Forever

PART ELEVEN:

Disclaimers:  Since this story is set about three hundred years after the Gundam characters existed, there isn't much here I don't own.  Except maybe any characters I use in flashbacks or the actual names of the characters, which pop up a few times.  Some OOC, but no yaoi.

Note: This chapter is a filler.  It's short and doesn't have a lot to do with the story; it's just providing some background on the characters and all.  I do recommend that you read it though, as it will also have some stuff about the disk Via found--and Deathscythe.  The chapter's going to change POV a few times, too, so be prepared.  This will probably be the only chapter that does that.  Every time there's three dashes (like this:---) on the page, the focus shifts elsewhere.  Sorry about that, but I made NK-sama and Blue Dragon write scenes and decided that this would be the easiest way to fit them in.  Which reminds me: thanks, guys!  I owe you one!

***********

Via couldn't sleep that night.  After replacing the panel and sneaking back to her room, she spent hours studying the disk and wondering what was on the thing--it wasn't as though she had a disk player or anything to show her the contents.  It was driving her crazy, especially since the only label on the disk displayed the word "BINGO!" in big, bold, and bright green letters.  She sighed, checking the clock on the wall.  It read six o'clock; the kitchen would be open by now, wouldn't it?  Her rumbling stomach decided that it didn't care if the place was open or not--it was going to get food and it was going to get it now.

Stupid stomach.  Why did it have to be so bossy, anyway?

Getting to her feet, Via stretched, yawning widely, and threw on some clothes--the same ones she had worn yesterday, when she'd been abducted.  She made a face; now she felt dirty.  It didn't take long for Via to find her shoes and, as soon as they were tied and she'd hidden the disk, she was out of the door.  She only passed a few people on her way to the kitchen and rubbed her eyes, pretending that she'd just woken up.  It didn't seem all that convincing, really, but no one stopped her and asked why she had circles under her eyes.  Via figured she could explain those away with the simple excuse that she'd had a hard time sleeping in a strange place.  Most people would believe that, unless they were smarter than she gave them credit for.

Someone touched her shoulder as she approached the kitchen door, making her whirl around to face the person.  It was Chance, wearing dark green pants and a black muscle shirt, and he looked puzzled.  "Via?  What are you doing up?"

She shrugged off his hand.  "Couldn't sleep."

He seemed to accept that as truth and took her by the elbow, steering her away from the kitchen.  "Shatajit won't be awake yet, which means that you won't be able to go to the mess hall to eat.  You'll have to do what the rest of us do in the morning--either wait until eleven o'clock for Shatajit to wake up or attempt to force the machines downstairs to serve something good.  That's usually best accomplished if you just ask for dry cereal and milk."

"You're talking like a textbook again."

Chance smiled at her.  "I guess it's hereditary.  My father used to read instruction manuals to me as bedtime stories.   I knew the manual for our toaster oven backwards and forwards before I learned to walk."

"Other kids get to hear Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Bears," Via said mockingly.  "Chance Grien listens to stories about the toaster oven's escapades."

"Close enough."

They exchanged smiles, walking down the hallway towards the stairs.

---

It was raining on colony L973--Via's home colony--and thunder crashed as Billy knocked on the front door of Siri's house.  The girl answered tentatively, cringing as she saw lightning flare in the distance.  She frowned at Billy and at the Labrador retriever he had on a leash.

"You're soaked!  And it's cold out here; you're going to get pneumonia and die," she said, opening the door and ushering him and the dog inside.  Billy shook off a lot of the rain, imitating his animal friend.  "Why is it raining, anyway?"

"You haven't heard?"  Billy frowned.  "There was a fire at the school. The colony officials decided it was pretty and fiddled with the weather control unit to put it out."

"So much rain for one little fire?"  Siri shook her head.  "So why the thunder and lightning?  I've been wondering about that all morning."

"To add to the creepy ambiance, I guess," Billy said with a shrug.  "But that's not why I came by.  Guess whose birthday it is today?"

Siri grinned.  "I know whose birthday it is.  Should we go by and wish Via a happy one?"

"If she's even there," Billy pointed out, grumbling.  "Where did she go yesterday?  That Asian guy came and got her out of class and we haven't seen her since!"

"My theory is she was kidnapped."

Billy laughed.  "Whatever.

