A/N: Written some years ago, but I'm publishing it for Gundam 00 Week 2018, under day 4's theme of "Trust You," since the themes of trust fit well enough. It was originally meant to be the start of a larger story, but I couldn't get it to go farther. No warnings for this one, other than spoilers for some of Season 2.
Rebels and Con Artists
Shirin Bahktiar had left her government job in Azadistan to help lead a group of rebels in their fight against a repressive militaristic regime. It sounded very romantic in abstract terms.
In concrete terms, she was doing nearly the same work, just under much worse conditions, but with more authority and the privilege of actually being able to shout at the people causing the problems, instead of having to smile at them prettily and then deal with them behind their backs.
If she thought about it like that, it was pretty easy to see why Klaus deferred to her so often when coordinating infiltrations.
If only he'd defer to her the rest of the time. Or at least get the rest of his men to finish their paperwork! He always filled out his reports neatly and promptly, but he disliked pushing other members of Katharon into doing the same.
"They're all volunteers, Shirin, remember that," he'd said.
Shirin had snorted at that. If they had volunteered for a job that was this likely to get them shot, they should be well prepared to do some paperwork in the process too.
But the real problem wasn't the paperwork. The real problem was the same problem they'd had in Azadistan.
Sighing, she looked down at her desk. It was an old, metal thing covered in chipping olive paint, with a file cabinet built into one side, and the banged-up plastic rolling chair she was sitting in didn't match it at all. More importantly, neither of them would be worth more than fifty dollars on the black market, so there was no use in selling them.
But short of selling the furniture out from under them, she really had no idea where they were going to get the money for the next month's paychecks.
She valiantly resisted the urge to actually bang her head against said furniture. That wouldn't earn them any money either.
She heard the door of her rather makeshift office open behind her, and turned to give whoever thought they could just waltz right in a piece of her mind.
…it was only Klaus. She felt her expression relax as he set a mug of coffee on the desk in front of her.
"Well, I can tell something's gone wrong by your expression, but not what," he said, leaning against the opposite wall.
In her office, that put him roughly three feet from her desk.
From a third-world government to a third-class rebel army. Way to go Shirin.
"We're short," Shirin said.
Klaus raised an eyebrow and deliberately looked down at her. "I wouldn't say we…"
"On money," Shirin snapped. She bit her lip. "Enough so that if we don't find something to do about it, some people are getting involuntary pay cuts they don't deserve."
Klaus's teasing smile vanished, replaced with a frown. "You've checked for every cut we could possibly make."
"I froze all the munitions orders, slashed the transportation budget, cancelled repairs on all non-critical mobile suits, sold our recycling to the black market, did at least eighteen other things I don't have time to list, some of them illegal—every other cut I could make would either hurt morale or fighting strength badly enough that I don't want to risk it," Shirin said, ticking off each item on her fingers.
"Like?" Klaus asked. "I don't want to cut paychecks if I don't have to."
"I don't either, but if we stop ordering coffee, we'll have fights," Shirin said. "And I do not want to be the one who tells the pilot of the mobile suit we decide to sell, if we go that direction."
"Okay, yeah, those are both out," Klaus said. "What if I didn't get paid this month?"
"Putting aside the fact that I know you live on your paychecks, it wouldn't be enough," Shirin said. "Not even if I decided not to take any pay this month either."
"Wait, how much are we short?" Klaus asked, coming forward to lean over the desk.
"I wasn't entirely joking when I suggested selling the mobile armor," Shirin said grimly. "You have to tell the guys who purchase munitions that they can't buy things so carelessly."
"Then, can't we just sell back what we bought?" Klaus asked, a little desperately.
"Sure," Shirin said cuttingly. "You go ask the A-Laws if we can dig our bullets out of their mobile suits so we can sell them back to deal with our budget shortfall. If they say yes, I'll even bring a crowbar."
Klaus cursed. "We need more financial backers." He eyed Shirin speculatively. "Azadistan had a lot of support from other countries…maybe you could pull off the same thing for us?"
"Oh no," Shirin said, holding up her hands. "I need Marina for that to work." She paused, considering. "Or, well, someone like Marina. Do you know anyone in Katharon who could pass for innocent and idealistic?"
"Shirin, I recruit mercenaries and political dissidents," Klaus said. "A few of them are idealists—I mean, they're joining a rebellion against a totalitarian government, after all—but none of them are innocent by the time I get to them."
"I didn't say they had to be innocent," Shirin said. "I said they had to be able to pass for it."
Klaus looked thoughtful. "Okay, I've got someone in mind."
"You're the one Klaus goes drinking with," Shirin accused.
The brown-haired man beamed back at her, all roughly six feet of him giving off the illusion of ease.
The illusion. Yes, to an untrained civilian this man would look relaxed, but Shirin could tell that he was in position to attack, defend, or run, depending on how the situation went. But the grin and the floppy hair and the loose-looking posture was an effective distraction from all of that.
Shirin could work with this.
"What's your name?" she asked.
"Lyle Dylandy," the man said, still beaming.
"Right," Shirin said. "Lyle, you are going to help me get a sponsor for Katharon, and to do so, you are going to play a role that I'm sure you've never played in your life—the naïve idiot."
Lyle blinked. "I'm a pilot."
"You've been drafted into politics," Shirin replied. "Think of it as temporary duty."
Lyle looked a bit baffled.
"That's a good expression," Shirin said. "Use that any time the potential sponsor suggests that they disagree with Katharon."
"Why?" Lyle asked, still wearing it.
"Because you need to give the impression that you are so dedicated to the cause of Katharon that you can't understand why everyone else wouldn't also support it," Shirin said. "As long as we play up our long-term goals and downplay the violence, it should make him feel guilty for not being as dedicated to his own ideals as you. The goal is to get the person to give us money, and if he does it in order to get you to leave him alone and stop making him feel guilt, that's still a win."
"Has anyone ever told you you're a little scary?" Lyle asked, unknowingly echoing something Marina had said to Shirin years ago.
"You're getting into character already," Shirin said, with a grin.
A/N: Thanks for reading!