2-4-2001

Disclaimer: (Full Disclaimers at the end) Gundam Wing is copyright of its respective creators and all distributors of their work and used without permission.

********** WARNINGS ********* WARNINGS *********

Alternate Universe -- semi-darkfic
Mature Themes (violence, torture, abuse, non-consensual sex, etc.)
YAOI (male/male relationships)
LEMON/LIME (explicit/implied sexual content)

********** WARNINGS ********* WARNINGS *********

Pairings: 1x2
Rating: NC-17 (adult content/mature themes)
Archive: www.madamhydra.net/GW-DARK.html, www.fanfiction.net

NOTE 1: Duo's outfit in this teaser comes directly from the "Stealth Duo" drawing by Kitsune and can be seen at my website (www.madamhydra.net/GW-FANART.html) ^_^ Many thanks to RoseArgent and Kenshi for providing much of the inspiration for Duo's wonderfully versatile hair!

NOTE 2: It has recently (January 31, 2001) come to my attention that there exists an old GW fic called "Memories" which shares a very similar basic premise to "Wicked Game". ^_^; I don't recall ever reading that story before 2001, so after a discussion with one of the authors, I'm pretty sure that "Wicked Game" and "Memories" were developed independently. <sweatdrop>

NOTE 3: Because of the addition of a significant subplot, the prologue to "Mechanics of Control" has been revised. You can find the revised version (v2) at my website (see above).

/.../ represents mental and/or subconscious dialogue

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MECHANICS OF CONTROL: WICKED GAME
A Gundam Wing ALTERNATE-REALITY fic by Madamhydra
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Part 9 (draft)
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The world was on fire, no one could save me but you
It's strange what desire will make foolish people do
I'd never dreamed that I'd need somebody like you
And I'd never dreamed that I'd need somebody like you

* * *

What a wicked game to play
To make me feel this way
What a wicked thing to do
To let me dream of you

What a wicked thing to say
You never felt this way
What a wicked thing you do
To make me dream of you

-- "Wicked Game" by HIM
(originally by Chris Isaak)
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[ AC 196 ]

After Wufei had left them to go on his own solitary mission, the next few days passed relatively uneventfully for Sally, Noin, and the girls. They settled down in a comfortable vacation cabin in the middle of a lush, woodland nature preserve. Noin fretted about Relena, about Zechs, and about basically everything else, while at the same time keeping a wary lookout for suspicious activity.

Dorothy divided her attention between simply getting better and helping Sally Po with very discrete inquiries about mind-control, brainwashing, and sexual addictions. They made a surprisingly effective team. The doctor had useful medical contacts while Dorothy proved rather adept at concealing the electronic traces of their investigation. Unfortunately, all they could only find involving humans dealt with relatively minor behavior changes. Few people wanted to admit that they were doing research into mind control, especially human mind control, and the people most likely to have useful information -- the military, intelligence organizations, etc. -- certainly weren't about to allow easy access to that information.

Relena had other things on her mind. She thought about how she had been used by OZ. Bedridden because of her wounded legs, she had plenty of time to brood about the topic. If OZ had been succeeded in their schemes, she probably would have been forever treated as just another servant of OZ, just another Judas goat.

(Heero was right all along. OZ was only interested in using me as bait for their trap. Damn them. All I'm trying to do is save people's lives. The only thing OZ cares about is getting eliminating all possible sources of resistance, no matter how many people end up dying. And that apparently includes me.)

However, the period of peaceful recuperation was soon broken late one night by a single phone call and a familiar, cheerful voice.

"What's up, Doc?"

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

Sally Po went from half asleep to wide awake in an eye blink. She stared in amazement at the phone in her hand before answering.

"Duo!? Is that you?"

"Yup. How are things going on your end? How's Relena and Dorothy doing?"

"They're both fine. But what about you? How are YOU doing?"

"Me? Never been better," Duo replied easily.

Her eyes narrowed in sudden suspicion. "Excuse me, but I have some real problems buying that answer."

"No, I really mean it, Sally. I'm fine, now. Oh, and by the way, I'm sorry about Heero clobbering you, but you know how intense he can get when he thinks he's on a mission."

She sighed impatiently. "That's not important now, although I'll certainly be taking the matter up with that young man. Listen, Duo. Common sense tell me that people do NOT simply bounce back to normal after suffering the sort of mental trauma you've obviously experienced...."

