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

Coughs, yes, many thanks for my lovely Betas *reaches cookies*, and their hard work in trying to hammer the english grammar in my head...
namely Ellimaru and Sakusha...

Future of the Past - #10
Shekinah

{(Liberating Angel) A female angel of liberation and freedom. Always close to humankind, Shekinah inspires mortals to be just and fair. Some believe that she is the female part of creation, the feminine aspect of the Creator. She is especially healing of body, mind and spirit. Who delivers the world in all ages. She is very close to mankind and is never separated from the just.}

+

We saw the civilians off and decided to adjourn to our quarters. There really was nothing left to do other than wait for the shuttles to return. Then we would set an intercepting course for the Xetoins. In stealth mode.

I still wasn't over the unexpected attention I had gotten from Relena. We weren't especially acquainted. There were only one or two times during the war, when she had chased after Heero, that we had met. Okay, I had saved her life once, but that was so long ago… I wondered where her faith in me had come from. And then there was that folder she had waved around during that debate with the big shots. It seems that she had kept tabs on us.

"Heero?" I snuggled deeper into his embrace and adjusted my head on his shoulder.

"Hmm?"

"What were you and Relena talking about?"

He was quiet for a while. "You. She asked me about you. And us."

"Why?"

He sighed. "Look. She knew. I mean about me, us. Ahh…" he lifted a hand and raked it through his hair. "I told her, you know? Back then."

"Explain."

"After the kidnapping incident with Mariemeia, remember?"

"Hmm." I slowly drew circles on his chest with my fingertips.

"She came to the hospital. She wanted... something more than just friendship. I told her I wasn't interested, because… and that I was in love with a guy. You."

"You told her? Just like that?"

"No," he chuckled. "Not *just* like that. But she was rather… demanding. And I was pretty down at the time, you know? You'd gone back to Hilde… and the diagnosis… and I…"

"So you had a heart to heart with her."

"You could say that. Although, she had to… pry the words out of me."

"I can imagine," I sighed. "So she knew, the whole time."

"Yes."

"And she kept tabs on me."

"Not too intensive, but yes. I mean, it wasn't so in depth that someone would have discovered that Hilde and you weren't…" He paused. " She kept tabs on the others, too."

"And you?"

He shook his head. "I slipped through her net intentionally. I was in hiding. You guys were not."

"Oh." I was quiet for a while. "So, they all knew about you... but me. Relena, Quatre, Trowa and Wufei." I couldn't help sounding a little harsh about it.

Heero came up and leaned on his elbow, looking at me earnestly. "Only Relena knew at the time. The others only found out after I came to stay with Quatre. At the time, I thought I was going to die. I *was* dying." He got a faraway look in his eyes, no longer looking at me. "And they cared. They were together, Quatre and Trowa. I couldn't hide my feelings. I was… jealous of what they had. Quatre felt it." Heero closed his eyes. "At first, he thought I was jealous of one of them. I… I had a breakdown. I told him everything. And then Quatre's informants said that you were seen on the Luna station. Quatre tried calling you then. And then we saw the news, about your ship. We knew there had to be something big going on, since he couldn't get a hold of you..."

I gnawed at my lower lip. Okay. I could understand that.

"…I wanted so badly to see you again, one last time…" He took a deep breath.

"Hey," I reached up and cupped his cheek in my hand. "It's okay, you're okay, now. We're okay."

He nodded, "I know." He leaned down and kissed me. "I know." And then he was the one who snuggled and laid his head on my chest, an arm thrown over my waist.

But it wasn't okay, and he knew, and I knew.

+

Maybe it was fate. This lover of mine had really creepy hunches, sometimes.

We sat on the bridge and stared at the screens, going over the specs. We were racing through our solar system on an intercepting course with the Xetoins. We had five days.

I looked to Heero and noticed how tense he looked. "What is it, Heero?"

"It doesn't feel right."

"What doesn't feel right?" Wufei asked.

"I don't know. Something." He wetted his lips. "If they really come out of the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy…" Heero trailed off as his eyes narrowed. "When does the invasion take place? In April?"

"They're too small to travel such a distance. They would require a base of some sort," Trowa said.

Heero hesitated. "Yes."

"There must be a carrier somewhere," I said, feeling dread creeping up on me.

"Or more," Wufei said.

"Their Galaxy is supposed to collapse." Quatre typed rapidly at the controls and scanned the monitors. "If your world was going to go under, what would you do if you had the technical capabilities?"

"Go and search for a new one," Heero said. "That's it. The Milky Way is the next Galaxy to them. They're out to colonize."

