the_goldenpath: (Gundam Wing Fics - Heero and Duo)
[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




Indian Ocean, on board of the “Szechuan Sea Princess”


Despite its elegant name, the Szechuan Sea Princess was a bulky cargo vessel, equipped to transport sea containers, and every nook and cranny reminded of the size of the ship: huge, clunky and… rusty. Wufei didn’t bother to wipe the sweat off of his face. It gushed all over him, but he had learned to ignore it in just one day; working in the extremely hot engine room made a man sweaty and dirty from top to bottom. Servicing the massive engines which were in constant need of maintenance kept his mind off the long, boring travel; the ship wasn’t fast, and it was going to take at least twenty days before they would see European shores. He grunted.

Keung had quickly recognized his engineering skills and had put him on repairs instead of cleaning; and with all these outdated tools and equipment, older than the ship itself, it was a frustrating, tedious and intensive task. It wasn’t as bad as working in the kitchens, though. Lucrezia Noin hadn’t cooked or cleaned since her first year at the Academy, where cadets were drilled and expected to do menial tasks. Following orders wasn’t her forte, and the idea of being dependent was slowly killing her, just like Wufei. They both hated having to answer to someone else’s whims, having no other choice but to do what they had been told, not being in control of their own lives. It was the simple, harsh truth: the Szechuan Sea Princess was their only option to reach Europe. Zero had cut off all commercial flights and the system was in supreme control of airspace; any unidentified aircraft would be detected and shot down immediately.

Wufei put down the wrench he was carrying. He knew that his situation could’ve been much, much worse. Despite gouging his ‘travelers’, the sea captain treated them fairly; there was plenty of food, fresh water and laundry facilities on board. He realized to the fullest that a mob of dissatisfied, angry passengers could create many problems, with mutiny being the least of them. Not everyone was able-bodied to work; Wufei had seen young children and pregnant women amongst the crowd, and he wondered how they had paid for the trip. No one looked wealthy in particular, they were all refugees from the poorest parts of China. Where had all the rich people gone to? They had probably fled as soon as Zero seized power, or so Wufei thought, a little bitterly. No back-breaking labor on an outdated cargo ship for them.

“Wufei?”

“Noin,” he said listlessly, as he recognized her voice, even with the loud humming of the engines.

“Here.” She handed him a bowl of rice with mixed vegetables on top. The vegetables weren’t the freshest anymore, despite the cooling units aboard the ship.

“Keung will not like it if you smuggle extra food to me,” he said, but accepted the bowl nonetheless.

Noin snorted. “I’m sure he already knows, but he won’t say anything because he doesn’t want his chef engineer to keel over. Without you, the ship would run itself into the ground.” She eyed the engines, her own keen technical skills itching to get to work. The kitchen wasn’t a place for Lucrezia Noin.

“Chef engineer, that is a good one.” He took a bite of rice.

“He was quick to notice your skills,” she pointed out. “Unfortunately, he didn’t recognize mine.”

“His loss,” Wufei said. Noin arched an eyebrow, but she didn’t comment.

“Before we reach Italy, we have to have a serious talk.”

He nodded. “I knew you were going to bring this up.”

“I want us to stay together,” she said bluntly. “It’s a dangerous world, and we need each other. But I want to stay in one place to set up shop. To start up a resistance, to contact old networks, to get messages and news out. If we continue to travel…”

“Zero will pinpoint our location immediately if we stay in one spot,” he objected.

“Not if we go old school. Typewriters. Ham radio. Isolated frequencies. Pen. Paper. Pencils! I don’t care! We have to get a resistance off of the ground. Scattering our forces won’t solve the problem.”

“Do with your resistance what you must, woman,” Wufei said. “I will not stay in one place and play leader. I want to search for the other pilots.”

“Eastern-Europe is a very big sandbox,” Noin gave back. “You only have a gut feeling that 03 might be in Hungary, you have no solid proof.” She looked somber. “Though it would be amazing to have another Gundam pilot on board, it’s not him I really want.”

“01.”

“Yes.”

“Presumed dead,” Noin mumbled. “I can’t believe it.”

“He is alive.” Wufei emptied the bowl.

