Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
Part 3 - Preventer Director, Lady Annika Une
by Dyna Dee
With eyes focused on the computer screen in front of her, the Director of the Preventer Organization held the phone to her ear by pressing it between her hunched up shoulder and the tilt of her head. On the other end of the line was a harried Agent Housner, voicing his concerns while she shuffled a large stack of papers on her desk into some semblance of order. "I understand that I'm asking a lot," she interrupted the man. "But with each hour that passes the trail gets colder. I expect your completed report on my desk no later than nine a.m. tomorrow morning. No, I don't care if you and your partner stay up all night. Ask Agents Hadly and Varouk to assist if you think you need more help." With a frown on her face, she removed the phone from under her ear and placed it back on its receiver and turned her attention once more to the data in front of her.
No more than thirty seconds passed before she was interrupted once again by the buzz of the intercom on her desktop. Sighing at yet another interruption, she reached out and pressed the button that activated the tiny microphone. "Yes, Violet." She released the button.
"Agents Peacecraft and Noin are here to see you."
Pushing it down again, she replied, "Send them in."
Swiveling her chair to a forward position, she straightened her posture and faced the door just as the two familiar agents walked in. She nodded to them as Noin shut the door and Milliardo took one of the seven chairs she'd placed in front of her desk for the upcoming meeting.
"Have you learned anything new?" the blond man asked, his eyes dark rimmed from lack of sleep and his face lined with worry.
"No. I've just spoken to Agent Housner and he compiling a list of departing passenger lists gathered from the airlines, train and bus companies in the city. He assures me that the complete list and his report will be ready tomorrow morning. I'm afraid, however, that his initial assessment shows no sign of Relena leaving the city. Without a ransom note or reliable witnesses we're left to wonder whether or not she was kidnaped or if she has simply run off."
The blue eyes became glacial with anger. "She didn't run away and you know it."
"Zechs," Lucretia said softly as she took the seat next to her husband and put a reassuring hand on his arm. "You know Anne doesn't truly believe that, but from what we found in her rooms as well as the security tapes, it's clear that Relena wasn't taken by force. We can only conclude that she slipped out again while Heero was away. We know she's more responsible than to leave the city without saying anything. She wouldn't do that to you. Relena loves you too much to worry you needlessly."
The blond man leaned forward, bent his head and ran his fingers through his long white hair, clearly upset by his sister's disappearance. "Then why did she steal away from the mansion in the dead of night after I warned her about the dangers of doing so? She obviously didn't believe me when I told her that she would be a walking target for anyone with a grudge against the government."
"She's young, restless and sometimes feels burdened by her over-scheduled life. It's her small way of rebelling."
"Her small act of rebellion may well have endangered her life."
The director cleared her throat, reminding the other two that she was present. Two sets of eyes turned to her expectantly. She glanced at the clock on her desk. "I've requested Heero, Wufei and their three former comrades to meet with us this morning to discuss the possibility of their working on this case."
"You're kidding?" Zechs said with an expression of open disbelief on his face. "I'd expect Heero and Wufei to show up on demand and accept the assignment, but the other three? They haven't stepped foot in Preventers since Yuy and Maxwell's breakup five years ago."
"Relena's well being might prove to be more important than their personal squabbles," Une stated in her usual calm and rational manner.
The intercom buzzed on her desk. Une hit her button and after hearing who was awaiting entry to her office, she told her secretary to let them in. Heero Yuy and Chang Wufei entered the room and took their seats after exchanging polite greetings with the other three as well as the proper expressions of worry for Relena. Yet before any further discussion could begin, the com buzzed once more. A moment later Trowa Barton and Quatre Winner walked through the door. The closing of that door signaled to those already present that there was yet one person missing from the summoned group, the last former gundam pilot.
"He's not coming," Barton stated in a matter-of-fact tone as he took a chair next to his life partner.
"And why not?" Une snapped. It wasn't often that the Head of Preventers extended a personal invitation to meet with a civilian only to be turned down in such an impolite way.
"Too busy posing for photographers?" She hadn't meant to sound so judgmental, but her tone clearly indicated her distaste for Duo Maxwell's chosen profession.
"Who are you to judge him?" Trowa asked, sounding and appearing calm even though his green eyes, blazing with offense, spoke differently.
