the_goldenpath: made by <lj user="dawnrune"> (Gundam Wing Fics - God of Death)
[personal profile] the_goldenpath
Title: The Totality of Zero
Fandom: Gundam Wing
Pairings: to be established Heero and Duo
Genre: AU, fic deviates from canon after episode 42
Warnings: some foul language, especially from Duo.
Summary: The ZERO system became sentient on July 27, AC 196. Its effects were disastrous to the five Gundam pilots, having experienced the system themselves. ZERO operates completely self-aware and is in command of the Gundams who are now on a random rampage, sending the current war into a bitter and harsh struggle for survival. Three Gundam pilots are alive and at large, one is presumed dead, and one is comatose. Earth and the Colonies are literally at the edge of total annihilation…

Key: ----------------- = scene change




“Trowa. Trowa.” Duo’s voice came from afar, like an annoying insect, buzzing around his head.

“Is he all right?” The farmer asked, but the words didn’t register, the language totally foreign to him, even though a minute ago he understood it perfectly. The Gundam that never stops killing. Zero had found a way to adjust HeavyArms' gatling gun into a non-stop killing machine. And the ammunition… who was manufacturing it? How did Zero provide HeavyArms with enough ammunition to lay waste to an entire city? He grimaced. The laptop in his backpack was burning, his fingers aching. He was ready to run every risk of detection by Zero, if only to stop his own goddamn Gundam.

“Trowa.” The hand on his shoulder was Duo’s, and he squeezed, painfully. He hissed, but the sharp pain snapped him out of his destructive thoughts. Brusquely, he batted Duo’s hand away. The farmer scratched the back of his head, looking pointedly into another direction as he noticed Trowa’s intense reaction to his words. He suddenly put up his hand, beckoning a woman closer.

“Who are you talking to, Jaroslav?” she asked, her voice slightly trembling. She was wearing sturdy, plain clothes just like the farmer, who Trowa assumed was the husband; he saw how she reached out for him, grabbing his hand. “Oh my, but you two are so young! Have you been traveling around much? You look so hungry and tired!”

“Irena,” the farmer shushed her. “We should…”

“The both of you, go inside, get something to eat! Drink!” She slapped her hands together. “I’m going to make you something to eat!”

“Irena…” the man shook his head as his wife hurried back to the farm, but a smile tugged at his lips. “You two better get inside. She’ll have some clothes for you, too. You’re both the size of our sons… well, just get inside.”

Duo relied on Trowa for an accurate translation, and as soon as he heard the words ‘something to eat’, his face lit up. It had been quite a while since they had any decent food and a little life returned to Trowa, at Duo’s happy response and the thought of a bowl of proper nutrition. Accepting the invitation, they went inside the farm, immediately touched by the homely feel to it. Trowa noticed the lack of electrical outlets right away; this was a veritable old-fashioned farm, where everything was done by manual labor. It was somehow reassuring; Zero wouldn’t be able to find them without any electronics around. Duo was following his nose, straight to the kitchen. Irena stood behind the cast-iron, wood-stoked oven and murmured to herself, while wielding a large ladle, stirring into a pot. It was impossible to identify every scent: the bulbs of garlic dangling from the heavy wooden support beams along with strings of onions, thyme, tarragon and dill, the aroma from the pot on the oven, the fresh bread on the kitchen countertop… Trowa was standing still, not knowing what to do. Another dog, a friendly Golden Retriever, approached him and pressed his nose into his open hand, before moving on to Duo, who gladly petted him.

“Let’s sit down,” Duo suggested. “Hold on. Don’t give up now.”

“It was HeavyArms.” Trowa didn’t recognize his own hoarse voice.

“I know.” Duo wrapped his arms around him for a quick hug. Trowa was too drained to answer the gesture, but he appreciated it. Only a fellow Gundam pilot could understand the devastation he went through. Irena brought over two big bowls of soup and started talking.

“I’m so sorry, I don’t speak Czech,” Duo said.

“Very little English,” she answered. “My daughter teached me. Me is Irena.”

“Nice to meet you, Irena. I’m Duo, and this is Trowa.”

Irena didn’t ask for a surname. “Eat, eat!” She put the bowls on the sturdy wooden table. Duo took a seat next to Trowa and pulled one of the bowls towards him. It was bramboračka, potato soup with mushrooms, onions and carrots. Irena went bustling about in the kitchen, talking to herself, while the dog came to sit next to Trowa, putting his head on his knee. Automatically, Trowa brought up his hand to pet the dog.

