Conversations with Death (cont)

+

The time I spent with my Duo in the suit became more valuable than you can imagine through that year. I can't help but be proud of him, looking back on it now. Nothing he had seen in his short life-- and Duo had seen more than any child of his years should have had to deal with-- could have prepared him for it.

How many times did he retreat to his cockpit, trembling, in a cold sweat? Several memories come to mind, but one in particular sticks out. It was the first time he'd actually shot a gun at another human being and watched his victim's life drain away... My Duo ran back to me as soon as he could, struggling so hard not to let his tears fall. All I wanted to do was to hold him and wipe the other man's blood off his face, where it had splashed.

And that wasn't the worst of it! Professor G has no idea how many times he almost died as he began 'hardening' my Duo against interrogation techniques. I might have quite cheerfully taken his soul, had it not been for the signs I saw in the old man-- the trembling of his hands, glassy, tear-filled eyes as he watched a young boy struggling with captors triple his size.

And the drugs! The first time he was subjected to the 'treatment,' as G called it, I nearly went mad with worry! Even after he passed out, twitching subconsciously because of that foul poison, I held him in the dreamscape, stroking his hair as I called to him, 'Little Death, just open your eyes for me. It's okay! I swear it, you're okay, you're with me...'

I'll never forget the terrified look in his eyes when he finally stirred again. It was never quite that bad ever again, thank goodness, but that memory stayed with me each time, even after he became resistant enough to the stuff that he didn't lose consciousness.

I'd worked too hard to keep him alive, damn it all, for him to go through this!

It was what he wanted, though. He threw himself into that training with every ounce of his being, and the progress he made was astounding.

The professor honestly seemed to like Duo as well, and worked hard to ensure the boy would survive. He put us (and I say us, for I was always there with Duo) through endless drills, sometimes jarring my little mortal out of our dreamscape and rushing him into his cockpit, making him fight his way through a series of traps, sneak around guard posts, slip through the tightest security. And what annoyed me the most - he would cut power to Deathscythe in the middle of a drill, so I'd suddenly find myself free of the machine again, unable to communicate or help my mortal and still feeling his fear and tension...

"Shit! Okay, I need to get into my helmet..." I was powerless to help him as he fumbled for his suit's helmet in the dark and struggled to set the air locks, in case life support were to fail. "Geez, Scythe, perfect moment to crap out on me! You could have at least warned me there was something wrong..."

He must have felt me brush his soul apologetically because he growled, "Yeah, sure. Don't play nice with me, Scythe! Just come back to life!" Finding the manual override switch, he slammed his fist down onto it, and I felt that strange pull...

'Calm down, Little Death! It's just a drill, or I would have warned you...'

He sighed, and I could feel calm coming back over him as his breathing slowed to something approaching normal. "It's okay, Scythe, it's okay."

And did I ever mention what a good team we made together? My Duo may have been a natural at the pilot's controls, but with me at his side, there was very little he couldn't do. I found myself getting caught up in it, much as he was. The hunt, the attack, the chase, the final retreat! It was a powerful, heady feeling, combined with the knowledge that few could do what my little mortal was doing.

G finally pulled him to the side, after a hard run in the flight simulator against a sortie of Space Tauruses. "Come along, boy, we still have a lot to do today..." I was immediately suspicious of the old man. He was never quite this gruff after a successful simulation, and I was once again annoyed by my lack of ability to look into his mind. Whatever was bothering him would have side-effects on my mortal, and everything that concerned him concerned me.

His mood didn't change, either. He remained taciturn and unapproachable all through dinner, despite Duo's best attempts to get him to open up. My human asked me about it that night,'Hey Scythe, what's eating G? I swear, he was fine when I went into the simulator, but he's been a bitch to work with since...'

'Language, Duo,' I reminded him gently, giving an affectionate tug to his braid. I sighed. 'I wish I knew, little one. It certainly wasn't your performance.'

He grinned up at me. 'We kicked ass, Scythe!'

'Duo...'

'I know,' he said, giving me an impulsive hug I had to return. He sighed happily as he rested his head on my shoulder. 'Watch my language.'

