Betrayed by Design
Twelve hours later Trowa found himself in a receiving office of Penal Colony Four glaring at a man behind a desk. With his hands resting on the desk, he leaned well over the desk top, his eyes narrowed as they bore angrily into the startled face on the other side. "What the hell do you mean he's in Level Hard Four. What does that mean?" he asked in a deadly tone.
Unused to this type of reaction, the guard looked at the enraged officer in the Preventer's uniform with alarm. Only moments before, the Earth enforcer had calmly entered the room and politely stated his business was to parole a prisoner. When he'd typed in the name of the prisoner the officer had given him, a picture of a young man, looking more like a teenage boy, popped up and his status and location were listed next to his tracking numbers. The security officer had wondered out loud what a kid had to do to be put in with the worst of mankind on Level Hard Four.
"Hard Four is the maximum security part of the prison." he answered the Preventer nervously. He had his hand resting on the emergency button under his desk in case the man before him went ballistic.
"He's suppose to have served his time in the minimum security levels, being convicted of theft without a weapon or violence." Trowa told him angrily.
The guards eyes turned from the deadly looking green ones back to the computer screen and studied it for more information. "Well," he began. "All I can see is that he was placed in Hard Four by the Warden on 07 May, 199."
"That was a week after he arrived here." Trowa replied to the information with a deep frown and strained to see the screen. "What else does it say? He's alright, isn't he?"
The guard visibly swallowed in nervousness. "Yes," he answered tentatively. "All prisoners have a life transmitter embedded into their spinal cord. His status here is listed as...." he visibly swallowed with difficulty before adding the final word, "....failing."
"Failing." Trowa felt his heart drop into his stomach. "How so?" he demanded.
"Well, not all the information is here, but there is a standing order that he's to be pulled out every Sunday, given any medical attention if necessary and then released back into Hard Four. His status for several months now has been listed as guarded, meaning that his health is steadily failing.
"Who do I see about his parole?" Trowa asked firmly, keeping the sense of panic he was feeling from out of his voice as he straightened and shouldered the duffel bags again. The guard, happy to have something to do other than receive the other man's questions and glare, turned back to the computer and began typing as the Preventer picked up his badge from off of his desk.
"Harrison." the uniformed man behind the desk called out to someone behind him. A younger man stood from a desk about twenty feet away and came to the other guard's side. "Mr. Harrison will take you to the Warden's Office." Trowa's eyes were directed to the younger man as the other continued. "I've informed the Warden's Office of your eminent arrival." he told him.
Trowa nodded, shouldering his and Duo's bags, and then followed the guard charged with taking him to meet the Warden.
Six heavy security doors later, he entered a large, well decorated reception area. A female secretary behind a desk smiled in welcome at the serious looking young man looking very handsome in his Preventers's uniform.
"I'm here to see the Warden concerning parole for a prisoner." he announced his intentions to her, carefully holding in his anger.
"Your name and ID?" she requested even as she continued to smile and speak pleasantly to him.
"Trowa Barton", he replied and pulled out his Preventer's badge.
"If you'll have a seat, I'll see if I can arrange a meeting."
"Listen," Trowa leaned over her desk to give her a piercing look. "I'm tired and have spent the last twelve hours traveling here from Earth. I've just found out my friend was sent to the wrong prison level on his arrival here two years ago, and his health status is reported as failing. I want to see the Warden immediately, and I want my friend out of here now!" Though he kept his voice low, there was a definite threat in the tone that had both the woman and the guard that had brought him there were startled by.
"I...If you would just have a seat...for a moment." she added nervously as she pointed to the dark blue leather couch to her right.
"Now." he repeated even as he followed her direction and moved to the couch.
To her credit, the woman in her mid thirties, looking very professional dressed in a grey business suit with her brown hair pulled up into a french twist, turned to type on the keyboard set up to the right of her desk.
"The prisoners name?" she asked.
"Duo Maxwell." he answered.
She began typing and after staring at her screen for several minutes, she rose and walked over to a door to her left. Punching in a code to the pad next to the door, there was a click of a lock pulling back and she opened the door and entered the room, the light automatically coming on at her entrance. Through the door he could see her typing something on another computer system, and a hum reverberated through the room as a hidden, mechanical filing system brought around the requested hard file.
