7-12-2001

Title: Cradle and All: Chapter 3

Author: Phoenix Cubed

Warnings: Tiny bit o' language

Feedback: Yes, please. All food goes back to phoenix_cubed@hotmail.com

Other: Standard Disclaimers apply. Not mine, never will be.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

 

CHAPTER 3

 

Thank God, the kid was finally asleep.

Morgan tucked the thin, military issue blanket securely about the boy's shoulders. He really was a good kid. She wished he hadn't seen Lucas' s death. No brat should ever see something like that. It left scars. Morgan didn't doubt that the little no name already had a few mental cuts and bruises-he'd come from that run down shit hole of an orphanage, after all. But to witness a violent end at his age; there was just no turning back from it.

After that close call at Tony's, Morgan had picked up the boy and run. Boarding the quickest flight off the colony without a care of the destination. He'd kept the blanket over his head as long as he could, but Morgan had pulled it off him so he could eat. Stubbornly, the boy had pushed his long unkempt hair over his face, trying to keep hidden from view. His tiny fingers had slipped between his chin and the straggly ends of his bangs, putting only half the offered amount of food into his mouth. After that, he'd curled into the smallest ball he could manage and shivered. Thankfully there wasn't anyone on the flight to stare or ask question. The answers would have been a problem.

The woman carefully brushed the hair from the boy's face to once side, hoping to catch a glimpse of the youthful innocence that appeared with every sleeping child. But somewhere between the tightly shut eyes and grimy cheeks that were streaked with drying tears, none could be found. Morgan's heart gave a small wrench as guilt began to seep into the sudden cracks. This whole thing was her fault, and she had no way of making it up to the tiny nanashi. Lucas was right. She was too soft to be a Piper. But it was too late now; karma had caught up her to her questionable occupation as she realized she'd been paid in fool's gold. There was only one thing to do now. Take her small, false fortune and make him worth something. Even if that worth was only to her and the boy.

Morgan felt much better now that her small internal battle had been resolved. She found another blanket and wrapped it around herself. Comfortable and feeling much more secure, she nodded off.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

Bright lights were all around. Infantile hands swept up to push away the offending lights. The action was met with excited coos and awes. Everyone loves a baby, and this one especially.

"I hope, Master Winner, that you are satisfied?"

The aging man paused in the adoration of his newest and only son. He looked up; only to have long locks of hair fall over his tear streaked eyes. "I am, thanks be to you and Allah, I am."

"Excellent," the short statured doctor nodded his head in approval. Tired eyes crinkled slightly as he smiled. "Then I will not insult this happy moment by discussing our agreement to price. Come to my office when you are ready, sir."

Whether or not the excited man heard was debatable as Master Winner swept his new son up in a teary embrace. "A son! Quatarine, you would be proud."

Doctor S turned and left the room. He doubted his employer's statement very much. Would she really be proud of the sickly boy that would, if everything went well, take a front stage part in what he knew was to become the bloodiest battle fought anywhere. Love him she might, but pride was a hard word to swallow.

With heavy footsteps, Doctor S slowly trudged to his room, oblivious to the celebrations around him. The child's coming had set in motion events that would soon become unstoppable. He would soon receive the materials to build the Gundam. He would build the damned machine. He would end thousands of lives. Such was his fate. Such would be the pilot's. He hoped the child's heart grew strong; the doctor's was weakening far too quickly.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

He was ready for it this time.

Being a strong and hefty boy of eight months who could now crawl to where ever he wished to go, little Wufei had become the scourge of anything below knee-height. Nothing was safe from his searching black eyes or curious grip.

Nothing but the little flying creature that lived in the garden.

Wufei, however, was going to remedy that. Every day after his breakfast his mother would clean the house, placing the toddler in a long, high walled play area. The toys had long since disinterested the young Chinese boy, except the shiny one with the funny looking thing that would stare at him. Wufei wanted to know how the creature in the shiny sheet was able to copy his movements exactly and at the same time he made them. Looking up at it now, he watched it look back at him. One problem at a time.

The current one, though, was one he thought he could solve. As soon as he got out of this see-through, adult amusing, "play area." Mother always went outside to weed the garden once she was done with the house. And because he was getting to be such a big boy (his female relatives told him this at least twice an hour), he no longer needed to be strapped to the back of his mother when she went outside. Because of this, hunting for the little flying creature had become much easier. He no longer relied on his lumbering transport to decide where he would look and for how long. Now, as long as he was within reasonable distance of his mother, he could explore the garden and catch it. Wufei had even thought of a way to capture it. His tender mind working, the young heir thought of images where the creature had flitted from bush to bush in the garden. Perhaps, if he simply hid in one of the bushes, he could catch it with his arms wide open. Seeing no faults in his first well thought scheme, Wufei settled down to stare at the shiny thing above his head with the funny boy looking back at him, waiting for his mother to take him to the garden.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

"Jonathon, keep that away from the baby!"

