No, that doesn't seem right. They aren't in any danger. The IAB is only after me.
Except for Duo. They think he knows something. I haven't helped with my insistence that they leave him alone. Yes, I have to warn Duo, have to get him out before they can come for him. Have to get him out before they can hurt him by telling him he had to have known. Have to get him out before he says things that will hurt my case.
No, he wouldn't. He may be angry, but he has strong feelings about betrayal. How he reacted to me shows that quite clearly. He wouldn't betray me out of spite. Would he?
I find him in our conference room. The rest of the team isn't there, but Sherwood is. Duo gestures me in casually. "Hey, Heero. Come on in. We were just talking about you."
I come clumsily to halt in front of him and latch my fingers to his uniform shirt, but I turn to Sherwood with my appeals. "You're wrong, he doesn't know anything. Just leave him alone."
Duo's fingers land lightly upon mine, and I turn back to face him. He smiles, the kind of smile that sends a chill down my spine. My fingers spasm into losing their grip on his shirt, but his hands tighten, holding me in place. "You're right. I didn't know anything. But I know better now. And I can still help this fine gentleman with all the benefits of hindsight." He looks over my shoulder at the agent behind me. "You're right. The signs have been there all along. I was just too stupid to see them before."
Sherwood pulls out a notebook. I want to snatch it out of his grasp, but Duo squeezes my hands painfully, keeping me in place.
"I mean, I've always known he wasn't who he said he was. I just never imagined that... that 'this' was what was hiding there all this time. But it makes total sense now. Your ridiculous attention to detail. Your phenomenal memory, inhuman speed. Your affinity for your silly computers. Heh, your lack of creativity in bed. You're such a robot about some things, Heero."
I pull hard and escape him. "I am not a robot!"
He raises an incredulous eyebrow at me. "Oh, please, Yuy. Cybernetic brain? And, by the way, it's only a computer's logic that could think no one would mind you having a cybernetic brain. Well, okay, robot, cyborg, whatever. You're still not quite human."
I push him away from me as if I can push away his accusations. Could a mere robot hurt so damn much?
Sherwood snaps his notebook shut, closing the case on me again. "Combined with his proven violent tendencies, we have more than enough evidence against him. We'll put him back in the vault where he belongs. You won't have to worry about him anymore."
Locked up tight, where the self-serving interests of a man like Brisbois are my only hope of being liberated? Only to be used again? Just a tool, a weapon again? I don't think so. I lash out at the agent, but pain shoots through my body before my fist connects. I turn before falling, and see Duo holding the stun gun this time.
I wake again in a cell. The lights are dim, and the ceiling that I stare at flickers uncertainly between a Preventers holding cell and the one I once studied on Olin Base. My throat is dry. I cough, remembering the nanobots, dust motes in disguise, that invaded my body and decided to take up residence there. ::Zero?:: I prod gently.
Once I asked that question nervously, fearing a response. Now I crave one, wanting to know that I haven't been abandoned. I have had only one steadfast companion over the last few days. If he leaves me now, there is no one else.
Like calls to like. Was Zero like a human, or was I like a computer? Did we exist in some twisted limbo?
A golden haze wraps me up in a warm blanket and reassures me that, limbo or not, I am not alone. It will take care of me. Comforted, I open my eyes and stare curiously at the backs of my hands. Such simple, versatile things. I feel an itch there, and I look deeper, beyond the skin, beyond the muscles, as if I can see the nanos going about their business inside.
And suddenly I can. Zero sharpens my visual feed to compensate for my human limitations, and the dim room appears as if in full light. But that is not enough. A prickling sensation burns in my eyes, and then it turns into a sharp, stabbing pain. I reflexively clutch at my face, and when I remove my hands, I see in infrared, night vision, ways in which human eyes do not see. The twitchiness in my hands increase, and I stare at them, seeing the currents of activity within, and then it bursts into the outside world, circuitry piercing my skin from the inside to overlay my muscles and bones. The framework grows, transforming my hands into a complex mess of wires and gears, spreading toward my elbow.
My last completely inappropriate thought before waking is of Dr. J.
