Author: Calic0cat
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Fragments + Chapter 17

'WhathaveIdoneWhathaveIdoneWhathaveIdone...' The endless refrain running through my head along with the never-ending looping image of Max crumpling and falling was driving me mad. The only thing I could be thankful for was the tiny fraction that I'd shifted my aim at the last instant, turning a perfect heart-shot to a shoulder one. My heart had overruled my training and bought at least that much of a concession.

But if I hadn't shifted it enough... No, I wouldn't think of that. I *had* to believe that Max was alive. Injured and captured but alive.

Injured and captured and it was all my fucking fault. Because I'd let the fucking training take control and ignored my emotions that kept insisting that Max could be trusted. Because I'd let my damn screwed-up head overrule my heart and I'd shot the man I loved...

'Enough! Stop angsting and *do* something! You have to get your head together if you're going to fix this, Yuy!' I stopped in the midst of stripping off the tuxedo, abruptly realizing that I'd started thinking of myself by that name earlier. It had been an insignificant detail amongst all the other memories. 'Yuy? Heero Yuy... That's my name, not Odin Wells...' No surprise really, Max had already told me that we were undercover; his name probably wasn't "Max Wells" either. But even "Heero Yuy" had no real significance; the name was merely another codename among many I'd used over the years, the one J had given me before I left on Operation Meteor. Shaking my head dismissively, I resumed changing, silently cursing hands that shook so badly I could barely manage the buttons and zipper as I changed into the maintenance uniform that I'd stolen from a staff locker room. It really didn't matter which name I used, none of them were truly *mine*. Considering that I still didn't remember *having* anything other than a codename however, I supposed "Heero Yuy" was as good as any to use.

I rolled up my discarded clothing and stuffed it inside the uniform shirt for the moment; I'd dispose of it somewhere else, maybe in the bottom of a sanitary waste container in the ladies' room or a diaper disposal container in a family washroom. Someplace no one was likely to dig through searching for it.

'First things first. Trying to contact outside help is too risky; I'd have to break into resort communications and I don't have my equipment with me. There's no time to wait for help to arrive anyway. I need to find Max, find the evidence we need, and get us both the hell out of here.'

Assuming that Max was alive and capable of escaping. Assuming that Max would even come with me. That he would trust me that much after what I'd done. After I'd shot him.

'But - he *did* shoot me before... I'm *sure* of it; I remember him doing it and I have the scars to back up the memory... Why? There *must* have been a reason...' I concentrated on the memory, trying to bring it into clearer focus.

'A girl... There was a girl I was - threatening?'

More bits and pieces of memory dropped into place. I didn't know who she was or why I'd intended to kill her and at the moment I didn't care. All that mattered was that there had been a reason. That Max had shot me back then for a good reason, to protect someone else. He'd been protecting her then just as he'd been protecting me tonight. My heart had been right, not my training. I'd followed my training instead of my emotions - ignored the advice Odin had given me so long ago - and Max was paying the price for my mistake. I just hoped desperately that he *was* paying, not *had* paid. That he was still alive...

'Enough thinking, Yuy! You're wasting too much time. You need to get moving...' With an effort, I managed to still the trembling of my hands and finish fastening the uniform shirt. I couldn't afford to fall apart like this right now; Max needed me. I had to fix the mess that I'd made.

I listened carefully before opening the closet door and slipping out, pulling a loaded cleaning cart with me. The gun tucked in my waistband was an uncomfortable but comforting presence. I just wished that I had more ammunition for it than the single clip it currently held. I was completely on my own now and despite the fact that all of the training I remembered was specifically aimed at that scenario, I didn't want to be. I wanted Max back at my side, watching my back.

Back where he belonged.

Even though I knew that wouldn't happen. That there was no way he could forgive the mistake I'd made. Why should he? I didn't think that I could ever forgive myself.

***

It had taken hours. Too many hours. But I was finally in the supposedly unused portion of the resource satellite.

I'd located the security monitors in the main part of the resort and had knocked out the guard watching them hours ago. After cycling through every view several times, it had been clear that neither Max nor Mattis nor any of the guards we'd fought last night were anywhere that the security cameras reached. Which left here. The part of the satellite that was *not* part of the resort. And now I had to be very cautious; there were no large crowds of guests nor a steady stream of staff to hide in.

Getting in here had been tricky; the ventilation system was completely independent of the resort's and therefore was not an option. But hanging around in the new sports complex near the access door had paid off as I'd hoped. The door was too visible to try to break through in the middle of the day and I really didn't want to have to wait for evening to attempt it; everything seemed to be taking far too long as it was. Fortunately, Mattis had a press conference scheduled for noon to discuss last night's grand opening party and, right on schedule, he and his bodyguards had emerged from the access door to meet the reporters and escort them on their tour of the now-open facilities. While they'd been hurrying off to meet the press, I'd slid through the door before it could completely close. The resort security guard's uniform that I'd - acquired - was probably not going to blend in here, however; this was a whole separate operation. 'It was much easier when a single Oz uniform would get you virtually anywhere on base...'

The instinctive thought was a mistake; it triggered off a flood of memories, fragmented images of uniformed soldiers and half-familiar faces. I grimly fought to keep part of my mind clear long enough to duck into a storeroom and wait out the confusion. Functioning under the weight of the returning memories was extremely difficult. They came back in a jumble of sights and sounds and smells. Some were vague, unclear. Others were so sharp and clear that it was hard to tell whether they were reality or memory.

I was in no condition to be carrying out a mission, rescue or otherwise, and I knew it. But there was no choice. Assuming that he was still alive - and I *was* working under that assumption, I couldn't face any other possibility - I *had* to save Max.

Once the bewildering return of pieces of my past ceased again for the moment, I searched the storeroom and was fortunate enough to find access to the ventilation system for this part of the satellite. The edge of the security guard's ID badge worked quite nicely as a makeshift screwdriver and in no time, I was inside the duct work, silently cursing the extra height and weight I'd gained since the war. This was not such an easy fit anymore.

With no idea of the ventilation system's layout *or* where they might be holding Max, all I could do was systematically explore the shafts. I fell back on an old maze-solving technique, simply following the left-hand wall wherever it led. When a side shaft dead-ended, I just treated its opposite side as a continuation of the side I'd followed down it and went back out and on my way.

It quickly became clear from what I could see and hear through the ducts that the weapons factory *did* exist - but not for much longer. They had already shut it down and were well on their way to clearing everything out. Judging by the number of people working on the task and the speed with which they were carrying it out, that wasn't going to take more than another day at most. They might even manage it by early morning. 'Which means I have to find Max and get him out before then. Until they have the evidence destroyed, he's a potential bargaining chip. A way for Mattis to possibly buy his way out of here. After that, though...'

After the evidence was gone, Max would be a liability. I had to find him, rescue him, and find a way off this damn satellite before that happened.

I forced myself to crawl a bit faster - though still not as fast as I'd have liked, that would be too noisy - and hoped that I didn't get hit by too many more returning memories right now. They made it hard to concentrate and slowed me down while I dealt with the disorientation they brought. The almost permanent headache didn't exactly help matters. I was getting tired and hungry too; I'd had no sleep since yesterday afternoon and the only food I'd had was the apple that I'd stolen along with the guard's uniform.

'Hold on Max. I'll get you out of this mess somehow...'

I had to. It was my fucking fault he was in it in the first place.

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