If one were to take the time to make simple observations about the differences between living on a colony and living on Earth, one would first be required to specify as to which location on Earth one would use to make such a comparison. Typically, one would also be required to go as far as to pick a specific season, as well; while most colonies had fully functional artificial climate and precipitation controls, leaving room for no question when the news declared rain or snow, Earth’s weather system was a lot more volatile and unpredictable.
Weather, in fact, was a good place to start.
Excepting colonies that were unfinished or in the poorest of condition, the weather on each individual colony was accurate to what one would expect on Earth. When the news claimed it would rain, it rained. When the news said to prepare for snow, it snowed. There were never any lasting problems with the weather on a colony, mostly because such things were carefully regulated. Rain would never fall more than the standard six inches, and snowfall was kept at a standard two inches. On Earth, things were vastly different. Man, despite all technological advances, had yet to really find a way to harness and control Earth’s weather system. This left room for a lot of capriciousness when it came to meteorological conditions. There were flash floods, hurricanes, tornados, typhoons, droughts, and snowstorms that typically plagued certain parts of the planet’s surface. These were things true-born colonists could only read about and never experience unless they actually visited Earth; even then, it took very special circumstances for them to actually experience such things.
Another thing one could consider while comparing the living conditions of a colony to Earth was landscape. On a colony, the ground continued forward until it eventually curved, but it didn’t stop there. One’s eyes would follow the landscape further and further up until finally, through the simulated hologram of the sky, one could see the landscape turn inward until it completely circled above; and then one’s eyes would finally trace the landscape’s curve once more, falling downward until finally settling right-side up again.
"It sounds like a hamster habitat."
"You smell like a hamster habitat. Can I finish?"
Draco Black spread his arms out, hands splayed as a peace offering of good-will. The smirk on his devilishly handsome face belayed that gesture. "Please, do go on, hamster boy."
Duo Maxwell decided that, by the time the sun rose, he was going to throw the smarmy little prick into the pool. "Thank you. Growing up on Earth all of your life, you wouldn’t really be able to understand the sheer magnitude of the difference in landscape. Ours curves inwardly, floating around the Earth in space. Yours is much bigger and curves outwardly; humans live on the surface here, but on the colonies? We live in the core. Understand me so far?"
"Vaguely. What keeps colonists from falling off the upside down part? I mean, it sounds wonky to me."
"It would," Trowa Barton said, stroking the head of a particularly feisty kitten they’d come to call Crookshank’s Spawn ("Spawn" for short). "The wizarding world doesn’t concern itself with muggle science much."
"All livable colonies have artificial gravity. Gravity is the force that attracts a body towards the center of the earth or towards any other physical body having mass," Heero Yuy said knowingly, hardly taking the time to look up from the book that lay open in his lap.
Draco ground his teeth together in a (these days) very rare urge to say something out of line. He hated being tactful even to his own mother, and he still smarted-off to her on almost every occasion. To be fair, she gave as good as she got; his mother was whom he’d gotten his attitude from. Even when he was as old as four, he remembered that his mother’s main weapon of defense was always scathing sarcasm, and she did not spare her son from this. Oh, she was caring and loving and devoted to Draco. She had admitted confidently on any occasion that she would sacrifice not only her status and wealth, but also her very life and soul to keep her son unharmed. Her maternal love for him was that fierce. Draco could have no better mother, in his opinion; but she didn’t not coddle him in the least. When it came to her attitude, a young child of four was fair game.
He mentally shook himself of thoughts of his mother, coming back to the source of his irritation for having the urge to say something he may have later regretted because, well, it was Heero Yuy he’d be smarting off to, and sometimes Heero actually scared him that much in presence alone. He hated the Japanese boy’s habit of treating him like an incompetent ninny when it came to muggle science. Nothing spectacular like really complex physics and astrophysics, but he knew about biology and basic physics. He had no idea where Heero and, on a lesser degree, his other four muggle-raised friends got their impression that all pureblooded wizards and witches where completely inept in anything like muggle arithmetic and science, but he suspected Ronald Weasley was to blame. The Weasley family was too poor to even pay a hundredth of what Draco’s tutors earned individually; Lucius would not tolerate anything but the best teachers for Draco.
