Sheshi knew the way, and lead me down into the bawls of Zen. We left Sally, confidant she was capable of piloting the Drop ship back to Gunn and swiftly joining the others in the battle. It was up to us to help Duo before it was too late.
I of course, cursed myself for letting Duo talk me into allowing him to take on the task of controlling the monster ship. But I understood his reasons. He had to regain his confidence. And a part of him had to prove his own humanity to himself.
Yet I knew it wouldn't work as he planned and was fully prepared to rescue him at all costs.
It pleased me he trusted me enough to do so. I didn't deserve it.
I would not fail Duo Maxwell. Not like in China .
Still there was always that off hope Duo would conquer the monster. And with all my heart, I wished him luck. Yet, my instinct told me something entirely different. I doubted his ability to control the FTL. Duo's will was to battered to fight anything. Alexie arranged it quiet effectively. Even if G designed Duo to conquer the beast, Duo needed the confidence to do it. Not blind luck and snap decisions.
Then again, Maxwell was the embodiment of blind luck and snap decisions.
I cursed silently, then looked over to the young red haired boy standing beside me. "So this mobile suit is FTL ready..."
The youth nodded, punching the elevator button. "Yes, as I explained, it is capable of going FTL and has a psycho-frame system. It amplifies natural Newtype abilities according to the files..."
I inhaled, recalling the data in my families' records. The Nu Gundam was an impressive machine. It was a great honor to pilot it. I just hoped Sheshi's natural abilities boasted though the system wouldn't overwhelm it.
Unless, it was necessary.
Secretly, I hopped it would bring out any of my dormant natural Newtype abilities. But I'd never admit to it.
Sheshi on the other hand smiled. "Mr.. Wufei, I assure you we want to avoid a system overload. It almost killed Amuro Rai when it happens and I don't want to see the same thing happen to you."
The boy had read my mind...
I felt a chill as the elevator door slid open to a dimly lit hallway. "If a system overload is the only thing that will help us save Duo ... " I said firmly. "Then I'll gladly sacrifice myself."
Strange, in China I wasn't willing to sacrifice my clan's honor in his name. Now, It was quite the contrary. I was willing to give up everything about my former life to help a friend.
I took a breath, regretting the possibility of never seeing her again in this life. Then returned my attention to the information at hand.
According to Sheshi, Amuro Rai was in a coma for months after his first encounter with the sensitive psycho frame system. But he managed to get some ample control over it later on. In fact, he had enough control to save his son.
At least, according to Sheshi's and Duo's recap of Andre and Amuro Rai's story.
I followed Sheshi out of the elevator reviewing the legend in my mind. Together, Amuro Rai and Char Aznable took on the FTL in their last major terrestrial conflict. One piloted the Nu Gundam, while the other locked in "union" with the machine's pilot, Andre Rai. It took both combat and psychic skill to defeat the FTL.
A part of me was looking forward to piloting the Nu. It was to be the greatest test of my skills. But I was frightened nonetheless. Despite my training and meditations, I wasn't prepared to face a psychic organic machine like the FTL.
Was Maxwell rubbing off on me with his stupid, misguided sudden decisions?
Or was I trying to make amends for when I allowed Xang to control me enough that I wounded one of my closest allies?
I bit my lip tasting salty blood.
From the hallways, we entered the launch bay. "Duo and I have managed to get access to the machine's computers. It shouldn't take long for us to start her up and get her launched. She's very reasonable." Sheshi explained as we walked up to the foot of the machine. "It's really no different than your Gundams..."
I raised a brow, scanning the white giant. The boy personified it, as if it had a mind of it's own. Then a gain, historically Rai personified his machines as well. Perhaps Sheshi was just mirroring his "genetic" prototype. He seemed to sympathize with everything around him.
Still as a pilot, I could see some grotesque inaccuracies in his statements. "It's larger, and if history is right it will have a linear cockpit. Two things that will make a very big difference in piloting." I informed flatly.
He nodded. "Oh yes, I know that Mr.. Wufei, but the control is basically the same. Though it might be a bit more sensitive to mental commands than the Zero System. In fact, it should be easier to maneuver because many of the commands go strictly from your brain. It will be like an extension of your own body... At least, that is what Duo says. " He paused, looking down, scarlet blossoming on his pale cheeks. "He call's it a Gundam pilot's Wet dream."
I snorted. It was typical Duo . I was beginning to believe it was his favorite expression. "He would."
The boy went to respond, when he paused, pale. Then looked up, blinking in the direction we came. "He's lost. Duo has become a part of the FTL. " Despairing, he dropped his head and shook it. "I told him he was too weak to fight it. He knows nothing of mental combat. He should have let me help him, but he's too stubborn..."
From the grief in the child's voice I realized he was feeling just as helpless as I. I drew a breath and eased a hand onto his shoulder, sensing he was in need of comfort. "Yes he is stubborn, but I'd have a little more faith in him. That stubbornness is to our advantage. If you approach him right, he'll use it against the FTL..."
Yes, insane as it was I believed Duo would fight the FTL's control if we assisted him. It wasn't impossible. All one needed to do was point out to him what was happening and keep Reminding him. He'd then use that "Maxwell" mule persistence to free himself. Yet from his dark green orbs, I could see Sheshi hadn't the same confidence. Perhaps being an empath and psychically connected to Duo he saw an entirely different side to him. Yet I couldn't risk believing it. Not now.
"But if he doesn't face certain things, he'll never have the strength and will be quite content hiding from himself in the FTL." Sheshi explained slipping by me.
Effortlessly, he launched himself in the zero g gravity, toward the scaffolding in front of the NU Gundam's cockpit.
I paused for a moment, reflecting his words, then wondered exactly what the boy meant. Then, with no more adieu, I followed suit. There were more important things at hand and the sands of time were slipping away by the moment.
I left Hilde in the control center and set down the hall in a dead sprint. I ignored Hilde's warnings as I ran. As of now, I didn't give a damn who saw me. I'd most likely get hung for it, but if I could leave for Mars as planned I'd be gone before the real shit hit the fan.
Sadly Relena and Une might take the flack for my actions. Then again, it was something they were trained to deal with. Unlike me, I was not politician.
Unfortunately, Relena would also be in danger. I tightened my lip, jogging steadily down the hall, trying to find a solution. I despised the idea of being the one who deliberately placed Relena's neck on the line in order to go into battle. But as far as I was concerned I was the best man for the job, and they were doomed without me. If the colony and the diplomats were to survive, all of us would have to act defensively. So my presence might be generally accepted as a precautionary measure. It was what the Colonies and Earth made us for. And it wasn't the first time lady Une used the Gundam pilots, despite their reputations.
If Dorothy was correct, none could argue it, without looking like a fool. Had to hand it to the woman, she placed all the cards on the table and gave the Gundam pilots a little more immunity to the hostilities around them.
For what gain, I hadn't a clue, but I was never one to kick a gift horse in the mouth.
I'd kill Catalina later if her reasons were foul, but until then, I'd use her.
As I rounded the corner, I recognized the emergency alert sirens squeal though the base and lady Une's voice vibrating though the hall, ordering all positions to be manned. They weren't taking this lying down.
I felt a moment of relief. Lady Une always understood the beauty of warriors and the need to fight.
Sadly without mobile suits the Colonies were screwed. Which was why I had to find Rasid. Or Quatre. He might have been in Romafeller's hands, but I trusted his work before his capture. And he did reconstruct the Wing Zero...
Wing Zero, I smiled fondly, finding myself looking forward to flying it again. Like many men, I appreciated the feel of raw power at my fingertips. Especially when there was meaning to the battle.
I came to the entrance, seeing it swarming with Preventer agents. They studied me as I flashed my former Id and attempted to pass them. As expected, they lowered weapons to my chest, unswerving gazes locked on my face.
"Where the hell are you going Yui? Romafeller has charges against you!"
Old news, I wished they had forgotten. Life was infinitely inconvenient.
I was still a criminal and to let me near any of the diplomats was insane. "I need to talk to Quatre Winner." I said, loud enough for Quatre turn his head in my direction. "And if you want to live, I advise you to keep out of my way."
The guns and bullets weren't a problem. I could get past them. None of the guards were capable of matching my agility and speed. But the act would only panic the diplomats and destroy Relena's reputation.
Relena. I spied the golden haired girl below, surrounded by other diplomats. She was in a heated discussion with Dorothy and her new Partner John Ferio. From her hardened features, Relena was holding her own, sticking by her pacifist guns, without looking lie a fool. Dorothy was undoubtedly trying to make her look bad. But politics were Relena's battleground, and none matched her nobility and strength of will when it came to an argument (even someone as crafty as Dorothy ). Still I tightened my jaw, knowing the case Dorothy presented dampened some of Relena's fervor. Her deep blue eyes cast no innocents on the world around her.
I managed to pick up a few words. They were discussion going into battle. And as I suspected, Relena was attempting to convince them to open dialogue with the attacking nation. Something she knew was suicide, but has little choice to suggest in order to keep her position as Minister of Peace.
A part of me was proud of the girl and regretted leaving her when it was time. I needed her.
With an effort, I tore my attention form my Queen, and scanned the room for Quatre.
He was only standing a few feet away, in an urgent discussion with Rasid and Trowa.
Trowa, I lifted a brow, wondering exactly what Damage Alexie had done to him. If I was right, he had Quatre and Trowa long enough to turn them both into assassins. Unless that is, his tactics had changed.
Which was a possibility. Alexie was no fool. He was using Dorothy and politics as his weapons this time. Whatever plans he had for Quatre and Trowa would be subtle. For he wanted to stay dead to the world.
Which brought me to Dorothy and Ferio.
Ferio seemed familiar to me.
"Mr.. Yui, " The guard's voice broke me from my thoughts. "I'm afraid you'll have to be taken for questioning..."
I was wasting way too much time. "I'm not leaving. And I don't have time for this." I said, looking directly at Quatre.
The boy turned his head, meeting my gaze suddenly aware of my presence. "Allah be praised! HEERO !" The small blond youth abandoned his discussion, and hobbled painfully up the stairs to the entranceway and faced down the guards. " Heero is right, we don't have time to argue here. If the enemy is coming, we're the only ones with mobile suits."
Below, Rashid and his men, grunted with enthusiastic agreement. "That is right Master Quatre!" Abdol said. "Rashid! It is only appropriate to send our ships to meet with the enemy and that we join them now.! We are already ready for war."
"But Mr.. Winner. Nothing has been decided yet...." The soldier went to object." And Mr.. Yui broke into a Romafeller facility."
"That's been dealt with." Trowa replied evenly walking to my side. He gave me a thin smile. "Romafeller dropped the charges. Heero is free to go." He handed one of the men a folder. Trowa wasted no time with words. " Now, we have a defensive battle to attend to... We use the GUNDAMS."
Down below, Relena glanced up, apparently after hearing the word Gundam, then weakly smiled. She didn't like what I had to do, but she knew it was my nature. It was necessary to let the loose cannons be just that.
"Then it's settled. " Quatre said, nodding to his men. "To the mobile suits."
To my surprise though, Ingram Reily, sprinted up to us. "We'll catch up," He said to Quatre. "We have Hades, Midguard and Quesqquadel in dock!"
Mobile Suits, I was sure of it. In general I wasn't very comfortable with the idea of our impostors flying into battle with us. But under the circumstances, we didn't have much of a choice.
Quatre waved down. He trusted them. Ahhh, Alexie, I was already seeing his affect. "It will be good to have three more Gundams in battle with us. " He said swiftly .
"Hmph." I turned down the hall. "Just make sure he keeps his guns away from me. I'll kill him if he shoot me again."
Space, it called.
Its long seductive fingers caressed my bound form, sinking into my flesh and winding themselves around my nerves.
"Angel, angel, do not resist, we are now one. Without your mind, we shall never reach optimal efficiency."
Data retrieval, subject, adolescent male, weight 110 lbs., height 5'2, race human hybrid. Activate life support.
"Life support?" my lips murmured hazily as my body settled into the mechanical arms cradling it. Yes, together, we will activate life support. I opened to the mechanized touch, letting its fingers reach into my brain and as one being, we commanded the systems before us.
A word of circuits and logarithms opened, jumbling endlessness in my mind. Yet, the more it guided me, the more I comprehended the complex mathematical messages before.
It was how it controlled its body.
Were as I a mere, weak human organism used electrical pulses to command flesh and bone, it used numbers and calculations. Calculations only computed by the advanced human brain.
It needed me to function.
Pleased, it rewarded me by wriggling tingles down my inner thigh and pulsing around my genitals. I trembled. Yes, I was an animal component, and easily tended to and it would happily do so when I cooperated.
Moaning, I let my being focus on the sensations, ridding on the pleasure probing my lower torso.
I felt alive, and sank in the peaceful pleasure as it rolled over my form.
"Everything thing you need is here, Angel." It said coldly, but I heard no coldness in my heart.
"You can not function properly without unity."
"Unity..." I repeated convinced of my own failings. Never in my singular existence had I felt this alive. The same prodding sensation tickled my mind, teasing my brain with more sensual caresses. More erotic shivers swept my body, blotting out any feeble attempts to consider the consequences of living the life on sensation alone. If it could do this with my body, it could do anything with my mind.
Like breath (breath? the word was on the tip of my tongue, but had no meaning).
Cool words spoke once more as it passed into my very soul. My brain buzzed with pleasant static . "Symbiote in place and functional."
Again it touched and stroked my essence, it now needed what made me. It needed the very chemicals making up my memories and self.
Enraptured by the wave of colors and breezes sweeping over my form ,I considered my options. What harm could it do? Who was I to fight my mother's womb?
Especially when it was only logical to better my functions as a machine.
"Yes... Commence procedure." Whispered from my lips eagerly.
I wanted to live, I wanted to feel, I needed it to think for me. I was dependent...
"Accessing neural connections."
Sweet pain lanced down my spine, igniting a series of images.
Cradled in a womb of warmth, I hovered in a small comforting space, body snug beside another small form like my own. Even though the world was dark, the lulling thud of mother's heart echoed like sweet music easing my newly formed human awareness.
Like a tape on fast forward, images of my ghostly past sped by and vanished before I could grasp and truly understand them. As swiftly as they came something drew them into itself and stored them as information.
There was no fighting, only confusion.
Alone in the dark, dimly aware of the soothing pulses of heat slithering into my body, I could only vaguely understand what was happening to me.
In truth, it wouldn't let me. Ignorance is bliss.
Helpless, I watched, brain reliving yet again the horrors of my young life.
I was a child again, staring with glassy eyed fear, as a tall blond haired man with green eyes, nudged me behind him. His hand dropped to my head, as he stared across the room at another man.
Steel blue eyes captured mine, making me cringe, and draw back behind my father..
Blue eyes met green, father refused to look away, instead defiance glared from his emerald pools. "You. I knew you were behind this... It all makes sense."
Alexie, the man with the blue eyes, smiled thinly, fingers adjusting the lapel of his blue silk suit. "Now, now, Mr.. Reily. I seemed to have caught you red handed.." He gestured to me as I groped at father's pant leg.
Why didn't he pick me up? Father always cried me. Why he was just carrying me a moment ago... But then all the sudden he showed, he the hurting man with the blue eyes.
The eyes that felt like they were eating me from the inside out..
Eating, eating, something eating....
A cold shiver swept my toddler's body as I stared up at father.
He was terrified. "Patrick." He said evenly. "Let go, Patrick.."
Let go? Why did daddy want me to let go, just a little bit ago, he wanted me to stay close so he could keep me safe. Daddy was taking me away some place, he said. He called it Zen and said it was in space. I had to stick close to him so the doctors wouldn't take me away.
That's what he said.
Tears in my eyes I watched him wondering if our secret trip was over..
Over, over, something was wrong...
I looked away from my father, back to the blue eyed man recalling how he wanted to come with him earlier that day.
Experiment he said.
Now I was really scared, was daddy gonna let the blue eyed man take me?
Suddenly I felt father push me aside, and pull for a gun at his hip.
The shots rang out like thunder causing me to screech and plug my ears as I dived for cover.
There was a scraping like claws against steal, then a slashing sound like something cutting air.
Terror forced me to pull away, my mouth opening and closing against something thick and slimy.
More information, faster this time, leaving me numb and incapable of digesting exactly what I saw.
Then it was over with, as fast as it started.
Letters buzzed by, flickering one at a time in a blink like my eyes were a screen on computer.
Sweet pain tickled though my mind, triggering spasms of tension as I slowly became aware of myself.
Awareness. We I aware.
Psychic coordinates, disturbance in the L1 configuration, Earth sector 290, sphere 3.
Over ridding bay door sequence, 000022293846549009....
Numbers, numbers, numbers hissed erratically thought my brain along with flashes of light and the occasional buzz of mechanical reasoning.
Where was I?
Who was I?
I thought hard, diverting my strain of thought from the stream of information washing over my brain to the very thought of consciousness.
Consciousness, yes, I was conscious. I wasn't sure if was a good thing. I felt oddly strange and was puzzled by the assault of numerical data flooding my mind. Yet, it seemed normal to me. Still, some how, the numbers I'd associate myself thinking of were usually measurements of female assets rather than spatial coordinates.
Unless I was piloting something.
Piloting? yes, I was piloting. But my eyes were closed.
Was I dreaming? I was in darkness and the numbers appearing before me seemed more like dream images...
Oh, man, something, something wasn't right... I just couldn't place my finger on it.
Angel, why do you fight? Optimal efficiency can only be obtained if we are one...
Yes, that was right. Perhaps that was what was wrong. I was fighting.
It was important to process the data so we could make a successful FTL jump.
What fuck'n planet was I on? Only the outer Colonies had...
Again the voice spoke, soothing the tension gripping my alarmed brain. "Angel..."
Why did I fight?
I felt a flood of pleasant tingles swept my body as the mechanical giant unfolded from its box like configuration.
I fought because it was what I did. It defined me.
Was I singular.
For some reason there was something missing. Being singular and self-contained was insufficient and meaningless.
Who was I?
My steel and gundanium body stood, engines primed as she readied for lift off.
I saw through its eyes.
It? What was it?
Why was I not we?
Or why was we not I?
Confusion wracked my mind, glitching my dream for a moment with snow like static .
Dream, not dream.
"Angel." the voice tightened its hold on my thoughts, guiding me back to its womb. "Angel, we are one. processing. Scanner, fully functional. "
The world flashed back and fuzz, blossomed into full color.
A wide launch bay carved out of stone walls, and a single figure standing on one of the scaffoldings panned into view.
His face was pale with worry as he watched us as we majestically commenced moving toward the bay doors.
Helplessly trapped, I tried to shake my head, feeling it confined against tendril restrains as I attempted to move.
Processing....Bay door codes are overridden, proceeding to ramp.
It's thoughts over overwhelmed my brain, blocking any awareness of singularity.
Launch preparations were integral to our reaching the Colonies in time.
Screams, flashing of light, explosions flooding space in a microsecond, then fading into nothingness as it's airless vacuum smothered its flames.
Three Gundams blasted into space.
Quickly our minds eyes scanned for data on each mobile suit.
My head buzzed painfully as the information scrolled by.
Class Gundam, Heavyarms, XXXG-01H2-weapons class Gundam...
Class Gundam, Sandrock, XXXG-01SR2-Alice System-AI class Gundam...
Class Gundam, Wing -Zero, XXXG-00WO- Psycho Gundam class...
Anguish squeezed tears from my eyes, as I struggled to withdraw my mind from the flood of blueprints assailing my brain.
Yes, Who was important...
Faces appeared, faces I knew but could not place a finger one.
A blond Boy-Newtype.
A short haired flaxen boy artificial -Newtype
A boy with dead gray eyes, and dark brown hair.
Heero ... Heero Yuy.
The ass hole.
The best God-damned friend I could ever had.
My mind snapped back in a furry of memory. I was Duo Maxwell, pilot of the Deathscythe Hell, Shinagami to my enemies..
Yes, that was right. I had a nightmare, and realized it was a clairvoyant vision. As an attempt to reign some sort of control over my mind, and block the control the "Voices" and FTL had, I was attempting to fly the monster suit.
My goal was to rescue the Colonies from an occurring attack.
Yes, that was right. The data filling my brain was the FTL preparing to launch. My mind was serving as its core computer. Together we were going to stop the attack.
Wasn't this what I wanted. I wanted to help and what was the difference between it or me in control? As long as the Colonies were saved.
I had no fear, and felt like I belonged. I felt no pain save for the occasional thud in my head as data filed by, but other than that I was a fully functional machine.
In fact, my body tingled with bursts of sensations and energy that were both pleasant and erotic. It was more logical to stay within the womb of the FTL, than to fight what was to be.
Yes, Heero Yuy WAS my human side's friend. But Duo Maxwell had no more need of anyone outside of the FTL.
Chilled, I diverted my attention to my human eyes.
Something thick was closed inside of my mouth and over my nose, giving me air. It reminded me of the life support systems in the hospital.
Painlessly, I opened my eyes seeing a tangle of tubs and organic cables wound around my body.
I was crucified, hanging in organic fleshy blackness. Thick wires and tendrils, like swollen veins, hooked into my naked body in every possible place. They fed me, they pleased me, they tended to my psychological processes, they kept me alive.
But most of all I gave it my mind and power to function.
The FTL owned my very soul.
Even my hair seemed to be a part of the machine and I was surprised to notice that some of the connections were becoming my own flesh.
Our relationship was the prefect fusion. It almost excited me, and trickled pleasant throbbing around my genitals. We were perfectly self sustained.
The cables locked around my waist and legs pulsed as if breathing, and I noticed how pink the flesh seemed.. It was alive...
The entire suit was alive.
I should have felt fear, I should have cared, but my heart was cold. Fear was illogical as was resisting.
Of course the FTL was alive, we were one organism.
Then there was the silence. Only the machine spoke to me, but that was in unison with my own thoughts and calculations. The voices were gone as was the backdrop of psychic banter. I was free and clear of any distractions.
I could control my powers.
My functions were running smoothly.
The ocean of space, yawned before both of us as we glided into its vacuum.
The light speed jump coordinates were set...
Once more I fell into the seductive hold of the FTL..
"Wesson! Battle stations! Wake up there, sleepyheads, there's a war on!"
He sprinted down the corridor, weaving between the slower people who scrambled to get out of his way. Old, old habit caused him to pull out one of his ever-present cigars and stuff the unlit cylinder between his teeth. "Smith! Report!"
"Sir!" Jack Smith responded instantly. One of only two people in the Service who could get away with calling him Sir, Smith had known Gunn since the huge native of Ragnarok had been a Second Lieutenant in the OC Navy. "I have multiple inbounds, launched from our previously identified bases in South America. I make it at least forty vessels, from destroyer to full carrier or battleship class. They're throwing out a lot of chaff and ECM, and it's pretty hot stuff. Lots better than the out-of-date crap their targets have."
Damn, he thought. This don't make much sense. No sign of any alien forces here, but tech like that don't grow on trees. They got help from somewhere, I'll bet my boots on it. "Wesson, what's our status?"
"Sir! Power room reports thirty seconds to full operational status. Shields on standby. Cannon charging, all missile launchers showing green, Medical is on standby, crew all present and at their stations except our slacking Captain, Sir!" Hilary Wesson was the second person who could call the Marine Force Leader by the honorific "sir" -- both she and Jack Smith had been briefly under his command and never let him forget for an instant that he'd once been a Navy boy instead of one of the Real Men in the Marines.
"Gimme a break, Wesson, I've been stuck in hell." he growled past the cigar in his teeth. "Hadda take time to regroup. I'll be there in another ten seconds. I want the damn door shutting so fast behind me that it kicks me in the rump for not figurin' they'd try this ahead of time."
"My pleasure, Sir!"
He burst into the landing bay, saw the bright lights shining from the boarding tunnel to the ship. Here there was no gravity, and he kicked off from the side of the bay and flew like lightning. He felt a small bit of satisfaction as he passed through the boarding tunnel without adjustment, having aimed his jump to perfection. He bowed his head and tucked his body into a ball for a moment, causing him to rotate 180 degrees, and then stretched out just in time to have his boots come to a solid landing on the wall of the airlock. The door was indeed shutting just as he hit the opposite wall, and the artificial gravity of Shadowblade slowly took effect -- slowly enough, at any rate, for him to rotate downward another 90 degrees so that he was standing on the floor rather than the wall. The inner door hissed open, and he barreled up to the bridge.
The viewscreen showed the usual peaceful view of the Earth and stars, but now was overlaid with the multicolored grids, symbols, lines, and vectors of a battle display.
Gunn took the situation in at a glance. Green for the allied forces, reds for hostiles, amber for unknowns or undeclared.
Hell of a lot more red than green.
The Shadowblade was heading on an intercept course for the main body of the enemy ships. Other vessels were launching from the L1 Colonies , but pitifully few. Hannibal Gunn could see that Smith's initial estimate had been too optimistic, or that their ECM had been extremely good. Nearly 80 vessels were approaching, designated by crimson tags showing their speed, size, and probable armament. The main body, consisting of 42 vessels, was maintaining formation to meet the defenders, while the others...
"Smith! Hard about, 180! No Z-axis deflection, either."
Smith acted without question or even conscious thought; following Gunn 's orders was second nature to any member of her crew. As the Shadowblade spun on her axis and thrust back in the direction she had came, he glanced back at Gunn and nodded.
"Sir! What's the panic?" Wesson asked from her position at firecontrol.
"Lookit the formation, Sergeant. That whole secondary force is making straight for the central L1 colony we just left. They wanna make sure none of the delegates go home alive.
"Benny, gimme a public channel to those South American ships."
Benedict Dumont, one of the newer members of the Shadowblade's crew, did so.
"Attention South American vessels. This is the Marine Assault Cruiser Shadowblade, Force Leader Hannibal Gunn commanding. Your vessels are ordered to stand away from L1 colony X18999 immediately. I repeat, stand away from L1 X18999 immediately, or you will be fired upon. Acknowledge immediately."
Gunn watched narrowly as the secondary force slowed its approach; unlike a ground-bound set of vehicles, nothing in space could just come to a screeching hault, but you could choose to apply or not apply a set of vectors. Two vessels, however, did not slow.
"Shadowblade, this is Captain Ruiz LaPorte, commanding the First Battle Group. This is not the Outer Colonies ' concern. Do not interfere." Ruiz' face, overlaying the battle display, was tanned and hard, the face of an experienced and dedicated warrior.
"Captain Ruiz, I gotta differ with you. There are thousands of civilians on these Colonies . I will not stand by and permit a massacre, understand? To the two vessels still approaching, this is my final warning: turn aside or be destroyed!"
Wesson shook her head. "No sign of diversion, sir!"
Ruiz' expression was a cross between a sneer and disgust. "You come from a degenerate civilization, trying to pollute the purity of Earth, and you think we will just stand aside? Senor, the will of God is with us, and you shall be swept away if you interfere!"
Gunn repressed his own sharp retort. Instead he felt a pang of pity; someone had really whipped up some good old-fashioned prejudice and hatred down there. He shook his head. "Take the lead ship, Wesson."
"How much of a statement, sir?"
He hesitated for a moment. It was always like this. In the middle of battle there was no time for thought or regret, but before the first shot was fired, a man had to think about what he was going to do. Over in that ship there were hundreds of men. Fanatics, maybe, but most of 'em honestly believing they were doing what they had to do. And with his word they lived or they died, an' wasn't that really only God's place to decide?
But sometimes God asked you to make the choice for Him. He closed his eyes, then opened them and took the cigar from his mouth. "Stop 'em cold, Wesson. No half-measures."
