Disclaimer: I don't own any part of GW nor it's characters, nor do I profit from it other than having hours of dreaming up stories to share.

Warnings: angst

To Change the Future - Part 3
Duo's Friendship Arc 19
by Dyna Dee

Duo awoke the next morning more than grateful that they had each been assigned their own rooms. His awakening mind registered his body was stiff and hurting as well as a throbbing headache which was only made worse a short time later when Quatre cheerfully entered his room to get him up. The bright lights that flashed on when his friend stepped through the doorway exacerbated the shooting pain behind his eyes, causing him to moan miserably.

Quatre stopped short, falling silent at finding his friend very much awake and in considerable pain. Questioning the pitiful boy about his condition, Duo haltingly and in a small, tortured voice answered with clipped replies, giving Quatre more of an idea of what was wrong. Not only did his friend have a painful migraine, but almost every inch of the Deathscythe pilot's body ached from the strain and injuries from the battle two day's previous. He also discovered the braided boy was unable to get up from his bed on his own and desperately needed to use the bathroom.

Duo was thoroughly embarrassed that Quatre had to help him inch out of bed and slowly, agonizingly make his way to the bathroom. With a pillow over his head to comfort his throbbing headache and to shield his eyes from the bright light, his body trembled as his friend guided him to the bathroom and helped him accomplish what he needed to do, then slowly led him back to his bed. Once he was tucked into his bunk again, the blond Arabian looked down at him with deep concern and suggested he stay in bed another day.

Heero came in shortly after Quatre left to give Duo a couple of muscle relaxers and pain pills that would reduce his discomfort enough to enable him to rest more easily. It seemed to take forever for the drugs to kick in, and when they finally did, he cautiously got up from his bed and feeling no worse for it, decided to dress and join the others for lunch. His decision was easier thought of than accomplished though as it proved a painstakingly slow process to dress himself, his body still stiff and sore despite the drugs. He left his braid mussed from sleep because the idea of raising his arms and the pulling of his scalp when brushing it made him cringe. His tender, now slightly aching head would get a reprieve today.

With particular care to move lightly, his steps smooth and un-jarring, Duo made his way out of his room and to the mess hall, praying none of Howard's men would see him and give him their usual hearty greeting of a sound slap on the back. The way he was feeling, he was sure the traditional, overly friendly greeting would likely have him on the floor bawling like a baby. In what seemed like half a decade later, he found himself standing outside the mess hall door. Putting his hand against the wall, he leaned heavily on it and took a deep breath. "Damn but this hurts," he mumbled as he rubbed his bruised chest. He wasn't sure who performed CPR on him but, if it had been Heero he'd probably have broken bones. As it was, he was sure they were just severely bruised.

Carefully straightening, he put on his best face, knowing it was imperative he give a good performance today or the other pilots wouldn't let him go into the next battle that could come at any time. He sure as hell wasn't going to lay in bed while his friends went into any skirmish without him. With his practiced smile in place, he stepped forward and the mess hall doors swished open.


Collapsing with a sigh into his pilot's chair, Duo Maxwell brushed the sleeve of his jacket across his forehead, wiping away the beads of sweat that had gathered there. He'd made it through lunch with the other pilots, doing his best to fool them into believing he was feeling much better. Yet in walking with them to the hanger, with the forced bounce to his step and animated gestures, he managed to drain away any energy he had left and now felt thoroughly spent.

His eyes lazily gazed around the cockpit and an involuntary shudder shook his body. He was experiencing the same feeling he'd had when he first entered the hanger moments ago. As his gaze had moved up Deathscythe's form, a feeling of apprehension had shivered up his spine. He'd always respected the power of the black gundam and talked to it like a buddy when he was feeling lonely, so the feeling was unexpected to say the least. He wondered if the sense of foreboding he felt then could be attributed to the last battle, his subconscious working on overdrive remembering the burning pain that had been inflicted on him in the cockpit when he intercepted that particle beam meant for Heero. He frowned, knowing that he'd had never had this kind of reaction towards his trusty gundanium friend before.

