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Author's Notes: Question! Why do people always seem to love writing Zazu in humorous (whether genius or idiotic) situations? I mean, sure, he's not as prone to angst as Geo and Eagle are, but still... *sighs* Oh, wll, Autozam-crazed folks like me can always find a way to put him in an angsty situation. *evil grin* Also, this is the last of the three prologues (ORO?!), so the format's changing until I get to the three epilogues--then we'll be back in the sandwich format. Mwa. ^_^ Oh, and two things to keep in mind while reading this prologue: Holden is straight. Zazu is straight. Thank you for your time.

Warnings: Angst and two more original characters.

Disclaimer: Holden and story is mine, Magic Knight Rayearth is CLAMP's. I'm not associated with CLAMP other than that I'm a huge fan. Phooey.

 

Peter's Law: "The unexpected always happens."

 

For My Happiness Only
Zazu Torque: Debts

It's only been half a day since we arrived, and I'm already getting upset.

I'm not supposed to get upset in Cephiro, but I can't help it.

Geo and Holden are acting strange towards each other. If their roles were reversed, I would think nothing of it. After all, ever since I have known the two Metro brothers, Holden would be aloof and keep his distance away from Geo when he was with Eagle, and later, Lantis.

Well, okay, he's still doing that now, but I don't think Geo is supposed to be the one to keep his distance from Holden and especially not Eagle or Lantis. He has always been friendly with those two, and I would think even more so after Eagle has awakened from a coma that would have taken his life had we not been in Cephiro and befriended Hikaru. As a matter of fact, I know Geo is supposed to be the catalyst for fun among the four of us. He always has the brilliant ideas so that we are never bored. At least three-quarters of the time, he begins the entertaining conversations, or at least took an active part in them. He certainly didn't do that last night, and his silence was so conspicuous that I swear I'm not the only who has noticed.

I am the only one who has approached him about it. He smiled and told me that it was nothing; he was just feeling a bit tired and overwhelmed.

That's when the first spark of irritation ignited.

Holden was no different, and this is problem one of the reasons why the two brothers don't get along: they are more similar than they like to admit.

After I noticed how unusual Geo was behaving during dinner, I concluded that it had to be about the conversation the two brothers had before we left for Cephiro. I honestly didn't think that Holden would agree to come, but I wanted him to, so I was ecstatic when he said that he would. Later I began to wonder if it had been about something he and Geo had discussed.

I wish I knew what it was. Then maybe I could figure out what exactly is going on between those two.

Anyway, so I observed Holden after noticing Geo's odd behavior. He was the one who was being friendly to everybody and kept the conversations from going stale. Don't get me wrong; he still kept his distance from Lantis and Eagle. He sat on the completely opposite end from them for that matter.

When I asked Holden about what was going on and what they had talked about, he stared at me, wide-eyed, before he chuckled and said, "I've never known you to be so perceptive, Zazu."

And he walked away.

I'm not supposed to be upset while I'm in Cephiro, but the Metro brothers are making this difficult for me. If Eagle or Lantis have noticed nothing, I will be very peeved by the middle of the day.

***

The mornings in Cephiro were always quiet, which was a welcome change to the atmosphere that Zazu normally greeted the day with. If this had been in the Torque household, the very first thing he heard was always something along the lines of his two older brothers debating political issues, his two older sisters shouting at each other for the bathroom, his three younger brothers doing their routine of playing Aerospace Battle before being ushered off to school, or his younger sister throwing temper tantrums all over the place. If not any of those, then it would be the clanging of metal in the garage adjacent to Zazu's room and the gruff voice of his father ordering around his two older brothers.

The only real love Zazu felt in his enormous family was between him and his father. Although Zazu was the middle child, his father paid more attention to him than he had anyone else--it was because of him that Zazu managed to get into the Air Force Academy at a very young age.

If it hadn't been for the Academy, Zazu would never have met Holden, Geo, or Eagle. He would never have come to Cephiro and met Hikaru and the others. He would have had different friends, sure, but definitely none who were trustworthy and reliable. He wouldn't have a job as the chief mechanic of the NSX, and he would really wouldn't be considered the best mechanic to walk the surface of Autozam. Everything he had now he owed to his father.

After getting dressed, Zazu stepped into the bright hallways of the Cephiro palace. It was mid-morning, so most everybody should be awake. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu wouldn't arrive for another few hours, considering that they had duties in the other world to attend to: family, friends, and school. Zazu figured that school would be enough to keep them busy, but the other world and Autozam may have different school systems.