Quatre reached out to take the brunet's hand, effectively distracting his lover with that slight touch before turning to address the woman behind the desk. "Duo has an occupation that keeps him very busy. He was unable to cancel a contracted job to come halfway across the planet only to say no thank you to whatever it is you're about to propose. He's made no secret of the fact that he doesn't wish to work for Preventers in any capacity. I think you should honor his decision."
The director was anything but pleased by Quatre's statement. Relena's kidnaping was Preventers' top priority at the moment, and the longer they delayed getting a first-rate team on the case the more their chance of successfully finding and rescuing her diminished. She thought it was best to cut her losses at the moment and deal with the four young men present. Addressing her comments specifically to Quatre and Trowa she said, "I would like to extend to you an invitation to join with us in finding Miss Relena. Heero and Wufei are being assigned as the lead investigators, charged with discovering the reason for her sudden disappearance and with returning her safely home."
"What about the other case I've been assigned to?" Heero asked, careful not to say anything about the investigation of the space raiders in front of the two, non-Preventers.
"Set it aside for a couple of days. With any luck we'll receive a ransom note and deal with the kidnapers in a prompt and efficient manner, safely retrieving Miss Relena."
"Who leaked this to the press?" Wufei asked, frowning at the breach in protocol.
"Dorothy." Une sighed deeply, honestly disappointed in the blonde. "I swear that girl enjoys stirring things up, regardless of the consequences."
"She derives a sense of power by manipulating others as well as orchestrating circumstances," Trowa offered. He didn't seem to be passing any kind of judgement, good or bad, on the young woman, only an observation, which Une found she couldn't deny the man was right on the mark.
"May I assume by your presence here that you don't share the same opinion as Mr. Maxwell? That you are willing to become a part of our team?"
Quatre's confident manner was apparent to everyone present as he answered, his eyes locked with hers. "No, you may not assume that is the case. I have a large corporation to run which employs thousands of individuals. Their livelihoods depend on how well my family's company is run, that it remains successful. I need to be present to insure that it does. Trowa is my right hand and I can't possibly spare him to work on this investigation either. However," Quatre paused, demonstrating that he could effectively maintain an audience's attention when all in the room waited for him to continue. "We're not unsympathetic to Miss Relena or unconcerned by her sudden disappearance. If we can be of some assistance in finding her, offering shelter to your agents, contacts or passage to any of the colonies, we'll do our best to be accommodating."
Une stifled a sigh. This was much less than what she'd hoped for even though she knew there was a pretty good chance that the three former gundam pilots - rumored to be estranged from the other two - would not jump at the chance to work for Preventers. They'd apparently moved on with their lives, considering themselves having done their bit for the human race and for peace. "Then it seems I've wasted your time."
"Not at all," Quatre said with a very slight, polite smile. "I couldn't assume that you would believe me nor the strength of my conviction to not be involved in Preventer business unless we spoke face to face. We now have a clear understanding of each other."
Indeed we do, thought Une. She stood from her chair an offered the blond businessman her hand. "Then I won't keep you any longer. I appreciate you coming here and your offer of assistance. I'll contact you should the need arise."
The blond and brunet stood from their seats, clasped hands releasing in order to shake hands with Preventers' Director. Then with a polite nod of their heads in farewell to Milliardo and Noin, they turned to their former comrades. Once again, Quatre spoke for the both of them. "It's good to see you again, but it's definitely been too long, Heero and Wufei. I hope in the near future we'll find an opportunity to meet again and catch up on each others' lives."
Both former gundam pilots rose to their feet and shook hands with their former comrades. "I'd like that," Wufei stated, the corners of his mouth inching upwards.
Heero nodded. He sensed that Quatre's comments were intended to be an olive branch. Grateful for any opportunity to repair the rift between himself and those he'd considered friends, he replied sincerely, "I would welcome such a meeting."
The two visitors bid them all a final farewell and then hastily removed themselves from the room.
Resuming their seats, all eyes and full attention returned to Director Une. With the civilians gone, it was back to business as usual. "Alright, let's focus on what facts we do have regarding Relena's disappearance."
"Ransom demand?" Wufei asked.
"No. Nothing yet." Une responded.
The Chinese man's brow furrowed. "Have there been any threatening letters, calls or suspicious individuals hanging around her home or office?"