Duo interrupted her gently, "Hey, we Gundam pilots ain't exactly what you'd call normal."

"Duo, you know what I mean! I don't know what's going on with you and Heero, but there's something seriously wrong with both you and this entire situation!"

"Yeah, I do know what you mean. But I'm tell you that whatever problems or differences of opinion that Heero and I had going on, they've been all taken care of."

Sally sighed again. It was clear that Duo wasn't going to change his story, no matter how hard she tried. The boy was a master of the glib but totally meaningless answer. And why not? Duo had probably been trained to frustrate the most ruthless enemy interrogation, so a mere medical doctor would hardly be much of a challenge.

"All right. Skip that for now. Why are you calling me in the middle of the night?"

In quiet voice, Duo said, "I need a big favor, Sally. I've got a double VIP here. A Very Important Prisoner who also happens to be a Very Important Patient."

"A prisoner? Then I assume you're not talking about Heero."

"No no no. It's someone else."

"Who?"

"I'd prefer not to say over this line. Let's just say that it's really important that he receive the best medical care possible, but I can't exactly cart him off to the nearest hospital, if you know what I mean."

"How severe are his injuries? If they're THAT bad...."

"Nope. Actually, his only injury is a nasty burn on his leg. But it's pretty deep. I've got a field dressing on it, but he really needs a doctor's care."

"Is there anything else I should know?"

There was a brief pause, then Duo said, "Yeah, there's two more things."

"Go ahead, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."

"First thing is that this guy's a hostage. I've got to keep him under wraps for at least 48 hours, but I can't stay around to watch him."

"Duo, playing jailkeeper is hardly my or Noin's area of expertise. Not to mention that if he identifies Relena...."

"I don't think you need to worry about that. He's got his own reasons for protecting Relena... and Dorothy, for that matter. He won't betray you to the OZ forces. It wouldn't be the honorable thing to do. Besides, he'll be unconscious for most of the time. I've got him under sedation."

"Duo, are you sure you...."

"C'mon, Sally! I know what I'm doing, okay? Besides, that's just another reason I want YOU to keep an eye on him. When he wakes up, you can act like I'd dumped him off in your innocent doorstep or something."

"All right, all right! What's the second thing I need to know?"

Duo's voice turned quiet and serious. "This is the other shoe you've been waiting for."

".... I'm ready."

"Whatever you do with this guy, do not... do NOT tell Wufei where he is."

"Why not?"

"Because if Wufei finds out where this guy is, he's liable to show up to finish the job he started."

"You mean that...."

"Yeah. Wufei's the one who nearly killed this guy the first time around. Listen, Sally, I'm dead serious about this. Wufei's gone major-league psycho about this guy. If you get in his way, Wufei's liable to seriously hurt you. He might even kill somebody."

"Wufei?"

"I'm not saying that he wants to do that, but he's simply not rational about this whole situation, okay?"

".... Duo, where's Heero? I want to talk to him. Now."

"Sorry, but no can do. He's on a mission," Duo replied smoothly.

Sally didn't say anything for a long moment, then said quietly, "Let me understand the situation. I assume that you want me to tell you where we, including Relena, are currently staying so you can drop off a mysterious injured prisoner, AND you don't want me to say a damn thing about it to Wufei or anyone else, for that matter. Is that basically it?"

".... Basically, yes."

She took a deep breath, before replying. "I don't know if I can do it. Damn it, Duo! I've got no way to verify what you're saying! I'm sorry, but you've already tried to kill Relena once and I've got NO idea about your current mental state! I can't risk having you around her without...."

".... without Heero or Wufei around. Because, to put it bluntly, neither you or Noin have much of a chance of stopping me if I seriously try to kill her. I understand where you're coming from, but I'm afraid you're just going to have to trust me, Sally."

"Can I do that? SHOULD I do that?"

"Yes, because I'm trusting YOU big-time. Listen, I've got to leave this guy with someone I can rely on while I go to deal with Wufei and a whole load of other stuff! Not only do I have to hide him from Wufei, but there are also several not-so-nice OZ factions who would love to get rid of this guy, too! We can't afford to let that happen, Sally! He's way too important. If he dies, the political infighting will rip OZ apart and probably take the rest of known civilization along with it. Earth and the colonies could all be drowning in blood in a matter of weeks. If you can come up with another suggestion, I'm ready to hear it. Oh, and that includes you, too, Dorothy."

