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

Papillion + Part 10

It was a convenient thing that the Preventers headquarters had been built in the city of Brussels, close to not only the biggest inter-colony shuttle port on the Earth, but as eventuality would have it, the Foreign Minister herself, as she had taken up residence in the city as well. It made life a lot easier for not only the many employees of the Preventers organization, the majority of whom lived close enough to commute by car, but also for Relena. She'd originally started out at her family's home in the Cinq Kingdom, but she was spending more time in Brussels than anywhere else, so it was decided to move her location there and save her the repeated jet lag. Duo, who was renting an apartment outside of the city, lived twenty minutes in the opposite direction from headquarters, and it took Heero about forty minutes to reach him from the mansion. From there, they sped off to the Brussels shuttle port, the Earth's closest connecting port to the colonies and outer space.

"So, this listing just showed up outa nowhere?" Duo asked. Heero's eyes were peeled on the street-lit road before him.

"MmmHmm. Checked at ten, nothing. Just before bed, and there it was."

"Pretty weird. You think it's just a re-direct from Geneva? I heard they were having bad runway traffic due to a staff shortage. Flu epidemic."

"Hard to say." Heero answered. "Need to check it out, though."

"Yeah...we'd better be careful though. Who knows what's going on here, if this /is/ something."

Heero was silent, his mind going a mile a minute. The more he concentrated, the less he spoke, and the more into his "soldier mentality" he slipped. After reaching the shuttle port, they parked the car in the closest lot, then acted as casual as possible as they entered the building. At the night security check they flashed badges quickly before the guardsmen and were permitted around the metal detectors without question, since they were both armed with handguns on their person. Luckily, at that hour of the morning, there were few people lining up to get through security, so they slipped through the check and into the terminal area without much notice.

Stopping in the main terminal lobby before the departures tote board, the agents looked up to confirm that there was indeed a cargo shuttle scheduled to leave for the L3 colony cluster at 3:18 am. It was on the board, right below another shuttle leaving at 2:44.

"There it is," Heero said. "Flight 996 headed to L3."

"Yeah. The Lunar Base isn't that far off course from the L3 cluster."

"Let's go."

With that, the two agents were off down the corridors of the terminal, headed toward Gate 3. Just prior to reaching the gate, Duo stopped Heero and checked his watch. It was only 2:13 am. They still had at least a half hour to wait before the shuttle would be allowed up to the loading dock, as the 2:44 shuttle was currently being loaded at Dock 2. They could see it from the terminal windows -- Colonial Express shuttle L1-453. Colonial Express, like many of the other shuttle companies with regular trips to various locations, always numbered their shuttles by what colony they regularly flew to.

"Wanna sit and wait? Or you think we should look around?" Duo asked his partner.

"Lets wait. I don't want to cause an unnecessary commotion."

"Gotcha."

They walked quietly to the waiting area and sat.

Nearly forty minutes had gone by before the Colonial Express shuttle was closed up and rolling away from the loading dock, its cargo hold filled to capacity with everything from crates of produce to pallets of electronic equipment and even a crate of live chickens, probably destined for one of the open-air markets on the main colony. There were plenty of upscale restaurants throughout the colonies that insisted on the freshest of foods whenever they could get them. Live poultry usually sold well on the colonies for that reason.

Heero and Duo both alerted when the next shuttle could be seen as it rolled toward the building, maneuvering into position in front of the tall windows. The flight numbers on the craft were L3-996, a company called Lunar Delivery Service. Beneath the logo on the side of the shuttle was an insignia that read "To the Moon and back, safely each day." They had service to all the colonies, as well as the moon, although these days, hardly anyone made deliveries to the moon anymore, because there was nothing there since the laying down of weapons. Nothing, that is, except for the supposedly unoccupied former Oz military base, and a bunch of natural ore deposits.

"Here she is," Heero said as he stood and faced his partner.

"They've got the ramps hooked up. Wanna go down below and take a look around?"

Heero nodded, then head off in the direction of the ramp that would take them to the ground level, where skid-loaders would be lifting pallets into the belly of the shuttle from the other side, the side facing away from the terminal. At the door to the outside of the building they came across another security guard, and once more flashed their badges to gain access to the cargo exit. Shuttle security was well used to Preventer presence at the shuttle ports these days due to the number of people that continually tried to smuggle all kinds of things, and the guard let them pass without a moment's hesitation.

