by Dev-Aki Basaa
"That's the extent of the disguise," Une said, as she gestured for the lights to be turned back on and then shut off the projector. Duo squinted again at the lighting change, blinking rapidly as he remembered something Une had said earlier. He raised his hand to just above his head, his eyes finally adjusting. "What did you mean by his 'particular role'?"
Une gave a sharp nod and leaned back against the desk again. "Well, we decided to not hide their actual identities. They certainly were not to broadcast themselves as Zechs Merquise and Gundam Pilot 01, Heero Yuy, but if they were found out, it'd actually be to our advantage. Their connection to Preventers would be unknown, so they'd be seen as defectors from the government, rejecting pacifism, maybe even disillusioned from the roles they played in the war. More so, we slated Wind to be the heir-apparent to the leadership, with Earth a talented, yet unstable assassin. Respected for his abilities, if feared a little. Thus his appearance was meant to imply chaos in his mind. Yet with his seeming non-conformity, he'd show complete loyalty to Nodin. Something we hoped others would come to emulate."
"Nodin?" said Quatre, leaning forward slightly.
"Wind's identity's name. Earth is known as Keb."
Duo shook his head. For all intents and purposes, it was a whole new existence for Heero. A completely new identity, not at all like the name changing and record erasing they did as they switched from school to school during the war - that was child's play compared to this. Preventers didn't spare a detail.
"So, what do we know now?" one of the agents present asked as he tapped his pencil against his chin. The dull thud of the noise irritated Duo, making his skin want to climb up his neck and hide in his hair.
Une let her head drop and raised it again, her expression cold. "Nothing."
Nothing. The stomach dropping, blood-fleeing away, nauseating feeling Duo had had when Wufei first told him there was a problem with the mission came rushing back, taking over his senses. Everything felt tingly.
"At last contact the assignment had been going according to plan," she continued. "Wind had not yet taken over the leadership, but he was a trusted comrade of the leader and had great influence that way. The group's activities were lessening in violence with no plan for action on the table." Une spread her hands, her body language apologetic. "We have nothing to suggest any change in atmosphere within the group or towards our agents and, at this time, we are going on the assumption that they could have actually defected into the group, aborting the mission without orders."
"That's bullshit!" Duo sat straight up, almost jumping to his feet, the words flying free from his mouth before he could think about them.
Une's skin brightened red, blood pressure rising, her voice sharpening in tone. "Duo! Don't think for a minute that this is something I want to believe, but we have very little to go on and nothing has been established either way. They also could have been found out and shot on the spot, never having the chance to indicate any change."
Duo's head spun at that thought - Heero dead. Nothing more ever known about what happened, where he was. Where the body was. Duo clenched his jaw. But that's not what they were thinking at all. Heero didn't die easy and neither did Zechs, and they knew it. They were calling them possible traitors instead. "I don't care," Duo barked back at Une, "Heero would never..."
"Don't even begin arguing with me, Duo," Une spat, cutting him off and taking a step towards him, hints of the old ruthless Lady Une seeping out. "You're here on courtesy alone. With your leave of absence, you wouldn't have been called in as an agent, and as Heero's family, you know you're not technically entitled to any information at all, Preventer policy - be thankful you're here at all!" Her lips curled in a sneer. "You still can't cope with the fact that Earth was sent on this mission!"
Duo stood then, meeting her face to face, a puff of his breath ruffling her bangs. He''d grown a lot since his days as Deathscythe's pilot, broader across the shoulders, filling out his boy's body to that of a man. He wouldn't be intimidated, not by anyone, especially a former colonel of OZ. He'd been through too much shit for that. His fists clenched at his sides.
"Don't fucking presume to know jack about me and don't you dare do me any favors. I'd rather..."
Duo spun at the sound of Wufei's sharp voice. He had moved away from the back wall where he'd been standing and had a hold of the back of the chair Duo'd just vacated. He shoved it forward, the legs scraping against the wood flooring.
Duo opened his mouth to argue, but stopped when Quatre stood, stepping forward, even with Wufei. His face was grim and stern, but he said nothing. He didn't have to.
"Goddamnit," Duo mumbled and he turned to sit down, ankles crossed, his arms folded tightly to his chest. He could never argue with Quatre, couldn't even begin, and he didn't know why either. There was just something about him that told you not to bother, you'd lose anyway.
