Warped Mirrors Chapter 24

  "Ninja Haute Couture"

Warped Mirrors
Chapter 24
“Ninja Haute Couture”

Duo looked thoughtful for a moment as the plane touched down, then grinned. “Jay? You know how you told us to do whatever bodyguard-type stuff we wanted?”

“Yes, old chap? I did mean it, if that’s what you’re about to ask...”

“I was just thinking it would be helpful if you supplied us with some examples of bodyguard-type stuff to do. I don’t know about you two,” he nodded at Dan and Asuka, “but I know we’ve never been bodyguards before!”

“Wot, really? You could have mentioned this a bit earlier, don’t’cha know!” Jay protested.

“You seemed to be having fun thinking of how you’d soon be ordering us around,” Wufei pointed out, a little smugly. “I for one assumed you’d tell us what to do.”

Christy started to facepalm, then remembered her makeup and turned the gesture into what looked like an appeal to the gods for patience. “Asuka?”


“You’ve seen Torovha’s bodyguards at work every time we’ve headed off to try to shoot him. Can you give everyone a quick rundown of how to behave?”

The Glacin pilot snorted. “Leave massive security holes, then run around like headless chickens whenever someone takes advantage of them, you mean?”

She glared. He reconsidered. “Fine. At least two check rooms ahead, the others stand behind and around looking mean. --What?” he added as she glared again. “I’ve only paid attention to avoiding them. You’ve seen Torovha’s security as many times as I have, you explain what to do!”

Heero cut in, hiding a snicker. “I’ve seen Relena’s bodyguards at work, under Noin’s instruction, and paid attention; it sounds like they’re much better than Torovha’s, too.” Turning to the others, he started a high-speed explanation that sounded rather like a mission briefing, complete with assigning everyone positions.

“Who put you in charge?” Asuka objected after a minute.

“You did, by not having the necessary information yourself,” Heero told him bluntly. “We don’t have time for anyone else to learn how, either,” he added, jerking his head towards the windows where the terminal could be seen. The plane was taxiing towards one end of the huge building, where a transit tube was being extended.

“Oh, lovely,” Mel muttered, dropping her elegantly bored act for a moment as she caught sight of something else. “We have crowds. I wonder which of us has been doing something outrageous this time?”

“Wasn’t me... I hope,” Christy muttered.

The plane came to a halt as the transit tube was extended the last couple of metres, forming a seal. Heero opened the pressure door, revealing an empty walkway.

“We need to move fairly fast,” Mel told them, striding forward so that her loose slacks snapped around her ankles. “First we get off and out of the public areas of the terminal; our security should have the cargo passageways cleared for us. The cabin crew get on and do ‘last-minute prep and cleaning’, which gives us time to meet ourselves and get around to the VIP lounge, where we board the plane again.”

“‘Meet ourselves’?” Quatre asked, jogging to keep up.

“You’ll see,” she grinned, taking a sudden turn into a wider, uncarpeted passageway. A set of double doors at the end were guarded by a pair of tall, broad-shouldered men with café-au-lait complexions who saluted, then pulled open the doors to show--

--Christy, Mel, and Jay, in their glamorous outfits, accompanied by several people who might as well not have been there for all the attention the stunned male pilots paid them.

“...And you swear at Torovha for having doubles,” Asuka growled under his breath, recovering first.

“Well, we need them!” Christy shot back, smiling faintly. “He doesn’t.”

On closer inspection, there were noticeable differences between the female pilots and their doubles, but nothing major... certainly nothing that would be easy to point out in a newspaper photograph, or on screen. The pseudo-Mel sashayed forward, returning the real Mel’s lazy smile.

“You’ll need to read the papers,” she drawled, voice nearly perfect. “None of it’s true, of course, but it’s been fun.”

“Oh, so the crowds are my fault? Lovely,” Mel sighed. “Am I amused or indignant?”

“Amused so far, but you might want to switch to indignant if the Ta-Resu-Meht conservatives get any louder.”

Christy and Jay’s doubles were having rapid, low-voiced conversations with them, updating them on what ‘they’ had been doing. One of the other people stepped forwards, gesturing sideways towards several duffel bags on a bench.

“Gentlemen, if you’d come this way, we have your uniforms for you to change into...”


