Paradise Lost Epilogue
by Kathleen Moffre-Spoor
October 1998


Duo

Doctor G and J spent a good hour debriefing all of us later that day. The
only thing they seemed to avoid was how they survived the war. They filed
all of us into a fairly large room with a pool table, a few chess and
checkers boards, several cushioned chairs, a couch and a TV set hooked to
the wall. Painfully, we all listened to them, eyeing the various games
scattered about the room and each other.

I often refused to meet anyone's gaze and sat alone in a chair near the
window.

Battered, bruised and bandaged, we were a captive audience. Quatra and Trowa
were seated very close to each other on the couch and I often spied them
touching hands. Quatra initiated the contact each time. Wufei and Heero sat
across from each other near a chessboard. Heero leaned on the table, chin on
hands, very uninterested in the discussion. No doubt he already knew what
they were saying.

Learning about the Numbers Project was difficult enough, but they went into
depth about the procedure and the Flanagan procedure. All of us were
Flanaganized to an extent over the years, but Alexie pushed it with Heero
and me. We were more unstable than the others now, but as we all feared,
even Trowa, Quatra and Wufei would deteriorate in time.

"What is the purpose?" Wufei asked after the lengthy description. "So they
processed us. They must be trying to achieve something other than to create
superior warriors."

The two scientists glanced to each other, their faces troubled. Obviously,
Wufei had hit on something. "The original object to the procedure was to
create artificial New Types, but that was more than two hundred years ago."

"New Type?" Heero asked, interested. "Alexie used the term once in regards
to Quatra and Wufei."

"Yes, well, we were fortunate two of the children were potentially New
Types. That's why Quatra is empathic."

"Yeah, and Wufei is such a dick." I said teasingly. Wufei shot me a killing
glance and turned his nose up. "I supposed I should expect that from an
unevolved barbarian."

I stuck my tongue out and wiggled it obscenely.

"Duo, Wufei, please try to get along." Quatra begged sadly. "I want to hear
more about these New Types." He turned his attention to the two mad ones and
smiled gently. "Go on."

"The New Types left Earth after many conflicts. It was felt the only way to
have peace was for Man to colonize other systems. It was shortly after many
colonies were abandoned that a great disaster struck, forcing man to
rebuild."

"You're talking about the Meteors?" Wufei asked.

Many of the records regarding the year of the meteors were obscure and a
great deal of information regarding the time before it conveniently
vanished. I often discussed it with Father Maxwell who believed it was an
act of God.

A part of me was beginning to feel it was an act of man.

One particular man, named Alexie. But then again, that was impossible. The
man wasn't even born then.

"Funny how the disaster practically wiped out all information on New Types
and this artificial New Type process." Heero informed flatly. "So, Alexie
dug up this info and decided to make a few artificial New Types."

"Very considerate of him, eh?" I said. "Kind of makes you want to castrate
him."

"But wasn't it inevitable that New Types eventually emerge once mankind
returned to space after we rebuilt and fled from the Federation?" Quatra
asked.

"Of course, and Alexie probably knows this, so he decided to move ahead of
the game." Doctor J said. "It's very profitable."

"Boy, it smells real bad in here, doesn't it guys?" I said swishing my soda
around my can. "I can really smell the bullshit."

"You're right, the story reeks." Heero agreed. "Ok, doc. Before I run off
and get my ass in a second bind, why don't you tell us the part of the story
you're omitting?"

Wufei nodded, folding his arms. "Yes, before all of us decide you may talk
more truthfully hanging from the window ledge by your toes."

Trowa agreed. Quatra looked horrified. "Perhaps, Alexie's agenda is to
eventually take over himself?"

"I'm sure he had resources of his own." Doctor G studied us wearily. "Duo,
you always make it a thing to make my life more difficult, don't you?"

I saluted him. "I just call em as I see them. What else? He has at least
thirty more kids like us in the project. What happened to them?"

