Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, angst, lemon, violence.
Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Up To Snuff
The boy swung his legs idly, hands gripping the stool as he looked around him, eyes never still under the brim of his black hat. He was too young to know how to hide the 'dead' in his expression, the dangerous edge of a boy that had seen too much, too young. It gave off heat, that expression, an animal cornered and ready to bite. It was hard for the old man to look at this cast off bit of humanity, and recall that he had foiled his best security system.
"A proposition?" The boy repeated, his eyes finally settling on the old man and taking in his very odd appearance. "People use that word when they go into an ally and screw. I don't do that."
The old man chuckled. "People also use it when they want to do business, when they want to offer you something that you might want."
"Like I said..." The boy sneered. "Why don't you just say it plain, so I get it?"
The old man activated a vid screen. A nearly finished black gundam stood in it's bay covered in scaffolding. "How would you like to pilot her? That plain enough for you? Pass my tests, and go through my training course, and she's yours."
The boy snorted, disbelieving, but his purple eyes were suddenly alight with something other than the shadow of pain and bad memory as he looked at the gundam. "That doesn't look like a girl. That's a guy."
"It's a very deadly machine that no one's been able to pilot... yet," the old man told him. "If you succeed, you'll be the first."
The boy was looking at him again, too shrewd for his age. "What's your angle? That's a machine for killing people. Who do you want dead?"
The old man smiled tightly. "Our mutual enemy, of course, the forces that have been murdering us under the direction of tyrants."
The boy rubbed a hand down his long braid, as if it were a talisman. "I get to kill those bastards? As many as I want?" The fire in his eyes sent a chill down the old man's spine.
"You'll kill who you're ordered to kill," the old man corrected firmly, "but, I assure you, it will be enough to satisfy you."
Duo held out his hand, small and older looking than a boy's should be, a hand used to hard work and too many shortcomings. "Duo Maxwell," he said, as if they had just met on the street.
The old man smiled and took his hand, giving it a small, formal, shake. "You may call me Dr. G."
"I'm your man," Duo announced eagerly as he leaned to look at Deathscythe on the vid screen once more.
Man, not boy, but Dr. G doubted that he had ever been allowed to be a boy.
Dr. G sighed as he stood near the boy's hiding place. It seemed impossible that anyone could squeeze between and under the heavy machinery, but the boy had managed it. He doubted that the child was comfortable though. Coolant sprayed and pumped frantically to keep the old regen units from overheating. Still, they could make life quickly miserable in such an enclosed space.
"Report," Dr G ordered as he straightened and stuck old hands into his coat pockets.
The doctor was embarrassed, yet irritated at the same time. A tall, hatchet faced man, he looked more like a drill instructor than a skilled ship's medic. "I was giving him his medical exam, as per your orders. He accused me of molesting him, punched me in the jaw, and ran."
"Did you explain your procedures before you performed them?" Dr. G demanded in exasperation. "You were informed that he has little to no education. I doubt that he has even been in a charity clinic."
"That's a lie," an angry, young voice said over the loud drone of machinery. "Father Maxwell had all us orphans checked out and I did too go to school, so... shows how much you stinkin' know!"
Dr. G leaned down again and asked calmly. "Then why the panic, boy?"
"He tried to stick his finger where it don't belong!" Duo snarled back.
The doctor protested at once, in a fury, "It was a routine exam procedure! Don't you goddam dare accuse me of molesting you, L2-"
"That's enough!" Dr. G snapped, glaring at the doctor. When the doctor collected himself and throttled his temper, he asked, "How far did you get in the exam?"
The doctor raked fingers over his crew cut, as if it needed straightening, and replied, in a more professional tone, "He's half starved. I think he's been on his own since the massacre and not doing too well. His genetic markers tell me he was born in space, a test tube baby. He's been altered, definitely a Newtype, though I can't understand why someone abandoned him after going through the trouble and the expense to make him. His reflexes and bone structure are enhanced. Mentally, I give him a yellow light. He's twitchy." The doctor rubbed his aching jaw. "He reacted very negatively to pics of soldiers and seemed excited by explosions, fires, guns, and machinery. He also tested as a homosexual."
Dr. G blinked at that last. "Why would you test for that?"
