authors: Mel &
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: ~*~*~*~
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>
+ Chapter 10
Wufei gingerly extricated himself
from Duo's sleeping hold for the second morning in a row and staggered
off for a shower, rubbing blearily at his eyes. Normally, Monday mornings
weren't a problem for him, but today was definitely an exception.
At least I didn't have to hum all night, this time, he thought,
turning the cold tap up in an attempt to shock himself awake. He slept
quite peacefully when he wasn't coughing. I kept dozing off and
jerking myself awake so I wouldn't sleep in. If he'd woken up and found
me in bed with him...
I'm not really happy about sneaking out before he wakes up. It feels
so much like... like what I did at Quatre's party. But... I don't know
how he'd react if he did wake up in bed with me. I don't know how
he feels about me now. He seems to trust me, but is that because he doesn't
think he can trust anyone else? He might react very badly. And if he didn't
react badly, I'd never be sure whether it was because he felt pressured
to do whatever I wanted. What if he thought I was his only option, or
if he thought he had to pay me back for looking after him?
No. Until he's better, and he's not so dependent on me, I'm not letting
him know. Let him think the nightmares are just dispersing on their own.
Didn't I have this 'discussion' with myself yesterday? Why am
I going over this again?
Gods, I've got to get some sleep...
* * * * *
"Heero, you've got to get some sleep!"
"I'm fine." -takatakatakatakataka-
"Oh really?" Relena leaned over the desk, but Heero obstinately
refused to meet her eyes. "You haven't eaten anything in thirty-six
hours, either. Even for you, that's pushing it!"
She sighed, pushing herself back upright, and watched him for a minute,
then continued on in a softer voice. "Even if you do find
something that you and Trowa missed... what will you do about it? Duo's
been found. You can't change what happened."
"I want to know." -takatakatakataka-
"But it won't accomplish anything..."
"I want to know! Everything!"
The typing stopped. Heero stared down at the keyboard, fists clenched.
"Then wait until Duo is better and willing to talk and ask him."
His shoulders started to shake, and she slowly walked around the desk
to his side.
"I know you want to be doing something," she whispered, "but
this isn't going to help... and if something else comes up, maybe something
regarding Duo, you'll be in no shape to handle it. Why don't you get something
to eat, get some sleep...? And then, if you want to do something, you
could help me and Georg go through the message and call archives on my
ex-secretary's computer. I want to know exactly what she
said to Duo, and vice versa."
There was a half-choked attempt at a snort. "Is that going to accomplish
anything more than what I've been doing?"
Relena's lips thinned into a humourless smile. "Since Ms. Reynard
is attempting to sue me for wrongful dismissal and defamation of character,
yes. I can win the case with just the recording of the call I made
from Quatre's shuttle, but I want to do more than just win. I want
to counter sue for damages on Duo's behalf, and I want to make sure that
woman's employment prospects are gone."
* * * * *
"This is bullshit!"
Trowa blinked at hearing that in Quatre's voice and backed up a
few steps until he was opposite the door he had just passed. Pushing it
open, he peered into the study.
Quatre was paging through a handful of printouts, shaking his head. "Iria,
who negotiated this contract? It's crap! The requirements are loosely
written, there aren't any specified standards we can hold them to, there's
no provision for performance reviews, and the only penalty for
breach of contract applies to us! They can get up and walk
out at any time they want to without ever giving us notice, but if we
want out to change secretarial agencies, we still have to pay them the
full value of the services they don't provide - and this contract
goes to AC 216! Nobody signs twenty year contracts for clerical
<<Quatre, I honestly don't know who's responsible for this.>>
Iria said from the vidphone, looking harassed. <<I've never been
involved in the day to day running of Winner Enterprises or contract negotiations,
just general policy formulation and Research and Development.>>
"I know, Iria; your own work takes up plenty of your time. I'm sorry
I snapped." Quatre rubbed his hand over his face. "This is just
a printout of the text; all it's got at the end is 'signed by a representative
of WEI and a representative of Elite Secretarial Services Inc'. I need
to see a copy of the signed document to find out who's responsible."
<<Ah... it's a twenty year contract, ending in 216? >> Iria
asked tentatively. << That means it was signed last year. When
last year? If it was while Father was alive, there has to be something
fishy about it. He would never have agreed to terms like that.
Quatre flicked quickly back to the end of the document, and then sighed.
"Nope. March 15th. That's... wait... three days after Father
died? Who would have been signing contracts then?"
Iria's eyes widened. << Serena.>>
"Serena?!" Quatre's voice almost squeaked. "Serena's
never had anything to do with WEI! She doesn't even have shares!
