of the Past - # 5
Battling with an again twisted wrench, I was still fuming while I changed a part among the other technicians. It was late evening and my stomach rumbled, reminding me that I not only missed lunch, but dinner, too. I earnestly considered moving back into my Ezgadi.
Earlier, I had been stopped from getting away by my run-in with Sally. I had still been stunned by their declaration of turning mercenaries on me, and Trowa and Wufei had jumped up from their seats and tried hard to restrain me. Quatre, hastily trying to get my attention by talking rapidity, tried to calm me down.
It came out that they only had wanted to test me. To reveal my intentions. Bastards. They all had apologized profusely. But I was still so livid, when they let go of me, I lashed out. I landed a blow to Trowa's jaw. Just as quickly, I turned and got Wufei in the stomach. They both went down.
Shocked at myself, I had stood there, blinked and looked at my fists. I never, ever, had been able to overcome one of them in hand to hand so easily before. We were always pretty much evenly matched. Now I had put down both, and with minute effort. Particularly Wufei, who had enough time to take a defensive stance when I took Trowa down. Now, as I thought about it, I had moved awfully fast. Too fast. I'd looked up at Quatre and blinked again. "What the hell..."
He looked as surprised as I felt. "Duo?"
"I... have no clue," I muttered as I took two steps backwards, turned and fled the room.
I'd lengthily vented my anger to Howard. Later, as soon as I felt I was able to do something rational and not trash everything around me, I'd picked up a wrench and got to work. This was my third twisted wrench, and the technician beside me was starting to get a little spooked. I sighed and got up from my crouched position, wiped the grease from my hands to my jeans, and decided to have a little heart to heart with Bethor, despite my rumbling stomach.
This was frightening. I had never been able to bend metal or move this fast. Okay, I had been pretty fast to begin with, but this? Hands in the pockets of my jeans, I made my way to the bridge and slumped down in the Captain's chair.
As it turned out, even Bethor had no reliable data. I was the first healthy person ever given the enhancement, and the AI recommended full medical and physical tests. I couldn't even say when it had started. I couldn't clearly remember when I had last gotten into a fight, or had to move fast, buried as I had been in my work. I don't even know if I would have recognized my new abilities as unusual.
I was used to being superior in common bar fights, because of my training as a Gundam pilot. I always held back during those. I don't even remember when I had attempted to do something this emotionally charged in the last few years. Now, when I thought really hard about it, I couldn't even remember when my life since the wars hadn't been somewhat... flat. No real ups and no real downs, either.
My stomach reminded me that I still hadn't eaten, yet. I pushed the brooding thoughts aside and got up from the seat, heading to the cantina.
Heero sat alone at one of the tables, a glass in front on him. Somehow, this made me feel prickly, my stomach fluttering. I didn't want to be alone with him. It stirred up memories of all the times I sat at my laptop and checked my e-mail, hoping for a sign from him, from the others.
As I made my way over to the replicator I contemplated if I should sit at his table or pick another one for eating. Was I ready to forgive them this easily? All the time I felt his stare burning on my back. Crap. I had to talk to him eventually. May as well get it over with, now. Picking up the plate, I walked over and addressed him while pointing at an empty chair. "May I?"
He nodded, while his gaze never left me. In fact, I had a feeling it hadn't since I had entered. It made me uncomfortable, somehow.
"So, Heero, you out of medical already? With or without Sally's agreement?" I stuffed the food in my mouth, eyes trained on my plate.
"She agreed," he picked up his glass and took a sip, never looking away. "I'm cured, she said."
I had to control myself, not to squirm under his stare. I nodded and swallowed. "That's great. I'm glad."
"I have to thank you."
I shrugged, "No big deal. The stuff was here. Why not use it?"
He played with his glass, "I got your emails."
I froze, fork halfway to my mouth. Where the hell had this come from? I frowned at him.
"I thought," he took a deep breath, "it would be better, if no one knew. So no one would miss me."
"You are an idiot, Yuy." I continued eating. "So, you thought it would be better to go from this existence thinking nobody gives a damn about you? How the hell did you got infec... Never mind. It's none of my business."
"No," he looked down in his glass, "It's okay. I... it's better that someone cares. I realized that in the last couple of weeks." He looked up and stared at me again, "I vanished because I had wanted someone. Something. You all had someone or something, after the war. Quatre had his sisters and his company. Trowa had his circus and Catherine. Wufei, the Preventers. And you had Hilde and the scrap yard. I... wanted to find something, too."
