Disclaimer: Don't own any part of Gundam Wing or the characters, more's the pity. This is for fun...no profit involved.
Warnings: swearing, non-explicit yaoi, violence, spookiness
Pairings: 1X2, 3X4 implied (not really important to the plot)
A/N: This story was written at the suggestion of kidishcaresh, as a group Halloween project. While I'd hoped to have it all done before the big day, I at least have it nearly finished, and will try to have it complete and posted within a couple of days.
Chapter One: Rumors
In retrospect, I truly believe Duo was to blame. For all of it. He was the one who started the nonsense talk around the coffee machine at Preventer's Headquarters.
"I'm tellin' ya. She's not human."
He was gesturing wildly with a sugar-covered donut, spewing white powder around as he ranted.
"I was at the far end of the hall and she heard me. There's just no way anyone normal could hear from that distance!"
"Maybe the acoustics were just right," Quatre suggested, nibbling more sedately on his croissant.
"Or she has a bug planted by the elevators to catch what agents chat about on their way out," Trowa added.
"Or Maxwell is just that loud," Wufei piped up with a malicious smirk.
"I was whispering," Duo said, narrowing his eyes scathingly.
"Your whisper is another man's shout," Wufei intoned, sounding a bit like a really lame fortune cookie.
"I'll have you know, I can be as quiet as anyone!" Duo asserted. His gaze turned to me. "Right, 'Ro?"
I probably turned an interesting shade of red, recalling an impromptu session of lovemaking in a janitor's closet just that morning when we first arrived at work. He had, in fact, been very quiet, stifling his moans against my neck.
I adjusted my collar slightly to be sure the resultant mark was still invisible. "Yes, you can be quiet," I replied dutifully.
Quatre was giving me a suspicious look, and I wondered, not for the first time, how much longer Duo and I could pull off the "not involved" act. We were already roommates. Everyone knew we were best friends. It wasn't a stretch for people to infer there was more to it. Especially empathic people.
"I'm just saying," Duo growled. "Une is either some super-human, genetically engineered clone, or a freakin' robot. Nobody could have ears that sharp and still be an average human being."
"Perhaps she's above average," Quatre suggested.
"And perhaps she's a Stepford creation," Duo shot back.
"A what?" Wufei frowned, sipping his tea and looking half annoyed and half intrigued.
"Didn't you ever see The Stepford Wives?" Duo asked, looking shocked. "It was a movie. The wives were all perfect. The town was perfect. Turned out they were all robots!"
Trowa snorted skeptically. "Where do you dream these things up, Duo? A movie? Who'd make a movie based on such a ridiculous premise?"
"A movie producer—that's who!" Duo said with certainty. "Come to our place Friday night and 'Ro and I will prove it."
Trowa looked at me, his one visible eyebrow raised in silent question.
I sighed. "Yes, we own the movie," I admitted.
Trowa looked back at Duo. "Seriously? There is such a thing?" He shook his head. "Never would've believed it."
"Yeah, well, you know I don't lie, Tro'. And I'm telling you, Une's hearing is freakishly good—a bit too good, if you ask me."
"No one asked you," came a cool voice as our boss rounded the corner, obviously having somehow heard at least part of the aforementioned conversation. "And I may be mistaken, but don't you all have cases to be working on?"
We scattered like birds, each to our own occupation. Mine just happened to be where Duo's was, as we were partnered for our current case.
"Damn," he muttered. "See what I mean?"
"I heard that!" Une called after us, throwing in a slightly malicious chuckle.
While her hearing was pretty impressive, I wasn't sure it fell into the category of "inhuman."
"Are you quite finished?" I asked my partner as we closed the door to his office. "We should get back to work."
"Yeah, yeah," he said absently, waving a hand dismissively as he settled at his computer and brought up the details of our case.
I didn't give the chat in the break room another thought, until nearly a week later, when things began to get—weird.