“Looking sharp, Hee-man,” Duo said approvingly, yanking on his second boot and stamping to test the fit.

“Hn,” Heero grunted, tugging at the collar of his long-sleeved white turtleneck. “I’m not used to wearing my weapons on top of my clothes,” he added, half-smiling.

“Neither am I,” Quatre agreed, resettling his belt holster for the third time. Dan had already finished dressing and was relaxing in a chair, apparently checking out everyone else’s rear ends in their tailored black slacks; Asuka was having a silent battle of wills with the attendant who’d led them to the changing room over his black pullover. The elderly man’s cold glare was nearly as good as his, and he had Right on his side.

“If sirs would prefer,” he put in, looking away from Asuka without conceding the battle, “we have paired shoulder holsters available, and also concealed waist holsters of the same type Lady Tutankanep uses. We do however suggest using the external holsters, as in an emergency situation drawing from the concealed holsters may be made more difficult by your radio sets.”

“I’ll take a shoulder harness,” Trowa told him, unclipping the waist holster and readjusting his belt.

“Very good, sir. Ah, if sir would loosen his belt one notch please?” The elderly man clipped a small square radio to the back of the belt, then made one quick pass of his hands across Trowa’s back, threading the earbud/microphone wire under the turtleneck without seeming to disturb it.

“You’re good,” Duo told him cheerfully.

“Thank you, sir.” His eyes shifted back to meet Asuka’s gaze, and the glaring contest resumed.

Approximately three minutes later, Asuka looked away and folded his black pullover, dropping it on top of his discarded shorts and sleeveless top. “Hn.”

Thank you, sir. May I assure sir that his belongings will be shipped safely back to sir’s base?”

“Good,” Asuka grunted. “Shoulder holster.”

“Very good, sir.”

“The boots are stiffer than I’m used to, but apart from colour everything else is exactly like my usual clothes,” Trowa noted, sticking out one foot to examine it.

“Steel-toed boots with shin reinforcements for kicking ‘em where it matters,” Duo grinned. “I approve.”

“And the stiff ankles mean we won’t sprain anything if we have to kick a door down,” Quatre added, tugging his slacks down over his boots.

Holster in place on his belt, Wufei tried a few deep squats and kicks and frowned. “Do you have a single shoulder holster available?”

“I believe so, sir. Ah-- yes, here. Is this acceptable?”

“Yes, thank you.” Unfastening the holster from his belt, Wufei turned slightly and noticed Dan staring at him, eyes wide. “What?”

“...Your ass is incredible when you do that,” Dan informed him. Wufei groaned and threw the holster at his face.


“Oh, very nice,” an unfamiliar voice said as they returned to the larger room where the girls were waiting. It was faintly accented, quiet, cultured... and coming from Jay. “You gentlemen do look elegant.”

Well, she did warn us her voice was going to change, Duo thought, blinking. Just not when.

“Since you’re all dressed, and Abdel doesn’t look ruffled, I assume you didn’t object too much?” Mel asked, amused.

“I must protest, Hine,” the elderly man put in calmly. “I would look the same no matter what the circumstances.”

“Hello, Abdel,” Christy said warmly. “How have you been?”

“Very well thank you, my Pharaoh,” Abdel replied. His eyes narrowed slightly as he examined her; then he stepped forwards with a quiet murmur of “Excuse me”. With blinding speed he tweaked the long curl draping across her shoulder into a new position, adjusted her scarab pendant, tugged at the hem of her top, flicked an invisible speck of dust away from her pants, and stepped back leaving her looking as if she’d just stepped out of a salon. Nodding in approval, he stepped to one side to begin the same process with Mel and Jay.

“Yow,” Duo muttered. “Ninja haute couture!”

Quatre leaned slightly towards Duo, murmuring in his ear. “He’s like Pargan, except I don’t think Pargan would supply holsters.”

“He would if he’d spent eight years following Relena through a war zone,” Duo pointed out, equally quietly. “Assuming Relena gave up the pacifism schtick, that is.”

“How are we going for time?” Mel asked.

“I believe we should move to the lounge without delay, Hine,” Abdel said, stepping back from Jay. “We are on schedule, allowing fifteen minutes for you to be seen in the VIP lounge relaxing before moving to the concourse and then boarding the plane. This will give you time to read the papers,” he added with slight emphasis, “and decide how you wish to answer the inevitable press inquiries.”

