|Ish (jinsai) wrote in gw_rewrite,|
@ 2008-05-23 23:12:00
|Entry tags:||heero, odin lowe, prequel|
Title: Barren Harbors
Characters: Odin Lowe, Heero
Warnings: swearing, mentions of killing as an occupation?
Time: Sometime before Heero's Episode Zero (188). Around AC 186 or so.
This is my first contribution to the GW Rewrite and I can only hope it passes muster. Inspired by Odin's episode zero comment to Heero about outer space having taken his family from him.
Title: Barren Harbors
What’s Hades like?
Like a dream without waking. Like carrying water in a sieve. Like coming into harbor after storm. Barren harbor where the empty river runs through an endless desert into sea.
- Sheri S. Tepperdy Allen
The blond man grimaced as he shifted his shoulder bag to his other for what felt like the millionth time. He shook out the hand holding his passport, fingers tingling as the blood flow slowly resumed. His patience at an end, Odin slammed the book down on the counter, fixing the flustered port agent with his very best death glare. To the agent’s credit, he managed not to wet himself. Barely. When they were kids, Odin’s brother used to joke that he could have patented the glare and marketed it to the Earth Sphere Alliance as a deadly military weapon.
“Look,” Odin gritted his teeth, “it was a long, long ride from L2 and I would really like to check into my hotel, take a hot shower, and sleep. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be in that order.”
The agent flushed, stammering. “I know, sir. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, sir. It’s just that – well, I’m sure you know this, but several of the L2 colonies have reported plague conditions and declared quarantine and…” He gulped hard as the scowl intensified. He could practically feel the daggers digging into his stomach.
“Yes, I know.” Odin fought against the strong urge to dig out the Beretta hidden in his luggage and blow the man’s brains all over the immigration counter. However, as satisfactory as that would prove in the short term, winding up in prison wasn’t on his list of things to accomplish that day. “And that’s why I put up with the medical exam and blood tests and questionnaires and several doctors poking and prodding every place imaginable. Now, is my paperwork in order or isn’t it?”
The hapless agent shuffled through the papers, letting out a squeak as a couple escaped his grasp and fluttered in the air before he managed to retrieve them. “Ye-yes sir. Everything seems to be in order…”
“Then stamp the goddamn book and let me through!” Odin roared, startling those in line behind him. Woken out of their exhausted stupor, the other travelers burst into a spatter of applause as the tall blond man snatched back his paperwork and freshly stamped passport and stalked out of the spaceport. The worker tried to call after him but was unable to as the swarm of reawakened tourists descended upon him like locusts.
Exiting the space port, Odin paused outside the door and took a deep breath. It felt good to be back on L-3, although he didn’t like the glimpse of a mobile suit he caught standing to the side of the port. Damn Alliance…
“Mr. Lowe? Mr. Odin Lowe?”
Odin scowled. What now? This trip had been a pain in his ass right from the start. The professional assassin had been reluctant to accept a hit on one of the worst hellholes at the second LaGrange point, but the target’s profile had convinced him. His customers might not have been the most upright citizens either, but they were the lesser of two evils compared to the target, a twice-convicted drug dealer and murderer who managed to stay out of jail due to his other business – pimping out children as sex toys to corrupt politicians and other officials. It wasn’t that Odin saw himself as some sort of twisted, modern Robin Hood, but he had a number of nasty sins of his own and if taking out a guy like that helped him sleep a bit better at night, so be it. Unfortunately, someone had tipped the bastard off and the hired killer had had to shoot his way out of a firefight. He got the target, but he’d also got a bullet in his shoulder for his troubles. Then the damn plague had broken out, and he’d had a hell of a time making sure he got evacuated with the other tourists before the quarantine had been enforced.
He turned to see two people running up to him: a plump, younger gentleman with a red face trying to juggle a briefcase and a manila folder, and an older woman with silver hair that framed her face in soft waves, age smoothing her curves but not detracting from her grace any more than the rapid gait at which she moved. It had been the man’s voice he had heard calling out to him, but he seemed too out of breath to call out again and it was the woman who addressed him as they finally got within a conversational distance.
“Mr. Lowe?” she inquired, checking a small photograph in her hand and then giving an assured nod. She wore a dark charcoal suit and had green eyes, Odin noted. If she had been a couple of decades younger, he might have suggested dinner. Her companion had brown curly hair, mouse-brown eyes, and wore a navy suit, the hitman registered idly, his training kicking in to analyze the details of their appearances. They were most likely government officials in one public service ministry or another, as opposed to some form of security or law enforcement. He relaxed and held his hand out to her.
“Yes ma’am, Odin Lowe.”
She glanced down at his hand a moment before shaking it. “Mildred Hathaway, director of Child Services for this sector.”
