Author: CeeDee
see # 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Thanks to Sakusha for the fast betaing and for her wonderful suggestions. As for Ellimaru, she has had her say in it now, too - thanks girls!

Future of the Past - #12
Uriel

{(Ministration) A patron angel of literature and music, Uriel bestows
upon us the gift of creative fire, as well as the power of prophecy.
We appeal to him for foresight into the future and for help in developing
our psychic abilities. Uriel is an angel of transformation, archangel of
salvation, regent of the sun, overseer of Tartarus, and is the spirit of
ministration and peace. He helps turn our worst disappointments into
our greatest blessings. He is one of the angels of chance (as in gambling),
emergencies, judgment, and scroll.}


+

"Impossible," Trowa whispered.

I shook my head vehemently. "I won't leave them here."

"We don't have the capacity..." he began, but I didn't let him finish. I knew Trowa enough to know that he wanted to save them as much as I did. Now, if I could just convince him of my plan...

"We can put them in the ships. If the Xetoins can reach Earth in them, so can they," I replied, in a low voice.

He blinked. "And who's going to pilot? Them? Do you know how many people you're talking about?" Trowa hissed and gripped my arm. "You can't save them all."

"Autopilot, Tro." I tapped on his forehead with my finger and he smacked my hand away. "You remember? The ships have autopilot. We just need the right frequency to control them."

Trowa glared at me, irritated over the intrusive gesture. "And how will we get them into the ships? We can't even communicate with them."

"We have translators for understanding the Xetoins." I tapped at the small device on my arm. "The Xetoins must have something similar for making these people understand them. At the very least, they might understand Xetoin, too," I shrugged.

Trowa shook his head and sighed. "You are insane, you know that?"

I just grinned. I got him.

We were crouched in a maintenance tube just behind the main control center of the Xetoin carrier. We'd pulled out the metal paneling to give ourselves access to the main computer, dug through the wiring and connected our data pads, testing. It took a while, with Bethor guiding us around the layout, electric and wiring plans, but finally I was satisfied. You could even see inside the room from the crack between the floor and the console. I'd added a spy cam, just for good measure.

We could not believe how arrogant the Xetoins were. They hadn't even considered the possibility that they could be breached, and spied on, or that their ship could be, slowly and steadily, rigged with explosives. They hadn't even picked up on our communications with Bethor.

They were completely predictable. We had observed them now for four days. Everything they did seemed to be scheduled. They did the same thing, same time, everyday. Like clockwork.

I'd spent the time plotting. First, we had to make sure of our means of escape. We would use the Xetoin's own ships for that. Originally, they carried a crew of ten, but after studying the blueprints, we found that they could house up to twenty-five easily.

As for communication with the prisoners, they used an intercom system. I'd seen it. I was sure we could use it to reach all of them. We had to get them out before we detonated the bombs.

From the look on Trowa's face, I saw he contemplated something similar. "We're going to have to take all the ships, even the ones we don't use for the prisoners," Trowa mulled, "so that the Xetions can't follow. Any bright ideas as to how we're going to make that happen?"

I shrugged and held up the headset connected to my Gundam's AI. "Call our buddies to hang out there and pick us up. We can destroy the rest of the ships if we have to. AI is a wonderful thing."

He smirked and nodded. "Okay. Brief me."

I sighed, relieved, and we went over the details. Now we just had to spy out and wire the command center, and convince the rest of the 'mad five'.

+

'No.' Heero's voice was hard.

Just as I expected. I sighed. 'You haven't seen them, 'Ro. For fuck's sake, there are children.' I had talked my mouth, err, mind raw. I explained my plan and tried to convince the other three. They broke communication while they thought about it. Trowa and I sat in silence for almost half an hour waiting. They didn't sound convinced when they had returned.

'You can't direct this many people by yourself, or by intercom. You still have to convince them that they're in danger and that you are there to help them.' He was unwavering.

'Shit, 'Ro. We have to try. Please.'

'Duo,' Quatre's voice came over the com. 'Listen. We...'

'No.' I interrupted him and shook my head. How could they? 'I won't leave them here to die. No. Way.'

'Maxwell.' Wufei sounded stern. 'No one said that. Listen, damnit.'

Wow, Wufei swore. I gaped. That sure shut me up.

