A Xenogears Fanfiction.
Bart does a little growing up, the Gears are sentient, lots of Elemental action, and the answer to the age old question of how the heck they made it out of Merkava without Gears. (I surely can't jump that high!)
Warnings: AU, may become shounen ai soon
Kahran Ramsus sighed deeply, and leaned back against Vendetta's foot. He was cold, wet, and miserable, on more than just the physical level. Fei Fong Wong, that ponytailed idiot, had beaten him again. And Hyuga, his own friend, had helped him do it. It was humiliating. And degrading. Miang had betrayed him, Krelian had never stopped betraying him, and now he was stuck on his own in a very big, cold world.
Well, he thought, looking up at Vendetta's silent mass shielding him from the rain. Perhaps not totally alone.
Vendetta was the single best thing that had ever happened to him. His perfect synch ratio with the Anima Relic Zebulun meant that the machine obeyed him perfectly. Better still, Vendetta was a very good conversationalist. Kahr was pretty sure that was because he was an Omni-Gear, but, however it had come about, the machine was damn smart and had an actual sense of humor. Even Wyvern had been unable to truly find humor in his accidental puns, but Vendetta was always full of laughter, a comforting voice in his ears no one but he could hear.
Kahr was learning to forgive Krelian. Vendetta had been a gift from the scientist, had been designed and partially built by him and his personal team. Maybe, his 'Father' had not been that bad, after all.
Kahr shivered and almost wished he were back at the snowfield hideout, where Aerial City Shevat had fallen. At least, there had been heat inside, and shelter from wind and precipitation. Of course, there he'd also been on the receiving end of a few too many venomous looks for his comfort, and, as much as he appreciated their concern, Dominia and the girls had been smothering him. He almost hadn't been able to hear Vendetta's voice over the noise of so many people.
Now, he leaned back against the hard metal of Vendetta's armor, warmed by his body heat, and smiled up at the machine. Vendetta couldn't smile, but a vague happy feeling spread through the constant murmur of its systems.
Suddenly, Kahr felt a strange feeling inside him, but also all around. He rose warily to his feet, eyes searching for the cause of the disturbance. A strange blue and violet glow in the clearing sky drew his eye. It looked like an explosion, but he'd never seen such a colorful one. It was almost like a blooming flower of incandescent energy, and Kahr stood enthralled by it, until its image seemed burned into his retinas.
Then he felt a horrible weakness overtake him from within. It was akin to when he ran out of EP, only worse. His head pounded, his stomach was queasy, and all his limbs felt suddenly painfully weak.
And worst of all, he could no longer hear Vendetta.
"Vendetta?" he called up at the silent hulk. There was no response. "Vendetta?!" he tried again, more insistently. The Gear shuddered slightly, and Kahr could hear, suddenly, the warning messages as Vendetta's systems started crashing. It was, in effect, a desperate plea for help.
Trying to maintain his cool, despite the terror that threatened to overwhelm him, Kahr listened to the messages, trying to determine the cause of the problem. He was shocked at the apparent answer. "Out of fuel?! Even the backup cells are out? How is that possible? You just got refueled, and the backups are brand new!" He started a walk around, checking for any fuel leaks, but his legs went out from under him, abruptly landing him on his back..
Arms shaking, Kahr pushed himself into a sitting position. Puzzled and, by now, terrified by the inexplicable events, he looked up at the flickering lights of Vendetta's eyes. He was sure his sudden weakness and Vendetta's malfunction were related, somehow, but how, he couldn't say.
"What's happening…?" he asked, forlornly into the silent dawn.
PRIVATESigurd's blue eye followed the excited guard that burst into the room where Queen Zephyr, Hyuga, Jesse, and Bart-tachi were having a conference on the loss of power all over the world after Zohar and Deus were destroyed. That loss was causing serious problems everywhere. It was a miracle the Gears had had enough energy to make it out of Merkava to Yggdrasil afterward. And whomever the long-dead engineer was who had built the system in the sandcruiser that allowed it to run without relying on Zohar, even if only marginally, was a Saint.
