Special thanks to our Russian translator, Annie.
Still leaning back in her chair with the icepack draped across her forehead and eyes, Christy waved one hand vaguely at the 'new' Gundam pilots and then at the desk. "General, Madame, meet the Lost Boys. Boys, that's General Trei Petrenkovich, our glorious leader and ringmaster. He runs this freak show. We let him, because we can't be bothered doing it ourselves. Sitting next to him," she waved again, ten degrees to the left, "is the lovely Madame Une Garnier, his adjutant, assistant and our Mother Hen. Play nice."
"I gather they resemble people you don't like?" Mel asked Duo.
"That's putting it mildly," he said, still tense. "In our reality, she's the Psycho Bitch from Hell and he's a megalomaniac jerk with some very odd social theories."
Madame Garnier raised an eyebrow and sighed faintly. "I do wish you'd stop calling me that, but if you're anything like our pilots the wish is probably futile. Four," she went on sternly, looking at Jay, "you could have been more specific when you said our visitors would have 'difficulties with personality differences'."
"Yes, I could," Jay said cheerfully, "but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun."
"I always knew you were a closet sadist, Jay," Dan muttered under his breath. Jay just winked at him.
Madame Garnier did look like Lady Une, and General Petrenkovich did look like Treize Kushrenada. Treize Kushrenada, however, would not have been wearing crumpled camouflage fatigues with the sleeves rolled up and the neck unbuttoned; nor would he have been leaning casually on one elbow, smoking a thin black cheroot and making his tousled hair messier by running his free hand through it. Likewise, Lady Une might occasionally wear a neat civilian suit, but only when she was in 'nice Une' mode with her hair down and no glasses. This Une was wearing glasses and had her hair in a neat French twist, a style the 'visiting' Gundam pilots had never seen 'their' Une wear.
"I think that I begin to understand," the General said in a surprisingly deep voice, "but I have to tell you, I have never met anyvun in this vorld who looks like any of you five."
"Actually, that fits quite nicely with the 'Appearance' stories," Jay said seriously, pushing her slipping glasses back up her nose. "According to data I downloaded on the way back to base, all the previous 'Appearances' met people they seemed to recognise as people from their previous lives, but none of them had look-alike counterparts of their own. Following on from this, the current theory--"
"--among the ranks of nutters who take things like 'Appearances', UFOs, and ghosts seriously--" Dan muttered.
"--is that most people have equivalents in parallel worlds, but a few don't," Jay continued severely, glaring at him. "Only those who don't have equivalents can pass from one world to another through weak spots in the space-time continuum. And might I remind you, Martel, that we have living proof of the 'Appearance' stories right here?"
"Yes," he said, unrepentantly, "but the people who believe in them without proof are still nutters."
"You may have a point," she murmured, looking thoughtful.
"Does that mean this world has a Relena, too?" Duo said, looking horrified; Heero flinched.
Christy snickered. "Girl trouble?" she asked, lifting one corner of her icepack to look over at them.
"I'm not sure whether to hope she doesn't have an equivalent," Heero muttered, "or hope that she does, so that the genuine article can't possibly turn up."
"Why would Relena go to the Bermuda Triangle?" Quatre asked reasonably.
"Looking for Heero," Trowa replied, just as reasonably.
"I feel your pain," Christy told Heero, and dropped the icepack back over her eyes. Asuka snickered.
"Isn't it about time for Sergei to show up again?" Mel asked innocently, examining her fingernails.
"I'd say he's overdue," Asuka said. "Are you going to let me shoot him this time?"
"I told you, I'm considering it," Christy said, "but if anyone shoots him, it's probably going to be me."
Trei raised one eyebrow, blowing a smoke ring. "Christina, you vouldn't really shoot my cousin, vould you?" He didn't sound particularly worried.
"Like I told Asuka, I'm considering it," she growled. "Now, can we get off the subject of my stalker? Maybe we could let Jay finish?"
