Disclaimers: I own nothing.
Notes: A new fic, by me. Lots and lots of Chibis. 1+2, 3+4, 5+R pairings. Enjoy.
Duo strolled through the halls of Preventers HQ, heading for the office he and Heero shared. He was humming a tune as he walked, his mood bright. As he stepped through the open doorway to their shared office, he belted out the last words to the song he had been humming. (1) "Nobody loves . . . me. It's true. Not, like, you . . . do."
Then Duo noticed that he and Heero weren't alone in the room. His plan to see if he could get a reaction out of the Perfect Soldier had definitely backfired. Crowded in the small office, were Duo s friends, Quatre, Wufei, Trowa, Heero, and Lady Une.
Quatre was snickering, as Duo felt himself blush. Heero muttered something about Duo being a baka, and Wufei was just simply shaking his head. Trowa was just as calm as ever, but the worst was that Lady Une was standing there, her hand clasped over her mouth to keep back her own giggles. Duo wished there was a crack in the floor that he could fall through, if only to get away from the overwhelming sense of embarrassment.
"Uh . . . oh." Duo said, sheepishly, his cheeks most likely a bright shade of crimson by now. "Heh . . . Hi, guys! I had no idea you were here."
"Obviously, Duo." Lady Une said, smiling. "Now, if you would mind taking your foot out of your mouth, we have a mission to discuss."
Duo flopped down in the nearest available seat, the one behind his own desk, and slouched down. He was so embarrassed. He wanted desperately to sink beneath his desk to get away. But he quietly listened as Lady Une detailed the group's next mission.
A light kick to his knee, drew Duo's attention and he looked over to see Heero glaring at him. "Sit up straight." He whispered quietly.
Duo sighed, then pushed himself upright in his seat. Then he glared right back at Heero and stuck out his tongue.
"It has come to my attention . . ." Lady Une began. "That the five scientists that trained you, have somehow managed to survive. One of their lab assistants disagreed with what they were planning and came to me. I am not altogether sure of the validity of the claim, but it will still be investigated."
"What is the claim?" Quatre asked, leaning against a wall.
"It seems as if the doctors held onto samples of your DNA, and are in the process of cloning you in order to mold the perfect soldiers. J is stated to be in charge of the process." Lady Une replied.
"That's just like him." Heero muttered.
Duo turned in time to see Heero shaking his head. Then he looked back to Une. "So, what are we supposed to do?"
Lady Une turned to him. "The samples as well as the clones and the lab itself are to be destroyed. We can't let anyone get a hold of the technology and the clones might already be trained to kill."
"Okay, where is this place so we can go finish this job?" Duo said, rising from his seat.
"Are we in a hurry, Mr. Maxwell?" Lady Une asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
"I just don t like the idea of another me running around." Duo replied, shivering at the thought.
"I believe that no one would like the idea of another YOU even existing, Maxwell." Wufei sneered.
For the second time that day, Duo stuck his tongue out, this time at Wufei. "Ha ha." He said. "Very funny."
Wufei smirked slightly for a brief instant, then turned to Lady Une. "When do we leave?" He asked, ignoring Duo.
"As soon as Sally gets here."
"What? She's coming with us?" Duo inquired. Why did they need her tagging along?
Lady Une cast an intimidating glance in his direction. "You might need her expertise. We don't know the situation at the lab, and she might be of some use."
"Fine." Heero said.
Wufei stood. "Just as long as she gets here soon. I will not have my time wasted by waiting around." He huffed.
"Well, Mr. Impatient, then you ll be happy that your time wasn't wasted." Sally said, upon entering the room.
Wufei said nothing to her, just walked from the room. Duo shook his head, watching his friend leave. "So, where is this place?" He asked again.
"Sally has the coordinates." Lady Une replied.
"Let's go then." Duo said, grabbing his Preventers jacket and bounding from the room, following Wufei.
He caught up with Wufei in the hallway and slapped him on the back in a friendly gesture. "What was that for, Maxwell?" Wufei glared.