That was most of the point for his and Bart's presence; trying to come up with ways to incorporate similar technology into Gears and other large machines. Rebuilding almost the whole world when most of the labor force was dead, ill (read: mutated), or missing (read: Seraph-ized) with no machinery to help was just not feasible.
Sigurd was more than mildly irritated at this newest interruption. There had been far too many of them already, today, and the ex-Element of fire was starting to feel his formidable temper slipping its bonds. He felt the ripple of irrational rage bubble up within him, but pushed it back. Again. As usual. He couldn't afford even to be himself, even for a moment, these days. Too many people now looked to him for support and guidance, to be their voice of reason, including Bart.
Especially Bart. If Sigurd allowed himself to rage when he was angry, to act with the same juvenile recklessness that had characterized him until he left Solaris, Bart would surely feel vindicated in all of his tantrums and rash deeds. As frustrating as restraining himself was, Sigurd truly doubted his ability to deal with a Bart who was even more violent, messy, reckless, and insufferable than he already was.
One Sigurd in the world was more than enough.
Sigurd pushed off the wall he had been leaning against, not realizing he had adopted his old 'I'm the fire Element and I don't give jack' posture as he leaned. Of course, Jesse and Hyuga had noticed and were sharing a long look, just waiting for the impending explosion. They had seen Sigurd reverting back into Element mode, and had recognized the body language that said Siggy was not a Happy Boy.
To their surprise, and Sigurd's credit, the tall, silver-haired man only planted himself in the frantic guard's path, effectively halting him. The guard looked up at him, eyes wide, as if the possibility that he might be impeded had never occurred to him.
"Well, mister," Sigurd began calmly. Hyuga actually saw Bart shrink down in his chair, recognizing his half-brother's tone as the one reserved for when he was seriously considering inflicting bodily harm upon the source of his ire. Hyuga was glad he wasn't the only one who cringed when the amber-skinned man got upset. Oblivious to the reactions around the room, Sigurd pinned the guard with a steady blue gaze. "I'm sure you have good cause to burst in on an important conference. Now, let's hear it." Sigurd's arms crossed in front of his chest. He looked even more imposing, but the gesture meant he was holding himself back, that he was still in control of his temper.
"S-sir, there's a Gear showing up on our scanners," the (wisely) terrified guard stammered. Sigurd, however, was not impressed.
"And? I know there must be something remarkable about this Gear…"
"Yessir. It's moving, sir. This way, sir."
The whole room rose, shock on their faces. Sigurd mentally sighed. /I guess it's a good thing I didn't kill him. Spoil my fun. *sigh*/
The control room for the ruined Shevat's sensor systems was fortunately very spacious, otherwise, most of the meeting group would never have been able to pack themselves into it. As it was, they were packed, everyone trying to see the radar screen, then, once the contact was in visual range, they all tried to get a good view of the view screen.
Fei was the first one to choke out a reaction. "Oh, my God! That's Vendetta!"
Indeed, it was. The Omni-Gear was flying very low, and painfully slow, by Gear standards. Even as they watched, they saw the thing 'land'; really nothing more than a crash softened by a snowdrift. The Gear rose from the scattered pile of white stuff clumsily, and began walking toward the hideout.
Seraphita giggled in delight. "Commander Ramsus is coming back, yay! And his Gear still works! He's the best!"
Citan shook his head, dampening the spirits of the excited female Elements. "No, look. Venetta would appear to be having serious problems. Its reserve power must be running out."
Just then, a crackling transmission came across the radio. It was static ridden, but the voice was definitely Ramsus'. "-zzt- Shevat. Vendetta req-chzz- permission –pop- land."
Zephyr turned toward the man at the radio. "Let him in. Get someone out there to open the hangar doors."
The man turned to the task assigned him, while everyone else filed out, headed towards the Gear Hangar. The foremost questions on their minds: How is Vendetta moving? and Why Vendetta and not, say, Xenogears?
