"I think it would be a good idea to take on a criminal division," Winner stated.
Commander Une looked as if he'd just desecrated the grave of Mister Treize and then urinated in the roses. Wufei leaned back in his chair and practiced arching a single eye brow. Winner should give in gracefully. It was obvious that she'd already made up her mind and didn't want to be argued with; she had that why wait until morning? let's execute Maxwell now look on her face.
Commander Une covered her lapse admirably by shooting to her feet and turning a brilliant shade of red. "Absolutely not!"
Wufei gave up on the eyebrow thing and frowned at Winner. "There are police already and they would not thank us for taking over their job. Leave crime to them and we'll deal with insurrection."
Winner sighed. "Not all crime is a local matter, or even a national one. Some crimes cross the boundaries and these people are getting away with it because of some jurisdictional posturing on the part of the locals. I agree that we shouldn't take over for the police, but when crime is of an international nature, it makes sense to have a central authority in place to deal with it."
Wufei's frown deepened when Barton smirked at him from behind his hair. Barton fished in his satchel, brought a pen out, and pressed it into Winner's hand.
Winner ripped out a piece of the in depth analysis some governmental drone had produced on the criminal division subject and started writing. "The way I see it is that there are levels of police, from local all the way up to a few, somewhat effective international groups. Interpol has been operating with various levels of success, depending on the country, in parts of Europe for centuries. About half of the nations and two colonies in the Sphere have come up with extradition treaties. This kind of environment gives criminals too many ways of avoiding capture, let alone finding some way of prosecuting them anywhere. Most of the arms cartels we've been trying to shut down have managed to stay legal simply by manufacturing, warehousing, and selling their products in different countries."
"I am not disputing that international crime is a problem," Commander Une stated, rubbing her temples. "I am disputing that this is a Preventer problem. Our purview is to stop military revolts, not play cops and robbers. If it's anyone's mission, it's Interpol's. There is no reason why their jurisdiction can't be expanded to encompass the entire Sphere."
Winner's face lost its usual tough-but-fair boardroom intent and twisted into a scowl.
Barton's hand slipped over the nearest of Winner's forearms momentarily before dropping beneath the table again.
Winner relaxed back into his seat with a grunt of frustration. "I would say there are several good reasons against Interpol. The first of which is that Preventer already has the infrastructure in place. We've got the shuttles, we've got the Tauruses, both land and space, and the pilots trained to operate them. We've got the office space in every colony and continent. We've got mandate from Sphere-wide public opinion. At the very least, we'd have to share resources with Interpol, or whatever organization was created, to start out with. Worse, it would be unlikely that we'd retain control over the resources we'd have to turn over to them."
"I don't like the idea of having mobile suits in the hands of anyone else," Barton said. "We can't trust that their security measures will be enough to keep the suits out of the wrong hands."
Winner tossed a dazzling smile up at Barton.
Wufei grunted, agreeing. "Fighting against our own MS doesn't suit me."
Commander Une wrinkled her nose. "One of the problems with the Alliance was that the military and the police were the same thing. Combining Preventer with the police force would be nothing more than Sphere wide martial law. The ESUN is founded on principles that are for the greater good and individual civil liberties. The Alliance started out similarly and turned into a military machine. It doesn't take much, just a few individuals in the lower or middle echelons acting as if their jurisdiction were their own private kingdom. I won't have it."
"I don't want martial law, either." Winner poured two glasses of water and slid one in front of Barton. "No one does. It might be optimistic of me, but I like to think the paramilitary part of Preventer will eventually become redundant. What then? We dismantle everything? It would be simpler if we had something we could phase it into."
Wufei snorted derisively before he could stop himself.
Barton shot Wufei a glare, then settled a frown on the table. "I don't see it. As long as there's a government in power, there'll be need for Preventer."
Winner sighed, shaking his head. "Trowa."
Barton inclined his head a bit. "Quatre."
The two stared at each other for a few moments, then Barton shrugged. Winner shook his head again and sighed.
Commander Une stared through the conference room windows with shadowed eyes. "Mister Treize would agree with you, Trowa."
Winner's expression softened a bit as he watched Commander Une. Barton leaned in his chair, until their shoulders nudged.
Commander Une's face hardened, just a bit. "Oz was only able to fight a war because the Alliance made revolution possible. They did so by moving into each sovereignty, establishing a military presence, and then using that presence to enforce their dictates. At first, the local authorities were glad for the assistance, until they discovered that they were under the thumb of the Alliance military. Power corrupts, gentlemen."
"And absolute power corrupts absolutely," Barton finished.
Commander Une sent a smirk that was half proud, half smug toward Barton. "Precisely."
Barton was obviously still her favorite. Wufei scowled at his comrades. "In other words, Winner, who watches the watchers?"
"To follow Mariemaia's paradigm, it would be proper to keep enforcement in one, single body. It would take less time to foment the next revolution, the next war, the next peace." Commander Une tapped her pen against the report in front of her. "She didn't understand that war is not inevitable. Likely, but not a given."