Quatre snickered. Can one snicker over mindcom? Apparently. 'We will stage an attack and infiltrate. You two are not enough. We will start with the males. We will communicate our plan and have them lead the women and children. Okay? You need them. We five can cover eighty two cells.'

I nodded, relieved. 'Kay. Eighty. I've covered two already.'

'Don't I know it,' Heero sighed over the com, 'don't do anything stupid.'

It was our fifth day here. We replicated rations aboard our hijacked ship. We finished with the command center and fine-tuned our plans. Howard completed the control we would use to pilot the Xetoin ships; he just needed the right frequency. We would need that information very soon.

I'd earlier sneaked into the room we stumbled upon before. The seeding room. I tried to talk to the young male who had spoken to me before. He didn't look to be much older than twenty, could have been late teens. Crouching in front of the cell I tried speaking, tried gestures, tried anything I could think of. But he obviously didn't get it, nor did any of the others. But as I switched on my translator and the chirping sounds came out of it, their faces lit up. They each had a small necklace and fingered them. They had their own translators.

And so, we got along. I asked and got answers, they asked and I answered. The summary was that they were all born on this ship, and stayed with their mothers until they were old enough to reproduce. Then they were tested. If they were declared able, they were taken for 'seeding' - I shuddered at that - which happened every few days. It reminded me of old pictures of cows. They were simply milked... for their seed.

I was told that most male children are born sterile, but nobody could tell me what happened to them. I had an idea, since we had not found any other males yet, other than in these cells. And all the people here were quite young. No one seemed older than twenty-five, at the most. They really were held like cattle to breed. Food farms. If they're not useful any more...

They looked very much human, but different in many ways. Their bone structures were finer, their skin very pale, as Trowa had observed earlier. Hairless, but for their heads. They couldn't tell me exactly from where they came. All they knew were stories. It was all tales, heard from their mothers. A peaceful, blue world with two suns and five moons, called Karem. Their technology was advanced, space travel was quite normal. Not that I'd expected them to really grasp the meaning of the term 'advanced technology.' They'd been explorers, a friendly species.

They had been surprised by the aggressive Xetoins, and their world was conquered. They were the last of their kind. The Xetoins had destroyed their world, plundering any useful technology they found, then decimating the rest. They took any survivors with them, as they made their way in search for the next possible target. The Xetoins were like locust. They destroyed everything in their wake.

I had a hard time keeping my rage from showing. And I had a harder time trying to explain to them that this life they led wasn't how it was supposed to be. They simply knew nothing else. I decided that the only way this would work was if they were given orders. It was something they knew. Everything else was just too new, and now wasn't the time. I kept this in mind as I approached the next holding cell. It went better this way, quite well, in fact. They were intelligent, but raw.

I decided to poke deeper in their history. If the Xetoins had plundered their technology, there had to be something in the databases about these Karems.

+

We barely had time to hide when the warning sounded. The guys could have given us some warning that they were going to attack right then. All at once, the place was teeming with Xetoins, and I scrambled like a maniac through the maintenance hoses to the command center. I had to know how they directed their ships.

The control room was packed with them. I linked the spy cam to watch. There was no panic or shouting. They did their work in an arrogant manner, swiftly, and efficient, as if it was irrelevant that they'd lose another chunk of their ships. The attack was nothing but a minor inconvenience. In the end, they were sure they would succeed, it was clear to understand. But I got what I wanted.

They were in for a surprise.

It wasn't long, maybe an hour, and it was over. I waited until all the ships had checked in, the fuss had died down and they fell back into their routines. Then I scrambled back and met with Trowa to give him the details. As the others reported in, we parted and began our secondary mission goal - the Karem prisoners.

And we still had to work our way through to the Queen, in the centre of the carrier.

+

"Get your ass in gear," I murmured to myself, as I made my way back, exhausted.

I'd done my share and now I crept through one of the tubes, trying to cut the distance by crawling through to the middle. I had used almost a full day getting to the cells, more time than I had expected.

I pulled out my data pad to check my position, as I came to another junction. Looking at the illuminated screen, I realized that I was nearer to the center than ever. I licked my lips, and sat back. Fuck, but this was the chance I was looking for, wasn't it? Time to act, and fast. We all knew the plan. It didn't matter which one of us carried it out.