I could feel it as surely as I could feel my own life, though - Duo had something on his mind, something up his sleeve. I brushed his hair back from his eyes and stared down at him sternly. 'What are you thinking?'

He grinned at me as innocently as he could. 'Well... he's got something he doesn't want me to know about but I'm dyin' to find out... I was thinking... How about putting that stealth training to work?'

'Little Death...'

He winked at me, and I felt a cold sense of something important coming straight for me. 'I'll race you.'

+

It continues to amaze me how smart people forget that a small boy can wiggle his way along an air duct to one's office, especially when said smart person had been instructing said boy on the procedure for over a year.

My Duo stared down through the grating - G was sitting in front of the only lit computer screen and, what was most surprising of all, was chain smoking! The man never smoked - he'd expressly forbidden Duo to do it, too.

"Damn it!" G smacked the computer and stood, rubbing his face with his hands. "I can't! I couldn't possibly..."

My mortal and I watched as he paced a little, and then turned to leave, shutting off the monitor with a flick of his wrist.

I knew what he was going to do before Duo did. Clever fingers reached back and into his braid, and he pulled out a small screwdriver. Within seconds, he had the grating unscrewed and was levering himself down from the cramped confines of the air duct. He moved to the monitor on cat's feet and flicked it on.

Now I'd like to think I'm a nice enough entity. I've never been bloodthirsty, and I've never, ever wanted to be the one to decide who gets to live and who has to die. But as I read over Duo's shoulder, I wished with all my being that I could find this Dekim Barton and obliterate his soul for all eternity.

Duo turned white as he read the orders and began to tremble as he clutched at the cold steel worktable. "Oh my God," he whispered brokenly, wide eyes fixed on the screen. "Scythe."

I brushed his soul as comfortingly as I could, given my own shock and revulsion. How anyone could plan to...

The code name 'Operation Meteor' was distinctly and disgustingly appropriate.

I once again cursed my inability to truly communicate. Duo was clearly at a loss, staring at the screen and his own death sentence with such a horrified look on his face! I was relieved when he finally snapped out of his unusual trance and shut the monitor back off, pacing back and forth with his arms wrapped across his chest for a long moment before he turned and made a jump for the ceiling and the air duct. He pulled himself up silently, and didn't make another sound the entire way back to his room.

Standing in front of the mirror, he stared deep into his own eyes for a long moment, and the sickening feeling that had begun in my belly began to spread over my whole body. I hoped to all that was kind and merciful that I was mistaken at what I was seeing in his eyes.

He left the light on that night as he slipped into bed, hugging a pillow against his chest, and fell asleep.

+

He curled up with me in the dreamscape, tired and frightened, but determined.

'Scythe... I have to destroy the suit, this base, us... I can't let them drop a colony on earth. We're supposed to fight for freedom and a future, not commit mass murder so some maniac can gain power.'

'Duo, there has to be another way. We'll think of something, I promise,' I countered. I did not want him to do this. I did not want to take his soul.

'This is the best way. What if they got their hands on the suit? They wouldn't need me, so I'd end up dead anyway. At least this way they can't use it to destroy the earth. I don't want to die. There's so much more I want to see and do, but I have to do this.'

I sighed. I knew he believed that. I knew he felt he had to do this. And I couldn't think of any other way, myself. 'I don't want you to do this, and I don't want to take your soul... but, if this is what we have to do, so be it. I'll help you all I can.'

My little Death burrowed deeper, as if he were trying to get under my skin and whispered, 'Just don't leave me.'

I tightened my arms around him, ignoring the tears I could feel on my cheeks. 'I'll never leave you.'

Two hours later he was planting explosive charges, specifically placed to destroy the suit, the whole facility and everyone on it. This was going to be very messy, and inconvenient for my brethren, but they would cope. I had already decided that once my Duo's soul was delivered, I'd join him in the Otherworld permanently.

Finally finished, he ran to the hangar's viewing room and stood staring at the suit for a moment, taking one last look. I caressed his soul, trying to make him feel as if he were wrapped in my arms, trying to give comfort and support.

"So, this will end it," he murmured with a sigh. 'Goodbye 'Scythe. I love you, you know?" and he pushed the button.

Nothing happened.