The doctor looked exasperated, as if the answer were obvious. "To gage his level of mental stress and earlier trauma. You, sir, have on your hands an orphan who was abandoned on the streets of L2, lived through a plague that killed almost all of his street friends before his eyes, was taken in by a church orphanage, who then met an ugly fate at the hands of soldiers, and who is now a traumatized boy, being asked to climb into a death dealing machine and kill as many soldiers as he can."
"Who was also just molested by a sick fuck!" Duo shouted from his hiding place. As the doctor swore and turned red with anger, Duo suddenly asked, "What's a... whatever he said?"
"Homosexual?" Dr. G clarified uncomfortably.
"Yeah," Duo replied.
"You're too young for it to matter, boy," Dr. G retorted. "Please, get out of there, now, before the regen units fry you. They have a habit of arcing. I promise that the medic won't continue with his exam. I think we know enough about your physical and mental state."
The doctor said, in a lowered voice, "I'll have Jim and the crew take him down satellite."
"You will not," Dr. G told him with a glare.
The doctor was astonished. "But, I'm certifying that he's a basket case, a bomb ready to blow, a psycho just waiting to get the right weapon to slaughter wholesale."
Dr. G grunted. "He just lacks direction and a firm hand. I'll give him that."
"I wonder..." the doctor mused as he watched Duo slowly squeeze out of his hiding place.
"You do?" Dr. G prompted with a grim smile for the boy.
"When he'll kill you," the doctor finished with a shake of his head.
"Not today, right, boy? Today you'll refrain from taking vengeance on me and the good doctor." Dr. G chuckled, but Duo glared and avoided his helping hand.
"Keep your hands to yourself," Duo warned sullenly, "That's all I want."
"Is it?" Dr G wondered. "Then you disappoint me."
Duo cocked his head at him. "You use a lot of big words, that make you feel smart?"
"Show me that you're more intelligent," Dr. G replied. "That's what I require of you."
"Done that already," Duo snorted. "If that defense system was the best you had..."
"Little, arrogant...," the doctor began but then started when Dr. G suddenly acted as if he were going to backhand Duo.
Duo flinched to avoid it, but he didn't cower. His eyes turned to fire and his fists balled up. "Come on!" he taunted. "Just try it!"
Dr. G laughed outright. "You're perfect!" he said. "Brave, intelligent, and physically capable. Come with me." He began walking, both the doctor and Duo watching him in confusion. "I want you to meet your Gundam. You should know, intimately, what prize you're striving to attain."
Duo rolled eyes at the doctor. "He's crazy."
"So are you," the doctor replied irritably.
Duo surprised him with a grin of defiance and then he watched as Duo ran after Dr. G eagerly. Completely crazy, he thought.
Dr. G watched the boy pace the room. A bundle of nervous energy, eyes looking at every centimeter, it was obvious that he didn't like the inactivity. He would have to learn to endure it, though, learn not to break in long periods in space, trapped in the small confines of a cockpit. For now, though, he was being tested on his ability to think quickly.
A panel opened up and the air began to leave the room at a nod to a technician. Dr. G opened a mic and said calmly, "You have twenty five seconds to crack that panel, before I space you."
He cut the mic and watched as the boy jumped for the panel. His eyes, the way they flicked rapidly, was a sign of heightened brain activity. His fingers flew and then he ripped the panel out, found the lock chip, tossed it, and then made the jump in circuits by stripping a wire with his teeth and jamming it into a board. His fingers hit several keys just as the hatch alarm began to sound. It cut off abruptly.
A new alarm sounded, just behind Dr. G. He whirled as several technicians shouted in fear and surprise."Little bastard!" Dr. G growled as he bent to override his own system to keep his air lock closed. He made it, just.
Slumping into a chair, he hit the mic, and then realized that he and Duo were both panting and glaring in the same angry adrenaline rush. It bled his anger away. "Very good," he chuckled. "Monster."
"Sick fuck!" Duo snarled, but then barked a laugh in return. "Told you I was better than you."
"But I'm still alive," Dr, G pointed out. "Perhaps we're only well matched?"
"Keep telling yourself that," Duo huffed. "Now, let me outta here!"
