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... .
Chapter 4 (B)
Waiting had never appealed to Kazuhiko very much. It was one of the things he missed least about being in the army. One would have thought, after all his years of military service, and his three additional years of freelance investigative work, that he might have grown used to waiting by now. But he hadn't.
Ironically, his problem at the moment was that he *wasn't* in the army any more. Despite the fact that he was wearing a uniform, a precaution against being hit by friendly fire, he was a civilian now-- which meant that he hadn't been assigned a task to keep him busy. The spacious conference room that had been chosen as their temporary hideout was already being guarded, with a Secret Colors soldier stationed by each of the two doors. The remaining member of the small group, the Vice-Captain who was Gingetsu's second-in-command, was standing at the edge the large oaken table that filled most of the room, carrying on a murmured conversation over a secured com channel.
Gingetsu and the three other soldiers of this little raiding party had already gone on ahead, following a path parallel to the one the group had originally intended to take. The change in plans had come shortly after their entrance into this large and sprawling compound, when they had found the hallways empty, and found all of the rooms silent and dark. Kazuhiko had been in places like this one before. Usually, no matter what hour of the night it was, people would be working late and guards would be patrolling up and down the halls. The grounds outside had been crawling with guards. But the inside of this place was deserted. It felt like a trap to Kazuhiko, and he knew that Gingetsu had reached the same conclusion.
Kazuhiko positioned himself strategically by the doorway leading out into the main hall, and called up a schematic of the corridors outside the room. The network of blue lines covered the left lens of his pince nez. Lan's younger brother had finally come through with the map. He'd also been inactivating most of the automated security systems from afar-- disconnecting alarms, door locks, and traps, and inserting some sort of loop program into the video feed of the security cameras to cover up their movements. Kazuhiko still couldn't figure out why that creepy kid was helping them. He certainly didn't envy the Lieutenant who was their contact back at base, who was being forced to argue with A at every turn.
Kazuhiko moved the map field of view forward a few hundred meters. Several corridors bisected the one just outside the conference room. However, if they followed the hallway straight, it eventually would lead them to their goal: the large glass dome that formed the heart of this complex. The gates into the glass dome were part of four cylindrical towers, each maybe ten stories tall. Kazuhiko wondered why they didn't bypass the gates altogether. A high-energy laser could've easily carved through the outer wall of the dome, and spared them all the trouble of running around this maze of offices and labs and corridors. But, since they weren't, Kazuhiko figured there must be a reason. Gingetsu didn't take unnecessary risks.
The Vice-Captain ended transmission on her com, and motioned to the soldier guarding the far door. Gingetsu's group must be nearly at their destination. It was finally time for them to leave.
The corridor outside the conference room was just as dark and silent as before. The small group moved carefully, spread out at intervals of about two meters. Their progress was slow since they had to check each empty room before moving past. As they crossed another four-way intersection, Kazuhiko slowed. "Vice-Captain," he said, quietly enough that the sound carried only to the woman directly in front of him.
"I see it," she murmured back. The shadows in the hallway before them had started to resolve into boxy shapes--filing cabinets and office furniture that had been moved out of the rooms to stand against the walls. Kazuhiko once again consulted the map. This wasn't good. They had been anticipating an ambush, but not here. Gingetsu's group would already have passed beyond this section of corridor, moving on to where it widened and met the entrance to the ten-story tower ahead.
The Vice-Captain spoke a few words into her communicator, and the Secret Colors soldiers flanking them stopped where they were. She nodded at Kazuhiko's gloved right hand. "Create a shield until we can get under better cover."
Kazuhiko nodded and pulled off his glove, summoning the large, feathered shield. As he stepped forward to move to the front of the group, the hallway in front of them abruptly lit up in a deadly volley of light. The Vice-Captain fell back in time to get under cover of the shield, and the soldier in the rear dove forward and managed to escape with just a shoulder wound. But the soldier in front of them didn't make it. "Move forward to those cabinets *now*!" the Vice-Captain hissed, swinging her gun out beyond the edge of Kazuhiko's shield and sending back covering fire as they ran. From the yells of pain and the sudden decrease in the barrage of laser light, she hit at least two of them. It gave them enough of a respite to make it to the nearest stack of shelving. Kazuhiko let the shield dissolve and used the modem to summon a gun.
