Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Typically, Wufei considered himself a morning person. But when he woke up Monday morning he really didn't feel like getting up. Since returning to the thought-to-be abandoned satellite from the botched raid on the Eclipse, he'd remained in bed feeling despondent and unsociable. He stared at very familiar off-white ceiling and the five similarly painted pipes that went from one end of the ceiling to the other, ignoring the slight throbbing pain in his wounded arm and wondering about his future. Was there a future after abandoning his position as a Preventer and joining the marauders?
He thought back to the day he'd confronted Trowa in the hanger of this very satellite. The information Trowa had gathered four years earlier hinted that certain members of the UEC government had acted against L2 for reasons other than the mere lawlessness on that colony. Trowa managed to intercept a handful of emails between those like-minded men. Phrases such as clean sweep, Noah's Arc, and pest control peppered the otherwise carefully crafted memos. While the threat of systematically annihilating the inhabitants of an unnamed colony seemed to be their goal, none of the private messages stated outright that L2 was their target. However, the often used initials S.C., an abbreviated term for slum colony, which was how the corresponding emails referred to their subject, couldn't be anything but the poor, trouble fraught L2. It didn't take a genius to realize the "pests" or some other undesirable vermin referred to in those messages were references to that colony's citizens.
Trowa traveled to Earth and presented the emails to Director Une. After carefully reading them over, the head of the Preventers removed her glasses and looked up at Trowa with a solemn expression. Despite the veiled threats in the emails, she told him there was no real proof that the men had broken any laws. Unless it could be proved they'd acted against L2 for reasons other than that colony's refusal to comply with UEC's laws, she was unable to take steps towards charging the men with a crime. After studying the names again, she recognized most of them as being those representatives responsible for drafting and pushing the bill that would permit the government to levy the embargo. The only action she could take, Une told him, was to put their names on a watch list and assign a couple of agents to investigate their pasts to see if there was a common, underlying reason for their actions beyond their dislike for the impoverished colony. The emails, inadmissible in court, would be used only as a basis for further investigation.
Disappointed but not surprised by the inability of the Preventers to do anything further, Trowa continued keeping tabs on the five men, believing it was only a matter of time before one of them let something incriminating slip, and then the Preventers would arrest and charge them with any number of crimes.
The chime at his door brought Wufei out of his thoughts. He eased himself to his side and slid his legs off the bed. With a grunt he forced himself to sit up, wincing as the movement pulled on his sutures. He made it to his feet and then walked to the doorway where he pushed the button that slid the metal door open, revealing Howard on the other side, dressed all in black. The smiling, overly-cheerful man handed him an armful of clothing. "Good morning, Wufei. We just got a call to pick up an important package from L2. If I'm right, and I almost always am, this might be our last run."
Wufei blinked, surprised by the announcement. "What do you mean?"
"Just get dressed and you'll find out soon enough."
"I wish you would speak plainly and just tell me what is happening. I don't like going into any situation unprepared."
Howard pushed the clothing towards him again, which looked like the green generic uniform typically worn by men and women who worked on ship repairs. "Think you can manage that, or do you need some help?"
Slightly offended by the insinuation that he couldn't take care of himself, Wufei turned his nose up at the Sweeper. "I haven't needed help before this, so I highly doubt I need it now."
"Good. We'll be taking off for L2 in half an hour. Why don't you hit the galley and get something to eat before then, all right?" Howard waited for his nod of agreement, then turned and left Wufei to dress.
As he struggled to remove his night clothes and re-dress in the clothing Howard had supplied, using only one hand, Wufei wondered about the item they were going to pick up from L2. Whatever it was, it must be of great importance if it could end the blockade. Was it proof of the people's suffering? Perhaps a representative from L2 was going to speak with the UEC in an effort to persuade them into lifting the sanctions. One of the emaciated children alone would be enough to enrage the public, he thought. By the time he zipped up the front of the jumpsuit, he felt more tired than he should have been from the effort. Unwilling to move his arm enough to pull his hair back into its normal style, he had little choice but to leave it down. Following Howard's instruction he boarded the shuttle and went to the galley and made himself a very simple breakfast.
Howard poked his head into the room just as he was cleaning his dishes. The engineer asked him to come to the cockpit as soon as he was able. It was time to leave.
Wufei followed two minutes later, noticing as he passed that the main hatch had been closed and secured. Entering the cockpit, he was surprised to find Trowa sitting in the pilot's chair, his nimble fingers running over the systems in a pre-departure check. The absence of the other two crew members indicated to Wufei that this flight was going to be a three man job.
"Everyone take your seats," Trowa said, and with a turn of his head he locked eyes with Wufei and gave him a slight nod in greeting. He then returned to the task of preparing the shuttle for takeoff. "We need to make this a fast trip," he added. "I've got Heero coming to visit later today and I need to return home as soon as possible. Something about the interview Quatre and I had with Agent Warfield has made him suspicious."
Wufei wanted to ask about the item they were picking up and where they were taking it, but he'd learned early on that Trowa and Howard told him only what he needed to know. If they withheld information, it was for his benefit, or so both men had told him repeatedly. He had to trust them, which was difficult at times because he really didn't like not knowing what was going on.
