To Change the Future - Part 4
Duo's Friendship Arc 19
by Dyna Dee
A little more than an hour later, all four pilots returned to the hanger. Quatre, having recovered from the wave of fear and anxiety he'd picked up from the captive and panicked Duo when they entered the hanger earlier, joined Heero, Wufei as they made their way up Deathscythe to the open hatch at the same time that Trowa moved to the right leg of the massive gundam with the intention to key open a side hatch, opening a maintenance power panel. The three pilots peered into the lit cockpit to see Duo in relatively the same position he had been in before. A slight gasp was heard from Quatre at his first sight of his friend trapped in his pilot's chair by the many wires that seemed to come out of nowhere. He'd been briefed by the others of the situation, but it was another thing to see it. Duo's head was slumped over to his left shoulder while a slight snoring sound came from his slack mouth.
"Duo." Heero called out the other's name only loud enough to wake him. He repeated himself several times, each time raising his voice a bit more in volume. With a shocked snort, the braided head finally jerked up and Duo blinked with owlish eyes, taking in his surroundings and remembering his circumstances.
"We have food for you." Heero held up a box that contained a variety of food from the cafeteria. "Can you talk Deathscythe into lowering the electrical field?" he asked.
"I'll try," Duo yawned and blinked his eyes, trying to wake up from his short but much needed nap.
"Hey buddy," he called out, his voice groggy. "My friends have foo...fuel for my body. Can you lower the field so I can get it from them?"
A full, rich tenor voice boomed out. "No."
Duo shared a look of surprise with Heero. "I think it's getting better at narrowing down the words from my music in order to communicate." The Deathscythe pilot observed.
"Try again." Heero urged patiently.
"I'm hungry, Deathscythe." Duo entreated his gundam. "I need fuel to continue. Please, let me go." No response. "At least lower the field so they can bring the food in and I can eat." Duo's voice sounded more adamant and demanding. Still, there was no response.
"Are you deliberately trying to hurt me?" he asked the gundam. "We're friends, right? And friends take care of each other, just like my friends who brought me fuel to sustain me. Don't you want to be my friend anymore?" he asked, trying hard to sound sincere while he was embarrassed from the top of his head down to his socks to have his friends hear how he privately spoke to his gundam. Taking a quick glance outside the cockpit, he could see the three other pilots standing on the open hatch looking amused and skeptical.
"Five, four, three, two, one," came the sound of different singing voices counting down. After one, the electrical field went down and the wires on the chair and pilot tightened. With eyes wide with panic, Duo gasped for breath even as Heero entered the cockpit with the box in hand.
Seeing Duo's distress, the Wing pilot quickly put the box down and pulled out a wire cutter from his pocket and moved to cut the wires from off his friend's neck. He managed to cut through one section, severing at least fifty small, bunched wires when, unbeknownst to him, a larger power cable snaked out from the side of the Com board behind him.
"Heero!" Quatre cried out in warning. "Behind you."
Turning to face whatever Quatre saw as threatening, Heero was briefly touched by the splintering cable, shocking him with several small electrical charges, not enough to harm him permanently, but certainly enough to stun him. Several more wires released Duo's legs and twisted together in the air to form a thicker cable that curled at the end to form a ball. That ball moved with force and pushed a stunned Heero backwards, out of the cockpit and onto the hatch to be caught by Wufei and Quatre. The electrical field immediately went up, separating them from their semi-conscious friend still inside.
Wufei quickly determined the shock Heero sustained appeared to incapacitate his speech and motor movement. So he took it upon himself to take his place. Standing at the opening of the hatch, he began to intercede for his friend trapped inside. "Deathscythe," he called out to the crazed machine. "Your hold on your pilot is too tight. Let him go!" he demanded, trying to squelch from his voice any trace of fear that he felt for his Duo, still tightly pinned and struggling to breathe.
Suddenly, Duo slumped forward, wheezing and coughing as the wires slacked from their firm hold on his body to a slightly more bearable grip. "You almost killed me you stupid machine!" he rasped out angrily.