Wufei frowned. "Treize believed that people wouldn't understand peace if they didn't understand war first."
Commander Une smiled again. "Yes, Mister Treize believed that. He believed that the people who allowed the revolution and war to become necessary in the first place wouldn't understand the peace they gave up slowly, over the years. He didn't believe that revolution was a fact of the human condition, only that human complacency breeds it."
Barton let an annoyed breath gush out. "Khushrenada escalated a war just so he could teach people how great peace was."
"That's like fucking for virginity," Winner groaned.
Commander Une eyed Winner disapprovingly. "Is it?"
"Of course not," Wufei snapped. "Virginity is immediate, instant, and personal. The politics that create and then fuel a war are not. Would the colonies have rebelled against the Alliance in the first place if generations of people on Earth had not permitted their governments to oppress the colonies?"
"The people on Earth did not want to oppress anyone!" Winner leaned forward, a glare lasering into Wufei. Barton patted Winner's shoulder. "The Alliance used lies and propaganda to take advantage of the rift between the nations of Earth as well as between the colonies and their sponsoring nations. Under the guise of peacekeeping, they started a war to seize sphere-wide power. It was a lack of global and colonial unity that gave the Alliance Forces the opportunity to start the war in the first place. The unity can't be forced, either. The Alliance all but wrote the script for rebellion when they forced the colonies back under the rule of their sponsoring nations." Winner nudged into the hand on his shoulder, but Barton didn't drop it. "If you want to get esoteric about it, this isn't about the Alliance. This is about the Earth Sphere United Nations. An alliance is a group of individuals agreeing to work for a common goal. Unity is a group of individuals with a common goal agreeing to work as one. For the ESUN, it's peace for everyone. The ESUN doesn't need a military and even though we call ourselves paramilitary, it doesn't change the fact that we are still military. Right now, with the war fresh in everyone's mind, the military strength of Preventer provides a feeling of security. In a few years, that feeling will fade and we'll have to answer the question, why does a peaceful government need a military? Uniting Preventer with the police will be one of the first steps in showing the entire sphere that Preventer is dedicated to peacekeeping, to law enforcement, not to military objectives."
Barton looked vaguely thoughtful.
Commander Une tilted her head.
Wufei tried not to growl. "Winner, the concern isn't how people view Preventer, the concern is how to stop corruption from turning Preventer into another Alliance Forces. There is no barometer to measure a person's corruptibility. Even barring the possibility of corruption, there is nothing to stop someone from using Preventer to destroy the peace we're building because they think what they're doing is right. Milliardo Peacecraft and White Fang are the perfect examples of such a thing."
Commander Une slapped her report closed. "I will be recommending that Preventer remains separate from any international law enforcement agency that might be created. I agree that our MS fleet should be for Preventer use only. Interagency cooperation will be key, at least in the eyes of the public." She took a breath and folded her arms on the table in front of her. "The Vice Foreign Minister tells me that the Judiciary Committee has been discussing the formation of a Preventer oversight agency or committee of some sort. Which would be preferable, a civilian committee or having mutual oversight with the new law enforcement agency?"
Winner shrugged, a shadow passing briefly over his face, and the tendons in hand Barton had cupping Winner's shoulder tightened a moment. Winner leaned a bit more into that hand. "Either would have some sort of agenda that we'd have no control over. I think the main differences would be that a civilian committee would have few, if any, other duties beyond oversight while the new agency would have to deal with oversight on top of their caseload; and that police officers are trained to automatically look for evidence of guilt in each case they deal with while civilians might be less inclined to think a Preventer is guilty of wrongdoing until proven otherwise."
Wufei nodded. "A strong case for civilian oversight."
Winner shrugged again, this time with a small smile. "The advantage of having the police oversee us is that we get to oversee them as well. It would be simpler to keep tabs on what they're doing."
Commander Une nodded, her pen tapping the report. "That was my thinking as well."
Winner pursed his lips, then sighed. "I doubt we'll get the choice."
Commander Une sighed as well. "In any case, Quatre, I would appreciate it if you could work up a means for us to liaise with the new police that would keep a good flow of inter-agency cooperation. There is no reason that we cannot work together with the police since we do share a common goal. Perhaps you could use Interpol as a basis and we could expand from there when the new police force is up and running."
Winner frowned slightly, then nodded. "I'll see what I can come up with, Lady."
"Thank you, Quatre." She smiled at him, then quietly collected her things and left the conference room.
Winner rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers.
Barton touched Winner's hand for a moment. "Let's go get some lunch."
"I've got to fini--"
"No. You skipped breakfast and then this lunch meeting came up. Whatever it is can wait."
Winner slumped over with ill grace. "Fine. Wufei?"
"You're buying, Winner." Wufei smirked at Barton's little pouty glare before sauntering down the hall. One of them, probably Winner, tugged on his pony tail when they caught up with him.
