1.1 TITLE: The Choice Between Darkness and Light

AUTHOR: Shira

PAIRINGS: 2xMovie Character, implied 2xH

WARNINGS: heavy angst, heavy violence, blood, disgusting things, deathfic

EMAIL: shira_uma@hotmail.com

NOTE: This is a crossover/fusion type fic taken from a great psychological thriller movie which I have "Gundamized" For the purpose of effect, the title of the movie that this fic is a fusion with has been listed at the end. If you want to know, go for it. Otherwise, read first and see what you think before knowing the movie. If you plan to read this fic and get 100% out of it I suggest that you PAY CAREFULL ATTENTION TO DETAILS or you will miss something very important.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own or profess to own GW or it's characters, nor do I make any money writing about them. I also do not own the movie that this fic was fused with. This is a work of fandom and nothing more.

*****

//I hit the ground in a painful heap as the beam sword slices right through Deathscythe, leaving me dazed, bloody and on the verge of death. I'm not screaming, even though the pain radiates through me like molten metal in my veins, converging on my entire body at once. Is this what all those nameless soldiers felt like? All the ones that I had done the very same thing to? It sucks. I try to get up, to get out of my mobile suit's cockpit, but I can't. The pain. The battle wages on without me, and in my useless condition I watch as one by one each of my fighting partners are taken out in the bloodiest massacre that our enemy has been able to conjure up, and this just as we were all on the verge of finally obtaining peace. My blood is everywhere in the cockpit. It's in my braided hair, staining it brown as it coagulates and dries. Deathscythe is sliced open like a melon and in a shambles, with the beam having passed over me in its vicious attack. I see now that my left arm has nearly been severed. Funny, I still don't feel the need to scream in my pain. It's there, but my senses are so overloaded that screaming is just one more thing for my body to think about. I think I must be going into shock. I can hear the fighting outside, and lo-and-behold, they just downed Heero and Wing. I just lie and stare blankly, motionless, my eyes wide and not blinking, visualizing blackness. Unbelievable. My blood has saturated my clothes and I'm beginning to feel light. What the hell just happened here? I'm so confused. Ambushed? How could we have not known this was coming? It's getting cold. I heave a labored breath and lay my head back against the interior of the cockpit and think of nothing as I drift off into a deep sleep.



The sound of a squeaking wheel awakens me. I open my eyes to see bright lights in long fluorescent fixtures passing over me; or I under them. I can feel the crackling of crusted blood all over the skin on my face and hands. There are people, I can hear them saying things. Green masks and scrubs. I'm in the hospital. My eyes flutter in slow motion as I pass in and out of consciousness, trying to make sense of everything that passes by. Blink. White sterile tile walls. Blink. Faces hanging over me yelling things with looks of concern. They sound far away, like they're all at the end of a big tunnel. I can hear something like "What a shame, ...nice looking kid". Blink. We pass closed doors in the hallway on the way to wherever it is that they are taking me. Where are the others, I wonder for an instant. Blink. There are tubes running all over me and out of my mouth and nose, but my body does not object. Blink. Blood. On the walls. Blink. I slowly turn my head on the gurney to look. The walls are covered in thick, coagulating blood now. Blink. That wasn't there a second ago, was it? It's dripping down the entire corridor, as if the walls were bleeding themselves. Settling into pools on the floor. Don't they see it? They're walking in all the blood. Blink. The hall stinks of old blood now, it's metallic odor polluting my sinuses. I suddenly feel like I need to vomit. The blood is still there. Blink. Everything is white and sterile again. My eyes roll back in my head as I pass out once more.



I wake again, still on the gurney. I think I'm in an operating room. A female doctor comes over and pushes up my eyelid with her gloved finger and shakes her head at me. "He's the last of them." I hear her say from within the tunnel. There are hands all over me, doing things with the tubes and sticking me with needles. I can't remember what happened to me. "Cover them all up." I hear the voice again. I roll my head in its direction and see another gurney next to me. There's someone under a white sheet, but the sheet isn't pulled all the way down on this side. I think I can see a little red hair band around a short black ponytail. Is that Wufei? Is he dead? My heart is beginning to race now. Straining my eyes only, to look past the first gurney I see others, three more, each with a covered up body. My heart is leaping into my throat. And there's this god-awful pain now, in my left shoulder as my body tries to come alive once more. I go to move my left arm and I can't. I look down on myself and see that my arm almost isn't, and I lose it. I think I'm trying to scream through the nasal and thoracic tubes, but I can't be sure. I'm not sure of anything right now. My eyes are bugging out of my head in my terror. Now they're running at me. One of the doctors hovers over me holding a syringe – an icy chill runs through me and I feel another needle invade another part of me, and then everything starts to fade.//

*****

I hate this job. I could be so much more, what with my experience, but I just exist day after day reporting to work at the sweeper yard. Grunt work. I should be working in military intelligence or defense or something like that. Or for the Preventers. But I'm drawn to the simplicity of this monotonous job. I don't have to think too much. I just show up every day and collect a paycheck every second Friday. Suits me fine, I guess, but I still hate it. But at least I go home at the end of the day and she's there. Jessie. From the main office. Talk about bringing your work home with you. And really, I don't know exactly "what" it is that we have going, but, she pays her half of the rent, and the sex is great. It's better… the life... better than when I was still with Hilde, I guess. It must be, because I left her. I still feel guilty saying that. Pretty shitty of me, I know. But living with Jessie is like living one big party, and baby, I sure as hell need a party these days. She isn't tying me down, but instead, is just kind of going with the flow, same as me. I still think of her though, Hilde.

I haven't been felling too well lately. I don't know what it is. Not a physical thing – I think, truthfully, that I'm losing my mind. I'm going out of my skull. That's all I can conclude. It's gotten to the point that I can't walk outside anymore without feeling like someone's watching me, or following me. And the demons. I'm forever being haunted by these… demons… that's all I can call them, 'cus I don't know what the hell they are. But they're always there anymore, and I'm freaking out. Maybe they're the souls of all the innocents and ignorants I caused the death of during the war... finally catching up with Shinigami? Why, just the other day I had a near panic attack getting home from work when one of those "demons" appeared in front of me on one of the transport shuttles from the job site. It had greasy, decomposing skin and holes burned in its head where the eyes should've been. I was practically crawling the walls trying to get out. Strangely, besides the pilot in the cockpit, I was the only passenger on that shuttle, me and that "demon" thing, whatever it was. I really think I'm cracking.