"It's not like we're the only Solar system. There are two hundred billion stars in the Milky Way," I said. "If I could, I'd flood the Galaxy with scout ships. Every ship would search a grid area. If they are somehow in contact…"

"This is not good," Wufei sighed and rubbed his face with both hands. "About how many carriers are we talking about?"

I shrugged.

"We have to destroy the carrier first," Quatre said. "If they lose contact with all of the scouts at once, they'll know something is up. They could send reinforcements. Every ship they have would be on alert."

"What if the carrier vanishes suddenly?" Heero asked. "They'll still investigate."

"Shit." I raked my hand through my bangs. "Another unknown factor. We need to know exactly what were going up against before we can do anything."

Quatre nodded. "We will ignore the five scouts for now. We have to go against the carrier. We'll gather info, just like they're doing."

"Do you know what you're saying?" Wufei replied. "You want to go against a ship which has crossed thousands of light-years, without knowing what kind of technology you are facing or what kind of resistance we'll be met with."

"You have a better plan?" I asked.

Wufei shook his head. "No," He sighed. "No. Sadly, I do not."

Heero smirked. "We could split up."

"No way," I said, glaring at him. "Bethor, deepen scan. Raster near infrared and multi object spectrometer observation. Direction Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy."

"Scanning." Bethor replied.

"Bethor, is there anything in your database about a carrier or a mother ship of the Xetoins?"

"Negative."

I bit my lip. We were really going deep into unknown territory here. We were *really* lucky that the Xetoins knew nothing about stealth technology. Bethor's data had revealed that to us. They knew nothing about our little surprise in the form of our battleship. But we had to drop stealth for battle. "Fuck." I murmured.

+

"Holy fucking shit."

I gaped at the screen. Bethor had indeed detected a ship. But it wasn't just a ship. It was a fucking monster. Our colonies were like mosquitos against it. No wonder it could produce an endless stream of ships to make war against the Earth. And the alien ship was slowly moving along the Orion arm of our Galaxy {see link last ch.}. Closing in to the position of our sun.

We had let the five scouts go, and hovered just at the border of our solar system. We had spent the last two weeks learning as much as Bethor could provide about the alien technology, and their communications systems. We decided to infiltrate.

But now, as I saw the dimensions of this monstrosity, I was getting a bit nervous. How the hell could we realize our plans against something like that?

I swallowed. "Well," I drawled, "David against Goliath, huh?"

Quatre's face was closed, his chin stubbornly jutted forward and his lips pressed together in a thin line.

"How long until we could be in rendezvous position?" Trowa asked, face expressionless.

"One month and seventeen days under stealth at inter stellar speed," Bethor answered. "Theoretically, three days and eighteen hours at outer stellar speed, uncloaked."

"Whaddaya mean, outer stellar speed?" I asked, perplexed. I didn't know anything about such a thing.

"I used my inactive status for research. Necessary modifications were made during the repairs of my drives," Bethor stated.

I raised an eyebrow. "You did what?"

"I enhanced the efficiency of my drives. However, calculations showed use of enhanced speed in the solar system is not an option. The energy level necessary results in an inability to activate the other systems. Stealth and weapons are not available during outer stellar speed."

"You did this all by yourself? And you didn't think to mention this before?" I asked, aghast.

"Yes."

"Explain yourself," I demanded.

"This is the first time I have been outside the solar system. I mentioned it now, as it is relevant. I am to strive for the success of my mission. I am an AI. I am able to learn from human actions. I learned from you as you learned from me. I had five Earth years alone to increase my efficiency."

"Any other surprises you haven't told me about?" I asked.

"Negative." Bethor replied.

"Good to know," I murmured. My ship can keep secrets. Wonderful.

Quatre's eyes caught my gaze. He was plotting something. I just knew it.

"What are the chances that this enhanced drive will work?" He asked.

"Eighty-seven point eight three percent." Bethor answered.

"And what if it does not?" Wufei asked.

"Eight point two one percent for the failure of the entire drive system, three point nine six percent for the destruction of the ship."

I pursed my lips. It didn't sound entirely bad. But… "You simulated this?"

"Yes."

"It will work," Heero said.

"But…" Wufei started.

Heero shook his head. "We have to use the speed. If the scouts go back to their base ship, they will inform the other base ships. And if those do not discover better suited Solar systems, and we know there aren't any similar to ours, they will come here and…"

Quatre nodded. "We will have to approach from another direction. I think we should first set course to Proxima Centauri. We'll go cloaked during the first week of travel at inter stellar speed." He tapped at his chin. "They likely won't take notice of us if we start out uncloaked and in the open, but they will monitor Solar systems for movement."