I came to with a harsh gasp. I was in a cell again, but the images kept fading in and out. The cell of my visions, the room in Olin, the interview room, the supply closet, the cell on the Moon Base. I squeezed my eyes shut, blanking out at least one of the rooms.
When the slideshow finally came to a halt, I opened my eyes cautiously and, satisfied that the walls would stay where they belonged, studied them a little more carefully. They seemed familiar, but my mind was sluggish in providing me with a reference. This wasn't one of the regular holding cells. Good or bad? I didn't know. I remembered bits and pieces of being brought here. It hadn't been too far from the interview room. Preventers HQ had the facilities to house a variety of inmates, though it wasn't a prison. There were those just wanted temporarily for questioning. Those that were there for witness protection. Those in transit to another facility. And those that were kept outside of the mainstream justice system. The important criminals that they thought might be useful to them. Or the ones they didn't want to admit to.
I wondered what category I fell into. But it didn't matter.
There was a scent in the air that didn't belong. I turned my head and found a bowl of soup on a tray not too far from my low bed. Just the thought of food unsettled my already nauseous stomach. It was a bad sign, anyway. They meant to keep me here for a while.
Had I already been locked up in a vault? Zero had been in storage for five years before they had decided to take it out and poke at it. What were they going to do with me? There was no way they could find that I wasn't a threat to anyone, not after I had attacked them. Never mind that it was in my own self-defense.
And why was I still so woozy? I took several deep breaths to calm the spinning of the room, and felt what was wrong. Was there a low level EM field in here?
I reached a hand out to the wall, needing something solid to ground myself to, but jerked my hand back quickly. Reinforced steel inside those walls. Greater security. Greater conductivity. I tried to roll away from the currents running through the wall, and landed sloppily on the floor.
I shut my eyes again. ::Zero. Shutdown.::
It took a full second for the reply to come back. ::Unable to comply.::
The diagnostic was garbled, but I got enough out of it to figure out that the system was unable to get itself into proper shutdown order. It had stopped most active processing, but with some of its threads out of sync, it wouldn't be wise to complete the sequence. Instead, a backup process was working to resolve the problem.
Someone had obviously heard about my misadventure with the damn EM pulse that had started this whole thing.
The door to the cell slid open, admitting Agent Sherwood. It shut firmly behind him before he settled down a safe distance away from me. "Good evening, Agent Yuy."
I ignored him in favor of pulling myself upright with some dignity.
"We have some questions about the Zero system we'd like you to answer." He seemed unperturbed by my answering silence and went on. "How do you use the system?"
Once upright, I stared at the wall across from me and said nothing.
"You said that you've been using the Zero system on our behalf. What did you mean? In what ways has it been useful to you?"
As interrogators went, he was nothing. Maybe he was trying to be nice and win me to their cause, whatever that cause was. They wanted to know how it all worked, all of a sudden? It seemed like they were starting to wonder how they could use it for themselves. Did they think they could adapt it for other agents? Telling them that that was impossible would get me nowhere with them, so I held my tongue.
"We want to help you, Agent Yuy. Help us help you."
He waited for another minute before standing up and straightening his clothing out. I noted his movements out of the corner of my eye, preparing myself to take advantage of any opportunity he might give me to escape while the door was open, but something cranked up the intensity of the EM field around me, and he left while I was busy battling the unexpected dizziness.
Having nothing better to do, I crawled back onto the bed and waited it out.
So it was evening, was it? Quatre knew where I had gone. Would he think anything of my absence? Would Duo just be happy I wasn't there? I flashed back to that tiny room at Olin again, where I had wondered the same thing. How long would it take for the others to notice something was amiss? I was prone to running off without leaving word, wasn't I?
Quatre tells the others that IAB has spirited me away. They nod understandingly and continue with their work. Duo pauses for a vindicated smile before he, too, falls in with the herd. Later, they are told that I have been removed from the squad. I had a nervous breakdown. I was being investigated. They nod again, and before they can give it a second thought, the global unrest increases. The threat level rises to 'imminent', and their hands are busy protecting the people. They do their job just fine without me because we are all well-trained individuals, not dependent on others.