"Are you alright Duo?" Quatre asked over Heero's head. He had one arm wrapped around Heero's chest and his other hand was feeling his neck for a pulse. Finding a strong and steady heartbeat, he wrapped both hands around the Japanese teen, holding him until he could come back to his senses.
"I think..." Duo's answer was cut off as the gundam began to pitch forward, nearly tossing the three on the open door off the edge. Wufei and Quatre had the quick reflexes and a brief moment of time to grab the handholds on the side of the hatch and both held tightly onto Heero who looked up at them with a dazed expression, trying to comprehend what was happening. Then, after their feet completely left the hatch door to dangle over the hanger floor, he began to move. With the slowest of motions, he brought one of his hands up and took hold of another handle, supporting his own weight on the tilted gundam.
Duo sat stupefied at his gundam's movements, and found himself looking out the hatch and past his dangling friends to the floor of the maintenance hanger as Deathscythe appeared to be scanning for something. Then suddenly, he saw what it was Deathscythe/Zero was looking for. Trowa stood in front of an open power panel to the side of the gundam's right leg. As the others continued to dangle from the hatch door handles, Duo watched in growing horror as the gundam's arm reached down towards the Heavyarms pilot who was apparently attempting to cut the power.
"No. Don't hurt him. He's my friend." Duo shouted. "Trowa, look out!" he yelled loudly in warning.
Hearing Duo's warning, the Heavyarms pilot looked up, his eyes widening as the gundam's eyes glared maliciously at him. He saw the large arm coming for him, and he instantly jumped behind the leg, hoping that "out of sight out of mind" would apply in this situation.
The gundam, having lost visual of his target, merely flicked the panel door closed with his large, gundanium finger; its closing click resounding throughout the now silent hanger. The gundam rose, scanning the hanger and immediate vicinity as it came to an upright position.
"So close." Quatre whispered in disappointment as his weight transferred from his hands back to his feet resting on the hatch door.
Wufei looked into the cockpit to check on Duo. The box of food they brought had rolled and smashed into the front, interior wall during Deathscythe's movements, yet still looked to be in tacked. Duo looked dishevel and unhappy. "What can we do to help?" he asked their captive friend.
"I suppose you should go away," Duo said, his voice flat and disheartened. "He seems to behave better when no one is around. Maybe I can talk him into letting me up for a while."
"Very well," Heero spoke up, looking like he was almost fully recovered from the shock the gundam had given him. "We'll go about our normal business and check back with you on a regular basis to determine your status," he said, giving Duo what appeared to be a conspiring, awkward-looking wink to let him know the words were for the Zero systems benefit, and that they were really going to work on a solution to this problem. So unnatural was Heero's gesture of winking, that Duo decided his friend had probably never winked at anyone in his life before and that, if he wasn't in such a strange and frightening place, he might have had a good, gut-busting laugh about it.
With a brief goodbye, heavy with concern and lingering worried glances, the three descended the black gundam to rejoin Trowa, now standing on the deck.
When Heero check back two hours later he could see that Duo had succeeded in convincing the Zero system into freeing him from the restraining wires that held him to his command chair. However, the sight before him was by far the most bizarre he'd ever seen. The Deathscythe pilot was indeed out of his chair, but hundreds colored wires that sprouted from the inside walls of the cockpit, independently reached out to touch the black-clad teenager who was still very much a captive. To Heero, it seemed the gundam was in a constant state of trying to reassure itself by those touches that its pilot was still there. Long, loose strands of brown hair gave the appearance of being suspended in air as the wires, wrapped around the tips, kept constant hold on the cautiously moving head; and the clothing Duo wore was pulled out at odd angles as the wires kept possession of the ostensibly-freed pilot. Even the stoic Japanese boy felt more than a little unnerved by the sight of his friend being constantly touched by the Zero system.
"Heero!" Duo called out as soon as he saw his friend standing in the open hatch, his voice sounding desperate.
The Japanese boy mentally shook himself from the shock of seeing Duo's present circumstances. "How are you holding up?" he asked.
"I've gotta get outta here." Duo answered emphatically as he batted at the wires, trying to ward off their touch as they reached out for his hands.
"Come up with any ideas?"
