"I think it's definite, Lena," Mil said thoughtfully,
once Duo had finished filling him in on recent alternate-universe history.
"Both our counterparts are certifiable."
"At least yours isn't begging randomly selected young men to kill him," Lena pointed out, amused.
"No, but he still has a death wish. Sorry, Heero, but if I ever find myself fighting you I'll take every advantage I can get. I certainly won't handicap myself to give you a 'fair fight'!"
"Hn," Heero grunted, smirking faintly. "I don't have a problem with that idea."
"Just so long as you understand that we don't feel obligated to give you a fair fight, either," Duo added, grinning dangerously at Mil.
"Which is all kind of academic seeing as we're on the same side, guys," Christy said pointedly, rolling her eyes at Lena.
"Men," Lena agreed. "The testosterone kicks in and they start flexing their muscles automatically. Pathetic, isn't it?"
"Yeah... hormones have a lot to answer for," Christy growled half-seriously, glaring impartially at all of the male Gundam pilots.
"Just because you aren't getting laid, ma cherie, is no reason to get snippy at those of us who are," Dan leered, leaning against Asuka's hip.
"And we can just stop this line of conversation right now," Mil said quickly, "because, quite frankly, that was more than I needed to know, okay?"
"Whatever you say, Mil old bean," Jay chirped amiably, taking a break from scanning the base through her binoculars while making sonar 'ping' noises. "So, what brings you two down into this neck of the woods, anyway? Last we heard, you were up around Dai-Nippon and points south."
"Since when have you needed to ask?" Lena blinked, startled.
"Since I'm still shielding so I don't pick up the stuff Mil doesn't want to know about, eh wot. Christy and Mel get a bit creeped out when I start breathing heavily for no apparent reason in the middle of a conversation, don'tcherknow."
"Ahh. I see," Lena said dryly, ignoring her brother making quiet gagging noises behind her. "We're actually on our way down to reinforce Mahadet, before the Theos get their thumbs out of their collective asses and start pushing again. The OZ Alliance doesn't have a big enough force to spare-- at least, not in one place and ready to move-- so they asked nicely and waved money at us, and here we are."
"Not to mention that a lot of commanders don't want to stick their heads into the Mahadet meatgrinder," Mil said mildly, "so they're coming up with all sorts of creative reasons why they can't go. The Sanque Combined Forces... Boldly going where no-one else wants to. That's us!"
"It's getting us danger pay, brother mine, and we need the cash," Lena pointed out. "Mercenary work may not be exactly what our parents expected us to be doing, but it's keeping our subjects fed and armed."
"And it majorly pisses off the Theos," Mel grinned. "Have they tried to hire you again lately?"
"Twice," Mil drawled, sitting down on the roof parapet and brushing ineffectually at the drying paint on his pants. "Apparently, they didn't get the hint when Lena sent the last messenger back with 'When Hell Freezes Over' tattooed on his butt."
"I wanted Torovha to have to get mooned in order to read my note," the Queen of Sanque mused, grinning evilly and looking less like Relena than ever.
"...Excuse me, but I'd just like to make sure I have this straight," Quatre said slowly, ignoring the sniggers and catcalls that remark had prompted. "The Theodorians invaded your country, forcing you and most of your subjects into exile... and NOW they're trying to hire you to fight on their side?"
"Yep," Lena nodded. "Torovha figures mercenaries don't care about previous enmities, or anything like that, so long as the money is all right."
"We told you Torovha wasn't the brightest bulb in the box," Christy said cheerfully. "Not the sharpest tool in the shed."
"But he is still a tool," Mel snickered.
"Not the sharpest knife in the drawer!" Jay burbled gleefully. "Your turn, Asuka."
"Hn," the Glacin teen sneered. "He's thick. Why bother with euphemisms?"
"Because they're fun," Jay pouted, sounding rather hurt.
"It would be more fun to just shoot him," Asuka growled.
"If only it were that easy," Christy moaned.
"Want to try again?"
"He'd just dive behind one of his minions, like the last three times we went after him," she grumbled. "I'm getting sick of whacking the small fry."
"Well, this ought to cheer you up," Jay told her, ducking down so that her binoculars barely cleared the parapet. "Lieutenant Valeri at eleven o'clock!"