He turned and looked at the star charts displayed on another screen. "This way, we won't tip them off as to exactly which solar system we are coming from. We have to assume that they have sent scouts to other solar systems in this quarter. Halfway to Proxima Centauri we set course to the carrier itself. Stop, attack, cloak and dodge. They will send out ships in search for us. We will capture one of them and use it to infiltrate and blow them to hell." He looked pleased with his plan.

"What if they inform other carriers?" I asked him.

"They won't, at first." Heero answered. "Even if they do, we just have to stop the next one that comes this way." He was back to staring at the screen. "They won't see us as a big threat, small as we are. And they will want to know where we came from, first. They'll want to capture and interrogate us so that they all can close in on the right solar system all at once."

"Yeah, right," I said, blowing my bangs out of my face. "Easy."

Quatre shrugged. "Anybody have a better plan?"

I huffed and looked at the others. Wufei sat, thoughtful. Trowa looked as if he had accepted this plan the moment Quatre had stopped speaking.

Heero studied the screen, brows furrowed. "We'll have to attack from several points out and then vanish again. Lure them out so they will send out more ships. It is better to capture two ships, just in case."

I blinked at him.

"The Gundams," he continued, "we'll have to use them separately."

"You are aware that a Gundam, against this carrier, is like a mosquito against an elephant?" I asked him.

"Just against the small ships. We'll have to destroy as much as possible, so they won't notice a couple of them missing before we dodge out again." He clarified.

"Oh," I nodded. "Sounds okay to me."

Wufei sighed. "We have twenty Maganacs and five Gundams. Five groups against how many?"

"We will need every pilot available," Quatre said, "If only for backup. We don't know how good they'll be if their opponents are at full ability. The pilots cannot be vulnerable to the Xetions' mind games. That means they all have to take the serum."

Trowa shrugged. "We retreat and use stealth as soon as we have the two of their ships. If they can't track us down, they can't fight against us."

I looked around. Everyone agreed with curt nods of acceptance and I ordered Bethor to set course to Proxima Centaurus.

+

Waves roll softly against the beach. I lay back on my elbows in the warm sand, and let the sunshine warm my face. It's peaceful. I hear the sound the surf rolling in, and gulls in the distance lull me into a peaceful rest. A movement beside me makes me open my eyes, and I smile and turn my head to look at my love. But it isn't Heero I find at my side. I start violently, and my heart skips a beat. An old, wrinkled, Xetoin stares back at me.

Under its patches of white fur, its skin is brown like old leather and its mouth stretches over big yellow teeth. White, long, strands of sparse hair hang from his head. The figure, crouches beside me on the sun-warmed sand, almost looking like a long dead corpse, withered and wrinkled. Fear runs through me, then anguish. I hastily scramble backwards, away from it, terrified. I try to catch me breath. My mouth opens in a frightening scream, but nothing comes out.

"You next." It says in a rusty, scratchy voice, coming slowly, so slowly, after me, "you're the only one left." I whip my head around in search of my lover. Heero lies a few feet away, gut ripped wide open and his insides turned out. Blood is everywhere. He is facing me, eyes wide open, lifeless and glassy and staring at nothing.

Despair shoots through me. Horrible anguish. A bit further away lay the remnants of my friends. Trowa. Quatre. Wufei. Howard. Slaughtered. I am petrified. I cannot move. The grotesque figure comes closer and closer.

It reaches out to me with claw like limbs, and finally I find my voice. I scream.

"No." Not Heero. Not them.

"No." Not now. How dare it take Heero from me.

"No." I squeeze my eyes shut, and darkness spills through me. I turn my head back to face the creature, and I feel the one thing that is left in me. Deep hatred, and rage, wild fury, this need for its death.

"No." I open my eyes and the Xetoin recoils slightly, just for a moment, before it comes at me again.

"No." I was unnaturally calm suddenly, as if the fury and the hatred had taken root deep inside of me, became everything what I was.

"Die," I hiss, and direct my rage at it, lashing out at it with my fury, and the Xetoin screams. The sound reminds me of the sound of death, when a cat catches a big bird. It's a shrill and piercing scream, and it literally explodes in a fountain of red. Blood and gore covers me, and I look at the remains. There's a heap of meat, and gore, and bones, and I feel hot tears running down my face between sticky splashes of blood. I stare at the bloody mess. Death. I am Death. I turn my head and stare through blurry eyes at the corpse of my lover, keening out a choked wail.


