Author: Lily Zen
Notes: Um…I hope you like this. I guess. Part one is basically giving you the background on Eris and getting you up to speed on what Project Echo was. Also the phrase 'the goddess threw the golden apple' is a reference to one version of how the Trojan War began. The goddess of chaos, Eris, took one of Hera's golden apples to a wedding she had not been invited to and tossed it into the crowd with a note saying it was for the fairest. Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena began to argue over who the fairest was. They decided to let the mortal Paris decide, and he collected bribery offers from each of them. Hera offered royal power, Athena offered wisdom, and Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Troy. Needless to say, Aphrodite won the contest, and because of the bargain he'd made with her, Paris was then obligated to steal Helen from her betrothed, Menelaus, thus igniting the Trojan War.
Also, a note about sword-fighting. Eris has the knowledge and mastery of many different fighting styles. However, she seems to prefer Iaido over some others. Iaido is the art that most samurai fought with in Feudal Japan. It involves the usage of a sheathed katana and each kata has four parts to it: the withdrawl, the cut, the removal of blood from the blade, and the return. However, the true goal of Iaido is to maintain a certain attitude of calm throughout and to keep the movements as fluid and fast as possible. One aspect of the art that I find most intriguing is how half the battle is fought entirely in the mind. The goal of Iaido is to use your blade only as a last resort. First, they try to psych their opponent out of even attacking them by the aforementioned "attitude." It kind of reminds me of gunfights in Wild Western movies. Another interesting aspect of Iaido is that you are expected to be able to attack from multiple angles, even crouching or sitting positions. If you get the chance, you should look up some demos on Youtube. It is quite a marvelous thing to watch. Finally, later on Eris will make reference to always carrying a concealed blade inside of a gothic-looking parasol (umbrella). To see an example of what this would look like, you should Youtube clips of Setsuka fighting from Soul Caliber IV. Her fighting style is listed as Iaido.
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing, nor do I own Dollhouse, which is where I stole the concept of Project Echo from. The song in italics is "Massacre" by Acrassicauda. They are pretty awesome, but I don't own them either.
Years ago they created a new way to kill more innocents.
Children. Elders. Women.
Bombs fall like rain from the sky, filling rivers with innocent blood.
Change your evolution.
Enjoy your demolition.
Massacre of a generation,
and death's bell is still ringing.
The year was AC 195. The sky was alight with the fires of war. Civil unrest dominated the Earth Sphere Alliance. The space colonies had finally grown sick of the treatment they received at the hands of the Alliance, among them a few who had once been OZ. This prompted five scientists, all of them ex-OZ, to build five massive battle suits known as Gundams, and send them to crashing to earth with their five pilots, mere teenage boys. Their targets were various strategic bases throughout the Alliance operated by the military faction OZ.
Later on, OZ would overthrow the Alliance entirely, backed by the power of old world nobility through the Romefeller Foundation, thus revealing its true colors to the world. Many other events would come to pass that year. It was a year of struggle and pain, chaos and bloodshed.
But at the time on that hot August day in Neo-Tokyo, Jemma wasn't thinking of any of that. She was wondering when her host was going to get out of the shower. Sure, he'd already paid, but…and there her mind drew a blank. She couldn't remember why it was important he came out of the shower before she left; only that he did. Strangely, that little hole in her memory did not give the girl a moment's pause. Her brain simply glossed over it as she clicked idly through the television channels, most of which showed her nothing but images of the current attacks of Alliance bases. Jemma wasn't particularly interested in these, thinking that until it was on her doorstep it was hardly her problem.
Jemma was a beautiful girl, but not the brightest and definitely not the most ambitious. Her dominant characteristics seemed to be her charming personality and her frivolousness. Though no one knew how she'd become an escort, including Jemma herself, those personality traits made her quite good at it, not to mention her supple teenage body, long blonde hair, light and ashy, not at all like the wheaten blonde hair of Relena Darlian, and those pale violet eyes. She had been born naturally with a slight albinism defect. It wasn't enough to give her the telltale pinkish-red eyes and colorless hair and skin, but it had given her considerably lighter coloration than most.
Her client finally emerged from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist. Jemma smiled at him and clicked off the T.V. She stood up and just as she was about to move towards the Lieutenant Colonel, smiled apologetically. "Please excuse me a moment," Jemma demurred, and answered the phone. Only the agency had that number, so she didn't need to check the screen. "Hello?"
"The goddess threw the golden apple and thus the war began."
They want to kill
the rest of you.
They came for me,
but we're much stronger.
They start the war and we pay the dues.
No, we won't fight any longer.
Dreams of change—
To see you die—
If anyone had been watching Jemma in that moment, they would have seen her eyes dilate, her breath stop and restart. When she was breathing again, the girl merely stated, "I understand," and hung up the phone.