Tucked in the tube, I sat there, legs tucked up to my chest, shins cradled in my arms, and lightly thumped my head against the wall. Sooner or later it would come to this. Why the hell not right now? I snorted softly. Who'd have thought that my little test run with Ezgadi would turn out to be a full-grown mission? A Nightmare. With aliens.

Although, one nice thing had come out of all of it. We five were together again. And we'd spent a nice time together, on Bethor. A time which would be over soon. And it had gifted me with Heero. Heero...

I blinked against the sting in my eyes, and swallowed, hard. So much time had gone by, wasted...

I exhaled heavily. Go on, Duo, shove it. Gotta go. I turned left instead of right, and my decision was made. I smiled softly to myself. Silently working my way through the maintenance system woke memories of Oz bases. And it didn't take too long before I was pinged over my com.

'Yeah,' I answered silently.

'Duo...' Heero sounded hesitant. 'What are you doing?'

'Going for the kill,' I answered, 'almost in position.'

There was a long pause. 'You won't vanish,' he said suddenly. There was conviction in his voice. 'When this is over, you're still going to be here.'

I froze. 'What?'

'Think, Duo,' He coaxed, 'Treize's vid on Bethor. Your parents. All this... Wufei killed Treize, and still, there is the vid of an old Treize. Bethor still exists, sent from Treize.'

'But...'

'It was only one possibility. One of many.' He didn't stop to let me speak. 'I traced your ancestors in Bethor's system. One of them... he was at the conference. He was... one of the pacifists, who died as... my mission, on which...'

'Heero...' I started, but he interrupted again.

'He died here, Duo, in our timeline. Childless. I know. From the time I... I traveled with Trowa. After...'

'After you self-destructed Wing,' I finished for him.

'Yes,' he confirmed. 'And... and still, you are here.'

I licked my lips and sat down, cross-legged. ''kay. I... I have to think...'

'You were the one who always saw the glass as half-full... weren't you?'

Not really. But I made an affirmative sound, anyway.

'I have a bad feeling. Please, don't go alone. I... Wufei is closest to you. Wait for him. Duo, please.'

'But...'

'We'll start the evac in six hours and strike at the command centre after the shift change. Until then, Wufei is there to back you up, and you both can strike. Trust me.'

I settled myself down for the wait. 'I do.'

+

I came aware with a start. I heard a faint, scraping sound, a soft rustle of clothes. Wufei. Xetoins wouldn't bother trying to be so quiet. I grinned, opened my eyes and turned my head in direction of the sound.

'Zero-five?'

'Roger, zero-two,' came the answer.

'Took you long enough.' My grin widened as he came in my line of sight. How someone could keep his dignity while crouching a full day through maintenance tubes was beyond me. But he did. He looked not the slightest bit rumpled. Hair still in a tight ponytail, clothes in order. The hilt of his sword peeked over his left shoulder. I wasn't as surprised as I should have been that he'd actually brought it with him.

'Status?' he asked.

'Rested,' I still grinned at him.

He let his eyes roam over me and I couldn't interpret the expression on his face. Relieved? Sympathetic? 'You look as if you've spent the last week in a sewer.'

'Why, thank you. That's exactly what I did,' I grimaced as I rubbed the one week stubble on my chin. I must reek, too. Now, as I thought about it, I could smell myself. Eek.

Let's get over with it. I wanted to be back onboard Bethor. Soak in a shower. Sleep in a real bed. Roll in the sheets with Heero...

I rolled over on my stomach and stretched. I could hear my joints and muscles pop. 'Time?'

'Two hours until they take over the command centre and start evacuation. Expect some turmoil then,' he replied.

I nodded, my face grim. Until then, we would wait in position. Then we would take out the queen. By the time the Xetoins realized something was amiss, Heero would have already broken into the mainframe of the carrier and taken control from them.

We silently made our way.

There were no maintenance tubes at the queen's quarters itself. I replaced the cover of the tube we crawled out of, and stood in the last maintenance room. It's the closest we could get. Still pretty damn close. Expect Xetoins. Lots of them. We had ten minutes. I turned and noticed Wufei stretching and doing exercises. Warm up for the dance. I joined him until I felt my muscles loosen and warm up as well.

