Author: Ravengirl
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Remember + Part 5: erase/rewind

AC 203-06-21

:: 1 ::

"Yo, H... we're gonna find seats. You comin'?"

Hiro's eyes turned from scanning the fluctuating masses around him to focus on his former lab partner.

"No. You guys go ahead, Rick. Max and I'll meet up with you after the speech."

Rick shrugged good-naturedly, threw a friendly punch at Hiro's shoulder and followed the rest of their IEEE compatriots through the security barriers. This was a Peacecraft gig, after all... the entire UCSD campus was crawling with military spec-ops and heavily-armed Preventers agents.

Then there was the Vice-Foreign Minister's personal phalanx of bodyguards. As Max would have said, those guys were a bunch of scary mo'fo's... even the women.

Running his gaze over the swiftly moving crowds, Hiro searched for Max's distinctive chestnut tail. He hoped the other man hadn't gotten held up by one of the security checkpoints.

On the other hand, this was Max... he was probably discussing the finer points of German-designed handguns with some poor cop, not even noticing the backlog of aggravated humanity building up behind him.

Glancing at the entrance to Noventa Commons (the athletic field renamed after the martyred Marshal), Hiro checked his watch one more time. Max wasn't going to make it.

Shrugging mentally, Hiro decided to cut his losses and go find his errant friend. Wasn't like he really wanted to listen to well-worn political platitudes and the ramblings of a woman who was maybe his own age... if that.

"Mr. Hiroshi Lowell?"

His name, spoken in an oddly familiar voice, brought him up short. Turning, he found a rather intimidating pair in Preventers uniforms a man and a woman standing off to one side, watching him from behind sleek black shades.

"Who wants to know?" he asked cautiously.

His mind raced, trying to figure out how these two could possibly know him. Why would they... Max. Thought-processes operating full speed ahead rammed painfully into the fact that his best friend was late and unaccounted for, then tipped head-first into panic.

Hiro was Max's emergency contact and listed as next-of-kin on all his documents. If something had happened...

"Is this about Max Howards?" he demanded, looking from one impassive face to the other.

The two exchanged glances.

"That's a negative, Mr. Lowell," the woman told him. "We're here to pass along an invitation from Minister Peacecraft."

Taken aback, Hiro retreated several mental steps. Relaxing slightly, he studied the agents opposite him more closely.

The man was of average height only. He'd probably have a couple of inches on Max, but lacked Hiro's near 6' stature. The rest of him, though, was anything but ordinary, and well worth a second or even third look.

His genetic make-up was obviously Asiatic in origin Chinese, at a guess and his skin had a faintly golden tint to it. His features might almost have been pretty, if not for their stern set and the spare elegance of his shaven skull.

The woman equaled him in height, beauty and severity of expression. Her dark hair was cut severely short, her figure trim and athletic. A matched set, they exuded danger like an exotic scent.

Hiro wouldn't have wanted to run up against either of them in a dark alley, martial arts training or no. And there was something about them the man especially, but the woman also, to a lesser degree. Something he couldn't grasp. Almost a memory, but...

Narrowing his eyes on the male agent, he attempted to pin down his elusive recall.

"Have we met, previously?"

To his surprise, the corners of the man's mouth twitched.

"Anything is possible, Mr. Lowell. My soul is an old one. Our acquaintance might have been of long standing in another life. But," he shrugged philosophically, "that is the business of the gods, no?"

"Forgive my partner." The female agent's dry tones were a welcome antidote to the other's startling oddity. "Mr. Mysterious, here, has a tendency to open his mouth before his brain fully connects."

"Er... I see."

Hiro eyed them dubiously, catching the amused curve of the man's lips just before his fine-boned face smoothed into bland courtesy.

"Mr. Lowell, I am Agent Fire, and this is Agent Steel." Bemused, Hiro accepted Fire's brisk handshake. Lady or no, she certainly had an iron grip. "The Vice-Foreign Minister has requested that you accompany us to meet with her after the ceremony. She's expressed an interest in your work... something to do with automotive technology and 'clean' fuel?"

"No... well, not precisely. It's a large-scale mass-transportation project that would-," Hiro cut himself off. "I don't understand why she would have any interest in experimental tech developed by a group of barely-there graduates," he finished.

"Minister Peacecraft is always on the lookout for advances that might benefit both her homeland of Sanq and the colonies." Fire stepped back and returned Hiro's unblinking gaze. "Her stamp of approval can mean a lot to someone who's trying to get his ideas heard."

"I highly recommend you go, Mr. Lowell," Steel interjected. "I think it would prove... quite informative for you."

