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

Guangxi region, China

Noin didn’t complain. Complaining wouldn’t help and besides, due to her extensive training at the Academy, she had no trouble with long treks. Her career hadn’t been based on knowledge and strategies alone. She’d undergone grueling exercises as to be prepared for anything and everything, and she had graduated the top of her class… after Zechs, of course. Milliardo. She refused to believe that he might be dead. Zero had left the Gundam pilots unharmed so far, but it had send Epyon to retrieve Zechs. To ‘retrieve’ him… with what purpose?

Would the system subject him to torture, to manipulation, to things worse than she could ever imagine? Noin steered her mind away from that train of thoughts and looked at Wufei, who walked a couple of meters in front of her. He was the only Gundam pilot she knew best. She had called him a coward after his attack on the sleeping trainees at Lake Victoria Base, but she had respect for his tenacity and his perseverance. He had managed to stay out of Zero’s grasp and she knew how much it hurt him to see his beloved Gundam controlled by the corrupted system. She stepped to the side to allow a young family to pass; the road to Hong Kong was crowded with people, moving back to the city now that Gundam 04 had left.

“Fools,” Wufei muttered under his breath. “Look at them, thinking they are safe. They do not know what kind of danger they escaped from.”

“I’m sure they know what 04 is capable of,” Noin commented dryly. “They just want to return to their homes.” He didn’t react. “Wufei, with the Gundam gone… we don’t need to hurry.” It wasn’t for her own benefit, she didn’t feel tired, but she was afraid that Wufei was overexerting himself. He had a fanatic, obsessed look in his eyes, completely focused on his new goal: northern Europe, Hungary to be exact. They had decided that pilot 03 would be the easiest to find, provided that Trowa had returned to his presumable roots.

“’No need to hurry’? Do you have any idea how long it will take us to reach Hungary, woman?”

She wasn’t offended by his outburst. “I’m very well aware that Zero has cut down any means of modern transportation,” she said, calmly. “It’s probably going to take us weeks, if not a whole month to get to Europe.”

“And even then, Hungary is a large country to search: almost 36,000 square miles,” Wufei said. “Where are we supposed to start?”

Noin shook her head. “I don’t know exactly where… the capital, I presume?”

“If only we could use the system.” Wufei sounded like a broken record; they both knew that using the system would immediately alert Zero and target them. They had already taken a great risk by turning on the laptop once, to check the whereabouts of the Gundams. Wufei halted and looked at her disdainfully. She had no difficulties seeing right through that disdain; he was tired, but too damn proud to admit it. She decided they had walked more than enough for today; if she needed to take the blame for stopping for the night, so be it.

“I’m tired,” she stated, matter-of-factly. “And hungry.” Just as she expected, he snorted and said something about ‘weakness’ and ‘frail’, but his protests weren’t all that loud. Noin pointed to the north. “That looks like a fishing village, over there,” she said. “We can find shelter and something to eat there.”

The few inhabitants didn’t look up when they walked past; in the short time Zero had control over the Gundams, it had installed fear into everyone. Noin looked around for a place where they could eat or sleep. All the shacks seemed to be occupied; this was a relatively poor village, spared by the onslaught of the Gundam. Most of the occupants were elderly people, weary and with grim expressions on their faces. They weren’t unfriendly, though, just silent and apprehensive. Wufei approached an elderly couple and asked if they knew where he and his travel companion could spend the night. Noin didn’t bother to hide her features; it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.

“Go to the last shack down the road,” the man said. “The Huangs left a long time ago, even before the demon attacked. We’ll bring you some food.”

“Thank you very much.” Wufei translated the man’s words to Noin, who was somewhat relieved. She hadn’t been looking forward to spend another night on the cold, rough ground; a bed - and preferably a bath too - would be a very welcome change. They wandered over to the shack, which had been left pretty intact; the family had abandoned it hastily. Two beds with ratty blankets, a couple of chairs and an uneven table, as well as a stove and a chest holding pots, pans and assorted cookware was all that was left. It was heaven to Noin’s eyes and she sat down on one of the beds, taking off her heavy boots immediately. Wufei picked up the dented bucket in the corner.

“I’ll go get some water,” he said.

“Thank you.” Noin took off her coat and put it on the bed. It was very tempting to lie down and get some sleep… but her stomach growled. She wiggled her toes. A blissful moment of rest… and her thoughts went straight to Zechs. No! She had to stay focused. Just like Wufei, she had a goal again, a concrete purpose. She wasn’t weak, she would go through hell and back again to find Zechs and save him from Zero’s clutches. A firm knock on the door jerked her out of her thoughts. Stupid! Getting all distraught like this! Noin traipsed over to the door and opened it. She recognized the elderly man, who held up a large pan, covered with a grey cloth.

