Section 0-2
Seattle - Risen II

Her father told her, when she returned to Earth, that it was either join him in working for the Colony Corporation or dig ditches for the rest of her life.

In a long, drawn-out path, she chose to dig ditches.

Garma Zabi had been half-buried in densely packed rubble, and if she was to do anything to him from her medical supplies, the first task would've been to free him from it. Perhaps the rubble had come over him first, shielding him from whatever else had come, but now it had served to be his grave if nothing was done. Beneath the blinding flashlight, he was leaking around it, where his bare burnt flesh touched the debris; it stained like watercolor. The smell of it, too, was not kind, and she had only noticed now after she had put her nose upon him, the dry crackle of his puss and blood tangled in her black hair now.

In her mind, the injuries went down the line:

Clear third-degree burns on over, even just the body she could see, forty percent of skin, reaching up to cover a portion of his face. A very damaged right eye. Right hand: pinky gone, ring finger and middle finger barely a stub, pieces of fabric from his gloves melted in with the uniform also sticking to his body. He had raised his right arm to shield himself from whatever blast that was supposed to take him, and it showed that it couldn't have done anything. The good thing about whatever fire he had taken was that it had its benefits: for his fingers at least missing, the shear and cut were immediately cauterized.

"You…" Garma hadn't seen his hand yet, luckily. She knew it would only get worse if he knew. He was completely concentrated on her, however, as she dug reliefs around him, metal and stone tumbling down the slopes. "You are my people. Why do you treat me so?"

"I'm not one of yours." She growled.

"But you are of our domain, are you not?" He tried and tried to find her name: Mai, in his memories, but nothing had come up. Where possibly could she have been for him? Or had she simply just known of him, which was a very real possibility, but one he was unsure of given how personal she seemed to reflect on him.

"You take one good look at me and tell me I it looks like I come from Space."

She was a full-bodied woman, genetics, lean and muscle from the life she's lived filling her out, but an endowment that Garma might've seen through his vision, hazy, shattered, was hidden beneath her kit. She spread her arms out as if offering herself for just a moment, showing who she was: the colors of her muted and brown and green, her skin even that of dirt. When she means she was a part of the Earth, she means it in the way she knew what it was like to hold so close to it as the war raged, the Earth itself imprinted upon her.

It was a dirty that no wash could ever get out, and no consolation could ever scratch off.

If nothing else, Garma Zabi had taken a year of her life from her, but it was more than definitely. He, and all those that bore the name of Zabi, had taken who she was.

She hated the Zabis. They deserved a destruction that she could start, right here, right now.

"Zeon fights for you, don't you understand, I fight fo-" The shovel again came down near his head, the dislodged pebbles like shrapnel that peppered his face. He closed his eyes, only to open it again and see that she was looking down into them again.

"I've fought you ever since came down here." Not only her, but hundreds of thousands more. All the bile in her voice was for all of them, even if she never knew them: from here in Cascadia all the way to Odessa, to Dakar, to Antarctica and the Sides above. That was the big picture of it that, despite its pain and horror, she still felt deeper the one loss that had been taken from her. "I might've believed in a Zeon once, but not like this."

She had read the essays of the late Zeon, heard his speeches, echoing at the very edges of her first memories. She, at one point in her short life, prescribed to the belief that the world beneath them was sacred, and that a new type of mankind was about to be born and that she might've walked along them.

She cares not for these things any longer.

She continued digging, a pound of dirt at a time by the blade of the shovel.

The pressure of the debris around him lifted, piece by piece, but in its place, the pain rolled in. What was once muted now was afire as the sound of pain and pain itself manifested in each breath.

With pain comes clarity, and the realization that he can't move is not because of pressure, but because of pain. His left hand is good, but it moves on a delay, an impulse of control he has slowed by what feels like visible seconds. His body is not yet free, but his arms are, slowly, ever slowly, he looks at his right: He can't feel it, but he sees it move before him in a blur, dragging it up his chest until he can comfortably hold his palm in front of his face. He thinks his fingers are curled, but no amount of painful wriggling can stop this fact as he tries to blink clarity, but instead finds the burn in his pupils from dust and blood.

"Oh god."

He keeps trying to move his hand, but nothing can return to him what was lost as the pressure pops a vein, and one stub squirts red. It follows down his arm, and he sees it, ragged, like rotten meat.

"Oh god!"

"Garma." She sterns, and finally says his name. Was it a privilege to use his name like that? She drops her shovel and goes back to the medical roll she brought. Another wrap of gauze, a syringe, one small packet of liquid. She mounts him where his stomach would be, legs on either side of him as she takes his right hand and he clenches his jaw. The gloves are still there, melted onto his palm.

"Can you feel me touching your hand?" She carefully roams her fingers on his palm lightly, and then once with her thumb applying pressure, the open wound that comes form his ring finger bleeds a little more. He shakes his head and then mania is his eyes.

What else is broken? What else have I lost?

The knife that comes out of her belt almost makes him seize again, but she doesn't threaten, not this time, as she traces patches of ivory as they are stuck to his skin with the blade carefully, the strands of organic matter that follow it out a peel that she was in no hurry to particularly impart to memory. One by one, pieces of white fall to his chest, only to be blown away by the lightest of drafts. When all the pieces of the glove on that hand have been taken off, pieces of flesh too when necessary, she pockets her knife again, only to draw the liquid packet and tear it with her teeth, a squirt of brown and orange liquid is momentarily on her lips as she spits back to the ground and, having formed a funnel, squirts it upon his hand, letting the solution of betadine and saline coat it and all the wounds it can.

Garma feels none of it, and she knows. Because of that the lidocaine can wait. It's enough that any red liquid is washed off and away, and she holds it up, almost letting it dry before reaching back and down to discard the packet and pick up a gauze and bandage wrap instead. She's conservative with the way she wraps his hand up, knowing that more wraps in the future, probably, possibly, if she hasn't come out of her temporary insanity and instead chose to just kill him.

"What can you feel?"


She rolled her eyes, annoyed. "I mean where."

"Upper torso, mostly my left side. My neck, my face- I think there's something in my eye."

The hand that had been wrapped up now lays out arm outstretched away from the rest of his body, as she takes in the rest of what he's saying she goes back to her supplies, back turned to him.

His left hand is good, and although he thinks he feels it, enough of his midsection is now exposed that there's a question there that emerges as he sees those ragged burns lead down there:

Cautiously, his left hand, hoping she doesn't see as she gathers up more meds, drifts up, toward his midsection, down his groin-

She catches his hand, but softly this time, and checks for him. It's not how she wanted to lock eyes with him the first time, but she does. The one eye that remains uninjured is the color of a darkness lighter than the night around them, let known by the flashlight illuminating him. For the first time, there's fear in his pupils. The other eye is down to its core milky and white, the circlets of his pupils barely discernable.

It was a common phobia among the male fighters she had known, the young ones especially. The Wound. Capital W. Losing fingers, entire limbs, their lives even, was sometimes, to some, preferred than the Wound.

She clears away his midsection of any errant debris as best she can before her own hands make the journey down, finding the flaps and the defiant button of his pants. She pops it, he holds his breath, and she looks, sliding her hand beneath his standard-issue undergarments and, momentarily, wondering if she should've put on her gloves again. It's clinical, and no feelings, loaded, are imparted in that moment as they both forget who they are and only think of the necessity of what has transpired between them. The split second that she gives him beneath his remaining layers, is sterile and devoid of anything other than checking for an issue. She's seen worse, dealt and done.

"You're fine." She buttons him up again, glancing up at him: His mouth is dry, she notices, giving him the canteen to sip from. If she thinks anymore of what she just checked upon she might have worse ideas about how she could make him feel pain.

She's not quite sure what has happened to his eye as she leans in with the canteen, but she doesn't want to affirm any suspicions to make him panic further.

It was a mistake she realizes however to say that prior blanket statement. Not when she begins to uncover his legs. First, it's his left, and as she does, he wiggles it, grey, long boot, meant more for what she assumes for some high-class function shakes asides some of its own debris. There is long metal shard poking out of it, dead center, but she hopes it's only boot deep. It's his right that betrays her composure as she stops entirely, digging for a foot that was no longer there. Her eyes trace where the part of her brain that defines Human recognition says it should be, but it's not, and when she follows the line up, the lowest piece of him is a chunk of flesh below his knee, it itself exposed. Garma moves it, not knowing how he is propped up, and she sees tendon and bone move beneath skin. He is free more or less, and another truth has been uncovered that she acts upon immediately.

She straddles Garma, her legs on either side of his stomach, clamping his right arm with her left leg too. She was by no means a trained combat medic, but the principles were learned by her in a class, and then drilled into her by experience. "Your highness," the old habit stuck still. "I have enough ketamine to disassociate you until I can get you somewhere else."

Garma feels the restriction go from physical, to physiology. He should be able to move, but Mai does not let him. Even more of her madness:

"Why- I- I'm handling as well as I can now. I'm in pain, yes but-" The way Mai looks down on Garma settles his breath.

"Garma. Once you see something…" There was a firefight she was once a part of, very early on, when no one had looked fighters, and instead civilians just caught up in the greatest war in all history. This was when she had nothing but that bolt action rifle, no scope. It kept her present, closer. She saw an older man, a bricklayer with his shotgun, round the corner to open fire, and when he returned the hand around his pump had been flowered out in a collage of meat and bone. He didn't notice, the fingers still working doing again another pump as gunfire pumped into the storefront they were fighting out of. It was only when he looked down and saw, had all the pain caught up to him and he had passed out.

"I can feel- I can move my toes, my fingers. I can feel it all… What is the…" Her face betrays him and her, and his eyes are the most open they've been yet with the echo of phantom pain calling to him. "Let me see."

She shakes her head. "Not like this." Why she is even protecting him from this horror, she doesn't know, but it is a mercy she allows him, and he is lucky to get that much.

