authors: Mel & Christy

Key:
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, someone waking up from a dream, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
thoughts: *Tadah!*
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>

Reunion + Chapter 11

TO: <quatre_r_winner@wei.com>
FROM: <shi-chan@xxxx.com>
SENT: AC197 JUL 07 2023hrs
SUBJECT: Hi guys!
---message begins---

Hey Q-man, hey Tro,

How are you guys? I've tried calling, but you move around so much I
keep just missing you. Did you like the postcards? I thought they
were cool. Right now I'm in Germany. The cars are so awesome. I
spent the day cruising the Autobahn. Gotta love no speed limits!

I was wondering... is the offer of a place to stay and go to school still
open? I think I'm ready to come home.

I miss you guys.

-Duo

Oh! Do you have Heero's new contact details? I've tried getting a hold
of him, but everything's changed. My e-mail's going to change soon,
too; Dr. G says he's shutting down his wartime communications network.
I'll miss the 'xxxx'! I'll let you know my new addy when I get it, 'kay?

---message ends---

----------

TO: <quatre_r_winner@wei.com>
FROM: <duomax@webmail.com>
SENT: AC197 AUG 18 1437hrs
SUBJECT: Hi
---message begins---

Hi Quat, hi Tro,

I still haven't heard from you guys. Didn't you get the e-mail with my
new address? I've tried calling, and your secretaries keep taking
messages, but I guess you're really busy and all. I still can't reach
Heero, either. And tell Relena she needs a new secretary.

Well, it's been an interesting day. Good ol' Shinigami thought his
ticket was punched this time for sure. The shuttle I was on almost
went down in a blaze of glory. Some heavy cargo shifted, punctured
the hull and severed a fuel line, not to mention smashing my laptop
flat! It's not like it was a normal one, and easily replaceable. Lucky
thing I had my disks and player in the cabin with me. If I'd lost them
too... I would really have been pissed.

I should go; other people want to use this terminal. Can you believe
it? Shinigami, reduced to using an internet cafe... the world must be
ending.

Email back and let me know how you are. I really miss you guys.

-Duo

P.S. Where are you guys now? Do you have a spare room I can borrow
for a bit?

---message ends---

----------

TO: <quatre_r_winner@wei.com>
FROM: <duomax@webmail.com>
SENT: AC197 SEP 12 0238hrs
SUBJECT:
---message begins---

Quatre,

Well, still no word from any of you. No calls, no e-mails... heh, I may
get a complex.

Please call or e-mail? And tell Heero, too. I want to come home, but
I need a place to stay until I get back on my feet. Not long.

I've checked into the Blake's Port Motel on L1 for a week so I'll have
a steady number for you to call me at. Call me? Don't worry about what
time. I haven't been sleeping much lately.

-Duo Maxwell

P.S. How's Wufei?

---message ends---

----------

"There's a few more," Quatre said shakily. "Just little ones, dated between the first two... one's an electronic postcard. These three are the... the ones that..." He choked, and stopped.

Trowa pushed away from the desk and started to pace, quivering with tension. "Shit. Shit!" he hissed between clenched teeth. "No wonder it affected him so badly... He just wanted to come home. He came right out and said it in the e-mails! It would have been bad enough being cut off by friends. Being cut off by the people he saw as home... He wanted to find out if he was welcome back, and when nobody replied, it sure as hell looked like he wasn't."

"His nightmares must have been really bad for him to mention that he wasn't sleeping," Quatre whispered. "That was three months ago. If he hasn't been sleeping properly since then--"

"Or even longer," Trowa interrupted, still pacing. "If he got depressed and sleep-deprived, he'd stop eating properly; Heero had to remind him to eat a few times during the war. The combination would lower his immune system, so he got sick... and that would make everything else worse. Shit! If we'd just received one message... That fucking shithead Taarnby!"

Quatre nodded decisively, attempting to regain his composure. "One thing is certain. I am going to ruin Taarnby," he said, his voice hardening. "Just for what he's been doing to WEI and for taking advantage of my father's death and Serena's gullibility, I would cripple his company. But his greed and stupidity hurt Duo. I don't care that he had no idea what he was doing. When I am through with him, he is going to have nothing left."

Trowa bared his teeth in a humourless grin. "Sounds good to me." He stopped pacing, coming to a halt in front of the vidphone and punched in a code. A few seconds later, Ninke's face flashed onto the screen.

<<WEI, Ninke Assink-- Mr Barton, hello again. How can I help you this time?>>

"Have you found anything yet?"

Ninke blinked. <<Ah... with all due respect, sir, it's been less than an hour. At the moment, I have people locating and collecting the files.>>

"...Fine. Sorry." Trowa rubbed at his forehead. "It's just gone up in priority; poach staff from other areas if you have to. In fact, use Elite's personnel wherever possible. They put the stuff on the files, they can get it off again."

<<Certainly, Mr Barton.>>

"Also, you're no doubt aware by now that parts of Elite's current operating procedures are utter crap--"

Ninke nodded emphatically. <<They could be termed that, sir.>>

"--so I want you to get hold of copies of their old SOPs, the ones from eighteen months ago. I want them reinstated as of this afternoon."