//Tingling. And a dull pink light. I can feel tingling throughout my body, and see the pink light, but that's it. Slowly my eyes open to slits and they take many seconds to begin to focus. Where am I? I'm flat on my back, lying inside Deathscythe. Deathscythe is lying on the ground in pieces around me. I can't move. I'm starting to hear movement around me… voices, footsteps, but I can't make my mouth work to speak. I just lay, dazed, my eyes disconnected from my body, waiting to see who comes. There's a light… it's getting brighter… someone's coming. "Help me…," I scream in my mind, but the words never do reach my lips. The light…//



I open the door to the apartment to find Jessie in the kitchen by the sink, and a foul burning stench emitting from in there. I close the door behind me and ask her "What the hell are you doing?" She looks up and I see pictures in her hand, that she's burning over the sink. I walk to her and upon closer inspection I see that she's burning my pictures of Hilde.

"HEY!" I grab at the flaming pictures and burn myself in the process, trying to rescue some of them to no avail.

"You don't need these anymore." Is all she says, watching them burn. "Besides… they make you upset. You get all funny when you look at them, and I don't like anything that makes you upset."

"That doesn't matter." I yell at her. "They're mine, and you've ruined them!"

I look into her strangely cold eyes and I swear she's laughing at me. For a second I think her eyes look like cat eyes, all yellow and with skinny black slits of pupils, but that's probably my messed up head at work. Still, I back a step away and shake my head to clear my vision. I feel a pang of guilt looking at Hilde's charred face on my only remaining pictures of her.

Throwing the burnt paper down in the sink, I storm out of the kitchen. She follows me to the bedroom where I am changing out of my work clothes. Our idle bickering soon escalates into a full-fledged argument and I am seeing red. She always manages to get me into a rage this way. Naked except for a pair of boxers, I reach at her and roughly pull her down to the bed and we progress to ravaging each other until we are both exhausted. It never used to be this way before Jessie, but she turns me into an animal. I could never call what we do "making love" It's all pure unadulterated lust and sex, nothing more. There's no love involved. Laying there afterward, I think of the pictures of Hilde again. I accidentally let a single tear escape the corner of my eye and quickly. Reach to wipe it away.

I leave the apartment bright and early to make my appointment. It's cold today. Or I'm cold. One or the other. I pull my coat up closer to my neck and hunker down in its warmth. Walking down the sidewalks of L2, I remain preoccupied with where my feet are going and nothing else. I hear someone call my name and I look up. No one there. I keep walking.

"Duo!"

I hear again. I stop and look. There's a guy crossing the street towards me now but I can't make out his face. As he comes closer I start to have an uneasy feeling. He takes his hand out of his pocket as if to shake mine and I see that the poor guy's been burned or something, as his hand is charred and wrinkled and decomposing. Gross. I look up to meet the stranger's eyes as he says

"Duo, I've got to talk to you."

Then I see the face. He's dead. The guy is dead. A walking corpse, talking to me. I take a step back. He's still coming closer. I take another step back and swallow hard, my eyes locked on his face.

"Duo..."

he keeps saying my name, and a sliver of rotten skin peels off the corner of his mouth and falls against his shirt and then to the sidewalk. For a moment I stare, eyes wide, the fine hairs at the back of my neck standing, at the skin on the concrete and then I look back up at the guy. My hand instinctually goes to my neck, to touch the cross that has hung there for as long as I can remember. I don't know why I'm still standing here, but I am. And then I suddenly kick myself into gear and turn, running. I run all the way to the clinic.

*******

"So what's eating at you today, Duo?" Tom asks, having noticed the rush with which I had entered the office a few minutes prior. Probably looked like I had just seen a ghost. We walk into a small stark examination room where I remove my shirt and sit on the chiropractor's bench. Tom starts kneading my right shoulder. "You're pretty tight today... you feeling OK?"

"Nah, just my mind playing tricks on me again." I answer. Tom had been through this before with me. He was a good guy. Good at what he did, and a good listener too. And full of useful information. He continues kneading my shoulder which, after five years, still refuses to work correctly. But they said I shouldn't be upset about that, because at least I still had the arm and could use it... mostly. Tom's pushing hard into my shoulder joint capsule now with his thumbs, making me sees stars. I wince.

"What, another dead guy, Duo? Tom sounds a little concerned today. He really is such a nice guy. Caring and all that.

"Yeah, well, that's what happens when you go around killing people for a living… sooner or later they want to repay the favor." I chided him. But I wasn't laughing inside, and Tom knew it. He could tell in my eyes. He's very shrewd. I have a quick memory of myself, in Deathscythe, mowing down mobile suits without a care in the world, and my gaze drifts away from him. "Has anybody ever told you that you look like an angel, Tom?" The light pouring around him where he stood, blocking the fixture on the ceiling, looked like a heavenly glow.

"Yeah, well, I've been called lots of things like that, you know. Making people feel better gets you that reaction. You are still seeing your psychologist, aren't you?" Tom asks, pulling my attention back to him. I don't answer him. Yes, I was still going, but I was also still losing my fricking mind. Tom changes the subject now.

"I saw Hilde last week". Tom says, making conversation while he works on me.

"Yeah?" I answer dryly. "What's new with her?" There goes that guilt again.

"She was talking about you," Tom continued. "Telling me what a bastard you are." The tall man chuckled. "Lay face down on the table, you have a few vertebra out in between your shoulders."

I lay down on the table and Tom begins to manipulate my back just between my shoulder blades. The misalignment of my upper spine, due to my original injury, now is preventing my rotator cuff from healing properly and holding my shoulder in proper position, which is why after all this time it still hurts like a bitch.

"Duo, why don't you go back to her?" Tom is meddling now, but I don't really mind. "She still loves you, you know?" His magic hands move meticulously over my neck and shoulder, grasping my head and rolling it, and I prepare myself for his movement... "Hang on, this is going to be a big one....relax...", he warns. Then in one strong, swift movement…. CRACK! I momentarily see white.



