AUTHORS: Mel & Christy (and their muses)
WARNINGS: Language? Violence! 'They Might Be Giants' songs! Collateral Damage!
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't ours. We tried theft, but the security systems were too good. Wufei was slightly injured during the making of this fic, and Duo got a concussion, but they got better. (And Trowa just brushed his bangs back into order.) No money is being made from this fic, and if there was we'd just spend it on more tapes, so that's OK.

Demon of Justice + Chapter 12
The Trousers of Time

"I don't get it," Duo said, scowling at Trowa's laptop.

"Neither do I," Quatre admitted, sitting back and rubbing at his eyes.

Heero had insisted that Duo had to be present when they read the message from the doctors, so everyone was gathered around Duo's bed. A little creative thought applied to the seating arrangements ensured that they all could see the screen, and also meant that Heero got to sit on the bed next to Duo.

Unfortunately, no one could understand the message.

It started out simply enough; after careful study of the Gundams' battle logs and instrument recordings, plus the plans and test records of the weapon that had blown up in Nataku's face (stolen by Heero and Trowa), the doctors believed that they had a good idea of what had happened to Wufei. Then it got technical. The pilots could follow the explanation partway, but when it got to concepts like 'elastic resonance', 'space-time curvature' and 'the Trousers of Time theory', they lost track.

"I think they invented a new symbolic alphabet to use in those equations," Trowa muttered. "Can you make any sense of it, Heero?"

"No." Growling, Heero grabbed his own laptop from the bedside table and hammered at the keys, then sat back and waited.

< < Heero, my boy, > > Dr.J said, popping up on screen. < < Did you get our email? > >

"Yes, but you neglected to decode it before you sent it," he snapped. "Next time you send something important, write it in English, or Japanese, or Arabic, or one of the dozen languages Trowa speaks. Don't use mathematical jargon that you're making up as you go along!"

< < He sounds a little upset, > > Dr. G commented in the background. < < Maybe we should have provided a synopsis? > >

J blinked. < < Are you feeling all right, Heero? > >

"I'm fine. Spit it out in plain language. What happened to Wufei?!"

< < I see that Maxwell is finally rubbing off on you, > > J said, a smile slowly growing on his face. < < It's about time, too; you need to relax more. Now, about Chang-- > >

"Is he alive?" Quatre blurted out. "Where is he?"

< < Well. Hm. That part's a bit problematical. The explosion itself did not kill him, we can say that for sure. Whether he's alive now is another matter entirely. > >

"What do you mean?" Duo whispered.

< < Ah, Maxwell, nice to see you. Hm. How should I put this? Plain language, hmmm... yes. > > J paused for a moment, then nodded decisively. < < The explosion ripped a hole in the universe and blew him through it. > >

*blink*blink*

"And that means... what?" Trowa asked slowly. "In terms of Wufei, and his survival and getting him back."

G pushed in next to J. < < Let me, you old fart. You all understand the concept of alternate universes, yes? > >

"Universes where things turned out differently in history," Quatre said numbly. "Like... if the colonies never got started, or different sides won wars."

< < Yes, but the change in history could have come much earlier, > > G pointed out. < < Evolution could have produced intelligent races other than human, for example, or, the laws of physics could be entirely different if the Big Bang had gone differently. This is the 'Trousers of Time' theory; you start with one reality, like the waist of a pair of pants, and then you reach a decision point at the crotch. If things go one way, you go down the left leg; if they go the other way, you go down the right leg. Of course, this is a massively simplified metaphor, > > he added. < < Our imaginary pair of trousers has to have an infinite number of legs, dividing at an infinite number of points. > >

"Of course," Trowa muttered.

< < What that weapon was supposed to do was pull a little energy from the boundaries between universes-- the fabric of the trousers, if you will-- convert it to destructive energy, light, heat, radiation and so forth, and shoot it at convenient targets. They seem to have managed quite a remarkable conversion efficiency in their trials; they got a lot more out than they put in. I can think of quite a few peacetime applications for this process... > > G gazed off into space for a few seconds, muttering, then shook himself. < < Sorry. Back to the point. That weapon had more than enough destructive potential to destroy a Gundam, if all went well. It didn't. They hadn't finished developing it, so it was unstable, and they hadn't finished building it, either, so it wasn't properly shielded or armoured. And then Chang hit it at exactly the right moment, with exactly the right weapon. > >

"Exactly the wrong moment, don't you mean?" Duo said bitterly.

< < I said what I meant, Duo, > > G said sternly, peering out of the screen at him. < < He hit it at the exact moment it fired, with a thermal blade. If he'd struck before it fired, it would have blown up in a conventional explosion and probably killed him. If he'd struck after, well... he wouldn't have gotten the chance. And if he'd hit it with something that wasn't an energy weapon, it could have either blown up, or fired and then blown up. > >

"So... what did it do?" Quatre asked, eyes wide.