He raised his hand and gently ran his fingers over the familiar control panel, momentarily dismissing the disquiet within himself. "How ya doing buddy?" he asked his silent partner out loud. "Let's check out a few systems. Then, if ya don't mind, I need a nap."

The diagnostic check on the two systems he checked took about twenty minutes to complete and the gundam's pilot was pleasantly surprised that everything seemed functional. He was relieved to find he only needed to tweak a little to bring them up to his own personal level of function. He sighed with a mixture of fatigue and satisfaction. Reclining the pilot's seat back to a more comfortable position, he dimmed the interior lights and let himself doze off.

As his slumber deepened into REM sleep, the boy's dreams began as dreams usually do, unimportant, unintelligible and soon forgotten. Then the dream scape changed to become more vivid and discernable. He could see himself in his gundam, chatting to it as he always did to dispel the silence and loneliness he felt when alone for long periods of time on a mission. Then, surprisingly, Deathscythe talked back, telling him of the status of its many systems and weapons. Instead of the usual warning claxon, the gundam spoke clearly in a metallic but resonating voice that echoed in his head, warning of an approaching enemy. Turning his eyes to the monitor, he saw a large number of mobile dolls heading his way.

"Thirty five," the gundam announced.

Feeling a moment's hesitation about taking on that number without any backup, he scanned for the others. There, at the very edge of his scanning range he saw four mobile suits speeding towards him.

"Now." Deathscythe's metallic voice commanded, and from what seemed to be of the gundam's own volition, the great fighting machine threw itself into the approaching wall of enemy suits. The green thermal scythe spun and slashed with deadly precision as the pilot willed. Duo laughed wickedly as one enemy after another fell with little effort under his gundam's quick and powerful hands. It seemed almost too easy and it thrilled the teenager as his gundam plotted and performed new strategies as the enemy changed tactics.

"Behind us." Deathscythe warned in a booming voice, and swinging it's scythe up and over his head, the blade came slashing down through metal, destroying the other suit. A second before it hit, Duo glimpsed the identity of his latest victim. It wasn't an enemy's mobile doll at all, but Sandrock.

"QUATRE!" Duo screamed in disbelief even as the scythe's blade followed through. "NOOO!" the braided teen cried out in grief and horror. Sandrock was floating in space, neatly cleft in two.

Deathscythe spun around and began to attack the other three momentarily stunned gundams.

"Deathscythe, NO!" The sobbing pilot yelled out to his traitorous gundam. "They're my friends, not the enemy." Frantically, Duo fought back the controls, cursing and pleading the entire time for the crazed metallic gundam to stop. Tears rolled down his horrified face as Deathscythe easily dodged Wufei's dragon arm and turned to shoot off a missile into the center of Trowa's Heavyarms. As his friend's suit reacted to the blast, Deathscythe did a flip and a spin, then using its thrusters and scythe, the self-acting gundam sliced the momentarily disabled gundam in half.

"Nooo!" Duo sobbed. "Heero!" he cried out in desperation, searching for Wing Zero. "It's not me. Get away, I can't control it."

He watched the visual screen as the two remaining gundams came together. He tried repeatedly to contact them on audio and visual, but found all communication systems blocked.

"Incoming enemy." Deathscythe warned as it turned to fully face the remaining two gundams, now coming towards him. With wet eyes wide with horror, he watched his gundam preparing a counter attack. Duo pulled and pushed at buttons on the consul then tried to rip out the wiring for the weapon's systems. He saw the green thermal blade rise, aiming at Wing Zero. "Nooo!" he screamed.


He heard the voice loud and clear and felt himself being held by someone.

"Duo, wake up." The voice... it was Quatre's. Couldn't be, he thought in his confused state, Quatre's dead. Then grief over his lost friend came out in a strangled sob.

"Please, Duo. Wake up. It's just a dream." The familiar voice pleaded. The words offered a faint feeling of hope and pulled him more fully to consciousness until his eyes managed to open and he slowly realized his surroundings. His wet and blurred eyes blinked at his surroundings; he was inside his gundam and was being held firmly in a strong, comforting embrace.

"Thank God," he moaned even as he struggled to control the residue of grief he had been engulfed in within his dream.