"Just saying hello." Duo smiled, throwing his arm about Wufei's shoulders.
"You should find some other way to greet someone." Wufei brushed Duo off, then stalked away, leaving Duo to watch him walk off. 'Poor guy,' Duo thought. 'Gotta be lonely for him. Especially with all that pressure he puts on himself about being the last of his clan.' He knew about Wufei and Sally, that their relationship just hadn't worked out. Wufei wanted a family, and had been devastated to learn that Sally didn't want children.
Duo shook his head, clearing his mind of thoughts of Wufei's problems. Besides, he had better concentrate on the mission before him. No need to get careless. That was a sure fire way to get himself killed. He sighed as he resumed walking, following Wufei to the parking garage.
It seemed way too easy. There were no guards around the compound, no people whatsoever. It just seemed way too wrong. Duo didn't like it.
He and the others were stealthily making their way into the main lab at the center of the compound. After some hacking by Heero, they had been able to get the layout of the building that they were now walking around in. Duo had made it a point to memorize every detail about the schematics, so he wouldn't get lost in the huge place.
"Here we are." Quatre said, gesturing to the door ahead of them. "This is the lab."
"Can you open it, Q-man?" Duo asked, in a whispered tone, just in case someone was around to hear him.
"Shouldn't be a problem." Quatre replied, fixing his attention of the control panel in front of him. In mere seconds the blonde was able to open the door, a skill Duo found quite impressive.
Duo stepped into the lab, Heero and the others following close behind. All of them had their guns drawn and ready, prepared for any and all opponents that may have been waiting for them. But to Duo's confusion, the place was empty. Not one person was there, no one standing guard, no one at any of the computers that filled the room. There was just nobody there.
"Are you sure this is the right place, Sally?" Duo asked.
"This is the place, Duo." Sally replied.
"I guess somebody tipped them off." Quatre said, looking at the access controls to another door, one that was across the room from the group.
While Quatre was busy there, Sally occupied with various equipment, and the other guys were planting explosives, Duo turned to one of the computers and hacked into it. He just had to know what was going on. Maybe he could find some information in the computer to let him know why the place was empty.
"Hey guys, I found J's log." Duo frowned as he read the display aloud, so that the other pilots and Sally would also be able to hear. "April 12, AC 197: The cloning process was a success. Samples 00, 01, 02, and 03 are developing quite nicely. We will wait a month before trying the next sample. June 7, AC 197: The clones are doing splendidly in their hyper-aging pods. Out of necessity, we have sedated the clones so that they are unaware of the passage of time. We will begin memory programming. At this rate of growth, they will be able to take on their originals in almost no time. What a pity 00 died." Duo frowned. "00? Who's 00?"
Quatre looked up from where he was examining the door controls. They couldn't very well destroy their targets if they couldn't reach them. "I don't know."
Duo shrugged. "At any rate . . . that's when they put in sample 04." He turned back to the panel and continued reading. "July 12, AC 197: Put samples 05-09 in their respective pods. August 27, AC 197: Decided to test limits of Sample 10. Increased speed of aging to see if process could be shortened. Unfortunate side effects caused sample 10's death, have shut off monitors. Will dispose of remains at a later time after an autopsy to determine where the problem occurred. We are keeping the flow of nutrition and oxygen going to keep body functioning until an autopsy can be performed. Seeing that the process cannot be hastened, all we need to do is wait. According to calculations, the clones age approximately one year per month. In a little over a year, we will show our upstart proteges not to defy us."
"Those guys never give up." Quatre muttered, bringing Duo from his thoughts for a moment.
But Duo continued reading. "Hey . . . Here s one from yesterday. February 7, AC 198: Memory programming has been successful. Their memories were being programmed at the same time as they aged. We have also allowed physical characteristics to remain as they would have been, IE 06's hair. The clones would not have known they were clones. Unfortunately, the Preventers have discovered our lab and the project we are working on. We have cut nutrition and oxygen to all the specimens. Within 24 hours, the clones will die of suffocation." Duo paled when he glanced at the time. "Dammit! Quatre?" He nearly screamed, turning to face the blonde.