Sally blinked in surprise when she heard a low chuckle over the phone. She hadn't noticed that someone else had picked up an extension and had been listening in, but eventually Duo had.

The doctor sighed, then said, "Hell. Dorothy, wake up the others, so we can talk it over. Call me back in... ten minutes, Duo."

"You got it."

Putting down the phone, the doctor got out of bed and went looking for her bedrobe. She was just slipping it on when Dorothy arrived, accompanied by Noin who was pushing Relena along in a wheelchair.

"I've already filled them in," Dorothy said.

"Well, what do you think I should do?" the doctor asked.

With a frown, Noin said, "I think the whole thing sounds damn suspicious. He might be telling the truth, but then again, he could lying like crazy. There's no way to tell if...."

"Sally, I think you should do it."

"Relena?" the doctor said, taken aback by the way the teenager had interrupted Noin.

The Peacecraft shrugged. "Duo's a trained assassin. If he really wanted to find me, all he would have to do is trace the phone call. Right, Dorothy?"

"He certainly had enough time and with his training, I think it would be pretty easy," the other girl said with a shrug.

Relena lifted her hands. "You see? Duo has no reason to come up with such a complicated lie."

Noin shook her head sharply. "Unless he really is crazy and this is all some bizarre sort of game on his part."

"I'm willing to take that risk," Relena said stubbornly.

"Are you sure about this?" the dark-haired woman said unhappily.

"Yes. If this prisoner is as important as Duo claims, we have to do everything we can to keep him alive." Relena's smile twisted. "Maybe his peacekeeping efforts will be more successful than mine. Heero's right. I've been too naive, too self-righteous. I just don't have the experience to deal with OZ's leaders."

Noin whispered, "Relena, don't be so hard on yourself...."

The Peacecraft shook her head sharply. "I've been played for a fool. There's no denying that. But never mind. About Duo and his prisoner...."

Sally nodded reluctantly, then said, "You're probably right. We have to help him. But we'll do this my way."

When the phone rang again, the doctor said, "Duo? Relena says that it's all right with her. But this is the way we're going to handle it. I'll go to you and check out the prisoner's condition, then I'll bring him back here."

"Fine by me."

Sally listened as Duo rattled off the location of the safehouse. "Okay. Give me...," she checked the bedside clock, "about four hours."

"I'll be waiting. And thanks."

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[ safehouse, location unknown ]

As he waited for Sally's arrival, Duo sat in a chair. He closed his eyes and readied himself to start a familiar mental training exercise.

It was called "Reward and Punishment".

He could visualize the setup perfectly. Two buttons, two bar gauges. One set for Reward. The other set for Punishment. The precise rewards varied, just like the punishments, but the basic principle was very simple. Think correct thoughts and you press the reward button. Think bad thoughts and you press the punishment button. The more times you pressed a particular button, the higher the gauge reading and degree of stimulation from that button. Very simple, really. Operant conditioning at its most basic and most powerful.

In the beginning, he had been very bad at the exercise. The punishment gauge had usually been maxxed out, while the pleasure gauge was practically zero. Soundless non-voices had questioned him relentlessly and had judged his responses back then. He has been punished over and over again until he learned to say the right things. But the hardest part had been learning to believe in those answers he gave. They could always tell when he lied.

At first he had hated the training sessions, but later on, given a choice between feeling nothing at all and the training, he learned to crave the training, even if that meant being punished often.

When he got better at the exercise, he was allowed to push the buttons himself. He was very honest, punishing and rewarding himself as he deserved. If he lied or tried to be easy on himself, the buttons were taken away. Eventually, he was permitted to push the buttons virtually all the time.

Then one day, the questions became commands. Just like before, if he obeyed, he was rewarded. If he failed to comply in any way, he was punished. The physical commands were the easiest to follow. The intellectual exercises were harder. The orders regarding his own thoughts and emotions were the most difficult of all. It was so very hard to make himself think and feel as the non-voices demanded. But disobedience was no longer an option for him.

He felt lonely. He had to, because they said so. And then he began to feel empty, achy... needy. Again, it was because they said so. He kept training himself because anything, even punishment, was better than nothingness, the white hell. He trained because he was afraid to stop.

