2-22-2001

CHAPTER 2

Doctor J sighed and stripped off his gloves. Not a fun procedure by any means. Neither was it clean. He looked down at the still woman on the operating table and shook his head. Out of respect, he had sewed her up to the best of his ability and cleaned her up well. What should have been dark Asian complexion was rapidly paling without the benefit of the circling blood. Her hair still shined, though, as if not yet aware that the body it was attached to could no longer provide the luster it needed. She had slipped during the anesthetic administration, never to return. The unknown woman had made it perfectly clear what was happening, and had obviously known she would not pull through the necessary operation to remove the ready to be born child.

The child. He looked over to the make shift crib, a high sided cart lined thick with blankets. Doctor J had cleaned him up first, providing him with his first meal. An odd concoction of antibiotics for possible infections, steroids for growth, and artificial cholostrom. Every infant needed that; he wasn't a doctor simply for the title, after all.

Now what to do with him? Dark brown eyes looked up at him curiously, not quite focused. The bottle was slowly emptying while the child made quiet, infantile noises as he gazed about for the first time in his life. The doctor reached into the crib and smoothed down a thatch of dark hair that he had been born with. The hair was soft under his wrinkled skin, and the man smiled like a grandfather would when viewing his first grandchild. He had never had children, his wife long gone in an explosion that had rocked the colonies far from their motherland. The fates had delivered to him a child. Though rationally he knew that the child was going to turn out to be nothing more than a nuisance, a distraction from the work he needed to do before finding a suitable pilot for the upcoming mobile suit. He couldn't conceivably abandon the boy, it just wouldn't be right. Damn his paternal instincts anyway.

There was a shuffling noise near the door. Owen and Roger came in, standing awkwardly at the scene before them. A minute of silence passed, then Roger spoke up. "Well Frankenstein, now what are you gonna do?"

Doctor J stood, the overhanging light glinting off his protective lenses. "For your little crack, Mr. Filbert, I'll give you two the joy of disposing of the body." He raised his tri-clawed hand, "respectfully. This woman has obvious had a hard life, no doubt thanks to OZ affiliates, and she should have something decent to look forward to. Even if it is her burial."

Owen nodded, "yes, doctor. We'll take her to Father Sam, he'll know what to do with her."

"Good boys," he gestured to the body. "Hurry it up, please. We have other things to do."

Roger walked cautiously up to the body, "like what?"

The doctor sighed, "leave that to when you get back."

Roger nodded. The doc didn't know.

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"A son!" There was a peculiar, goofy smile on the Jonathon's face. "I've got a son!"

"Mr. Dommer! If you please!" The starchy nurse had come out to give the pacing husband the news he had waited so long for, but had been swept up in the largest bear hug she had ever had the misfortune to experience. "Put me down, Mr. Dommer, or you will not be seeing your son!"

The threat worked, she was on the ground before she could react, and in an undignified position at that. Straightening herself out, she saw Jonathon practically bouncing he was so eager to join his new small family. She sighed and shook her head. "Very well, come along."

The nurse led Jonathon down sanitized white hallways and past clean white hospital rooms. Some held people, some did not. That didn't prevent the man from looking into nearly every one to see if it would hold his wife though. Until the nurse used her great voice once more, "Mr. Dommer!"

Jonathon spooked, "all right, all right. I'm coming."

Five minutes and three threats later, the nurse stopped at a closed door. She turned a frosty eye on the new father, who was staring nervously at the door. It was beautifully decorated. Powder blue with a doe eyed mother cradling a swaddled bundle with eyes and a laughing mouth. The nurse's glare softened, "through here, Mr. Dommer. Not too long though, they both need their rest, and so do I."

Jonathon flashed her a nervous grin, then took a shaky hand to the doorknob. Inside, very little was noticed except for the occupied bed. Annette lay there, her auburn hair flowing and thick, sticking wildly out of the neat bun it had been in at dinner. Pale skin was flushed and glowing with the very essence of life. She had performed a miracle tonight, and she knew it. There was a slight rustling and a small murmur from a tucked blanket in her arms. The woman looked away from her husband to coo quietly at the bundle in her arms before carefully motioning with one slender hand for Jonathon to join her. He didn't think he could.

"Come here, Jonathon."

With a large swallow of fear, his feet slowly slid towards the bed, touching the outstretched hand of his wife. She clasped her fingers around his and pulled him closer. "Come see."

He did. Slowly, very slowly, he peeled back the blankets to take his first look at his first born. In his mind, there could be no braver thing to do.

