“What do you think he wants?” she whispered to her commander, as he turned to see who she was talking about.
If the stranger felt out of place in a teen diner, he tried not to show it, although he couldn’t have been more conspicuous if he had walked in wearing the green uniform of the regular Galactor goons. None of her customers wore a suit and tie.
“How am I supposed to know?” Ken replied, “Why don’t you go across and ask him?”
“But he looks sort of official, he could be from the health department, or the tax office.”
“Come on Jun, you haven’t got anything to worry about,” Ken admonished, “just go over and take his order, he probably just wants a coffee.”
“Well there are plenty of other places he could go which would be more suitable to his status.”
“Are you really going to turn away a paying customer, just because he’s dressed wrong?”
“No, of course not.” Jun sighed as she found her order pad, and went over. Ken watched with interest as, after a few seconds, she took the seat opposite and they were engaged in conversation for a short while, culminating with Jun accepting his business card before they got to their feet and shook hands.
“So what did he want?” Ken asked her when she returned to the bar.
“I’m not sure, but I have to arrange a meeting between Nambu, Jinpei and him, as soon as possible.”
“He wouldn’t tell you why?”
“Client confidentiality and all that, that’s all he was prepared to tell me, anyway.” She stared at the card in her hand, “He’s a private investigator, specializing in searching for missing people.”
“No idea, but I’d better let Nambu know as soon as possible.”
The meeting was set for the following week at Nambu’s summer house. Presently, the four of them sat around the desk in Nambu’s office. Jun was included so she could relate how she found Jinpei, but unfortunately, Nambu soon established that Jinpei wasn’t the boy the P.I. was hired to find.
“My apologies for getting your hopes up like that, Jinpei, but you do understand I have to check out every lead I find.”
“Yeah, I understand, Mr. Landau.”
“And I’m sorry too.” Nambu added, “It would have been wonderful for him to finally have some background on his family.”
“There’s no reason why I can’t try to find out something for you.” Tamir Landau was not one to let an opportunity like this pass. “Tell me everything you know, and I’ll see if I can find something for you.”
“You will?” Jinpei looked excited and hopeful.
“Well, we’ve already told you just about everything we can,” Jun insisted, “And besides, don’t you have this case to finish first?”
“To be honest, this case is pretty much wrapped up anyway, I’m only looking for surviving children, my partner is searching for any that might have…. Well, you really were my last hope.”
“Come on, Hakase, say you’ll let him, please” the boy was practically bouncing off the walls in his excitement, but Nambu had serious misgivings.
“I had the top lawyers seek out any background information they could find about you and Jun before I took you in. They came up with nothing. I can’t see how anything would have changed in the intervening years.”
“But you didn’t want them to find anything though, because if you had, I wouldn’t have been able to stay with you, and I would have had to go back to any family I had and….”
“Enough, Jinpei.” Even Jun started to get nervous at what the Swallow might reveal. “It really is up to Hakase, and if he’s saying ‘no’ then there isn’t anything else we can do.”
“Jun, could you take Mr. Landau to the lounge, please, I would like to discuss this with Jinpei in private.”
Jun directed the PI out of the office. Nambu waited until the door was firmly closed behind them before he continued. “Look, Jinpei, I understand the need you have to find information on your family, it’s only natural, but I really don’t think you want a professional busybody like him going through your history.”
“But why not?”
“Think about it. He is trained to leave no stone unturned to get the information you want, it could really make things awkward for us.”
“He won’t need to find out about the team though.”
“No, but he could still discover you all, and what if he’s not who he says he is, um, have you considered he could be working for Galactor, and this is just his ruse to uncover the identities of the Science Ninja Team?”
“Oh, you think everyone’s a Galactor spy.”
“Yes, it’s part of my job. Don’t you think there’s something even remotely suspicious about him turning up out of the blue like that? And why should he suddenly want to drop an existing case to take on yours?”
“Gee, I dunno, the money perhaps?”
“Don’t be facetious, and I’m sure his client, if he exists, will be paying him plenty to find this missing nephew, don’t you?”
“But what if he is legitimate and he could find my family?”