"You could have had us. Or the Preventers, too. I know Une would stood on her head to get you to sign on." I chewed thoughtfully.
He shook his head. "No, I wanted something of my own. And I wanted to never kill again." There was a pause, while I continued to polish my plate, before he continued in a low voice. "I thought I had found someone. But... after a short while, I realized it wasn't real. That this person only reminded me of someone else, someone who was already involved otherwise. What I had found was just a poor copy."
"Of Relena?" I asked while I pushed my plate aside and leaned my forearms on the table.
"No," he smirked slightly. "Not Relena. Relena... I thought I loved her, for a while. I was very young, then. But I realized relatively quickly it was only the idea I loved, the idol, what she represented. Not the person."
I tilted my head, surprised. "So?"
"So," he repeated. "It lasted two weeks, was over before it began, actually. Shortly before Mariemaia. Long enough to get infected." He snorted. "They found out, in the hospital, afterwards. I figured it would be better to vanish again." He looked somewhat sad.
"Oh," I paused, trying to think of something encouraging to say. "You really should tell the other girl what you feel, now, that you're okay. Maybe she'll change her mind, dump her boyfriend, and pick you instead. You'll never know. You have a lot to give." I studied his expression, astonished how openly he was displaying his emotions. I liked that. "You'd think she'll be interested? You've changed. She might like that."
"I hope so." He smirked cheerlessly. "I had a lot of time with nothing to do but think. Watch people. It was... educational. So, where is Hilde?"
"Hilde?" I leaned back and played with my braid. "She's still on L2, in her scrapyard. I sold my share to her when we started Invent Techs, Howie 'n me. She's still a good friend." I shrugged wistfully. "Sometimes, I think she 'n Howie are the only friends I have." I gnawed at my lower lip.
He furrowed his brows, "You aren't... together?" Somehow he looked shocked.
I laughed. "No. Never. Hilde... she's like a...," I gestured wildly, "like the family I never had. Like... a sister, I think." I nodded fondly, "Yeah. A sister."
He stared as he slowly repeated, "A... sister."
"Uh-huh." I grinned at him. "I can talk to her, you know? About almost everything. And she smacks me on the head if I go overboard, or kicks me in the ass when I need it."
"So," he croaked and cleared his throat, "How is your company?
I blinked at his abrupt change of topic. "Great. We make good profit. And now, with the new ship..." I trailed off. For this ship to ever be sold, we had to battle and win against the aliens, first. "We'll see about that. We donate half of our profits, for orphaned and homeless children, y'know? And we donated replicators to orphanages and churches on L2, too."
Heero nodded. "I heard about that."
"It feels good to be able to do something. To make a difference." I pondered that for a moment. Noticing he was staring funny at me, I asked, "What?"
"You look so alive when you talk like that." Looking away he whispered, "I missed you."
I cackled weakly to cover up how his declaration made my heart beat faster. "You? You used to spend half your time telling me to shut up. The other half to go away." I licked my lips. Somehow I felt like my stomach was quivering. "You sure have changed, Yuy."
"Yeah," he sighed, still toying with his glass.
"Duo!" A voice called. "I've been looking for you!"
I glanced up and saw Steve, one of the sweepers' techs, coming in the cantina. I groaned inwardly. Of all the times..., not now.
"Hello, Steve," I answered politely. "I didn't know Howie brought you."
"Yeah, he always picks the best." He came to our table and nodded to Heero while leaning forward, one hand on the table and one of the backrest of my chair. "You free tonight? I have a bottle of vodka replicated and we could have a..." he leaned closer to whisper in my ear "little fun together," his tongue darted out to lick at the shell of my ear.
I quickly glanced at Heero. I was sure he had picked up on that, despite the whispered words. He had excellent hearing. I couldn't help the embarrassed feeling, creeping up on me. Why the hell was I embarrassed? I never before had problems with openly displayed come on's, or my sexuality.
I felt my ears go hot, "Uhm, Steve, I'm not in the mood today." I put my palm to his chest and gave a little shove. "Perhaps another time. Go, find someone else for a f... entertainment, okay?" I bit my tongue at the almost slip.
Steve was a tech at one of the sweepers' stations on Earth and occasionally we have had a roll in the sack. Uncomplicated. Unattached. Just for fun, to relieve tension.