“Eat, Trowa,” Duo said. “It’s really good.”

“I’m not hungry.” The painful thought of HeavyArms being controlled by Zero weighed heavy on his mind. Duo shoved the bowl in front of him.

“Eat,” he repeated, his voice low. “You have to be the strong one, Trowa. I can’t do this on my own.”

The strong one? Trowa picked up his spoon. No Duo, you are the strong one here. Zero System had destroyed his mind, yet he still went on with stubborn determination, not faltering for a moment. Trowa felt even worse. He couldn’t drop the ball like this.

“More,” Irena said as she put two plates on the table.

Guláş!” Trowa identified the dish from his mercenary days. It was a hearty stew, made from beef, with a lot of onions and spices. He thanked Irena and she showed him a happy smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She didn’t manage to hide the pain and sadness well; Trowa remembered Jaroslav mentioning ‘sons’. He didn’t need to fill in the picture; he could take a pretty good guess at what had happened.

“How long do you live here?” Duo tried to strike up a conversation. Irena busied herself with the dirty dishes while listening to Trowa’s translation.

“Forty-five years,” she answered. “I come from the same region as my husband. We met at a local dance and we fell in love! Jaroslav’s parents owned this farm, so we moved here. You? Friends?”

“Yes, friends,” Duo said. “Good friends. War friends.”

“Horrible, horrible war.” She shivered. “You stay here to rest, okay? You need it.” She left the kitchen with a bucket in her each hand, followed by the dog.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Duo said. “To stay here for a couple of days?”

“We need to go to Brno,” Trowa replied. “I want to meet up with my contacts as soon as possible.”

“You heard what Jaroslav said.” Duo continued to eat, with an indifferent look on his face. "Brno is no more.”

“I want to see for myself!”

“Why would you want to put yourself through such agony?”

“I want to know if they’re still alive, Duo. Don’t you understand?”

“I understand very well. But once again, you heard what Jaroslav said. If your contacts aren’t dead, they’ve fled. How are we ever going to find them? We better stick to our original plan and keep going north. It doesn’t matter right now if we take a break. We’ve been on the run for so long.”

Trowa took a spoonful of guláş as he allowed Duo’s words to sink in. He concluded that he was hungry after all. The soup had filled him up quite nicely, yet he found himself emptying his plate faster than he anticipated. Irena was happy to serve seconds. Jaroslav had entered the kitchen and shared the meal with them, finally joined by Irena herself. With the dog at his feet, Trowa experienced that homely feel again, which also made him even more aware of all the losses he suffered - and not him alone, but also Duo, and Jaroslav and Irena. They ate in a comfortable silence. Trowa couldn’t help but smile. It was such a good feeling to not be hunted down, to let the guards down, just to revel in coziness and warmth. He almost couldn’t remember the feeling of safety, of security… if the war hadn’t turned him paranoid, Zero had. Despite not knowing Jaroslav and Irena very well, he was very grateful for their kindness and their willingness to share food and their roof. Duo cleaned out three bowls before he had enough. Trowa translated his compliments to Irena, who was really pleased and answered that she was happy that he did her dish proud!

Duo patted his stomach. “This was truly awesome,” he said. “What do you think?”

“You’re right, it’s awesome,” Trowa agreed. “I couldn’t cook like this even if I had a well-equipped kitchen!”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Duo winked at him. “You make great charred mushrooms over an open fire.”

“And what about your ‘baked’ potatoes?” Trowa rebutted dryly. “You could clobber someone unconscious with them!”

“You got me there, buddy!” Duo’s boisterous laugh filled the kitchen and was so contagious that everyone joined in. The Golden Retriever, who had been napping next to Trowa, shot up and barked a few times, as if he wanted to participate in the ruckus. Irena gathered the dirty dishes and looked at Duo.

“Duo,” she said, “Your clothes look pretty worn. You can have some of my son’s, if you’d like?”

Duo looked a little uncomfortable. “I’m not sure if I can accept such generosity,” he said.

Irena insisted, and finally he went along with her, upstairs. Trowa remained sitting at the table together with Jaroslav, who pulled out a pipe and tobacco. He offered Trowa some, but he declined.