"Some died, others disappeared." Doctor J paced to the window, his wrinkled
features flickering dark fear. "He had contacts and resources all over. It's
very possible he has his own army somewhere and is waiting for the opportune
moment to strike."

"Like after a war that has depleted the resources of both Earth's
Federation, corporate affiliates and the colonies, not to mention every
nation on the planet." Heero shook his head grimly. "It's not over."

"How old is Alexie?" Trowa asked, curious. "From what I understand, he's
been around for some time."

Both scientists nodded. Doctor G sighed tiredly. "I'm not sure, but he
hasn't changed since I've known him. He processed himself some time ago and
it has some unusual side effects. It prevents the break down of tissue and
stunts any growth. Or so he claimed."

Just dandy. Not only was Alexie practically immortal, I'd never see five
two.

Shit.

"Well, we'll just have to kill him and make sure nothing's left." Heero
explained. "It's not a problem."

Wufei grunted. "I don't suppose you will grace us with anymore information
today?"

"You've all had enough to chew on for the next few months." Doctor J turned
from the window and crossed the room. "Any questions?"

I raised my hand, uncomfortable with the side effects of the procedure.
"Hang on..." I said rather ruefully. "You mean, it stunts growth? I can deal
with going insane, but isn't there any treatment for that? I mean, being
five one for the rest of my life is extremely unfair."

Doctor G shook his head. "Duo, it's the least of your problems."

"God damn it is! I mean in the chick department, it's a problem. Poor Hilde
can't wear high heels around me anymore cause she'll tower over me."

The two scientists looked to each other and shook their heads. "Teenagers,
you know." Doctor G began. "Especially that one. He's always on high gear in
the hormone department."

Of course they didn't worry about girls. They were both uglier than
copulating wart hogs (or plastic pink flamingos, depending on your taste).
How could they understand? I on the other hand had to live with the idea of
being the size of a teenaged girl for the rest of my life. I brushed my hair
over my shoulder, relieved to feel the familiar weight of my braid thump
against my back.

"Pathetic." Wufei mumbled. He turned to Heero. He gathered the black
checkers in his hand and gestured to the board. "I'd be more worried about
the medication we'll have to eventually take."

"I am too, but it doesn't stunt his growth." Heero said setting up his
checkers. "Why should he worry? After all, it's only a depressant and he's
so damn hyperactive it won't touch him."

"Unfortunate for us." Wufei glanced back to me, his sarcasm playful rather
than hurtful. "Well, we won't have to worry about anything for a while, will
we?"

"That's for sure." Heero moved his first piece.

I gave Wufei the finger and reached over for my coke. "You're just pissed
cause I took you out."

"You were lucky." Wufei responded dryly. He stared at the board for a long
time, then nudged a flat chip two places. "And possessed, so it doesn't
count."

Quatra nuzzled into Trowa affectionately. "It's okay, Duo. We're all well
now and all forgive you."

"Thanks." A part of me still cringed, still seeing Quatra's broken form
bleeding on the floor. I was trying to forgive myself for it, but it was
very difficult. I gave the kid a wave, attention on the two scientists as
they vanished out of the room without even a farewell. "Hmm. They probably
think we'll lynch them."

"We will, when we have the time." Heero chewed on his thumb nail. "So about
this New Type shit, does anyone here know anything about it?"

"Only what Doctors J and G said." Trowa replied. "I'll look into it when I
leave in a few days."

Quatra nodded. "I might have something. I think I recall hearing the word
outside of today. From what I understand, it's to do with why the Outer
Colonies left Earth in the first place."

I was sick of the plotting and conflicts. My stomach twisted and I looked
down at my hand. Blood still stained my soul. I had to do a great deal of
community service to clean it. "Hey, that's you guys' business." I said,
folding my hands behind my head. I had no intention of poking around any
more. Once I was free of this place, I'd be setting off to South America
with Hilde and my Harley. "I'm home free. I've got a girl, a potential job
and a bike that rules."

