Author: pyrzm
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Lost Souls + Chapter 29
Dark Times

Peacemillion, on course for White Fang Battle Station Libra, currently attacking Kushreneda's Barge

Noin floated down the suit bay, out of reach "Quatre, I know you think I'm making the wrong choice, but I have to speak with Zechs!"

"Miss Noin, I know you think you can reach him, but what if you're wrong?" Quatre called after her.

"I don't think I am." They'd been arguing this for two days and now she was really going to go, and on her own apparently.

Quatre knew he couldn't stop her, or let her throw her life away. "Well, then I'll just have to go with you. Sandrock is fixed, and deep space ready. You might need back up."

"Oh Quatre, are you sure?"

"There's lots of civilian colonies around Barge," a familiar voice called down from atop on of the transport shuttles. It was Duo, his braid floating like a slow writhing snake above his head. He grinned down at them. "Shouldn't be too hard to sneak up on Barge unnoticed, huh?"

"Duo, will you come with us?" Quatre called back. He had no say in the matter, really, now as always the Gundam pilots operated independently, but over the past weeks he'd come to think of Duo and Trowa as his team.

Duo's grin widened dangerously. "Yep. I want to let OZ and the guys at White Fang know that the God of Death is back, kicking ass and takin' names." He paused and glanced back over his shoulder.

Trowa floated into view. "Well, at the very least I guess I could cover for you guys."

"Trowa, that's great!"

Duo floated down toward them. "Well, now that that's settled, let's go do some damage!"

+

There was one hell of a battle raging when Duo and the others came in sight of Barge. The blackness of space was lit up with thousands of unnatural lights, both from suit exhausts, and frequent explosions and White Fang and the Treize faction slugged it out.

"Whoa, look at that!" Duo exclaimed over the com to the others. "How the hell are we supposed to find Zechs in all that?"

"He'll be in the thickest fighting," Noin commed back. "I want to get in good and close."

"We'll be right behind you," Quatre chimed in.

Trowa's suit shifted away. "I'll taking off to protect the civilian colonies."

"Man, talk about split second decisions!" Duo groused as Trowa's white suit swiftly dwindled away in the direction of the nearest colony.

"Trowa!" Quatre called out, sounding as much hurt as surprised.

"Quatre, enemies at one o'clock!" Noin called, before they could discuss the matter any further. A squadron of Treize's mobile doll's had found them and were bearing down fast.

"Well well, ain't this a nice welcome," Duo drawled, arming his scythe. "Allow me to make the first introductions."

He didn't have time to smash up more than a couple of dozen before a huge suit appeared in the midst of the battle.

"That's Epyon!" called Quatre. "Heero, you found us!"

Before they could get any further along than that, a huge red energy beam suddenly erupted from Barge's main beam cannon. Duo and the others barely managed to fly out of range before it shot past them, wiped out half a dozen of the lead White Fang ships and struck the colony Trowa had been heading for.

+

Trowa had been at the wrong angle to see the blast coming. Instead, all he saw was a huge section of the colony's outer hull blasted off into space. Turning his suit, he saw the last of the beam narrow off to nothing, traced straight back to Barge.

"No, how could they do that?" That was Quatre on the come, sounding stunned.

"A direct hit would have wiped out the whole colony!" Duo exclaimed angrily.

"Wait, what's going on?" Quatre sounded a little panicked. "Is that suit a friend or an enemy?"

Trowa switched the upper left section of his view screen to see what Quatre was looking at. It was a huge Gundam with a long metal tail. Was this Heero Yuy? If so, why did it look like he was preparing to take on the others in battle?

"You finally made it," a husky, amused sounding voice came over the com.

"Zechs? Is that you?" Noin called out.

"Zechs is piloting that? Then where the hell is Heero? Hey, Merquise, what did you do with 01?" Without waiting for an answer, 02 attacked.

+

The Epyon suit was unbelievably strong, as strong as Wing Zero, Duo soon learned as he was driven back, then Quatre.

"Zechs, no!" Noin cried.

But it was no use, and the only thing left to do was keep fighting.

