'Can We Keep
Heero folded his arms and glared. "It's not called Dirt. It's Earth. And it is not boring."
"Of course not," Mel agreed, nodding. "You can grow things in it. Like beans, and kumara, and brussel sprouts... no, hang on, that is boring. Christy's right."
"And this is Duo Maxwell," Quatre said hurriedly, "pilot 02, from L2, with Gundam Deathscythe."
"Shinigami," Duo muttered automatically.
Just as automatically, the 'local' pilots turned to look at Christy and Mel. Christy shrugged. "Not one of mine, guys."
The other braided girl raised an eyebrow. "'God of Death'?"
"Hm..." Christy looked at Duo with new interest. "Since I'm the Lord of the Underworld, that makes you either my leasing agent or my assistant. This could be the start of a beautiful working relationship."
"Uh-oh," Mel muttered, then turned back to the L2 pilot. "Why Nipponese? You don't look Nipponese..."
"Neither does Heero, but that's what he says he is," Duo sighed, crossing his legs and planting his elbows on his knees, chin in hand. "Though on our world it's Japanese, or Nihonjin, or however you say it... I don't even speak much Japanese, to be honest. It just sounded cooler."
Dan blinked thoughtfully behind his glasses. "That's as good a reason as any."
"Says the man with the Gundam called 'Starthrasher'," Jay said sweetly.
"This from the woman who can't get a date," Dan countered.
Asuka pulled out a knife and started flipping it in the air, with an 'I'm-bored-and-I-want-everyone-to-realis
Trowa waved one hand. "03, L3, Trowa Barton, Heavyarms," he said calmly. "04, L4, Quatre Winner, Sandrock. 05, L5, Chang Wufei, Shenlong."
"Nataku," Wufei growled.
"Does everybody live in space colonies where you come from?" Jay asked curiously, accent disappearing completely from her voice for a moment.
"No," the Chinese boy said coldly, folding his arms.
Jay blinked. "I say, that's not very informative, old chap. Care to elaborate?"
"Jolly helpful of you, I don't think," she muttered. "Shall we finish up this little chat and head back to base? Asuka looks like he's going to throw that pointy implement at somebody any second now..."
Asuka threw the knife at Duo.
A split second later, the flurry of movement that action triggered off had stabilised. Heero's gun was out, pointed at Asuka. Christy's gun was out, pointed at Heero. Dan and Wufei both had a hand inside their shirts, presumably on their guns, but hadn't drawn them. Jay and Quatre hadn't moved. Trowa was watching the frozen tableau with calm interest, one hand tucked into the waistband of Quatre's slacks, so he could drag his lover with him if he had to jump out of the line of fire, and Mel had disappeared.
"Have we all finished, or am I going to have to haul out a weapon and start exerting myself?" her voice came from behind one of the Gundams' legs.
Duo blinked, wide-eyed, and slowly turned his head to see where the knife had gone; then he screeched 'SHIT!' and threw himself forward. A couple of inches behind where he had been sitting, the knife was stuck in the sandy ground, quivering... and impaling a large scorpion.
Ignoring the various weapons around the circle, Asuka sniffed and retrieved his knife.
"Everybody's getting a tad testy," Jay said, making soothing motions with her hands. "What say we formalise this cease-fire and relax a little, hmm? Nobody pulls guns, nobody shoots anybody else's Gundam out of the air, nobody hits anybody with a blunt instrument. Or a sharp instrument, either. Agreed?"
Heero tipped his gun up so that it was no longer pointed at Asuka; Christy shrugged and clicked the safety back on hers. Slowly everybody returned to their pre-alarm positions.
"I don't see any harm in agreeing to those, um, terms," Quatre said carefully, looking around at his teammates. "It's not as if you're OZ, after all."
"Ummmmm..." Jay seemed torn between amusement and embarrassment.
"If I may," Dan said, holding up one finger, "before we start shooting at each other again... what does 'OZ' mean to you?"
"'Organisation of the Zodiac'," Trowa said.
"You see, chaps," Jay put in, "over here 'OZ' means 'The Accords of Zakros'. Which is us. We're the good guys, honest."
