Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 83
Running

"Man, this is just like the old days!" Duo hissed as he and Heero ducked and dodged their way through a hail of gunfire and dashed headlong down some kind of badly lit, moldy smelling service corridor. It was narrow and low, with lots of exposed pipes and electrical panels. Shouting and gunfire followed them. Duo winced and ducked as a bullet creased his left shoulder, then spun around and fired back.

"Bring it on, you cock suckers!" he screamed, maddened by the stitch of hot pain. "Shinigami's gonna punch your goddamn tickets!" He saw Hato and another man duck for cover. He was about to charge when half a dozen more showed up behind them.

Heero grabbed him and dragged him away. "Come on, Duo! I think I know where I'm going!"

Heero had taken out some of their pursuers in his initial rampage but there were still too many armed men after them. Duo could hear them running and shouting, Hato among them. His old motto, 'run and hide' seemed like their best bet at the moment, after all.

+

Wufei had commandeered the shotgun seat from Shiner, and clung to the handgrip as Nakamura drove like a madman for the harbor. Not a madman, but a suit pilot, Wufei amended, recognizing the single-minded focus in the Japanese investigator's tightly controlled actions. It made for an exciting ride. The Jagan took the corners like it was on magnarails and roared like doomsday on the straight-aways.

They were within sight of the harbor again when Wufei's cell phone rang. He pulled it out and saw Sally's number on the display.

"Shots fired at that address we gave you. I repeat, shots fired!" she shouted at him. "We're almost there, but Tzuki's picked up an alert on the local PD frequency. ETA?"

"Almost there," Nakamura snapped, going into a half spin to avoid an early morning delivery truck backing from an alley.

Minutes later they screeched to a halt next to half a dozen Preventer and police cars parked at all angles in front of the huge cannery building. Part of the street level had been converted into shops and offices. A young police officer was waiting for them outside an open loading bay. She looked dubiously at the newcomers clothing and mode of transportation, until Wufei yanked the badge from inside his shirt and thrust it in her face.

"Where the hell are they?" he demanded, weapon already drawn.

"Lower level, Captain. Go straight through the loading bay here and take the freight elevator down. Be careful, though. There's a firefight in progress."

Wufei gave Nakamura and his boyfriend a quick nod. "Thanks for your help."

He dashed through the loading bay to the elevator, sneakers slapping on the concrete paving. As he turned to hit the elevator control, Nakamura and Shiner ducked through the closing doors to join him.

"You don't have to do this!" Wufei said, surprised.

Nakamura shrugged as he and Shiner checked their pistols. "Zechs'll kick my ass if I let you run headlong into a firefight without any support." Wufei opened his mouth to protest but the man cut him off with a sharp look. "I wouldn't let any man in my command do a damn fool thing like that, 05. Shut up and stay sharp."

Despite the long hair and leather overcoat, Wufei could see the combat officer the man had been. Shiner, too, for that matter. The cocky street manner was gone; he looked as sharp and deadly as Yuy ever had.

They could hear scattered gunfire echoing up to them as they descended, but it was still distant. The car jolted to a halt and they fanned out in a dank concrete corridor, listening to get their bearings. More shots rang out to their left and they followed the sound.

Wufei was in the lead as they burst through a pair of metal doors and nearly pitched headlong over the railing of a shaky metal catwalk overlooking a two or three story drop. A strong hand grabbed him by the back of his sweatshirt and he was hauled back into a pair of strong arms just as a bullet whizzed past his cheek from somewhere in the murky dimness beyond.

"Let go!" Wufei hissed when Nakamura refused to let go. Then he was spun around and found himself glaring up into hard, ice blue eyes. "Zechs?"

Zechs yanked him down onto the metal floor of the catwalk next to Nakamura and Shiner, who were already returning fire. "Keep your head down, Chang!"

Wufei blinked at his lover for a shocked instant, taking in the jeans, leather jacket, and very large blaster rifle he was armed with. He had on a flak jacket under his coat and his pale hair was tied back under a bandana similar to the one Wufei had worn earlier.

"Major Tzuki and Po are down there," he reported, as if he'd been part of the operation from the outset. "I stayed back to catch you three and bring you up to speed. I estimate at least a dozen armed men but resistance has fallen off sharply since the Preventers arrived. "

"Any sign of 01 and 02?"

"No sightings, but I suspect Heero was here. Check out the floor below."

Wufei cautiously peered over the edge of the catwalk and saw at least half a dozen bodies sprawled like broken dolls on the floor far below, most of them near the room's only apparent furnishing, a large table. An overturned video camera and tripod lay next to it, and some professional looking lighting.

A burst of automatic fire ripped the air somewhere down in the shadows below and a man screamed and staggered out into the circle of light to collapse. Two Preventer agents followed, holding their weapons on the fallen man.

A few scattered shots pinged off the wall just over Wufei's head; there was still at least one shooter on the catwalk.

Hunkered low, Wufei took the lead and charged off in the direction the shots had come from with the others close behind.

A few more shots rang out, and then he heard the sound of feet pounding on metal. "Out of ammo, are you?" he muttered, increasing his pace to catch up.

