"Good morning, Utoland!" This is Candi Wigglebutt, reporting to you LIVE from the ISO public building, where debates with world leaders from as far away as across the world are taking place. Oh, it’s so exciting here, even the Kagaku Ninja Tai are in attendance as guards, to ensure the security of the delegates, as is the special fighting force, Red Impulse. With them both here, we can just be tickled pink that we’re all so safe in the hands of total, like, professionals!"
Trying not to wince at the sound of the reporter’s mindless giggling, or to pass out from the odor of her hairspray, Ken Washio stood stiffly at attention to the left of the doors into the main conference room, his back to the wall. Joe stood at the other side, just as stiff and straight, snoring lightly.
"Psst..." he whispered to him, wishing he could move just long enough to nudge him, but the cameras were on him. He hated being on television. "Joe, wake up!"
Just like the ‘consummate professional’ Candi had described, Joe continued to snore. At least he didn’t fall over, Ken consoled himself. In fact, he looked positively menacing. Ken’d never been able to figure out how he did it.
He sighed. Another hour in hell. That’s all he had to put up with and he’d be able to get away from the damn doors. Guard duty was the worst of the crap they got assigned, by far. Just so some politician could look good, they had to stand around like idiots. It was driving him crazy.
Candi turned around to look at him, her perfectly sized breasts - for a woman twelve feet tall, not her five foot two - bouncing eagerly. Joe, well tuned to the sound, woke abruptly.
"Well, HI!" Candi gushed. "How are you two studly hunks of warrior doing, anyway?"
What program is this woman from??! Ken wondered. "No comment," he said coolly, hoping Joe would keep his wits about him.
He didn’t. "Hey," he grinned. "You’re Candi Wigglebutt, aren’t you?"
Like a shark smelling blood, she zeroed in on him, jiggling her way towards him in a way that kept Joe’s attention rooted on her chest. Hopefully, Ken thought, Galactor wouldn’t be watching this, or Katse would definitely build a mech based on her just to nail him. It’d probably work too.
Candi wiggled her way well within killing range. Ken rolled his eyes. He’d have to talk to Joe about this. Again. "So," she purred. "What’s it like to fight Galactors?"
He shrugged. "It’s a cheap thrill."
She shivered in ways that made even Ken’s eyes bug out of his head. "How exciting!"
"Mhah..." Joe managed.
She leaned close, shoving her cleavage in his face. He didn’t seem to mind. "Is it true that you’ve-" She inhaled deeply. "Killed people?"
Joe stared. "Yeah, sure."
"And that... (gasp)... even Berg Katse fears you?"
Heave "How (breathe) arousing." She shivered again for emphasis. Ken blushed and looked away. "So, Condor..." She stressed the name in ways that implied she expected to see him lounging on a sheepskin rug and sipping champagne in front of her fireplace in the next thirty seconds. "Tell me, how do the suits (sigh) come off?"
"No comment!" Ken yelled, before Joe decided to show her on national television. Not sure what part of her he could touch safely, Ken settled for waving a hand in front of her face, breaking her attention on his gunner. "That’s top secret, ma’am. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to stand back." She glared at him, but did as she was told, turning towards the cameras.
"This is Candi Wigglebutt, reporting to you from Utoland." She giggled and walked away, butt swaying. Ken, of course, expected the cameras to follow her, not stay on him.
Which was the only reason he was caught on live television, whacking the Condor across the back of the head.
Kentaro Washio, known as Red Impulse to all but his closest and oldest friends, walked regally into the ISO building, his two men flanking him and a step behind. Instantly, he picked out every person in the huge lobby, analyzed their threat potential, and dismissed them as harmless.
"The Science Ninjas are here?" he asked calmly.
Masaki answered immediately. "Yes, sir. They’ve pulled guard duty." Same as us, he didn’t add. Oniishi, a mute thanks to Galactor, didn’t say anything.