With a swoosh the door slid open as I palmed the pad. And sure enough, there stood three very startled looking Xetoins not a few feet away. I heard Wufei draw his sword. A blur shot past me, a glittering shadow, a few grunts and the Xetoins lay on the floor.

I blinked as I stepped out of the room. "You coulda left me at least one of them," I said, as I looked up from the corpses to Wufei.

He just shrugged, lips tilted up at one end, his eyes trained over my shoulder. I knew there were more. I ducked and whirled around, knife in my hand and gone almost the same instant, imbedded between the eyes of one Xetoin. It fell backwards into the path of five others. I sprinted forward, up the steps, ripped the knife from its head before it met the ground.

My left hand closed around the throat of one of them and I whirled it around against me, while I delivered a full kick at another's head. A crunching sound was heard as my foot made contact and I let the knife fly again. It met one of them in its throat. In one motion I brought my arm back from throwing position, gripped the head of the Xetoin pressed against me, and broke its neck. It crumpled to the floor as I let go. It was over in a matter of seconds.

I glance at Wufei. His stance was ready, sword loose in his hand, splattered with blood. He had taken care of the rest of them. It had almost been too easy. During the fight, it seemed as if the Xetoins moved in slow motion, but I knew it was because of our enhanced speed.

I grimaced. Wouldn't do us any good if they alarmed the whole ship. Until now, we had managed to kill them almost soundlessly, but it would only be a matter of time until our luck ran out. Starting forward, I broke in a quiet run down the hallway towards our destination. I stopped short at the last corner, indicating a forking into two wide hallways, going around the Queen's den.

Quickly, I recalled the plans in my head. This was the centre. From this hallway out, every junction would lead away from it. Entry would be to our left, and I peered around the corners. To the right, Xetoins. And they were coming our way. At least five, prodding a group of boys, cuffed and stumbling. Teenagers. I reared back and almost bumped into Wufei behind me.

'Five tangos and ten prisoners,' I reported as I pressed myself against the wall, fighting down the growing wave of fear. 'Kids.'

'Roger.'

He felt it, too. The Xetoins used their ability to hold their prisoners in check. We waited until the first of the boys stumbled past our position, and then we attacked. But this time we had to be careful of the teens. They stood in our way, frozen, but a hindrance anyway. One of the Xetoins grabbed a boy to use as a shield. It let out a shrill whistling sound before Wufei could silence it. Crap.

The hallway was crawling with Xetoins almost instantly. We took out as many as we could, but eventually their sheer number overwhelmed us. My head cracked against the floor as a wall of bodies forced me down. I craned my neck, seeing that Wufei fared no better. A jolt of pain jarred through me as a stick was held against my chest and I blacked out.

+

Captured. It took me a moment to come to. I fought down the urge to tense my muscles, to get up and fight, or to even open my eyes. I forced myself to stay relaxed and still. I needed to know my status first. I felt cool metal around my wrists. My hands were cuffed in front of me. I listened to Xetoin sounds, clangs of metal, and sounds of someone dragging something. I could hear the groans and whimpers of children. I decided I had to give up the pretence of being unconscious in favour of knowing what the hell was going on.

Slowly, I opened my eyes and blinked. Grey metal bars came into focus. I had a headache, from banging my head on the floor. Great. They had stuffed me into a cage. But this one wasn't as big as the ones I had seen before. It was much smaller. Slowly, I came up to my knees, cautious not to bang my already hurting head on the ceiling, and looked around. I was in one of many cages. They were lined on the wall, in a room shaped like a half-circle. Most of the cages were occupied.

The Xetoins ignored me. They were too busy shoving children into cages and dragging out lifeless bodies into the middle of the room.

I squinted my eyes at the bodies, and gasped. Unexpectedly a flash of my past flooded my mind, and I was transported back in time. The lifeless bodies were replaced with the charred corpses in the ruins of the church, once my home, on L2. I could almost smell the smoke. Squeezing my eyes shut, I shook my head sharply, and swallowed hard, before I opened them again. I was mad, not only for the murdered boys, but for my own memories.

Wufei, too, lay in a cage, a few over to the right. He seemed to still be out of it. But with him, you never knew. I pinged him.

'Zero-five?'

'Captured, operational,' was his reply. 'Status?'