"Woman! Damn you. Let me see!" She sits on him as he yells again, she glances at her watch. It's 4:14. The sun is soon to rise and even the sky knows it in its inky blue-black. She remembers she's in the middle of a war zone, and she could be shot at at any second. He shakes beneath, pinned by a woman far more able to keep up than him, so he does not move, but he makes sound, he is just short of screaming at her.

She makes a decision without him. The syringe with Ketamine is out and it's stuck into his left thigh. He doesn't feel it, but she shows him the implement afterward. She doesn't want to hide anything from him, but there's a time and place and the syringe dropped to his chest before dropping onto the ground. It distracts him before he is put upon. She remains on him, blocking what he should not see.

"Am I already dead? Please! Just tell me before- before…" Before he loses his mind. "Please if you are to kill me do it now!"

His hands, one bandaged, one not, grab her arms urgently with a quickness that betrayed his state. "Don't make me wait!" He's begging. "Don't demean me!"

He had demeaned her so much, without even knowing her. He deserved every bad thought in her mind and then final death itself.

But it was mercy that kept her still, staring down. She can feel the stub of his leg thrashing on the dirt behind her as he's trying to wriggle, struggle, and any enjoyment that she feels from it is cast asides as she thinks of Garma, not as Garma, but rather just a victim. His body, below him, is just flesh and pain, and pain is the same in every language, for every person.

"Whatever you do, don't take me back to Zeon!" The panic in his voice shocks her as much as it does him, and the silence that falls between them is not because of the drugs, it is because of that singular request:

Did he want to escape?

His chest, rises and falls, and his words fail him as he starts breathing in and out like a piston. She holds him steady, holds his eyes to hers, and watches him go. He holds her gaze all the same, anchoring himself to her. Her eyes are wide, and that has the answer already transmitted before she nods slowly up and down in the quiet shock of his request.

Even if she wanted to bring him to Zeon for whatever reason, she wasn't quite sure how.

"Ever been under K before?" The long silence as the drug courses through his system is broken.

He licks his lips again. "No… I don't know if- What is it supposed to do?" She answers by reaching out to a patch of his skin that hasn't been burnt down to raw, and she pinches. His eyes go wide, not because of what he felt, but because he felt nothing. "Oh."

"I gave you enough that it should make you a bit… out there. I know whenever I had it used on me I tend to forget events as they happen. Once you start forgetting how to do 2+2 that's when you know it hits."

His eyes remain on hers, but they empty again. "What?"

So it was working. "Yeah."

A veil, see-through, falls over his face several times as each time, his gaze becomes thicker, a barrier put upon them. She waits, slowly drawing out the rest of her applications- might as well.

Morphine, more anti-septic sprays and fluids that will probably make sure an infection won't take root, coating his burns and body, her hands roaming his body as he looks on as if watching a picture in motion as opposed to a person before him. Glazed over, he lets it happen to him. Each time she is done with her application, bandages and gauze follow shortly after, looping over and around him. She knows that most of this will be discarded soon, but any bit helps now, not least the one that gets wrapped around his head as she clears his eye and looks truly into what's happened to it: There's a laceration there on the cornea's 9 o'clock, and with a private horror, she realizes that the content of his eyes have dripped out of him, and perhaps evaporated in whatever blast made the burns on the right side of his body. She covers it, all she can do: bandages wrapping around his head holding down gauze that mummifies half of his head.

He has nothing to say, for he wonders if the body this woman is attending to is his own.

The last thing she does is the stump of his right leg. In any other circumstances this wound would've killed him, but the pressure of the debris and the explosive burn had immediately done a gory job cauterizing it. She can still see the bone however, sticking out like a broken branch where his flesh has been torn and ripped away. The skin of his thigh is blackened and red, and stony, and where the layer of skin is, it cuts and dips down to the muscle and flesh beneath.

He's lost his right leg right at the knee, what remains of his pants like a battered flag over it like a wreath, if not melted into him.

She doesn't quite know what to do but the very rudimentary, and she second-guesses herself even as she does it; but she at least has to do something. The tourniquet that's threaded around his thigh is pulled tight as she uses the last of her bandage to wrap the stub up, and it is a gruesome job. By the time she's wrapped it tight for pressure, she can imagine the gory and flesh wettened anew starting to run beneath.

He's been silent this entire time, looking up at the stars. When she moves off of him finally his gaze does move down: He was looking right at it, but the equation never finished. It was simply just an object before him. The idea that he was looking at his body, at his lack of leg, never connected with his consciousness.

A beat, she wants to know if he'll freak out. He doesn't, head laying back down on the ground, padded by the bandages now.

He has become a part of this city now, both in nature, and perhaps actually. His other leg is out there in the debris field, and it would return to the Earth, just like his people wanted. But those that fought for Seattle, they too share his experience. She was hard-pressed to name a fighter that had been whole, even if they survived.

Their names are etched into her memory by necessity, and by the inclinations of her heart.

She knows how they died, and she knows how they left her.

So many had gone to the American mid-west on the promises of good, simple work. She couldn't perceive of that idea, so she stayed here in her lonely kingdom.

She already knew where she was going to bring the princeling before she got here: Not to the Conclave, as sound of an idea that might be, assuming none of those that remain there, upon realizing who he is, wouldn't put a bullet in him. No, she was going home with her.

She's done all she could do to stabilize him now, and yet now he is more of a corpse with his silence. It's hard to hate a body.

Uncovered, his uniform's state is as revealed as his body. It's rags, cut and burnt and barely on him save for the fibers that have woven in and stuck by his body's fluids hardening.

"Mai, Mai, Mai, Mai…" Her name falls from his lips lightly with each breath. My my my my my my. "Who are you?"

She didn't know. "You should know." She answered instead, gathering up her gear, her fallen pistol, giving only a fleeting glance at the bodies that have been dead for almost an hour now as she bolsters the gun.

From the bottom of his lungs, Garma tries to will words, but it is beyond him now as instead his vision guides him in the medicinal flightiness he feels. All that he can do is flub his lips and groan.

Now comes the long walk.

"Tell me if I break anything. Also don't try anything funny."

His eyes look up at her as if he understands, and that's enough for her as she grabs his relatively good arm and suddenly, in a long pull that has her rolling forward, he is on her back, lain across her shoulders like a burden.

The first steps bring her over the dead, and from his position, Garma's head looks down upon them. There is slight déjà vu now, here, in a twisted way now, for him:

He's being carried by someone who wanted him dead.

She bandaged him up so that the gored-out leg wouldn't be constantly rubbing up against her the entire time, one less matter for her to worry about as she made the two-hour journey back toward West Gardens and the Elysium Condos. It wasn't a two-hour journey however. More four: Ducking her head in routes less traveled, safe routes where she guaranteed herself that there would be less chances of her stirring trouble or being observed by anyone, taking breaks, the burn in her back and legs from even handling her own kit, plus that of the slender Garma Zabi, doing a number on her.

She's carried men and women before like this, dead and alive, and as gruesome as a thought that it is, him losing a leg made him lose some weight.

This time when she stops to take a breather with him, it's in an abandoned McDaniels. Like most buildings its entire front was blown open as it was used as cover for fighters like hers against Zeon, but it's an easy entrance for her. She's not that far from the condos, the last mile really, and it was an easy sprint for her if she regained her strength. So she deposits Garma in a stall, light headed as he is, his eyes dimfully tracking her face as he nods left and right until his head finds the curve of the booth's seat and lays down upon it. The drugs won't let him go to sleep even if he wanted to.

The day approaches, and there is no sun to beat through the clouds to announce it: just the sickly grey light that turns over the dark and reveals the world slowly. It is a sickly vision, as if one gust of wind could topple over all of Seattle, but that is her reality put in place by the prince she carries.

The condiments section still has some small packets of sugar for coffee along the very bottom of its plastic trays. Not real sugar, of course, but artificial. It would work now as she basically ate the paper that held it in a rip, taking a gulp of water again. The sky had seemed ready to pour, and she was pretty sure she had her water collection system set up on the roof of her building, but as long as it held out before she got back to that apartment she would've been fine.

"I hear… rumors. Of Federation forces putting out bounties on my officers to irregular forces like you. Is there a bounty for me?" The sound of his voice is more air, talking up to a ceiling, cheek smushed against artificial pleather.

She almost wants to laugh. "The Federation would never pay us."

"Ah. I see." He sounds unsurprised.

"Your highness," she cuts into the old language again. It's not because she regards him with that respect, it's because of who she is, and how she was brought up. That respect for the Zabis is baked into her in the same way her accent is. This man would've been her king in another life, and she would've been happy. "If it fills you with any satisfaction, I'm not taking you to the Federation. They've barely been any better to me than you and Zeon."

"Mm." Is all he can respond in his throat as his body tries its best to petrify itself.

The puss of him leaves a stain and then a stick as she tugs him off, and it's an unkind sound of ripping as he's back on her back.

"You're still a Spacenoid." He tells her, into her ear, and she nearly throws him off. There's gratification in his tongue that she doesn't like, and she truly wonders if he's been drugged at all.

"I don't gotta hate the government to be a Spacenoid." She said to the head of state.

She lived here, on Earth, for almost two years now. She knew in war and peace the state of the Federation from a viewpoint of above, and below. Seattle, for all of its metropolitan splendor, had its undercity, and there, she had seen the Federation take those huddled masses and deport them into the stars above, and this time there had been nothing she could do given her station.

"It helps." Garma whispered.

She couldn't argue.

It's the last she hears English from him for hours.

The front door was for special occasions. Even when she knew she wasn't being tracked, she would always take the route that went into the underground and its tight corridors and then up into the building. With Garma, that wasn't what she was comfortably going to entertain as she made the final sprint into the marble arch that had survived the war, if only because of the giant security grate that had come down in front of it: glass doors just beyond.

