I poked half-heartedly at the electronic circuit board spread out on the bench. The screwdriver slipped; a small arc of power, and the part was history. Just like that. I sighed and chucked it in the recycle bin. More parts waited for me to look them over, determine their worth and assign them an inventory number. The in pile grew daily; the out pile consisted of one. I tapped a new form up on the laptop, and reached for the next in the pile.
The yard was near silent, with only the low hum of my analysis equipment to keep me company. I'd had the vid set on up until the noon news feature. Same ol' shit, different day. The new components lay exposed to my fumblings, and here I was glancing at the clock again. Not even three yet. Suppressing the desire to sigh, I set to work. I'd wanted to finish ten before Hilde got back, but I'd be lucky to get three done - not counting the one I blew.
Hilde had come in through the open shop door, and peered over my shoulder to see what I was at. I didn't have to look to know she wasn't happy. Her hand landed on my other shoulder and she gave me an awkward sideways hug. "Not going well, huh?"
Shrugging, I tossed the soldering iron down and twisted on the stool. "It never seems to stop." Her arm had dropped but she didn't move. She was close enough to kiss, if I was so inclined. Lucky for her, I wasn't. Her eyes scanned my face and that tic started again. I tried to forestall another lecture by mustering up a grin. "But that's what keeps us in business, right? Keeps us happy?"
She wasn't fooled, but she let it go for what it was and dropped it. Pulling out the other stool, she sat deliberately. "Is it? I mean, are you really happy, Duo?" She wouldn't look at me, but picked up a discarded length of solder wire and twisted it about her finger.
Not knowing what she was looking for, I hedged, "What more could I ask for? I've got a place to sleep, food I don't have to cook to eat. I'm surrounded by every known electronic and motorized part to man. Why wouldn't I be happy?"
"I..." She shrugged and unwound the solder. "You don't laugh much any more."
I had to think on that one. She was right. I couldn't think of the last time I had laughed, the last time I recalled feeling happy. I shoved away from the bench, and flicked the analysis machine off. "I'm going to get a drink," I announced rushing for the door.
Sam's was a good enough place. Besides, it was conveniently located. Rarely did I get smashed, but from there, I knew I'd make it home. Into my second beer, the regulars began to file in. Looking into the mirror behind the bar, their faces all seemed the same; catching my own reflection shocked me - I wasn't any different. Younger, maybe than most, but the similarities were there.
Lackluster. That's a good word. Lacking in what gives one drive, ambition. I lusted for no one and nothing. Suddenly the beer tasted sour and I pushed it away. Tossing a few creds on the counter, I rose and left.
Hands in my pockets, I walked hunched over watching my feet, scanning the other pedestrians occasionally. It'd only been three years since I'd been proclaimed a hero of the colony. In looking at the faces passing me by, recognition flashed in none. All of them the same, the blank dazed expression of automates and the only difference between them and the drinkers at Sam's was the end-of-day destination. Most would get home, crack a beer or pour a glass of wine, sit and watch whatever was playing on the vid. If they were lucky, someone would be there to make dinner, maybe to have sex, sleep only to get up and do it all over again.
At the edge of the park, I watched as a group of kids chased one another around on the grass. Their laughter sounded loud in my ears, and I moved on. Nowhere to go, I turned back for home.
It was seven o'clock, and a covered plate sat on the table for me. I could hear the laugh track of some vid program Hilde was watching in the other room. She'd made some casserole thing with canned fruit on the side. The syrup ran and mixed with the meat sauce. I plucked up the peach half and ate it, the rest of the meal I scrapped down the waste chute.
Quiet in walking to my room, I ghosted past the open doorway. Not that I was avoiding Hilde, but sometimes she just yammered about things I didn't want to hear. I did pause when I heard her voice; she was talking to someone on the phone. I shrugged and moved on. At least she hadn't heard me come in. Once in my room, I stripped and lay on top of the covers. I let my hand caress the skin of my chest, and down my abdomen. Not even a stir or tickle from the ol' libido. Ah well, I didn't feel like cleaning the mess anyway. Instead, I rolled to the side, pulling the top blanket over me.
