Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
When they had picked up badges for themselves and the dogs, it seemed
decided without conversation that the first priority was to get out of
the heaviest crowds, and second to find a place to study the registration
packets and schedule. Then they would be able to plan their schedule,
or their next step. Heero had a suspicion that Duo was going to object
to him planning out their schedule completely.
They made their way south along the ground level concourse and then took
the stairs up into the third floor food court. It seemed this area was
quite crowded as well. Heero was realizing now that it was not just the
registration area; they might be fighting heavy crowds their entire weekend.
The foodcourt here seemed a logical meeting place, as one would assume
the lower foodcourt would fill up with guests just out of registration,
but it seemed there were a great number of logical people and Heero saw
only lines about the food vendors, particularly the sushi and ice cream
places, and no seating.
Heero's phone chirped and he lifted his hand to answer. He flipped
the monitor arm out and saw Claudia's number, so he removed the
blind. "I can see you," Claudia said, "Can you see us?
To your left, near the club meet-up room."
Heero looked up and focused past the small monitor on his headset videophone.
He could see a pirate and a blonde girl in a black tee waving their arms.
"I see you now, be right there," Heero said, and swung the
monitor back behind his ear. He looked to see Duo and the dogs stayed
with him and made his way over to Claudia and Johnny. Now he was close
enough, Heero could see her shirt read: Cereal Killer. "Nice shirt."
Claudia shrugged. Somehow she could look kewl while still being an obvious
tourist. She was lugging her computer around in a French designer bag
and had both mobile flip-style phone and a separate digital camera visible
on her person. Her hair was in a perfectly sloppy-looking up-do, which
Heero supposed gave the same impression his hair often did, of being either
actually careless or the result of hours of effort to get just the right
"Have you captured many photos yet?" Heero asked. He understood
the separate camera. Even Duo's phone could capture photos —
you never knew when you might need to record evidence — but a dedicated
device was usually going to capture higher quality images and hold a lot
more of them between uploads. His phone could display television programs,
but he rarely used it to do so.
"I got two examples of random stupidity and one boy who had hair
like Jim. Johnny is looking out for Best of the Best cosplayers, but we
have not seen any so far."
"What's with the random acts?" Duo asked.
"Duo is looking for a few Gonin Team character cosplayers for a
friend of his, if you will look out for those as well, I'll also
look for Best or the Best…"
"Claudia wants to capture Americanisms and bad fashion and ironic
social behaviors," Johnny replied.
"What do they look like?" Claudia asked.
"You and Heero need to meet one of your other friends?"
"Mostly blue-skinned aliens with pointy ears and boys in various
colored flight suits."
"Shizen and Sake are both participating in the con as vendors,
and Shizen will be involved in a few panels as well."
"I think I saw one of those already, a girl with black hair and
a slinky, revealing costume with a strange collar."
"I have to go to the lounge upstairs for an autographs and Q&A
tomorrow, but I am free today."
"Did she say she saw Sashimi?" Duo asked.
"Oh, yeah, we saw someone cosplaying the Commandatrix," Johnny
said, "I know what the costumes from the live action series look
like, so I can help spot those!"
"I still have not seen that program."
"He still hasn't seen the original, only the movie."
"If you want to do something together, we should go locate Sake
and Shizen just to say hello, and then plan where to go."
"We had some time to look at the schedule."
"Cary wants to meet for dinner, if we can meet between his scheduled
activities. His appearances are mostly today. Autographs in the morning
and then a panel and an appearance at a video screening tonight."
"Were you thinking of leaving the center for dinner?" Heero
asked, "I am certain everything here is pricy and has long lines."
"If you do not mind taking the time from the Con it is a good option."
"Probably cheapest to keep groceries in the hotel room,"
"We are not that stressed for money."
"Your friends are probably in one of the rooms on this floor. 3B
is for individual vendors and artists, and 3E is overflow from 3B plus
the silent auction showcase."
"Let's try B, I think Sake at least is in there," Duo
Heero and Duo had arrived at the Con somewhat late, so it was already
lunchtime for those who had picked up badges the night before and arrived
as soon as the building was opened today. The vendor rooms had been closed
in the morning, to allow vendors time to set up, but now the rooms were
open and there were no lines to get in, at least not into these upstairs
vendor rooms. Midori had already warned them that the prospect of getting
free stuff and special deals on Friday did not outweigh the extreme frustration
of waiting in a line for hours to get in. They would have good deals on
Sunday, and the large vendors had plenty of SWAG to give out all during
Claudia stopped to capture a photo of a large man carrying a food court
tray stacked with Mexican food and one super-large diet soda.
One they made it through the funneled mass of people trying to enter
the artist area and the doors, they had a view of the exhibition hall.
The ceilings were high and the space cavernous, and the expansive floorspace
was filled by neat rows of booths and tables.
"How can we find one particular vendor or artist?" Johnny
"The packet included a map for the halls downstairs with vendor
names, but these are labeled only with alphanumerics. Did Sake tell either
of you which space she was assigned?"
"No," Duo said. "Maybe we can just call her."