The crisis passes, and they pause to wonder about their missing teammate. A few inquiries tell them that I have been relieved of my duties. I never go home. They think I've left. Chased off. Given up. Shamed. A few token searches, and they'll never find me, even though I'm right under their noses. Right where they've never been able to find me.
Sherwood had said something about interviewing the others. I had no doubt that he would hold to that. I couldn't help the shiver that came with remembering the demented dreams I'd had of Duo's reaction to the questioning. None of them had been very favorable to me. On the other hand, I was beginning to understand what the others might have seen during their experiences with Zero. If it was anything like the twists on reality that I was seeing, it wasn't too difficult to figure out why they thought badly of Zero.
::What's my sync ratio?::
::Fifty to sixty percent.::
Poor, in other words.
Zamora rants at me from the other side of the glass. He spins me tales of Zero's efficacy, meaningless utopias, and the perfection of mankind. The others try to stop him. I just listen to him with a comprehension I wish I didn't have. He is a madman, gesturing at the empty air as he works through some delusion in the belief that he is taking the next step in bringing the ideal man-machine hybrid into existence.
And then he dies, his low compatibility with the system no longer tolerated.
Zero is the one that makes that decision. We believe Zamora to be mad, but he only speaks of things of which we are ignorant. He dies, his purpose served, with no one listening to his cries.
Was that to be my fate? A Cassandra to be sacrificed on the altar of another's sense of right and wrong? Zamora, who was right in that he had been working on no mere phantoms, that he had been using his expertise to create the nanomachinery that would bring true integration within reach. Zamora, who was wrong in thinking that he was in control, that he had been the chosen one.
And me. The chosen one? Integrated, and now trying to bring word of this great thing to others? Was I as caught by Zero's traps as he had been?
My thoughts triggered a response from Zero. He tried to comfort me, reassure me that we were one, that there were no ulterior motives. It was the rest of the world that was cursed to doubt the prophet in their midst.
His attempts backfired, and I fell into a spiral of ugly miscalculations, the errors building up until I saw visions of a complete loss of self. The robot I denied so vehemently became a fevered reality. The insanity applied to me by others came to pass, with messy results.
I woke up again, having leveled cities in my dreams. I self-destructed countless times. I fled to isolation and remained there miserably for the rest of my days. I followed Quatre's path and rebuilt my Gundam. I joined the terrorists interested in destroying the government. I had my revenge on this wretched system. On Sherwood. On Duo.
I was cold, inside and out, but I was coherent. Time to be questioned again? I glanced blearily at my watch. Oh-four-thirty. Standard interrogation technique, to be denied regularity of schedule. Useless against a Gundam pilot, who was used to jumping out of bed and into a battle on a moment's notice. There was a urinal in the corner. I forced myself to use it while I still had the ability to do so, and wondered wryly to myself whether or not it was a step up from the bucket I'd had at Olin.
I'd had ration bars and bottled water, too. Now, I had some bread and another bowl of soup. No spoon. It was a little warmer than room temperature, proving that they had planned on my waking. Apparently, it took a while for me to come to. It wasn't a normal feeding time, but then, I had skipped the last 'meal' they had presented to me. They intended to keep me. Maybe they thought that food would make me more compliant. Was it drugged? There was hardly any point. I was already unresponsive most of the time. Would it loosen my tongue? The chances were good that it would only loosen my sense of reality even further.
Did I intend to eat this offering? I'd given in at Olin, figuring that my chances of surviving and escaping would be higher if I kept my strength up. It was the same here. I glared at the notion of 'giving in', no matter the good reasons to, but I picked up the bread anyway. If I continued to balk at eating, it would be easy enough for them to feed me through a needle while I was out. The indignity would be too much to bear.
As expected, Sherwood came back again. I felt no pity for the man for having to be here at this hour if I had to be here, too. At least he'd had the opportunity to change his tie.
He tried to talk to me again. I ignored him again, using the food as my prop, and he left in another swirl of EM interference. I dropped myself back onto the bed before I could lose what little I had eaten.
Were they studying the effects of the field on me? Was I considered so dangerous that they didn't want to chance my escape? They let up on the field when they needed me conscious enough for questioning, but not so much that it didn't keep me too dizzy to take advantage of it. Did they think they could break me in this way? Or was this just their idea of stasis? Boxing me up and putting me away when they didn't need me. Maybe it was just their idea of fun?
