Berg Katse slumped behind his desk, whose vast surface was covered in mounds of paperwork. Nearby, his laptop chimed with the sound of yet another incoming email message. To his other side, his tablet computer bleeped with three more reminders of upcoming meetings.
How was he ever going to get it all done? As usual, he would have to delegate to his staff.
"Donroy, get in here!" He barked into his intercom, so loudly that he practically heard the man jump on the other side of the wall. Immediately the door opened and Donroy rushed in, nearly tripping over his small, spindly legs. The man looked like a weasel, but at least he could get things done. That was all that mattered… for now.
"Donroy, what is all of this?" Katse gestured to the piles of paper in outrage and disgust.
"Just the weekly reports, Sire." Donroy bowed, trembling fitfully. "You had asked to review them personally…"
"Yes, well, 'personally' does not mean personally!" Katse spat. "You review them for me! You know what I want. And if anything should happen to be approved that doesn't meet my specifications…" Katse grinned nastily.
"Yes, Sire. I understand." Donroy replied, hurriedly gathering up as many papers as he could. Katse smirked, knowing that the man would purposefully deny anything that was not absolutely within the strict limits of Galactor expenditures.
Donroy scurried away, yet a number of papers still remained on the desk. The small man's twig-like arms could apparently only carry so much at a time. Katse pushed absent-mindedly through what was left until he had at least touched every one. That should be good enough. He wasn't meant for drudgery like this; he was the Leader of Galactor, damnit! Now to look at the email…
His email was equal parts 'legitimate' and spam. He snorted indignantly at one message with a title that promised to 'make her scream all night'. Berg Katse was in a unique position to know exactly what was needed to accomplish such a task, yet jaded enough to understand that the relevant information was not to be found in emails such as this. Perhaps he should quit Galactor and make millions from sexual advice to desperate young men. Goodness knew there were enough of them, many filling up the majority of the Galactor forces.
His meanderings were interrupted by the harsh shrill of his phone. Impatiently he picked it up, snapping at the caller.
"What is it? ... Oh… the Hontwarl spy is dead? Excellent! So the plan to use his son as bait worked then… What?! ... The son isn't dead? ... What do you mean you didn't find his body? ... He must be killed at once! ... What do you mean you can't? ... Oh, well, yes, I understand… I've been there too, you know…. But still… all right, I'll take care of it myself! What's the brat's name again?"
Katse grabbed the nearest pen he could lay his hands on, scribbling in irritated fashion on the sheet of paper in front of him: a list of people to be executed for noncompliance with Galactor objectives.
"K…e…n…W…a…s…h…i…o…" he spelled out as he wrote. "From… Utoland… Fine! It'll be done! Just make sure you get onto your next assignment!" He slammed the down phone in disgust. Trust his bumbling captains to let something like this slip through the cracks! He'd have to waste his crack assassination team on this idiot boy… whatever his name was. Katse had already forgotten it.
The intercom buzzed, and Donroy's quavering voice came through.
"Lord Katse? I need to make the final arrangements for the Christmas party…"
"Christmas party? Already?" Katse snarled.
"It's… today is December 20th." Donroy pointed out. "The men are starting to wonder…"
"Oh, all right. Frozen pizza and watered-down beer, like last year."
"Of course, Sire, but I wasn't referring to the general party. I meant the officer's party."
"Oh." Katse frowned momentarily. It was astounding how much he had to pamper these officers when all they gave him in return was their own incompetence. Still, it was Christmas. A miracle could happen. Maybe.
"We'll have it at the Galactor Mansion. The usual: caviar, roast Cornish hen, chocolate soufflés, plenty of domestic champagne, you know the drill."
"Excellent, Sire. Now I just need the guest list."
"Can't you use last year's guest list?"
"Most of those men are dead, Sire. Would you like me to invite their widows?"
"No, why waste anything on them? They're useless." Katse snorted.
"I left a proposed guest list on your desk, Sire. Have you had a chance to approve it?"
"Approve…? Oh, yes. Yes I have."
"Then I'll be in to collect it, Sire."
Before Katse could respond, Donroy came into the office and rifled through the papers still remaining on the Galactor Leader's desk until he located the one he wanted.
"Oh, and take that list of targets for the Assassination Squad too." Katse waved offhandedly at Donroy as he returned to his email. "I want those people eliminated by Christmas. No point in letting them see the new year."
"As you command, Sire." Donroy bowed, scrambling out of the office.