“Of course he is.” Noin crossed her arms in front of her chest. “All of them are alive.” She didn’t mention that according to the last news she had received before Zero blew every communication system to smithereens, one Gundam pilot had been rendered comatose. Wufei didn’t mention it either, and she assumed he didn’t know or he simply refused to believe it. She hadn’t found out which pilot so far; it was one of her priorities as soon as she’d set up her network. The pilots and Zechs. Zechs and the pilots.

“I see the necessity of organizing a resistance,” Wufei admitted. “You are the most fitted and determined person to take that task upon your shoulders.” She was pleased with his compliment. “However, I am not sure how much I can contribute to it.”

“I know you want to find the other pilots,” Noin said. “So do I. More than anything in the world. We need them. But we have to establish a communication network first, and find out where they are. Europe is a large continent, and we can’t just barge into Hungary in the hopes of finding Trowa there.”

“I know.”

Noin took the bowl from him. “We have more than enough time to prepare,” she said. “You know where I stand. I won’t demand you to stay, Wufei. I can’t order you to stay.”

“I know,” he repeated. “I need to think about it.” He straightened himself. “You better get back to the kitchen, before Keung comes looking for you.”

“Yes, I should go back.” Noin heaved a sigh. Only a few more hours, and then it would be time for bed. The journey may be boring, but the days went by pretty fast. Wufei watched her retreating back. He waited a couple of minutes before picking up his wrench again. Fortunately, she hadn’t seen his hands tremble, occupied with her plans to set up a resistance. Wufei hadn’t lied when he told her that she was the most fitted and determined person to carry out these plans. She had organizational skills, military and tactical insight, perseverance and stamina to get it off the ground. She was right, of course; with the pilots scattered all over different continents, the situation would only get worse. They needed to form one strong front to face Zero. One hand to smash the system. One dragon to rear its head and tear Zero down, engulfing it with its mighty flames. Wufei forced his hand into a fist. He couldn’t wait.


Sanq Kingdom


‘ENTER KEYCODE’. Heero examined the control panel and weighed his options. He didn’t have the right tools to run a bypass. Hacking the system would require the use of his laptop, thus alerting Zero once more of his presence and location. He didn’t know how much time he had left anyway. Zero would dispatch new mobile dolls and maybe even send heavier troops to capture him… but the thought and the possibility that Relena could be in this fortified bunker, sealed the deal for him. Heero hooked his laptop up to the control panel. Thank you, Doctor J., he muttered under his breath while the device ran a diagnostics program. As he had suspected, the software wasn’t that difficult to hack; Sanq Kingdom was light-years behind on technology. His program displayed the correct keycode and Heero typed it in.

With impressive rattling and clicking sounds, the door was unlocked and he was met with a stale smell and very dim interior light. He briefly considered running back to Nataku to retrieve the gun from his duffle bag, which he had brought along after he left Cottonwood. Well, it was too late for that now. Heero advanced through the door and took a deep breath. The smell was… stifling, a pungent mixture of sweat, cooking scents, gasoline fumes and a whole lot more than Heero could ever identify. It made his heart skip a beat. People were… are living down here. The lack of a good air-conditioning system was daunting, but not lethal. He would find survivors. He would find Relena. He advanced further. The hallways were huge and empty, safe for crates, chests and boxes stashed against the right wall. He didn’t spend precious time to open them; his first priority was to find human survivors. It started to bother him that he didn’t hear any noises, though. No sounds. No voices. No footsteps but his own. Was he too late after all? It was morbid, but he didn’t smell decomposing flesh. Heero shuddered. The last thing he wanted to stumble upon, was Relena’s body… maybe Zero had locked her into this bunker, with no way out… wait. Heero halted.

Did he hear that right? Yes, there it was again. A soft... swishing sound, he had no other word to describe it. Like something was cutting through the air. Without a second thought, Heero honed in on the sound. It was close by. He tried to identify it, but he couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. It wasn’t electrical or mechanical… now his heart skipped a beat again. An accompanying grunting noise. Human! Someone was drawing breath! Heero restrained himself. He didn’t know who that someone was, and he was without a gun. Soundlessly, he put his laptop bag on the floor so both his arms were free. He took a step, and another step. To his own ears, his footsteps resonated like church bells. There had only been one person who could make his entrance unknown, undetected, unseen, unheard… Duo. Wouldn’t you like to know where he is now? Are you sure Quatre is the comatose one, and not him? Your poor little friend- “Shut up shut up,” Heero hissed and immediately froze. The swishing sound had stopped.