//I hear the footsteps coming closer. Someone's coming to get me. I hope to God it's an ally, and not my enemy coming to finish me off. I lie motionless, waiting. My blood has painted the entire cockpit of Deathscythe. Faces. Faces standing over me… I can't keep my eyes open… I can't stay awake long enough to see who the faces belong to...//



I leave Tom's office after some weight lifting for my bad shoulder and I'm headed home. The chill is still in the air, so I hike my coat collar up again. From the distance I can hear what sounds like car tires screeching and I turn in their direction to see if I can see anything. Then out of the blue this big brown car comes sliding across the intersection sideways, tires screaming. When the tires finally grab, the car is headed right toward me. I immediately jump and start running down the sidewalk, and the car is gaining on me. It's on the sidewalk as well now, knocking over trashcans and mailboxes as it gains on me. I'm running as fast as I can, and my breath comes in long cold open-mouthed bursts, freezing the back of my throat as I suck in. I try to look back but that only slows me. Running as fast as I can, I look side to side for an escape, and I spy an alleyway a couple of yards ahead. My feet pounding against the sidewalk, I run like I've never run before, and I dive for the alleyway as the brown car goes screaming past me and disappears into the haze. Confused, I lay for a moment before picking myself up and dusting off, breathing heavily as my heart is pounding. I feel a knot rising in the back of my head where I clunked it on the pavement. Looking wildly around myself, I no longer see the car, and I begin wonder if it was real in the first place. It was real alright. To me. I stand to catch my breath and calm my adrenaline, leaning over, my hands propped on my knees. I grab to make sure my cross is still there. Looking up through my long bangs I concede once again that I'm going crazy. Shinigami is flipping out for sure, and it's going to be a long, wild ride.

******

My head felt like hell, and combined with my "exciting day", I decide that I need to pay a visit to Dr. Gregson. I slowly walk myself back to the clinic, entering on the other side of the building, making my way to the lobby. Down the hall and to the second door, I let myself in, spying the others in the waiting room, wondering if I look like a nutjob to them. I advance to the reception desk.

"Hi... um... I need to see Dr. Gregson." I tell the elderly woman behind the desk. She looks intently at me and then gives me a weird look.

"I'm sorry...you must be mistaken. We have no Dr. Gregson here." The woman replies.

"What do you mean? He's my doctor...Dr. Gregson." I question her, confused. I lean my forearms over the counter.

"There's no Dr. Gregson here." she says again. "Maybe you've been seeing one of the oth..."

"No!" I'm starting to get a bit agitated. "I've been seeing Dr. Gregson...his office is straight through there, and on the second floor..." I point in the direction of a gray door that leads to the hallway that I've used every two weeks for the past five years.

"Name?" she asks coolly.

"Duo Maxwell... I don't have an appointment, but I really need to see him today...I'll wait if I have to" She gives me another look, eyeing up my long hair, and then proceeds to the records file. She shuffles around in the file somewhere around the M's, and then the D's, before returning to the window.

"I'm sorry Mr.Maxwell, but I have no record of you here." She lays a "you're wasting my time" look on me.

"What?" I ask. "What do you mean you have no record...I've been coming here for five years..." She senses that I'm getting really upset now and stands up again.

"I'm terribly sorry...if you like you can see..." The receptionist lady looks at me with an evil grin on her weathered face and there are stumps of horns sticking out of her head, peeking through her silver hair. And she has the yellow cat-eyes. My jaw drops momentarily as I catch a breath, eyeing the horns, my heart in my throat. Her eyes flash bright and she cuts through me with them.

"I don't want a social worker!" I yell at her, pushing myself away from the reception desk, my eyes wide with the vision of the she-devil behind the desk. Now I'm starting to panic a bit. "I need to see Dr, Gregson!"

I charge for the gray hall door as I yell to her and bolt through it, determined to see the doctor. I need to see him. I need to. I run through the institution's hall and leap up the flights of stairs, my braid smacking me in the back as I jump, taking me to the familiar office, but when I burst in the door, there are different people there. Not Dr. Gregson's secretary. Not Dr. Gregson. A man in a turtleneck sees the bewildered look on my face and asks if he can help me.

"Dr. Gregson?" I ask him, panting. The man pulls me back into the hall before he speaks.

"Dr. Gregson isn't here...is there something I can help you with?" He's very polite, and trying to calm me.

"Where is he? I have to see him." My mind is racing as I try to comprehend why the doctor is not there, where he's been for five years, and why everyone is acting so strangely...or is it me? I squint my eyes closed tightly as if there were something paining me.

"I'm sorry..." the other man begins. "Dr. Gregson was…killed..." his voice trailed off

"Killed?" I open my eyes suddenly and repeat his words, a lost look on my face. I think I'm getting dizzy. "When?" I ask.

"Last month". How. How can that be? I just saw Dr. Gregson ten days ago...how could he have been killed last month? My thoughts are going crazy in my mind as nothing makes sense and I begin to back away from the nice man and turn, running down the hall. He calls after me but I don't stop. I run through the building until I reach the street, and then run some more, until I finally reach home. What the fuck is going on? Racing up the stairwell, I reach the apartment and practically break the door down trying to get the key to work in the lock. I finally get it open and explode into the only sanctuary that I have at the moment in a blubbering heap of confusion.

*******

Jessie insisted that I go with her to the party. I told her that I didn't want to, but she said I needed to relax and have some fun and have a few beers, so I went to please her. I usually like parties, but lately I haven't been much in the mood. We arrive, and it's the usual fare – a house crammed with people, standing room only in the kitchen, loud thumping music, and all the beer and pot you could want. I always wondered where it all came from...but I learned a long time ago not to ask those kinds of questions.

The music is loud and people look to be having a good time, but I can't seem to shake my mood. Jessie is dancing with a couple of people, and she waves at me from across the room, mouthing out something... she wants me to dance...I laugh, and turn to get myself another beer from the kitchen. I hate dancing. On the way in, I run into a group hovering around a beautiful woman sitting at the kitchen table.

"Hey, Duo!" someone calls out to me, as I politely raise a brew-filled hand to them. "Come on over, man, you gotta see this!" I go over to see what they're doing.

"Yeah?" I ask, wanting to know what the big deal is.

"Let me see your hand" the beautiful brown haired woman tells me. I look around at the others and shrug, offering up my hand. I get it. She's going to tell me my fortune. This should be good for a laugh. I sit down and go along with her as she flips my hand palm side up and starts stroking it. Let's see what she has to say about 'ol Shinigami.

"Hmmmm", she mumbles, looking at my palm, and then at me. Seems to me she's more trying to seduce me than read my palm, but I let her continue. "You have a very interesting palm..." she flashes her eyes at me. "Oh! See this?" I look at the line. "You're engaged, aren't you?"

"Well, I was engaged" I tell her.

"Uh oh" she whines. "OK, let me take a closer look. She looks. "Ooohhh wow!"

"What?" I answer. She giggles childishly. The music is blaring in the background is making it hard to hear her.

"You have 'quite' a love line..." she giggles again, making me giggle too. "See here? I bet you're incredible in bed!" I blush at the comment. "Uh huh!, I thought so..." she says in response to my embarrassment.

"OK, OK, what else does it say?" I change the subject. She looks at my hand again, running her fingers all over my palm and giggles some more. "Are you going to tell me or what?" I laugh at her.