“Maybe he is, I could be wrong about him,” Nambu conceded, “but I have all the information the orphanage had on you, and it is how Jun said. She found you, wandering alone around the Jupiter Mountains and took you back with her to the orphanage. The staff tried everything they could to get your parents to come forward and claim you, but after months of searching, they came up with nothing. They even put out a worldwide appeal for them. That’s how you and Jun came to my attention. A small boy managing to survive such difficult terrain alone, it was certainly impressive. I knew you had to have something about you that I wanted for the team.”
Jinpei sat, his shoulders slumped, and head down, “well, that’s good to know, but it doesn’t answer any of the questions I have though.”
“What questions, Jinpei?”
“Like, who do I look like? Or do I behave more like my mom or my dad? That sort of thing.”
“I can’t see how knowing who your parents are would answer those kind of questions though. Details like that are unlikely to be recorded anywhere, unless they were people of some importance.”
“Oh, maybe they were.” Jinpei perked up again, “they could be royalty from some undiscovered island, or president of a major company and be rich beyond my wildest dreams…”
“Enough of that, Jinpei. Now, we’ll go and see the PI off the premises, then I want Ken and Joe to go check him out. Make sure he hasn’t uncovered anything we wouldn’t want him to know.” The doctor rose from his seat and headed towards the door. Jinpei followed dutifully, shoulders hunched and head bowed.
The rest of the team were in the lounge when they arrived, and all eyes turned to them as Jinpei slumped into the closest chair. Nambu ignored him as he approached the investigator.
“My apologies Mr. Landau, but we will not be requiring your services.”
“I see. Well I must say I’m disappointed, Doctor Nambu, it sounds like it would be a challenging case indeed.” Landau got to his feet and shook the Doctor’s hand. “And it’s been a pleasure to meet these fine young people too. Maybe someday, you’ll reconsider?”
“I doubt it, Ryu, would you escort Mr. Landau to his car please?” As the Owl complied, Jun went over to comfort the dismayed Swallow.
“Can you explain why, Hakase?” Ken asked, seeming confused by Nambu’s attitude, “what harm would it do if Jinpei could find out who his parents were?”
“I don’t want civilians poking around, stumbling on who you are. Have any of you checked for links to Galactor?”
“Yes, Hakase, I did, over the weekend. He’s kosher.” Jun told him. “Don’t you think I’d have informed you if I’d found anything suspicious?”
Nambu didn’t reply immediately, instead he turned to leave the room.
“What if we searched for them ourselves then?” Jun tried again.
“You don’t have time for that,” the doctor snapped. “You wouldn’t know the first place to start anyway.”
“Oh?” Jun disentangled herself from Jinpei. “I think I could easily hack into the P.I.’s database, we could work out his methods from his existing files.”
“Can I remind you all that Jinpei has already had one disastrous attempt to ‘find himself’ and I’d rather not have a repeat performance. Now I have work to do, and I’ve been held up enough for one day. I don’t want to hear any more about all this nonsense. I think you need to step up your training schedules.”
“That’s bull, Hakase,” Joe jumped in, “I want to know why you are coming up with all these excuses. You know more than you’re letting on.”
“There’s nothing to know.” Nambu fumed, “I’ve already told Jinpei everything.” With that he made his exit, leaving the four of them bemused at his attitude.
“Well, that was weird.” Joe commented, as Ryu returned to the room.
“I can understand Hakase refusing to let a stranger poke around our history, but to stop us finding out ourselves… it’s just odd.”
“You think he’s hiding something, Joe?”
“Perhaps he has good reason,” Ken speculated. “What if he knows that Jinpei wouldn’t like what he discovers about his parents? I mean, he eventually told me about my father, and look how that went. He could just be trying to protect Jinpei from being hurt.”
“I don’t care about that, even just a birthday would be something.” Jinpei sniffed, “do you think we could do it, Onechan?”
“Well, it’s not going to be easy, there must be millions of other boys born around the same time as you, but we could give it a go. Are the rest of you willing to help?”
Ken and Ryu agreed without hesitation, but Joe was a bit more reluctant.
“I’m sure Hakase could tell us everything. I’m more interested in why he won’t.”
“Well, if we could go to him with the answers, then he would have to admit what he knows.” Ken suggested.
Joe considered this for a while. “Ok, so what’s the plan then Jun? Where do we start?”
“Well, I’m going to hack into the P.I.’s computer, try and find out how he goes about tracking down missing people, then we’ll come up with an action plan based on what I discover.”