"It's okay. Shh, just a dream," Quatre soothed as he held Duo and patted his back in an attempt to reassure him. The braided boy reached his arms up and firmly returned the embrace, convincing himself that his Arabian friend was indeed alive.

After several moments, Quatre pulled back to study Duo's face with deep concern. "You okay?" he asked.

Not trusting his voice, Duo nodded his head and wiped the moisture from off his face.

"Want to talk about it?"

The Deathscythe pilot moaned and hid his face in his hands, trying to gain some control over his emotions. "It was bad Quatre, and so...so real," he moaned.

"I heard you call my name as I was climbing up here to check on you," Quatre said. "I could sense you were distressed."

The braided boy nodded, and raising his head he leaned back into the pilot's seat and lifted his red-rimmed eyes to meet Quatre's sympathetic gaze.

"I.... I dreamed I was in Deathscythe," he began. "It was like the Zero system was in him. He talked to me and we went into battle...as a team. He calculated the attack and executed it as I swung the scythe. I knew you guys were coming, but as Deathscythe made a surprised tactical move on a supposed enemy behind us, the scythe came down and went through...Sandrock." His shocked filled eyes focused on his friend, revealing to Quatre that he still haunted by the dream. "I killed you, Quatre." He paused and took in a shuddering breath. "Then Trowa." His voice was now a hoarse whisper. "I couldn't stop Deathscythe and he was about to destroy Heero when you woke me up."

"It was just a dream, Duo," the blond said as the hand resting on Duo's shoulder gave it a gentle squeeze for reassurance.

"But it was so real, just like the flashes of the future Zero gave when I was forced to pilot Wing Zero." Duo shuddered as his mind remember that day.

Quatre winced as he tried to block out his own memories of his nightmarish time spent in Wing Zero. He had created it, and under its influence he'd destroyed so much. The visions he had seen while piloting it still fueled his own frequent nightmares.

Shaking himself physically and mentally, the Sandrock pilot forced himself to take action. "Come on Duo, let's get out of here. I'm cold," he said to the other while taking hold of the black-clad arm and pulled the braided boy up from his chair.

"Easy." Duo groaned, his hand moving to his sore chest.

"Sorry." Quatre slowed, but still kept a firm hand on Duo's arm as they exited the gundam. The lack of gravity made it easy for them to push off and float downward to the viewing and working platform. The blond grabbed hold of the railing with one hand while his other still held his friend. With little effort, he managed to pull Duo over to the platform railing without too much jarring.

Heero floated down behind them from Wing Zero. "Everything alright?" he asked, noting the wrung-out look on Duo's face and Quatre's concern.

"Yeah, we're just cold," Quatre answered for the both of them. "We'll get some soup and tea to warm up." Duo stood at the Arabian's side and nodded his agreement but averted his eyes, avoiding Heero's penetrating gaze. Quatre covertly gave Heero the "don't ask, I'll tell you later" look.

"Come on Duo." The blond gently urged is braided companion towards the exit door. "I'm really chilled." With a brief nod aimed at the Japanese boy, he added. "See you later Heero." Then turning, he grabbed hold of Duo's jacket again and pushed off, propelling them to float towards the door of the hanger.

Heero thoughtfully watched the two until they disappeared behind the double doors, his back to the gundams. His position and intense focus kept him from viewing Deathscyth's eyes as they began to glow to a brilliant green, then faded to their normal, powered down state.

The two pilots sat silently at the table in the otherwise deserted mess hall. Each concentrated on the warmth of the soup as they slowly ate it and drank the tea as it warmed them from the inside out. Both boy's thoughts were of the Zero System.

Quatre stood and took up both trays, depositing the empty dishes into the waiting bin, then turned back to his friend who sat unusually quiet, staring at a spot on the table. "Do you want to go back to the hanger?" Quatre asked as he approached his friend.

"No, I... I think I want to go to my room for a little while," the braided boy answered looking unsure of himself.

"Come on then." The blond took hold of his friend's arm once again and gently helped him to his feet, well aware he was still in considerable pain. Together they walked side by side through the corridors of Peacemillion as Quatre led the way towards the crew's quarters.