One red dot, identified as the Guadalupe, suddenly swelled onscreen, surrounded by a target grid showing its precise vector, possible escape paths, probable defenses. Target acquired. Target locked.
Twin Novagun 750mm cannon spewed a blaze of coherent stellar radiance. Encased in a warpfield, the two bolts crossed the 25,000 miles to the Guadalupe in less than a thousandth of a second. There was a flicker then, as whatever defenses the South American cruiser had tried vainly to stop the incredible bludgeon of force, and then...
Guadalupe blew apart. The impact of Novafire vaporized the entire forward end of the vessel, 40,000 tons of hardened armor plate exploding into incandescent gas in a microsecond, and secondary blast and radiance effects shorted the governors on her own engines; triple fusion plants failed and exploded with thermonuclear fury.
Where Guadalupe had been was nothing but a swiftly expanding cloud of radioactive gas.
Guadalupe's sister ship Medjugorje shifted vectors violently, coming about in what amounted to a screaming backpedal. For the moment, at least, the terrible power of Shadowblade had averted the frontal assault. But Gunn was under no illusions; they would try again, and it wouldn't be nearly so easy next time.
The newly preped mobile suits were ready to go when I reached the launch bay. Rasid and the Magnac core took good care of them and compleated whatever upgrades I asked of them. Unfortunately since the Colonies destroyed the Mobile Suits after the Marmameia's uprising, the Gundams and the Magnac core were all we had.
As a result, I had little choice but to fight, injured or not.
South America had us out gunned. And I couldn't help but dwell on the notion we were going in to a futile battle.
I slid into the lap of Sandrock, my old friend, and keyed up the controls despite the pain radiating down my spine. In the end, I knew his Alice system would make it easier for me to fight and any wounds would have to stay their protests till the battle was over.
According to the reports, both the Peacemillion and its pietiful fleet of tank ships and fighters were engaged in battle with the South Americna forces as well as Gunn 's ship, Shadowblade.
So far, losses were heavy on our side, the Preventers had lost three cruiser class ships and the South American's just lost one to the Shadowblade.
Still space was swarming with South American mobile suits. They were taking no chances.
The odds didn't look good, though in Shadowblade we had a good allie. Sadly we didn't know how long they could assist. The outer Colonies could order them not to interfer.
I took a deep breath, not even wanting to consider the possibility. We'd get thought this, the Gundam never let us down.
Affectionaly, I stroked Sandrock's control pannel, feeling it's warmth. the screens around me flickered on as life sparked int the Suit's circutry. "All systems, functioning at maxmium. " I wispered to myself, studying the data scene. It was time. "Well dear Sandrock, we're leaving now. I hope you are ready."
I quicky qued up take off and guided my gental giant down the launch bay.
We glided into space, just behind the Wing Zero and Heavy Arms. Already the star field around Colony X 18999 blazed with firy flowers of death. The battle was in full swing. South American mobile suits plagued the Preventers vessels like giant nats, seeking blood.
I shuttered, only now realizing how fragile the world we made really was. Peace was impossible.
"Well, that's damned ugly." Ingram's image appeared on my comlink, blond hair twitching as he lowered his attention to his control pannel. "See the way they are blinking in and out of your view screens?"
I heard Heero's grunt, then noted a peroid of silence over Trowa's communicator. I inhaled, staring at the screen. Yes, several of the suits on screen seemed to vanish and reapear.
Another carefull examination told me they were Augemented Talgeese class ships, most likely Zero enhanced. "Allah."
"FTL . I understand." Trowa replied with his usual tonelessness. "We'll have to devise a strategy. The Zero System has no limitations now. One can attack at a thought."
"Bloody ugly if you're not FTL." Ingram said . "But we are. Leave the suits to the three of us."
FTL , I tightened my lip, staring down at my poor Sandrock's controls. Once more he was out dated and out classed. yet some how, he had to perservere. Then, if fortunate, we'd give him an upgrade once more. But where was S when I needed him?
"So I am assuming the Cruisers can't manuever with FTL.?" Heero said voice edged with a hint of concern.
It was Sulyn that spoke. "All the South American fleet has FTL capability, we were in the process of borrowing the technology when we were ordered away by Ms. Catolonia. Fortunately for you, FTL with the larger cruisers can only be activated for large jumps and this is too close quarters for them."
"Hummm unluckily for them. Zero tells me the new engines are particularly sensitive and can easily become a weakness if hit in the right place."
it was a stroke of luck, I keyed up my system and prepared for data transfer.
"Send over the data." I heard Trowa say. "We'll need everything we can get."
Data scrolled down my main computer screen with in moments. I smiled seeing how close the main engine room was to the tail of the ships. "Thank you Heero . We'll have to be carefully, they'll probably be the most defended."
"Look we don't have time to chat." Ingram's voice snapped. "We're dealing with FTL. Move out people, this one is going to go fast!"
I watched Ingram's image blink out, then in a flash, Hades vanish from my vision.
"He better share the wealth." Heero Remarked coolly, hitting his boosters and heading into battle.
"We have a strategy." Trowa added. heavy arms peeled away from our tight formation, then veered toward the edge of the South American fleet. "I'll take the end, Heero you take the head and Quatre, take the middle, with luck we can Remove the head ships in the fleet and knock off their chain of command."
"With luck and Godspeed." I wispered, kicking in Sandrock's boosters and heading straight into the fray. Vaguely I heard Heero mutter over the comlink.
"Praying and God is for fools, We have what we need."
I cut my way though space, dodging what blows the South American FTL forces delivered. Ingram, and his group offered a great deal of cover and I only managed to reach the fleet with their miraculous skill backing me up. Other than that, I was far to busy, not dying to witness the progress of the others or the Magnac core. I assumed they were having as difficult of a time as I was and death clung heavy in the air.
Most of my journey consisted of dodging, bracing, taking hits, and, running. In the past, my strategies were a little more complex, but I didn't have the time to calculate the best course of action. I hadn't the advantage of the Wing Zero.
My fate was in God's hands. If Allah deemed it, I could deliver a blow to one of the attacking vessels and we'd have one less enemy to worry about.
So far, Allah had not allowed me to get close to any. And I spend the majority of my time, being the unwilling target.
However, we were blessed in one sense, the FTL suits kept to the main field, away from the larger ships. All I had to worry about were the ships guns and a few upgraded Mercrious class Mobile Suits.
It was difficult though. Upgraded and Remodeled, the squat, ugly, Mercrious's managed to take several of my blows before giving into a firy death. Regrettably, I was forced to get in close and take a great deal of damage before taking them out.
They were mobile doll fast. A part of me failed to feel any human life connected with them. Their strategy was simple and almost mechanical; hold me up long enough so the cruiser I targeted moved out of position and into a more defended zone. To make matters worse, they kept coming, in an attempt to ware me down.
I was exhausting, and Sandrock had taken many blows.
To make matters worse, one of my wounds was beginning to break open and I could feel blood oozing down my thigh.
I would have to either quicken my reflexes or pray for a miracle.
I frowned, seeing my target once more slip behind a veil of Mercrious Dolls. This wouldn't do. I had to find another tactic but what?
My gut tightened and I found myself scrambling to avoid a blast from a doll that just appeared in my blind spot. Cursing I grappled with it, then brought down my simatars, slicing into it's belly.
Strange, my gut often tightened before an attack. Sometimes I could even anticipate how and where if I concentrated.
Then it dawned on me, I had completely ignored what I was and the advantages it brought into battle.
I felt Sandrock vibrate as I barely avoided another blow from a new group of Mobile Dolls. It was close though, and the concussion jarred every bone in my body. It was an effort not to scream as anguish jolted though my wounds.
Poor Sandrock had already taken several direct hits, and now, even the near misses were straining him.
Newtypes often relied on their enhanced reflexes and their mental powers to pilot suits. Something I wasn't used to, save for minimal circumstances.
I had to trust in myself and surrender to my Newtype training.
Inhaling I closed my eyes, for they were just distracting me from what my heart was saying.
A flash of light and in my mind's eye I could see, them moving. Two were veering to the rear, the other three taking me head on. Their computers were detecting stress and directing them for the kill. The two in the rear were to gab, the other three calculate laser swords would be their best option for my demised. They cut off my escape roots before I could act...
But I acted before they could move. Their tactics were fresh in my mind, and with the lightening agility of a novice Newtype, I ordered Sandrock up and out of their way, a split second before they could converge on me.
My timing allowed for two of them to take the rear guards out, leaving three to the mercy of my two curved blades.
I dove down between then, swiveling Sandrock's weapons, cutting though their torsos like butter.
Instinct said the ships were on the move and not to waist time on the limping ships I dismantled, so as quickly as I came, I dropped down, then burned fuel toward the cruiser.
There my gut warned me to stop abruptly before I collided with something...
I yanked back on the controls kicking Sandrock into a full halt when IT appeared. Black as night, the size of a cruiser itself, a devil's machine materialized out of thin air, directly before the Cruiser I targeted and in touching distance of Sandrock.
My head screamed with pain and it took all my concentration to keep from coiling my body into a protective ball. Instead, I gapped, palms slick with sweat.
Voices, I could hear voices whispering and screeching what sounded like meaningless data.
But where did they come from? Was it possible this machine was capable of being psychic itself?
I stared glassy eyed at the monitor, studying the beast's metallic flesh, a part of me drawn to it. It was sleek, and beautiful.
A moment passed and it's screams twisted into a siren's song, lulling me into security.
My breathing quickened and I almost popped open the hatch to get a more intimate look at the giant.
It wouldn't hurt me, it would protect me.
Yet, despite my thoughts, something froze me where I sat. Beyond the hypnotic call, I could feel hunger and an overwhelming atmosphere of evil imposing on my world.
That machine was just wrong.
I shuddered, and scrambled to close out its call. I grabbed my head, thrashing back against Sandrock's cushioned womb, and focused my mind. I FTL tainted as if unspeakable devils squirmed in my brain in an attempt to take my very soul.
I built a mental wall, at first by ignoring, then flowed by forcing the thing's grip on my mind away. the entire process seemed to take hours, but when I opened my eyes, not even a second as transpired.
My mind was in silence for now.
The beast with all it's might and size, raised what looked like a Scythe over it's head.
A scythe. A chill swept my spine and I recalled the whispers and its touch. It was all too familiar.
In a split second the Machine was gone, it's weapon cleaving though the South American ship as if it were nothing but soft clay.
My mental "radar" warned me away, and I involuntarily, pulled back on the controls, forcing Sandrock to retreat, milliseconds before the ship exploded into a firestorm.
Burning gas slammed into Sandrock's back, tossing him head over heal though space and out of control.
It took all the strength I had, to steady him, and guide him away from protentail colissions. But after a moment, of straining every muscle in my body, I stayed my Gundam.
And peered into the devastation.
Every doll in the vicinity of the Cruiser erupted in flames, while the monster machine seemed to descend out of no where on its fellow ships. Like the Angel of death, it wheeled its massive Scythe, cutting the enemy into space debris.
I gasped for air, feeling my lungs tighten as I watched explosions wash over the battlefield.
The fray seemed to falter some, the enemy being just as stunned as I.
"WHAT IN THE HELL?" Heero's voice crackled over my radio.
"An FTL psycho-Gundam." I heard Trowa say flatly.
"The predecessor to the Computer system of the Wing Zero." Tally spoke in awe. "But the South Americans don't have Sheshi Rem... They don't have a pilot for their..."
It was easy to listen to their banter, and I couldn't help but hear their words, but not really understand them. Rather, I watched it, the FTL as it laid waist to the fleet threatening us.
Was it connected to the Web? Or did it just remind me of the web? And if that were the case, all my fears and pains concerning Trowa and the Creatures in the web were undoubtedly real . How many times did I have to face my night terrors?
I WAS SANE.
I narrowed my brow, and let my mind open once more to the call that immobilized me earlier. I had to know.
For now I consciously knew it was real and our souls were in mortal danger.
"It's not theirs. "Ingram spoke in the distance. "God Damn it! We're screwed there is no way any of us can match that bloody bastard!"
"You're getting unnecessarily emotional, Mr.. Reily." I recognized a female voice, but failed to connect it to its owner.
"Listen to the lady." Heero added, but his words became far, far away as I let myself converge on the FTL's voice. "It seems he's on our side. And I recognized the style."
I could hear it again. It was calling for me, like the Web, but it was more mechanical. There was a difference, but the similarity could not just be a coincidence.
My mouth went dry as I gapped at the monitor. The battle was returning to full swing. This time, the South American FTL suits withdrew from the main battlefield and converged on the new comer.
I Watched it swing it's scythe down on yet another ship, than vanish as quickly as it came.
The screaming. I focused on it, trying to make heads or tails of the voice I knew I would hear.
It was saying something....
Yes, I recognized some of the words.
Ashes to ashes, the pilot of the FTL was Duo Maxwell.
For several moments, I studied the monitor, calculating the speed, size ,maneuverability and present course of the FTL mobile suit.
A part of me, felt fear tightening my gut. I breathed in deep, drinking in the feeling, aware, that those around me were also in terror of the monster before us.
I held my breath, recalling own I vowed to keep my emotions at bay, and fought the emotions until they became calm and icy. Control was very important. I focused, absorbing what I was seeing and began to systematically analyzing the events.
It was humanly impossible for a pilot to navigate faster than light, safely though the dense population of battleships in South America's front line. Yet some how, the FTL was doing do at an amazing pace. It was virtually invisible and it's targets unpredictable. All South America could do was sit and wait for it to strike and hope, they had enough fire in the vicinity to take the machine out.
But I highly doubted it. By the way it was maneuvering, I could tell the FTL's main weapons system could take out multiple targets, including several Colonies in one shot. Yet it seemed style was more important to it's pilot than efficiency. I rubbed my chin noting how the dolls were now converging on the massive suit.
they swarmed it in a feeble attempt to bombard it with missals, laser blasts and hand to hand. They were nats and all their attempts were either absorbed or bounced off the great monster suit's shields.
The very tactic left fewer enemies for the Gundams to fight and the main battle fleet open to our attacks.
Never one to turn down an opportunity, I guided Heavyarms though the barrage of enemy fire, and laid waist to the dolls on my trail with constant gunfire. Eventually they let up in time for me to reach my target. And I only had to avoid the ship's main guns.
Unfortunately I was out of bullets and had to go in close to take the cruiser out.
It was no problem for an expert like myself.
I noticed the Wing Zero and Sandrock following suit. With luck the enemy would be short three battle cruisers in a matter of moments.
Also, with their defenses down, it left room for Ingram and his triad to enter the fray and take on the other cruisers.
Twisting Heavyarms from a powerful plasma blast, from on of the ship's main guns, I brought down the energy sword and bisected the main FTL engines in the rear.
The Ship exploded seconds after I plunged from it in an attempt to escape.
I just stabilized my free fall when a new blip shot out of empty space. I recognized the design as one of Gunn's dropships. It swiftly avoided enemy fire, and headed straight toward the main Colony.
Puzzled, I rubbed my chin, computer like brain digging for data on the matter. Since I had arrived in L1 I observed two things, one Heero was suspicious of Quatre and I, and two Wufei and Sally were missing. No one dared to explain where they were. I didn't blame them of course. It would be a tactical blunder to trust anyone who was captive by the enemy any length of time. especially someone likes myself.
My motives and stragety could easily endanger their plans.
My motives were the protection and rebirth of my race..
Them, the beings I couldn't think about.
I shuttered, looking down at my sweeting palms and groped heavy arms controls hearing the voices speaking in unision with my thoughts once more.
Was I really thinking myself, or was it the we thinking?
Did it matter?
Pained, I shook my head, releasing Heavyarms controls and rubbing my brow. What would Quatre say if he knew?
Then again, he was just human right and love for a human was unimportant. then why did I want to protect and charish him? I could have easily killed him the other night, yet I hesitated for love...
My hand shifted to my gut then ran down along my thighs feeling his physical agony. His pain was almost unbearable, but delicious at the same time.
It was an effort to redirect my mind from him, but I managed.
If Duo was flying the FTL, for the Scythe was his calling card, then Sally or Wufei, or both were piloting the drop ship.
My gaze narrowed not liking the implications. They went some were, but where? Where did the outer Colonies send them?
Obviously to find Duo .
But where? The problem with Gunn was he was untouchable. Not even Alexie understood what he was or what he thought. Planing for him was making a shot in the dark.
I narrowed my brow. I needed more information before I made any assumptions. And with my contact with Quatre is possible I could find out sooner or later.
Until then, I tightened my grip on the controls then swung heavy arms back into battle.
"Son of a BITCH." Gunn stared at the plot, chewing furiously on his cigar. "Looks like... Wesson, gimme an ID on that blip. Reference old files, pre-Exodus era."
"Sir!" The screen blanked, then came up with a display of a huge, black suit. "The FTL, sir. No doubt about it."
The FTL. "FTL " meant "Faster Than Light", of course, but in the Outer Colonies , the words "The FTL" meant only one thing: the machine that had given mankind the stars, and nearly cost the lives of the two greatest heroes of the First Space Era. Gunn had a moment of blank disbelief, unable to act, overwhelmed by this sense of ancient history come to life. The story of the FTL was an epic one, of treachery and brainwashing and evil and heroism and the triumph of a father's love over a conscienceless machine. The FTL Gundam represented both sides of technology, Alpha and Omega; it was as powerful a symbol to the Outer Colonies as the atomic bomb had been in the 20th century, as electricity in the 1800s, a force of life and death, of civilization and barbarism, a symbol of good and evil.
"Sir, the tactical situation sucks."
Gunn shook himself. "I'd appreciate a bit more detail, Wesson."
Multiple combat plots showed up on the screen, detailing combat engagement histories. Gunn sucked in his breath in an involuntary reflex as the meaning of the plots became clear.
The Outer Colonies had pretty much abandoned the use of Mobile Suits as weapons centuries ago. While anthropomorphic construction suits (themselves the ancestors of the true Mobile Suits) were still used commonly in space construction, in combat the Outer Colonies , and their occasional opposition, used much more standard, large warships supported by smaller fighter-style craft. Close-in engagements like this one were almost unheard-of any more, with modern sensor suites making it impossible to approach an enemy base without being immediately noticed, and therefore the strategy of interstellar warfare hearkened back to an even more distant era, that of the 20th century naval and aerial combat, where the battles would often be fought by instrument only, with long gaps in time separating the firing of a salvo and the result of that salvo. A Mobile Suit -- even a powerful one -- trying to cross the distance to get in range for the weapons such a suit was likely to mount would simply be blasted to vapor en route. The minor advantage the anthropomorphic shape and synchronized reaction gave the suit was completely overwhelmed by the amount of fire any reasonable enemy could target upon it during transit. And unlike the poor Earth Colonies , the Outer Colonies and their adversaries had perfectly good FTL sensors, so a vessel in FTL wasn't going to sneak up on them.
But in this case -- where the ships were almost close enough to see with the naked eye, where FTL transit times were measured in fractions of a second, and where the enhanced reflexes of the Newtype pilots made microjumps not only possible but practical -- the tactical situation was utterly changed. Here the FTL Mobile Suit dominated the battlefield, its FTL jumps so quick that the fact that Shadowblade could detect them made little difference; the few FTL suits seemed to wink in and out like deadly stars. Even the suits without FTL capability were dangerous, their Newtype pilots able to anticipate attacks and move just before the blow struck, and then deliver their own deadly riposte with pinpoint accuracy. Here the range was small enough that a suit could indeed carry weapons of sufficient range, and with enhancement systems like the Zero, could even upgun some of their larger onboard weapons to rival those of a capital ship.
The FTL itself seemed to pause for a timeless moment upon its appearance, making a grand, ominous entrance before streaking into lethal motion. Gunn winced and bit back an oath as one South American cruiser blew apart, sliced from stem to stern in a heartbeat by a blazingly brilliant scythe of energy.
"Whoever it is seems to be on our side." Jack Smith commented quietly.
Gunn shook his head uneasily. He recognized the stance and the fluid, economical grace of the movements. But those moves had been the trademark of a brainwashed killing machine.
"Sir, I have bogies closing. I think they've decided to try us again. Nine of them."
"Damn. Gimme the comm again, Ben." At Dumont's nod, he spoke again, expecting it would have no effect, but duty-bound to try. "South American vessels, this is Hannibal Gunn , commanding, Marine Assault Cruiser Shadowblade. You are on a vector which threatens L-1 Colony X18999. Colony X18999 is under my protection. Disengage and veer off immediately, or you will be fired upon. Repeat, disengage immediately and change heading, or you will be f -- oh, for cryin' out loud --"
Five destroyers, three cruisers, and one battleship fired simultaneously. Between them they spat a wave of seventy-two missiles simultaneously into space, screaming down at the defenseless colony.
"Wesson! Point defense up, locus around Colony X18999. They got no shields, Remember, so if we've got to suck it up, that's the way it's gotta be. Smith, expand shields for wide interdiction. They ain't got much in the way of penaids against our ECM, so divert most o' the backside shields around to the front. An' for crissakes keep us between 'em and Miss Relena's colony."
Watching the dozens of missile traces ripping across the battle plot, Gunn 's jaw tightened. This was going to get ugly.
The battleship Conquistador opened up on Shadowblade with its main energy cannon just as the first salvo of missiles reached the Outer Colonies ' vessel. Ruiz LaPorte leaned forward in his command chair, willing the missiles to strike their target, the bolts of energy to smash the interfering outsiders' vessel aside. Shadowblade was far larger than Conquistador, but that volume of fire had to affect her. It had to!
Space erupted in a silent thunder of nuclear fire, as antimissile projectiles and energy cannon waged their desperate split-second battle to stop the incoming warheads before they reached the helpless colony that lay just past the Shadowblade. Plasma flamed as it struck the shields of the Outer Colonies ' vessel. For a moment the intensity caused the viewscreen to blank out as the light overwhelmed the cameras' safety factors. Then the screen came back online.
"Mierda." LaPorte cursed.
Silhouetted against threescore blazing clouds of thermonuclear fire, the knife-edged, dead-black shape of the Marine Assault Cruiser Shadowblade hovered between Conquistador and the colony she must destroy at any cost. The looming shadow turned almost lazily, rolling sideways in a maneuver that could only mean one thing. "First Battle Group, swing ship facing 90 degrees forward, divert all power to forward shields! Antimissile batteries, stand by to --"
"Madre de Dios!" the tac officer gasped.
Earth and her Colonies had spent their warfare in close quarters. Naval engagements between capital ships were relatively rare, the main vessels serving usually as carriers rather than primary combat units. Accordingly only recently had anyone attempted the design of effective independent warships for use in what the rest of the Galaxy would consider traditional warfare. All in all, the South Americans hadn't done badly; their designs were basically sound. But they had never fought an engagement like this, which despite its closeness was otherwise a picture-perfect space navy combat, and never in their wildest dreams had they imagined a monstrosity like the Shadowblade.
From the ebony flanks of the fifteen hundred meter long Marine Assault Cruiser erupted a staggering ninety missiles, each of which went screaming outward with an acceleration that the South American vessels could barely track, let alone evade. LaPorte could only look on in horror as the Shadowblade's mind-numbing retaliatory strike crossed the 23,000 kilometers between them in less than one second.
Human reflexes were far too slow, but the automated defenses of the South American fleet were not. They tried with all their electronic speed and guile to intercept the onrushing wave of death, and for all their technological inferiority they still scored some hits, smashing incoming missiles with beams, diverting a few with ECM, even managing a few antimissile launches. But however bravely the electronic servants tried, they were too few, and their enemy's technology far exceeded their own. Eighteen of the Shadowblade's missiles never reached their destinations, but that meant that seventy-two missiles did. The split second was enough for Ruiz to appreciate the bitter irony that the First Battle Group had fired precisely that number of missiles on their own opening salvo.
Medjugorje , sole survivor of the first engagement against the Outer Colonies ' juggernaut, went first as nine missiles detonated as one, unleashing nearly five hundred megatons of nuclear hell onto her defenseless hull. The cruiser's shields barely flickered as the holocaust smashed them down and vaporized the South American vessel. The seven other vessels of the First Battle Group went together, each the target of nine of Shadowblade's missiles; some were vaporized by direct nuclear warheads, others slashed to ribbons by gamma-ray lasers fired from the detonation of laser warheads. Pieces of debris pelted Conquistador violently, and Ruiz was aware that his face was paper-white as his ship rocked with the blows. How? How could even that monster vessel carry enough tubes to throw that weight of fire? He glared at the colony behind the Shadowblade. There she was, tantalizingly just out of reach, the bitch -- hiding behind her pretenses of pacifism while working all the while to poison the purity of earth. She had to die. But how, with this tool of Satan defending her?
"Transmission from Shadowblade, Capitan." said the shaken voice of Luis Machado, his comm officer.
LaPorte gritted his teeth. "Put it on."
The inhuman face of Hannibal Gunn , looking even more like some infernal living statue, appeared. How could any of the fools believe that this was the face of a MAN? "Captain LaPorte, I have just destroyed the majority of your task force." The words were courteously spoken, yet his mind insisted that behind that calm, almost sympathetic tolerance was a sneering undertone, a gloating knowledge of the victory of El Diablo. "Please stand off. We've demonstrated our ability to defend this colony, and there's no need for any more deaths."
The truth was a bitter taste in Captain Ruiz LaPorte's mouth. He wanted nothing less than total victory, and was about to be handed utter defeat. Given command of one of the newest and most advanced squadrons of vessels in the South American fleet, he had still been utterly humiliated in... he glanced disbelievingly at the chronometer... fifteen seconds. And behind the invincible Shadowblade, taunting him with her victory, hiding her hypocritical declarations of "pacifism" behind the iron fist of this alien ship, was Relena Peacecraft-Darlene. So near...
LaPorte felt an unearthly calm descend upon him. It was all so very clear what God required of him, and he felt a cleansing wind of certainty strip away all his doubts and fears. Everything fell exactly into place; God had brought him here for this very moment, and a sense of exaltation rose up as he realized that he was destined to be the one to save all of Earth from the evil that hid behind the childlike face of Relena Peacecraft. He kept his face steady, aware that on his convincing words hung the very souls of all mankind. "I... you... you bastard." It was an incredible struggle, to keep a grin of triumph from replacing the expression of horror and defeat that Gunn saw -- that Gunn must see. "Very well. I do not surrender, but I shall withdraw. LaPorte out."
As soon as the transmission cut off, he swung to the navigator. "Engage the FTL engines, Manuel. Heading on primary target, FTL disengage just before we reach... you understand?"
Gasps around the bridge signified that they all did. But they had just seen all their friends and allies slaughtered like dogs. LaPorte nodded. "Their deaths shall not be in vain. EXECUTE!"
Gunn stared pensively at the screen as the transmission cut off. "Didn't expect him to --"
"Sir! Hannibal, they're adjusting their course by 4.5 degrees --"
Gunn whirled. "Wesson --"
Conquistador momentarily appeared to be in two places at once as her FTL drive took her from 23,000 kilometers to less than fifty kilometers distant from Colony X18999, accelerating instantly towards the defenseless wheel. Only two interdiction cannon had the positioning, range, and time to engage.
It was almost enough. Automatically firing on any threat to the colony, the two cannon locked and spewed coherent starfire at Conquistador only five milliseconds after her emergence from FTL. The first spumed from her hard-driven energy shielding, but when the second bolt arrived a millisecond later both ripped through shielding and armor alike, bisecting the battleship like a katana ripping through a melon. Captain Ruiz LaPorte died without even knowing he died, along with his entire bridge crew. The stern half of Conquistador vaporized itself in a spectacular detonation, but the split bow section plunged uncontrollably towards the colony.