It was almost comical, the look on my little mortal's face as he realised it hadn't detonated. He stared at the detonator in his hand incredulously, shaking it and banging it on the wall.

"What's wrong? Why didn't it work? What did I do wrong?" he whimpered, turning to stare at the suit once more.

There was a slight noise behind him, and he spun to see Professor G standing just inside the door. G looked him in the eyes as he slowly turned his cupped hand over and the detonator caps fell to the floor.

"Duo. Deathscythe is a work of art. Surely you can come up with a better idea than destroying it."

"I am not going to have my buddy used as a tool for mass murder!" my little mortal snarled.

"So, you were going to destroy Deathscythe, then kill me?" G asked calmly.

"I was going to destroy everyone, including me. I'll gladly be Death if it saves the colonies and the innocents on earth."

"If you're so determined, outwit me, boy!" the professor said.

"What?"

"Duo, steal Deathscythe. Don't execute Operation Meteor as it's planned. Just go to earth and fight the Alliance on your own terms. Howard's in the Pacific, he'll help you if you need anything. Go and see him. Be the God of Death, Duo. Free the colonies."

My Duo cocked his head, and a slow grin spread across his face. "Yeah, God of Death is much better than Mass Murderer." He quickly hugged G then sped into the hangar, climbed into the cockpit and turned on the systems.

Almost instantly I was back in the machine, and I whispered into my mortal's mind. 'I love you too, Duo."

Within minutes we were encased in the pod intended to disguise us as a meteor and we were flying through space towards earth. I think my little mortal was in awe--

"Hey 'Scythe! Start up the systems and run the preflights! We got a mission! Time to rock and roll, buddy!"

Ah. My Duo, and a mission, calls. Sorry, I guess we'll just have to end this here. It's been so nice talking to you... yes, I see you caught the sarcasm there. Well, we have things to blow up. Catch ya on the flip side, as my Duo would say. Ta-ta.

+

OWARI... for now

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Notes:

The names of the Gods at the beginning are as accurate as I can confirm. Some are Gods of Death, some are Gods of the Dead and some are Gods of the Underworld.

Hunhau - (Also Ah Puch) Mayan god of death who ruled over Mitnal, the land of death.
Osiris - Egyptian god of the dead, the judge of the Underworld.
Yama - Hindu god of death.
Yambe-Akka - 'Lady of the Underworld'. Lapp
Dagda - Irish god of life and death.
Ereshkigal - Sumerian death goddess.
Mot - Canaanite god of death.
Vichama - Incan god of death .
Azra'il - Hebrew Angel of Death. (Azrael in Muslim Mythology - also Angel of Death)
Thanatos - Greek personification of (non-violent) death; as opposed to his sisters the Keres, the daimones of violent death.
Baiame - Sky god of the Kamilaroi tribe of New South Wales, master of life and death.
Hel - Norse goddess of the Underworld.
Ghede - Haitian Voodoo god of death.(Maman Brigitte is his female counterpart)
Nergal - Babylonian god of the dead.
Miclantecuhtli - Aztec god of death.
Yen Wang - (also found as Yan Wang & Yanluo Wang) Chinese god of death.
Hades - (Also known as Pluto, in Roman mythology, or Aides) Greek God of the underworld and Lord of the Dead.
Anubis - (also Anpu, Ienpw, Yinepu ) Egyptian, the watcher over the dead and supervised the passage of souls to their abode in the next world. Known as the lord of the dead before Osiris.
Archangel Uriel - 'the angel over the world and Tartarus'(Book of Enoch 20:2) One of the leading angels in noncanonical Christian lore and rabbinical angelology, regent of the sun, flame of God, angel of the presence. Presided over Tartarus (Hades/ Sheol), archangel of salvation

Some references:
Websites:

'Of Gods and Men' http://www.clubi.ie/lestat/godsu.html
'Theoi Project' http://www.theoi.com/index.htm
'Encyclopedia Mythica' http://www.pantheon.org/mythica.html

Books:

'Oxford Dictionary of World Mythology' by Arthur Cotterell
'Egyptian Mythology' by Rachel Storm
'Asian Mythology' by Rachel Storm

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