They ran down two tough looking ex-military types as they tried to make it to a power lift to the lower floor.

"Preventers!" Wufei barked in Japanese, covering them with his pistol. "Stop where you are and put your hands up!"

They did and he suddenly found himself with two unwanted prisoners and nothing to restrain them with. Shiner solved the problem, knocking both of them out with perfectly executed Wu Yi blows.

"That's not Preventer procedure," Wufei muttered, impressed.

Shiner gave him a quick grin. "I'm not a Preventer. C'mon, Captain, the action's down there."

+


Heero took a couple more turns, still dragging Duo along behind him, then yanked him sideways down an unlit corridor.

"You did get away before, didn't you?" Duo whispered, finding Heero's shoulder and clinging to it. It was dark. Real dark. And it smelled really, really bad, sweet and rotten at the same time. Garbage, maybe?

"I don't remember," Heero whispered back, leading him slowly forward. "I just know- Somehow I remember coming this way, only it wasn't so dark. There was a light. Something made me come this way. But it's--"

Heero stopped abruptly and Duo collided with his back, gagging on the most horrendous stench. The floor was suddenly greasy and bumpy underfoot. He could hear and feel flies. They were thick and surrounded him in the darkness, threatening to get in his mouth and nose. His too empty belly seized and left him retching helpless even as he panicked and resisted the very real urge to climb onto Heero's shoulders. "Bodies!" he gagged out. "Corpses."

Strong hands closed around Duo's arm, dragging him slipping and stumbling over what still felt like lumpy piles of garbage. The smell intensified and he felt moisture seeping through his shoes. Duo lost his footing and would have gone down if Heero hadn't had him in an iron grip. Even so, he stumbled and his out flung free hand brushed something cold and wet and soft. His belly tried to exit by way of his throat as images from his childhood closed in on him in the awful dark: during the plague time on L-2 bodies had lain rotting in the slum streets for days. No one cared enough about that part of the colony to come clean them up. Tiny, starved, panicked and alone, Duo had run through that nightmare landscape, trying to get stolen medications to his dying friends. The stench, the flies . . .

Suddenly the darkness seemed to briefly explode with stars as someone slapped him hard.

"Stay with me, 02!" Heero begged, dragging him on. "I know this is the way. It has to be!"

Then they were past the horrors in the dark and the floor was clear and dry underfoot again. He could here Heero muttering to himself now, sounding almost as frantic as Duo felt. "This is the way. Has to be. Has to be. Where's the light? Red. Red light!"

Then they smacked hard into what felt like a wall.

"Dead end!" Duo moaned.

"No! No, it can't be!" Heero cried.

That painful comforting grip left Duo's arm and he heard Heero scrabbling around in the dark. "Heero, we gotta try and double back!" Duo told him, listening for sounds of pursuit in the dark and trying very hard not to think about running that gauntlet of horrors again.

"No! This is it, I know it! Has to be the way! Where's are the lights? Red lights!" Heero sounded desperate and disoriented, and that only made Duo more scared. He fought his fear and tried to help, finding the wall and running his hands over it, seeking some sign of a door handle, a way out.

Instead his fingers found the familiar jut of a light switch and without thinking he flipped it.

Bright fluorescent light flooded the corridor, making them both blink. Heero stood panting and shaking in front of him, looking in apparent disbelief at a set of metal fire doors blocking the corridor. Over head Duo saw a glass-sided box sign mounted on the wall, the word "Exit" printed in big white letters on a red background in English and what he assumed was Japanese. Red lights. Exit signs. That's what Heero had followed that night, but they'd been turned off tonight.

Heavy chains were looped through the steel handles of the fire doors, securing them shut. "I--I don't remember any doors," Heero said frantically, wrapping his bloodied hands in the chains and straining at them. But something was wrong with his left hand, Duo saw. That hand and wrist were dark and swollen so bad the edges of the metal restraint cuff were pressed into the skin.

//Damn, he must have broken his own wrist, getting free to save me!// thought Duo, reaching to stop him from making it any worse.

"These doors weren't here!" Heero snarled, throwing his shoulder against them as if he could break through that way.

"Oh, they were here. But I'd unwisely forgotten to secure them. We didn't think you had the strength to get away," Hato's cold voice said behind them.

Duo turned and leveled his rifle in the direction of that voice. However, he nearly lost his grip on it when he saw what lay scattered along the floor between him and Hato's men.

He'd been right about it being corpses. There were at least a dozen bodies in varying states of decomposition. Even so, Duo could see that they all must have resembled each other: young, thin, not too tall teenage boys, with dark hair cut into varying approximations of Heero's unruly cut. Some were even still wearing the remains of green tank tops or shreds of black spandex shorts. They all had on ugly yellow sneakers. A few were dried out husks of sagging skin and exposed bone. Others were bloated and oozing, flesh sloughing off and crawling with maggots and flies. Only the one closest to Hato still looked remotely human. He lay with his head turned in Duo's direction, his glazed, sightless eyes staring at him, one hand flung back as if he was asking for help.

Beside him Heero let out a ragged snarl, then rushed past Duo, charging Hato and the men armed with nothing but the knife.