For what it was worth an errant public bus had rammed its way into the grate, flush with its impact, but, if nothing else, it provided Mai her alternative way into her home:

Through the bus's cargo space she had cut a hole in the floor, she putting Garma in as if he had been luggage first and then clambering on top and then through the hole up top, shutting the luggage compartment closed, dragging him up.

She left him on the floor as she took a long scan outside of the bus's back window, just in case, her rifle brought back ready. Her enemies had been in the aggregate, no personal ones as far as she could know, and her enemies had been enemies for all the rest of the survivors of the city.

She didn't survive that long without being a little paranoid however.

Garma groaned beneath her, the texture of the bus's floor too much sensory for him, and with one final glance out to the grey of Seattle's downtown ruins she returned to him, dragging him back up and through the front of the bus as if they had been regular passengers.

"You ever taken a bus before, your highness?" She took delight in calling him that this time around, to poke and rib a man that hadn't been in his own mind. In fact he had been drooling over her shoulder, the body of the medical haze settling in now.

Through those front doors she entered the Elysium Condo complex. It was a single building nestled among the downtown, and one of the few of the Seattle skyline still remaining. Despite this, its position in the middle of the no-man's land of the war had kept it persona-non-grata for all those that remained. Mai had no dispositions toward that.

Here, before the war, doormen and attendants would wait for the well-to-do residents.

She preferred the solitude of empty desks.

This was, at least ever since the war, she had shared this building with someone else, that someone else going from drooling, to mumbling incoherency. Words in a language far beyond her. Garma Zabi is drooling on her.

What a privilege.

The light of the morning has come, and she has spent the night shuttling Garma Zabi from his would-be grave to her home-for-now. White light comes in its sickly fashion through the ceiling, stories and stories up through a central opening, inward balconies all facing that beam into the interior. Like this, one would not know the war came here, but any glance at the northeast side of the building would remind people that this building had its literal chunk taken out of it.

Eventually Garma's words had fallen into blubbering, incomprehensible. Maybe he was having a full conversation with her, but she could not respond in any meaningful way. English might've become the lingua franca of the Universal Century, but for now, and probably at least another day, Garma would be a foreigner to it.

A couch had remained in the lobby, and she had carefully rolled Garma off her back onto it. Wounds had been reopened and clotted up as best she could during the journey, but the worst was kept at bay. Hazily, still conscious, the daylight coming through the open roof in the center of the building painting, Garma had now appeared more mummy than man, his head slowly tilting around to gather his new environment. She let him look as she came over to one of her more impressive accolades of the last year:

A pulley system, all the way up to her floor of the building. A wash basket had been filled with her pack and plate carrier, relieving her of the weight, as she had pulled the rope down, connecting to the internal balcony by her door, forty floors up.

This was what she had used to swing supplies she didn't want to carry up all those flights of stairs. The elevators had, apparently, been out of service before the war.

In times like these, she really did wish she was a Spacenoid: the ability to just float up in the lesser gravity that was afforded to some of those out there, she missed that feeling.

On Earth however, she was weighed down by gravity and the man she carried.

She lessened her own load by depositing her gear into the wash basket, pulling it all the way up herself and swinging it over the edge for her own collection later. What remained on her had been her guns as usual.

Garma's eyes traced the basket all the way up and over, the blinding light above hardly bothering him. He wondered, a stray thought out of the storm of his mind, should he be in pain right now?

She had returned to Garma, but it had been too late, this time. His remaining hand had been ghosting over the bulb of white that had been her bandages around the stump of his leg, grazing over it, wondering what it really was as beneath she saw him wiggle his knee.

"…?" A sound out of his throat that almost sounded like a question. Almost there, but not there yet. She had picked him up again before he could finish the thought. He smelled like death, or maybe she did instead, but in the end what leaked from him, smeared on her, didn't help out. It wouldn't be the first time she's returned to this apartment with this much matter on her, but this would be the first time she's returned to this apartment with a half-dead man.

The rest of the two dozen floors up were in silence, occasionally her rifle would on its sling bump into the floor below, but it was all covered up eventually by the rain that started, and then distant thunder. This close to the top of his head, she noticed the singed examples, the blood beneath it caked in. What a shame.

Her injuries were always deeper, below the skin, or, at least, easily hidden by clothes.

The first time she'd been shot, buckshot peppering her shoulder, it left pits, dotted like shattered glass across her left blade. Garma's scars, they will maim him for life she knows, but that is the nature of scars.

"You smell terrible." She spoke to herself more than him, and he had sputtered out more nonsense, the side of his head with the bandages resting on her shoulder.

She looks over the inside balcony on the twentieth floor and considers it for him.

"You try getting soap when your army is literally invading the entire planet." She grumbles back as if he responded. Filed for later: that conversation. The normal one, the one where she had been fighting his forces for the greater part of a year and they both had to confront that.

He smelled like piss and bacon. That's what a man smelled like when they burnt alive: the fat of a person goes up all the same.

When she returns to her apartment, she allows her guard down finally, and, seeing no tampering, she decides this: She is safe, relatively. Safer still when she makes it through her doorway, and reminds herself to arm the claymore later. What she needs to do right now is to do what she can for him.

So, it's straight into the bathroom, rifle deposited on her weapon's table.

Her pistol remains on her.

Her apartment looks different with the grey light filtering in, almost as if trying to retain some form of domesticity that it was promised when it was made for a civil life. She almost tricks herself that this might be her home, but it isn't, and nothing about what she's doing is civil.

The thought that Garma was going to eat through half of her crucial medical supplies, antibiotics especially, was a passing thought that she had to deal with and cared nothing for. So she didn't think that this was Garma with her right now. This was just another man who needed help. A simple lie that doesn't last long, blood and puss smear against her as pulls Garma from herself and sets him down on the toilet as a seat. Batting his eyelashes, or at least attempting to do so with his remaining half, Garma is subservient to her and he seems okay with it, and the idea that this is happening at all sobers her more than any gunshot ever had done.

"What the hell are you thinking about in there?" She asks to his face, and again his eye-lids are half-open, looking down on her.

There's a standing shower and then a bathtub in her accommodations, the bathtub's drain immediately plugged up as the shower is turned on, running separately.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

"What are you doing?" She asks herself again, looking at Garma trying to balance himself on the toilet's cover, naked save for his bandages and remaining scraps of clothing. The uniform will go, and before he can even try to protest if he had it within him, Garma is swept up off of his ass and she shares a shower with his fully clothed "savior", the layers falling off as they are pulled from him.

He is pressed against the glass wall, the shower head directed more at him in its cold beat. His mouth opens and he screams silently, and even what water gets into his mouth it drips back out red. His body looks like it melts beneath the stream of water, and it melts red like wax. Bits and pieces of hardened congealed blood scrap off, first by water pressure alone, and then by gentle scrubbing with a sponge as his clothes are kicked asides to a corner of the shower in their burnt scraps.

It's her one good sponge.

One item remains on him as she strips him down: they jingle against his chest. Dog tags. Even the crown prince of Zeon had his issued to him. Threading the chain necklace above his necks, the two slices of metal sit in her palm, its details revealing trivia.

They shared a birth month, and a year for that matter. Same age: 20. Universal receiver of blood. Full name: Garma Nolo Zabi.

Her Spacenoid middle name hadn't been as flowy unfortunately.

Along the pattern of the glass, blood runs red down its canals vertically down, and slowly the bandages start peeling off to the floor as well, blistered flesh and ragged skin molt and contort and give way to a gruesome corpse, living.

Strands of purple hair shake off, down to the drain, intermingling with other bits and pieces of him as she scrubs him down as best she can for the preliminary. She stops, just short, of his leg, letting the water run and drip down to it and the bone, strands of flesh still hanging down.

She holds in a gag this close. Her sniper's scope gave her the privilege of being so close to the enemy, and yet far away at the same time. Here, holding Garma Zabi against the wall of her shower, Mai sees all of him (or rather what was left).

"Doing okay?" She asks, and she gets no response from him as his mouth is still open in that soundless scream. He does not resist her however. Somewhere in the base part of his brain he knows that this is something; this is good for him.

She wonders if he'll remember this, but it doesn't matter. She doesn't want to herself. He's conscious off drugs and she's still up because of will. Not that this has been a particularly stressful or pressured night for her, but she knows its weight all the same on her life: The day she came across Garma Zabi.

It's the first shower in her life where she thinks she's dirtier coming out of than going in, but she doesn't mind. She's been dirtier still. He can't stand without her, leaning against the glass, but he doesn't have to do so for much longer.

His body is truly raw after the torture of the shower, but he does not fight her as she takes him again in her arms and out to a shower floor that is currently overflowing. She had lost track of the bathtub, and its water rolled over the sides onto the bathroom floor and out to the hallway. A silent swear is how she deals with it as, along the back slope of the tub, she lowers Garma in and lets the displacement send another wave over the sides. Even after the shower the bathwater immediately turns into a rose red.

It'd be so easy to drown him: to hold his head underwater by his half-burnt scalp. He'd probably want her to do it, both while he was on drugs and then not, she imagines.

She won't do that, not as she lets him settle in the tub that goes up to below his heart, and makes sure his arm that's been nearly blown off, burnt off, to lay as much below water as it can.

He continued to speak his light gibberish, only the occasional word that she understood poking through. Most of it was to the air, to people beyond her, but occasionally, and only occasionally as she sat by his side, he looked at her and spoke, waiting for a response.

Everyone took ketamine different. He was rather composed, if not insane.

He had just asked her a question and was waiting for a response.

The question she wanted to know is, if not for the drugs, how much pain would he be in? Would he be screaming? Thrashing? Bleeding out?

No answers for both their parts.

The sound of his medical madness and the slosh of bathwater would be the conversation between them instead as she sits on the toilet by the tub and holds her head in her hands, run raw and red herself by scrubbing his blood. The shower floor is a mess, but so is she.