Some believed that Lucius Malfoy was a very cold, sinister father who would not expect anything but perfection from his only heir. They would assume that Lucius Malfoy cared about having the perfect replica of himself in his heir, instead of the well-being of his son. People perceived that Lucius was a very unloving father, desiring to be more of a "sire"; certainly nothing as tender-hearted as "dad". The truth of the matter was, Lucius loved him very much, and just as fiercely as Narcissa. He wanted the best of everything for Draco, never wanting his son to be left without. Draco had the best toys, the best governess, and the best education money could buy. Tutors just happened to fall under that category.
His father’s very posture and presence with everyone he deemed beneath his status was the fault of that little misconception. Lucius Malfoy thought everyone was beneath him, and he made damn sure that anyone who didn’t run in his circles (and most of the people who did, barring only a select few) knew what he thought of them, so confident in his superiority. Families like the Weasleys had it worse than anyone, as they were very low in status despite being purebloods. To Lucius, the way he treated families like the Weasleys only marginally less contemptuously compared to mudbloods and muggles was because of his absolute certainty that few were higher in status than him because he was a Malfoy, and there couldn’t possibly be anyone purer or wealthier or powerful than the Malfoys. (Thus the need to have a perfect heir to the perfect name, at least in the eyes of an outsider.) That purity, wealth, and power was something attached to the very name, and Lucius was very proud of his name. Lucius was the very picture of arrogance and contempt towards anyone he considered less than his status.
This was the same posture and presence that Draco had inherited, in fact. It was probably one of only two things Draco ever really learned from his father, and it had a large impact on Draco’s life. Lucius’ desire for Draco to have the best had spoiled Draco to the point that everything he owned was nothing less than anything anyone else owned. That led to the other personality trait that Draco had inherited from his father; his pride in his heritage and, consequently, his status. His way of making sure everyone beneath his status as a Malfoy was not only responsible for his habit of treating everyone scornfully (going to the extent of even treating some of his own professors with barely-restrained contempt), but through shoving his status in everyone’s faces by having the best of everything. Draco was every bit the perfect, spoiled, meanspirited git everyone made him out to be.
People often assumed Draco’s cynicism was because he felt pressured to be perfect by his father, but Lucius wasn’t the source of his cynicism in the least. That facet of his persona was every bit his mother’s fault. Draco may have physically resembled his father and shared the same arrogance, but his scathing wit and sharp cynicism was all his mother’s doing.
Draco was almost like a perfect blend of both of his parents. Aside from having his mother’s nose and, to some extent, her bone structure, everything else was like a younger, mirrored Lucius Malfoy. On the other hand, almost everything about his attitude was what he’d learned from his mother, aside from his arrogance, which was all Lucius.
"Are you all right, Draco?"
Quatre’s soft voice, suddenly loud in his ears, startled him from his musing. He realized belatedly that they other five had long ago fallen silent; one of them had probably asked him something during his pondering over his parents. They were almost something he always thought about, especially since this was the first summer in his entire life that he wasn’t with them. Lucius Malfoy had been forced to disinherit his son to protect him from Voldemort, who wanted to remove Draco’s soul and take over his still-living empty shell. Lucius couldn’t outwardly defy his master in anything, knowing the consequences of questioning the Dark Lord’s authority; however, he had not been willing to sacrifice his son for his lord, and Narcissa certainly wasn’t going to have it. They were going to keep him as safe as possible, even if Lucius had to sacrifice his heir and Narcissa had to sacrifice her status as Lucius Malfoy’s wife. Before consulting the Dark Lord, Lucius immediately removed responsibility of Draco from himself and, so Draco wouldn’t be nameless, penniless, and homeless, divorced Narcissa in the very same instant. It was this way that Narcissa could give Draco her name, her status as a Black, her fortune. They sacrificed their very marriage to make sure Draco was safe from harm and well taken-care of.
He mentally shook himself, feeling the urge to slip into another silent contemplation about his parents. Instead, he’d found that thinking about them had been a wonderful diversion in order to calm down after Heero unintentionally insulted his intelligence. Again.
"Yeah, I was... thinking," Draco said vaguely before looking at Heero straight in the eye. "Look, Heero, I don’t know why you continue to assume that being a pureblood means I’m a complete idiot when it comes down to what you five learned before coming to Hogwarts, and seriously, I’m pretty certain it has something to do with the Weasel’s stupidity; but I’m not an idiot. I know what gravity is. Just like I know that atoms are the basic building blocks of matter, and how the molecular structure of water was H2O, which is two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. I know basic physics, as hard as that is for you guys to believe. Spirits, having Ronald Weasley as your first impression of first purebloods when it comes to things muggles continue to learn throughout their schooling has really made my life difficult. Yet more proof that the Weasel really is the bane of my existence."
