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




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


Undisclosed medical facility, Northern Europe

Doctor Akerson had left the facility, his shift done for the day. As head of this department and chef de clinique, he put in more hours than anyone else on staff; Sally really admired the man for his work ethics. He was truly involved with his patients, the most important one being Quatre. Now that Akerson was gone, Sally allowed herself the luxury of a five minute break and she walked into one of the restrooms. She turned the faucet on and stuck her wrists under the cold, running water. Her entire body felt tense. She had done infiltration missions before, but never this long. Taking on another personality this entire time was straining her body and mind. She wasn’t Sally Po anymore, but Suzanne Sölmstö. She forced herself to look in the mirror. A few extra wrinkles and frowns were the least of her problems. Her hair dyed a dark brown and held together in a single, tight braid was such a difference from her normal appearance that even after all these months, she still had a hard time getting used to her ‘new’ face. Without makeup, figuring that a nurse in these circumstances wouldn’t wear any, and dressed in a sturdy dark blue and white uniform, she looked nothing like the rebellious, independent Sally Po. It didn’t matter. She was here for Quatre, not for herself or anyone else-

“He’s good looking, isn’t he?”

“Who? What?” Sally turned red, mentally berating herself for dropping her guard. Anne-Frid Engman, another nurse who had started recently, had waltzed in the bathroom and came to stand next to her. Anne-Frid was one of the few who did wear makeup, and she often took her time to inspect her face and bring everything back up to perfection. As long as her concentration on her patients didn’t suffer, nobody cared what the nurses spend their time on, and Anne-Frid was a good and very capable nurse.

“Akerson, of course.” She winked at Sally. “What’s it like, to work that close with such a handsome man?”

“Doctor Akerson is married,” Sally answered, a little miffed. She didn’t mind to put on the act of an anti-social spinster, and Anne-Frid had fallen right for it.

“Aw come on, he’s a good looking guy and he’s never at home. You know what they say when two people work together so intensely!”

“I don’t, what do they say?” Sally asked dryly.

Anne-Frid grinned. “You’re not that dumb, Suzanne. A lot of romance starts on the work floor. A CEO and his secretary, a vice-president and his personal assistant, a doctor and his nurse…”

“I’m not ‘his’ nurse and I’m not interested,” Sally reminded Anne-Frid. “And something else, romance isn’t really on my mind in this time of war.”

“War, war,” Anne-Frid said grumpily. “Zero leaves us alone. What do you want me to do, sit and cower behind the door and live my life in utter fear?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you.”

“You didn’t snap at me, silly. I know what you mean. I’m very well aware of the danger that Zero represents. But as long as those Gundams aren’t here, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a normal life, somewhat? I want to laugh once in a while, not hole myself up in a bomb shelter. I rather live twenty years intensely, than eighty years in fear.”

“You’ve got a point,” Sally said. “But I do advice you to be careful. Your idea of ‘intense living’ could also end up hurting a lot of people.”

“Yeah, I’m selfish.” She shrugged. “But like a true egoistic person, I don’t care. If Zero’s on my doorstep tomorrow, I won’t be crying ‘If only I had done this, or done that’.”

Sally plucked at her uniform. Talking to Anne-Frid made her feel uncomfortable. Fighting a person was something she could plan and prepare for, but fighting a faceless, intangible system, like Zero…and just like with the previous war, the existence of Zero drew out several factions and allegiances. Everyone had a right to his or her own opinion… but selfishness in a war was a trait that Sally was wary of. She realized that she had to keep a closer eye on Anne-Frid from now on. Her coworker pouted at the mirror to check her lipstick, than ran a comb through her hair.

“All right, back to work!” She turned away from the mirror and briskly walked to the exit. When she threw the door open, she hit the man standing behind it. “Oh! I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there!”

“No problem, no problem,” the man said, hunching over as the door handle had hit his elbow. “Forgive me, my fault.”

“Oh no, no, it was my fault.” Anne-Frid looked worried. “Are you hurt? Do you need help?”

“No no, sorry, sorry,” the man apologized and he looked like he wanted to crawl into his cart with cleaning supplies. Sally, who stood behind Anne-Frid, couldn’t see what was happening.

“Something the matter?”

“I’m not sure,” Anne-Frid said and promptly her pager went off. She looked at the device and sighed. “I have to go.”

“Just go,” Sally shushed her away. She focused her attention on the cleaner who rubbed his elbow with a grimace on his face. “You okay?”

“Yes, yes,” he answered. Sally noticed immediately that the man wasn’t from around here. If his Middle-Eastern appearance wasn’t a dead giveaway, his heavy accent was. He clasped the bar of the cleaning cart and gave it a little push. His eyes locked with Sally’s for a moment, and now she could see his face better. Her heart skipped a beat. She knew him.

“You’re new here?” she asked, rather brusquely.

“Yes, since three days.” Now his accent was far less heavy. “The facility wasn’t satisfied with the previous cleaning crew.”

“My name is Suzanne Sölmstö,” Sally said. “I don’t always work the night shift, but if you have any questions, you can always come see me.”

