Sunday, October 30, 2016

fic: A Dark Wolf 1/50ish

A Dark Wolf 1/50ish
By  Max

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing

Note: This is set way after the wars... like Duo’s 175.  Technology is advanced as I like to write it, but he’s not using it all in this one, he’s a little more nature bent this time around. There is a chance that Heero’s body may have been altered in ways that his handlers thing will lessen the chance of a union between Duo and Heero, if this turns out to be the case, it will be resolved by the end of the story. I actually know how this one ends and I think it’s going to be my Nanowrimo this year - well, what I get started after the 1st, anyway. Anyway, I hope I tell you a story you’ll find some pleasure in.

Rain darkened the little cabin, ran like little rivers off the green metal roof.  The clearing around it was just big enough for his truck, marked black and white, sheriff in large letters on both doors and the tailgate.  The steps leading up to the front door where thick and uneven, hand planed from found wood.  Inside the space was well laid out, organized, compartments for everything.  In the compact loft, a thick mattress lay on the unvarnished floor. On that mattress lay sheriff of Wolf Ridge.  

Above him a skylight let moonlight filter down over his bare shoulder, the firm curves of muscle, the thick bundle of hawk brown hair that trailed down and disappeared under the black sheets where his hips narrowed, the curve of firm ass. One knee bent, he lay half on his stomach, half on his side, one hand holding to the edge of the bed.

Distantly, he realized his phone was ringing. He really did not want that to be true. He pushed his tongue out of his mouth for a moment, one eye squinting as he reached for his phone. As soon as he set the marble against his ear, it spread out like lace and settled down against his skin, almost invisible. “Maxwell.”

“Sorry to wake you, Sheriff!”

“No issues,” he said, rolling onto his back, arms flopping out to both sides, legs twisting in the sheets, “What’s going on Case.”

“So something set off some of my motion sensors out by Highway 34,”  William Case started.

“Point, Case. It’s fuckin’ 2 am and I ain’t been asleep that long,” Duo growled.

“Car accident. Scared little girl, and we’re gonna need the coroner. Does this town even have a coroner,” he asked.

Duo sighed, eyes opening wider. “We got a coroner. It’s me. Send me the location. I’ll meet you there.”  As soon as he had the location, he opened up the map in the air above him, “Thanks, Case.”  

Duo ended the call, sat up. His pants were where he’d dropped them from the night before, from three hours before.  “Merlin, make me a fucking coffee.”

A beautiful Celtic woman appeared, holly in her hair, a rune bouncing in one hand. “I want to help with the investigation!”

“It’s an accident,” Duo said, “not an investigation. Throw a couple shots of protein in my coffee.”

“I’m more than just a coffee maker!”

“So take up a fucking hobby, Merlin. This is just some folk got lost from the freeway and ran into a tree. It’s an accident,” he stressed as he slipped over the edge of the loft. He hung from the edge for a moment before doing a couple pull ups then dropping down to the floor. He landed in a crouch, fingertips on the floor. He rolled his shoulders, trying to pinpoint what felt... off. Something felt off. There was a scent touching the air that was familiar, yet not.  He decided it was just not enough sleep. It could make a person a little crazy.

He pulled his tee-shirt and shirt out of the closet, where they’d been cleaned and pressed for him. By the time he had his badge and pistol on, his coffee was waiting on the counter.  “Open the window for Mox when she comes home,” Duo stressed for his personal assistant. “I don’t care if she’s muddy or wet. If she wants in, let her in.”

Merlin blew air in her cheeks, shrugged. “Of course.”

He winked at her.

“If the King comes, I’ll let him in too.”

Duo’s face fell. He stared at her, considering, as he took a long drink of his coffee. “Not in the mood. Think about other people’s feelings. Heero’s never coming back, Merlin, so don’t say things like that. It makes me sad.”

She opened her mouth. He held up his hand. “And I have to go do my bit as coroner, so just let it go.”

As he walked away though, she drew up her own data panel. She hadn’t asked his permission to make and set up the sensors or put them as far out as twenty-five miles from the town, but there were a series of sensors triggered by Heero Yuy’s DNA and he was headed straight for town. The King was coming home.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Camelot: Zombies for Lunch 3/3

Camelot: Zombies for Lunch 3/3
By Max

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam  Wing

Duo tossed the micro grenade  into the air where it hung for a moment, just long enough for Roy’s eyes to lock on it. Green eyes narrowed angrily. Duo winked. The audio/video drones all sparked and dropped. The medical support team all went next, dropping slowly, just slowly going down to their knees and kind of curling up for a nap.