"If it makes you feel any better," Trowa said blandly, "Quatre’s been trying to drill that into them since he realized they were making a habit of talking to you as if they were speaking to Ron. He knew you weren’t going to like it."
"Quatre’s just as wealthy as I am," Draco pointed out. "He probably understands how different being highborn and having an education is compared to a lowborn’s education. People like us get the best tutors money can buy; the Weasleys parents, however, probably took the responsibility of educating their children themselves, and it was most likely a very basic education."
"In other words, we’re absolutely slaughtering your pride," Duo said with a sheepish grin. "Sorry, man. Guess it never occurred to me before. We’ll try to curb the habit to break everything simplistic down to baby steps for you, okay?"
Thank the spirits. "I’ll hold you to that."
Quatre was actually smiling happily at Draco, his palm absently resting over his heart. It didn’t take much for Draco to guess that Quatre was impressed with how he’d handled his urge to rage about the matter, especially considering how close to the surface his temper was over the matter right after Heero defined the word ‘gravity’. By all rights, Draco was entirely too different from Quatre to even share the same air. Where Draco was contemptuous, sarcastic, cynical, and arrogant, Quatre was thoughtful, sanguine, peacemaking, and completely loyal. The two physically resembled each other quite a lot, but the similarities ended there. Draco was supposed to despise Hufflepuffs just as strongly as he hated Gryffindors; both houses were completely useless, in his book. But Quatre was a completely different story. If one took away his compassion and optimism, Quatre Rebarba Malfoy Winner was a tactical, sharp business mogul that had a great mind for strategy and the unofficial status as the "leader" of the other four. When Quatre had something to say in matters of that lead to missions and such, the Winner heir was the one the other four deferred to. Likewise, Quatre was a fair leader. He listened to the opinions of everyone before making quick, smart decisions about how he and the others were going to complete the mission alive, along with anyone else involved.
Quatre was one of those rare nice guys that were to be respected instead of looked down on for being a nice guy. Draco still insisted that every other Hufflepuff, however, was a witless moron.
Duo snuggled up to his boyfriend’s side with a lopsided grin. "But isn’t it nice to have a walking, talking dictionary for a boyfriend?"
Heero snorted and decided not to reply to that.
"I’m betting you meant you wanted to know how gravity is applied to the colony instead of how gravity works," Quatre said knowingly, his eyes soft and understanding. If the rumors were taken to be true, Quatre was apparently a very gifted empath. He probably understood the emotional cocktail Draco was feeling better than Draco himself.
"Boiled down for simplicity’s sake," Quatre said with a smile, "muggles use technology to artificially create gravity in space. In colonies, should the artificial gravity fail, colonists and things that aren’t pinned to the ground would float around aimlessly -a condition known as zero gravity- until the problem would be fixed. At that point, they would have to gradually reintroduce gravity to the colony; if they were to suddenly turn the gravity on at full force, everything and everyone would fall as if they had jumped off of a skyscraper."
"That’s an extremely tall building," Duo said teasingly.
Draco gave the American a haughty scowl. "I know what a skyscraper is!"
"Because Wufei had to explain it to you!"
"Maxwell!" Wufei said sharply. "Stop teasing Black.(1) There are a lot of things about the wizarding world that he has yet to explain to you. I suggest you not rub his ignorance of the muggle world in his face."
"Yes, Mother," Duo quipped back dutifully. "Now where was I?"
"Hamster wheel," Draco replied with a smug grin. "You were explaining how living in a colony is similar to a hamster wheel."
While it was a surprisingly apt analogy, Duo wasn’t going to stroke Draco’s ego about it. "Well, think about it, dragon boy. It’s kind of hard to emphasize just how modern colonies are when your only example of modern muggle civilization is what you’ve managed to glean from brief peaks of muggle London. Over the many centuries that have passed, London hasn’t actually changed all that much and, besides spreading wider, everything looks as if it’s been carefully preserved in time. Aside from the requisite park that serves as a natural habitat for the harmless animals that live on the colony, everything as far as the eye can see is more like New York City, save for the suburban districts.