I was back in Deathscythe, the battle in full swing. A legion of mobile dolls surrounding me. Looking around, I discovered I was alone, though I could see the flashes of another fight being waged off to my right. I'd have to win this one on my own. My fingers flew over controls I hadn't touched in two years, but there was no hesitation. Grinning manically, the God of Death was back in action. Raising and lowering the scythe beam, I cut a path through the dolls, and they continued to close in on me. Shot after shot pounded into 'Scythe's shields; a few of his electronics were taking some serious damage. It was going to be a bitch to repair.
It didn't surprise me that I was hard, harder than I'd ever been. Something slammed into the back of my gundam, and the external sensors went blank. I was flying blind. I vaguely heard the noise of the other guys through the comm system and thought of calling for help. But what the fuck, we were all going to die anyway, right? Might as well take this set of dolls with me. I unzipped my pants, and felt 'Scythe rock under another assault. My swollen dick in one hand, my detonator in the other, I pumped cock for all I was worth, waiting for that moment, and hit the plunger as the cum shot out of me, splattering the console. At least I wouldn't have to clean up the mess.
Not even light yet, I woke to find my hand wrapped around my dick, cum still tacky to the touch. A shower, a bowl of corn flakes at the sink and I was ready. I scrawled a note so Hilde wouldn't scream too much, and left. In no time I was at the space port, and my old pal Rog had the suit ready. Not a mobile suit, those were too few and far between - most wound up in scrapyards like Hil's and mine - but one built for lengthy space walks - perfect for working on the outside of the colony sphere.
Every month or so, someone had to do maintenance on different sectors of the sphere. Meteor storms were common, and while the sheeting could withstand all but the largest meteors, it was the dust that caused the most damage. It got into everything, clogging even sealed optics and interfered with circuit relays. I was one of five who was recruited for the job. Each of us were given a sector, and told to maintain it as best we could. Mostly it was tedious boring work, verifying from the source that it still worked, vacuuming out the dust, reapplying seals, and replacing or repairing damaged sensors. Like I said, mostly boring shit like I did at the shop, only out in space.
And God help you if a storm blew in while you were doing it.
I don't think I feared the storms any more. It'd come close a couple of times, where I'd barely make it to a safety hatch before one would rip by. They usually only lasted maybe five minutes, but everything it touched was coated in a fine powder. This powder would force its way into a suit's ventilation and oxygenation system, and after breathing that shit, you'd wish you'd died. Someone did the analysis on what made up the matter once. Turns out we poisoned ourselves. Caught in an orbit around the sphere, this mostly man-made matter traveled out some two or three hundred miles and then came back, looping the sphere again. Silicone, metal, waste ash and fecal matter fused together to create the meteors, and when the meteors collided, the dust was born.
Gives the Big Bang theory a boost.
On the third day, I'd finished the last sensor. My scalp was itching, and the rest of me was pretty rank, I was sure. I could have gone in every night and stayed in the bunker set up, but I liked it out there. Mostly I'd find a support plug, set anchor and drift into space for the night. Or what passed for night. I still had more than a few hours left of the suit's filtering system, and wanted to stay in space just a bit longer. Setting the tether, and hooking up the support line, I let myself drift.
I thought that maybe I should go back to working in space. But it was nothing new. Piloting a shuttle route can get pretty damn boring awful fucking quick. I knew Quatre could find me something to do, even several somethings, but I didn't know if that's what I wanted either. Maybe a change in me would help. Cutting my hair crossed my mind, but I dismissed it immediately. It wasn't something that could be taken back if I didn't like it. I even thought of getting a tattoo or an earring. Maybe even getting my nipples pierced. But then, who would I show them to? If there's only me, and the only way I seemed to get it up these days is when I dream of dying, well that's just too fucking sad to even think about.
Deep in contemplating just what kind of tattoo I could get, I didn't hear Heero until he was tapping on the side of my helmet. It should have surprised me to see him there, but it didn't. For whatever reason, it made some sort of sense. I gave him a nod, and could see his mouth working but couldn't hear him. Frustrated, he reached over and flipped on my suit's comm.