Her hair had been in pony tail for several days now, and now it screamed for freedom she let it have: curly, natural waves of a dark black cascading down her shoulders onto the porcelain toilet. Garma could only look on in its pattern as he sat there and soaked, and she herself had to fight off the sudden hit of exhaustion that came over herself.

She woke up before she tumbled over into the bath herself.

The weapons gifted to her by the Federation came wrapped in plastic, and she kept the plastic wrap on a whim she was now thankful for. It was enough to cover her bed completely, for the mattress in the other room had been donated to fellow scout who needed the material for thermal layering. She would take the carpet floor for tonight at least. Garma soaked for another hour, his gibberish slowly slowly fading out as his gaze went further and further beyond his body. Still alive, at least, she never left his side save for preparation of the next step. He was still breathing when she checked by the pulse out of his nose, or the vein she laid a finger on gently.

Quiet was good.

This particular miracle that he was alive? She wasn't quite sure if it had been good or not.

Tucking in the plastic wrap below the mattress, the daylight to her back, her mind screamed for dialog with her own soul:

"What are you doing?"

I am currently helping Garma Zabi, commander of Zeon military forces on Earth, a military force that I have spent this last year fighting, survive.


Complete insanity.

The gaping hole on the other side of the building was open and she always wondered what it'd look like if a body was thrown out of it. Maybe she would go chasing after the body on the way down.

Her life had been on autopilot for the last year. Fighting a war was easy when the enemy was all around her and they all wore the same uniform. But the enemy had been long gone and she had been left behind. The autopilot however still took over from time to time, and the autopilot had made her rearrange her own abode just to make sure that the man wasn't going to die in a way that hadn't been her accidental fault.

Every once and a while she would prepare another first aid cocktail comprising of painkillers and anti-septic, raising his stump and fingers out of the water to douse them, running the water over it to let them seep in as his burns she could only keep wet with her own hands. His face had been the hardest for her to even try and touch. She didn't trust herself not to rip out his remaining good eye.

She eventually did his face anyway.

It had been noon the next time she checked her Casio, and with stark revelation she knew she wouldn't be getting any rest until perhaps midnight. The number of hours past the initial point of injury in combat where the wounded's survival rate goes up, she had forgotten. A lifetime between when she learned that academic statistic and now and she wasn't too fussed, all that mattered was that she was shooting for that invisible number.

The radio in the living room had been clicked on, scanning for frequencies, for activity, for anything that would remind her that, yes, Garma Zabi had been in Seattle (her bathroom). Had Zeon not cared enough to even retaliate, to respond? To search for a body? Nothing yet over cackling airwaves, whispers between the Conclave's patrol outposts, and then the odd independent scavenger like her, filled it in at ten-minute intervals. Garma Zabi had never existed. Even the errant look out her window in the direction of the crash site yielded nothing still but the rain that this city was known for.

Plastic wrap was laid out in the kitchen area, blown and dusted clean as best she could as more and more needles and syringes were prepositioned, each double-checked, each something she would hope that, if for some reason she wanted to live after becoming a battlefield amputee, would be used on her. So many needles, so many solutions, so many referrals to a medical manual she had laying around and the slow realization that she probably need a diagnosis from someone who had been a medical professional of traditional medicine, but that was an issue for a different her to take on: the one that got some rest to process what she was doing.

For now, however, she would do her best.

Garma hadn't accidentally drowned by the time she was ready to pick him up out of the shower, the last of her towels ready to pat him down dry.

Mai had a doll when she was a kid. She had many dolls, courtesy of loving parents, but there was this one doll she had thought of now that Garma had been flat on the floor and as clean as he was going to get now, dry and on plastic. It was a male doll for a cowboy, and in her youthful curiosity she had stripped the clothes from him and saw nothing but the smooth below of painted skin. Here, stiff as he was, Garma had been like a doll, broken pieces at the hinges, used and tossed asides. Granted her doll hadn't been as anatomically correct as the real thing it was trying to emulate.

For such a lithe form, she noted, he had a swimmer's build if anything. An officer like him so far away from the front, royalty, being able to maintain definition as he did was a curiosity to her. He was not a soldier as she would understand and know, and yet here he was with strength in the muscles that remained, torn and ripped by the burns that traced across all his body, but cemented over his right side as if someone had forgotten to fill the rest of him in in red.

Hard to believe he had been the son of Degwin. And they called her Ghoul.

The curtains matched the drapes, and before she had forgotten after making note of that fact she had run into her own room and grabbed, perhaps, a sick joke, but a necessary one: Federation fatigues. When the Federation returned they wanted the guerillas like her who had been fighting for months to adhere to the rules of war, uniforms and all.

None did, and it didn't matter in the end. No one in that war followed rules.

Garma was punctured again, piece by piece, carefully and considerately by drugs and needles and he did not mind. He did not mind as the drug haze continued on, and he did not mind when once again bandages and gauze were wrapped tight around his body and face. Maybe he would've minded what she did next to him, but he was in no state to protest.

Mai wishes, in a sardonic, private thought, that maybe she should've taken a picture of him as she finished up her aid and slowly slid the Federation skin on him. It was the only spare clothing she didn't mind waiting on him. He always looked good in a uniform anyway, albeit this time the sand-khaki right leg of it had been rolled all the way up to let his bandaged stump out.

For the last time that day she had picked up Garma, freshly bandaged and injected with battlefield medicine, and he had stayed silent as a mouse as she had taken him into her bedroom and laid him atop the plastic on the bed. Instead of sacrificing her own sheets, an emergency thermal blanket would suffice. Not that he would complain.

He hadn't.

He wouldn't.

More than that: he didn't want to.

Garma Zabi was still in there somewhere, but just barely. He had gone from one form of trapped to another, but it had all been a period of transition that he could not fight. From his core however, a single message in a bottle, bubbled all the way up:

"Thank you."

She hadn't heard it at first, and only in her mind as she replayed the last few moments as Garma was brought and settled onto the bed. Her eyes went wide and looked down on him, and no tell had been there as if he had said anything at all. He was just there, peaceful in his medically induced ignorance.

If he did say it though…

She couldn't take it.

It only made her bitter. How many other people would she have saved if given the chance? Every single one she'd trade for Garma. And yet here he was, thanking her for this privilege.

She said nothing in return, leaving her bedroom. She would go sleep in there with him on the floor when that time come, but her nerves, her mind had not welcomed that sleeping world yet, even as the idea of twenty-four hours of being awake stared at her.

With the claymore at her front door armed with a resounding click, and the door rigged to open by a string she attached all the way back into the living room (just in case anyone wanted to blast her through the door as she answered), she returned to the table in the living room and the storm rifle she was toying with.

Every few minutes, habitually she would look out her windows and over to the crash site she had taken him from, expecting Zeon forces to have made a play to try and locate their dear leader. Her ears listened in to the radio, every sense she had trying to make sense of what was happening to her.

Nothing helped her explain, no Zeek ever came looking for Garma from noon to dusk and then night itself as the hours rolled by and she remained frozen in her own living room, hands idly working on a rifle that should've been put together weeks ago. Every time she looked back into her bedroom, he was still there, and the rise and fall of the shimmering blanket told her that he was alive.

At some point she had made herself some tea, some more deer jerky being chewed through her jaws that her mind barely processed as sustenance.

The radio played on and on, from further away transmissions always breaking up as they came through due to the Minovsky particles, leading to nothing but a simple white noise that she was very comfortable with, trying to ignore that the day she just had had happened, or that maybe she was simply having a waking dream that would revert the second she returned to her bedroom and saw that indeed no one was there.

The bathroom stank of blood and alcohol, however, and, the world itself reminded her that, supposedly, Garma Zabi was dead to everyone but her.

A shrill whine cut through her radio set and she had worried it had been about to blow up, but the small military-grade equipment had taken it, self-adjusted, and settled. Whatever it was, the transmission was powerful, probably enough to transmit to all of the planet. When the radio whined, she had seen the time: 6PM primetime.

"This is an official transmission from the Principality of Zeon to all in the Earth Sphere. What follows will be an official communique and then an address from the Commander in Chief of Zeon's Military in regards to this." A broadcast officer, voice clear and astute, had paused after this, reading his lines. He had heard this voice before from propaganda that Zeon would blare in the air during their occupation, but now that voice, instead of its strong and fascist tones, had been stone and somber. "It is with great remorse that I must report that the commander of Earth Attack Force, and our dearest prince, Garma Zabi died in battle valiantly, two days ago, October 4th, Universal Century zero-zero-seventy-nine."

They didn't even try.

The body was still very much warm, and here they were, broadcasting to all the Earth Sphere that Garma Zabi was dead.

Garma heard not his name from the living room, he only heard the inside of his own head as the ceiling above him blended in his eyes and grew, further and further away from him as he fell into the dark.

"I can report from Deputy Commander Stone Goring, that Garma died personally leading a task force in an operation that would've led our glorious Principality even closer to victory over the Earth Federation. Again, a tragedy has befallen all Spacenoids: Garma Zabi is dead. In Side 3, Gihren Zabi, our Commander in Chief, is about to deliver a speech in memorial to his fallen brother."

The radio went on, narrating a scene from Side 3: of the crowd of thousands that had gone out into the colony to the Zabi's compound, standing before a giant portrait of the man currently half-dead in her bedroom. The gravitas of each Zabi and major military office walking onto that stage in mourning as, finally, the vengeful Gihren Zabi took to the stands and, seemingly, all of reality stood silent.

To be fair, so did she.

Seattle stayed quiet as her eyes were fixated on the lump of a man on her bed through the door.

