Crashed + Part 5 (cont)

I opened my eyes.

First thing I noticed was that I was very cold. The second that the lights were on and Duo was swearing under his breath as he rummaged through his tool box. No -- I was mistaken. He was inventing new swearwords. This could only indicate that Duo had used up all the words he knew -- a feat that would take some time. I was concerned. What had happened?

"Duo?" I said, hesitantly.

"Heero -- don't move -- you'll mess up the wiring."

I blinked looking down at my chest and realising that my chest plate was open, and most of my wiring strewn across the floor. That would explain the cold feeling. The rest though --

"Duo, why are my parts all over the floor?"

"Don't worry, I'll put them back later." Duo pulled from the tool box a few pointy looking objects that made my skin temperature drop a few more degrees. "You don't know if I brought the soldiering iron, do ya?"

I froze. "Do you really think that will be necessary?"

"I dunno. I can't see what the problem is, so I'm going to check your internal hardware first," Duo said with a shrug, waving about a dangerous looking device with nonchalance.

"Do you have too?" I didn't mean to sound so desperate and that -- it just happened.

"Don't worry, Heero, I know what I'm doing!" Duo flashed me a cheery grin. "I'm a born mechanic!"

"I don't think this is a hardware problem," I said quickly, as Duo spotted the aforementioned soldiering iron. "Before I ah -- crashed -- this message came up on my internal sensors. System control took over command."

"System control?" Duo asked, leaning over to poke at my chest plates.

"That is correct," I said, wincing as his fingers touched a ticklish spot. "Duo, your fingers are cold."

"Sorry, honey, I'll see what I can do about that in a minute."

"What are you doing?" I asked as he opened up my interior control functions monitor.

"System control sounds like it would run your robotic parts so it's likely to be in here. Stop fussing, Heero, I know what I'm doing."

Only a superhuman grip on my self control stopped me from replying that I would like to see him lie quietly and not fuss while someone else rearranged his internal workings. Especially if said someone seemed entirely too enthusiastic about the whole process.

I was very relieved when Duo announced he'd found the problem. "What is it?"

"There's a function here -- you're allowed partial control of your mechanical parts but they can be automatically overwritten by remote control or when you do anything that -- goes against 'original programming?' What the hell?"

What the hell was right. "Duo, what are you looking at?"

"Shush, I'm reading," Duo replied absently.

I sighed. "Duo -- "

"This is fascinating. It's like a bad sci-fi novel. You wouldn't believe what's in here -- "

"Just tell me!"

"Oh, sorry, Heero. Let's see -- if you don't follow J's orders he can overwrite your command of your body and make you do them -- he can control your brainwaves with another remote device -- I guess that was the baby G and I removed -- and controls your mechanical parts with this here -- Heero? You with me Heero? Heero -- "

I came to, suddenly realising Duo had abandoned his inspection of my wiring to stroke my face worriedly. "I'm okay, you don't have to worry," I told him.

He smiled, kissing me on the forehead, making feel ashamed for even thinking of being nervous about entrusting him with my repairs. He loved me, he would not harm me.

"Good, you had me worried there. Did you hear -- ?"

"I heard. I want you to get rid of it."

"Heero?"

"Turn it off!" Duo was staring at me -- I don't think I'd ever yelled at him before. Truth was I was near panic. J had crossed the line before -- but I would not be his puppet! "Please," I repeated in a softer tone.

"If you're sure," Duo turned back to my internal controls again. It took him awhile. He had to overwrite a lot of complicated code some of which was password protected. I helped with the programming aspect and together we succeeded in giving full control of my body -- organic and mechanical parts alike -- to myself.

"You know," Duo said, as he carefully put my wiring back in place. "We haven't been giving J enough credit."

"What?" I said.

"I mean, yeah he's a cranky, pervy, selfish old bastard. And you can't forget his total lack of moral compunction, and ambitiousness. But I don't think we mentioned the sheer scope of his meaness. I mean, what kind of twisted psycho would put a program in place that would cause you to crash just at that precise moment -- "

I slipped my hand over Duo's. "Would you like to try it again?"

Duo laughed. "Do you even need to ask?"

/ Start it up
Love the day when we will never stop, never stop
Never stop, never stop /


Duo was engaged in kissing me passionately, and I was just as passionately engaged in trying to get his clothes off, when there was a thump at the door. A very persistent thump followed by more.

Apparently J wasn't the only evil scientist with bad timing.

"What?" Duo demanded.

"I want the two of you out of here now!" G yelled back, on the other side of the door. "There are coppers crawling the downside and to be caught with J's precious prodigy is more than my life is worth!"

"You're going to turn us out knowing the coppers are looking for us?" While Duo reasoned with G I put my clothes on. I wasn't exactly the optimistic sort.

"Fine!" Duo was forced to yield eventually. "But if they catch us, I'll tell 'em you hid us."

"Ungrateful brat!"

"Don't get me started G," Duo said with a long suffering sigh. 'I know a lot more nasty words than you do, and I'm not afraid to use them either."

G cackled. "I'll bet you do. And you can use them all you like on the coppers. Now get! You too -- " He leered as I passed him with Duo's toolbox.

I hurried after Duo. "What will we do?"

"It was about time we left," Duo said. "In fact if G throws us out now, it will be rather lucky -- means I don't have to work on that laser for him."

"But the coppers -- "

"We hid from them before, we can do as much again. Come on, Heero! I was born down here -- I know this place better than any upside copper -- it'll be as safe as hitching a ride on the underside of a shuttle.

"Um," I said not sure that the aforementioned pastime was really that safe. But the camera bot had arrived to lead us through the tunnels from G's laboratory and we followed.