"Oh, I've finished," Jay assured her. "There wasn't really much that would be of immediate use to us. Lots of different versions of exactly what came through in each 'Appearance', stuff like that--"
"When you say 'Appearances', what exactly do you mean?" Wufei interrupted.
"Well, apparently, your world has a history of disappearances in this 'Bermuda Triangle' of yours," she said earnestly. "Our world has a history of 'appearances'. People turn up. Usually they're alone and on foot, but occasionally we get vehicles. No land vehicles, though... that's interesting now I come to think of it... lots of boats and quite a few planes, and traditionally the planes fly in off the sea. Hm..." She blinked thoughtfully, muttering to herself.
"I should point out that most sane people regard these stories as either hoaxes, legends with no basis in fact or an interesting form of insanity," Dan put in cheerfully. "There haven't been any in the last 50 or 60 years."
"They are very well documented, however, and a lot of the earlier 'Appearances' are supposed to have arrived in vehicles that were significantly more technologically advanced than anything our world could produce at the time," Jay countered, snapping out of her reverie. "Several of them have been preserved in museums, even if they are widely regarded as fakes. Some of the people had books with them, or useful knowledge of one sort or another, and you have to admit that our sciences have tended to develop-- er-- irregularly. One field of knowledge takes a sudden leap forwards while the rest scramble to catch up, and most of those jumps have been attributed to 'Appearances'. Amelia Earhardt's plane started aviation here, and later on the Avengers from Flight 19 advanced it. Before that, the crew of the Marie Celeste introduced some serious improvements in shipbuilding, though they didn't actually bring their ship with them--"
Duo sat down suddenly. "I told you so," he sing-songed at the other pilots. "I did..."
"I say, are you feeling all right, old chap?" Jay asked, fake accent back with a vengeance as she peered short-sightedly at him over her glasses. "You've gone an interesting shade of chartreuse, and while the colour is most fetching, don't'cha know, I don't think it's supposed to appear on people's faces."
"Oh, I'm fine," Duo said, a little light-headedly. "I've just had what I've been saying all along confirmed... look, don't prospective Gundam pilots have to have eye exams in your dimension?!"
"They're just plain glass, really," she said earnestly, "but I think I look terribly intelligent, wouldn't you say?"
Duo just looked at her, eyes wide.
As the silence seemed to stretch out, she wrinkled her nose and glanced around, looking peeved. "All right, so my accent isn't quite genuine and my glasses are blanks, but I bloody guarantee that there's not an ounce of silicone in my--"
"TOO MUCH INFORMATION!" Duo yelled, clamping his hands over his ears. "I'm sorry I asked! They look fine, really!"
"Which?" Asuka asked. "The glasses or her tits?"
"That's my line!" Dan protested. "I was going to say that!"
Christy groaned. "Yaa ilaahee, can we get on with it? My icepack is getting warm, and it's almost time for evening prayers."
"That was Arabic," Quatre said, surprised, "and you spoke Arabic before, to the major. Are you Muslim?"
"Huh?" she said, sounding confused. "Arabic? That was Quabalic. And I'm not Muslim."
"But... you said 'evening prayers'..."
"What have evening prayers have to do with being Muslim? Lots of religions have evening prayers. I don't really have a concrete religion," she said, dropping the icepack on the floor and sitting up. "I mostly follow the Hellenistic pantheon, with some aspects of Memphic theology added."
Asuka rolled his eyes. "You mean you 'worship' Hades and Anubis, and once in a blue moon Osiris as well."
Christy sniffed. "Whatever, it's my business. 'Evening prayers' is just an attempt to get out of here. I'm tired. I'm sore. I'm dirty. I'm hungry. And I'll start whining soon... or shooting things. I haven't decided which yet."