The conference group entered the Gear dock, looking for the new arrival. The pile of slush and melted snow made Vendetta easy to find. Ramsus yelling and threatening the Gear technicians with dismemberment if they touched his Gear probably didn't hurt, either. Fei walked up to the obviously distressed Solarian, a stupid move for anyone, never mind for the one person in the world he actually hated more than Krelian.
"Hey, Ramsus. What're you so upset about?"
The pale man whirled on Fei, his sword scraping out of its sheath. He grabbed Fei by the collar, lifted him off the floor, then pinned the other against the nearest wall. His sword hovered dangerously close to Fei's throat, and his voice was a murderous growl.
"Upset? Upset??? I'll give you 'upset', you little bastard! What the hell did you do to Vendetta? Speak, you asshole, before I cut out your tongue so you never speak again!"
Sigurd's temper, still on slow simmer, jumped straight to boil. He'd just had enough of everything today, and now it was time to flatten something. Preferably, the current object of his ire: Kahran Ramsus. Sigurd reached out one-handed and plucked Fei from Kahr's grasp, ignoring Fei's squeak of protest as his shirt tore and Kahr's sword nicked his throat. He dropped the martial artist without any care for how he landed, and stepped into Kahr's furious face. A vicious backhanded slap actually picked Kahr clear off the deck and tossed him into the metal foot of his Gear. He felt Vendetta's energy rise, and mentally told it to back off as he stepped over to the crumpled form of his friend.
Anger bleeding out of him, Sigurd crouched beside Kahr. The other's pale eyes swung up to his face, welling with tears, and a hand pressed to his already discoloring cheek. The hurt in those eyes was physical, yes, but more emotional than anything else. It was betrayal, and that was an emotion he'd hoped to never see in Kahr's eyes again, after having first seen it while leaving Solaris. While leaving Kahr.
Sigurd pulled the other man from his untidy pile, and pulled his resisting (out of fear, Sigurd was ashamed to realize) friend into his lap. With a sigh, he buried his face in the ivory hair so handily nearby, and murmured a soft apology. The tension ran out of Kahr as if it had never been, and he pressed himself gratefully against Sigurd, soaking up his body heat. He was shivery and wet, and he was getting Sigurd wet, too, but both were enjoying a moment of peace the likes of which they'd not had for years.
/This,/ Sigurd thought. /This is why we were always best friends. Not circumstance, not the need for somebody to be there, not any 'element compatibility boost' crap. Just this rightness, this trust, no matter what happens. Just this./
After a few moments more (through which Fei-tachi gaped stupidly at them, but didn't dare say anything), Sigurd reluctantly pulled back far enough to see his best friend's face. He smiled slightly, and was given a tremulous smile in return. He searched Kahr's face for any uneasiness, then jumped on in. "How about telling us what had you in such a rage? I know you hate Fei," Sigurd was moderately alarmed to see Kahr bare his teeth at the mention of his arch nemesis, but he plowed on anyway. "But you were warning off all the techs, too. What's up?"
Kahr opened his mouth, then shut it with a snap, and glared suspiciously at Fei-tachi. He shook his head. "Not in front of them. You're going to have a hard time believing it, never mind them." He glanced at Dominia-tachi as well. "Not them either."
Dominia opened her mouth to protest, but Sigurd replied too quickly. "Whatever you want, Kahr." Then he looked down at his damp clothing, and grimaced, something his understated (but present) vanity usually didn't allow. "First, though, how about we both find some dry clothes? I'm sure you've got a lot to say, and I, for one, don't want to catch pneumonia while we talk."
Kahr ducked his head, muttered a nearly inaudible apology, and blushed like a schoolgirl (a phenomenon which had earned him plenty of gentle teasing from his friends at Jugend), before nodding his assent. Sigurd grinned at the blush and helped the other to his feet.
"Well, then, let's go!" he said with uncharacteristic (in recent years, anyway) cheer. He then swept away with Kahr, not saying word one to anyone in the room as he did it.
Bart stood at the door to Sigurd's room. It was closed, but that only provided him cover from the sight of the people inside. Of course, since Sigurd was an empath, it took a little more than a door in the way to go unnoticed. Bart had long ago perfected the art of 'hiding' himself from the senses of the older man, at least when he wasn't actively 'looking' for him. As long as Sigurd didn't suspect anything, Bart was fine; the instant he did, however, the game was up.