“Bashir,” the man answered. His confident grin was a total contrast with his previous meek behavior. “I’m sure I’ll have many questions in the foreseeable future.” He quickly grabbed his cart and pushed it away from her; Sally had also heard the footsteps.

“Don’t forget the restrooms!” Sally hollered after him, receiving a “Yes yes, sure” in return, just before the head of the nursing staff swooped around the corner.

“Ah, there you are, Suzanne,” she said, looking at the cleaner’s retreating back. “Oh, I hope there’s not trouble already? The new cleaning crew is so much better than the previous one, I hate to hire yet another crew.”

“No, nothing’s wrong.” Sally shook her head. “I told him to pay extra attention to the restrooms, because they were so dirty the last time.”

“Indeed.” The woman shuddered at the thought. “Suzanne, have you seen the latest shipment of cold packs? I need some…”

“Come, I’ll show you.” Sally went ahead to one of the many storage rooms. The cleaner had disappeared from view. The smile on her face was ridiculously large. It took a while, but she had recognized him. Auda. The Maguanac Corps was on the premises. Quatre’s Maguanac Corps was on the premises. Things started to look up immediately, and she could just cry from joy.


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



Tokaj region, Hungary, Eastern Europe

Long marches had been a part of his arduous training as a nameless assassin. Trowa had no difficulties walking the huge distances, but Duo always started counting his footsteps at one point or another. His mumbled counting was… some kind of comfort to Trowa, as Duo was otherwise quite silent. Silence and Duo never went well together, and it was a shame to think Zero was responsible for all of this. To have altered their personalities, their bodies… Trowa wondered what happened to the others. He knew that Wufei valued physical prowess and the perfect balance of his body. What if Zero had screwed him over with some kind of crude imperfection? Or Heero, a soldier to his very core, left with… nothing? Zero was cruel. Trowa only had to look at Duo, or at himself. He was never able to pilot a Gundam again, not with the loss of half his eyesight. He couldn’t pilot such complex machinery without any depth perception. And Duo… Duo seemed to have lost half of his mind, sometimes totally lucid, sometimes totally insane, talking about his ‘ruined city’, or being silent, or not reacting at all. Trowa hadn’t known Duo long enough before the disaster happened, but he did know that Duo hadn’t been like this. Yet he never complained, and when he was in a lucid state, he would come up with conversation or discussion that proved his usual, sharp mind.

“Are you still holding on?” Trowa asked.

“Yeah yeah, I’m right here.” Duo sounded irritated, which was a sign for Trowa to hold a break.

“Let’s sit down for a while. Do you have something to eat in your backpack?”

“Not much.” Duo stood still and rummaged through his backpack. “I’d kill for a nice piece of bread.”

“Once we crossed the border, we can get some.” Trowa knew people in the Czech Republic, back from his training days. With a bit of luck, they both could take some rest soon, and figure out what Zero was up to.

“Any water left?”

“More than enough.” Trowa handed the water bottle to Duo, who gratefully drank some. He looked up to the sky. About four hours left until nightfall, Trowa estimated. Even if they walked at a slower pace, it would still bring them closer to the border. “Can you walk some more? If you’re too tired, just say so.”

“I’m fine,” Duo said as he returned the bottle. “I can walk until you tell me to stop.”

“You can dictate the pace too, Duo. You don’t always have to listen to me.”

Duo tilted his head a little. His eyes were obscured from view, with his long bangs framing his face and covering his brow. Combined with the black scarf woven into his braid, Duo made an unkempt, almost haggard impression, but Trowa knew he didn’t look much better himself. The luxury of a shower and clean clothes was something they had left behind a long time ago. “I’m used to following orders.”

“I don’t believe that. You’re a Gundam pilot, 02. You can take care of yourself. You take orders from no one.” Trowa hoped to bring some of the old Duo back, but his words fell on deaf ears. Duo merely shrugged.

“How much further until the border?”

“We made great progress. Tomorrow, late in the afternoon.”

“All right. Let’s go.”

Trowa matched Duo’s pace, which was a little slower than his own. He didn’t know why he was in a talkative mood; usually they marched in comfortable silence.

“Do you ever think of Heero?”

Duo seemed to clamp up, his body rigid, but then he shrugged once more, his voice perfectly normal. “Yeah. I wonder where he is.”

Of course Duo didn’t believe that Heero was dead. He shot the guy when they first met, Trowa thought and besides, he had seen how tough Heero was after his self-destruction. Heero Yuy and dead in the same sentence simply didn’t work.

“The Perfect Soldier,” Trowa said. “He can be anywhere.”

“When we find him, everything’s going to be all right,” Duo said, with a glimpse of his former enthusiasm. “He knows what to do. He always has a solution.”

“Yeah.” If Heero were to join forces with them, it would surely increase their chances of survival and taking on Zero. Yet, Trowa didn’t want to place all his bets on Heero. What if he was in some kind of prison or Zero had taken care of him after all..?