Christy snatched up her paint pistol and spun around to take aim, followed by Mel and Dan. "Mine!" she snarled, lining up the shot. "Don't even think about it, Mel!"
"Spoilsport," Mel sighed, putting the small paint grenade back in her pocket.
"So that's Lieutenant Stick-up-the-ass, huh?" Duo asked, peering through his borrowed rifle scope. "He looks like a prat."
"He is a prat," Christy smirked, lowering the pistol.
"DAMN IT, STEP-- TWO!" a voice bellowed.
"Score!" Dan cheered.
"Pink is not his colour," Duo 'tsk'ed, taking up the slack on his trigger. "Or orange, or purple." He squeezed off a shot, then smirked and lowered the rifle. "Green, on the other hand, goes quite well with his complexion."
"Not for long," Jay pointed out, "seeing as he's going red in the face..."
* * * * *
"So, what's our next move?" Duo asked a little nervously, limping slowly back from dinner between Heero and Wufei. "I mean, is there a next move we should be making, or..."
"You mean, do we move in together or something like that?" Wufei asked, and Duo nodded, blushing.
"I hadn't thought of that," Heero muttered, looking startled.
"I won't make the obvious comment," Wufei teased. "It would be far too easy... Hm. I honestly don't know, Duo. For one thing, it would involve moving at least some of the other pilots around, too."
"Trowa and Quatre seem happy enough sleeping in separate rooms and just making time to be together whenever they can fit it in," Heero mused. "And I don't know if Dan and Asuka want to be together when they aren't actually getting it on."
"For another thing, it really depends on what you want," Wufei went on gently, tightening the arm he had wound around Duo's waist to support him. "If you don't want to make that move yet, that's okay with us. If you do... well, great, and we'll probably work out whose room we take over according to who would argue the least."
"Dan would argue," Heero said definitely.
"So would Christy," Duo nodded. "I don't think she'd be happy about having to take down all her gun clips and remount them somewhere else."
"What about Mel?" Heero asked, glancing across to Wufei.
"I've only been on speaking terms with her for the past two days," the Chinese pilot retorted dryly. "I hardly think I'm qualified to make pronouncements on her preferences... that said, however, she might be our best bet. We'd probably have to bribe her, though, and she's perfectly capable of demanding something outrageous."
"Maybe we should just leave things the way they are for now, then, and see what happens?" Duo said tentatively, looking back and forth between his two new lovers. "If that's okay with you...?"
"Certainly," Wufei said easily, and Heero nodded. "So long as you're happy," Wing's pilot said gruffly, reaching out to squeeze Duo's hand.
"Thanks guys," Duo sighed gratefully, a quick look of relief appearing on his face for an instant as Wufei pushed open the door to the barracks and helped him through. "I mean, I don't want you to think I don't want to or anything, but--"
But you're still a bit unsure and nervous about taking the next step in this relationship, Wufei finished mentally, exchanging glances with Heero over Duo's head. "That's all right. We--"
A loud crash from the direction of the bedrooms cut him off, and all three of them jumped. Muffled swearing could be heard, and then a series of thumping noises.
"What the hell was that?" Heero said sharply.
"Christy's redecorating, or something," Asuka said in a bored voice from where he was draped over the most comfortable chair in the room.
Wufei scowled at him. "She still has one arm in a cast, and you aren't helping her?"
"My mistake," Wufei muttered, helping Duo towards the door to the bedrooms. "This is you we're talking about."
The swearing and banging noises were clearer once they were in the hallway. "Shit! Merde! Chyort! Blyad! Bugger!" There was one last loud crash, then a sort of twanging noise, and Christy's voice dropped to an annoyed-sounding mutter.
"Um... Christy?" Duo asked uncertainly, poking his head around the open door. "D'you need any... um... What are you doing to my bed?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Christy growled, hauling on a piece of wire and swearing under her breath as it slipped.
"It looks like you're wiring his bedframe to another bed," Heero said flatly, "but I can't work out why."
Christy glared at him for an instant, then went back to winding what looked like heavy-duty fence wire around the tops of the two bedheads. "General Pet did say he wanted us to room together by numbers, so we're stuck with each other as roommates for now," she said with exaggerated patience. "However, I said I didn't mind if you took over the room once in a while to play threesies in, and I meant it... but judging by how much of the Han Hero's tail was hanging over the edge of the bed last night, you'll end up damaging yourselves if you all try to fit onto one bed. Nice ass, by the way, Chang. Anyway," the Theran pilot continued, raising her voice slightly to be heard over the sputtering noises coming from Wufei, "until your new bed arrives, you'll just have to make do with two beds wired together and be careful of the gap between the matresses."