"Vice-Cap...." the warning was cut off as the soldier in back of them took a laser beam from behind. He was hit twice more as the Vice-Captain caught him. Two enemy soldiers had come in behind them, and were now occupying the intersection they had just passed.
"Don't look," the Vice-Captain said to Kazuhiko. He barely had time to close his eyes before a flash grenade lit up the inside of his eyelids with searing red light. The moment the light died, the Vice-Captain surged around the first row of filing cabinets, gun blazing. Kazuhiko took the other direction, dodging laser bolts from the blinded soldiers as the modem on his hand morphed into its sword shape. The two soldiers standing in the corridor intersection weren't able to continue firing for very long.
Kazuhiko quickly re-joined the Vice-Captain amid the laser fire of the obstacle course in the hallway. "Where's Gingetsu?" he asked.
They'd put down four more enemy soldiers. Kazuhiko thought there might be three left. Another one fell as the Vice-Captain answered, "Not responding."
"Damn." The air in the hallway had gone up a few degrees from all of the energy blasts. Kazuhiko hoped the sprinkler system wasn't about to kick in. "They seem to be falling back."
"If they decide to leave, let them go. Whoever's in charge already knows that we're here."
Kazuhiko grimaced. "If they don't leave, we'll be in trouble. It won't take very long for their reinforcements to arrive."
"You're right." The Vice-Captain glanced at the top edge of the filing cabinet she was crouched behind. "Time to go up." At her count, she and Kazuhiko vaulted onto the top of the cabinet and leaped across to the next one. The advantage of height and the element of surprise allowed them to take out the last of the enemy soldiers.
Quickly, the Vice-Captain recorded coordinates so that the Wizards or A would know where to collect the fallen bodies of the Secret Colors officers. Kazuhiko moved with her, but paused long enough to inspect one of the lifeless enemy soldiers. None of the soldiers here were wearing the heavy armor of the Azurites he had been expecting to see. Instead they were wearing much lighter gear, blue uniforms with an emblem on the front--a purple flower on a field of green. Kazuhiko was disturbed rather than reassured. If their enemy wasn't the government, or the Azurites, who else was involved?
As he rose to his feet again, he heard a noise from another one of the fallen. Kazuhiko turned in time to see a soldier who had been lying on the ground only a few moments ago straightening up with his left hand against the wall for support. His right hand was raising the muzzle of a particularly nasty-looking energy pistol, centering it on Kazuhiko. Instantly Kazuhiko activated the modem on the back of his hand, raising it as light coalesced over it as if in slow- motion...realizing with a sinking heart that he wouldn't be able to create a weapon before the other man's finger tightened around the trigger of the gun....
The man's shadow shifted behind him. There was a flash of light on metal and then the painstakingly slow flare of the gun. Kazuhiko flinched as the band of intense heat blazed past his shoulder, slamming into the wall behind him with an echoing crackle of thunderous energy. A wash of disturbed air left in its trail brushed across his face like a sun-warmed breeze.
A muffled screech and the clatter of metal jarred from nerveless fingers caused time to resume its normal course. The enemy soldier stared in disbelief at the meter's length of steel pinning his wrist to the wall. His gaze tracked the length of the blade, to the hand that held the hilt, and then to the owner of that hand. Gingetsu stared back at him, his expression impassive. The enemy soldier's features contorted with pain and fury, and he reached with his left hand to his waist, drawing a second gun for a point-blank shot at the Lieutenant Colonel.
A bolt from Kazuhiko's gun caught him in the chest a single heartbeat after the backswing of Gingetsu's sword engraved a permanent line across the man's throat. The soldier toppled backwards to the ground, very, very dead.
"Took you long enough to get here," Kazuhiko groused.
Gingetsu frowned. "We were delayed."
Kazuhiko noted that his group now numbered only three, and refrained from comment.
Gingetsu looked over at the Vice-Captain. "The entrance ahead has been sealed off. We'll take the second door in to the tower."
