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... .
Lieutenant Colonel Gingetsu returned home to his apartment to find the front door unlocked and standing ajar.
Kazuhiko noticed the open door the same moment that Gingetsu did.
Somebody's been here, Kazuhiko thought grimly. Pressed back against the wall beside him, Gingetsu held out his left hand. A brilliantly glowing sphere formed over that bare palm, the focal point of concentric rings of light which expanded as the sphere lengthened and coalesced into a familiar form. Soundlessly, Gingetsu slid the keen-edged blade of the katana from its sheath.
Kazuhiko slipped a hand into the pocket of his trenchcoat as he followed Gingetsu along the wall towards the open door. His fingers closed over a small, circular modem--a purchase from the Xiaomao. He usually avoided using it, since activation of a modem made electronic 'noise', and that noise tended to attract unwanted attention. ...But in this case it might be necessary. He had a very bad feeling about what waited for them beyond that doorway.
Gingetsu stepped over to the opposite side of the doorframe. Kazuhiko waited for his nod, then pushed the door open with his foot.
The room beyond was in shambles. Furniture and other items were untouched, but the paneling of the walls had been violently ripped open, and tangles of wire were strewn everywhere across the floor. Gingetsu surveyed the area a long moment before stepping cautiously inside, his expression unreadable. Kazuhiko trailed behind, picking up a heavy table lamp and stripping it of its shade, carefully winding the cord around the base. He jerked his head in the direction of the kitchen, and Gingetsu nodded once in permission. As Kazuhiko crossed to the kitchen and areas beyond, the Lt. Colonel glided silently off to the opposite side of the wire-covered floor.
Kazuhiko found nothing wrong in the rooms he checked...no evidence of vandalism, no signs of forced entry on the windows. All expensive items seemed to be in their proper places. There were no signs of anything out of the ordinary. ...Except for one very important detail. Gingetsu's quiet freeloader, the young man who had never left the sanctuary of this place in the four and a half years since Kazuhiko had first met him, appeared to have gone missing.
As he took one last thorough look around the area, Kazuhiko suddenly heard the sound of a sickening crunch from the other room. Instantly wary, he adjusted his grip on his makeshift club and stepped back out of the kitchen.
The noise had come from Lan's bedroom. Kazuhiko paused in the doorway, and saw Gingetsu standing over the desk that housed Lan's workstation, his face livid with fury. The bright blade of his katana had been driven through some electronic instrument that now lay in shards, and had embedded itself halfway to its silver and ivory hilt in the wood of Lan's desk.
Kazuhiko had a pretty good guess what the electronics device must have been. His mouth tightened down into a thin line. "Who?" he asked simply.
Gingetsu snarled a single name in response. "Barus."
"Did everything go according to plan?"
Within the darkened confines of a large van, Barus was smiling. He lifted one hand to touch the microphone in his ear; the source of the woman's voice. His other hand was already occupied...resting on the edge of the hospital gurney strapped down beside him, his fingers caressing the slender bones of a lax wrist. ...Ostensibly monitoring for a heartbeat. That made as good an excuse as any. "Like clockwork," he purred.
"Your movements will be traced," the woman said."It won't take them long to follow." Her tone sharpened slightly. "You didn't have to leave that message behind. It was practically an invitation."
He only chuckled. "Of course it was. And I'll be very disappointed if they don't accept." Barus cast a sidelong glance at the two armored soldiers who rode in the back of the van with him. They were ignoring his one-sided conversation with the air, alert and on-duty against any signs of trouble from outside the speeding vehicle. Within the ranks of the Azurite Special Information Collection, soldiers were severely punished for allowing their attention to wander to things that were not their concern. "Besides," Barus added easily, "You knew my requirements when I first agreed to this little excursion."
"As you knew mine. The boy is unharmed?"
Barus looked down at the occupant of the hospital gurney, his eyes traveling over the entire length of the young man's pleasant and very enticing figure. The only thing to mar his natural and somewhat wild beauty were the loose loops of I.V. tubing across one shoulder, a slow feed of a drug to keep him heavily sedated. Barus lifted one of the pale, limp hands to his lips, savoring the feel of that fresh, smooth skin...the scent of young flesh. "Oh yes," he murmured. "Intact and undamaged, as requested. Though you could always reconsider. I'd so love to take home even one little piece, just for a souvenir."
"No." The voice that responded through the earphone was firm. "That would compromise everything. We need him to be compliant."
Barus gave a negligent shrug. "There's always more than one way to gain compliance." Idly, he brushed the stubble of his chin against the lovely curves of the young man's palm, cupping those graceful fingers against his cheek. He captured a slender fingertip with his mouth and bit down on it playfully a few times with his teeth. Oops. It seemed he was getting too rough again. A drop of blood leeched out from under the nail, rimming the edge with bright crimson. He took the finger into his mouth down to the second knuckle, and thoroughly licked it clean. Almost as an afterthought, he added aloud, "Prosthetics nowadays are really amazing. A replacement hand would be as good as new."