He darted to the garden where everybody was most of the time, especially if there were visitors. The more visitors there were, the more likely everybody would be there.

When he arrived, he saw that it wasn't exactly the case this time. Only Geo, Eagle, Lantis, and Tatra and Tarta were sitting by the fountain in some sort of grim conversation. It wasn't a summit, otherwise Clef and Ferio would be there, but the only topics that Zazu could imagine would create such a dark atmosphere were Autozam's pollution problem and Chizeta's overpopulated cities.

Zazu knew what he had to do.

"Good morning, everybody!" he called, darting towards the small group.

Immediately, the solemnity grimaces of all but Lantis's faces were wiped clean. It always helped to be young and the adults with no intentions on putting worries on adolescents.

"Good morning," Tatra greeted with a small smile. "Did you get a good sleep? No bad dreams?"

Okay, sometimes it helped to be young, but then again, this was Tatra. Zazu knew better than to expect anything more from her.

"I'm not a little kid, Tatra," said a playfully irritated Zazu.

"You sure look like one," said Geo. "I thought you said you were going to get two heads taller before you were twenty."

"I'm halfway there!"

To be more accurate, Zazu noted bitterly, he was actually a quarter of the way to his goal, but was it his fault that the growth spurt in his family erupted later than normal? Of course, his mother was rather petite, but his father was short, too, until he was twenty and grew to be only a head shorter than Geo.

Zazu was convinced that if nothing happened soon, he would be vertically challenged for life.

Luckily, somebody was on his side.

"You have gotten taller since I last saw you," Eagle said. "Maybe someday you'll be taller than Geo."

A grin spread on Zazu's face. "Exactly."

Geo laughed with Tatra giggling beside him. "That, I doubt."

"You just wait and see."

At least Geo was acting more like himself than the night before, but Zazu knew what the keyword was: acting. With that in mind, Zazu realized that somebody was missing.

"Hey, where's Holden?" asked Zazu. "Did he sleep in or something?"

"Last I saw him," said Geo with an annoyed glare, "he went to the XFI just as soon as I woke up. I don't think he's been back since."

Zazu picked up a relieved tone in Geo's voice. Had they gotten to an argument? That wouldn't make sense; the last time that happened, Holden had left Autozam for a couple of weeks to cool down. They hated to be even in the same city whenever an altercation estranged the two brothers.

The mystery was killing Zazu.

"Leave him alone; he has his reasons," said Tatra.

"Conceited reasons, most likely," muttered--a tad too loudly--Tarta.

"Tarta!"

"Well, he is a stuck-up, selfish, money-hoarding--"

"I agree with you, Tarta, but this time it isn't for his own purposes," Geo said. "Definitely not for financial gain, I can guarantee you that."

Tatra frowned. "His first love isn't money, you two. If you only knew him better--"

"I'm his younger brother. I know him better than anybody else."

"If you only knew, Geo, if you only knew..."

"That was a bad topic to bring up," Zazu muttered.

Beside him, Eagle sighed, but Zazu couldn't detect if it was either out of annoyance or amusement. If there was one enigma that Zazu would never figure out, it would be Eagle. He knew that Holden wasn't particularly fond of Eagle, but he had no idea of what Eagle thought of Holden. He knew, during the invasion, that Eagle's hobby of sleeping was a common thing, but it wasn't until afterwards did he find out why he was sleeping more than a commander was supposed to during a military operation. He always claimed that Geo was his best friend, but why was he more open and friendly to Lantis than he was with the former man?

All Zazu was absolutely sure about Eagle was that while he was nice and impartial with acquaintances and friends, he was a formidable enemy to anybody who crossed his path. There were too many other layers to Eagle's personality, and Zazu had no energy to figure those out.

Everybody else was easier to understand.

"If you don't want Holden hearing your conversation," Lantis said, "it's best to be quiet now. He's here."

The debate between Tatra and Tarta and Geo came to a halt, and sure enough, through the corridor that linked the garden to the rest of the palace, Holden sprinted through the archway.

"Geo! Eagle!" he called as he ran towards the group. "Big, big problem. We have to talk--alone."

Eagle frowned when Holden approached them. "Problem? With Autozam?"

Holden nodded and caught notice of Zazu. "You need to come, too," he said. "Very, very important and very, very bad. You can get back to this little social hour later."

As the three followed Holden to the corner of the garden, Zazu heard Tatra whisper, "I hope it isn't anything too serious."

"Knowing Holden, it can't be," Tarta responded indignantly.

When they reached the farthest spot from the fountain, Holden snatched a small handheld computer from his pocket. Zazu noticed something different about his eyes--they seemed to be disturbed.