And in that last fractured second, a monstrous black shape materialized from nowhere, between the colony and the wreck of Conquistador. The Scythe became a streak of energy that blasted the tumbling warship's Remains to powder. One chunk got through despite all efforts, smashing through a residential district... but far away from the place where Relena Darlene and all the delegates waited helplessly to see whether they would live or die.
"Son of a..."
The FTL seemed to nod in mechanical acknowledgement and vanished back into the seething combat.
Gunn shook himself. "Damn, that was close. Shoulda figured he'd go for a kamikaze move, though. Wesson, we have more inbound?"
"Sir, no sir! I think this kinda gave 'em the message. Things aren't going good for our side otherwise though. Even with the FTL, those damn Remote dolls they're using are ripping the shit out of the Colonial forces."
He studied the traces. Wesson was right. The legendary FTL was a hell of a weapon, but like Shadowblade it was still just one vessel. There were lots of enemy suits, and a hell of a lot of them were those damn mobile dolls.
"Hey, Ben..." he said slowly, a fain't grin starting, "Can you get a reading on the transmissions guiding those dolls?"
The dark-skinned young man nodded. "Um, yes, Force Leader, I think so. They're on high FTL comm bands -- like a psi-amplifier transmission. No one in the Colonies here could do it, but..." his hands moved over the board expertly, "... but... yeah... yes. I'm picking up a lot of high-speed transmissions correlated with the automated doll system."
"Then make me happy, Benny, and gimme a yes to the million-credit question: can ya tell me the source o' those transmissions?"
Ben blinked, then grinned. "I sure can, Force Leader!"
"Wesson! Benny's about to give you some tactical!"
The whipcord-thin woman gave one of her sharklike grins. "Yes, SIR!"
"Sir," Smith spoke up, "It's my duty to Remind you that the more of our capabilities we reveal, the deeper in potential shit we're going to be when the rest of the OC force gets here and debriefs us."
"The OC force isn't sittin' here watching the good guys get the crap beaten out of them by a bunch o' paranoid religious freaks! An' if we hit these bastards hard enough they may stop thinkin' they can win this one." Gunn 's unspoken commentary was understood by everyone; their adversaries could win this one if a few more of them took it into their heads to be martyrs like Ruiz LaPorte. "Make a goddamn statement, Wesson. I want 'em to see somethin' of what the 'Blade can do."
The main battle had separated from the colony Shadowblade jealously guarded. Spiralling, jinking, twisting, the ships of both fleets jockeyed for position as mobile suits, mosquitoes with the punch of starships, wove in and out between them, all at a distance of about 225,000 kilometers, or about a third the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
Wesson's plot blinked. "Three control ships confirmed."
Triple lances of starfire blazed from the gunports of the Shadowblade and sneered at Einstein as they crossed the distance from gun to target a hundred times faster than sluggish light, pulverizing the unfortunate control ships with a force seeming undiminished even by the yawning void they had crossed. The battle seemed to pause for a moment in awe, the mobile dolls suddenly tumbling across the sky like discarded toys. For a moment the Pure Earth forces wavered, their strength greatly reduced, wondering if perhaps they were wiser to retreat.
"Sir! Bogeys inbound! LOTS of 'em, Hannibal!"
Gunn 's head snapped up to the plot where another immense fleet of ships had just risen into view. "Hail 'em, Benny!"
The response was immediate. "This is the Imperial Chinese Vessel Beijing. We salute our brothers in the Pure Earth movement."
"Oh, god-DAMN." Gunn growled. "Just what I didn't need."
"In the name of the Emperor, we call upon the followers of the false leaders of the Colonies to surrender, and we shall show you mercy. Otherwise you shall surely be destroyed." The mass of vessels formed up into a disciplined attack wedge, and the numbers were staggering.
"Sir, this sucks, sir." Wesson said, staring at her plot. "That's at least twice as many as the f***ing South Americans started this f***ing battle with!"
"Well, isn't this just dandy." Gunn gripped the armrests of his command chair and bit down on the cigar. "Okay, guess we'll -- what the hell?"
Another suit appeared like a streak of light, glittering with silver highlights and the traditional samurai face of a Gundam, hovering before the approaching Chinese forces.
"Holy Mother of God." Gunn found himself rising in disbelief from the chair, the cigar dropping from his mouth as he stared at the apparition. An almost superstitious chill ran down his spine. Almost he expected to hear the voice of Amuro Rei and Char Azanable echoing out of the shadows of time.
First the FTL. And now, appearing like the shade of a technological King Arthur, the Nu Gundam.
I knew Heero and the other Gundam pilots had their own parts in the upcoming battle and I couldn't deny them that right. But it was a heavy weight on my heart knowing that no matter how hard I tried, peace didn't seem to work for more than a year or so at best. But I still had to try. It was as much a part of my nature and upbringing as it was for Duo to laugh or Heero to fight.
But it was a bitter pill to swallow.
It was also galling to know that no matter how badly I wanted to, I couldn't slap Dorothy across the face and call her a fool. I knew that she had a streak of vindictiveness in her a mile wide but I had always hoped that she
would finally see the other side, my side, if need be. But there she was,
arguing with me.
"Dorothy! As the representative of the Romefeller Foundation, don't you deem it wise to get to your ship in case the tide of battle turns against
us?" My voice was low but it seemed to shut her up. She stared at me for a
long moment, then smiled. I had seen that look before, years before in the
Sanc Kingdom. She relished the idea of the battle coming to us.
Too bad I had other plans. Nothing solid, but I, in the position of
ambassador to the L1 colony and Vice Foreign Minister, couldn't let the
fighting to continue.
I smiled sweetly at her before she turned away, dragging her new escort behind her as a tug to a small boat. I smiled inwardly at the notion of the idea of Dorothy as a small, wide boat, towing along larger, more important ships. Or perhaps the picture of Dorothy lashed to the prow of a ship, that long hair of her tangled by the seawater and wind.
I glanced from one side to another at that thought. What would the others think if they knew I was thinking such things? But I found I didn't care. Some part of me was still a teenager and I could still be sarcastic, as long as I never gave voice to those thoughts. Oh well.
I turned to one side, seeing the Remnants of Quatre's cadre diminishing,
perhaps going out to help their master as they had before in the defense of
my kingdom, or perhaps to just help him and the others get ready for the
battle. I didn't know and found that I really didn't want to know. It
seemed that the ones I knew and loved would continue to drift into and out
of my life as fate saw fit.
Would I see Heero again?
I didn't know. He had offered no sign of recognition as our gazes had met before he had turned away. It was if I no longer existed in his mind.
So much for true love.
I saw Ann approach and I turned to her, lengthening my stride. I wanted out of the chamber as soon as possible.
"Minister, we need to get you to safety. Come this way." I nodded and
started to follow her when I saw someone new, someone who I knew hadn't been there from the beginning.
Sally Po. And she was waving to me frantically, trying to get my attention.
I changed course, going over to the taller woman.
"Relena!" I couldn't help but smile. To her, I would always be just 'Relena
', not 'milady' or 'minister'. Just Relena, the schoolgirl who had shown up
at the hospital looking for an unusual terrorist.
"Sally. What's wrong?" I had to ask, since she looked worried, her eyes
darting around. Without another word she took my arm, drawing me behind a
I saw Ann coming towards us from the corner of my eye, then
dismissed her from my mind. Sally was more important at the moment.
"Wufei is about to go out into battle in a new Gundam, the Nu Gundam. " I nodded, trying to follow, recognizing some of the names from talking to
Gunn . "Sheshi Rem is with him."
I could feel my eyes going wide in my face. That name was the bane of my existence at the moment, the cause of the battle gearing up just on the
other side of the bulkhead that made up the skin of the colony.
"He's here? Why didn't you tell me sooner? We could have stopped this
whole battle from starting in the first place?" I kept my voice calm and controlled, while what I really wanted to do was scream.
"We just got here a little while ago and you were rather involved at the
moment," Sally gently rebuked and I had the feeling that she knew what was
really going on inside my head. I inclined my head to her, acknowledging
"Sheshi wishes to help, even if it means returning to the South American
government. But he felt the need to aid Wufei in his first time in a
psycho frame. As soon as the battle is over, he will return, but."
"But you have no guarantee that they will survive the battle, even if it's a 'Nu Gundam', " I finished for her, She nodded, her eyes bleak.
"Then let's go and see what I can do to stop this battle", I replied, bowing my head briefly. I don't know if I was praying to a distant god for
strength or if I was trying to hide my fears and doubts from the two people
who depended on me to find a way out of the situation. No matter. I raised
my head and was rewarded by the looks of admiration and respect I saw on
their faces. I didn't know what they saw in my face nor cared. I had a job
to do and I would do my best or die in the trying.
After all, it was in my nature.
She was harder to control than I thought. But gods willing, I managed. I wasn't used to the sensitive psycho-frame system or the linear cockpit, as a result, my "mental" control over the machine was challenged. At first it was very disorienting when I guided the massive mobile suit out into space. The design of the cockpit created the illusion of hovering among the stars.
It was overwhelming. In awe l marveled at the massive asteroids clustered around Zen, and the depths of space surrounding me.
Burried inside of my heart I experienced a tug, and the call of my instincts. Space, space called, its exotic voice call my mind and soul to join it in its glory.
It was where Newtypes belonged.
But I was more than a Newtype. I was a number from the project and sure something sinister lurked in my past, ready to rip away the last threads of my humanity.
Seated in the passenger's seat, behind my own, and I sensed Sheshi Rem was at ease. His soul and body were designed for the comforting lull of the winking stars. And he seemed to drink in its beauty. He took a deep breath, and I heard him shift against his straps. "It's so beautiful, and I can almost touch the stars. I belong here."
He was sure of his words, and I had no right to question him. Out of all of us, Mr.. Rem was sure of himself and his place in the world. Instead I nodded, then studied the single control pannel near my lap.
The initial awe wore off as I began the preparations for space jump.
With Sheshi's brief instructions in my mind, I quickly programmed the legendary suit's FLT drive, then piloted her out of the asteroids, into open space.
It was a smooth fly and I was instantly impressed with the systems efficiency.
The controls of the suit were simple and after a while of piloting though the belt, I felt reasonably confident I could fly her. The Nu was larger and the psycho-frame was in tune to my mental commands, there for the suit itself was very different than the mobile suits I had piloted in the past. Yet the pedals, and hand controls were the same. Once my body accustomed itself to the motions of the suit's psychical controls, the mental commands became instinctive.
Fascinating. Why by the gods had we forgotten this technology?
Despite my growing confidence, I needed time to master the Nu and had my doubts about my ability to be an asset to my friends in the current battle.
Hopefully Sally's appearance and news about Sheshi Rem would bring the conflict to a halt.
The plan was for her to take news of Sheshi's presence to Relena, then try to contact the South American government. With luck, we could intact a cease-fire.
That is if I could stop Duo from killing everyone.
With this in mind, I activated the light drive and watched the space white out. Moments later I was gliding into the heart of a massive fray.
Explosions rocked my cockpit as brilliant lights darted by my view screen. Suits marked with the Imperial China sign a clashed with Preventer and colonial forces while battleships locked into strategic combat.
it was like a great chess game, where the pawns blinked out of existence with each mortal blow, and the king and his court courted death on his burning plane.
It was worse than I thought.
Already the majority of the colony forces were decimated and the FTL was laying waist to the enemy ships.
Yet the number of enemy ships was staggering.
I lifted a brow, then with an effort, hid my concern away. I had to focus on the task at hand. Duo ."It appears that the FTL is well under control so far."
"No, I don't sense Duo , only the FTL." Sheshi's contralto voice trembled painfully from behind. "They're one. And I can hear them in my mind."
Interesting. I heard nothing, even boasted by the psycho frame alloy. I closed my eyes, blotting out the images of bloodshed, then relaxed my mind. I was skilled enough to bring myself into a meditated sate in a matter of seconds. I could hear no voices, but I could feel pain. Immense misery from those suffering in the battle.
"Hummm..." I swiveled my seat on its axis, opening my eyes and taking note of the clashing fleets.
It appeared both Shadowblade , FTL and the Colonies combined forces were a match forth the South American fleet and had taken a toll.
Unfortunately, the shadow of a dark dragon loomed over them in the form of the Chinese fleet. I inhaled, studying the wedged formation and the sleek ship designs. The Chinese were a force to contend with, especially since they were a power untied under the current "emperor".
I rubbed my chin, debating my next move. The Chinese were here to declare their independence from the ESUN and the united earth sphere.
It was a battle of honor and Blood.
It was also revenge.
Merian had made her move, no doubt she was very close tot he emperor. If she played her hand right, the Taindai clan would control all of China .
Unless that is, the emperor was already dead, and our son was on the throne. I had not paid attention to her position in the Chinese government while working with the Preventers in hopes not to strain their relationship with the current regime.
I was too ashamed.
Sally would look down upon me if she knew the truth about my weakness.
A weakness I deliberately repressed and ignored. For who? Her?
How could I forget what happened in China ? How could I not dare to recall the horrors I enacted there.
I pondered the memories for a dark frightening moment. Xang had staged it that way of course. He set me up to fall.
After China , I joined Marmameia's army in an attempt to prove myself and serve Treiz. In the end, I was to busy explaining my actions to the others, and myself to think or recall China .
After all if I Remember China , I would betray Xang to them right? And my clan was loyal to him regardless...
I was a subconscious fool....
"I couldn't help but pick up your thoughts." Sheshi said softly . I felt his hands close about the back of my chair as he tentatively touched the leather." Merian, she is your wife?."
"No." I inhaled looking away from the bright explosions blossoming on my view screen. He was very good at interpreting the signals from my mind. it was embarrassing. "I don't know what she is. She is only the husk of my wife. A corpse, a demon, an alien monster... But not my Nataku."
There was a pause.
Yes, I did believe that. My Nataku died in my arms in a field of flowers. The thing Xang brought back was not her.
"You fear her." His voice wavered as careful as his touch. he dared not tread on my ego as if he knew how important my honor was to my well being.
In the end though he was right.
Stiff I nodded feeling my gut catch and a lump form in my throat. "Yes, yes I do. She is a monster and there is nothing I can do to stop her."
The new Wing Zero was finer tuned than the old model. Quatre's people have faired far better than I expected. They were almost worthy of J's legacy. It surprised me on how at ease I was that someone other than myself worked on Wing Zero. Only I really understood my own skills and the fine adjustments I had to make to run the suit properly. But this time it was unavoidable.
The machine suffered no harm and I was finding that their changes suited me. Perhaps Quatre with his empathic ability and strategic wisdom guided them in the repairs.
It didn't matter in the end. The suit was functioning efficiently and the battle's course had nothing to do with my talent for piloting. It was a matter of mathematics.
Regardless on how well the Wing Zero moved, we were loosing.
I smiled thinly, hands gripping the cool leather of my control yolk and squeezed it with my slick palm. I barely moved my wrist and the system responded, turning the suit towards the incoming suits.
They came in wave after wave, the Chinese were too honorable to use dolls. They had dignity. So I gave them the honor of dying with a quick death. Very few stood in my way. Zero showed me they were using their own Zero systems, none of which compared to my Zero. Wing Zero was special and we worked together for a very long time. Our skills were fully unified. Unlike the skills of several of the soldiers we fought.
We cut though the forces over and over, leaving wreckage in our wake.
Numbness engulfed me half way though the battle. I had always known many of my battles were senseless and the meandering of a lost spirit.
But this one was different. This time it was the enemy who were lost. They had no guiding light only misplaced resentment and anger to lead them.
I inhaled, Zero feeding me their fears, hate and dedication as they plunged into the abyss of hell.
Alexie planned this well. only he could have turned both South American and China against us, though I was still debating how and with what connection. As far as we knew, the Chinese supported Relena and the Preventers. This change was unexpected. And the soldiers fighting me didn't seem to understand the change either.
Their thoughts often shifted to their beloved country and emperor when they died.
They saw Relena as a demon, or a witch, like the South Americans.
How did Alexie get to them? Obviously Alexie was Shun fee for the South Americans, but how could he be in China influencing them?
Someone was hiding something, but for now the point was moot. If I died here in battle, what I knew in the end would make no difference in the conflict.
My resources were almost exhausted and my reflexes were slowing with fatigue. Even with Zero enhancing me I realized I'd never make it out of the conflict alive.
Eventually the Chinese mobile suits would overwhelm me...
But it didn't matter. I fought for her, Relena....
If I died here it was for her to live.
I wouldn't break her heart, the war would. I smiled, to myself, relieved that I would not have to explain to her why we could never be together.
Moreover, I would never have to answer the Queen's call. Relena was safe.
She was safe from me and I would die human.
I braced myself to plunge into yet another fray.
Then it happened. Relena Darlian's face appeared on my view screen. She was dressed in a cream colored dress, hair bound tightly in a bun on her head. Her eyes were narrow, and firm, like the Queen Relena' Romafeller placed on the throne some years ago.
She was a leader of men. Serene and dignified, the vocal entity for peace, she began to speak. "We must stop this senseless fighting. The Colonies are not responsible for Removing Sheshi Rem from South America and only desire to return the boy to his rightful place. We wish to declare a cease fire and start negotiations immediately. I Implore you before more lives are lost. This battle can only result in more blood shed."
My queen. My hands paused on the control yolk and I swiftly checked the radio. She broadcasted on a wide band frequency allowing her to contact all the ship on both sides of the fleet and all the nations of earth. I remembered how lady Une used a similar tactic at the end of the colonial war. It worked then because Triez perpared soiciety well ahead of time. But now, Relena was pleading to those who never wanted the war to stop in the first place.
Her bravery and foolishness were beyond me. I tightened my jaw knowing her plan was flawed, but driven by the instinct to protect her despite my grievences to her plans.
Why did I follow fools?
The girl's face Remained on the sceeen, and she seemed to be waiting for a moment or so before continuing. "Since the word of Mr. Rem's disapparence, the preventers have had agents in the field searching for him. He is on Rout to L1 now. I again, implore you to stop fighting so we can discuss his safe return. If the fighting does not stop immediately, I can not garnet his safe arrival at L1."
She was buying us time.
I lifted a brow and wondered how they managed to find Mr.. Rem in the first place.
And if so, did they have Duo and the mad scientists?
To many questions and not enough answers. I gritted my teeth, commanding Zero to level his beam canon at one of the attacking Chinese cruisers. It was one of my advantages, I didn't need to get in close to score hits. And with the power of the Wing Zero I could easily take out a dozen or so ships. If that is, they weren't too close to a given alley or Colony.
Like the South Americans, I bitterly smiled. It felt good to fight, to deny it would be to deny my own nature...
My radio blipped to life, forcing me to pause. The South American Ambassador Maria Cortez appeared on the screen. She looked haggard and weary. Perhaps the fight was a little more difficult than she hoped for.
I studied her movements as she inhaled and spoke. "This is Maria, Issebella, Cortez, Ambassador of the United South American Government. We comply to your Cease fire on the, stipulation that Mr.. Sheshi Rem is returned immediately. We will give you twenty four hours."
The fighting stopped.
But I didn't believe in miracles.
Something was up.
Twenty-four hours? Interesting. Perhaps South America was less prepared for the battle than they thought. Then why did they stop? Did they really want Rem that badly? I could not see it at all. The boy was just an excuse to weaken the Colonies . I rubbed my mouth, then shifted my gaze to the Nu Gundam and the FTL.
They were the only suits that moved. The FTL was targeting a new victim.
I hadn't given the two very much thought until now. I knew the Nu Gundam was Wufei, it moved to much like the Shenlong and he was sent to Zen. It was likely he was the pilot.
Since he was pursuing the FTL I could only assume Duo was out of hand, or acting on inside information given to him from the mad scientists.
Damn, I cursed myself for not being well enough to accompany them.
None the less, he was endangering Relena's efforts to give us time.
The Wing Zero placed the beam cannon back in it's holster without my even thinking. It's computers already crunching data from the FTL's current course.
"Heero , Quatre, Trowa." Wufei's voice crackled over my comlink. "We must stop the FTL, it's controlling Duo's mind he can't stop it."
Idiot. He would have a lot of explaining to do. I exhaled, trying not to feel any sympathy for the former Deathscythe pilot, then hit full thrusters toward the FTL. This was going to be ugly.
Duo moved faster than the eye was capable of following. Even I enhanced by the Nu's psycho frame had a difficult time following the pinball blur ravaging the fleet of ships.
With disciplined concentration, I checked my instruments for the massive mobile suit. It was easy to spot as a large blip with the psychic enhancements. Expertly the FTL weaved in and out of the fleet, targeting enemies and cutting them apart in a millisecond. South American ambassador's voice squealed pig like over the comlink, demanding an explanation.
I could hardly blame them. They were in the midst of a cease-fire, and confused with Relena's sudden change in character. To them, she was trustworthy because she was predictable.
Pathetically the FTL was not in Relena's plan. And it was enough to destroy everything she set up. Humanity, at this instant could simply destroy itself in this conflict, following the guidelines of Alexie's plan.
Darkness closed about me and I peered away feeling it's chilly hand gripping all of space in it's crystal talons. They were coming to feed on our Remains...
Yellow nightmare eyes stared out, majestically taunting me.
"No, not yet," I told them with clenched teeth. "You won't win, not while I'll breath."
Relena' had a silver tongue. Only she was capable of turning the tide and convincing those against her that the FTL was her bane as well as theirs. Ironically, when two colonial ships attempted to intercept the FTL, they too blossomed into balls of irredescent flames.
The South American rep now gawked in shock. "What in the name of Hell is going on!"
I smiled in spite of myself, if they planned to unleash an FTL unit with Sheshi Rem, they would now have to rethink their plot. they didn't have a weapon to stop it if it went array.
I was the only man capable of keeping up with the FTL. The Nu-Gundam was very easy to handle and in many ways more advance than the FTL. Apparently Rai spent a great deal of time fine tuning the navigations and the psycho-mu systems in order to perfect the agility in FTL.
I weaved the machine in and out of the tightly quartered ships and steered it toward the massive mobile suit. Behind me I could hear Sheshi breathing as he attempted to focus his mind on the rouge pilot.
The part of my mind that was connected to the suit noticed a faint tingle, then it snaked across the suit's electronic nervous system.
The stimulation rose the hairs on my arms and I felt the Suit's Psycho frame respond by resonating with Sheshi's thoughts.
The same frame system that was helping me to guide the suit though the fleet became alive with warm resonating energy.
The New type's words echoed in my mind as he searched for my friends ' mind, using the delicate psychic enhancement system of the Nu Gundam as a springboard.
The squirming sparking tingles could easily distract me.
It was an effort not to fall into the seductive call.
Determined, I directed all my will to the FTL. I amazing kept pace, and horned in on his FTL drive unit. It was latched on the back of the suit, near it's rocket stabilizers and nuclear power converter. If I could just temporarily disable him long enough for Sheshi to reach Duo....
And for the others to reach us, then we might better the odds.
Gods forbid they reached us when the FTL was still working on its full engines.
I deliberately forced the thoughts of my allies being annihilated by the monster machine and commanded the funnels latched on to the Nu's back to home in on the FTL's main light drive system.
In a split second it spun on me, Giant Scythe swinging for a deathblow at the Nu's chest unit.
I commanded my front thrusters to force the Nu back, just a hair, enough to avoid the vicious blow.
The distraction was in a blink, but fast enough for me to manuever the funnels in strategic points on either side of the FLT.
It was fast enough to sleeve on funnel in two.
But not the other before it smashed the Drive unit with one well placed blow of it's plasma converter.
The entire maneuver took less then three-quarters of a second.
More than enough for Sheshi Rem to hammer into Duo's mind.
A splash of light washed though the cockpit as I felt the tingling become suddenly unbearable.
The FTL froze in mid space.
And the world vanished in a flood of color and sensual shivers.
Sandrock glidded though the space debris, weaving though reckage toward the brilliant explosion that seemed to engulf the two cruisers . I felt the tickle then, thoughts of a mind, pleading for my assistance.
Confused, I eased back on the controls, mind focusing on the ribbon of energy calling to me.
It was another new type, and that fact alone enticed me like a butterfly to nectar.
His comforting glow ebbed at me, telling me it was for a friend of mine and that all sorrows in his name would be rectified if he just healed one sin. I should have felt invaded and stripped of my mental security, but I didn't. His mental intrusion was different than the web.
It was nourishing, and warm like the womb of a mother.
I pressed my heard into my seat, the soft leather cushioning my aching battered limbs.
"Yes, yes, Sheshi, I hear you and will be happy to help."
Two forms materialized like ghosts out of the dying flames and smoke and death. They hovered in space, motionless. A giant and it's gnat challenger locked in a combat of wills.
Wills machines didn't have.
Then it happen, something wafted into my mind. White light bathed my vision then slammed full force into my thoughts.
It was another New Type.
And he was reaching out to all of space to contact our lost lamb.
Already I felt Quatre and Wufei's thoughts tricking in the field of vastness.
This could be disastrous. Then again, when did I ever give a damn about disasters? And this was Duo , did I owe him one? With that, I let it take me. Maxwell needed all the help he could get.
I felt it, a single voice calling with many.
My fingers dropped from the controls, as icy fear gripped my soul. They called me, individuals, my friends, for help, they searched in vane, but could not see me.
I closed my eyes, unable to reach to him, unable to pull myself from the darkness of the web. It's tendrils were too strong.
I needed them.
They spoke for me.
With a frightened cry, my body convulsed and curled into a tight ball.
Not even the lull of Heavyarms engines soothed the anguish wracking my enslaved brain.
"It's not time." they said coldly. "See your pretty human, runs to them, his kind. It is as it always is, the cattle never stay with their masters. You are a fool to think he sees you as his equal."
Weakly, I pulled my face into my knees, despite my restraints. It was him, blue eyes speaking. He knew me and those around me too well.
"My Harlequin, my child, in their world, you are alone. Always remember that. "
The voices were suddenly gone, and I was alone in the deepness of space. With his name on my lips.
I released the button to the transmitter, letting go of my link to the
battle that raged around us. I noted, distantly, that my fingers were white
with tension from pressing down that button. I rubbed at them
absentmindedly, turning around to meet the gazes of Ann and Sally. They
gazed at me with respect and just a hint of awe. The same look that had
been on their faces earlier. I grinned at them, shrugging slightly. "I
just hope that works. If not, then we're probably going to be dead soon."
I wasn't worried. Not really. Heero was out there in Wing Zero, and the
others were out there as well, in one capacity or another. We were safe.
If we did die, it would be because the others had died before us and, if
that happened, I didn't want to live in that world.
"It will work. I believe in you," Sally said, smiling at me once more, once
again her normal self. I nodded at her, knowing she was as worried as I
was. Wufei was out there, in an unfamiliar Gundam, with the cause of this
entire battle in the cockpit with him. Not exactly the best thing to have
in the middle of the action. What if they died? What if something happened
to them? What if-?
I shook my head to stop my thoughts from wandering down that dark path.
There were always 'what ifs' and 'if I had only''. They say hindsight is
twenty-twenty. Why wasn't it ever the future? I wish I could foresee
what the outcome would be, what would happen to us all. But I didn't have
that power-no one did. Not even Newtypes.