It was horrible, the loneliness... the need.... He hungered -- madly, desperately -- but he did not know what he craved and desired so badly. Then the non-voices began to tell him about someone special, someone who would make him feel so much better.

That person would be his owner, his Master. The slave would be given the ultimate privilege of service and in return, the horrible emptiness in body, mind, and soul would finally be filled.

The non-voices had been right. Of course they were right. After all, they were only extensions of his Master's will.

Yes... he was starting to remember now. The memories were slowly returning, now that he no longer denied the truth about himself.

He had been told who his owner would be, but he had also been forbidden any conscious recollection of his Master's identity. He would be granted that greatest of joys only after he proved himself deserving. If the slave was worthy, the Master would make himself known. If not, then the slave was condemned to eternal suffering and misery.

Although he could not consciously remember, the knowledge of his Master's identity had been seared irrevocably into his subconscious so that there was no possibility of mistake or error. He would be able to recognize his Master, not simply by mere sight and sound, which could be easily duplicated, but by the most subtlest and complex of clues -- by feel, by taste and smell... body chemistry and DNA... brain waves and bioelectrical fields....

The true slave would know his true Master. Instantly. Instinctively.

And he had done so. Just as foretold, the Master had come and been recognized by his destined slave.

Duo touched his right cheek, where his Master had first touched him and laid irrevocable claim to his heart, mind, and soul. His Master had then left him alone again, but he understood why. He was chosen, but only on a probationary basis. He still had to prove that he was capable of performing as his Master deserved. After that fateful meeting, he had pushed himself even harder, desperate to forge himself into a weapon worthy of his Master's use. He disciplined himself repeatedly, constantly striving to improve himself. He wanted to be worthy for his savior.

When his training was completed, he had concealed his true self deep within his mind, beyond any conscious recollection. And as Duo Maxwell, thief, terrorist, pilot of Deathscythe, pranced and danced for all the world to see, the real Duo patiently waited and hoped for his Master's return.

He smiled in the empty room and nearly moaned aloud with sheer, unbearable happiness. The non-voices had been absolutely right. He felt so good, so completely fulfilled now that his destined Master had taken firm possession of his rightful property. Nothing could express this slave's joy in experiencing his Master's domination in person... to feel the unbreakable chains that bound his worthless self to absolute love, devotion, and obedience... to feel the exquisite perfection of his Master's will as it ruled every aspect of his being -- heart and mind, soul and spirit -- just like a master puppeteer manipulated every aspect of his puppet.

(My Master is the Perfect Soldier. I am his tool, his weapon, to use or discard as he sees fit. My only value is in my ability to please him and carry out his will.)

His smile faded. Yes, he had been chosen, but his Master could change his mind and withdraw his favor at any time, as was his right. A slave had no right to guarantees or promises of security.

(To serve is a privilege that must be continually earned.)

His Master deserved only the best. To be worthy of use, the slave must be strong and perfect, a true reflection of his Master's own strength.

(My Master's cock fills and rules my body. My Master's thoughts fill and rule my mind. My Master's desires fill and rule my heart. My Master's will fills and rules my soul.)

It was a mantra, both joyous and stern, that now defined his reality.

His lips compressed into a grim line. During the long slumber in the depths of Duo Maxwell's soul, the slave had gotten unforgivably sloppy. He had forgotten the proper respect and deference due his Master.

Duo gritted his teeth, deeply furious at himself. How dare he express the slightest reservation about his Master's chosen punishment? He needed to remind himself of the inner discipline required in a true slave. Hence the familiar old training exercise. Reward. Punishment. Good thoughts. Bad thoughts.

His dedication must be flawless. Weakness could not and would not be tolerated. He would hunt down every last defect within himself -- the slightest hint of resistance or rebellion -- and eradicate it without mercy. Whatever was required, Duo would do it for love of his Master, the one who now claimed the name Heero Yuy.

He visualized himself putting a hand on each button, then began the exercise.

And while his outward self remained still and tranquil, Duo began to writhe inwardly in a mixture of self-imposed agony and ruthless glee as he attempted to scour the filth of disobedience and free will from every part of his being.

