GW: Around the World in 14 Days...Or Less
Heero Yuy ran a hand through his disheveled brown hair. He looked around the huge, barren desert. A few dust balls were blown by a dry, hot breeze from the south. The sun was burning a hole through the sandy dirt from the early eastern sky. So this was Texas…the starting point of Heero’s newest, and by far weirdest mission.
"Hey look! It’s a cactus!" Duo Maxwell shouted happily as he ran to examine his discovery. "Oooww! It bites!"
"That’d be the needles, Duo, cactuses have needles, weren’t you paying any attention to Noin at all?" chided Trowa Barton, who was looking up into the blue sky at the retreating shuttle with unmistakable annoyance.
Quatre Raberba Winner looked fairly happy. "It’s just a desert, I do deserts just fine, thank you," he smiled into the humid morning air.
Chang Wufei tried desperately not to get his Chinese slippers dirty in the sand. "Someone remind me why we’re here again," he complained grumpily.
"They didn’t tell us, that was the point," Heero answered with an annoyed sigh.
"Then at least tell me what they did tell us again," Wufei pressed, backing a few steps away from a lizard of some sort that was sitting on a rock, eyeing the black haired boy beadily.
"We’re on a mission to get around the world in two weeks or less. We start here in Texas, USA. And we end here no later than two weeks from now." Heero explained as he shooed the lizard away.
"Why? What’s the point?" Duo asked as he pulled a couple of nasty needles out of his fingers.
"We’re supposed to figure it out on the way," Heero rolled his Prussian blue eyes.
"Oh. How can we get anywhere without a vehicle of any sort?"
"I don’t know, Wufei, I don’t know…"
Duo looked around at the barren scenery. "Texas, huh? What’s in Texas?"
"You’re American, you should know," Wufei continued to complain bitterly.
"I am not from America, I’m from L2," Duo said defensively, "I’ve never been here before, and for a reason I think."
"Aww, come on guys, give the place a chance," Quatre took a deep, refreshing breath. "It’s beautiful out here."
"You like deserts, so you’re fine," Duo answered as he glanced around.
"So find a form of transportation, desert boy, while the rest of us sit here and fry like eggs in the sun," Duo blinked some windblown sand out of his cobalt blue eyes.
"Black isn’t going to do you too much good, Duo," Quatre commented gently, "In fact, I’m the only one dressed for this sort of mission."
"Light colors don’t attract the sun," he smiled again, which made Heero throw him a spiteful deathglare.
"Black isn’t a bad color for this sort of thing," Duo replied indignantly.
"Yes it is, sorry Duo."
"No it isn’t. Black is less noticeable."
"In a desert?"
"Well," he squinted into the distance, looking at the vastness around him until the horizon blurred into a yellow and blue cacophony of colors. "Hn, fine, so I’m not dressed for this kind of thing. Can we please move onto the mission at hand now?"
Heero nodded and got out his laptop. After another awkward look around the Texan scenery he sat down on the dirt floor and opened the standard issued file for every mission they got.
Mission status: Call number:9975478A477L76
Subjects’ Codenames: Yuy, Heero; Maxwell, Duo; Barton, Trowa; Winner, Quatre Raberba; Wufei, Chang
Mission Summary: To get around the world in 14 days or less, from a start point and back to that start point so long as subjects encompass the globe in set time. The rest of this mission is deemed classified at this time, it will be updated if and when subjects reach check points.
Heero scrolled down the page to see several destinations around the world listed. Some of them were Tokyo, Honolulu, Beijing, Paris, Bombay, and Auckland. Heero stared at the screen.
Duo blinked. "But we’re the definition of classified…okay, this is getting’ freaky."
"It was freaky to start, Maxwell," Wufei complained bitterly. "What in the name of all justice is our next move supposed to be? We don’t have a vehicle of any sort, and where are we going to find one in Texas?"
Heero started typing again. He pulled up some satellite photos of Texas, some geographical info and some stats such as it’s capital, state bird, state song, etc.
Trowa looked over his shoulder and frowned. "How is info like that going to help us? Try a road map."
Heero scowled but did so, and after he had the map up he retorted. "We don’t know where we are, how’s this going to help us?"
"Try over there," Trowa pointed to the distance, where right before the land met the sky on the horizon there was a bunch of lights.