The adrenaline pumped through his veins. After two agonizing long minutes, the sound resumed again, along with the grunting noises; light yet intense. Physical exercise. Heero waited for another minute to resume his steps, and turned around the corner. This hallway ended in a large, rectangular room - with increased light. Not electrical light, though. Candles. Heero frowned. What was going on? Another step further, and he used a stack of crates to hide behind. He needed an advantage point, a safe place to observe the room and the person standing in the middle - holding a foil. Stabbing the air with it, the person flawlessly moved from left to right, gracefully executing all the stances pertaining to fencing. Heero almost snorted. He had recognized the tall, ginger-haired man without fail. To think of all the people he could ever see again, Treize Khushrenada had to be the one holing up in a bunker.

“Coward,” Heero said out loud. He didn’t exactly know why he chose that word.

Treize spun on his heels, foil aimed into the direction of Heero’s voice.

“Who goes there? Show yourself!”

“I thought you still were in Luxembourg,” Heero stated as he emerged from behind the stack of crates. Treize lowered his foil, but didn’t relax his stance.

“I fled,” he said, his voice low and somber, as if he was disappointed in himself. “You are correct to call me a coward.”

“In the light of current circumstances, everyone is a coward. I fled too.”

“At least you are alive.” Treize showed a very, very small smile. “I thought the rumors about your death were highly exaggerated. Something the system would think of, to discourage the people.”

“What do you know about Zero?”

“As much as you do. I installed it into Epyon, remember?”

“Quit it,” Heero snarled at him. “Stop acting like a martyr. Self-pity doesn’t suit you.”

“It has been a while since I had such a frank conversation with anyone.” Treize made a wide gesture with his arm. “Can I offer you something to drink? This… facility has its own fresh water supply, so I can get you tea, if you like..?”

“Every inch the gentleman. I accept your offer.”

Treize put the foil back into a rack of edged and bladed weapons; more foils and épées, swords, and even a katana. He picked up a dented kettle and filled it with water from a huge drum connected to a network of pipes. At least the bunker had indoor plumbing, and generators provided the modest light; Heero assumed that the crates and boxes were filled with canned foods, blankets, candles… everything for basic survival.

“What you are looking at,” Treize spoke, as he carried out the mundane task of putting the kettle onto a gas burner and lighting it, “is the stage one execution of a plan I had conceived, to build several… ‘safe houses’, as you might call it, as the political field wasn’t shaping up in my favor.”

“You were under house arrest,” Heero said deadpan.

“I still refuse to side with any organization who deploys mobile dolls. The human aspect of war…”

“Spare me your lectures,” he interrupted Treize rudely. “Thanks to your meddling, Zero became sentient. Or was that your intention all along? Show the world how cruel a non-human tyrant can be? What would you have done, Khushrenada? Rallied a human army against it? Defeat the system with flesh and blood? Lots of blood?”

“My my, you certainly have become an aggressive young man, Heero Yuy. So much unlike your namesake.” Treize shook his head. “I am not the inventor of the Zero System. I used it, yes… I did not tinker with it. We can discuss for hours on end about who to blame, but that is a moot point, is it not?”

“Where’s Relena? Are you alone?”

“Yes, I ‘live’ here alone. Like I said before you interrupted me, this is a safe house…but I could not bring my plans to total fruition, as Zero interfered. I had planned to build several of these… facilities, as to provide for the innocent, civilian refugees and casualties of the war.”

“So you wanted to give them shelter, after you drove them out of their homes? What’s the entrance fee?”

Treize arched an elegant eyebrow. “You are severely underestimating me, Heero.” The kettle started to whistle. He turned off the burner and readied two fine china cups. “I admit, my own safety came up in my mind first,” he continued. “I did not like my house arrest, and I watched Dermail using Relena as a puppet… I always knew she would turn things over and call for peace, no matter how naïve it is.”