When the hum stopped, she reached forward and pulled a manilla folder out of the slot and quickly shut down the system, left the room, then pushed the door shut behind her.
With a calm stride, she approached the large door behind her desk and knocked. A barely audible sound came from behind the door, and in response to it, she turned the door knob and entered the room.
Three minutes following that, she returned and asked the Preventer to follow her, her pleasant business smile back on her face. He stood, picked up the two duffle bags, and followed.
The first thing he noticed when he entered the executive office was the large massive desk that would rival evan Quatre's in his office on L-4. Behind it sat a man in his fifties in a suit and tie looking very comfortable and confident in his position as the person with the first and last word about everything that went on is the penal colony.
The warden stood from his chair behind his desk and extended his hand in greeting, and the man's easy manner in his greeting gave the Preventer the impression that he was use to manipulating people and situations in order to achieve his goal or agenda. He'd recognized these types of people after dealing with a great many of them when he'd work with Quatre at his corporate offices.
Taking the man's hand in his own firm clasp, he felt the other's strong, assured grip as well as giving a returning firm shake.
"Preventer Barton, it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm William Harding" he introduced himself. Their hands dropped and the warden motioned for the younger man to sit in the chair in front of his desk. "I understand you're here to parole Mr. Maxwell." He began as they sat down and the warden opened the folder before him.
"If you don't mind," Trowa spoke up and the older man looked up curiously. "I'd like to know how an eighteen year old who was convicted for a non-violent crime ended up in Hard Four with the worst criminals in the colonies."
The warden sat back in his high-back, dark brown leather executive chair and eyed the other speculatively. "The assignment of a prisoner at this penal colony is at the discretion of the Warden." he replied cooly.
Trowa's eyes narrowed with increased dislike and animosity for this stuffed-shirt prick.
The warden picked up a loose paper from the top of the open folder. "I took notes as to the reason for my decision." he continued, ignoring the baleful glare directed towards him. "I listed my reason as being his background stating a history of violence and criminal activity, as well as the recommendation of people who are close acquaintances of the prisoner that he be given no special treatment.
Trowa felt his blood start to boil. Heaven help those "acquaintances" he thought darkly.
"Who did these recommendation come from?" he asked sharply, losing some of his facade of composure. "And if memory serves me correctly, he was convicted of theft, not his past. How the hell did you learn anything about his past, our records are sealed."
At his words, the Warden's eyes widened in realization, and from that slight action Trowa knew the man was somehow fully aware of Duo's past, that he had been the pilot of a gundam, and that he was now dealing with another, and a pissed off one at that. Trowa acknowledged to himself that at least the man displayed some sense as he began to look frightened, which is why he probably began to spill some information.
"It....it came with the court records, attached to a letter from Vice Minister Peacecraft-Yuy and signed by herself and her husband." he rushed to explain in a slightly anxious tone of voice.
A moment before Trowa had felt ripping mad, but now it seemed his blood had turned to ice. 'Betrayed..." he thought silently to himself. 'how many of us have betrayed our comrade and friend?' he wondered and felt physically and mentally sick at the thought.
Warden Harding obviously sensed the young man's change of mood and hastily shoved the folder across the top of the desk towards him. "Have a look for yourself." he almost timidly invited the other. Trowa guessed he finally figured it wasn't a good thing to anger a former gundam pilot.
For the next ten minutes the room stayed silent except for the sound of paper being turned over as Trowa went over the majority of the documents in Duo's file. With dismay, his eyes scanned a page with the letterhead titled Preventers, Sealed Record, and subtitled, Investigation of Gundam Pilot 02, Duo Maxwell. The report contained a list of Duo's petty crimes as a homeless child on L-2, along with a police report of suspicions regarding Duo's part in the destruction of the Maxwell Church Orphanage.