It was mid-October, and as usual, Duo was in full Halloween mode, plotting pranks on various people in the office. Loathe as I was to admit it, most of what he came up with was pretty amusing. There was the obligatory rubber snake that kept cropping up in the most unlikely places; although after it turned up in Sally's medical unit, eliciting a scream we heard several floors up, it met with a fatal accident. She returned it to my partner with a scalpel through its head—nailed to his desk.
He laughed like a maniac over that, swearing that the sacrifice was worth it, since the bug he'd planted in the med center had enabled him to record the scream for posterity, and broadcast it throughout the building.
What? You thought we could seriously have heard it from several floors away?
Anyhow, the snake was a mere appetizer. The very next day, when Wufei opened his locker in the Preventer's gym, the packaging peanuts it had been filled with came swooshing out to pool around his legs, leaving him standing knee-deep in the stuff. His pole-axed expression was well worth the half hour it took Duo to clean up the scattered white bits, after Chang walked off in a huff.
Since I hadn't helped with filling the locker, I didn't feel the least bit of obligation to help him clean up, either. But it was pretty entertaining watching him bend over to sweep up every last piece.
He has a lovely ass, in case you were wondering.
But I digress. While Duo was busy raising tiny bits of Hell, bigger things were brewing. And his somewhat innocent jokes were soon going to be forgotten in the shocking events to come.
It was just a week before Halloween, and Duo was wracking his brains to try to come up with the perfect prank for Une. The thousand assorted plastic spiders he'd decorated her office with the previous year were obviously not an option; she'd never fall for that twice. And in his zeal to outdo himself, Duo was in serious danger of crossing the line and ending up in very real trouble. I put a stop to his latest plan when the words "water balloon" and "jello" started being bandied about.
After all, Une would only put up with so much crap before she'd feel compelled to call him to task. The Preventers was a serious law enforcement group—not a high school class. Her words—not mine. And guess at whom those words were directed, when she found out Duo had something (everything!) to do with the cobwebs festooning every entry of the building one Monday morning.
I'd wondered where he spent all day Sunday. And how he avoided the surveillance cameras; I never did find out.
At any rate, Chang, Winner, Barton and I had all taken turns at trying to talk Duo out of whatever insane plan he was hatching to "pull the ultimate prank" on Une. It just could not end well.
But we completely forgot about pranks, payback, Halloween, and all things humorous, when a new case landed in our laps. Or actually it sort of crept in when we were least expecting it.
"Damn it, 'Ro, this computer is a total bitch!" Duo lamented, trying for the umpteenth time to do whatever it was he'd been attempting.
"It's circuit boards and wires," I corrected meticulously.
"This stupid icon won't go away, and I don't want to access the file in case there's a virus," he grumbled.
I glanced over and raised an eyebrow at the sight of a new icon on his desktop. It looked like a little half-moon, and was labeled "please read."
"Here—let me," I offered, pushing back from my desk and walking over to see if I had better luck deleting the offending file.
An hour later, I was as frustrated as Duo. No matter what I did, the stupid thing remained.
"Gotta be a virus," Duo intoned, chewing on his third donut that day. "Should we dump the secure files and reformat the whole thing?"
"No," I said peevishly, determined to thwart the invader. "I'll back up your files and then go ahead and click the stupid icon and see what happens."
"What if it's a killer virus?"
"I'll isolate the system first, so it can't spread it to other computers in the network."
"Nice. So you let my computer take the hit for the team, eh?"
"Something like that." I was already busy downloading his system files to an external hard drive, in case the rogue file ended up crashing it.
When I'd finished, I took a deep breath, and clicked the icon.
Instantly a box popped up, and data filled the screen.
"What the hell is that?" Duo asked, leaning over my shoulder.
"Not sure yet." I scanned through the document, trying to make sense of it. "Looks like some sort of internal memo from Lune Industries. What's Lune Industries?"
Duo darted over to my desk and quickly typed in a search for the name, while I kept reading the stray file.