Which was why Bart was also standing perfectly still, and breathing as quietly as he could.
Sigurd and Kahr had come into this very room several hours ago to talk about what had pissed the Solarian off so badly. Kahr had left much later, but then Doc Uzuki had gone in. Bart had decided to eavesdrop. It wasn't a hard decision for him, even knowing Sigurd and Old Maison would have been sorely disappointed in him. Now he listened intently to the conversation between his (half-) brother and the Doctor. He was coming into it in the middle, but he figured he could figure out most of it, anyway.
"—don't get it, Hyuga!" Sigurd was closer to raising his voice than Bart had heard him in years. It hurt a little that Sig would relax enough to show his feelings in front of Citan, but never showed him jack squat.
Citan's voice was level and as calm as usual. "I might understand a little better if you slowed down and explained it to me."
A silence followed in which Bart could envision Sigurd taking a deep, steadying breath. "Sorry. I know you've noticed how out of it Emeralda is, and you saw how easy it was for me to take Kahr down. I've always been able to tie him in knots without breaking a sweat, but that was just ridiculous; if he hadn't been so startled, Fei could have taken him. Easy." There was a silence. "It's not so much who's stronger, though Fei does have an advantage there. The point is, it would usually have taken Fei a while to take Kahr out, so the fact that he could have beaten Kahr so easily is an indicator of his current weakness. So what do Kahr and Emeralda have in common?"
Bart heard the soft tap tap tap of Citan's foot as he adopted his thinking position. "They were both experiments of Krelian's?"
Sigurd snorted. "Hell, I was that. No, something the two of them and Krelian had in common, that I don't have."
"Nanomachines!" Citan's voice had the tone of one who knew for sure he was right. There was no verbal reply, but the way Citan continued proved what Sigurd had caused him to understand. "Krelian studied and used nanotech, Emeralda is an ancient nanomachine colony, and Kahr is a more recent one." A short pause. "But why would that link their current states of weakness and tiredness? Is this something that attacks nanomachines?"
"No. Nanomachines are still machines, aren't they?" Another short pause. "Didn't all machines on the planet run off the same energy source?"
"Oh, no…" Citan's voice was low, and he sounded almost sick. "But living things can't go without energy, and Emeralda and Kahr do live, if not in the usual sense. That being so…"
"They're dying," Sigurd said flatly.
Behind the door, Bart almost choked, only remembering at the last minute that he had to stay quiet. /Dying?/ he wondered. /That can't be right! Emeralda is hundreds, thousands of years old! She can't die now! Fei and Elly'd be crushed! And Ramsus…he's just too much of a stubborn prick to die!/
Citan spoke after a long silence. "He told you this?"
"Not in so many words. I don't think he's realized it yet, but he said he got really weak after he saw an explosion in the sky. According to you and Bart, after you killed Deus, all your Gears, except Xenogears, shut down. But then, the core of Deus began reacting again, and Elly took it away from the planet. Fei went after her. A few minutes later, as the reaction continued to build, your Gears came back up on emergency power and you got out of Merkava and back to Yggdrasil. Then the power cut out again when Deus exploded in the sky."
There was the sound of Citan's tapping again, and the near-silence of Sigurd's pacing steps. Sigurd very rarely paced, and only when he was extremely agitated. "Now, because the Zohar Modifier had to produce and distribute energy to the whole planet, a temporary loss of power like the one caused when you killed the Deus system here on the planet probably wouldn't be recognized by anything further away from the source than you were. Even on Yggdrasil, the power only flickered momentarily.
"Think of it like this: You've got a sieve full of water, connected to a pump that keeps the sieve full. If the pump stops, water still gets distributed through the sieve, but the backup, the water still in the sieve, is quickly depleted. Cut the pump permanently and the backed up water eventually, usually very rapidly, runs out. It just happens sooner with the lower reserve level. If you are standing right next to the pump, you realize quickly that it has stopped pumping, but if you're on the other side of the sieve, you don't notice until the stored water runs out. Of course, this is energy, not water, so it moves at a much higher velocity, and it's being filtered and distributed though something much different than a sieve, but the principle is still the same, and it explains why Kahr felt no change in power when Zohar went down the first time."