Back at his own tiny desk, Donroy sighed in relief. Being Lord Katse's personal secretary was a high-ranking position with a lot of clout, but he didn't know how much longer his heart would be able to take it. Taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, he looked at the two lists. Yes, there was the list of people to be eliminated. Donroy carefully scanned in the paper and sent it off to the Blackbird Captain. And here was the list of guests for the officers' Christmas party! It was exactly as it had been when Donroy had sent it in for approval, except for one more addition scribbled on the bottom of the paper in Berg Katse's disjointed handwriting. A Ken Washio from Utoland…
Donroy had never heard of this man, but then that wasn't surprising. Galactor was a massive organization with hundreds of thousands of personnel worldwide. Thanks to constant 'eliminations' amongst front—line personnel, new positions were always opening up, only to be filled by newly-minted officers. Shrugging, Donroy turned to his computer, searching for the address of the last-minute guest.
Ken blinked blearily as the sun shone brightly into his eyes, causing him to scrub at his face and turn away from the light. His one day to sleep in and he had forgotten to close the blinds. Of course, staying up until three am destroying Galactor's latest base would make anyone forgetful, but Ken wasn't in a forgiving mood at the moment, even if the person he was trying to forgive was himself.
Ah well, at least he could get a head start on some mail deliveries. Maybe he'd even be early for a change. Goodness knew he could use the cash. Still, it was difficult to motivate himself to get out of bed. Ken let his mind drift, thinking about recent events. He had met his father… Well, he had met the man before that, but only recently had he known that Red Impulse was his father. And seconds later, the man had been brutally throwing him across a room and leaping into a rocket to save the world… and sacrifice himself. At the same time, the 'spy' known as Kentaro Washio had been 'killed by Galactor'… or so Dr. Nambu had put about, in an attempt to keep Ken's identity as Kentaro's son from being a threat.
Ken had been so angry… at Galactor, at the situation he was in, and also at his father. It had taken Jun's words… words shouted in frustration and fury, as the Science Ninja Team was about to die… to bring him back to his senses. He owed her one. Heck, he owned her more than one, but that was something else altogether.
Thinking of Jun had its own effect on his body, and that was something he wasn't ready to deal with right now, not while Galactor still threatened the Earth. It was this, more than anything, that forced him from his bed. He trudged into the kitchen, searching for something that might serve as his breakfast.
He was just munching on some stale Poptarts when he heard the mail come through the postal slot. Probably more bills. Sighing, he went to pick up the envelopes that now littered the floor in front of his door. Sure enough, two bills, an advertisement, and… what was this?
The remnants of his Poptart dropped to the coffee table as Ken sat down on his battered couch, staring curiously at the thick, creamy, paper envelope in his hand. His name and address had been written in a fancy calligraphy on the front. It looked like an invitation of some kind. But who would be contacting him here at the airfield? His life as Ken Washio consisted of a failing air delivery business and a tab a mile long at the Snack Jun. Why would he be invited anywhere? The postmark was a generic bulk icon, indicating nothing about the sender.
Bowing to the inevitable, Ken slid a finger underneath the heavy flap, pulling back the edge and giving himself a paper cut in the process. Wincing, he pulled out the thick card stock nestled within the silvery interior of the envelope.
"Your presence is requested…" Ken muttered to himself as he studied the card. "But it doesn't say by whom." He turned over the card, noting the address on the back: some mansion at least two hundred kilometers away from Utoland.
"Black tie, festive attire acceptable." he noted, his eyes widening as he looked at the date. December 23rd… this must be a Christmas event! He hadn't even realized it was close to Christmas. What day was it anyway?
With a start Ken realized that it was December 22nd. This event, whatever it was, was tomorrow night. His first instinct was to throw the invitation away; he hated formal events, and anything that was black tie, festive or not, was enough to drive him crazy. Ken Washio just wasn't made out for hobnobbing with snooty people who made polite chit chat and drank overly-expensive alcohol.
Still… something this expensive must have come from the ISO. Who else would be inviting him to an occasion like this? Curiously Ken lifted his wrist to contact Dr. Nambu, then stopped just before the connection was activated. Dr. Nambu had taken some time off. In his own way, Ken understood that his father's death was hitting Dr. Nambu just as hard as it had hit him. The Doctor had asked not to be disturbed for anything other than a crisis… and this was hardly a crisis. In fact, it was entirely possible that this invitation had been sent to Ken because Dr. Nambu was unavailable.
Grimacing, Ken lifted his bracelet again, initiating a different communication.
"G3 here. What's up?"
"Jun, I need you to help me rent a tux." Ken sighed.