Gundam Wing Fic #2: "The Sound of Intervention"
The Sound of Intervention
* * *
i love my country, but it wears a uniform
and speaks with foreign guns
in the background you can almost hear the sound of intervention
The text on the screen wavered and blurred. Sally thumped idly on the side of the monitor before she realized the problem wasn't with the terminal, but with her own vision. She sat back with a sigh and rubbed at her weary eyes.
"You shouldn't sit so close to the monitor," a low voice came from the doorway. "You'll be wearing glasses before you're thirty."
Sally opened her eyes and smiled wearily at Heero. "What's your excuse?"
"I'm not as close to thirty as you are." Heero Yuy pushed himself away from the doorway and entered the office, dropping carelessly into a hardback chair in front of Sally's desk. "Anything yet?"
"If you mean have I found anything you can use, no. If you mean have I heard from Duo yet, the answer is also no."
"Hmnh." Heero folded his arms and looked out the window. "It's getting late."
"Don't start worrying yet."
"Who said I was worried?"
Sally smothered a grin. "You're cute when you fret, did anyone ever tell you that?"
Heero's intense blue eyes fixated on her from beneath the tangle of his dark-chocolate hair. "I am not fretting."
"Mmh." Sally sat forward again, clicking through the data she'd managed to gather on the compromises in the government's computer system--precious little, so far. Someone was simply breezing through the multiple firewalls as though the defenses didn't exist, poking around long enough to alert the watchdog systems to the breach, then disappearing without so much as a misplaced ampersand to show any clue as to their identity or whereabouts. A hacker--a very good hacker--was playing tag with the Earth's online systems, and it was making the powers that be very, very nervous.
The breaches in and of themselves were merely nuisances, since no damage was being done. However, Sally had some very real concerns that these breaches were dry runs--practice sessions that preceded a serious strike that could throw a moon-sized monkey wrench into the global network. Telecommerce, communications, defense systems--everything could be affected by someone who knew what they were doing. Every time the hacker invaded, he or she could be gathering information, a little at a time, piecing it together offline in preparation for some kind of hostile takeover--or possibly simply widespread cyber-sabotage.
Currently, the only real damage was to the confidence of the public. That was another concern the Foundation wanted Sally and her charges to look into. Somehow word was getting to the media about the breaches. No matter how quickly the infiltration was detected, no matter how fast tech support moved to suppress the information and clean up any artifacts on the system that might alert the contract workers, inevitably within hours of the incident there would be headlines around the world. The repercussions were already being felt; the economy which had prospered steadily since the end of the war was now feeling the tremors of unease that could bring the whole house of cards crashing down. If the hacker wasn't stopped--and soon--it could result in a global economic recession, the last thing anyone needed.
In desperation she'd sent Wu Fei out to gather information on her own personal prime suspect: a young aristocrat, Armand St. Simon, the son of an English noble and the darling of the popular press. He had come into his own at the age of eighteen, and in the ten years since his debut he had parlayed his family's modest fortune into a multi-billion dollar corporation with interests in real estate, shipping, online trading and (most significantly) computer network security. He was bright, industrious, computer-savvy, and the world's most eligible bachelor. However, Sally was a woman used to playing her hunches, and when she started digging, she found out a few very interesting tidbits.
For one, St. Simon Enterprises had made a bid to handle security for the government's network, but had failed. The official reason was understandably vague--that SSE didn't meet the requirements for the job--and everyone concerned knew that was the biggest joke since "Queen Relena". The simple truth was that St. Simon had long-established connections with less savory constituents of Romafeller who had lost their positions and power after the war. Simply put, nobody trusted him. Another interesting factor concerned scattered rumors of St. Simon's ties with the European crime families; somehow THOSE reports never made it to the eighteen-hundred hour news.
A familiar voice, full of rude good cheer, shouted from the hallway outside. "Hey, anybody home?"
Heero jumped to his feet, managing to recover his nonchalance moments before Duo appeared in the open doorway. "It's about time you got back," he drawled tonelessly.
Shaken from her grim musing, Sally struggled not to giggle.
Duo grinned. "Nice to see you too, Heero."
Sally stood, greeting Duo with a smile. "How'd it go? Did Wu Fei get the disks?"
"Oh yeah, and then some." Duo took a step inside, moved to one side and gestured back towards the door. "Set another place at the table, Sally, we brought home a guest for dinner."
"What...?" Sally looked, and saw Wu Fei looming in the doorway (as much as a slim youth of five feet three inches can "loom"), and at his side was a young girl, no older than any of the former Gundam pilots, with a tumble of fiery red hair and a breathtakingly lovely face that was currently pale with nervousness bordering on sheer terror.
Heero scowled. "Who the hell?"
"This is Mademoiselle Giselle Dix," Duo said. "Gi, say hi to Sally Po, our boss, and Heero Yuy."