"Not any more than usual," Heero spoke up. "And nothing that stands out as a viable threat, although we don't discount any of them.
Une asked, "Do we know of anyone who might have a grudge against her?"
"There's always someone who disagrees with her politics," Wufei commented.
"How about on a more personal level?" Une persisted.
Heero turned to the Chinese agent, and to the other three agents it seemed as if a question passed between the two men. With some reluctance Heero said, "Duo used to hold a grudge against her. He was openly resentful and angered when she continued to chase after me during the war and dismissed our relationship as nothing more than soldiers relieving themselves of stress and natural urges." Zechs coughed, looking uncomfortable with the details regarding Heero's former relationship with Duo and Relena's less than appropriate behavior during that time. "I can't say for certain, but I doubt his feelings for her improved over the years, even though I've not spoken to him in the five years since our breakup. Duo was more than capable of holding onto a grudge."
Une nodded thoughtfully. "Their past merits investigation. See if Mr. Maxwell can account for his whereabouts during the time of the kidnaping."
"Are we sure she was kidnaped? That she didn't just take off, fed up with everything?" Wufei questioned, looking to Zechs for an answer.
"By all appearances she left her rooms at the estate wearing black jeans and a sweater of the same color. The video that caught a glimpse of her in the garden also shows her wearing a billed cap."
"Have the hospitals been checked for any accident victims?" Wufei wondered.
"We're checking every hour on the hour," Noin answered. "Also, the agency is currently gathering information on all venues of transportation: the train and airport terminals, bus, taxi logs and car rental agencies. Anything that looks suspicious is being double-checked as we speak."
"The full report will be available in the morning," Une added.
Wufei looked at Heero and frowned. "That's not much to go on."
"Since the public has been made aware of her sudden disappearance, has an appeal been made for any information that might clue us in to where she went that night?" Heero asked.
"Yes," Une replied. "However we've gotten the usual calls, asking about a reward for information. Everyone and their dog seems to have seen someone who looked her that night, but no one can tell us for certain what she was wearing."
"Other than Duo, are there any toes that she's stepped on recently, politically or personally?" Wufei asked. "Could her kidnaping be a type of retribution by some political party she's voted against or an angry suitor?" "Relena hasn't dated anyone recently, so I doubt that is a consideration. As for politics, there's always someone offended by one politician or another," Zechs answered. "But why Relena? There are many more influential politicians to kidnap in order to influence a vote or make a statement."
"She's very persuasive," Heero said, thinking of the many times he listened to the young woman use honest candor and youthful appeal into successfully urging politicians to see her side of things. "I know that there were several important votes coming up in the Parliament next week that she's spoken to various politicians about. I'll speak to Mr. Keys to see if there was anything in particular that is groundbreaking or controversial."
Une nodded her approval. "He's been her mentor for the last couple of years and he's phoned every day since he heard the news of her disappearance to see if he can be of assistance. He's assured me he will make himself available whenever needed."
"What would you have me do?" Zechs asked, worry lines visible across his forehead.
"You will assist Chang and Yuy, especially in the event that they are called off planet. But you are not, I repeat, not to be in a decision making role. You're too close to this to be objective."
"And Yuy's not?"
Une's gaze drifted back to the dark haired young man in question. "Heero?"
"Relena and I have a working relationship and a casual friendship. I believe I'm more than capable of focusing my abilities on finding her without emotions hampering my judgement."
A sardonic humph came from the blond. A glare from Une silenced the man from making any disparaging comments about Agent Yuy's ability to project the facade of an emotionless robot. She knew better. Back to Heero she said, "You're the lead detective in this case, but I expect you to continue working with Wufei on finding these vexatious marauders. Use Zechs and Noin to do your footwork here on Relena's case if anything in the investigation regarding the raiders turns up. All Preventer resources are at your disposal in both cases. Let's find Relena and bring her home safely and bring these raiders to justice." Heero nodded, understanding he was to give both investigations equal attention. Multi-tasking was not beyond his skills.
"Keep me updated regularly," Une concluded while picking up one of the many files on her desk; an unspoken end to the discussion.
Understanding that the meeting had come to an end, Heero and Wufei stood, Zechs and Noin following suit. "Good luck," Une called out as the four agents exited the room, their minds already focusing on the task before them.