Duo shook his head, then with a wince and an irritated look on his face, he reached to the back of his neck and tugged on his braid. After some initial resistance, he brought the messy length forward, holding it in his grasp. "Stop pulling my hair," he snarled at the wires behind him, then returned his focus on his friend. "I'm gonna lose my friggin mind if it doesn't leave me alone," he warned, his eyes shifting rapidly in agitation at the constantly moving wires.
"It's alright," Heero said in trying to soothe the agitated boy. "Calm down Duo. We're working with Howard to see what we can do. Why is Zero so...infatuated with you?" he asked.
"I don't know, but I think it's gone through my personal log entries. Sometimes, on long solo missions, I talk to Deathscythe like a friend," he told Heero, lowering his eyes in embarrassment believing the other pilot would look at him as being weak. "I do it to hold back the loneliness of space. I think, maybe, that it's taken on a personality based on my need for companionship."
"That's possible with the free-based, interactive system that Zero has become." Heero replied thoughtfully. "Has it given you visions of the future or of your enemies."
Duo's eyes widened and he gave Heero a horrified look. "No, oh no, Heero." he replied in a voice filled with despair and disbelief. "The dream I had was from Zero. I...I killed Quatre and Trowa, and you were next."
Duo suddenly lunged towards the cockpit door, desperate to escape, only the wires latching onto his arms and legs simultaneously stopped him from colliding with the electric shield just inside the hatch. "Don't go into battle with me Heero. Stay clear of Deathscythe. I won't be able to control it and it will kill all of you," he begged. "Ask Quatre, I told him about the dream."
Heero nodded, his brows pulled together in thought and concern.
"Let go!" Duo yelled angrily as his arms fought against the many wires touching and holding onto him.
Suddenly the wires worked in unison once again as they bound together, wrapped strategically around the lean boy, and pulled Duo helplessly back into the pilot's chair. Duo yelled and screamed at his gundam in protest, straining his whole body against the wires holding him in the pilot's chair once again, but to no avail. Finally he stopped struggling, his chest heaving from his efforts and frustration.
Heero looked on feeling helpless, something almost foreign to his nature. His fists were clenched tightly at his inability to help his friend.
"What can I do?" he asked the restrained teen.
Duo took a moment to take a few deep breaths and calm himself. Then looking at Heero with an expression of resignation he answered. "How about some blankets, a pillow and a change of clothes? And more food," he added as an afterthought. With a look of defeat he said, "Looks like I'm gonna be here for awhile."
And so a pattern of visits began as each of the other four pilots, Howard and some of the men who knew Duo well came regularly to visit with him, bringing something in hand for their friend. Every two hours they climbed the gundam and talked through the open hatch to the captive teen. Meanwhile, Duo had been able to cajole the gundam into tapping into his DVD collection so he could watch some movies to pass the long hours. Fortunately, he had a good selection on board, and he even watched several at the same time. He also listened to the music he'd stored during the time he was on Earth. He had an extensive library of rock, techno and classical music, his personal preferences.
After three days though, the confinement was wearing thin and Duo's temperament deteriorated to a constant stream of curses, ranting and whining.
"I want out of here and I want a shower!" he shouted to the walls of the gundam. "My hair is dirty as well as a knotted mess and that's not okay! Now let me outta here."
Trowa's head peeked over the open hatch to see the irate and agitated pilot fighting the wires that seemed to be reaching out in an attempt to him to reassure and calm its prisoner. As another set of wires reached out to take hold of his arm, Duo shouted. "Leave me the hell alone!"
"Duo." Trowa's soothing voice called out, and his friend turned with wide, panicked eyes in his direction.
"Please Trowa, get me outta here. I can't take it anymore. I want a shower, a bed, to walk, some human touch." His facial features were pinched and strained as he pleaded for help and there were dark circles under his eyes showing just how little sleep he was getting.
"I know, Duo. I know." Trowa kept his voice low, his tone soothing and understanding. "Everything we've tried has failed. Zero is hypersensitive to our movements and always seems to be one step ahead of us."
"Then get Heero's buster rifle and destroy us." Duo demanded. "Blow us right out of Peacemillion."