I trembled slightly at that thought. I hated that word. Newtype. New type
of human. Evolved. Changed. Different from the others. Able to have
strange powers over others, over the normal humans. Or maybe that was my
own fears coming back to haunt me. Dorothy's words rang in my ear, but I
couldn't. No, I wouldn't believe in them. The Peacecraft monarchy had had no
dealings with any projects that allowed the existence of Newtypes into the
family itself. I had no powers over the populace. They followed me because
that was what they wanted to do in the first place. Right?
I caught myself before I let a smirk cross my face. There were two other
women here who knew me well, almost more than I did myself at times. I knew
Ann was watching me like a hawk and Sally was concerned about me as well. I
found I hated being under observation all the time. It was all I could do
to not ask them to go away.
Then the crackle of an incoming message sounded throughout the room,
wrenching my attention from my own thoughts. Thank god. I made my way to
stand behind Ann and Sally as they crowded the console, watching the
monitor. I recognized the face-it was Maria Cortez, the representative for
South America. The ones who wanted Sheshi Rem back. She was ending the
conflict. The battle was being called off and we had twenty-four hours to
Return Sheshi Rem to the nation and there would be no more bloodshed.
The sense of relief I felt was exhilarating. I wanted to laugh out loud at
the news. Heero and the others were safe!
I sat down, a sigh of relief escaping my lips. I had done my job. I had
stopped the fighting once more. A mug of hot chocolate was brought into my
view and I looked up to see Sally standing there, holding it out to me.
"Thought you'd like some. It's not the best, but it's hot and will help you
relax. You did good there, kiddo." I smile back up at her, smiling
slightly. Kiddo. I haven't been called a nickname like that in a long
time. Too long. Nothing like a little endearment to make one feel all warm
and fuzzy inside. I nodded my thanks and looked around. Ann was sipping at
a mug as well, her eyes half-closed in pleasure. I guess watching over me
takes it toll after a while. Then she looked up, fear washing over her
features, eyes focused somewhere beyond my shoulder.
I fought the urge to look over my shoulder to see what she was looking at,
but then.. I felt it. Not so much a tactile sense of feeling it, but a
presence in the back of my skull. A pressure that felt like the oncoming of
a really bad headache, crawling up the back of my head, along my scalp. I
throttled down the need to scream, noticing vaguely that only Ann and I were
acting this way. Sally was staring at us both, the doctor in her trying to
figure out what was wrong with two of her charges.
But I couldn't give voice to what I felt, what I heard. It was if I had a
thousand voices in my head, chattering at each other and themselves like an
endless loop that never stopped. I felt fear and pain, confusion and
I didn't wonder anymore as a wave of blackness hit my consciousness like a
hammer and I fell headlong into the darkness.
The name spoke in our mind, each symbol baring distinct meaning in the symboit's thoughts.
Duo was a designation.
Space raged around us, crystal white, seething tendrils from the ancient Nu Gundam's form.
A New Type.
Data scrolled down the screen. Effortless we scanned down the code, translating it swiftly .
The Newtype was strong and physically enhanced giving it an extra boost with its ability to connect with our systems.
"Duo ...." Again it called out, driving a wedge in our mind.
We spasmed, interrupting the analysis of the data and twisted our body to pulled at the neuro connections deep in our flesh.
Animal instinct said they were wrong.
We were not we.
A long gurgling scream pitched from our lips, and echoed off the cockpit walls.
Why was we so wrong? Were we not safe? One could not survive without the voices.
"Angel. You are fighting? Why?" It was not the first time the we spoke from nothingness and we wanted it to speak. We needed it. It was as comforting and soothing as the voices calling us.
"Duo .... Fight Duo . You are an individual." Again the confusion set in.
We found ourselves suddenly facing a small red haired human with deep ocean vast green eyes. Delicate bands of light leapt and spooled off his angel like form.
Others were near him, a human with dark black hair, one with brown and the other with pale blond.. But they were pale translucent and deep in concentration.
The boy reached a hand. "Please Duo ...."
Yes, the Symbiote used that name once, when it was incomplete.
We felt the connections of the FTL tighten about our form, pulling ups away from the boy's image.
The cockpit and space started to focus.
Then faded to the backdrop of white and the boy.
"We are one, we need each other. There was no resistance. " The words came automatically and were said as a fact. A fact the human should understand.
"That's bullshit." The face of the dark brown haired boy solidified and his cold gray blue eyes pierced ours. "Duo Maxwell is not a mechanism. He's a human being. "
"One with a will." the black haired youth joined the other two. His iron coal gaze stole though us, seeding the Symbiote with more doubts.
Doubts with memories.
We stood in the streets of a city with tall buildings, He stood in front of a vehicle, looking board and distant and I....
I was Duo , yes that w as true.
"I betrayed you in China ." He wispered gaze capturing my own. "I am deeply sorry Maxwell. I failed you there, but I will not fail you here."
A deep sense of tragedy swept us and the tendrils about my body slithered closer, pinching my golden energy flesh. "Wu....."
"Duo , non of us want to fail you! We must stay together to fight this!" the pail blond boy appeared.
The Symbiote remembered his name.
It was Quatre.
The brown haired boy was Heero Yui.
Sheshi had brought them to speak with us.
No him, they Symbiote.
They were here to free this Duo Maxwell.
We stared at Sheshi, and focused on his heart shaped face. Large tears rimmed his ever-deep gaze as he stared at us pleadingly and adoringly.
"Duo , please. Fight it, loosing yourself is what you fear the most." Sheshi said firmly.
Yes, his words rang true. We stared at his child like face. The buzzing and clicking of the machine suddenly seemed horrifyingly alien to me.
Alien, but I understood it.
The computer was talking to me, trying to access my mind to force it to control the mobile suit's limbs.
It wanted me to destroy its enemies.
The boy smiled. "Wu seems to think you can save yourself..."
Beside him, the Chinese youth nodded, a tiny smile forming. "If you can't I won't fail you."
Heero grunted. "You have back up."
"Ditto." Quatre sadly smiled, then grimaced at my almost obliterated form.
It was time to fight back.
Sheshi gave a weak nod, then brilliant gold encompassed his form. It hovered there for a moment, then rushed out, swallowing up everything in its path. Suddenly the word tipped over upside down and my brain exploded in anguish.
A thousand hammers came down on my brain at once and ignited into unholy anguish. The dream world shattered leaving me alone in the blackness of the FTL's cockpit.
It's neuro-connections vibrated and slithered as its circuits exploded into action against my rebellious brain. I felt their grip tighten, and send jarring electric shocks into my limbs. I was an intruding virus it had to time.
Distantly I heard is speaking, commanding me to surrender and allow it to control the massive Suit I was trapped in.
Fat chance, mutherfucker.
I could tell its attempts were weaker. Sheshi and the other damaged it some how with their attack and even though the FTL tried to cover its shock, I could sense it was weak and unable to hold me.
I narrowed my brow, gaze peering down the scrolling data and control connections. While captive by the monster it taught me all I needed to know about the workings of it's navigational and weapons systems. All I needed to do was beat down the computer with sheer Maxwell will and stubbornness.
Something I was very good at.
After all, it was my brain and no brain sucking tentacle monstrosity from hell was gonna turn me into a psychic battery.
With this in mind and images of G dying a cruel and horrible death in the vacuums of space (me eating popcorn with Hilde in leather at my side....) my mind grappled with the FTL's artificial intelligence.
"You are a machine, I am a man. I am in control here. " I reinforced my thoughts with a simple mental command to lower the scythe in its hand.
It was very difficult; the FTL itself reached out, increasing the pain wracking my body.
I gritted my teeth, and formed fists. The pain was almost unbearable and I felt my mind weakening from it.
Eventually it would go pass my natural endurance and I'd pass out.
Leaving the FTL with my defenseless form to re program.
No way, no how. Heero would never allow the machine to win.
Number two was always better than number one in my book and it was time to make an effort to prove that to them.
I wasn't weak.
Not like Sheshi thought.
I thought of Wufei and his faith in me. Faith I never knew he had. If I let him down, I never hear the end of it.
My hands closed about the circuits imbedded in my flesh, then pulled. It could cause me pain, but I could cause it more pain.
"FUCK YOU!" I shouted, despite the tube deep in my throat.. it sounded more like drooling grabbled, but I was too pissed to care.
Glowing threads tore from my flesh as I pulled and ripped randomly at the neuro-pathways connecting me to the machine.
It only stung, and in many places, the tubes fractured before leaving my flesh. The attack must have done more damage than I thought. They were like iron before.
The veins spasmed spurted globs of golden liquid.
Beautiful golden liquid that sparkled like crystal. It gave me some hope for freedom.
Pain.. It never felt pain before until now.
I could feel it's feedback and it was almost overpowering.
"Stop Angel! Stop! Stop now, you will destroy both of us! Life line necessary to both our survival! We are one!"
With a mighty tug, I yanked at the thing gagging me. It squirmed and snaked, and I felt a spasm of pain in my gut. Then it gave.
The slimy thing slid out like a wet noodle.
"This isn't surviving!" I gasped hoarsely, breathing for felt like the first time. My lungs and chest ached and burned mercilessly and I tried not to think of the internal injuries I had just inflicted.
But anything was better than the FTL.
Hilde, Pat even Cary would understand that.
Sorry family. Love you more than life itself, but this battle was too personal now....
"If we die, we die together." It hissed painfully in my ears. "Stop causing pain."
"Stop fighting my control." My voice was low, barely a whisper. It throbbed just to speak. "FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! I'm the boss here Mr.. mechanize asshole. Change your program or I'll destroy us both..."
My vision spotted some. It was trying to pollute my system with chemicals in order to pacify me.
Drugs those damned drugs. Then again, I had built up some resistance so I could hold my own for a while. I just didn't like it.
Pissed even more, I tore at the binds again, this time ripping into the thickest tendrils around my waist and thighs.
They didn't budge.
That's when I became aware of it.
The weapon. It was in my hand.
Just like that. How I couldn't fathom. But their is was, gleaming that rainbow black waiting to be used.
Fancy that. I cocked my head, smiling evilly. Damn, you know, it was like the damn thing read my mind.
The cockpit dimmed, leaving me in sudden blackness and I felt the FTL rock as blasts from other suits and ships pummeled into its hull. It was trying to psyche me out, by showing how my allies were now attacking me rather than save me.
For a moment I froze, a little hurt by the idea they had given up on me so quickly. I sagged, pressing my head into the control binds and closed my eyes. Lethargy from the drug was taking effect and I began to feel it was useless to fight it. My stress-induced regeneration could only hold me out for so long...Giving into the FTL wasn't the worst of fates. After all, it had a way to pacify me and make me forget...
This stuff felt like Breath.
What the hell was I thinking? My eyes snapped open with renewed determination. No drug was gonna get me. Nor were some tin can's psycho games.
I was the master of psyche out. After all, I was death right?
The adrenaline rushed my system, as I bolted up, weapon in hand and ready to activate. "Ain't gonna work, Pal."
Oh boy.... A part of me was really enjoying this.
"Heh, Heero , he ain't no dumb cluck, None of them are. If they have to kill me, that's all fine with me. Better let me get control, or we'll be sitt'n ducks old pal. My Yui and his buddies don't play nice." Then I tapped it with the weapon. "And neither do I. I don't know how this gadget does it's magic, but I'm sure it will work. Stop drugging me and fighting me so we have a chance to live. I don't care about dying myself. Got no fear of it. But you... I know you want to survive."
"Come on old boy, you suck at this psyche out stuff. It ain't gonna convince me to give in. You're no different than drugs, and I sweat them out. I'll sit hear until they bow us away, and if you keep drugging me, I'll happily carve you from the inside out so I can face the big beyond with a clear head... "
I was so stoned, the thought of a fiery death gave me the damnedest hard on.
No lesbians or Hilde in a tight leather corset either. Oh well no end of the life experience is perfect right?
"Hot damn, this might be fun."
The FTL wasn't amused.
I picked up confusion and concern from its programs. It had no idea how to stop me. In it's mind, death wasn't an option and why any being wanted to die was illogical.
The thoughts pleased me, and I let my mind activate the device in my hand. Rather than a long staff and blade, it Remained short with a dagger like knife glowing at its end. "Now shall I start carving?"
Boy was I feeling manic. Being crazy kind of felt good.
I felt the tendrils around me give some and the pain subsided.
"Existence is preferable to death." It said in my mind.
"Thank you." despite the pain, I smiled. Oddly I was a tad disappointed. I mean, going up in a blaze of defiant glory was the only way I saw myself going.
It would have been a cool way to go.
But, rational and the thought of seeing my family overrode it swiftly though. Boy Hilde must have been a nervous wreck.
Not for the last time I was jarred back into the soft confines of the FTL's hold as explosions rocked its exterior.
Had to get cracking fast. Or I was Dead meat.
"Put on the light. I can't see." I said firmly, confident now I was in command.
"Rerouting power from Symbiotic link to auxiliary engines."
The Remaining connections buzzed slightly then prickled as the lights came back on around me.
The screen flickered on to, but was showered with static . Still it was clear enough for me to make out that is was the colonial battle ships and the Chinese fleet trying to make mincemeat of me.
That was fine and nice if it were my buddies, we'd already be dead. "Comlink."
"Activated." Its cool voice was obedient and efficient. A guy like me could easily get used to it.
My gaze flickered to the sticky gooey tendrils and the pulsing neuro-connections deep in my body, then shivered.
But not too used to it.
Voices hissing, screaming moaning, I huddled on the rim of dream and reality, unable to discern which was which. Shaking, I felt the flood of power roll over me, and into the depths of space, flooding the Colonies and all their people.
A shock wave of pain and confusion exploded in a microsecond.
"It begins." His voice, the center of the web spoke breathlessly. "It happens. Our deliverance has been etched in stone. They are ready."
"We are ready." My own trembling lips mimicked his their words, wanting them to be truth. For the web removed my confusion.
Confusion for things Trowa Barton could not know, and did not want to know.
"I'm loosing myself to them." I said weakly, seeing sweat drip off my noise and into free-fall.
Heavyarms lights winked at me, all his instruments were reading functional. whatever the shock wave was, it didn't seem to interrupt with any of the workings of my mobile suit.
In fact, according to my equipment, the entire Remaining fleet was functioning normally, though there was flurry of radioactivity.
"So what happened?" Strange enough the EVENT, was dim in my mind. I could barely recall curing in the ball. All I remembered was feeling fear I'd be overwhelmed by something alien and I had to hide from it.
So I became nothing to it, and it passed over me.
Like so many times before when I didn't want to be noticed. It just worked that way.
I glanced at the clock, noticing only two minuets had passed.
On my screen, the FTL hung in space, motionless with the Nu Gundam drifting not far from it. Recovering ships from the fleet were taking pop shots at the hostile suit, assuming it was the cause of the bizarre phenomenon.
There was no movement from the Wing Zero, or Sandrock. I noticed the Magnacs homing in on Quatre already.
A "dropship" from Shadowblade was also making it's way though the carnage.
The South Americans and the Chinese seemed to be pulling out, their communications still confused. They weren't sure weather they were attacked and by whom. Only that the apparent Enemy was being pounded on by the Remaining Colonies.
The entire situation was perplexing.
"Heero .... Some one..." A crackling familiar voice wispered weakly over my comlink. "Come it.. Wu, it's Duo ...... I'm ok....Stop firing on me. I surrender."
I lifted a brow, suddenly aware that Duo was the pilot of the FTL. Why I had forgotten it, bothered me for a moment, but passed quickly. Duo needed help and he didn't sound capable of fighting anyone at that moment.
"Duo , it about time you wake up. " I responded, keeping my own calm reserve. I keyed in Presenter's head quarters and the embassy. "This is Trowa, Duo has recovered. I suggest you call of the fleet and bring him in. "
"Trowa? What the hell is going on out there? We're down a quarter of our staff, and I can't raise Heero , Quatre or Wufei on their communicators." It was Sally. Her voice was strained and urgent.
"Hey, is that Sally? Sally, sis, can you call off your dogs before they baste me? Or before my buddy here thinks I can't handle this myself and starts the fight again.... "
"Duo had gotten control over the FTL." I said ignoring Duo's voice as it continued to chatter to Sally. "It would be wise to call of your men, before they trigger another reaction from the Suit."
Sally paused, apparently considering my request. "Ok, tell him let the Drop ship from the outer Colonies take him in on tractor. "
"Roger. I'll bring the others in. Copy that DUO ?"
`"Yeah, tell them to hurry up, I running out of wires to pull and this sucker is already 45 percent complete with it's systems repairs. Jezzz it's fast. I can't guarantee it will keep our bargain when it's done."
I nodded not quiet understanding but reading the urgency in his voice. I certainly did not want to be around when the FTL came back to life. "On my way. Over and out."
Ray of Light
"Well, that looks like that's that." Gunn heaved a deep sigh of relief. The rest of the bridge crew sagged back, hardly able to believe that the words of one young girl had stopped that insane conflict.
"Thank god." Carla's voice came over the intercom.
No one needed to say anything else. Gunn had already come to the grim conclusion that had the battle continued, the Shadowblade would have had to go all out, sacrificing precision and restrain't for utter destruction... and against that many ships, most likely fail in the end. "Okay, people, let's --"
The urgency in Wesson's voice yanked Gunn around as though he'd been pulled. "What in the name of...."
The FTL hadn't stopped. It was going after the Colonial forces now! Gunn took in the situation in a glance, turned. "Wesson --"
Had the battle been being fought at the stupendous distances of normal interstellar combat, Gunn would have had time to plan, to make a judgement, and intervene. But at the ridiculously close quarters engendered by fighting with interstellar weapons from near-planet orbit, only those who fought at the speed of thought would make any difference in this conflict. Flickering like heat lightning, the FTL and Nu Gundam wove in and out between each other, after each other, and in the same splintered fractions of a second came together... and alarms screamed out the entire length of the massive Outer Colonies warship. Other screams echoed through the open com systems.
For the second time in minutes, Gunn swore. "Jesus H. Particular Christ on a pogo stick!"
Instruments that hadn't registered noticeably since they'd arrived in Sol system had just gone utterly mad. "Smith, what the blazing hell..."
"Psychoframe overload pulse, sir! No mistake about it. And a biggie, must've caught... Jesus, just about everyone, sir."
Delayed recognition of one of those screams slammed into Gunn 's brain. "Carla? CARLA!"
No answer came from Sickbay. Gunn growled wordlessly and then turned to Wesson. "Go check on Carla, make sure she's just out and not in danger. Then take a team and check everyone over. Not many of us showed as Newtypes in tests, but if Smith's right... there's going to be hell to pay. I'm taking the Katana out -- I've got to get over to L1, but the 'Blade had better stay here on station in case people start shooting again. You got the authority, use it if you have to."
Gunn sprinted for the launch bay, running over what he knew of this kind of situation in his mind. It wasn't all that much, mostly "FYI" stuff you learned in basic tactical training that you never expected to use any more than you expected you'd have to know how to pilot a sailing ship. Under certain circumstances, a psychoframe system, designed to just amplify and channel psychic power for the user, could overload. Not only did this have pretty extreme effects on the user (either frying his brain to jelly or, in rare cases, awakening them to the full potential locked within), but the overload detonated in a spherical psychic pulse that, depending on the power involved, could awaken -- or injure -- every Newtype in its radius. If detonation occurred (as it nearly always would) in space, that radius could be awe-inspiring, nearly the size of the Earth-Luna system in the case of a major overload pulse.
In the Outer Colonies and their allies, such effects were well-known, if never seen these days because psychoframe systems had become more legend than fact, and if such an event had happened it would have been simply an interesting, if traumatic, accident.
But here, where they barely knew the word "Newtype" and hadn't any notable experience with 'em at all... and where trigger fingers were itchy... well, if the normal proportion of Newtype potentials existed out there, up to a quarter of the personnel on all fleets might have just dropped into comas, and wouldn't THAT just set off some fireworks?
It was up to Gunn to keep things from going up in smoke.
The Katana, thirty meters of gunmetal-gray stingray, streaked silently from the launch bay. A dropship normally carried quite a complement of marines and a lot more ammo and equipment than the Katana itself; this gave the modified dropship that served as Gunn 's personal transport more maneuverability, speed, and defensive options.
By the time the Katana had settled into its course, Gunn was sorting out what was going on from the other comm channels.
Chaos reigned aboard L1 and the Preventers' HQ. Relena and Lady Ann were both out, leaving only Sally Po conscious and able to coordinate recovery efforts. Fully a quarter of the ships in all three fleets had lost either their captain or second in command, and some had lost both. The airwaves were filled with paranoid accusations and counteraccusations. Worse, of the Gundams, only one -- HeavyArms -- had a conscious pilot. Trowa was moving to take at least the Nu Gundam in tow.
One of the Chinese vessels transmitted an almost incoherent threat, accusing both his allies and adversaries of planning to betray them, a threat almost immediately countered by a similarly-hysterical stream of accusatory invective from one of the Colonies ' warships, answered in turn by a shrill declaration from the South American fleet that one-quarter of their command crews had been felled by the operation of some obviously-Colonial secret weapon. All the warships which had been standing down began powering up, targeting lasers and radar coming back on line, as the three fleets started to turn on each other.
Abruptly three blasts of novafire blazed out between the combative factions. A hard-edged woman's voice spoke over the open comm channels. "This is Chief Master Sergeant Hilary Wesson, Acting Commander, OC Marine Assault Cruiser Shadowblade. Pursuant to my orders, I am enforcing the current cease-fire. The recent events were not hostile, but accidental in nature." The ebony face that accompanied the transmission suddenly shifted its expression from cold official neutrality to a wolfish grin. "What will happen to any vessel -- I repeat, ANY vessel -- which breaks that cease-fire will NOT be accidental. I will by GOD blow anyone so much as lighting a MATCH without my say-so straight into Hell. Stand down from battle stations NOW!"
Gunn winced at her expression, but couldn't suppress a grin. He doubted anyone out there, even the fanatics, would be crazy enough to call CMSgt Wesson on her bluff. And if they did... well, they'd find out that OC Marines don't bluff.
Sally Po's voice suddenly came over his direct channel. "Katana, this is Sally Po. Do you copy?"
"Roger that, Sally. This is Hannibal Gunn . I know what's going on. What can I do for you?"
"You do?" Her voice was slightly relieved. "We'll get to that in a moment. Mr.. Gunn , could I ask you to tow in the FTL suit? Duo is apparently currently in control of the suit, but there's no telling how long he can maintain that control."
"That's an affirmative." Gunn immediately adjusted his course and increased speed to achieve minimum-time intercept. "I can do that. If we can keep people from shooting, I can have the 'Blade come in and help get the others to L1 as well."
"That would be excellent. What did happen out there, Mr.. Gunn ?"
Gunn summarized the psychoframe overload to her. "So that's why everyone's lost people, Ma'am. Since I ain't seen anyone shootin' yet, I guess they listened to Wesson."
Sally looked relieved, if a bit disconcerted. "She seemed rather... convincing, Mr.. Gunn ."
"Better believe it."
Gunn tuned his comm to a frequency Sally supplied. "FTL , this is the Katana, from Shadowblade. You copy?"
There was a pause, during which Gunn tensed. If that thing had taken back over... then a weak but clear voice responded. "Umm, yeah, I copy. Duo Maxwell here."
Gunn relaxed slightly. "Okay, kid, glad to hear from you. Look, I understand you got yourself a bit of a problem keeping that oversized tin can under control, so I'm here to help out. We're gonna lock on you with a tractor and drag you over to L1 for repairs."
Duo's face materialized on his monitors. Gunn kept too much reaction from showing -- the kid didn't need any distractions at this point -- but what he saw wasn't looking good. There was blood -- and some of it had come out of the kid's mouth and nose. Some wierdly organic connections still hooked into him, and half the panels looked as though they'd been slashed to ribbons by something sharp as a razor and stronger than battle steel. "Tractor... you sure? I mean, your ship there is.... well, kinda small."
Gunn chuckled. "Hey, kid, you know what they say; it's not the size of the wand, it's the magic that's in it. And Katana's got some pretty big medicine in her, lemma tell you. We can drag that thing in pretty quick. I'd help your friends too, but I only got one tractor. I think the rest of the Colonies ' forces will be helpin' though. I see HeavyArms is already on its way."
"Oh... Thank God." Duo gave a soft cough, spitting out a little more red. "Umm... how long is this going to take, sir?"
"Jeez, don't call me 'sir'! I ain't no officer, I work for a goddamn living!" Gunn grumbled. "Not long, kid. Figure another minute for me to get set, and at full pull maybe eight, ten minutes to get you over to the colony, then another five to get ya locked down."
"That's good. Um... "He closed his eyes, taking several labored breaths. "...he doesn't like being controlled."
"He?" Gunn was surprised. "Ya mean the FTL itself?"
"Yuppers." Duo said. "He's gotta mind of his own. Hard to keep down. Sort of like me, stubborn as all hell."
Gunn adjusted his course. There was the monstrous FTL suit, hanging motionless against the unchanging backdrop of stars. "Well, y'know, you might wanna explain to him that he's got the weapons o' about a hundred fifty ships trained on him. An' one o' those vessels is mine, and another is the 'Blade. Might could be that he'd be able to get away from the others, but ..." Gunn felt the fain't shiver of the Katana as the two vessels were suddenly linked by an invisible but tremendously strong tether of force, "... right now he'd have to do it the old-fashioned way. No FTL jumps. An' I don't think he'd live through that."
Duo shook his head. "He knows... he knows that. But he's still healing. Probably looking for some chance. Already regenerated 50% of the damage... he's 70% functional and healing fast. Except for the FTL drive, which might take longer, Wu really did a number on that one." His voice changed slightly, trying to conceal concern. "What's the situation out there?"
"Well," Gunn began as he set the Katana in motion, the dropship's powerful engines straining to drag the FTL towards L1, "that psychic pulse took out lots o' people on either side, but right now looks like they're at least keepin' a rein on themselves. Casualties ain't been that bad, all things considered. Understand you got yourself a lady already?"
Duo blinked. "How... yeah, I... I do."
"Checked up on her when I knew where I was headed, just in case I needed ta remind a man of what a man lives for. My people, we know something about that thing you're riding in. Anyway, I can tell ya this much, she's okay, her and your kid."
Gunn saw the kid's shoulders sag the tiniest bit in relief. Duo's expression was somewhat ambiguous, which didn't surprise the older Marine; It was pretty clear that it had been something of a shotgun wedding, and even though it looked as though the kid was basically an honorable kinda guy, sixteen or seventeen wasn't exactly the age you expected a man to settle down. Duo winced. "He's at it again."
"Christ, kid, hang on. Five minutes. Then another few for lockdown and you're home free."
"Five minutes eh?"
Duo set his jaw. "Yeah, I can hold out for that long."
"Sure you can, kid. A walk in the park. 'Sides, what's old black and nasty gonna do? I got him in a tractor, which means he ain't doing any FTL jumps even if he fixes the engine; doing a conversion jump when in a tractor, ooh, that does nasty things on both sides. An' if he's trying to just fly off, hell, he'll get cut to scrap. He gotta understand that."
"He does. Sort of. But he's so used to being in charge... It's not very dignified to have a little insignificant punk like myself calling the shots. Besides, I think my thinking brain disturbs him." A devilish grin lit across his young face. "Yup, that's right, can't deal with the fact when left to it's own devices, I'm a little scattered in the mental department." To emphasis the point, Duo tapped his head with a finger, jiggling what Remaining neuro-connections attached to his brow.
Gunn nodded. "Uses you as a sorta subprocessor. Yeah. But I guess he wants to live, right?"