Petrenkovich had been watching all of this with one hand propping up his chin, with a faintly long-suffering expression on his face; now he stubbed out his cheroot and clapped his hands together. "Horosho! Ve are at least agreed that Garnier and I are not the people you hate, yes? You can be around us vithout leaping for our throats, molodoy cheloviek," he said, looking pointedly at Wufei; the Chinese teen flushed slightly and nodded. "Velikolepno!. This is a reasonable beginning. Perhaps--" He broke off and glared at his intercom as it beeped. "VHAT?!"
< < The first reports are in, General, > > Major Haddad's unruffled voice said. < < Would you like them now? > >
"Da, da, bring them in," he said, brightening. "Maybe now ve get a little further than a beginning!"
"We may never get out of here," Dan muttered; Christy groaned and slid back down in her chair.
It only took Petrenkovich a minute to scan the half-dozen sheets of printout Major Haddad brought in; he snorted a couple of times, then dropped them onto his desk and tapped his finger on them. "Vell, according to vhat our intel section has picked up, the damn Theo bastiches are panicking about you," he said with some satisfaction. "This of course confirms vhat Four has already said; you aren't Theos. Ve have also preliminary reports on your planes, saying they are not any commercial or military model known. Ve-ry good," he growled, absent-mindedly picking up another cheroot and biting the end of it. "So! Ve offer you hospitality and ask you to fight vith us. Ve could use five more Gundams." As the five 'visitors' exchanged wary glances, he waved one hand at them, patting his pockets with the other. "You don't have to give me answer right away," he said indistinctly, pulling out his lighter and puffing the cheroot into life. "Ve give you access to historical databases so you can have facts to make up your minds. You go avay, think, and tell me later. I suggest Vun room vith Vun, Two vith Two, and so on. Now go avay before Two and Three start putting holes in my nice office!"
"We'll also put our scientists onto the problem of how you got here and you might get home," Madame Garnier called after them as the local pilots all bolted for the door, sweeping the foreigners with them. "We don't have a 'Disappearances' area in this reality..."
"Food," Asuka muttered, heading for the door into the corridor, then halted for a moment and swung around to point at Trowa. "You can stay in my room, but don't bug me," he said coldly. "Messing with my knives or guns will really bug me. Got that?"
"Same goes for my knives," Trowa said calmly.
"Fair enough," the Glacin teenager nodded, and vanished out the door.
"Maah as-salaama, Haddad," Christy muttered as she ran past; Quatre echoed it with a polite bow as Jay towed him out, chortling something about pyjama parties.
"Actually, chaps, if we're going to have a pyjama party, we'll have to get the Lost Boys pyjamas first," Jay said, frowning. "Can't have a pyjama party if half the participants don't have pyjamas."
"What about Asuka?" Dan asked, pushing a piece of bread around his plate to collect the last smear of gravy. "He doesn't have pyjamas."
"Really? Oh, that's right, he sleeps in the nude. Fudge."
"And how do you know he sleeps in the nude?" Christy asked, leering half-heartedly. "Ow. Stupid bruise..."
"Because he walks through the common room without putting anything on, as you know perfectly well," Jay sniffed. "You're getting a black eye, you know."
"It isn't the first and won't be the last," Christy grumbled. "And if you're going to hold this party, I don't volunteer for 'getting Asuka into pyjamas' duty."
"Christy doesn't have pyjamas, either," Mel pointed out. "Neither do I. In fact, I think you're the only person who wears them, Jay."
"Well, I'll have to get them for all of you, then!" Jay said stubbornly.
"Why not just declare that anyone attending the party is deemed to be wearing pyjamas, and let it go at that?" Dan asked.
"That would be cheating."
"Asuka," Mel said, sounding bored, "if Jay got you cute fuzzy pyjamas, would you wear them to her party?"
Asuka slowly turned his head and narrowed his eyes.
"I think we're gonna cheat," Mel said calmly.
Jay pouted until Quatre raised a tentative finger from his seat, next to her. "I've got pyjamas," he said sheepishly.
"Yay!" Jay threw her arms around his neck and hugged him enthusiastically. "I'm glad we kept you! I'm gonna hug you, and squeeze you, and wuv you, and subjugate you to my every whim, and call you Luke!"
"Er... why Luke?" Dan asked, leaning away and watching Quatre's eyes bulge. "I thought that little spiel ended with 'George'?"
"Because the Force is strong in this one," the Vaterean girl informed him, dropping her voice an octave.
Christy groaned. "Jay? You might want to talk to his lover, there," she said, pointing at Trowa. "He might not agree to your proposal. I think he wants to hug him and love him and all that. I don't think he's going to share."
"Really? Oh, that's right... that's why you two wouldn't date me," Jay sighed, reluctantly letting go. "Same as Pretty Blue-Eyes over there. I don't think Nasty Blue Eyes and the Han Hero gave reasons why not, though..."
"How much sugar did Jay have in her coffee this time?" Mel asked loudly, almost drowning Jay out as the other girl turned to Duo and said, "So, which one are you going to pick? Or is it both? I think they'd be willing to share..."
"Dinner's over!" Christy announced, bouncing to her feet and yanking Duo to his. "C'mon, Lost Boys, let's get you to the barracks and set up. Your beds should have been delivered by now."
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you," Duo whispered as he followed her out. Behind them, Jay was protesting that she'd only had two teaspoons of sugar, and Asuka was pointing out that it had been in five cups of espresso.
As the motley group made their way over to the hangar-and-barracks building, Christy paused and backed up a couple of steps, peering over towards the area of the base that was taken up by landing pads and runways. "You guys go ahead," she said slowly, trying to make out what was happening there, half-hidden by the intervening buildings. "I want to go check something out."
"Maybe you just don't want to haul beds around," Asuka called after her as she jogged off into the dusk.
The beds were there, and one by one they were dragged into the rooms. Dan's room was first, simply because it was closest to the lounge. "I hope you don't snore," he told Heero, kicking his door open and dragging the mattress in; Heero and Trowa followed with the bed frame.
"Nobody's ever accused me of it," Heero replied, flicking a quick glance around. It was neat enough, apart from an unmade bed and several stacks of books on the small desk... with two or three handguns visible between them.
"Well, in that case, either you don't snore or everyone who's ever heard you was too polite to tell you," Dan said cheerfully, heaving the mattress onto the frame and dusting his hands together. "I'm not particularly polite, however, so now you'll find out for sure!"
"I'm not polite, either," the Japanese teen growled, eyes narrowing slightly.
Trowa paused on his way out and glanced back over his shoulder. "Maybe we can get you both tennis balls. You won't have any problems with snoring then."
Distracted from the potential glaring contest, they swivelled to look at him. "Tennis balls?" Heero asked, puzzled.
"How do they stop snoring?" Dan frowned.
"You throw them at the person who's doing it, of course," Trowa said (with a slight smirk), and walked out. "Next room."
-- -- --
"Should we leave this until Christy gets back?" Dan asked, eyeing her door uncertainly.
"Nah, she doesn't booby-trap her room," Mel said, carrying an armful of sheets. "Just her Gundam."
"Fine. You open the door," he said firmly, crossing his arms.
Rolling her eyes in mild exasperation, Mel reached past him, twisted the handle and pushed. The door swung inwards silently on well-oiled hinges.
After about thirty seconds, when nothing had blown up or gone 'click', Dan cautiously poked his head in and checked for tripwires and pressure plates. There weren't any.
"Told you so," Mel muttered, and pushed him out of the way so Wufei could get past with his end of the bedframe.
As he walked in carrying the other end, Duo's eyes widened. "Cool..." The wall above Christy's bed (also unmade, and with a pistol sticking out from under the pillow) had numerous mounting clips screwed onto it. Most of them were full, holding pistols, sniper rifles, and spare ammunition in clips and belts.
"Erk! I say, chaps, a spare hand wouldn't go amiss, what?" Jay puffed, backing in the door dragging a mattress. "Bulk haulage isn't really my forte, don't'cha know. I'm more the cerebral type."