"I shall... in a few days," Dr. G promised. "A little lesson not to bite the hand that feeds you." And it would start his training, he thought grimly. The boy was up to the challenge, at least mentally.
The boy had astounding reflexes, phenomenal stamina, and a mental steel that made him a perfect choice to be a weapon in the cause. Unfortunately, he was still a boy , and prone to uncertainties, and emotional upsets, that had to be factored into their plans. He wasn't a plug and use module, as much as Dr. G wished he were.
"He has an uncanny ability to figure out how things work," one of Duo's testers said as he checked over a chart of Duo's accomplishments. " He says, 'It makes sense this way.' or 'It's like two and two, making four.' You just know that it does."
"And his weapons skill level?" Dr. G asked as he watched through a protective glass partition as Duo hit target after target, flawlessly, in the simulator.
"Part of the same ability," the man replied. "His brain is telling him trajectory, speed, distance with the same high speed calculation. The boy's an idiot savant."
Dr. G frowned at the man. "Idiot? What makes you think that the boy is an idiot?"
The man grunted at his chart, as if it were obvious. "He's not had any real schooling. He's from the streets of L2. He hasn't shown any aptitude, or general knowledge, in any form of academics.This ability of his is purely genetic."
"So, the little shit has been playing dumb?" Dr. G snorted.
"Sir?" the man asked in confusion.
Dr. G shook his head as he watched the boy finish his set perfectly and then stand, staring towards every point but where, Dr. G was certain, he knew where the hidden cameras were. Dr. G could see him whistling and pointedly ignoring their 'spot' on the wall.
Dr. G opened the mic and said, "Good, but you need to do better. If the enemy captures you, they'll see through your little ruse. Acting stupid is fine, but not when it's unbelievably stupid."
Duo grinned. "I'm not trying to fool anyone," he replied. "It's better to make 'em crazy."
Dr. G chuckled.
The tester scowled and snarled angrily, "If he's been faking all of this time, then all of my data is false! I'll need to start again! Dr., please order this child to-"
"See?" Duo snickered. "Crazy."
"Don't ever let them figure you out," Dr. G guessed and Duo gave a firm nod.
"Or find your hiding place," Dr. G muttered a few days later, as he climbed through yet another series of equipment stacks, in the bowels of the ship, as he searched for Duo's sleeping place. It had not really been a surprise to find that the boy had been avoiding the adult crew. For a child raised on the streets, that would be a natural instinct. It wasn't something that Dr. G couldn't tolerate, though. The boy had to work with adults. While he might not trust them, he had to learn how to interact with them socially and as team members.
At last he found it, Duo's 'nest' and it didn't surprise him to find that it was guarded as well. He tripped a wire and things fell over and rattled. To forestall any flight on Duo's part, he quickly called out. "It's Dr. G!"
Duo swore and came out of his narrow hiding place between two industrial fuel mixers and Dr. G had to sigh at the boy's penchant for choosing the most dangerous places to hide. Dr. G could see purloined blankets and some ration packs stashed far to the back of his hiding place. There was also an air tank, a flashlight, and a weapon. It wasn't a normal sort of boy's hiding place.
"You have to sleep in the men's barracks," Dr. G ordered firmly.
Duo took up the gun and held it as if it made him feel more secure. "They keep laughing at me, calling me L2 punk."
"That's a part of life," Dr. G replied. "Get used to it."
"I am used to it," Duo snapped back, "But that usually leads to worse things."
"It won't, not here," Dr. G assured him as he helped Duo gather his things.
"How do you know?" Duo asked skeptically and seemed reluctant to leave the safety of his hiding place.
"I'll space anyone who touches you," Dr. G promised.
Duo gave him a long look and then said, "That's not a lie. "
"Did you expect me to lie?" Dr. G asked as he started Duo towards the lift.
"Yeah, of course," Duo replied. "That's what people do."
"They do," Dr. G agreed. "But not here."
"Okay," Duo looked at him intently, but then he shrugged and said, "I hope you don't think I'm going to really buy all of that crap, right? Trusting gets you dead."
Dr. G smiled. "Yes, it does, boy, yes it does..."
"Come on, kid," Riley grunted as he placed dishes of food into the center of the table. "We all eat here. We don't snitch and run. We sit and use a knife and fork."