"Yes." For a moment Duo's voice took on a mechanical overtone. "Existence is preferable to death." The pilot shook his head. "DAMN he creeps me out when he does that..." He coughed again, triggering a series of coughs that racked his body and brought blood-foam from his mouth. Finally he got himself under control. "Muther fuck'n puss bucket, I can feel him, he's trying to repair me, but that's also the way he might get me back. Can't trust him." He shook his head, blood and sweet tangled hair sliding into his eyes. "I feel like shit... Fading fast."
"You're doin' fine, kid. Trust me. Long as he keeps it firmly in mind that one wrong move'll send him to the junkyard, I think he'll behave."
Duo nodded slowly. "So, what's it like out there?"
Gunn blinked, then understood. "The Outer Colonies ?"
"Yeah." Duo's eyes were glazing over with the effort of maintaining consciousness and control. It was obvious that the garrulous boy was keeping up a conversation to prevent himself from dropping into a coma.
Gunn chuckled. "Kid, that one ain't answered easy. You really are gonna have to come out an' see for yourself."
"That... that an invitation?" Duo asked, smiling weakly.
"Sure. When this whole mess is sorted out. I think you'd like it. Some of it, anyway. There's enough out there so there's places everyone likes... an' places most people don't."
"What about where... you come from?"
"My homeworld?" Gunn grinned widely. "That's one o' the places most people don't. Remind me to tell you about it sometime."
"Why not... now. " The boy convulsed, eyes squeezing tight. "He's really getting kind of strong, I ... I don't know how long I can..."
"Kid, take a look." Gunn jockeyed for position and cruised through the center of the huge lighted bay. "We're here. Another two, three minutes and you'll be home free."
Duo , opening his eyes, looked surprised. "I... Damn."
The Katana dragged the huge FTL to a docking slot. In coordinated, urgent haste, the dockyard personnel dogged the FTL down, locking it immovably into the drydock. "Kid, you're home. Pop the cockpit hatch and you're done."
"Think... I can... manage that. Thanks..."
High above the docking floor, the cockpit access door snapped open as the atmospheric pressure was restored in the dock. At the same moment the transmission from the FTL died.
Gunn grunted a mild curse and set the Katana down next to the FTL.
As he was powering down, alarms were clamoring. Special forces in armor were assembling around the FTL.
"He's not coming out." "Machine's probably taken over!" "Should we fire, sir?" "Hold until all units are in position."
"Well bust my balls." Gunn muttered. "I'd better get a move on, the natives are restless."
The Outer Colonies Marine strode down the gangway of the Katana and advanced to the scaffolding toward the FTL. A shriek came from above. "It's alive in there!"
"Hey!" Despite not wearing a transmitter, his inhumanly powerful voice combined with the acoustics of the landing bay to make Gunn audible. "Ease back, guys. What's the situation?"
"Who the... Captain Gunn ?"
Gunn grinned wryly. "I may conn a ship, but don't give me a rank I ain't got, sir." he replied to the Lieutenant who'd asked. "Force Leader Hannibal Gunn ."
"That... thing is holding onto Maxwell and won't let go. And it's made threatening gestures towards my people when they try to approach."
Gunn nodded. "Not surprised, I guess. Look, gimme a chance. Clear those damn combat clunkers away from the cockpit and let me get up to the kid."
The Lieutenant hesitated, apparently transmitting a query to headquarters. "Okay, you heard the man. Sally Po says to do whatever Mr.. Gunn suggests, so move out."
Gunn swung himself onto the scaffolding. Low gravity, maintained by the spin of the great station, made it easy to scramble the distance up to the FTL's open cockpit.
As his eyes came level with the opening, he could see the organic cables, twitching as though alive -- which they probably were. Then he stepped inside.
The cables jerked in startlement, then yanked back, just as if they'd been burned. He took the couple of strides necessary to carry him to the seat that held Duo hostage. As he did so, the other connections fell from Duo , pulling into the walls as far from Gunn as possible. He heard a wet sucking sound from beneath Duo as he touched the boy's shoulders, and tried to ignore the implications of just where THAT connection must've been located. "Hey, kid, you still with me?"
The heavy-lidded eyes opened a fraction and Duo shifted uncomfortably. "Damn. That didn't sound to good did it? Think I should feel humiliated, not sure though..." He spoke to no one in particular, and his words were badly slurred.
A moment later, Duo blinked in sleepy astonishment, then tried to stand. " Mr.... Gunn ...It let go..." His weary legs refused to move, making the boy curse softly, then slump back spent. " The voices. I can't hear them. It's quiet."
Gunn nodded and picked Duo up. "Yeah, kid, the voices won't be bothering you again. Not while I'm around, I guarantee it."
"Quiet...." the boy's voice trailed off, and Duo was suddenly asleep.
But not just asleep, Gunn knew, just from the feel. He was also heading into shock. After whatever damage he'd done to himself resisting the FTL, the kid was in grave danger. It was up to Gunn to get him to sickbay, and pronto.
"Hey out there! Gimme a lift down, I've got a kid in bad shape here!"
A deep seeded clicking and screeching clawed into my consciousness. She looked at me, her dark black diamond facetted eyes peering deep into my gaze.
Numb, I stared, unable to look away.
Come to me.
Come to me, lost one.
The hive is dying.
Bring me the new queen.
The hive was dying, I felt a powerful draw, my heart and soul longing to see her in the flesh. the Queen, needed my service and I had to obey.
But who would be the new Queen?
I bolted up, the monstrous creature's features shattering into a billion shards. The hive gave way to pounding agony as I opened my eyes and focused on sterile white neon lights and the relentless pounding of my heart in my throat.
"Relena." Her name creaked out breathless like a prayer. I needed her, and my fears for her were slowly growing stronger.
I Heero Yui was her worse foe.
My queen, I squeezed my eyes tight, recalling her smooth delicate features, untainted by the nightmare monsters. They wanted my queen. Someone I was not willing to surrender. However, she was calling for me, and the drive was stronger now than it had ever been before. It would not be long before I betrayed Relena Darlene to them.
A fraction of a second flickered by and I wished I was truly human. For only then would I be capable of being with Relena, at her side. But that was an impossibility. I had to live with being half Omega and never be with her again.
I felt the call many times before and learned to live with it as I became more and more aware of it. Unfortunately, I was weakening, I would have to go to them very soon and hope I'd leave her behind.
It was the only way to protect Relena.
I rolled over on to my side, closing my eyes to the light, and curled into a fetal position. Holding my knees I felt comforted, like a child without worry. Dimly in the darkest reaches of my mind I recalled the womb and the other that huddled close, tail wrapped about my small form. It was something I longed for.
But there was no true comfort in those thoughts. I was sworn to protect Ms. Darlene, not destroy her and I wondered how I would manage not to succumb to the drives and images commanding me.
Drives I needed to face and soon. But this recent battle may have changed things.
Life was to damn inconvenient.
"This is very uncharacteristic of you, Heero ." Trowa's voice spoke beside me. "Was the mind of Mr.. Sheshi Rem that disturbing?"
I opened my eyes, staring blankly at his white uniform clad legs. "It was Duo's he was connecting us to." I said dryly.
"Well then that explains it. I too would be traumatized by Maxwell's unguarded imagination. " His voice flexed, and the tone shifted some to form flat dry sarcasm.
He was the last person I expected to be there. A part of me expected him to be with Dorothy and her people. But if he were really a spy for them, of course he would be trying to gain our trust.
Alexie what was your game?
Deliberately, I unwound, feeling the never ending throb of my head assault me with each move. I was definitely in the sick bay, Preventers headquarters by the look of the architecture around me. I sniffed the air, tasting the unsavory stench of death. I confirmed my suspicions by taking a look around and noting the multiple cots laid out on the floor, several had blankets pulled up over heads.
A few members of the hospital staff darted about, in an attempt to comfort moaning patients, and the sick out numbered the medical personal tenfold.
The Preventers were grotesquely unprepared for this disaster and did not have an appropriate medical staff.
Then again, the battle was short, and even though we did suffer great losses, most of the bodies were vaporized in space. As far as I knew, one managed to get beyond our line of defense." This place feels like a morgue not a medical bay."
Trowa nodded, glancing over his shoulder. I spied Quatre nestled in a bed, and not far away, Wufei lay on full life support.
Sally was no where in site, and the two pilots were not being attended.
Strange. I lifted a brow.
Whatever pheromone Mr.. Rem caused had a price.
I knew the shit was going to hit the fan at the time, but a part of me was driven to assist Duo (perhaps it was because what I had decided early about him). If Maxwell didn't pull though, I was personally planning on tracking him to the after world and killing him all over again.
I propped myself on my elbows and searched Trowa's features.
He seemed reluctant to speak to me, and kept straying his gaze to Quatre. He was worried, yet suspicious of something. But what? I decided to test the ground some. "Trowa, you saw Alexie didn't you? He captured you."
"Alexie is dead." He said flatly. "I understand you claim other wise. "
I nodded. His answer was too quick as if something was forcing him into denial. Was Alexie's conditioning of him that complete? After all when we first started searching for him, Trowa was sure Alexie was alive.
It was ashamed of course, out of all my allies, Trowa was the only one efficient enough to keep up with me.
I sniffed the air, taking advantage of my heightened senses. Perhaps his sent would betray something about him.
He had no sent....
It was like he wasn't there at all. That made me very uneasy.
"Then who did capture you?" It would be strategic suicide to engage in any more discussion concerning Alexie and I needed to keep my edge. The entire psychic link thing shook me up in ways I couldn't quiet put my finger on, so I decided to avoid a verbal fencing match with Trowa.
"John Fiero." His reply was distant as if he were paying attention to something else. But what? his experience with Romafeller and Alexie were hidden from me, so I had nothing to work from.
Trowa frowned at Quatre's prone body and looked back to me. That was a rouse of course, I noticed him looking at the blond boy many times. yet, this time, I was sure he wasn't seeing the boy. His gaze was directed slightly above the boy.
"Yes it does look like a morgue. The Outer Colonies Ship claims there was a flux of psychic energy that knocked out a large majority of the fleet on both sides. We also have a rash of deaths, though out the Colonies . Mr.. Rem was very reckless." Trowa said, matter-of-factly.
Hmm was that it, he was engineering a tactic to beak down my defenses verbally? His words did seem planned.
He sounded bitter as well, very uncharacteristic for Trowa. His stance shifted from one hip to the other. Interesting, he was actually uncomfortable, perhaps a part of him recognized something was wrong. "None of us knew what would happen. Why weren't you there, Trowa? We tend to be a team, especially when one of our own is in danger."
He shrugged. "I don't like the idea of people in my head."
It was a down right lie, I was sure of it, but couldn't place my finger on why. Trowa rarely lied to me, unless he was undercover. Yet he was being sloppy and leaving too may clues. "I can't say I blame you. But I'm surprised, you fear nothing. Not even death. Why fear a sappy little psychic boy. After all, I though you were accustomed to Newtypes.."
I was referring to Reily and his friends, who were no doubt unconscious some place, but not here, I saw no sign of them.
"Mr.. Rem was created as a psychic weapon by Alexie. He was stolen and conditioned by the South American government. And you guys fell for it, hook line and sinker. " Said Trowa. his voice edged with anger, surprising me. He rarely used emotions, especially in his tone. "You thought you were saving Duo , but this was part of Alexie's plan to cause desecration. You fell right into it. " His words made sense. But if I was right, then I knew they were half-truths.
"Everything we do, Trowa is a part of Alexie's plans." I said firmly. "Alive or dead, none of us are free from him. And some of us are far more malleable than others. "
His green eyes diverted from my gaze and he looked at his hands for a moment. "I know you must think I'm working for him. But I'm not. I have proof he is dead, Heero . And unlike you , I don't pursue my failures. I can go on with my life."
If it were under any other circumstance, Trowa's words would have stung. This time, I only took his statement as an observations biased on very little information and a great deal of conditioning. I smiled thinly at him. "Believe what you want. Time will only tell who the real tool is, Trowa."
I was able to move a little more as the pain faded. I managed to sit up, propping my own pillows. I was dressed in a hospital gown and under a single sheet. Other than that, I had no real injuries.
Which made me think of Duo again. "Is Duo alive?"
He nodded. "In surgery. Sally claims he's not in good shape and it will be touch and go for a while. "
Well at least he was free. My gut told me, If J and his cohorts had taken Duo, that he was the only one, save perhaps Wu I could really trust.. Loosing Trowa and Quatre to Alexie was disturbing, but not necessarily a fatal blow.
I could work with who I had. "Then it was all worth it. Maxwell is a tough bastard. He'll pull though."
Trowa said nothing, he just met my gaze with his unswerving green pools. A moment later he thinly smiled. "Is it? Relena was one of the people hit badly by Rem's psychic backlash. She's a Newtype, Heero ."
Then Dorothy was right.
I froze, face, twitching into a unwanted frown for a fraction of a second.
The psychic field that consumed Quatre, Wu and I was huge and for any mind that resisted it, it could have been devastating, hence all the corpses....
My mouth went dry and I looked around the room, hopping to glimpse her, just to see if she was all right.
"In her own room at the embassy." Trowa answered.
Now I understood why he had used the words failed.
I drew in a breath, then eased myself to the side of the bed. I had failed my queen in order to save my friend.
How many more failures could I endure?
Looking away, I noted a moment of content crossing Trowa's face. "I apologize for being the barer of bad news," he began. "But it's not your fault. You had no idea. Alexie wanted nothing more than to have ms Darlene dead."
"And I helped him." I replied. "Is that what your are going to tell me?"
Trowa heaved a breath. "I'm not that tactless. You are my friend. But you were used to hurt her. I'm sorry."
He wasn't sorry, he was smug, but once more, I could not tell for certain. Yet I refused not to believe his words. I wasn't' a fool. I would maintain perfect control and not allow myself to feel a single ounce of defeat. My perceptions were not induced by insanity promoted by the Muresami process. Still I couldn't deny it, to an rational outsider (not Trowa necessarily) I did look crazy. Alexie planned for everything. We were in a no win scenario.
Hurting Relena was only a small piece of his plan.
Unable to think clearly, I slipped off the bed, legs weak, but determined. I had to go to her and end this discussion with Trowa before he planted any more doubts into my fragile psyche. "Trowa, you can dance to Alexie's strings and be blind to it." I said calling his bluff. "But I plan to cut them soon. Relena is strong, she'll live and I have confidence she will succeed in what she plans. Alexie will fail. But You'll have to wake up to the truth sooner or later. And when you do, I'll be tactless, even if you are my friend."
Shortly after regaining consciousness, I was transferred from the over crowded medical bay to quarters I shared with Duo and Wufei. It was a small room considering its function and I often found myself talking to my unconscious companions or reading.
My head ached a great deal, and I attributed the lack of empathic feedback to it. It seemed for now, any Newtype abilities were supressed. I didn't mind though. It was quiet.
I was alone for quite some time, save for the occasional staff visiting to check up on my condition. Left to my own devices, I discovered myself wondering a great deal about the psychic event we partook in.
It upset me to think we caused as much damage we did, but some how, I consoled myself in the idea that it was inevitable. If it were not Sheshi with Wufei, according to Sally, it would have been South America using Sheshi as a weapon in their version of the FTL.
Alexie, left a legacy behind him in the form or a tangled web. One that we could only pray to unravel.
With this in mind, I summoned Rasid to my quarters and asked him about
what was happening in the political arena.
My old friend was weary, but was kind enough to spend the day explaining the current situation. There was a cease-fire and currently an attempt to arrange a "peace" seminar with all sides. It's foundation was being held together by the outer Colonies threat of brute force and all sides were rather disgruntle to the enforcement.
However, no one was willing to challenge the technologically advanced civilization.
Rasid was amused by it. He believed it was all necessary for the time being since the numbers of casualties involved with out little antic went though the roof.
My heart wrenched at that. It was unfair things happened the way they did, and I'd never forgive myself for being compulsive. Still Duo was alive and if USAG used Sheshi in the FTL, the results would have been far worse.
In the end, South America was caught red handed in an attempt to "obtain a war weapon" Sheshi Rem, and use it on the rest of the Colonies. Where China came in I had no information. they were the only nation who failed to show at the conference, preferring to retreat home.
In the end, we were now picking up the pieces, debating about Mr.. Rem (who was being held in his own private chamber away form any questioning until he was fully recovered), and trying to find a solution to the complicated numbers project.
Peace was a matter of swallowing pride now. And so far, national egos were not willing to break.
I wished the news had been better.
Sighing, I folded my arms, and pressed into my propped pillow. "Rashid, please send a message to Sally and tell her I want to attend the next meeting."
Fatherly, Rashid placed a large hand on my shoulder. "I realize you are upset about this Master Quatre, but you are ill and I do not feel the political arena is the proper place for recovery."
I shook my head. " I have to face what we did, Rasid."
"It will make things worse for you. " He looked away, gaze studying Duo and Wufei. "It is best the five Gundam pilots stay hidden. There is a great deal of bitterness right now. Already the governing body of L2 is demanding the ownership of Duo Maxwell, and L3 Trowa Barton."
Swallowing I recalled the bitterness harbored toward the genetically engineered. We were less than human. It wasn't surprising now our makers were beginning to feel they needed to take control of our lives. I formed fists. "They want to use us as weapons right?"
"Inevitably. At this point in time, we could have a division within the Colonies and a mass war."
The world was falling apart and I felt utterly responsible for it. I clenched my teeth, knowing if I ran those who I represented would loose faith in me. I was the ambassador of L4, It was my responsibility to speak for them and carry on my father's wishes. "Rashid, my families fortune will protect me, as will our position. Do not worry about me. " Then with a deep breath, I met his gaze. "I know it doesn't make sense, Rashid, but can you trust me?"
Taken back, the large Magnac tilted his head, then smiled broadly. "Why of course Master Quatre, you're judgement is rarely wrong. What does not make sense?"
"Is the room secure? any bugs?"
He nodded his head. "I made special arrangements. I knew that you needed time to yourself."
"Good." I smiled thinly I could always count on Rashid, which was why I had to tell him my fears, regardless of how silly they were. "When I was in rapport with Sheshi, I realized some things I was worried about made more sense than I was willing or wanting to believe." I began. "I think Alexie is alive. I know the psychical evidence says otherwise, but my gut is rarely wrong. " I rubbed my mouth, staying my attention to Duo and Wu. I remembered the dream and how Duo hung placidly in the web. Perhaps it was a representation, a symbol to what really was. "I think Alexie is more than a Newtype. His mind is sooo alien..."
At this Rashid frowned. "You've encountered him?"
"Yes, when they tortured me in the prison, Shunfei. He was Alexie. I don't know how, Rashid, but he touched my mind, and it felt familiar. Like when I was a child in the numbers project."
Rashid sat back heavily in his chair, massive frame edging the seat back with a screech.
My mind picked up a flux of thoughts, so sudden that not even the steady dull ache of my brain held it back.
"He remembers his childhood."
He pondered this revelation, then nodded. "Quatre, I was not a part of your life then, but I suspect, all of you knew Alexie at one point or another point."
"Did you?" I asked, embarrassed my mind was suddenly probing his. Normally I received just feelings and had to work at finding thoughts. But now, it was automatic as if Rashid was talking aloud.
"Once." He said honestly. It scared him, but he wasn't the sort to deny his life. The Magnac, smiled. "I suppose we are all his pawns. Remember, Quatre, the Magnacs were genetically engineered. "
Of course, I was foolish not to assume a connection. I looked away, pale and vexed. "Do you think he is here?"
"Yes." Rashid leaned over, his hands encompassing about my own. "And you?"
I nodded weakly. "He's a monster connected to some force, it doesn't feel like the collective, Rashid. I've felt the collective conscious. It feels like the opposite. Like some huge spider web, that's hungry..."
Rasid's mind was an open book. he had seen the blue eyes, and witnessed the vast dark void. He believed me, for it was etched on his mind in vibrant detail. "Yes, I've seen that darkness and to this day, I have not seen a way to fight it. "
"I have to fight it." I said firmly. "If we are to survive, we have to find a way to show the others what we know, and destroy him before his plans become irreversible."
Dropping his hands away, Rasid offered a proud smiled. "I admire your strength master Quatre." He thought I was a fool, but would follow me to the end, for I was a valiant fool. "But, Remember if he is the monster you believe him to be, killing him will be far more difficult than you can imagine."
It was true, but I hadn't a choice. "I'll do it for Trowa." I said not entirely aware of my own words. "He freed my heart from hatred once, now It is my turn. I can't abandon him. Not ever."
So now, my fears were set into fears. I now declared private war on the demons in my dreams. I just hoped it wasn't to late.
Voices stirred in the distance, drawing my attention from the quiet encompassing my brain. For the first time in months, my sleep was nightmareless and I actually felt ready to face the world ( I personally didn't think that was possible).
Slowly I came round, listening to the comforting timbre of the words leading me back to consciousness.
"Dear god, please don't take him from me.... please....."
"It's all right Hilde, Dad's a strong bugger. He'll tell good old Mr.. death
to go scratch..."
Yup, that's right, that's me all right, good old Duo Maxwell made it a career to tell death to kiss off....
Then again, the last few days I felt as if I had died and was reborn. I tried to smile, feeling my face ached as I twitched my parch lips. Body felt like it was hit by a train. Every muscle and nerve pulsed fire when I moved.
FTL did a real number on my bod. Guess that gives new meaning to having a rod up your ass right?
Just the thought of being cramped up in the pitch black of the FTL's cockpit connected to it's circuits made me shudder. The experience sketched an irrational fear into my consciousness. The FTL made me a machine, unfeeling and apathetic to everything I was. I never wanted to go back there again, not as long as I lived. Nothing would ever steal my humanity again. I fought too long and hard to stay the way I was.
The impulse to curl into a frightened ball was very strong, but I bashed it down with the rational that is was over with. I could do nothing about the past, and to be upset about it showed weakness.
Besides, Hilde could never know the wreck I felt inside. She needed me to be strong.
Fighting off the fear, I let myself take a different perspective on my life. I should have been gett'n used to this by now. These last couple of weeks God, was mak'n a thing to beat me into a pulp. Not that I didn't deserve it, it would have been nice if the almighty gave me a break.
Then again, the way my twisted brain considered murder, sex and voyeurism on a regular basis how could you blame the big guy?
"Pat doesn't understand what happened to him, Sally and I have tried very hard to shield him from it.... If he knew I don't know how'd he react..."
Hilde's thoughts flickered in my mind, reminding me I was now a full-fledged telepath.
Lucky me eh? Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, right? I would have preferred two bodacious lesbians rolling in Cherry Jell-O....
With whipped cream on top.
Damn those sinful thoughts were gonna get me wired into the FTL again....
(Cold terror washed over me, draining the warmth from my face, had to stop thinking that way, or I'd be locked into a loony bin any time now....)
Again, I filed away the fear, under the DO NOT OPEN UPON THE THREAT OF INSANE ASYLUM, AGAIN (that's right folks, one time was enough for me, it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there)cabinet and shoved it behind my symbolic mental wall....
Where my beloved Hilde in leather thong fantasy belly danced to distract me (heaven help me if she ever turned out to be a Newtype, she'd never let me live it down).
Talking about being a Newtype.
My brain made its way back to the moment at hand.
I mentally picked up on the constant banter of the thoughts around me. Hilde's were in the forefront, and other people I didn't know whispered non-stop in the distance, but I heard nothing form Pat.
It Reminded me of when I saw him on the beach (Jeez that was a long time ago, wasn't I mentally tuning into a couple having sex (no wonder god was out to get me.... Some Priest I'd make).
Man I couldn't keep a straight thought, kept wondering. It was an effort to direct myself back to the situation at hand. Pat, that was right, I could read him, then. He was clear as a bell, I felt he understood something about what I was going though. He somehow knew he'd find me delirious on the beach.
Some kid, I had a million questions to ask him, but I firmly decided it was best not to. Not until the war was over....
But now he shielded his thoughts. It was like he wasn't even there at all.
It was time to face the world. Even if I was humiliated and had to get my ass saved by the others.
Weakly, I cracked open my eyes, focusing on the two faces leaning over me.
Hilde, her beautiful tanned face smiled warmly at me as she reached out and touched my cheek. "Hi." She said joy filled tears spilling down her chin. Carefully she leaned over, arms wrapping about my shoulders.
Odd enough, I felt no fear, as I expected to. A part of me never wanted anyone to touch me again. But I was grateful for her contact, it made me feel alive. It was very different than the FTL.
A difference I needed.
"You really do know how to scare a girl." She said.
"Hi yourself." My voice was horse, barely over a whisper and it ached to speak. "Did a number on myself."
"Sure as hell did braid boy." Pulling away, Hilde tenderly kissed my forehead, then sagged on to a chair beside my bed.
Beside her, Pat saluted and offered an encouraging smile. "We forgive you."
"Hi to you too..." I mustered a wink. To be honest, every second of consciousness felt like a struggle. I wanted to close my eyes and sleep. But too much had happened to sleep the day away. Most of all I had a family to support and I had to talk to others, it was time to compare notes and stop Alexie. "Wu?"
Hilde shook her head. "In a coma."
Well that sucked, but then again, everything these days sucked(what I needed was a nice vacation with a woman I loved in a kinky leather bikini with fuzzy nylon handcuffs...). The fantasy made me smirk. I welcomed the distraction this time. For some reason if I thought about Wu I'd just feel like shit again. I'd be no used to anyone feeling like shit.
Besides, I had to admit, I had a hell of a woman, she seemed rather together despite the on going worry banter in her mind.
Heck, now that I think of it, she made one mental note how this reminded her of one of her more trashy romance novels.
She's distracting herself. Maybe we have more in common than I thought.
From her reaction, Hilde knew far more than she should about what happened to me and it upset her deeply. "He sacrificed a great deal for you." She said running her fingers down my cheek to my chin. "They all did."
Images of blinding white light and people screaming flashed in Hilde's mind. She quickly shoved it away fearful she's strain me with the information. She decided not to tell me, knowing some how it would cause more harm than good..
But she forgot I was a mind reader.
But I didn't need to be one to be aware of the lives I took enslaved to the FTL. I let her bury her own thoughts to herself. It made her feel good to protect me.
I noticed Pat glance to her, then draw in a breath. "Should I take Carey for a walk?"
Carey, I glanced around the room the best I could prone, taking note of a baby carriage and my daughter soundly sleeping. Cute little thing, made all the hell I've been though worth it.
My search for Carey told me I wasn't the only other resident in my room. Wufei, laden with instrumentation, lay motionless a the far end. I sensed his presence even though all I saw was a curtain pulled around his bed. He was weak and not even capable of self-awareness.
I bit my lip asking myself why he had to sacrifice himself the way he did. What happened in China wasn't worth it. I understood why he did what he did. Alexie had power over us all.
If the situation was reversed, I might have done the same. Even if I normally never consider it. Alexie had a way of maneuvering you into a no win scenario.
So China happened. And it was just another day in my short miserable life.
The other bed in the room was empty, but unkempt.
"Yeah, take the kid for a walk." I said. My hand sought out Hilde's petal soft fingers and squeezed it. "Hilde and I have to talk."
Even though I couldn't sense him, I trusted Pat. He meant well and looked out for Carey in a way a real sibling would. He also knew how to stay out of the way when I needed to discuss important things.
Then again, if he were really telepathic, he might have lifted all the information before hand and was playing at being respectful to our discussions. After knowing Sheshi, anything was possible.
As suspected, the boy shrugged, removed my black cap from his head, and placed it at my side. "You're gonna need it more than me, Dad. I ware it for luck."
Hopefully his luck would rub off, damn hat never gave me any luck. I scruffed his hair with my free hand. Proud to have him as my adopted kid. "If you say so, punk."
