There is a small amount of satisfaction he gains when the sharp sound of a slicing blade reaches his ears, but in the hastiness of his youth, he cannot recognize it; he simply chalks it up to duty, a minor feat in the face of a much larger goal. Every thrust, jerk, and nuance of movement is guided by this goal, this goal alone, this goal that drives him to near fanaticism if not for the timely intervention of his comrades. He is a nameless hero, and one who neither revels in it, nor despises it. Again, it is duty – not to himself, but to the world. He dares not call himself a saint, either, for it is a title reserved for the innocent, the pure-hearted, those who have not washed their hands so thoroughly in blood as he. But the loss of a life no longer causes him to sputter and stumble. He grieves for them through his actions. Words, so few and far between on the battlefield, mean so little in the grander scheme of things…
And what of words? he declares. What comes from them, but pain and bloodshed still? He scoffs at the diplomats, thinks them cowardly. I will fight, and you strive for peace, by civil means, by lesser means, because humanity's greed is its downfall. I watched it, I lived it, what becomes of your treaties and agreements. A manufactured truce between prancing and posturing rivals, so temporary and fleeting, like a shallow breath claimed callously by the sands of time. The buildings crumble as your promises do, lost in the winds that fan this never-ending flame that consumes all. It was a hell you yourself created, and I bore witness to it, helpless in all of my naïveté, a cry drowned out by the miserable clamor of war….
You, who this chaos breeds in droves. You, who hunts for his next meal amongst the mountains of death. Your kind sickens and poisons me and steals what is left of innocence. You are a blight upon this land, upon all lands you tread with the vilest of intentions. Each step a disease, each cunning whisper a lie, a farce, a trap for the prey that feeds your insatiable hunger. In the shadows of destruction you have cultivated, I am vulnerable and weak, flickering with even the slightest gust, yet unyieldingly perseverant. This machine that is not a machine will be your undoing, and unwittingly mine as well – a step forward is a step back, a life saved is a life forgotten. I know only what I can grasp, what I can hold firm and destroy, what is so plainly in front of me. But the world is not painted black and white, as I wish it to be, but in many shades of gray, colors of madness I do not understand, do not wish to, but you present to me nonetheless. Even now, I pray your speedy demise, for the sake of humanity…
He drifts away from himself, unable to give voice to what ails and ages him. His eyes are young and spirited, yet with each day that passes, they harden prematurely to stone. This world you see is not ideal; then I will make it ideal. This burden you bear is not your own; then I will carry it anyway. These lives you bring to ruin will not return; then I will not look back. An answer for this and an answer for that. But can you answer for your future? I will not have a future, I will not have a place, but he will, and she will, and that is enough. But it is not, for it is too tragic, and not reality. Reality is something I can mold and change and shape to my will. My wishes will transform suffering, eliminate boundaries, redraw the map of the world, morally and otherwise. She pleads with you, fighting cannot define your existence, fighting is what caused this strife, tore our nations apart. You say, what existence? And you cease to remember.
A broken arm is a mission complete; a shot in the chest is a deed well done. You can feel your body shutting down and giving in, but a higher power overrides it. Ignore their orders, their screams, their desperation; one more blow, one more blast, just one more, and you can finally…
A voice. It is not yours.
Again, it is not yours. A pair of shaking hands forces you awake. You crack open a misty gaze. He stares at you, his too adult face contorted by concern. You sit up, try to regain your bearings, but he pushes you back down.
Listlessly, you hear his frantic words, but cannot process them. You are fading, but the urgency with which he speaks captivates you…
"Setsuna, what the hell happened out there? You just zoned out, right out of the blue! You could've been killed!"
"Killed?" Setsuna mutters in disbelief. His thoughts are disorganized, bewildered. The man he calls Lockon nods.
"You've been in the infirmary for three days now. Don't you remember? You had a mighty nasty concussion. Never seen anything like it, blood spilling out –
These are unnecessary details. They remind him too much of the blood spilling out on the desert sand. "Lockon, did we…?"
Lockon interrupts. "Yeah, we got 'em. Union bastards put up one heck of a fight, but Tieria saved all our asses at the last minute. He's pretty pissed off at you, ya know."