“Duo Maxwell,” Roy growled, rage flaring in him. Duo smiled at him and that was all he could see as the edges of his vision went dark, that warm and loving smile, that sanctimonious know-it-all smile that always solved all the problems. “I fucking hate you,” Roy said as he felt himself float to the ground. The last thing he saw was Duo putting a big thumb print on the front of his visor. The last thing he heard was Duo very irritated, “Oh Shit!”

Ten minutes later a pre-programmed shot of adrenaline woke him up with a start and a bit of projectile vomit hitting the inside of his visor.  Mouth open, like trying to push his tongue out of his mouth would get rid of the taste was going to help him, he ripped off the visor, his helmet and threw them towards his feet. “Command - This is RM94 requesting status update.”

He got no reply, not that he’d really been expecting one, but kind of. That communications could be out with the government and nothing and no one was going to do anything about it made him even madder. He pulled his protective gloves off, throwing them at the walls. “Galen! I know you’re here. Dad doesn’t fucking go anywhere without you.”

Galen, the personification of Camelot’s primary AI, appeared wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. “Hello, Roy. You’re awake early. What a naughty boy you are.”

“Shut up,” Roy got to his feet, grabbed his medical kit. “Where’s dad?”

“He’s in the captain’s quarters. Now might be a poor time to disturb him.” Galen said.  “If you’d be kind enough to wait another thirty minutes, the rest of the team will be waking and there will be plenty of work to keep everyone busy for a goodly while.”

“Galen, you kinda get a pass, because you’ve never had parents.” Roy wagged his finger at the hologram. “You have no idea what it’s like - always living in his shadow! I just want to live my own life.” As he spoke he was stepping over the still sleeping forms of his teammates, “Without him interfering with my career, my daughter, my life! Why does he always have to be one step ahead of everything? Always have to be right about everything?”

Galen followed along, just walking through obstacles, as was one of the privileges of being not solid. “Perhaps he’s trying to impress you, to win your approval?”

Roy stuck his head out hallway they’d breached into, which was downright eerie with only the emergency lighting and the out of date construction style. “I think your processing must be stretched a little thin there, Galen. Why in the hell would the Duo Maxwell, who respects no one outside of Heero Yuy, give two shits about my opinion of him? He’s arrogant and thinks he knows everything. I’m barely a consideration to him!”

“I think,” Galen said, touching Roy’s shoulder and pointing to a fallen crew member, who lay just inside an alcove, breathing, but pale, possibly from blood lost from some kind of bite wound on her face.  

Roy went to one knee, bringing out his scanner and tools. “These readings are impossible... she hasn’t respawned, but she’s... regenerating. There’s massive cellular damage, and it’s viral.”

“Sequence the virus, match it to Heero Yuy’s DNA,” Galen suggested offhandedly while fiddling with his cuticles.

“What,” Roy asked, glaring up at the hologram. “Something is wrong with your processing. Restart.”

“I actually really like humans. I’m not saying I’d ever go the way Pikachu did, but someone else should also know about this. You’re an excellent candidate.”

“What happened on The Rage,” Roy asked sweetly as he set about doing the comparison that Galen had asked him to do.  As the virus lined up with Heero’s DNA, his eyes flashed to a secondary screen where a readout of the symptoms and progression of the virus. Zombies... mindless soldiers that wouldn’t die, strong, powerful, some regeneration, dangerous, heightened aggression, unbearable hunger, unable to die... Roy’s mouth was dry, the hair standing up on the back of his neck. “Where’s my dad?”

His dad was alone on a ship full of monsters. “DAD!”

“Loud noises are not advisable,” Galen said.

And then Roy had a very solid impression of the corridor, dark walls, red emergency lights in lines along the dorsal and ventral planes, lit up symbols for, just a derelict ship, and then there was an explosion of rainbow light.  Whatever caused the explosion sent Duo flying through the air, straight down the bend nearly in half braid fluttering over his hands, his ‘wand’ spraying colored energy like a hive at the corridor opening.

Duo hit with a wet slunk, pooling from the impact, arms out to the side as his wand sputtered.

Roy was scanning him before he got to a knee, “Void! Dad! Just relax!”  There were spinal fractures, cranial fractures, hemorrhaging, and everything he’d thought for the last few days was gone. “I’m going to take care of you.”