The closest she ever got to the family business was keeping house for
<<Yes, which means she was right there at the main office after
he died. All the rest of us were scattered from here to L5; it took several
days for us to calm down the panic Father's death caused, tidy up our
own affairs, and get back for the memorial service. The will wasn't sorted
out until the 25th; nobody but Serena would be stupid enough to
sign anything before then!>>
"Ohhh... we'd better find out if she signed anything else!"
<<Well, since she's never been an official representative of WEI,
the contract's not binding. The only way they would get any sort of breach-of-contract
ruling against us would be if they convinced a judge that they entered
into the contract in good faith.>>
"And with terms like these," Quatre waved the papers,
"nobody in their right minds would ever believe it. Thanks, Iria.
Could you contact Serena and check the original of this contract, please?
Make sure it was her, and find out what else she did..."
<<Sure, little brother. I'll be seeing you. And get some sleep!
You look like you've been on a caffeine binge again.>>
"Er... yeah. Just a little."
Iria snorted. <<It's never 'just a little' with you, Quatre. Everything
you do is all or nothing: caffeine, fighting work, love... Which reminds
me - Say 'hi' to that nice European boy for me.>> *Click*
Trowa pushed the door open further and strolled in. "If she'd stayed
on the line a little longer, she could have said 'hi' to me in person.
How are you today, Quatre? I thought you were still asleep."
"Oh, Trowa, um... I'm fine. I was just, ah..." Quatre looked
embarrassed. "Well, I still want to find out how all this happened,
Trowa blinked calmly at him. "Since you seem to be going about it
logically instead of wearing a hole in the carpet and giving yourself
an ulcer, I'm not going to argue. What can I do to help?"
Quatre smiled in relief. "Well, I've asked for a copy of all the
standard operating procedures that Elite Secretarial Services give their
personnel, to be e-mailed to me; obviously, there'll be different ones
for people in different positions, so I'm expecting a lot of stuff
to sort through. I'd appreciate some help. We can concentrate on reception
and secretarial staff, which will cut it down." He frowned. "Elite
has apparently been supplying all of the receptionists and secretaries
at WEI and a lot of the lower-level clerical staff for the past three
years or so. Except for my father's personal secretary and she retired
after he died. Duo's messages have to have gone to somebody supplied
by them, but... well, I can't imagine why they'd deliberately work to
keep him from contacting us, but I also can't imagine how all this
could be a mistake! All of Relena's personal messages went through that
one woman, but my messages at WEI come through whichever receptionist
takes the call or screens the e-mail. They can't all be incompetent!"
Trowa frowned slightly. "If Elite has been working with WEI for three
years, and this contract was signed last year, it has to be at
least the second one. What was the first contract like, and was it actually
due for a renewal in March?"
Quatre blinked. "I hadn't thought of that..."
Fifteen minutes later, they had some answers.
"The first contract was for two years, and the terms were much more
normal," Quatre said, pushing back from his desk and rubbing at his
eyes. "It was approved by my father and signed by him and the former
head of Elite. He died a year later, six months before my father."
"So, when your sister signed the new contract, the old one still
had six months left to run?"
"Yes... and I've found notes indicating that my father was not planning
to renew it. He was concerned by a drop in Elite's standards since the
first CEO died and his son took over. It looks like this guy - Matt Taarnby
- took advantage of the confusion caused by Father's death to try and
lock WEI into his new contract."
"That fits with what your sister says." At Quatre's confused
look, Trowa gestured at the computer. "Iria called while you were
going over that. Apparently, 'that nice Mr. Taarnby' came to Serena
with the contract all ready for signatures and kindly explained that if
she wanted business to continue as usual at WEI 'in this time of trouble',
all she had to do was sign on the dotted line. Since Elite was already
working with WEI, she thought there was no point in actually reading the
Quatre moaned and dropped his head into his hands. "That's Serena,
all right. Did Iria happen to mention if she signed anything _else_ back
"Serena doesn't think she signed any other contracts, but
can't remember for sure. Iria's got people checking. Now, since those
procedures you asked for have arrived, why don't you just forward all
this to your lawyers and let them get to work on it?"
"Great idea. Give me fifteen minutes to write a cover note."
Quatre smirked. "Finding the proper wording will take a little while.
Which do you prefer for the closing sentence...'take this jerk to the
cleaners' or 'drive him naked into the financial desert'?"
"I like 'drive him naked into the financial desert' personally. Perhaps
you could add something about bleeding feet and stony paths; that seems
to be traditional in Arabic maledictions."