The girl nodded. "Good evening." Her voice was almost a whisper.
"Go on," Wu Fei said with a touch of cold impatience, and she scurried into the office as though driven with a cattle prod. Sally marveled at how small and frail she looked. She fixed a smile that she hoped was reassuring onto her face. "Come in, sit down," she said. She gestured to the chair that Heero had vacated, and the newcomer sat obediently.
"Don't forget the disks, Wu-man," Duo said, grinning. "Man, I'm starved. Hey, Heero, wanna go down to the commissary and grab a bite with me?"
Without a word, Heero headed for the door, and Duo nipped out behind him and was gone before Sally could call them back.
Wu Fei tossed a handful of infodisks on the desk and turned to go as well.
"Wait just a minute, Wu Fei," she said, and he froze. "I think I need to hear an explanation here, don't you?"
"Ask HER," he said, gesturing towards the girl in the chair without turning around.
Sally was on her feet in a moment. Before Wu Fei reached the door, she nipped ahead of him and closed it, fixing him with a cool gaze the rival of his own. "I'd rather hear it from you," she said firmly, in quiet Chinese.
Wu Fei huffed, and his eyes narrowed. "I had no choice," he replied in the same language.
Sally tilted her head to one side and studied his scowling face. "Could you expand a bit on that?"
"I came upon her unexpectedly upon my entrance to St. Simon's estate. She agreed to assist me in obtaining the disks in return for helping her escape, and threatened to expose my presence if I refused."
"Why didn't you just--" She broke off with a glance at the girl's back. 'Why didn't you just kill her?' she was going to ask, but this was Wu Fei she was talking to. He wouldn't kill an innocent if there was no other choice, and he'd rather slit his own throat than harm a woman. "But you brought her back here," she pointed out. "Why didn't you just...drop her off somewhere?"
"That is an issue you should take up with her. May I be excused now? I'm really quite tired."
Sally rolled her eyes, exasperated, but she stepped aside and let Wu Fei go. He was out the door and gone in a moment. Sally closed the door quietly and walked back towards her desk. She sat on the edge facing her visitor.
The girl--Giselle, that was her name--hadn't moved since sitting down. Her eyes were meekly downcast, hands demurely folded in her lap, knees together, feet flat on the floor. She wore a ridiculously-expensive looking red riding jacket and beige slacks, with black riding boots polished to a gleaming shine.
"Like Duo told you, I'm Sally Po," she said in Standard. "You're Giselle, right?"
The girl looked up, her eyes an amazing shade of aqua green that made Sally suspect cosmetic enhancement. "That's correct," she replied in a soft, sweet voice. "Giselle Dix."
"Wu Fei told me he helped you escape from St. Simon. He was holding you hostage?"
"Yes--well, no; not exactly." Giselle met Sally's eyes without hesitation. "Armand wanted to marry me, and my father agreed. My consent never entered into the equation."
"But you didn't want to be there."
"Not at all. I wanted out. I suppose it was a foolish decision, because now I have nowhere to go."
"What do you mean?"
"He--Wu Fei and I encountered Armand on the way out. I'm sure Armand didn't see him, but he'll know that I helped whoever it was get into his office. Armand doesn't take kindly to being doublecrossed, and he has only one way of dealing with people who have betrayed his trust."
Sally folded her arms and arched a brow. "It sounds like you know a fair amount about how Armand St. Simon deals with people."
Giselle sat up a bit straighter, and suddenly the shell of quiet vulnerability fell away. Her aqua eyes sparkled with a hint of steel. "I know more than he ever suspected I did. He thought me nothing more than an object, and he treated me like a piece of furniture. He showed me off to his business acquaintances the way he would display a trophy--because that's what I was, just another symbol of his success. A trophy fiancee, in training to be a trophy wife. Oh, he never allowed me to speak to our guests, and he was always careful in what he said around me...but not all of his associates had that much discretion."
Sally felt her heart skip. Sitting before her was a gold mine of information potentially far more valuable than the infodisks Wu Fei had risked his life to steal. If Giselle could give her names, dates, places, even the briefest and scantiest details of any transactions...She fought against showing any sign of her excitement. There was, indeed, more to this frail-looking redhead than met the eye, and it would be unwise to alert her too early just how valuable she could be. Trying to sound only half-interested, she said, "You said you had nowhere else to go."
"Well, I certainly can't go back to my father, even if I wanted to. He would hand me back over to Armand without a second thought, and Armand would make sure I never got the chance to betray him again. The same thing would happen if I tried to run away. If I ran anywhere on Earth, or to the colonies--anywhere--his people would find me and kill me." Giselle did not sound the least bit hysterical. She was stating what she believed to be the plain truth.
Sally smiled. "I think, Miss Dix, that we can work out an arrangement."