Kentaro frowned. Though he didn’t know it, Ken was his son, and he felt it to be one of his responsibilities to ensure he grew into a man, not one of Nambu’s philosophical weaklings. Ken and his team weren’t bad, but they had one glaring weakness, one Berg Katse exploited with appalling regularity. If Ken could recognize and conquer it, Katse wouldn’t constantly escape. But telling him about it wouldn’t do any good. He had to recognize and defeat it himself. That wouldn’t stop Kentaro from pushing the weakness in his face every time he saw him in the hope he’d get a clue, though.
"Is it business as usual with the ninja tai, sir?" Masaki asked.
"Yes," Kentaro replied evenly as he started up the stairs to where he was sure he’d find his son. "We make their lives hell."
Ken didn’t say anything, though he agreed with Joe completely. Silently seething, he watched Red Impulse march down the hallway towards them, Masaki and Oniishi at his heels. Irrationally, he got the urge to stick his foot out and trip him, and had to smother it consciously. There wasn’t anyone who got under his skin as easily as this man.
Red Impulse walked up and smiled patronizingly at them, rubbing his mustache slowly. "Well," he said, clasping his hands behind his meticulously maintained uniform, so perfect it made Ken feel grubby. "If it isn’t the Eagle and the Condor. You do look impressive, I must say. Like a perfectly matched pair of eunuchs."
Ken almost bit his tongue not responding, expecting Joe to leap for his throat any second. He didn’t, and Red Impulse’s grin turned even more condescending. "Have fun, children." Turning his back, he marched off with his men.
Ken stood silently, hands clenching and unclenching under his wings, taking deep breaths and counting slowly to ten to calm himself. Beside him, Joe was remarkably relaxed. Finally, after about thirty seconds, the Condor turned to look at him.
"What’s a eunuch?" he asked.
Halfway to his station, Kentaro smiled. Today was going to be fun.
"We have GOT to get Rat Bastard for this."
"Red Impulse," Ken corrected absently, sitting in the coffee room with his head on his folded arms.
"Rat Bastard suits him better." Joe took a gulp of his coffee and winced. "All he ever does is humiliate us!"
Thank God he didn’t show up when Candi was there, Ken thought and sighed. "I’ll take suggestions."
Joe grinned. "Sniper shots sound appealing."
"That’d kill him."
"Not where I’M gonna aim."
Ken didn’t answer, watching Jun come in. "How is it out there?" he asked.
"Quiet," she replied, heading over to the coffee machine.
"I didn’t know you drank coffee in the afternoons."
She shrugged. "I don’t. Red Impulse told me to get him a cup."
Ken sat up, flushed with anger. "You don’t have to get him anything!" She never brought me coffee, he thought.
The Swan smiled demurely, dumping a half dozen packets of salt into the cup and stirring it gently before putting it in the microwave and setting it on high. "How else am I supposed to pour it in his lap?" she asked and went out the door again with it.
Ken and Joe high fived each other.
"Feeling better, sir?" Masaki asked, examining his reflection in the bathroom window.
A very high pitched, somewhat singed sounding voice came from the stall behind him. "No!" Kentaro squeaked. "Now it’s war!"
Jinpei stood on the balcony overlooking the lobby of the building, trying to stifle a yawn. There was nothing to do but watch suits walk by, and he was under strict orders to keep his spitball gun in his pocket. Amusing himself by smacking his clackers together, the boy gave a heartfelt sigh, his head on his hand, held up by his elbow. Something had to happen soon or he was going to go nuts.
Someone grabbed him from behind. Jinpei struggled, surprised and angry, but whoever had him put him into a hold he couldn’t break.
"Too slow," a voice purred into his ear. "Far, far too slow."
"HI!" (jiggle) "This is Candi Wigglebutt, coming to you live from the really cool scanners at the entrance to the ISO building!" She inhaled distractingly. "They’re designed to show if packages have bombs, or if people are carrying weapons by showing what’s inside them. Unfortunately, it works like an X-Ray. Otherwise, I’d walk the Chippendale dancers through!" She started giggling again.