Trowa was taken aback. Duo's voice and demeanor showed that he was serious. He shook his head in response. "No." he answered in the same tone.
Duo's eyes narrowed on him. "You'll have to do it anyway or Zero will destroy you. It showed me the future, Trowa, and in it I killed you and Quatre. Do you want that to happen?"
"You won't let that happen," The Heavyarms pilot answered with a quiet conviction.
"Trowa, listen to me," Duo pleaded with him earnestly. "I won't be able to stop it. You have to stay away from me and help Heero to do what he must to protect you, all of you."
Trowa shook his head in denial of Duo's claim and idea of a solution. "There's got to be another way. I won't accept it. Besides," he looked into his friend's troubled eyes. "Zero shows possible futures, it's not necessarily what will happen. Each of us saw different futures while under Zero's influence, not all of which happened because someone, or even ourselves, stopped it from happening." Studying the face of the boy from L-2, Trowa could see the desperate struggle that went on in the his mind. Then Duo closed his eyes.
"Sweet Mary, Mother of God I hope your right," he said as he pulled his hand free of restraining wires and touched his cross in a quick, silent prayer that what his friend said was true.
"Have faith Duo. We'll do all we can to protect you and ourselves."
"Thanks Trowa." Duo opened his eyes again. "You're a good friend."
The Heavyarms pilot was satisfied to see Duo calming, the panic in his eyes faded slightly to be replaced by a more hopeful look. He left a short while later after talking Duo into taking a much needed nap. He watched his friend curl up in his chair with his pillow and blanket and drift into a fitful but much needed sleep; the red, blue, black and yellow wires gently touched his hair and clothing lightly, hovering protectively over the slumberer.
An hour later, the battle claxon sounded on all levels of the ship.
Duo was in the process of getting into his flight suit when Heero stepped up onto the hatch door. The long-haired teen had just popped his head through the blue turtleneck shirt when he heard his name called. He reached for his flight jacket and approached the opening. Slipping an arm into a sleeve, he met Heero's dark eyes. The two stared wordlessly at each other for a moment before the Perfect Soldier broke the silence.
"We believe this is the battle you mentioned where the sphere takes the Zero System from Epyon." Heero told his friend. "Howard managed to get us as close as possible to the site of the battle between White Fang and the Earth's forces. Since you're gundam is the only one with the quick reflexes of the Zero system, your battle objective is to destroy the sphere, to protect Zechs from it. The rest of us will protect your flank and be your backup."
Duo nodded, his eyes boring into the dark blue ones. "Just stay away from Deathscythe, Heero. If I show any aggression towards the gundams, use your buster rifle."
Heero stood silent, and momentarily closed his eyes in coming to terms with the possibility of killing his closest friend. When his eyes opened, it was to see his friend waiting for some response, he replied simply, "I'll do what I have to."
"Be careful." Duo tried to smile, but sadly, he only managed to look grim.
Heero nodded. "Wear a helmet in case all hell break out and the hull is compromised," he ordered. Then with a slight, crooked smile he added. "Give them hell, Duo."
A real smile managed to appear on the Deathscythe pilot's face. "I always do," he replied honestly.
With a wave of his hand, Wing's pilot closed the hatch to the black gundam and pushed off the open door and, using the almost non-existent gravity in the hanger, he jumped over to his gundam docked beside Deathscythe.
Duo zipped up his jacket. "Alright Buddy," he spoke now with familiar fondness to his companion in war. "Let start things up and cook some White Fang and Oz ass."
He took his seat in the pilot's chair as the system's board lit up. The days of mental torture while trapped within the gundam quickly faded as the hum of Deathscythe's systems and engines starting up brought back feelings so familiar and routine, that it once again felt so right. He also noticed as the systems came fully on line, that the wires that had pestered and kept him prisoner had disappeared, and the electrical field that had kept him in and his friends out had also vanished.
Securing the harness snugly against his body, all lights on the system's board turned green. Flipping on the COM board, he addressed the others. "02 ready to wreak havoc and destruction."
"Roger that." Heero's voice came across the system loud and clear, his tone serious as he went into battle mode. The Japanese boy's face then flashed onto the view screen for a visual check of his friend's physical state.
