Golgotha (cont)

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Why are sex and violence always linked? I'm afraid they'll blur together in people's minds - sexandviolence - until we can't tell them apart. I expect to hear a newscaster say, "The mob became unruly and the police were forced to resort to sex."

~ Dick Cavett

Going to the church appeared to be an event in itself, because it meant that we had to pass through the territory of one of L2's many street gangs.

"Normally, they let me go where I want without a hassle cos' I'm pretty well known around here, but if they see a new face, they're gonna start askin' questions, ya get me?" Duo mumbled nervously as he practically clung to my arm in an attempt to hide the handcuffs that bound us together. "I'm tellin' ya man, if people see me hangin' around with a man of the law, my ass is serious grass. People around here hate the Preventers and they hate the new, pacifistic bullshit government. Relena Peacecraft is Miss Golden Girl everywhere else, but in L2, people's eyes are not covered with rose tinted glasses. We know fake when we see it."

I frowned at his words but couldn't help but be impressed at the same time. It was true that a lot of people were fooled by the pristine appearance that Peacecraft had, but people who were close to her knew what she was really like. The fact that people on this colony, people who were considered "trash" by everyone else, could see through that, was pretty damned interesting.

"Now if anyone stops us.. shit I don't know, I'll think of something. Gawd, you picked a fine time to take in the scenery of L2." The thief complained.

I made a face as we walked under the awnings of closed shops, trying to escape the rain. "You make it sound like this whole mess is my fault."

"You were askin' to be robbed, Heero. Seriously. You're lucky it was me and not someone with a real gun and a real thirst for upper middle class blood. You don't come to Golgotha dressed like you are, swaggering in the streets all arrogant and expect to come out unscathed.

""What's Golgotha?"He looked at me and raised an eyebrow. "It's the name the people of the neighborhood gave L2 after awhile. Like a really morbid nickname. See, most people who are born in L2... we don't get out. We live here, we starve here, and we die here. It's as simple as that. It's a fucking birthing ground for the hopeless and for the walking dead. You're born a corpse."

I looked at him, startled by the words and by the bleak look in his eyes.

"Golgotha, well years ago on earth... Catholics believed in Jesus Christ. They believed that... he was the Son of God and that he died for our sins. Golgotha.. is the place where he died, the place where he was crucified. Now L2, the people here aren't bad. No one is born bad, but yet everyone who is born here are labeled that way cos' of what we havta do to survive. Rich folks in the suburbs and in the high-class colonies think of us as street trash, street rats... nothing but the left over shit that ain't worth their time or money. No one lifts a finger to improve shit around here and nothin' ever changes. We live, we suffer, we starve and we fuckin' die. This is the colony of the dead, so boom. Golgotha. That's how the colony got it's nickname." He shrugged and looked away, his voice laced with bitterness.

I didn't know what to say or how to respond to that. I hadn't expected anything so profound to come out of his mouth. I hadn't expected half of the shit that had happened tonight and the surprises kept on coming. It was obvious that he was intelligent for a man who had to steal to survive and I had to stop and wonder if he had been born somewhere else, what would he have been like? What would he be doing with his life? It was a pretty sad thing to do, always pondering about 'what ifs' and I'm sure he did it a lot.

He looked at me from the corner of his eyes and made a face. "Why you always lookin' at me? Are you gay or sumthin'? Seriously, this time."

"Yes."

He stopped in his tracks and gaped at me, obviously shocked at my bluntness. "O..oh."

I smirked at him and opened my mouth to respond but before I could, the shadows moved once again and I spun around to face whoever was coming. It was all terribly dramatic, like a scene out of some weird, gothic movie. The rain was still coming down pretty hard and a group of figures dressed all in tattered black clothes were coming towards us, all practically blending in with the shadows and making it almost impossible to see their faces.

"Fuck! I knew this was gonna happen!" Duo hissed and pressed himself closer to my side, hiding our cuffed hands in the folds of my jacket.

When the group was right up on us, finally I was able to see them and I realized that they were all teenagers, probably the oldest only being nineteen. "Who's the new guy?" One of them, obviously the leader, asked as he stepped forward. He was staring straight at me but I knew he was talking to Duo. He was tall and leanly muscled, with tattoos covering one arm and a black bandanna wrapped over unruly blonde curls.

"No one special. He's from another colony, but he came here to have some fun if you catch my drift." Duo raised an eyebrow and pressed himself to my side tighter, obviously insinuating that I was his john. I tried not to look at him in surprise, telling myself that I should just go with it.