Heero frowned. "Why are you so upset? We were sent to destroy the clones."
Duo growled in anger, turning to the Japanese pilot, not believing how callous Heero could be. "Don't you get it? HQ thought the clones would be adults! ADULTS! We can't just let a bunch of kids die, Heero! It isn't their fault that the scientists are sickos who want to rule the world! They shouldn't be punished for that! Not if we can teach them something other than world domination." He glanced at the blonde again, who was working furiously. "Quatre? We only have about three minutes!"
"Got it!" Quatre yelled, pushing the button. He dashed in . . . only to be brought up short. "By Allah." He gasped, covering his mouth with his hands.
Duo ran in and froze. "Holy Mary, mother of God. Those assholes!" He walked up to one pod, the one designated to sample 06, and stared through the clear window. Floating in some strange liquid, was a little boy. Asleep for all intents and purposes . . . with long chestnut hair. Duo glanced at the monitor above the pod and noticed that the child's heartbeat was erratic, and the CO2 levels were building. Even in sleep, the child was thrashing.
"We have to get them out!" He shouted. He noticed a red button and saw that it was under a sign that said, 'Manual Release.' He didn't give it a second thought and pushed the button.
Duo ignored the liquid solution that flooded out, paying attention to catching the child . . . his clone. Around him, he heard the sounds of other pods flushing out, the sound of the others following his lead and getting the other clones from the pods.
Quatre bit his lip. "I'm warning you guys before I do this . . . I was a real brat as a child."
Duo ignored everyone else and concentrated on the little boy who was shivering with shock, fear and cold. He pulled his jacket off, and wrapped it around the tiny shoulders and held his younger self as the child coughed. "Sshh. It's all right." He hushed as he carefully removed the IV tubes from the distressed child . . . along with several patches and the tube that was stuck down the child's throat. Once the child was free of all the hardware he had been hooked up to, Duo sat on the damp floor and cradled his young clone while crooning a lullaby.
"You're safe . . . you're okay." Duo said. Then he looked up and noticed that only he and Trowa had concentrated solely on their own clones. Heero was trying to keep his clone and a clone of Zechs from coming to blows. Quatre was soothing a clone of Relena while his own clone was looking around with a sour expression plastered on his face. And poor Wufei had a similar problem as Heero, except that his clone was having a one-up contest with a clone of Treize. Well, Une should be happy about him, Duo thought. Then he turned his attention to Sally, and saw that she had her hands full as well. A clone of Une was standing beside her, adjusting Sally's coat around her shoulders, watching as Sally worked furiously over a small girl. Sally was currently only wearing a plain white undershirt, having wrapped her uniform shirt around the small girl on the floor.
"Who is it?" Duo asked. "Is there something wrong?"
"A clone of Noin. Looks like she wasn't finished." Sally replied sadly.
Duo looked up at the pod Sally was in front of. "Well, that's 10. The log said that one died because they rushed the process."
"But she isn't dead. I see signs of malnutrition, poor muscle development, but she's breathing and her heart beat is normal. She's just not responsive in any way. No motor functions, it's as if she's just an empty shell." Sally said.
Quatre approached slowly. "She is empty. She doesn't feel anything, no emotions whatsoever. They shut off the monitors and didn't bother with anything else, they didn't check again. She wasn't given any memories."
"Oh man! We can't just leave her like that. What do we do?" Duo asked.
Sally stood, picking up the clone of Noin as she moved. "Heero, I suggest you hold off on the explosives. Duo's right, we can't just leave her like this. It wouldn't be right. I'll go call HQ and send for some trucks. Maybe the scientists back there can figure out how to work this stuff."
Heero only nodded.
Duo watched as Sally left, then looked down at his clone in time to see the child open his eyes and look up at him. "Hey there sleepyhead! How you feeling? You want me to braid your mane for you?"
