NOTE: see part 1 for notes, warnings
AUTHOR: shira

Papillion + Part 11

Sally answered the phone after the third ring. "Yes?" Her voice was scratchy and low. Blinking as she checked the clock on her nightstand, she saw that it was three-thirty five in the morning.

"Wakey, wakey! Agent Maxwell calling!" Duo said, trying to be funny. "Hey Sal, we have a major problem." His voice was upbeat and cheerful, though it relayed a less optimistic message.

"Where are you?"

"Heero and I are just leaving the shuttle port." Duo toned himself down to speak in a serious tone now.

"What's happening?" Sally's voice began to sound more awake as she regained her faculties.

"Well, seems as though we've had an unscheduled, last minute departure for the L3 cluster..."

"Which is close enough to divert to the moon base," Sally said, interjecting.

"Exactly."

"Did you get a look at the cargo?"

Duo laughed. "Whooo-yeah did we! Not gonna be happy about this, Sal." "What are they shipping?"

"Looks like titanium to me. Lots and lots of it. Cargo hold was full...and it was one of those super-shuttles – as big as they come."

There was a moment of silence on Sally's end. Titanium was one of the two ingredients used in making none other than gundanium, currently the strongest metal alloy having been created by man. The titanium, which was available only on the Earth, was combined in a special annealing process with iron ores that were mined in various places throughout the universe, forming the armor-like metal. One of the places known to have many untapped ore deposits was none other than the moon. All someone would have to do was start mining for it and there would be ample supply of iron ore.

It was not illegal to buy titanium, since the metal was used to make many things, from jewelry to medical instruments to computer parts, but it was usually purchased in small lots, not huge freighter loads. If large quantities of titanium could be gotten from elsewhere, then shipped to the moon, it was very possible that someone could conceivably begin manufacture of enough Gundanium to build an entire mobile suit army if they so desired. Bottom line though, there was no reason imaginable why large quantities of titanium should be shipping anywhere to the colonies or otherwise. Since her last check a few days ago with the Records of Enterprises department, there were no known legal businesses or plants off the Earth sphere that required such supplies.

"Great," she said sarcastically. "So apparently, it's true. There's something going on up there."

"Looks like it."

"Alright. I'm on it. I'll meet you guys at headquarters in about an hour. In the meantime, I'll call Relena and Une. Do you know if the shuttle has lifted off yet?"

"Scheduled to lift off at 3:18, but the loading docks were running about fifteen minutes behind schedule. I'm guessing that if its up already, it's only just left."

"Good," she said. "Call Frank at the observatory. Have him put the high-power on all the shuttles that are leaving Brussels until he finds the one you saw, and have him watch it until it lands."

"You got it, Chief."

Duo was about to hang up when Sally broke in again.

"Meet you in an hour. I'll pick up breakfast for everybody."

Agent Maxwell chuckled. "Cream and sugar for me, cream only for my partner, please!" He slapped his wireless phone shut.

+

Relena hadn't been able to get back into a good sleep once she had been awakened by Heero's tire-screeching departure from the mansion, so the phone call at a quarter to four in the morning didn't startle her. She'd only been lying awake in bed anyway, waiting for Heero to return so that she could find out what was going on. And though she knew inside her that he was most definitely off on something that had to do with the high-priority case he was on, the woman in her had caused an immediate feeling of jealousy in her being, even though she had no clue what there was to be jealous over.

Analyzing herself, Relena figured out that she felt the way that she did probably due to the fact that she now knew she was not 'that special person' to Heero, and as mature as she was being about it, it still bothered her. It still filled her head with delusions of Heero with some other girl or woman, enjoying himself, and quite honestly, it hurt a little bit. After the phone call though, a strange sensation of relief washed through her as she picked herself out of bed and began to dress.

+

Sally assembled everyone for an emergency meeting to discuss Heero's and Duo's findings. By the time they all caught up at Preventers headquarters, she carrying a tray of convenience store coffees and a box of doughnuts with her as promised, it was a little after five in the morning. Dawn was just poking its head over the horizon as she placed the carrier tray in the middle of the table, and it was littered with an array of sugar packets and stir sticks as they spilled out from the tray and all over the place.

Frank, the night-shift astrologist at the observatory, had already located the shuttle in question by the time Sally rung him up from the main meeting room, putting him on the big video display so that everyone could see and hear him. He transferred video from the high-power to the screen so that the shuttle could be seen on its path to wherever it was going, and Sally made it his job to confirm if and when the shuttle landed on the moon. The trip would take at least half the day, so for the meantime all they could do was watch, but she directed Frank to keep himself and his shift replacement, Sarah, planted in front of the giant telescope and report any findings to her immediately.

"In the mean time, people, we need to plan out what we're going to do here, in the event that this shuttle is going exactly where we think it is." Sally sat back down and looked across the table at the sleepy group before her.

Une, who was sipping on her black coffee, took off her glasses to rub her tired eyes with her dainty fingers. "I think we should plan to send a shuttle by the end of the day."

"What if it doesn't land on the moon?" Relena asked, her gaze fluctuating between Une and Heero. Heero was deadpan as he looked at Une and Sally, seeming to not even realize that Relena was in the room.

"Regardless of where the shuttle lands, if it's carrying that much titanium, we need be suspicious and to follow it, because there is no use for that much titanium on any of the colonies. There are no registered businesses that have claimed a need for such shipments, and it's a widely known fact that if you have the equipment, all you need is titanium and iron ore, and you get gundamium. Now, that creates a real problem, with the iron ore deposits that we know are on the moon. While I can't believe someone would be so stupid as to try this right in front of our eyes, I knew it would only be a matter of time before someone did."

Sally interrupted. "We need to find out if someone is mining for iron ore up there."