“Your friend made her laugh again,” Jaroslav said as he lit fire to his pipe. “He reminds her of our youngest.” The wistful tone to his voice was heartbreaking. “It’s so painful, but it’s also comforting for her to see him like this. She… she feels like she can actually do something for him, something she couldn’t when Milan went away.”

“Zero?”

“Zero. Our sons had moved to the city of Olomouc, as they didn’t see a future working on the farm. We let them go, knowing that we couldn’t keep them here even if we wanted to. The future was theirs, in the city, not on a secluded farm. We kept in touch, we were even thinking of moving closer to Olomouc ourselves, when Zero… happened. People fled, people ran… and when Zero struck…” He heaved a sigh. “We went to look for ourselves, but we weren’t able to find a trace of them. We… I think they didn’t make it. Our children, our grandchildren… they’re gone. If they survived, they’re somewhere they can’t be reached, or can’t reach us. All because of that goddamn system, excuse my language.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“We don’t see many people around anymore,” Jaroslav said, sending a puff of smoke towards the ceiling. “This region is of no interest to Zero or mobile suits. There’s nothing to gain here. We can live off our land. We’ve always led a fairly simple lifestyle. We’re old.” Trowa wanted to say something, but the man cut him off. “I know you want to go to Brno. There’s an old automobile in the shed. If you can fix it and drive it, it’s yours. And I’m sure Irena has clothes for you, too.”

“Why are you doing all of this? You don’t owe anyone anything,” Trowa asked.

Jaroslav took his time to answer, then he said: “If we are to be the last people you’d ever see, we’d rather be remembered as good and kindhearted, instead of soulless and cruel. We’re not a system, we’re not a mobile suit. We’re humans, and we’d like to be remembered as such.”

As Jaroslav said, Irena came back to offer Trowa clothes of the eldest son of the family and just like Duo, he felt slightly uncomfortable, but he didn’t say no. His own clothes were worn and torn after so much traveling, he needed new ones. Irena told him to keep the shirts and slacks, and he thanked her profusely. It was already getting late, and he prepared himself to go to bed: a decent, real bed. After so many nights on hard ground or the forest floor, it was going to be a real treat to slide between the sheets and blankets. Duo had to be ecstatic. Trowa opened the door of his bedroom and silently went in search of his friend. He opened the next door and peeked inside, relieved to see Duo under the covers in the dimly-lit room.

“Duo… Duo,” he whispered.

“Mmmyeah?”

“I think we should stay here for a couple of days, yes.”

Duo turned around in the bed to face Trowa, eyes sleepy. “I’m glad you think so. We need some rest.”

“Good night, Duo.” Trowa was about to close the door when Duo called out his name. “Yes?”

“HeavyArms would never destroy Brno unless it was forced to,” he said. “It was Zero. Don’t forget that. And don’t forget that it’s not your fault either.”

“I know,” Trowa said, even though it was hard to accept. It was his Gundam after all. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now get some sleep.”


-------------------------------------



Cottonwood, Arizona, United States


Get up, Heero. Heero, get up! He grunted. Pain. So much pain. Compared to the one time he self-destructed, this was nothing, but still… but his body had taken quite a beating. The explosion… the familiar ringing in his ears. Another grunt. Everything hurt like a bitch. Slowly but surely, he checked his limbs. He could move his right leg. His left leg. His right arm. His left arm. His fingers. His body responded, albeit with excruciating pain. Heero tasted blood in his mouth, he had bitten his own tongue. The gate, where he had smashed into, would leave a nice imprint on his face for some time to come. He could feel the metal biting into his skin. He was disorientated, in pain and everything was blurred. His mind wasn’t working properly. Where was his bike? He couldn’t remember where his bike was. He couldn’t even remember how the bike exactly looked like. How much time had elapsed since the explosion? It had to be heard all over Cottonwood and its surroundings. No sirens, though... probably because he couldn’t hear them. The ringing in his ears wouldn’t stop. Get up, Heero. He would figure out later what happened and who was behind all of this. Who was responsible for rigging the entire facility? It didn’t even store any worthwhile suits! Heero took in a deep breath and tried to get up. He let out a muffled scream when a weight was put on his back, pressing him down to the ground.