"Well..." she's still laughing, "See this line over here? The one that stops right here?" She points to the line so I can see. "That's you're life line...according to your hand, you're already dead!" She drops my hand in a fit of drunken laughter, turning to the person on the other side of her. My laughter turns confused. I hesitate a moment and then get up from the table, going back to the party. Dumb palm reader...those things are never right anyway, I tell myself. But I keep repeating her words in my head //"...according to your hand, you're already dead! ...already dead! ...already dead!"// How absurd. I'm standing right here, in the middle of a party, having a good time. How can I be dead? Besides, I am death. Death does not die. I've already proven that a number of times.

I spy Jessie, still dancing, with a guy who I've never seen before. He's holding her by the hips and they're moving and jumping to some pretty rhythmic dance tunes when someone turns on a strobe light, making the whole place flash and move. I keep thinking of that woman who read my palm, and seeing Jessie through the flashing strobe. She's grinding pretty good with that guy. Probably trying to make me jealous. I watch her as they writhe against each other and it starts again... my mind losing control of itself. I see her now, but she's got the cat eyes again, and the nubby horns in her scalp, like the woman in the clinic. A lump rises to my throat and I back away to lean against the wall, putting down my beer on the nearest horizontal surface. Then I see the strangest thing...a tail. A whip-like devil tail. She's swishing a tail! Wrapping it around the legs of the other guy. He doesn't even notice. I can feel my heartrate increasing as I'm trying to tell myself that this isn't really happening...that it's just my warped imagination playing very dirty tricks on me, but I don't believe myself. The tail whips in the air and she smiles an evil fanged grin at me, her cat eyes icy-cold and hollow. The strobe light is flashing, the music is pounding, my mind is whirling. Thoughts of nothing go through my head momentarily before I hit the floor at the exact moment that the strobe flashes white...



//…the sound of an explosion rocks the ground in front of me as I take out another row of mobile suits. They're everywhere, and we're overwhelmed. A trickle of sweat runs down my brow as I concentrate hard, not letting them get the best of me. Deathscythe is sustaining heavy damage, as are the other Gundams in what is turning out to be one of our worst land battles yet. Three more enemy suits fall at my hand. I hear the sounds of their pilots screaming over my comlink. I stopped shivering at that sound long ago. I don't even think about it now. But later I will. My adrenaline surges as I scream out in defiance over my enemy, and then suddenly my scream turns to one of surprise and horror as the beam sword crushes into Deathscythe, touching my soft, vulnerable body...//

********

I stir in bed and find Jessie next to me. She's leaning on her elbow, waiting for me to open my eyes.

"What the fuck was that last night?" she demands from me. I'm too stupid this morning to answer her. I don't even know what she's referring to, really. "Duo...if you're going off the deep end..." she hesitated, starting to get out of bed. "..then you're going without me. I've about had it with this shit."

That's it, Jessie, I think to myself. I always knew I could count on you...to care about no one but yourself. She's getting dressed now, so I figure I should get up too, but I'm feeling terrible this morning. I'm freezing. I sit up in the bed and my head begins spinning violently, so violently that, from a sitting position, I lean to the side and fall out of bed, crashing onto the hard floor. That startled Jessie, and she shrieks before she runs over to find me in a naked heap on the floor, unable to convince my body to work together to get me upright. All I feel is the cold, and my body shivering.

"DUO!" She screams at me, and is instantly by my side. "What's wrong!"

She's trying to grab my arm and help me steady myself enough to sit up. My head is reeling. She puts her hand on my forehead. I answer her with a muffle and try to smash my face into the floor again. I feel Jessie leave me, and in an undetermined amount of time she comes back and forces something thin, cold and hard into my mouth that I instinctively know what to do with. I have no idea if time is passing or not, but when she removes the object from me, I hear her squeal again. I'm floating above the floor as I hear her cry something about "a hundred and six! OH MY GOD!", and then she's suddenly grappling at me with her every strength to get me standing. And somehow, she does, but not for long.

If it's possible to be passed out while on your feet, well, I guess that was me. I woke again, this time feeling the cold, hard steel of the bathtub on my back, and of my cross on my chest. How the hell did I get here? My eyes flit open for an instant and the light hurts them, so I let them close again. I can vaguely hear Jessie carrying on in the background, but I can't make out what she's saying. And other voices. I hear other voices, but of whom, I don't know. They're all yelling, and someone is rushing around the apartment. The next sensation that hits me sends me into a total outcry as my body is attacked with searing cold. I come awake with a startle, my eyes opening to hear my voice screaming, Jessie in my face, crying, and freezing cold water flowing full-tap from the bathtub spigot, chilling me to the bone. I try to get up but I can't and realize that the other voices belong to Mr. Johnson, from next door, Mrs. Williamson from across the hall, and Jake from upstairs, all of whom are holding me down in the tub, drowning me in the painful cold. They're pouring buckets of ice cold water on me, and emptying ice trays and bags alike as I scream bloody murder to be let up. My hair is soaked and sticking to me, and my lips are turning blue. My cross is burning into my skin from its iciness. Jessie is pouring more ice into the tub, and she's still crying as the tub slowly fills up with ice cold water. I'm so cold! I scream for them to stop, but they don't hear me. Between the screaming and the struggling and the cold constricting my blood flow, I start to feel hazy again as consciousness leaves me.



//I'm freezing cold. I wake, startled by my dream, and freezing cold. I have goosebumps all over my body and I notice from bed that the window is wide open and a cold breeze is billowing in on white curtains. Stirring in the bed, the few parts of me that are warm cry out in disagreement as I start to sit up. I look down and she's there, sleeping comfortable. How can she do that in this cold? I get out of bed and walk over to the window, pulling it shut, breathing a sigh of relief as the sudden lack of wind on my skin causes me to instantly feel warmer. That's better. Of course, wearing something other that underwear to bed would help too. I go back to bed and she stirs, and then she's awake. "What are you doing up?" she asks me. "I was freezing. I shut the window." I tell her. She calls me a big baby. "What a nightmare I had…" I begin to tell her. "I dream that there were all these demons… and I was living with another woman… and I was being burned by ice…" After a hesitation, Hilde finally says "See what happens when you cheat on me, even in your dreams?" She smirks, her eyes closed as she rests on the pillow next to me, trying to get back to sleep. Lying back, I can't help but think of this weird dream again, and it leaves me full of uncomfortable thought. I turn to Hilde in the bed and whisper to her "I love you." She muffles a groan at me sleepily. I fall asleep again finally.