They re-traced part of the path that Gingetsu's group had followed. Kazuhiko saw the door they had originally been going to use. It had been completely blocked off with sheet metal and welded iron girders. From the look of things, the barricade had been constructed quite recently. With their current equipment, it would be impossible to try and go through. Farther down the hall there was another set of doors, and beyond that, another cluttered hallway that was scarred with laser-fire and littered with bodies. At a quick glance, there looked to be about fifteen soldiers. A few were dressed in the heavy battle armor of the Azurite military, but most wore the uniform that Kazuhiko had noticed earlier. Four or five of the dead soldiers didn't appear to have been killed by guns.
They didn't pause there, but continued on, following a curving hallway that went around the outer wall of the central glass dome. It wasn't very long before they arrived at the second entrance. Another communication with home base, and another brief battle of wills with Lan's uncooperative brother, and the electronic lock on the door's keypad blinked to green, the door sliding open.
A large semi-circular room lay beyond. The room had no windows, just a single door in the wall across from them. From the size of the room, it appeared to take up half of the bottom floor of the tower. It also seemed to be empty, except for a couple of unmarked boxes and some desks scattered with no apparent purpose around the white tile floor. Kazuhiko frowned. He was beginning to develop an intense distrust of office furniture.
The Vice-Captain and one of the Lieutenants stationed themselves in the hall, guarding in both directions. The other Lieutenant dove into the semicircular room as Gingetsu and Kazuhiko covered him from the doorway, and he skidded safely to a halt behind one of the desks. Carefully he checked behind all three of the desks in the room, without seeing any evidence of hidden enemy soldiers.
"What about the boxes," Kazuhiko murmured to Gingetsu. "Explosives?"
"No," Gingetsu replied. Kazuhiko knew from past experience that Gingetsu had some method of detecting electronic explosive devices, so he didn't question the answer.
When the Lieutenant carefully checked the boxes, he found that they contained nothing but papers. Gingetsu and Kazuhiko stepped into the room, and the Vice-Captain and the remaining Secret Colors officer took up their places by the door. The Lieutenant in the room moved across to the far door with its blinking keypad lock.
Kazuhiko moved forward slowly, tracing his left hand along the wall as he went. When he was about halfway across the room, he stopped, and turned towards the painted white surface to look at it more closely. There was something wrong with the walls....
The floor suddenly shuddered and rocked beneath them. Kazuhiko had to fight to keep his balance to avoid being thrown sprawling on the tile. He looked over at the doorway where the Vice-Captain was standing, then let out a curse as he saw the hallway beyond it rising quickly, the opening replaced by a wall of grey cement. "The room is going down...."
"Move!" Gingetsu commanded. All three of them sprinted for that closing gap, but none of them made it in time. The Vice-Captain's worried face disappeared as the gap that had been the open doorway became replaced by row after row of cinder block. They were descending at a rate of maybe half a meter per second. From somewhere far below, Kazuhiko could hear the faint whirring of heavy machinery.
Because Kazuhiko was listening, he caught a small sound that instantly made him turn away from the doorway to look across the room. Tiny slits were opening in the far wall, and he glimpsed a flash of light off something that lay just beyond. On instinct he lunged, his shoulder striking Gingetsu squarely in the chest, causing them both to tumble to the floor behind one of the metal desks.
Several energy beams criss-crossed the space they had occupied. The hapless Secret Colors soldier who had been left standing by the area where the door had been fell to the ground in silence, killed instantly. The wall behind him disintegrated like tissue paper under the force of the blasts, revealing that it was made of nothing more than painted fiberboard.
"Rats," a familiar voice called out cheerfully. "I missed."
"Barus," Kazuhiko muttered through clenched teeth. "I just knew we were going to run into that guy sooner or later." He shifted to get his knees under him, and bit back an exclamation of pain as fire lanced up his right arm.
Gingetsu noticed immediately. "You were hit?"
Kazuhiko shook his head. "Not really." He fumbled at the sleeve of his jacket. There was a blackened line burned across the sleeve just above the wrist. He rolled back the fabric to reveal an equally blackened line burned deeply into the flesh of his forearm. He flexed his fingers. Fortunately, everything was still functional. It made him a little lightheaded with relief. "If one is going to get shot, I suppose a fake arm is the best place. Ow. Now to shut off the damned pain sensors in this thing."