<<Yes, sir.>> Ninke made a quick note, then looked up again. <<I should point out that we're likely to encounter arguments; my understanding is that according to the terms of their contract, Elite's management determine the SOPs-->>

"And now we come to the main reason I called you." Trowa grinned nastily. "The contract with Elite will be severed very soon. Set up a team to interview all the staff they currently supply to us. Find the ones that can actually think for themselves without referring to a list of procedures every five minutes, and offer to hire them." He glanced over his shoulder. "Quatre? Did I miss anything?"

Absorbed by his computer screen once more, Quatre waved a hand vaguely in Trowa's direction. "No, no, that's perfect. Exactly what I want. Do it."

Scribbling another note to himself, the Dutch man nodded sharply. <<Begrepen.>> [1]


Trowa blinked; then one corner of his mouth slowly turned up in an amused smirk. "You know, Ninke, I've been waiting for you to say that for months."

<<Uh... really, sir? Why?>>

"I must introduce you to Heero Yui some time. Keep us informed." *click!*

Trowa slowly walked back towards his chair, rubbing his forehead and smiling slightly; he paused as he realised that Ninke's little 'Heero comment' had bounced him partway out of his uncharacteristic black mood, then spoke. "You know, Quatre, Ninke Assink is a gem. He's wasted in clerical admin; I think you should promote him and have him work directly for you. Call him your Executive Officer or Special Assistant."

Quatre blinked, looking up. "But... I've never had an assistant."

"Exactly. You need one."

"Father never had one either..."

"Your father spent all his time at WEI. You, on the other hand, also have responsibilities to the Preventers, and all the other political things you help Relena with. You don't even have a personal assistant to handle your calls and appointments!"

"But I never stay at any one branch for more than a week or two!" Quatre protested. "I'd hardly ever be in the same place as the assistant!"

"So hire one who's willing to follow you around," Trowa suggested, sitting down. "Your father did a fair amout of branch-hopping himself. How did he handle it?"

"...His personal secretary followed him everywhere," Quatre admitted with a wry smile. "She had an assistant at each branch to forward messages and take care of things that came up when she wasn't there."

"You see? It's not such a bad idea."

"All right, all right, I'll think about it." Quatre settled back into his seat and sighed, rubbing at sore eyes, then changed the subject. "That ex-secretary of Relena's probably deleted any e-mails he sent her. I wonder if they're recoverable?"

Trowa snorted. "Heero set up her security and fiddled with her office's computer setup. I'd say everything is recoverable until he wants it gone."

* * * * *

A few hours later, Trowa was proven right.

Heero had added a few of his own... refinements... to the computer systems in Relena's office. One of them, similar to a program he'd written for the computers at Preventers' HQ, automatically recorded all the vidphone calls to or from the office; another archived a copy of every e-mail.

'Just in case,' Heero had told Relena when she asked why. 'You never know when you might need something, and it turns out someone's deleted it.' At the time, she'd dismissed that as mild paranoia, a hangover from the war; she'd agreed because he wanted it, not because she thought the archives would ever be needed.

If Heero says he wants a stuffed penguin in every room, because 'we might need one', I'm going to say 'How big?' Relena thought, watching the third recording Georg had pulled up out of the archive. And then I'll place a bulk order at Toys'R'Us. I can't believe I was stupid enough to hire that... that bitch! I knew she was a snob, but I thought she wasn't letting it affect her work. Her own personal feelings should have had nothing to do with how she treated people I chose to deal with!

"Georg," she said abruptly as the recording finished, "please assign some people to go through this whole archive, call by call. I realise it's going to be an enormous job, but I want to find out who else she froze out like this."

"Yes, ma'am," Georg said, nervously eyeing the screen as he brought up the fourth call he'd found. "Your friend's pretty brave, ma'am. I would've stopped calling after the first try."

"She does do coldly polite, 'why are you wasting my time, you worthless bug?' very well, doesn't she?" Relena said dryly.

Georg nodded. "Oh, definitely, ma'am. She never said a single rude word, but she might as well have been yelling 'GO AWAY! I don't want to help YOU!' at the top of her lungs."

"Duo wasn't looking particularly disreputable," Relena muttered to herself as Georg clicked 'play', "and he was polite. He even had polite slogans on his T-shirts..."

<<Good afternoon, Foreign Minister Peacecraft's off-- oh, it's you again. I told_you, if Miss Peacecraft wishes to speak to you, she'll return your call!>>

Relena's eyes widened. We have now crossed the line into actively rude... Ha. That line alone, combined with the fact that she never passed any messages to me, is justification for dismissal. So much for her court case. Everything from here on is just going to increase the size of the damage settlement I'm going to get for Duo.

----------

Heero listened to the calls Relena and Georg were playing with half an ear as he ran searches through the e-mail archive. He'd only found one e-mail from Duo's old address; unaccountably reluctant to read it, he'd tried keyword searches to find more. Searching by 'Shinigami' and 'Death' found him another e-mail address Duo had used. (It also brought up a message from somebody who insisted they'd seen Death hovering over the Empire State Building, and 'i tell you BECAUSE you is QUEEN and is YOUR job FIX things liKe this. tell him Go aWay. why you called MInister? YOU QUEEN. FIX this so i go up to OBservation level not get scared', but Heero thought he could safely ignore that.)

He sat staring at the half-dozen messages he'd found for a moment, then took a deep breath and clicked on the first one.

----------

[cont]