He pouted slightly as he straightened and took a step back, but shrugged. "No problem, man. Let me know, okay?"
"Sure," I replied. "I'll find you."
His eyes darted from me to Heero, who glared strangely at him, and back to me. "Oh, if you..."
"No! Hush," I interrupted hastily, and with a forced grin added, "Do me a favor, shut up and evaporate, will you?" I stared at his retreating ass, more because I had to compose myself before facing Heero again, than because I wanted to check out Steve's firm ass.
Embarrassed was too mild a word. Turning back to Heero I saw that he, too, had watched Steve leave the room. I wiped my damp hands on my jeans and took a deep breath. Why had this been so uncomfortable while in Heero's presence?
"Your... friend?" He looked back at me and I was taken aback at the intensity of his gaze and the scowl on his face. Whoa.
"An...," I searched for the right word, "acquaintance. We sometimes... hang out together, when I'm on Earth." I nodded meaningfully. "On business trips, you know? I sometimes crash at the sweepers' places."
"I see," he said, looking back in his glass, distressed, somehow.
Had the blatant come on from Steve disturbed him? I suddenly felt as if I had kicked a puppy. Hopefully, this hadn't put a damper on my attempted friendship. All I needed now was for him to be disgusted with my ... standards. I cleared my throat and said, "So, where were we?"
He looked up with that intense gaze and I'm sure I blushed again. "You told me about your company and it ended in your realization that I had changed."
"Oh, yes, okay." I paused to gather my thoughts. "You've given up your training, haven't you?"
He shrugged. "It seemed somewhat pointless at the time. I'll have to train again. I have to build up muscle mass and stamina if I'm to pilot again."
I searched his face. "So, you've decided to stay with us? You said you didn't want to kill again."
"It doesn't matter, anymore." He shook his head. "I won't duck out. Besides, I'm in your debt."
I bristled at this bullshit. "You are so *not* in my debt. You know I would have done that for... uhm, anyone. I didn't do it to make you stay. I said before, I won't hold it against anyone who doesn't want to stay, for any honest reason. I will not be responsible for anyone's state of mind." I noticed he still stared at me intently. "What?"
"Your eyes." He canted his head and smiled. It was a nice smile. It left me breathless.
"What's... with my eyes?" What was going on with me? Why was I so nervous in his presence?
"They changed color. I'd noticed it this morning, too." He leaned over the table, put his fingertips under my chin and stared intently in my eyes, searching. "They become violet when you're angry. I've never noticed this before." He licked his lower lip.
I blinked at him, confused. He was so near, I could feel his breath on my face as he talked. His touch was almost... affectionate. "Well, yeah." I shivered as his fingertips trailed over my skin as he took his hand back. "They... do that now ..." I trailed off and stared over his shoulder at the wall. A thought hit me. "Heero," I said slowly, all businesslike again, "has Bethor informed you all about how to fight the Xetoins?"
"It mentioned a new developed weapon, built in the mobile suits," he replied.
"Nothing more?" I furrowed my brows at him. His eyes were so blue.
He sat back in his chair, his expression changed to suspicion. "Is there something more?"
I exhaled fiercely. "That deceitful bundle of scrap." I laughed ironically, "Figures. Leaving the hard part to me. Thank you, Bethor. Asshole."
"I was not able to evaluate the correct approach." Bethor said.
"Yeah, well, but I can?" I snorted.
"The percentage of a positive outcome was interpreted correctly."
Mulling that over, I thought about a way to do so. Heero waited patiently for me, to elaborate. Finally, I had an idea. "Can you establish a complete holographic Xetoin?" I asked Bethor. "With all that..." I gestured wildly, "crap?"
"Positive. I have several programs at my disposal, a complete enemy ship with crew, too. A usual training session for warriors."
"Okay, the ship it is." I smiled, slowly. "It's too late, today." Ignoring Heero's questioning look, I mulled it over. "Inform the mighty ex-Gundam pilots to meet tomorrow morning 0600 hours at holo deck three. Combat ready. Prepare a fight simulation. Man against ma... err, Xetoin, sans weapons. Tell them not to have breakfast." I snickered at that.
"Duo?" Heero asked finally, eyes never leaving my face.
I sighed. "There is a huge advantage these aliens have on us. I have it to show you, it can't be explained so easily." I blinked at him, "And then... and then I can try to explain why my eyes change color."