“Don’t talk about her like that.” Heero send him a glare. Treize shrugged and showed him a tea box. Without looking at it, Heero picked a teabag and dunked it into one of the cups. Treize poured the hot water on top of it and handed the cup to Heero.

“I do not know where she is,” he said. “I do not think it matters. Everybody ran for their lives as soon as Zero became sentient. She could be anywhere.”

“How did you end up here?” Heero asked.

“Like I said, I fled.” Treize was much more careful in selecting his tea. “I had help, though. The Treize Faction was right outside my door, helping me to escape my house arrest. I wanted to retreat to space, to deal with… certain affairs, but it was not feasible, not after Zero seizing control. I knew the system would come after me, so I had to hide somewhere low-tech, a place where the system could not detect me.”

“How long has it been since you were outside?” Heero demanded to know. “I had to fight off a couple of mobile dolls before I could reach the bunker.”

Treize looked genuinely upset. “What? No! The place was deserted when I arrived here. It is unfinished, as you can see. I barely have any electricity, there are no computers…” The thought that Zero had already tracked him down shattered his sense of security, and Heero allowed him time to let it all sink in. He wrapped his fingers around the hot teacup. It was cold in the large room, and he doubted a heating system had been installed yet. Treize didn’t need long to come to his senses. He was a tactical genius and he adjusted his strategies immediately, flexible and quick. “You fought off mobile dolls, you say? How…”

“I brought Altron.”

Treize didn’t ask about Wing. He didn’t question Heero’s ability to steal a Gundam away from Zero either. He stared into his teacup. “Then we have very little time left.”

We?” Heero asked sharply.

“You barged into my ‘home’,” Treize said. “Even if Zero already knew where I was, it left me alone. Now you brought a Gundam on my doorstep, and I am very sure that Zero will value it over my life. Over your life, even.”

“No doubt about that. Can the bunker withstand an attack?”

“Supposedly, when it was updated and finished. Even so, one blast from a beam cannon of Wing’s magnitude would tear the place apart. It is neigh impossible to safely hide from a Gundam’s firepower.”

Heero finished his tea. “I’ll continue searching for the other pilots and Relena.”

“Let me help you,” Treize hurried to say.

“Help? How? You can stay here and try to rebuild Sanq Kingdom. I’m sure you chose this place out of military advanced…”

“I will show you how.” This time, Treize interrupted him. He put his teacup down and got up from his seat. Baffled, Heero got up as well and followed Treize out of the room. He didn’t like the thought of Treize helping him. He wasn’t a Gundam pilot, he wasn’t like Heero… but these were drastic and dramatic times, and your enemy could turn out to be your best friend. Was Treize Khushrenada an enemy? A threat? Heero expected the voice in his head to comment on it with its usual disdain and cynicism, but it was surprisingly quiet. The former leader of OZ had a tall stride, and Heero hurried to catch up with him. The deeper they ventured into the bunker, the lower the temperature. It was freezing and Heero was relieved when Treize halted in front of a door and opened it with a key. He fumbled around for a light switch and flipped it on.

“A truck,” Heero said flatly when he recognized the outlines in the dim light. “Not bad.”

“Look closer,” Treize urged him. Heero ignored the tension in his voice and approached the impressive vehicle. It looked new and well-maintained, and with enough fuel, he could cross the entire European continent in his search for the other pilots, even taking a lot of supplies with him. But that wasn’t what Treize wanted to point out to him. Heero’s eyes widened when he saw the truck’s flatbed trailer. It was covered up with a tarp, but he immediately recognized the shape underneath.

“What the fuck!” It came out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

“May I introduce you to Tallgeese II?” The pride in Treize’s voice was overwhelming. “Titanium alloy, Dober Gun, shield, beam sabers… and no Zero system installed.”

“When… where did you…”

“I had planned to take it to space with me,” Treize said, “and lead the attack on Libra personally.”

Heero was momentarily stupefied. He never thought he’d find an ally in Treize Khushrenada.

“We’re leaving now,” he said, brusque as ever. “Pack your stuff and get as many supplies as possible. If Zero’s coming, I don’t want this great gift to fall into its clutches.”


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




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