Bart heard Citan chuckle with weak humor. "Good analogy, Sigurd. I myself could not have found one better. I guess explaining things to the young one has taught you a bit about finding examples."
Bart passionately hated being referred to as 'the young one', and he only tolerated 'Young Master' because it was so much better than 'Your Highness'. Still, Bart felt the urge to march in there and beat the daylights out of the doc, despite the fact that Sigurd would hurt him for about a thousand different reasons. To his astonishment, however, he heard Sigurd whirl on Citan, and his voice was a dangerous growl. "I hope you're not insulting Bart's intelligence, Hyuga. He may not be a genius, but he's plenty smart enough, and he has a good heart."
Bart didn't blame Citan for the nervous flutter of his voice when he spoke. "N-no, I didn't mean that. Of course not! He just sometimes needs things put in different terms."
Hearing that hurt more than the whole 'finding examples' bit had, and Bart swallowed bitter tears. He knew that everyone thought of him as a slightly brain-dead meat-head who went around shooting stuff up at every opportunity, who also happened to be the heir to one of the largest and most influential countries on the surface of the world. He knew that, but he also knew that no one would say anything too scathing about it to his face. He'd just discovered the downside to eavesdropping: when people didn't know you were there, they said things you might not want to hear.
Anger followed the hurt. How was he supposed to help it if he enjoyed explosions and pyrotechnic displays? How could he help it that his schoolwork put him to sleep because the textbooks were so bone dry, and he needed someone, anyone, to explain things to him in some way that would allow him to stay awake long enough to absorb them? And where the hell did a Goddamned genius like Citan, who knew he was smarter than the average person, get off looking down his nose at Bart for being a typical teenager in an atypical role?
So incensed and miserable was he, that he missed anything Sigurd came back with. He was lost in his own mind for several moments, then yanked himself back as a topic change filtered into his mind.
"—not about dying, then what was Kahr so upset about?" Citan asked.
"Vendetta," Sigurd replied simply. "Apparently, he can hear the Gear, through his nanos, I think. Anyway, since he's had no real human friends in years, he's turned to Gears for companionship. According to him, Vendetta is an excellent conversationalist, and quite the comedian."
Citan could be heard thinking again. "So he's worried about his friend dying? But Vendetta is a Gear; even when it runs out of power, as long as there's no damage to the memory systems, we can bring it back whenever we find the power with which to do so. Vendetta is in no danger."
"I don't think Kahr's worried about Vendetta dying. More like, he's afraid of Vendetta leaving him, or that he won't be there for Vendetta when it 'wakes up' again."
"Kahr doesn't know he's dying, so how can that be a problem?"
"Kahr isn't a nanomachine colony in the same way Emeralda is. She could dissipate into a nano reactor and be fine for centuries more, even without power. Kahr can't dissipate. He's more like a cyborg than a fully mechanized organism. He's like a human being built by nanos, but the nanos' function doesn't stop at building him. They are his immune system, they regulate his bodily functions, cellular decay, make up most of his nervous system, and various other things. However, they are as dependent upon his biological parts as those living parts are dependent on them. When one dies, the other will die, too. Possibly with a long time between each system's shutdown, but it will happen. Kahr's worried that we won't find a power source within the span of his biological components' lifetime, and that he will die, and Vendetta will 'wake up' one day, surrounded by strangers, without even him to depend on."
"He's afraid of abandonment. Or of abandoning another." Citan sounded like one who had just had a revelation. Bart felt a malicious, purely childish sense of satisfaction at that. Even he knew that that would be Ramsus's major punch button.