* * *
and i don't know when liberty fell
but we rang every mission bell
we rang them loud and clearly for a world that wouldn't listen
* * *
"...so when Wu-man shows up with this drop dead GORGEOUS girl on his arm, I almost choked on my gum. Pass the salt, willya, Heero? Thanks. And I said to myself, 'Whoa, Maxwell, looks like the Chinaman's finally snagged a clue!' I mean, what good is it being single if you never have any fun, right?" Duo dove into the plate of spaghetti with a hearty appetite; it was the first solid food he'd had all day.
Heero sipped at a cup of tea and watched the American youth at his favorite pastime: mass consumption. Eating and sleeping were the only two activities Duo Maxwell engaged in without keeping up a constant line of chatter. At least they were the only two Heero had observed.
Duo swallowed. "So anyway, Giselle--that's the girl's name--is some kind of love slave or something to St. Simon, so Wu Fei rescues her. Thing is, it's like I always suspected--now that Wu Fei's got a girl, he doesn't know what to do with her."
"As usual, Duo, you have a grossly simplistic view of the situation." Wu Fei walked stiffly into the commissary and got a bottle of ginseng soda from the dispenser. "I did not 'get' that female, as I have already explained to you."
Duo's round eyes sparkled with mischief. "So where is she now? Tucked away in your closet for safekeeping?"
Wu Fei sat at the end of the table and twisted the top off the bottle with a bit more vigor than was needed. "I left her in Sally's capable care. She is no longer my concern." He took a long swig to show he was done discussing the matter.
Duo shrugged and got up to get seconds on the spaghetti from the serving bar. "I dunno, dude, it might be nice to have her around for a while...you have to admit she's nice to look at."
Wu Fei snorted. Heero watched Duo's back suspiciously. The American seemed to be taking entirely too much interest in their visitor, who in Heero's opinion (hastily formed though it might have been) was nothing more than a piece of overly decorative French fluff. Most likely that long luxuriant red hair was an expensive dye job.
* * *
we danced in the dirt with surrender for our drumbeat
we danced for the balance sheet
we died for the kind of lasting peace that pleases the world's policemen
* * *
It was almost nineteen hundred when Heero showed up at Sally's office to collect the infodisks. The door was open, and he peered cautiously inside; Sally was tapping on her keyboard, and there was no one else in sight.
He walked in and stood over her desk, waiting for her to notice. As always, she did in short order. She smiled, unlocked her side drawer and took out a five-disk carrier. She put in on the desktop and slid it over to him. "They're all here. I haven't touched them. Do you think you can find anything incriminating?"
"If it's there, I'll find it." He picked up the carrier and slipped it into his inside jacket pocket. He turned on his heel and started to leave. He paused at the door and looked back. As casually as he could manage he asked, "Where's the girl?"
"Giselle? She's asleep in my room right now. She's had quite a day."
"What's to be done with her? I assume she's free to go whenever she wishes."
"Yes, she would be--but she's going to be staying with us a while."
"Yes. For her own protection, of course." Sally smiled maternally at him. "Your concern surprises me, Heero."
"It doesn't concern me in the least. Duo will ask, and I wanted to be able to tell him."
"Well, she'll be able to tell him herself tomorrow."
Heero grunted with something less than total enthusiasm, turned and left without another word.
* * *
and fatherland raped motherhood
and told her it was for the global good
and now we ring the mission bells to warn their children
* * *
It was a long night. Heero showed up in front of Sally's desk the next morning with faint shadows under his beautiful eyes. He threw the disks back on the desktop with a clatter. "Nothing," he said. "Business correspondence, invoices, personal email, a few stock forecasts. No executable files, no hidden sectors, nothing."
"You mean we went through all that cloak-and-dagger stuff for nothing?" Duo shook his head. "Well, that just sucks."
Wu Fei sat with his arms folded. "I brought back the disks I was instructed to retrieve. There was nothing else."
"It's not your fault, Wu Fei, it's mine." Sally sighed. "He must be covering his tracks better than I expected. I was so sure that St. Simon was our hacker."
"He--" Giselle began, then stopped, sitting back in the chair. All eyes turned toward her, and she shrank back even further. "I didn't mean to talk out of turn," she said.
"No, that's all right." Sally leaned forward. "That's why I asked you to be here; I thought you might be able to enlighten us. Do you have some idea what this means?"
"Armand never does anything that can be traced back to him personally."
"That much we know. He's always been extremely careful to cover his tracks. He's got a reputation as a ruthless businessman, and he's brutal when buying out smaller businesses, but those aren't the worst of his sins by a long shot. Still..." Sally rubbed her forehead. She hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, either, and the deprivation was making her head feel fuzzy. "Wu Fei got these diskettes from St. Simon's office safe. They should have had something incriminating on them."