"Hey kid! Didja get it?" He asked anxiously. I told him yes. Teaching me early, he was. How to be a thief. But Solo knew better than any of us street kids what it took to survive around here, being he was the oldest and had been at it the longest. We ran down an alleyway and hid in the back. Sitting on the pavement, I produced the fruit from my jacket. "You want the apple or the pear?" I asked him.

"The pear." Solo answered. I handed it to him and began munching on the apple myself.

"Hey, looky what I got yesterday." He pulled out a comic book, taken from some newsstand probably.

"Cool!" I answered as we both hunched over to start devouring it. My reading isn't that good, but I understand most of it. We sit and read the whole comic, finishing off our fruit and head off to stir up some other kind of trouble somewhere else. We catch up with a group of other kids and head further into the city.

I open my eyes and see the cover of trees and blue sky passing by me. I can't focus too well, but my ears tell me that I've been found, and they're taking me out. Somewhere. I don't know where, but I'm leaving behind the remains of Deathscythe now, my limp form sprawled in a cloth stretcher, I think, with people carrying me. I can't make out the faces, I'm floating too much. I just know there are faces. I smell the stench of blood all around me and I drift again. In my haze I can suddenly make out a voice… what's it saying? "Lucky guy, Duo. You must have friends in high places." I open my eyes again to see eyes staring back down at me. Warm, comforting eyes. My body floats, submerged in seething cold, and I feel the warmth of the eyes, reassuring me. I like the eyes. I momentarily gain enough clarity to see the doctor standing above me, mumbling something about having melted twenty pounds of ice floating in the tub before my fever went down. His eyes are comforting to me. I close mine and sleep again, not uttering a single incoherent sound. Floating. I can feel it again. The stretcher is being lifted high into the air. I hear the sounds of others again, but cannot connect the place. Forcing my eyes open once more, I'm inside a shuttle, bound for who-knows-where. I don't speak, but merely take in the surroundings briefly, noticing a woman that I don't know standing over me, speaking softly, telling me I'm going to be alright. Floating.

"Please stay still Duo, and let me cut this mess of hair!" Sister Helen was visibly flustered as I fought off her attempts to cut off my locks.

"But I don't want you to cut it! Pleeeeze!" I begged her not to cut it. I loved my hair just the way it was.

"Oh, but just LOOK at it! We have to cut it sweetheart. You can't keep control over this birds-nest at your age.""She stood with her arms at her side, frustrated, when Father Maxwell came by to see what the ruckus was about. "I need to give him a haircut and he won't be still.." she pleaded to Father Maxwell, looking for his support.

"Pleeeze! Oh please don't make her cut my hair!" I turned my charm on to the elder man now. He hesitated, wanting to make both of us happy, and compromised.

"Well…why don't you wash it, and then put it in a nice braid. Duo, would you keep it in a braid like that if Sister Helen does it for you?" I nodded in agreement. At least I got to keep it. Sister Helen huffed a bit and then went to work washing and toweling my lengthy tresses, then finishing it off in the braid that father Maxwell had suggested.

Stepping back to view her handy work she said to me "Well, I guess you do look kind of cute like this. OK Dou, you win this one!" She kneeled down, pulling me to her and hugged me. I wrapped my arms around her neck and squeezed with all my might. I loved her, in spite of trying to cut off all my hair.//



She's beside me. In bed. I awake to a throbbing feeling in my head. Actually, I kind-of feel like I've been run over by a truck. I'm completely naked, but piled high with warm blankets. She's hovering over me, and a sigh of relief passes through her as she sees me stirring.

"Am I home?" I ask Jessie in a faint whisper, eliciting a confused look from her.

She smiles, a tear in the corner of her eye, and tells me "Of course you are… where else would you be?" She strokes my cheek with her hand. I turn my head and look into her worried gaze and she speaks again. "You kept saying 'Hilde close the window, I'm cold…'."

I don't remember anything. I don't remember being in bed, or talking in my sleep. My nerves are wracked and I ask her "Am I dead?" Her look becomes disturbed, solemn, and more tears well in her eyes. She doesn't answer the question.

"You're right here with me, Duo. Doctor said it's a virus, that's all." She strokes my hair gently.

Yeah, but am I dead? A virus? Eating away at my mind, whatever kind of virus that is. In my own personal prison, I feel tears collecting behind my eyes, and I'm too tired to stop them.

*******

I stayed home from work today. I'm in no physical shape, nor mental shape, to go. The demons keep calling to me, invading my thought. On a whim, I decided to go to the internet and read up some on demons and devils. Could I be... possessed by the devil? Is someone playing tricks on me? I know I'm nuts, but why these demons? Is it because of my past? Because I am Shinigami reborn? I look up Shinigami along with the other words... Satan, Lucifer, devil worship and such. The amount of information available is overwhelming, but I still have no clear answers. Face it, Duo. You're just fucking crazy.



Things are getting worse now. I found myself another doctor and explained everything to him. The demons, the nightmares, the hallucinations. I told him about Dr. Gregson, and about my days as a Gundam Pilot. He spent the whole session writing notes in his tablet and saying "mmm hmmmm", just instilling the fact that the guy thought I was nuts too. That was Tuesday. He wanted to see me again today, Friday, after he had a chance to look up some of my records. I wasn't prepared for what he was going to tell me, and it just pushed me that much further into oblivion.

"Duo, I checked on your past records..." he said rather solemnly, with that sympathetic 'be nice to the kook' look on his face. "I think you definitely have some personality issues that we need to deal with."

"Like what?" I ask him. Nobody's ever told me I had a 'personality problem' before. Hell, I'm 'Mr. Personality".

"Well, for starters..." he's writing in the tablet again "... I looked you up in the files from the colony wars and... you were never a Gundam Pilot. Now, I know you may think you were one... that's a very grand and noble fantasy so I can see how..."

"What do you mean 'I was never a Gundam Pilot?' LIKE HELL I wasn't!" My voice is shaking. "How the hell do you explain this damn arm then?! Never a Gundam Pilot? You've GOT to be kidding me, man! I was the best! I was... I am Shinigami..." I stood and began pacing the floor, thinking I might just leave, since this guy was as off his rocker as I was.

"Yes, I see..." he humors me. "And this 'Shinigami', well, that's another thing..."

"Oh, FORGET IT! I don't need this." I start to put my coat back on and I'm headed out the door. "When you find the records on Duo Maxwell, pilot of the Gundam Deathscythe let me know and maybe we can talk about this again". I leave the office in a rush, and my head feels like it's going to explode. Exiting the building and reaching the street, I feel a lump in my throat, and I force it back down as tears come to my eyes. Not a Gundam pilot. Yeah! And I imagined all that too, I suppose! This is bullshit! All of it! I finally come to the realization that I need to get in touch with the others.