“Hakase told me there was a huge media campaign to find my parents when Jun first found me.” Jinpei added, “He said that’s how we came to his attention. There might be some clues there if we can find the original reports.”
“Well there’s something we could be getting on with while Jun’s busy. Do you have a timeframe for us to start from?”
Jun counted back “I guess from summer, about 8 years ago?”
“Nambu did say the campaign went on for months, and it went worldwide, so we’ll have to come across something about it.” Jinpei added quickly.
“Ok, I’ve got something” Jun stared at her screen intently, reading off Landau’s records. “It looks like he starts at the records office from the missing person’s town or city of birth. Live male births from the relevant year, and check for corresponding deaths too, for elimination purposes. So if we start from the Jupiter Mountain region and work out from there…. It wasn’t too heavily populated either so that shouldn’t be too difficult, it will be when we have to hit the big cities that our work will be cut out for us.”
“So we’ll have a list of the names and a date of birth for every 10 year old boy in the area, so how will we start to discover which one is Jinpei?”
“We’ll have more than just names, we will have parents names and addresses from where they lived when they were born. Joe, you can look for school records for the children, Ken, would you search medical records? Ryu, Could you find out if any of the parents survive please? I suspect the parents we’re looking for will already be dead, so any living parents could possibly be eliminated.”
“What do I do Onechan?”
“You can co ordinate our results. Where it comes to school records, you want the names that don’t have any, and medical records that stop from about two years old without explanation, ok?”
“Gotcha, Onechan. Everybody send your information to my e mail account, ok.”
“Sure, squirt, we’ve got it.” Joe smirked from behind his laptop monitor. “Someone send him something quickly please, and keep him quiet so we can get on uninterrupted”
“I’m on to it.” Jun complied, sending an e mail to Jinpei containing a list of over a hundred names, all of boys around Jinpei’s age. Delighted, Jinpei added them all to a spreadsheet.
The work kept them occupied for most of the evening, taking breaks every hour or so for food, or simply to stretch their legs and rest their eyes. It was getting on for the early hours when Jun decided to call it a night.
“Come on Jinpei, I know how important this is for you, but we have to give it a rest sometime,” she told the younger boy when he protested. “We have covered three major cities already, and we can always take it up again tomorrow.”
“She’s right, squirt,” Joe agreed, “anyway, let’s see what you’ve got so far.” He took over the Swallow’s computer and scrolled back through pages of data, looking for the one name that had no other back-up information with it.
“There are quite a few names here,” he mused aloud.
“Yeah, but I’ve still got loads I haven’t added yet.” Joe looked at him, the boy was shattered.
“Get off to bed, I’ll finish this lot for you.”
“Thanks, Joe, this is much harder than I’d expected it to be.” Jinpei stifled a yawn, then rubbed his eyes, “Night everyone,” he muttered as he left the room.
“Night, kiddo,” Ryu responded as he shut his own computer down. “Mind if I call it a night too?”
“No, go ahead, the rest of you might as well too. I’ll just get on with this and be off myself.”
“Can I just see how far he’s progressed?” Jun glanced at the screen, “Good lord, it’s going to take him forever at the rate he’s going.”
“Yeah, from what I can tell, he’s inputting all the data manually. No wonder he’s getting so far behind.”
“And as tired as he is, we can’t be sure it’s all correct either… Let me see if I can write a program that will add it all automatically.”
“Knock yourself out.” Joe vacated the chair, and moved across to allow Jun to take over. She instantly got to work, and in a matter of minutes had all the information uploading into Jinpei’s original spreadsheet. “Jun, that’s brilliant! How did you manage to write the program so fast though?”
“Easy, it was already written, I just had to run it.”
“You would have thought the little squirt would have figured that out for himself.”
“Well sometimes you can’t see the obvious when it’s staring you in the face.” Jun smiled then yawned herself. “Well, it’s shaved a few hours off our work tonight; can I ask you to shut it down?”
“Wait a sec, I think we’ve got a result.” Joe had scrolled through, and highlighted the one name that had no data corresponding to it. “Look at this!”
Jun barely glanced at the screen. “Ok, but it’s not conclusive yet, can you let Jinpei discover it himself tomorrow? We wouldn’t want to steal his thunder, you know.”
Sighing, Joe shut down, “Well it’s good to know everything we’ve done tonight hasn’t been in vain.”