Duo glared as he reluctantly left his protective stance by the doorway. He didn't get within reach, though. "I know how to eat," he retorted as he slowly sat down.
"Yeah?" The big man plunked a large spoon into reconstituted mashed potatoes and gave the boy a skeptical look. "We don't really care that much for table manners, but we're rough speaking. Don't take it all serious, okay? Stand your ground and everyone will learn to lay off."
"I know that too," Duo snorted as he turned his attention to the food. "I just want them to keep their hands to themselves and not beat me up for shits and giggles."
The cook put hands on hips, swinging his unlit cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, bushy eyebrows coming down in disapproval. "We don't got any perverts here, kid, that's a fact, and nobody's beating up a little kid as long as I'm around." He leaned towards Duo, though, and pointed a pudgy, scarred finger at him, "and I don't put up with little kids hurting my guys either, got that? You may have them idiots fooled, by I see murder in your eyes. You've done bad, real bad."
Duo snagged a bowl of re-hydrated meat and forked a mound onto his plate as he growled, "Dr. G isn't fooled. He knows."
"Hard to tell with him, but I s'ppose.." The man cocked his head at the sound of the men approaching. He eyed Duo again. "Mind what I said."
Duo shrugged, but he was tense. The men came in talking, laughing, and pulling off gear. Vac suits hit a pile by one wall, and gloves, and tool packs were slung along another one. The men looked rag tag, no set uniform, just individual style and a common purpose.
"Dumb ass, you left that conductor unit wide open," a man swore as he shoved the shoulder of another man. "I should space your dick for that."
"Perggy told me he had it!" The man complained as they sat down on the long benches at the table. Hands began snagging dishes of food at once.
"Did not, you fucker!" that man swore and lobbed a spoonful of potatoes at him. "Don't make dumb shit excuses. The G connector was shorted. The scanner was up to four in the red and there was enough noise on the green lines to make an open conductor go boom."He snorted. "May do it anyway. I still can't figure out what the damned problem is..."
Duo hunched into himself, concentrating on eating quickly. He felt dwarfed by the large men and the urge to run was strong. When one of them men leaned towards him and looked him up and down, his hand closed on his plastic knife, wondering which part of the man was vulnerable to a weapon as weak as that.
"Hey, pip squeak," the man snorted. "Must seem like paradise after a rat hole like L2."
Duo grinned and looked at the man, "Food's good, but the smell's pretty bad."
The man frowned and then laughed. "I think he's talking about you Dinkins!"
"Only because he didn't know it was you," A broad shouldered, dark skinned man chuckled back.
Duo laughed too, his grin getting wider, even though his head was tucked down, his eyes hidden by his bangs. "That conductor making sparks? Was it arcing?"
Dinkins lost his smile. "Yeah..." he replied slowly.
"Try putting a rad meter on it and splitting the Y energers," Duo suggested.
"For a fucking short?" Dinkins scoffed. "Go change your diaper, dipshit."
Duo shrugged and went back to his meal, but Perggy was frowning, thinking it over. "Your dipshit may be right," he finally admitted and Duo snickered.
Dinkins mouth hung open. "What?"
"It's possible," Perggy grunted and then motioned to Duo with his fork. "Pretty damned good, kid. Maybe I should stick you in Dinkins job?"
"He's training," another man said in an exaggerated tone of voice. "He's Dr. G's baby boy."
A squat man with a burn along his jaw, hunched over his food and spat out something caught between his teeth, "he's gonna be a Gundam pilot. He should get some respect for that. It's signing a death certificate, pure and simple."
Dinkins made a rude gesture. "He don't know that. He's just a kid."
The squat man eyed Duo. "You know, boy?"
"What's it matter?" Duo wondered as he grabbed a bowl of soy squares. "It'll be one hell of a ride."
They all looked at him as he grinned.
"You're seriously scary," Perggy grunted.
"Deranged," another muttered.
"Better than stinking," Duo snickered.
The man started to reach for him, snarling a foul word, but a ladle slammed into his head, bounced off, and clattered against a wall. He blinked stupidly as the cook pointed a warning finger at him. "He's a damn kid. All of you get that in your thick skulls, now."