The leader stared at me suspiciously before his eyes went up and down Duo and he smirked. He sauntered forward until he was only a couple of inches in front of the longhaired young man. "I din' know youse was a whore, Maxwell. I thought you was savin' yaself for me."

I watched the exchange quietly even as I felt Duo stiffen up beside me. "Heh, I'm not a hooker, Cappy... but when I reach rock bottom every so often, I have to do what I have to do to get by.. know what I'm sayin'? And tonight definitely ain't a big night for pick pocketin'."

Cappy turned his gaze back to me and I held the stare steadily. "He looks like a fuckin' flatfoot."

"I know.. I thought that too, but trust me on this one Caps... no cop would bend over in a alley an' then ask for a repeat performance." The words were spoken lightly but I could feel the tension in his slender body. I kept expecting him to tell them any moment that I was a Preventer... but he didn't. The tall gang leader made a 'hmm' sound and looked at Duo again.

"Either way he's in our territory and he has to pay the toll. A hundred credits or we bust his kneecaps."

My eyes narrowed and my right hand began to creep for my gun but Duo's surprisingly strong hand grabbed mine and squeezed. I looked at him and he shook his head, eyes once again possessing that bleak look.

"He only got enough for me, and common.. I really need the cash Caps. Can't you just let it go, this one time?"

The blonde man looked from me to Duo and once again he leered at the shorter teenager. "Alright, I got me a better idea. We all know what your special toll is, Duo.. and since you can't give it to me now... next time I see you, you're mine all night."

Duo paled visibly, but managed to nod and offer a sickly smile. "Yeah.. I get you, Cappy. Now get out of here so I can handle my business."

Cappy nodded and graced Duo with one more smirk before he and his gang walked away; disappearing back into the shadows where they had come from. Once they were out of sight, Duo sagged against me and swore under his breath. "Damn! This is all your fuckin' fault man. You an' your stupid, stupid disc."

"You have sex with him?" I blurted it out before I could stop myself and once again cursed the non-existent thing that connected my brain to my mouth.Indigo eyes glared at me and he started walking again, strides quick and angry.

"No. I let him grope me and kiss me and that's fuckin' it. But I guess now, thanks to you he's gonna want more next time."

I frowned at him darkly. "If you wanted to, you could have just told them that I'm a Preventer and you would have been off the damn hook when they killed me."

He stopped again and glared at me with wild eyes. "Oh, that's a great idea! One Preventer gets killed today and before I fuckin' know it, the whole damned force will be here makin' life hell for every street kid on the colony." He turned his back on me and began walking again, forcing me to follow.

"What the hell do you have against the Preventers anyway? We keep the peace! We protect the people and the government."

"Bullshit! You protect the rich people. You protect the fucking hypocrite pacifistic pieces of shit government officials. Do you see anyone protecting anything here? Do you see Preventers patrolling the streets and makin' it safe for the little kids and women who get raped daily in the fuckin' alleys?"

"There has to be Preventer activity here. There are at least three stations assigned on each colony," I argued.

He let out a sharp bark of laughter. "There is one fuckin' station on this whole colony and they don't do jack shit to help anyone. They make their rounds every so often and once in awhile they will arrest tons of people at one time just to fill their quotas, even if the people they're arrestin' ain't criminals."

I stopped walking and stared at him in shock. "How is that possible? It's not even legal! Why doesn't anyone complain? You could contact the HQ in the Sanc kingdom on Earth and if Une found out, she would be the first to make a change."

Duo rolled his eyes as if I was one of the most naive people he'd ever met. "Don't you think we've tried that? There used to be a community center around here, and all the faculty and all the fuckin' members would send letters to Earth every month, but nothing ever happened and we never got a fuckin' reply."

I didn't know what to say or how to respond. I was in complete shock. I'd wondered when I had first arrived on L2, why it was so bad.. but I'd never considered the possibility that the people wanted it to change. I'd never considered that they had called for help but never got it. It was possible of course, that everything he was saying was complete bullshit and I had to remind myself of that before I went into a complete tailspin. "I don't know why, I thought --"

"That's right, you thought. Everyone thinks that the scum of L2 wallows in their own filth happily and doesn't want anything to be better, but you're all wrong. That same community center would send letters and petitions to that bitch, Peacecraft and her moron brother.. beggin' for them to help clean up this place. Beggin' them to send the colony supplies that weren't rotten or contaminated. Fuckin' begging someone to fix the environmental controls so that we got rain a little more often, so that we wouldn't have to ration water! No one ever lifted a fuckin' finger to help! They want to keep us down! They don't want the poor street trash to have better lives, because God forbid someone actually makes something of themselves! God forbid someone from L2 tries to become a congressman or senator! They don't want us to do better because they only want their own kind to get ahead. So fuckin' save whatever you was gonna say! We havta spend the whole night together, but we don't havta talk while we're doin' it, so leave me the hell alone!"