******

I go home and start making phone calls. Lucky for me, I find everyone but WuFei on the first try. They all seem to be doing fairly well, although I sense something different in them. Did they sense it in me too? We set up a conference call the next day to talk about a few things, namely what's been going on in our lives recently. Interestingly enough, during the conference I find out that the others are experiencing the same symptoms. The five of us are losing our minds, and it's not just a coincidence, I gather. It could be the zero system, right? We were all exposed to it, and I shiver as I remember the effects it had on us, on me. But they told us that the effects were not permanent. Maybe that was a crock of shit, just to get us to agree to keep using it. By the end of the wars, we had it in each of our Gundams and used it regularly.

"Maybe we need to get to the bottom of this by contacting the scientists again?" Quatre asks, his face still years younger than his actual age. But his eyes told the story of a recent lifetime of pain and torment. Much like mine did.

"That's if we can get them to talk at all..." Heero ads. He looks like shit. Plain and simple, so I know he's been dealing with this too. He's also the one who spent the most time using Zero. I was second. Man, if he's crazier that I am right now, I'd have swallowed a gun barrel by now.

So we decide to search out the scientists, and then confront them about what's been happening. I switch off the vidphone with a very slight satisfaction, but not much at all. Actually, now I'm really getting scared. To think that maybe those scientists did something with us that would eventually cause us to lose our minds like this. Who did they think they were? Well, I already knew the answers to that one, and I suppose it was my own risk, agreeing to get involved in the first place, but, what the hell does a fifteen-year-old kid know about consequences?

A couple of days pass and except for my mounting paranoia, things are mostly normal. Jessie is getting ready for work when the videophone rings. She picks it up, and from the other room I hear her tell the person to hold on while she gets me. Going to the monitor, I can see from across the room that it's Trowa, and he doesn't look happy. I sit down in front of the screen, still buttoning my work shirt.

"Trowa," I respond "Is something wrong?"

"Forget it, Duo. The scientists." He seems shaken.

"What do you mean? I thought we all wanted to do this..." I question.

"Well, we've changed our minds."

"What do you mean 'we'?"

"I've talked to the others already and we don't want to do this. Confronting the scientists." His voice is shaking. Something is really wrong, I can tell.

"Trowa? What's wrong, man? Has someone been talking to you? Who's been talking to you?" I'm wondering where this came from all of a sudden. By the reaction on his face, I'd swear he was being blackmailed or something. A possibility, considering the subject matter – secret military plots and weapons.

"Just forget it Duo." Trowa repeated.

"OK, I'm going to call Heero and..." I was cut off by Trowa's voice, which was growing more and more concerned.

"Don't bother calling the others. Nobody is going to go through with it. I'm sorry." With that, Trowa disconnected and disappeared from the screen. I sat baffled for a moment, and began to dial up Heero's number. He answered, and, just as Trowa had assured me, he would not talk, and wound up hanging up on me as well. Same thing with WuFei, who was home this morning, unlike the other day. Apparently Heero had briefed him on our conversation and he too was now backing out. There was only a message machine at Quatre's number.

"Great." I mutter to myself. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking that something's really rotten in Denmark, or whatever that old saying is. This is just 'too' weird.

********

After being home all week, I finally went back to work today. The shuttle just dropped me off and I'm walking back to the apartment, warily eyeing my surroundings. I haven't been out of the house since my fever, and I feel very exposed. I walk the sidewalk briskly and turn a corner, half expecting to see a partially-rotted corpse or something like that standing in front of me. Nothing. I sigh in relief and pick up the pace a little. There are two guys standing on the corner, one lighting the other's cigarette. I eye them, but there's no law against smoking on a street corner, so I pass them off. Big mistake. Next thing I know they are both descending on me before I can run, and they've got me by my arms, one on either side. A car turns the corner up ahead and heads for us, and stops in front of us. I recognize it – the brown car that chased me down the street that day? Could it be? The oafs open the back door and stuff me inside, piling in with me. Apparently we're going for a little ride. The car speeds off, squealing its tires loudly.

The next thing that happens totally explains the phone call I got from Trowa the other day. The two guys in the back of the car with me proceed to beat the shit out of me, and then threaten death upon me if I even mention the scientists again in my lifetime. The driver explains to me that I've been 'erased' as he calls it, and if I start poking my nose into places that it doesn't belong, I'll be paid another visit, and a much less pleasant one at that. I think to myself... as if the threat of death really worries me at this stage in the game? "The Gundams were part of another life..." he tells me. "Leave it that way." Then suddenly the car stops and they 'deposit' my beaten body in the gutter, my neck hitting the point of the curb, sending shockwaves of pain through my body, and I suddenly can't move. The car careens away, and I'm laying, unable to get up, in a filthy street. I try to turn my neck and something goes 'pop', and everything goes black.



The sound of a squeaking wheel awakens me. . I open my eyes to see bright lights in long fluorescent fixtures passing over me. Or I under them. I'm in the hospital. I try to move my head, but I can't. "Where are you taking me?" I ask.

"You've been hurt, Mr. Maxwell." Comes the cold, hard answer.

"Where's Dr. Tom? Get me Dr. Tom!" I tell the doctor wheeling me on the gurney.

"Don't worry Mr. Maxwell, everything is going to be fine." The doctor reassures. I try to turn my head once more and succeed only in making myself black out again from the stabbing pain. I wake again and I'm still being rolled along the corridor, only it's changing. I can see from my prone position what we've already passed and the white corridor has changed to a dark, dank hallway. Like a basement hallway. The walls are gray and pipes dripping with condensate run overhead. The lighting is poor, with only a few old light bulbs extending from exposed fixtures jutting out of the ceiling. It smells bad, like... death… down here. He keeps walking. We start to pass things in the corridor. There's trash and medical waste strewn all over the place, and oozing down the walls. I hear the footsteps of the doctor and they echo in my head as I look, wide-eyed, at my surroundings. The squeaking wheel. We pass a sign on the wall that says 'x- ray', with a big arrow pointing the way we're headed. Turning a corner the corridor opens into a huge warehouse like room, and I see my Deathscythe, mangled and bent, laying in a heap. A lump grows in my throat and I just keep looking, unable to make a sound. Passing by the warehouse, we enter another corridor. The doctor is silent, and keeps pushing the gurney. The dark gray walls are seething with blood. There are rats scurrying as we pass by. Then a wave of nausea hits me as does the stench of blood, and there are bloody body parts strewn all over the corridor... legs,... hands... arms... My eyes roll back into my head and I hear myself whimper. The gurney keeps moving. Blackness doesn't take me this time though, and I focus once again. For an instant the corridor is bright and white and sterile again. A pair of swinging doors open and we pass through into a heinous surgical room that was just like the basement corridor, and my heart is practically beating out of my chest. Then I see Jessie, and she's wearing a nurse's uniform.