They all stared and then went back to their meals, some of them looking amused, but a few looking annoyed. Duo noted them and then grinned at the cook. The man nodded, once, and then went back to his kitchen.
"He exceeded tolerance levels by two times," the doctor grunted as he smacked his clipboard down onto a table and sat down heavily. He motioned to it in exasperation. "Go ahead and read it. Your little protege almost turned into paste in the simulator. Internal bleeding, hairline fractures, burst blood vessels... we stressed, stressed specifically and at length, that he was to signal when he reached his limit."
Dr. G stared down at the small clip on the board, showing Duo strapped into the Gundam simulator, a fire in his purple eyes and laughter ringing through the mics, as he cut down one mobile suit after another. "Maybe he didn't reach it,"he suggested.
"He almost died!" The doctor retorted."The pain alone would have alerted him to that fact, but he ignored it. He's a lunatic! I've warned you, again and again!"
Dr. G turned the sound up higher. Duo was singing, some sort of hymn, through gritted teeth... something about the sword of righteousness falling on the wicked. The boy had not seemed overly religious during questioning. Dr. G doubted that he had suddenly become so now. There was significance to the hymn, some clue as to how the boy thought of himself.
"Look at his motor skills," Dr. G said as he pointed a boney finger at the screen. "Remarkable. Every synapse and muscle is working in perfect harmony. His spatial sense is also phenomenal. He barely looks at the positioning screen or the proximity alarms. He's already calculated where they are."
When blood started trickling from Duo's nose and the simulator turned off as technician's swarmed in, Dr. G turned off the board. "Has he come around yet?"
The doctor shook his head, no, as he stood and led the way into the infirmary. "Why ask for any of my reports?" he wondered acidly. "You're determined to use him in your project, no matter what I say."
"I've told you before, your reports give me insight," Dr. G replied as he moved to stand by a bed. He sighed in the next instant at the too obvious impression of a pillow jammed under blankets to look like a young boy sleeping. "He's gone."
"Of course," the doctor growled. "Like any animal, he feels vulnerable by wounds. He'll be hiding somewhere he thinks is safe, if he made it that far. He was hurt pretty badly."
"Hmm, then I expect that he's..." the Dr. looked under the bed and found Duo tucked up asleep in it's darkness. A viper in repose, he thought, and warned the doctor, "Don't try and move him. I'm certain he's armed and dangerous. When he wakes again, call me, and I'll try and reason with him."
"Reason?" the doctor scoffed.
Dr. G narrowed eyes at him. "You make a grave mistake, doctor, if you consider him unable to reason."
"I don't know where you draw that conclusion," the doctor shot back.
Dr. G pointed downward. "Someone who couldn't reason, would have fled and fallen in the halls outside. He reasoned that we would search everywhere, but where he was supposed to be."
"But you knew," the doctor replied, as if it proved something.
"Did you?" Dr. G grunted, eyebrow arching.
The doctor seethed. "I feel that I must ask to be removed from this project. I find it unethical and dangerous to my person and many others. I think you're making a very serious mistake."
"Is that what you want?" Dr.G wondered. "Then go. You'll be known as the doctor who walked out on history... if they even remember your existence."
"You'll be known as the man who let loose a butcher, I'm sure, when all is said and done," the doctor replied, looking aggrieved .
"History tells a different story, depending on who's lens you use to look at it," Dr. G told him as he tucked hands into his lab jacket."It's also a gamble, since we can't know outcomes for certain. I'm betting that boy has a conscience, somewhere under all of his hurt. I think, when the time comes, he'll make the right decisions when he's at the controls of his Gundam." The Dr. leaned in and squeezed the doctor's shoulder. "Perhaps you'll be the man to uncover that conscience, with your alarm and bluster over what, in his short experience, no one had much cared about; human life and the cost of taking it."
"As if he would listen!" the doctor scoffed.
Dr. G motioned to the bed. "He's awake and listening now. You're patient, doctor?"
The man frowned, ran fingers through his hair, and then looked despondent. "I have my own ethics,"he said. "If there's anything that I can do to change the course of this madness, then I must stay."
Dr. G nodded and smiled with a bit of triumph as he said loudly, "Mind him, Duo, and don't kill him, all right? He needs to make you well."
"He talks too damn much," Duo's weak voice complained.