5-6-2002

[ Disclaimer: All rights and privileges to Shin Kidousenki Gundam Wing are trademarks and property of Sunrise, Bandai, Sotsu Agency, and associated parties. The characters of these works are used WITHOUT permission for the purpose of entertainment only. This work of fiction is not meant for sale or profit. ]

A GW fan fic: Immortalised - Part One
By Stargem

Author's notes: Okay, what I had originally planned for this fic was something quite different, but for many different reasons, I left it to languish. However, recent e-mails have made it clear that at least _some_ people want more of this. I must admit that the one who made the most impression on me was Krista Perry – I am in awe of her talents as both writer and artist ^_^

I believe I have come a long way, as a writer, since the conception of this fic, and my style of writing has changed a bit. Those changes mean that I can't write this the way I had first planned, but as Anne assures me, this new version may well be more likable. It's got more depth to it, certainly, as I address deeper issues that I shall leave for my readers to discover at their leisure.

A nod to Kitsune, whose cyberpunk-y drawings first inspired me to attempt this.

Thanks to Anne, who listened to me rambling about plot and who kindly, patiently beta-ed.

Key for punctuation:
_…_ - italics

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It began with light.

Bright...

White...

Light...?

How sterile, cold, and unfeeling: an artificial source of illumination. It seemed to Duo (yes, this is my name, this is who I am, Duo, Duo Maxwell) wherever he was, it was...not a good place to be. But he was cold and tired and more than a little bewildered. He was not sure what to do (where, what, how...?) and so he closed his eyes...

...and slept.

 

 

It began with the sound of water drip-dripping in the distance, hollow and echoing as if great distances yawned off in all directions. The staccato beat increased in pace, growing slowly into first an uninterrupted stream, then a torrent, then a roar-

...and woke.

 

 

Heart thud-thudding and sweat beading on his forehead; there was nothing, no one there. Except a voice, sweet, insistent and naggingly familiar...

"Duo! Duo!"

"Quatre?"

"Yes! Are you awake now?"

Duo lifted his head, and immediately regretted the action. Pain drove silvered slivers of sharp glass and metal in every last part of his brain, gleefully see-sawing down through flesh and tissue, paying special attention to a spot just between his eyes. A pitiful whimper escaped his throat as he promptly fell back down on the spongy-soft surface that was serving as his temporary bed.

"Duo!"

The cry made the knives in Duo's head jiggle around in truly sadistic gymnastics. He groaned. "Stop. Head. Ouchies."

"Oh." Even through the major headache, Duo could feel Quatre's contrition. "Sorry."

After a bit, Duo opened his eyes carefully. "What the Hell is up with this monster-hangover? I don't even remember drinking last night!"

"No alcohol involved," Quatre said, appearing in his field of vision as a pair of wide, concerned blue eyes topped by a tousled golden mop. "Duo, don't you remember anything?"

"I need to remember where I put my memory first. Ow. Geez." Eventually, the lovely little galaxy that had been spinning lazily in front of Duo's eyes faded, and he was able to fully take in his surroundings. He stared. "Uh, Quatre?"

Stretching out as far as the eye could see, a living carpet of verdant green clothed the rich red soil, providing a base upon which trees and bushes both slender and massive thrived, their roots sunk deep. Piles of rocks and thickets dotted the flatland, the only man-made decoration visible being blocks of marble, some sculpted into aesthetically pleasing abstract forms while others were left in their rough-hewn natural state. Pools of water glittered like living diamonds, fed by foaming waterfalls wreathed in silver mists. It was a gorgeous land, a dreamland crafted by the mind of an artist or poet.

In short, it was not Earth. Could not be.

"Quatre?"

"You haven't been paying attention, Duo," Quatre said patiently. "I asked you – do you remember anything?"

Rattled, Duo switched his gaze back to the blonde. "What do you mean remember? I remember me, I remember you, but I definitely didn't remember this!"