The child suddenly brightened. "Would you? Thanks! Sister Helen usually does it for me. My arms get really tired after a while." He glanced around. "Hey . . . we're not at the Maxwell Church! What's going on here? Where are we?" The child's voice was rough from never being used, but it had cleared somewhat.
Heero shook his head. "You were always that talkative?"
Duo countered, glancing at Heero's clone for a moment. "You were always that sour-faced?" He turned back to the boy he held and gently ran his fingers through his clone's hair. "As to where we are . . . we're in a lab." He proceeded to gently weave the length into an even braid.
From where he was sulking, the Quatre clone snorted. "I thought so." He grumbled.
Heero's clone glanced around. "For what purpose was I brought here?"
The rest of the clones were in various conversations amongst themselves, except for one. Of all of them, the one that had yet to say anything, was the clone of Trowa. The child had wrapped the jacket Trowa had given him tightly around himself and went into a corner, as far away from everybody else as he possibly could get. There was something there, Duo could see it, some pain hidden in his emerald eyes.
"Have I been adopted again?" Duo's clone asked, pulling Duo from his thoughts.
Duo felt a twinge at that question as he stood, helping the shaky youth stand on his unused legs. "You could say that." Duo said.
"Uh-huh. How long before you ship me back to the Maxwell Church? Who do you have to impress and how much are you gonna pay me to behave myself?" The clone asked.
Heero finished buttoning his shirt on the Zechs clone and walked over. "How many times have you been adopted?" He asked Duo's clone.
The clone frowned in thought. "I lost count after twenty." The child turned away from Heero's gaze and met Duo's. His eyes suddenly filled with tears that he refused to let fall. "Nobody wants me." He whispered.
Duo couldn't stop himself. He knelt down and pulled his clone into his arms. "Sshh. You're wrong. I want you, and I won't send you back to the church." He picked up the clone and held him close. Then he saw the looks his fellow ex-pilots were giving him. "What? It's a fact. People wanted little kids to behave. Heaven forbid that a child from L-2 ever show a spark of curiosity or intelligence." He tightened his hold on his clone. He vowed to himself that the little guy would have someone to love him. He needed someone who won't leave him, like Duo had never had. He smiled. "You, my little man, will have everything I didn't have growing up. I promise."
The clone giggled, pushing himself away from Duo slightly. "I like you. You're fun and you have a cool braid." He grabbed Duo's braid and held it tightly in his small hand, his other arm securely wrapped around Duo. "At least I know you won't try and cut my hair. Oh, I'm being rude . . . My name is Duo." He smiled.
Quatre's clone snorted. "He already knew that, you chatterbox!"
Quatre groaned, covering his eyes with one hand. "And so it begins." He sighed.
Quatre's clone looked around. "Don't any of you see it? They know who we are! They know us, because they ARE us!" He screwed up his face and kicked the side of a pod with his bare foot. "We're blasted clones! I always knew that my father could make another one of me if he wanted to! This just goes to prove how right I was. And not only me . . . he cloned all of you guys too."
Duo's clone watched the tiny blonde rant for a moment before turning his attention back to the young man holding him. "Is that true? You were me once?"
Duo shrugged. "Yeah, the half-pint is right in the fact that you're a clone. He's wrong about the reasons, though."
"So, if you were me once . . . will I be you one day?"
Duo shouted although he hadn't meant it. "No!" He paused and took a breath to calm himself, ashamed that he had made the small boy shiver in fear. "No. You will never be me. You wouldn't WANT to be me. Rather . . . you'll be the me that should have been."
"Can I keep my name?" The clone asked, toying with the end of his own braid.
"Yeah. The guys can just call you Chibi-Duo. Better than Mini-me any day." Duo smiled at his clone. "Are we about ready to leave, guys? I have a feeling that these guppies are hungry."
The Wufei clone grimaced. "I am NOT a guppy."
To Be Continued . . .
(1) The song that Duo was singing at the beginning, was Sour Times by Portishead.