"Hello again, Prince," the voice spoke again, slightly muffled by the wall which formed the flat portion of this semicircular room. Apparently whatever was on the other side was part of this moving platform, too. Kazuhiko bet that the paneling and the door over there were both heavily reinforced from the other side. "It's been a while. Why don't you come out where I can see you, and we'll have a nice little chat."
Kazuhiko hissed in an annoyed breath. "Don't call me by that name, Barus."
Barus only chuckled. "That's what I like about you, Prince. You're as energetic and predictable as always. But you realize that you don't stand a chance here. Give up now, and I'll go easy on you. I may even let your annoying friend live, too."
From across the room, there came the sound of a long-suffering sigh. "I was really hoping to play 'Tag' with you today, instead of 'Hide and Seek'. But, if this is the way you want it...."
The air suddenly filled with laser light, the beams slamming into the meager cover of the desk. Kazuhiko braced his back against it as the piece of furniture rocked under the force of all that energy. It wouldn't take those beams very long to chew their way through the metal. Kazuhiko activated the modem on the back of his hand to form a feathered shield between the two of them and the surface of the desk. Gingetsu looked the wide shield up and down, then glanced over at him. "Could that get us over to the locked door?"
Kazuhiko risked a look at the far door as colored beams of light ricocheted all around them. "In this heavy fire? Maybe. Where do we go once we get there?" He felt a shudder run along his arm as a bolt came through the desk and hit the surface of the shield. "I suppose it's either that or stay here...and this furniture won't last very much longer. Wait...." His mind churned rapidly. The fake walls of the room were blocked by real walls of cement, so there was no way out to the side. Kazuhiko glanced overhead, at a place where the ceiling had already been sheared away by laser fire. Up was not an option either. The true ceiling was over a hundred meters above them, a circular roof that was bisected by several lines like wedges cut into a large pie.
Gingetsu wedged the tip of his sword into the seam between two of the tiles. The floor beneath the ceramic square he pried up was made of steel.
"...The moving platform itself. So much for that idea."
Gingetsu said nothing. As Kazuhiko looked on, he focused on the polished silver length of the blade. The sword *shimmered*, becoming more 'real'. It was as if it had suddenly developed its own aura, its own presence. From his position on one knee on the floor, Gingetsu slashed the blade downward, driving its edge deep into the metal of the floor, a fountain of sparks boiling up from the point of contact. Twice more, Gingetsu swung the blade down in vertical cuts...and on the third cut, a triangular piece of steel a meter long on each side and at least five centimeters thick fell away and tumbled into the darkness below.
Kazuhiko drew a deep breath, feeling faintly stunned. He'd never seen *that* little trick before. He'd always thought it was impressive that the delicate-looking blade could pierce through two layers of heavily reinforced metal armor as if it were rice paper.
Gingetsu took a small flashlight from the pocket of his jacket. The intense beam of light shone briefly on the cylindrical walls of the silo, then lanced downward into the dark. The light was diffused too much by the distance to be able to see the bottom. After a moment, Gingetsu let the flashlight drop.
It was a very, very long way down.
Kazuhiko shifted his position. With the Azurite's lasers still raining death on them, they couldn't stay. But things didn't look good for their survival if they jumped. Kazuhiko glanced over at the Lieutenant Colonel and asked casually, "You wouldn't happen to be able to sprout wings and fly, would you?"
Gingetsu *looked* at him.
Kazuhiko shrugged defensively. "It'd be awfully convenient right now if you could."
More and more of those laser bolts were hitting the surface of the shield, and Kazuhiko wasn't sure how long even *that* would hold up. As he shifted to brace it more solidly against the energy impacts, he saw Gingetsu reach into another pocket of his coat, removing a long steel spool wound with what looked like black thread. Microfillament wire. "You saw the access door?" Gingetsu asked.
