The Arrangement
Chapter Twenty-Seven

by Maldoror

AN: This was originally a side-story to The Arrangement since it's Trowa's POV, and recaps some events that occurred in the previous chapter. However, there are some very important revelations about the current The Arrangement plotlines, so it shouldn't be missed. It also needs to be read in sequence right after chapter 26. In view of that, I decided to make it, in fact, the next two chapters.

Masks, Part I

A cat may stare at the king.
European proverb (Dutch/German origin)

Nash was a bastard.

It was Nash's style to grin in mocking victory as he finally found the flaw in Yuy's defenses. He'd been all over his targets' home like a spider for two nights now, clinging to walls and examining windows, climbing the roof several times, poking at the ventilation, the rooftop access, the doors.

Nash was a bastard, and proud of his abilities.

Trowa was normally proud of his abilities as well. But not when they were used against two of his best friends.

Not the slightest tremor of doubt shown in Nash's hands as he disabled the security on the roof access. It had been touch and go, touch and go, Yuy was good...But now he was in.

Not the slightest tremor of doubt flickered in Trowa's mind as Nash let himself slip down into the attic space. This was his mission, even if he didn't like it.

Trowa was buried deep in Nash, and had been for months now. He was the ghost behind Nash's thoughts, nudging the Syndicate mercenary in one direction or the other, gently, by persuasion rather than by force, as if Nash were one of his lions, his own creature grudgingly jumping through Trowa's hoops only when absolutely required to do so, and on sufferance.

Nash smiled cruelly as he disabled the lesser security on the attic's trapdoor. There was no one here to watch the act, but since it wasn't, in fact, entirely an act, that didn't matter. Nash had his own life, his own habits - ugly ones for the most part - his own thoughts, behavioral patterns, and motivations that Trowa had painstakingly built into him. Trowa had worked well: Nash had an internal logic that could carry him through and keep him acting naturally even in the most stressful situation, running on in the foreground almost on automatic while Trowa lurked in the back and watched, dispassionately; he was very good at that.

He carefully let himself down into the hallway of the Preventers' home, casually and unhesitatingly violating their territory. They weren't Nash's friends. Nash didn't have any, actually. He was a bastard after all.

Ghosting down the hallway, Nash went first into Heero's room - not that Nash would know it was Heero's. It was Trowa who guessed at the identity of the occupant. Nash was momentarily surprised at the extremely bare and crude furnishings in the big room, stranding the military bunk bed and utilitarian metal desk at either end of the large space without much to join them together. Trowa, hidden behind the mask, merely smiled with melancholy fondness. Heero...

Nash went about his business. He examined the wall around the desk carefully. Crude plaster covering bricks: good. The small drill hummed as Nash thoughtfully pulled it out and pressed the trigger a few times, measuring the space with his eyes, judging. He drilled tiny holes into plaster and brick, and inserted his cameras. They were about the size and shape of thick sewing needles: encased fiberoptic receptors, a micro power pack and a broadcasting chip the size of a gnat. Because of their tiny size, they were nearly invisible to the human eye once planted into the wall - and their image feed was so distorted by their tiny aperture as to be unusable, which was why most people never thought to look for something so small. Only the real pros knew that if you placed numbers of them at judiciously spaced intervals, you could use image enhancement and analysis software to collate their individual, distorted images into a whole, congruent and very detailed picture. So detailed, you could read words on paper or on a screen, if the cameras were close enough and the angle was about right.

Of course, these Gundam pilots were pros...but hopefully they weren't so paranoid as to check for these on a regular basis.

Trowa was rather hoping Heero, for one, would be paranoid enough. It would cause a huge fuss if these were found, and their discovery would send Heero and Wufei off in an uncontrolled search for the culprit that would make Une's sting operation horribly complicated and might compromise Trowa's cover, with terminal results...but the infiltrator was worried about what these tiny spies might pick up, what missions and plans their uncaring eyes might capture. They could put Heero and Wufei into mortal danger...

Nash naturally applied every ounce of his skill into setting up his cameras; this was an important mission for him, the chance of finally getting some real recognition by the Syndicate, and of course obtaining a whole shitload of money. Trowa watched himself bug his friend's room with all the care he could muster, knowing Nash's efforts could cost Heero his life, but unable to do anything about it within the difficult parameters of his mission. Heero and Wufei were tough...much tougher than the Syndicate or a bastard like Nash could ever realize...they'd be okay...they would be okay...

The Syndicate's hired man continued his work; Nash was even more careful in hiding the audio bug, which was bulkier - the size and shape of a tiny cracker. He needed it near the computer, in case his target got a phone call while working. Hopefully the room's occupant wasn't a pacer; this mike was quite small and its range wasn't all that good. He finally placed it in the hollow of the corner beneath the desk.

Next, the pickup unit. After some thought, he lay down on his stomach beneath the desk and attacked the plaster there. He dug into the brickwork, inserted the unit, then stuck a piece of gauze over it, and brought out the small pot of spackle he carried with him for just this purpose. The unit was the receptor that would pick up the feeds from the cameras and the mike - they were so small they could only broadcast their stolen sounds and pictures a few feet; they didn't have the power to do more. The pickup unit, the size of a big matchbox, received their input and broadcast it out to the bigger box that he'd already attached to the telephone wires on the hub nearby; it would relay everything back to the Syndicate's dedicated server on the other side of this shit-hole of a city. God, he hated this place, Nash grumbled as he carefully vacuumed up the dust and brick remnants with the tiny suction device he always carried with him during these kinds of missions. Europe in winter was the arse-hole of the planet. The only way this could be worse would be if he was still in Minsk.