"Appears to be requisitions," I murmured, homing in on several purchase orders and delivery logs. "They received a shitload of medical supplies, near as I can tell. And a lot of plastic and metal, machinery, and manufacturing equipment."
"Lune Industries," Duo said with a telltale sour tone. "Barely seems to exist."
"Well, aside from a land purchase, there's nothing about them."
"A land purchase?"
"Uh-huh." Duo clicked on another link. "Hey! The place they bought is that abandoned prison they featured on an episode of Spirit Seekers awhile ago!"
Spirit Seekers was a television program whose staff went to supposedly haunted places and tried to confirm or debunk the rumors.
"You have got to be kidding me," I said flatly.
"Nope. I'm dead serious," Duo asserted. "That was the episode where Lance, the head of G.I.M.P. (Ghosts in Many Places), nearly went nuts from something tickling his ear all through the filming. They put the place on their top ten list." He shook his head. "A few months later, the State sold the place, trying to recoup the money they'd had to sink into keeping curious teenagers from exploring it. They were worried about liability, I think."
"No doubt," I said dryly. "Well what would a corporation want with an abandoned prison?"
"Sounds like they're manufacturing something," Duo said with a shrug.
"And why were we sent this data?" I added.
"Maybe it's something—illegal?" he hazarded. "Hey—that's weird!"
"Lune Industries was founded on the exact same day as Treize Khushrenada died."
I looked at him skeptically. "Are you sure?"
He rolled his eyes. "Um, yeah," he drawled snidely. "Tough to forget the day the biggest tyrant in history bit the big one, y'know?"
"I know that," I replied. "But how did you find out when Lune Industries was founded?"
"Hacked into the IRS database. If you're going to find tax loopholes and breaks, you've got to document your incorporation."
"Get out of the IRS, Duo," I said with a scowl.
He grinned and quickly closed the box. "Sorry. But it was useful, wasn't it?"
"Not really. Why should it matter that the company began the day Khushrenada died?"
"Because it seems—significant. Or at least it should be."
I tuned him out, as he chattered on about Treize's demise, and phony tax shelters being used to hide Romefeller funds, because I'd found something far more important to focus on.
"—with some of the tax laws, they might pay virtually nothing—."
He stopped and looked quizzically at me. "What?"
"We've got a problem." I gestured him to join me at the screen. "Not only has the company amassed a very suspicious list of supplies, but whoever sent this information added a warning that there are ties between Lune Industries and the upper levels of the Preventer organization."
His eyes got very round, and so did his mouth.
I resisted the urge to kiss that "o," and brought up more information, not liking what I found, at all. "Do me a favor, love?" I asked quietly, loathe to stop reading. "Casually round up the others and get them in here? Quietly. Not a word to anyone."
"Not even a heads up to Une?"
"Jesus," I heard him whisper. Then I felt the brush of a quick kiss on my cheek and he was gone, darting out the door with almost inhuman speed.
Moments later, he returned with Quatre, Trowa and Wufei in tow.
"What's the meaning of this?" Wufei asked loudly as he was rather bodily pushed into the room.
Duo shut the door and locked it, leaning back against the portal with crossed arms. "Tell 'em what you've found, 'Ro."
"Not entirely sure yet," I admitted. "But something is up at an old, abandoned prison outside the city. I've forwarded all the data to my laptop, and I think we should leave this building before we examine it."
"Leave?" Wufei demanded. "It's the middle of the work day, Heero."
"I know that. And I'm not suggesting we all take the afternoon off. It would look too suspicious. We should meet right after work."
"Suspicious?" Quatre asked, latching onto my previous sentence. "To whom?"
"That's the million dollar question, isn't it, 'Ro?" Duo told him. But his dark, indigo gaze remained fixed on me.
"Look, Duo received a file today, from an unknown source who suggests we trust no one while investigating the lead that was sent. I consider the five of us in this room to be the only people above suspicion in this matter."
"What 'matter'?" Trowa asked astutely.
"As near as I can figure, someone's manufacturing weapons for some sort of army."