Title: We Need to Talk About Morgana 
Pairing/s: None (this part)
Character/s: Arthur, Gwaine, Gwen, Catrina
Summary: Morgana can't resist the chance to interfere. Merlin would rather be left alone. And Arthur – well, Arthur doesn't know if he's making things better or worse, but it's not for lack of trying.
[ Prequel | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | AO3 ]
Warnings: None (this part)
Word Count: 1200w
Prompt: 334 Apparition
Author's Notes: *casually posts this 15 minutes late with Starbucks*
“I thought you’d want to know as soon as possible,” Gwen tells him a few days later, looking up at Arthur as he leans over her shoulder. They’re back in her brother’s flat once more, her laptop open on the kitchen table as she points to something on the screen. “I’ve been tracking their progress for a while now. They’ve nearly broken through the firewall I set up to protect the company’s data.”
“You mean—they’re trying to break into the system?” Arthur asks, peering at the lines of code streaming across the monitor. He’s never been very good with computers, and not for the first time he wishes they’d been able to bring Merlin in on the whole scheme. He has a knack for explaining these things in a way that actually makes sense. “Why?”
“We think they’re trying to gain access to the company’s accounts,” Gwaine says, appearing in the doorway with a coffee mug in hand. “Either that, or they suspect a trap and want to make sure the place is legit before they make their move.”
“So…they’re onto us,” Arthur surmises, his heart sinking.
“Not necessarily. I don’t think they’d be showing this level of interest if they were sure that the company was a fake.” Gwen tucks a strand of dark hair behind her ear, already absorbed in whatever it is that is happening onscreen. “It could be that they’re just doing their homework. Quite illegally, of course,” she adds, pulling her keyboard closer and tapping out a few strings of unintelligible symbols. “But that’s big business for you; all money and no morals. I mean—not all of them, obviously. Present company excepted!”
Gwaine snorts at this, but Arthur just shakes his head. “So what do we do about it, then?” he asks. “Do we just…wait and hope they go away, or what?”
“Oh, no!” Gwen sounds surprised. “I’ve planned for this. As soon as they break through, they’ll realise that the files are all encrypted. Unbreakable code, on account of it being total gibberish. I figure they’ll have some fun trying to figure things out before giving up and getting in touch the old-fashioned way.”
“Told you she was good,” Gwaine tells Arthur, smirking, and Arthur is forced to agree.
It’s only been a couple of days since they put their plan into effect, but it seems to have taken forever to reach this point. This is the first proof they’ve had that their quarry has been paying attention, and he hopes it means they’re finally on the brink of unravelling this whole mess. Gwen certainly seems to think so, anyway, if her enthusiasm is anything to go by; she’s watching the monitor with rapt attention, occasionally letting out a vague “hmm” sound as something interesting catches her eye.
“So,” Arthur ventures, after several minutes pass. “How long before—”
Gwen holds up a hand, silencing him, and a split second later her newly acquired ‘company phone’ begins to ring.
“Forget I asked,” Arthur mouths, as Gwen hits the speaker button.
“Ms Smith, I’m glad I caught you.” The woman’s voice on the other end is rich and warm, and it sounds vaguely familiar, although Arthur can’t quite place it. “This is Catrina Edgecombe, from Essetir Industries. How are you today?”
“Extremely busy, Ms Edgecrumb,” Gwen says coolly. Gwaine grins at her from across the table. “May I inquire as to why you are calling?”
“We here at Essetir Industries wanted to extend our condolences on the death of your father,” Catrina says smoothly. “Such a loss. He was a great man. We were hoping to speak with you about the future of his company—at your convenience, of course. I’m sure you want his legacy to be treated with the respect it deserves.”
Arthur raises his eyebrows, lifting his gaze to meet Gwaine’s equally startled eyes. He has to hand it to the woman—she certainly doesn’t waste any time.
“I’m afraid I don’t know if that would be appropriate, Ms Edgeblum.” Gwen examines her nails. “My father made his wishes very clear, and I’ve already taken advice as to what to do with his assets.”
“Of course.” Catrina Edgecombe’s patter doesn’t falter. “But I know an intelligent young woman such as yourself must be keen to explore all the options available. Why don’t you come in for a meeting sometime—purely informal, of course—and we can have a chat about some of the possibilities?”
Gwen makes a show of hemming and hawing, but finally she agrees and sets up an appointment for the following week. Gwaine lets out a triumphant whoop as soon as she hangs up, leaning over the table to kiss her soundly. “We’ve got them now! Gwennie, you were brilliant.”
“I was so rude,” Gwen says, flushing a bright red beneath his attentions. “My father must be turning in his grave to hear me talking to someone like that.”
“You did an excellent job,” Arthur reassures her. “And it’s for a good cause. Gwaine’s right—we should have everything we need to figure out who our mole is, now.”
That seems to distract her from her embarrassment, because her face lights up. “So, you know who’s been leaking the information, then?”
“Well, not definitively.” Arthur pulls out his own laptop and logs in, accessing the company server with a few clicks on his trackpad. “I’ll need to check the security log to be sure.”
“Okay, but then you’ll know who did it, right?” Coming around the table, Gwaine hangs over Arthur’s shoulder, leaning obnoxiously into his personal space. Irritated, Arthur elbows him out of the way, bringing up the security files with his free hand and running a search for the relevant data. It only takes a few moments for him to scan the list in front of him.
“That can’t be right,” he says. He refreshes the screen, but the log remains the same, taunting him like an unexpected apparition: only one remote ID from Pendragon Enterprises has gained access to Gwen’s file over the last week, and it’s one he knows almost as well as his own. “That’s impossible.”
“What’s impossible?” Gwaine peers closer again, but Arthur shuts his laptop with a snap before the other man can read anything further.
“Nothing. It’s nothing,” he says, getting to his feet. “Listen, I just remembered—I have to go.”
“What?” Startled, Gwaine stares at him. “But—you haven’t told us who it was yet!”
Arthur doesn’t break stride, grabbing his jacket as he heads out of the flat. “I’ll be in touch,” he calls over his shoulder. “Thanks for all your help!”
He’s pretty sure he can hear Gwaine shouting after him—something not very complimentary about his social skills, or possibly his mother—but he ignores it, taking the steps back to the ground floor two at a time. The laptop bangs heavily against his side, feeling as though it must have gained twenty pounds. There has to be some other explanation, although at this point he’s not sure what it could be. All he knows is that he has to talk to Merlin about it, and soon. For both of their sakes.