They stopped in front of the door to Duo's room so that the braided teen could key in his security code. The door swished open and he turned to face his friend. "Thanks Quatre," he said sincerely.

"I'll tuck you in." The Sandrock pilot quickly brushed past the startled teen as he entered the private quarters.

With a long sigh the American ran his fingers through his long bangs, wondering how to send his helpful friend away without hurting his feelings. "I'm fine, Quatre. Quit hovering," he said in a grumpy manner to the boy now standing by his bed and folding back the covers.

"That's my job!" the other boy answered cheerfully as he fluffed up a pillow and motioned for Duo to move towards the bed.

With a surrendering shake of his head, the braided teen moved to his bed and let his friend guide him to sit down on the soft mattress. He was surprised by how adept Quatre was at removing his boots and jacket without causing any further pain to his aching body. In moments, he was eased back onto his pillow and covered up.

"Snug as a bug in a rug," the blond sing-songed with a warm smile, then sat on the edge of the bed.

"I don't think I ever understood that saying Quatre," Duo replied. "In fact, it's kinda creepy."

He didn't really feel all that tired and he certainly didn't want to dream again, but neither did he feel like carrying on a conversation or presenting his normal, cheerful smile. He opened his mouth and yawned, pretending to be tired.

"Sleepy?" Quatre asked, still smiling down on his friend. Duo nodded and let his eyes close to try and prove it.

"Want me to stay?"

"Umm... no need. I'll see you later, okay?" he answered lazily and reached up to pull his braid over his shoulder as he always did before falling to sleep.

Quatre recognized the signs of Duo's pre-sleep ritual and stood up from his place on the edge of the bed. He brushed the long bangs back from Duo's forehead. "Sleep well my friend," he said in his quiet, gentle manner. "I'll check on you later."

Duo nodded and saw the lights go out from behind his closed eyelids as Quatre moved out of his room. He waited for several moments after the door closed before he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He reached for a remote underneath his pillow and, after pushing a few buttons, triggered his music system. He found the steady syncopation of bass and drums to be comforting, filling the silence of his room, but he turned down the volume far below its normal decibel level so his mind could go over the events of the last few days to try and analyze why he felt so reluctant to return to his gundam.

"Duo." Heero's deep voice startled him out of his sleep. He sat up abruptly, then grabbed at his aching chest as his wide eyes met Heero's. The Japanese boy stood next to his bed with a glass of water and a couple of white pills in his extended hand. Slowly swinging his legs out of bed, Duo sat on the edge of it and took the offered pills and the water, then swallowed them down.

He hated the feeling of sluggishness he had from the long nap he never really meant to take. "What time is it?" His voice sounded gravely.

"Half past six," Heero replied while keeping an observing eye on the braided boy. He moved to the end of the bed and sat on the edge. "Are you alright, Duo?"

"Yeah." The slightly unfocused boy answered as he carefully bent over to retrieve his boots on the floor and began to slip them on. "I didn't mean to sleep so long." He stood and tucked his shirt back into his jeans. "Did I miss anything?" he asked.

"No, not much," Heero said, still analyzing his friend. "Trowa and Wufei went to eliminate what appeared to be scouts from the other two factions. Quatre's waiting for us in the mess hall."

Duo patted his head to make sure his hair was properly tucked in his braid. Noting it was messy, he decided it would just have to do for the time being. He managed to smile at Heero, knowing his friend would be looking for it as a sign that he was alright. "Well then, let's go. I'm hungry."

To the other two pilots Duo seemed much more himself during the evening meal. As they finished up, Heero asked how the system checks were going on Deathscythe.

"Well, I've got a few more to go," Duo said as he pushed a loose strand of hair behind his ear. "But don't worry, I'll finish them tonight in case something comes up tomorrow," he hurriedly added to assuage Heero's look of skepticism.

"Just do what you can Duo and don't push it, you're still recovering." Was Heero's reply.

"Nah, I'm just a little sore. I'm sure it'll be gone by morning." Duo brushed aside his friend's concern.

"Did you have anoth.." Quatre began but was cut off by Duo.

