Description: Trowa goes on a mission to find out that Romefeller is not the only organization that has its eyes on world domination. This has Condor Joe in it so be forewarned it has a supernatural, ghost story element to it. Mainly, a strait forward spy story. I adore Condor Joe and wanted to write something where Trowa and he meet!
Warning: mild language, and a very.... very... light Gatchaman crossover. If you know nothing about Gatchaman you can still read this without confusion, but you'll enjoy it more if you do. Joe "Condor" Asakura is one of the characters that died at the end of the first Gatchaman series. He came back as a cyborg, but I leave it more like a ghost story. He can't die until he finds forgiveness in his heart for his parents.
Masquerade: Part One
Trowa unlocked the door to the townhouse and peered through the dim light cautiously. He slipped in, making sure no one on the busy street was paying too much attention. His relief was total, noticing he was the first one back. A moment of privacy was so rare, now that the war was heating up.
It had gotten so bad that he considered going undercover as an OZ solider again. He still had all of his credentials in order. He would have to ask for permission from Doctor S and get Quatre to plan around his absence, but the break from the other pilots was getting more necessary. The five of them were more irritable and prone to fights than when they first met.
He went to the room that he was thankfully sharing with Heero. The Japanese boy kept to himself, so he could relax a little. Trowa shut the door and put his things away quickly, so he could get a shower.
A knock at the bedroom door spooked him. He headed for his gun.
"It's me," a craggy voice that sound like Heero's called out.
"Come in," Trowa said.
Heero slammed open the door and stood in front of Trowa with the most swollen neck he had ever seen. He locked the door back and in a few minutes they heard Duo wailing after Heero as he started to pound on the door.
"Sorry, Trowa," Heero barely managed to croak out before he went to a trashcan in the corner and vomited for all he was worth.
Trowa opened the door and watched as Duo put his rucksack on Heero's bed while Wufei packed Heero's meager possessions. Duo looked up and gave him a sardonic glare. The American then trotted in and collected Heero off the ground.
"Time for bed, buddy boy," Duo said, hoisting Heero up.
"What's going on?" Trowa asked. Wufei looked up and gave him a smirk.
"Quatre and Heero caught the mumps. You'll be rooming with the idiot," Wufei said. Trowa cringed inwardly. Duo's hostility towards Trowa recently had been running high. The American had never really gotten over those first three encounters he had with Trowa. Not even Quatre's intervention had made a dent in his belligerence.
Trowa walked across the hall to where Duo was tending Heero, his unwilling patient. Quatre was sound asleep. He smirked thinking about how hard it was to wake Quatre up.
Last month's incident with Wufei and a pail of cold, lake water played through his mind. The four other pilots stood incredulous when Quatre half woke, rolled over, and went back to sleep drenched head to toe.
Duo tapped Trowa on the shoulder after Heero was on his way to sleep. He followed Duo to their room. He watched Duo plug up Heero's laptop while Wufei flopped on Duo's bed with a Chinese newspaper and his reading glasses. Trowa threw out the idea of relaxing for fifteen minutes and walked over to Duo.
"Okay, I've been thinking that we all put the missions into one big pile and divide them out three ways," Duo suggested.
"That's dumb," Wufei groused, not taking his eyes off his newspaper.
"Is not, you pompous ass. Besides, I don't hear you coming up with a better solution," Duo said. Wufei gave him a wry look and rolled over on his stomach unconcerned.
"It's not so bad, Duo. We need to rank everything in some sort of priority and leave the less urgent items for Quatre and Heero when they've recovered," Trowa said, taking a seat next to him. "My next assignment can be pushed back. Quatre can have it."
"Mine can't. I've got to be there tonight, Tro," Duo said. He nodded, ignoring the nickname. "What about you, Wu-man?"
"Wufei! My name is Wufei, idiot! Yeah, give me Yuy's assignment if Trowa's going to handle Quatre's."
The orders were given and the two shuffled around and left Trowa alone again. He looked at the new mission and shook his head. Quatre's assignment was interesting, to say the least.
He was to help two people defect from Duke Dermeil's court tonight at his Spring ball. A costume ball, to say the least. Trowa stopped himself from seeing what costume Quatre was going to use and turned to his own suitcase. He would just use his own clown suit and mask. He would feel more comfortable in it, anyway.