Kazuhiko nodded. About fifty meters down...twenty-five meters by now, there had been a metal door hinged to swing inward from the open space. A ladder ran along the wall beside it. They could make it down there, but their timing would have to be pretty good to get through the door before the platform caught up with them. Somehow Kazuhiko doubted that there was enough clearance between the wall and the moving platform to fit a full-grown man, and that was a messy way to die.
Gingetsu was already reaching down through the large, triangular hole in the floor, securing the end of the wire to the thick metal supports of the platform. The wire was very thin, and in time the strand would cut through the metal itself--but it should hold there long enough for the few seconds they needed to reach the door. Kazuhiko had to remind himself that the stuff could support the weight of a full-grown elephant if it had to, it ought to be able to support his weight without any problem at all. Gingetsu borrowed another flashlight and a second spool of wire from Kazuhiko's field supplies, and studied the interconnecting supports below the floor for a moment or two before lowering himself down and underneath. Kazuhiko swung his legs over the edge of the opening, still holding the shield, and hoping that the force of the beams wouldn't knock him through before it was time. The hand not forming the shield reached down to take one of the secured spools of wire that Gingetsu passed him.
"Count five seconds," he heard Gingetsu say from below. He closed his eyes, bracing himself, counting them in his head. When he reached one, he deactivated the shield as he simultaneously dropped through the hole in the floor.
It probably wasn't very pretty or graceful, but it was effective. Tethered by the arc of the wire Kazuhiko swung just wide of the ladder, close enough to grab onto it and pull himself up. Gingetsu already had the door open, so Kazuhiko climbed the few meters up to it and pulled himself into the stairwell beyond. They arrived safely with several seconds to spare. As the platform with its phony walls dropped past them, they could hear an angry shout, and a few last blasts of laser rifles.
"It sounds like they figured it out," Kazuhiko remarked. He looked around at the landing they were on. Below it was a set of stairs leading down. Let's hope it doesn't go to the same place those guys are going.
The stairs went down for maybe five more stories, terminating in an unlocked door with a single window in it. The metal-lined hallway beyond was empty. Here even Gingetsu paused. "We don't have schematics for this."
Kazuhiko snorted. "Well, that might be a good thing. The ones we've been given so far doesn't seem to have been very accurate." He looked around. "I doubt that a radio signal would be strong enough to contact anyone on the outside. We could probably find some networked computers around, though. We can override security ourselves from there."
Gingetsu nodded curtly, and together they slipped out into the hall. They went maybe ten steps before Gingetsu motioned for Kazuhiko to halt outside a closed doorway. Rather than opening the door, he pressed on the metal paneling right beside it. A metal plate pushed in and slid up, revealing the monitor of a video intercom.
"This is part of the main system?" Kazuhiko asked, keeping a careful watch in both directions of the empty hallway as Gingetsu's fingers moved over the keypad.
"Yes." Gingetsu took out the coil of wire he'd used before when he'd contacted the Lieutenant back at base, and plugged one end of the connector into his visor. The other end was a match for a socket next to the keypad, and Gingetsu uncoiled the wire a bit further and moved to plug it in.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," said a voice from the intercom speakers.
The blue screen of the monitor burst into static. It lasted only a moment before the static was replaced by a two-dimensional image--a video picture of a young man. Kazuhiko recognized him immediately. The image was an exact copy of Lan. Or rather, a past copy, a duplicate of him as he had been in his mid-teens. The boy smiled, and Kazuhiko knew that there was no way anyone who had met Lan would ever confuse him with his younger brother. Lan's eyes had never looked so cold.
"Did I surprise you?" A said pleasantly.
"Where's the Lieutenant," Gingetsu asked him.
"He's dead," the boy pronounced. As if to prove his point, he wiped a spatter of blood from his cheek as casually as if it were rainwater. "I told him what would happen if he got in my way."
Gingetsu had gone utterly still. Kazuhiko's hand dropped to Gingetsu's sword arm. "Let's go," he said quietly.
"He won't," A stated with confidence, his gaze focusing fully on Gingetsu as his dark eyes lit with an unpleasant glow, "because he knows. He knows that he can't fight me." A smiled, and his voice became laden with vicious satisfaction. "From now on, you'll do exactly as I say. Because there's no one left to help you. And I'm the only chance you have of finding C."
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