NICE DAY FOR A RACE (CYBERIAN HACKER REMIX)
by Tari Gwaemir
"Quatre, I'm a professional hacker. This is what I do."
The alarm went off, reverberating against the metal walls. He waited for the noise to stop pounding from side to side before he opened his eyes. He could see nothing. He reached up, felt for the chain, and yanked. The hiss of the bulb as dull yellow light filled the room.
He sat up and looked about for his headset and keyboard. He found them hidden in the tangled bedsheets. "Stop hibernation," he spoke into the microphone as he slipped the goggles on.
Ah. There. The script had finished running. It unfurled itself stiffly, like an origami flower. He tapped at his keyboard, watched it rotate and release the data in a burst of sparks.
"Whoa, too much," he murmured and adjusted the mike closer to his mouth. "Slow speed. Sort by field D."
He felt thirsty but couldn't find water within arm's reach. He continued manipulating datasets, twisting them into holographic 3D scatter plots and large topographic landscapes. Hours passed by.
"Trowa. You in there?"
He chewed on the inside of his cheek.
He grunted and continued typing furiously.
"03, status report?" a voice hissed from his earphone.
"Almost finished," he said absently. "I need to run a QC but I think I've got it."
"Send me what you have."
"Done. Send to 01," he told the computer. The files he had been working on stacked together like a pile of paper, folded themselves up into an elaborate dodecahedron, and rolled out onto the network line that connected to Heero's computer.
"Received. Thanks, 03."
"No problem." He yawned.
"Get some sleep." With that, Heero closed the connection.
He took off his headset and looked around blearily. The room was empty save for the bed and the computer unit that took up the rest of the space in the room. The blinking red lights seemed to spell out some sort of code. He fell back onto his pillows and stared at the grey ceiling.
"Trowa?" A new voice, unusually clear and free of static. He tensed.
"You've been holed up in here for weeks. Have you eaten at all?"
Trowa slowly got up and stared. "Who are you?"
"Trowa. Don't you recognize me?"
He stared at the round face, with its luminous eyes and pale hair. "You look like my mail daemon," he muttered, hand scrabbling for the keyboard.
"It's Quatre." The name fell on him like a rush of cold water.
He rubbed at his eyes. "Oh. Of course. Quatre. Sorry. I have trouble matching avatars to faces."
Quatre wordlessly took the keyboard and headset out of his grasp. Trowa didn't resist.
"How did you--"
"I got Duo to show me how to pick your lock," Quatre said, a small frown on his face. "He said he checked up on you last week but didn't have a chance to stop by."
"That was last week?" His throat felt dry. He tried to swallow.
"I've been waiting outside all morning but you wouldn't open. So I went back and borrowed Duo's lock picks."
"How long since you left this room? Come, we need to talk." Quatre impulsively reached for his hand, but Trowa drew back.
Quatre simply looked at him, eyes wide and waiting.
"I...can't...I have more work--"
"You'll work more efficiently after you've eaten."
He sighed and tried to stand up from the bed. He staggered a little, dizzy and disoriented. Quatre caught him by the elbow.
They walked towards the door. Trowa reached for the handle and hesitated. Quatre gave him an encouraging nudge.
"I'm not sure--"
"Trowa," Quatre repeated firmly. "You must leave this room."
"Think of it as a mission."
Trowa took a firm grip on the handle and turned. The white fluorescent lights outside blinded him. He covered his eyes. Quatre steered him gingerly as if guiding a blind man. They moved down the corridor past room after room, until he thought he was going to throw up from the vertigo of having so much space around him. His hands twitched. Where was his keyboard?
"We're almost there."
They walked into a room lined with long tables--a cafeteria, Quatre reminded him--and his stomach growled at the smell of hot food. "I'm hungry," he said aloud, surprised. He had forgotten what it felt like to have his insides twist into knots from lack of food.
"Sit here. I'll get you some soup."
He sat down obediently. Quatre came back with a bowl of steaming fluid and a spoon. He dipped the spoon into the bowl and then held it to Trowa's lips.
"I can feed myself."
"Clearly not. Eat, Trowa, before you collapse. I'm surprised you lasted this long."
Trowa sighed and allowed himself to be fed. "I had a stash of energy bars in the room. But they ran out. And Duo did drop by now and then to bring some food."
Quatre watched him eat, holding spoonful after spoonful to Trowa's open mouth. "Does it taste good?"
"Delicious," Trowa replied. His eyes had adjusted to the light. He felt almost human again.
"What would you do without me, Trowa Barton?"
"Die a sad, lonely death." He looked down at the empty bowl. "Can I have some more?"
"You may," Quatre said archly, "if you promise to never pull a stunt like this again."
"Quatre, I'm a professional hacker. This is what I do."
"Move in with me then. I could at least keep a better eye on you."
"You don't need to take care of me, Quatre. I'm not a charity case."
"Thanks for the food. I need to head back now."
"Wait!" Quatre caught him by the arm, pulling him back down. They looked at each other for a moment before Quatre squeezed his eyes shut and planted an awkward kiss against Trowa's mouth. Trowa jerked back instinctively, his hand rising to his mouth.
"I'll be...I'll try to be back in a few days." Quatre let go of Trowa's arm.
"There's more to life than work, Trowa Barton," Quatre snapped, before softening. "I'll be back. Remember to open the door for me. And...and try to remember my face."
Trowa nodded dumbly.
"I'll walk you back to your room."
They did not say goodbye.