Behind her, Oniishi hurried through the door-shaped scanner, pushing a large crate on an anti-grav unit that had labels on it marked ‘Fragile’ ‘Delaware or Bust’ and ‘Do Not Open ‘Til Christmas.’ As it passed through the scanner itself, the screen beside Candi clearly showed a small boy’s skeleton in the outline of a bird suit, struggling to free himself from his bindings. Oniishi waved at the camera, smiling.
"Did you see that!!??" Ken yelled, pointing at the television.
"I sure did," Joe sighed, staring at Candi’s attributes.
Ken smacked him.
"MOVE! GANGWAY! OUT OF THE WAY! -- Ow! Don’t you people LISTEN??"
Leaping up again, Ken vaulted over the delegate he’d just flattened and raced down the hallway, Joe in close pursuit.
Rat Bastard was MAILING Jinpei! Not even realizing he’d adopted Joe’s name for him, Ken raced to save his youngest teammate. As long as HE was Gatchaman, none of his team was travelling by parcel post, or so help him, he’d eat his wings. Behind him, Joe sniggered under his breath, but Ken couldn’t spare the time to beat the hell out of him. He’d have to settle for killing the Rat. Joe should be able to handle Masaki and Oniishi while he did, then life would be golden and sunny.
Happy with that thought, Ken charged to the end of the hallway, preparing to leap into the sky and fly gracefully down the wide stairs there to the lobby. The press WAS down there, after all. Instead, he tripped over Red Impulse’s extended foot, and with a screech, went tumbling down the stairs instead, finally landing on his face at the bottom, still half on the stairs with his wings forward over his head.
"BASTARD!" He heard Joe scream. "YOU’LL DIE FOR THAT!" He heard sounds of fighting, then the sounds of a body tumbling down the stairs and landing beside him.
Pushing himself up onto his elbows, Ken flipped his wings back and looked beside him at the Condor, lying sprawled on his back with a slightly dazed look on his face. "Oww...." he muttered. "Did I get him?"
Ken glanced back up the stairs, at Red Impulse standing proudly at the top with his hands on his hips. "Oh yeah," he muttered sarcastically. "He’s cringing."
Ken smacked him.
Ken NEVER should have fallen for that one. Kentaro shook his head in disappointment, even as he laughed at his son. "What’s the matter, Gatchaman?" he called. "Is one old man too much for you?"
Below, Ken burned red with embarrassment, while in the lobby, delegates, officials and the newscrews stared on in amazement. Kentaro ignored them. If the Eagle was going to fold because of a little embarrassment, he had no business serving in the position he’d been given.
Ken didn’t. He tensed, and suddenly he was airborne, the Condor with him. The two young men shot towards the ceiling and split off, moving to surround him. It was exactly what he’d expected.
Joe attacked first, from a distance, pulling his cable gun and firing it at him. He was aiming to wrap it around him, but Kentaro leaped over it. The end looped around a pole instead and he grabbed it, using it to get him out of range of the Eagle’s dive, throwing himself off the balcony. He dropped, pulling on the loose end, and Joe suddenly found himself no longer gliding the way he’d expected. Kentaro’s feet slammed into the wall holding up the stairs and he yanked as hard as he could. Joe, refusing obstinately to let go of his gun, crashed into a chandelier.
"Stupid move, Condor!" he yelled. There was no answer and he made a mental note to check on him and make sure he was all right. It wasn’t his intention to actually hurt either of the boys.
Blue gloved hands grabbed his shoulders, gripping tight in anger and Ken tried to pull him free from the wall. Quickly, Kentaro broke the hold and jumped, one hand grasping the cable of Joe’s gun. Landing lightly beside the weapon, now lying under the chandelier, he grabbed it and hit the recoil button. Immediately, he was yanked into the air as it pulled him back up to the balcony. Ken, who’d been diving for him, tried to dodge, but he wasn’t quite quick enough and Kentaro kicked him solidly in the chin as he passed. Ken crashed to the floor in a heap of feathers.
Breathing heavily, Kentaro stood on the balcony, back in his traditional pose of hands on hips. Those two kids WERE good. If he’d been the average Galactor platoon, they would have slaughtered him. Unfortunately, Kentaro wasn’t average, and neither was Katse. They had to be even better than they already were. And he’d push them to be if he had to humiliate every bone in their bodies.