"But here, on Earth, there’s actually land that hasn’t been flattened down and paved over." Duo pointed at the elegant, far-reaching windows that seemed to encompass the small loft in one of the towers they’d settled in. The sky was just beginning to light up with the promise of the nearing sun, and stars were beginning to wink dimly and fade from the ever-lighting sky. They could see the hills rolling in the distance, unspoiled but for a few thicket of trees that clung together here and there.
"Everything’s so green and natural," Duo explained softly, eyes still drawn to the window. "Nothing like any colony I’ve ever been on. And L2 doesn’t even hold a candle in comparison. Yeah, we have things that simulate living on Earth, but it’s not like the real thing.
"And that, my friends, is exactly why I woke all of you up at four o’clock in the morning," Duo finished with a wide grin. "We’re going to watch the sun rise."
Draco snorted. "Finally! And the braid-boy gets to his point." He, no doubt, had been wondering why Duo had broken into his room to hurriedly shake him awake claiming there was an emergency, only to find that Duo had dragged everyone up to the tower for a little storytelling.
"We’re going to watch the sun rise," Wufei said flatly, almost as if he couldn’t quite believe something as simple as that was what everything had been all about.
"Give me a reason as to why I shouldn’t go back to bed right now, Maxwell."
"Because you’ll only get up in about fifteen minutes to do your katas before breakfast anyway."
Trowa chuckled quietly. "He’s got you there."
"Couldn’t we have just watched the sun set?" Draco grumbled, not at all pleased to be awake before breakfast. "It’s like a sunrise, but in reverse."
"A sunset is nothing like a sunrise," Duo said defensively, nudging Draco’s thigh with his toes. "The sunset marks the end of a day; it’s far too depressing. But a sunrise is the start of a new day, therefore, it’s much more sentimental and hopeful."
"That’s just like a bloody Gryffindor to say," Draco mumbled under his breath.
"Bet Harry likes sunrises," Duo said with a leering grin. "C’mon, dragon boy, where’s your poetic soul?"
"The dementor ate it," Draco retorted snidely, scooting away from Duo’s prodding toes. "Good riddance, I say. I’d hate to be an overbearing romantic sod like you."
The American promptly decided he was going to ignore the former Malfoy heir’s smarm in favor of chalking the blond’s attitude as being a direct result of Draco not exactly being a morning person in any sense of the phrase. Instead, he gently lifted Heero’s wrist and checked the time.
"Sunrise in four... three... two..."
The sun breaking over the horizon was a spectacular sight of warm colors driving away the darkness of night. As a general rule, Duo preferred nights to days; night time provided a great cover for infiltration and extraction and/or destruction missions, and no one was better than that than Duo Maxwell. While the soldier instincts that were alive and kicking inside of him still had a strong taste for night, the relatively new "average citizen" that was attempting to flourish had an aesthetic appreciation for early morning, as well.
Quatre sighed wistfully. "Still as glorious as ever."
"I know," Duo said happily. "It never gets old." Out of the corner of his eye, the American could see Draco staring at the horizon with a faraway expression on his pale face, golden with the full onset of the early morning sun, Duo realized two things. One: Draco wasn’t as dull and bitter about life as he made himself out to be, and two: It was no wonder Draco refused to tan, since such a color would clash horribly with his hair.
When the sun rose completely from the horizon, however, Draco immediately shook himself from his pondering and smirked at Duo. "And now I’ve lost interest."
Right. Duo should have expected that.
"Hey, what are you–? Duo! Duo, put me down right now!"
"Maxwell, what are you doing?" Wufei asked wearily, eyeing the blond that Duo had easily thrown over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
The American looked at Wufei and smirked wickedly. "You’ll see."
"No, you won’t! Duo, put me down!"
"You’d make this a lot easier on me if you’d stop wiggling, dragon boy," Duo said blithesomely, carrying Draco from the room and down the steps with ease.
"Oh, because that’s my plan all along, isn’t it?" Draco said scathingly. "To make whatever it is you plan to do with me easier on you. Put me down, damn you!" He punctuated his heated statement with an especially harsh wiggle that nearly caused Duo to overbalance and fall forward down the winding steps.
"You don’t really want to fall down these steps, do you?"
"Of course not!"