"Not against him. Only against people he wants to keep control over. He's got connections to companies he doesn't officially control, but they're in his back pocket because he holds the power to destroy anyone who challenges him."
"Hmm...maybe we've been going at this from the wrong direction." Sally folded her arms on the desktop and frowned a bit in thought. "Giselle, these business associates you've mentioned--are they all from high society, the aristocracy?"
"Hardly. A great many people would come to the estate on the pretense of seeking a job or financial assistance, or collecting for one of the charities Armand patronizes. A few of them were--are legitimate, but most are not."
Sally lifted her chin a bit, regarding Giselle with inscrutable eyes. "Do you remember any...computer technologists calling to--supposedly--seek employment with St. Simon? Perhaps a security consultant?"
"Oh, yes, I remember at least one quite clearly. A thoroughly unpleasant man with cold, clammy hands." Giselle shivered. "I don't recall the exact name, but I know he worked for one of the larger companies--Earthtech, or maybe Globalnet."
Sally's eyebrows jumped in surprise. "Globenet?"
"Yes, that was it."
"Something, Sally?" Duo asked. "Hey, wait a minute..." He looked at Heero. "Globenet. Didn't they have something to do with the security systems at the Capitol?"
"Mm." Heero nodded once.
Duo snapped his fingers. "Bingo! We've got a connection."
"Not yet we don't," Wu Fei cautioned. "Not if she can't remember the hacker's name. If he IS the hacker."
Giselle visibly wilted. "I'm sorry. I was only introduced to him once, and he wasn't the nicest person I'd met, and I've struggled to forget as much as I could about him. I can still remember his face, though--like a pig's. Ugh."
Sally let herself show real interest now. "Giselle, if I showed you the ID photos of the consultants on the security system, do you think you could pick him out?"
"I'm sure I could. I'm fairly good at remembering faces."
"Then we're still in business!" Duo jumped up and clapped Wu Fei on the back hard enough to make the Chinese youth wince. "Looks like you brought back what we really needed after all, Wu-man!"
Heero got up and walked out.
Duo watched him with sudden, stunned confusion. "Hey--Heero...? Man, what's HIS problem?!"
"He's mad because he didn't get to save the day this time with his computer wizardry," Wu Fei stated with a slight smirk. "If he's not always the one who wins the day, he feels cheated."
* * *
and i don't want to die
i'm as innocent as anybody
i don't even know how to spell
jesus in the sky put bullets in the guns
you don't even know what we mean by repression
* * *
Heero walked until he was sure he was sufficiently lost in the maze of corridors that no one who came looking for him would find him. He slipped into a stairway and hid himself in the darkness underneath the first flight of steps. He curled up in the dusty, narrow crawlspace with his head on his knees, arms wrapped around his drawn-up legs.
Nobody understood. He didn't care whether he'd managed to get the information Sally needed. Sally had a way of taking a wide approach to problem solving--she tended to throw everything she had at the wall to see what stuck. If this girl Wu Fei had found could be a useful tool in stopping the infiltrations on the system, Sally would use her without hesitation.
So why did he have a gut-wrenching suspicion that Giselle Dix wasn't all that she appeared to be? The girl he'd at first dismissed as a useless mannequin with more beauty than brains suddenly seemed to be more of a danger than he'd realized she could be.
Well, yes; didn't it seem a bit opportune for Wu Fei to find her the moment he arrived at St. Simon's estate? What if the information she was feeding them was just the bait for an elaborate trap that could get them all killed? What if Giselle wasn't a victim, but an instigator?
The worst part of it was Heero knew no one would listen to him if he gave voice to his suspicions. Sally trusted her own instincts and had obviously judged the girl favorably. Wu Fei NEVER listened to Heero at the best of times, and even he, who called all women "useless", seemed to be willing to give Giselle the benefit of the doubt. And Duo...
Duo made his feelings plain, as he always did, to everyone. It was a talent Heero often envied. Duo obviously liked this girl, and he would laugh off any misgivings Heero had. That was more painful than the suspicion that they were being deceived--the certainty that Duo was developing feelings for this hatefully beautiful girl, when Heero had never had the courage to tell Duo...to tell him...
So, there was no one he could talk to. If only Quatre were here, maybe he would listen...or Trowa...but Sally had yet to persuade either of them to come work with them again. Quatre was too busy with his father's business; Trowa was still with the circus, with no desire to return to the sort of life they'd all been forced to lead during the war.
His head began to hurt, and Heero shut his eyes against the pain. Against the tears.
It was all happening all over again, and he couldn't stop it. Every time he sought peace, every time he thought the fighting was done, something else would bring it all down on him again.
"I must destroy my enemies," he whispered in the dusty dark. "I cannot rest until all who oppose me are dead."
* * *
blood is the colour of the sunset
you walked into the darkness
i did not hear your last breath
there will not be an inquest
this is not human interest
* * *
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