"... so why isn't it 'AZ'?" Duo asked. "'Accords' doesn't start with 'O'."
"In Theran it does," Christy said. "'Omofoneea di Zakros'. See? Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to call General Petrenkovich and start persuading him to let you lot on the base. It's going to take a lot of arguing to get your Gundams past him, and I doubt you'd be willing to leave 'em out here," she continued, wobbling towards Hades on her rollerblades. "Good thing he trusts our judgement," she muttered.
"I can't imagine why," Heero growled under his breath. Christy flipped him off without turning around, and raised her wrist to her face.
"Hades! Lift wire," she snapped, grabbing it as it swung down to her.
"Waldo controls and voice-activation?" Duo muttered, watching.
"Not to mention security systems that can be set to 'puree'," Trowa added dryly.
Dan shrugged. "Christy's an engineering genius, and if you tell her I said so I'll make sure you regret it. We all have voice activated systems now, and one of these years she'll get around to finishing Starthrasher's waldo system."
Mel looked smug. "I put Taniwha's in years ago."
"Yes, well, she lets you look at her blueprints," Dan said sourly.
"Only some of them. I don't know what half the systems she's got in that thing are, and I don't want to find out. I found out about the security system by getting my behind filleted."
"'Years ago'? " Quatre asked incredulously. "How old are you? And how long have you had your Gundams?"
Jay sniffed disapprovingly. "It's not gentlemanly behaviour to ask a lady's age. But, I'll tell you anyway. Christy is 17, and she's been fighting in Hades for 5 years."
Wufei's eyes widened. "... You've been piloting since you were twelve?"
"Twelve, thirteen, fourteen... Christy's the youngest of us. I take it your war has been shorter than ours? Or didn't you get your Gundams until later?"
"Two years," Trowa said dryly. "We started it."
Jay applauded. "Oh, good show! Strike first and all that rot. The Theodorians started our little contretemps, and it took a little over three years before we got our Gundams going, but we've had a lot of practice since then. Now then, all aboard! It's a bit of a walk back to base..."
"Assiut Base, this is Two," Christy said, settling back in her chair and poking tentatively at the bruise blossoming across her forehead. "Ow. Put me through to Petrenkovich, find out why Cobras 6 and 7 let two hundred Theos inside the perimeter without warning, and tell Major Haddad he'd better have aspirin and coldpacks ready when we get in."
< < One moment, ma'am, > > a calm voice said. There was a short pause, then the communicator lit up again. < < Cobras 6 and 7 are not responding, ma'am; two squads have been dispatched to their positions. I have General Petrenkovich on the line, and Major Haddad says he always has aspirin and cold packs. Go ahead, please, sir. > >
< < Vhat you want to tell me, Two? The Theos have better ECM now? Ve didn't get a thing on scan until after ve started hearing explosions. > >
"Well, hello to you, too, Trei," Christy replied sarcastically. "This is actually kind of hard to explain. There were two groups of enemies. The first lot were the ones with improved ECM. The second lot were the ones with the explosions. Then the first lot turned out to not be enemies after all, even if Duo did ding my Hades. It was five guys in Gundams and we're bringing them home for dinner."
< < VHAT?! > > Petrenkovich bellowed. < < KAKAGO CHYORTA VI TAM DELAYETE?!-- > >
Christy blinked, scrunching back in her chair slightly as Petrenkovich continued ranting, seemingly without taking a breath; then she smirked, and flicked a switch to send the audio transmission to the other Gundams.
The other nine pilots all jumped, blinked or raised eyebrows at once.
< < Hn, > > Asuka sent, smirking. < < Petrenkovich isn't happy. > >
< < No duh, > > Mel sent back. < < He doesn't lapse into Theodorian unless he's got his knickers in a twist. I wish I knew more than a few words. I'm sure this conversation would expand my vocabulary... > >
< < Theodorian? > > Trowa sent. < < It's Russian... sort of. > >
< < I thought the Theodorians were who you are fighting, > > Quatre said, puzzled.
< < They are, > > Dan explained, < < but the language used to be spoken in several countries outside their border. They've expanded and swallowed them up, since... Petrenkovich is from Tatarstan. Nice people, but with a tendency to sing incredibly depressing songs and write three thousand page novels that boil down to 'Somebody killed somebody else, then there was a war. Everyone died'. > >
< < What do you expect from a country that's under fifteen feet of snow half the year, chaps? > > Jay sent.
< < Glacins, > > Asuka said pointedly.
< < Well, yes, but your novels tend to be about smoked fish and reindeer. > >
< < ... That's your General?! > > Duo muttered, listening to a particularly vitriolic-sounding sentence.
< < Tatars also traditionally have hot tempers, > > Dan admitted. < < Got to balance the sub-freezing temperatures with something, I guess. > >
< < Why bother? > > Asuka said boredly. < < Cold is fine. > >
< < He's usually a lot calmer than this though, > > Dan continued. < < Christy must've really sprung it on him... > >
< < Oh, guys? > > Christy sent. < < Lost boys? Fill us in on exactly how you got here, okay? I need more info to convince Pet. > >
As Petrenkovich's rant (eventually) wore down, Christy flipped the switch back to 'private'. "Are you finished, yet? Shall I continue? I mean, if you want more details..."
< < Gundams?! Five new Gundams?! Vhat the bleeding hell are those Theo bastiches doing vith Gundams?! > >
"They aren't Theos. Jay checked."
< < Then vhere did they come from? ABYSSINIA?! Under a ROCK?! > >
"No." Christy paused. "They're from the Twilight Zone."
There was an ominous silence on the other end of the link.
"Seriously, Trei, and I am not kidding you, so far as we can tell they're our equivalents from... another Firma. A different timeline, an alternate universe, call it whatever you like, they're not from here. This Duo kid has a Gundam called Shinigami that looks almost exactly like my Hades, right down to having a thermal scythe. There's a red and silver one that's just like Morkeleb. There'a a counterpart for each of our Gundams, and it's kind of creepy, okay? These guys never even heard of the Theos. They've been fighting their own war, against some group called the 'Organisation of the Zodiac'. It looks like the 'Appearance' legends are true after all."
< < ... it could be a trick. > >
"Why? If the Theos could build five Gundams, would they need this kind of trick? Besides, I told you, Jay checked. If these guys are Theos, they don't know it themselves."
< < Urrr... and she can tell if a person has been brainwashed, yes. > > Petrenkovich made a growling noise as he thought. < < Besides, I do not vish to believe those sukiny deti can get one Gundam built vithout us finding out. I vould like more concrete evidence though... > >
"Hold on a sec," Christy said, noticing a blinking light on her comms panel. Putting the general on 'hold', she accepted the other message.
< < Christy? You might want to get Petrenkovich to send a squad out to this location, > > Dan said, sending her a set of coordinates. < < Our visitors landed there and left three transport planes under camouflage nets. > >
"Thanks," she muttered, and switched calls. "Trei? I've got your concrete evidence. Send a squad to these coordinates," she said, sending them, "and you'll get three transport planes to pull apart. It might be interesting to check Theo channels and see what they've got to say about all this, too."
< < They know? > >
"About two hundred suits popped up while we were violently introducing ourselves to our new friends. Some got away."
< < Chyort. > >
"Live with it. A lot didn't even shoot; they just started running as soon as they saw us. I think we interrupted them while they were setting up for a sneak attack. And you might want to announce that we're coming in, or something, because we're going to be in view of the base in about ten minutes."
< < Da, da. I vill make announcement. I vill send that reporter voman off base, first. And I send squad to find the planes. Bring them in. Come straight to my office, all of you; I talk to you five first, then ve bring in 'dinner guests'. > >
"Gotcha. Two out." Christy cut the connection, then opened a channel to the other Gundams. "Hey, guys, good news. If you follow us home, we can keep you. Or at least, you won't get shot on sight."
As they continued on towards the base, swapping banter and insults over the comm, Mel's image vanished from the others' screens as she cut her link. Sitting back, one hand over her mouth, she brooded over the screens showing the newcomers' faces... showing Wufei's face.
Petrenkovich is letting them on to the base. That means they'll be staying for a while; he wouldn't let them near our support structure if he didn't plan to keep them close while he checks up on them.
At least his voice is different. He doesn't sound like Tzu...
I still don't want him around.
Digging into the pocket of her scruffy cutoffs, she pulled out three ancient Han coins. The cover plate from a wiring maintenance panel made an adequate tray, sitting across her knees; she stared narrowly at Wufei's face for a few moments, cupping the coins in her hands, then tossed them six times.
"K'uei, opposition, with the sixth line moving. Nine at the top means:'Isolated through opposition'," she murmured to herself, slowly putting the cover plate back. "'One's companion is seen at first as a filthy pig/ Then as a carriage full of ghosts./ One's bow is drawn against him,/ Then set aside./ He is not a robber'... Hmm." Her voice trailed off, and she returned to watching Wufei with a frown on her face.
The base was strangely underpopulated as they made their way to the hanger.
< < Looks like Petrenkovich dealt with the problem of what to tell people by sending almost everyone into the shelters, > > Dan mused. < < Nobody's running and screaming yet, so he must have told the rest something... I wonder how long it will take for the whole story to get out? > >
< < Bets? > > Asuka suggested.
< < One week, > > Christy said.
< < Far too conservative, old chap, > > Jay said, shaking her head. < < After all, 'Rumour runneth around the world while the Truth is crossing the street,' or something like that. Never did pay much attention to my Classics tutor... I'd give it half an hour before the insane rumours are all over the base, and two days at most before the truth-- or a reasonable facsimile-- is out. > >
< < Fine. Any other bets? > >
< < Four days, > > Dan said.
< < Three, > > Asuka shrugged. < < Mel? > >
< < What are you betting? > > Trowa inquired. < < And can we get in on it? > >
< < Standard betting pool is fifteen credits each, or the equivalent in national currency or trade goods. > > Jay informed him. < < If you've got something to bet, I don't see why not. The sergeants bet with us sometimes. > >
< < Our credits won't exactly be legal tender here, but we've all got Krugerrands or similar, > > Trowa said. < < Gold coins. > >
< < I'm happy to spend it, > > Asuka muttered.
< < I'll say five days, then... if we're betting on when all of the real story gets out, and not just bits of it. > >
< < Whatever the real story turns out to be, > > Duo grumbled. < < I'm still not sure myself... > >
< < Any more takers? > > Christy asked. < < ...No? Seventy-five credit pool, then. That's enough to go out drinking on. Asuka suggested the bet, so he holds the kitty, annnnd here we are at the hanger. It'll be a bit tight, but we can squeeze you guys in under cover. > > She chuckled. < < Slow down the rumour mill a little, make me more likely to win... > >
< < And it means the Theos will have to work harder for info, > > Dan pointed out.
< < True, but that's secondary, > > Christy sniffed.
A few heavily armed soldiers were standing around the corridors near General Petrenkovich's office, pointedly not staring at the newcomers or aiming weapons in their direction.
"As-salaam ahlaykum, Haddad," Christy said, pushing the door open. "I see the Goon Squad's been mobilized."
"We don't have a Goon Squad, Two," the short, dark major said disapprovingly, passing her a fizzing glass. "You know perfectly well all our soldiers have to pass an IQ test."
"How do you explain Valeri, then?" Mel asked.
"I don't. If your 'dinner guests' would be good enough to wait out here, the general and Madame Garnier are in his office. Go right in," Haddad said, offering chemical icepacks all around. Christy applied hers gently to her forehead, wincing; Jay laid hers against one shoulder; Asuka took two, tucked one into the waistband of his jeans and wrapped the other around his neck.
Christy handed the empty glass back. "Thanks," she sighed. "I think His Short Blondness over there could use one of those."
"You're a fine one to be calling people 'short'," Jay said sternly, looking down from her three inch height advantage.
"Well, he is."
Dan snickered. "He's taller than you and Asuka--"
"Which isn't saying much."
The inner door swung shut behind them. The other five Gundam pilots looked at each other, feeling slightly lost.
"Have a seat," Major Haddad said politely, holding a fizzing glass out to Quatre. "Painkillers? And would anyone like an icepack or two?"
"Thank you," Quatre moaned, taking the glass and chugging the contents before anyone could stop him. "I hope this works fast."
"Qautre!" Heero hissed angrily as Haddad moved away with the empty glass. "You shouldn't have done that! For all you know, he just drugged you!"
"I hope he did," Quatre muttered, tenderly rubbing his temples. "This is the worst headache I've had in my life. I hope I'm not going to get migraines every time Christy switches personalities."
"I know what you meant!" Quatre snapped, glaring back, then lowered his voice again. "We've got to trust them sooner or later, Heero. We agreed to come to their base--"
"We didn't exactly have a choice," Wufei pointed out. "Where else were we to go?"
"Exactly! We're going to have to eat, drink and live here for a while; if they really want to drug us, it won't be hard. But I don't think they will," Quatre insisted. "I--er--" He blushed slightly. "I'm not getting any 'bad feelings' from anyone. Suspicion and caution, yes, but not duplicity or aggression."
"... You don't usually trust your 'feelings'," Heero said slowly.
"I don't usually have them this strongly," Quatre muttered, "and I also don't usually get them about people I've never met before. I think... since we went through whatever that was in the Triangle, they've gotten stronger."
"Great," Duo mumbled, glowering. "We go through the Bermuda Triangle and nearly get killed, we end up in the Twilight Zone and now Quatre's turning into Super Empath." He held up an admonishing finger as Heero opened his mouth again. "Ah! ah! ah! You did say you were going to trust our 'feelings' now! You might not have used exactly those words, but it's what you meant!"
Heero closed his mouth.
"What are your feelings on trusting our hosts, Duo?" Trowa asked, surreptitiously rubbing Quatre's back.
"Mine? I don't have any." Duo smirked. "I guess my 'feelings' only work for world-shattering events like GOING THROUGH THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE!"
On the other side of the room, Major Haddad raised his head, then looked back down at his paperwork as the other four pilots hushed Duo. "You're never going to let us live that down, are you?" Trowa whispered.
"No," Duo agreed, trembling slightly with stress and tension. "Why should I?"
"The Major had a point," Wufei said abruptly, putting one arm around Duo's shoulders and turning him towards the squashy looking visitors' sofas. "Let's sit down and discuss our options... quietly."
"So, tell me a story and make it a good vun," Petrenkovich growled. "None of that 'vunce upon a time' govno, though."
Dan 'erk'ed slightly and closed his mouth.
"They're from this planet, but not this world," Asuka said bluntly, folding his arms and leaning against the wall. "They were travelling through a region famed for mysterious disappearances when all their instruments failed briefly. They continued on with their mission, which was the destruction of an enemy factory at this location, and found us instead. They're confused. Can I go have dinner now?"
Everyone stared at him.
"If you keep looking at me like that, I'll take it as an invitation to practice jujitsu on your necks."
Everybody looked away.
Jay piped up, all trace of her fake Albion accent gone. "They have absolutely no knowledge of our OZ or the Theodorian Empire. They have very clear, detailed memories of colonies in space, a very different OZ that has taken over their own planet-- a military junta, not a multinational alliance-- and their own war, which has lasted only two years. They have not been brainwashed or conditioned in any way that I can detect, except for 01, who has received some interesting training intended to strengthen his resistance to drugs and torture, and 05, who has studied a variety of mental disciplines and meditation techniques. They're 'Appearances', not spies."
"So, they are not enemies, but also not allies," Petrenkovich said slowly, glancing at Madame Garnier. "Gut feelings, people; vhat are ve to do vith them?"
"As you say, they aren't enemies," Madame Garnier began, raising an elegant eyebrow and shrugging. "If they're willing to work with us, we'd be fools not to let them... especially since the alternative is to lock them up. If they're anything like our pilots, it wouldn't work."
"Can we really afford to pass up five more Gundams if they'll agree to work with us? I say keep them if we can... just watch them for a while, to be safe."