"What was that about?" The Lieutenant Colonel was smiling, standing at the mini-bar and trying to decide what expensive little alcohol he was going to drink.
To his utter shock, he received no answer, merely an abrupt pressure on his neck. Jemma, whose code name was in fact Eris stood behind him, one leg braced against his body, the other slightly behind her. She had the tie from her hotel-provided robe in her hands, pulled taut across his windpipe. It took so little pressure to kill that way. Granted, it took a certain measure of time, but she really didn't mind.
Her pretty rosebud mouth, plump and swollen from kissing and sucking, curved up in a cold smile, and her violet eyes showed nothing of humanity in them.
They've got the power
to control my fate.
I'd rather die
And I will fight
until the end of this.
Just set me free
and let me breathe.
One step to the victory,
one step to the death.
"As you can see," Dr J was saying, "With this technology, we could theoretically re-program our soldier's brains in moments. Imagine the possibilities! It would take seconds to make an average fighter into a black belt in six different styles. You could upload fluency in any and all languages! If you wanted to, you could create an entirely new person!"
The board of directors thought this program skirted the edge of the ethical gray area they often worked in and lingered too much in the area of inhumane. The project was shelved. One year later, Dr J and his constituents left the services of OZ after the pacifist leader of the space colonies, Heero Yuy, was assassinated.
My child is crying.
My child is starving.
His mother's heart
inside is burning.
An ambitious young officer, eager to prove himself, unearthed the plans for Project Echo and presented it to General Dermail, the head of OZ at the time, who approved the project's testing phase. A prototype was developed. The first tests were unsuccessful or unstable. Doctor Emil Darnassus became assigned to head up the project. Under his direction, they were finally able to perfect Project Echo.
What no one was aware of was that Project Echo was designed to work in conjunction with the Zero System. Doctor J had known that his plans for the Zero System were highly unstable and could very easily turn on the user of such a delicate instrument, therefore his mind led him to the obvious conclusion: that in order to use Zero, one must create a wielder whose mind was as fine-tuned as the machine itself. Thus, Echo was drafted up. However, when Doctor J fled OZ during After Colony 175, none of those weapons projects were initiated.
The irony of all ironies was that Doctor J, being somewhat of a mad scientist, never denoted in his plans that Project Echo and the Zero System were linked in any way. Like most people, he kept records in a haphazard style, assuming he would be the only one to ever see them. So when J left, he left those pieces of his work behind, because surely no one would take any interest in the scribblings of an excommunicated associate, nor be able to make any sense of it.
Sadly, Doctor Darnassus was a persistent and brilliant man. After long hours spent poring over those haphazard records, he was able to draw up functioning plans of his own.
A young girl, orphaned in the last war, was chosen as their first human subject. Her given name was never recorded to save them in the case of legalities. Her mind was wiped clean by the program, and a dumbed-down basic platform installed, code named Eris. This was the basis to which all of those new personalities, or programs, as they were officially called, would then be installed. At first it was just little tweaks, tiny touches to make her more knowledgeable or more personable. It wasn't until later that they installed brand new people into the girl.
With each assignment, the orphan retained less and less of who she had been. She became merely a tool, an instrument for them. Project Echo was promising to be worth every penny it had cost.
They stole my land.
They stole my home.
They ripped my flesh,
and stripped my bone.
Eris woke up cold and stared at the cracked ceiling of a bunker, confused about where she was, who she was. She remembered killing the Lieutenant Colonel, her blood quickening with equal parts excitement and silent horror. Then after…after he was gone, two men came in the hotel room. One of them had a gun, but he hadn't pointed it anywhere, merely held it in his hand. The other one smiled and said something—Eris couldn't remember what—and Eris docilely put her hand in his and let him lead her out of the room in nothing but the open hotel robe. Or was it Jemma who had done that? And who was Jemma?
She felt vaguely ashamed that she had been walking through the halls wearing nothing but that, and wondered what had happened to her clothes. In some distant part of her mind, Eris was able to make sense of the fact that she was both Eris and Jemma, but more Eris. However, she could feel Jemma's thoughts sliding around in her head, a slightly different shade than her own, like pulling on a pair of tinted sunglasses.
Then she remembered a long ride in a van, which ended at a military base, and a short walk to a small laboratory in the basement of one of the buildings. There she was sat in a chair and a small shot was given to her. After, the man in the basement, some kind of doctor, slid a strange visor over her eyes. It was similar to a pair of VR goggles, the kind where the game played on the inside of the lenses. She remembered pain then, though it was a distant thing, and a light that flickered beaming directly into her eyes.
Voices rose in panic and she assumed something had gone wrong. Then Eris was examined thoroughly, but deemed fine and sent to bed in a small box-like room, almost a cell.
Except she wasn't fine.