---

Chance walked down the hallway with Via, eating the breakfast burrito he had managed to wrestle out of the machines and stealing looks at the brunette walking beside of him.  It was remarkable just how much she looked like Duo, though more feminine, without a doubt.  She looked good, even with her wrinkled clothes, dark-circled eyes, and her cheeks stuffed with dry cereal, which struck Chance as odd, but...  He shoved that thought out of his mind and concentrated on eating.  He shouldn't be thinking about Via like that, should he?  The organization was really only using her as a pawn, after all, but it wasn't like there was anything wrong with thinking as he was...  After all, there weren't many teenagers on the ship who Chance could relate to and Via was just different enough to make things interesting.

"So what's the plan for today?" Via asked once she'd swallowed half a box of cereal.

Chance shrugged.  "Oh, I thought we could go prance through the wildflowers and sing to the animals until we were ruthlessly attacked by beings shaped like vegetables."

Via shot him a weird look.  "Say that again?"

"Just teasing.  We'll probably try to avoid Khans and Natasha for awhile longer and maybe fiddle with the Deathscythe.  Or maybe I'll finally get the chance to let you do some real piloting--that would be fun.  What do you think?"

She smiled.  "Sounds like a plan."

Mikhail, a distant relation to the Maganacs, stopped Chance as the two of them passed by.  "Subduar, Khans and Natasha want you right away."  The man hesitated.  "They don't look very pleased."

Chance sighed, partially to himself.  "Fine.  Where are they?"

"The solar.  The ask that you go alone, sir."

Sir.  Now there was a title he didn't hear very often.  "All right, I'll be right there.  Mik, will you do me a favor and take Via somewhere to wait for me?  The lounge room or something?"

"All right."

"Hey, why am I the one getting passed along like an old mare?" Via asked.  She sounded either hurt or pissed.  Chance wasn't exactly sure which one it was.

"Sorry, Via, but I've got stuff to take care of.  I'll get back to you, okay?"

She wasn't happy with his answer, the look on her face made that obvious enough, but it would have to do.  She and Mikhail walked away, in the general direction of the lounge, and Chance meandered off to the solar to get scolded by Khans and Natasha.

It was not turning out to be a good day.

---

Via wasn't sure quite where she was.  It might have been the lounge Chance had mentioned, it may have been a sort of study, it may even have been a library, for all she knew.  There were one or two people around, keeping away from her for the most part.  Via wasn't sure if they were doing this because she was a new face around the ship or if they just didn't like people, but she wasn't entirely certain she wanted to know.

There wasn't much to do here, wherever she was.  There was a bookshelf against one wall, but she'd already examined the titles and hadn't found anything very interesting.  There was also a sort of visual entertainment, with discs from the modern day and age and things to play them on.  She'd already seen all the movies there and the disc player on the shelf was a new one, too new to play the disc she'd found the night before.  So, with a lack of anything better to do, Via had finally just collapsed in a chair and was staring out a window.

She sighed as she looked out into the dark depths of space.  So many little sparkling stars were scattered over the black sky, lighting it up for moments at a time.  The vast void made her feel very small and insignificant…  If she'd been anyone else, it would have frightened her, but she was a Maxwell and Maxwell's don't scare easily.

Maxwell's did often get lonely, though.

She rested her cheek in her cupped hand and began to wonder what her friends back home were doing and if they missed her at all...

---

Knock knock.

The front door of Via's house was yanked open and a gruff man peered outside, glaring at Billy and Siri with a mean look.  "Yeah?  What the hell do you two want?"

Siri coughed.  "Is…  Is Via home, sir?" she asked meekly.

"No," the man growled, "she ain't home.  And ain't likely to come back, neither, if I get my way.  If you see her, make sure she knows that she ain't welcome here!"  The door slammed shut loudly, punctuating the man's harsh words.

There was a long silence.

"This isn't like Via," Billy said finally.

"I know," Siri admitted.  "She would have called us by now, if she could have.  Do you think something's happened to her?"

"I don't know," Billy said with a shrug.  "But she can't miss much more school or she'll fail," he said, trying to lighten up the situation.  It didn't work.

"I hope she's all right," Siri said with a worried expression.

"Hey, I bet she's doing great.  Via can take care of herself, after all.  She's made sure that we knew it, too, plenty of times.  I just feel bad that we didn't get the chance to wish her a happy birthday."  Billy smiled, trying to ease Siri's worry--and his own.  "Come on," he said finally.  "Let's go."  With those words, the two of them walked away from Via's house, pulling Billy's dog along, and began the trek down the long driveway.