"Then no wiggling until we at least hit ground floor," Duo admonished with a smirk. "Then you can wiggle all you want, but it won’t change the fact that you have a destined date with the pool."
"The pool?! The hell I do! Duo, these pajamas are silk of the finest quality, and the best that money can buy! Do you have any idea what the cleaning potions in the pool water will do to them? Not to mention the fact that they’re dry clean only!"
"I think the real question here is: how does this affect me, and why should I care?"
In the end, despite many protests and frequent threats on Duo’s life that the American later claimed were "made out of love", Draco inevitably ended up thoroughly soaked in water, his ruined pajamas clinging to his body like a second skin.
Duo watched Draco climb from the pool with a manic grin on his face as the blond shot him a particularly lethal glare. "One of these days, dragon boy, when we’ve caught you up on all the marvels of the muggle world, we’re going to take a trip to a colony so you can get the full extent of what I mean."
The blond made an effort to pull the revealing second skin away from his body, his glare heated as he growled, "I’d kill you if I didn’t think your boyfriend would get to me first."
"Such is the advantage of having a boyfriend who is just that cool," Duo crowed boastfully, head thrown back as he laughed at the ceiling. Later, Heero would point out that this was where Duo made his crucial mistake. Taking one’s eyes off of a target that had already been humiliated was a not the greatest of ideas. The establishment of this rule was explained during Draco’s next actions; the blond lunged at Duo with a vengeful gleam in his eyes, and right after their bodies smashed into one another, both were sent tumbling into the pool.
The grumbling pair waded out of the pool, doing what they could to squeeze the excess water from their clothes or, in Draco’s case, preserve what was left of his ever-dwindling modesty by pulling the material away from private areas that could possibly be ogled, most of which was below his waist. Oddly, both of them were bemoaning the state of their hair; Heero later suggested that it was simply an odd anomaly for the two to be in the same state at the same time, especially when they were so different. Either that, or they were rubbing off on each other. Privately, everyone hoped that it was the anomaly theory. Subconsciously, they realized a long time ago that Draco was getting rather brave with his cynical, rather snide comments about everything and anything; it was capped off when Draco openly defied Heero on freeing all the house-elves to avoid espionage and eventual infiltration.
"Look at this place, Heero!" Draco had demanded, waving his arms emphatically around the summer home. While it was in no way comparable to the enormous castle that housed the Malfoy Family for centuries, the estate was still rather large and expansive, including twelve bedrooms, a pool house, seven large bathrooms, a breakfast nook, a luncheon room, a dining room that could seat as many as twenty, a large music room, a moderately small ball room, an extensive library, two dens (supposedly, the reason for two dens was so the womenfolk could gather in one room to discuss gossip while the men could discuss their own private affairs), and a smoking room that Heero had converted into an office in an attempt to get his computer to work with full internet access with magic and willpower alone.
That is to say, it was a rather large house. "Do you think for a moment that anyone is going to have the bloody time and sheer stubbornness to actually make an effort to clean this place? You’re always busy tinkering with that stupid muggle device, Trowa and Quatre already have plans for the garden, and that’s a part-time job as it is; Wufei’s probably going to spending most of his time in the bloody library or doing whatever the hell else Wufei does to entertain himself, Duo has made it his personal mission to mugglify me, and I’m making it my personal mission to detour him from that disgusting concept as much as I can. No one is going to have time to clean and cook and make sure the grass doesn’t overgrow on seventy acres of land, and spirit’s know I’m not going to even consider doing it.
"House-elves are loyal to their masters; they would rather kill themselves than to betray their own masters, and who the hell do you think powers the protection wards here? The house-elves stay. That’s final," Draco finished off explosively, digging his grave further by finishing off with a rather disdainful, "Sprits, you can be such a paranoid git sometimes."
Later, Wufei confessed that he honestly thought that Draco was going to die, or worse. (After the fact, Draco eventually brought up the question of what could be worse than death, to which Trowa frankly replying, "Getting in that state courtesy Heero Yuy." Quatre thought this was a rather accurate assessment, even if Draco thought such opinions about friends were disturbing.) They all nervously laughed it off as being silly, but the thought had crossed all of their minds; Draco’s, a little too late. The blond boy was just about to go into full panic mode when Duo stood up and applauded wildly with a lopsided grin on his face.