"And Alexie?" Heero asked a hint of anger lowering his voice. "I thought..."

"I'm sick of the blood." I simply said. I hadn't healed enough to go after
the man. Maybe in a few months, I'd be ready, but I had no intention of
losing myself again. The Shinigami had to be tamed before I risked becoming
him again. "Heero, I..."

The words were just out of my mouth when Hilde stepped into the room
followed by Relena. Both women walked fairly close and Relena kept smiling
at something bundled in Hilde's arms.

I frowned and looked at the other confused faces in the room. Wufei peeked
up once and pretended to be uninterested. Heero licked his lips and
hurriedly looked to me as if surprised and Trowa, lifted a brow. Quatra
hobbled to his feet. Grabbing a crutch, he limped over to the women. "Is
this Karey?!" He asked excitedly.

Karey? I blinked, eying Hilde carefully. She was dressed in a cotton
mini-skirt with a blue silk ruffled blouse. Her face was positively glowing.
The bundle in her arms wiggled.

Bundle.

A war orphan? I blinked realizing she held a child.

"Do you know the hell I've been through?"

The words she used against me in Bar Harbor rang out in my brain making me
drop the can of Soda with crash. "Ahhhh..."

Relena crossed over to Heero and kissed his cheek. The boy stiffened, then
gave the slightest hint of a smile. "No, I'm not interested in having any
children."

"I didn't ask." she said, placing her hands on his shoulders.

"Children?!" I fumbled out weakly.

Hilde bounced the baby as Quatra leaned over and tickled her chin. "Duo..."

"Mine?" It's amazing how a semi-intelligent, outspoken fellow like myself
shuddered like little Abner when it came to my own kid. Kid, oh Christ, kid,
my kid... I prayed furiously for it just to be some war orphan she picked
up. A lump formed in my throat. I tried to stand, but my legs just shook too
damn much to move. "No. Can't be..."

Doe eyed, Hilde nodded. "She has your eyes."

"Oh mother sucking fuck head..."

"There wasn't very much umpth to that one." Trowa observed. "A little
surprised, Duo?"

I tried to speak, but muttered nonsense. Me, a father. I couldn't believe
it. I stared, then attempted to stand once more. The last thing a guy like
me needed was a dependent. "Hilde, we can't have a baby! Can't you send her
back?"

"What, to the mall?" Hilde said, cross. "Reality check Duo. I had your kid.
The day I found out, you ran off to become a priest."

"Well, that must have sucked," Heero remarked jumping several of Wufei's
checkers.

Wufei leaned on his finger, tapping his chin. "Hmmm, it's Duo's timing. It's
always rather impeccable, isn't it?"

"Oh I think she's a beautiful baby!" Quatra said cheerfully. "She looks just
like her dad too!"

"Will you guys shut the fuck up?!" Exasperated, I seized Hilde and the kid
and dragged them out into the hall. Vaguely, in the distance, I heard Relena
commenting on how badly I was taking the news. I slammed the door behind me
and glared at Hilde. I wasn't ready for children. "Jesus on a pogo stick,
Hilde! I'm locked up in a psycho ward. How the hell do you think can be a
dad to this..."

Big blue violet eyes blinked up at me and tiny mouth smiled back from a
delicate pudgy baby face. She had a full head of light blond hair, just like
mine was when I was much younger. "This..." What was I saying? Little fists
wiggled and grabbed at Hilde's mouth. "This obvious... baby." Blah. Women
and babies were dangerous.

Hilde sniffled. "You can be a jerk about this and ride off in the sunset on
your Harley..."

"Hey, I wasn't the ass here. You're the one who didn't tell me! Hilde, I
never would have left if you told me." I threw my hands up in the air and
turned away from her. The wall conveniently dented as I smacked my skull
against it three times. "God damn it! You should have."

"Duo."

After what Alexie did, I could never feel right being a dad. I was a killer,
a terrorist, a thief. What in God's name would I do if Karey grew up to be
just like me? I clenched my teeth feeling water dribble off my nose. "Hilde,
I'm seventeen."