Well, his assessment had been right on the money. “Can I help you somehow Mildred?”
“Millie,” she insisted. “Mildred makes me sound like a grandmother.”
“But,” her chubby companion finally spoke up, having regained his breath, “you are a grandmother!”
A hint of a smile flirted with Odin’s lips as Mildred – Millie – gave the man a glare that could have won a few military contracts of its own. It didn’t last long, however, as she quickly seemed to remind herself of the business at hand and resumed a no-nonsense manner. She spoke up, kindly but firmly. “I think perhaps it would be better if we found a place to sit and converse, Mr. Lowe.”
“No, thank you,” he replied, just as firmly. “I’ve just returned from a rather stressful trip and would prefer to address whatever issues you have with me in order to be on my way as soon as possible.”
Millie shushed her companion with a quickly upraised hand. “I’m afraid that may prove a little difficult. You see, there’s been an accident – or, rather, an attack. Your younger brother, his wife, and their child were in transit when their shuttle was accosted by pirates. The fuel tank exploded and blew out a good portion of the ship’s hull.”
Odin’s knees felt weak, the blood fleeing from his brain to leave him curiously hazy and light-headed. “Wha – what?”
The pudgy man had moved to support him, but Odin shook off the preferred arm brusquely. His brother… Franklin had been the only member of his family to remain in contact with the self-proclaimed black sheep after he’d joined the military and subsequently gone AWOL, even though their parents had threatened to disown him as well. After the old relics had finally passed, he had even offered to split the small estate with his brother, though Odin had refused. Frank had been recently married then, to a pretty Japanese woman who was pregnant with their first child. He swallowed.
“You must be mistaken,” he offered up weakly, although he doubted it himself. Oh god. Was this how the families of his victims felt? Karma was a real bitch, he thought bitterly.
“Mr. Lowe? Mr. Lowe?” Millie repeated herself in the same gentle, firm tone. Gradually, Odin regained his senses. “Will you come with us please?”
“Why?” he croaked out. What did they need him for? Inheritance? He didn’t want any of it. They could just donate to the nearest orphanage or hospital or what ever other cause was screaming for attention lately. He was about to tell them that when Millie spoke again.
“Your nephew survived. Somehow his father managed to shove him into a space suit in time. There was enough air to keep him alive until the rescue team found him.”
The next few minutes were a blur. Somehow he had managed to move his feet, following after Millie and fighting off the assistance of the man – he had given his name as Jerry – until they reached the dark blue sedan, obviously government issued. Jerry had slid into the driver’s seat, but Millie had waited for Odin to take a seat in the back before settling lightly next to him. She closed the door and told Jerry to drive, quietly handing Odin a photograph. It wasn’t the one she had checked earlier. He had caught a glimpse of that one and it had been a simple shot of him and his brother in suits. This was a happier picture: a wildly laughing boy hanging on his father’s upraised arm while his mother grabbed the boy’s waist, obviously worried dad’s muscles might give way and the boy might fall. It had been years since Odin had last visited, his day job not exactly lending itself to maintaining family ties. He hadn’t seen his brother in person before his nephew’s birth, had never even met the kid. The boy in the photo looked Asian like his mom, with dark, rebellious hair. His eyes were the same shade of blue as his father’s and uncle’s though. They’d named the boy after him, Frank had told him on the vidline shortly after Hanako had given birth. Odin Jr. Odin had groaned and Frank had laughed…
“Stop the car a moment.” Jerry and Millie both gave him odd looks but Jerry did as he said, pulling the car to a stop along a sidewalk. “I’ll be right back.”
He gave them a smile he hoped was reassuring, stepping out onto the pavement. Just a couple of meters behind them was the brightly painted shop he’d spotted, advertising that it carried an assortment of toys and games for every child. He stepped in and browsed quickly, wondering what sort of toy or game was proper to buy for a child who’d lost his parents to the bitter, unforgiving cold of space. He finally settled on a small, caramel-colored teddy bear with emerald-green buttons sewn on for eyes. Only slightly larger than his hand, the bear’s fur was as soft as baby hair. He paid for the bear without meeting the shopkeeper’s eyes, shuffling out and back to the car with it tucked under his arm.
Seeing the stuffed animal, Millie gave a soft sigh, compassion welling in her jade eyes. The car started back up and she waited a few minutes before speaking. “There’s something we need to discuss before you see your nephew.” Odin gave her credit; she knew better than to ask if he was alright. He nodded, leaning back against the car seat, the bear held securely under his arm.