Winner leaned into Barton and rolled his eyes. "Sure, Chang. Lend me fifty creds?"
Wufei managed to resist sticking his tongue out. "Use a credit card."
Winner stopped near the elevator and pointed to himself. "Muslim."
"I doubt the Koran says you can't borrow from a credit card company, but it's okay to borrow from me."
Barton sighed and thumbed the down button.
Winner grinned. "Doesn't mention you at all because you don't charge interest."
"Why do I always end up picking up the check when you two get like this?" Barton favored both of them with a frown as he slipped into the elevator.
"You're a nice guy, Barton," Wufei said.
Barton sighed again and stabbed the "G" button. "I'm such a nice guy, I'll treat you both to a knuckle sandwich."
"Knuckle sandwich?" Winner fell against the elevator wall, laughing. "I haven't heard that since grammar school."
Barton slid his hands into his pockets and half-smiled at Winner.
Wufei didn't know exactly what a knuckle sandwich was, but he could hazard a guess. Instead, he eyed the lit "G" button with distaste. "I take it we'll be dining at Chez Mess Hall?"
"Only the best slop for the discerning tastes of the Chang clan," Barton said.
Wufei knew he was pouting and couldn't stop it. "That idiot, Patterson, hates me."
Barton lifted his eyebrows. "You keep trying to get him fired, Wufei."
"If you'd tasted the cardboard paste that idiot attempted to pass off as dim sum, you would be helping me."
Barton abruptly hit the emergency stop switch on the elevator's panel. Wufei opened his mouth to say something, but Barton beat him to the punch. "Quatre, I'm sorry."
Wufei blinked, his brows furrowing. Winner had backed himself into a corner, his arms banding his middle. He was staring at the floor. "Winner?"
Winner frowned at Barton, waving Wufei off. "It's nothing, Wufei."
"It's the meeting we had with Lady Une, Wufei," Barton contradicted, without taking his eyes from Winner.
"It's nothing," Winner snapped.
Wufei grunted and shook his head. "Even I can tell you're upset."
Wufei rolled his eyes. "What should I say? Pissy?"
Winner pinched his lips together and glared.
Barton frowned at Wufei, then pressed a shoulder against Winner's.
Wufei ignored Barton, he was generally a sourpuss whenever Winner wasn't happy anyway. "Is it because we disagreed with you in front of Commander Une?"
Winner snorted and refused to look at either of them.
"No," Barton translated. "It's because we didn't listen to him." Barton scowled as if this were all Wufei's fault and he'd had no part in it.
Wufei grunted, unamused.
Winner ducked his head and leaned toward Barton.
"You said fucking for virginity, Winner. In a meeting with Commander Une!" Wufei felt like smacking the scowl off of Barton's face. "Probably heard it from Maxwell."
"Heero, actually, and that's not the point." Winner shoved his hands into his pockets and nudged Barton's arm with his shoulder. Barton nudged back and smirked.
Wufei decided that nudging business was more annoying than anything else. "Then what is the point?"
Winner's face took on that scrunched, prune-like look that Sally always had when she was in the midst of her passive-aggressive woman if you don't know what you did wrong, well I'm certainly not going to tell you thing. Someone needed to tell her that sort of thing was never helpful in the middle of a firefight. Wufei narrowed his eyes and grunted. "Sulking is the sort of thing I'd expect from those sycophantic females your sisters are always trying to saddle you with whenever you ignore one of them."
Barton's fingers curled over the curve of Winner's closest shoulder. He flicked the emergency stop switch back into its run position and regarded Wufei with something approaching pity.
Winner's face managed to get itself scrunchier, like Peacecraft's did whenever his sister told him what to do and he had to do it. "Just because I don't go around destroying Preventer body bags with a wooden sword and scaring all the recruits by yelling in some obscure Chinese dialect doesn't mean that I'm missish when I'm angry."
Winner's face relaxed into a twin of Barton's pitying smirk. "Maybe you'd like it better if I borrowed the Zero system from the secret labs and went and blew something up with it. You could feel very manly about my expression of anger then."
The elevator jerked to a halt and binged.
Wufei glowered. "This doesn't have anything to do with feeling manly about---" Wait a minute.
The elevator doors whooshed open.
Notes: Response to Raletha's request at the fic on demand community at livejournal for a story that shows that Trowa and Quatre are in love, minus sentimentality, melodrama, or romantic cliches. She wants the situation and the characters' way of being together to show the affection, not trite words or hackneyed gestures. Was I successful? Dunno. My aim was to take the least romantic, dramatically boring, post-cannon setting I could think of and hopefully write it in a way where the casual reader could tell the two have feelings for each other while the characters were acting at least somewhat in character. I put this note on the bottom so the reader wouldn't be predisposed to looking for something. I'd rather that people just make of it what they choose to; it's more interesting that way, especially if they share.