"New bed?" Duo said weakly, feeling rather steamrollered. "What new bed?"
"The one I ordered for you, of course."
"Can I help you with that?" Heero asked, apparently deciding that her current project was a good idea and should be assisted. "And it is very nice," he added in a whisper, patting the bit of Wufei in question as he stepped past him.
"Help, hell, you can do it," Christy said cheerfully, dropping the wire and bouncing off the bedframe. "I'll supervise. Stop blushing, Chang; it's actually a damn fine ass, and you're just going to have to get used to taking compliments gracefully."
Heero raised an eyebrow at her sudden mood change, but picked up the wire and set to work.
"Thanks, Christy... I think," Duo said dryly, limping across to sit next to her on her bed as Wufei (still blushing) went to help Heero. "And please stop embarrassing Wufei; he's not used to it."
"But he looks so cute when he squirms and goes pink like that!"
"Yes, but that doesn't mean you're allowed to cause it."
"And proud of it. Now lay off!"
"*sigh* Yes, Mort. ...Can I bug Heero, then?"
* * * * *
Two days passed without serious incident, as the new pair and trio cautiously started to feel their way into their changed relationships... sometimes literally, as Mel proved by walking in on Dan and Asuka no less than four times in various locations.
"I'm not even trying to find them!" she protested to an unsympathetic audience. "In fact, after the last couple of times, I'm trying not to find them," she added glumly, reaching up to dab cautiously at the purple bruise spreading across her forehead. "I knew Asuka had a mean streak when it comes to throwing things, but I wasn't expecting Dan to try to brain me with a wrench."
"Tell me where they are!" Jay almost begged. "I say, it's not fair that I can't find them no matter how hard I try, and you're getting an eyeful every hour, wot!"
"No," Mel insisted. "It's more than my life is worth. Unshield and scan for them, if you want to perv that badly!"
"Not bloody bad enough to risk Asuka's wrath, don'tcherknow. He'd get awfully nasty if he thought I was eavesdropping on his private plans for mass mayhem, or whatever it is that lurks deep in his heart of hearts."
"Right now, I'd say it's more likely to be... ah, never mind," Christy cut herself off, getting up. "I'm off to do some work on Hades, unless that's where the lovebirds are nesting...?"
"Not unless they've moved into the hangar since I disturbed them," Mel shrugged, feeling her bruise again. "Ouch. Have we got any ice?"
After kicking the hangar door a few times, Christy opened it slightly and yelled through the crack. "OI! Female pilot coming in! Anybody in there who's doing anything they don't want me to see has five seconds to get their pants back on and get out of sight!" She waited for a few breaths, humming tunelessly to herself, then kicked the door open and walked in.
"Hm," she muttered, looking around. "No sign of anything going on... either they weren't in here after all, or they're getting better at quick exits. I can't see Asuka passing up the opportunity to swear at me, though."
"Vhat the hell vas that about?" an ascerbic voice said from above her. "And vhat the hell have you been doing to my Hades? You've had nearly two veeks to be fixing this damage, vhy isn't it done?"
"Damage?! What damage?!" Christy yelped indignantly, looking up at the open hatch.
"The damage that looks like you hit yourself vith your own veapon, that's vhat damage!" the voice called back. "The damage I presume that Gundam did do?" A foam brick sailed out of Hades' cockpit and bounced off Deathscythe, standing opposite.
"...oh. That damage," Christy muttered, scowling. "Well... it's only a ding!" she yelled, waving her cast. "And Dot won't let me near the toolkit 'cause of this! I'm handicapped when my baby needs me, that's why!"
"And vhat's vith all these new modifications I'm finding?!" an unfamiliar voice was yelling as Duo let himself into the hangar through the door from the barracks. "Vhy aren't you sending me copies of your blueprints so I can take them into account vhen I design additions?!"
"I don't need you to design additions!" Christy's voice shouted back. "I can put in all the stuff I need myself!"
