Disclaimer: The characters of Clover are property of CLAMP and their associates. All other characters in this 'fic are invented by me. This fanfic story is posted for non-commercial entertainment purposes only.Notes: This 'fic happens about two and a half years after the end of Clover 2, and therefore contains lots of spoilers. It's a sequel to 'Icosahedron', although it's not necessary to have read that 'fic to figure out what's going in this one. The story is currently incomplete, but will eventually have six parts. For more information about the content presented in Part One and later parts, please consult the posted story warnings. Sincere appreciation goes out to Kristin O. for beta-reading comments.
Summary: As Lan's five years of freedom draw to a close, the Parliament meets to decide on his future. But others who know of the Clover Project may have designs on his future as well... .
The symbol was a simple one, a design in green of a stem with multiple leaves.
General Kou knelt in the silence and the darkness of the room where the Parliament normally met. The room was empty today, the Parliament was not in session. Alone in the quiet, Kou was free to call up this single image, and to allow the sadness she felt upon seeing it to touch her time-worn features. The outline of the emblem nearly filled the borders of the circular screen in front of her. At this magnification, the barcode marking inscribed within the symbol was easy to see... the serial number of the person who wore it.
"A seal of the Clover-leaf project," a voice spoke from behind her. She had not heard Sage Shuu enter the room, but it didn't surprise her to realize that the Chairman of the Parliament had followed her here. "... The mark of the Four-leaf clover."
Kou didnít reply, studying the clover leaf a few more long moments before causing the picture to go dark. Shuu came forward and knelt in his usual place, looking down into his own screenís mirrored surface. Light played along the deep-etched planes of his face as the monitor came to life. "We wonít be able to find her again," he said.
Kou smiled faintly. "No one can find a Four-leaf that doesnít wish to be found. Not even another Four-leaf clover could do that."
The Chairman did not look up from his screen. To Kouís mild surprise, he let the observation pass without comment. "She came back once, to help one of the Three-leafs," he said. "She will come back again."
She will come back, because she is in love. General Kou didnít say the words out loud. She didnít need to. That simple fact was what the other members of the Parliament most feared.
"... And the Three-leaf," he continued. The light on his face flickered as the picture on the screen before him changed. "We will have to come to a decision about what to do with him soon."
"The Three-leaf has given us no trouble," Kou spoke quietly. "It has been almost five years since he left the research institute to go outside. In all that time, he has done nothing to go against the will of the Parliament."
Sage Shuu was unmoved by her mild protest. "The control we put on him is no longer effective. For that reason alone, something will need to be done."
General Kou bowed her head. It was dangerous, very dangerous, for a Clover to exist without control. She knew that better than anyone. She had been with the Clover-leaf project since its inception. The project was wider-reaching and had more complex roots than most people realized. Few knew about the existence of Clovers. Fewer still knew *why* they existed at all. "You will call a meeting of the Parliament?" she asked.
"It is time." He rose and turned to go, then stopped. "The Clover project has not been nearly as successful as its supporters had initially hoped. Of all the Clovers, one is missing, and two are dead." He cast a significant gaze in her direction, his eyes focused intently on her face. "Perhaps it is finally time to terminate it altogether."
"That will require a vote by the Parliament," Kou said coolly. She knew it wasnít a serious threat. He was only testing her. Each member of Parliament was all too well aware that taking care to the three remaining Clovers within their reach would not be enough to bring the project to an end.
"Indeed." His heavy gaze rested on her a moment longer. "The Parliament acts for the welfare of the country. You should remember that the happiness of a handful of people is nothing compared to that."
She watched him silently as he left.
"Happiness," Kou whispered to the empty room, long after the echo of his footsteps had faded away. "Finding it is easy. But how long can a person make it last?"
Far away from the council room and the discussions and intrigues of the Parliament, a young woman with white-blond hair stood on a balcony, eyes closed as she savored the warm summer breeze. Brightly colored birds with mechanical wings perched on the rail of the balcony on either side of her. They were her constant companions wherever she went.
For the moment, however, she ignored their presence here, shutting out even the pleasant feel of the wind, as she drew in her power and concentrated, sending her thoughts out over the distance... across the elusive electronic network that was called the Minor Waves. If she wanted to, she could speak through any telephone connection or radio in the world. But today her goal was a little trickier than that... because the person she wanted to speak to had to be able to answer her in the same way.