I bit my lip as I saw Trowa's face. He had a dark bruise on his yaw, from my punch yesterday. I almost was sorry.
We stood in front of the holo deck and I explained. "This is a first for me, too. Although, I might have an advantage, since I have information about what these," I gestured at the door, "are capable of. We will fight holo Xetoins, hand to hand." I glanced, irritated, at Wufei, as he snorted arrogantly. "They might be smaller in appearance, but don't let looks deceive you. This simulation is authentic. The safety protocol prevents us from being harmed." I palmed the pad and the door slid open. After we entered, it was as if we were on another ship.
Bethor greeted us. "This hologram mirrors the interior of a Xetoin fighter. Five ships will arrive in approximately four months. A Xetoin crew consists of ten per ship. When this simulation starts, you will be on an enemy ship, in a combat situation. I will now project floor plans."
We studied the layout of the enemy ship and memorized it.
"Okay. Mission is, bring the bridge into our possession, and disable the crew. Stay together this time." I had a good idea of what to expect. I didn't know how much Bethor had told them, but from Heero's reaction yesterday, I suspected not too much.
On a whim, I squeezed Heero's shoulder and he turned his head, smiling at me. For a moment I was stunned, couldn't take my eyes from his lips. My mouth suddenly was dry. I swallowed and ripped my gaze away, muttering, "Prepare yourself. Bethor, standard safety protocols. Start simulation."
I pressed my back against the wall of the hallway and saw Heero do the same. I felt as if we were back in time, in an OZ base, sneaking around. Trowa crouched low and peered around a corner. He signaled the all clear, and we crept forward, silent. I had our backs.
Being weaponless did not sit well with me and I found myself trying to tug at a non- existent holster more than once. This was test for me as well as the others. The serum had changed me and I needed to know how much.
We were soldiers again. We crept through the hallways, silent as shadows. Two corners to go until we reached the bridge. I had just turned around to check behind us again when I felt it. I heard Quatre gasp in front of me and wail softly. I whirled and found Trowa and Wufei grimacing and turning pale. I couldn't see Heero's face, but I suspected he looked much like the others. A Xetoin stood in front of us.
Quatre fell to his knees, panting heavily. He started heaving, and I was thankful I had the foresight to tell them not to eat this morning.
I felt it, too. Terror. Almost overwhelming fear. An alarm sounded and I spotted two more of the aliens coming our way. Wufei staggered, gagging. Trowa and Heero were against the wall, sliding down to their knees, eyes wide.
I balled my fists, clenched my teeth and chanted in my head. Reaching deep down into myself, I sought that dark place; that mindset which enables me to kill ruthlessly. Shinigami.
Feeling the fear subside, I worked on my focus. It was like feeling through cotton. The fear was still there, but it didn't immobilize me anymore. I noticed that I, too, had gone down, on one knee. I pushed up from my crouched position, and lunging forward, attacked the Xetoin closest to us.
I don't know how a Xetoin looks if it is surprised, but I think that must have been its expression. I kicked forcefully against a joint in its right leg and the alien chirped. Grabbing his -I thought of it as shoulder - I spun it around, so that it faced its two approaching comrades. There was a crunching sound as I snapped its neck.
I pictured the many helpless children, the people that will die if we fail, and worked up a cold dark fury as I sprinted towards the approaching Xetoins with a war cry. I made a flying kick up to one's head, came down in a crouch behind the second one and delivered a hard punch to where our kidneys would be. It almost folded in half and as it turned around with a swing I came up to a stand, blocked left and shot my right fist straight at its throat. It dropped, dead. I hoped.
Crouching low, I hit with a double punch to the other's midsection, took a half step back and delivered a roundhouse kick. I heard a crack and it dropped like a stone. I stood back in a defensive stance and blinked furiously as suddenly the ship vanished and I stood in the middle of a holo deck.
That was...I didn't know what the fuck that was, but I knew that never in my life had I fought so fast and powerful. Hell, I didn't even feel winded.
"... out of it. Duo. Can you hear me?" A voice. Heero.
I shook my head and fell out of my stance. "Heero?"
They stood around me, but at a safe distance. Not one of them came within striking range, and they were staring at me as if I was one of the aliens.
"Duo? You with us now?" Heero asked.
I slumped to the floor and rubbed my hands over my face. "Yeah."