It was just after noon, L2 time, when the blinking lights of the colony could be seen clearly from the port bow. Once they were safely docked, Trowa and Howard stood from their seats and asked Wufei to remain where he was, that they would return shortly. Since he wasn't wearing the black clothing they used to hide their identity, he remained in his seat. From there he watched as Trowa cover his head with the black mask and then proceed to open the hatch. But that was as far as he went. Trowa remained inside the shuttle while Howard, his face also covered, stepped out and disappeared down the ramp to the deck below. It was more than apparent that this time they didn't have cargo to unload, but Wufei couldn't help but wonder why they included him on this trip if he wasn't needed?
Ten minutes passed, and during that time Trowa remained silent, which really wasn't unusual for the man. Then Wufei heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Curious as to what or who they were picking up, he stood from his seat to greet the returning engineer. Trowa, still on guard at the door, gave Howard a hand as the man re-entered the shuttle carrying a large, blanket-wrapped bundle in his arms. The hatch was once again closed and sealed before Trowa followed Howard to one of the passenger seats where he carefully set the mysterious bundle down. He then proceeded to unwrap the blankets from around the person inside, exposing both their face and identity.
"What the hell?" Wufei exclaimed, turning angry eyes to Howard.
"She's sedated and we're taking her back to Earth," Howard explained calmly.
"You kidnaped Relena Peacecraft! Why?"
"I think you're smart enough to figure it out."
Wufei quickly went over the logical reasons for why Relena had been kidnapped and sent to L2. "Think of the big picture," Howard urged with a sober expression. "This wasn't your typical kidnaping for ransom or revenge."
A possible answer came to the Preventer's mind. "Having seen and lived as one of the people of L2, Relena will be a credible voice for them, a witness to their suffering. She's always been a person the people of Earth's sphere listen to, even when she was just a teenager. No doubt she'll have the attention of the media when she suddenly returns."
Howard winked at him, a grin tugging at his lips. Wufei frowned, glancing from Howard to Trowa and then back again. "Are you certain she will be sympathetic and not angry and resentful for being forced to live in such desperate condition?."
"Our source on L2 has assured me that Relena declared her intention to do whatever it takes to end the suffering on L2," Howard said and he bent to secure the sleeping woman in her seat.
"And she'll be none the wiser about who brought her here?"
"She was in a similar state on her trip to L2," Trowa said. "We'll give her another injection half way through the flight so she'll not wake up again until she's back on Earth and we're long gone."
Wufei contemplated for a moment everything he'd just learned, then with a perplexed expression asked, "And the purpose for my being on his flight?"
Trowa put a hand on his friend's shoulder and gave it a slight squeeze. "With Relena's pledge to help L2, our work is almost done. Thank you, Wufei, for joining us, but now that it's over we're going to do what we can to return you to your life with as little damage to your position in the Preventers as possible."
"How do you propose to pull that off?" he asked, dubious that his career could be salvaged at this point. If his defection was brought out in the open, any job in the field of law enforcement would be out of the question, even though he'd previously been an effective agent.
Howard looked at his watch and said, "Let's get off this colony and back into space. I'll tell you what I can after we're away from here." Then with a glance at the ebony-haired man he asked, "You do want to return to your job, don't you?"
Wufei sighed and leaned against the seat in front of Relena's and answered. "I honestly don't know. Even though I've done my part in seeing that the peace we fought for was secure, I feel the UEC's politics has taken a turn for the worse. As a Preventer, there was little to nothing I could do about their unjust actions towards L2. Hell, I believed they were justified until I was given the marauder's case. I think I might be more effective in securing the peace if I resigned my post and applied for a job with Quatre. I've observed that Winner and Barton not only have their fingers on the pulse of the colonies, but that they also need someone to steer them away from trouble."
Trowa smiled and Howard laughed out loud at Wufei's reply. "And I think you are just the person to do that, at least until they are needed to save the next colony."
"Give it some more thought after this is all over," Trowa advised. "But if you're serious about the job, I'll speak with Quatre. I can guarantee he'll find something for you in his organization and make it worth your while." Turning, the tall, auburn haired man returned to the cockpit to prepare for the next stage of their flight.
"Take a seat, Wufei." Howard motioned to the seat across from where their newest passenger sat sleeping. "I'll be back after we pass the blockade and explain to you what we've got planned."
For the next two hours El Diablo cruised through space toward a rendezvous point Wufei had been told about, but was kept ignorant of. He slept for part of the journey, then listened to Howard as he gave him his simple but workable solution.
One hour and a meal later, he changed back into his Preventer uniform and watched as Relena was given an injection to keep her asleep for another eight hours. Howard then turned to him and grinned. "You better sit down. This stuff works quickly once it enters the blood stream."
Wufei moved to take off his jacket but Howard put a restraining hand on his arm. "Don't bother."
Taking his seat across the aisle from Relena, Wufei waited for further instructions. While Howard prepared the next injection he asked, "Are you sure this injection is merely meant as an attempt to explain my absence to my superiors, or is it a way to keep me from meeting your contact?"
"Both," Howard grinned, then suddenly and without warning he pressed the injector onto Wufei's thigh and depressed the syringe, sending the fast-acting drugs through his clothing and into his flesh. The abrupt action took the Chinese man by surprise.
Grunting, Wufei muttered in complaint, "You could have warned me."
Howard merely shrugged as he held up the syringe to make sure the entire vial had been emptied. "It's not everyday I get to surprise a former gundam pilot."
As Howard promised, the drug in his system worked with astonishing speed. Wufei found the interior of the shuttle and the man beside him quickly fading. Unable to resist the pull, he closed his eyes and let himself tumble into a dreamless sleep.