He turned on his heel and began to storm down the street angrily, leaving me to hurry after just so that the gundanium handcuffs wouldn't cut into my skin.

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If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the
few who are rich.

~ John F. Kennedy

Somewhere along the line as we had walked down the wet streets in silence, Duo had decided that he was hungry and that he was going to use my fifty credits to get a "decent" dinner. Soon after, I found myself at a small diner that was simply named "Nate's". It was somewhat of a dive but at least it looked clean, the tables were scratched and the booths were made of obnoxious orange rubber.. but Duo seemed to delight in just being able to sit down and order something.

"So.. I'll treat you to dinner if you're hungry." He suggested as we sat down across from each other in the small booth. Our cuffed hands were left under the table, linked together and making the arrangement rather uncomfortable. He seemed to have forgotten about his earlier outburst and I wasn't in a hurry to remind him.

"You can't 'treat' me to anything, because it's my money," I snapped, gracing him with a dark glare.

"Whatever you say man." He shrugged to himself and picked at the menu, squinting at it in the dim light.

"Don't tell me you can't read." It came out a little more disgusted sounding than I had planned but I decided that there was no reason to be nice to him or to bite my tongue. We weren't friends. The only reason I hadn't hauled his sorry ass in to the nearest station house was because I needed that disk.

Duo looked at me, surprisingly calm even though I had insulted him. "Just because I'm a street kid, don't mean I'm stupid. I went to school for awhile and then I stopped. Excuse me for not wanting to be told what a waste of space I was by the teachers who come from L4, richest fuckin' colony in space. So A-E-I-O fuck you too." He turned up his pert nose and actually looked haughty before he went right back to agonizing over the menu.

The corner of my mouth twitched and I actually had the urge to smile. He was a thief, he'd robbed me and sucker punched me.. and yeah I probably should have arrested him when I had the chance; but he certainly was a charming little fucker. "These aren't exactly prime delicacies, Maxwell." I drawled, glancing at my own menu and deciding on a hamburger and fries easily.

"Maybe not to you, it ain't." He nodded to himself and pushed the menu away from him, obviously coming to a conclusion. "I love this place. It's one of the only diners in this neighborhood that has real beef and fresh veggies." He grinned. "Nate is a nice guy, he's legit and one of the only business owners who still has contacts with the corporations on earth that sell the colonies fresh food." He whistled sharply to get the attention of a bored looking waiter.

"One of the only?" I asked doubtfully. "Then how do other places get meat and vegetables?"

"Well... the meat don't come from earth, man. And look around... there ain't exactly no cows on L2. Use yer imagination. The big wig corps on Earth got tired of dealing with most of their L2 customers cos' number one, a lot of times they was late with payments and number 2, the shuttles would get robbed a lot. That's why the government finally bowed down and started sendin' up supplies. Like food and rations and shit. L2 is like the fuckin' third world country of space." He shrugged casually and smiled up at the waiter, showing surprisingly white; even teeth. "Lemme get a salad with blue cheese dressing, steak well done and those sautéed veggie things that Nate makes with wild rice on the side. Oh and apple juice, a nice big cup."

My eyebrows shot up and I looked at him in surprise, before telling the waiter my own order.

He smirked at me and raised one eyebrow elegantly. I imagined that he would look like quite the little gentleman if he was cleaned up and wearing something besides raggedy jeans. "What did ya think I was gonna order ice cream and beer and shit?" When I shrugged in response he grinned. "I'd take a decent home cooked meal over greasy ass hamburgers and fries any day. This body o' mine needs nourishment, ya know."

We sat in silence for awhile and I let my eyes roam over to the window beside us, taking in the damp streets and the rain that still poured from the artificial sky. "Is all of L2 like this?" I murmured absently. Despite the fact that part of my brain was telling me that this whole situation was ridiculously unprofessional, I couldn't help but marvel at the things he was telling me.

He followed my gaze and stared out at the streets, focusing on a homeless man who was sitting under the awning of a closed store; seeking shelter from the rain. "The whole colony is poor, no one is really upper middle class... but there are people who are more well off than others. There are businesses that actually do good and neighborhoods that aren't full of derelicts." He shrugged and smiled bitterly. "No neighborhood is safe to walk at night, but the entire place ain't a cesspool. Just most of it."