The speech that followed was one that rang through the entire Earth:

We have lost a hero to our glorious and noble cause, but does this foreshadow our defeat? No. It is a new beginning. Compared to Earth Federation, the national resources of Zeon are less than one thirtieth of theirs. Despite this major difference, how is it that we have been able to fight the fight for so long? It is because our goal in this war is a righteous one. It's been over fifty years since the elite of Earth, consumed by greed took control of the Earth Federation. We want our freedom. Never forget the times when the Federation has trampled us! We, the Principality of Zeon, have had a long and arduous struggle to achieve freedom for all citizens of our great nation. Our fight is sacred, our cause divine. My beloved brother, Garma Zabi, was sacrificed. Why?!

If she could speak directly to the face of Garma, imagining herself spitting in Gihren's was so much easier now as she answered to an empty room: "Because you're all bastards."

The war is at a stalemate. Perhaps many of you have become complacent. Such a lack of compassion is unforgivable!

The Earth Federation has polluted our most cherished planet for their own greed. We must send them a message, but not composed of words. We have wasted too much time with words. We need action now. The earthside elite must be taught a strong lesson for their evil corruption. This is only the beginning of our war. We have been putting more and more money into our efforts towards making our military stronger than ever. The Earth Federation has done the same.

Many of your fathers and brothers have perished valiantly in the face of a contemptible enemy. We must never forget what the Federation has done to our people! My brother, Garma Zabi, has shown us these virtues through our own valiant sacrifice. By focusing our anger and sorrow, we are finally in a position where victory is within our grasp, and once again, our most cherished nation will flourish. Victory is the greatest tribute we can pay those who sacrifice their lives for us! Rise, our people, Rise!

There was something to be said of politics: tragedies were acted upon by the politics above before the bodies below were even cold. This perhaps, was the most blatant example she had ever seen.

Gihren Zabi's speech was a speech heard even in her lost corner of the world, and she knew, remembered, that the war was going on outside of what she could see of Seattle. She knew that this war meant far more than just land and territory. This was a war for the destiny of the Human race, and Gihren knew that as he spoke the words of a conflict that needed to be fought against the corrupt powers that dictated the Earth sphere.

Mai knew that a man screaming on behalf of his dead brother was of a passion meant to rile comrades into arms, and people into a vindication.

The supreme commander of Zeon's forces yelled out questions same as her, and maybe she had an answer he would listen to. But Gihren Zabi was on Side 3, and the distance between them and her was more than just miles. It was ideologies and meaning, and, perhaps, it was an answer that he didn't want to here. Garma Zabi was dead, and that was a good thing.

These words over the radio, all she had heard before. She even agreed. But that was not the world she had any choice to affect. She was only beholden to it like billions dead and still living on.

That's what she believed, and it was a steadfast belief until today when she thought of it, and remembered that she was now no more than one degree of separation between the man on the radio and herself, the in-between his brother.

She mattered now in a way that sat in her weirdly, like a forced-through puzzle piece. She was forced to matter by whims of her own doing, curiosity. She mattered now, and wasn't that what she wanted when the tragedy came, what felt like a lifetime ago?

One last order, yelled out by Gihren was the order that broke her:

"Take your sorrow, and turn it into anger!"

Words resonated down to the glass she was holding, the frequency in her heart shaking and shaking until it almost shattered. It felt like her teeth, jaw clenched, would do first.

"Zeon thirsts for the strength of its people!"

The Spacenoid people hailed Zeon, and then and there, Mai had thought she had heard that chanting all the way from Side 3, and wherever the Zeeks were on Earth.

Sieg Zeon! Sieg Zeon!

But what did the Zabis really know about sorrow? About anger?

She knew both, and they were the weapons she had turned against Zeon for almost a year.

Her sorrow had turned to anger, and it had wound her tight, eaten her alive, and spit her back out. How dare they try to use the anger that she had brewing inside of her right now to a singular, focused point that made her entire body turn in on itself.

They knew nothing, and as they had, she wished they died as ignorant.

That command had echoed through her mind, back and forth as a chime does, and she had forgotten she was holding a glass cup as, all at once, she felt the piercing pain in one of her fingers and then the slow crinkle of glass below her with a searing hot splash.

By the time the shadows fell over the world and the radio went the silent, the storm rifle was worse for wear, her hand was bleeding from a glass held like a neck she wanted to crush, and she had decided to see if it really was a dream: walking into her bedroom and hoping for something she could not articulate, tracking blood all the way

There he was, as she left him, tucked into that blanket, eyes closed, the rise and fall of his chest constant in the way it shimmered the surface above him.

With bloody palm she wanted to at least see what it felt like: her hand wrapping around his neck, the warmth of her red spooling through the grooves of her skin as she held both hands to Garma Zabi's neck and held them there. Each breath that he made as he slept she felt through the viscosity of her own blood, brushing against her palms. If only she could close her fingers, squeeze, and maybe feel his body's panic as it was robbed of air, she would feel satisfied.

Would his body twitch and try to will itself awake as it ran out of air? Would his windpipe crush first? Would he open his eyes just in time to look into hers as a panic rose in his throat that would never leave?

"Please…" She whimpered. Why did she whimper?

But she couldn't will herself to do that. A force at her chest, keeping her back, the thought in her mind trying to force her to do that cruelty- mercy for him as abrasive as car wrecks.

She wanted to kill him in the most painful, violent way possible.

She saved him instead.

She wanted to see him die.

She went to sleep, collapsed less than five feet away from Garma Zabi on the floor, pistol and a bed between them, and when she dreamed that night, she dreamed of a forever war.

Garma dreams in a way he has never done so before. He is a dreamer (in the traditional sense), albeit a banal one by his own admission. He dreams of vague impressions of paradise and of surreal experiences that pamper him, and in nightmares, of his failures. He dreams the dreams of a normal man, and is unremarkable in that respect. However tonight, of nights, drug addled mind beating within himself as he finally fell asleep, he dreams something new:

He dreams of his Wife.

He had forgotten how the ceremony went, or the tribulations that came with admitting to his own father and the rest of his siblings that he was going to marry an Oldtype, but all must've gone well enough that here he is, on Long Island, sipping tea with the woman he loves.

They're both on their manor's balcony, looking out to the Sound. The smell of salt is something Garma has found a comfort amidst his kingdom of seaglass, risen up in the years following the Federation's defeat. New York City not too far away is being built into a shining jewel it once was beneath Zeon's help.

He has never appreciated the Earth as much as he does now, knowing that he has someone to walk with it: "Dear," Garma rolls his head over, looking away from the newspaper he was otherwise occupied with. Space Emigration at an all-time high thanks to Zeon subsidies! "We should head into town later. See if your father has finally settled his heart about our union, I don't know if I ever told you but I much prefer how his kitchen prepares scallions than ours."

There she is in his vision: An allure to her that came with angels and youth, everything about her a personification of crystal and light. His Wife wore a ring on her finger that had been mined out from the stars, and he? Why even she had her volition, her sources (it's why he loved her so after all): On his finger wore a piece of a diamond that, although Captain M'Quve protested, had been a symbol of the Earth elite's corruption and over opulent wealth as opposed to any historical value, and thus discarded.

The lush innocence of their life now was one earned by hardship and tribulation.

She chuckles, bringing her knuckles to her mouth to hide her teeth. "I still think we're decades out from that, Garma." And decades they would have. "Besides, I think you've forgotten we're hosting guests today."


He had long since traded the drab, yet ornate uniforms of wartime for garb a little more comfortable, a white button down and slacks that had been fit for the New England summer, and even his hair had been grown more out. At that moment he wondered if he should've been changing back to that ounce of formality. He didn't know anything was happening today.

A butler had appeared behind them, approaching the table between him and his wife, gently collecting the saucers and the tea cups. "If I can alert Master Garma, I believe our first guest has arrived and is currently waiting in the foyer now." He had reported politely.

"I see. Who is it?" Garma asked, eyebrow raised as Icelina returned to idly thumbing through her book. The Fallen Prince's Dilemma.

The butler had left as soon as he had given an answer without being dismissed, but Garma could not call back to him as his words fell through his ears. "I believe it is Miss S***." He blinked several times as if it would clear up his senses, thinking if he had heard something else, but the name didn't stick, and yet… She was expected. Gently, a touch on his right arm, five fingers threading through his own. Icelina had reached across the table and looked in his eyes with the warmth that spread out from her.

"Tomorrow, we can go into the city my love." She spoke to him like a promise. "And the day after that, maybe we can spend some time sailing?"

Of course, of course. He rose his hand up to his face with hers in it, kissing the back of her fingers each. "Anything and everything you want."

And she told him, her lips moving with all those promises, and yet no sound, no voice came with it. Was he distracted? Maybe, maybe not, but she had eventually put her mouth against his, and he knew what to do from there. When he next opened his eyes she was gone, but that was no matter, it was impolite to keep a guest waiting.

His home had been filled with decorations and honor, pictures of comrades honored and victories attained. The war was long, and the battle blurred into one giant horrible amalgamation that had just been called, the war. All of the faces of those that had won and lost in portraits in each hallway, reminding him of who sacrificed themselves for a better future. They looked upon him in those halls, and he tried his best to avoid all of their gazes.

When he arrived in the foyer, he had found the woman waiting for him. She held a picnic basket in the both of her hands, a yellow sundress contrasting with her dark skin. Dark, almost blue hair were in two buns on either side of her head as her red lipstick burned in the white of the foyer. If Icelina was angelic to him, then she, this woman who had appeared in his home, was like the refraction of light itself. He couldn't bare to look at her, not because of how she looked of course, but rather, because he was not worthy.

She looked up at him, and smiled, and he walked down the stairs into it, returning the amiable greeting.

Her being here meant-

"Where's Ch-" He wanted to say his name, but his own throat stopped him. He felt a burn in his lungs. "The lieutenant commander." He said in his place.

"Oh Garma." Her voice was like a twinkle. "Did my presence always foretell his?"

The burn in his throat turned away as he coughed himself straight, upping his shoulders as he instead offered his hand.