"Masaki!" he called. "Oniishi! You know what to do!"
"I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life," Ken muttered darkly.
"Yes you have," Joe retorted.
"Shut up, Joe."
Slowly turning in a circle, Ken found himself watching the lobby and the hundred some-odd people standing around, silently staring at him. Ken sighed, squirming, but the ropes were too tight and all he did was rotate them faster.
"Hey!" Joe complained at his back. "You’re ruining my view!"
"Not now, Joe!"
Suddenly, he spotted the view Joe had been talking about. Candi Wigglebutt was headed their way, sauntering over upside down.
"So, Gatchaman," she gushed, pushing her microphone and her cleavage in his face. "What’s your thought about being tied up with the Condor and hung upside down by your ankles from the lobby chandelier of the ISO building?" She batted her eyes at him. "Is it... (gush)... exciting?"
"Not really," Ken muttered, wishing he’d never gotten up that morning.
"Just think," Joe growled as she spun them playfully and he turned to face the camera. "We’re all that stands between you and the forces of evil."
"Shut up, Joe!"
Ryu was, as usual, left to guard the Phoenix.
After hours of sitting on the bridge with nothing to do but eat their entire supply of rations - which his teammates never complained about since it meant THEY didn’t have to eat them - he was bored, hungry, and really had to go to the bathroom.
And we’re all out of toilet paper, he thought with a sigh. It wasn’t fair. The rest of the team were probably having lots of fun without him. They ALWAYS had lots of fun while HE got stuck holding the fort. No one appreciated his value... and if he didn’t get to the can soon, he was going to burst.
Quietly locking up the God Phoenix, which was presently parked in one of the lots behind the ISO building, Ryu hopped down to the ground and went inside, grumbling to himself as he pushed his way through the huge crowds that seemed to have filled the lobby.
"Ryu?! Is that Ryu? It is! RYU!!"
"Ryu! Over here!"
No one cared if he was around, he seethed crankily. They wouldn’t care if he dropped off the face of the earth.
"Ryu! Over here!"
"For God’s sake, cut us down!"
Well, he was tired of it, and he wasn’t going to jump for them anymore.
Coming to a break in the crowd, he glanced over to see the Eagle and the Condor swinging upside down, their wings dangling to the floor as they tried to get his attention. His jaw dropped open.
"Oh, thank God! He’s seen us. Ryu! Cut us down! Hurry!"
"Yeah! Before I’m sick!"
Slowly, a grin began to cross the Owl’s face. Leave him behind all the time, would they? Well, THIS time they could wait on HIS convenience, for after he’d found a washroom. He started away.
"You’re next on the list, Fat Boy!!"
And a coffee break.
"Why, look, Oniishi! It’s a warship. Pretty big thing to just leave sitting around unattended, eh?"
"What was that? Why, you’re right! Anyone with an ISO Red Level Megatrend Pass Key Level 5586 can just crack this puppy wide open! How awful!"
"Oh, I agree. We can’t just leave it here, can we? It could be stolen. But where shall we go?"
"Okay, Bermuda it is."
With careful concentration, The mighty Eagle focused his entire being on their escape, reaching for the only weapon they could use.
"Hey!" Joe yelped. "Watch the hands!"
Ken ignored him, plucking a feather shuriken and turning it towards the ropes binding him. Carefully, he began to saw.
"What are you doing?" Joe demanded.
"Getting us the hell out of here," he growled. "Then we find Red Impulse and beat the shit out of him."
"Sounds like a reasonable plan to me."
The strands parted and the two men fell, flipping over to land on their feet. There was some applause, but not much since everyone had already seen them get captured once. Candi started jiggling her way towards them for another interview and Ken grabbed Joe’s arm and dragged him away before his tongue had a chance to hit the floor.
"Going somewhere, boys?"
Turning, Ken saw Red Impulse standing in his traditional pose about twenty feet away, Oniishi and Masaki grinning from behind him. Ken’s face darkened.