"I know so." Pat smirked. I kept on forgetting he was only nine. Those deep blue eyes contained a world of wisdom and innocents.
Very, very different than Alexie's.
More like Sheshi's and I intended on keeping them that way. "Come back in a hour or so..."
Hilde nodded. "She's due to be nursed by then anyway." She explained. "And she won't take a bottle. So if you don't want holy hell to break loose, I'd advise you not to be a minute late, she's very vocal."
Pat waved a hand as he took the stroller. "Yeah, yeah, I remember the last time. You were in that damn meeting with Mr.. Yui. Don't worry she'll be here on time...."
Without much delay, he was out the door, whistling a lullaby native to his tribe.
"Smart kid." I said, seeing him go. "I really don't think he wants to get involved."
"After seeing you like this, do you blame him?" Hilde asked. Once more her concern became overwhelming in her thoughts. My disappearance had taken a toll on her and she was nervous about letting me out of her sight. Her hold on my hand tightened. "Sally explained what happened. I'm sorry Duo . If it helps, I'll hunt G down myself and pop him out of the airlock for you...."
The airlock fantasy, by god, sometimes we were so much alike I swore she could read my mind.
Hmmm, Hilde in leather, pushing G out the airlock.... The image was as fun as naked bunji jumping lesbians.... I couldn't help but let my smile broaden.
She of course was saying it to hide her horror. Horror that seethed over her thoughts and pounded into my brain.
But.... I was getting used to it by now. Heck she was about as frightened as I was.
I touched my head, uncomfortable with the awareness. I recalled my feelings when Sheshi lived in my brain. Wasn't I doing the same with Hilde? I heaved an breath, and sank further into my blankets. How could I tell her mind was an open book to me now.
A book I longed to read because she was the closest most intimate person in the world to me.
And she was human, unlike the monster machine that erased my mind and used it as a computer processor.
"Hilde... I love you."
She wiped tears. "I know."
"Isn't that my line?" I asked, smirking. She didn't need to say anything, I felt her love reaching in and touching the part of me that was cold and frightened. "I can't turn off my brain. " I admitted to her guiltily. "Reading thoughts like crazy... I'm sorry."
Lifting a brow Hilde leaned in, she was warn from hours of no sleep (yes, I know I eased dropped, she hadn't slept in 48 hours and wasn't planning on sleeping until she knew I was ok (Damn, did I deserve her?)), but her feelings for me drove her press her lips to my own . "I don't care anymore, as long as your safe, you can live there for an eternity. I have no secrets from you Mr.. Duo Maxwell."
I had too many secrets, even from myself.
"Hmmmm, you're the best? Did you know that? Why do you put up with me?"
"I like the braid." She joked, then heaved in a sob. "I wished I was there to help..."
With my weaning strength, I pulled her closer, arms wrapping painfully about her back and returned her kiss. Just the feel of her body pressing against my own made me feel stronger. I needed her and it had been a long time since we shared a real moment together.
Her mind said she felt the same way. Hilde wanted to be comforted and held.
Despite the fears, regardless the pain, regardless the humiliations I felt deep within my soul, at that moment in time, Hilde was all that mattered. The war could wait. It was time to heal.
And we both needed it.
The Preventers security system was painfully simple to access; although, they did Remove my own personal codes. In the end, it didn't hamper me. My familiarity with those who designed the programs and the computer's virtual structure made it breaking in child's play.
The voices were pleased. I pulled away from my laptop, scanning down the multiple windows at my fingertips. I had dismantled the bugs in my room, by looping the security monitor image , the same trick Heero and I used to break into the Evolutionary Science Research Foundation. It was a simple trick, and let me bid my time.
Time I needed to study and the current security procedures used by the Preventers.
And time to up load their files and see what they knew. To bad the outer Colonies were so tight lipped and their systems were off the network. I would have liked to see what Gunn was up to.
I sighed, illuminated by the glow of the computer screen, in the dark of my room. I liked it that way. It was comforting, it made me feel closer to the voices whispering around me. In a way, it made me feel formless, and that was appropriate, they were formless.
Thinly I smiled, tapping my keyboard and studying the images before me. One screen had data scrolling down. Skimming it, I noted it was information on the current crisis. Most of it, I already took into account. The rest consisted of detailed plans for the next ESUN meeting, with the South American contingent. The Chinese declined to send any delegates, becoming an island on to themselves.
They were waiting, hiding until our strength was at it's peek. It would not be long before they came.
A shiver swept down my spine tantalizing my being with the thrill of anticipation.
A Hunger a part of me denied still, but was growing steadily more used to it as time passed.
A second screen revealed a hall with two guards a at a door. With a tap, the image split and showed a small red haired boy laying curled under blankets. His room was elegant, yet he seemed tormented in his gilded cage and thrashed in his sleep.
"Sheshi Rem." I smiled thinly taking note of the narrow air ducks and vast window looking out into space. "No place to hide, your are the perfect scapegoat. And strangely I don't piety you..."
What was so special about his psychic call? Why was Quatre drawn to it? And why was I so frightened of it?
I rubbed my chin, troubled, then looked away feeling lost. I had failed to express myself to Quatre and my inability to be with him drove him way. But how could I explain to him any contact would destroy him. I hungered for it and longed to drink of his spirit.
Yet at the same time, it revolted me.
I liked Quatre, I wanted to be with him, but to many horrors lived in my past to consciously give into to his drives and needs.
"His is drawn to Newtypes..." the voice wispered. "He doesn't understand us. He can never be one of us or a part of us, he fears us...."
I shook my head, painfully attempting to close them out. I needed to think clearly , without their banter. For I found myself more and more following their every signal.
Eventually there would be no Trowa Barton, just a physical expression of them...
Heero's words echoed in my brain, sending more pulses of pain into my head. With a gasp I pulled at my hair, knuckles white against my head.
It didn't matter what I was. I could ask no questions. Questions were painful. But wasn't it my nature to ask questions? I strained, anguish coursing though my limbs like electricity, then tried to blank my mind.
If I could just disappear from their hold, I knew I could have a moment to myself.
It was an effort.
And the pain blotted out my vision .
Yet they held on, their thread binding tighter to my flesh, eating away my resistance like acid.
I spasm, body jarring enough to rock the delicate machine propped on my lap.
On it's face was an image of Quatre, hobbling down the hall on crutches, making his way to the Romefeller Foundation's embassy Wing of the base.
"Seeeee, seee, he seeks out others... He will betray you." they said.
I froze, gaze focusing on the boy. He was dressed in gray slacks and a simple white button up poet's shirt. Casual, yet comfortable. He appeared as an angel with in the blizzard of electronic snow.
I smiled longing for his companionship, for I could trust him and confide in Quatre. He was a friend.
I clenched my teeth, wondering where he was going and why.
Then I realized according to the data, he was stopping in front of the room of Ingram Reily.
A Newtype, like Quatre and Sheshi...
I bit my lip.
Could the Newtype drive for contact bring him to them, and bond him to them as it did us when he and I were children?
I studied the images, noting how Quatre's posture seemed pained yet at ease when Ingram opened the door, and smiled broadly at him.
"Why Quatre, boy'O, what brings you here so wee early in the morn?" The Celtic accented youth, was dressed only in a pair of briefs. His blond hair was disheveled, and eyes groggy, like he had just woken up from a long unfit rest. Yet, somehow, he managed the charm, and cheerfulness of a "rogue". How he could be so flamboyant was beyond me.
Quatre smiled warmly. "Can I come in, I need to talk to you about Newtype bonds and unions...."
I swallowed hard, seeing how Ingram's face lit up. He placed an arm around Quatre's shoulder. "We'll I think you've come to the right place, laddie. Enter my domicile at your own risk, and I'll be delighted to help you...."
It was the last place I wanted to see Quatre attempting to learn Newtype information from. Ingram was a spy and a master manipulator. He used those abilities of his to control others with no conscience.
And Quatre belonged to no one. I felt a pulse or rage threaten to topple my normal reserve.
Ingram had no right touching Quatre's spirit.
Only I did.
The thoughts made me pause and reflect for a moment, Was that why I was so intent on using Rem as a scapegoat. He had touched Quatre in a way I only dreamed of doing?
Wasn't this irrational of me. I didn't know what jealousy was. Then why was I suddenly angry about anyone being close to him?
Because he'd betray me. Just like they said.
And I believed it.
I expelled a breath to calm my passion, I had to get a grip. This wasn't me, yet it was the me influenced by them, the ones I could not question.
Therefore I had to except it as a normal state.
With that, I withdrew from the system and deactivated the monitors. It was time to see Quatre and remind Ingram of his position in the new regime.
I entered Ingram's room slowly, I had not quiet recovered from my injuries and was still feeling the ache and pull of my bandages and stitches. I really shouldn't have been out of bed, and Rasid fought vehemently to keep me there, but I despised laying around. So, feeling a sense of urgency building, I found my way to Ingram's room. He was a Newtype. He most likely understood what happened with Sheshi Rem. Furthermore, he was the only one capable of helping me convince the ESUN, that Sheshi's mental backlash was the result of the amplification of the new Gundam and the FTL, and not the result of a normal union.
Part of me knew the current nations involved were aware what happened was a fluke, but their fear of Newtypes and their powers grew even more irrational from the event.
An event I partially caused by not looking ahead at the consequences. Something Ingram obviously knew of since I was aware he failed to be present at the phenomena at the time.
Then again, with all that had happened, I needed someone that understood what I was to talk to and Trowa was no where to be found.
I heaved a breath, staring about the room. It was fairly small and nothing fancy, which I half expected since Ingram, was associated with Romefeller. The room itself had a couch, computer terminal, and a table and three chairs. The door to the one adjacent bedroom was closed.
Despite his half awake state, Ingram cleared away several papers from the table and pulled out a chair for me to sit.
"Look, I can't talk business if I'm groggy from sleep." He said trying to sound cheerful. "Let me make us some coffee or tea, then we can get to business."
I nodded, not wanting to make him anymore uncomfortable . "Tea please."
"I have English breakfast, is that ok?" He asked opening a cabinet and freeing a coffee pot from it's confines.
"Great." I shifted dint he chair, feeling it's hard wood back against my spine. It was uncomfortable, but I'd endure it for now. "My father used to have English Breakfast in the morning when I was a child." I said for conversation. "He wasn't a coffee man. I suppose that's why I never had a taste for it."
He nodded, then poured himself a cup of steaming Java and poured my hot water from the heating tap on the coffee maker. "Was raised on tea myself," he said looking over his shoulder at me.
Tangled blond hair dropped in his face, giving him a disheveled innocence I could only dream of having. It was hard to believe he was a spy. "Ireland right?"
He nodded. "Yes, on the coast in fact. Splendid scenery, miss it dearly." He dropped a bag in my hot water, then made his way to the table. "Miss it almost as much as the scones and pastries my foster mum used to bake. " He paused in front of the table, and raised an elbow to the clutter before him. "Under those papers you should find powered creamer and sugar bowl, with spoons. "
I glanced down realizing most of the table was covered by Romafeller top secret security files. Obviously they were now declassified but still the very thought Ingram burried his sugar and creamer with them disturbed me. I myself would have them filed away so that no information was lost.
"You have several endearing traits that you share with your brother." I told him gathering up the paper I could and stacking them all in a neat pile.
"Really?" Ingram kicked out a chair with a free foot and sat down. "I'd really like to know more about him you know. Have to figure out a tactic to approaching him."
I shrugged, taking my cup from him. "Relax, smile a great deal and be yourself. You seem to be the kind of guy he'd like." I said. I gave myself two spoonfuls of sugar and watched Ingram drink his coffee black.
Which was very, very unlike Duo . He placed the mug down, and sighed closing his eyes. "Oi, me bloody head pound'n like a base drum."
My mind picked up the discomfort, informing me he was suffering from the same malady that ailed a great number of the people afflicted by Sheshi's union. I frowned, cupping the teacup in both my hands and absorbing the heat and sweet herb aroma. "I felt the same way several hours ago, when I first woke up. "
"Aye, you're lucky boyo..." He said squeaking an eye open with a weak half grin. "I fought the influx of power and it did a number on me and the lasses."
I looked away, awkward, knowing I gave into Sheshi's call and let the power flow though me, strengthening it. In a way, I was responsible for his discomfort and the lives lost. "Why did you fight it?"
Ingram took a second sip of his coffee, violet eyes shifting toward the wall behind me. "I sensed it was Rem, and since he's been in the hands of the South American government for the last several years, I had a fit of paranoia and pushed him away."
I couldn't blame him of course, Ingram of all people knew about Sheshi Rem; it was, according to Trowa, apparently his mission to rescue the boy. I lowered my gaze, feeling a wash of shame come over me. I never considered that possibility, I only assumed from Sheshi's mind that the boy meant no ill. Then again, I was judging him according to what my mind thought at that time and thinking could easily be changed by a psychic. Even if they did have your friend in their interest.
I peered deep into my teacup, and watched tiny ripples kiss it's side.
My hands were trembling.
I felt an overwhelming serge of shame. I was a strategist, and yet I managed to make an in battle descision that doomed many, many people.
Ingram must have thought me a fool. I had the perfect chance to confide in him, during the battle when Sheshi called, but I didn't. Instead I let my concern for Duo to cloud my mind.
One life was it worth the countless thousands that suffered or died? "I..."
The youth's brow furrowed and Ingram's hand closed about my fingers. Our gazes meet and I felt this thoughts reaching out and touching mine. "It's all right, Quatre, I understand why you did it. You're not a blind fool. Ye did it cause yer heart wouldn't let you betray or abandon a friend. I don't even think Mr.. Rem knew the real reason why he did what he did. I see all of you as innocents in this whole ugly war."
I bit my lip, staring at his huge violet eyes. They were comforting and compassionate, very much like Duo's, but there was also an understanding I knew his brother could never have. Ingram accepted what he was and was raised with it. He had no fears of being a Newtype and in that sense we both had a great deal in common.
I wished Trowa would fight his fears and accept the very basis of what he was and our bond. As along as he fought, there would be a void of pain between the two of us. A void I was determined to destroy and free him from.
It was why he hid in the web and let it control him.
I rubbed my face, still attempting to understand what the web was and why it encompassed all our lives. The only thing I was sure of was its evil and hunger.
"You seem to understand a great deal." I said, curling my fingers into a fist. "May I ask how?"
"It's the part of the understanding. "He said tilting his head. "All Newtypes understand others and their motives, therefore it's infinitely easier for us to interact socially within a conflict."
I looked away, sensing a contradiction in his words. It seemed earlier, concerning his brother, Ingram was not about to understand anything. "You were out for Blood concerning Duo and G..."
He nodded. "That's because I had no contact concerning any of you. I'm willing to give me brother's new persona a chance, as for G... How can any man forgive what that old Buzzards done? It's beyond mi understanding. It's not sane."
His words made me laugh. I shook my head, with drawing my hand, with effort from his fingers. "Mr.. Reily, they are mad, you can't expect any of them to think like sane men."
Smirking, Ingram pushed his blond bangs from his eyes and chuckled. "I guess not. Anyhow, I think I'm awake enough, why did ye come here laddy?"
I eyed the pile of papers. "I need to find a way to defuse the Newtype anxiety brought on by this little.... Accident." I said leaning with my chin on my palm and my elbow propped on the table. "I know between you and Dorothy, you can put South America on the spot concerning the weapon and their plot, but in the end, it doesn't ease the situation for any of us. They are ignorant and will start making assumptions. "
"Why come to me, and not the outer Colonies ?" Ingram sat back in his chair, coffee cup and saucer in hand. He looked rather out of place in his white tank undershirt and red boxer shorts, and I suppressed a chuckle. The man was a living contradiction in a way.
"Because they don't understand earth as it is, only as it was." I said, hiding my smile with a narrowed brow. "Besides, you were a double agent for Alexie. You must know many of their scandals..."
Scandals, Alexie caused for a greater plan, but I wasn't about to hamper his pleasant memories of the man with my theories. "Well?"
"I have documentation that they planned to start a war. " He said sternly. "And that Rem was their secret weapon. Designed to pilot a revamped version of the FTL." The coffee cup clanked on to the saucer, as he lowered it. "If this was a trial, they'd be hung, Mr.. Winner."
"So, do you think Sheshi was acting on some programming he had from their work to link with the FTL?" I asked remembering how the boy was dead determined to brake the machines' control over Duo. Though in his heart, he wanted to make the machine passive. The boy had no intention of controlling the machine.
"Don't know. What did it feel like to you?" Ingram shrugged, honestly perplexed. "Ye were their boyo, not I. "
Happy he asked my opinion with no judgements attached, I explained my experience. "He just wanted to help Duo . He feared the FTL and saw it an enemy. He attacked it with out hesitation. It didn't remind me of a programmed slave and if they programmed him to work with the FTL, he wouldn't have been able to attack the way he did."
Sighing, Ingram placed his coffee cup and saucer on the table and rubbed his brow. "Hmm, well, then I guess we have an eye witness argument to support Mr.. Rem."
"But Alexie and his plans come into this some how. I can't ignore that either." I directed my gaze on Ingram's and firmly held it. "I have a theory, Ingram, and I want you to confirm it. I don't care if you see Alexie as a visionary; I don't care if I see him as the devil incarnate. We should put our opinions of him on the side. What I do care is if this was all of one big plot. Did Alexie plan to use Sheshi Rem for something. What is so vital about Sheshi and why was it imperative for you to take him? " Painfully, I pressed my back into my chair and straightened. "And don't tell me it was for his own good. You're a spy, Alexie was not having you rescue him in order to have an innocent soul or weapon."
On the spot, Ingram shifted. He folded his arms, then bowed his head, contemplating his words. I sensed his feelings were torn, and my questions had challenged his loyalties to the man.
Other than that, his mental blocks were so strong; I couldn't retrieve any other thoughts from him.
However, I was starting to receive some trickle of thoughts from other unguarded minds on the Colonies. My abilities were starting to recover and they were definitely stronger. "Well?
He exhaled. "Alexie believed if everyone became aware of their Newtype potential, they'd stop having conflicts. Newtypes understand each other and can't act against each other. His goal was to awaken them, with Sheshi. By sheer numbers they'd out weigh the few non-Newtypes. And since most of the main political and finical powers on earth were involved in the numbers project, they would have to become a part of that understanding. Only the South Americans were resistant to the project, since they were founded by the Pure Earthiers almost 300 years ago."
Pale, I stared, incable of speaking. I shifted uncomfortablely, and swollowed. His words made more sense than my own impressions. I wanted to believe them, but if I did, I had to admit all my suspicions about the web and Trowa were wrong. Suspicions I didn't want to let go in fear they were real. Suspicions that Rasid confirmed. "You mean all of this was to make this one event occur in order to ensure peace?"
"So, why did you resist Sheshi's call?" I had to find some loophole, something to allow myself to cling to the impressions I gained when Shun Fee raped my mind and accosted my body.
"Because it wasn't time and I have no idea whether he was acting on his own or acting on South America's programming."
It couldn't be, I thought, Ingram was blinded by something, but by the feel of his mind, he was perfectly rational. He didn't see the blue eyes the way I did. Moreover, he believed Alexie was dead. In his thoughts, he and his allies were to carry out Alexie's plans, but in there own time. If at all.
I cupped my mug of tea, holding it tightly so I could feel the heat burn my palms. Ingram was so rational, even his emotions said he was completely under control.
My thoughts and feelings were scattered again. It was a brillaint piece of tactics, I had to admit. Alexie in an attempt to draw attention from his true plan was giving the nations in question everything they wanted. The entire affair would make those of us who saw the truth look insane.
I stared into my teacup, troubled.
Perceptive, Ingram pick up on it. "Quatre, Trowa mentioned what Sun Fee did to ye..." Again, fingers closed about my hand. Ingram leaned over the table, other hand touching my chin.
Shun Fee, and what he did, it circled to me constantly. Would what he did to me be my downfall?
"You read my mind..." Embarrassed I looked away from him. I felt unguarded, and untrained. Unlike Ingram, I was new to my mental abilities, save perhaps the empathy. He on the other hand was a master psionisis and Newtype.
"No, " Ingram shook his head, "Ye sent them to me. An event like that, glares from a person's mind, I couldn't help but see it. "
His hands turned my face so our eyes meet once more. "You're beautiful, Quatre. Everything about you, you're heart, mind and soul... But I sense something very disturbing there, something that tearing ye up..."
I shouldn't have come. His eyes, his smile, drew me and disarmed me at the same time. I liked Ingram, and I was attracted to him. He had all the aspects of Duo I loved and in many ways, he was very much like Trowa in his efficiency.
The difference was, he was relaxed and willing not to let his perceptions and fears to get in the way of his interactions.
My mind also said, he was painfully honest.
I wanted to look away from him, but was incapable. A part of me longed for his comfort. It was one of the many reasons why I came.
I went to speak, when the door opened and Trowa stepped in.
There wasn't much time to think. I sank back into my seat and Ingram awkwardly came to a stand, surprised and irritated by the intrusion. "Ye could have knocked, boyeo..."
With the mood broken, I came to a painful stand and faced Trowa.
"Trowa, Ingram and I were discussing the Sheshi Rem situation." I said. Technically he should have understood my presence here. I was on a reconnaissance mission. "I think we might have a solution."
One that would not help me, but one that would hold the delegates at bay and even out of our way.
That is, if the forces I percieved as existing existed.
I shook my head feeling like a pinball, how many times would I doubt myself.
Could it be the Zero system effects G spoke of months ago after Duo tried to kill Relena, were finally taking their toll on me?
Trowa's face was stern and analytical at the same time. He studied the room, Ingram's attire and myself for a long moment. "I didn't knock because I was concerned about Quatre." He said to Ingram. "I've seen you work, Reily. I don't trust you."
Ingram's eyes widened, and he folded his arms, innocently glancing at me then back to Trowa. "You wound me, laddie. Quatre is not an enemy, and just because I'm a telepath does not mean I'll be putt'n the voodoo on the boy's brain."
Trowa lifted a brow, and walked over to me. Carefully he encircled my waist with an arm and let me lean into his side.
It was strange, I felt nothing form him. His mind was closed to me. It was as if he were invisible to the world. Shivering, I leaned into him, wondering why he had become suddenly so cold to me. I wasn't used to not feeling him.
Then again, I was feeling very closed in and surrounded by the voices now echoing in my mind. Perhaps that was why I felt nothing from Trowa, his presence was invisible in the crowd whispering constantly in my head. "Ingram was trying to help me. " I said explained. "I would have recognized him in my mind."
"You're not experienced. " Trowa said. "He's dangerous."
"Only to his virtue." It was a woman's voice, and I couldn't help but glance back to see Sulyn standing in the bedroom doorway. Tally, was cuddling wearily into her, but smiling lazily at Ingram.
"I object to that." Ingram snapped, a blush washing over his features. "
"Busted, eh Ingram?" Tally smirked. "We were wondering where you were. Thought you were planning to shoo who ever it was away so we could have some fun..." She turned her attention to me, features ever mischievous. "He likes you, Winner. I'd be careful."
Ingram failed to argue with the girl and meet my gaze seconds before Trowa lead me out of the room. " I would like to think I'm a gentlemen, Quatre. I hope you keep that in mind Barton. Also keep in mind you can't keep closing him off, we Newtypes need contact to survive. And You're stubbornness is killing him."
I felt Trowa's body stiffen slightly. He looked to me, frowning, then looked back to the hall. He was pale as a ghost. "We'll discuss this later Reily, until then, stay away from him and stay out of my affairs. It's none of your business. "
"You realize it was very rude of you to drag me away the why you did." I said keeping pace at Trowa's side as we made out way down the hall toward the Preventers headquarters medical wing. "I don't see you for three days, with no communication to how you are doing, and suddenly you appear out of no where dragging me away from an investigation I'm conducting because the young man I'm questioning has questionable....errrr..." I felt my face warm as I searched for a proper description. "Reputation."
Until now, I had kept my feelings of frustration from Trowa, frightened if I did anything shake our bond I'd fail to save him from the forces connecting him to the "web". But I was sick of being treated like a traumatized child. He was acting to protective of late and had closed off his feelings to me, empathetically as well as openly.
How I didn't know, Trowa should have been as in control over his artificial engineered Newtype abilities as I was my own natural ones. Our supposed union bond constantly resonated on a regular basis. Now it was dead, as if it never existed. Why? I stared at my comrade, perplexed, for in truth, with my new enlightened abilities, our link should have been stronger.
"I disappointed in your judgement, Quatre." Trowa said, looking to me briefly. "You are letting your emotions get the best of you."
"Weren't you the one who told me follow your emotions?" I objected calmly. In the last three days, he changed Remarkably. It was like the Trowa I knew was fading and being replaced by an alien.
"I was quoting Heero . " He said firmly. "And I wasn't referring to that." Trowa stopped walking and turned to face me, cool green eyes staring down at me like I was a bug under a glass. "There is a difference between following your emotions and letting your pain, fear and frustration from a trauma guide your actions."
Back to Shun Fei again. My stomach twisted, making me recall that face as he leaned toward me. "My going to Ingram has nothing to do with Shun Fei. " I defended. "And didn't I say I was being deluded and irrational?" I reminded him. "I'm not chasing ghosts, Trowa, not anymore. I don't know about you, but I'm trying to find a solution to the little political debate the ESUN is having. One concerning the five "dangerous" numbers in the project and Sheshi Rem." I emphasized the word numbers to get across how objectified we had all become to the people in question. I was a politician and a corporate head; it didn't hurt to apply what I knew to personal affairs. "The FTL situation had turned all of us into weapons, genetically engineered weapons with no rights. We're property, and will stay so, if we don't come up with a solution to make it otherwise."
He was thinking for his attention seemed to invert and his eyes close for a moment.
"So, do you have any better solutions to the situation..."
"The South Americans made Rem to be a weapon..." He said, voice faltering momentarily. Pain reflected in his vast gaze as his eyes focused on me once more.
He was confused. I placed a hand on his arm and nodded. "Yes, but Sheshi was a part of the project before they got him. Do you understand. He was part of the project that everyone was involved in. They're all guilty, and now all the people, to Alexie's former plan, have become Newtypes. Biological weapons themselves. To condemn us, is to condemn them as well." I let myself smile, knowing I had him on the spot. "I'm not the one being irrational here, Trowa. I' doing my homework."
Shaking his head, Trowa removed his arm from my grasp and turned away. "I'm not a diplomat."
"Then let me do my job." I had won, he was no longer interested in arguing with me. Yet it troubled me, Trowa almost never entered an argument unless he had a strategy to win. Then why did he enter one with me, unprepared. Even stranger, his mood had shifted and I could feel the bond between us resonate. Although faint, I felt his vex loud and clear. Something about himself troubled him.
Was it the web?
Did he realize it was there and that he was trapped in it?
I tilted my head, hobbling close enough to him to place a hand on his shoulder and pull him close. "I know Ingram is a very dangerous and highly trained individual, thank you for being concerned for me. But I can take care of myself."
"Do you like him? He asked, his voice hitched as if edged with hurt. "I know I've failed to return your affections..."
Jealously was out of character for Trowa. I cocked my head, and scanned him. His hands trembled. "I'm being patient, but it is difficult, Trowa. Very difficult. "
Weakly, Trowa nodded, unable to look me in the eye. "I understand. You're only human. I'm expecting to much form you as well."
Once more that day, I felt my face warm. He sensed my attraction to Ingram and it was embarrassing. I myself hadn't even realized it until I spoke with him this morning.