“...I’m not going to ask,” Mel decided, sighing.

“One would hate to ruin the surprise,” Abdel murmured.


As the group reached another set of large double doors -- apparently the service entrance into the VIP lounge, usually opened to move furniture or cleaning equipment in and out -- they paused for a moment. Abdel and the other attendants fell back with quiet farewells, leaving the ten pilots.

“Public faces once we go through,” Christy said, dropping out of her ‘Tutankanep’ persona for a moment. “We’re on display and liable to have everything we say and do reported and dissected from that moment on, including on the plane; the cabin attendants aren’t in on our little deceptions. All jokes and grumbles aside,” she looked sharply at Dan and Asuka, “are you good to go?”

“Abdel mentioned the press,” Trowa said quietly. “How do we handle them?”

“You don’t,” Mel told him. “There are going to be regular police wherever we go, and it’s their job to keep people back and clear our way. If someone breaks through their cordon, you block them; if they’re threatening, you take them down. You don’t speak except to issue warnings and orders, along the lines of ‘Move back’ and ‘Get down’. If you don’t say anything, it can’t be misinterpreted.”

Quatre snorted. “Usually,” he muttered, then turned to Trowa. “As bodyguards, most of the press should treat us as invisible unless a situation comes up and we have to do something dramatic.”

“That’s right, you’ve been on the guarded side of things too, haven’t you?” Jay said in her Lady Jarvia voice.

“Since birth,” he told her dryly, “which is why Heero explained procedures instead of me; I’m so used to it I don’t really notice it any more.”

“Fair enough,” Christy grinned. “If we move up to the police cordon to shake hands, kiss babies, answer questions or whatever, move with us and keep your eyes open. It’s perfectly all right to look a bit stressed and paranoid at that point, because from a bodyguard point of view we’re being stupid. If real danger comes up and the police are handling it okay, feel free to manhandle us to get us clear. You probably won’t need to, but it always looks good. Ready?”

The male pilots looked at one another, then Duo shrugged. “I guess so.”

“Radios on and places, then,” Heero ordered, and they shifted into the guard pattern he’d worked out. He glanced around, checking that they were all in place, then nodded to Trowa and Asuka. “Go.”

The two ‘Three’ pilots pushed the doors open and stepped through, heads turning as they scanned the luxurious room. “Clear,” Trowa reported, voice a thin but clear whisper through the other pilots’ earbuds.

“Clear,” Heero repeated for the girls’ benefits, and the group moved forwards.

As they came into view, a quiet murmur that had been audible swelled into a roar like surf on a pebbled beach. There were clear glass windows between the VIP lounge and the public concourse, and they were filled with a packed crowd, now waving and cheering. Flashbulbs popped like flares, and there was a collective subliminal wince as all the pilots had to suppress the urge to duck. Uniformed policemen formed a thin barrier between the crowd and the glass, holding them back just far enough to prevent them from rapping on it, and even a few of those were glancing back over their shoulders to catch a glimpse. Christy and Jay waved, and Mel blew a kiss, causing another upsurge in the noise level.

Moving to her seat, Mel held her hand negligently out to one side and a bowing uniformed attendant slid a folded newspaper into it. Other attendants were producing cups of coffee (Christy) and tea (Jay and Mel), offering biscuits (waved away) and teacake (accepted), and placing chilled glasses of water within arms’ reach. The male pilots-turned-bodyguards exchanged speaking looks and took up positions around the perimeter of the room, hands behind backs, and tried to look official. Asuka just glared, but that would do.

Shaking out the newspaper, Mel took one look at the front page and almost choked. “Oh, lor’,” she drawled, voice wavering for a moment before it settled back into her public tones. “Christina darling, did you know I’m apparently a bad influence on you?”

“Terrible,” Christy agreed, glancing over at her. “I blame everything on you, it’s wonderful.”

“Well, apparently my moral turpitude has reached the point where the Ta-Resu-Meht conservatives are petitioning your Vizier to have me banned from the country,” Mel said brightly, turning the paper around to give her a look. Banner headlines screamed “A NEW ASSIGNATION?!” over a full-width photo, showing Mel -- or her double -- wearing a bikini top and sarong, holding a complicated fruity drink in one hand and leaning over to kiss a short, round man on the cheek. Christy laughed.