"At the rate the Theodorians are turning out mobile suits, we need whatever advantage we can get. Keep them."
Asuka smirked. "They'll be useful, even if it's only as cannon fodder."
Petrenkovich rolled his eyes. "Four?"
Jay's eyes glittered with veiled amusement behind her glasses. "If we agree to help them look for a way home, I believe they'll agree to fight beside us... though I anticipate there will be some initial difficulties until they've sorted out a few personality differences. I say keep them."
Mel opened her mouth, then shut it, looking away. One hand fidgeted with an old coin. "Keep them, I guess," she muttered.
"You have a problem?"
A wry smile twisted her mouth. "Would it matter if I did? The vote's in their favour."
"If you have a problem, I vant to hear it," Petrenkovich insisted, scowling. "It could be something that should be considered."
She waved a hand dismissively. "No. No. I don't doubt what Jay says, I don't have reservations about their ability or their trustworthiness; it's a private problem. Call it a minor personality conflict and let it go, okay?"
"...Very well, then. But if it looks like it vill become public problem, I expect you to bring it to me."
"Of course," she sighed, scrunching down in her chair.
"Does anyvun else have more to say before they come in?" the general asked, looking around.
"Can we just get it over with? I'm hungry," Asuka grumbled. Lying back in her chair with the icepack balanced on her forehead, Christy flapped her hand in a 'go-ahead' sort of gesture. Jay and Dan shook their heads.
"Send them in, Haddad," Petrenkovich growled into the intercom, then leaned back and lit one of his cheroots. "I svear, this job gives me ulcers even vhen the Theos are being kviet," he sighed, blowing a cloud of smoke at the ceiling.
"It's your own fault for volunteering," Christy muttered from under her icepack.
"Huh," he snorted. "Vith your help, I point out."
A second after Duo walked in the office, he wished the other set of pilots hadn't insisted on the newcomers leaving all of their weapons in their Gundams.
"Oh, fuck," he groaned. "All this and now the Psycho Bitch from Hell? Somebody up there really hates me..."
The woman he was staring at, sitting next to the desk, raised an eyebrow, blinking behind her severe glasses. "I beg your pardon, young man, but I don't believe we've been introduced... and, I might add, I do not believe I fit your unflattering description. You'd be better advised to address Pilot Two in that manner," she added dryly. "She might take it as a compliment."
Heero laid a careful hand on Duo's shoulder, eyes flicking between the woman and the desk. "I don't think she's exactly Une, Duo," he said quietly. "She doesn't sound right, and she's definitely not acting right."
"And Treize Kushrenada doesn't smoke," Trowa pointed out. His hand was on Wufei's shoulder; the Chinese boy was positively vibrating with rage, but he blinked and slowly straightened up, unclenching his fists.
"No," he agreed, voice strained. "Especially not cheroots. And I believe he'd rather die than be seen in crumpled camouflage fatigues."
The man behind the desk raised one forked eyebrow and ran a hand through his rumpled ginger hair. "Kushrenada? My mother's maiden name vas Kushrenada," he said in a deep, Russian-accented voice. "You have a problem vith my uniform? Ve are having a var, you know."
Jay snickered, eyes sparkling, as she watched the previously mentioned difficulties with personality differences unfold.
End 'Warped Mirrors'
Since we're trying to be sort of "realistic" here, we're attempting the "native" languages of the characters. We're using friends, dictionaries, novels, etc, so if things aren't exactly correct, be gentle... and remember! Most of the "native" languages are blends of others. (ex: Theran: blend of Greek and Italian, Quabalic: mix of the various "Arabic" languages) So that could account for inconsistencies.
 Omofoneea di Zakros: Greek, sort of.(di is Italian) Theran is a blend of Greek and Italian. **For Russian, Greek and Arabic words, we're pretty much spelling phonetically, as different dialects etc, get translated into romanized letters differently by different people. Be nice.
 What the hell are you doing?!
 sukiny deti: Russian for sons of bitches.
 Chyort: Ukranian. Equivalent of bugger.
 Da: Russian for yes.
 As-salaam ahlaykum; Arabic for hello.
 govno: Russian for shit .
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