"What? With Hee-chan, you really have to stick to your guns to make a point because he’s so stubborn," Duo said brightly. "‘Course, you get points taken off for going as far as calling Hee-chan a git, but we’ll strike that up as your typical need to insult at least three people a day." Duo paused thoughtfully. "Then again, you get those points back for sheer guts. That’s probably the second bravest thing I’ve ever seen you do.(2)"
Heero, of course, couldn’t understand why his casual shrug and an offhandedly stated, "If I see a house-elf acting suspicious, I reserve the right to use it for target practice," surprised everyone. The Japanese boy had expected Draco to eventually lose his temper with him. The blond just wasn’t the type to bite his tongue and sit quietly while something he disapproved of was seriously discussed.
"Only if I have veto right," Draco said dazedly, his brain having rebooted at the end of his previous rant. "I’ll inform the house-elves about the matter."
The bullheaded approach was a tactical move few used when dealing with Heero Yuy; Duo was one of those brave few. It was the first time the pilots realized that Duo was probably rubbing off on Draco. They didn’t even think to consider that, following the science they lived by when they weren’t brewing potions or casting spells, each reaction had an equal and opposite reaction. That is, they hadn’t considered it until Duo had exhibited some Draco-like qualities, though Duo’s new character quirks were far more subtle and hidden behind his perfected goofy-Duo dissemble. Most of it was mild and mostly ignorable (to the relief of the four Gundam pilots and one Draco Black, who all thought it would be an awful nightmare if there were two Draco Blacks in the world, with the real Draco Black’s excuse being that he didn’t want to make the bloody effort of attempting to be better than someone who imitated him). Duo would pay more mind to his hair in attempt to braid it perfectly, which was a hefty feat for someone with as much hair as Duo. Duo had also become far more fashion consciences, foregoing his standard black and white with the occasional splash of red and updating his wardrobe to include more violets, indigo, blues, crimsons, and browns that complimented his fair skin (though he was attempting to tan a little, Great Britain’s almost constant bleak overcast simply wouldn’t allow it), his striking eyes, and his golden-tinged chestnut hair. Along with his sudden desire to look impeccable and livelier was a strong surge of vehemence about what was right and what was wrong, according to the morals of Duo Maxwell.
While sounding vaguely Dracoesque, Draco thought Duo’s sudden shift in sticking to his ground was something the American picked up when he and Draco were kidnaped by Death Eaters only a few months prior, and Duo was forced to accept that he was the son of the most-feared Dark Lord the wizarding world had ever seen. Instead of wallowing over the fact that Lord Voldemort -He Who Must Not Be Named himself- was his father, Duo completely denounced everything and anything his so-called father stood for, all the while staring into the half-man, half-monster’s unamused crimson eyes. As for the part where Voldemort was Duo’s father... Keary Riddle never was; Duo Maxwell had always been. And that was all Duo had to say about it.
In fact, all of Duo’s new quirks about clothes and appearance could be linked to that one significant revelation. The Dark Lord wore heavy black robes and looked more monster than man. Duo Maxwell could have subconsciously decided that he would do his best to make damn sure he’d never be anything like "the sperm donor." Draco couldn’t know for sure, however; it wasn’t like he was going to pry into Duo’s affairs when he knew the American was a bit tetchy about the subject in the first place.
All of this, of course, occurred within only two weeks since the six of them left Hogwarts and moved into Draco’s new home. Already, it was promising to be a rather eventful summer.
After Duo and Draco changed and primped, it was time for breakfast. Duo had already forgotten that Draco was the reason he had to take another shower in the first place, and Draco (in honor of the glorious miracle that was breathing, and how such a natural process of living could be hampered with a steel-like grip around his delicate neck a la Heero) decided to forgive and forget, as well; but, unlike Duo, he was keeping a list of names and offenses.
The morning of June 7th was a rather happy occasion for Heero, though few could tell the difference between his "happy" face and his "satisfied" face. He announced on no uncertain terms that he finally figured out what he was doing wrong.
"Oh, good," Duo said, relieved. "Does that mean you’re not going to wear the spandex shorts anymore?"
Draco smirked behind the safety of the rim of his teacup at Heero’s almost longsuffering expression. Apparently, Draco wasn’t the only one who felt those ghastly things were a travesty in the face of fashion.