The woman's tone became one of profound disgust. "They told me about you, but I didn't believe them. You're a very, very sick man."
His expression became pleased, as if it were a compliment. "You noticed. Thank you."
"Hmph. You do realize that this job isn't over yet."
"Of course. It would be silly to quit right now." The eyes behind the dark, round lenses sparkled with a sudden, vicious delight. "...After all," he murmured in anticipation, "This little party's only just beginning."
"They made it out of the country already."
"Yes," General Kou answered. She knelt in her usual place within the intricate throne of metal and glass at the center of the large audience chamber. "They made no attempt to hide where they were going or what they had come for. We recovered three stolen vehicles at the Azurite border."
"How long," Gingetsu asked, using every ounce of control not to make the words a demand.
"A day at most. Certainly, this was a well-planned and professional job."
Gingetsu waited. The members of the Parliament never did anything without reason. The General would not have summoned him here just to give him that news.
"Lieutenant Colonel Gingetsu," she said, after a very long pause. "The Secret Colors Battalion has had more dealings with covert Azurite military projects than most of the rest of the army combined. They would seem to be the most logical choice to send on the difficult mission to recover the Three-leaf clover. However...," the General's gaze was direct and unwavering. "There has been debate within the Parliament about the suitability of the officers of the Secret Colors. There is speculation that you, Lt. Colonel, are too closely involved to this situation already."
The General's thin hands folded together over her knees. "The Chairman of the Parliament in particular is troubled by this dilemma. It has not escaped notice that the one item of evidence which was left behind--a holographic image recorder, has already been destroyed. We can't allow such careless actions. There's too much at stake."
Gingetsu kept his face impassive. He was already very well aware of exactly how much was at stake.
"The Azurites aren't working alone. This force was able to get around a security system designed by Clovers, without setting off so much as a whisper that would trigger an alarm. Their technology should not be capable of that, which means they must have had help. This unknown faction, in addition to the formidable power of the Azurite Special Information Collection, means that this mission will be an extremely difficult one.
"There is another consideration as well." Here Kou paused, her old eyes becoming intent and oddly sad. "A Three-leaf cannot be left in the hands of the Azurites under any circumstances. Whoever leads this mission must accept the fact that if it's impossible to recover the Three-leaf clover...if there's no way to get him out alive...."
Gingetsu couldn't allow her to finish that sentence. In a voice that left no room for doubt, he said, "I will see that he gets out alive."
"I sincerely hope that you do." The General's hand moved to the surface of the screen before her. "As you've already guessed, the fact that I've called you here means that the Parliament has decided to send your unit to retrieve the Three-leaf clover. Funds have already been transferred to the correct account. Turn in requisition forms as usual for all the necessary supplies and munitions."
"Ryuu should go as well."
He had surprised her with that statement. He could tell, though she barely showed it. It was unusual for her to be surprised by anything. "Kazuhiko Faye Ryuu is no longer a member of military personnel. He voluntarily retired years ago."
"He has more experience at dealing with Azurite special operations forces than most. He would be a suitable consultant. It wouldn't be the first time the military has hired a civilian to help accomplish a job."
General Kou frowned. "His knowledge of the Azurite military is nearly four years out of date."
"His ties to the Xiaomao and civilian underground intelligence make his expertise ideal. Their networks extend far beyond this country's borders. They may even know who the Azurites are working with."
"Hmh." For a moment, Gingetsu thought she would refuse. Instead, she said, "The decision is yours. I *trust* you will keep Ryuu's antics under control." Kou's eyes crinkled in what might almost have been amusement as she added, "Will there be anything else, Lt. Colonel?"
"Yes," he replied after a moment, "There is." It was difficult to keep his voice even...to hide the faint hint of distaste that threatened to creep into his expression. ...But he had to do this, for Lan.
"I need to talk to A."
"Tell me again why we're here?" Kazuhiko asked, looking around with mistrust at the large, open space of the circular room they walked in to. Thick iron girders and cables supported the high ceiling, and below it, heavy metal beams radiated outward like the spokes of a huge wheel. Gingetsu had stopped just inside the double doors leading into the room. Across from them was a set of stairs that formed a 'Y' shape, which joined opposite sides of a walkway, one that ran the entire circumference of the chamber. Kazuhiko found it difficult to tell for certain, but it didn't look like the Lt. Colonel was any happier about coming here than he was.
"To talk to A." Gingetsu said. It hadn't been a very helpful answer the first time Gingetsu had said it, and it wasn't a very helpful answer now.
"I knew you'd come," a clear voice spoke up from across the room. Kazuhiko tracked it immediately to a boy who had appeared at the top of the stairs, leaning forward with his elbows braced on some cables which served as a railing. Kazuhiko blinked. It was...Lan? This kid was in his mid-teens; but Kazuhiko could swear that he looked identical to the way Lan had looked maybe three and a half years ago. Kazuhiko took a second, longer look. Identical, except that the eyes that studied them were flat and hard, and gazed at Gingetsu in particular with a smoldering resentment.