The Asian Preventer slid his sunglasses off, and Hiro found himself staring into depthless black. Inside him everything stilled, until he could see nothing but those knowing, familiar eyes that seemed to look straight through him.

Reality narrowed, tunneled... disappeared in a blink.


'I'm not asking for myself, dammit! If it was just me, I wouldn't be here. I want you to get Maxwell out. You people owe us that much, at least.'

Striding forward, he slammed one fist down on a solid mahogany desk which would have dominated the office it occupied if not for the woman behind it.

One of the Lady's perfectly-shaped brows arched as she examined the impressive dent his knuckles had made in her 18th century furniture, but that was her only reaction to his ungoverned fury. Leaning back in her chair, she steepled her hands and studied him from cool, grey eyes.

'I can't, 01. My hands are tied in this matter, as you already know. Everything that can be done, has. Now if you'll excuse me, I've meetings scheduled until 1500.'

Nostrils flaring, he stared at her for a long moment before turning on his heel and stalking to the door. After years of fighting both against and beside the Lady, he knew when to acknowledge her 'no' as final.

'Yuy.'

He stopped, finger poised on the access panel. He didn't turn.

'Justice may not always be achieved through the proper channels,' Lady Une remarked thoughtfully. 'Dismissed.'

The door hissed shut behind him, and he stopped short, staring at the cross-armed figure propped casually against the opposing wall. Relief, something he'd never before allowed himself to feel, bloomed in his chest and spread upwards into his throat.

He should have known. Une owed him far too much to blow him off, especially as her own lover was sailing the same sinking ship.

'Chang.'



He fell forwards, knees buckling beneath him. Strong hands caught and held him, supporting his shaking body until he could get it back under his control.

Hiro gasped, breath hitching as purple and green dots danced in front of his eyes.

"You're Chang Wu Fei. How the hell do I know that? What the fuck is going on?!"

Lucrezia Noin met her partner's flat gaze over Heero Yuy's head.

"It's started. We need to get him out of here."

+

"I thought you were supposed to be at your graduation."

Burrowing more securely into his blanket nest, Duo clung to sleep like a drowning man to a raft.

"G'way, Hilde. Tired. Tell th' guys, 'nother half h'r."

There was a long pause.

"Who's Hilde?"

"Uh?"

The pillow covering his head was suddenly gone and a flood of sunlight seared his retinas.

"Shit!"

Pushing himself into a sitting position, he shook his head groggily, trying to clear it. When his eyes had finally recovered enough to open, he cautiously focused them on the smirking female at the foot of his bed.

"Hell. Zoe. Sorry, thought you were someone else."

The smirk widened.

"So I gathered. Doesn't explain what you're still doing in bed when you should be on campus receiving your diploma."

"Oh fuck." He dropped his suddenly aching head into despairing hands. "I am so dead, it's not even funny. Heero's gonna kill me."

His unbound hair fell loosely around his face and a small bit of his mind frowned. Would be a bitch to brush the tangles out of that much-

Wait a minute.

Raising his head slowly, he met his own gaze in mirrored closet doors.

"I cannot believe it. I freakin' cut my hair," Duo Maxwell said in horrified awe.

Staring in consternation at the chestnut mane just barely brushing his shoulder-blades, he held a few strands up for closer inspection... and whimpered.

Zoe snorted.

"Get a grip, kid. Could be a lot worse. Like this, maybe?" She jerked a thumb at her own unruly, close-cropped black curls. "What if you'd dyed it blonde... or shaved it off?" she added cheerfully. "That there's real trauma."

"Point." He shuddered. "At least that doc didn't make me stupid as well as clueless."

Sitting beside him on the edge of the bed, Zoe examined the dark shadows under his eyes and the salt-tracks streaking his cheeks.

"Look like shit, bud. Probably just as well you slept in. You need another eight hours, at least."

Duo groaned.

"Tell me somethin' I don't know, already." He shot her a quizzical look. "How'd you get in?"

Zoe dimpled prettily, flashing even white teeth.

"The Brotherhood of Brew has taken up residence in front of the tube. They're watching women's tennis. Boner told me to come get your ass out of bed so you could join them."

"Oh Christ, not the girls in white again. His obsession is seriously not healthy."

Zoe nudged him with her shoulder.

"Not up for bouncing breasts and buns of steel?"

"Hell, no... at least not of the feminine variety. You know I don't swing that way. 'Sides," his voice turned grim, "I've got a B&E to plan."

"Yeah?"

Duo had to smile. Zo' sounded as if he'd suggested a walk in the park instead of confessing to felonious intentions. Sliding from the bed, he grimaced once more at his hollow-eyed reflection then shoved open a closet-door.