“They can’t have interviewed Sabrina,” she chuckled.

“No, but they reference her,” Mel told her, turning the paper back to herself. “Apparently I’m taking shameless advantage of her trust. They don’t come right out and add ‘to seduce her husband’, but the article’s just dripping with insinuations.” Twisting to face the glass wall, she held up the paper, pointed to the photograph, then mimed a shocked look with one hand over her mouth. The crowd shrieked approval.

“So is it your presumed fling with the Franciscan Head Honcho they’re objecting to in particular, or is it your turpitude in general?” Jay inquired politely, sipping tea from a delicate cup that looked a lot like one Quatre had owned.

“Accumulated years of low company and bad behaviour,” Mel yawned, tossing the paper aside to be immediately scooped up by an attendant. “They’re afraid I’ll infect their Pharaoh with my lack of moral fibre and work ethic. I think I’m offended; I’ve put a lot of work into building my reputation!”

“Ruining it, you mean,” Christy told her.

“There’s a difference?”

“When it comes to being possibly banned from the country, yes.”

Mel pouted -- not her normal, obviously joking pout, but something lazy and petulant. “You wouldn’t let Mernetefnut kick me out, would you?”

“If he paid me enough,” Christy muttered under her breath, a glint of Persephone showing in her eyes.

“Like you need an increase in your allowance!” Mel protested, looking for a moment as if she was going to throw a cushion and then sinking back into her chair with a dismissive flip of one hand. “Whatever. It’ll never happen,” she said, holding her cup out for a refill.

Watching them with half his attention as he scanned the crowd through the glass wall, Heero had to give them credit. He could see the flicker in Christy’s eyes every time a flashbulb went off behind her, but her muscles never tensed and her expression remained serene. Jay seemed oblivious, chatting politely on a variety of innocuous subjects, but Quatre had glanced in her direction a couple of times, and one of Mel’s lazy gestures stuttered when three flashes went off in a pattern eerily reminiscent of muzzle flash from a tracking machine gun. Heero was uncomfortable enough, even knowing that if something genuinely threatening happened he was free to react; he couldn’t imagine what it would feel like, having to maintain a civilian façade even if a Situation blew up in his face.

At least when I was undercover, I wasn’t on display! he thought, staying expressionless as his eyes flicked from face to face. And... technically, they’re not undercover. This is their ‘real lives’. They can act like themselves on base, though they’re supposed to be incognito, but when they go ‘home’... huh. Do they ever really get to relax?

Probably in their Gundams. Which is ridiculous.

And Mel said she’s been playing this part since she was five. Heero blinked, inwardly shaking his head, and decided that he’d have to ask Duo what sort of swear word or exclamation would be appropriate to the situation. His own vocabulary seemed inadequate, somehow.


The walk along the public concourse to (re)board the plane was technically uneventful, but Quatre found himself developing new respect for bodyguards. Heero’s tactical plan had placed him towards the back and away from the crowd, standing off in a position where he could draw his gun and cover anyone who made a disturbance.

Which means I don’t have to make any split-second decisions about whether or not to tackle someone, he thought, half amused and half grateful. My aim’s good enough that I don’t have to worry about hitting the wrong person unless things get completely mixed up -- which they could, in a crowd like this -- so this is something I know I can do. Hand-to-hand, though... I can do it, really, but... I don’t like to. I certainly don’t react and do it automatically, the way the others do, and while that’s good in a civilian situation where you might be taken by surprise by an innocent, it’s bad for a bodyguard.

...I think I’m glad my family have always maintained good medical coverage for our bodyguards. Including ulcer treatments.