"Jessie..." I whisper. "Get me out of here. Take me home." She moves closer to the gurney, but says nothing.

"Home?" the doctor speaks to me instead.

"I want to go home..." I tell him with fear on my voice.

"You are home Duo. You're dead."

"No! I just hurt my back! I'm not dead!" I cry gruffly, trembling.

"If you're alive, then what are you doing here?" The doctor asks.

I answer "I don't know. Get me out of here!"

"There is no 'out of here'. You've been killed. Don't you remember?" My eyes become wide as I see from above syringe he holds in his hand, with a needle on the end big enough to choke an elephant. The needle's end comes closer to my face and he presses it down to my forehead and deep into my skull as I let out a blood-curdling scream. I feel some hands lifting me in the cloth stretcher and covering me with a blanket. I focus for an instant on the clouds in the bright blue sky overhead. Then nothing.



I'm sitting up in the bed today, aided with some neck and spinal contraption that really is making me more uncomfortable than anything. I'm trying unsuccessfully to adjust myself in the contraption when Hilde walks in, her face visibly worried, and she breathes a sigh to see me awake and coherent. She comes over to the bedside and sits in the chair that is there, and holds my hand. Before she can say a word, I blurt out "I'm not dead, right? I'm alive!" Hilde looks at me, confused.

"Of course you're alive!" she says, amused by the silliness of the question. "Duo, I do love you still, you know that don't you?" her eyes well up and she squeezes my hand and fakes a little smile. I hear the sound of a strange, unrecognized voice and I think it says "Dream on." I turn in the direction of the voice and for an instant see its owner, another demon, complete with greasy decomposing skin and the horns and the cat eyes. In a flash it's gone again, and my face is totally blank as I turn back to Hilde. Before I know it I'm crying. My tears send her over the edge, and she cries too. Leaning down to me, she kisses the top of my head.

********

I hear a commotion from the hallway, and it's coming my way. There are nurses scurrying about, and the next thing I know I hear Tom, cursing them and telling them to get out of his way. He enters the room and says "Hey Duo! Jeez, look at you! Look at these damn contraptions they have you tied up to." Tom starts disconnecting the wires holding my limbs still, cursing the whole while. Raising his voice purposefully he yells out "This is barbaric! Where are we, in the middle ages?" to whoever is in earshot, and pushes another nurse out of his way while he continues to free me.

"Sir, I'm sorry... you can't.." the nurse is abruptly cut off by Tom's ranting

"He's my patient and I'm taking him out of here! Now, Duo, can you swing yourself into this?" He's holding a wheelchair steady as I gingerly lift myself off the bed and swing around to sit. My legs are very disconnected and don't seem to want to do anything. Settled in the wheelchair, Tom starts pushing me as he says "Lets get out of here." He takes me back to his office where he works his magic on my body.

Laid out on his bench, I relax. He starts mumbling something else about the treatment in the hospital and then pauses, where I was supposed to reply to him. I didn't even hear what he was saying, so I say something totally out of his context. "I was in Hell, Tom... I don't want to die... Shinigami can't die. It's all pain. Am I dying, Tom?"

Tom chuckles and replies "From a slipped disc? Hardly." He looks at me solemnly and chides "Duo, you are one hell of a basket case, 'ya know that? Now turn over." He helps me to turn over on the bench so that I'm facing down now. He starts to speak again as he works my neck and back carefully. "Have you ever read the old writings of the scholar Meister Eckhart?" he pauses. "Eckhart wrote that 'the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life – your memories, your attachments; you burn them all away. But they're not punishing you, Duo, they're freeing your soul." I listen, very unclear as to what he's trying to say. Tom continues. "So the way he sees it, if you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on, you'll see the devils tearing your life away, but if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth." I ponder his words.

"Tom, why are you telling me all this?" I ask him. Either he doesn't hear me or he doesn't want to answer, but I'm not pushing the subject right now. I'm confused enough as it is. Finally finished with me, I leave Tom's office on my own two feet, my head filled with thought. I go home and go to my bedroom closet, pulling out a small box from the top shelf, a box that I haven't seen in years. I sit on the edge of the bed and hesitate before lifting the lid of the box to expose its contents. One by one I take them out. A picture of me and Hilde kissing, one New Year, at one of Quatre's great celebrations. An empty clip from one of my guns, when I had them. Another picture, this one of me and the other pilots posing before a mission. The pine tree air freshener that I hung in Deathscythe's cockpit as a joke. A love letter from Hilde when I was on a mission... I can't take it and shut the box, tears forming in my eyes.



I pick my way through debris and silently make it into the remains of the Maxwell Church. Everything has been destroyed and the place is in shambles. There are dead bodies – the bodies of my friends – laying strewn about. And then I see Sister Helen, and I run to her, crying. "Oh, Sister!" I cry out, reaching out touch her fatally wounded body.

Even in her final moments she tries to comfort me. "Duo... shhhh.... be brave Duo! I know you will be alright."

"Sister Helen,... but..."

"It's OK, Duo." She whispers, grimacing in pain. "I will be fine... I will move on to Heaven, so you mustn't worry, do you hear me?"

"Yes". I snivel. She's dying. Sister Helen is dying. "Father Maxwell...?" I ask her

"He was happy that you were not here, Duo. He said to tell you that he loves you, and that you should be brave." She closed her eyes and sighed.

"Sister!" I screamed, cradling her head in my lap, crying.

"This is for you, Duo. To remember us..." she painstakingly moved her hand to meet mine and dropped a gold cross into my palm. I looked at it blankly and then locked my fist around it.

"Sister Helen, please don't die!"

"You are a good boy, Duo! You will be fine on your own... I love you Duo..." her voice trailed off in a final good bye as her body fell limp.

There are explosions happening all around us now. We fight back hard, but it's not good enough today. The enemy is too strong. Too many of them. Took us by surprise. We can't hold them off. I hear battle cries of the other pilots as well give everything we have to overcome this enemy, but instead we are dying, one by one. First Quatre. Then WuFei. Next Trowa. Then almost simultaneously, me.... and Heero. All hope is gone now. We are finished.