Duo shielded his eyes from the sun and looked where Trowa was pointing. "Cars…I think they’re reflecting the sunlight…must be a highway."
Quatre nodded. "Then it’s probably better to start over there than sitting here and arguing."
"Who asked you?"
"No one, but I felt the need to be sensible since you all are obviously very grumpy."
There was a unanimous deathglare from Quatre’s companions.
"What? I’m right."
"I think we should start by finding some ZERO to tide him over."
"Heero, that wasn’t nice," Quatre’s aqua eyes wavered.
"It was a joke. I’m still working on this sense of humor thing."
The five intrepid boys stood at the edge of the highway watching cars and trucks and transports speed by. Heero eyed the road critically. "We’re here, so now what?"
"Now we hitch a ride to the nearest military base," Duo folded his arms.
"And how exactly do you propose we do that?" Quatre took a step back as a large 18-wheeler sped past.
Duo blinked at Quatre. "Q-man, honestly now, were you born yesterday? We hitch hike…duh…"
Quatre frowned. "Are you sure that’s safe?"
Heero arched an eyebrow at the Arabian boy. "Are you a pilot or are you not a pilot?"
"Fine," Quatre huffed unhappily. "But you can do this "hitch hiking" thing…I’ll watch, thank you…"
"’Kay," Duo grinned cheerfully. He walked up to the scruffy edge of the road and watched for cars coming and going. Soon a derelict blue pick up truck lumbered lazily down the abandoned road and Duo waved profusely. The truck slowed and eventually stopped. An equally scruffy and disheveled looking man rolled down the window and stared curiously at the five boys.
"Howdy, y’all." The voice was that of a slow, lazy drawl.
"Hi there," Duo responded happily as the other guys set their various degrees of glares on this man. "We’re…um…lost! Yeah, that’s it, lost…we’re lost and we were wondering if we could maybe hitch a ride?"
The man blinked slowly. There was some farming equipment in the back of the truck, as well as some crates. "Sure, but I was heading to the county fair…you have some particular place you wanna go?"
"Are there people at this fair?" Duo questioned.
"Yup…I’d reckon there would be."
"Fine, we’re there!" Duo smiled at the other guys, who looked just a tad less than thrilled.
Duo went around with no hesitation whatsoever and opened the passenger side door. He waved to the man. "You mind? I could get in the back but-"
The man blinked slowly again. "Nope…nope…not at all…don’t think all five of you are gonna fit in the front though…"
The other four guys climbed hurriedly into the back part of the truck, carefully avoiding the rather rusty farming equipment. The man, who identified himself as Stan, then restarted the car and lumbered back onto the highway. Duo watched the speedometer; the old truck apparently couldn’t get over forty mph. The braided teen only shrugged however, in his mind it was better than where they had been. Duo opened the back window to talk to the others.
"But what if this guy is some sort of hardened criminal?" Quatre had been wondering nervously.
Heero sent him a glare. "We’re all hardened criminals, I’m sure we’ll get along just fine. Besides, I’m armed."
"You are?" Wufei asked angrily. "They took away my katana for this mission, what injustice-" he shifted uneasily, the black haired boy was seated next to a tractor engine that looked like it hadn’t been used in decades.
"Did they give you a gun at least?"
"No. They said weapons weren’t needed. Yuy, you baka, how come they like you enough to be hypocrites and give you a weapon?"
Heero smiled. "They didn’t, I got one myself."
This got a blink and laugh from the rest of the guys. Trowa inquired as he lounged on the side, "How are we supposed to find a military base at a county fair?"
"We’re not," Duo assured them. "I’m thinking we’ll just find someone who does know where there’s a base, gotta be one somewhere around here…"
"Military base?" Stan echoed in his drawl. "Heh, I reckon there ain’t no military base for some 500 miles from this desert…"
"Give or take a hundred, yep."
Duo laughed good naturedly, but the others didn’t share the humor. Trowa quickly came up with another idea though. "How about an airport? Is there an airport around here?"
Stan knotted his thick bushy eyebrows. "Well…think you boys just got lucky…there’s a small airport right next to the fairgrounds…"
Duo laughed even harder as the rest of the teenagers breathed a heavy sigh in relief. Wufei rolled his eyes dubiously, "As to what type of aircraft we’ll find there…"
Heero gave him a mild glare. "If it’s got wings and an engine I can fly it, we’ll be fine."