"I'm sorry, Duo. I was so angry at you, I couldn't tell you."

"Why did Quatra know?" I side glanced her, feeling hurt. This had been a
real bummer of a week.

"I told him the other day. I didn't have a choice. I wanted to tell you, but
I was afraid, so I let Relena take care of her until I got back." Hilde's
voice quaked with sadness and loss. "Please, Duo, can't you forgive me? I'm
very sorry."

"I suppose it was for the better." I said softly. If Alexie had known about
the child, what would have happened to her? I turned back to face Hilde and
involuntarily touched Karey's soft skin.

It was warm and alive. She reached for my finger and wrapped her little fist
about it. "How old?"

"Three months." Hilde sighed. "Do you want to hold her?"

Bashful, I backed up, not sure I wanted to admit to having a kid. It was
crazy. I wasn't even ready to face life, let alone raise a family.

Now I was stuck.

I extended my arms and let Hilde place Karey in them. She squirmed and
pressed into my chest making me feel like a marshmallow. "Have you ever
heard of a shot gun wedding?" I asked, unable to believe my own words.
Neither of us were ready to marry, but Karey made it impossible not to.

"We can wait." Hilde said rubbing her arms insecurely. "Whenever you're
ready."

I shrugged, remembering the day I decided to join the priesthood. I was
never the type to think very long about an important matter. I made snap
decisions. I shouldered the door to the room open and peered in at the
others' faces. Quatra and Trowa spoke softly on the couch while Wufei
finished the checker game by pulverizing the rest of Heero's men. Gloating
he folded his arms. "You see, my strategy is, as always, superior to yours."

"Hm, so is your ego." Heero's hand timidly slipped into Relena's. She
brightened, and touseled his hair.

Love, it was sickening. It made you do stupid things...

Relena looked up with a perfect pleasant smile on her face. "Is everything
all right, Duo?"

"Sure." I said and showed them the kid. "Isn't she cute? She has a great
head of hair too. God damn, a mini Maxwell." I then nodded to the hall and
Hilde who waited nervously behind me. I inhaled and took the plunge. "I need
a best man, bridesmaids and a couple of witnesses. Do you guys mind coming
down to the chapel so Hilde and I can tie the knot?"

Silence.

Wufei grunted. "He's going to regret this."

I shrugged. "Never know until you try."

"Let me guess." Heero stood and grabbed a few daisies from a thin vase on
one of the tables. "Oh hell, you haven't been married before, why not try?
Am I right?" He tossed me the flowers.

Enthusiastically I nodded and caught the makeshift bouquet. "That sums it
up. What's the worse thing that could happen?"

"Hen pecking." Wufei informed, walking by me. "And dirty diapers."

Diapers.

Yuck.

"You could fall even more deeply in love." Quatra beamed. "I think it's
wonderful."

Diapers.

I looked at the baby, then at Hilde. The concept of marriage and being a dad
was more frightening than facing death in a mobile suit.

Oh hell, why not. What was a dirty diaper? At least it didn't smell like
rotting bodies. I shrugged it off, and got myself married. The worst thing
that could happen was learning about life. I thought I was about due for
that.

**********

Three months later...

Duo

After two months in a mental hospital, not only was I deprogrammed, I was
damned bored and ready to move on. Despite my shrink's objections, I
insisted on moving on with my life and took off to South America with Hilde
and the kid. The mission was set back from the Amazon river in a small
fishing village just outside the jungle. The poverty was tremendous. The war
slaughtered many of the adults leaving countless orphans in various states
of starvation and disease.

It would take years to rebuild their economy and even then, they'd never be
anything but a relatively poor fishing village.

Hilde acted very uncomfortably as we walked through the falling shacks and
battered shelters of the town. During the rainy season, the waters often
covered the entire river bank of the Amazon, forcing the few villagers left
to retreat to floating platforms or higher ground.