"DUO!"

I shot awake with the wail still in my throat, gasping, and noticing that someone was shaking me rather violently.

"Wake up Duo, please."

Heero. Alive. I blinked furiously.

"Duo."

A dream. "He… Heero?" I tried to swallow, but my mouth was dry and my throat scratchy. I was dripping with sweat.

"You scared me." He sighed, and I noticed that he was crouched above, straddling me, his hands on my shoulders in a bruising grip.

"Oww," I said.

He drew back, fingers loosening. "I'm sorry," he said. "I couldn't wake you."

I tried to wet my dry lips with my equally dry tongue. "A nightmare," I rasped out.

"You were screaming," he said, and shifted a hand, stroking my arm up and down. "And you wouldn't wake up." He let go of my shoulder entirely, and rubbed over his face. "I didn't know what to do. Are you okay now?"

"Yeah," I murmured, "I don't know. It was… surreal," I shivered. The dream left some very vivid images in my head. "Let me up."

He shifted aside and I got up, staggering to the bathroom. I opened the tap on coldest setting possible, and ducked my head, drinking directly from the faucet, and splashed water in my face. God, but that dream was terrifying. Closing the tap I reached for a towel, and straightened up, drying my face. I looked up into the mirror as I lowered the towel. I looked awfully pale. Like the dead. No… like Death. I swallowed hard, and took a few deep breaths. It was just a dream, wasn't it? Nothing had happened. Heero was fine. He was here with me. I stood there, leaned on the sink, and stared at my reflection in the mirror.

"Duo?"

I turned my head, startled. Heero had followed me and stood in the doorway, looking somewhat forlorn. "You want to talk about it?" He asked softly.

I shook my head. The last thing I needed now was a verbal reminder of the images of my slaughtered friends, and my slaughtered lover. "No. God, no."

He nodded. "Okay. But if you want to…" he trailed off.

"Yeah," I said. But I didn't know if I could.

+

"Shit." Standing in the engine section, I stared at the technical sheets displayed on the consoles' screen. Something wasn't right. These modifications of Bethor's engines seemed logically correct, but on the other hand somehow not. There was something I just couldn't put my finger on.

We spent most of our time during our trip to Proxima Centauri in the engine section. We checked everything. Went over the specs. Ran the simulations. I squeezed myself in every available service tube and went over the energy supplies. Everything seemed fine. And I learned more about Bethor's insides than I really wanted to. But it fascinated me, the mix of alien and future human technology.

The percentage rates bugged me. In my book, something worked or it did not. I sure wasn't thrilled about the possibility of an exploding ship or of being stranded with malfunctioning engines. Out here. Far away from anything.

I sighed and kicked the console. I had promised to be in time for dinner. Two more days and we would set to turn in the direction of the Xetoins carrier. We were as ready as we could be. The rest of the ‘warriors', as Bethor still stubbornly called us, had been injected with the enhancement serum. After they endured the mild sickness the other pilots had had, they had begun training against holo Xetoins. A few of the pilots were still not able to completely build up the mental block. I imagine they were already terrified when they entered the holo suite. But we had to work with what we had. I kicked the console again, and sighed as I turned to make my way to the cantina.

I was late, again, but only by a few minutes. Coming up to our table, I punched Howard lightly on the shoulder and ruffled Quatre's hair. Setting down my plate on the table I slumped down in the chair beside Heero. I grabbed his upper arm, pulled him to me for a short kiss. "Hey."

Howard was telling them a story, and it seemed he was just in the middle of it. I took my fork and shoved a bite of my food in my mouth, listening.

"…and the whole team was already there, waiting for the promised culinary delight he had been telling us about for an entire month. He just finished setting the table when we heard a tremendous explosion. We ran into the kitchen and it was a wreck. Something went wrong with the pressure in his stream cooker. The food was everywhere. I thought he was going to have a heart att…"

"Say again," I interrupted him.

Howard gave a funny look, but repeated, "…food was everyw…"

"No," I waved my fork impatiently through the air. "Before that."

"Something went wrong with the pressure in his stream…"

"That's it!" I cried out. "Oh, I'm such an idiot. Of course." I shoved my chair back and stood up, but Heero grabbed my wrist, pinning it to the table.

"Where do you think you are going?" He asked, tilting his head.

I tugged at my arm, but he didn't let go of me. "I have to…"

"Eat." Trowa finished for me.

"But…" I tried to explain.

"Tomorrow." Quatre said.

