Title: Caught in Traffic (Pt. 4)

Warnings: Creating a background. Deal with it.

Rating: PG

Continuity: Brave Police J-Decker

Characters: Yuuta Tomonaga, Gunmax

Disclaimer: The theatre doesn't own the script or actors, nor does it make a profit from the play.

Motivation (Prompt): Gunmax - Shut up

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The 'what ifs' haunted Yuuta at night.

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Gunmax was screaming.

Not the angry bellows or enraged yells the Brave Police gave during battle. This wasn't the sound of courage or even false bravado. Pained shouts didn't sound like this. If this had been combat, Gunmax would have grunted or yelled as damage was inflicted, then ripped off a smart-ass remark to keep from looking weak. Yuuta knew that. Masaki did the same thing when he fell off the monkey bars on the playground. It didn't stop Yuuta from asking if he was okay, but it allowed his friend to keep his pride. Gunmax was like Masaki: too proud to show pain.

Not now. Right now, Gunmax's voice had gone high and staticky, and he was screaming.

Yuuta ran. He ran so hard his chest hurt, but no matter how far he opened his mouth, he couldn't seem to take a deep breath. The hall in Police HeadQuarters stretched on endlessly, the floors passing under his feet but the door at the end getting no closer. He ran and ran, trying to gasp for air that wouldn't come, but the door stayed ahead of him.

He knew where he was going. He had to find Vice-Commissioner Azuma. The Council had voted to decommission Gunmax. They were killing the green mecha, but Yuuta just had to reach Azuma. He could prove Gunmax deserved to live, because of course he did, but his lungs rasped as loud as his heart pounding in his ears, and the door wasn't getting any closer. The hallway just kept going and going, and he was running as fast as he could just to stay in place. His legs wouldn't speed up. He knew he could go faster if he could just take a deep breath and push himself. But if he stopped to catch his breath, even for a moment, the rolling floor would toss him back -

The door suddenly zoomed forward, opening like a threatening mouth with wooden teeth to swallow him whole, and Yuuta threw up his hands to shield his head. "Deckerd!"

He stumbled to a halt on the other side, unharmed and strangely unsurprised to find himself in the BP HeadQuarters maintenance bay. His limbs felt loose and shakey, and he fell down. Landing on the concrete didn't hurt, weirdly, but he didn't think about it. The boy just climbed back to his feet and ventured forward.

The equipment was all dark except for the stand-by blips of ready lights. By those lights, Yuuta could clearly see the Brave Police in their recharge stations. The repair cradles were locked upright, cables wound up and screwed into the mechas' backs, and their optics were all dark in sleep.

All but one, but that one wasn't here. Yet he was the only thing Yuuta could hear.

Gunmax was screaming.

He wasn't here, and he was screaming, and Yuuta sprinted over to Deckerd because they had to find where Gunmax was. He knew, just knew that they could save him if they could just find him. He was never here, never in the Decker Room, never around, but if Yuuta could just find him and bring him here where he belonged - it'd be okay. It'd all be okay. They just had to find him. Gunmax would be okay if Yuuta could only find him!

"Deckerd! Deckerd, wake up!" The boy ran up the steps of the recharge station and battered his fists against his friend's leg. "Deckerd, where is Gunmax?" His friend remained in deep recharge, blue armor cool under the boy's hands as he clung to it. "Deckerd! Deckerd! We have to find him, Deckerd!"

"Calm down, Mini-Boss," Shadowmaru's amused voice soothed from behind him. "I haven't had time to find where he recharges yet. There have been cases, you know." The amusement chided him for his panic, and Yuuta whirled to peer across the dim garage. Shadowmaru looked down at him, but no one else had woken up. No one else cared, and even the Ninja Detective seemed oddly unaffected by the continued shrieks of tortured pain. "He's not like the rest of us."

"That's not true!" His voice cracked. His throat hurt with how loud he shouted, he couldn't breathe, but he couldn't make anyone else understand. Yuuta couldn't make them hear, and it was important, so very important that they bring Gunmax here. The green mecha had to be here with them, they had to save him. They had to find him, bring him here, and the screaming was so loud the back of Yuuta's jaw hurt with it, or maybe it hurt because he was tensing his whole body with how hard he was trying to make Shadowmaru - make all of them - understand.

The jerk attitude was only a cover, couldn't they see that? Gunmax played it cool, but he was younger than Masaki, and Yuuta hadn't always been friends with the bigger, tougher boy until one day Masaki had gotten his pant leg caught in a manhole cover in the street front of the school grounds. Yuuta had run to help, but the flash of fear in Masaki's eyes when he pushed Yuuta away had been for the smaller boy running into traffic, not for himself. Yuuta had seen it, just like he'd felt Gunmax's fear spike the moment he put himself in the path of destruction with the Highway Patrolman.

"Stop! Are you insane? Don't endanger yourself!"

"We have to find him, Shadowmaru! He's hurt!" Yuuta faltered, because Shadowmaru was back in recharge as if he'd never spoken. None of the Build Team had even woken up, and Deckerd was still and quiet. It was like they were all ignoring him. But how could they ignore the nonstop shrieking? It went on and on, and it was building pressure in his chest like he'd been holding his breath for too long.

Yuuta's heart pounded, and his chest hurt as he turned and flung himself toward the office at the end of the room. "Chief Toudou! Chief Toudou, you gotta help Gunmax!" If he could just get the engineer to listen, they could find Gunmax and save him!

The office door blasted open as he reached it. He cried out, ducking his head behind his hands, but the expected wood splinters never came. Instead, his throat suddenly parched and his skin turned tender as a wave of heat crashed over him, and he knew where Gunmax was. He knew, and when he lowered his hands, he was standing in the Tokyo Waste Processing Plant facing an open door that burned fire-hot red-orange. The very air shimmered with heat waves that made him flinch back.

From beyond the door, from below in the smelting pool, came the unself-conscious shrieks of someone in too much pain to stop himself, and the boy knew. He knew there was nothing he could do.

But he was Yuuta Tomonaga, and he didn't know how to not try. "Gunmax!" he yelled, gasping and running against the physical push of air so hot it scorched him. He held his breath and squinted behind the shelter of one upflung arm, and it hurt to go forward. Yet he did. "Gunmax!"

The screams stuttered, voice fading in and out of shrill mechanical creels of agony, and still Gunmax screamed. Still he screamed, even as Yuuta made it to the threshold. The light burned too bright, the air was too painfully hot, and Yuuta's eyes watered too fiercely to see. He didn't want to see. Tears coursed down his face, and it wasn't because of his own pain. He cried, and the tears boiled on his cheeks. He cried because he already knew. He couldn't see, but yet the pain and the screams and horrendous slopping sounds of softening limbs stirring liquid - it was painted so clearly in his mind's eye.

Down below, a vague shadow thrashed against the violent red-orange light of a smelter. The struggles were a death throe as metal melted into metal. The screams were gurgling now, static hiccups of suffering, but Yuuta was glad. He was glad he couldn't see anything, blinded in the light and the tears, and he was glad Gunmax still screamed.

Because soon Gunmax would stop, and the silence afterward would be crueler than anything else in Yuuta's nightmares.

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