Trowa entered the ball with Quatre's invitation and Rasid to his left. He was acting as a bodyguard. Trowa wasn't surprised that the apathetic attendant didn't give him the once over.
He announced Trowa as 'Quatre Raberba Winner,' after tapping the marble floor with three loud whaps from his staff. Trowa hoped no one who had actually met Quatre would be here. The chance was slim enough for Trowa to make the gamble.
Rasid walked behind Trowa, ready to support him in any Winner knowledge if need be. Trowa had asked him along this afternoon, and he seemed more than happy to come along and complete the disguise. The little bit of Arabic picked up from Quatre would come in handy on this mission. Rasid seemed impressed with what Trowa knew.
"Mister Barton. Katerina Washio. A friend of Iria's who hasn't met Quatre yet," Rasid whispered. Trowa noticed the woman in an elegant swan headdress that gleamed in the soft light; she bounded up to him enthusiastically. She was Japanese, but had an Italian first name. Trowa found himself a little intrigued.
"Are you little Quatre?" she asked. Trowa nodded; she swept him up in an embrace. "Iria said you were growing into a handsome young man. It would be my luck that we meet at a masquerade."
"I haven't seen Iria in a while," Trowa replied.
"She's doing Space Trauma and Evacuation now. Actually, I admire her so very much. Her endless capacity to give is astounding," she said. Trowa nodded, vaguely familiar with Iria.
The Washio woman said, "I would like to make a donation to her services so tell her to see me as soon as possible. I don't have the fortitude for the work she does, but I would like to ensure it continues."
Trowa took the woman as being vapid, at first, but something didn't strike him as right. It was her athletic figure. She and Cathy were in identical shape. Cathy definitely could put a gold medalist to task. Trowa was sure the woman had the physical fortitude of a top athlete.
"I will let her know," Trowa said, as Washio-san lead him to the dance floor. Trowa listened to the high society prattle and glided with her around the dance floor. He kept looking for the subjects of his mission.
The elaborate costumes and rich music created a fairytale atmosphere as the vermilion dusk shown through the balcony's French doors. Trowa finally asked, "Do you know Doctor Blesh and his daughter?"
"Of course. Would you like me to introduce you? Beatrix is your age and is really attractive. Iria would definitely approve," Washio-san said.
"Well I would have to meet the young lady first," Trowa said, not wishing to get Quatre married off tonight. Besides, he knew that Quatre's sisters would probably arrange something for him when the time came.
"Good. There they are. Lets go!" she said. She lead Trowa off the dance floor to a pair dressed like Heide and her Grandfather.
After the proper introductions were made, Washio-san practically shoved him to the dance floor with the young, redheaded girl. She had a light sprinkle of freckles over her upturned nose. She blushed horribly as Trowa took her in his arms and guided her through the sea of people. He glance around and drew her a little closer.
"I'm here to help you and your father to defect. Be on the balcony at eight o'clock," Trowa ordered. Slight surprise crossed her face, then acceptance. She nodded and smiled up at Trowa.
"Anything else?" she asked.
"No. Everything will be self-evident when you arrive," he said, releasing her at the end of the waltz. He bowed slightly to the girl and then duplicated the gesture for Washio-san. He took his leave to rejoin Rasid, who had just come back from the balcony.
"Everything is in place, Mister Barton."
"Good," Trowa answered.
"I haven't seen mobile suits around. This should be very simple, Allah willing," Rasid said, handing Trowa some punch. "How are you enjoying yourself?"
"This is not my idea of fun, but it is interesting," Trowa said. He had to admit he had never seen such a display of wealth; all of it was so decadence. He kept his eyes moving so he could spot anyone remotely resembling a Romefeller spy or anyone paying too much attention Doctor Blesh and his daughter.
Two hours had passed uneventfully, but Trowa did gain a new perspective on Quatre. All of this decadence hid a very complex and jaded world. Rasid had introduced him to dozens of people who he could keep straight due to his training, in spite of his utter apathy. All of them tried hard to curry his favor by denouncing this group or gossiping about some person. Trowa utilized his strongest talents, patience and acting, to blend in.