Duo could tell that this was going nowhere fast. Even outnumbered, Merquise out flew and out hit them both, and Noin was no fucking help, since she seemed determined to hang back and try to reason with the bastard.

"Duo, check out Barge!" Quatre yelled.

Looking back in that direction, Duo saw a dangerous red glow building in the area of the huge beam cannon. "Fuck, I don't have time to be playing games with you, Merquise!"

He launched another hopeless attack, but a blur flew past his face screen and suddenly Merquise's suit was helpless, held from behind by Noin in hers. "I'll look after Zechs!" she called. "You go stop the Barge cannon!" "But Miss Noin!"

"Get going!" she barked.

"Quatre, we don't got time to argue. Come on!" Duo urged, already gone.

Noin left her com on, and Duo could hear the conversation that followed.

"Zechs? Don't you recognize my voice?"

"I can hear you, Noin."

"That's better." She sounded really relieved, and Duo remembered that they'd been friends and fellow officers in OZ before everything went nuts. "You owe me an explanation. Why have you been acting this way? Under Relena's rule, Earth is finally moving toward peace. How can you be her enemy?"

"It's just as I've declared." That husky voice sent a shiver down Duo's spine. That guy was chilly crazy, and no mistake. Deadly as ever, too, probably. He sure hoped Noin knew she had a tiger by the tail. "From the viewpoint of space, Earth is the source of all disputes, and always will be."

"Wait a second---ungh!!"

Merquise had broken away and had Noin at the point of his energy saber. "And that's why I'll set everything right." "You---You're really serious. You really believe that," gasped Noin.

Zechs didn't kill her, but blasted away just as another onslaught of mobile dolls closed in around her. There was nothing Duo could do. He closed his eyes for a moment and sent up a prayer to a god he didn't believe in, then set his sights ahead.

+

Trowa saw the others streaking for the cannon and left that to them, returning to cover Noin. "Watch out for yourself," he told her, firing at the dolls. "There's no sense dying here.

+

"Get out of my way!" Duo screamed, hacking through suit after suit with Quatre close beside him, doing the same. The cannon was almost within reach, almost there. . . Close enough to see the dangerous flickers of energy licking around in side the barrel.

"Come on!" Quatre yelled, breaking free and heading straight for it.

"Damn it, we're not going to make it!"

Suddenly a red blur rocketed between them at an unbelievable speed. It was Epyon, and he seemed to be after the same objective they were.

"We have no need for you in outer space!" He snarled, and smashed through the end of the cannon and a good section of Barge's hull with his enormous energy saber. In seconds explosions spread through the entire huge vessel.

"No!" Quatre gasped. "Barge is finished. All those people!"

Noin and Trowa joined them and watched in disbelief as the huge fortress was rocked by explosion after explosion.

Even Duo was moved by the sight. "That's the end. It's sinking."

"Oh Zechs!" Noin whispered, but Epyon was nowhere to be seen

+

And things only got more confusing from there. Duo and the others returned to Peacemillion and kept clear of White Fang. Even Noin seemed to think her precious friend Zechs was too far around the bend to reason with.

Duo felt bad for her. He knew how that felt.

+

A few days later Howard gathered them all on the bridge to watch a transmission from Romefeller Headquarters.

Treize stood on a high podium in an ornate chamber, facing the assembled leaders of the former nations of the Earth.

"Queen Relena has been relieved of her title. She is a free citizen, and will go where she chooses. We thank her for her service in the name of peace on Earth and in space."

I'm hereby making an announcement to the leaders of the world. What's the purpose of our world nation's existence? The previous sovereign, Queen Relena, said it was true peace. But were the people able to live in peace? The answer to that, sadly, is no. People continue to live in uncertainty and feel and feel threatened. Why is that? Because an armed organization calling themselves White Fang is challenging us to a war. We cannot stand for this tyrannical behavior. I say to the leaders of the world-no-I say this to all the citizens of the World Nation: Now is the time to unite as one force and fight against this threat from outer space. Our victory over them shall earn unity and peace for the Earth! Is that not our highest mission in this life?