Once outside on the tarmac, the agents assumed the role of people who knew exactly where they were going, even though they were walking right through a restricted area. Noticing a work jacket hung up on a barrier pole along the building, Duo grabbed it and quickly put it on. He left his long, distinguishable braid tucked under the jacket. It was a jacket that had apparently been left behind by one of the Colonial Express workers which couldn't have come in more convenient if it had been planted there for him. As Duo put the jacket on, Heero realized immediately what his plan was, and followed suit accordingly. The two men acted completely at ease and at home in the surroundings of the loading dock.

As the shuttle was being loaded with a vast amount of identical wooden crates, Heero disappeared around behind the rear wheels of the craft, wheels that stood taller than he was, and concealed him well. From there, he intended to eavesdrop on any conversations that might be going on among the staff of the carrier, listening for any incriminating conversation. In the mean time, however, Duo was sneaking around to the loading side of the shuttle. He stood under the wing, waiting for the skid loader to retreat away from the craft to pick up its next load, and then climbed a rickety metal ladder quickly, gaining entry to the cargo hold of the shuttle. There were other men in there, all outfit with LDS uniforms, and one immediately noticed Duo.

"Hey, you! You can't be back here!" A tall, blonde-haired man called across from the very front of the cargo hold as Duo walked toward him. He started in Duo's direction. His uniform shirt bore no name tag on its pocket, but only the logo of the carrier company. Duo's blue uniform jacket said "Andy" over the left chest area in a white embroidered thread that had long since turned dark with dirt. Andy was probably really missing his jacket right about now, too, if he lifted off on the previous shuttle, as it can sometimes get pretty chilly aboard cargo shuttles. Andy's saving grace might be the chickens, though, Duo thought, since they'd have to keep the temperature of the cargo area warm enough to keep the chickens alive.

"Hey buddy," Duo answered, smiling and making sure to turn so that the Colonial Express badge on the arm of the jacket could be seen by the other crew members. "I just got a call from the crew that just pulled outa here. Forgot a crate. Think you guys might have picked it up by accident, if it was just laying around down there." He acted nonchalantly, posing as a crewman simply doing his job, inspecting crates and containers as he made his way up the cargo hold.

The LDS crewman met Duo half way, and seemed keenly interested in getting him off the ship as he tried to herd him back in the direction from which he came. "Sorry friend," he said with a patronizing smile. "We've checked everything here in already. Only loaded up what we came for."

Duo's eyes were flitting all around the hold as he smiled agreeably with the crewman. "OK then, just had to check. You know, procedure and all that. Gotta at least tell them I looked, ya know. Keeps the supervisor off my ass...hey, that looks like it might be it there!" Duo diverted his path to a crate on the other side of the hold, purposely weaving in between as many containers as he could. Most of the pallets and crates were constructed of wood frames, and the items held within the frames were plainly viewable. That was the customary way to ship goods by freighter shuttle. These crates, on this shuttle, all contained the same thing. Every one of them.

"I'm sorry, but you're going to have to leave." The blonde crewman said as he caught up to Duo, who had made his way over to the supposed crate in question.

Shaking his head, Duo sighed. "Nah, that's not it. Oh well. Another one for the insurance companies, I guess!" He laughed as he strode past the crewman and made his way back to the opening in the hold.

Climbing onto the ladder, he started to descend. "Well, thanks for letting me check. You have a safe flight now." Then before the crewman could say anything else, Duo was down the ladder and had disappeared into the cargo loading area on the ground. Walking through the way they had come, he passed the same barrier pole and replaced the uniform jacket to its perch, then trotted off to re-enter the building. Heero was standing there waiting already. Together the men turned and quickly progressed up the terminal and to the main lobby of the port.

Matching each other stride for stride as they made their way back to the car, Heero and Duo exchanged nervous glances, but remained quiet until the were in the safety and confines of the vehicle. Only once the engine was running and he was pulling out of the parking lot did Heero say anything.

"Well?"

Duo's face was serious. "I think we have a big problem."

Heero didn't answer this time.

"You hear anything down below?"

"No."

"I think we need to have an emergency meeting at..." Duo checked his watch, "Oh...three twenty-seven in the morning."

Heero replied only by punching the accelerator on the Acura.

+

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