His hands felt cold as she grabbed it gently in greeting.

"Forgive me, to what do I owe the pleasure?" He gave a slight bow to her and she smiled in his grace. "I wasn't expecting company today."

"I was not expecting yours, if I am to be honest."

"Hm?" Her name. Her name was somewhere. In his memory. An acquaintance of his (why could he not even speak his name now, why does thinking of him make him feel loose, shaken apart?), and if not that, he had seen her name on reports coming from that one Institute.

"Our meetings were fleeting, and in passing, but I wonder how we might've turned out. I believe we could've done each other good, now that I think about it." Her face, calm and peaceful, had drooped with sadness now. "I suppose it's always the same story: of people meeting too late."

He's older. He's older? A clock besides the door has a mirror, and he sees his own face.

He sees her face. This woman was older, an adult now than when he had seen and been with her in passing early on in the war.

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Her picnic basket is leaking from its weave.

She is unbothered.

"Oh, let me-" He twists around, peering into the dining room and one of the living rooms adjacent to the foyer, looking for his house staff. When failing to see any he takes a knee instead in front of her, leveling to see her basket. It starts as a drip, but then it's a stream, heavy and constant. Red.


"There's something-" With nothing else he uses his hands to try and catch the liquid up to the basket itself, touching upon it. "We need to do something."

He looks up at her. Green eyes. They look down upon him.

The floor. The floor is up to his ankles in red.

Green eyes look down upon him and her bun has become undone.


He tries to step away, but his right hand does not let him, instead he tumbles back, and the basket is ripped from her grip as slowly, slowly, the red inches up in his home rapidly. His home ages, the light drains out replaced by a grey mildew. She is the only color now and it burns his eyes as he tries to let go of the basket, but his fingers are caught in its weave. The panic in him makes him use his free hand to rip it away, but when it does a crack, a crunch is heard as the basket goes flying. He screams and it echoes in his home as the clock rings a bell forever, and ever, every second.

The basket took his fingers with him. His wedding and engagement ring lost to the red drip rising.

The red inches up, and she inches closer to him, yellow dress turning white, her hands moving up to his face as the water as he props himself up on the forgotten floor is up to his midsection. She remains constant in it. This isn't water. This isn't wine. It's something thicker. He wants to stand up but he cannot find his footing, this red eating away at him.

He cannot move or tread, all Garma can do is be anchored as her hands cradle his face, her thumbs stroking his cheek bones with a smile on her face before her left thumb inches up and he knows what is going to happen. He braces for a pain he forgets where he has learned as her manicured thumb finds his eye and pierces into the socket.

He would scream, but the red is now over all of them, and as they both drown in the deep of it, she digs her thumb deeper and deeper into his head before the pain blinds him.

In his ear as his lungs fill, open from the pain:

"I'm not who you think I am."

When he opens his eyes, he's on a ship, clawing at his face and in front of him.

He's whole again, and as he catches the breath from recycled air the instinctual gut reaction for him to shift himself down to center himself in this gravity remains, revealing where he is: a bridge.

He sees a flash of red manifest in front of him. Addressing him. To his sides: people caught up in history as it unfolds.

It is Him.

It isn't Him.

A man stands before him, blonde hair flowing like the memory of Zeon Zum Deikun's locks, and Garma does not know how the Red Comet has aged over twenty years. Is this his father? He thinks for a moment, before the answer is given to him, like a diamond bullet, right into his mind and memory. If he could run away, blast himself as far away from where he had ended up into the depths of space, he would've, but he has to stay as witness to a play that is being put on for him.

He has to stay because a young man, a man representing a beast of possibility, holds his left arm like gravity itself to what unfolds before them:

The figure in red speaks a grand tale, learned from history. "Whether it's the Zabi family manipulating the Zeon ideals in a war for independence, or the two Neo-Zeon wars, it boils down to the same thing:"

Faces he doesn't know. A crew out of time trying to find meaning for the destiny of Humanity. They all look to him.

"War remains. We all shall die, uselessly." Heralded the Vessel. "You could've stopped this."

Anger, pure as sunlight, raises up in Garma. He wants to tell the Vessel that he was the one that killed him, but that blame would be undeserved. The anger is replaced with pity, and on his right arm someone touches him. This touch does not blame him as the Vessel does. This touch belongs to a woman who inherited too much from him.

She understands, but even so, their blame is justified and true. How he knows is the same way he knows who the Vessel is. He just does.

The blame defeats him, and he closes his eyes to hide.

He cannot hide from the future:

Garma Zabi loved his Father, and detested the great weight on his shoulders put upon him by Zeon Deikun himself, but it was the price of the future, a price that every Zabi would pay. He saw his father pay a price as he meets with the Federation's General Revil. Had peace finally been declared? His hopes in that dashing confusion is put asides as all at once, that hope for peace is destroyed by pure fire harnessed from the sun itself.

He cries for his Father, but instead he is placed before the feet of his siblings. His Sister holds a gun to the head of the Oldest Son, and all at once, he gets what he deserves. As his brains spill out on the floor of that command bridge the Sister looks at him, his breath taken from him as he has just seen family kill family, a betrayal that was only biblical in its tragedy. Her eyes are dead, as if she had been playing this over in her head a thousand times. "You would never have been strong enough to see all of this through. We would've killed you for it." Her hands around his neck before he can cry for the loss of his family, and as she presses him down into the floor he goes through it.

He's falling to Earth, and so too does the asteroid base Axis, a White Devil and its Hero doing its best to try and stop the end of the world, the fighting spirit of all Humanity resting with him. Before he sees what happens he returns to Earth as it turns over and over and over again in war and conflict:

From the oldest legends of Mesopotamia to a butterfly from the moon washing over the Earth, he sees it as he is dragged down by gravity. He knew the Earth had been scarred, but he had never seen it like this, raked over again and again with warfare the likes of which makes him want to tear out his own teeth and vomit. He sees all the trenches, all the chemical weapons, all the horror and hatred of men and women who would put their lives at stake for the sake of death. It is a cruelty, for he sees it all as he returns to earth. It doesn't kill him.

He doesn't get to die as he awakens- finds himself amidst cold sand and an overcast day. He has but a boy for company.

A teenager, his eyes are empty save for the stars, looks up aimlessly on the beach they're on. The Lamb has no more tears to cry as Garma tracks his eyes to what he could possibly be looking at, and suddenly he wants to cry too: A colony, ascending in flames from the earth, stuck down like a grave marker. How many people had just died? How many lives had been lost because of the horrible arbitrariness of conflict without justice, without remorse, without mercy?

"Too many." The Lamb mumbles before he collapses and Garma can do nothing for him even as he reaches for him desperately. What was happening was beyond him to understand; all he knew was that it was something he was forced to bear.

This wasn't Sydney, this wasn't Iffish.

He tries to speak to the boy, but he cannot, looking at the colony and wondering, just wondering, what it looked when Operation British came down.

As he lays on the sand, the sand turns to concrete, and warfare again threatens to swallow him.

He finds himself dropped in a city square, he looks up: He's in a colony, but far closer to him a mobile suit he's never seen before opens up with the cannons on its back toward green shaded mobile suits that remind him far too much of the standard issue Zeon paint. The casings from the cannon fall upon the ground, and one, he tracks down, smacks against the back of a head of a young mother, a child in her arms.

A woman, royalty like him, is quick to go to the dead woman's side and scoop the child up, out of danger, locking eyes with him across the way before he is sucked back into time and space. There is disgust in her eyes and he can never forget it.

Mai hears Garma shuffle on the bed above her, mumbling still in circles, his body twisting and turning. She thinks nothing of it as she continues to bide her time and sleep herself.

Conflict to conflict, war to war, Garma Zabi bears witness to battlefields he had hardly known, had hardly understood, and had been promised in a future of his. Solomon, the Gate of Zedan, the very edge of the Solar System in defense of the Dandelion, Vietnam and Normandy, the rebel craters of Mars and the storms of Jupiter, gunshots and flame and fire and death bombard his mind and refuse to numb out the sound and fury of death and war. All war, for all time: a Human constant.

A rock beating against the head of the oldest first cousins of what could be considered Human, replicated by the way two mobile suits crash in the void together, entwined as they do his same journey and learn nothing.

He is alone, far more alone than he had ever been in his life, even in what he had thought was his last moments, as History, all History, unfolds and folds and represents itself in front of him.

He sees them all, time and time again, the same faces, the same weapons of war: MS teams and pale riders and red comets, masked men trying to make their mark on history against iron blooded orphans with their white devils. The miracle children of Humanity forced to fight up and outward for a chance to survive, and nothing about preventing their cycle that repeats every century, every new start, every promise and great war conclusion full of hope but twisted by people who do not understand an eternity awaits them: The Hero of the One Year War sits alone in isolation as the same conflict begins again. A Witch from Mercury, exiled for her powers, stands ready with her gallant knight to save a people that do not deserve it. Five Horsemen turn Earth asunder for revenge, and far from the Earth Sphere entirely, the Rogue starts life in a different solar system for all like him.

The same tragedies happen anyway.

Garma sees them all, and the one thought that he has, eternity and more whiplashing back and forth in his head as he is brought to an understanding, is that he wants, so bad, to help, to stop, to scream that it didn't have to be this way.

All he can do is watch.

He's in a diner, on Earth, behind the counter: Before him sitting on a stool is his niece. He knows it's her, but she is only a mere baby, not this young woman with the world on her shoulders. She looks so much like her mother it shocks him. He reaches out, but he cannot bridge that distance in time.

"The words we speak, the actions we take, have all been chosen by our roles. I can never take it back. But like all of us we persist. Struggle is the father of all things, after all." Such a dark quotation from the Heiress. She believes those words because she is a Zabi in the end. "We are helpless, but not hapless."