I snorted. He only had to look. 'Same.'

'You able to get out?' He still hadn't moved.

I eyed the electronic locks on my cuffs and on the cage. 'Negative with the locks,' I tested the cuffs, 'but maybe by force. We still have to get the queen.'

His head came up and he looked at me. 'Just now I can't see how. You plan on chatting her to death?'

I grinned at him. 'Maybe.'

I reported our misfortune to Heero, but he didn't seem all that concerned about us. Huh. At least their part was done; the evac was under way and the control centre in our possession. I was just angry about the twenty minutes we lost while I was out. But not as livid as I was with the scum, busy with disposing of the bodies.

"Hey, shithead!" I called out to one of the Xetoins.

They froze as the device on my arm chirped the translation. They looked at me, and I felt a wave of fear brush over me. I shook it off. One of them replied, "Quiet, foodstuff."

"You fish-faced excuse for a mishap by evolution, I just wanted to tell you all to surrender. You are conquered," I announced, with a false sweet smile.

Wufei groaned.

I'm sure they thought I was insane and wondered why the little display of their ability had no effect. Looking at me, then to Wufei, then back, one of them let the dead body in his arms fall. He turned and stalked out of the room. I winced as the body fell to the floor with a thud, looking crumpled. I had been mad before, but that made my anger flare. I gritted my teeth. These animals. Murdering a bunch of kids and disposing of them like trash. No respect at all.

I glared at the remaining four Xetoins with murder in my eyes. If looks could kill...

Wufei's hiss brought my eyes back to the door. Oops. A Xetoin stood there, twice as big as the ones we had encountered beforehand. Clearly of higher rank, the others bowed before him.

"Ohh, you brought reinforcements? Afraid of a little human?" I drawled at the room in general.

The big one trained his eyes on me and a jolt of panic shot through me. Whoa. Instinctively, I scrambled back against the bars behind me, panting, and closed my eyes, trying to find my centre. God, but that one had a lot more punch behind it than a bunch of the smaller ones. I bowed my head, chin to my chest, and took a few deep breaths through my nose, fighting down the false emotion, and then reached down into that dark place I knew I had. I felt it that darkness flooding through me and I embraced it, welcomed it, and then I opened my eyes to stare back at him from under my bangs.

It tilted his head, taking a few steps in my direction, chirping. 'You wanted to say something?'

"No shit," I laughed, cold and darkly. I knew something it didn't knew. "You are about to die." I gestured at the cages. "Let them go."

Just then, it seemed to notice that I wasn't all too impressed by its display. It narrowed its eyes.

'You are not behaving like foodstuff.'

I snorted, contemptuous. "Someone shit in your head and forgot to stir? Of course not. Because we are not." Lifting my head I stared at it, square in the eyes, whispering, "We are your nemesis."

Its eyes flickered to Wufei, who had settled down on his heels, radiating confidence, his body ready to spring into motion. But the Xetoin seemed unconcerned. Dumbass.

Slowly, I brought up my cuffed hands up in front of me and said, "Open the cages. Now." A click was heard as Heero, in the command centre, released the locks on all the cages at once and the doors sprang open.

From the corner of my eyes I saw Wufei spring into motion. I coiled out of my cage, too. He could take care of himself. Even with cuffed hands, he was as deadly without his sword as with it.

They were stunned. I launched myself at the big one, landing a few blows and kicks, but it was big and I barely reached its elbow with the top of my head. It recoiled and dodged, snatching two of the freed boys by their throats. He held them high, suspended in the air and chirped in triumph as I stopped cold.

'You want them alive? Surrender.'

I glanced aside, and saw Wufei, having already finished the other four, standing in a crouch, ready to attack again. Cold, dark fury shot through me. I shivered at the feeling and hissed hatefully through clenched teeth, "Bastard." But in reality I willed it to drop dead.

It let out a high scream which reminded me of a dying bird... and I blinked, remembering the dream I had not long ago. I watched, detachedly, as it crumbled to the floor and I just knew it was dead. My mind recalled the dream, the feeling of cold, dark power, born in fury and rage. I stood there, frozen, and remembered the fight in the bar.

It was me. I wondered if it was my rage or my shouting that had gotten the reaction it did. And why? The enhancement? I'd already suspected Quatre was what was considered a Newtype; was I too? Brought out by the serum? Heero's hunches...