Wufei looked from one to the other, seemingly amused. "Maxwell," he said, "if you think you've had an inspiration about what has been bugging you these last few days, you can share it with us, and we'll all see tomorrow if you are right. We will swing wrenches and screw drivers again, but right now we are going to eat."

"But we only have two days..." I protested weakly.

"We can make it three, or four, or more," Quatre said. "It's not that important from where we set course, if we can make sure this invention of Bethor's will actually work without blowing us to pieces."

"Okay." I nodded and sank back in my chair, and began eating again. "It's not the engines," I explained between bites, "or the energy support. It's the lines. The connections. They're supposed to conduct; they're originally interpreted for a ten times more than normal necessary for the ships normal functions. Security measure, y'know?" I took a sip from Heero's water bottle. "But this outer space drive needs a lot more energy. It'll drain the energy support out of everything short of the life support systems. And not only for a short time." I nodded to myself. "Y'know, if just one of those connections burst, we'll have an burn out. Boom. We have to reinforce them. And the lines."

Howard stared at me. "Shit," he said. "Of course."

I grinned at him. "Yeah, old man."

+

"All systems green," Trowa reported from one of the consoles.

We had made the necessary retrofits. It took us two and a half days to replicate the parts and lines, heavily reinforced, some with gundanium, and install them. But the chances of success increased dramatically. We ran the simulations and Bethor reported a rate of ninety-nine point two six. That sounded much more to our liking.

I had a little time to sneak away and visit the stasis room. I stood in front of two chambers, and held a one sided conversation with my parents. I told them of our improvements made to the ship. I told them about the things that were happening. Then I told them about me. I told them about Heero.

"Y'know," I swirled the end of my braid around my hand, "I never thought someone would love me," I sighed. "But you two did, didn't you? And he does, too. I know. All this time, he did. And I realized that I did too, but was just too blind to see it. Or…"

My com pinged, I ignored it.

"…or I was just afraid to love someone, because I was convinced nobody could love me back. I mean *really* love me." I shook my head. "If I look back, I see how wrong I was. Solo did love me, and Father Maxwell. And Sister Helen. And, I'm sure, Howard does, too. As do the guys, in their own way. Maybe. Yes, they do. And Heero." I took a deep breath. "I'm scared, y'know? Scared that something might happen to them. Scared to be left behind, again."

My com pinged again. I activated it. "Yes?"

"We're ready to drop out of stealth and change course. You're coming?" Heero asked.

"Yeah. I'm on my way."

I took a last look at my parents and went up to the bridge.

"Everything bolted down?" I asked as I took my seat and closed the harness.

"Yes, captain," the tech answered. "All stations reported in."

After I had a ‘go ahead' from the other consoles and a smile from Heero, I nodded. "Okay." There was always that ‘zero point seven four percent' risk of a malfunction left, but it was too late to dwell on that now.

I made a ship wide announcement. "Everyone, secure your positions. Prepare for zero gravity, in three, two, one, now. As of now, we have entered combat alert. Estimated contact on site in sixty-one hours. Bethor, go."

The ship shuddered and I stared at the monitor, eyes trained on the blinking point in the middle. I listened inattentively to the words of the crew on the bridge, reporting the status of the ship. My braid was suspended in midair and I absently grabbed at it, and stuffed it in the collar of my t-shirt. It was an odd feeling to be in zero gravity suddenly. But the engines needed all the energy we could spare, and we could do without, for a while.

I glanced around and took in the earnest faces around me, noticing that one tech at his station leaned back in his chair, frustrated. The data on his screen rolled on too fast for a human eye to gather the information. He turned his head to me and shrugged. "I suppose we are on course, but…" he pointed at his screen, "I haven't a clue."

I grinned. It meant we actually had surpassed the speed where, when Bethor displayed his momentary position, it was possible to monitor. It worked. No exploding. No malfunction. Now, if only the rest was this easy.

I glanced at Heero and suddenly had this picture in my mind, of us, suspended in midair, making love in zero gravity. I shook my head, irritated. We hadn't taken that last step, although we'd done everything else short of penetration. Where did that thought come from? I glanced again and saw him, hand suspended in midair to his controls, and licking his lower lip. He turned his head to look at me, and I'd be damned if he wasn't thinking something similar.

"Captain, speed's still rising," A station reported. "Reaching displayable limit."

I tore my eyes from Heero and nodded. "Bethor, any indication that we've been spotted so far?"

"Negative." The AI reported.

"Just a matter of time," Trowa said. "They will notice an object on an intercepting course with them."

"Yeah," I answered. "Proceed."

They would notice early enough that Death was coming their way.

[part 9] [part 11] [back to Singles a - k]