"I mean," Heero said, giving his unrepentantly grinning boyfriend a pointed look, "that I’ve found out how to get my laptop to work without using electricity and interfering with the wards in any way. After that, it was relatively simple to get us online wirelessly, with the help of a few innocuous satellites and the house-elves."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Okay. You’ve interested me. What language are you speaking, and how do house-elves help you?"
Meanwhile, Duo was positively giddy. "You got it to work? You actually got it to work?" He laughed cheerfully and threw his arms around his boyfriend, taking a moment to peck him on the lips before he turned and attempted to plant his eager fingers all over a laptop he used to be jealous of for all the attention with which Heero lavished it. Interesting, how much almost an entire year spent without the glory of modern technology could do to a guy.
"You’re a freakin’ genius, Hee-chan!"
Heero, a single eyebrow raised, gently pried the laptop from Duo’s eager hands and laid it open on the table, almost in front of Draco. "This is a computer; a laptop, to be specific, since computers generally require a lot more electronic devices that connect together through wires.
"A computer is a multi-functional muggle device; all the applications of a computer are too complex to go into at this time. Suffice to say, it minimizes effort and maximizes the appearance of whatever document or projection you are working on. One of the most famous uses of a computer," he added, pressing a black button at the topmost right corner of the keyboard, "is known as the Internet, or the World Wide Web."
"This is the part where things get fun," Duo added cheerfully.
Heero nodded with a small smile. "The Internet makes everything accessible to you. Any form of documentation, any references to even the vaguest concept can be found on the Web easily, once you get used to it. I’ve developed my own personal search engine that filters out specific things you aren’t looking for, and the encoding ensures that I’m untraceable as long as I keep the IP address bouncing from one location to the other randomly at five second intervals."
"Basically, all of this means Heero could rob a muggle bank from the comfort of his own computer, and he’d most likely get away with it while everyone goes about their business as usual," Duo translated wryly. "A couple of cents missing from over a million bank accounts would hardly go amiss, and anyone too anal to notice usually chalks it up as a clerical error. Which is illegal, so don’t you dare do it just to prove you can, Hee-chan."
"Hn. I surpassed that level when I was eleven," Heero said with a shrug. "That’s not even much of a challenge anymore."
"Okay," Draco said slowly, not quite comprehending but having a suspicious feeling he would be learning a lot about this muggle laptop. "And the house-elves help how, exactly?"
"You gave me the idea," Heero said. "You mentioned that house-elves power the wards that protect us from any intruders or attacks. I decided to see if I could have one of the house-elves do something similar to what they do with the wards, only I wanted the ward to be focused on a portable object; the laptop. The laptop itself is surrounded by a bubble that protects it from the disruptive power of the wards. After that, all I had to do was a little research to find out if there was anything that negates magical fields."
"Iron," Draco murmured, mostly to himself. Heero nodded and pointed at small strips of thin iron that had been meticulously attached at key points on the device itself.
"Iron and a little house-elf magic was all I really needed to get it working again," Heero replied. "How I managed to uplink to the Web is an entirely different story that I’m sure Duo would rather not hear about right now."
Duo grinned unrepentantly. "It works. Who am I to question the hows and whys?"
"There is one thing Yuy may want to consider," Wufei said solemnly. "We need to know what the Earth Sphere Alliance has on us. We need to know anything that was in the media, and hacking into that Peacecraft woman’s computer is probably necessary, as well; just to be on the safe side."
Heero nodded sharply. "Already done, on all three accounts. I also took the liberty of hacking into the Preventers system to see if Lady Une had anything to say about us." He narrowed his eyes. "Did you know she has us listed on inactive duty due to extensive training?"
"I wouldn’t doubt it if she wants to recruit us, which is probably why she’s pushing for the warrants to be pulled," Quatre said thoughtfully. "Even more so now than ever; having five wizards on the Preventers’ side would certainly be a great asset. We’re pretty skilled in muggle military ways, but wielding magic is an element of surprise no one expects."
"It wouldn’t have hurt for her to ask us what we wanted first," Duo grumbled. "What if I had the desire to become a crossdressing cabana boy somewhere tropical?"
Trowa chuckled. "I think the question that’s on all of our minds now, Duo, is if you actually do want to be a crossdressing cabana boy."
"Well, no, but that’s not exactly my point, is it?"