"Da, like you can do all of your maintenance yourself? If you vould just let the poor mechanics I train and send you anyvhere near this Gundam, my Hades vouldn't be sitting here vith a ding still in it!"
That's Petrenkovich's accent, or something similar, Duo thought, easing around Mel's Gundam to get a look at the argument without being seen himself. Sure as hell isn't Petrenkovich, though-- hey! Did he just throw a brick at my Deathscythe?!
"And vhat the bloody hell vere you doing, letting that substandard Hades clone ding you in the first place?!" roared whoever was in Hades's cockpit. An arm appeared for an instant, hurling another brick downwards, and Christy yelped as she dodged.
"Damn it, Prof, do you have to throw those stupid foam bricks at me, too?!"
"You vould prefer maybe real vuns?"
"You start using real bricks, and I'll start using real ammo!"
"Bah. I should have had that Mel as my pilot. She knows how to treat her scientist--"
"You've been listening to Olwyn when he's drunk again, haven't you?"
"--and she is not always blowing Taniwha up!"
"I only did it once!"
"Vunce, tvice, who's counting? She doesn't do it, vhich is good for the health of everyvun who cares about her."
"Fine! We'll switch, there! Olwyn likes me better anyway!"
"Vait a minute, you vould get rid of me?!" A messy-haired, long-nosed head popped out of the cockpit and stared downwards. "After all these years ve've depended on each other? After all ve've been through together? After all ve've been to each other? ...aah, never mind that part..."
"You know, Dyadya, you really shouldn't plan your arguments with your mistress before going to visit other people," Christy said, smiling up at him as he clambered out and swung down on the lift wire. "Your lines start leaking into other conversations."
...G?! Duo thought incredulously, leaning out of hiding for a better view. The man swinging down had looks that were less extreme than 'his' professor-- no scar, for one thing; the nose was shorter, the mushroom-hairdo smaller and messier, but it was still recognisably Professor G.
"Olvyn only says he likes you best to annoy his pilot, anyvay," he said gruffly, landing and holding out his arms for a hug. "Ve'd both be miserable if you svapped us."
"Awww... does that mean you still wuv me best, Dorogoy Dyadya?" Christy crooned in an exaggerated childish voice as she snuggled up, patting his back.
"Da, da, but don't spread it around," the Professor grumbled. "I have a reputation to keep down, you know."
"That's nice, Dyadya." Stepping back, Christy whacked him in the head with the foam brick he'd thrown at her earlier. "So much for abusing me because I hadn't fixed one tiny ding yet! Jeez!"
"Awk! All right, so maybe that vas a bit much, but I meant it about the blueprints and the mechanics, damn it!" Combing his fingers through his hair and leaving it messier than ever, Gredenko scowled up at Deathscythe. "So anyvay, just how crappy are these copy-cat suits? How much vork am I going to have to do on this hunk of junk to bring it up to our standards?"
"OI!" Duo snapped, seething. "My Deathscythe is not a hunk of junk, or crappy!" Limping around Taniwha's immense foot, he planted his hands on his hips and glared. "I put a bigger ding in that thing than it put in me--"
"--by five millimetres, big whoop," Christy muttered sullenly.
"--and I'll back any one of our Gundams against your ripoff models any day!"
"I see your equivalent is just as sneaky about gathering information as you are, milaya," Gredenko said, raising an eyebrow. "Perhaps vorking vith him vill be less of a chore than I thought..."
"Hoo boy," Christy sighed, stepping forward. "Smell that testosterone. Uncle, in case you haven't guessed, this is Duo Maxwell, pilot oh-two, owner of that non-crap assemblage of lethal weaponry. Mort, this is Professor Gredenko, my scientist and godfather, nearly as good a Gundam designer and mechanic as he thinks he is; he'll be your professor too, if he can keep from annoying you enough to kill him. Make nice, guys."
Before Duo could answer, the main hangar door banged open and Mel charged in. "Oi Christy! Batten down the hatches! I just heard that the Five Mad Mechanics are on their way!"
"Well, Mad Mechanic Number Two is already here," Christy told her calmly, squinting an eye as a foam brick ricocheted off her head.
"*aheh* So I see," Mel said, grinning lopsidedly as she brushed her disarranged bangs back into place and picked up the brick that Gredenko had hit her with. "I, ah, don't suppose the Austral Territories' Multicultural Posterboy has turned up yet?"