Duo coughed blood, squinted one black eye, smirked. “What the hell are you doing awake? I’m not done yet. Galen! Up! Get me up!”

“No!” Roy snarled. “Those kind of repairs aren’t good for you! They won’t hold and respawning is very dangerous. Dad! Please! We can use real medicine.”

“Now, Galen,” Duo said, coughing, more, “Make fuckin’ fast. This ship was fuckin’ doing human trafficking and there’s more than I thought!” His eyes were locked on the straining barrier that he’d put up and the ... creatures pressing against it.

Galen’s hands disappeared into Duo like glowing roots, the roots of a great tree, spreading through him repairing, pulling bones back into place, binding, repairing on a cellular level. His body convulsed for a moment, but then he jumped back to feet, jumped a couple times in place, shaking out his shoulders. “Oh man! What a rush! Only twenty more to go, Galen. Let’s get it over with!”

“What are you doing? These people are dead!”

“No,” Duo said, looking over his shoulder. His face was much less bruised, but older, tore up by the rapid healing which gave him an appearance of age, of cellular degradation, “they’re not. You can work your whole real medicine shit on’em here in a few minutes. You do your job, an’I’ll do mine.”

A human body that couldn’t die, but that could take damage could make for a very memorable imagine. Watching cadavers who had been chewing on each other for a couple of centuries close on his dad surreal, unreal. His whole life played out for him, the good and the bad, the monsters he’d feared in his youth - his being an adult who didn’t fear monsters - and there was his dad, the glow of light around him. The wand in his hand shifted, becoming a scythe, glowing green when the green blade touched one of the decaying corpses, the thing dropped, falling more like a person. Duo’s movements grew faster, his strikes surgical. A touch here, slice there, and the ravenous, decaying mob around him was slowly laid out. It wasn’t that the mob didn’t get their hits in too.
His dad was something completely different than he was. He was never going to be his dad.  And  then everything dropped - the last of the monsters and his dad went down to one knee as well, his hand on the great scythe. It’s glow cast green over that end of the corridor and for just a moment he could believe that his dad - the maker of shark pancakes and bedtime story book reader was really Death.  

When Duo looked up, there was considerable cellular degradation. His face was lined and slack, his eyebrows silver. His braid hung down silver splattered with muck and blood. He used both hands on the scythe to pull himself back to his feet. Only then did Roy finally understand where Galen had actually gone to... he had become the full scythe. For just a moment, Roy wondered how long Galen had been Duo’s friend.

“There,” Duo said, cough tiredly. “I’m done. The rest of this shit is on you and your team, Dr. Maxwell. I’ll let Anj know you’ll be late for dinner.”

“Dad... are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Duo said, both arms wrapped around the scythe now. “I’m fuckin’ fine. I’m also going home.”


And then Duo was gone, taking his quasi-legal portal home, leaving Roy to deal with all the niceties of working for the new government.


Heero was waiting when Duo portaled back in, catching him in his arms. “Well, you look like shit. Have fun?”

“No,” Duo said, snuggling close. “I hate zombies. They bite. They smell bad. Did I mention they bite? Can I have blueberries?”

“Of course,” Heero said, carrying Duo into the bathroom where a large bath awaited, filled with warm water and bubbles, “And I’ll rub your back and tell you dirty stories.”

“How dirty,” Duo whispered in Heero’s ear, his arms around his neck.

“So dirty,” Heero said, “You’ll need another bath.”

“Good, good,” Duo said slipping out of Heero’s arms, into the water, under the water. When he came back up, his hair was brown again, his face normal, “I think I’m in the mood for being dirty, very dirty. Come here, you splendid man!”

Friday, October 7, 2016

fic: Camelot: Zombies for Lunch 2/?

Camelot: Zombies for Lunch 2/?
By Max

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing

“Seriously?” Roy complained, one green eyebrow raised. “An anti-grav pillow?”

Moody straddled a fluffy pillow covered in the same blue sky and white fluffy clouds fabric of her pajamas.  She floated  so her head was about as high as Duo’s head, his braid held in both hands. She giggled as he towed her around the kitchen. She bounced on the pillow, using his braid like reigns, “Go, go,” she begged.

“Let me wash this pan, Chicky, then we’ll go get some stuff I need to take with me.” He looked over his shoulder, held up one finger, violet eyes giving her the eye, “Be patient.”

“Okay,” she said, curling up on the pillow, still holding onto his braid, even though her thumb went into her mouth.

“You’re not even going to address my concerns about this are you,” Roy asked, sitting back down.

“For one,” Duo said, putting the pancake pan on the rack to dry, “especially as we’re going to be working together today, I think you and I need a little bit of space. For two, I didn’t make it. Your Papa made it. If you have questions or concerns, I suggest you address them to him,” then suddenly much more cheerfully, Duo asked, “Would you like another cup of coffee?”

“Not really,” Roy said with a sigh, shoulders slumped as if he were the only adult in the house of his childhood, “I think you and I have had enough coffee, don’t you?”

“You’re so mature,” Duo said, giving him a look that said what he meant was buzz kill, but he didn’t want to say that in front of Moody.

Roy turned to Heero and gave him a stern look. “You know that the rest of the Earthsphere does not run at this reckless rate of technological advance? Right? What if she wants to go to a regular colony someday? What if she wants to have a normal life? Why would you make her silly toys like this?”

Where Moody couldn’t see him, Duo motioned with his hand, telling Galen to set a sound barrier around her so she was hearing her favorite music, not her dad’s tirade or the response he expected from Heero.

Heero sipped his own tea and without wasting any facial expression. “You and your daughter carry non-human DNA. You have no business taking a position as a consultant with the new government or having anything to do with human communities outside of Camelot. Yes, I made her a pillow that floats so she can ride around behind her Granda and pull on his braid. She is at no risk.”

“You’re wrong,” Roy whispered, “I don’t have to hide here. The world outside of Camelot is not so backward. I’m a good doctor and you’re wrong! I am fully human!”

“You’ve looked at your DNA,” Heero said, leaving it at that.

Using a kitchen towel to dry his hands and arms, Duo turned to the table. “Now, come on. It’s not that serious. If the kid wants to go out in the world, between you and Q, we can keep things quiet, probably. If he fuckin’ kisses anyone, his wife’ll kill’em and then we’ll revisit this conversation. He’s right anyway. I can’t let a bunch of fuckin’ kids go open up The Henry, now can I?”

“Do you want me to come,” Heero asked.

“God, no, but you can have me a nice bath when I get back.”

“You’re going to need it. I love you,” Heero said.

“I love you too,” Duo said. He gestured and the sound cloud around Moody dissipated, bringing her attention back to the grown ups.

She tugged on Duo’s braid, dragging herself up to his neck so she could hug him. “Don’t be mad at Daddy.”

“I’m not mad at your dad,” he said lifting her onto his shoulders. “He and I are going to go help some sick people together. He’s a very good doctor. Want to help me pack my medical kit?”

“Okay!” she said, bouncing on his shoulders, little hands holding onto his bangs.

Heero finished his coffee, stood. “Come with me, Roy. You need updated vaccines.”

“Papa, don’t you think the Commonwealth can give me what I need?”

Heero’s blue eyes stared at Roy until he looked away. “No. They don’t know what’s on The Henry and they aren’t going to believe us if we tell them. Come to my workshop.”

Roy followed along, hands up. “What happened on The Rage, really? How are things that happened on The Rage still unresolved when that was so long ago?”

Heero sighed, shoulders rising and falling slowly as he opened the portal that lead to his workshop.  Heero’s space was neat, paperless, almost a completely empty off white room. He gestured and a table appeared with almost antiquated looking medical gear, glass bottles, actual needles.

Roy groaned. “Ohhh, Papa, do we have to use such old things? Technology has moved on.”

“Clearly,” Heero agreed, gesturing to a chair, “Sit. I choose to use technology from this era because it is familiar and comfortable for me. Don’t ask me about The Rage anymore. It makes Duo uncomfortable and I don’t want to do that.  What happened is none of your business.”  Heero drew up an injection using technology that was old when Heero was actually young. “I do not wish to speak of it again. Expose your shoulder.”

“Papa,” Roy said, eyes wide from Heero’s stern response. He unbuttoned his collar, pushed his shirt down to reveal his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to ... to hurt you.”

Heero injected him expertly, pushed the plunger in. “If you go to The Henry, you will need psychological therapy and  have I no vaccine that can help with that.”

“Papa, I just want to be a great doctor. I want people to know I’m a great doctor,” Roy said sadly. “They can’t know that if I don’t do anything.”

Heero cupped the side of Roy’s head, leaned close enough to touch his forehead to his adopted son’s forehead. “Being great is highly overrated. I suggest you try being happy instead.”

“But you’re great,” Roy said, “All of humanity celebrates Heero Yuy Day.”

Heero gave Roy’s head a gentle squeeze then pulled back. “They celebrate the day they think I died, the day I nearly lost everything that ever meant anything to me, Roy. Those moments I wanted to be great, when I was young - it was because I didn’t know what happy was. Roy you need to consider what you have a good life here.”

“I just don’t see that having a more public life puts that at risk,” Roy said quietly.

“Lack of vision,” Heero agreed, “is how I’ve gotten into most of my troubles.”

A head shot of Duo popped up and he smiled at them. “Hey boys! I’m taking Moody home! I’ll see you on the rescue ship, Roy.” Duo winked playfully. Moody waved over his shoulder.  The message blinked out as fast as it had come into being.

“I think he’s pretty pissed at me,” Roy said miserably.

“You don’t say,” Heero agreed. He stepped back, gestured, “Go on then, Dr. Maxwell. You are his son and there was ever any telling him what to do either. Have your adventure.”

“This is not about adventuring,” Roy said, indignant. “I’m an adult. I’m trying to advance my career.”

“I’m a very old man,” Heero said, “I need a cup of tea.  My husband is going to come home in a vile shit mood today and I’ve had to put my own research project on hold for possibly months. However, your behavior is within the normal range for a person of your age.”

Roy buttoned his shirt, his jaw so tight his head was starting to hurt. “Thanks, Papa. I think.”

A few minutes later he was on a shuttle for the commercial transit line that would take him to the Commonwealth main medical hub. While he expected his dad had portal jumped, which was quasi-legal, at best, he was going to go the conventional route. Transportation was so much faster than it had been when he was a teenager or when he was a child. As a child, he’d thought Camelot was in the far reaches of space. Now, he could take public transport right back into the main hub of human civilization in less than an hour.  Papa was wrong too, if he thought they could just hide. The solar system was much smaller than it used to be.

His parents just hadn’t kept up with technology! They didn’t understand how things actually were. He was just beginning to feel better about the himself and his view of the world when he got a call from his wife. Privacy shielding came up around his seat and he accepted.  He smiled at her and almost immediately his smile wavered.

She had short red hair that stood straight up.  She also had violet eyes and Roy had always wondered a little if she wasn’t somehow related to Duo, especially when she was mad.  

His heart beat weakly. “What’s wrong?”

“Your DAD,” she said, leaning closer to the screen, “brought Moody home with another pet.”

“Ah... Well,” he started searching for some kind of de-escalation technique that he hadn’t used before.

She held up her palm to the screen. “He brought home a spider, Roy. He brought a fucking spider into my house and my little girl is in love with it!”

Roy held up his hand, fingers pinching to what size he thought a spider might be sized like, then spread his fingers a little, knowing his dad. “It’s a small thing in a cage....”

“It’s a meter and a half across,” she screamed, “It’s in the living room reading Moody and her pet SHARK a story book. That’s right, Roy! The spider that’s a meter and a half across TALKS and it READS!”

Roy held up both hands, “I’ll talk to him! I promise! It’s my fault! I was really out of line this morning and I’ll make things right. I’m sorry!  Anj, I’m sorry! Do you want me to come home and take care of it right now?”

She sighed, using more energy she reached out through the screen, her hand a hologram he could feel, her fingers brushing over his cheek. “No. I think that’s what he meant to have happen. I can live with Matilde. That’s what she says her name is. You go show him that you’re all grown up and you can take care of yourself. I love you.”

“I love you too,” he said, turning to kiss her palm. “I’ll be home soon and I’ll take Matilde home.”

“See you when you get home,” Anj agreed. “Your dad is the worst father-in-law in the history of humanity.”

“You’ll get no argument from me,” Roy said, leaning back, his hands on his head. “Maybe I should just come home. Papa doesn’t think I should do this.”

“Roy,” Anj said, “At some point, they have to see you’re not a child. You’re a doctor and you’ve accepted a request from our government to render aid to a lost ship. That is what adults do. They help other people. Duo Maxwell may look young, but he’s not all there and always doing some crazy thing to amuse himself.”

“Hey,” Roy cautioned, brows drawing down.

“And before you get on about how he’s your dad and he’s raised hundreds of war orphans, he participated in those wars and made plenty of orphans himself and did I mention the meter and a half wide talking SPIDER in my living room?”