"I'm fine Quatre. Don't worry." He focused his violet eyes, blazing with a warning, on the blond boy, willing him to silence.

The Winner heir smiled nervously, getting the message loud and clear. "Ah...need any help?"

Duo flipped his braid forward, over his shoulder and inspected the plait. "Nah, you two should enjoy your evening. Relax and rest up, cause we don't know when the next battle will come."

And so it was that he found himself entering the nearly deserted and dimly lit hanger by himself. Since the majority of repairs had been completed on all the gundams, Howard's crew had retired for the night as they too didn't know when they next battle would come. When it did, it was usually followed by the long hours of patch and repair on the usually battered and damaged gundams. Rest, when circumstances allowed, was mandatory for all the workers aboard the Peacemillion.

With feelings of trepidation coursing through his body, Duo flipped the switch that turned on the lights surrounding Deathscythe and lifted his eyes to gaze upon the metallic face of his deadly partner. He had spent some time before his nap that afternoon thinking about this new feeling of foreboding he felt in regards to his gundam. He rationalized to himself that it was just a normal reaction to the last battle and to the nightmare he'd had that morning while sitting in his pilot's chair.

Taking a deep breath, he slowly walked over to stand in front of the black, gundanium giant. With a huff of resignation, he took the weights from out of his pocket and placed them on the floor and zipped up his flight jacket against the cold of the hanger. Bending his knees, he pushed upward, straightening them out and propelling himself up towards Deathscythe's cockpit.

Once inside, he flipped the overhead lights on and sat down in his chair, snapping himself into it so he wouldn't float about. Since the maintenance crew was gone for the night, the gravity control had been reduced to conserve energy.

With a deep breath of the cold air that surrounded him, the braided teen began to let his fingers fly across the control panel, calling up the systems to begin the diagnostic analysis.

Six hours later, he collapsed back into his black, leather seat. "Done!" he exclaimed out loud in satisfaction. All of Deathscythe's systems were now up and functioning. Stretching his arms out in front of himself, he interlaced his fingers and stretched forward, then pulled them up and over his head, allowing the stiff joints to pop.

"Well Buddy," he yawned. "Time to call it a night." The panel board suddenly blinked and beeped as he reached for the release of his shoulder restraints.

"What the?" Duo scanned the board, trying to figure out what was going on. He absently rubbed his still bruised and aching chest.

With a deep agitated utterance of disgust, the gundam's pilot began to switch off all the system. "Sorry fella, but I'm too tired to figure out what I did wrong. Guess I'm grounded until I do." The lights dimmed out as each of systems were shut down, the overhead lights were the last to go out. Slipping out of his restraints, Duo made his way to the open hatch.

Before he could exit completely, there came a sound from behind him. In the darkness surrounding him, Duo was aware that here was some sort of movement in the cockpit followed by a beep from the shut down systems. He instantly stopped from exiting and looked over his shoulder. "What?" A tug at his ankle caused him to look down. "Where did that wire come from?" he wondered out loud as he saw the long length of curled wire wrapped around his ankle. Instinctively reacting, his eyes closed automatically and flinched when the bright flash of light filled the cabin as the cockpit lights came up all at once, momentarily blinding him. He automatically flung his arm up to shield his eyes.

"Ah!" he cried out in alarm as he felt small whip-like objects striking at his body, thin, cold strands wrapped around his legs, arms, torso and neck. The lights went completely out once again, just as he was forcefully pulled, straining against the hold on him, back inside his gundam.

Heero entered the mess hall and was greeted by three of the other pilots. He'd gone to Duo's room but was surprised to find his friend was already gone.

"Letting Maxwell sleep in?" Wufei asked just before sipping his steaming cup of tea.

"He's already up," Heero replied as he walked towards the food counter.

"I haven't seen him," Quatre added.

"Me neither," Trowa offered. "I thought he was still working on Deathscythe when we came in last night. Maybe he spent the night there," he suggested. It wasn't an unusual occurrence for Duo to do just that if he felt too tired to make his way to a bed.