Nash went artistic with the spackle, making sure he reproduced every whorl and grain of the original plaster. He'd let it dry, and, when he'd finished all the rest of the work and the spackle had dried, he'd come back and sponge it with dirty water until it matched the rest of the off-white wall.

He sat down carefully in the chair - automatically noting its precise position relative to the desk, to put it back exactly as it was. He picked up his comm and flicked it on.

"Stop jerking yourself off and pick up the laptop, Bruckheim," he snapped.

There was a startled noise, followed by a disgusted sigh, and the comm crackled.

//Is that you, Nash?//

"No, it's the ghost of General Khushrenada. You were warned it made you deaf, right, Bruckheim?"

There was the two seconds of silence that signaled Bruckheim mouthing obscenities at the comm. He was the Syndicate man in Nash's taskforce, a sort of lieutenant to him, and Nash never lost a single occasion to make his life miserable. It kept Bruckheim on a leash, and it insured the Syndicate knew that Nash was tough and only respected those who deserved it. Besides, to someone like Nash, Bruckheim's mixture of overblown toughness, petty arrogance and obvious vulnerabilities was like a red flag to a bull, and he just attacked him out of habit.

Nash was, after all, a bastard.

"Get your thumb out of your ass and pick up the laptop," Nash repeated, heavily. "It's set up to play the files as they are produced on the server. I need to test audio. I'm muting my comm. If you cannot pick up audio on the laptop's speakers, then tell me, okay?"

A grumble. Nash muted his comms.

"I'm assuming that you're actually smart enough to turn on the laptop and open up the appropriate program," Nash said to the air above the desk after two minutes. "And that you remember where the volume control is, if-"

//I can hear you.// The tone was sulky. Bruckheim was such a petty wanker. Nash couldn't for the life of him figure out how the man was a Syndicate regular. Most of Nash's men, the squad of mercs hired for the Brussels' job, were better than this waste of skin.

"Good. Now can you see me?"

//Yes. The image is really clear.// Bruckheim sounded reluctantly impressed.

"Testing. Which finger am I holding up?"

//...very funny...// grumble.

"Hopefully he writes with his monitor pushed to one side. I'll put some more spies in the ceiling above the desk, give us another camera angle. Stand by to test them when I'm done."


The next room to be treated was the study. Wufei's study, Trowa deduced. Nash leaned over and stared at the spines of books in their shelves, a faint sneer on his face. Then he made sure that the movements of anyone sitting at the desk would not be missed, and every sound recorded.

Next was the second bedroom. Nash turned on himself several times, around and around, trying to figure out the best place to stick his spies, since there was no obvious spot in the soberly furnished room where the second rat might sit or stand while working or talking on the phone.

Maybe he doesn't work in here at all; Trowa considered that thought, tentatively. Maybe Nash didn't need to bug this room. Trowa would rather avoid it if possible; Heero wouldn't know what invasion of privacy was if it came up and kicked him in the stones, but Wufei would quite easily compensate for this lack in his partner by being overly sensitive about it. The Asian warrior hated to be watched while he was meditating or sparring with Heero, Trowa remembered; he was an intensely private man.

The Preventer probably didn't do much work in here, not with a study next door, but Nash was not going to let that argument sway him. Better safe than sorry, was what Nash would think; Trowa had constructed him to be a careful and thorough man. Nash wouldn't want to be caught short if ever the two targets came in here to discuss something important, or left some documents lying around at a good angle. After some thought, Nash planted his spies around the bed and in the ceiling above it, and two audio bugs on either side of the room. Maybe the bed's owner curled up under the covers with some late-night paperwork. Maybe the pig talked in his sleep. Maybe he had hookers over and he told them all about his job to impress the shit out of them while he fucked them. Yeah, if only it would be that easy...

Nash went down the stairs and whistled at the expanse of the large main room. Fuck, where to put the monitors. Well, he could probably ignore the toolshop section. He looked it over anyway, reluctantly impressed. Downright jealous actually. Man...these pigs lived like...well, they lived like mercs, almost. No wonder. They were fucking Gs; everybody knew the five pilots had been mercenaries for the colonies. Stood to reason. And now they were Une's pet rats. Little shits...Like a lot of ex-OZ personnel, Nash had a deep and thoroughly justified grudge against the Gundam pilots who'd ruined his career and forced him into criminality. He repeated his hateful litany against the five pilots so many times it fell off his tongue perfectly naturally...and Trowa, in his more depressed moments, almost hated himself as a result; the downside of living so deep within the mask that was a bastard like Nash.

After some thought and a bit of swearing, Nash put the cameras around the kitchen area, making sure they had a picture of the counter, then above the couch, though they were so high up on the ceiling he wasn't sure they could catch much. The audio pickup, buried in the couch's carefully re-sown seams, would be more useful. Nash put away his sewing kit and his climber's tackle attentively, made sure none of his fiddling was visible, tested the lot with a grumbling Bruckheim, and left with an ugly satisfied smile. It wasn't entirely about the money and the place in the Syndicate he'd earn. He enjoyed this. Not just the use of his abilities, gathered as one of OZ's surveillance specialists during the war. He enjoyed the feel of violating his targets, invading their home territory, wielding unseen power over them while they were at their most vulnerable. Watching them lay themselves bare.

"I'll be seeing you, guys," he murmured at the empty main room, the deserted couch. His voice was sadistically gleeful. Nash was, as has already been stated, a bastard.

Find more of Maldoror at Maldoror's Fan Fiction.

On to part twenty-eight. Back to part twenty-six.