As a Three-leaf, Lan had only limited access to the Minor Waves. He couldnít find her, but he could talk to her once she found him. She searched for him now, out across the distance that meant nothing to her power. It helped that she already knew exactly where to look.
He was startled, she could feel that when he first heard her voice... saw his eyes widen in the multi-colored light cast onto his face by the computer screen. He looked up, casting his thought out in answer. His contact was weak, tenuous in this place he was trying to access without the aid of any electronic device. She Ďcaughtí his return query, her thought closing over it like the handclasp of an old friend.
--|Lan,|-- she said, her voice serious and somber. --|You have to leave that place. Itís becoming very dangerous for you to stay.|--
--|No,|-- he replied after a long moment of hesitation. Then, as if offering an explaination, he added, --|I canít.|--
--|You have to,|-- Suu insisted. --|The Parliament knows. Theyíre deciding what to do about it now.|--
The statement did not surprise him. She felt his resignation, heard it in his voice. --|They were lenient to let it go this long.|-- It had been a little over two years since Suu had first visited him in the hospital to cure him of the virus that had nearly taken his life. Two years. Since that time, two years was all that Lan had aged. Two years and not forty.
--|Gingetsu will not leave,|-- he said. --|Kazuhiko still looks for Oruhaís killer. Gingetsu suspects those inquiries may bring repercussions from the Parliament, and wonít abandon him.|-- His voice took on a note of unbreakable resolve. --|I will not leave without Gingetsu.|--
--|They may kill you if you stay,|-- she said.
--|They may kill me if I leave. They would not hesitate to kill other people too.|-- There was a flicker in his concentration. --|Gingetsu is coming home.|-- The Lt. Colonel didnít know about these conversations on the Minor Waves, and there was always a chance that he, as a Two-leaf, might be able to sense them if he was in very close proximity. --|I have to go.|--
--|Be careful!|-- she called after him as he slipped out of contact. But he was already gone. Suu opened her eyes to see the bird perched by her hand regarding her with curiosity. Itís outline blurred as she blinked to clear tearing eyes. "I tried to warn you," she whispered. "I just donít want anyone to be hurt."
Lan woke up abruptly in the darkness of his room, startled from his sleep by some dream that he couldnít remember now. The red letters of the digital clock by his bedside indicated a time of 03:36. He lay very still for long moments, straining to hear any noise above the rapid beating of his own heart. It was silent. Slowly, he pushed back the covers, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and flinching slightly as his bare feet hit the cold floor. He didnít turn on the light, but instead crossed quietly to the door, pajama bottoms whispering slightly as he walked.
Except perhaps for a group of five wizards... .
... But, if they had somehow found out about his conversations with Suu... .
All connections... alarms and security monitors seemed to be in place. Lan relaxed marginally.
Somebody turned on the room lights.
It took a moment for Lanís eyes to adjust to the sudden brightness. When they did, Lan saw four people, armed and armored, standing inside the main room. All were turned towards him and aiming guns. Not energy rifles, but old-fashioned projectile weapons. Very effective. A Clover had no control over ordinary bullets. Lan studied them with a sinking heart. It seemed that someone had decided to take away his small bit of freedom after all.
"Come with us," the man who happened to be nearest him said. He gestured with his gun towards the door.
Lan looked at him, the expression on his face becoming one of intense unhappiness. "Please," he said, his voice low and earnest, "Donít make me hurt you."
The man hesitated for a moment. Perhaps he appreciated the irony of the words... that a skinny young man with no weapons and clad only in pajama bottoms should be standing in the doorway, making such a statement. Then again, if the Parliament had sent them, they should be well aware of a Cloverís powers.
"You have no choice," the man said. "Youíre coming with us."
"I wonít go back. Even if you keep me apart from A, I wonít go back to that place."
The man took a determined step forward. "Youíll go where we tell you to."
"No." They were standing much too close to the walls. All four of them were. Two of them heard the noise behind them in time to turn, to see the wires carrying live current shoot out to whip around and entangle them. Their metal armor was no protection from a high voltage electrical surge. All four of the men dropped to the ground, convulsing. Within a few moments, they had stopped moving entirely.
Lan slowly walked over to the one who had spoken to him. Standing above him, he looked down at the soldier in sorrow.
"I didnít want to hurt you. You shouldnít have tried to make me go."