"Wouldn't we be able to see that with the high-power?" Duo asked, looking around the room.

"Not necessarily, since mining can be done underground, right under existing structures," Heero said, contributing to the conversation. Both Relena and Duo turned toward him at the same time. Duo sitting next to his partner, suddenly looked across the room to the Foreign Minister seated across the table, and when their eyes met, he turned away quickly. Heero could feel their gazes on him momentarily, but brushed them off. "If someone is mining, my guess is they're doing it right from under the floors of the Lunar Base."

Then Une began once more. "Someone's got to go sniff around. That's the only way we're going to know for sure. I say wait until Frank can tell us where the shuttle lands, and then follow it to get a close up view of where that shipment is going. Regardless of where that shipment actually does go though, we need someone on the moon to see if anything's happening there."

Sally hesitated, then said "I'd have to agree. We need to get a closer look at this before the lid is blown off this investigation. And I'll get a team right on trying to find out where this titanium is being supplied from, to see if we can find out who the buyer is." Turning to Relena, she added, "Do you think you can still hold off saying anything about this to the Leaders? I'd prefer to keep it quiet, but of course, we don't want to hold anything back either."

"I can comfortably stay quiet until we know for sure what is going on up there." Relena's eyes rolled toward the ceiling, then back down as she spoke. "But once it is confirmed what the intended use of the shipment of titanium is, I have a responsibility to share the information with the Nation's Leaders."

"Very good," Une said, turning toward Heero and Duo. "I suggest the two of you prepare for a liftoff later today."

"Will do," Duo said, turning to his partner.

"Understood," Heero said.

Relena was watching Heero now, secretly wishing that he didn't have to go back to space, back to what could potentially become a sticky situation for him, but she knew she was being silly. She smiled graciously at him, eliciting no response this morning. He looked very much the part of the old Heero, J's Heero, right now, as he listened to the details of his mission and didn't even take the time to share a smile with her.

"Heero?" Relena asked, finally, hoping to gain his attention and possibly snap him out of this mood.

He turned to face her, then relaxed some, flashing a quick smile in her direction. He seemed to realize that he had stiffened up again, the way he used to get, and corrected himself. Heero then turned to Duo and offered the same attempt at proving that he was on top of things.

After a couple of final comments, the private meeting adjourned, with Sally headed straight to her office and Une headed to the elevators. The coffee shop across the street was due to open in a few minutes, and she desperately needed more caffeine.

As they walked out the meeting room door and started for the elevators as well, Relena called out from behind the two agents. "Heero?"

Heero turned to face the girl, and Duo waited for him.

"Do you think you'll have time for a half-hour lunch with me before you leave today?" She was smiling warmly, hoping that he did, since he'd surely be gone for days on the investigation.

"I...uh..." Heero began, before being interrupted by his partner.

"I dunno, Heero, buddy. We have a lot of things to get done in a short amount of time. I was kind-of thinking about just ordering in for us, so we can plan out our 'attack' with Sally and Une." Duo was looking straight at Relena as he said it, not giving Heero a chance to argue, because in reality, they didn't have much time.

Heero looked at Duo, then at Relena. His mouth opened to speak, but nothing came out at first. Then finally he said "Duo's right, Relena. I'm sorry. I know I won't be around for a couple of days, but there really is a lot to do before we lift off."

"I see," the girl said in response, as her eyes remained glued not to Heero's but to Duo's. If she didn't know any better, she would swear that the long-haired man was challenging her, yet in a very subliminal way.

"I-I'll make it up to you when we get back, OK?" Heero offered.

Relena smiled. It was a slightly embarrassed, defeated smile. "That would be fine, Heero. Thank you."

The tension in the hallway was thick enough to cut with a knife as the three stood there, an unconscious dialogue happening between Duo and Relena that Heero was witnessing, but not completely understanding. He knew something was transpiring between the two of them, but it didn't make any sense to him, why Duo would care if he took thirty minutes time to have lunch with the girl, or for that matter, why Relena would try to keep him tied up when he was about to leave for outer space on an important investigation. Then before he could give it any more thought, Duo was pulling on his sleeve to go.

"C'mon, Heero. Lots to do, remember?"

Heero turned to his partner, then looked at Relena, blushing. "Yeah...you're right. I apologize, Relena. We'll have lunch together when I return, OK? I'll call you later before we take off."

That look of defeat still present on her face, Relena nodded. "Please do. I'll be worried otherwise." Her eyes, moving from Duo to Heero, then back to Duo, displayed the thought process going on in her head as Duo lead Heero the rest of the way down the hall and to the elevators.

+

It wasn't until they were safely inside the elevator car that Duo let out a deep breath, then rubbed his face with his hand, smearing his features. He couldn't believe he'd just had a standoff with Relena like that...over Heero! He hadn't intended on it...it just happened, when she asked Heero about having lunch. Something in his head just decided that he didn't want Heero to have lunch with her, especially since Heero had already admitted to both he and the girl that he held no feelings of attraction to her.

Realistically, there was no reason for him to do what he did, but his gut reaction took over and confronted her, leaving Duo shaking his own head in wonder. He turned to Heero and gave a weak smile.

"Everything alright?" Heero asked, noticing the flushed look on his partner's face.

Duo's skin reddened more, embarrassed. "Oh yeah. Fine. Everything's fine."

Heero studied Duo's eyes. "What was all that out there?" He took Duo off guard, making him defensive.

"You haven't got time for lunch dates, Heero, or have you forgotten about things like schedules and investigations and the fact that we're on the heels of a potentially very dangerous mission here?" Duo's deep, dark eyes held Heero's tight, and they seemed to be hiding something. Then the elevator stopped.

Heero said nothing more as the two agents made their way out of the elevator.

+

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