The assembly met this with wild applause, the people united on both sides, and the war raged on.

+

Deep colony space.

Wufei fought to drive the forces of war from space. He fought to prove his integrity. He fought because there was nothing left for him to do but fight.

He entered colonies only long enough to restock his life support and armament systems, and found it difficult to interact with other people. He had no home, no roots, no connection to anyone. In every battle, he secretly prayed that he would meet his match and find peace at last, but it was no use. No one could stand against him, and because of that, he destroyed them without mercy.

He filled his heart with hate and fury. Without that, he could not keep the pain at bay.

Even so, he was not blind to his own failings. He attacked White Fang's Libra battle satellite and was driven back, not by the mindless dolls, but by their heavy armaments. Perhaps it was too much to expect, for a Gundam to take on an entire fortress, but he could not forgive himself for his failure, or his survival.

He felt a spark of hope when he faced Zechs Merquise there. The man was brilliant, if mad, and he flew a mighty new Gundam, the Epyon. Wufei came alive for a little while, fighting him, but in the end Merquise failed him like all the others. First he tried to convince Wufei to join his cause, and then he broke off the combat and left without resolution. Again.

It took hours for Wufei to master his frustration and his racing heart. His whole body ached with it.

Exhausted, empty, he fought on until the Altron was a battered, malfunctioning wreck. Out of ammo, out of food, his water supply dwindling, Wufei was left floating in space with bare life support. A useless death, and all he deserved. When he intercepted Merquise's transmission, declaring war on the Earth, he hardly had the will to care, much less the strength to do anything about it.

+

Perhaps the spirits of his ancestors took pity on him at last, unworthy as he was. Out of the darkness, a huge transport approached piloted by Heero Yuy and Sally Po.

The docking bay opened and he maneuvered Altron into a bay. There were several other suits stored there, and he glanced at them curiously as he made his way up to the cockpit. Po was piloting and smiled back over her shoulder at him. Yuy just scowled and grunted.

"So you're still fighting?" Wufei said, crossing his arms and looking at the two of them.

"You took the words right out of my mouth," Sally chuckled. He'd forgotten how maddeningly flippant she was with him.

"That suit I saw in the bay was Merquise's, wasn't it? Are you flying it now, Yuy?"

"Yeah."

"What about that other one. It looks like Heavyarms. Where's Barton?"

Yuy told him how Winner had gone Zero in a powerful new suit, and how he'd attacked not only a colony but Barton and Yuy as well, while they were piloting OZ suits. Wufei was surprised at Yuy's lack of anger at Winner. He gave little beyond the bare details of the incident, but there was an odd look in his eye, especially after Sally added that Barton had been found alive recently. Yuy seemed colder and more distant than he had in the prison cell they'd shared, yet there was a hint of deeply buried emotion in his eyes.

"Where are you heading?" he asked. "Libra's in the opposite direction."

"We're heading for the Peacemillion. Noin is waiting there, and she has the three other Gundam pilots with her."

Wufei scowled. All he wanted to do was refuel and resupply and get back to his solitary war.

Sally read his mind. "We're almost out of supplies here. On Peacemillion they've got everything you need, as well as engineers who can repair your Gundam. You can go attack Libra any time after that, right?"

"You want me to join you?" He glanced at Heero, but he said nothing, gave away nothing. It looked like he could care less what Wufei did. For an instant that bothered him. During those long, empty days in that cell they'd become friends, or so he'd thought. Heero seemed like a stranger now.

Sally, on the other hand, seemed to know that he had little choice and was enjoying it. "You can use Peacemillion as a base for your own agenda if you want. Hell, I thought this was an offer you couldn't refuse."

Wufei snorted and sat down, smoothing the front of his white tunic.

"Wufei?" she chided, as if he was some rude child.

"Thanks for your kindness, but I'm not making any deals," he shot back. Wufei had no intention of doing that, any more than he'd considered Merquise's offer. The very thought made him feel even more cold and dead inside. No, he would repair his suit and go back to his lonely battle.

"Wufei!"