The crowd were fairly well-behaved, not straining against the police line, but it was almost impossible to hear anything over the roar of calls, shouts, shrieks, and whistles. One small group dressed in bright colours were singing or chanting something, swaying in time and stamping out the beat, and had gained themselves a little spare room as others shuffled away to keep their toes out of danger. Jay smiled brilliantly and waved at them before tapping out a few dance steps, hands fluttering and hips swaying as she twirled, and the song broke up into cheers as they applauded. A few people had actually gone to their knees, bowing down or lifting their hands towards Christy -- No, she’s Tutankanep to them, Quatre realised, the ’Beloved of the Gods’ -- and she nodded in acknowledgement, never stopping in her steady progress towards the gate. Mel seemed to be attracting most of the shouted offers of dates and professions of undying love, which she met with rolling eyes and one or two blown kisses. There was also the occasional thrown bouquet, which drew everyone’s eyes for a moment until they confirmed that was all it was.

One bouquet kept Mel’s attention, and she skipped sideways to catch it, nearly making the teenage girl who’d thrown it swoon in delight. It was a lot less impressive than some of the other floral offerings, just a couple of stems of some sort of red bottlebrush flower tied together with long strips of reddish-green leaves. Mel looked closely at the flowers, smiled, and waved the little bunch at the girl.

“Where’d you get real pohutukawa from out here?” she called, walking over until she could talk without screaming, ignoring the hands reaching past the police line towards her. Heero and Wufei moved in close on either side, glaring back anyone who looked like they were about to grab.

“Uh. Um,” the dark-skinned girl stuttered, flustered. “Uh. My, um, my auntie grows it, and flax too. She says she misses Aotearoa too much if she doesn’t have pohutukawa around, and when I told her I was coming to see you she said it’s a chiefly tree, uh, rakau... rakau rangatira, that was it, and I should bring you some. Um, her tree hasn’t been going too good since something ate a lot of leaves off it and the rest of the family keep picking it, so I couldn’t bring a lot...”

“Tell her she has my thanks; I miss pohutukawa too,” Mel smiled. “And say I place her tree under a rahui until it recovers, so her relatives don’t pick it to death!”

The girl grinned, losing some of her embarrassment. “Cool, that’ll stop Nana swiping half of it when she visits next week!”

“Rahui?” Quatre couldn’t resist murmuring in Mel’s ear when she walked on to join the others again, one hand up to his ear so it hopefully looked like he was talking on the radio.

“Prohibition,” she murmured, turning her head and using the flowers and her own hair to block line of sight for the crowd. “It’s a kind of tapu, a sacred taboo -- nobody’s allowed to gather anything from the area until whatever it is recovers. If her aunt is traditional enough to send me pohutukawa because it’s a chiefly tree, she’s traditional enough to enforce a rahui, and traditional enough to consider my person tapu, which is why I didn’t touch her niece. She’d freak if I did,” she added, flashing Quatre a grin, “and I don’t think that girl would sit still to be ceremonially purified.”

“You’re sacred?!” Quatre sputtered, recovering his blank expression with an effort.

“To some Maori, yes,” she murmured, waving her sprig of bright flowers at some more admirers. “Ask Christy about how her more religious subjects regard her some time!”

“So what happens if we have to touch you to get you out of the line of fire?”

“Oh, you get your hands cut off,” she deadpanned, and only the feeling of wicked amusement coming from her warned him in time to stop him visibly choking.


It was a long day, and by the end of it everyone wanted to wilt. The flight to Waset was short, but this time nobody could relax on board; the cabin crew were everywhere, silently providing immediate ‘service with a smile’, and there was nowhere out of their line of sight to drop the masks.

Well... they didn’t follow us into the toilets, Quatre thought, amused, but it’s not as if we could all crowd in there together for a chat!

And then there was the official welcome.

It had been long, boring, and practically antique. Christy’s cousin and Vizier, Mernetefnut, was older than her, perhaps in his forties, and his formal movement throughout the ceremony made him seem old enough to fossilize. He formally knelt, formally welcomed Tutankanep back to her domain, formally requested she judge his stewardship of the country in her absence, formally bowed and gestured and escorted her into the palace-- then the doors closed behind them all, and he grabbed her in a totally informal hug and planted a kiss on her cheek, grinning.

“Hey, Uncle-Cousin,” she said happily, hugging back. “How’s the family?”

“Well as always, thank you,” he said cheerfully. “The kids all did well in their last lot of exams, miraculously in some cases, and Amerotke will be joining the Theran cadet corps next month. Livia has a new crossbreed rose cultivar she’s quite proud of, she’ll want to show it to you I’m sure. She’s nearly got a true blue this time.”