Wufei walked around to stand before Duo, leaning over him. Duo hardened his jaw and looked away.
"Heero has nothing BUT you. It would be a dishonor to him if you were NOT here. We all agreed on that - including Une." Duo looked up at Wufei, eyes widening at little at his statement. "So quit being an ass, shut up and listen," Wufei added. He then straightened, folding his arms across his chest, a mimic of Duo's posture. "We're not calling them traitors."
"No, Duo," said Quatre, grabbing his chair to pull it closer to Duo's. He sat down, tilting his head to catch Duo's evasive gaze. "There's so much we don't know and that's where we start - that's the point to this meeting today. Have faith in Preventers, Duo. You did once."
Duo drew a small breath at Quatre's words and looked away to the floor. Yeah, he once thought the world of Preventers and the work Une began. So, why was he being so difficult? That was the question of the day, wasn't it. He didn't know really. Frustration? Nothing seemed very clear to him at the moment. But Quatre was expecting a response now, not later. He nodded, mouthing an 'okay', mollifying him and Wufei both. Wufei marched away, grumbling about bakas with separation anxiety, returning to the place he'd held at the back of the room and Quatre settled into his chair, still placed very close to Duo, as if he were now his keeper. Duo opted for just staring at the floor, pushing aside his unease as Une continued. She released a long-suffering sigh before she began.
"We will send out a reconnaissance team, obvious and transparent. We want them to know we're coming, giving them a false sense of security. Agents Io and Titan, that's where you come in." The two young agents straightened in their chairs a little bit more at the call of their names. "Gather as much surface information as you can. Conduct interviews, observations, so on. Be diligent and thorough, if unsubtle. Do your best to update the status of Agents Wind and Earth."
"Yes, ma'am," they answered in unison, snappy and obedient. Duo repressed a gag. He couldn't help it, everything about this felt wrong to him. He wanted to trust Preventers and have faith, but his world wouldn't stop rocking as if it were an unanchored ship in a storm, tossed to and fro by a vicious wind. He felt lost and without any control. If he could be the one going on this mission, it would give him something to secure himself to - the lighthouse guiding him home. No one knew Heero better than him and he understood Zechs as a solider. He could find them; he could follow their leads best. It should be him.
"Send me," he said, without provocation, surprising himself at speaking so quickly, off the handle. Une looked less shocked at the outburst. Perhaps she'd been expecting it.
"No," she answered with prepared ease. "You'd be a bit more obvious than what we're going for."
Duo closed his eyes for a moment, hearing the echo of a much younger Heero speaking in his head, 'You stand out.'
"Besides, you're on leave, remember?" Une added, turning away from him, gathering the assignment folders from her desk for Agents Titan and Io.
Duo spread his hands, annoyed, "Well, take me off!"
"It's not that simple."
"Une..." he didn't want another fight, but he'd beg if he had to. He couldn't just stay here and do nothing, unanchored, drowning in this storm.
"Duo," a different voice drew his attention. He turned to see Sally, straightening from the place on the wall she'd been leaning against next to Wufei. "It's my call and no, it's not that simple. There are tests: endurance, psychological, physicals, marksmanship. You wouldn't pass in time, not with almost two years leave." Her expression softened. "I'm sorry." She meant it; that was obvious.
He turned back to Une, swallowing against a sinking feeling in his stomach, a few things becoming clear. "Answer me this. If I hadn't taken the leave, if I were an active agent up on all that shit..." he waved a gesture back towards Sally, "could you have assigned me to this case? Could I be the one going to find Heero?"
Une shook her head, stuffing a few more pages into the folders. "Duo, there's no way I..."
"Please..." he said in a whisper. She stopped, still, one sheet half pushed into the fattening folder. She was quiet for another moment then finished shoving the paper into the pack.
"It's possible," she said finally.
The room swam, his emotions rushing up from their depths and overwhelming him. It was all his fault, all this frustration he felt. He couldn't blame it on Preventers; he could only aim it inwardly.
Even before the room came back into focus, he was striding to the door, storming out, shoving chairs and maybe more out of his way as he escaped down the hall.
It was all his fault, he'd broken his anchor. Why did he take that leave? Why did he run away?