But the casually spoken comment caused Quatre to look up sharply from his plate. The others didn't know of the nightmare Duo had in Deathscythe the morning before, nor of Duo's apprehension that he'd felt coming off the braided boy in waves when he'd looked back up at his gundam as they left the hanger. Uncharacteristically, the blond speared several bites of french toast onto his fork and shoved them into his mouth. He then stood and quickly took his tray to the waiting bin for dispensing the dirty dishes. Swallowing the large mouthful of bread, he called back to the others as he made his way to the door. "I'm going to the hanger," he announced, then quickly exited the room.

The other three exchanged curious glances and, knowing Quatre's penchant for understanding things they didn't, left their meals on the table and rushed after him.

Quatre must have run to the hanger because they didn't catch up to him until just before the entrance to the room that held the gundams.

"What's up, Quatre?" Heero asked, not even winded from the fast sprint.

"I'm not sure." His brows furrowed as if trying to decipher his inner feelings. He continued to walk towards the large door. "But Duo..." he began, but then suddenly stopped what he was about to say as the doors swished open and he stepped into the room. The other three watched as Quatre's eyes widened in horror and his mouth hung open. He clutched his throat and gasped for air as he looked upward to Deathscythe's open hatch.

Alarmed at Quatre's behavior, Heero followed the Sandrock pilot's line of sight.

"Trowa!" Heero pushed Quatre into the taller boys arms and turning, rushed to Deathscythe, Wufei on his heels. Howard's mechanics stopped working to watch with curiosity as the pilots raced towards Deathscythe, appearing alarmed.

The gravity field had been started with the morning shift in the hanger, causing both teens to have to scramble up the side of the large, black gundam. The hatch to the cockpit was open, and as they reached it, Heero called out to his friend.

Wufei came to stand behind Heero as they peered into the dark cockpit. A strangled noise, sounding like a plea for help came from within and immediately Heero reacted. His first step into the dark interior caused the Wing pilot to cry out in alarm as he was flung backwards into Wufei. The Chinese teen caught Heero and balanced the both of them until the Japanese boy could stand properly on his feet again.

"What happened?" Wufei asked trying to peer inside the dark cockpit.

"Some sort of electrical field." Heero replied while rubbing his chest finding it was numb and tingling from the shock. As an afterthought, he realized he was lucky the electrical jolt hadn't affected his heart. His eyes narrowed as he peered into the dark cockpit again. "Duo?" he called.

From his position behind Heero, Wufei raised his head to look at the face of Deathscythe, the eyes were not only glowing, but they were pulsing. When he looked back down, he could see the lights in the cockpit were slowly being brought up and that they too pulsed in the same rhythm as a slight hum that seemed to emanate from the gundam's power systems. Heero grabbed the side of the hatch, bracing himself to what he saw as the lights lit up the interior of the war machine.

"By Nataku, what in the...?" Wufei whispered in a tone of disbelief, voicing for the both of them the shock of what they were seeing. Duo's blue-violet eyes were large with panic on his white and drawn face. He sat in his pilot's chair, pinned to it by what looked to be multi-colored wires that seemed to have originated from the inside walls and systems of his gundam.

Heero peered in, studying the situation. He observed Duo's arms and lower legs were tightly bound to the chair by the various color and sizes of wire. His neck was encircled entirely by yellow wires that came from behind the chair and covered his skin from the base of his neck to the top of his jaw. The sound of Duo's breathing came out in rapid wheezes as he struggled to force air in and out of his lungs through the constriction around his neck.

"This would almost be funny if he wasn't scared shitless." Wufei said from behind the Wing pilot, his voice lacking any humor.

Heero put his hand out to his restrained friend, careful not to touch the electrical field. "Calm down Duo. Can you tell me what's going on?"

"Zero... in... Death... scythe." The panicked-looking teen's rasped voice called out his answer with great effort.

"That's not possible." Wufei countered. "You don't have those programs installed."

"Don't know." Duo gasped.

"The beam," Heero said after a moment. "The beam from the sphere was designed to remove the Zero system. When Duo told the story, I thought he meant that it neutralized it, but ancient Wufei said it was suppose to absorb or retract the system from Wing."