Crazy, I was used to poverty, but I wasn't used to the Amazon way of life. A
large population wasn't far away, but they tended to ignore the needs of
those here. It was so familiar. Who cared about a few desparate poor
children other than the fact they may be a very exploitable work force.

The mission was a stone building close to the creeping jungle. It had a bell
tower and appeared very sturdy. The building itself was large, with stone
and wood walls. It was very New England church like with a brick extension.
From what Father Donaldson claimed, the mission housed a mini medical care
facility as well as food storage units. The mission was the closest thing
these people had to the modern world. It had electricity.

I went to the door and spoke a few words with Mother Rose, the resident nun.
She took my credentials and vanished inside after telling me to wait.

They'd hate me, I thought. Hilde walked around the church grounds, admiring
the stone garden and a shrine dedicated to the Blessed Mother Mary. Karey,
ever aware and curious, cooed and tried to grab the branches of a few nearby
shrubs.

This was really going to put a damper on our relationship. Hilde wanted to
return to L2 and empathically insisted on having me give up my quest for
internal peace in a life dedicated to a God I barely understood.

But I was drawn to it now, driven by unseen forces to make a life helping
others. What would I do when I returned to L2? Join the colonial military?
Be hounded as a war hero? I shivered, not wanting that kind of
responsibility.

"Hey." A voice said, turning my attention to a small boy standing on the
steps before me. He was dark skinned, with a head of tousled ebony hair. He
was dressed in a ratty over sized T-shirt and smelled of sweat. "These are
my steps." He said in broken English.

I looked around then returned my gaze to his dark unyielding eyes. A chill
rippled over my body. He had the eyes of a child who had seen too much of
the darker side of life. Eyes like my own. "I don't see any names on these
steps."

He blinked and sidled his dirty scuffed up form beside me.

I felt little fingers reaching for my pocket.

Automatically, I grabbed his hand, recognizing a pick pocket when I saw one.
"Don't try that with me kid." I warned gently. "You're messing with a kid
who's seen the best."

"I just want to get some food." he said, dropping his voice so it bordered
the line between hurt and child sweet, a skill I always found useful when I
was a child.

"Ask the Nun. I'm sure there's food for you in the mission."

"I don't beg."

Swallowing, I watched Hilde look up from the shrine. She smiled sweetly back
at me and waved. This kid was me. "No begging eh? I thought it was begging
too. Let me guess. You like pestering the local town and stealing what you
like."

"You know all the corners, don't you?" The kid smirked. "Yeah, I steal, and
I'm tiny enough to..."

"Hide, but you don't lie and you feel you're perfectly just in doing what
you do, cause the world owes it to you." I dropped a hand on his head and
scruffed the hair. It was matted with dirt and very knotted. If I was right,
the hair was roughly past his shoulders and filled with lice and God knows
anything else.

Like mine was when I was a child. He nodded back to me. "So can you let me
steal a buck or two?"

I shook my head. "You have too much pride. There is nothing wrong with
coming to the mission for help."

I didn't have much of a choice in the matter as I recalled. Father Maxwell
took me in with all of the orphans in order to end our lives of crime.

Something I still hadn't been able to give up. "So, what's your name?"

"Don't have one." He said, eyeing his shoeless feet. "Don't remember
anything since the bombing."

My gut tightened and a lump formed in my throat.

I was looking at myself. "I understand. Well, I'm Duo."

I offered a hand and he took it. "What brings you here?"

Near the shrine, Hilde put little Karey on the ground so the child could
attempt to crawl. I watched for a moment, thinking of the boy's question.
"Penance."

"Oh. So you believe in this God crap?"

I shrugged. "Yeah. How about you?" From the way he spoke, I already knew the
answer.

"I think God likes to kill people." He removed his hand and brushed his
tangled bangs from his face. His gaze was lost and pained.

"Oh...You believe in the Shinigami." I said. "Sometimes, I do too. But it's
better to believe in life if you can."