I nodded and felt slightly better about that for some reason. "Why do you blame the government?"

Duo's face closed up and he seemed to remember that he was talking to someone who was actually a government worker. "Cos' there ain't no one else to blame."

I laughed shortly. "Why should anyone be to blame? People become what they are because they don't try to be anything else."

His eyes hardened and once again he got that jaded look. "So you think everyone in this colony is content to be scum?"

"I didn't say tha--"

"Let me tell you somethin' Preventer Yuy, let me tell you a somethin and for a minute just forget that you're a fuckin' slave to the government and gimme a chance." He stared at me until I nodded. "Five colonies, right? The closest to earth are L1 and L2. L3, L4 and L5 are fuckin' out there.. so you'd think that maybe the people who first settled the colonies would have focused on L1 and L2 first. Let me tell ya, they did. They used L2 as kinda a test colony, trying out the environmental controls on it first to see if it would work, testing the atmosphere.. seeing what could survive and what couldn't. When they were done gettin' their info, they took it and ran. They spiffed up the rest of the colonies real good, givin' them the best of everything, but they left L2 the way it was. They didn't bother to rework the EC the way they did the others, they left it all fucked up so it only rains once in a blue damn moon. They didn't bother to rebuild the buildings or plant decent trees. They used it as a test colony, left it that way after they was finished and then made shuttle rides to the other colonies so expensive, that the normal, lower middle class people from Earth couldn't afford to go there; so they ended up here.."

I stared at him and the disbelief must have been evident on my face because he leaned forward and said in a hushed urgent voice, "You think I just made that shit up? Please, man. It's all in the fuckin' old newspaper clippings from Earth when they first started puttin' people on the colonies. It's all in books written by people who was here when it all happened."

The waiter came and Duo sat up, backing away from me but the crease was still between his brows. When the food was placed in front of us, I watched as Duo did a quick prayer before digging into his salad. "Okay maybe you don't believe me about that, but go look it up for yourself. You got to read between the lines, Yuy." He pointed his fork at me and swallowed before continuing. "Another thing, did you ever notice how the only maximum-security prison in the colonies is here?"

I shook my head and bit into my own hamburger. "There is a maximum-security prison on L3 and one on L5." I countered.

"Yeah, but both of those only have about two hundred and fifty beds." His accent made two hundred and fifty sound like 'two hun-ed an' fiddy'.

I thought a moment and realized he was right. "That's true... and the prison here holds at least five thousand. For men and women.." My thoughts trailed off and my brow furrowed as I considered it.

"Five thousand, four hundred and sixty three." He recited with a toothy grin, obviously not caring that he had bits of lettuce stuck in his teeth. "I guess they decided to stick the trash with the trash, know what I mean?" I decided that I liked his accent, it was cute in a way. "This colony neva stood a chance. Was doomed from the start to be the dumping ground for the shit no one else wanted."

I nodded in agreement and shoved fries in my mouth; not knowing what else to say. It was wrong on a lot of different levels and it was pathetic to admit, but I had never seen it the way he was showing it to me before. Everyone said that the people of L2 never wanted to make anything better of themselves and that they chose to be the way they were. No one ever gave thought to how the colony came to be in such a state of deterioration in the first place. I was sad to say I had been one of those people, but this kid, no this man, he was showing me the light. Once again I thought about the disc and about the information that had been on it. What I suspected was on it, went hand in hand with what Maxwell was helping me to realize about the government and for the first time I was ashamed to be a part of it. "It's so wrong.." I didn't even realize that I had spoken out loud until Duo looked at me and smiled sadly."

"Heero, man.. I'm sorry about what I did. About.. robbin' you and hittin' you an' everything. I was just.. I don't know man, but I have bad history with Preventers and I got so mad. All the memories came rushin' back, know what I mean? You ain't a bad guy at all, I can see that. I'm really sorry.. And don't worry, we'll get the disc back. I promise."

I looked at him and knew by the earnest look on his face that he was serious and that he meant what he was saying. It caused a strange reaction in me and once again I was confused by it. I opted for nodding silently and we finished the rest of our meal in a somewhat comfortable silence. Towards the end he did splurge a bit and get an ice cream sundae and I couldn't help but smile at the childish gleam in his eyes as he savored each bite.I decided that I needed time to think things through. What he had told me, the disc... everything. I needed time to analyze everything until I could get my head on straight.. All of the confusion and conflicting emotions of the day were starting to tire me. I needed to figure things out and especially, I needed to figure him out.

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