Sleepy lids fluttered open to take reveal the deepest pair of blue violet eyes Jonathon had ever seen as the two took their first looks at each other. A tiny hand came from the fuzzy depths and gently took hold of the fingers Jonathon used to caress the newborn's soft skin. The infant smiled, lighting up his eyes until the very depths of his little soul were shining bright.

Jonathon looked to his wife, "he's beautiful," he breathed. "Just like you."

Annette smiled. "He'll have your sense of humor, my luck. He already has your smile."

"But your eyes my dear."

The wife smiled as she bumped heads with her husband, "flirt."

"And you love it." Carefully, Jonathon took the tiny bundle from his wife's arms and held him in his own. "I'll be sure to teach little Michael here everything daddy knows so that mommy can yell at him in all the same ways."

Annette mock glared at her husband. "Michael?"

"Of course."

"We'll discuss this later, Jonathon, though I doubt Michael shall appear in the conversation." A wistful smile hovered on her face, "I was thinking more on the lines of Jock."

Jonathon stopped twirling his son around to look at his wife. He blinked. "Jock?"

"What?"

The proud new father simply shook his head. Whatever his son's fate may be, he hoped that he wouldn't have to go through it with a name like Jock. Not that he'd say that to his wife. His wife. Jonathon looked over and smiled at her, dropping an affectionate kiss on her cheek. Life was complete and he was content. In his mind, he thanked the Lord, everything was as it should be. He hoped to God it would stay that way.

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The boy looked about.

This was an interesting turn of events.

Whoever these new adults were, he was certain they weren't up to anything good. Oh sure, they were nice enough. The woman was very kind, giving him a meal and a warm bed away from all those coughing and dying kids. He hadn't liked that much. Too much like the other place. The men, on the other hand, were gruff, smelly, and almost always yelling at each other. The man in the long coat wasn't happy looking, especially when he talked to the fat man. The boy wondered what that was all about, something concerning him, maybe. He reached up and pushed away some hair that was obstructing his vision, away to the right, with the rest of it. Maybe if he asked, the lady would give him a haircut. She still seemed nice, despite the fact that she was yelling now too. The man and the woman were both yelling at the fat man, swinging their arms a bunch. Then the woman looked over at him left the two men alone for a moment, walking over to him.

"Here," she said, handing him a little white stick. "Suck on this for a while, kid, then get some sleep." The woman handed him a blanket and put him on the cot with the stick. The boy put the stick in his mouth, it was sweet and sticky, he liked it. While he sucked on it, the woman stood up and walked away to join the still fighting men. When she got to it, she shut the door between his room and theirs, muffling the argument. For a while, it was almost quiet, and he sucked on the sweet stick. His eyes began to slowly drift shut, and the boy began to lie down on the cot, the thick blanket covering him. There was just a little bit of the sweet stick left, so he popped it in his mouth and carefully crunched down. He didn't have enough teeth to do otherwise.

Suddenly, there was a resounding explosion and a long, high scream. The boy sat up swiftly, crunching down hard on his tongue in surprise. He cried out in pain and covered his mouth and ears. The woman was screaming, now crying. He could hear it through the door. Then it opened, and the fat man shuffled out. For a frightened moment, the boy looked up to meet the fat man's gaze. There was something dark and shiny in the fat man's hand. It was smoking and smelled funny. The man raised it to the boy, watching with delight as his green eyes widened to an impossible size before being covered up by his hands swooshing his hair over his face. The blanket came next, and all that could be seen was a cowering mass of wool.

"No!" Morgan ran from the room she had been in and jumped on top of the fat man. "Tony you can't! He's just a kid!"

The fat man pushed the woman aside as if she were nothing. "Sure I can. I've done it before. It's easy, see? Just squeeze the trigger and they fall as fast as Lucas." Tony laughed, as if what he said were a grand joke.

"No!" The woman struggled to her feet and ran in front of the quivering child. "Please Tony! He's not even a year old!"

Tony sneered, "the perfect reason to kill him. Like Lucas told you, Morgan, I don't baby-sit. It'll be years before he's ready. I ain't gonna put that much money into a kid."

"Then I'll do it!"

The fat man laughed, "you gonna bring him up? How can you teach ropes you don't know? Let me kill him Morgan, it'll be nicer than the other options."

"Please Tony! 'Til he's four, then I'll bring him back!"

"And what the hell you gonna do with a kid for three years? You gotta job to do, Morgan."

"Leave of absence."

"For three years? No way in this frozen colony!"