"Before this," Quatre prompted.

"Before?!" And suddenly, everything came rushing back. Duo blinked. Then he swore. "The Net."

~*~

It began, strangely enough, with a death. Or perhaps not so strange, for even if death was one kind of end, it spawned myriad other roads for those left behind to follow. To mourn, to remember and perhaps to forget, and then pick up and just... continue.

Many long and dark nights, Heero had wondered what he would do should life be cruel enough to take away the one thing that made it all bearable for him. The answer was not slow in coming: well, of course, he would follow. And he would be at peace with the decision, if not happy with it. Some nights, when Duo remained awake, curled restlessly in his arms, their eyes would meet, and suddenly, his resolve would shake. An eye for an eye, debts incurred, debts paid – it seemed he would never learn. Death for death...

Duo, for all his claims of being the harbinger of the final judgement, was no harsh spectre of doom. For all that his words often carried the deep, empty echo of meaningless noise, for all that his hands were stained with blood, for all that his haunted past was shadowed, there was no one, not a single person on this Earth that could appreciate life the way Duo did. His appetite for life, for life's experiences was comparable to the way he inhaled food. Joyously, recklessly; he was movement and noise personified.

It seemed wrong, then, that when at last his time had come, there was no mark or sign to leave behind a trace, a memory of he who had been Duo Maxwell.

"True to form," Heero murmured into the stillness that was the vacuum of his new Duo-free existence. He hated it, the way his words were forced into spaces too big to fill, and by the same token, too painful to leave empty. "You always wanted to go out in a blast... love."

There was a slithery whisper as bits of ceiling gave way and rained onto the broken bones of the building. Heero ducked around the more unstable areas, digging deeper into the stricken structure. It seemed a lifetime ago – in reality, mere hours – that he had left this place, Duo's cheerful barbs pricking at him, though tempered by fondness. His lover's ghost whispered in his ears, strengthened by memories both good and bad. His eyes followed the telltale signs of bombs, powerful ones that had all but obliterated the makeshift safe house. And for an irrational moment, he wished that Duo had never discovered his talents as a data-head, wished they had never touched the Net or the faceless, shadowed government that had spawned it.

"I need to keep us safe," Duo had said with a roguish wink. He had kissed him, and they wrapped themselves in a fierce embrace, their ardour threatening to undo them both. Duo broke away, laughing a little, breathless. "Hey, you. More of that later. I gotta work – the datastream's calling."

Heero remembered watching as he always did, as his lover deftly woke the decaying computers they had found in yet another abandoned lab, his nimble fingers flitting over the keys in incomprehensible patterns. This particular system's audio capacities were crippled, clarity gained in mute lines of brightly illuminated text. Duo had hacked into some innocuous user's account, borrowing his avatar to surf unmolested in the oceans of information coded into the raw forms of data that was the Net. He remembered how the concentration in Duo's statement never lessened, even as his eyes slipped far away. Remembered how his fingers slowed and finally stopped their incessant dance upon the computer keys, the data-head's consciousness fully integrated in the datastream. He remembered more intensely how his own fingers brushed against the cool metal surfaces of the helmet that was the physical link that connected his lover to the machine, and how a small spark of jealousy would flare each time Duo remained unresponsive, cradled in the artificial embrace of the computers.

Unresponsive, as terrorists crept up stealthily upon their temporary sanctuary.

Unresponsive, as bombs were assembled all around him in a deadly pattern.

Unresponsive, as those self-same bombs had ignited in a brief inferno of fiery rage and clawed down rotting stone and metal.

It was likely that they never realised that Duo was even there. Not that he would have been spared if he were found. Heero blinked with surprise as he was returned to the present by a wet sensation on his hand; he had clenched his fist, nails biting into the flesh of his whitened palm until the skin broke. The sting kept him grounded, and he hardened his jaw. He had hoped that Duo's run was over before they came, but the cold dictates of logic negated it. Hindsight was of no use to him – even if he could guess what had gone one before, there was no way to change the outcome. The best he could hope for would be to recover his lover's remains...