"You’ve humiliated us for the last time."
Red Impulse grinned. "You run around in bird suits. No, I haven’t."
Snarling, Ken lunged at him. "Take the others," he yelled to Joe.
"You got it!"
Red Impulse was his. He wasn’t going to allow anyone else the pleasure of punching that smug smile in. The older man watched his approach with an expression almost of bemusement, then stepped out of the way. Half expecting something simple like that, Ken spun with him, aiming a flying kick at his head. Red Impulse did something, and the next thing he knew, he’d barrelrolled three times in the air before slamming down onto his stomach on the floor. Red Impulse’s foot came down on his neck.
"Stay down," he growled.
Ken’s teeth bared as he analyzed his options. The best was to have Joe come to his rescue, but he could see the Sicilian across from him, getting slammed to the ground by Masaki and Oniishi as hard as he had.
"How do you keep doing this to us?!" Joe snarled.
Masaki grinned, kneeling behind him to maintain the hold he’d started. "Easy. We’re as good as you, with thirty years more experience."
Above Ken, Red Impulse chuckled. "Very sad, Eagle. I think you need more lessons."
Ken was about to tell him where he could stick his lessons when the older man grunted. Surprised, he looked up to see him reeling, one hand to the back of his head.
"All right!" Joe cheered.
Red Impulse looked up. So did Ken, and the entire watching crowd.
Jun stood on the balcony railing high above them, reeling her yoyo back in. "Hello, boys," she said softly.
Kentaro grinned as he saw the young woman. He still owed her for dumping that coffee on him.
"Go and play with your dolls, little girl," he yelled insultingly.
Faintly, a smile flickered across her lips. "I didn’t think you were done with them yet," she replied.
Laughter rippled through the crowd.
Kentaro frowned. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Then again, he was out to test the whole team. He may as well deal with her as well. Nodding at Oniishi to take his place guarding Ken, he turned and sprinted up the stairs. Foolishly, Jun let him come, watching him impassively from her perch. He’d make her pay for that.
"Dumb move, Swan," he started to say when her yoyo flashed, the end wrapping around his ankle. She tugged on it and his leg flew out from under him. With a yelp, he found himself cartwheeling down the stairs.
"What was that?" she called sweetly. "I couldn’t quite hear you."
Sitting at the base of the stairs, Kentaro growled up at her.
"Jun’s gonna get her butt kicked," Joe whispered to Ken.
Ken shook his head. "Maybe. She’s doing pretty well." Jun had dropped to ground level and was fighting against Red Impulse, dancing out of his reach any time he got close before moving back in, half his size but quick. As they watched, she spun kicked at his head and flipped out of reach again, leaving him shaking his head in pain. "How does she do that?"
Joe shrugged. "Maybe she isn’t wearing any panties."
Stunned, Ken turned to look at him, Oniishi’s grip on his neck keeping him from moving anything other than his head. "What?!" he hissed.
The big Sicilian chuckled. "Just imagine the distraction potential. It worked on me."
Ken turned away, disgusted, then digested the tenses he’d used and spun again.
Calmly, smoothly, easily, Jun the Swan beat the crap out of Red Impulse. Rushing in, she kicked him in the side, then, when he tried to grab her, vaulted over his head and turned, booting him in the butt, careful at all times to never repeat the same maneuvers. Red Impulse was good at his job, but he was tiring, slowing down perceptibly. She felt a smile on her lips, but didn’t let it come, focusing not on exhilaration or humiliation, but on simple success.
"Go for it, Jun!" Joe screamed. "God, I love that woman!"
Ken grinned, equally thrilled, but puzzled as well. He’d never been able to figure out how Red Impulse beat them, and now he didn’t know how Jun was beating HIM. She was walking all over the guy, though, sometimes literally. He shook his head.
"We’re missing something," he muttered.
"No shit," Joe muttered. "Jun! We want more blood!"
"Shut up, Joe," Ken told him absently, staring at his white and pink teammate. She was fighting no differently than she usually did, with great focus and attention to detail, but he knew that both he and Joe could take her, so why was she doing so well against Red Impulse?