A great wind takes him, and he is deposited before damnation:

He stands there, and he thinks he is awake: Only the fact that he stands on his own accord breaks that nightmare that has him standing in front of a Federation firing squad. Yet again, a man his age shares the stage with him: his eyes are far younger though, with regret in their shape, guilty of only doing as his father did in trying to do what was right. Looking on: his father also watches him die. The Hanged Man tells him: "We are damned to our Time."

Gunshots. Londo Bell rings.

Pain, jerking: Had Mai shot him in his sleep? The cowardice.

No. He opens his eyes, and he is in Europe, mountains and woods of the fatherland.

Two children kneel on farmland. Garma, for his curiosity, walks over to see what has been made in that cleared field promising life and crops. One of the children is a girl he swears looks familiar. The boy, a blue jacket around his shoulders and his cap turned backwards, is prideful in what they're all congregated about:

A sapling.

"We're not sure if this'll survive," the Grandson tells him with a toothy grin, confident, sharing a happy look with the Angel. "But I want to see it try."

He is tired. He has walked along years and worlds and his bones have withered away until this very moment in a place known as Kasarelia. In the distance, he sees a monstrosity of Heaven come down from space, rings and eyes all swirling around a core, each vibration seizing his mind until he collapses, again and again and again into the dirt. The sapling has become a tree in the duration of his pain, but the forest around him burns red hot.

Again and again the same scene, the same tragedy, the same violence.

Time has become meaningless, and he wishes so much for it all to stop. And it does. Finally, sometime, someday, somewhen far later:

Complete nothingness. Devoid of light.

"You understand now, don't you?" She has returned, the woman in the shape of a Swan.

There was hope here once, in this void. He can feel its after trace as a cruelty: the knowledge that there once was something. There could've been something

"Please." His first words in millions of lifetimes, his hands covering his face but unable to stop the deluge of horror. "What is this?"

The Swan goes to him in this emptiness, and this time, her face is that of an old woman, beaten and tired. Peering through his fingers, he sees what has become of the Red Comet's hope for the future. "Do you know what happens when Time itself ends?" She poses a question that Garma answers from his heart.

There's only one answer Garma can give as he floats in it: "This."

She is impossibly old, drained of the form that Garma once knew of her. Her wrinkled hands are that of a shadow, a ghost, eeking out the final edges of its own formation. Even still though she reaches out and Garma recoils away, remembering what those hands have done to him.

In a place of complete understanding, the truth is still the same: There was fear in the hearts of men. Even she had instilled it as a Human. New or Old, it didn't matter.

"It was true, you know." Her voice croaks, old hands running within each other, her eyes looking upon them and the tragedy of it. "When we die, we go to a place beyond, able to reach out even from the thereafter. All of Humankind knows this truth now."

He must've died in his sleep, Garma realizes now.

"No. You are not in Hell. Nor Heaven. You simply are Beyond." The Swan answers his fears. "In this place beyond Time, what remains is what we were, and nothing else." The Darkness, the Nothingness. Forever was only a word.

"Wha- what did I see then? My Love- that future for myself." It was so momentarily nice. It meant that the war against the Federation was worth it.

"Illusions to comfort a dying man yet not dead, your soul dipped into this place. I merely showed you what is in store for you before you are done with your mortal life."

Going from character to character in the long show of the Universal History and beyond is what she means, and it is a horror show. And yet, she is outside of this.

"Then what are you?" Garma asks desperately.

She answers, and he knows that this is one of reality's final truths: "The one who watches over this river Styx. The one who offered all of Humanity final rest from eternity." It is shame in her voice and then confusion in his.

She was the first, and the last.

"…All of Humanity?"

"Garma, oh Garma." The Swan looks down upon her hands again, and in the veins of what was a Human is nothing but dust. "Innocence was your unmaker. Humanity ended long ago."

He was flabbergasted, but not surprised as he takes in the nothingness around him. "But doesn't it all end? Is this not an eternal fact?"

"No, Garma!" Her voice rose and she was on the verge of tears. "I have seen all that we are capable of, and in the end, we failed! A Humanity that failed was not worthy of this Beyond, and so this Beyond came nothing."

Concepts that are far beyond him, but witnessed by him. "I- I don't know what you mean."

She snaps. Righteous anger still remains after all this time: "I have seen Time itself! I have seen the end of Humanity and its possibility and it is a fate that we were unable to avoid! To see the end of life itself-!" She is on the verge of tears, and what she admits brings them to her: "We are so, so lonely in this universe Garma. Beyond Time is a place that is so lonely, so inconceivable to what we once were, it is because of us."

In all Nothingness, the sound of a woman crying is apt.

"Mountains, built of the children dead! Giant metal monsters fueled by our very souls, fighting and recreating themselves to the very death of the Universe! It keeps happening, it kept happening! We made a mistake; our lives didn't matter!" She went on, and on, and on. "We destroyed our afterlife. We destroyed where Humanity was supposed to go! All that we are left with is this story." This story, and the Universal Century repeats behind her, again and again, for all time. Every tragedy, every life, every hope that culminated into a repeating story within itself that never changed. "It is a story that we are forced to play a part in, for all of our eternities: tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow hereafter." Beyond even the last syllable of Time itself. "It is all we have now, at the end."

Whether it takes a moment or another eternity for Garma to answer, he answers true: "…This is what we deserve?"

She nods. "War, suffering, became our fixtures. Without it, we could not exist as Human." There is a trail there from her words that leads off, desperate for another ending. "It became too far a part of us… and this Beyond, knowing who we were, did not allow us to bring war here. So it left us all, empty and alone."

Empty and alone, for the rest of beyond eternity. Infinite blackness.

Hell was better.

"Everyone else has withered away, and so I remain with nothing but a horrible, horrible memory. Without me, there truly is nothing."

And so, she remains as the last will and testament for all of horrible Mankind. She is its victim, and its progenitor. Alpha and Omega. Garma remembers her file, vaguely, he never wandered too far into hers out of respect over someone whom Char had been rather intimate with, maybe for his own safety, but her file number from the Flannagan Institute had bee 1.

Was she the first Newtype?

Perhaps not, but maybe the first to push past the veil.

She was the first to ascend.

"No. Not ascend." Garma is read by her. "The ascension that we sought for was not one that could come by simple belief. It had to have come from something deeper, something more fundamental than an evolution in ourselves. We had to redefine ourselves beyond our ability to understand each other, because that was never enough. We failed. But not you. Not yet."

She was speaking in riddles, in concepts, in a story he never knew. "…What do you mean?"

"It doesn't have to be this way." One more time, her hand reaches out, and the sadness within her is too much for Garma to bear. He wanted to help. So he does, bridging that gap. She is impossibly cold, but he is now warm, and before his eyes she returns. Through this connection he finally can bear to burden who the name of her:

She was Lalah Sune.

The stars slowly return in a blue, beautiful wash, but they are dim, fleeting. They are there though for now.

In that connection, he understands now.

"You're not the Lalah I know." Her name is sweet on his lips, and yet it is a foreign taste.

She is a different Lalah, beholden to a different Time. Her fate is written, and yet in the margins she has been able to fit in with his, whether Time had intended to or not. As she touches him, a part of youth returns to her, ebb and flowing.

"You cannot save me as you believe. Or any of us. But you can save your Time, your Beyond. And from that… . Maybe. But it doesn't matter."

"Ɐ?" Garma speaks.

"Save yourself, to save all of us."

"I- I don't know what you mean. Am I not already lost?"

"Yes. No. But I know you can save Humanity. Save this rotten core. Save ourselves from this everything nothing."

Reject Humanity, to save Humanity. Rip out its heart, replace it with something better.

"Do not inherit ideals. But become the hope of Humanity."

He knew exactly what she was asking. It was a fickle thing: this connection, and how you knew everything and nothing about another person. It calmed him and scarred him all at the same time. In this space she was all he knew, twirling around her. In joining, he understood her, and vice versa. "You are asking me to solve a problem that goes beyond a single person. You're asking for the change that would take generations, civilizations… Gods to will. I am not God."

Her eyes are majestic in how they look through you, and then he understands why the Red Comet was drawn to her. "It can start with you. I know this. For what will happen to you."

She said it so steadfast, so sure, so willing.

"Did you… did you set me up?" A question he wants to ask but not her. It's fitting anyway.

She meandered. "No. But I have nudged a certain someone beyond a point and place of their own unmaking. A mercy. For you, and for her. Together something will change. Life will change."

Her. "The woman."

Lalah nodded once. "Her." Out from her mouth the mention of her is a cold breath, and it stings him. "She is much like Him."

Him. Garma sees red coat the stars. He remembers why he ended up like this. "Is he here. Does he remain?" Hatred and anger. Lalah's point is proven. War always remains in the hearts of men in the end.

Lalah gives him what he wants.

"Garma." His name is whispered on lips. In the oldest story that codified the very idea of Hell that those kept at the very pit, in Hell's most absolute punishment, were the betrayers of Mankind. Garma knows now that hellfire in his heart as he whips to the sound:

This time, it is Him.

Lalah is gone.


The Red Comet is as he wants to remember him: perfect. A man, like him, blazoned in a color of fire with that mask on him. Garma's hands fly for him, for his neck, but they are nothing but caught by Char as one more memory, one more history:

He's back there, brought to a space close to reality, hours before the first shots of the One Year War; at the Academy. He's struggling to put on his flak jacket because what he's about to do is dangerous, it's crazy, but it is what's right, and real combat rattles his nerves like nothing that the Academy could teach him. His fingers fumble, but suddenly, another pair of hands is on him, holding his collar and button for him. He looks up and sees the face of the Red Comet and instead the hands are reversed. It is Red Comet's hands, oh so close to his neck.

"I have seen everything, and yet I still don't understand." Garma tries to move, but he cannot as the Red Comet smooths his fingers over his collar. "How have I wronged you?" It's not a question for Garma, it's him begging to know why he was to be killed. The Red Comet smirks, his eyes hidden by that iron mask.