"You lead Duo. I'm sending you the coordinates of where White Fang's force is concentrated. Find Zechs as soon as possible. We'll follow behind you." Heero's head bent down as he transferred the necessary information to Deathscythe.
"Got it." Duo announced as a yellow light flashed as his computer accepted the transfer. "I'll see you guys there." He cut visual and, feeling the restraining cables that held his gundam to the walls of Peacemillion release its hold, he moved Deathscythe towards the hanger's opening doors.
Twenty minutes later, Duo found himself at the edge of Zechs' rebel army. He threw himself forward, towards the battle in progress in hopes of catching sight of the red gundam called Epyon. Deathscythe entered the fighting field, fought between the two opposing sides of White Fang and Oz. Deathscythe/Zero seemed to be in complete control of itself, efficiently anticipating the movement and attacks of the enemies surrounding or advancing on him. In his wake, he left behind a metal graveyard of splintered pieces of hacked-up mobile dolls and suits, evidence of the Zero System's superior fighting abilities. Duo shivered as he recalled a similar vision he'd received days previous.
Looking down as the sensor board beeped, Duo observed a new entity had entered the foray. "Zechs," he hissed. Enemy or not, the braided American was determined to protect his enemy from the sphere, that was his mission. Deathscythe/Zero changed course to intercept Epyon while Duo scanned the area for the small, round object. His computer scanning systems showed the four other gundams fighting in his wake, keeping out of striking range, but countering any attacks coming toward themselves or Deathscythe.
"There!" Duo's eyes narrowed. Behind Zechs was a fast moving but small object that seemed to be approaching the White Fang leader. "There's our objective Zero," Duo said out loud. "Intercept!"
Zero complied, racing ahead, while its pilot slashed down any who opposed or got in their way. Duo switched on the COM system and the other four pilots stern faces flashed on the screen. "Epyon and the target are about to become intimately acquainted; follow me at a distance," he warned them. They each acknowledged and the screen went blank.
"It's up to us to change the future old buddy," he said to his deadly war machine. As if prearranged, the sound system came on. The long haired teen smiled as he recognized the song Zero had chosen. "Let's show White Fang and Oz that gundams aren't to be treated lightly," he said as the lyrics of one of his favorite, rowdy rock songs boomed through the cockpit.
Well we don't need no one to tell us what to do.
Oh yes we're on our own and there's nothing you can do,
cause we don't need no one like you - to tell us what to do.
Duo knew the 20th Century song well, it had been one of his favorites in previous battles. And as he and Deathscythe flew toward their goal, he joined in the chorus.
Cause I'm a brat and I know everything and I talk back,
cause I'm not listening to anything you say.
And if you count to three (one, two, three), You'll see it's now an urgency
You'll see I'm not the enemy,
Just a prisoner of so-ci-ety, so-ci-ety, so-ci-ety.
The guitar wailed fast and furious, seeming to follow his thoughts and heartbeat even as he got a visual sighting of the red gundam turning to face him as he approached.
We all refer to the past when showing what we've done
The generation gap means the war is never won
The nasties in your head, the futures in our hands.
"Intercept the sphere, not Epyon." Duo ordered Deathscythe, hoping it would comply. It changed course and veered to the right of the seemingly stunned red suit. He turned on the com systems and the music automatically lowered in volume.
"Hey Zechs." The braided pilot hailed the pilot of Epyon. "You've got a greater enemy than me on the battle field today," he informed the other pilot on an audio channel only. "It's the sphere behind you. Withdraw from the battle and we'll destroy it."
Zechs' frowning face blinked onto the screen. "Why would you help an enemy? Is this some kind of trick?" he snapped back.
"The sphere removes the Zero System from the gundam and leaves the pilot defenseless, open to attack. Wing Zero was attacked last week, but we decided you deserved an honorable death, not the sneaky, suck-the-life-out-of-you death some other person or organization has in mind for you. If we take you out, it will not be done by dirty tricks and you'll receive a true soldier's death in a clean battle."
"Why should I believe you?" Zechs asked suspicious of the gundam pilot's motives.
"You don't have to," Duo replied calmly. "Just get the hell outta my way."