So they rode on in silence. The only time anyone talked for the next hour was when Quatre discovered what was in the crate he’d been sitting on, baby chickens. He cooed and fussed over them for a little while until Heero threatened to throw him out of the truck. The ride lasted about an hour, and as they were traveling over the sandy expanse of the desert Heero thought about what exactly had prompted this unorthodox mission…
"Good morning Heero," Sally Po had greeted the stoic boy with unusual cheerfulness, especially for the serious Preventer that she was. "How are you?"
Heero, as usual, was at a loss for a response. He eyed Sally oddly as she handed him a mound of paperwork. "Is something wrong?"
"No! Of course not! It’s just that I have a rather interesting mission for you-"
"You aren’t going to ask me to spy on another one of Relena’s ‘girls’ night out parties’, are you? I know you weren’t invited again, but that’s no reason to drag me into it-"
Sally blinked awkwardly. "Oh…that…no…you remember how that went the first time…this mission…it’s just…well…"
"Out with it. You know there isn’t a mission I won’t take."
"It involves a lot of exotic travel."
"Well that’s fine, I’m an extremely experienced traveler."
"It also involves an unidentified group of people whose motives are unknown."
"So that means we have a potential enemy here?"
"Only potentially. It’s just an unidentified group as of now. That’s what you’re going to find out," Sally grinned.
Heero raised a critical eyebrow. "So the mission is?"
"Go gather the other four pilots and get on the jet in hangar A."
"And then check your laptop, because that is all I’m authorized to tell you right now."
Heero froze. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me. Now go, the jet leaves in ten minutes."
"You’ve never been ‘unauthorized’ for anything. What’s going on here?"
"It’s a different sort of mission. You’ll be told when the time comes."
"You’ve got to be kidding…"
So Heero had dutifully checked his laptop the minute he had boarded the jet and there was the monotone blurb that said the same thing about the secrecy as Sally. He had checked again when they landed but it wasn’t updated. Something was very wrong about this whole thing. All the alarms that had been packed into his brain and suppressed for quite sometime now went off quietly at the thought. Heero sighed heavily; this was going to be the strangest mission-
"Heero! Hey there, buddy, wanna come back to the wonderful Earth that we’re on now?"
The thoughtful teen turned to Duo. "What?"
"You were zoning out. It’s about time you tell us what you really know about this whole thing."
"Me? I know as much as you."
"Oh come on, you have to know more, everyone tells you. If you’re keeping something from us-"
Quatre interrupted. "Heero would never do that, especially not to us."
"If it were mission orders he would," Trowa commented darkly.
"Barton’s right," Wufei glared at the perfect soldier suspiciously. "Yuy could be in on this whole thing…"
Heero resisted the urge to bring the gun out on Wufei. This was a habit he was working on getting rid of. His words came between gritted teeth. "Believe me, I don’t know any more than-"
The truck rumbled to a sudden stop. Stan adjusted his rearview mirror slowly. "End of the line boys. We’re here."
Five sets of widened curious eyes trained on the site in front of them. There were tents, booths, sounds of livestock and people. There was a rather scruffy stadium set up in the center of the fair. A painted sign said "Welcome to the Lone star State Rodeo and Fair!"
Five sets of eyes blinked as Stan got out of the car, hefted some various things out of the back of his truck and strolled away without so much as a wave. Duo smiled. "A rodeo! Wow, I’ve heard of these things, they’re great!"
"You would have," Wufei rolled his onyx eyes dryly.
"Oh, shut it Wuffie, stop being such a poor sport, this mission is gonna be fun!"
Trowa caught site of a few rodeo clowns. "Reminds me of the circus."
Quatre jumped out of the truck. "Well lets investigate, shall we?" The blond boy took a couple of the baby chickens and put them in his vest pockets. "I’m friends with them now…maybe they’ll come in handy."
Trowa shook his head. "Quatre, you are such a…a…an individualist."
Quatre smiled boyishly. "Thank you Trowa."
They all piled out of the truck and dusted themselves off. The sun was still blazing down on the Texas scenery, and the fair looked pretty empty for the type of event that it was, only a few people were milling around here and there. Quatre quickly found a contest to enter his baby chickens in and was soon gone. Trowa decided to go with him just in case and the guys split up from there.