"Oh hush, its not going to hurt him."

"You don't know that."

"Neither do you."

The object in question was Jonathon's latest combination of spare mobile suit parts and not so idle curiosity. It was a small cube that could, when specific sequences were pressed, change into different shapes. Push three on the left, two on the top, and a holographic teddy bear would pop up and hug him. One in there, twist, a piece of candy popped out. The baby laughed, what a toy!

Jonathon watched proudly as his son played with his new invention. Testing out new sequences, avoiding those that had bad results, endlessly repeating the ones that had candy. He chuckled, little piglet. "See darling? Works just fine."

Annette stared at him for the longest of breaths. It was all Jonathon could do not to run and cower behind the simulated furniture. Finally, she simply threw her hands in the air with an exasperated sigh. "Fine, it works. For once."

He grinned. That was a victory if ever one could be. So what if less than fifty percent of his 'toys' actually worked? He had tested this one for the longest time, wanting it to be perfect for his child. He needed more structure in his life. Because, although he would never say so, and as much as he loved her, Annette was a mother hen who coddled her precious one and only far too much. The boy needed to explore more, get into trouble, be curious. Do many things that couldn't happen under the watchful gaze of his mother. Jonathon remembered when he was a lad; running about and reeking havoc on the local populations. The things he found hidden in his colony home were amazing. Places where only children could go and appreciate, far from the watchful eyes of any adults-

"Jonathon!"

The father snapped from his reverie and took stock. Little Junior had found a sequence for fireworks, and the pyrotechnic display was currently popping off dangerously close to the toddler's face. With a startled shriek, the boy tossed the cube high into the air, triggering even more fireworks. The cube disappeared almost entirely for the longest of time, hovering in the air while the miniature array of lights caught and held the violet eyes of the toddler. The pain of fear and surprise was long forgotten as he watched the dazzling light show from a safer distance, cooing and clapping his hands in appreciation. Such a fun toy!

"Safe." Jonathon smiled and looked over to his wife, who was desperately trying to recover from the fright of watching her only son narrowly escape second degree burns. The man smiled and pulled his wife into a quiet embrace, resting his chin atop her dark head. Annette wasn't very tall; the word petite must have been invented for her. It was perfect for him, however, as he wasn't that tall himself. She was exactly his size. He could put his head right there and his arms fit around her just so . . . he sighed. Perfection. There could be no other word for it. He felt her relax in his embrace, settling down and cooling off. It had taken five years, but he had finally learned how to handle his temperamental partner. He supposed in another five years he'd have to learn how to handle the other chestnut beauty that the Lord had provided him with. For now, however, he could just sit back in a state of perfect contentment and enjoy all he'd been blessed with.

Then he could chuckle at his son's antics. The little tyke! A small pile of candy lay to the left of the boy, a large pile lay to his right. He was still twisting and pressing though, obviously looking for something specific. At a seven months, Jonathon Junior's motor skills were excellent, far beyond any of the charts. His memory was exceptional as well. Jonathon wondered what the boy was looking for. Ah. With a dry pop and a happy cry, the toddler pulled out a plush black blanket and wrapped his body and his candy piles snuggly up into it.

"Odd color choice for a blanket, Jon."

Jonathon blinked, "I don't even remember programming a blanket in there."

It was Annette's turn to laugh. "I'm not surprised. Why don't you go get his crib ready? We can put him down for a nap and then, "she paused, there was something in that smile. "We can take a . . . nap."

Double ah. "All right." What else could he say? He picked himself up and headed off. What a night. Junior had had his fun, now Senior got to have his. He shook his head, too much time spent around the bachelors at work.

Annette picked up her sleeping son--cube, candy and all. He stirred slightly and shifted in her arms, becoming comfortable against her warmth. Little hands reached up and instinctively latched about his mother's neck, finding love and security he could get no where else.

His mother smiled, marveling at the little angel she had been blessed with. Could she be any luckier? With a caring husband, an adorable son, and a good home in the better part of the colony? No. There could be little else. Maybe a rest from the outside turmoil with the terrans, but that was so far away. There wasn't a chance that it could affect her here in her perfect little world. Annette carried her son into the baby room and carefully set him in the crib, gently tucking the blanket about him. She took the toy cube from his hands and replaced it with a stuffed angel, which he immediately clung to. She smiled as Jonathon laid a hand on her shoulder. Annette covered it with her own, and for a moment, the trio simply sat in the comfortable silence of love, sharing an unbreakable bond. Then Jonathon quietly guided her from the room, keeping a finger to his lips. Together they shut the door to the baby's room, shielding him from the waking light of the colonies. The baby slept on, oblivious. He knew, deep down in his young mind, that he was safe. That, and there were two people in his new life that would shield him from anything. So in his innocence, he slept on.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

Odin Lowe was a man of few words and much sense. He also carried with him a realistic outlook on life. People had once tried to tell him he was pessimistic in his views and that he should lighten up because it was bad for his health. But these people were all dead, so Odin didn't take much stock in their words.