"Duo." Wufei's hand on my elbow brought me out of my reverie and I jumped.

I turned to him, eyes wide. What if I hurt them, too? Quatre, Trowa, Wufei, Heero? Accidentally, when my temper flared? I had a temper, and I knew it. What if...

"Duo. Snap out of it." He shook me. "We have a mission to complete." Wufei pressed something to my cuffs and they fell away. I rubbed my wrists, noticing that he'd already freed himself. And he wasn't all too surprised about all of this. Why? I decided we'd have to have a talk later.

I swallowed. Yes. Yes, the queen. We had to kill her. I took a deep breath. My eyes roamed around. "What..." I licked my lips, "what about them?"

Wufei turned in a circle and took in the sight around us, an agonized look on his face. A few of the kids came out of the cages when they had opened, but many stayed, out of fear. They looked frightened, weak, and starved. Some were too far gone to do more than twitch. Some of them only looked as old as we had been when we first piloted our Gundams. The rest were not much older. These were the unfortunate souls not able to sire. I counted fifty of them. The private food supply of the Queen.

My rage bubbled up to the surface again and I made a split-second decision.

'Status of operation?' I snarled over the com, in a conference.

Wufei twitched.

'At least twenty minutes until take off,' Quatre responded.

I took out Scythe's headset and put it on. 'Give me a point of entry. Straightest to the centre.'

'Uh, Duo?'

'Coordinates, Quatre,' I snapped.

He passed them on and I ordered Deathscythe's AI to the coordinates.

"Maxwell..." Wufei started, and I turned, seeing he also had his headset on.

I turned to him and smirked. "Mind if Altron accompanies my buddy on a rescue mission?"

Deathscythe's AI reported to be on point and I notified Quatre. 'Knock knock. Open the door and let my buddy in.'

Through the link with the Gundam's AI, I could 'see' the carrier open up, letting Deathscythe in. I still had a hard time getting over the effect sometimes. It was baffling while in the Gundam, but mentally being in two places at the same time? Wow.

'Bethor, start a shuttle to my Gundam's coordinates.'

'Roger.' Bethor's AI answered.

"Maxwell, there is only one seat in..." Wufei said.

I held a hand up, stopping his comment. I needed concentration to do this. The Gundam was in the carrier, in front of the honeycomb shaped docks. Good. Now came the tricky part.

There were a lot of people trying to get to the ships, and I was scaring the shit out of them with my Gundam, I'm sure. I had to be careful. My mouth was dry as I directed my Gundam to pluck one of the ships out of its dock, then I powered up the Scythe. It was like surgery. It cut through the back wall of the dock like butter, managed not to disrupt the catwalks behind it too much.

Careful. Be careful, I chanted to myself. I wanted to plunge through the walls, but I forced myself to remember the people in the hallways and on the catwalks. The hand of my buddy caught the falling wall and I turned the mecha and hurled it out of the carrier through the still open hexagon.

I let out a breath. Now that the initial cut was done, I had to modify the size to fit the Gundam. The scythe cut through metal like no one's business and my buddy slowly but steadily made progress. Made of two storeys one. It ripped through the carrier's hallways and sparks flew, but it was of no concern to me. By now, the Xetoins had to know that something major was going on. I ordered my Gundam to come to my location; the AI would follow instructions, and then I came out of the trance-like state I had been in, putting the images to the back of my mind. I was sweating, and completely mentally drained.

I noticed I was panting, and grinning like a madman, as Wufei gripped my arm and gave me a shake. "What are you doing? How will you..."

"Don't worry," I replied, smirking. "I have a camouflage net on board Scythe. Altron coming?"

He nodded sharply and looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

"We'll use the net as a hammock between our Gundams and carry them," I nodded my chin at the kids, "to the hangar in it. It should be big enough. Bethor started a shuttle. You go with them and see if there are any others. Our friends are most likely otherwise occupied by now." I quirked a sarcastic grin and took a deep breath, "I'll take care of the Xetoin Queen. And the rest of them."

I turned and marched out of the room, letting Wufei stay and take care of the kids.

Shinigami had Xetoins to kill.

[part 11] [part 13] [back to Singles a - k]