"It is not for me to say, or for me to apologize for. I am not, and will not be, yours."

A truth.

No answers, so Garma gives his fire red hot fury, reaching up and taking the Red Comet's wrists. "You will be mine, for what you did!"

Char's confidence remains. "Not in this procession. Not this Time."

Garma pulls a gun that came from nowhere. A gun that was not his own, aiming it at that mask. As he aims over however, he aims not at the Red Comet. He aims at someone else: The Angel of Death. She's a half-living woman, a poncho over her form like a ghost, floating across the land looking for the dead like him.

"She is not like us. She is not like us." Lalah Sune whispers into his ears. "She is lesser, and greater."

She saved him. She'll kill him.

The Red Comet is there again, and the gun remains.

Garma wants to pull the trigger but he cannot. It's not what he really wants.

The Red Comet knows this, and he approaches Garma again, the dim light of that place, the room they shared for years together and all of the memories buried beneath sheets and idle curiosities and [connection] rising up like the dead.

"Hmph. You would've loved, and you have imagined this idea: of me, in this room, with you holding this power."

A gun was a gun but it was not a gun. It was the power over people and Garma knew what power was but what power did he have over the Red Comet? He wanted that power over those who could not be lorded over.

Where's the challenge when you're living with a yes-man?

"I want-" Garma barks out, but he is stopped. Lalah is watching, is listening, and knows there is a wrong answer there. I want you dead.


That leads to nothingness. To the void. To the end of all things and even beyond that concept itself.

"What do you want. What did you want?" The Red Comet asks him, and he walks closer, closer. The gun is gone. There is no power here anymore, just an imposition of what was and will be and what had happened.

In this room it was just them. It had been for a while.

The Red Comet was amiable on the eyes and easy to make the case for what it meant for mutual, pragmatic, release of frustrations. Char was very frustrated, and Garma was always more than willing to serve others for once.

He walked closer still, and two feelings rise within Garma between what was and what had happened. Little deaths is a term for release, and the Red Comet had been responsible for so many of Garma's own little deaths over the years, leading up to that one large one (attempted).

With no answer given, an answer is taken. The Red Comet touches his face.

Char Aznable lives.

"You wanted so much." Char tells Garma, and it makes him laugh as he pulls away his hand. "Such a spoiled brat."

Garma's hand immediately darts to where that warmth was, holding onto it, savoring it, only to realize it burns. "I only want to know why Char!"

Why did you try to kill me.

"But you do, don't you?" Char poses, finger at his chin.

Connection goes both ways, and all Garma can do is feel incredibly sad that this connection, this understanding, is not what he wanted in the end after all. He understands why, and it is not enough.

Life's greatest tragedy was that: getting what you wanted.

Char moves on, looking through him with that mask. Though he has been unmasked for all Time now: "This woman who saved you. She will never come here. She's not like us. And honestly, what we're talking about here goes beyond us. You'll see."

A warmth envelopes the room like blood before, but it does not drown, it only keeps alive. It takes all within Garma to not open his mouth and to let it all in. His dignity is at stake, but he is here, now, undignified in this room of his past.

"If you know what was and will be, will you tell me if she kills me?" He would know, Garma muses. For Char seemed to understand what it was like to kill him.

Char's cheekbone raises up, a glare, self-amused. Better than a laugh; more of the scorn.

"She'll be there when you die."

Mai dreams of a battlefield she runs across. Her legs never give out. There's a rifle in her hand and a pistol in another, jumping into a dirty trenchline with men and women that look like the invaders from space. What happens next is her bloody wishes.

Forever and a day Garma remains in Beyond, but eventually, as he has learned, Forever ends.

Char and Lalah stand before him as a distant dawn pokes at his skin. It looks so natural for them to stand together like that, looking at a sunrise from somewhere else.

"It was so easy, for things to have turned out better. For hope to survive even where we are." Char says with scorn, but Lalah's words are far more soothing to Garma's senses:

"Garma, the Time that sprawls out before you is not one we know, and because of that, you will never see us again."

"We will never see you again." Char repeats.

Panic rises in Garma as he sees this same sunrise from somewhere else. "But I never knew who you really were." It's a lie. He does. In the most complete way anyone has ever understood anyone else. But it wasn't right. It didn't feel right. It left him empty. It leaves him lost. "I need to know!" he screams at any who listen, but they are not the right words, or the right feelings. "What do I do now, what can I do?"

He is helpless, but not hapless.

He knew what he needed to do but it was all so much.

A tragedy, salvation. Requiem and redemption and revelations.

He is whole but yet he is broken down, bone break flesh seared eyes gouged out and unable to see a complete picture that has been plastered into his mind and, as the dawn comes, bubbles off and away. Everything is ending and he is about to continue on.

Lalah and Char look to the sunset, but then, at the end, look to him. Char approaches, and Garma feels his entire form lighten. He feels so so hot, and Char is so cold it soothes.

He's still wearing that flak jacket, it's still unbuttoned.

"This Time you find yourself in, it is yours, and only yours to make of it." He's so close, and the masks he wears no longer hide who he is: blue eyes. Char's fingers find the button on his flak jacket finally clasps, but before Char can remove his hands, Garma's keeps them close. The dawn is blinding behind him.

"Char…" Now it is time for him to say the words that were enshrined in history from him. It's all that he can do. "Won't you come with me?"

Char smiles once, and for the first time in his life Garma knows what honesty looks like on Char's face. It is a look unnatural, ungodly, and, before he can realize: lethal.

He lets go, and Garma has no grip as he falls backwards and is let free back to where he started: His own life. The world darkens, and then suddenly the very familiar feeling that ignites the right side of his body creeps and takes him.

The world burns around him, black mountains crumble around him as his entire being dissolves with acid crackle pops and he understands what un-life is:

Time unfolds and crumples in the black of everything, and nothing. A single soul at the edge of forever, faced with a choice he was never supposed to have. This, ordained, by an angel from beyond the time. Everything and nothing, for eternity, a vast cosmic truth about the condition of reality revealed to him, and then taken from him for her own sake, in the mind of his even more infinite eye: his soul. He is not God, but he has outlasted them on the plane which he stretches across in the dark of night and then the earliest glimpse of creation. Freezing cold shatters his sorrow, and scorching sand puts it together again. Red earth valleys intermingle with the Hell below and then Hell of artificial creation as Heaven knows and keeps alone. The divide between the divines is bridged along the very fabric of his skin, and it trickles along flesh until it gets to his bone.

He screams, and the sound of the void rings for all eternity until they echo, forward, and backward, to the end of time and to the beginning and then back to him.

Alpha, and omega, says the sound of his terror: Eram quod es; eris quod sum.

As he was, he will become.

The Swan appears, one last time, before him, a ghost of a machine that encompassed far more than life itself will ever know, and holds his face.

"Will you change?" She asks.

He's not sure he understands if this is a choice he can make.

But he wants to change.

"Thank you." She tells him, and finally releases him back to his Time.

Garma is crying, every emotion that has ever been and will be culminating in the swell of his eyes, and the Swan's palms wipe them away from his cheek. She disappears forever, and Garma's tears become the first stars.

Mai awakes to the sound of a body dropping to the floor on the opposite side of the bed. Her hand is on her pistol immediately. It was a pistol taken from a dead Federation officer that got caught out during initial fighting, and it only felt so natural that she had held it in the presence of Garma. She had stood up immediately, ducking outside into the living room from her bedroom to check if anyone else hadn't been there.

Safe. It was morning. Seattle was still grey all over with rain coating its form and the windows.

So she drew her gaze back inward: Garma had been off the bed, onto the rug, twisting, turning, screaming. A bad dream?

A simple explanation and she often found the simplest were often the culprits. Though what had come over him was intense. She thought him awake but his words, his movements, all erratic, slurred, a man caught between waking and a nightmare and unable to be let go.

She approaches him slowly, cautiously as he bashes himself between the floor and the bed.

Above the sleeping prince, she holds the fate of the Universal Century in her hands, gun pointed down as he fights a war inside of himself. It'd be a mercy to stop him from moving like this, images of those who she had seen catch fire before is too close to Garma with the burns peeking out from bandages becoming unlodged.

She really might do it: end his life before he knew he was still alive. Her thumb floated, up and down on her pistol's safety, considering, wondering, hoping.

He cried. He began crying first. She thought it thunder but his sobs came in cries and in groans and in a sadness that was unmistakable.

Wherever he was. Whatever was happening to him, he didn't want.

Who would've wanted what had happened to him to transpire she cannot imagine, and for Mai it is a mistake of revelation that makes her remember this: Spacenoid or not, Zabi or not, at the end of the day, he is this singular fact: He was Human.

There was another boy, fourteen years old, who had fought every hour, every step with her in the war for Seattle for almost a year. If grown men could go wild, go insane, in the middle of war, it dawned on all of them that perhaps even little young children could as well. She had to relent, and realize, that Garma Zabi too could feel the horrors of war.

Just as she had with that child, she too would do this with Garma:

She kneeled down, gun away, and as she came over him, he screamed and thrashed one last time before finally she trailed behind him, wrapping her arms around the man as he laid rested against her chest. One arm of hers laid across his own, caring not for the puss, the blood, of a man not yet dead, holding him close, as the other held his head in soft embrace.

Madness came for everyone: Spacenoid, Earthnoid, Federation or Zeon, and even she, Ghoul as they call her, cannot stand to see it go unreconciled.

She does this now for her sake, not his, as his shaking and cries settle, and then settle further, warmth taking over himself from a sun unknown until it spools through all of his wounds and he has returned to Earth. They stay like that, long after he has exhausted himself back to a calm, and into a deep sleep again.

With a haul of him back onto his plastic, she almost follows him in as she looks and considers that maybe mercy has its limits.

If nothing else: she does too.