Eris should have been a blank slate, but instead…instead flashes kept washing over her, scattered emotions, abnormal thoughts. She should probably tell someone, but to be truthful, she enjoyed it. The anomalies were better than the nothingness she normally was. So she stayed silent and went through the motions of eating, training, and grooming with the secret knowledge that she was different now.
Months passed and with each upload, each download, Eris collected more and more pieces of…herself? There were many selves, but now they all became attached to the core, that first basic program the doctor had installed. As the war went on and Eris killed and sabotaged and seduced, she grew; grew enough to begin having thoughts, ideas, opinions. Eris kept them to herself because she knew that if she told, she might become obsolete.
Then she overheard one day that the testing phase of Project Echo was completed, and that they were ready to start the mass-production of bio-weapon systems. Eris was, at the point, smarter than most of the people who took care of her. She knew enough to deduce that 'bio-weapons' meant her and she was the 'testing phase,' which meant that they were about to take more people and wipe them clean like they had her. To Eris, who did not even remember having been anyone before being Eris, this was not acceptable. She didn't like the bleakness that her former existence had been, and found her new self more preferable. She assumed that those people felt the same about their personalities.
After in intensive few days of thought and planning, Eris decided to take action. Three AM was the time of day that a human's natural bio-rhythms were at their lowest. It was at this time that most personnel would be asleep, and those that were awake would be slower to react. She picked the lock on her cell and slipped out, her bare feet making no sound on the floor. In her hands, she grasped a fork tightly, something she had stolen off the lunch tray. The guards monitored Eris carefully when she was put through weapons training, so that there was never any opportunity to stash a weapon. The fork was the best she could do.
The night guard would be making his rounds. Eris flattened her body against the wall, two feet away from the corner where the hall connected to her living quarters. She didn't have to wait very long until he came. The girl took him by surprise, darting in close fast, wrapping a hand in his uniform to sling-shot him through the open door to her tiny room.
The guard was cut off as Eris sprang up in an impressive show of gymnastics and clamped her knees on either side of his head. For that brief instant, her muscles strained and gravity tried to tug her down, but she persevered, wrenching herself and the man's head to one side. His neck broke with a sickening crunch and as his body began to flop lifelessly to the floor, Eris jumped off, landing on the balls of her feet lightly.
It was good that she hadn't been forced to use the fork. The tines weren't sharp, and it was a small thing. Eris could use it to take out someone's eye in a fight or by use of enough force, stab their carotid artery. Overall, it was not an efficient weapon.
With steady hands, she stripped the guard of his uniform and donned it herself, using his belt to cinch the pants tightly. The jacket was big on her also, and she had to compromise the added safety of having a layer of thick cloth between her and a weapon by rolling up the sleeves. The guard's gun was a large .45 semi-automatic. Her hands had to work a little harder to grip the handgun—Eris preferred a 9mm—but she had extensive training with all firearms and could make do. Sadly, in guerilla warfare that was often the only choice one had. The man also had a sword on his belt, which was convenient for Eris. She liked bladed weapons especially for discreet kills. It was not as elaborate as one of the high-ranking officer's swords, but the blade was sharp enough for use.
Dragging the man out of sight, Eris once more emerged from the room, closed the door carefully, and set off down the hall. There were two guards between her quarters and the lab now. Very lax security. The dead guard's key card was enough to let her through the first heavy, sliding door.
The lighting in the new hallway was much brighter, and there were many corridors connecting off of that one. She needed to move quickly. Staying as low as possible, Eris darted through the hall. There was a desk just at the end, tucked into the front corner of the room, which would be manned; the security monitoring desk. Its front was parallel to the hallway, so that whoever sat behind it had a good view of anyone coming towards it and the tactical advantage of having their back against a wall and approximately a yard away from a possible escape route down another corridor. A few feet away from the tunnel's end Eris dropped even lower, put her back against the wall and soundlessly slid. She was going for stealth, knowing that there was an alarm at the desk.
With her first careful footstep into the room, Eris almost lost her balance. There was a two inch spacial discrepancy between the corridor's wall and the front of the desk. In her tension, she had nearly forgotten that detail. A fall would have given away her approach, and so she steadied herself as best she could in her awkward position, frozen in a stance that could almost be described as a crab-walk. She didn't breathe. She didn't move. She just listened for the man behind the desk.
After a few moments of tense silence wherein all the guard did was yawn once, shift in his chair, and idly click a computer mouse, Eris stretched back once more, placing her back against the desk, keeping her eyes open for movement in any of the hallways while she trusted her other senses to guide her around the desk.
The crucial moment came as she scooted around a sharp edge. Knowing she had only once chance, Eris gathered herself, letting the tension in her back muscles flow into her legs, readying herself to spring from her awkward crouch. The guard sighed again, and as he did so, the blonde woman heaved herself upright and spun. In the same moment, she gripped the sheath strapped to her left side and reached across her body with her right hand. It came free with a soft, wet-sounding slide—there must have been velvet or some other material lining it—and slit the man's throat in the same beautiful, deadly motion. As he fell to the floor, gurgling, surprise still in his eyes, Eris flicked her blade to the side, the blood which had accumulated on it splashing the wall. Then with a subtle adjustment of her wrist, she replaced the cleaned blade in its scabbard.