A voice. Words, scrambled. “…better…. stay still…” Heero managed to turn his head. Someone was sitting next to him, clad in blue; a police uniform? His sight was slowly improving. He picked up on more movement: firemen, paramedics, cops… flashlights, dogs. They were searching for more victims, unaware that there had been a mobile suit factory so close to their peaceful little town. Heero wanted to snort. Another man joined the cop; a paramedic. He put his hands on Heero as to check him for injuries. Heero grunted, he hated being touched by strangers. The man said something inaudible, and twisted his upper body as to motion something to his fellow paramedics. Heero hated being dependent, being at the mercy of another person. But right now, there was nothing he could do about it. He had survived the blast, now he had to survive again; always survive, until the next day. Now the cop was talking to him, with an annoyed look on his face. Heero gathered that the man was yelling at him, but from his position on the ground, it was near impossible to read his lips. It wasn’t important. Focus on your recovery. The paramedics arrived with a gurney and moved him onto it. The influx of pain was so great that he lost consciousness, for the second time.

Someone was touching him. Again. Soft fingers, gentle touches. “Nothing broken,” a female voice rang out. “I want x-rays to be sure.” Sally? Sally Po? Strange that he would think of her at a moment like this. Heero opened his eyes.

“Ah, you’re awake.” Not Sally Po. The dark-skinned woman with black hair couldn’t be more the opposite of the blonde, white, former UESA soldier. “I’m doctor Patil. You’re a remarkably strong young man, surviving a blast like that without any grave injuries. I’m going to take some tests though, to determine if you have any internal damage. You’re going to have to stay for the night though, for observation. What’s your name?”

“O… Odin Lowe,” Heero spoke, after a few tries. His throat felt like it had been sandpapered. He had a pounding headache and his ears were still ringing, but the effect was diminishing. He could distinguish sounds again, but not yet identify them. Heero was more bothered by his disorientation. Annoyed, he tried to bring up his hand, but he couldn’t; aghast, he noticed the handcuff around his wrist, tying him to the bed. Doctor Patil gave him a sympathetic, yet pitiful look.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve got a lot more questions for you,” she said. “And I’m not the only one.” She nodded into another direction, but Heero didn’t even bother to look. It had to be more cops. “You were found close to a research facility, amidst the rubble of an explosion. If you don’t get arrested for terrorist activities, I’m sure they’ll find something else to keep you locked up for a while. I don’t envy you.”

Heero didn’t answer. ‘Odin Lowe’ wasn’t going to buy him a lot of time. The police would find out soon enough it was a fake name. Nothing was registered to Odin Lowe, not even a social security number. It didn’t matter. Even if the police tracked his whereabouts at the Little Daisy Motel down, they would come up empty-handed. The receptionist would describe him as ‘a recluse guest’, and that was all there was to it. Heero remained calm, analytical. He could get himself out of this bind soon enough. The handcuffs didn’t really faze him. Slightly annoyed, he turned his head to the side. The same police officer who had been first at the scene, stood next to his bed.

“His name is Lowe?” he asked doctor Patil.

“He should be able to understand you if you talk calmly and articulated,” she answered. The cop wasted no time and leaned into Heero, yelling into his ear.

“Mister Lowe, I’m reading you your Miranda rights,” he said and proceeded to rattle the entire warning off. When he was done, he caught his breath for a moment before he continued with his questions. “Well, care to tell me what you were doing at that research facility? Our bomb experts are quite impressed. By the way we found your bike, reported as stolen. You’ve got yourself quite into a pickle, my friend. You…” He was interrupted by a small portable radio, clipped to his belt. “Lewis, are you there? Lewis?” a static voice came through.

Sighing, he grabbed the device. “Lewis here. I’m at the hospital. What is it?”

“Come back to the station as soon as possible, we’ve got quite the commotion here.”

“I can’t be disturbed right now! I’m with the guy from the explosion. What other commotion could you possibly have?”

“Something about…” the voice trailed off and the radio crackled. “… you know Peter Henderson, he’s always… talking about a large mass approaching. I don’t get it. He wants to talk to you!”

“Fine, I’ll be there as soon as possible.” Lewis grumbled, shut the radio off and clipped it back to his belt. He narrowed his eyes. “Don’t even think for a moment I’m going to let you off the hook, Mister Lowe. Where were we?”

Heero stared at him blankly. “We’re all fucked,” he said.


--------------------------------





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