"...idiot can't even come in when he's supposed to," he muttered under his breath.
I only turned my eyes back towards the moon and watched the shadows fade as the sun's light reflected off its surface. "Why are you here?" I asked when his voice stopped yammering in my ear.
"Hilde thought you might be out here," he replied. I looked over at him to find he was doing what I'd been doing, watching the moonrise. His visor was dark, and I could barely make out his face, but then, I didn't have to. He was like me in this, the draw to what the deep dark held.
"Still doesn't tell me why you're here."
"Hilde's worried about you," he said looking at me.
My shrug was hidden inside the bulk of the suit. "She always worries about something." I'd turned back to watch the moon some more.
"So why are you out here?" he asked, his voice hissing and soft in the speakers.
"Just finished maintenance." There really wasn't an option to say anything but the truth.
He'd made some noncommittal noise. I guessed he was watching the moon again because he stopped talking. It made me think of the times we'd been stuck together in one shuttle or another. The silence had never been unsettling, just there. I wondered briefly what he was up to these days. The last time we'd talk had to be months ago.
"You can always join up with the Preventers." He startled me; I didn't expect him to keep talking.
I shook my head, and realized he couldn't see it and added, "Nah, I thought about it for a bit, but there's too much paperwork. Besides, they have rules about stuff, and I can't see myself willingly following them all." I grinned in his direction - not caring if he could see it or not. "Authority figures were never my strong suit."
A grunt with a half laugh. "I can see that." I thought I saw him smile.
"What have you been up to these days? Still seeing what's her name?"
I heard movement through the speaker. "No, it was pretty much over before we started." He lapsed back into silence, and I let him be. I knew he'd get around to it eventually. Like the others, Lady Une had offered me a job on her staff. I thought about it for awhile, but I really wanted to make it work with the yard. The idea of being tied down with all that paperwork, and regulations just didn't sit well. 'Sides, I didn't want to kill any more.
"I'm going to school - college."
It was my turn to grunt. "You like it?" I was curious to know. I had thought of college too, but there never seemed to be enough time.
There was movement in the suit again. "It's okay. Most of the classes I'm required to take are ...redundant."
"Are you happy?" It was out before I could stop it.
He took so long to reply, I turned to him again, waiting for the answer. "Sometimes. Maybe." He let out a sigh I almost mimicked.
"Yeah," I said softly, nodding. We settled into one of those silences again, drifting. I knew the orbit we were on was going to move us out of moon viewing range soon, but we still had some time.
"So, are you seeing anybody?"
"As a ...more than friend kind of thing?" I could tell he was nodding by the noise. "No." A sudden longing ached deep inside. I had nothing, and no one.
"You ever wonder why? I mean, you're good looking, mostly good company, articulate and intelligent - when you want to be. You ever wonder why you're alone?"
"You wanna twist that knife while your hand's still on it?"
He gripped my arm through the suit. "I'm not asking to be perverse." He released me and looked away again. "I ask myself the same."
I thought about his question for a moment. "Life doesn't have much of a thrill any more, does it?"
There was another long sigh through the speakers. "It's hard ... too damned hard to top piloting a gundam, adjusting to normal life."
And there it was. Life was bland because we'd had it all. We had purpose. We had skill. We were revered or reviled depending on which side you were on. The dust hadn't even settled yet before we were thrown into the Mariameia incident, and since then ...nothing. The silence this time was a little too loud.
"You wanna fuck?"
Heero was shocked at first, and then seemed to contemplate my offer. He was shaking his head. "I don't think so. Not like this. Not for this."
"Just an idea." I grinned. "Might be fun."
He snorted. "It'd be a lot of fucking fun, but still... no."
We turned to watch the last of the moonrise together. I thought again of being alone and having nobody and realized that maybe that wasn't such a true statement. I had Hilde, as much as she could be a nag. And I had Heero, though what he was exactly, I wasn't sure yet. There were always friends who'd at least listen if I cared to talk to. Yeah, life still sucked, but maybe it lightened up a bit.