His eyes widened as he scanned a group of attached papers stating the fact that Duo was the pilot of the notorious gundam Deathscythe and Deathscythe Hell. The report was also quite thorough as it listed all the destruction and deaths attributed to him and his gundam during the war. Directly behind the damning paper was another piece of paper attached to it, it was also on letterhead from the office of the Vice Foreign Minister. It was a politely worded letter to the judge presiding over Duo's case that could only have been dictated by Relena. She wrote, alluding to the crimes listed on the document compiled by the Preventers after the war, and declared that Duo Maxwell should be considered to be a danger to society. She referred to him as a habitual criminal with little chance of reforming. She respectfully urged the court to see that he be given no special treatment and that his list of crimes persuade them as to how they should deal with a very dangerous criminal.
Trowa's eyes widened as he recognized not only Relena's signature at the bottom of the page, but the name of her well-known husband beneath it, Heero Yuy.
With hands unsteady by his mounting anger, he turned to find another letter written on the letterhead of Winner Industries. Quatre's eldest sister had written a letter in the same tone as Relena. Rennanda Winner asked for the judge to remove the L-2 criminal from off of L-4, thereby taking away the negative influence of said Duo Maxwell, who hovered over her kind-hearted but susceptible brother.
Turning the pages under it, he saw a letter from Howard stating his affection for the "kid" and that in all the time he'd been with the Sweepers, Duo had been honest and helpful. He hoped the judge was lenient as he didn't believe for a moment that Duo would steal from a friend. The kind words helped Trowa pull himself together, at least Duo hadn't been betrayed by all of his friends.
Under Howard's more positive letter, he found a carefully worded letter from Quatre on his personal stationary. He stated that funds amounting to fifty thousand credits was being sent for Duo Maxwell to access at any time he required anything. He asked that the funds be used in part to have the prisoner checked on once a week by a doctor, and that any need he had would be met at that time.
Trowa closed his eyes for a moment. At least Quatre made a sincere gesture of good will, though there were no words of praise of, or mercy for his friend added to the request.
A short letter by Duo's employer stated he was a good honest employee and Hilde's letter rambled on like a love letter. It was clear to him that the top two letters were the ones that had decided Duo's fate, the others had been weighed against them, found lacking, and were dismissed.
"You judged him for his alleged past." The younger man looked up at the warden and glared disapproving at him.
Under the dark gaze, the warden nervously brushed hack his hort black hair that was white at the temples. "It's the job of a Warden to weigh the evidence. All I had to go on was what you see: the judges decision, the letters of recommendation, and my interview with Mr. Maxwell several days after his arrival." He told him, then added. "And believe me, Mr. Maxwell was anything by pleasant."
"How can you blame him?" Trowa raised his voice in anger. "He was eighteen year's old, framed for a crime he didn't commit, and clearly betrayed by his best friends.
"That's not what I was presented with." the older man countered defensively. "The conviction coupled with his war record, and faced with the young man who looked like he wanted to tear apart the colony piece by piece, left me with that facts that he was too violent to be placed with minimum security prisoners. His actions and his past were the driving force in my decision to have Mr. Maxwell placed in the Maximum security level.
"How much?" Trowa demanded, not wanting to be anywhere in the vicinity of this man any longer.
The warden knew exactly what he meant and pulling the file back to the position in front of him, he removed a paper attached to the front cover of the folder. "The accounting office has listed the prisoners parole fee at fifty thousand dollars." he said in a business tone.
"Fifty thousand!" Trowa managed to sound outraged. It wasn't that he wasn't expecting it or didn't have the credits, hell, he'd gotten that much from Quatre's painting alone, but he'd been lead to believe that the "ransoms" could be reduced with a little negotiating. That would leave more money available to help Duo start over again.
"Look Warden......" he paused to study the gold plated name plate sitting on the desk front, giving the man the impression that he wasn't important enough for the Preventer to remember his name. "Harding." he looked up at the man. "I'll pay the fifty thousand just to get him out of here. But let me warn you, I'm going to go back to Earth and raise hell about the false accusations against him and start an investigation as to how a sealed document was sent not only to influence a judge in pronouncing a harsh sentence in a white-collar crime, but then forwarded to you where it was used against him once again. Not only was the document obtained illegally, but your's and the judge's use of it to prejudice yourselves against my friend is also questionable and I'm sure, as far as the law is concerned, unethical."