"You mean Ollie?" Christy asked. "Haven't seen him. Haven't heard him, either, which is the surprising part."
"Ah, good. I've still got time to reset the codes on Taniwha's hatches, then."
The door slammed open again before Mel had taken more than a couple of steps towards her Gundam, and Jay bolted through it, dragging Quatre. "Yoicks! Yikes! Flee for your lives, the Five Mad Mechanics are coming!
Jay skidded to a halt as she came face to face with Gredenko, and Quatre thudded into her back. Behind them, Trowa walked calmly through the door.
"Errrr... eek, the Four Mad Mechanics are coming, and hello nice Professor Gredenko?" Jay hazarded, eyes wide behind her smeared glasses. "Don't hit me, I'm harmless!"
Gredenko pulled yet another foam brick out from inside his lab coat, tossed it thoughtfully in his hand for a moment, then gently reached out and removed her glasses before beaning her with the ersatz construction material. "Harmless, my Tatar-tush," he growled, handing her glasses back. "I know perfectly vell vhat you're like, Jarvia."
"Erk! Not the name," she squeaked theatrically, clutching at her throat as she staggered back, still tugging Quatre by one hand. "Anything but the real name-- run for it Wonder Boy, it's every psychic for herself, wot!"
Mel shook her head pityingly as Jay bolted for Dyscalculia, leaving Quatre wobbling in the middle of the hangar with a confused look on his face. "Pathetic. You don't see me overreacting like that, do you?"
"Who was that yelling 'batten down the hatches', then, Mel?" Duo asked, starting to forget his annoyance as he watched the Firman pilots' antics.
"That was a perfectly rational response to the situation," Mel sniffed, sidling closer to Taniwha. "I didn't grovel when the Tatar Tyrant turned out to be here already." She was already ducking as the foam brick whizzed in, and it ricocheted off Taniwha's leg, bouncing back at an angle to whack Trowa in the back of the head as he walked past.
"Bank shot! Ten points!" Mel yelled, swinging upwards on her lift wire. She upset Gredenko's aim on his next shot by throwing the first brick he'd hit her with, and was inside Taniwha's cockpit with the hatch shut behind her before he could try again.
"Oh, Mel, that's cruel!" Christy said insincerely. "Spoiling his fun like that!"
< < You can stay out there and be his moving target if you want, > > Mel told her through the external speakers. < < Me, I'm reprogramming Taniwha's codes and setting the security system to 'puree'... > >
Asuka stalked in, dragging a roll of barbed wire behind him, and headed straight for Morkeleb with a nod in passing to Gredenko. "Hn."
"Good afternoon to you, too, molodoy cheloviek," Gredenko said, eyeing the roll of wire. "Somehow, I vas picturing you as more of a razor vire type of person."
"There isn't any," Asuka scowled, starting to unroll the wire into a circle around his Gundam. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?" he added, glaring darkly at Christy, then up at Taniwha.
< < I swear with my hand on my heart that I haven't seen any razor wire around here for weeks, > > Mel said sincerely, and Taniwha placed one hand on its armoured chest with a clang.
"...which is when we took it all out of stores and hid it," Christy muttered under her breath to Gredenko, very quietly. He nodded wisely, and changed the subject.
"And vhere is Dan? I vould have expected him here even before Mel," he asked, looking around. "And the other two counterparts?"
< < They don't know enough to tremble in fear when they find out you're here, > > Jay said cheerfully. < < Yet. > >
"Ah, vell, ve von't grade them then, this time." Gredenko shrugged.
"'Grade'?" Quatre asked curiously, then blushed. "I'm sorry, we haven't been introduced--"
"Bozhe moi, a polite Gundam pilot! Definitely from a different vorld," the professor said, blinking. "Professor Gredenko," he added, bowing slightly.
"I'm Quatre Winner, and this is Trowa Barton."
"Oh-four and oh-three, yes? A pleasure. You had a kvestion?"
< < As opposed to kvetching, which is what he gets from us, > > Mel snickered.
"Er, yes. What did you mean when you said 'grade'?"