“Wanna be Pharaoh for real instead of just my regent-Vizier?” she asked hopefully.

“Not even if you paid me, dear.”

“Well, if you were Pharaoh you would get paid,” she wheedled, looking up at him with big dark eyes. (The kohl helped.) “Lots! Technically, the entire GDP of Ta-Resu-Meht would be yours to do with as you pleased.”

“And the conservatives would have me assassinated, because there was no sign from the gods at my birth, therefore I cannot be the God-chosen True Pharaoh,” he said sympathetically, patting her shoulder. “They stuck you with the pure black jackal apparition, not me, so I’m sorry, dear, you’re still it.”


“New bodyguards?” he added, glancing around at the male pilots in their sleek outfits. “What did you do with the last lot, traumatise them all again?”

Christy glanced around, confirming that there were no servants within eye- or ear-shot, and relaxed even further. “We got upgrades,” she snickered, and flicked a quick hand gesture towards her ears, eyeing Mernetefnut quizzically. He snorted.

“You know perfectly well this part of the Palace is swept twice daily,” he told her, eyebrows raised. “We’ve left a couple of bugs alone in the usual conference rooms, but your personal quarters are always clear. What’s up?”

Introductions and explanations were made, and the Vizier bowed respectfully. “Delighted to meet you all. For the duration of your bodyguard -- er -- ‘gig’, please bear in mind that although my family and I are aware of the circumstances surrounding our Pharaoh’s military service, the servants are not, and at least three of them report to various news services for extra cash. I will have you provided with maps of the palace this evening, both so you can familiarise yourselves with the layout and to mark the rooms where we leave listening devices alone. If the Theodorians can get something from here,” he shrugged, “they’re satisfied, and don’t try too hard to get anything else through security.”

Quatre and Wufei bowed back, Duo and Dan grinned, Trowa and Heero nodded, and Asuka glared. Mernetefnut eyed him a little warily.

“My,” he said, “you’ll be useful to scare the reporters off. *ahem* May I assume you’ll be staying in this evening?”

“You may,” Christy told him, stretching and yawning. “Damned if I’m going clubbing when I’m too tired to enjoy it. Dinner in the courtyard, I think. Will you and your family be joining us, Uncle-Cousin?”

“Delighted, my dear, and if we serve ourselves your friends can sit down to dinner with us without the servants getting suspicious.”

“Good. Too much bodyguard behaviour and Asuka’s gonna start shooting people who don’t deserve it. And speaking of people who probably do deserve shooting, what’s all this about the conservatives wanting to kick Mel out of the country? Do they think I’m so damn innocent I can’t form my own moral code without being warped by evil companions? I am an evil companion, damn it!”

“They think you’re pure,” the Vizier sighed, raising his voice to continue over a chorus of snorts and sniggers from the Firman pilots. “Above mortal concerns, and so forth. The Chosen of the Gods is historically supposed to be rather -- er -- unworldly.”

“Which would make me even less corruptible,” Christy argued.

“And would give you no reason to associate with low companions in any case, I know,” he agreed. “Begging your pardon, Hine,” he added, and Mel flipped her flowers in what looked like a casual benediction. “I do have to say, though, that your double has been doing an excellent job of keeping your reputation at the level you’ve established.”

“It’s what I pay her the big bucks for,” she told him cheerfully. “I hadn’t planned on her faking an affair with Steffan, though.”

“Well, I don’t think she did, either. He and his wife invited her for a holiday--”

“From the non-stop holiday her life is already, yes,” muttered Mel.

“--Sabrina had to head off to somewhere in Emerigo for one of those morale-boosting things they do all the time, which the Honcho got out of with the excuse that he had guests and couldn’t abandon them--”

“Sneaky, wot!” Jay approved.

“--and the tabloids rather pounced,” Mernetefnut shrugged, spreading his hands. “They’ve got to the point where she doesn’t even have to do anything for them to speculate.”

“Remind me again, Uncle-Cousin, how old do I have to be before I can pass laws allowing us to shoot the press?” Christy grumbled.

“Twenty-five, dear,” he said serenely.

“Well, fuck.”

End of Warped Mirrors
Chapter 24



Chapter 25  

Gundam Wing


















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