"But Duo threw himself into the beam." Wufei added. "If the Zero system had been absorbed into the beam and it was intercepted by Deathscythe..." His voice trailed off as his eyes met Duo's frightened ones. "Then the system was deposited in this gundam without the benefit of the discs that keep the program within its created limits."

"What does it want, Duo?" Heero asked.

"I... don't... know," he said, struggling to answer. "It doesn't want...me...to leave."

"Obviously." Wufei commented with slight sarcasm which earned him Heero's elbow to his ribs.

"What does it want with you, Duo." Heero asked.

"Don't know."

"Try talking to it."

"To Zero or Deathscythe?" the imprisoned boy whispered.

"I don't know, try both." Heero suggested.

After taking I a couple of strangled breaths, Duo began. "Hey buddy." His voice sounded small and tentative. "The um...systems checked out okay. How about letting me get up now so I can go get some food and sleep?"

There were a few clicks and beeps that emitted from the sound system as it came on. Then a female voice sang out, "No, no, no." Duo remembered the voice and line that came from a song he had in his music library he kept in his gundam.

"Listen Deathscythe," he began again in a stronger tone of voice. "I can't stay like this for long. I'm starting to cramp up, I'm hungry, and I really have to go to the bathroom."

Again the response from the sound system was the same.

"Zero!" Heero spoke from the hatch, and in the raised lighting within the cockpit he could see the slight shimmer and distortion of the electrical field that separated him from his trapped friend. "You're hurting your pilot. Let him go." he commanded forcefully.

The sound of a male's singing voice came over the speaker in response to the order. "Go away little girl, go away little girl."

Wufei snorted as he tried to hide his amusement. He was met with an icy stare and quickly stifled it.

"Zero, Duo is an organic being." Heero turned to try once again. "He needs food, water and rest in order to continue to exist, much like the fuel and maintenance done to your machinery and systems so that you can continue to function."

The speakers emitted the sound of another, different voice singing, "I am everything you want, I am every thing you need."

Duo started to wheeze as the wires on his throat constricted.

"Zero, stop!" Heero commanded. "The wires are too tight. He will cease to exist if you continue."

The wires loosed slightly, and Duo took a couple of deep, gasping breaths. "Dammit," he swore as soon as he caught his breath. "This is so not funny." he said, still a bit breathless as he looked up at his two friend behind the electrical field with frantic desperation displayed on his face.

The two pilots continued to peer inside the cockpit, gripping the sides of the cockpit door in frustration, searching for a solution to Duo's dilemma.

"What's going on?" Trowa's voice sounded behind the two as he climbed up onto the now crowded hatch door.

"Duo's gundam has a free-reigning Zero system in it." Wufei answered with a quick glance in the taller boy's direction. "And it seems to have a crush on him." Even as he said it, Wufei shifted slightly to avoid Heero's sharp elbow aimed at his ribs once again.

Trowa peered into the cockpit and saw for himself that Duo was being held down in his pilot's chair by electrical wires.

Wufei reached over and, with a finger under the Heavyarms pilot's chin, closed Trowa's slack jaw.

"What?" Wufei asked with one eyebrow lifted. "Never seen a gundam in love before?"

"How is this possible?" Trowa asked, ignoring Wufei's attempt at humor for the more serious issue at hand.

Heero began to explain about the sphere and the transference of power from Zero to Deathscythe. He finished by stating his own philosophy that somehow the system Zero system, empowered by the beam of the sphere and the power of his gundam's buster rifle, had produced an artificial, free-reigning intelligence housed within the black gundam.

While Heero was filling him in, Trowa kept his eyes on the braided pilot. "So what do we do to free Duo if his gundam won't let him go?" he asked the other two after Heero finished.

"I don't think we should discuss this here." Heero replied. "Zero's sensors will pick up our conversation. Duo?" Heero turned back to his friend. "Were going to discuss this elsewhere. Try to rest, or if you can't do that, talk to Zero and reason with it."

"You'll come back, right?" Duo asked nervously, his eyes looking enormous and bright.

"We'll return soon." Heero assured him, then turning, he motioned the other two to follow him down the front of Deathscythe.

"Bring back some food." Duo shouted after them. "I'm starving."

on to part 4

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