Lockon's smile is infectious, and Setsuna smiles too. "I can imagine."
"So…" Lockon seats himself at the edge of his bed. The sheets are clean and pristine and white. They only make Setsuna feel uncomfortable. "Dream about anything on your little vacation from reality?"
Setsuna stops and thinks.
"No," he says, after some time and difficulty. Lockon notices.
"Nothing at all?" Lockon asks.
"Nothing," Setsuna affirms.
"I was worried about you," Lockon admits, almost to himself.
"Oh?" Lockon's cheshire grin reappears. "And how would you know that?"
Setsuna fidgets in his bandages. "I just do."
"What? I think you're still woozy, 'cause that doesn't make any sen—
He does not know why, but he reaches suddenly for Lockon's hand and clasps it tightly.
"I'm scared, Lockon," Setsuna mutters, not meeting his eyes. Lockon's expression softens, and he gives Setsuna's hand a comforting squeeze.
"I'm scared too, Setsuna."
"The things that I saw—it's like I was reliving everything again—there were so many voices—
Lockon runs his thumb over Setsuna's hand while he talks. It is small and vulnerable compared to his, accommodating and gentle.
"You had a nightmare, Setsuna. It's normal. There's nothing to be concerned about."
Setsuna seems unconvinced. "But it all felt so real."
"It always does."
Setsuna's fear is genuine. "Is it supposed to happen so often?"
The question catches Lockon off guard. He pauses, then replies, "No."
Setsuna is silent. He does not move his hand from Lockon's, though he knows it's inappropriate like this. Lockon tries to change the subject.
"There's some food waiting for you downstairs, if you're strong enough. We need to get you moving again. Exia is lonely without you in the cockpit."
"Exia," Setsuna echoes him blankly. "My Gundam."
Lockon nods. "Yes, your Gundam."
Yours, mine, his. A machine that is not a machine; that is nowhere and everywhere at once. Gundam is waiting for us. Gundam is a constant, a voice, a single voice, one of reason and stability, one that sings to the whole word of peace and harmony, things he once thought impossible, but no longer, for he owes Gundam his life.
"I think Exia might have been talking to me," Setsuna allows Lockon to help him on his feet. Lockon plays along.
"Think so?" I wonder if Dynames has tried to say anything to me." He laughs. "I probably wasn't listening."
"You're never listening."
"Hey, I could say the same thing about you, Rambo."
Setsuna stumbles, but Lockon's reflexes are honed, and he catches him as he easily as he would snipe a target. Instead of righting himself, Setsuna merely falls limp in Lockon's arms. Lockon stares at him, puzzled.
"Is something the matter, Setsuna?"
He is hesitant. This is not like Setsuna, and all at once Lockon is alert.
"Yes," says Setsuna, his eyes slowly trailing up, up Lockon's towering figure. Lockon is hardly a nervous man, but the attention unsettles him a bit.
"Well, then what is it?"
Bluntly, he replies, "You weren't there."
I stop— you stop— he stops— to say, "I'm sorry."
The voices are soft now, like a feather in the breeze, a whisper in the wind. "Don't lie to me."
The voice that responds is clearer than any bell, and drowns out the others, wraps around him like a blanket, protective and nurturing. "I'm not lying."
And as they stop to share a tender embrace, as lovers do, I look on to the world I have made. There is suffering, but there is also joy. There is destruction, but there is also rebirth. There is hatred, but there is also compassion. I see the parallels in everything I have created, so I am neither pleased nor displeased; merely content. To fight is to achieve peace; to be free is to be enslaved; to be ignorant is to be strong. I understand this better than any other, and accept it.
But I cannot help but wonder if this nameless hero can perhaps overthrow the clockwork order. Your experiences harm you, but also permit you to grow and survive. They are ordeals that are at times terrifying, but also enlightening. We are witnesses, an audience to a prelude of what is yet to come, omniscient in the past, present, and future. As it is, I can only live on through you. Perhaps this is why you feel such a connection to me. Perhaps not.
What matters, as of this moment, is that I am solely a spectator. The person who can change everything, the voice that can reach everyone, is you.
"I love you."
You need only to find it.