He stood and leaned over the desk to have an extra threatening effect on the now nervous man pressed back into his chair looking properly intimidated. "If I find he's suffered at all because of your decision to send him to Hard Four, then may heaven help you, for your job will be a thing of the past, but you wont care much about that because, by God, I'll have you hung upside down by your balls. The majority of people in the colonies and earth who look at the gundam pilots as heroes. You have definitely messed with the wrong group of people. If I were to leak out my friend's name and how he has been treated, a vigilante group would no doubt be looking for your job and your head!"
The man who radiated confidence moments earlier now looked frightened, all the color had drained from his face. "Now Preventer Barton, let's be civil and reasonable. No one goes into hard time and comes out unscathed." he said as a preparatory warning.
Trowa could hear his own breath coming out from his nostrils loudly, sounding much like the cartoons Duo use to watch when an outraged animated bull was readying itself to charge. "What's happened to him?" he asked in a deadly voice.
The warden motioned his hand towards the file. "On the left side of the folder, underneath the top accounting sheet are reports from the infirmary and periodic reports from the guards in his section."
The warden quickly hit the intercom button as the Preventer moved his hand to take up the folder again.
"Marie, send Davis in." he ordered crisply.
Trowa lifted the top sheet and his worst nightmares seemed to unfold before his eyes. Reports stemming from the present back two years detailed the weekend visits to the infirmary. Duo had been treated for seven breaks to his arms, six to his legs, broken ribs, bruised kidneys, numerous stitches, and worst of all, several documented rapes.
A large burly guard entered the office unannounced and came to stand by the fidgeting warden. A quick glance at the man was all the Preventer afforded the interruption, and then returned his attention to the file. His attention went from the medical reports to the notes from the prison guards who pulled Duo out every Sunday for his examination. The reports were short and concise statements on prisoner Maxwell's behavior and the state they found him in each week. The more recent notes bore the tone of pleading for the warden to intervene on the prisoners behalf as he was failing to thrive and his life was in danger due to apparent mental and physical duress. Trowa used every ounce of will power to not jump over the desk and break the business man/warden's neck for ignoring the recommendations of the guards.
Fifteen minutes later, he had finished reading the entire file, including the financial reports. The fifty thousand credits Quatre had supplied for Duo was depleted by only ten thousand credits, and those were itemized as medical costs and clothing. It seemed Duo had not once asked for anything but clothing and extra blankets.
Closing the folder with a strong sense of finality in his movement, he tucked it under his arm and looked up at the warden. "As an officer of the Preventer's, and in the authority given to me as such, I'm confiscating this file as possible evidence of a conspiracy against Mr. Maxwell." he informed him in a bisque tone. "I'm also concerned about your apparent neglect of a prisoner and failure to intervene after the guards and medical reports all but pleaded with you on his behalf due to his failing mental and physical health. For the record, I'd like to know your reasons."
The warden's chin jutted out in a look of defiance. "I don't have to justify me actions to you." he answered sharply. "My actions are justified by Mr. Maxwell's criminal past."
Trowa's anger was about to spill over his facade of being cool and reserved. However, arguing with this corporate executive would not get Duo out any sooner, and from the reports he'd read, five minutes longer in Hard Four would be five minutes too long, and killing the warden at that moment wouldn't help his friend at all.
"I see there is still forty thousand credits left in the account Mr. Winner deposited for the prisoner's needs." he changed the subject, intent on ending the meeting.
The warden nodded calmly, once again all business, which infuriated the younger man even more. He neglected the reports on Duo's well being, but knew the all important bottom line.
"I suggest you keep those funds as my friend's ransom and hand him over to me this instant."
"That is ten thousand short of what the corporation estimates is necessary for his release."
"Believe me Warden, by the time I've finished with this matter, your corporation is going to be standing with its pockets hanging out empty. Consider yourself lucky you got forty thousand."
With a slight trembling of his hand as he straightened his tie, the only sign the Preventer had gotten to the Buck-Stops-Here man, the Warden turned to the burly guard. "Take him to section H-4, 10." he instructed. "I'll call ahead to the Port of Departure to ensure his papers are readied for his removal from the colony.
Trowa nodded with a stern look on his face, then turned without another word
to follow the guard out of the luxury office
Back to Chapter One