“He’s probably in the ruined city,” Duo said. “He’s always first. He probably found it before we ever could.”

“Duo, it would be extremely helpful if you knew more about that city other than that it’s ruined.”

“I know it when I see it,” Duo snapped.

“I believe you.” It hadn’t been his intention to make Duo angry. “Let’s just walk.” They continued their march until it was late in the evening. As usual, they settled into the routine as they had been following ever since they started trekking. Making a campfire, setting up camp, gathering food. Trowa hoped that all his contacts were alive and well once they crossed the border. People had been on the run for Zero; he tried to prepare himself mentally for disappointment, but he needed that little bit of hope he was clinging to. He looked at Duo, who was staring into the dancing flames of the campfire. Why was he feeling so protective towards the other? Like he had said himself, Duo was a Gundam pilot, he could take care of himself. When that mobile suit had showed itself, Duo had responded accordingly to his training and experience, showing that there was nothing wrong with his instincts or his response. But the way Duo was acting now, talking childishly about some ruined city, made Trowa’s protectiveness flare up. He hadn’t felt that when he was taking care of Heero, and… that was just strange. But on the other hand, on the rare occasion he could see Duo’s eyes properly, he could see the intense promise of death that only Duo could show…and which made shivers run down his spine.

True to his prediction, they crossed the Czech border late in the afternoon. It had taken them so long as they had to cover a large distance across Slovakia, avoiding the big city of Bratislava. Zero always concentrated a cluster of mobile suits around big cities, and the chance of a Gundam being there was even greater. The thought of seeing HeavyArms again was both exciting and terrifying; Trowa hated to see his Gundam under the influence of Zero, and his hands clenched into fists, as if he wanted to punch Zero in the face… if only it had one. Duo didn’t bring up the possibility of a Gundam’s presence; more so, he never brought up Deathscythe. The exact location of the Gundams was completely unknown to them, without proper communication and information. Not wanting to run any risk, they made a large detour Bratislava and continued to the Czech border, following Trowa’s plan to travel north.

“Hold on, Duo,” Trowa encouraged him. Not all their days were filled with endless walking; every now and then they managed to hitch a ride along with other travelers, mostly farmers who moved around. A wooden cart wasn’t the most comfortable mode of transportation, but it beat walking for hours any time of day. Trowa wanted to reach Brno as fast as possible, the first major city along the way. His contact lived just outside Brno and Trowa was eager to meet up with him. If only they could hitch another ride..! Their luck took a turn for the better. Walking into a small valley, Trowa spotted a farm with huge stables. He increased his pace, all but dragging Duo with him. As soon as they got closer to the farm, a tall dog ran up to them, barking menacingly. Trowa wasn’t afraid of dogs; he had a natural way of dealing with animals, no matter how ferocious they were. While Duo waited in the background, he calmed the large animal down. It was only protecting its territory, there was no need to respond with aggression. Trowa waited patiently until the farmer would show himself and sure enough, he didn’t need to wait too long.

Kdo je tam?” The man asked. “Who goes there?”

Cestovatelé,”, Trowa answered in perfect Czech. “Travelers.”

The farmer didn’t carry any firearms and he didn’t look dangerous, but Trowa was on his guard. He allowed the man to take a long, examining look at him, to show that he didn’t pose any threat himself.

“Travelers,” the man said. “You come from where? Do you bring any news?”

It was stunning how people quickly adapted to changes in the world. Now that all modern means of communication had been disabled, everyone fell back to handwritten messages and word-of-mouth. Trowa told the man about his travels through the Tokaj region and the presence of mobile suits in Hungary in general. The farmer nodded at his words, looking somber. The dog had retreated and sat next to his owner, ready to defend if necessary.

“This is a fairly quiet region,” the farmer said when Trowa had finished his last sentence. “No mobile suits here, but the road to Brno is guarded. I figured that’s where you wanted to go to, right?”

“I have friends in Brno,” Trowa said.

“Then pray for their fate. A Gundam was seen there, not two days ago.” He beckoned at Duo. “Your silent friend? A traveler too, hm?”

“Which Gundam?” Trowa asked, even though he already knew the answer. A sinking feeling settled into his stomach.

The farmer didn’t hesitate to answer. “The one they call 03. Gundam Heavyarms. It blasted Brno to smithereens. The city was burning for days, or so they told me. It was stomping everything flat.”

“Until it ran out of ammunition..?” Trowa’s voice held a faint shred of hope. The last bit of hope he was clinging to so desperately. The farmer looked at him incredulously.

“Running out of ammo? Son, they call it the Gundam that never stops killing. It never runs out of ammo. It has a canon for an arm. Are you feeling all right? You look awfully pale.”

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



TRANSMISSION ZERO SYSTEM ERROR CODE 887GH33AWX INTERRUPTION 34.7322O N, 112.0186O W LOCATION COTTONWOOD ARIZONA UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ERROR ERROR ERROR

READJUSTING…

CALIBRATING…

ANOMALY CONFIRMED

SENDING DATA 04 GUNDAM ALTRON

ETA 10.17 PM


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





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