The grandfather clock struck eight so he made his way to the balcony where Rasid had hidden a rope ladder behind several thick potted plants. He looked over to where the burly Arab waited below with a jeep. Trowa kicked the ladder over the edge and drug out the duffel bag Rasid had hid on the balcony while Trowa had danced with Washio-san.
"Mister Winner," a soft voice called from the French doors. Trowa beckoned the pair to him and handed them the spare costumes he was able to come up with. Cathrine was more curvy than Beatrix, but it was a close enough fit. The manager would be having a fit about now. Trowa figured the man was realizing he was minus one of his ringmaster's costumes about now, but he could make do. Trowa knew he would be lucky to have a cover job tomorrow with the ringmaster's blustery temper.
He helped the Doctor and his daughter down the ladder and followed. They got in the jeep and were about to take off when the Doctor grabbed Trowa's wrist and jerked Rasid's broad shoulder.
"Wait! Someone has substituted my formula. I have to go back or all this is for nothing," the man said. Trowa hopped out of the jeep and looked over to Rasid who gave him a disapproving look. He knew what Trowa was about to say.
"Get them on the shuttle to L-3. I'll catch up with you. Doctor, what room were you staying in?" Trowa asked.
"Third floor. It's the last room on the east side. The formulas were on a disk marked 'Fluffy's birthday.' I could have sworn I had them, but this isn't it," the man said.
"More than likely, they were stolen. Go, Rasid," Trowa said. "I've got to go back for that disk."
"Master Quatre will..." Rasid started.
"I'll what?" Trowa asked with cool, narrow eyes. He turned back to the rope ladder and started climbing it as the jeep pealed off in the distance.
Trowa realized why it was so easy to smuggle the scientist and his daughter out; they already had what they wanted from Blesh. He slipped into the room and effected a search. He was almost finished when a gleam by the wardrobe caught his eye.
He picked up the glittering white feather and replayed the insipid conversation he had with Washio-san. She told him she had just arrived at the party and didn't even have time to freshen up in the guest quarters.
Trowa tucked the feather away and rejoined the party to see the swan dancing with a jackal. He mingled a little and made his way to her side. Trowa politely cut in and started to waltz as he scrutinized the headdress.
"Little Quatre, I thought you had left the party with Blesh and his daughter," she purred. Trowa felt danger now. Her vapid look rolled back to reveal something more sinister on her elegant face. She smiled at him and asked, "Who are you really?"
Trowa observed several other costumed people paying them special attention. He was caught, but it was still a situation he could turn in his favor. She lead him off the dance floor and upstairs to Blesh's guest quarters. They were followed by three costumed people: a jester, a jackal, and a knight.
He took a seat on a small sofa as they crowed in and locked the door. The three men all eased up, figuring Trowa was outnumbered. She, in the meanwhile, packed a small overnight case. She took the disk and waved it under Trowa's nose; tempting him to grab it. The mercenaries that raised him had beat more discipline into Trowa than that. She lifted his mask off and studied his face for several, long minutes after she brushed his bangs back.
"You are an exquisite looking youngster," she said. She tossed the disk in the case and shut it. "So who are you anyway?"
"Nanashi," Trowa replied. Washio-san laughed at the only name he knew as a child.
"Well you must know the Winners. Are you working for them?" she asked.
"No. I knocked the silly blond fop over the head and left him in the woods six hours ago," he said, loathing the disrespect to Quatre. He knew it would look horribly suspicious if he didn't. She giggled at the picture he painted.
"You could be useful to our organization," she said.
"Sorry. I already have two jobs," Trowa replied.
"Well, suit yourself. Bring him," she ordered.
The knight grabbed Trowa by the arm and dragged him to the door. He figured they would try to extract information from him. Trowa had to stick with the disk and wait for his opportunity to escape with it. They ended up in the back of a limo; the knight, the swan, and Trowa the clown. The jackal and the jester were in the front.
"Do you know what's on that disk?" she asked. He shook his head and gazed at her through his heavy bangs. She then adopted a sardonic expression and said, "I guess you work for a group that doesn't believe in informing their inferiors. Do you even have a clue to what type of doctor Blesh is?"
"My orders were to smuggle him to a rendezvous point. Everything else is irrelevant," Trowa said in in his typical impassive fashion.