Xiè xiè,” she said, thanking the man. She had picked up a couple of Chinese words and despite her pronunciation being far from perfect, he understood her well enough. She put the pan on the table and located a couple of bowls and chopsticks in the chest. Wufei returned with the water and they sat at the rickety table. Noin took away the grey cloth and a hearty, salty scent reached their noses. It was fish soup and they both dunked their bowls into the pan to scoop up as much soup as possible. Filled with huge chunks of fish and coarsely chopped green vegetables, it was mostly the hot temperature and the mixture of spices that brought the color back on their cheeks. They reached the bottom of the pan fairly quickly and Noin was disappointed yet embarrassed at the same time; she’d never been this greedy before. Wufei got up from his chair.

“I will clean this up and return it to its rightful owner,” he said, nodding at the pan.

“Thank you,” Noin said. She wasn’t in the mood for doing dishes. She knew he was looking for a reason to leave her alone, so she could freshen herself up. The water was cold, but clean; she would take a hot bath another day, when everything was right in the world again. When she had found Zechs and knew he was all right.

Prague, Czech Republic

Duo was right; they reached Prague before nightfall. No word had been spoken during the trip; the silence was comfortable, familiar. The southeastern highway they had taken from Brno was demolished and had taken massive damage from the nearby Gundam attack. With so little traffic though - they encountered only two more cars in a far worse condition - they could swerve all over the road to avoid potholes and further damage. As soon as they came nearer to the capital, the number of refugees increased dramatically. Long rows of people alongside the road, carrying their meager belongings with small children clinging to their legs, the elderly toiling and suffering.

The Skoda didn’t offer enough space but for two people extra; how were they ever going to make a choice between all those people, one even more in need of transportation than the other? Duo didn’t suggest picking someone up and Trowa didn’t bring it up either, he knew his fellow Gundam pilot thought the same. Some people looked longingly at the car, but the next second their heads went down again, staring at their feet to take another step forward. Upon reaching Prague, Duo shifted gears and allowed the Skoda to move at a snail’s pace; too many people on the road.

“Jesus Christ.” Trowa was shocked. The majestic city, with great historical value and the epitome of medieval arts and crafts having survived centuries of war, uproar and dramatic changes in the European climate, was reduced to rubble. Not one building had been spared. Flattened, not one brick left upon another. He balled his hands into fists, shaking uncontrollably.

“I’m sorry,” Duo mumbled. At a snail’s speed, the Skoda moved forward as best as it could, until the road was no longer passable.

“We should get to the Staré Mĕsto, the Old Town,” Trowa said.

“We can’t get any further,” Duo pointed out, arching his eyebrows when he noticed Trowa looking around frantically. “Didn’t you see the road, or what’s left of it?”

Trowa stared in front of him. He recognized the patterns, the ‘footprints’ left by the mobile suits who had trampled all over the city. “Leos,” he said, disdainfully. Of course, Zero would use the weakest mobile suit to do the lowest job, and the system had sent an overkill of them to attack Prague. He didn’t see the typical imprint of a Gundam however, which calmed him down… for now. The setting sun had blinded him, and with his diminished eyesight he had failed to see the demolished state of the road. Not even a tank would get through here; driving the Skoda would break the car down, guaranteed. He opened the door and got out of the car. Duo followed his example.

“Just like the ruined city, but not quite,” he said.

Trowa turned his head around. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said. Duo had his arm on the roof of the car, as leisurely as a tourist, just passing by. “Are you serious?”

“Very,” Duo answered.

“Isn’t this ruined enough for you? There’s fucking nothing left, Duo! All these people have no home anymore! The cathedral is gone! The castle is gone! Everything’s turned to dust and rubble! What city could be fucking ruined more than this?” He was taken by surprise by his own outburst, but it was too late to stop. All of his frustrations and anger came out, but he realized he was aiming it at the wrong person, even while he was still talking. When his voice died down, a couple of refugees, spitting through the debris, stared at him out of curiosity.

Duo didn’t even blink. “We shouldn’t leave the car alone,” he said.

“Duo, I…”

“We have food, fuel, clothes and blankets in the car,” Duo continued. “I take the first watch. You can go to the Old Town.”

“Duo…” It was of no use. Trowa accepted his temporary loss and walked away from the car, into the direction of the Old Town. His heart was heavy, his mind a jumbled mess of thoughts.
He hadn’t meant to snap at Duo. If anything, Duo had proven to be the perfect travel partner: flexible, inventive, and persistent. When he had first met Duo, Trowa didn’t hold him in very high regard. He thought he was flaky and unreliable, and he couldn’t see why Heero spoke with so much… reverence about him. That was before he got to know Duo better, and Trowa had readjusted his opinion. He couldn’t ask for a better partner at the moment. Duo didn’t complain, he had a lot of technical skills and he cheered him up, if he ignored his ramblings about that ‘ruined city’.

