put the pen down, folding her arms cross each other on the desk. The only sound she could hear through the thick walls of the office was the muffled horns of the cars below, snow drifting past the darkened window pane. She wasn't alone in the whole HQ building; it wasn't uncommon for other Preventers to be working late.
[Not that I *want* to be here] she thought wryly. She rested her chin in one hand, her ghostly reflection mimicking her. The snow was light, spiraling lazily past the office window. Somewhere in the distance, something was burning, a bonfire glowing in the darkness. She had long ago ceased being shocked by the daily (and nightly) riots; anger, yes, she still felt, toward the people and herself, but not astonished anymore. The International Guard were trying to keep the looting and the property damage to a minimum, but they had been forced to resort to anti-riot procedures, bringing in fire hoses and police dogs, along with the tear gas. And still the people shouted for blood. [Why can't they see that there's no one they can go after? Ahrens Feldenheimer is *gone*…what more can they want?] She frowned, one hand reaching over and picking up the pen, twirling it idly between two fingers. [What a merry inferno we're going to have on our hands. I hope we'll be able to put it out before it spreads]
She turned away from the window, staring down at the half-filled forms. […This fire's already overtaken so many people. How many more must be hurt?]

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Space

His shoulder hurt. It shouldn't, the doctors had said to him more than once, it was only phantom pains from his reconstructed bone, that none of it was real: only imagined. But it still hurt, no matter what it should or shouldn't do. [And I believe in what I feel. What *my* reality, not someone else's] And his reality was one of pounding pain right now.
\…love/hate…you…\
They were alone. No ships came through this area near the Colony, no noise, nothing. Nothing but the silence of space. […And your silence…] He shifted, holding the other space-suited form close to his chest. So light and frail… Nanashi's breaths echoed through his space helmet's, as he floated in zero gravity. In the other space suit, Quatre yielded lifelessly to him, his eyes closed against his pale face. [What am I going to do without you, Quatre?] He stared wordlessly as the blond bangs drifted past the dead face. He couldn't cry. He hadn't cried for weeks, and even then, it had been for *himself*, not the Arabian. How terribly selfish of him.
"I should have done what I *felt*, Quatre," Nanashi told him quietly. Of course he couldn't hear his voice. He couldn't hear anything at all. The tall pilot embraced the limp body, folding long arms around Quatre. [After all that, I only know what I feel for *you*. Too late] Why couldn't the Arabian raise his arms to return the gesture, those arms that were dangling at his side? [I…wasn't ready for you then, Quatre] He closed his own eyes. There were no tears left; none for himself or for his Quatre. […and now I am. But it doesn't matter now] Always the quiet pilot, the one who kept things to himself. Ironic that when he finally wanted to spill everything, the one who had cared the most was dead.
"You know, Quatre, I did feel *something* for you when we first met," he admitted. No reply, and he continued the monologue, "Your kindness was a curse and a blessing. And now…you're dead, while I'm still living," a pause, "Why am I talking like this, you ask? Because I believe that I should have been with you, Quatre. After all, I had been by your side for almost four years…"
More silence. Nanashi clasped the limp hand close to the cheek of his helmet, Quatre's head resting against his unwounded shoulder. Light glinted off a small shuttle heading toward the master L4 Colony, and obscured both face plates in its glare, and was gone. Nanashi sighed, and like a little child seeking comfort, nestled his head on the dead Arabian's shoulder, as Quatre's rested on his. He had been so stupid and so selfish. Instead of doing what he felt was right for the both of them, he had stalled, thinking stupidly that Quatre had been toying with his new found emotions. Had he been so very, very wrong…
\…I'm so tired…I want to rest for awhile…\
"It's going to be hard to let you disappear from me forever," Nanashi whispered.
No response.
"I…don't want to say good-bye to you, Quatre. But…I have to. I wonder if you would understand?"
Nanashi embraced Quatre again, holding the shorter Arabian to him. […There's so much I never told you. But would I still tell you now, if you were alive?] He pressed the other to him, not wanting to let go. Emptiness around them, the thousands of stars flickering in the darkness of space. Several moments passed. An eternity. A brief second. Neither. He felt his arms start to unwrap around Quatre, so that he was holding him carefully, like one would hold a newly born. Fragile and easily lost.
"…I…" Nanashi felt his hands betray him, letting go of Quatre with a small push, "…I…"
Quatre's body slowly drifted away from him, his small form becoming lost in the shadow of the immense Colony looming overhead. Nanashi watched silently, not following. [It's too late to follow you, Quatre. I hesitated too long] He would never see the Arabian, never hear his voice. So many things he would never do.
He could no longer see Quatre. He was gone, vanished into the maw of space. Dead, in body and soul. If he were to go out and search, he would find nothing. Gone for good. There would be no returning, no miracles. He still waited where he was, as the seconds stretched into minutes. He paid no attention to the almost inaudible beep that said his tank of oxygen was nearing its limit. Acknowledge reality, and you'd be forced to return to it, no matter what you wanted. […be with Quatre…] All he had to do was wait for the oxygen to run out, to propel himself after the Arabian. He's never catch up, of course, but he'd always follow him. Just wait for the little gauge to go to zero, simple as that. But he wouldn't. He already knew that. He would live as Quatre was dead. It would be no other way.
"…I loved you…" It was only a murmur, and he could barely hear himself as he drifted back toward the Colony, his eyes never leaving the direction that Quatre had gone.
\…Just as I had despised you for nearly killing me and making me forget *you*…\

To be continued...
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Sorry, sorry, I know this is boring! It'll get more actiony-adventury once Sally and Wufei actually *leave* the Colonies (next chapter, or the one after that). I apologize again, but I had to set the scene. I could really use some feedback (like how should Wufei and Sally's relationship be?), and I'd appreciate any reviews or suggestions. In this whole Target, it won't be deep-ish (it's more general than Alpha Target was; multiple points of view), and I'm not sure if I should continue. I thought this chapter was sorta boring O_o; so I really should try to get to the action parts. It doesn't get bloody yet, but this one will, so hence the R rating for later. I think the reason I'm having problems with Beta Target is because it's not angst and driven from one character's point of view.
On a totally unrelated topic, I'm *still* looking for the script/screenplay to Dungeons&Dragons. I've looked *all* over the 'net, and I haven't found anything. ;_; Unlucky me! If anyone finds it or can type it up, I'd greatly appreciate it. I really wanna do a MST for that movie. But whatever.
Flames, suggestions, whatever, send to shampoo_famira@yahoo.com or IM me at S Duo Maxwell 02. Reviews are greatly appreciated (especially the long ones). Thanks for reading! ^_^