"Heero, no! Get down!" Duo shouted, unable to get a clear shot with him in the way like that.

But Heero didn't listen, and Duo watched helplessly as Hato raised his own gun and shot Heero down before he'd gotten within fifteen feet of him. Heero staggered a few feet more, then crumpled and went down among all those other "Heero Yuys" on the floor.

Shinigami screamed and opened fire.

+

"You shouldn't be here!" Wufei growled at Zechs as they rode the power lift down to the warehouse floor.

"Quatre and Trowa wanted me to come."

Wufei just snorted and shook his head. There wasn't time for a fight about it. The lift reached the bottom and they looked around for signs of the others. There were several doors leading out of the bay, but one looked promising. Wufei noted that there were two dead men sprawled in front of it, lying on their backs in a way that suggested that someone fleeing this direction had shot back at them.

Tzuki and Sally ran to meet them.

"Looks like we've mopped up here, but Heero and Duo aren't here," Sally told him. "I think you better see this, though."

She led him to a small, cell like room, where a boy who vaguely resembled Heero lay unconscious. He was wrapped up in several Preventer jackets, but Wufei could see the all too familiar green tank top and sneakers he had on, the bloodstained flannel shirt wrapped around the kid's upper arm.

"He's been badly abused and shot," Sally told him. "A med team's on the way, but I don't know if he'll make it."

"Raped?"

Sally nodded grimly. One of the jackets must be hers. She had on a borrowed flak like Zechs's over her uniform blouse.

"The vide equipment," Wufei said softly, not liking his own train of thought. "He was supposed to be Heero?"

He ran out and grabbed the camera from one of the cops. He rewound the tape a bit, then put it into replay mode and peered in the eyepiece.

It wasn't the boy on film, but Duo, tied naked over the table beside Wufei while a man beat him with a belt. There was no sound but the expression of anguish on Duo's face and the sight of those silent screams almost made him drop the camera. He glanced down and saw the severed ropes still looped around the legs. Looking back into the eyepiece, he forced himself to watch again. Duo was really struggling now, then suddenly both he and the man beating him froze. The scene was confused after that. Men ran through the shot, jostling the camera and knocking it off its focus on the table. Then Heero came briefly into focus, looking like a blood spattered avenging angel. The shot tilted crazily after that and went black, no doubt when someone had knocked it over.

Wufei shut it off and handed it to the nearest Preventer. "Bag and seal this. No one is to touch it again until we get it back to forensics. Sally, they're here. I saw them on the tape. Has this area been thoroughly searched?"

"Yes, they're not here and according to one of the prisoners, neither is the ringleader, Hato."

"Come on, I think I know which way they went."

Wufei set off at a dead run for the corridor he'd noted before. Springing over the bodies there, he hurried on, ignoring the shouts from Sally and Zechs. She was yelling something about procedure, but right now Wufei could care less about that. Procedure had gotten them here too late. He wasn't a Preventer anymore, but 05, friend of 01 and 02.

The sound of gunfire ahead confirmed his suspicions and he ran harder, gripping his pistol with the safety off. Rounding a bend in the corridor, he nearly barreled into a knot of armed men at the mouth of a secondary passageway. The smoke of a firefight hung on the air, with the smell of gunpowder and some other strong disagreeable stench.

The armed men opened fire at him and Wufei returned it, dropping all five. He was about to investigate around the corner when a burst of automatic fire sent them all ducking back. He was grabbed again and found Sally and Zechs glaring at him.

"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Zechs growled. "God damn it, 05, use your backup!"

Another burst of gunfire rattled against the far wall. "Come on, ya fuckers! Is that all ya got?" a hoarse male voice screamed out at them, but this time it was in English.

"Duo?" Wufei called back. "Duo, it's me. Wufei. We took out the enemy on this end. What's your status?"

"Wufei?"

There was no answer but a loud, metallic clatter like a weapon being dropped and the sound of a choked sob that sounded like "Heero!"

Wufei approached cautiously and peered around the corner. What lay beyond was like something out of a horror movie.

There were bodies everywhere. Some of them were men, newly fallen, but there were other bodies, the rotting corpses of children, and Duo was kneeling right in the midst of them, covered in blood and wracked with heartbreaking sobs as he cradled Heero's limp, bloody body in his arms.

"Oh god, no!" Wufei gasped, dropping his gun and stumbling over the bodies of the gunmen to get to him. "No, please god, no!" He hardly noticed them, or the stench or anything else. All he could think of was to get to Duo and prove his own worse fears wrong. Heero was shot, he was only hurt, and Duo was scared . . .

"05, Zechs, GUN!" Sally yelled behind him.

Startled, unarmed, Wufei turned and barely had time to register that Zechs was right behind him, having followed him, and that one of the fallen gunmen was very much alive and aiming a large pistol straight at them. With reflexes born of love and training rather than reason, he pushed Zechs behind him to shield his lover. The shooter fired and the first round hit Wufei square in the chest. Then something heavy hit him from the side and he was falling, falling into darkness, followed by the fading sound of Zechs frantically calling his name.

Wufei's last conscious thought was, "He's alive. I protected him."

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