Odin had been a traveler in his day. During his youth he crossed oceans, braved desert storms, and nearly died of malaria during a six-month stay in the Tropics of Cancer latitude. Middle age had found him in space. Space was another frontier to explore and conquer, even with the settlements of colonies dotting the eternal night. He would take odd and often disreputable jobs just for a shot at seeing something new or doing something dangerous. The experience and know how that he gained earned Odin somewhat of a preceding reputation-in certain fields, at least.

However, there was one thing that Odin had never thought much of, and consequently, had limited ability in. And that, for him, was extremely unfortunate, because parenting had suddenly become a full time occupation.

The baby lay in an unstable carrier in the shuttle seat next to Odin, sucking grayish milk from a clear plastic bottle. He'd been on Doctor J's potion for six months now, and everything had been going fine until Lowe had given the baby his third set of vaccines. There had been some sort of strange reaction, and the baby had become violently ill. Pale and very sickly looking; his eyes had swollen shut and what little hair he'd grown turned brittle and began falling out. Odin had rushed the boy back to the doctor, and for six days, the two worked furiously to single out the problems and right the boy to proper health.

Now, Odin didn't know if it was the eyedrops or the initial reaction to the vaccine, but when the infant toddler finally was able to open his eyes for the first time in nearly a week, bright Prussian irises stared out at the world in wonderment.

Doctor J's optic sensors blinked rapidly for a moment. "I thought he had chocolate eyes."

Odin bit his lip, "I thought he did too."

The doctor shined a flashlight into the child's eyes, "how very interesting," was all he said.

The boy was kept under observation for two more weeks. During that time the hormones and vaccines were administered in careful dosages. Soon, the boy began to stabilize, but the odd side effects from the event still lingered. His eyes deepened to a peculiar blue, his skin tone lightened slightly, and as his hair grew back, it was no longer black, but-

"Green," muttered Odin. "You're not supposed to have green hair."

"Its not green, " protested the doctor. "But it certainly is a unique shade. I'd call it moss brown."

"Call it whatever you like, doc," Odin growled, "but its green."

The scientist grunted. "That's not important. At least we now know that his body is reacting to the modifications. We need only a few more adjustments to the formula and we'll have it right."

Odin made a noncommittal noise and began packing his belongings. Doctor J continued to talk.

"Step up his solid food intake, it will help his stomach. I see his crawling is well developed; he should begin to walk before the month is out. Make sure you monitor him closely these next few weeks; it will be interesting to see how he recovers."

"So glad to see you're concerned about the boy."

J tisked and snapped his tri-clawed hand, "don't be touchy. It's unbecoming of your gentle nature. Now, I want you to bring him back every six months. Deacom has caught wind of our little project and is curious to see how it develops."

Odin rounded on the older man. "I'm not gonna do a twice a year freak parade for some crack pot psychopath-"

"You will do what you are told, Lowe," Doctor J interrupted coldly. "Must I remind you what is at stake here? We don't have a choice at the moment! We must lie low until our chance comes. But until then…"

J left the sentence trailing, unable to voice the consequences that haunted both men so.

The doctor gave a few more pieces of instruction before the man slipped out the back, baby and all.

Which brought them back to the present, with the child now sucking out the last drops of formula from the clear plastic bottle. The boy's teeth were beginning to grow in, and soon the bottle would be permanently replaced with a tippy cup. But until then, the boy could hold tight to his familiar comfort and Odin could watch the charming display the infant put on, trying to drain the bottle.

Odin looked down and smiled at the boy. The tiny child laughed and gurgled back.

They'd cross that bottle bridge when they got there.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

"Tee ha!" The Chinese infant squealed with glee and trundled into the far bush before anyone could see him. The creature that referred to herself as "mother" was still in the house, oblivious to his escape attempt. This was good. The mother had a tendency to scare off the little flying creature to the other side of the tall wall where he could not go. That was bad.

Taking a look behind him, little Wufei failed to notice the bush root that snuck out from the ground to trip him. The dirt that pushed into his mouth when his face connected with the ground muffled his grunt of surprise. Wufei pushed himself to a sitting position and began spitting out the dirt. He'd decided a while back that he was not fond of eating dirt. Not only was the texture too grainy for his tastes, but also the tendency for the dirt to come alive at odd times and crawl around his mouth was quite icky.