Quatre dropped down beside me. "That was horrible. I never in my life felt such fear."
"Your eyes." Trowa said. "Your eyes were... unusual. Gleaming violet." He knelt down in front of Quatre.
"You okay?" Trowa asked him.
Quatre nodded. That was about all he could manage.
Wufei sat down in front of me. "You were moving remarkably fast. I've never seen you move so quickly." I supposed he thought of me in a new light. I sure did.
"You were not affected." Heero stated, studying me.
"I was." I looked at him as I leaned back on my arms, stretched my legs out between Wufei and Trowa and crossed them at the ankles. "The Xetoins have mental amplifiers on their ships. Their main weapon is fear. They project it, amplify it a thousand-fold, and send it right at you. It renders you incapable of defending yourself." I noticed I was still staring at Heero and hastily averted my eyes to the tips of my boots. What was I doing? "The pilots can't fight."
"Then how...?" Trowa said.
"You could, Maxwell," Wufei remarked.
I took a deep breath. "This ship came here in A.C.179. No one was aware that they were ill. At least at first. The doc discovered the illness during a check up on my mother's pregnancy. While they tried to repair the ship, the scientists sought a cure. They developed, no, improved, a serum but it was too late. The serum was supposed to enhance cell reproduction, fast renewal without exhaustion of the original genetic code."
I paused. "It didn't work, but only because the genetic code of the time travelers was so badly damaged. The crutch is; this serum also enables the building of some sort of mental block. Sort of a defense against the aliens. It activates brain functions, which normally are latent. They could have been successful, but for the illness."
They looked thoughtful until Quatre shook his head. "If not for the illness, they wouldn't have developed this serum."
Finally, Wufei said, "We could have a chance, then. With this new weapon we can break their shields."
I nodded. "It could work." I looked around to gauge their reactions. "The serum speeds up the healing process, and builds an advanced immune system. It increases strength and speed. But there's a down side. It slows down the aging process. I don't know how you feel about that. I think it's also why my eyes tend to change color with my mood."
Musing that over, I then continued my thoughts aloud, "But, maybe it's an effect in combination with the nanites, the stuff the doctors did to us. Sally will have to test me. Maybe that's why my hair grows so fast, too."
"You," Quatre gasped, "have already injected that serum yourself?" He still looked not well.
I shook my head, sadly. "No. My parents did."
A bitter thought came to mind and I locked eyes with Heero, "They made sure they did everything they could for me to survive. So that I could come back here and finish their mission." I was sure I was being unfair with the implication, but he got the hint and looked away, his expression showing regret.
"But," Trowa threw in, "during the war..."
"Most of the effects aren't visible until adulthood. Don't ask my why." I shrugged. "Although, I didn't catch the plague on L2 as a kid, so my immune system must have been affected soon after the injection."
"So, you didn't feel it?" Wufei inquired.
I laughed sullenly. "Oh, I felt it. Just dampened somehow, I suppose." I sat up and folded my legs Indian style, looking pointedly at Quatre. "You seemed the most affected. You think it had something to do with your 'space heart'?"
He shrugged. "Maybe. I felt the impact lessen somewhat, as you put the first one down. As soon as they all were gone, it stopped."
"You went berserk." Wufei addressed me frankly. "We had to stop the simulation to get near you."
I slowly shook my head. "I wouldn't have hurt any of you. I would have come to on my own. It served me well, back during the war. I've never hurt an ally."
Heero snorted at that.
"Oh, come on," I looked apologetic at him. "I didn't know who you were when I shot you."
Quatre snickered and Heero shot him a glare. It was a well-known story, how we met. I shot him to rescue the girl in distress.
"I'm sorry I had to put you through that. But," I looked around, "you wouldn't have believed me. I had to show you. I guess we're one for one now." I snorted. "If you are to battle the Xetoins, you have to take the serum."
There was a long pause before Trowa spoke up. "It will alter our bodies. You said it slows down aging. How much? I mean, will the cell ability to reproduce be finally exhausted at, say, forty and we'll die still looking like we're twenty-four?"
"I honestly don't know. Bethor said I was the first healthy person this serum was used on. So..." I trailed off and shrugged. "But we can't likely wait until I'm forty, so it's a risk we'll have to take. If you have any more questions, ask Bethor. I've told you everything I know." I pushed up from the floor and walked out of the room, leaving them behind.
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