"Just drop it," Yuy muttered. "He does things his own way."

Well, at least we still understand one another, thought Wufei. Wufei had more proof of that less than an hour later, when they came under fire from a roving squadron of White Fang with mobile dolls. Yuy stepped aside, and gave him his own suit to fight in. He had that odd look in his eye again, almost as if he was playing some trick on him.

"Don't let the Zero system disorient you," he warned, showing him the cockpit.

"I need no help!" Wufei snapped, climbing in. He was surprised that Yuy would stoop to letting a computer system control him. "Why are you doing this?"

Heero just shrugged and said, "While you're piloting the Zero, it will tell you who your true enemies are."

The Zero was built on the same plan as the other Gundams, but with improvements almost identical to those on his Altron.

"Come on, Zero. Show me what you've got!" he cried as he burst from the shuttle and fired a test round.

The Virgos and dolls were on him at once, and he waded in, hacking with the beam saber in close combat.

The road I'm taking is the correct choice!
he thought as they fell before him, as always.

In the midst of the battle, however, something happened. A bright golden glow filled the cockpit, blinding him, and he felt a strange, drugged sensation.

"No!" he cried, fighting the system. "I'll fight alone, on my own, until the day I die!"

He had no way to control it, however, and when it took over, it truly was like a drug. His senses expanded. Suddenly he seemed to see in 360 degrees, and the suit became like his own body, its metal skin his skin, sensitive to every change in battle. It was wonderful.

But then something happened. The Zero system engulfed his consciousness, took over his mind, showing him a confusing muddle of images. There were flashes of battles, including those he'd fought with Treize Kushreneda. Then he saw them in a new battle, their suits clashing and dancing against the stars. It thrilled him as nothing had in months. His whole body tingled, as if they were really fighting.

"You are my destiny," he whispered. "You will be my death. That is my future!"

But then the image was replaced by something else. He saw the faces of the other four pilots there before him against the backdrop of space, and they were woven into his destiny, too. This was less welcome, but no less strong. Zero showed him, in unequivocal terms, that he must swallow his pride and work with them, that they were the only ones in the entire universe he could ally with and not lose honor. In fact, they needed him.

In the midst of this, his com channel brought him Milliardo Peacecraft's declaration of war against the Earth.

Floating in space, surrounded by the debris of his latest victory, Chang Wufei felt a fresh thrill as he bowed his head. "My enemies are Treize Kushreneda and Milliardo Peacecraft. I will defeat them. That's what I must do!"

+

He defeated the dolls easily and returned to the transport chagrinned and thoughtful, and grudgingly muttered that he would stay.

Lying in the narrow bunk they gave him hours later, he could not sleep. He missed the con chair and the comforting confines of his Gundam. It was hard to relax, lying in a real bed. He felt exposed and vulnerable. The thought that he was not in charge of the controls of this craft brought on something very like panic. He closed his eyes and controlled his breathing, trying to escape into a meditative state. The image of Kushreneda came to him behind his eyelids, but as he'd been that day of the disastrous dual. He was standing over Wufei, and he was smiling as he promised that they would fight again. It was almost as if he'd known what Zero had shown Wufei, back then. And Wufei felt gratitude, and kissed his boot.

Shocked at himself, he gave up and went to the suit bay, thinking to spend the rest of the sleep cycle in the cockpit.

He found Yuy there, tinkering with Wing's external guns. Wufei grunted a greeting and started for his own suit.

"Chang?"

He stopped and found Yuy still staring down at the parts he'd been working on. "Yes, what is it?"

Yuy looked up at him, and Chang noticed for the first time how terribly tired he looked. Not weak, or beaten, just used up. "Do you dream?"

Wufei blinked in surprise, ill at ease with the question. "Yes," he snapped, and moved on to his suit. He had no desire to be reminded of his dreams. They were all of death, destruction, and his own numerous failures. He comforted himself with the vision Zero had shown him. He would meet Kushreneda again, and this time it would be a proper battle against a worthy opponent. He would have his peace.

[ch. 28] [ch. 30] [back to Pyrzm's fic]