Even as the silent static of space came over the system and the Epyon pilot paused to think, Duo raced towards the approaching sphere. His eyes widened as a red crimson light began to grow from the center of the orb. "It's about ready to fire," he shouted out. "Quick move your gundam out of its range, behind me," he shouted out to the Epyon pilot. Duo's heart beat furiously as he pushed his machine forward, he was almost there.
"Duo!" several of is friends called out through the COM in worry for him as he flung his mighty suit into the targeting zone of the sphere. This time he was able to do for his enemy what he hadn't initially accomplish for his best friend, he completely intercepted the beam as it shot out towards Epyon.
The red beam filled the cockpit, and Duo screamed as pressure, heat and electricity surrounded and seemed to consume him, and he felt the invisible fingers of the Zero System reach out to touch him as his gundam reacted to the beam's jolt of power. He felt like his nerve endings were being set on fire as the cockpit was filled with the glowing color of blood. Then as quickly as it had come, the brightness and shocking pain were gone, leaving the braided pilot slumped over, unconscious in his chair. The board of the gundam's systems dimmed, then flicked on low, displaying that the systems were on emergency back up.
Duo was still slumped over and completely unaware when Heero finally broke through the COM system and visually surveyed the damage to the pilot within the gundam floating dead in space. "Hold on Duo." He strongly urged his friend, his voice tinted with a trace of fear as he and Quatre took hold of the black gundam and raced back to Peacemillion. Trowa and Wufei followed, guarding their retreat even as Zechs ordered his troops to back away from the retreating gundams.
Duo woke with a gasp and clutched his sore chest. "Not again," he moaned.
"Sorry." Heero's voice spoke from a close proximity.
Duo forced his eyes open. "Man, feels like you busted a rib or two this time." He complained in a strained voice.
"But you're alive and out of your gundam." Heero reminded him. The boy in the bed visibly relaxed though his face was pinched with pain.
"You're right," he murmured. "What happened?"
"In saving Zechs, the sphere drew the zero system out of Deathscythe. Once again, you received some kind of electrical shock that caused your heart to beat erratically. We barely got you out in time. And Zechs, seeing that you put yourself in the line of fire for him, went after the probe and destroyed it. Seems it was designed to absorb only one Zero system at a time. It was helpless to defend itself against a second system that it couldn't absorb. He also stopped the battle so we could remove you from the battlefield."
"I hate owing him a favor." Duo said in a sour tone.
"You don't," Heero replied. "You saved him and he let us save you. All is even."
Duo surveyed the room he was in. It was the familiar emergency medical room on Peacemillion. With a glance down he saw he was in a blue patient's gown with several blankets laying on top of him. Heero sat in the chair next to his bed, still dressed in his flight suit. "I never thought I'd be so happy to be in this room and in this much pain," he chuckled, wincing at the sharp pain it caused and then turned his eyes to his friend. "It might be a little difficult for me to get back into Deathscythe again," he said in all truthfulness, his eyes showing his trepidation at the mere idea of doing so.
Heero nodded his understanding. "I'll be with you when that time comes, and so will the others."
"Time." Duo said reflectively.
"You've managed to change the future twice now." Heero said with a smile that showed he was proud of him.
"And you have the chance to change it also," Duo said in a sober tone of voice. Heero raised his eyes in question. "Live." Duo said earnestly. "Save me by living through this war. You're my friend, Heero, the only family I have other than the rest of the guys. If you die, I have no doubts my future will be as ancient Wufei said. I can't bear the idea of losing anyone else that's close to me. I don't think I can survive another loss like that."
"Shh." Heero shushed him, not liking to see his friend upset. He put a reassuring hand on Duo's shoulder and looked into his friend's searching eyes. "Somehow, I'll do it. I'll live," he said with the confidence he always had when taking on a mission, his eyes showing he was deadly serious.
Knowing what a tenacious fighter Heero was, Duo knew he always set out with dogged determination to finish whatever mission he'd accepted. And after a few moments of contemplating the promise, both friends smiled at each other, knowing instinctively that the future had been changed yet again.
Song by the Living End, a great (what I call a punk-a-billy) group from Australia.