---

Via snapped to attention as she felt someone shake her arm gently.  "Via?  You awake?"

She rubbed her eyes and looked over at Chance, who was standing to one side of the chair she was in.  She smiled.  "Sorry.  I guess I dozed off."

"No problem."  He gave her one of those heart-melting smiles that she'd first befriended him for.  "That meeting with Khans and Natasha took a lot longer than I thought it would--it's a little after noon now.  Sorry about that."

"No problem," she replied, echoing his words.  She stood up and stretched her arms over her head.  "I needed the rest, so it was good for me.  I got to think a few things over."

He looked intrigued, one eyebrow raised in interest.  "Things like what?"

"Just things," she replied vaguely, cheeks flushed a little.  What was she supposed to tell him?  That she'd almost figured out a way to fix Deathscythe?  That she was worried about how things back home were going?  That she was almost positive that she knew what Khans and Natasha had wanted to speak with him about?  That she was quickly falling in love with him?  She could easily see how a conversation going along those lines would not work in her favor.  Especially since it would help Natasha and Khans' plan to have him woo her into helping their organization out--that would only make Chance's job easier.

She was going to have to make sure that she didn't fall for him.  She would have to consider him to be her enemy, no matter what.

Chance shrugged.  "All right then.  Shatajit probably has the kitchens working at full speed now, if you want to eat some real food.  You interested?"

"You said the magic words," Via said, brightening.  "Of course I'm interested!"

Shatajit waved at them as they came in, but he was busy arguing with a brunette woman Via sort of recognized from the hangar technician crew.  She sat at one of the long tables in the dining hall, pretending to be involved with inspecting the tabletop.  Via, however, was really spending the time stealing looks at Chance, who had ventured up to join the long line of people waiting to be served something to eat.  She caught his eye as he glanced back at her and smiled.  He had beautiful eyes, depthless and immense, and they were captivating.  Via, however, wouldn't have admitted that under torture.  Besides, nothing could compare to his smile.  How could it?  It was hard to compare a candle's flame to a hearth fire, when one came right down to it.  If the circumstances had been any different, or if Chance was anybody else other than who he was, Via might have asked him to accompany her to the movies or dinner sometime, but...  Well, she had a hard enough time staying neutral around him as it was, so it was probably best not to complicate things too much.

Who was she kidding?  Things were already complicated enough as it was anyway...

It took awhile, but Chance joined her at the table with a plate loaded with food in each hand.  Setting one in front of her, he handed her a packet of silverware, which she accepted gratefully, and the two of them started to eat.  About halfway through the meal, Chance pushed his plate aside and cleared his throat.

"Khans said that it might be a good idea for you to fiddle with Deathscythe again.  He wants you to lead a team of technicians to fix it up--for some reason, he thinks you know exactly what's wrong with it."

"Maybe I do--how would you know?"

He shrugged, not meeting her eyes.  "I guess I wouldn't."

For some reason, she felt guilty for being so short with him, so she smiled.  "If it's any consolation, I have no idea what's wrong with the thing.  And why does he want me to lead a team, anyway?  I like working with machines and stuff, sure, but I've never tried tinkering with a mobile suit before."

Chance shrugged.  "I have no idea.  Maybe he has other things in mind.  If I didn't know any better, I'd say that he was trying to offer you a place to fit in here, but I do know better so I won't say it.  Khans doesn't think like that."

"Oh."  Via finished off her plate and gestured at his half-eaten portion.  "You going to eat the rest of that?"

"Go ahead."  He pushed it towards her.  "You'll probably be in the cockpit for most of the time--by yourself for a lot of it."

"Where will you be?"

"I've got to get some things done.  I'll hang around for about ten minutes, but then I've got to go.  I'll meet up with you later on, I promise."

"All right," she said hesitantly.  Since they were leaving her alone with the Gundam, it was fairly certain that they trusted her enough not to do something stupid, right?  "How many other people are going to be hanging around?  I don't want to make a fool of myself in front of too many people, after all."  That wasn't quite true.  She just didn't want anyone to be around if she managed to get the Gundam to work--she wasn't quite ready for other people to see that.

"Not too many," he promised.  "Maybe one or two technicians will be hanging out in the satellite room, but that's almost entirely out of Deathscythe's visible range."

"All right."  Having emptied Chance's plate, she placed it on top of her own and grinned.  "In that case, let's get started, okay?"

--to be continued--