The apartment door flies open and Jessie bursts in, her arms loaded with groceries. I see her from the hallway as she pushes the door shut with her foot and deposits the bags in the kitchen. She comes down the hallway to find me in the bedroom, just having put my box away. Sitting in silence, I had also taken my cross off and added it to the contents of the box before putting it away.

"Where were you for two days?" she demands, with an attitude.

"In the hospital." I tell her. She looks at me with this 'what kind of a fool do you think I am?' look .

"I checked the hospital. ALL of them." She turns abruptly and stomps away, back down the hallway to the kitchen. I pick myself up from the bed, grab my jacket and head for the door. Seeing me open it, ready to leave the apartment, Jessie starts after me, "Duo where are..." Slam.

********

I walk. I walk for hours, my head swimming. Voices echoing in my head. //"...if you're frightened of dying..."// I'm not. Or am I? How could I be frightened of dying? I 'am' death. Shinigami, after all. Besides, Shinigami does not die. //"...only part that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life..."// Then am I in Hell? If I'm not in Hell, then where am I? //"...you're dead... don't you remember?..."// Bullshit. It's my mind playing evil, evil tricks on me. I need to find a better shrink, that's all. Or maybe I need medication... but I can't stay like this. I can't. I keep walking aimlessly, talking to myself, totally unaware of how long and how far I've gone until I notice that it's getting dark. I don't recognize my surroundings – only that I'm deep in the city somewhere. And I thought I knew every inch of this colony like the back of my hand.

I hail a cab and get in. "Where to?" the cabby asks.

"Home. Take me home." I tell him.

"You got it". He replies, and starts driving. I sit silently watching buildings go by as we leave the inner depths of the city and proceed to a cleaner, wealthier looking neighborhood. The cab stops and I hand him a bill, and tell him to keep the change. I get out, and the cab pulls away, leaving me at the curb in front of the ornate building. The sign outside reads "Maxwell Church". I walk to the double front doors of the building and enter, finding Father Maxwell just inside.

"Duo!" he exclaims happily. "Oh, it's been such a long time! How you've grown, boy!" He puts his arm around my shoulders and leads me inside the church. Suddenly I'm eight again, and fighting about having my hair cut. How Sister Helen wanted so much to make my hair neat and kept, like the other boys, and how she settled for the braid, and even thought it did look cute afterward. I walk past Father Maxwell and sit in the last pew in the row, just looking, looking all around me, at the beautiful building that now housed the Maxwell Church. My mind flips back to that horrible day when my world nearly came to an end, when I found the Church in ruins, and Sister Helen near death. A tear forms in the corner of my eye and escapes to run the length of my cheek. Sister Helen. Oh how I loved you. You were the only one who showed me what it was like to belong. You and Father Maxwell.

Something stirs at the front of the chapel, and a door opens, letting in a flood of beautiful sunlight. Then through the sunlight I see her... I stand from my seat and begin to walk down the aisle between the rows of pews...I call to her "Sister Helen! It's me... Duo!" She is shrouded in the light which flows around her like a waterfall. She's smiling. I break into a run now, wanting to reach her that much quicker. My heart is racing.

"Come Duo! We've missed you..." I reach out and take her outstretched hand, and we pass through the sun-drenched doorway together.



I can feel poking and prodding all over my body. In my haziness, I see faces, but I don't know of whom. They all have green masks covering themselves all except for their eyes. Blink. I can't keep my eyes open. Blink. There's someone speaking over me. I think I'm floating. Blink. Numbness. Cold. I feel the cold, hard table that I've been set on. Someone is cutting my sleeve off and a searing pain fills me, but I can't scream. I have no energy left to scream. I feel the stickiness of my own blood all over me, and it chills me more as it's drying. Blink. Faces. Blink. Sister Helen.

"Flatline!!" people rush around me, trying to resuscitate me, but after a few minutes they stop, knowing that I'm not going to respond to any electrical stimulation. Nurses and doctors begin to file away, concentrating on other matters now.

"What a shame... nice looking kid." I hear someone say. Then she walks away.

"He's the last of them... cover them all up." A doctor lifts his stethoscope from my still body. He turns write in a chart. Time of death, 2:46pm, October 5th, AC 195. Putting the chart down on my chest, he leaves. My vibrant blue-violet eyes turn to steel gray as my heart thumps its final beat. I see her, shrouded in yellow light. She's smiling. I run to her "Come Duo! We've missed you..." she says as I take her hand and she leads me through the door, into the sunshine. I turn back for an instant and see myself lying in the base hospital, and I'm smiling.

*******

"I got here as soon as I could" Dr. J was visibly out of breath as he hurried to his best ability through the halls of the base hospital. "Are the others here already?"

"You're the last one to arrive" Professor G answered. The two scientists passed silently through double doors and into the stark laboratory. They were met by three others, Dr S., Instructor H and Master O. "Gentlemen." Dr J greeted his fellow doctors. "I see we meet today under sad circumstances..." He turns from the others to view behind him five gurneys, each one with a covered body, each the resting place of a Gundam pilot. Shaking his head in disbelief, he replies "Lets begin then gentlemen."

******

"So you mean to tell me that the addition of the T-46 hormone booster caused a reaction with the effects of the Zero system after all... after all the testing we did... now this?. I just don't understand it." Professor G shook his head and poured himself another cup of coffee. They were all seated around a large table, discussing the autopsy results.

"We didn't anticipate the reaction..." Doctor S replied. "The preliminary tests all turned out fine. Do you have the actual report, Dr. J?"

"Yes, here." He shuffles some papers and begins reading from one. "Presence of the T-46 testosterone boosting hormone in the five adolescent males consequently reacted with adrenalines and natural hormones produced by the subject's own brains while under the stress of Zero system. While this has been found to be highly abnormal, it is thought for the purpose of this experiment that the duration of exposure to Zero system is partly to blame for the disastrous results. Consequently the use of T-46 testosterone supplementation, even in minute forms, can no longer be recommended in the hopes of attaining increased levels of 'primal aggression' in pilots who are to be exposed to the Zero system" Dr. J put the papers down on the table in front of him.

"They were all using the Zero system full time by the time the accident happened." Instructor H added.

"You've stopped all T-46 supplementation in the new pilots, then?" Master O asked.

"Yes". Dr J confirmed. "What 'exactly' happened out there? Does anybody know?"

Professor G shook his head sympathetically and replied "All we can tell is that during the attack, they went haywire. They destroyed the enemy troops...." he hesitated, fumbling with his coffee cup between his fingers, his eyes shifting to the floor "... and then they destroyed each other."

-finis.

(for those of you who don't know yet, the movie is 1990 – Jacob's Ladder – starring Tim Robbins. Rent it if you can – you'll FREAK!!).