"Nothing is irrelevant, my dear. He is a chemist. A brilliant chemist who is working on a solvent so powerful that it would eat through Gundanium," she said.
He shook his head in spite of his alarm. Trowa glanced at the pink overnight case on her lap. He formed a plan, but he would have to be bold and reckless about it. She nodded to him and said, "That's what you were trying to liberate and deliver to OZ... or the Alliance... or whoever you work for."
"You don't work for Romefeller or the Alliance?" Trowa asked.
"No. My organization is the Red Impulse; we are the muscle for a group called the Crossbone Vanguard. We've been underground for over seventy years. Now is the opportunity for us to strike, when Romefeller is distracted and the space colonies are weak. With this, we will conquer the world and put the original Zabi royal family over the space colonies again," she said.
Trowa was dismayed. He knew the Crossbone Vanguard, but had never heard of the Red Impulse. He filed it away and focused on the task at hand.
He reached across her before she could stop him. He unlatched the handle and took her with him out the door. They hit the speeding ground and rolled into the bushes painfully hard.
Only his knowledge about absorbing falls kept them from severe injury. Trowa recovered first, Washio-san lay unconscious on the ground. He retrieved the night case and gun as the limo skidded to a halt and reversed. The knight began to fire a gun at him as he fled through the woods.
He tossed the CD in the air and shot it with Washio-san's gun. The shards glistened in a rainfall that drifted into the surf. He looked down at the dead body laying in the ocean wash.
The man's garish knight costume made him seem like something out of a bizarre nightmare. Trowa shook his dizziness off and went to lean against a tree where the sand and grass met.
He slowly lifted his blood-soaked, silk sleeve and looked at his right upper arm. The bullet had passed through. He didn't bother checking his other bruises and lacerations from the fight.
The limo came to his mind. He made his way up to the road. Trowa was dismayed to see Katerina Washio had disappeared. He scouted the limo out and drove. He began to feel fire spread towards his shoulder. He was starting to bleed again. He managed to make it to a nearby city he couldn't identify.
The city glowed with unholy fire as the population fled in terror. He couldn't bring himself to do anything except get out of the limo and collapsed on the shiny black hood. Trowa flipped over on his back as he began to calm his breathing. His wound began to throb and ache.
A green arch flashed thought the night sky as a rumbling shook new pain into his bones. Shimigami appeared in front of him with smoke curling around its sleek exterior. His eyes snapped shut against his will as all the noise faded away to darkness.
"Glad to see you're awake," Duo said, his indigo eyes shown brightly in the predawn light. He scooted closer towards Trowa and said, "I would have taken you to a doctor, but the whole town went up, thanks to five Taurus suits that got themselves perished when they met the God of Death."
Trowa looked around to see they were in a small tent; he could see the woods outside the open flap. Duo had him tucked in a sleeping bag. He realized he had some band-aids over wounds. He also realized that he was numb where there should be pain.
"What did you drug me with? Pain killers?" Trowa asked. Duo gave him a confused look.
"I figured you weren't as macho as Heero and would want something to take the edge off. You can thank me for everything later," Duo said. Trowa caught the hint of indignation in Duo's voice.
"Pain killers can throw a person off. I avoid them," Trowa said. Duo just blinked at Trowa for a couple of minutes and shook his head with a rueful smirk.
"You guys just don't know how to lay down and bleed gracefully, do you?" Duo smarted off. "I mean judging by the way you hacked up your wrist once before..."
"Duo!" Trowa snapped. He ran his left thumb over a thick jagged scar on his right wrist. Trowa fixed Duo with a firm gaze and said, "I'm not unstable. When I was fourteen I lost everything I had and I didn't want to deal with it at the time. I snapped out of it and cope very well now. All that you need to be concerned with is when our assignments overlap."
"Um, Trowa?" Duo asked. The American pilot rummaged through his med kit and held out a syringe with a common pain killer in it. "Are you sure you don't want any more?" Trowa nodded.
"Don't tell the others. Heero already knows, but Wufei wouldn't work with me anymore. Quatre's such a nice guy that he would worry himself over me and I don't want that," Trowa requested.
"What happened to make you try suicide?" Duo asked in hushed tones.
"I don't want to talk about it," Trowa said with a glare. Duo studied Trowa some more, but seemed willing to stay quiet.
To be continued.