The answer finally came to him. "She’s not angry," he realized.
"Huh?" Joe asked.
Ken looked at him. "She’s not angry. Every time we fight Red Impulse, we’re so pissed off we can’t think straight. He GOADS us into being that way. Then he kicks our butts." He slammed his hand against the forehead of his helmet. "How could I have been so stupid?!"
"Years of practice?"
"Shut up, Joe."
Standing above and behind Joe, Masaki grinned at Oniishi. The boy was finally figuring it out. Now he only had to take it one more step.
"So why’s he such a prick all the time?" Joe asked, then whooped as Jun kicked Red Impulse solidly in the crotch. "THAT’S MY GIRL!! That is ONE guy we definitely don’t want breeding. Just imagine what his kids would be like."
Ken frowned, still thinking it through. He’d always chopped Red Impulse’s behaviour down to "Asshole", but there had to be a reason. No one got where he was and survived by being a jerk. So why go to so much effort to aggravate them? Did he resent them for their age? That wasn’t THEIR fault.
"God," Joe laughed. "This is almost as good as seeing Katse getting the shit kicked out of him."
Ken’s eyes widened, seeing the parallel. "Joe," he asked softly. "What do you think when you see Katse?"
"Huh? I dunno. Like shoving my gun down his throat and hitting the automatic fire button. Why?"
"He pisses you off."
Joe snorted. "That’s a stupid question. Of course he does."
"Same here." Ken muttered. "And what happens whenever we fight him?"
"We blow up his mech."
"What ELSE happens?"
Joe sighed, seeing it too. "He gets away."
"Right," Ken replied. "Because he uses our anger against us. Just like Red Impulse does."
Right in character, Joe started swearing. "Does this mean we have to THANK that red prick?!"
Ken smiled. "Sure it does. In just the way I’m sure he’ll appreciate the most."
Bruised and tired, but determined not to give up to a little girl, Kentaro breathed heavily, watching Jun strut a few meters away, beckoning to him with one finger, her voice low and seductive. "Come and get me, you old fart."
Kentaro sighed. He was getting too old for this sort of thing. Hearing two thuds behind him, he turned to see Masaki and Oniishi lying sprawled on the floor and the Eagle and Condor spreading out to surround him, grinning.
Yes, he decided. He was definitely too old for this.
With three of them, all with their anger under control - except for Joe - it was easy. Proudly, Ken stood over Red Impulse’s unconscious body, feeling very pleased with himself.
"And we owe it all to Juney!" Joe cheered, kissing her on the cheek. She smiled and looked at Ken as if expecting him to do the same. He smiled and patted her on the shoulder, not noticing as her smile turned frosty.
"So what do we do with him now?" she asked coolly.
Ken crossed his arms. "We let it be known that we’re not going to be his punching bags anymore, but we do it politely. We’re NOT going to sink to his level."
"We’re not?! K’so!"
Ken regarded the red uniformed man, remembering all the times he’d embarrassed and made him feel like a fool.
"Oh, the hell with it," he said.
"Hi! This is Candi Wigglebutt, at the flag pole outside the ISO building, which is normally reserved for the flag of the United Nations." She batted her eyes, bosom heaving. "But it’s got a special flag today." The camera panned upwards to show Red Impulse strung up the flagpole, in full uniform except for his pants, which seemed to be missing. So were his underwear.
"So," Candi breathed up at him, jiggling. "Do you have any comment you’d like to make?"
"GET ME DOWN!!"
The camera swung back on Candi, settled on her breasts for a moment, then remembered to pull back and show her whole face. "Well, hasn’t this been a fun day (breathe, giggle). This is Candi Wigglebutt, signing off, ‘kay? Bye-bye!"
"Hey, boss!" Masaki yelled from below the flag pole. "Looking good!"
Kentaro flashed him the finger and sighed, seeing that he was going to be up there for a while. He wasn’t too angry, though. Indeed, he soon began to smile.
"That’s my boy!"