"Vhen the pilots find out ve are coming before ve get here-- vhich is usually," Gredenko said matter-of-factly, "they do everything they can to keep us out of their Gundams. Ve hack our vay past their security systems, and grade them. Barbed vire and other such physical barriers don't really count," he added, jerking his head towards Asuka as the Glacin pilot added another layer to his spiky fence, "but Solmundsen has gotten used to carrying vire cutters and gloves, and it keeps him happy. So! Next time you vill know to lock up vhen you hear ve are on our vay."
"...I see," Quatre said blankly. "Perhaps we should fetch Heero and Wufei, and introduce them to you, too?"
< < Oh, please, > > Mel purred. < < Please do. I want to see the look on Mister Talkative's face when he meets Jamieson. > >
Christy shuddered. "Oh, that's frightening!"
"For whom?" Gredenko asked.
"Heero. From what little he's told us, his Doctor J sounds very different to our Doctor Jamieson. The accent alone ought to throw him for a loop..."
All the pilots had assembled in the hangar by the time the other scientists were expected to arrive. Dan had wandered in, slightly rumpled and with a silly grin on his face, and was the only one of the Firman pilots who didn't really seem to care that the Mad Mechanics were about to descend upon them. He did, however, seem rather disappointed that Asuka had locked himself into Morkeleb and was showing no signs of ever planning to come out of his barbed wire cocoon.
"I don't see what Christy thinks will be so shocking about meeting an alternate version of Dr. J," Heero muttered to Wufei. "Gredenko's not that different from G, and I'm used to the whole idea of counterparts now... well, sort of."
"Christy said something about an accent," Duo volunteered, leaning down from his perch on top of Deathscythe's foot.
"So? Gredenko has an accent, and it hasn't had that much of an effect on you," Heero shrugged.
"Not once I got my head around the way he looks, no," Duo admitted. "It was kind of freaky for a moment there, though."
"Worse than Lena and Mil?" Wufei raised one eyebrow. "You handled their appearance better than anyone else... except possibly Trowa, who didn't seem to react at all."
"Um... yes and no," Duo said thoughtfully. "It was easier to accept in some ways because he isn't an exact physical duplicate, but... somehow, the differences really rubbed in the fact that we're in an alternate universe, you know? It wasn't like seeing Dr. G with a nose job and a new haircut; it was somebody else, filling his space in this world, different enough for me to see him as a different person, but similar enough to be kind of creepy. Uh... am I making any sense here?"
Wufei nodded emphatically. "Yes... I see your point."
It's similar to why Mel had problems with my existence, he mused, shooting a glance across at Taniwha. She resented me because I was too much like her fiance, without actually being him. Similar enough to open old wounds, but unable to heal them...
I wonder how different this world's version of Master O is? he thought, suddenly uneasy.
Heero seemed to share his doubts. "I hadn't thought of that aspect, Duo, you're right... but how different can this J be?"
"Bloody hell, you're the stupidest wanker I've ever come across, Jamieson!" a deep Australian-accented voice bellowed outside. "That'll never work!"
"Och, yer just doubtin' me genius 'cause ye can't do the math in yer head like the rrrest of us, y'overgrown Austral import!" a second voice retorted in a heavy Scots burr. "Drink yer piss-weak beer an' shut yer gob!"
The door slammed open and the two arguing scientists walked in, ignoring everything around them as they shouted into each others' faces.
"Like you'd know a real beer if it bit ya!" the taller, bald man roared, jabbing one finger into Jamieson's chest and waving his bush hat with the other hand. It didn't really go with his flamboyant Hawaiian shirt, but did coordinate nicely with his khaki shorts and heavy walking boots.
"Aye, well, that's because I don't waste mah time on fizzy dishwater!" Jamieson sneered, flicking his long silver ponytail back over his shoulder. "It's the Water of Life that's a rrreal man's drink, Olwyn, as you'd know if y'ever trrried it!"
"Gods," Wufei whispered, staring wide-eyed.
"Fuck," Heero agreed, mesmerised by Jamieson's tartan golf pants.
End 'Warped Mirrors
 Dyadya- Uncle, Russian
 Dorogoy Dyadya- Uncle dear, Russian
 milaya- darling or sweetheart, Russian
 molodoy cheloviek- young man, Russian
 Bozhe moi- exclamation of surprise, Russian/Ukranian
This Web Page Created with PageBreeze Free HTML Editor / Web Hosting