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[ AC 194 ] [ onboard the Peacemillion ]

As he ignored the faintly twitching nude body lying on the floor of the neighboring isolation cell, Dr. J scanned the printouts that his colleague Professor G had just handed him. In sour tones, he muttered, "So you're ahead of schedule."

"Yes, indeed. Physical modifications and associated training were completed early this month. The mental restructuring is finished, as well. There are a few more refinements I'd like to make, but for all extents and purposes, he's ready to go. He can be imprinted any day," the mushroom-haired professor said with complete confidence.

Dr. J turned to look through the viewing window. Through a tangled curtain of long, chestnut brown hair, he could see that Duo Maxwell's glazed eyes were open wide, but completely blank.

"So he can't see us, eh?" the doctor said.

"In a manner of speaking. It would be more precise to say that he is unaware of seeing us -- or hearing, smelling, or sensing us in any fashion, for that matter. He is very much in his own little mental world."

Prof. G moved to stand beside his colleague. As they both observed the helpless teenager, he continued, "When I began working on him, I used chemicals to induce sensory deprivation. I knew that they would quickly lose their effectiveness once the sensory modifications began, so during the restructuring of his nervous system, I also incorporated an internal mechanism that would do the same thing, only better. Now drugs or external devices are completely unnecessary."

"So I see from your description. Go on. This is extremely interesting." J said, leaning a bit closer to the window.

"His enhanced nervous system relays all the sensory information it receives to his brain. However, the neural restructuring allows me to control how his brain interprets that information. With a simple flip of a switch, all or part of his sensory input can be converted into a meaningless jumble. It becomes a sort of mental static or white noise which leaves him completely disoriented and highly impressionable. That mental static can be used to induce a state of total or partial sensory deprivation. Duo calls it 'the white hell'."

"The white hell, eh?" Dr. J uttered a rusty chuckle.

The professor gave him a sharp-edge grin and said, "That's right. But more importantly, that mental 'noise' can be converted into specific emotions or sensations. Combined with the sensory deprivation, the overall effect is quite irresistable. At the moment, he's shaking like a leaf because his mind is translating any sensory input he receives into a sense of loneliness and misery. That's the usual setting, although I change it around as needed. As you might imagine, with the sensitivity of his senses, that's a lot of input, which results in extremely intense emotional sensations."

"Hmmm...."

Professor G gave his colleague a sly little smirk. "But enough about my progress. How are you doing?"

"Hn."

"I take it that your end hasn't been going quite as well as mine."

"I've had to do a bit of retraining with the boy. Damn Dekim Barton's tantrums, but he was right about the puppy incident." He irritably drummed the fingers of his artificial arm against the viewing window's sill.

Duo's shaking immediately intensified.

"What's going on with him?" Dr. J demanded.

"I told you how Duo's mind is programmed to translate sensory input into any sensation or emotion I specify. Well, he's picking up the vibrations of your fingers, but his brain is interpreting it as increased levels of need and general misery."

"I thought that isolation cell was supposed to be fully shielded against any outside stimulus."

"That's right, with a normal person. But even using the best technology available, Duo can still pick some nearby vibrations and sounds. Now watch this." Prof. G picked up a metal pen and rapped it sharply against the double-paned viewing window.

To their ears, it only made a muffled plink, but as for Duo, he nearly went into convulsions. They watched dispassionately as glassy violet eyes went huge, wild, and desperate. His mouth gaped wide in a silent, protracted wail as he writhed in the throes of some extreme torment.

"May I?"

"Certainly." The professor calmly handed the pen over to his colleague.

When a few hard taps on the window produced a similarly intense convulsive fit from Duo, the doctor said, "Impressive. So what happens now?"

Prof. G shrugged. "He'll soon stop on his own. By now, he knows that an attempt to fight or resist only makes things worse. The more he struggles, the more sensory input he receives. The more sensory input he receives, the more intense the sensation. A feedback loop."

Duo went abruptly still and rigid, his slim, sweat-covered body quivering ever so slightly. And throughout the entire episode, he had not uttered a single sound.

"See what I mean? His conditioning tells him that he is utterly helpless to stop his own suffering. Only his designated 'master' can do that. All he can do is endure and wait until his 'master' chooses to claim him. As you might guess, he's desperately eager for that day. You should hear him begging to be imprinted, when he's allowed to speak."