Karey crawled three steps and terrorized a butterfly siting on a small
exotic flower before her. "But I don't expect you to understand that yet."

The doors behind me opened. With the nun stood an older graying man in a
collar and robes. He held my credentials and resume. "Mr. Maxwell?" The
priest asked, his face warm and welcoming.

I stood, only coming up to his chest and nodded. "Duo Maxwell's the name. Is
there anything I can do for you?" My gut tightened. They couldn't possibly
want my assistance with the credentials Father Donaldson insisted I give
them.

"Father Donaldson said you were looking for a life within the church or
assisting our mission with whatever skills you have." His small eyes pierced
mine, making me squirm.

I scratched my head, then tossed my pony tail. "Well yeah, I ummm, was a
novice."

Mother Rose smiled at Karey and Hilde. "You have a lovely daughter and wife,
Mr. Maxwell. Life down here is very difficult. I'm not sure if it will suit
you."

"I can take it, and so can the family." I said hurriedly. "Look, I know my
record isn't very clean..."

"That's not the point Mr. Maxwell." The priest said firmly. "We need a man
with your kind of record. This area is very repressed and the government in
control is trying its best to drive us and the mission out of business. They
don't care about the unfortunate here."

"They didn't on L2 either." I said coldly. "I can take anything you give me.
I just want a chance." I wanted to save lives, not destroy them. I looked at
the boy, realizing how imperative it was I stay. He needed me. "Look Father,
I don't look like much, but I assure you, I can do a lot for this place. I
was a war orphan. I know how they think."

The priest and nun glanced to each other then back at me. Mother Rose met my
gaze. "The jungle here isn't like a colony. There's disease, there's
animals, there is bombing and the threat of civil war. Can a child like you
handle all of those things at once?"

I wasn't a kid, but held back my words. "I'm a kid, but I'm a pro."

"We need medicines and supplies Mr. Maxwell, as well as someone who can help
with farming and rebuilding the village here. Can you do that for us?"

I winked and snapped my fingers. "Piece of cake, Father. And what I don't
know I'll learn and maybe..." I dropped a hand on the kid's shoulder and
squeezed it. "...maybe shorty here can give me the ropes."

The boy glared at me in protest. "I'm not shorty!"

"Then, we're gonna have to find you a name, kid, aren't we? I knelt to his
level and stared deep into his eyes. He was me, but a me I could turn around
with a little work. "Diamond in a rough." I said softly. "I'll call you
Patrick." My real name. It suited him more than me. This boy had hope.

The kid smiled and rubbed his eyes. "OK. It sounds like a good name."

"Good." I gave him a nuggie and stood. "Well, I was thinking about rice
patties during the rainy season." I said, meeting the priest's attention.
"I'm strong. I can work in the fields. Father Donaldson said I'd do good
with a little ministry too." I reached up and tilted my baseball cap down,
then realized it was gone.

It sat on Pat's head. He grinned up at me with unkempt teeth. The kid needed
a dentist, a good bath and some clothes, but he didn't need me to teach him
how to steal. "Didn't I tell you to ask for things?"

He shrugged. "I like it."

"So do I." I pulled the brim over his eyes, then folded my arms.

Mother Rose reached into the doorway, and removed a double barreled shotgun
from behind the frame. "These are desperate times, Mr. Maxwell. You can have
the job."

I took the gun, understanding what Father Donaldson meant when he sent me
here. They needed a terrorist of sorts, who'd protect them and get them what
they needed. Someone who'd stage things under their noses. Someone they
wouldn't question. They were only apprehensive about my family. Terrorists
weren't fathers of babies. I looked back at Hilde who approached, her face
pale.

She hoped I'd be rejected. "We're staying?"

"For now." I said. "Until they have their feet on the ground."

"Welcome to the Mission, Duo Maxwell. I hope you and your family will make
yourselves at home." Father said. "We're very happy to have you with us..."

                        *************FINIS***********