Sigurd, however, pointed out exactly what Bart wanted to, if in a most decidedly gentler manner than he would have. "Well, look at his life, Hyu! He was made to fill a very specific role in life, and when the one born to do the same thing showed up, he was booted out, and told he was worthless. He had to claw his way out of the lower levels of Solaris without help, or friends, or patronage. When he started to make a name for himself, people turned to him as a leader, but he knew that the instant he screwed up, they'd drop him like a road-killed skunk. The four of us became friends, then Jesse up and leaves out of the blue. Then I…" Sigurd trailed off, guilt hovering in his silence before he spoke up again.
"The point is, Hyu, that he never wants to be abandoned or betrayed again, and that he knows how much it hurts to be abandoned and betrayed. Kahr is a good and decent person on a fundamental level; he would never inflict that agony on another knowingly."
There was another of those long silences. Just when Bart was about to creep away, certain they had finished saying whatever needed saying, Citan spoke up again. "You really are different from the old days. I barely even know you anymore, Sigurd. I kind of like the current you, but…Where did the old Sigurd go? The one who was every bit as hotheaded, trigger-happy, and overly energetic as Bart is now? The one who either ate or flirted with anything not moving fast enough, who ditched classes but still graduated second after me and tied with Kahr? Where did he go, Sigurd? I liked him, too."
Sigurd sighed, a surprisingly resigned, tired sound. "Nothing happened to him, Hyu. He's still in there, somewhere. But he's recognized that other people need him, and not to give them advice on pickup lines."
"Bart. Mostly. But everyone else, too. You saw the amount of help and explanation Fei and Elly and everybody needed. They needed someone to depend on, someone other than you, so I was it. And as for Bart…I swore to the King I would protect his family, and you know I take oaths very seriously. He needed protection, so I provided it. When he grew out of that total helplessness, he needed a mentor, so I provided that, too. He needed revenge, so I planned it for him, taught him, protected and cared for him. And somewhere along the way, I forgot what it was like to not be needed every moment of every day. I got used to it, though, and don't really mind anymore. Hell," his tone grew wry. "Now I'd probably be hurt if I wasn't needed by someone. I wish it wasn't such a full-time job with Bart, but what can I do? He'll either one day not need me, or he always will. I'm not sure which idea scares me more. Though, I'll be proud of him, when he does move on."
"'When'?" Citan asked. "Don't you mean 'if'? He's nineteen, Sigurd. If he's not already at least a little independent by now, I doubt very much he'll ever be."
There was a heavy sigh. "You may be right. But I know he could do it! He already is so good at managing Aveh, you'd think he'd been doing this forever. He hasn't, and that just makes it all the more impressive. If he'd just apply that to other things; his studies, relations outside of Aveh, and –God! I know he doesn't want to marry Margurite, but if he'd just be a little gentler toward the Nisan Sisters when they bring it up…Especially poor Sister Agnes. He should be allowed to marry whomever he wants to, but he doesn't have to hurt people on the way!"
Bart, by now, had finally decided he'd had enough. Knowing he was hurting Sigurd, of all people, with his (admitted) irresponsibility hurt him. He wanted to make his brother proud of him, wanted to give him back his freedom to be as he wanted to be. Hearing Sigurd's voice say that it was all right if he never 'grew up', that he would always be there for him, filled Bart with a horrible guilt. Even the barest thought that Sigurd might think him unable to succeed was terrible.
Bart crept silently away, retiring to his room without a word to anyone.
And his mind was busy.
Well, minna, that's Part One of Zebulun! Now, I know I've not posted a Xenogears fic before, but I think the game deserved vastly more attention and a greater following than it ever got. Therefore, in the interest of expanding the section on FF.Net, I decided to submit my little piece of mediocrity. Not to mention, I'm a die hard Sigurd fan. *grin* I HAD to write something for him. If I get reviews, I'll write faster. I'll probably write more anyway, though, so you guys are stuck with me! Mwahahahaha!
Special thanks goes out to Starvoicereason for Beta-ing this for me. (I love you!) Also, you happy people who run Guardian Angels…Thank you so much for all the stuff you have on your site. I really appreciate it, since my copy of the Perfect Works never came…*sniffle* Damn straight they gave me my money back! Grrr!