"Lucky you. Unfortunately, 01's still not ready. His neural restructuring isn't going as well as I expected. It might have something to do with his boosted healing abilities. But you and the others certainly don't seem to be experiencing the same sort of problem," Dr. J ended on a decidedly disgruntled note.

"The rest of us are simply manipulating emotions, while you're trying to eliminate them."

"You'd think that all those years with Odin Lowe would have rid 01 of useless sentimentality," J growled irritably. "But it's almost as if that man managed to make things worse, not better! Typical of Lowe, always making things difficult. There's been two main problems. I've succeeded in creating the optimum mental state for a soldier...."

"Ah, the perfect soldier, hm?"

"Close enough. But only temporarily. 01's been able to maintain the proper mental state for only a relatively short period. A few days. Prolonged activation appears to cause a gradual buildup of mental and physical stress. I haven't been able to track down the exact problem yet, but I will. It's only a matter of time. However, the other issue is more difficult to resolve."

"How so?"

"When in a fully activated state, 01 interacts poorly on a social level. Something about him seems to make normal people very uneasy, which significantly complicates any undercover operation."

"True, true."

"So even if I managed to overcome the stress problem, I may still be forced to limit 01's full activation to only specific, high priority missions."

"Well, I've always said that emotions are an essential element in the human animal. It's no wonder you're having such problems with 01," the professor said with a rather smug expression.

"Hn. We'll see about that." Dr. J jerked his head at the trembling boy. "Can he function without the imprinting?"

"Certainly. He won't have access to the special enhancements, but Duo's quite capable of carrying out missions using normal means. Why do you ask?"

"As much as I hate to admit it, I don't know if I'll be able to complete 01's programming before we have to commence operations. The current political and military situation is highly unstable."

"I see. In that case, I think we'll be better off postponing the imprinting procedure until you're satisfied with 01's progress." Prof. G glanced at the tormented boy cowering on the floor of his cell. "Duo's going to become quite dangerous when fully activated. It's in our best interests to ensure that 01 is capable of controlling him properly."

"You have some concerns, G?"

"As you can see, I've achieved considerable success, but the process still has some major flaws. The main one is that once Duo imprints on 01, there will be a virtually complete transfer of loyalties and control over to his new master. I'm afraid that I was a bit too successful in that respect. Naturally, I've taken precautions, but I can't guarantee that I will be able to override 01's direct orders," the professor said with an irritated frown. "It would have been much better if I could have imprinted Duo on myself, but to obtain optimum results, he really needs to be controlled by a field operative."

"And we're scientists, not warriors. Well, don't worry. When we decided to work together and co-develop 01 and 02, we both knew about that potential problem from the start."

"Will 01 be able to handle Duo if he's not fully in his 'perfect soldier' mode?"

The doctor pondered a moment, then nodded. "Yes, I think so. I just need to make sure 01 has the proper attitude toward 02, regardless of 01's state of activation. With the proper training, I can ensure that 01 will always view 02 simply as a tool, not a person. A very valuable tool, of course, but still merely a tool or object. No, my main concern is whether they can work together without imprinting prematurely."

"That can't happen without the proper initialization code."

"Then there's no problem." The doctor turned to leave, then paused to ask, "I meant to ask you. After 02's been imprinted, what much maintenance will he require to remain operational? 01 will have plenty of things to do himself. If he has to waste time giving orders for every trivial thing like eating or discipline...."

"Don't worry. After imprinting and the activation of the control triggers, maintenance is minimal. Like most of the pilots, Duo is a highly goal-oriented individual. He retains all his intelligence and initiative. All 01 has to do is give orders. Duo will use all his abilities and his resources to carry those orders out to his master's satisfaction. As for sustaining Duo's programming, 01 doesn't have to do anything. It's self-reinforcing."

"How so?"

"Through an augmented biofeedback system. Despite his frequent disregard for rules and laws, Duo has always had very strong moral sense of right and wrong. I've simply altered his definitions of what constitutes 'right' and 'wrong'. He will punish himself for disobedience, which he knows to be 'wrong', just as he will reward himself for fully submitting to his master's will, which he is now utterly convinced is 'right'. Therefore, in most cases, Duo will impose the necessary corrective or disciplinary action on himself without any input from his master. Of course, 01 is free to administer his own punishment if he considers it desirable. The essential details are on that disk I gave you earlier."