"I'm going to want aerial layouts of SD Preventers HQ, plus time-lapse thermal scans of entrances, exits and interior routes, especially the ones leading to and from the Commander's office." he told the woman sprawled across his mattress. "Aaaaannnnd, last but not least, a universal override. Up for it?"

"I live to serve... and you'll get a hefty bill for this one. Don't tell me you can't remember where you stashed all that feelthee lucre you and your buddies lifted from OZ and Romefeller."

Caught in the act of pulling his favorite black Tee over his head, Duo froze as his fully-functional memory rapidly reacquainted him with the dubious fruits of his wartime misdeeds. Turning his head, he ruefully returned Zoe's laughing gaze.

"Well, shit."


:: 2 ::

He awakened as he always did: sharp, focused and ready.

Slitting one eye, Heero Yuy cautiously scanned his surroundings or what he could see of them with limited vision.

"You may relax, Yuy. This area is secure."

His mind methodically categorized the voice. Male, baritone, young... somewhere between twenty and twenty-five years of age. Slight accent. Chang.

Chang!

His body reacted without conscious thought, rolling swiftly off the soft surface he currently occupied into a crouch, as one hand reached for the weapon that lived in the small of his back, and... it wasn't there.

"Looking for this?"

His head snapped up.

Chang Wu Fei stood in front of him, holding the gun Heero had carried through two wars. He knew that hunk of metal almost better than his own body; could break it down and reassemble it in less than a minute.

Rising in one fluid motion, Heero wordlessly extended his hand.

"Hold on to your knickers, Flyboy. I don't think I want you running around armed and dangerous right now."

Turning his chin just slightly, he caught the edges of Lucrezia Noin in his peripheral vision. His eyes flicked back to Chang in surprise. For Noin and 05 to peacefully coexist within 500 miles of each other was unheard of. A rousing rendition of Duo's favorite 'what the fuck?' rang in his head, complete with Maxwell's most annoying intonations.

Maxwell. A mental picture of the other pilot flashed across his consciousness, and Heero's brain seized up like a badly calibrated controls system.

The last three years cornered him mercilessly, slashing their way through his mind in a brutal, backhand maneuver that left him winded and hurting. Head down, fists clenched, he rode the memories out until there was nothing left but the here-and-now.

When a gentle hand rested lightly on his shoulder, he barely cared enough to open his eyes and make sure there was no threat in the offing.

Solemn, worried blue eyes searched his own. Delicate fingers brushed his bangs away from sweat-drenched skin.

Relena Darlian-Peacecraft's pretty face crumpled a little as she ran her gaze over him. There was sorrow there, pain, and more than a little regret. Heero wondered what had killed the indomitable hope in those clear eyes.

"Heero? Is it... you? Do you remember who you are?"

Heero nodded, words beyond his capabilities for the moment. Relena's breath rushed from her in a gust of relief. Unshed tears gave a glassy sheen to powder-blue pools.

"Oh, thank god. Heero, I'm so sorry. We didn't know... we had no idea it would last this long. We thought..."

Relena broke off, her entire body shaking uncontrollably. Noin stepped forward and pulled the younger woman against her. The former Queen relaxed into the dark-haired Preventer, burying her face in the tan cloth of Noin's uniform.

Heero turned impatiently to the only male in the room. Chang was a sensible, no-nonsense sort. He'd at least get a clear, concise explanation from that quarter.

The black eyes that met his held detached amusement in their depths. A faint smile curled the beautifully formed mouth.

"Excuse her," he said in a bored tone. "It's been one of those years."

"Honestly, I don't give a damn," Heero replied bluntly. "But if someone doesn't tell me what the fuck is going on-,"

"It was a blind."

"What?" Heero stared at the other man in confusion.

"All of this." One elegant hand waved carelessly. "Dr. Tregarth's little experiment was supposed to last only a year. Long enough for the government to lose interest and for us to relocate you. But both they and we lost track of you two-and-a-half years ago.

We only found you due to the fact that Maxwell's been digging. Very subtle, but detectable to those of us who've been watching for it. Une thinks we found you first, but we can't be certain."

Crossing the room in a few swift strides, Wu Fei stopped in front of Heero and held out the sleek sliver of gleaming death he carried. Slowly, Heero's hand wrapped around the gun's butt; fingers fit easily into well-worn grooves. It was like coming home.

He looked up to find 05's intimidating glare fixed on him.

"This time there will be no last-minute attacks of nobility or attempts at martyrdom. You and Maxwell will be off-planet by tomorrow or I'll shoot you both, myself, and put us all out of our collective misery."

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