Wufei pushed the last of the dirt from his mouth and crawled to the nearest bush. Even at his young age, he understood the basic rules of getting caught: If you don't want to be, then don't let anyone see what you were doing. Just like pooping. It just didn't come out when the mother creature was looking at him with that vacant expression of encouragement and clapping her hands. Give him a minute when her back was turned, though, and lo and behold-the mother load!

Sparing a look at the house, Wufei quickly toddled to the next bush. This game was becoming fun. He resisted the urge to clap his hands and gurgle then pushed on to the next bush. A pattern began to form. Duck behind the bush; look at the house, run to the next bush. Duck behind the bush; look at the house-

Oh.

Pausing for a moment, Wufei busied himself on his fingers as nature took over for a minute. He was going to have to find a way to shut that plumbing off; it always came at bad times. At least it gave the mother something to do besides coo at him, though. That was becoming disturbing.

His deed done, Wufei considered his next move. He could go deeper into the garden, or he could crawl to that bush to the left and wait there. His tiny mind struggled with the option for a moment as his black fuzzy head looked back and forth between the choices. Hmm.

Suddenly, there was a sliding noise behind him as the garden door slid open. Wufei sneezed his bad luck; he was in the middle of a path! The boy made a snap decision and threw his little legs into gear. This might hurt, but the swat he would no doubt get if he was caught would definitely be worse.

Wufei closed his eyes and dived into the far bush. Instinct forced his arms to cover his face, which was good, because they were getting scratched by the thorns.

The boy kept himself very still as footsteps sounded down the garden path. They stopped nearby his bush for a moment, and deep voices could be heard. They didn't sound like the happy notes that his mother could give to him, but more the firm litany of the person mother called "father." For a moment Wufei considered coming out. He didn't see his father often. But the image of the flying creature kept his body still. Besides, the father was not sounding happy talking to the other voice. He didn't recognize that one.

Footsteps sounded again and the voices moved away before disappearing out of Wufei's hearing range entirely. Convinced that there was no one around, Wufei straightened himself and snuffed the leaves from his nose. Blinking rapidly, he crawled out the other side of the bush and lifted his head.

Coming face to face with a rainbow faceted eye.

To say that Wufei was surprised would be an understatement. To say that he was forced into another round of calling nature would be more accurate, however, it would be the boy's death before he ever admitted that.

Wufei squealed in fright and backed up into the bush again. The flying creature gave a high-pitched cry of surprise and its wings sputtered to life, sending it soaring upwards into the sky, crooning its excitement to the air. Wufei's breaths came in short gasps as he watched it go, his eyes wide with amazement. He'd never been that close before.

Voices of alarm came suddenly with footsteps. Wufei was crying from his scare when hands wrapped around his small body and lifted him into the air. His wide black eyes faced the concerned expression of his father. The man held the child close to his body and rocked him sedately.

"Wufei." He hushed, "easy, son." But Wufei continued to cry. Kyho was confused. He didn't know what had scared the child, or how he'd even gotten into the gardens. Kyho knew that his wife had been feeling ill and was resting inside. But the doors should have been shut.

"My baby!" Chang Sing came running from the house and Wufei's cries began anew. Kyho sighed and rolled his eyes, relinquishing his son into the frantic arms of his wife.

"Wu-Chan," she skittered, "my poor child." She turned her fierce black eyes to Kyho. "Did you let him get hurt in the gardens? Kyho!"

Kyho's eyes went wide with disbelief. "I did nothing of the sort! I found him out here!"

"With no one watching him, I'll bet." She scowled at him, "for shame. Look at him, his hands are all scratched."

Sing continued to berate her husband as Wufei whimpered and clung to his mother. The scary mean thing wouldn't come near a mother. He hadn't been expecting the creature to try and catch him. How frightening! Sing stopped her scolding long enough to soothe his frightened face before turning back to Kyho. Wufei buried his head into her shoulder, but a flitting from the corner of his eye caught his attention. The flying creature sat on the high wall. Its wings beat blindingly fast and its eyes were round and glinting with curiosity. Wufei cried out in fright again and shut his eyes tight. His mother crooned to him, and it was a surprisingly comforting sound. He listened to it and felt her turn away and head back into the house. Maybe now she would change him and give him a bottle.

Taking one last glint at the humming creature on the wall, Wufei tearfully vowed to never underestimate his quarry again.

Of course, being a baby, he was blessed with the cognitive power of an adolescent rat, and the thought was forgotten five minutes later as he sucked on his bottle and stared back at the strange boy in the mirror. However was he able to copy him so well? He'd get that copycat someday. Yes, the boy thought, sucking fiercely on the plastic nipple. Someday…

 

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

 

^.^