"Holden, what's wrong?" asked Zazu.

Holden disregarded Zazu's question. "Eagle," he said, "your father, I have to admit, is a decent president. His vice president, however, is a naive, gullible fool." He pressed a few buttons on the computer and handed it to Eagle. "Read this. It was addressed to me, but I think you deserve to read it for yourself instead of hearing it from me of all people."

Eagle's eyes skimmed over the words with Geo reading over his shoulder. Zazu pouted. Sure, Holden initially wanted Eagle and Geo, but if he was going to bring Zazu along, he might as well let him know at the same time as Geo and Eagle.

A wave of shock crashed on the two elders' faces. Geo muttered, "This is not good."

"Have you finished reading it?" asked Holden anxiously.

"Daihatsu wants me to stay in Cephiro until they find a cure for this?" asked Eagle with a hint of disgust in his voice. "I think it's best if I go; it's my country."

"There's a good chance you might catch it," said Geo as Holden grabbed the computer back. Geo noticed this and growled, "I wasn't finished reading it!"

"The last part is for Zazu," snapped Holden, handing the computer to Zazu. "Read the postscript," he commanded.

Zazu nodded and his eyes went straight for the appendix of the message:

If at all possible, please send Zazu Torque back to Autozam--Matador County, preferably. His father is one of the victims, and after the altercation with the Eastern Region, and the mechanics are left leaderless. Use your own judgment. Thank you.

Zazu frowned. "Victims? What?"

Holden sighed. "My judgment says you have to decide on your own."

He reached for the computer, but Zazu turned around abruptly and said, "Victim of what?"

The young mechanic read the rest of the letter.

To Holden Torana Metro:

I have to make this quick because time is of the essence in Integra. Some scientist, or crony of, has deceived the government officials and a new disease has arisen. It blackens the lungs so badly that the victim has a difficult time breathing when overexerted, and they cough blood. Passing out is a common problem. We are unsure if the new chemical is the cause, but so far, all signs point to yes.

All I ask is a favor. Keep Eagle Vision in Cephiro until we find a cure for this problem. President Chrysler Vision will not be pleased with this news, and keeping his newly recovered son in Cephiro is the best we can do at the moment. If you do not abide by this request, you will be put through a military trial.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Vice President Daihatsu Sirion

Zazu gaped and froze, leaving only one thought in his mind:

His father had caught this outrageous disease?

"No... way..." he muttered.

"What's wrong?" asked Geo. "Is there something we--"

"Holden!" Zazu cried, dropping the computer and clutching to the older Metro brother's shirt. "Do you know anything at all about this? Will he die? He can't die!"

Holden turned away. "I don't know anything. I'm only amazed that the pollution didn't cause a problem as big as this before, and I doubt it's the chemical that's doing this. That is, unless there's something Sirion isn't telling us."

"He did mention that he didn't have enough time to give us a full explanation," pointed out Eagle. "I still need to go back to Autozam."

"You can't," Geo protested. "You may catch the disease, too--"

"Holden," pleaded Zazu, blocking out the conversation between Eagle and Geo. "Please..."

"I wish I knew," he said quietly. "What do you want to do? Do you want to take over your father's job in Autozam or do you want to stay here?"

"Dad worked in Integra," said Zazu, tears stinging his eyes. "They want me in Matador--why?"

Holden shook his head. "It's your decision."

"That isn't helping me!"

"I don't know anything. I can't help you other than that I will provide you with transportation to Autozam if you need it. Take all the time you need to decide. I don't think fixing a bunch of mechas is as important as fixing this hell of a disaster."

Zazu closed his eyes and pulled away from Holden, only for Holden to kneel and pull him into an embrace.

***

I don't understand everything, but I will be going back to Autozam.

Geo was completely against it, but I got a good clue from Holden to not tell him or Eagle about my father. Maybe it's because Eagle would stowaway on the XFI to help with the current problems with the atmosphere, or maybe he thought that the less they knew, the better. I think Holden meant to keep them from reading the rest of the letter the vice president sent him. Of course, he also tried to prevent me from finding what my father was a victim of, but I know now, and trying to figure out why Holden didn't want me to know would be absolutely useless.

All I can do is go along with it, but I won't be alone. Holden told me that he would stay with me as long as I needed him there.

He really is the older brother I never had.

I only have him thanks to my father, and if taking over his job would enable me to pay even a fraction of my debt, I'll do it.

I just wish that everybody wouldn't keep so many secrets from me.

** To Be Continued **