"If we are not in too much of a hurry, we can just walk along each
row until we come to her space," Heero said. "The other artists
may be interesting, too."
No one had a problem with that, so they started at the nearest booth,
which belonged to an artist who made kawaii little monsters from socks,
and followed the row toward the far end of the room. When they reached
the end of the row, they walked around to the next aisle, between two
rows. Here they had to look from side to side to see everything. When
they reached the next aisle and were walking toward the rear of the hall
again, Sake called to them to draw their attention.
Sake had a table spread with clothing and accessories, a half mannequin
set on the table wearing a neo-japanese haori-like garment, and a flimsy
garment rack behind the table hung with larger or longer garments. Sake
was wearing a black corset over a lace-trimmed red top and skirt. Ursula
was beside her, in colonial geisha hair and make-up, wearing a puffy white
skirt with white haori and obi.
"Sugoi!" Duo chirped, "Shiro-wa-rori! Kawaii!"
Sometimes, he got very anime schoolgirl.
"I need to get a picture of Duo-kun!" Sake said.
"May I have a picture with Ursula?"
"I have already been asked three times coming here if I am really
a Colonial Geisha," Ursula said. She and Sake both stood and walked
around the table, into the aisle.
"I would like one photo only of you, for my book," Sake explained.
"Oh, OK. But then can Heero get one with all three of us, with
It was not only Duo's camera, but in any case, Heero took the pack
from Duo's back and then set it on the table to remove the camera.
Sake capture her photo of Duo in his outfit, which she had made, and then
she and Ursula posed with Duo so Heero could capture a photo.
Ursula swatted at a few braids beside her face. "Oh, I think one
of my ornaments fell out." She patted her hair and found the hairstick
with dangling ornament attached had slipped out of place and loosed some
of the hair it had held. "Let me fix it and take another photo,
"No problem," Heero assured her.
Ursula fixed her hair and Heero took the photo.
"Johnny, may I take your picture also, just for my collection?"
"Certainly," Johnny said and did his best saucy pirate pose.
"Say 'Why's all the rum gone?'"
"Why's all the rum gone?!" Johnny asked desperately.
Sake snapped the photo as Claudia and Duo laughed at Johnny's performance.
"Duo-kun, I got you something," Sake said.
Sake dashed behind the table and stopped to retrieve something from underneath.
"This," she said when she stood again. Sake extended her right
hand. "For your badge, so they will give you no trouble if you come
behind the table."
"Come behind the table?" Duo asked, and winked at Heero as
Sake and Ursula giggled. Heero rolled his eyes purposefully.
"Heero, I am sorry, but I did not get one for you, but I know Shizen
"No problem. Memory's fuzzy about a few things last night,
but I remember conversations previous to that just fine. I will not mind
watching one of the tables if you girls need to leave for a while."
"Thank you again. I know Shizen appreciates it also."
Duo fixed the holographic sticker to his badge and then picked up his
pack and replaced it on his back. "So, is Shizen in the other room?"
"Yes, we hoped we would be closer, but they arranged the artist
areas by type of merchandise or craft, so the other room is just art,
not crafts or other merchandise. That room is going to be popular with
the guests that want to commission fan art. Though, I noticed a few booths
here do costume commissions or dolls."
"Do you mean those manikin-like things that trendy girls carry
instead of lapdogs?" Claudia asked.
"Custom ball-joint dolls," Ursula said. "Just because
something becomes very trendy does not mean it is trivial in itself."
"Do you own some?" Claudia asked, bluntly.
"Yes," Ursula said quietly, "Just one. Mine is a lady
doll wigged and dressed as a traditional geisha. I do not carry it around.
The craftsmanship of the doll is truly exquisite."
"Excuse me. I did not mean to offend. I actually want a boy doll,
but I do not like that they are so trendy. I wanted one before, not because
I see girls dining with them at cafes."
"If you want a completely custom one, there is a man here that
makes dolls, one aisle over. If you want a doll that will be compatible
with the most replacement parts, wigs and clothes, you should try the
vendors downstairs, I think."
"Thank you. I will look for that dollmaker. I am sorry, again.
Sometimes I do not know how to talk to people."
"Quite all right," Ursula said, and bowed formally.
"We should move on," Heero said. "We were thinking
of going out for dinner, but if one or both of you has to watch the table,
I will bring you something, if you like."
"That would be nice," Sake said. "Give us a call when
you know where you will go."
"What time is it now?" Johnny asked, "Cary's
panel is at 3pm."
"Only just one," Claudia answered.
"Let's go through here quickly, so Claudia can look at the
dolls and then go say hi to Shizen, and then make our way down for the
Heero nodded agreement to Duo. It seemed they were all decided. They
walked from Sake's table and continued toward the rear of the hall.
It was true the vendors here were more craft and costume oriented. Heero
noticed a lot of vendors in the aisle sold accessories that seemed bits
of armor decorated with crosses and various sizes of crucifix pendants
and shapes of white collars. Heero wondered if cosplaying Catholics was
very popular and did not really understand the popularity.