"Then in another." The woman stood defiantly in front of the fat man. "You owe me, Tony. For the kids I bring in you don't give me a quarter the loot I deserve. I'll take him for three then bring him back, maybe with some other kids taggin' along."

"You had better have some kids taggin' along for a three year leave."

"I will."

"Then get outta my sight. Before I change my mind and blow you both apart."

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Owen stared at the doctor. "You're kidding."

"You have a problem with this?"

"You've got no right to make that sort of decision, or person for that matter."

Doctor J turned his back to the man, "put away your squeamish emotions, Lowe, this is war. There are no choices. Not for you; not for me; not for anyone. Youth can be no exception."

"Doctor J, think about what you're saying! He's not even youth!"

"All the more reason to use him." The doctor turned about, his eyes carefully hidden behind a metal plating censor. "Would you truly want to take a boy who knows all the joys and sorrows of living to put him behind the barrier we're about to construct? Do you want to take a child away from his life forever? No, of course not. Especially with the very small degree of certainty we have that this will actually succeed." The doctor sighed, "I don't like this anymore than you Owen, but the fact is, there isn't any other way. Its all coming to a head faster than any of us thought. We train him now, he'll be ready, and no one else will suffer for it."

Owen Lowe could tell he was losing this argument. He couldn't see any more alternatives than the doc could. "But he's so small."

The doctor turned and looked into the constructed crib to view the child in question. He was small. Obviously premature, the mother had not been built for childbearing. The child then yawned and opened his eyes, feeling the gaze of his guardians. He had seen them in his sleep, watching over him. But then, he had seen them in his sleep, and he had been looking down on them, watching over them. He wondered, with his young mind, how he saw them when his eyes were closed. He looked at the doctor questioningly, maybe he knew.

Doctor J, as he now called himself, reached into the crib and carefully picked the child up. "Time for lunch, little one."

"How are you going to do it?"

In answer, the doctor instructed his assistant to prepare a bottle for the infant. "At first, we'll have to give it orally, with only a few injections. His system can get used to the chemicals early, along with the usual nutrients supplied through the nipple. We'll alter the necessary immunization children of his age need, he'll grow up to be what he must be. To be what we cannot be. If this experiment succeeds, there will be very little in our world that will be able to stop him."

"And if we fail, we'll be arrested for infanticide."

"There is very little chance of that."

Owen looked disgusted. "You realize that, even if he does survive this and grow correctly, he could simply turn around and destroy us. He's going to grow up to be a monster. Get him angry and he'll blow you apart."

"Which is why we're going to eliminate that little problem."

"What?"

The bottle was ready, and the doctor added a light pink powder to the bottle before handing it to the infant to drink. "Emotions are the greatest flaw of human kind when engaging the battlefield. Its what allows us to make mistakes that we may later regret. If emotions, or feeling of any kind, were to be eliminated, then only cool calculation of weighing risks with benefits would prevail. Perfection would reign, and the war will be done that much quicker."

The assistant shook his head, "he'll still be a monster."

"But he'll be a sweet, controllable monster."

"How are you planning on managing that?"

Doctor J replaced the child back to his crib, then turned to Owen. "I'm not; you are." He held up a hand to stop the expected protests. "You, my honorable friend, are going to take the child out for a few years and raise him. I will trust you to administer the correct dosages to prepare his body for the rigors of later training while teaching the child as much and as little as he will need to know about living life. You, so full of morals you spew them upon the very ground your feet tread, shall show the boy what you know so well. Then, with his training, we'll slowly eliminate every one of them that doesn't pertain to what we need him to know the most; obedience and survival. By the time Operation M is ready to go, he'll be perfect. As cold and calculating as a machine, but with the uniqueness of a human being, capable of responding as no other could."

Owen's expressions were great, from disgusted to awed, and now to sickened. "Why can't you do this?"

"Because I have yet to finish the suit. Now that I have a pilot in mind, I can design the specifics, which will take an uncalculated amount of years, so you may have him a while. But I want you to keep in contact with me and bring him back annually."

The assistant sighed, then realized what the doctor had just said. "You want me to leave here?"

"Of course, having the pilot here with me is risky and unnecessary." Doctor J made a wry smile, "besides, I doubt very much that you would really want to stay with me while I built the monster's accomplice."

That was very true, so Owen nodded. "I'll leave in the morning."

"Accepted. Don't forget the necessary equipment and drugs. And don't forget to bring him back. Remember my friend, this is war, there-"

"-Are no choices," the assistant turned his back to leave. "I know, I know. But that doesn't mean I have to accept it."