Heero and Duo wandered absentmindedly to the gate of the rodeo. The airport was visible in between a few random dust balls and past an ominous barbed wire fence. A couple of guys in cowboy hats were staring with wary looks at the oddly dressed teens. Heero shook his head and sighed as Duo rushed on over to say hello. He decided that while his overly enthusiastic friend was doing that there were other more important issues to be taken care of. Heero tried to casually wander over to a booth that was selling clothing.
The perfect soldier gave the hats a look over. How far would he go to be inconspicuous? Normally all that it took, but this, these things people called hats, these were pushing it. He didn’t mind hats usually but this was getting a little too exotic for his liking. Heero remembered Sally’s description of the mission. He was about to make a decision when it was abruptly made for him.
"We’ll take three of these," Duo told the vender, an exuberant smile on his face, "One for me, one for my buddy here and one for that guy named Buck over there," Duo pointed to a man standing over where they had been.
The vender grinned; she was a tall woman in a hat that was on the shelf Heero had been staring at. "You boys know Buck? Wow, that’s great, I’ll give you half off for them!"
Duo returned the smile while Heero blinked and tried desperately not to look oblivious. "How could you have possibly made a friend in the 30 seconds that I’ve been standing here?"
Duo blinked. "Uhhhh…hello…yeah, you’ve been standing here staring at those hats for about ten minutes. It’s called zoning out. Again."
Heero glared sourly as a hat was thrust into his hand. It was a black leather cowboy hat with brown braided trim. Duo put on an identical one and looked absolutely elated about it. He laughed expectantly at his friend until Heero placed the hat on top of his mat of disheveled brown hair very reluctantly. Duo gave him a double thumbs up sign.
"You look great, and blend in perfectly. Man, am I good! Now lets go mingle, shall we? We’ll catch the plane in a minute; don’t glare at me like that. It’s creepy."
So Heero and Duo wandered aimlessly around for the next half hour or so, until they met up with Wufei, who hadn’t moved five feet from the entrance. He looked absolutely horrified and kept looking around like all the locals at the fair were after him.
"Can we just get the plane and get out of here?" Wufei asked quickly as Duo waved at him. "Wh-what are you wearing?" his onyx eyes darted to their hats.
"Camouflage," Duo said happily. "Isn’t it great?"
"Depends on your view of the word ‘good’," Wufei commented dryly. "Are we going to get a plane or what? I’m tired of this place."
Heero nodded. "If you can find the others we’ll get a plane and get out of here."
"Okay then, come on Wu-man, lets go find the rest of the gang," Duo walked off and Wufei followed him very reluctantly. Heero was left alone to stare at the people that were staring at him. He glanced at the planes sitting in the runway beyond the fence. There were a few options; Heero figured they could swipe something small enough not to be too noticed but with a powerful engine so that they could get to their next stop quickly. Heero then wondered to himself where the next stop would be. He was about to pick one when something odd caught his eye.
Someone very familiar was leaning against the fence. It was a tall young man wearing a hat a lot like Heero’s; except that he had a lot of wispy silver blond hair tucked under his. He was wearing a black jacket and dark sunglasses that slid down the bridge of a thin nose revealing icy blue eyes. He glared at Heero and was instantly recognizable. Heero folded his arms in wary recognition of an old foe.
Zechs Merquise sauntered over to Heero and tipped his hat. He smiled, but it was very predatory, also in recognition of his old adversary. The smile made his words sound hollow. "Heero. You can relax, we’re on the same side now."
Heero laughed. "Really? Since when?"
"Since I’m a Preventer too. And since I’m the only one Sally briefed on anything regarding your mission."
"What?" Heero was stung by the words.
"Don’t let it bruise your fragile ego, it was deemed safest if a dead man was the only one with the knowledge, for some reason if you’re dead no one seems to want to track you."
Heero thought about this and decided to determine later what exactly it meant. He glared sourly at Zechs. "What’s going on?"
"Only the balance of the safety of the Earth sphere. I’m your first informant, would you like to hear about it?"
Heero nodded, though he was only really sure of one thing. This mission was the strangest he’d had in a long while. A very long while.