“Yeah, okay,” Roy said, “He’s a little eccentric. I’ll talk to him, I promise.”

“I know you will, baby,” Anj said. “Just don’t let them intimidate you okay? You are an excellent doctor! They have nothing on you!”

Roy smiled shyly, touched the screen, knowing she’d feel his touch. “I love you.”

“Knock’em dead, baby,” she said, then closed the call.

The rest of the trip went normally, just completely ordinary. He arrived at the med-hub, signed in, collected his gear, went through the briefing, and Duo never showed up. He both half hoped that Duo wouldn’t show up, and worried that he wouldn’t.  The briefing on the on The Henry could not explain why the ship could be lost so long and still have muted signs of life. Something was very wrong. The assembled team was twelve medical personnel, including two doctors. He had always been the junior doctor on the mission, but he was the only actual doctor in the briefing.  As the briefing was winding down, the med-techs were picking up their kits, he raised his hand.

“Yes, Dr. Maxwell,” Commander Augustine asked.

“I thought there were going to be two doctors on this mission, but in this briefing it was just the med-techs and me. Where is the senior doctor?”

“There was a change to the team,” Commander Augustine. “The new senior doctor is Dr. Duo Maxwell.” She smiled gently. “I was advised you were aware of the change to the team.”

“Yeah,” Roy said, “But I wasn’t sure he was going to get the change made.”

“Dr. Duo Maxwell has a lot of clout,” she said. “He’s unconventional, but extremely effective.”

“Yeah,” Roy said, feeling like he’d never be far enough away from his Dad’s shadow.  What was awesome when he was a kid was like an albatross around his neck now. How, exactly, do you make a name for yourself when your dads are Duo Maxwell and Heero Yuy and they’re not retired, but they’re just fucking show at your job if they think it’s dangerous.

The boarding claxons were sounding though and Roy hurried to get to the right airlock to be part of the boarding party. His space suit manifested around him, leaving him securely covered as he took his place in the boarding party. The thought was that whatever had caused the ship to go into distress had allowed the crew and minimal passenger compliment only enough time to get into space suits and that the AI on board had kept them in some kind of modified stasis that taken so much processing power for the older computer that it couldn’t take any further action.  

The med-techs had all were all more experienced, all there to do the majority of the work and all covered in the same encompassing space suits. The doctor’s job was mostly to just call time of death or approve any unusual life saving efforts.  It was an important job. He was making his own way in the world! For himself and his family!

“Hey,” Duo said, suddenly in his place beside him. Roy tilted his head, only then did he realize how much taller he was than his dad. In fact, his dad was kind of short... small. Duo smiled up at him, this brilliant ear-to-ear grin that he always had.  

“Dad! What are you doing? Where’s your envirogear? We don’t know we’ll find when we board!” For the first time, he was suddenly afraid that there might be risks to his dad and a rush of how much he loved the eccentric violet eyed man. “Get your protective gear on!”

Duo winked and held up an ebony wand which he touched to his forehead. “No need.”

“Dad! Did you bring a magic wand to an emergency boarding of a derelict ship? DAD!”

Duo grimace. “Of course it’s not a magic wand, idiot. I just like the esthetic. If I were you, I’d hold onto mah nutsack, cuz it’s about to get real.”

And then the airlock opened....

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Camelot: Corvette 2/?

Camelot: Corvette 2/?
By Max

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing.

The town looked like something out of a movie to Duo.  Street lights were just turning on, flickering as unreliable filaments responded to primitive electricity.  Yellow light fell into pool on concrete that was just irregular enough that it had to have been formed by human hands. For several seconds, Duo paused, staring at the sidewalk squares. Duo’s enhanced pattern recognition got caught up in tens of thousands of tiny details in the sidewalks, echoes of the human workmanship, artifacts of the days they were made, which gave Ernie time to lay an arm over his shoulders.

“So, seriously, Duo, if you want a whiskey, let me stop in at Charlie’s and I’ll get us a bottle. I’ll show you this place and we’ll finish that bottle! Then we’ll go over to King’s Fine Auto in Cranston and see if he can tell us who has a Corvette! How’s that?”  Ernie did his best to give Duo back his own best let’s get in trouble grin.

Duo pressed his tongue between his teeth and upper lip in an expression of not really buying it. “Chill on the hair, Ernst. I have a plan,” Duo said, slipping out from under his friend’s arm.  He turned up the collar of his brown leather bomber jacket,  which was when Ernie noticed that Duo was wearing the military jacket in the first place.