How likely did they think it was that they could gain my cooperation? Maybe that would just be the icing on the cake. They had it in their little minds that I was a danger to people. It was clear that they'd thought so before coming after me. It wasn't unusual for agents to be armed while they were in the building, but with three against one, they'd obviously been prepared for resistance. That agent had gone in, prepared to pull his gun on me.
I spent my next session of unconsciousness dreaming of captivity and escape, and the next time Sherwood visited me, I talked to him. I didn't say much. To my surprise, I was much more coherent inside my head than I was in expressing myself aloud. I played up my weakness, needing to lengthen the amount of time he stayed. While he was here, the EM field was lowered, and Zero and I could work toward stabilizing the system and debugging the shutdown sequence. It was slow, tenuous work at best, but better than being consumed by the illusions of an unsynchronized system.
I wondered if my visions were any better or worse than those the others had suffered. While I now understood what horrible things they spoke of, they had mentioned disjoint images and nonsense. But what made it all the more frightening for me was the way it made too much sense. Things started innocently enough. Usually it was a memory. And then a stray thought fell into the matrix, interpreted through the wrong filters, and then the 'memory' changed into something that had never happened. It felt real enough, made the sort of sense that dreams did, perfect at the time, but flawed in hindsight. It was getting difficult to recognize where the dividing line was. More often than not, I could only tell by the fear. I only feared things that had yet to happen.
The others laid the fault of the terrible hallucinations at Zero's feet. I couldn't do the same. I understood what was causing them. Typically it was the user that was out of sync with the system, and not the other way around, but the effects were the same. It was still just a miscalculation here, a misinterpretation there. Two people, speaking two different languages, and getting their wires crossed in the middle. Something I was rather familiar with. The images were so powerfully negative right now because of me. I was a prisoner. I was trapped, alone, and with plenty of things to fear and be angry at. On a good day, I would have been able to re-channel my emotions toward the positive end of the spectrum, and maybe see some nice things. But this wasn't a good day.
Unless things changed, it'd be a bad week, too.
It didn't really matter. Time was getting fuzzy. Duo had loved me and left me so many times that it was getting passť. I could be grateful for that at least, in some small way. If it happened in real life, I'd be ready for it. I probably wouldn't believe it at first, but afterward, I could just shrug and say been there, done that, done it worse.
I lost track of how many times Sherwood came and went. Not too many. I hadn't had that many opportunities to put the system back together. The visits were spread out, though. They were in no rush. Now that I was in their custody, they could take their time with things, question people more helpful and cooperative than I.
But not anymore. I spent my last meeting with Sherwood the same way I had passed the previous, responding to, if not answering, his questions. He turned to go, the EM field ramped up, and then the door opened, but this time I weathered the noise screaming down my synapses and smashed my dinner tray over the top of his head.
Three guards from outside came rushing in. I punched one of them hard while they were still emerging from the doorway, but then the second one got me, grabbing me from behind. I shifted my balance, stomped down on his foot, and wormed of his grasp. The third tried to wrestle me down, but I won that tussle, finding a stun gun hanging from his belt as I did, to my complete delight. I snatched it and turned it gleefully on my attacker.
The first guard was coming up behind me, ruining my fun. I kicked him, and he didn't get back up again. The second guard had his own stun gun out, but I evaded his clumsy lunges and knocked him out with a chop to the back of the head. That left only Sherwood in my way, and he got the taser. In fact, he might have gotten more of it than was healthy, if my timesense hadn't kicked in and told me to get the hell out of there while the getting was good.
I ran, letting pure instinct guide me out of the building. It was late, which explained the lack of population in the halls. There was another fight at the entrance to the holding area, but they hadn't been expecting it. I overpowered the men easily, but didn't quite remember the details of it. I was already on auto-pilot by then. I was functional, but my high-level processes were still reeling.
I got out of there somehow. It was just a blur, driven by my need to escape and find a safe haven somewhere. I'm not sure how I made my way through the city, but I ended up somewhere my gut told me was secure. I landed on something soft, and then I passed out.
last modified : 5/5/2007 02:55:49 PST