Prof. G smiled coldly, before continuing. "Just like an anorexic who is never satisfied with his or her own body image, Duo is now incapable of ever being satisfied with his mental and emotional self-image. He will never consider himself to be 'good enough' or 'obedient enough' for his master. This prevents complacency and ensures that Duo will always strive to improve himself and his performance. For his master's sake, of course. As you might guess, he been very highly motivated to excel in his training. He's quite hard, one might even say brutal on himself. There have been occasions when I've had to stop him in order to prevent him from damaging himself."

"So 02's now a prisoner of his own mind, eh?" Dr. J said with a twisted grin.

"Exactly. A prisoner of his own beliefs and his own emotional needs. And once imprinting is completed, he will have neither the ability, nor the slightest desire to escape from his bondage. The human mind craves happiness. If slavery and complete submission is the only means to obtain that happiness, even temporarily...." G shrugged nonchalantly.

"So how long is it going to take for him to recover from his current state and return to normal behavior? I assume that he is still capable of behaving normally," J demanded.

Prof. G chuckled. "I'll show you." He quickly typed a series of commands at a console. Catching J's curious look, the professor said, "In this vulnerable state, Duo's not permitted to have direct interaction with any human, not even myself. It ensures that he remains totally fixated on 01."

In the isolation cell, Duo, eyes still blank and unfocused, slowly sat up. As a doorway slid open on the wall opposite the viewing window, he rose to his feet. The boy stood, swaying slightly before abruptly shaking the long strands of hair away from his face, then walked purposefully through the now open doorway on the far side of the cell.

"Follow me," G told his colleague. A few moments later, they found themselves in an observation gallery overlooking a large hanger. In the middle of the cavernous room stood a half-completed black Gundam. A few technicians busily scurried about.

"A person standing on this walkway can't be seen from below. Wait here. It won't take long." With those words, the professor left Dr. J and descended to the workfloor.

The scientist with the artificial arm didn't mind the delay. He was interested to see for himself how Deathscythe's construction was proceeding, as well.

He had only been waiting ten minutes when a slim figure in black dashed into view. Duo skidded to a stop in front of Professor G, and flicked his long chestnut braid over his shoulder with a careless toss of his head before speaking.

"So, what's the emergency, doc?"

Duo's voice was cheerful and lively, his eyes clear and bright. There was no indication whatsoever that only ten minutes ago, that same boy had been in soul-deep torment.

Prof. G said in his usual, quick sharp tones, "No emergency. I just wanted to tell you that the cloaking modules have finally been completed and are ready for installation."

"Cool!" Duo exclaimed with an eager grin.

"And here's the operational information. Study it carefully." Prof. G tossed a disk in Duo's direction. The Gundam pilot caught it easily and stashed it in a pocket. Suddenly, he paused, then glanced curiously up at the gallery.

From the way Duo seemed to stare directly at him, Dr. J thought for a startled instant that the pilot had seen him. But that was supposed to be impossible, wasn't it? As he thought about it, the doctor realized that even if Duo couldn't actually see him, it was very likely that the boy's enhanced senses had caught some suspicious trace of sound or scent, or perhaps the boy had noticed up something odd in Prof. G's body language. Yes, he could see that 02 would be an extremely effective and powerful weapon in 01's hands.

Back on the hanger floor, Duo jerked his head in the general direction of the overhead gallery and casually said, "So who's the observer?"

The professor merely shrugged. "An associate of mine."

"And it's none of my business, right? Fine, fine," Duo said with a careless shrug. He turned and cheerfully greeted the other technicians, who returned his greeting with jokes and equal enthusiasm. From the easy camaraderie, it was clear that Duo was quite popular. It was also abundantly clear that the men had no idea that there was anything unusual about 02 -- aside from the fact that the teenager was a Gundam pilot, of course.

Professor G soon returned to the gallery and said, "So, does that answer your question?"

Dr. J snorted and said, "Perfectly. Well, it seems that you've done your usual excellent work. So I should probably go and do my best to match it, eh?"

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When he returned to his own lab situated near L1, Dr. J found the boy designated as '01' diligently at work on a laptop. The boy didn't react to his approach, but he was certainly aware of the scientist's approach.

"I've seen your other weapon," the doctor announced loudly.