There had to be more soldiers than this. Lan wouldnít be able to leave the apartment by simply walking out the front door. He glanced back over his shoulder into his room. The computerÖ Lan bit his lip. If the Wizards of Parliament were assembled, they would be able to block a Transfer, if he attempted one. To go directly against them would be impossible.
Still, what A had said to him at their last meeting had been true. Lan would rather die than be locked back up in the research institute again. Most wild birds didnít live long in cages. If they took him back to that place and forced him to live imprisoned and isolated, he knew that he wouldn't survive.
The computer lines were his best hope. He had to try that first. If fewer than five wizards had assembled, there was a chance he could slip out past them without even alerting them to his presence. Swiftly, Lan went back into his room, leaving the lights off and staying carefully away from the large windows. The computer workstation hummed to life at his command. He closed his eyes as it powered up, concentrating as the hardware he required for personal transfer crystallized beneath his palms.
The wizards didnít interfere with the equipment download. Lan took it as a positive sign. Perhaps heíd be able to win free after all.
He was wrong.
Without warning, a hand snaked over his left shoulder, grabbing his chin firmly and yanking him wildly off balance against the bony support of a broad shoulder. Lanís hands flew up to claw at the arm, even as he felt a cold sting at the base of his neck, a sharp pain that was rapidly followed by spreading numbness. Some kind of strong narcotic surged through his system with alarming speed. His vision tilted and started to turn hazy. It was impossible to fight the drug,Öor the arms that wrapped around him like bands of iron, refusing to let go. Lan felt himself sagging helplessly back in his assailantís unrelenting grip.
"Ginge... tsu... ," he whispered.
A warm breath of air fanned across his cheek. "He canít hear you," a manís voice said pleasantly. The hands around him loosened, and the black and white tile of the floor came up underneath him and struck with jarring force. For a moment, Lan thought he saw bright, dancing lights... the beautiful lights of the city at night. Then they danced away, and he saw nothing at all.
A shadow passed over the body crumpled untidily on the floor, as an older man stepped over him to the desk. With his right hand, he reached into his long, almost medical-style coat and removed a small, silver cube about the size of his palm. He set it down on the varnished wood with a soft, metallic click. His left hand reached up to touch the button of a microphone set into his ear.
"Are you recording?" he asked to the air.
"Yes." It was a woman that replied, her voice coming clearly over the electronics in the earpiece. "Good."
The man walked back over to where Lan lay, prodding one bare shoulder with the toe of his boot until the tattoo that was marked there came fully into the light. Three-leaf clover. The man chuckled unpleasantly and dropped down onto one knee, removing his glove and brushing his fingertips across the smooth surface of unnaturally dyed skin. ... Across the bar-code marking of the Clover-leaf project.
The man placed a hand on the back of Lanís neck and rolled him over against his knee. "Not quite the same," he murmured, trailing his fingers across the side of Lanís face and along the line of his chin, tilting back his head. "Not quite so cute." The pad of one thumb traced along the curve of his captiveís lower lip. The narrow eyes behind the small dark lenses perched on the manís nose were predatorily intent. "... And yet a Prince, nonetheless."
He leaned forward over the unconscious young man, his eyes alight with sudden, malicious purpose. His tongue lolled forward even as his mouth closed over Lanís. It was so easy to turn his captiveís head to exactly the right angle, to stroke open the closed line of the jaw. The soft, still lips offered him no resistance. He slipped past them, going deep and slow to fully explore the contours of the mouth beneath his own. Ah yes, that was very nice. Even nicer than he had expected it to be. It was no wonder that the annoying Lieutenant Colonel of the Secret Colors Battalion seemed so fixated on this particular young man. After a good, long time, the soldier came up for a moment to catch his breath. He traced a hand lingeringly along Lanís cheek and down the graceful line of his throat before kissing him a second time... allowing his tongue to dip down several times between their parted lips, in full view of the little silver box on the table. The young man had such a sweet mouth. Really it seemed a shame to stop there... .
... But there would be plenty of time to play later. The man gave the tranquil lips one last, lingering taste before drawing back and wiping his own mouth with an expression of complete and utter satisfaction. His gaze went once again to the silver holographic recorder, and he gave a lazy grin.
"Your precious Three-leaf is now mine," Barus said aloud.
"... Come and get him, if you can."
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