In the next aisle they found many vendors selling kit-bashed models and
modeling tools. Duo stopped to ogle a highly customized 1:100 Deathscythe,
and became the object of the modeler's ogling. He seemed a pretty
average Chinese-American boy from Brooklyn, with the charmingly appalling
accent of that region. He assured Duo that not everyone on Earth had objected
to the Colonies declaring independence from the start and then went on
about how Deathscythe just kicked so much ass!
Duo was obviously torn between appreciation for the model and regret
for the more violent aspects of obtaining independence. He looked up at
Heero, stopped to eye the model, as if asking for assistance.
"Though there were, and are some who would preach absolute pacifism,
I do not think it is really wrong to rebel against tyranny, when there
is no other way to assure freedoms. Now, however, people know the pain
of aggression well enough to choose to submit to something greater, so
we do not really need Gundams anymore."
The boy gave a blank expression and then turned to Duo. "I cannibalized
about three standard models to get all the parts I needed to get the wings
and spikes just how I wanted them!"
"It's fantastic! It looks really close to how I had him looking
by the Barton Coup Attempt." Duo snorted a laugh. "Bad ass
as he was and even being made of Gundanium, he'd take damage now
and then and I was always trying to have him put back together a little
better than he was the last time, improving things, always hoping next
time I wouldn't take any damage at all. Then I fuckin' went
and blew him up."
"It's true they were destroyed?"
"Oh, yeah! It was voluntary, of course, but if we hadn't,
I think someone would have gotten around to asking us to do it…very
"Were you making the customizations yourself?"
"Well, I wasn't much of a machinist myself, but I did understand
how they worked, and what he could do, so I'd give the support team
my two cents, ya know. A lot of the electronics I'd work on myself
though! Hellacious countermeasures on Deathscythe!"
"Oh, yeah, and I was improving that all the time as well. He was
bitchin' fast, too, though I had this guy I know, Howard, help me
with that. He's pretty good with propulsion systems and all that."
Pretty good was understatement, Heero thought, considering the machines
Heero knew Howard to have worked on were Tallgeese, Deathscythe, and Peacemillion,
or Piecemealion, as Duo sometimes referred to it, due to the amount of
salvaged materials used in the ship. Reused parts or not, Heero had trusted
that ship and its design; G's weapons were always like works of
art, and he had designed all the parts not involved with propulsion.
Deathscythe excelled at running and hiding.
"Can I take one of your cards?" Duo asked.
"Sure, sure, go ahead."
Duo first reached behind his back to retrieve his business card case
from the outer pocket of his pack. Duo tossed the case to his left hand,
opened it, then lifted the boy's card from the display holder on
the table, filed it in his case, then presented his own card to the boy
with his right hand.
"Think nothing of it. Maybe I could show you some mobile suit designs
I have?" It was just short of being Duo's flirtatious voice,
and Heero decided it was his inviting voice.
The modeler boy nodded enthusiastically.
They left the table and found Claudia and Johnny a few tables along the
aisle looking at a display of custom modeled and painted figures of various
fictional characters. "The face sort of looks like Tim more than
Scott," Johnny was saying, as they approached.
"Can we take a photo?"
"They're for sale."
"Well, how much to take a photo?" Claudia pressed.
"Probably has them all up on his site," Duo muttered under
"I will just take one of your cards to give my friend. He is the
one interested in figures of that character."
They moved on again.
In the next aisle, they found several tables, near each other, that sold
dolls or doll accessories. Claudia quickly focused on the custom made
dolls. Heero lingered looking at a display of doll eyeballs, some with
rather unnatural looking pupils or irises, finding them rather curious.
After a minute, he joined the others, who were already chatting with the
couple of dollmakers. These vendors had a very different accent from the
modeler boy, though they also seemed very American. Heero was not certain,
but he thought it meant they had lived a long while in the southern portion
of the former States. They were all one nation now.
Two of the dolls on the table were dressed as Yukio and Leander from
Blood Wing, and if the others were particular characters, Heero did not
"You see these, Heero?" Duo asked. "They're amazingly
"Very bishy," Heero said flatly.
Duo shook his head, as if to say Heero were no fun. "I mean, the
way these dolls are designed and articulated is really impressive."
Heero thought they were like something a spooky girl would like. They
were frighteningly lifelike, and yet highly unnatural at the same time,
like something that would come to life and do some evil in a horror movie.
"I know some girls who have them. They come in different scales,
like the way models do." Duo lowered his voice, "I want to
go look at the ones over there."
At the same time, Johnny was asking, "They are really anatomically
"We sell them with two different hip sections, as well as two different
sets of feet. One style to wear under clothes and shoes. You can also
get them with extra pairs of hand or with a spare sleeping face."
Heero wondered when one would need their dolls to be sleeping and naked.
He followed Duo to another table. Here they had a few dolls of various
scales and proportions and a large display of doll clothes. Heero recognized
one of the dolls. "It's Nynaeve!"
"Oh, yeah, from feudal-prompt," Duo said. "You like
"No. I mean, I really like Lan, I mean, the plot involving Lan,
Nynaeve and the Empress."
"You're a little bit of a Lanaeve shipper."
"What does that mean, 'shippper'?" Heero hissed.
"As in relationship. You cheer for Lan and Nynaeve's relationship
in the series."
"Maybe I do, but it is not weird, or completely contrary to canon
or anything like that," Heero whispered, "I just…I just
can relate to the character. That's normal. People want the viewers
to be able to relate to characters, after all."
"I wasn't trying to tease, really. It is one of the more
interesting subplots. But, it has not been shown yet that Lan is even
a real person, as opposed to some manner of AI, so…"
They had already established the identity of Nynaeve's user, a
French woman named Sophie, as well as her avatar. Her avatar in feudal
Japan was named after a character in a fantasy novel who was a sort of
wise woman, and as Nynaeve, all her actions involved sharing her knowledge
and wisdom, and leading others to attain wisdom, though sometimes she
did this with a lot of yelling and irritability, as opposed to the serenity
one might expect. The intriguing thing was that the fantasy character
she had taken her name from had also had a love interest named Lan. "I
can see how one could believe in the theory that Lan is AI. The Empress
named him when he received his current position defending his network,
and he's the Empress's samurai…but I think Lan's
user is the man that appears in episode eleven, and at the end of episode
ten when they have the conversation about tracing the attacks against
the library's firewall."
"It could be him," Duo said, but he did not really sound
like he agreed. "But, if it's him, why would someone who seems
so important in Japan just be guarding a library?"
"They did not say what library? A library stores knowledge, information.
It is very important that the data not be stolen or corrupted."
"Yeah, but he's definitely working for the Empress, both
Lan, and the firewall guy, and it's kinda turning out that she has
some suspicious motives and may not be for freedom of information, and
that is very opposed to Nynaeve's motives."
"Baka," Heero whispered, "that is exactly why their
relationship is interesting. And anyway, The Empress is very mysterious
and powerful, I would not assume that she is working against Nynaeve,
yet, she may just have different means. Holding information until a set
time, is not exactly the same as denying access entirely. And sometimes,
the journey is important. One may need to realize or learn something for
themselves, rather than just be told the answer. That is not to say I
do not approve of Nynaeve's methods. I do like her. Her way suits
"And she's cute," Duo said, and tugged on his braid,
just the way Nynaeve often did on hers.
Heero smirked. "Not that I would notice."
"Oh, c'mon, just 'cause you don't want to fuck
her, doesn't mean you can't tell if a girl is cute or not!"
"She has elaborate taste in costumes."
Duo lifted his brows and then turned to find if Johnny and Claudia were
ready to move along.
They left the large exhibition hall and moved a short distance through
the third floor lobby and food court, past the hall hosting the club meet-ups,
to Hall 3E. This hall was slightly narrower than the hall in which they
had met Sake and Ursula, but it was still a vast interior space. The rightmost
side, or the north part of the room, was roped off and contained many
partitions hung with art to be auctioned. The remainder of the room was
set up similarly to the exhibition hall from which they had come. There
were neat rows of tables. Here there were no garment racks, mannequins,
and few display shelves or cases. There were some standees and tri-folds
The tables here were frighteningly similar in layout, containing a portfolio
to be flipped through, some small prints, stickers, postcards or similar
merchandise, a business card holder, and occasionally a tip jar or visible
cash box. The artists were usually sketching in a paper sketchbook or
into a mobile computer, when not actively speaking to guests.
Similar as the function of each table was, the artists were widely varied
in style and subject matter. Some drew busty girls in miniskirts with
panties showing, and some drew boys kissing each other. Some did not bother
with characters and drew weapons and mecha. Some drew their original characters,
where others made a living of putting other people's characters
into art. They worked in various media.
Most of them were accepting commissions. Another mainstay of the tables
was the sign advertising the pricelist for at-the-con artwork and future
commissions. Often 'starving' appeared in the sign's
They moved again in orderly fashion, along one aisle, and then the next.
Duo did not object, perhaps because he did not wish to miss anything,
perhaps because he did not want to purposely be chaotic, but merely allow
it to happen naturally.
They spent a longer time at some tables than at others. It was a subjective
judgment, but some of the art was just more appealing than others. Claudia
liked the artists who advertised they would design avatars and skins for
online use and spent some time asking about types of software that was
used. Johnny liked superhero art and chiseled chins and muscles and also
bizarre, spooky characters. Heero was a little surprised that Duo was
most drawn toward the mecha, but only because he had expected Duo to seek
out art from certain anime series, books and Hollywood movies. It was
a little chaos for Heero to enjoy, but not too much. When he thought about
it, he realized Duo had always liked machinery.
"Is it me, or are there a lot of priests? And why are they all
"There's only like fifty novels, games and shows about demon
or vampire hunting out now, and half of them probably star monks, priests
and nuns," Duo said.
"I think it is the trendy thing right now," Claudia agreed.
"I just did not think, if they are supposed to be focused on enlightenment
or charity…or hunting demons, they would have such pretty hair and
Heero nodded, mainly to himself, as Duo was looking at some cg art featuring
green-eyed demons. He remembered Duo had said something about shojo anime
before. It had something to do with pretty boys wearing glasses and hair
bows. Also, brothers or best friends that really loved each other to the
point of refusing to spend time with girls seemed to feature often, though
Heero did not fully understand why, as he would have expected girls to
want to see the hero show some consideration to the girl who was so willing
to wait and support.
Not that Heero failed to spot the irony in his thoughts, being he had
chosen Duo over all females. Arguments on whether he would have been gay
no matter what his life experiences had included aside, there was no girl
who could really understand everything so well as Duo. A few who might
come close, but no contest, really. It was satisfying that Wufei and Sally
seemed to be good for each other. Heero hoped Adin and Relena were good
for each other, or found out they were not soon, so they would be free
to find one that was really meant for them.
Heero did believe people could be meant for each other. He really did.
Maybe that was romantic. Fortunately, Duo rather liked romance.
Heero gave Koi's leash a tug and took a few quick steps to put
himself at Duo's side. "See anything you like? I'll
buy you something."
Duo turned his head. Heero thought he was going to try to refuse, for
some reason, but he said, "OK. I'll buy you something, too.
What do you want?"
"There are a lot of choices."
"She would be OK. I might like something else. Star Wars maybe."
"I'll pick, but it will be something you like."
"And for you?"
"You can pick, but maybe Batman?" It was voiced as a question.
"OK." Heero would not have thought of Batman first, but he
knew very well Duo related to the character.
"If it's not a pre-existing print, you should probably go
commission the art now, so there's time at the con to finish."
That made sense, Heero thought. "I will meet you."
Duo smiled, and Heero was not sure why, but maybe it was for the tone
he had used and not the fact that gifts would be exchanged. Heero sensed
no patronization, rather he had a feeling that Duo was genuinely pleased
that words another person would have said casually were a dire promise
from Heero's lips. There was no question. Heero would leave to seek
and artist and they would meet. He had not planned how or where or when,
yet, but it was still certain to happen.
"Claudia, you want to help me shop for a gift for Heero?"
Duo asked, still smiling that smile and looking at Heero.
Heero waited to see if they would go together. Claudia looked up, seeming
sincerely interested in something that involved shopping and potentially
showing off knowledge of Heero.
"Are we to look for something for Duo?" Johnny asked.
"Yes." Unplanned, but Johnny might actually be an asset on
Duo was still smiling that smile. In that moment, Heero decided that
this particular smile did not only communicate a level of amusement, but
said, 'he is so getting some later.' Definitely, Heero thought.
Whatever his face expressed, Duo was pleased to see it.
Heero knew they had already passed some tables belonging to artists who
regularly drew Batman or his comrades within Gotham or in the Justice
League. Heero explained his plan to Johnny, that they should first determine
who was familiar with Batman and accepting commissions, and then determine
who in that group had the most appealing style.
Johnny pointed out that they might obtain interesting results asking
someone who usually did not draw superheroes to do a Batman pic, but agreed
that Heero's plan did sound most efficient.
They spent some time at the various tables, flipping through portfolios
and listening to occasional sales pitches and explanations from the artists.
Heero knew who Batman was, but a few of the artists, from the way they
talked, seemed highly knowledgeable about the character and used terms
like 'retcon' and 'crime alley'. Heero decided
he wanted to hire an artist who was knowledgeable as well as talented.
Heero also developed the idea of commissioning a drawing of Bruce Wayne.
The more he talked it over with Johnny and listened to the artists, it
seemed to him something Duo would appreciate. When Heero mentioned his
idea to the artists, there was only one who seemed knowledgeable, skilled,
and very interested in drawing a picture of Bruce Wayne.
They discussed the details of the commission, but other than to select
the size and media, Heero left the details to the artist, only suggesting
that it be Bruce Wayne in the drawing, but obvious he was also Batman,
and possibly in some way looking like Bruce Wayne was sometimes the 'mask'
and Batman his real self. Heero gave the artist a small cash deposit and
his phone number, so the artist could send the prelim sketch to be approved
before ink and color were added, though the art was all to be done digitally.
When Heero met Duo, he was at Shizen's table, looking through a
spare copy of her pillow book. Shizen actually spotted him first and called
out a greeting.
Heero bowed slightly. "Hello."
Midii looked up from a Manga and Duo from the pillowbook. Heero saw Claudia
was one table away talking to an artist there. There were two complete
strangers also in front of Shizen's table, looking at her work.
Johnny moved around the pair of girls to see what Duo was looking at.
Koi growled and sniffed at the table skirt.
"Nanashi is here?" Heero asked.
Midii nodded and lifted Nanashi's bag from under the table. Heero
could hear hissing from within.
"Sometimes, you could learn from Nu," Heero told his dog.
"Does he do that a lot?"
"Often," Heero answered, looking at the large white and sable
ball of fur sleeping at Duo's feet. "Conserving energy."
"Sometimes I think it's like Heero actually had kids and
Koi inherited some things and Nu others. This one can put himself to sleep
anytime; it's just like a flight with Heero."
"You have to keep up both sides of the conversation," Midii
"Yeah! But, it's OK, really. He always wakes up when I really
need him, and trusts me to fly, and he really is good company most of
the time." Duo was talking with his hands; Johnny had taken his
book. "Koi's not totally evil, but I swear! Even though people
always comment how mellow he seems, he always seems so wired and alert
to me! He's always active and begging for attention and just looking
at you like he needs a command or some training!"
"It's like who actually had kids?" Heero asked.
Duo shut up.
"They are both quite charming," Shizen said, as her two guests
took their purchases and left.
"It's really mostly girls who buy this stuff?" Johnny
Duo snickered and then whispered something to Johnny.
Heero stepped up closer to the table. He was a little impressed. Shizen's
display looked very professional. She had the usual portfolio and stack
of business cards and artwork for sale, but she also had tall piles of
her published works for sale and a sign that indicated she was sorry,
but not currently accepting commissions. There was another sign that advertised
her schedule, indicating all the times her table would be unstaffed and
where fans could find her at the con. The list included a Gonin Team panel
today, the Mad Drama manga publisher panel tomorrow afternoon, showing
of Love Triangle studio's Rangers 5-8 in a video room tomorrow night,
and the yaoi panel following the video.
Shizen offered a little holographic sticker between the thumb and forefinger
of her right hand. "This is for Heero," she said. Heero placed
the sticker on his badge. "You can see my schedule here. These are
all the events I absolutely have to attend, because I am participating
professionally, I am simply going to shut down for those, but there are
a few other things I would like to see, if you or Midii would be able
to watch my table."
"When are those events?"
"I want to attend either the Maudlin Manic show tonight, or tomorrow
afternoon. I think tonight would be better. I want to be here for guests
as much as possible Saturday."
"I will watch your table tonight, and I can see Maudlin Manic tomorrow."
"Thank you! Everything is very organized. It will be no trouble.
Between 6 and 7?"
"We were talking about getting dinner, but I believe we can get
an early dinner and then come here. If Sake is not able to leave, I was
going to bring her dinner."
"If all the girls want to go to the show tonight, it probably makes
more sense for us to go earlier just to pick up dinner for ourselves and
then arrive to relieve them, so they can all go out for dinner before
the show," Duo said. "There will be other opportunities for
us to share meals with them."
"That does make sense," Heero admitted. "I suppose
I might be able to arrive here at 5pm."
"Depends how long it takes to pick up dinner, if there are lines,"
"I appreciate it very much," Shizen said.
"If we are going to all attend the panel, we should start down
now," Midii said then.
"I think it's all the way downstairs in C4," Duo said,
then laughed at the name of the room.
Heero smirked a bit.
Shizen invited Heero behind the table, so that she could show him the
items in her display and stock of merchandise, which she was packing away.
Heero was certain that when he arrived later to work, he would have little
trouble identifying the items again.
When the table was secure, the group made their way back out into the
food court area. Midii called to Ursula along the way to see if she or
Sake would be able to attend the panel. Midii then relayed to the group
that Ursula would stay and watch the clothing booth, and Sake would join
them to attend the panel.
They waited a few minutes, people watching, and then Sake came from the
exhibition hall and found them near one of the stairwells. They walked
down the flights to the second floor and then continued down to the first
floor, which was below ground level. It was Heero's first glimpse
of this level, but he was able to orient himself quickly, having looked
at maps of the Javits Center.
It was crowded here also. Duo spotted a Sashimi and called after her.
"He can probably get plenty of pictures inside the room,"
They were in the lower of the Center's two food courts and Duo
was capturing a photo of the Commandatrix who had just thrown away her
lunch trash. There was some dialogue Heero could not make out between
the effect of distance and crowds, but he supposed it was regarding how
well her make-up had withstood eating. Sashimi then dabbed at her mouth
with a napkin and reapplied lipstick. Duo snapped another photo and then
seemed to thank her profusely before returning to the group.
Duo showed the screen on the back of his camera to Midii and Shizen tried
to peer at it around Duo's side. "She seems like a good one."
"It's the classic costume, not from the new series,"
"Yeah. She wasn't as thin as the real thing, but a healthy
girl fills out that costume well!" Duo said.
"More Playboy than Vogue, was she?" Heero asked.
Duo did his nervous laugh, as Sake was looking at the latest photo. "I
suspect it was more like Teen Vogue, actually."
"Got to watch out for that," Johnny advised.
"Just don't post the pic to the net," Claudia advised,
"you can't imagine the random things that concerned parties
can become concerned about."
Duo mumbled something that sounded partly like, "nothing juvenile
about my detention," and then dragged Nu away from the group and
down the long corridor at the east side of the floor.
A definite downside to being a child terrorist was that one risked being
a child in a military detention facility. It wasn't like being put
in holding for a night by local security, or like going to 'big
boy prison' with murderers and rapists, but it was not like juvenile
detention either. Heero knew. Duo had been detained several more times
than he had, and at a younger age.
If the girl had parents who wanted to complain about their daughter being
exploited on the internet, they should have been good enough parents to
make certain she did not appear so scandalously dressed in public and
pose. Really. Heero was sure a whole lot of things technically illegal
for minors had been prominent in his childhood. The same was true for
All the controversy and propaganda that Heero had witnessed going on
during the war and he had not once seen someone question their youth and
form a protest group of concerned parties. Books on youth ministry after
the fact, possibly some hushed conversations between Sally and Lucretia
when they thought the boys asleep; that was it. No one had actually stopped
them. Maybe it was easy to say that minors capable of such terrible things
were not really minors at all, but there had been a first time for each
of them. First time they used a gun or a mobile suit. No one had just
stopped them. No parties concerned enough.
Heero ran to catch up to Duo and insinuated himself under Duo's
right arm. There was some exchange between Koi and Nu, but Heero only
half noticed it. He felt Duo's arm lean weight onto his shoulders,
then Duo turned and kissed Heero's temple, which was the first bit
of skin available to him.
Heero lifted his left hand to Duo's waist. He had a feeling the
leashes were tangling behind them. Duo laughed, not for any particular
reason Heero knew. He drew Heero in toward him with his right arm. They
stood in the hall, facing each other, and Heero could see that Koi and
Nu had gotten their leashes entwined.
Duo bowed, dropped his head beside Heero's and whispered at his
right ear. Out of the corner of his eyes, Heero could see their friends
were watching. Maybe a few other people as well. "I wanna fuck ya
Heero smiled darkly. He slouched such as he could in Duo's grasp
and lifted his right index finger to trace a small circle upon Duo's
chest. "No one believes that I am legal; I am so small for my age,"
Heero said in the poutiest, youngest voice he could manage.
Duo swallowed audible. Heero lifted his eyes and Duo drew up his head
enough to look on Heero's face. He probably just looked smug, but
Duo was grinning. He got his fingers beneath Heero's ribs and did
something. Some involuntary, unmasculine yelp came from Heero and he felt
Duo's grin, and then he leaned in to whisper at Heero's ear
again. "Baby, if you'd have given me any sign you wanted it,
I woulda fucked you back then, even if one of us was only fourteen."
"Really?" Heero was trying to watch Duo's fingers.
"Maybe not," Duo whispered, "but I woulda sucked ya
off. Hard. In the hammock. In the dorm. Under the bleachers at the basketball
"Say 'inside the cockpit of…Eh-Epyon'."
It was difficult to say.
Duo shifted his hands to Heero's arms. "No…"
In that second, Heero was heartbroken. He had really wanted to hear it,
even if Duo had not been anywhere near when Heero had piloted that suit.
"I think it woulda been you suckin' it that time."
The sense of relief was so…real. "Yeah," Heero said
slowly, "of course. Until my jaw ached." That was so obviously
how it would have happened, he thought. He took one step back from Duo,
so their bodies did not touch, but he put his right hand behind Duo's
neck so that he could hold his head bowed forward to whisper at his right
ear. "Duo, I-I would have snuck into your detention cell in the
lunar base and fucked your beaten body raw, then made you suck my cock,
and then held a gun to the guard's head and watched while you fucked
"Ya sure? There wasn't a rim job in there somewhere?"
Heero smacked Duo's face, lightly. "Of course. Who does not
do some eating out in prison? Probably the first thing I did. I think
we probably mouthed each other's balls, as well."
"You are so my god," Duo said in a sigh.
"No. I fuck your god. Shinigami is my bitch," Heero said
"Yeah he is." Duo was just beautiful.
Heero watched, probably with some stupefied in-love expression on his
face, as Duo stooped to untangle the dogs' leashes. Claudia approached
and showed Heero a photo in her camera. It showed Duo and himself with
heads bent close, whispering to each other. "It's nice. Send
me a copy?"
Duo stood, both leashes in his left hand. He slipped his right hand into
Heero's left. "Let's go in and find seats near the back,"
Duo suggested. "I want to be there, but I don't really need
to participate or see well."
Heero agreed with a slight nod. They went ahead, along the row of panel
and workshop rooms to C4 on the Javits map, which was here labeled Panel
V, clearly in roman numerals from the IV and VI on signs on the rooms
either side. Some of the panel had already arrived and Staffers were watching
the guests as they came through the doors. Dou pointed out some seats
near the back. Heero moved to enter the row of chairs, when Sake called
"You do not want to sit closer?" she asked.
"I just thought…" Duo started.
"I think it will be all right if we sit with our friends closer
to the front," Heero said, quietly enough that only Duo would hear.
"I do not mind, if it is OK with you."
"OK, sure," Duo said then. Heero saw Shizen had just reached
the raised platform to join the panel. Sake and Midii went before them,
and Duo followed. Claudia came after Heero, and then Johnny in his pirate
Sake found them seats several rows back from the front, near the section
of the head table at which Shizen. Duo got the seat on an aisle and Heero
sat immediately to his right. The dogs lay down in the aisle. Nu looked
as if asleep almost immediately; Koi seemed more alert.
Shortly the panel got started. Heero looked around and could see many
of the seats were full and from the colors worn, many guests were in costume,
or at least fans. The head of the panel was a woman named Rita from the
Colonial Daiban studios, which produced the Gonin Team shows. She introduced
the other panel members. Midori was the voice actor that had played Akairo
and several minor characters in the Gonin Team anime and movie. A lot
of girls cheered at his introduction. Shizen was a former Daiban employee
who had designed the Gonin Team characters for the anime and manga. There
was a bit of applause for Shizen. Kit was the mecha designer for the movie
and live action series. Hajime was a member of the writing staff that
had worked on the anime and the live action series. Cary currently played
Akairo in the live action series. Kimberly and Trini also played characters
in the current live action series. There was some cheering and catcalling
when the actors were introduced.
Rita then tapped a few keys at her laptop. It seemed the output was connected
to the overhead video projector which displayed images on the roll-down
behind the panelists' table. She said they would show a short clip
and put in a plug for the video screening later that night in Video Room
The clip was actually a professionally edited promo featuring stills
from the manga, and scenes from the anime, movie and new series set to
fast-paced dance music.
Rita then asked if there was anyone in the audience that was new to Gonin
Team. Heero did not notice that anyone answered in the affirmative, but
the Producer went on as if someone had, giving a blurb about the genre
and plot and then listing the various release dates for Gonin Team projects.
The company had first developed the series in 196, and the anime had first
aired in the fall of 196 and run through 197 and the movie had been released
for the holiday season of 197. Rita said the show was important and breakthrough
because it marked a return to the giant robot genre after the advent of
real mobile suits in the military had kept less brave studios from producing
Duo grumbled a bit under his breath, obviously having some opinion about
how brave the studio was or was not and possibly whether the series was
'giant robot' more than 'soldier team' or just
'space opera', but he said nothing.
Rita then passed to Shizen and as Rita selected stills and video from
her laptop depicting particular characters, Shizen spoke about the character.
She went through the five original members of Gonin Team: Akairo, Blaec,
Verdan, Koi and Bai. Shizen then discussed Princess Sinija Hemelsblauw,
who was the daughter of the assassinated King Vermilion Hemelsblauw and
Queen Amarillis Hemelblauw, who were part of the government faction that
had funded and founded Gonin Team to protect Earth and its space from
alien invaders. When Bai was presumed dead at the end of Season 1, Princess
took over as the pilot of his Mech in Season 2. It was obvious to Heero
that their names were based on colors and their culture and procedure
was very inspired by the Colonies and its particular mix of influences
from Earth's powerful, space capable former nations.
Shizen then discussed the characters from other earth factions. They
usually had names that could possibly be a color or a metal, like General
Ferris Steel, Miss Dorada Goldmeir, Doctor Penny Cuprum, or Ace Pilot
Silver Mask, who was secretly Princess' older brother Prince Argento
Hemelsblauw. Their ranking system and culture seemed to suggest they were
inspired by former western nations on Earth, though not at a space-going
stage of history, though the military in the series did possess space
vessels. The descriptions made Heero think they were like 18th century
gentleman soldiers, but in space.
The aliens were named for fish. Otherwise, their culture seemed a blend
of Imperial Rome and hive insects. Those characters included Commandatrix
Sashimi, of course, Legatrix Fugu, Captain Pike, and Prince Channa and
Kit talked for a while about the mecha. After that, Hajime talked about
some of the past and current plots.
When Hajime had spoken, Rita announced it was time for the panel to hear
questions from the floor.
One of the staffers carried a mic to guests who stood and held the microphone
so their question could be heard. The first guest to speak was a middle
aged man on the right side of the room. "When I was shopping for
gifts for my son last Christmas, when the new movie merchandise came out,
I did an internet search and…"
"Next question!" Rita said loudly, and the staffer drew the
microphone away from the man, but he spoke loudly enough that most people
could hear that he was complaining about unofficial sites with smut and
porn and things that were inappropriate for children.
Midii said something about fifteen layers of disclaimers.
"I just want to make a brief statement," Rita said, "if
Daiban does learn of unofficial sites that are infringing on our rights,
we can have our attorneys send a cease and desist letter or take further
legal action, but no one here can be expected to watchdog the entire net.
We will not have any more questions of this nature. This panel is to discuss
official Gonin Team merchandise and releases."
"Concerned parties," Heero sighed.
"Parent controls," someone behind them said.
"Individuals have to be responsible at some point," another
The next question came from a teenaged girl in an Akairo costume. "Is
it true that Gonin Team is based on the Gundams and their pilots?"
"It is not true. It is a fictional, original series," Rita
Shizen spoke into her microphone, "I am sure Kit will agree as
far as the question of the Gonin mechs and Gundams are concerned. For
my part, I can say, read the disclaimers. Any likeness between the characters
and any person living or dead is purely coincidental."
"My ass," Duo muttered.
"Blaec looks even more like you than Akairo does like me,"
"Ahem, Koi is the only one who does not closely resemble a Gundam
pilot, and I highly suspect that has to do with Winner being the only
one with family lawyers."
"How is it they are not afraid Relena or Milliard will sue?"
"Oh, because they thought Milliard was dead when they first went
into production, and…" Duo shook his head. "I don't
"It is different," Heero said in monotone, "Princess
never wears pink, so she cannot be Relena."
"She has a baby blue limo, not a pink one, it's not infringement,"
Duo said in mock seriousness.