He grunted. If Duo only knew which ruined city, but then again, he didn’t even know why it was so important for Duo to find that ruined city. It was Zero. The system had taken something from every one of them. His eyesight. Duo’s sanity. God knows what it took from the other pilots. What would be next? His rationality? He had yelled at Duo for nothing. He didn’t want Duo to know about his diminished eyesight. Just now, he was walking at a slow pace, to not trip over the loose cobblestones. The road was torn apart by the mobile suits, still he didn’t spot any imprints of a Gundam… his HeavyArms. He wondered why Zero had send the suits on such a rampage. Destroying cities like Brno and Prague… to discourage the population? To show off its power? Trowa was good at tactics, but not at motives. Quatre could explain to him what the bigger picture was. Quatre would know what made the system do this. But as it was, he didn’t even know Quatre’s whereabouts. Going up north, to Sanq Kingdom, was their last straw. Their last ray of hope. What if they found nothing but rubble there? What if New Port City was Duo’s ruined city? Trowa shuddered. He didn’t know what he was going to find in Prague. He didn’t know what he had hoped to find here. Was he looking for confirmation that HeavyArms had been here?

“Let go of me!” The distressed female voice caught his attention. Trowa turned around. In an alley, between two demolished buildings, he could see a gathering of three, four young men, harassing a woman. From this distance and despite his limited eyesight, Trowa could see the fine fabrics she was wearing, he even caught a glimpse of gold around her wrist - no wonder she’d been targeted. No one was going to help this girl, everyone was too occupied with their own problems.

“Give it to me,” the tallest one grabbed her wrist and tugged harshly. “Now!”

“Let me go!”

“Not yet,” another attacker obscenely grabbed his own crotch. “We’ve got plans for you, girl!”

Trowa closed the distance between himself and the young men. He was deadly calm, like a puma sneaking up on its prey - but he wasn’t silent. Not at all. He wanted to be loud. Loud and aggressive.

“Get your hands off of her,” he said. All four attackers snapped their heads toward him.

“Mind your own business, kretén,” the tall one snarled at him. Trowa ignored the coarse language and stepped closer.

“Get your hands off of her,” he repeated. They were obviously hungry, poor and desperate; with the current destitute society, many people had resorted to scavenging and plundering. Trowa reminded himself that he should feel pity for them, but right now he couldn’t muster up any sympathy or compassion for these louts, ganging up on a defenseless woman.

“Vaclav, show his scrawny ass who’s boss,” the tall one said to the guy on the right, obvious the most muscular one. It didn’t matter. It wouldn’t matter. When Vaclav threw the first punch, Trowa slipped back into well-trained reflexes, sharp and swift, his footing secure and solid and he caught the bulky man’s arm. He twisted it, well aware that he could break it with a snap - but not even in this state, he wasn’t cruel. Pain would be good enough of a lesson for these thugs, and he was quick to dish it out. They weren’t worth his time, even if they gave him a good opportunity to release his anger. Vaclav went to the ground, cradling his arm to his chest and as the other three lunged at Trowa, calmness and concentration took hold of him. No sign of panic or fear, and he dealt with the thugs as if they were no more than annoying flies; within seconds, he had all four of them on the ground, nursing their twisted limbs and throwing up from the blows to their stomachs. A few black eyes, some bruises… but nothing that would require a trip to a hospital, no broken bones or dislocated shoulders.

Žena,” he said to the young woman, huddled against the wall, keeping her face obscured by pulling the fabric tighter around her head, covering her hair and features. “It’s all right,” he continued as she didn’t react to his spoken Czech. Perhaps she was traumatized by it all. He wanted to tell her she was safe, but was she in this environment? “This is no place for you to stay around,” he said. He extended his hand to her and she shakily accepted it. “Where do you come from? Where are you going to? Do you have any friends or family around who can help you?”

She shook her head and carefully stepped over the thugs, still moaning and groaning in pain. He led her away from them, away from the danger they had posed. The sun was setting; it would be dark soon. It would be wiser to return to Duo, to safe grounds, instead of venturing further into the city, to Old Town. Without another word, he started to walk back. The girl didn’t let go of his hand. He didn’t think that Duo wouldn’t mind the company; he wouldn’t send away anyone who was in need of help.

“Thank you,” she finally spoke. Her voice was soft and well-articulated. Why was she all alone out here?

“You’re welcome,” Trowa said. “I’m going to take you to a friend, all right? We travel together. We have food and water. You’ll be safe with us tonight.”

“Thank you,” she said again. “That’s very kind of you.”

She had to be very educated, the way she spoke and comported herself. She didn’t seem afraid any more, the trembling was gone. Her footsteps were confident, her stride strong. Trowa didn’t think much of it. Now that it was getting darker, he had to be extra careful not to trip over the loose rocks and rubble. It wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t see the Skoda from here. The car, with Duo next to it, stood out against the desolate sight of the destroyed buildings; Duo leaned against the vehicle, arms crossed in front of his chest. He noticed Trowa approaching him and he straightened himself, turning towards him. Trowa could hear the young woman gasp.

“Duo!” she suddenly yelled out and sprinted towards him as fast as she could, leaving Trowa behind, baffled. In her haste, the fabric around her head slid off, showing long, light brown hair. She wrapped her arms around Duo, taking him into a tight hug.

“Whoa,” Duo said, but he answered the gesture without hesitation. “Long time no see!”

“Do you know her?” Trowa asked, unable to hold back his curiosity. Duo grinned at him.

“Only you can walk off and return with a Queen,” he said.


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