G spread his hands. < < Chang struck just as it was accessing the energy that forms the walls between the universes. The energy from his thermal blade caused it to... burp. Or perhaps 'hiccup' is the most appropriate word. It accessed a much larger amount of energy than it was designed to handle. Returning to our metaphor, it pulled a section of trouser fabric into our world, and when it snapped back into it's proper shape it pulled Chang and his Gundam with it. The side effects manifested themselves as a large-ish explosion; I can't explain that part to you without talking about eleven-dimensional math and superstring theory. > >

< < We therefore have Chang floating around in the space between trouser legs. > >

The four pilots looked at him with wide eyes.

< < That wouldn't harm him, > > G hastened to add, < < according to the mathematical model we've come up with. Although he would be outside our universe, and therefore outside the influence of its physical laws, we believe that matter taken out of a universe will continue to 'remember' that universe's laws until it enters another. Oxygen would continue to combine with carbohydrates to release energy within his cells, water would continue to be liquid within the appropriate temperature range, and so on. This would continue until he was drawn into another universe. Matter isn't supposed to float around between universes, so he'd get pulled into one quite quickly. > >

< < O has an interesting theory about that, > > J interrupted, leaning over G's shoulder. < < He thinks that matter would be preferentially drawn to universes that operate under similar physical laws. > >

< < Yes, > > G said, swatting irritably at J, < < so Chang's not likely to have arrived in a universe where he couldn't survive, or where Shenlong wouldn't function. Anything beyond that is up to him. > >

"Can we... is there... is there anything we can do?" Heero stuttered.

G shook his head. < < Oh, we could recreate the incident and blow you out of the universe, too, but we'd have no way to make sure you went to the same place as Chang. And we'd have no way of getting anything back. > >

< < All we can realistically do is hope that O is right. Hope that Chang ended up somewhere he can live, and that he hasn't gotten himself in trouble. > >

* * * * *

Metal screamed as the demon forced its tentacles into the hole in Nataku's armour and started to tear it open.

Shit! Wufei thought, wrenching at the controls as alert messages popped up on his screen, warning of growing damage to the systems in Nataku's left lower back. That's the only breach that hadn't started to seal itself-- I can't even pull away! More tentacles were coiled around the Gundam's legs and lower torso, holding it in place. Uthmar had been driven back as the demon pulled more of itself above ground and tried to surround him.

An entire section of the control panel blazed red as the demon reached the control runs for Nataku's legs, and Wufei screamed as pain exploded in his own back.

---------------

Wedged securely behind Wufei's chair, Karthan held on grimly as the small room seemed to try and bounce him around like dice in a cup. After several long seconds, it came to rest at a strange angle-- the back wall was now the floor, tilted to the side-- and he relaxed slightly, alert for the next change.

It's wonderful how the prospect of imminent death clears your mind, he thought dryly. I suppose Nataku's fallen over? I'd better stay put, he'll be getting up soon--

Something warm and slightly sticky dripped onto his hand.

Blood?!

Wincing with every movement, Karthan squirmed out from behind the chair and stood up, leaning over the black- haired demon. Wufei seemed to be unconscious, limp hands fallen onto his stomach, and a thin line of blood was trickling from under neath him.

I heard him yell, Karthan thought, carefully sliding a hand between Wufei and the chair back, but I don't see how he could be wounded. Especially there--His probing fingers found a blood sodden area of cloth, and his eyes widened. He's hurt all right-- I can feel the hole-- but there's nothing that could have cut him, and his shirt's not ripped!

Nataku shuddered around them, another groan of tortured metal came from below Karthan's feet, and more blood flowed over his hand as he felt the wound tear wider.

Oh, hells! If it happens to Nataku, it happens to Wufei?! That demon's going to rip them apart, Nataku's not moving, and Uthmar said Terrin thinks Nataku can't move without Wufei--

"Wufei!" he said urgently, hands gripping the small demon's arms and leaving bloody marks. "Wufei, wake up!"

---------------

He felt as though his back was on fire.

Wufei suppressed a pained groan as he forced his eyes open. A dim shape was bending over him, speaking urgently, and he could see the stars... then he blinked his eyes clear, and the 'stars' resolved themselves into the lights on Nataku's control panels. Far too many of them were red.

"Wufei!" Karthan said, then babbled a flood of unintelligible words. He sounded relieved, but worried at the same time. "An'tiyar krechak sa daru--"

Krechak. Demon. It started ripping into Nataku, and I felt it... Wufei pressed one hand against his side, feeling wet warmth, and lifted it into view, dripping blood.

This is rather more serious than just feeling pain.

Where is it now?!

Something in his back twisted and ripped, and he choked, clutching at Karthan as pain burned into him. ...I can't feel my left leg, he thought hazily, panting as the pain began to recede slightly. Without looking, he knew there was an alert message on screen telling him that Nataku's left leg was no longer operational. It's torn out the control systems... heading for the power plant... if that blows, the whole village is dead!

Snarling, he opened his eyes and grabbed for the controls.

I will not die like this!

---------------

Karthan yelped and staggered back, slipping on the blood, as Wufei's eyes glowed green and he snarled. Crackles of white energy ran over Wufei's skin, reaching out for the walls and blinking lights, and then they reached out for him--

Everywhere Wufei's blood had touched Karthan, white fire burned into him, and suddenly it felt as though someone had stabbed him in the back.

---------------

[cont]