“Oh god, you can’t wear that!” Ernie covered his face for a moment. “They didn’t even make that in your size! That’s like a woman’s size! Duo! WAIT,” Ernie pleaded, “You don’t understand how things are!”

Duo spun, his braid flaring out, arms out to the side, palms up. He winked, grinning brilliantly. “Come on, Ernie! It’s early evening on a Friday in August! We’re gonna have a whiskey with yer old friends and then move on. I mean, unless you really don’t wanna see yer old friends or something.”  Duo came to a full stop, hands on his hips, he rubbed the side of his face for a moment. “Yeah, man, if you wanna just go to Charlie’s and stuff, we can do that. I didn’t mean to get you into something uncomfortable.”

“It’s not that,” Ernie said, pointing all his fingers at his chest, “My friends are down at the church.”  He shifted, pointing a finger at the dark asphalt of the parking lot. “When I was young enough to walk these streets, Duo Maxwell, I was a Christian man. It’s just,” he said, his other hand touching his head then gesturing for emphasis, “You look like a woman or a little boy and I think they’re going to kick our asses.”

Duo shrugged. “Welp, won’t be the first time. They could be cool. We won’t know till we go see.”

Ernie gave him a long face, eyes blinking slowly.

“WE could go down to da church, but it’s Friday night and dey ain’t got no whiskey.”

“Those things are both true,” Ernie agreed.  “I don’t see why we need to go into a bar...”

Duo took the few steps back to his friend, reached up to put his arm across his shoulder, and get them moving, “Welp, somethin else church ain’t got... information on race cars.”

The inside of the bar was warm, smelled of cigarette smoke, beer, pine, so many things that Duo’s extra sensors were running overload to identify them and he just shut them down. Inside the bar felt different to him than outside the bar had, almost like it was a different world, freer, closer to home.

There were only eleven people in the bar, three women and eight men, one of which was behind the bar. All of them were white, which seemed odd to Duo, unsettling in a surreal kind of way. He wanted to explore why that would be the case, but there were so many new things that he didn’t have time to think about them all and still walk around and talk like a seemingly sane adult. So he walked up to the bar, sat himself down on a stool, grinned nice and friendly at the dark haired bartender. His braid hung down past the stool, but most of the folk had already stopped looking at him, gone back to their own business.

“What do  you want, kid,” the man asked, without putting down the glass he was drying.

“Whiskey, neat,” Duo said.

“Really,” the bartender asked as he set down the glass, polished the counter for a moment, head tilted, looking Duo over really good. “You got money?”

“Yup,” Duo said, reaching inside his jacket to pull out a slender brown billfold. He pulled out a 5 dollar bill and handed it over. “One for my friend too.”

The bartender snapped the money between his fingers, held it up to the bare light bulb, arched an eyebrow, but then shrugged and accepted it. He turned and looked at Ernie, “Whiskey for you too?”

“Beer, please.”

“So what brings you two into town,” he asked as he rung up their drinks and handed Duo back his change.

“I’m Duo,” Duo said, “I’ve come to look at cars!”

“I’m Walter,” Walter said as he set the shot and the beer down. “They ain’t got cars where you come from kid?”

“Not like yer cars,” Duo said, holding his shot, “I really wanna see a corvette. Do you know where I can find one?”

“Do I look like the phonebook to you?” Walter asked, not unfriendly, just unsettled by the bright eyed boy at his counter. “He your cousin or something Ernie?”

“Something,” Ernie said, sipping his beer like a man who really hadn’t reconciled himself to being in a bar. “I met him through a church experience,” Ernie clarified, which was as close as one might safely explain being taken to the future where you thought you were in heaven for several decades. It was a religious experience.

Dark eyebrows drew down. “So you two are.. Missionaries? Looking to share the Good Word with hotrodders or something?”

“I just wanna look at the cars,” Duo said. “I’m a pretty good mechanic.”

A girl, pretty, curly blond hair and gray eyes, a scarf over her hair pulled up next to him. She wore jeans, clearly cut for a man, but rolled up to fit her, and a pretty flowered shirt that she’d tied off at her waist. “So you’re a mechanic? How come you got all that hair, pretty boy?”

He turned on his chair, elbow on the counter and eyed her, the calluses on her hands, the tan lines on her face from goggles, slightly chapped lips. “My hair’s important to me. You understand when something’s important to you, right? I’m Duo.” He held out his hand to shake.

