On the Wings of the Night
Part Four: I'm Not Alone?

In the darkest depths of the waters, Shinigami moved with ease, guided by his sensors as they took him closer to the area of most activity. The Suits appeared to be moving still, as if they had not quite found what they were looking for yet. Which was perfectly fine by him. He would rather be the first to stumble upon it. Otherwise, he would have to wrestle it away from them. Not that the prospect did not have its merits. Raising hell was infinitely more satisfying than sneaking around. In this case, however, it was better to exercise a bit more finesse.

The water parted around him, flowing past the Gundam in steady streams. Maneuvering here was not overly difficult, but the resistance required that his reaction time be nothing short of perfect. Visions of the cockpit flooding with a perpetual torrent were not welcome ones. Given a choice of the way to die, he would gladly pick death by fire than drowning. Or maybe not. Neither was a particularly pleasant way to go. Duo was not certain he liked the idea of having his skin burned excruciatingly, slowly away any more than he liked the idea of his lungs filling with water until it was all he breathed, and not being a fish, promptly smothered.

Grimacing, he berated himself for being so overly morbid and letting his overactive imagination get the better of him. There was one problem to being so creative. He always came up with the most interesting ways to go. Granted a lot of them were implausible, but they certainly made for an entertaining way to pass the time. Provided that he was not in the thick of battle. Duo rarely thought of death when he fought. It was there yes, pressing at the back of his mind, but his concentration was always on cutting down the enemy. Maybe that was a mistake on his part, but he was still alive and kicking.

Sometimes he wondered why. How was it that he could be surrounded by so much death, yet remain untouched? It followed him wherever he went, like a dark shadow. It was the reaper with his scythe, waiting to take souls with him to the other side. Maybe that was it. Your soul was something you felt, was it not? Duo was certain his soul had fled long ago, taken by the cold hands of Death. What would the reaper want with him when he carried no prize within? Yes, he was still alive, and yes, he lived as close to the edge as he could go without falling over, but there were moments when he felt so barren that he was certain that had anyone opened up, they would find nothing inside but emptiness.

"That's because you didn't pay attention in battle and got your insides scrambled," he muttered to himself in an attempt to lessen the severity of his thoughts.

The image it produced brought about laughter despite the fact that it was just as morbid as his thoughts of death. Without that connection to melancholy, Duo could not hold on to solemnity. It was difficult to be pensive when you were giving in to mirth. Duo laughed a lot and smiled a lot because of that. It kept depression at bay and helped him to cope. Not only that, but it was also a way to essentially tell life to go screw itself. It could throw whatever it wanted his way, but he had every intention of laughing in its face.

It was always a balance.

Duo struggled hard to keep himself from falling too fast in either direction. Sometimes it became too much effort. As it was in those moments when he was weary in a way that left him feeling fatigued clear down into his bones and found it much more difficult to fend off unwanted thoughts. Fortunately, those moments were few. It took a lot to sap all of his energy. He possessed an abundance that often bordered on ridiculous. It was hard to imagine that such a slight figure could carry around so much inside. But appearances were often deceiving and Duo was certainly no exception.

A bright flash on the screen jerked him back to the present moment, and he watched as the dots nearly converged on one another. He was right behind them now. A surprise attack would easily wipe them out and then he could continue the search that they had so graciously started. Though he was beginning to wonder if he would have any more luck than they did. Scanning the area had brought him nothing other than the presence of the other Suits. Whatever it was, it was well hidden then. Or maybe they were looking in the wrong place. Either way, it was time to make his presence known.

In one fluid motion, Deathscythe pulled the thermal scythe from his back, metal fingers curving securely over the handle. Expression determined, Duo worked the controls, a participant, a part, never an observer. Together, he and the Gundam cut through the water, the scythe gleaming a warning that was far too late. The blade halved the first Suit, creating an explosion that lit up the darkness and briefly outlined the predator. That small glimpse cultivated fear, left the soldiers scrambling to regroup and fight an enemy they could barely see. And Duo would have been lying had he not said some small part of him enjoyed watching them scurrying about like trapped rats.

Weapon and machine worked in perfect harmony as they shifted just out of the reach of the next underwater Suit. Drawing back with perfect ease and speed, the Gundam tore through another bewildered soldier. The flash created by this one's demise proved to be no more threat to him than the last one, and he moved around it, positioning himself in the middle of the remaining enemies. There were few, as was to be expected. After all, they were only looking for the prize their superior sought, and had not expected an attack by a near invisible foe.

"It's a pity you're on the wrong side," Duo grunted, pulling back, to the side, and then shoving forward, muscles straining as Deathscythe absorbed a minor blow and returned a tit for a tat in a much more lethal way.

"Because then," he continued, gritting his teeth as the scythe again shredded an adversary, tearing the machine into two separate pieces that drifted away from each other in an oddly slow fashion before imploding, "I wouldn't have to kill you."