/Tough me up
Never stop, never stop, never stop /


"See? See? And you thought we were in trouble!" Duo crowed happily. I had to admit I was slightly startled to find ourselves back outside the Sweeper's fort without any mishap. Duo had managed to lead us through the downside avoiding all contact with copper patrols, thanks to his jamming device and extensive detours through an underground network of tunnels that Duo thought might once have been a train station. "I should trust you more."

"Yes you should," Duo said smugly.

I snorted as he led the way towards the Sweeper's fort. I was beginning to see why Wufei kept telling us we shouldn't encourage him --

Duo stopped suddenly.

"Is something -- " I fell quiet as Duo put up a hand.

For a few long moments we stood in silence.

"It's too quiet," Duo said. "Far too quiet."

"You think something has happened?" I asked.

Duo shook his head. "This is Howard," he said, though whether to reassure himself or me I wasn't sure. "Nothing ever happens to Howard or the guys . . . he wouldn't let it."

"What do you think we should do?" I asked.

"You wait here. I'll go in and see what's going on -- " Duo turned to leave me but a tug at his braid halted him.

"I'm not waiting. If anything has happened, I should be with you."

"Let me guess," Duo sighed. "Arguing with you won't help at all?"

"Not a bit," I said.

"Didn't think so." He quickly pecked my cheek and then turned around. "It's probably Howard taking dire revenge for me running off again -- "

As we progressed inside the fort the feeling of wrongness increased. No one was around, no sound was heard.

"There has to be something to let us know what happened to them all," Duo said as we approached the main hall. The electronic doors sprang apart for us but Duo didn't step through them. "Howard would never leave the fort with the power running," he said. "Heero -- be ready for anything."

I nodded and followed him into the hall. At first glance it was deserted. The light's were off, no sound came from the shadows -- and Duo, in front of me, tensed.

"Heero-run!" Duo pushed me towards the doors. He was too late. A humming sound, and then before I knew what I was running from I was pulled backwards violently. There was a sharp metallic bang, and, when my head cleared, I found myself held fast to a huge magnet. "Heero!" Duo was tugging ineffectively at my wrists, trying to free them.

"It's no use," a too familiar voice said coolly. "That magnet is powered by a considerable charge, it's beyond human strength to break it. It's even beyond Heero's strength."

"You -- bastard! Complete and utter bastard!" Duo growled, desperation in his face as he gave up his attempt to free me.

J smirked, signalling to someone out of sight. "Now, now -- you don't want to insult me. Not when I have your friends captive."

The lights went on to reveal the Sweeper's, bound, most somewhat battered looking, and under the armed guard of the upside's law enforcement officers. Two more had moved to take the entrance as we spoke so we were now effectively trapped. I vainly tried to pull myself from the magnet but had the same success as Duo.

"Now that I have your attention," J continued, climbing down from the bridge with an officer beside him, "I suggest you surrender to us without any tricks."

Duo's face darkened. "I suggest you get a life you old -- "

"Kid!" Howard interposed urgently. "Don't piss him off -- please! He means business." Half of his face was swollen -- it was clear what sort of business J meant.

"Please Duo -- Don't put yourself in anymore danger," I whispered, just loud enough for him to hear.

Duo wavered but with a scowl held out his wrists to the officer. J came over to stand at my side while this took place. "You've caused me a great deal of trouble Heero. My investors are not at all happy."

"And as usual my views on the situation count for nothing?" I scowled back, regretting that words were the only weapon I had at my disposal. Ironic, isn't it? I was fitted with enough weapons to level the enitre fort and could consciously use none of them.

"Now, Heero, you've been through a horrible ordeal, so I'm willing to cut you a little slack -- "

"Don't patronise me," I spat at him. "I ran away of my own free will, to make my own life -- to get away from your control! You want me to be your machine -- and I refuse! And what's more, if you take me away now this won't solve anything." I felt calmer suddenly, stronger. J could not stop me, not if I was determined. "I can always run away again, you know -- and I will. I'm no longer your toy."

J studied me a long moment. "I see the rot has spread farther than I anticipated," He said at last. "Still, there is one method of treatment still left to us." He turned to the officer handcuffing Duo. "Give me your gun."

I laughed. "That won't work, J. I'm not afraid of you."

"Good," J adjusted his hold on the gun. "I expect no less from you, Heero. However, the method of treatment I had in mind was something different -- doctors often recommend the best way to curb an unsatisfactory behavioural pattern is the removal of the source of the behaviour -- " The gun was hefted and spun around to meet its target -- Duo. "Which in this case I take to be you."

My stomach dropped. J couldn't -- how could he --

"Sir!" the officer protested. "He's unarmed -- he surrendered to us."

"I believe I have jurisdiction over this manoeuvre," J replied just as calmly as before, letting the gun travel from Duo's pale face to his chest.

"But -- " the officer hesitated still, turning towards a uniformed figure leaning against the bridge.

"All command over this operation belongs to J," the man said and I tugged at my wrists again. If I could get just one of them free --

"What -- no last words? You don't want to insult me again?" J smirked, nocking the gun. "This is your last chance after all -- "

"Heero's right, you know," Duo said. "This won't work."

J's face blazed with anger. "Watch this, Heero," he said. "This is what will happen to every person who interferes with your mission."

And I watched, frozen with horror, as he shot Duo.

/ You, you, you make a grown man cry
You, you make a dead man cum
You, you make a dead man cum /


+

(Lyrics are the property of the Rolling Stones. Oh, and the last two lines are not in anyway indicative of what will happen to Duo, they just happen to be the last two lines of the song. Don't panic.)

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