She hesitated for a moment, then stood up straighter, held out her hand and shook his with pride. “I’m Betty. Mr. Anderson, is this guy a good mechanic.”

“Best mechanic I’ve ever met,” Ernie said honestly, “Do I know you?”

“Yes, sir,” she said, nodding, looking around Duo, “You taught me in Sunday School for nearly five years, Mr. Anderson! I’m Betty McCallister!”

“It’s been a little while, Betty. I’m sorry,” he said, sheepish, and had another sip of that beer.

“But you are certain, swear on the nails in Jesus’ hands that this here Duo is a good mechanic?”

“If you need something fixed, Miss Betty,” Ernie said, “No one can fix it better than Duo.”

“Do you want a job Mr. Duo?” She asked, lifting her chin.

“Does said job involve fixing a car,” Duo asked wiggling his eyebrows.

“It does, a race car, that,” she paused for emphasis, ‘that I am going to drive. You got a problem with that?”

“Nope. Why would I? You want a drink?”

“I can buy my own drinks, Mr. Duo.”

“Fine by me. Can I get a root beer, please, Walter?”

The big bartender was just finishing pulling a couple more beers. After that he pulled a bottle of cold root beer and popped the top, pouring it into a glass. Duo offered money, got more change.

The next people through the door were very different kinds of people. They were also all white, but they were different - but Duo wasn’t entirely sure how they were different. Clothes to start with. They all seemed to be wearing similar sweaters colored sleeves and pale main bodies of them, some with big single letters. They all had similar hair cuts too.  Duo had to remind himself it was too early in Earth’s history for there to be clones.  

They paused just inside the door, scanning for something. Duo decided they were some kind of pack hunter group and that was all very interesting and everything until they settled on his new employer and headed his way.

She slipped off her stool and pointed at the pack leader. “You get out of here Dwight Evans! I don’t want anything to do with you!”

“Betty,” the leader said. He was a red headed tall boy with broad shoulders and green eyes that looked at Betty and everything else like the world was full of puzzle pieces for him to sort to his liking. “You’re my fiancee now and your father’s worried about you, running around with low lifes like this.”

“Go to hell, Dwight. I’m not going home.”

“I’m here to take you home, Betty. You’re a woman. You are not thinking clearly.” He moved towards her and she put up her fists, which slowed him down, but only because he started laughing.

Duo’s face twisted up, eyes darkening. Shinigami wasn’t like he was, but old habits die hard. He slipped out of his jacket, tossing it on the counter.  This wasn’t his town, but he’d be law enforcement if he needed to be. “She said no,” Duo said clearly, in his most authoritative voice.

“What the fuck are you,” Dwight hissed, sneering at Duo, “Her lesbian lover?”

“Well, if I were, at least I’d be someone she’d want, rather than a hulking wanna be rapist pig?” Duo said cheerfully.

“NO fighting in my bar,” Walter snapped. “Dwight, Betty said she didn’t want to go. Just back off.”

“I ain’t gonna be talked to this way! Not by a woman or a faggot or a bar keeper,” Dwight snarled. He reached out to shove Duo. Duo deflected the shove, channeling the energy into sending the larger man onto his ass.

“You little shit licker! Parking lot!”

Ernie was up then, trying to get Dwight’s attention, “Do you remember me? I’m Mr. Anderson! From Sunday School! You don’t want to do this, son!”

Duo flexed his interlocked fingers, grinning crookedly, eyes dark, “Sure thing, Dwight. Lead the way!”  

Ernie followed along, trying to stop the coming fight. Betty went out the back. Walter pulled Duo’s wallet out, looked at his ID, found the tribal id, and  decided to call an old friend on the local reservation. Big black phone tucked against his shoulder, he dialed the slow rotary phone,  “Hey, Mack, yeah, this is Walter. Look, so there was this kid in the bar tonight, odd kid and I just thought, yeah, so he’s about to get his ass handed to him by Dwight and those idiots that follow him. No, don’t know him, don’t know where he came from, but his name is Duo and that sure as shit ain’t an American name. He’s got a tribal id card in his wallet that says he’s Cheyenne. How am I supposed to know what reservation he belongs on? I’m not Indian. If you want to get him home, you better come get him soon or he’s gonna be so much more lost blood, if you know what I mean. Yeah, yeah, no problem.”