As Wufei went to take over, Duo stayed where he was, examining the sleek weapons with an experienced eye. None of them were quite what he was used to, but they all looked undeniably deadly.
"Why have two of each?" he murmured.
"Eh? What's that?"
"Why does she have two of each?" he repeated, a little louder.
"Well, the ones on the left are her work models," Jay said, coming to stand next to him. "The ones on the right, with the bright bands of colour painted on them, are her practice models."
"What's the difference?"
"She's allowed to shoot the cadets with the practice models. Paint guns," Jay explained, polishing her glasses on her bathrobe and squinting at him with a friendly smile. "Every once in a while, good old Trei declares a 'free fire day' on base, and we run amuck with paintball versions of our usual weapons. Lieutenant Valeri gets absolutely creamed every time," she said reminiscently, dropping the accent for a moment. "Christy's the only one of us who's gone to the trouble of having copies of all her guns made, specially designed to have the same ballistic characteristics as the real ones."
A slow grin spread over Duo's face. "And how often are these 'free fire days' announced?"
"Oh, at least once a month. Great fun, don'tcha know." Finished redistributing the smudges, she put her glasses back on and smiled impishly at him. "You see? There's at least one thing about this dimension you like."
-- -- --
Asuka's room was, predictably, pathologically neat and had no personal touches. By the time anyone else had thought about moving Trowa's bed in, the Glacin teen had already hauled it in single-handedly, dumped a pillow and bed linen on the mattress, and stalked off to the shower.
"Asuka is such an efficient boy," Mel muttered, peering in. "Jay! Your room's next!"
"Well, sling the bally old thing in there, then!"
"You have to get all of your stuff out of the way, first."
"Ah! Er. Right."
"Stuff?" Quatre asked weakly, clutching his pillow to his chest.
"Jay's room is usually decorated in a tasteful post-apocalyptic style," Mel said dryly, watching Jay scuttle off. "It looks like a bomb hit it. She always knows where everything is, however, and it's always clean. It's a very organised mess."
Five minutes later, Jay stuck her head out of her door. "Olly-olly-oxen-free!" she carolled, slightly breathless. "All done! Ready to receive boarders."
"As opposed to 'prepare to repel boarders'?" Dan asked, grinning.
"Well, yes. Y'see, the unwelcome type get repelled, while the welcome type get... ah... welcomed..."
On one side of a ruler straight line down the room's center, there was nothing. On the other side, neat piles of books and scattered articles of clothing made the floor an obstacle course. Her bed was made, however, and the pair of shotels mounted on the wall above it had been polished to mirror brightness.
"They were my father's," Jay said from behind Quatre as he gazed at them, her voice perfectly calm and even. The blond boy had a moment of awareness, feeling the bright swirl of fractured images spin to a halt for a moment, pausing as if in respect as an old, sharp pain made itself felt; then it was gone, and when he turned around Jay was smiling. "I say, this is going to be fun!"
"For you, maybe," Wufei muttered, giving the mattress a vicious yank to pull it straight. When he stood up and turned around, Mel was standing behind him with an armful of linen, smiling blandly.
"Jay always looks on the bright side," she said quietly, "and it looks like Quatre will be a good roommate for her. Myself, I'm not particularly overjoyed about living with someone who occasionally seems to have borrowed the stick from up Valeri's ass."
He gaped at her for a second; then an angry flush spread over his cheekbones, and he drew breath to snarl something back.
"I Ching, hexagram 56," she said, cutting him off. "Lu; the wanderer. The fourth line, unbroken, means: The wanderer rests in a shelter./ He obtains property, and tools./ My heart is not glad!" She dumped the linen onto Quatre's bed and stalked out.
"Oo-er," Jay said uncertainly, looking after her.
"Ummm... is she always like that?" Quatre asked. "She feels... odd," he added, rubbing at his chest.
"Noooo, this is very unusual. Something's really ticked her off."
"Probably just having to share her room," Dan suggested, looking in from the hall.
"She shared a room with Asuka once," Jay said. "They didn't kill each other. That can't be it."
"Can't you find out?" Quatre asked, making a vague twiddling gesture next to his temple. "You got a lot from us."
"I've got an agreement with my teammates," she informed him. "I don't read any deeper than surface thoughts, and I don't read Asuka at all, and they don't kill me. It seems fair enough. Whatever the problem is, she's doing a bloody good job of not thinking about it."
A thumping noise from down the corridor attracted their attention and they looked out just in time to see Mel go past, walking sideways with her arms straining as she carried Wufei's bedframe by herself. Wufei snarled something under his breath and stalked out, turning the other way and heading for the common room; having nothing else to do, the other three trailed after him.
As they emerged from the hall, Christy barrelled in from outside and ran for her room, emerging with a pair of jeans, boots, and two shoulder holsters. One already had a gun in it; she yanked out the gun that was tucked inside her boxer shorts, dropping the spine holster on a chair, and fitted it into the other one.
"There's an evac mission on," she said, hopping on one leg as she tugged the jeans on. "Serious firefight to the south, around Mahadet; they're sending in choppers for the wounded, but it's a hot landing zone and one of the Firehawks on escort duty is missing its gun crew. They're on twelve hour furlough and nobody can find 'em. I'm going."
"And we're supposed to cover for you? Again?" Asuka said flatly, drying his hair as he came into the room.
"It's not like Petrenkovich can say I'm leaving us under strength," she smirked, waving at the five newcomers as she headed for a row of large lockers.
"Not to rain on your parade, chum, but don't Firehawks take two door gunners?" Jay drawled. "You're ambidextrous, but it's still a bit much."
"I know," Christy said, yanking two long, padded vests out of a locker; she threw one at Duo, who caught it automatically. "Well, Mort? You in? You look like you could use the stress relief, and we Twos have got to stick together."
"NO!" Wufei roared, and Heero was just as determined that is was a bad idea. "We haven't even decided whether we're helping them or not!" he snarled.
Christy shrugged. "Well, it's up to him. Somebody's got to go though; if they don't have enough support, the rescue choppers'll be blown out of the air."
Duo considered for maybe two seconds, looking down at the vest in his hands; then he nodded, and grabbed the second gun. "I'm in. See ya, guys."
And they were out of the building before anyone could stop them.
"Duo!" Heero and Wufei slammed out after them.
"Ah. Unisex bonding," Dan said sarcastically. "Going off to share a firefight is just a leetle bit more potentially self-destructive than getting drunk and swapping rude stories, though."
"What firefight?" Mel asked from the corridor. "Asuka, shift it. You've got a nice butt, but I'm not really in the mood to look at it right now."
"It is a very aesthetically appealing posterior, wouldn't you say?" Jay asked Quatre. "Not to mention the other bits."
Quatre was actually trying very hard not to stare at the 'other bits', since he'd just realised that Asuka was demonstrating his complete lack of body shyness. The towel he was using on his hair was the only thing he'd brought out of the bathroom...
Heero shoved the door open and stalked back in, followed by Wufei. "We lost them," he said tersely, glaring at everyone impartially. "Where would they be taking off from?"
Mel held up one finger, seeming to listen to something. "Three... two... one... and they're off. Too late." The faint sound of distant rotor blades abruptly turned into a shriek as jet engines kicked in and shot away.
"Christy will take good care of him," Jay assured them. "She doesn't seem like the type, I know, but she'll make sure he gets back okay. Asuka, put some clothes on."
"Why?" he asked, seeming honestly puzzled.
End of Warped Mirrors
 Yaa ilaahee!: Arabic, 'good god!'
 Horosho!: Russian, 'good' or 'right'
 molodoy cheloviek: Russian, 'young man'
 Velikolepno!: Russian, 'excellent!'
 Maah as-salaama: Arabic, 'goodbye'
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