His awkwardness made me feel dreadfully uncomfortable. I pressed my palms into the handles of my crutches and fingered the plastic. "You're giving up to quickly, Trowa. I would think you know me better than that. Yes, Ingram is very appealing, but he's not you."
Trowa nodded, rose hinted on his cheeks. It was only for a moment but long enough to let me know I had broken though his controlled interior. "Just Remember, everything I do is in your best Interest."
Perhaps he'd eventually realize what he was feeling and how he was acting was out of character. Tactically speaking he would have to see it himself if any of my attempts to make him see it would have meaning. Sadly it appeared the best tactic would be to shock him into himself, with something equally as traumatic.
But what would work?
"Alright Quatre, you win. " He said taking my hand into his own. "And I apologize for not being there the day you recovered. Dorothy and Sally have kept me busy. I wanted to be there for you, but there was no way around it." he explained.
A good excuse. I smiled. Two could play at that game. Once more our feelings and hearts were put to the side. I was becoming dreadfully tired of the hold game. But politics took the forefront of our lives today and would do so until things became more comfortably for us. "Yes, which reminds me, Trowa.
I have a meeting I plan to observe in a few hours. So we have to get moving."
For more than five days she lay like a silent angel.
And for almost four I sat at her side. I was the first to wake up, out of the four of us, and insisted on spending my time near her side until she came to herself.
But her coma was deep, so deep; one could barely see her breaths.
I closed my eyes to darkness, weary of the wait, but determined to Remain at her side. For I was the only one who could protect her.
Even if my tactics did fail her and make her as she was.
I clutched my fists, angered, and then relaxed as the moment passed.
No use dwelling on the past. I could do nothing to prevent it and to get lost in my own grief would only make matters worse for her.
What she needed now was for my patience and my skills to discover a solution to the current political problem.
But I didn't want to leave for Mars unless she was well and protected. Yet, I might have to.
And how much of my desire to go to mars was for her own good and not mine?
I reached out, hand touching ther face. She had done so much for the Colonies . It was only fitting for me to Remain with her until she awoke. Her heart would break if I left without telling her and we had had no chance to speak privately since the hospital.
Something I wanted to do for her very presence made me identify with my human side.
I pushed a strand of golden blond from her face, and weakly smiled in spite of myself. Even though, my instincts said I had to be cold about her in order to prevent her death, I could not deny what my human side wanted to feel.
Something I was willing to forget in order to leave her, before this happened.
"Relena. I'm not worthy of you. " The words slipped from my lips, reminding me of the grim truth I often told myself. She was far beyond me and I was a fool to believe we'd ever be together. Some day she'd she that. Until then, All I could do was wait, and protect her until the person she deserved came along.
I leaned into my chair, a part of me wondering why I hadn't even attempted to investigate the current events to there fullest. Certainly in the past I would have located information concerning Alexie and proven his existence by now. But instead I was playing the waiting game.
Carruthers was a master player and had covered most of my moves. I needed to think differently in order to counter his plans. Sadly his latest arrangement was a crushing blow.
Duo better be worth the headache. I smiled thinly at the thought of my "friend" and wondered if he had recovered yet. I wasn't' keeping tabs on the others, Relena being foremost on my mind.
A quiver swept her body, drawing my gaze from her face, down her pale torment form as she shifted restlessly under her sheets. Then, with a strangled scream, Relena Darlene bolted up into a sitting position, wild gaze, searching to room franticly, with terror.
"Re... " The sound was barly beyond my lips, when she collapsed into my arms, sobbing uncontroallablly.
Awkwardly I eased myself onto the bed beside her and wrapped my arms around her delicate tembling shoulders.
She squirmed in my arms, her tears touching my cheek as she burried her face into the nape of my neck. Her sent was filled with fear and confusion, something I wasn't used to seeing in the valiant young woman in my arms.
"It's alright, Relena." I said, my own voice sounded foreign to me, softer than usual, but it was necessary to comfort the girl. In a way I understood her fear. If Sheshi Rem really did touch her latent Newtype nature, my Queen would be in for a serious shock.
She shivered closer to me, arms wrapping about my shoulders as she tried to vanish into my clothing. "Make them stop, Heero . ...The voices.... "
She spoke between gasps and whimpers, making me pull her closer in an attempt to free her of whatever ills possessing her.
But it was to no avail, for I know, I could not close her mind off the way it was. She would have to adjust. As I had.
Then again, my Newtype abilities were mostly physical and I could largely, ignore the telepathic and empathic input I received.
Wordless, I held her, knowing it was the only comfort I could give, for nothing I could say would make the situation any better. Relena had to face many horrors now.
"It's true, its true about me..." She continued to sob. "I didn't' convince people to follow peace, not with my words. They made no choices I brain washed them, with my mind... " Her weeping grew, and soon her words blotted out into a sting of cried and whimpers. She was no longer a good politician, she was a monster in her eyes. A monster capable of removing free will from those who listened to her words...
I eased her from my body; hand lifted her chin so our gazes met. "Relena, you are not a monster. As far as I am concerned, you are a visionary and people follow you because what you say is important. "
She sniffled, tear filled eyes staring deep into my own. "Heero ... I'm sorry...I...."
I wiped a tear from her eyes, and stared at the glistening crystal liquid. "Sorry for what? We're all entitled to amount of weakness. I've been having quite a few myself lately." I reached out, and ran my hand along her cheek. It was soft and warm, and I longed to be close to her again. It was unfair my heart was so driven to destroy her. " I believe in you."
A tiny smile crossed her rose lips. " Thank you.."
I held her gaze for a long moment, seeing how deep her sapphire eyes were. Just seeing her awake, even though frightened, relieved me. I leaned toward her, taking her back into my arms. Her body sagged, face leaning into my cheek. I sensed her mind as it became aware of my own thoughts....
The room twisted around me, melting away to a brilliant white glow, leaving only me and my queen facing each other in the womb of empty space.
Startled, I felt a flood of warmth and love rush me as her large sapphire eyes held mine. Her fear faded, as she became aware of our contact. Relena trusted me, and relayed on me, she'd never fear me.
Our minds and thoughts mingled together, weaving a perfect understanding of who and what we were.
She was noble, and her love for humanity strengthened her. Strength I could never have, for I wasn't human. Nor could I share in the same kind of compassion.
Yet her telempathic caress told me she understood this. She never expected me to fully understand what she was. She admired me for it. I was her opposite, her protector and that drew her to me. In the end we were the perfect balance. She was peace, I was war. She was earth and I was space.
Our hearts beat as one. Her soul intertwined its treads though my spirit. She accepted me, all of me, despite the risks. She didn't care. In her heart, she needed me for what I was, and I needed her.
It didn't disturb me, for I wanted her to be my queen. She was more than worthy of the role in my heart.
In her eyes, she was the one unworthy of me, for I was the one who made her reality truth. I defended her heart and goals. My acts of violent foolishness made the world understand her words. Relena saw herself as a manipulative hypocrite. Even more so now that she knew what she was.
I opened my own feelings to her and let her see what I saw. For I stood on the outside and dared never to be anything but subjective. yes, I felt she was a fool, yes I disagreed with her, but I wanted her dreams to be real. Humans needed people like her in the world, for they gave humanity a conscience so people like me were unnecessary.
Her trembling form seemingly pressed into me, phasing into my spirit sending tingles over my distant physical body. "I'm scared, hold me. "
There was no need for words, her mind was my mind and instantly surrendered to comforting her. "Trust in me, in the same I way I trust in you."
"Then don't fear yourself. " Her delicate doll like face smiled Soothing my guilt and fears. "We all have monsters in our hearts and lives."
Stunned, I held her closer. She knew what I was, she saw it in my mind. Yet the all nightmare images did not hinder her feelings for me. I could become one of them, he Omega, and she'd still trust, I'd protect her even from myself.
Even if the cost was me leaving her for Mars to seek it out. She wanted me to learn about myself and face it.
In her heart, our bond would keep me human enough to triumph.
"I fear myself because you trust me and I must make myself worthy of that trust." I said.
She nodded, closing her tear filled eyes. "I know you will return, my little prince. And your secret is safe with me. I have faith in you."
Her faith kept me going, I never realized how much I depended on her. Even in the past, it was her image that kept me from falling from grace. Grateful, my face touched her head, absorbing the sparks of energy warming my cheek as I nuzzled her.
"I have secrets too." She continued, "There are reasons why I must follow my father's dream. Monsters exist, Heero . More frightening than the thing you think you are. "
She eased away, her gaze shifting from me to memories of herself as a small child.
Crumbled, she lay on the floor of a burning house, her frightened gaze focusing on two men as they rushed toward her. "Take the child quickly." the tall blond one said. His bearded face was strained with concern, an expressions Relena seldom saw on her father. "Raise her as your own, they can no know she is alive. "
"I understand." Minister Darlene said as he gently picked Relena up and pulled her quaking body close to his breast. He looked down at the child, adoration and loyalty softening his features.
"Minister, we must make haste." An older man entered, graying shoulder length hair rimming his anxious face. "You're transport is ready, but we must leave now."
Frightened the girl reached out to her father. She knew Pagan and Darlene meant to take her from her beloved family and home. "Papa! Papa...."
With tears rolling down his face, the haggard king reached down, taking his child's hands into his own. "My poor little princess. I am so sorry I will not be their to see you as a woman.... "
Explosion rocked the palace. The sovereign, dropped her hands, and gestured to his comrades. "Take her away. I must remain here with my people...You understand. They, must never find her... "
Darlene nodded, his arms tightened about Relena. "I will not fail you, Sire."
"Nor will I. " Agony field pagan's face as he made his way to the door. "My lord, I implore you, one more time to leave with us."
The king of peace shook his head sadly, and kissed his daughter's forehead. "I must die with my country, in the name of what we believe in." A fool's destiny, but he did not fear it. The king turned to face his fate, sword unsheathed.
Not waiting, Minister Darlene swept the child out of the room, but not before her keen eyes spied it.
Silver eyes that hissed with a thousand voices as they slipped from the blazing flames and descend upon her father.
A man, yet not a man, for he wielded fierce claws that came from nothing and lusted for murder as his evil carve into the noble form of her beloved father. A true monster.
She tried to scream, but Darlene hand sealed her lips shut as he made Godspeed from the hell descending upon the Cinq kingdom.
A hell that was frightening familiar to the two year old Relena. Yet she could not define how or why, only that it seemed to be a theme in her life. Death, destruction and war...
The image faded, and I found myself sitting on the corner of her bed, embarrassing Relena still. I could still hear her thoughts in my mind.
I weakly smiled, feeling comforted by them. She understood me, I didn't; feel as alone as I had before.
"I believe in monsters." Relena said to me, a sob catching in her throat. "And that beast has followed me all my life, in my dreams. I can't see him, he had no face, only silver eyes and claws that cut so deeply into my soul that I will never be able to forget the terror I felt that day."
As she spoke, I saw dreams unfold of her being chased by beasts out for her blood. Bests in the guise of men bent on stopping her fathers dream for peace.
Beasts with pale silver blue eyes.
Eyes I recognized.
My own rage boiled uncontrolabily and I felt my heart become cold. How dare he touch her, my Queen.
I set my jaw, features incable of hiding the anger. "You then understand I'm not chasing figments of my imagination? " I said evenly.
She shivered, and drew closer into my arms, wet face pressing into the nape of my neck. "You think Alexie is the monster that killed my father?"
I frowned." I can't say that for certain, but I know he's alive, and if these monsters exist, he's responsible for them. "
Stiffly she nodded. " I understand. What do you think you will find on Mars?"
I failed to answer right away. There was nothing I could hide nothing from her and in truth, I wasn't entirely sure what I'd find that would help us politically. I was going to mars to find myself.
Inhaling, I looked down searching inside for a rational reason to seek out the project on mars. One that she would be able to use if backed into a corner.
"Proof that Alexie was playing with more than simple gene manipulation, and proof that there is the possibly of extaresterial influence in the numbers project. "
"And proof there are monsters?" She lifted her face, tears spilling off her chin and on to her lap. She wanted so badly to believe my words but was lost in the nightmares lurking in my dreams.
I touched her face, leaning closer to her. I would not, could not fail her now. She believed in me. "Yes, and hopefully a way to destroy them."
"I'll contact Zechs and tell him you are on your way. I love you."
My gut tightened. I didn't expect to hear her say those words, not after she knew the truth about me. I found myself drawing closer than I planned. "You are the sole reason I live, Relena."
It was the best that I could manage, but she knew it meant the same as her words.
She offered a tender smile as we held each other's gazes, drowning for what seemed like an eternity, then kissed.
My head started to clear a few hours after waking up. By then I could hear
voices whispering in the distance, but I got enough from the FTL to put it
in the background and ignore it. Still, a man could never get used to it;
being telepathic was like being in two crowded rooms at he
Still, I couldn't change the past, so I had to live with it now. I was Duo
Maxwell, a genetically engineered monster. With a sigh, I tightened my hold
on Hilde (I didn't know what I'd do without her, the girl was the glue
holding my mind together right now, but then again, we all needed glue some
times). We both sat on my bed, which was now pulled up besides Wu's bed, and watched Sally as she finished up her examination of the comatose pilot.
The tall blond physician straightened as she flipped over the last pages on
her clipboard and faced us, grim. "He shows no sign of awakening, Duo ." She
said, a slight catch in her voice. Sally and Wu were close, sleeping together
I surmised (Something I could only fantasize about (Jeez, Wu, get a grip! A
man like you, with a women like Sally? It's time to wake up and smell the roses, you've got a hell of a woman with a hell of a pair of legs)) and it was taking a
great deal of effort for her to keep herself impersonal.
For a second my brain eavesdropped uncontrollably, feeling her distraught
(whoa, no way, stop it brain! Didn't want to go there; living in Hilde's
brain was enough. It made me feel like I was committing adultery...) I
slammed the brakes on my thoughts, focusing on Hilde and her body pressed into my side. Unconsciously, I stroked her and kissed her brow. The trickle of her worried thoughts was enough to refocus my brain on the matters at hand. "Sally, if it means anything to you, I'm sorry. He did this for me... this was the last thing I wanted to see happen."
Hilde nodded. She slid her hands from around me and touched the other
woman's arm. "Sally, it's going to be okay. Wu is strong, he'll come out
of it. He really loves you..."
Sally placed the clipboard on the end table near Wu's bed and folded her
arms. "I guess that's the hard part." She said, weakly smiling. "We were
just pulling things together on the relationship end."
"I know." Hilde spoke softly . She touched my arm, softly stroking it with
her fingers. Inwardly she was thinking about the hell we went though with my
Awkward, I shifted. Not wanting to see the pain I caused her then. It was
too personal, and I sensed a great deal of anger there (damn it, I hated
this, no man should be privy to a woman's brain, even if he did love her).
"Hey, Sally, I'm sure he'll be fine." I said and offered a cheerful smile.
After all, someone had to be in a cheery mood with all the moping around
here. Besides, they expected it from me, and it was a job I performed
gladly. I hated being a downer.
Sally glanced back at Wu, shaking her head. "Duo , Wufei's suffered severe
brain damage, worse than your neurological damage. His chances for recovery
Bad news sucked. I looked at my legs. Any neurological damage I took was
minor; it made me stuff and clumsy. It was hard to walk without aid, but I
bounced back easily. Wufei didn't have my advantage. I was genetically
created to heal quicker than normal. Especially under stress (and God only knew what the FTL did to me (that is besides giving me the mind wooggie from hell)). Wu wasn't. Well, one could only hope. I inhaled, then touched the crucifix around my neck. "We could always pray Sally, if that helps. Praying tends to make me feel like I can do something..."
Yeah right, I've always thought God helped those who helped themselves and miracles were hard to come by, if they came at all. But it was the only
thing I could think of saying, since I was training to be a deacon and all,
it sounded good at the time (ok, I should be the last one thinking about being a man of God these days, especially when I was hooked I heard voices from hell, but hey, a guy could dream his soul was saved right?).
Sally touched my shoulder, assailing me with some of her trace thoughts.
She appreciated my attempts but had no hopes. "Thanks, Duo .."
"Wait.." Hilde glanced at me, eyes brightening for a moment. She came to a
stand, abandoning me to face Sally. "There is a chance."
For the first time since I regained consciousness my mind was alone. Close
contact with Hilde helped me to see her thoughts, but when she moved, I
automatically let her thoughts fade into the oblivion of psychic banter.
It became white noise, leaving me on my own.
I used to like the solitude, but it reminded me too much of the FTL.
I shifted uncomfortably, but did my damnedest to make myself look together
(Guys just didn't get upset about these things. I'd look really uncool).
"What chance is that , hon?"
"Sheshi." Hilde announced, making the color drain from my face. I had
forgotten about Shishi, or should I say, deliberately forgot Sheshi's
healing ability. I frowned, looking into Hilde's eyes, wondering why I
didn't lift that thought from her mind before she slipped away from
"Sheshi?" I announced. Weakly, I stumbled to my feet, feeling my legs shake
more than a naked mad scientist in the cold heartless depths of space
(that's right folks, before the great Big Bloody Bang, get it? Big Bloody
Bang? Ahh never mind, just some wishful thinking on my part...). "Are you crazy?"
Sally cocked her head, studying both Hilde then me. "What are you two
"Hilde..." I began. "You don't understand what Sheshi does when he heals..."
Planting her hands on her hips Hilde's brow furrowed. "I know he saved your life, got you out from withdrawal and healed an infected injury. In my book, that's a useful power and I'm sure he'd do it. He's a good enough kid..."
Yeah right, sure, Sheshi was a nice enough kid, but healing was how he got
off. Wu was the last person who needed some puppy-eyed Newtype tagging
along, waiting for a mental screw. I grunted. The thought disturbed me, for
I still had the Sheshi problem to contend with and I had no clue how to deal with it.
We were bonded, though of recent I noticed he was no place to be seen (in my brain, or out of my brain).
I at least tried to isolate my thoughts and live on my own... I strayed a glance to Hilde who was still waiting for a reply. Being alone terrified me still, but this Sheshi living in my head thing made me even more determined to face it. The FTL didn't beat me, and it didn't change me.
I was still Duo Maxwell, the human being (wonkey powers or no). Not some
insecure, traumatized, psychic newbie. "When Sheshi heals, he forms a psychic link with you." I said trying to explain why I disliked the idea.
Hilde blinked, confused, then placed a hand on my shoulder. "Duo , it
doesn't matter. I sure Wu can live with that. What is the matter with you?
You almost seem angry at Sheshi for saving you..."
Shaking my head, I was at a lost for words. How was I going to explain the
hell I'd been though these last couple of days? A hell poor Sheshi induced
by just being a good kid with no clues... Jeez, I was sounding like a jerk
even in my own thoughts. After all, the kid did save me from the FTL. I
wobbled some, feeling my weakened legs sag and collapsed back onto the bed
with a thud. "I am fine, and I'd rather not discuss it. No, it's not Sheshi,
it's what he is..."
It was all I could muster for the moment, my own mind tangled in a web of
frustration. In truth, I didn't find it necessary to discuss the Sheshi
problem to anyone. It was a waste of breath, especially since no one could
offer a solution.
Women though, they liked to discuss things we guys liked to leave put, even
if you couldn't solve it. "Duo ." Hilde helped me back against my pillows,
and covered me with blankets. "Sheshi is a Psychic Newtype..."
Typical, no way out of it. Save for changing the subject. "Sally, Hilde does
have a point, Sheshi can heal. If you don't think Wu will care about forging
a Newtype bond with the kid, then it might help. Besides, I'm sure Sheshi is
feeling responsible for Wu about now, so he'd be glad to help."
Leaning so her hands enclosed the bed rail, Sally met my gaze. "You're saying Sheshi Rem is really a healer?"
"Yes." Hilde replied. She was annoyed I changed the topic and I was sure
she'd give it to me when Sally left, but until then, I'd milk the subject
change for it was worth.
Besides, Wu was disciplined and what he did with Rem to pull me out of the
FTL probably linked him to the kid anyway. It just might work (Meantime I
hide the why Sheshi Rem disturbed me, file 10,987, in drawer S, (do not open
under threat of death)), and I felt responsible for Wu myself.
"Sally, I saw him work on Duo . Duo was dying and that kid pulled him out.
He's amazing." Hilde continued. "Please ask him to help with Wu." She then
touched Sally's arm and squeezed it. "For yourself and for
Wu. You don't deserve to go though life wondering what could have been"
The tall blond woman smiled weakly and nodded. "All right. Duo. what were your earlier reservations?"
Damn, why can't a man keep embarrassing issues under wraps? " Because unions are erotic to him." I said hurriedly. "And he sees it as making a life mate.
The kid is emotionally inexperienced and well.... "
Noticing my tormented expression, Sally just waved me to stop. "I think Wu
can live with that. Thanks guys. I'll see if I can get him down here."
Well, that was easy enough. Hilde and I both agreed and watched Sally
vanish out of the room with no adieu.
"Duo ." Hilde began.
I shook my head, "Let's drop it Hilde..."
"Sheshi loves you, doesn't he?" Damn, it always amazed me how Hilde could read me so well.
Who needed to be a mind reader with her around? I tilted my head, not sure how to respond. But my lack of response was enough for her.
"Ok. I'm sorry Duo . I didn't mean to push it. Must be awkward."
Slowly she sat down next to me and ran her fingers though my long unbound
I sighed. "Understatement. Hilde, I like Sheshi and I'm happy he helped me, but I wish it wasn't him. Do you understand? I don't like people in my
brain..." I looked down at my sheets and the wrinkles slipping along my legs
as I shifted them. " I don't like what I've become. I was forced to be this way. Do you get it?"
"Yeah." Understanding, Hilde gathered my fingers in her own. "Yeah, I
understand. Duo, Alexie raped your mind. So did the FTL and, in many ways,
so did the mad five when they did this to you. Of course you're terrified
and you're going to be terrified for a long time. I still love you..."
She was right, of course, it was fear and it was linked to what
Alexie had done to me. But men seldom preoccupy themselves on the where's
and what's of these problems, only the solutions (am I repeating myself? I
think I am. If so, I'm more screwed up in the head than I thought ) and
there was nothing I could do to solve this ugly little mess. I couldn't
change the past. I couldn't make the images of that thing locking into my body go away, I couldn't remove the terror and the hunger I felt when they spoke to me.... Most of all, I couldn't change the fact that I was forced into this situation and the only blasted choice I had was who I could love and why....
Fiercely, I grabbed Hilde's arms and pulled her over so our noses barely
touched. "And I love you too...do you understand that? I love you more than
life itself and no one is gonna take that from me. They've taken my body, my
mind and my soul, they've even made me a machine, but they haven't, and will
never, take my love for you, Hilde Maxwell."
There, I said it, I said what I really felt to her, hoping she'd
understand why I was so insecure (oh jeez, imagine that, good old Duo
Maxwell insecure, fancy that....me, insecure, (and to think I see no pigs
flying like I'd expect about now!)). Sheshi threatened my very relationship
with my wife, by intruding on the only decision I could
truly call my own.
He felt I was betraying what I was as a Newtype and it was wrong. I knew it
was me and how I survived. Regardless of what they did to my body, I was
still an unevolved human being and wanted to keep it
Tears filled Hilde's eyes and she leaned in, lips pressing into mine. It was
an effort not to invade her thoughts, but I made it, knowing if I did I'd be
becoming the thing Alexie wanted me to be. The demons...the voices..lived
in people's thoughts, they feed off of them, and if I didn't watch out I'd
fall into the same trap. And I refused to be that weak. I was an independent human being.
So I indulged in the physical, grasping at the lingering strings of my
humanity (and tying them into a big fuck'n knot around my waist)
Hilde and I kissed long and hard.
Good old Hilde, I could always depend on her.
Seconds later I was bawling uncontrollably, wishing I had never been born.
I cried like an idiot for what felt like an hour (or forever,
depending on your view on crying). Then huddled in her arms until I was sure
I was permanently glued there (that's right folks, it gives a new meaning to
the phrase, ball and chain).
It actually made me feel a little better and by the time Pat returned with
the kid (and he spent most of the day walking around with her, only
returning long enough to have Carey nursed), I was ready to sit up and grin
maniacally like my old self.
After all, I had a reputation to keep, right?
Hilde, of course, took it in stride, sitting close to me, just in case I
needed the support, but not giving away to Pat that I was a bon a fide nut
case. Smiling, she took Carey, and latched her onto her nipple and happily
nursed for almost a half-hour.
Jeez, I cringed at those little lips as they closed about her breast and
wondered if it hurt if Carey a bit or if it was at all possible for a baby
to gnaw off their mother's leather taut nipple...
Nipples made me think of sex.
As a result, I was feeling strangely denied, watching my wife breast-feed
Why I wasn't there instead?
Must be feeling a little more like myself, I was finally thinking about sex
again, even if it was a side issue to taking care of babies.
"Space is pretty neat." Said Pat, lifting his head from a magazine he had
snatched from my end table. "Carey really likes free fall..."
Hilde opened her eyes, face puzzled at Pat's comment. "And where did you
find free fall?"
"Civilian Shuttle bay." Pat explained, mater of fact.
The kid was a chip off the old block. He must have explored most of the
base by now and probably finagled one of the guards to let him check out the
bay with the baby. It amazed me how resourceful he was.
Then again, I was also disturbed by the image of poor Carey kicking and
giggling in free fall. "Okay, I'm not gonna ask how, but I am going to give
you a warning. Free all can be dangerous, if you don't pay attention. Carey
could get squished. So I'd like you to avoid free fall with her, okay? I
love my baby girl and don't look forward to her becoming a pizza."
Folding his arms, Pat shrugged. "Sure, whatever you say, you're the boss. "
I was sure he understood, but could get no empathic signals from his mind
still. Which was fine with me, I trusted Pat. He may be a punk, but he was a
punk with a good head on his shoulders, and space wasn't his natural
environment. He'd listen to the grown-ups.
Ahh, even if the grown ups weren't that much older than he was.
"Just for the record, Pat," Hilde said, nudging Carey so she unlatched and
switched the baby's attention to the other breast. "I think you're doing a
fine job with Carey. She's very happy. But if you want to explore some
questionable areas again, ask us."
Carey squealed, her little fingers closed around Hilde's silky soft breast,
then nuzzled into the nipple with a big smile, nursing. Then again, I didn't
think of food when I thought of Hilde's firm and perky boobs....
I was about to make a remark, when I became aware of Sheshi. His bright mind was alive and semi-occupied with Sally as she lead him toward our
room. Though I sensed a hesitance I didn’t expect from him, (probably worried he'd offend me again) I had no drive to see why.
He was so open, like a blazing beacon in the dead of night. Call me egocentric, but I was sure he searched for a familiar trustworthy mind, mainly me.
Hurriedly, I drew my mind back, trying to conceal it behind that 'I won't
read a damned thing' wall I constructed earlier today. Hopefully he failed
to notice me, and we could greet each other the good, old-fashioned way.
No good. I felt his mind spark then reach out to mingle with my thoughts, happily secure with something and someone he knew.
His mind cried with relief. "DUO !"
"Yeah, it's me kid. I'm okay, how are you?" I sent the message without much effort. After all, how hard was it to think, especially when Sheshi poked
around in there anyway? "Just don't touch any file cabinets in there, or
I'll have to take you out on principle."
Moments later, Sally entered the room. Sheshi followed with two security
guards in tow. Sheshi immediately turned to me, flinging himself across the room, then freezing when he noticed Hilde and Pat looking at him curiously. He was afraid to embarrass or upset me, so he just smiled broadly, rather than bury
himself in my arms (like he wanted (sorry kid, I don't do that girly affectionate thing with guys)).