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The little Chinese infant lay quietly on the backboard cradle strapped to his mother's back. Usually he would sleep, but today he wanted to look around. Black eyes glittered with curiosity-something was in the garden with his mama.

It was fast, whatever it was. Darting from bush to bush in a humming flutter of wings. The artificial sun would catch its glittering faceted eyes, glinting colors the child had yet to learn names to. Little Wufei watched as it paused in mid dart, to fix itself right in the child's vision before screaming out of sight. Wufei laughed at the antic, clapping his hands together in delight. A moment later it popped up not a foot from his mother's back, blinking curiously and humming a fast tune with its wings. With infantile concentration, the child reached out to touch the creature, but it was too far away. He fussed, wanting to play with it.

"Little one, what troubles you so?" The backboard cradle was swung around until gentle hands held him to look at his mother's concerned face. Wufei cried out a small bit and waved his hands around, desperately wanting to see the fascinating creature behind his mama's back. To no avail. His mother cooed and rocked the child until she was as frustrated as he was. Finally, she set him on the ground and left him to his own devices. Wufei gurgled with happiness; he had a trick up his sleeve now. With great grunts of effort, he rolled onto his stomach and pushed his chubby legs under him. His tiny hands propelled his body upward into an unsteady quadruped position. The child took a moment to stabilize himself before carefully putting one limb in front of another, as he had seen the cats do so many times. Within minutes, he had traveled a whole three feet to where he had seen the flying play toy. Wufei dived into the bush, ready for hours of endless fun with the new creature. However, when he got there, and looked about, there was nothing there to signify the creature's presence but a bit of disturbed grass and echoing hum. Wufei's young mind reached for a new concept.

The creature had disappeared.

 

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Doctor H worked quietly at his computer in the main lab. Parameters needed to be worked out. The blueprints for his mobile suit specifics were near completion. Sandrock, as he had whimsically dubbed it after a sleepless night on the desert colony, could be built. He sighed, but it wouldn't be. He needed one thing yet to fully complete the mobile suit-a pilot. He knew exactly where to find one. In fact, the boy was not more than five feet from him, incubating peacefully in his artificial womb. But he couldn't touch the fetal infant. The child was Master Winner's son and only hope for the line. He couldn't take that away from Master Winner, there was just too much at stake. All his funding, his secluded safe house away from the prying eyes of Barton and Kanz, his life; all of it was owed to the Winner family.

With a sigh, the doctor quit his screen and called up a dimensional image of the proposed completed Sandrock. It rotated this way and that, displaying features undreamed of in any current mobile suit. It would not be completed for many years. It would take that long to develop working products of the initial technology needed to be successful in the proposed operations. There were too ways of looking at the fifteen-year deadline: either too much time or not enough. Too much would mean that they would sit on their withering backsides and watch the terran factions destroy the hope of the colonies. Too little meant that the deadline was drawing closer. And despite the intelligence and craftiness each of the scientists had developed over the years, none was entirely sure that they could create such technological monstrosities and outwit those that were asking for the demon creatures to be made in time to save their race.

"You old fool," he whispered tiredly into the darkened room, "what have you gotten yourself into?"

A monitor beeped near the sleeping fetus; the doctor looked up and sat there, confused for a moment. What? Oh yes, the shots. Little Quatre, as the soon to be infant had been named, needed a regular series of injections to keep him alive. The mother had died unexpectedly, and it had been great work to save the child in such early stages of life. Because of the stress, the fetus was small, slowly developing, and prone to bizarre complications. Most of the complications were centered on the heart muscle. Its rhythms would go off the charts at the most unexpected times, drugs not always helping. The head of the Winner family had called in dozens of specialists to try and identify the problem, becoming more anxious with every one. Finally, he, Doctor H, had taken full control of the fetus and would assure Winner from time to time that the baby would be fine with only two months left to go.

Why was it that he wanted this sickly child to become his ultimate pilot? The doctor typed in the sequences to administer the doses. That was a very good question. Still. The father was brilliant, coming from earth and starting up a miniature country in space, prospering tremendously. The mother, Quatarine, was sweet and diabolical. Doctor H remembered her from when she had cascaded about the colony home, flattering and charming everyone she came across. There wasn't a soul aboard that could resist her. He had long since made a mental note that green eyes and whimsical voices were a dangerous combination.

The doctor's lips twisted into a bittersweet expression. Tragedies of war. What a phrase.

The fluids emptied themselves into the fetus through the artificial umbilical cord. He stopped the sequences and went back to his design work. The child would do fine, he only hoped he could do the same.

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