"Sorry for this," she whispered as she watched the man's last breath curdle out of him. With her hands free, she leaned over the corpse and took over the computer system, hacking into the security locks. She input the correct commands to unlock the laboratory. Then she ran down the hall behind the desk. One guard remained between Eris and the lab, pacing the hallway the lab's door opened to. The lights there weren't as bright, but that made no difference to Eris. The guard had his back turned to her, probably investigating the green light on the lab's door, as she came at him at a dead run. With speed that some Iaido masters would envy, Eris drew her blade, still running, though she aimed for a spot next to the man instead of at him. The sword gashed open his side as she ran past, skidded to a stop, flicked her blade to eviscerate him, and plunged the sword straight through his neck just as he was about to scream.
He was dead before he hit the ground. Again, Eris used a practiced motion to remove the blood from the weapon and put it away. The unlocked door beckoned. Using the skills OZ had granted her, she erased all the data on the computer systems, destroyed the chair and headset, and all the little drives with their many personalities on them. All except one.
The computer-printed label on the drive read 'Test Subject 001: Original.' She assumed that on that driver, there existed a nine year old girl whose name was never recorded. Eris thought about destroying it. The personality of a nine year old was of no use to Eris in her hardened sixteen-year old body. Besides, the tech to upload her was utterly demolished. It was illogical to keep it.
In a sudden show of sentimentality, despite all of her logical arguments, Eris tucked the driver into her jacket.
She had one more stop to make before she could purge the site of any evidence. There were no guards stationed between the lab and Doctor Darnassus' suite. He had wanted to be close to the lab, and so it was just a short trip down the hall and around the corner. With sure hands, Eris pried off the cover to the locking mechanism, and stripped the wires. It was similar to hotwiring a vehicle. Eventually, a spark was produced, short-circuiting the lock on the door, which slid open with a soft whooshing noise.
The doc was a heavy sleeper, and he didn't stir which was good and bad all at once. Eris wanted him awake. She wanted him afraid; wanted him to see his death in her eyes as she killed him. A push of a button inside the door closed it once again, and the blonde girl took her time strolling over to the bed, perching next to him on the mattress.
Emil Darnassus had probably been a good-looking man in his youth, but he had not aged particularly well. His dark face was heavily wrinkled, his skin sallow from having spent so much time on base those last few years. He had high cheekbones that had probably given him a regal look when combined with his strong jaw. Her pale fingers made for an interesting contrast as they flitted over one of his cheeks and down that devastating jaw. Darnassus woke up then in a rush, not used to being touched after the death of his wife, and Eris smiled as he focused in on her. Confusion dominated his features at first, and then began to be eclipsed by overwhelming fear and comprehension. His little pet had slipped its leash.
"Don't move," Eris warned, "Don't scream."
"Eris," he tried, speaking quietly but firmly, "You shouldn't have left your room. You need your rest for tomorrow." The doctor still thought he could gain control of this situation, but he didn't realize that Eris had already marked him off as dead in her mind.
"No," the girl replied, "You need to rest." Then without any further warning, and with an inward ululation of happiness, her other hand which had been resting unobtrusively on his pillow gripped and pulled. His head hit the mattress and he spent a moment trying to flail. Eris pressed the pillow over his face with both hands and pressed down. When he began moving, trying to throw her off, Eris maneuvered herself so that she was straddling his body, forcing him still with her own weight.
A long time after he stopped moving, Eris finally let up. She gently lifted his limp, unresisting head and slid the pillow back underneath, and took a moment to close his unseeing eyes.
Getting to the locker where they kept the weapons was harder, but Eris liked a challenge. Then, with several blocks of plastique explosives clutched to her chest and more than a few detonators, Eris made sure no one would ever recover anything from that lab or that building. The bombs went off three minutes after she got out of the building without raising an alarm.
From her position of relative safety in the woods, she could see people on the base frantically running to and fro, trying to put out the fires and formulate a tactical response in the event that this was a Gundam attack. Eventually they would organize search parties of the surrounding areas in the Leos and Aries, but Eris was fast and smart. She was long gone before they ever got close, racing away on a hot-wired dirt bike.
The girl drove all night and well into the next day, getting as far as she could while she was riding the waves of victory. No one would ever make more mindless dolls like her. There would never be another nine year old girl lost to the pages of history, her name forgotten. There would never be a Test Subject 002. That was enough of a victory for her.
Then she disappeared, leaving the rest of the war to be fought by the stupidly brave.
Dreams of change—
Just to see you die—