Wrenching backward, he hauled himself out of the way of a hastily launched missile. As he spun the scythe around in retaliation, it occurred to him that while he fought, he considered himself and the Gundam as one single unit. There was no separation between flesh and metal. Deathscythe was an extension of his mind as much as it was his muscle, and together they worked as one consciousness. It was almost as if by sitting himself in this cockpit, Duo had plugged himself into the Gundam. That complete trust and absolute connection was so rare for him anymore, that the realization jarred him.

Yet, this kind of dependence was the safest kind. Whether or not Deathscythe survived was in large part due to his skill as a pilot. In reality then, it was himself that he relied on.

Sensors warned him of the approach from behind. Duo threw the butt end of the scythe back in response, smashing it into the body of the Suit and rendering it useless. Momentum jostling him so that his braid snapped around his body, he kicked the hyper thrusters in and jetted forward, weapon outstretched. Without reducing speed, he ripped through the nearest obstacle scythe first, a quick scan of the enemy readout telling him that there was only one left. Abruptly cutting the thrusters, he whirled, straining nearly every muscle in his body to handle the fight the bold move caused him.

Before he was given the chance to attack the last Suit, the water around him erupted with missiles sent from above. Working furiously, he maneuvered his way out of the path of each deadly projectile, wincing as they struck solid ground and exploded in bright flashes. Unwittingly, they had also saved him time by taking out their own ally. It only served to showcase their impatience and ignorance. And their heartlessness. Those that put so little value on their own comrades lives did not deserve to live themselves.

"What a waste," he chastised, fingers flying across the keys as he took stock of the situation above. Only two ships. He would have to make certain they suffered the same fate their friend had.

Leaving the underwater grave behind, he placed himself so that he was just below one of the ships. Lifting the scythe above Deathscythe's head, the soft glow of the thermal fire lighting his way, he began rising slowing, willing himself to show more patience than they had.

It never ceased to amaze or sicken him the way OZ and the Alliance seemed to have so little reverence for the lives of their soldiers. They were considered expendable because there were always plenty more to pluck out of the population. But each and every life, no matter who wore the skin, was important. Duo understood that even as he was taking lives. In war, that was the way it went. You fought for your own beliefs and had no choice but to cut down those who got in your way. But that did not mean that you had any less respect for them. It was the least he could do.

Not that he was foolish enough to believe that Dr. G gave a damn about him as a person. The scientist had his beliefs, and Duo was merely the tool to execute them. That they shared the same ideals, or some of them anyhow, was the only thing that tied them together. If Dr. G cared about anything, it was the precious Gundam that he created and Duo now piloted. That was evident by the fact that should OZ somehow get a hold of him and Deathscythe, he was to sacrifice his life by self destructing and thusly decimating his Gundam to the point where OZ could not pull from it the superior technology.

Duo did not take issue with that, however. He no more wanted Deathscythe in the hands of OZ than Dr. G did. Maybe less. Because to a point, even the Gundam ceased to be important to the engineer. It was his need to see OZ destroyed for their past actions that drove him. He wanted to see that done in any way possible. And what better way than to give a gung-ho youth with an aptitude for learning quickly and a spirit that lived to take chances the means necessary to do so?

The darkness around him was beginning to recede, a warning that the surface was not far off. That also meant that his target was nearly within reach.

Picturing it as nothing more than a ship, made of metal, its skeleton consisting of soldiers who supported its deadly function, he pulled the scythe up, knowing the exact moment when it cut through despite the fact that it was as easy as separating water with your hand. Bright flashes danced on the surface of the water, and he could hear the panic it caused in the jumble of conversation coming from the comm unit.

Now all that was left was the largest one. The one he was certain had the capabilities to carry the missiles that had been launched at him. For this one, he would put on a bit more of a show.

From within the carrier, the harried captain and his crew watched as the water near their vessel suddenly began to swell, taking the shape of a furious dome. Anyone that knew anything about the force created when a body with more density than water broke the surface tension, knew that something was coming and that the something was immense.

Deathscythe's head ornament was the first thing to break the barrier, and Duo would have laughed had he known that they vaguely resembled horns when the rest of the Gundam was not visible. The face came soon after, rising with an excruciating slowness until it was the only thing those in the carrier saw. Perhaps most frightening as the monster continued to pull itself from the water, was its more than slight resemblance to a human. Those soldiers on the ship had never seen a Mobile Suit like this one before, and the way those green eyes flashed before it leapt nimbly aboard, convinced them that they were being confronted with the devil himself.

Swiveling his head around, Deathscythe stared at the people within the tower before lifting his weapon and searing it in half. A sudden movement to his right caught his attention and he turned to find a helicopter in a mad flight for safety. Someone apparently was not willing to sacrifice their life so easily, though Duo failed to comprehend just how they expected to escape while directly in his line of sight. It was a move made without any real consideration for circumstance, only fear. People did foolish things when they were afraid.

"You're not going anywhere," he informed them, lifting his arm to release the buster shield there.

It plowed into the chopper, completely destroying it as it continued on its path and dove into the sea.

Face hardening, he said, his tone soft and almost gentle, "Go to hell... anyone that sees me goes to hell!"

Twisting, he leapt from the carrier, bringing the scythe down completely and slashing through the deck as he went into the water. Turning away from the wreckage left in his wake, he recovered his shield before it hit bottom and jerked his attention back to the screen as it warned him of more incoming vessels.