"I have no idea what any of you are talking about," Draco announced haughtily. "Why do you have warrants out on you and for what? What’s a Preventer? And who really considers someone your age on inactive duty to anything vaguely military -whatever the hell that is. Sounds like an Unspeakable, or an Auror."
Each Gundam pilot exchanged peculiar looks when Duo finally said, "You remember those giant, um, things that I piloted when Hee-chan and the guys came to rescue us from ol’ Voldie’s evil clutches?"
"Big hulking metal things," Draco confirmed with a nod. "Hollow on the inside, save for strange things I’m not even going to bother attempting to put a name to. What about them?"
"Well, they’re war machines called Gundams," Duo said slowly. "They’re the only five in existence, currently. Me and the guys fought in the name of the colonies back during the War to End All Wars."
Draco still appeared nonplused. "Oh... kay."
"Um," Duo said, tapping his chin with his finger thoughtfully. "Okay, you had to have known about the big chunk of metal that was quickly falling to Earth a couple of years ago? Huge thing, big enough to create a nuclear winter on Earth and kill billions?"
Yes! Finally, something that sounded familiar. Draco knew about that; it was something that happened in his fifth year when he and several of his yearmates were doing extra credit projects for Astronomy during the winter holiday. Something microscopic but vaguely humanoid had managed to maneuver in front of it just in time to wave a wand and make the metal thing blow up into harmless, tiny pieces. There was something in the Daily Prophet about it the next day, and it was explained away as some form of muggle experiment with new technology ("silly muggles and their silly tricks" the paper seemed to imply) while urging readers to not worry.
"I saw it," Draco said absently. "The Daily Prophet made it seem like some muggle thing that we shouldn’t worry about. Something about muggles and their silly tricks."
Wufei snorted derisively. "Sounds like Maxwell’s patent Pay No Mind To The Man Behind The Curtain Method."
Said Maxwell didn’t acknowledge Wufei’s sarcastic statement. "So you saw the Gundam that got in the way of that chunk of Libra and totally annihilated it, right?" Duo said, bouncing in his seat with a gleam in his eyes.
"Yes," Draco said slowly.
"That was Hee-chan. He saved everyone on Earth. We all had our parts, but Heero’s the one who really pulled through and saved Earth. Now they kind of want us punished for war crimes, but we have some friends in high places that are trying to get that rectified."
Draco blinked. "You’re... fugitives?"
"Well, technically," Duo said, shrugging, "yeah. But only in the muggle world. Since the muggle world has absolutely no dealings with the laws of the wizarding world, as long as we stick to the wizarding world and obey wizarding law, we’re fine. That’s why Lady Une and Zechs Marquise didn’t arrest us when they came with Relena to visit Hogwarts that one time."
Draco stared at them for a moment before looking at Duo. "Ever since I met you, Duo, I’ve made the strangest friends. It’s entirely your fault."
Duo preened. The blond shook his head. Of course he would be proud of himself. Duo didn’t know any other way to be when it came to his chaos spreading.
Heero, with some so-called "help" from Duo, explained the basics of the muggle device through breakfast; despite his natural animosity against muggles and all things muggle related, he couldn’t help but be intrigued by this device. Most of his interest fell along how this Internet thing worked. It seemed utilizing such a tool would be quite useful in lieu of reading so many books, especially when Heero found several things he called "websites" and "databases" that pulled up all the information about any known herb commonly used in potions or taken care of in Herbology if you simply typed the word in one of those slim white boxes. Potions, he had no problem with; it was Herbology that he hated reading the material for. This World Wide Whatever would be useful for his worst class, if he could somehow convince Heero to part with it.
Judging by the look on Heero’s face, it was a request that was going to have to wait until the novelty of having a working laptop again wore off. Then again, judging by the mischief dancing playfully in Duo’s eyes, it appeared that Heero would have to adapt quickly. He had the same look in his eyes when he attempted to change out Wufei’s clothes with all of Draco’s mother’s dresses.
That was just another story that almost ended in tragic bloodshed.
END CHAPTER ONE
(1) Yes, Wufei referred to Draco as Black. Confused? Well, you should have taken my suggestion and read the first installment. You still have time to turn back and read that one if you’re unfamiliar with the plot that has already developed. :grins:
(2) The first bravest thing Draco had ever done in front of Duo was, of course, telling the Dark Lord to sod off with only a minimal bit of trembling. Or something to that effect. :grins: