Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
Chapter 35 - Wufei
by Dyna Dee
While en route to colony L3 to interview the crew of the latest ship boarded by the marauders, Wufei made several calls from the Preventer shuttle. The first had been to Trowa's Preventer issued cell phone. Though the hour was late he wanted to apologize to the other man for leaving L4 before Trowa returned from the office. Surprisingly, his call was picked up by another Preventer who announced herself as Agent Durnford. She reported that Agent Barton's calls were being diverted to her because he'd taken a sick day.
After disconnecting the call, he sat back and thought for a moment about his conversation with Quatre earlier that day. According to him, Trowa had been working on a computer problem at his office in the Winner building. The blond didn't say anything about Trowa being ill. Of course, he reasoned, Trowa could have fallen victim to a virus or something else since he'd left their home shortly after sharing dinner with Quatre. But Trowa being ill seemed a feeble excuse for not answering his work phone. He knew neither Trowa nor Quatre were prone to common viruses nor did they make up lame excuses to miss work. Had Trowa really been working at Quatre's office? Was he truly sick or were his friends purposely deceiving coworkers and himself for some unknown reason? His initial plan to question Trowa about his day were dashed when the man failed to show up in time for dinner. Wufei was troubled by the coincidence of his sometime partner's absence during yet another marauder raid. Surely, knowing Trowa as he did, he would recognized whether or not he was being lied to.
Suspicious by the nature of his past as a gundam pilot well as his present job, Wufei followed his instincts and made the next call to the L4 terminal that housed private shuttles. Using his Preventer ID badge and liberal expense account, he inquired if they had a small and speedy spacecraft from a privately owned company. The clerk stated that they had a ship meeting that criteria and it was indeed available, but it wasn't equipped to carry anything other than two people and a small amount of personal belongings. It was exactly what he needed. Wufei used his Preventer card to put the ship on hold and asked that it be ready to leave at a moment's notice; all he had to do was sign the rental contract and credit slip upon his arrival.
Because his thoughts were preoccupied with his friends, his intuition telling him that something wasn't right, he made a snap decision and ordered the Preventer shuttle to turn around and return to L4. He radioed ahead to the Preventer office on L3 requesting a team of investigators interview the crew of the Mary Sue and forward the report to him as soon as possible. He had little doubt that when he received that report he would read an almost exact description of the attack that had been previously reported by other freighter crews that had fallen victim to the marauders.
Once the shuttle docked at its berth on L4, Wufei saw the to agents who had accompanied him off the ship. He purposely refrained from calling his friends to announce his return. Instead, he changed out of his Preventer uniform and into his street clothes then let his hair down, hoping to avoid being recognized when his image was captured on the security cameras that were located in almost every corner on L4. With luck he would look like a typical citizen going about his business. He didn't doubt that if he was recognized, word would get back to his friends. Quatre seemed to have uncanny insight about what went on inside his home colony.
Leaving the shuttle, Wufei proceeded to make his way to the commercial terminal and specifically to the shuttle/craft rental business office of Weintraub and Deats, located near the private and rental shuttle docks. He was greeted warmly by the receptionist and quickly signed the agreement and credit slip for the Shooting Star, a first-class ultra shuttle. After the business transaction had concluded, Wufei sat down in the terminal and opened his laptop to bring up some important information. Using his Preventer login code and going through government files not ordinarily open to the public, it was rather easy to gain access to records that listed all of the properties belonging to Quatre Winner, his family and corporation. It surprised the Chinese agent to learn how much land the Winner family owned on Earth as well as structures on every colony. There were also numerous resource satellites on that list, three of which had been decommissioned and were floating in space no more than an hour or so away from the regular travel lanes.
It was those three satellites on which he was now focused. He reasoned that if Quatre and Trowa had a stealth, class 3 shuttle stashed somewhere, it would either have to be on Earth, hidden at any one of countless private landing strips, or nestled safely here in space. It only made sense that if a shuttle that size were hidden in space, it would be hard to secure on any colony without some word leaking out. Which is why his focus and suspicions were presently centered around the three out-of-commission satellites belonging to Quatre's family. Any one of the three would be more than sufficient in size for use as a hanger.
Bringing up the coordinates, he set a course for the decommissioned satellite closest to L4, intending to use the heat sensors he had taken from the Preventer shuttle to determine if any of the three satellites were inhabited.
Trowa sat in the cockpit of the El Diablo and waited impatiently for Howard and the other two crew members to unload the stolen cargo into the hands of the guardians assigned to unpack and sort the containers for distribution. He glanced down at his watch and mentally cringed. Having gotten a text message that Wufei was at the house, he could only hope that Quatre could make up a good excuse to their Preventer friend for his continued absence.
Since seeing the deteriorating conditions of L2, and despite Howard's protests, he'd moved up the next scheduled raid in order to get more supplies to those suffering on the forgotten colony. The pictures he and Wufei had taken of the colony's citizens had haunted him, as had the memory of Relena Peacecraft running towards him, crying out for help. Even though he knew she was in good hands, there was always a chance that something could go wrong. It was a chance he and the others thought was worth taking. After years of talking themselves blue in the face to government officials, it became clear that something extraordinary had to happen in order to shake up the UEC government and push them into action. It was their hope that Relena, having lived in the same horrible conditions as the other L2 citizens, would sympathize with their plight and use her clout to become a voice for the suffering populace, which, over time, had conveniently been forgotten by nearly everyone on Earth.
Trowa glanced down at his watch once again, impatient to get going. Once they left L2, they would return to their base, and from there he'd take his smaller shuttle back to L4, which meant he was going to be very late in returning home to Quatre. Dinner would be long cold by the time he got home and as would his side of their bed. He frowned, thinking about the last couple of hours. Though they'd been successful in their achieving their goals that day, the trip has been fraught with arguments between himself and Howard. The older man complained about the revised schedule, saying the increase in jobs -- which they liked to call their commandeering of goods from the boarded freighters -- had been rushed and not well thought out. As it was, he and his crew only had less than the usual amount of time to rest between jobs. Though everyone involved knew how vital these raids were, they couldn't afford to make any mistakes. For two years they had managed to carry out their life-saving operation without being caught, and Howard argued that accelerating the raids at this stage in the game would also increase the chance of something going wrong.
The man had a valid point. Trowa promised to speak with Quatre before they made any more changes to the schedule. Howard appeared relieved by his promise, and he really couldn't blame the older man for his concern. The more frequent the raids the less down time there was for him and his team, even with Duo and his group doubling their efforts. Planning what shuttles to board took a great amount of time and research, choosing only those supply shuttles carrying the goods necessary to L-2's survival. Even with their combined hacking skills and Quatre's contacts, it was still an extremely delicate, detailed operation, planned and executed with the goal of helping L2 and keeping them all from going to prison.
It was well past three a.m. when the cloaked shuttle entered the open bay doors of decommissioned resource satellite #00069. The structure had originally been used for growing vegetables and fruit for the people of L-4. The cost of crops grown on satellites were dramatically lower in price than purchasing them from Earth during the years preceding the Eve Wars. Little did anyone know that these decommissioned satellites would once again be used to help feed a colony.
After fifteen minutes of pressurizing one of several loading bays and performing all of the shuttle's shut-down procedures, Trowa removed his harness, shook Howard's hand for another job well done, then pushed the button that opened the shuttle's side door. His feeling of accomplishment and the need to get back to L4 as quickly as possible were instantly lost after he spied a familiar person standing by one of the hanger's internal doors. He blinked, hoping Wufei Chang was just a figment of his imagination. The Chinese man remained and Trowa's stomach churned with dread. His sometime partner, dressed in black slacks and grey sweater, also wore an unhappy scowl. His long black hair was loose, and fell over his shoulders, which caused Trowa to pause a moment because he'd never seen his former comrade's hair out of a ponytail before. He only had a moment to wonder at the change in the other man's appearance before the knowing look in his friend's eyes told him that any attempt at subterfuge would be pointless; he was caught dead to rights. As he had done many years before with Quatre, Trowa simply raised his hands and surrendered.
Footsteps behind him alerted Trowa that someone was about to come out of the hatch. "What's going on?" Howard's voice trailed off the moment his eyes landed on the Chinese man. "Well shit," he said in a defeated tone.
"I think the time has come for us to sit down and have a little chat," Wufei said to the two men.
"Are we under arrest?" Trowa inquired.
"If I was a smart man, I'd say yes," Wufei answered, both his face and voice denoting the seriousness of the situation. "But right now I have questions that need to be answered. For the moment, our conversation is off the record.
"My ship is attached to the satellite's hull, on the opposite side of this main entrance. It's much too small for a conference," Wufei stated, "so I suggest was adjourn to your ship for this conversation."
With a nod of his head, Trowa agreed.
Entering the shuttle behind the two marauders, Wufei came face to face with two large, unknown men aiming stun guns at him. "Don't shoot," Trowa ordered. Reluctantly, the two nodded and promptly lowered their weapons. They silently waited for the auburn haired man to give them a clue as to their next move. "Lets all move to the galley where we're going to sit down and have a talk with my friend." Again, the men nodded and without a word retreated to the back of the ship. The moment they found themselves seated in El Diablo's galley Wufei looked at his fellow Preventer, his face remaining neutral while his eyes blazed with pain. "Tell me why, Trowa."
"You've been to L2," the brunet said softly, his eyes never leaving Wufei's face. "You saw the suffering there, the starving children. You know why we've gone to such lengths to help."
After a moment, Wufei gave his friend an acknowledging nod. Then shifting his attention to the older man, he said, "The mystery of the stealth ship is also solved. How did you get mixed up in all of this, Howard?"
With his long, graying hair pulled back into a ponytail and dressed in the black flight suit that had been attributed to the marauders, the famous engineer/Sweeper sighed as he slumped back in his chair. The man looked tired. "I'm a colony loyalist," Howard replied. "I had ties to L2 long before any of you gundam brats were born. When I came to realize the grave consequences the embargo would bring to the innocent on L2 I couldn't stand by and do nothing. When the opportunity presented itself, we came up with a plan to help those people whom everyone else had given up on. Despite what the other colonies or the people of Earth believes, there are many decent people living on L2 who were caught between the gangs that ran the colony by brute force alone and the UEC, whose motives for the unprecedented blockade are highly suspicious."
Howard leaned forward, his eyes bright with conviction. "Trowa got a hold of some emails that had been sent between several government officials who, in a round about way, stated their satisfaction in eliminating the evidence of their past mistakes. After looking into their backgrounds, we suspect that whatever they're trying to cover up, it had something to do with L2."
Wufei's eyes widened as he turned his attention to Trowa. "Why didn't you take this information to Une?
"We have no proof other than the emails," Trowa answered. "And I obtained them without a warrant, which means even they would be inadmissible in a court of law."
Howard continued. "Regardless, there are a lot of decent folks on L2 who have died more from starvation than violence since the blockade began. Having lost your own colony and people, Wufei, and you really stand by and watch another colony be wiped out because there are some individuals in power within the UEC who have decided it's for the best? And the best for whom?"
Wufei sidestepped answering Howard's questions by asking, "And do your ties to L2 include Duo Maxwell?" He watched the older man's face for his first reaction. Howard, an intelligent man who hid behind a joker persona, was a lot like Duo, he thought. Both men had more depth to them than they were willing to show the general public. He'd had glimpses into the depth of character and pain that were hidden beneath Duo's handsome facade. And as for Howard, what the man, already proven to be a genius, was capable of could be seen in the machines and systems he'd designed. He was obviously sitting in another one of the man's brilliant creations.
"Of course Duo is a part of my past," the older man answered unwavering. "I knew the kid while he trained with Professor G."
The Preventer's trained eye could detect no deception in Howard's eyes nor in his mannerisms.
"How about this illegal operation? Is Duo in any way involved in this?"
"Check your reports on past raids," Trowa offered. "Duo can probably account for his presence on Earth while those were going on. If you recall, he vowed never to set foot on L2 ever again."
"So you're saying Duo isn't involved."
"We kept him out of it."
"Meaning you and Quatre?"
"And me," Howard admitted
Wufei's eyes narrowed on Trowa. "I seem to recall that you were also accounted for at the time of a raid."
"I wasn't always needed."
Wufei ran his hand through his loose hair. "Damn it, Trowa. I can't tell whether or not you're lying to me."
The auburn haired man sighed. "Are we under arrest?"
Several long moments passed before the Chinese man answered. It was enough time for Trowa to wonder if he could warn Quatre before the Preventers came to their home or his office to arrest him. Of course they had calculated the risks before they began their efforts to aid L2, knowing that if they were discovered, arrested and convicted, he and Quatre would most likely spend many years apart. The risk at the time seemed worth saving the many lives in danger on L2. His lover was a compassionate man, his empathy for the suffering of others was incomparable. Quatre could not have lived with himself knowing he could have done something to help so many and failed to take action. His own life was centered around his lover. Quatre's happiness had become his own. They really had no alternative but to act after they'd exhausted all attempts politically to lift the blockade from L2. Now looking at Wufei, he waited for his friend to tell him the fate of himself, his beloved and their accomplices, who were now their dear friends.
Wufei slumped back in his chair and ran both hands over his face before dropping them. With a shake of his head and a defeated sigh he answered Trowa's question. "I don't know. I'd like to read those incriminating emails Howard spoke of earlier, and then I think we should return to L4 and include Quatre in any further decisions."
Trowa and Howard exchanged a surprised glance at each other. "What about me and my men?" the older man asked.
Wufei contemplated the man for a moment before replying. "I'm going to leave the three of you here and I'd like your word of honor that you'll remain on this satellite until you hear from either myself or Trowa."
A gray, shaggy eyebrow rose in question. "You would trust my word?"
"We fought together for a short time during the war, Howard. I came to know you as a man of honor, one who sacrificed much for the colonies. I believe you are still the same man and that I can trust you if you give me your word."
Howard exchanged a few whispered words with his two, unnamed men. After conferring with them, the older man turned back to the Preventer. "I give you my word that the three of us will stay here until we are contacted by yourself or Trowa. But remember this, Agent Chang, the longer we remain here the people of L2 go without the food and essentials we provide for their survival."
Wufei stood, motioning for Trowa to do the same. "We'll return to L4 in the other ship I located in the next hanger, which I'm assuming is Trowa's. I'll leave my craft behind for now and will contact you, Howard, within the next 12 hours. Do you have enough supplies? I checked the oxygen and heating systems and they look to be sufficient enough, but I didn't see any food or drink."
"We have enough on El Diablo to last two, maybe three days," one of the yet to be named crewmen informed them.
One black eyebrow rose at the name of the stealth ship. "An apt name," Wufei stated, looking back at Howard and Trowa.
"We thought so," Howard said with a tired chuckle.
Fifteen minutes later, Wufei and Trowa were suited up for space travel and seated in the cockpit of the small shuttle that Trowa had used to leave L4. With Wufei seated behind the controls, Trowa took the opportunity to recline his seat and fall to sleep the moment the ship cleared the satellite. It had been a very long day and the next one would undoubtedly be just as trying.