There were just two, and they did not appear to be in that big of a hurry. If he had to venture a guess, he would say that they had found what everyone was in a mad scramble to retrieve.

"Well, that's just fine with me. They saved us the trouble of further search."

Wanting to cover as much ground as quickly as possible before the destruction of the carriers caught the attention of more forces, he used the thrusters to cut through the water virtually unseen. Being under here was not so different from space. There was an equal darkness, a soundlessness that came with such a vast, nearly untouched place. Even the colonies could not put their mark completely upon space. They could only have what the colony itself occupied and nothing more. It would remain wild and untamed until it was claimed, or until battle spoiled the tranquility.

Closer view of the enemy showed them to be OZ's Cancer and Pisces. Both were the latest in underwater technology, and Duo could not contain the rush of excitement at getting to test them against Deathscythe to see how they held up.

As of yet, the land Mobile Suits had proved to be very little threat. Dr. G had told him that Suits of the Gundam's size had been abandoned because they had been considered too awkward in battle. They shifted to the smaller built units with emphasis on better mobility while fighting. The compromise led to them having less effective armour, and their lack of detailed accompaniments such as the ones Deathscythe contained made them less of a challenge. Duo could see where each Suit had its advantages, and their reasons for discontinuing ones of this size, but it had been a mistake. One that he benefited from.

Feeling the need to create a commotion while remaining unseen, he dropped a flare in between the two Suits. It erupted into a bright flash that would hinder the pilots as they struggled to regain their sight. While they were, Duo took full advantage of their short-lived helplessness and took out the Pisces from behind. The Cancer was shocked into motion at the loss of his comrade. Wanting to get a closer look at what was making all that noise below them, Duo lashed out at it with his weapon. It was his turn to be shocked, however, when the Cancer maneuvered himself out of the way.

"They're fast!" Duo ground out, scrambling to pull Deathscythe back as the Cancer launched itself at him, having the slight advantage of being designed specifically for the water.

For whatever reason, his Gundam chose this moment to stall. The Cancer was on him in an instant, striking Deathscythe directly in the chest with two well-placed missiles. Grunting, Duo struggled to regain control as the explosions set him off balance. This may have been the best armour available, but it was still tougher than hell to keep centered when the impact of something with that much power reverberated around inside the cockpit, snapping him so hard against the restraints that he felt them bite into his flesh through his clothing. If there had not been any, he could well imagine himself bouncing off the controls like a ping-pong ball.

The pilot of the OZ Suit crowed in triumph and took advantage of Duo's imbalance by grasping on to the Gundam's head and shoving him backward, firing repeatedly. The scythe slipped from Deathscythe's hand as Duo's fell from the controls, and the force from each blow left his mind and body crying out in protest. Just when he was certain there would be no respite, the Cancer pilot's voice spat out from the comm unit, announcing his victory. A smile twisting his lips, despite the ache in his head, Duo grasped the controls again, preparing to show him just how premature his celebration was.

Fingers squeezing tightly, he released the Buster shield, watching as it smashed into the Cancer. Its progress was slower than it had been when used on Leo's and the helicopter, but it accomplished what he had hoped it would.

Reaching up to gingerly finger his forehead, he winced, muttering, "That armour is tougher than it looks."

Ignoring the blaring below him, despite how difficult it was to curtail his curiosity, he retrieved his fallen weapons.

"Now... for that..."

Duo dove the Gundam downward, and when he reached the object of much interest, he was shocked into saying, "I'll be damned! That looks a whole hell of a lot like mine!"

Aside from a different color scheme, and a few obvious physical differences, it was a Gundam that resembled his remarkably. It was lying on its stomach, limbs splayed out around it, obviously having been abandoned by its pilot. The disturbance had caused its self-destruct mechanism to be activated. Knowing exactly how much damage that could cause considering Dr. G had all but pounded it into his head, and not wanting to be anywhere near it when it decided to go off, he played a hunch and brought Deathscythe closer.

"Of all the luck... it's in the same place as mine. Piece of cake..." he murmured, adjusting the scythe so that he could lower it into the Gundam's back and de-activate the device.

Blissful silence once again returned to the underworld, and from his place in the cockpit, Duo examined the Gundam thoughtfully. To his knowledge, there were no other units like his. Apparently, he had been wrong. But what did this mean? Was there another pilot like him? Had there been a bit about this plan Dr. G neglected to tell him? (Which would not have come as any big surprise.) There were plenty of questions that he figured he would get no answer to. After all, the pilot was not here and neither was Dr. G. For all he knew, the pilot of this Gundam was dead.

Grinning, he came to a decision. "Well, if he's going to put so little value on his Gundam, no sense in leaving it lying around here for OZ to come back and pick up. I'll just use it for my spare. Never can tell when its parts'll come in handy."

But if he intended to do that, he needed to work fast. No telling when OZ would come back. He could hardly allow a prize like this to fall into their hands.

"Me one, OZ zero," he voiced with relish.

And this was just the beginning.

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