Gingetsu took a step forward. "You know why we're here," he said.
The boy...A? smirked. "You lost C, didn't you." Absently he rubbed his right index finger, then dropped his hand back to the rail. "You thought you could protect him, but you really couldn't after all. I was right. He should have stayed here all along."
"Where is he?"
That question earned Gingetsu a glare in response. "Why?" A asked with sudden harshness, the anger in his eyes visible even from across the room, "Why should I help you? There's no reason I should."
Gingetsu's voice and face were both empty of expression. "It is the Parliament's request," he said.
"Why should I help the Parliament?" A's voice was bitter. "They let C go Outside. Why should I help any of you?"
Visibly annoyed, Gingetsu didn't bother to answer.
The teenager made a noticeable effort to calm down. His gaze focused on Kazuhiko, and his mercurial temperament changed again, this time to one of apparent curiosity. "And who is he?"
"A friend of Lan's," Gingetsu replied.
A's eyes studied Kazuhiko a moment longer, and then he smiled. Casually, he remarked, "You won't find the person who killed your girlfriend by looking in the places you're looking now."
Kazuhiko hissed in a sharp breath and took a jerky step forward. Instantly, Gingetsu's hand was on his arm, his fingers gouging into the sleeve of his trenchcoat. "Don't," Gingetsu said sharply. "He doesn't know anything."
"He's Lan's brother." Kazuhiko sensed that those words were as much of an explanation as he was going to get. Gingetsu glanced back up at the boy who was smiling coldly at them. "I knew this would be a waste of time."
The Lt. Colonel ignored the word, his hand falling on the handle of the door.
"C's alive," A said in a rush. When he saw that he had gotten both men's attention again, he added more grudgingly, "...But not awake. I don't know where he is. I won't know that information until he does."
Gingetsu frowned. Clearly it hadn't been the answer he'd been hoping for.
Kazuhiko looked at the Lt. Colonel and shook his head. "That won't help us," he said quietly. "The trail is already hours cold. We can't stay here and wait around."
"I can guide you," A said suddenly. "You can go, and I'll stay here and be at the controls. I'll fill in for what would normally be C's job."
"No." Gingetsu's tone left no room for argument. "There are many other military personnel who would be able to do the same thing."
"You're wrong," A smirked. That self-satisfied expression was disturbing on that face--on Lan's face. "I'm the only one who can guide you to C."
"You have no reason to make sure we live."
"C's my brother."
"He abandoned you."
A's eyes flashed murderously for a single moment. Then the rounded planes of his face smoothed and he assumed an air of disinterest. "Have someone else do it, if that's what you want. But if I'm there, I can still help."
Gingetsu looked as if he were going to refuse. Quietly, Kazuhiko intervened. "Hey," he said. "This place we're going to will be heavily guarded. I have no love for the Azurites, but their military is one of the best. It will be trouble, especially if we're dealing with Barus and his gang."
Reluctantly, Gingetsu nodded in agreement. But the expression on his face was not a very happy one.
A looked up abruptly, his dark eyes suddenly distracted and distant. As if speaking only to himself, he said simply, "He's awake."
Lan opened his eyes to a dizzying jumble of green and brown and white. He blinked in confusion, and the blur of color resolved itself into what appeared to be the heavy branches of a large tree arching above him, partially blocking his view of a series of large panes of glass, through which he could see the clouds of an overcast sky.
He levered himself up on one elbow, realizing as he did so that he had been lying on the uncomfortable painted surface of what looked like a park bench. His clothes...he reached up to touch the fabric of the black T-shirt he was wearing. The shirt and jeans, even the beat-up sneakers, were all his own--though he didn't remember putting them on. In fact, he didn't remember much of anything except that he'd been taken from Gingetsu's apartment in the middle of the night....
This place...he seemed to be in the middle of some sort of forested park. A cobblestone path ran beside the bench he was on, edged by colorful flowers. There were trees everywhere. They looked real. Lan sat up, reaching out to touch the rough bark of the nearest one. It felt real. Lan had seen maybe five real trees in his entire life. Here he was surrounded by tens, maybe hundreds.
"You must be C."
Startled, Lan turned his head to find a woman standing alone beneath the trees, where no one had been only moments before. She looked to be about Gingetsu's age, wearing a simple violet sundress with a flowered print, her long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail behind her head. Lan's eyes widened as he looked at her.
"I suppose I should say it's a pleasure to meet you," she added quietly. Was it his imagination, or did those dark-brown eyes look a little sad? She took a few steps forward, her sandaled feet coming to rest on the cobblestone edge of the path. She smiled. Somehow the warmth of the expression wasn't able to chase away the shadow of unhappiness in her eyes.
"Allow me to introduce myself," she said. "My name is Iris."
Return to Archive | next | previous