The boy stopped typing, and quickly turned his head toward J.

"The preliminary demonstrations were quite impressive," the scientist added.

The older man saw the sudden gleam of intense interest in the boy's dark blue eyes and smirked slightly.

"And it's almost operational."

"When?" the boy said in a monotone that didn't quite hide his impatience.

"You are certainly eager to get your hands on it, aren't you? Well, I don't blame you, boy. However, although your weapon may nearly be ready for field operations, you are not."

Although the boy's stoic expression remained unchanged, the doctor could see a hint of stung pride and frustration in the boy's eyes.

"You have to work harder -- much, much harder -- if you want to be strong enough to control and master this new tool. It's powerful and requires skilled handling to get optimum performance, just like any Gundam. Weakness is unacceptable."

"Acknowledged."

Dr. J lean forward and said harshly, "Well, boy, are you ready to do that? Are you prepared to put useless sentiment aside and commit yourself fully to your training?" He held up the disk that Professor G had given him.

The dark-haired boy stared at the floor for a moment, then looked up, his eyes empty of all emotion.

"I am ready, sir."

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[ AC 196 ] [ safehouse, location unknown ]

Sally hesitated before making the last turn onto the long, winding driveway that lead to her final destination. She could still back out. All she had to do was keep right on going. Duo would never be the wiser.

No. Relena was right. If Duo was really determined to locate and kill Relena, he wouldn't have cooked such a weak story.

The doctor sighed, then hit the accelerator and turned the steering wheel.

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Like a beautiful statue suddenly brought to life, Duo abruptly blinked and stood up when he heard the sound of a car slowly approaching the house.

He took a deep breath, then slowly released it as he brought the intense mental training session to a close. He had made some progress, but it wasn't enough. Not by a long shot. He was sure that he had missed a few stubborn scraps of defiance and rebellion within his psyche. That realization disgusted him. He would have to keep working on it whenever he had the chance.

In the meantime, he would simply have to closely monitor his own behavior and keep himself in line, administering discipline if necessary. It is his duty to do so. After all, his Master has much more important things to do than dealing with his slave's inability to behave properly.

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Sally slung her medical kit over her shoulder, thereby keeping her hands free. She glanced at the house. It was large, spacious, not entirely dark, nor brightly lit. There was nothing abnormal to attract one's attention. With one hand on her gun, she silently approached the front door. Just as she put a foot on the front porch, the door silently swung open and a dim pool of light spilled from the entrance hall. She saw no one, but the invitation was unmistakable. She took a deep breath and entered the house.

Just inside, she turned to see Duo standing behind her, shutting the door. She was about to vent some of her uneasiness with the whole situation when something about Duo's demeanor stopped her dead in her tracks. It was the most fleeting of expressions and disappeared almost immediately as Duo gave her one of his trademark mischievous grins, but it wasn't something that she could easily forget.

She had seen that unnerving sort of expression before, in the faces of religious saints in the very best of the old paintings or sculptures. It was serenity and contentment, combined with unshakable faith and an unstoppable resolve.

But it seems that Duo had been telling her the truth. For as long as she had known him, Duo had always had a certain restlessness inside him. He was always moving, always doing, always trying. It was as if Duo had been seeking something all his life -- a goal, a purpose to his life, something that he wanted and needed....

.... and now it seemed that he had finally found whatever he had been looking for.

She didn't know why, but for Sally, there was something inexplicably sinister about that realization... because there was one other place where she had seen that particular kind of look.

In the eyes of the purest of fanatics.

(end Part 9)
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Author's Notes:
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"Mechanics of Control" is the title for the overall alternative-reality storyline, with sub-stories for each pilot. ^_^
The sub-stories are titled as follows:

"Wicked Game" - Heero and Duo
"Brilliant Disguise" - Trowa and Quatre
"Dragon's Fire" - Wufei

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Keeper of Duo's Dark Side ~~~ Duo no Seishi
Co-Keeper of Duo's Scythe & Bat Wings (w/ Death)
Co-Keeper of Little Grim Reaper Duo (w/ Kitsune)
Saitoh no Koibito ~~~ Corruptor Extraordinaire
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madamhydra@aol.com /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/:E
http://www.madamhydra.net/
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The Full 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.
Original portion of the fiction included here is considered to be the sole property and copyrighted to the author.
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