"Thanks kid, I appreciate it." I tilted my head, aware he was comforted by
"I'm glad you're well." he sent. "I was worried you'd be overwhelmed by what happened."
I wasn't use to conversing in milliseconds, so Sheshi's telepathic attempt
to make a discussion was difficult. Yet it was what he was comfortable with,
especially in the ranks of people he didn't know. I could tell, he was
frightened and not sure of his place here in the Colonies. Apparently he
disliked being under guard and was saddened by the heavy security keeping him in his room. Sheshi Rem wanted to explore. Since he knew he'd do no harm, he couldn't comprehend why they were concerned about him (fear being a mind killer to him in his philosophy(Yet there was something else there I couldn’t make out, something he wasn't willing to share, a sadness).
Woooo, I put the breaks on my brain, unwilling to indulge in anymore emotional banter. It was way too much for a guy like me. Life was pleasant when all I needed to think about was what bomb I placed and how not to get into Heero Yui's way when on a mission.
"You lived in a glass box. kid. "I said out loud, breaking the telepathic
discussion. "The world isn't your private estate and at your feet any
Bowing his head, Sheshi closed his eyes. "It's not like that Duo ..." He then glanced to the wife and kids. "Hello, Ms. Hilde, Patrick. "
"I see you guys already started something. Wow, that's amazing." Sally said,
coming to Sheshi's side. "Telepathy, right? You must be getting used to it
by now, eh Duo ?"
I scratched my head, sending strands of hair cascading into my eyes. "Ahhh, not really. It's still very jarring, especially if you have a brain like
Yeah, brain like mine... Just to keep him on his toes, I let my mind wander
to bungee jumping, nude lesbians, and don't forget the peach juice dripping
off their sweat covered bodies...
Sheshi turned a shade of crimson, and peered at his feet. He wanted to say
Something, but didn't want to shame me in front of the women. Fine with me,
they all thought I had manners. Except for Hilde-she knew I was who I was.
It was the way I liked it.
"Anyhow, nice to see you again, Sheshi." Hilde said, pleasantly. "Sally tell
you about Wufei?"
The kid shifted his gaze from me to Wu's prone body. "Yes, she did." He said softly . "And I'll be more than happy to help." His words were sincere. He
was happy to help, but he was more than willing to let me mentally know the
offer was open to me as well. My mental condition was shattered in his minds' eye, and Hilde couldn't do psychic surgery. The only person Sheshi felt capable of fixing me was himself (for if he enlightened me, I would be fine). I hurt him deeply by consoling in Hilde rather than him. He couldn't comprehend why, after all, she could do nothing for the soul.
I smirked. "She's all I need." I said, voice confidant as I took Hilde's
Hand (I'm straight, don’t you get it kid, you don't have the curves). I didn't want to hurt him. I just wanted him to know how important she
was to me. I loved her more than anything in the world and that love was
healing me. "You don't need to worry about me anymore. Wu needs you more."
"And you trust me?" Sheshi eyed me questionably. He was well aware I didn't trust him in my own mind. Why would I trust him with my friend?
I couldn't say, I didn't blame him. I was a dick on a regular basis to him,
but sometimes he gave me good reason.
But how many times did I have to remind him I wasn't gay or planning on committing adultery?
"I trust you won't "fix" his mind the way you see it should be. We want the
Wu we know. Just heal the injury keeping him in the coma." I explained, sure
Of course he did. He was in my head and got the general gist before I even
tried to verbally explain it. Besides, even Sheshi understood one's mind was
his castle and to change it to suit your own will was rape. Though it
bothered him that what he did naturally was wrong. The boy weakly smiled and looked to Sally. "I need to touch him."
Hilde leaned into me, lips close to my ear. "Poor kid, you don't need to be
so hard on him Duo."
If only she knew the full story. I sighed, and dropped a hand on her thigh.
I was too wasted to argue with her. "Whatever."
Across the room, Sheshi and Sally paused at Wufei's bed. Sally pulled back
the curtain, revealing Wufei's prone body. I stared for a moment, despising
the low hissing of the respirator every time Wu's chest artificially rose
It reminded me too much of the FTL. No man should relay on machines to live: especially, a man of honor like Wu.
Involuntarily, my hold on Hilde's hand tightened and I craned my neck to see. Sheshi examined Wufei, face deliberate with concentration. In the forefront of my mind, I heard him as he rattled on Wu's condition.
I frowned, shaking my head and wishing he'd let me have my own thoughts, but knew better of it (that's right, I'm thinking for two, isn’t that just peachy? Duo's brain was a regular matinee showing). This was how Sheshi worked. I was his symbiote as well as the FTL's.
"Well?" Sally asked, face betraying her hopes. "What can you do Mr. Rem?"
"A great deal, " Sheshi said. "I was trained in medicine and developed a knack for psychic evaluation and treatment. "
Sally lifted a brow, then inhaled, realizing Sheshi's methods were far from an orthodox explanation.
I was just hoping he'd leave me out of the healing process. Having a Union at this point in time was the last thing I desired. In fact, I let him know it the instant it came to mind.
Naturally he was disappointed, but he understood. It wasn't necessary for him to drag me along in what he saw was a ritual of minds: a ritual I had no interest or value in.
It made me wonder exactly what kind of people raised him(a nudest camp?).
On second thought, I didn't want to know.
The only thing that mattered to me in my book was Wu
I turned my attention back to Sheshi. He touched Wu's forehead with his hand, his thoughts directed completely on entering the Chinese Youth.
I felt a tingle. Then a brilliant light burst around Sheshi's form. Startled, Sally stepped back, face pale. She had never seen any thing like this (then again, neither had I (I mean I was on the other end when he did them) but I was gett'n used to Sheshi's psychic tricks). The doctor gave me a brief glance, mouthing the words " Hot hell, can you believe this?"
"Hell is pretty hot, I'd say." I replied dryly.
Hilde shook her head. "Seen it once before, and I still can't believe my eyes."
Hump, I studied the kid, feeling rather unimpressed myself (ok, ok, It was a little impressive, but I knew what was going on and to be honest, that was enough to spoil any awe I had).
Hilde's gaze sparkled just a little too much.
I frowned, then bit my lip.
The kid glowed like a light bulb.
The energy around him flickered around Wufei's prone body, caressing his form
like wisps of smoke. They probed him, little fingers pocking at his limbs and rustling the loose sheets about his form like a gentle breeze. A comforting ease spread over the room, as Sheshi's mind empathetically reached a soothing hand out to all those watching.
Immediately I felt my doubts, fears settle, then wash away until all I felt was peace and harmony. I settled into Hilde, feeling her body sink closer to mine. She shared the feeling, and felt as drawn to the boy as I did.
It lasted a second and I forced myself to shake my head. Ok Duo old boy, it's time to snap out of it, the kid was doing it again, making you feel what he felt the world should feel . Maybe if Alexie hadn't spent his time making me become death on feet I'd feel a little better about the euphoria, but the very idea of my emotions being manipulated made my stomach tighten and my temper flare. Even if it was for Wu's own sake….
Still I snuggle in closer to Hilde, aware she was my happy pill right now, and that it wasn't time to throw another get out of my head tantrum.
The boy's face sparkled in the light. Though his deep green gaze was dark with concentration, he appeared as a beautiful cherub making miracles.
Miracles my simple, denial-laden mind was incapable of understanding.
(Ok ok, I missed the boat, but that was fine, Sheshi would happily explain what I missed later.)
I inhaled, wondering if Wu was having erection like I did, and whether he'd take it as badly as I did.
The thought only lasted a second.
Then the light faded around Wu, and Sheshi's face relaxed. A moment later, Wufei opened his eyes.
I felt oddly warm as I swarm into consciousness. It was a pleasant warmth bathing me with the sensation of a perfumed spring filled to the brim with steaming flowered elixir. Intoxicated by the feeling, it was an effort to abandon it and drift back to cold painful reality. Laboriously, I let my eyes open, mind focusing on sounds whispering the secrets of the waking world. There were familiar voices, as well as a new awareness of presence's and movement in the room.
It was as if my entire mind was reborn with new sensitivities. Almost overwhelmed, I lay motionless, drinking in the rush of newness. I felt like an infant separated from its mothers womb, lost, frightened and helpless.
"Wu…" The vexed features of Sally Poe came into focus. As if she understood my worry, her fingers curled about my own. Tears rolled down Sally's cheeks in slow motion, pooling on her chin and dripping to the bed sheets. She heaved a breath and swallowed a sob. "I thought I'd never see you awake again."
"He should be fine." Sheshi Rem said, leaning into my vision. I didn't need to see the psychic boy, I felt him nearby. He was the comforting presence and was responsible for the peace I had felt earlier. "The system overloaded Wufei, as a result, it has awakened your New Type potential to the fullest." Red curls shifted as he straightened to face Sally. "I took the liberty to psychically instruct his mind to automatically understand and use his abilities."
"What the hell is he doing here?"
The words had barely sunk in when a cool dead-pan voice spoke from beyond. Wearily, I wrinkled my brow, knowing the voice as well as my own, but wondering why it sounded so harsh.
Apparently, Sally seemed just as startled as I did. She reluctantly removed her gaze from mine.
Weakly I followed her attention. My mind was foggy and it took a long moment to register what I saw.
It was as I suspected, of course.
Trowa stood in the doorway, but as far as my new senses knew he was empty space. Yet, almost as bright as Sheshi, Quatre was at his side, leaning on crutches. Both their gazes were on the figure standing at the edge of my bed.
Though Quatre failed to suppress a smile in my direction. He was confused and worried.
Trowa took no notice in me. He was directed only on my apparent savior.
I wondered for the moment, only vaguely recalling the time I was unconscious and sharing a brief rapport with the Rem boy, why Trowa seemed so disturbed by Sheshi's presence.
Certainly, he of all people would approve of our plan to rescue Duo. He learned the value of looking out for one's comrades during the war when he befriended Quatre.
Yet here he was, ignoring the logical facts looking him in the face.
Sheshi Rem was one of the good guys.
Who's side are you on? It was a simple question, and I surprised myself when I thought it.
Something about him bothered me. Unable to speak, I frowned. Trowa moved differently. He was on guard, and his gaze was colder (more analytical than I recalled). No, it was more predatory, than calculating. I looked away. It was as if Trowa were a wolf disguised as a sheep dog in the company of a flock of sheep.
Strange, even his posture and movements were as if guided by some predatory perception.
If I were feeling stronger and understood the situation more, (tragically, my missing time left gaps in my information) I might have been able to place what he reminded me of. But as it was, I had been away from earth too long in my search for Zen and was in a desperate need of an update.
Yet one thing I could not deny, if Heero Yui was right, Trowa was in Alexie's hands, therefore he could not be trusted.
"Hey! Hello! Anyone home there?" It was Duo, exuberant as always. He pointed a finger to Trowa, dark violet eyes clouded with a mixture of concern and annoyance. "Trowa, his power was the only way we could save Wu."
Apparently my plan worked. I smiled, pleased my friend was free. Maxwell looked shaken by the experience, but by his words, I could tell he was fighting his way back. Determined, he came to his feet. His legs shook, and it took all his strength to stand, but he managed, with only a grunt of pain. He was three shades whiter than usual, but refused to show any more discomfort. "It was my idea."
Trowa's features hardened. Those predatory eyes seemed to flare momentarily with rage, then hurt. "He's under suspicion, Duo, and is a potential threat to us all."
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Sheshi shift uncomfortably on his hip and look away, eyes glassy as if grief stricken.
While I was away and unconscious, the young circus clown made his reappearance. I cursed my absence once more, and wished this confrontation had waited for a later date (when I was better informed). So I remained with what I knew and continued to make deductions based on instinct and observations.
"So?" Duo glared angry. "I would think you'd be happy to see us all, back together, since were a team and all…"
Trowa paused, and his brow twitched. He seemed more strained suddenly, as if in conflict with his very words. As for Quatre he appeared just as agonized, but not for the same reasons.
"He's a threat." Trowa droned as if doubting his own words for an instant.
Duo on the other hand knew exactly what he was saying and why. The brown haired boy pointed at me with his thumb and a cocky grin. "Threat my ass. You know damn well that we were all in a no win scenario, and by God, Wu and Sheshi saved my sorry ass."
Face blank, Trowa glazed out in what appeared deep thought, then he came back to life, his gaze less predatory and more Trowa's usual flat expression.
"You don’t seem to understand." Trowa said, evenly. He annunciated his words in his familiar, yet gentle tone this time. He crossed to Duo's side, eyes capturing the Deathscythe pilot's. "I know you've been under a great deal of stress Duo. You've been though hell."
Duo swallowed, fear paling his face. "Stress, I suppose you could call it that…"
Quatre leaned into his crutch. Like me, he appeared to have chosen the role of observer. I could tell by his posture, the conversation was upsetting him. Apprehension crossed his face when he looked back to his lover. "We've all been though hell, Trowa." He said, voice shaking. "And I don’t think Mr. Rem meant any harm, nor will cause any harm." The pale youth smiled at me. "And you've been rude to Wufei."
"That's right." Sally finally jumped in. "He wouldn’t be here if I believe he was a threat."
Not that I blamed her. From the detail of security guards moving in and out of the room and hall, I was sure Sally was prepared for anything.
Oddly, Sheshi did nothing to defend himself. He stood silently and alone, not even attempting to meet anyone's gaze.
I wondered why.
Trowa considered Sally's and Quatra's objection, then offered a weak half smile. "You're right, I've been under a great deal of strain myself. I'm sorry if I've offended anyone."
"No offence taken." I said, barely a whisper.
Duo shrugged off Trowa's touch. "Yeah, no prob here, just keep your hands to yourself."
As if qued by his words, Hilde abandoned her silent post on the bed and joined Duo's side. Reassuringly she wrapped an arm around his waist and nestled into his shoulder. He seemed to relax with her contact and returned the gesture.
"OH how quaint, I knew you all could be found in one place. " Dorothy Catolonia entered the room, long blond hair trailing behind her like a veil. "Playing spy again?" she continued cheerfully. "I just love seeing you boys work."
A dark haired man entered behind her, but kept his distance, as if trying to avoid the confrontation Dorothy was prompting.
"Actually, " Sally began "We're finishing up here. " He words caught Dorothy off guard, and turned the girls attention to her as she walked around my bed. "Paying your respects to the ill?"
"Dorothy bowed. "Of course, it's only right to pay ones respects to the fallen warriors."
"Why that's very kind of you Dorothy. " Quatre replied. "I hope your stay here has been pleasant, outside of the recent upset."
The girl gave a short laugh and gestured for her counterpart to enter the room. "Oh, it has been very amusing, if not a tad traumatic."
Awkward the man entered and uneasily took her hand. "Hopefully it will be all over, peacefully, in the next few days, and we will all be going home." The gentleman said quietly. He shifted uncomfortably, giving me the impression of the shy elusive sort. He was definitely, a startling contrast to Dorothy. It made me wonder why she had any interest in him. Dorothy thrived on conflict, and this man seemed the sort to avoid it.
My thoughts fragmented as I noticed Duo sink back to his bed, gaze erratic, he shivered and stumbled dizzily, then grabbed on to Hilde for support. A fear full gasp twitched from his lips. "Voices…"
"Duo!" Hilde grappled with his limp body.
Sally was at his side in two long strides. Together, with Hilde she laid him to bed. "Damn it Duo! I thought it was a bad idea for you to be moving around this early! Why the hell don't you boys listen to anything I say!?"
The long haired boy opened his mouth and shook his head, unable to speak, then sagged like a doll, unconscious.
"What's happening?" Quatre asked, closing in on the space around the bed.
"I don’t feel his mind at all, he was shielding it." Sheshi informed helplessly.
"I don't know. " Sally said, calm returning to her vexed voiced. "Damn it, there is too much I don’t understand about his injuries. He could have just fainted" doctor straightened, then crossed to the intercom. "I want everyone out of here, I need my staff, I need a EEG in here STAT!"
Sheshi watched, silently forgotten in the corner and wiped an agonizing tear from his eye. For reasons I did not fathom, he dared not move to comfort his friend. Rather, he wordlessly followed as Quatre took him by the arm, and led him away to the guards outside of the room.
Trowa, backed out of the room, not far from Dorothy and her friend. I safely assumed they were together and most likely doing Alexie's bidding. Or so it would seem, unless Dorothy was still Alexie's unwitting puppet. Anything was possible.
Didn't know what to make of Dorothy's friend, but he failed give me the same feeling as Xang.
Which was a relief.
I watched for several minutes, as Hilde tried desperately to rouse Duo.
Odd, the attack came on with no warning. It bothered me. "Sally." I called out, voice barely heard over the two women as they worried chattered about the fallen youth. "Is he all right?"
Sally looked in my direction, hand wiping the hair from her face. "Can't say. It might be nothing. Duo was badly hurt, and has been straining himself. I'm not surprised he fainted. But I need the EEG to be sure. Might have to do a MRI and CAT scan as well. What I can say is, it's gonna be a long afternoon, Wu. One I was hoping to spend with you."
I sat silently watching her as she fingered through her closet in search of a proper suit to wear to the ESUN meeting convening in one hour and twenty minuets. I admired her strength and determination. Despite her inability to close out the mental whispers assailing her, and her weakened Relena insisted on going to the meeting. Une argued with her for hours on the matter, insisting on her getting her rest, that the matters were well in hand. All the nations involved were interested in peace, and negotiating the problem at hand.
"There is a use for dirty laundry." I said coolly, commenting on her and Une's discussion. "Despite the loss of life, the truth of their guilt forces everyone to work together here. They don’t need you, Relena."
"I am a symbol." Relena said, removing a blue white and lace suit and skit. "Even if I don’t say a word, I have to be there to remind them why we must work together. And why it is necessary to keep you and the other numbers out of it."
She turned to face me, long hair disheveled and hanging in her face. Determination lined her heart shaped face, reminding me once more of her undying strength. She was out to protect the world, as well as me. Ironic, I smiled, looking down, envious of her stubbornness and sense of purpose. "Yes, but I agree with Une here, you need to recover first both you and I know, there is more to this situation than politics. You are too vulnerable in this condition."
I cleared my throat, trying to hide the concern in my voice. If she was planning on going against my wishes, she didn’t' need to know how grim I felt about it.
But our bond, betrayed my feelings. The girl's eyes filled with water and she made her way to my side.
I began to regret our new closeness, not used to the lack of privacy. On that note, I let my mind form a wall between us. It was instinctual in a way, and a part of me knew it was from Alexie's previous training in Bar Harbor. In the end, it was a tool, I took advantage of. "Heero, I know you can protect me." She said warmly. "I also know I'm more endangered now, than I have ever been before. But if I stop representing what I believe in, then I'm no better off than if I was dead."
She was right of course. Our enemies wanted her dead or silent. In the end, she had to go. Most of all, she was the only chance the numbers had for freedom. I snorted and looked away, not even attempting to show her any regret. I lost our argument, she was right. It was time to go on. "I know you are strong." I said evenly. "But I cant' be there all the time. Mars can not wait."
Nodding, Relena hugged herself. She looked vulnerable, yet still determined to go on despite her reservations. "I know and you need to go. But please wait until after this meeting. I want you to accompany me."
She was just asking of course and by her posture and gaze, I knew she didn’t expect me to comply.
In many ways my presence would do more harm to her cause then help it.
I breathed deep aware she asked for my presence to gain strength. It didn’t' matter what others thought, what we were was why she fought the way she did.
Oddly, I didn’t' see it as a weakness.
Instinct said the Queen was going into danger's reach.
I inhaled, once more accepting my alien tendencies and determined to only leave after I knew she was safe. "Alright. Mars can wait, at least a day or so."
She smiled thinly. "Thank you. I'll send word to my brother and the colony to expect you in a few days. I believe Mr. Gunn is willing to loan you a FTL ship to retrieve Zechs and Noin. " She eyed the ceiling in mid concept then shook her head troubled. "Well, it's a good excuse any ways. Things are so confusing, I'm not sure what to do or think…"
"That makes two of us." I said gruffly. "Hopefully it won't last. "
"Hello Angel, I see you think you are among friends and family."
A crystal tear pooled, throbbing with life's blood, it's thin surface slick with red death.
"She's pretty for a human, but pathetically weak. "
Silence spoke, dark and menacing, sending shivers of terror though my prison. It's hands reached out, caressing my flesh. "They're all pathetically weak, Angel. Why you like them so, I will never understand…."
Being, it was all I managed in the dark. Helpless I clung to mere existance, slave to it's words….
Blue orbs pierced me like icy knives. "She will die, just like all the Priest and Nun, Angel. I promise you. You're little family will die, and all you'll have is me and our people…."
The poison resonated with my soul, reminding me very much of my position in his plans. In many ways, he was doing this for me as much as using me.
I shivered internally, summoning my strength and thoughts. It would take everything I had to fight the tide of nothing threatening to wash me way. "Never."
"Never place your entire reason for existance on one finite being, Angel." It continued. "Ashes to ashes."
Ashes to ashes resonated deeply in the pit of my mind, echoing hypnotically in a vast cannon. Helpless, my lips parted, parched words slipping from my throat. "Dust to dust. Everything I touch turns to Dust."
It was a dark reminder of my pathetic short life and the many losses, I endured.
"Yes, yes angel, what are you going to do about it?" Blue pools shimmered space, and reflected the tangled threads of a spider's webs.
What was I going to do? Trapped, I refocused on existance. The words ashes to ashes was his key to programming me, yet, it was not long ago, they defused and removed that threat from my mind.
Still his hold on my was so great, the very sound of his voice lulled me into his grasp.
"You know where you belong, you can't fight the enviable."
The web closed in, it's blackened tendrils wrapping tightly about my form, holding me in their grasp like a vice. It's acid tough bit my skin, sending pulses of pain coursing though my writhing body.
Fear clenched my pounding heart.
My limbs were fading into space, rapidly becoming a part of the web as it ate away at my soul.
Once more I was trapped, unable to control my own destiny and mind.
Yet pure stubbornness made me deny what I was feeling. The truth was the truth, and only the truth if you let yourself believe it.
I fought the FTL and won.
Inwardly I smiled maniacally. The devil had grotesquely underestimated my powers of denial and my determination to make them truth. It made me human (not some blob in a tank (can you imagine how boring life would be (hummm I wasn't a fan of asexual reproduction)).
In the end, the very act of denial saved what was left of Patrick Reily's personality and soul and made it HIM.
Was that why in many ways they, the voice, the demons were so determined to control me….
I was human(confused, inconvenienced, pissed as all hell….)!
I made myself HUMAN!
Duo Maxwell was more than program created by one crazy mad scientist with a dildo shaped nose (ok, so I still harbor some bitter feelings for the old bastard (I could mention the air lock again, but I'd be repeating myself)).
In truth, I refused to be a slave of some one else, not devil, or machine.
I had no strength.
I had no freedom.
But I'd be damned if I let myself believe him.
He'd never take Hilde from me!
"The only chains that hold me are the chains in my own mind…"I said evenly. I curled my fingers around the ethereal binds caging my form, and held them tightly. "And some day, I'll prove it to you, someday real soon…. I free, and you know it. All I need to do is shut you out…"
Blue orbs flickered in the blackness.
The tear's weight, pulled by gravity reached down, its wet flesh straining, then let go, plunging its essence into the midnight sea.
The web weakened.
The eyes were not pleased.
"Gee, you know, making your day, makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside." I said half smirking. "I won't let you hurt her…" I said, "I'm your Angel alright, your angel of death and I'm gonna take you out. I'm on a mission from God."
The blackness snapped and shattered like a broken mirror.
The room blazed back into focus as my mind swam back to consciousness.
Hilde was curled up in the chair beside my bed, sound asleep. There was no sign of Wufei, and the room was silent.
Only the steady hiss of a respirator resonated a rhythmic hiss beside my head.
Slowly, I reached up, hand curling about the clear plastic oxygen mask covering my face and removed it.
It was a dream of course, or so, everyone else would believe. But not me, I was sure it was real. I felt him, he was here, Alexie's brain found a backdoor and clobbered me one.
He waltzed in right in front of everyone I trusted and had the fuck'n nerve to woggie my brain for old times sake.
He was a bigger asshole than Heero Yuy could ever dream of being.
But I intended on showing him.
I'd show them all I wasn’t' crazy.
I fondly touched Hilde's face, noting the traces of red blotching her cheeks.
Damn bastard hurt her but hurting me.
"You're awake." Even at a whisper, the voice startled me, making me jolt and look up.
Pat stood in the door way, face pale and frightened. This fiasco stressed him to. It was the first time I really noticed the kid shaken and not attempting to hide it. Carey was curled in his arms, sound asleep, but he didn’t seem to notice.
"Yeah, I'm awake." Carefully I let my hand probe over my form, removing sensors pads, IV's EEG and EKG wires.
"You had a seizure." Pat began. "But I know better, it's him… He was here, wasn't he."
I was too numb to act surprised. Instead, I just nodded and sat up. The only camera in the room was off (that's my girl Hilde, insisting on giving me whatever privacy she could muster) "Yup. Come here kid, I need you to do me a favor."
Wordless, he crossed to my side and slipped on to the edge of the bed. For a moment I saw tears in his eyes, but he quickly wiped them away. "Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do."
The shake in his voice unsettled me, but I put it in the back of my mind, please he had some how managed to duck Alexie and his lackeys thus far. Pat's secrets were fine with me. "You'll have to tell me about it some day." I said, pressing the EEG sensor on his forehead. "You're a talented kid, I know we have a hell of a lot in common… In fact, I'm willing to bet you're more like Alexie and I than I'd like to believe."
Nervously, he nodded, holding Carey closer to his small frame. He too was in hiding. In his case, I doubted he had the convenience of a former identity to cling to. "Kind of." He looked away, face drawn painfully. "But I like it here, Duo. I don't want them to come, I don’t want him to win. They scare me…"
Inhaling, I lifted his chin, seeing a child there for the first time in the months I had known him. There was no demon there like Alexie and myself. "They scare me too, son. But they can't win with no head."
When I finished with the rest of my Connections, I was confident Pat instinctively knew how to mimic my life signs.
After all, (from what I knew about myself ) it's what they did best, pretend they were like us Human people.
"This is your and my secret, ok, buddy?" I said, punching his shoulder lightly. "Hell, us soul sucking, disembodied cosmic parasites from hell gotta stick together."
Pressing his lips together in a slight smile, he agreed. "And Carey, she's like us. You know that…"
I didn't need to hear that now, but the poor kid was so nervous he had deiherehia of the mouth. "Guess so, but she's cute so we'll forgive her for it."
It was all I could manage. I'd register his words later.
As far as I was concerned Carey was as human as her mother.
Wobbily and weak legged, I came to a stand.
Damn, I forgot what it was like to have legs after an anal probe (the FTL did a hell of a job).
I winced at the pain, then steadied myself on the bed rail.
"You can't face him now." Pat finally protested as if he suddenly just realized what I planned. "You don't even know what he is and how to find him. He's everywhere. Like…."
"A ghost, I know. But God can find the Devil and God is with me, always was, but I was just to damned blind to see him….."
The boy shook his head. "Duo…"
I met his gaze with confidence. I was pretty sure who Alexie was hitching a ride with, it was just a matter of proving it to the world. After all, there were only two people in the room, I didn’t' trust, when I was attacked. "Trust me." I grabbed my black cap from my night stand and put it on my head. "I've got my lucky hat, how can I go wrong?"