Tears threatened, but he shoved them ruthlessly aside, guilt weighing heavily on him. Survivor's guilt. Duo would have chewed him out for it, even though he would understand. There would be time enough to honour his memory, time enough to grieve.

He reached the computers. The damage here was greatest, sparks of electricity hissing weakly as tiny fires rose and died among the ruins. The chair that housed Duo's body had been smashed by sections of a fallen wall. A burial mound, Heero thought darkly, even as he raged inwardly at being further denied. But strangely enough, the computer was still operational, the humming of machinery interspersed with little bursts of static. Drawn by the glowing screen, Heero awkwardly climbed over the rubble and crouched close to the debris-littered keyboard. His fingers brushed the keys, and the ghost of Duo laughed in his ears. He was no data-head, but at least he was able to access remotely the paths his lover had last travelled. To know, perhaps, his last thoughts.

Text scrolled across the screen. And suddenly, fizzed out. Heero blinked. The data was lost; a chat request flickered in its place.

Automatically, he tapped a key.

"*crackle*...eero *snap*..."

His eyes widened. "Quatre? But you're dead!"

"...time *static* ...not Qua*hiss* ...horrible reception – listen *cracklehiss* ...... important. Do you *crackle* a disk?"

"Yes."

"... *hiss* good..."

"Insert disk here," a pleasant female voice crackled, a little tray shooting out beside Heero's foot.

He jumped, his nerves more than a little rattled. The computer whirred furiously.

"...time, Heero! *static*" Quatre's voice admonished sharply; it seemed more tinny than it should have been, even distorted through computer's apparently functional speakers.

Heero reacted quickly, placing a small disk into the tray and pushing it back in with a click. The computer seemed to purr; was the machinery vibrating under his fingers? It read his disk and promptly downloaded an incomprehensible jumble of data into it before spitting it back out. The tremors were growing more pronounced – it struck him then; the building was about to give way completely.

"*hiss*...the disk and *static* Go!"

He hesitated, torn between the alluring call of this unexpected mystery and his screaming sense of self-preservation.

"...*bzzt* Duo. The disk, Heero! *static*"

Heero froze. Then, the ceiling gave a tortured groan and broke loose. Instinct took over as the first loose blocks killed the computer and cut off communication. He grabbed the disk and dashed back outside, his heart in his mouth as the building collapsed into itself, sinking down below the streets. The adrenaline rush tapered off, and he was left panting, unsure of what had happened, the disk clutched tightly in one fist. His shoulder ached; his fingers sought the slight indentation of the tattoo carved into his skin in faded black lines. It had been a while since he had thought of that mark. 01.

"I left the War behind," Heero muttered, pressing down on the ghostly ache in his shoulder. "That part of my life is over."

The disk weighed heavily in his other hand. With a sigh, Heero flicked the switch beside his right ear, activating the small computer that sat over his right eye, the transparent monitor immediately turning the world into skeletal green structures with pulsing centres of heat dancing here and there. His left eye still perceived his surroundings as they were, but Heero was used to the strange doubled vision. He fed the disk into a slot, listening to the imperceptible whine of the scanner as it checked for viruses before triggering a playback of its contents.

There was a strange ripple; all of a sudden the machine was him was the machine was someone else-

...familiar...

He realised vaguely that he had fallen onto his knees, and that he had fresh scrapes on his palms. His shoulder was aching, aching and he found memories tumbling chaotically into each other, like a data run gone wrong. Information, swirling around him in meaningless code – where was the line between man and machine?

And there, a presence. Familiar. He/They remembered. Violet eyes, cobalt eyes, laughter and irritation and fondness and-

Loss. Devastating loss.

Lost and found.

"Heero?"

He opened his eyes.

~ End Part One

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(© May 2002 by Stargem)

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