“The accident happened several months ago. Odin is fine physically but…” She hesitated, drawing her shoulders up in determination before continuing. “His mental state is another matter. Although he wouldn’t have been able to witness his parents’ actual deaths, he was alone and floating in the suit for several hours before the rescue team found him. He eats, drinks, and sleeps, but other than that he’s been completely unresponsive. He’ll pick things up and handle objects but gives no indication of knowing what they are, and seems unaware of anyone else’s presence – not the doctors or the nurses or the counselor… Not anyone, regardless of speech or touch. He doesn’t react to anything.”
Odin frowned and squeezed the bear tighter. “We’ll see,” was all he said.
The blond passed the rest of the ride in silence. Even once they arrived at the children’s ward of the hospital – the psychiatric wing, he noted – he remained uncommunicative, choosing to answer any questions directed to him as brusquely as possible. In other circumstances, he might have even re-considered offering that dinner to Millie as the woman proved herself a godsend. Age was beauty after all, and she fended off prying questioners and would-be spectators with admirable competence and efficiency, not to mention an uncommon empathy.
“This way,” she directed him. “This is the playroom for the children in this ward. It’s supervised at all times by a nurse and a certified counselor.”
Odin strode up to the window of the playroom, the bear almost crushed in his hand, clenched as if it were a lifeline. A couple of children were watching an old cartoon while another played with trucks made out of brightly colored plastic. A few coloring books sat on top of a child-sized table, but the boy who sat there might as well have been blind to them. His arms were still slightly pudgy with baby fat, although he seemed to have shed most of it. Small fingers reached slowly for a wooden block, closing on it with an uncaring lassitude that seemed horribly out of place on a six year old. He should have been running about, or laughing at the TV with the other children, Odin thought with a twinge of desperation. Instead, the boy carefully stacked the block on top of another, building a vertical stack of dominoes. When a plastic truck flew through the air and knocked the tower down, Odin was almost relieved. Now certainly his nephew would give some sort of reaction, even if it were something akin to the tantrum being thrown by the child who had been playing with the truck, the nurse working to calm him.
Odin’s eyes burned. The boy stared blankly at the space where his tower used to be. After a few moments, he reached out, picked up one of the blocks, and slowly began again.
“I’ll take him. He can come home with me,” he said aloud, even as he decided it. Never mind that a child had no place in an assassin’s life, or that the kid didn’t know him from God. There was no way he was going to leave the boy there, blindly stacking blocks over and over again.
Jerry coughed, attempting to protest. “Look here Mr. Lowe, we know you’re the boy’s uncle and that’s all well and good, but you can’t just…”
“Stuff it,” Odin growled, shoving past him much the same way as he had the annoying port employee earlier that day. He yanked the door of the playroom open, letting it slam shut behind him and ignoring the startled cries it provoked. Millie moved in behind him, shuffling the adults and children out of the room with quiet promises of explanation if they could just give them a moment please. Odin grabbed one of the tiny red chairs that was tucked under the table and sat in it. The chair, meant for children, creaked ominously but held. He had to kick his long legs to the side. The dark-haired boy gave no indication of being aware of any of it, not even when Odin ground his back teeth together and swatted the tower away in frustration. Small fingers reached out to pick up one of the scattered blocks, only to be stopped by the feeling of soft fur.
The man took a deep breath, forcing himself to relax. He looked at the boy, then at the stuffed bear he had just slammed down onto the table, then back at the boy. After brushing against the bear, the boy had dropped his hands into his lap and stared impassively at the table. The blond man blew out a long sigh.
“Odin?” he asked softly, eyes studying his nephew. No response, not even the smallest twitch. “Od-…” he paused. It felt odd to address the boy by his own name.
“Hey kid,” he began again, his voice warming up as he leaned forward despite the discomfort of the position. “This place doesn’t really suit you, does it? Too noisy, too many people poking at you, asking you stupid questions. I get it.”
Odin sighed again and reached out to ruffle the boy’s hair. Of course the kid wasn’t okay. Hell, he wasn’t okay. Frank and Hanako, they had been good, decent people. Frank had had all these big dreams, plans to get out and make it. White house with a picket fence and all that. Instead the poor kid was left drifting, first in the vacuum of space, and now in this one, surrounded by people who didn’t know the first thing about him but insisted everything could be all better if he’d ‘just talk about it’.
“You wanna come with me kid? I can’t promise much, but I’ll bet I can cook better than these guys, and I don’t ask a bunch of dumb questions all the time. Maybe we can help each other, huh?”
He sat there for a long time, watching the boy and listening to the nonsensical cartoon music playing behind them. Slowly, hesitantly, the boy raised one hand, his pointer finger extended. The finger stretched out, just barely touching the bear. At the feel of the plush fur against his fingertip, he looked up, his intense gaze meeting Odin’s - the slant of the eyes different but otherwise nearly identical to his own. He nodded, and pulled the bear to him.