Robin and Ennien Ashbrook : email@example.com Tha a'chumhachd sgriosail aig a'mhiosail seo air thoisich air ur buadh bhochd a thuigsinn! ...mise cuideachd, gu fior.. -- Malanochs (Mallanox)
The scene opens on a promenade level of Cross Karakoram base. Here, Galactors of all ranks and positions gather, walk, mill, or just generally hang around. There are several large bay windows letting in ample amounts of light, and various sofas and chairs are arranged about them. Seated upon one, reading a book and eating a sandwich, is a tall, blonde haired woman, recognised as the captain of Galactor's women assassins. She is involved in her reading, taking a much-needed break, so the startled cries of "Katze-sama!" fail to register on her ears. Still, she glances up as the Galactor leader strides past her, resplendant in his royal purple garb, his great cloak billowing, his tail feathers catching the sunlight....
Berg Katze stared in shock as the imposter continued down the promenade. Recovering, she stuffed her book into her carry-all, downed the last of the sandwich, and sprang up to follow the apparition in HER uniform!
=I don't believe what I'm seeing!= Katze thought, =And everybody is behaving as though they don't notice! How can they not notice?= As she was contemplating the general stupidity of the average Galactor, the imposter had reached the conveyance deck, activating the lift. Then a contingent of soldiers marched past and Katze lost him.
Furious, Katze stalked back up the promenade. Pulling out her notebook computer, she hooked it into a wall-unit, then began typing instructions. Keying a few final encryption commands, she sent them off to the members of her private attache. Downloading the latest revision of the day's prospectus, her brow creased as she noticed something new: A special assignment, to be led by Berg Katze himself.
=Or whomever is impersonating me,= Katze thought, =Since I'm supposed to be coordinating the Women Asssassins' assault on the U.N. council. I think I shall delegate that responsibility, however.. Sosai never mentioned any 'special assignments' to me...=
An encoded request interrupted Katze's thoughts. A response from the chief of staff of Katze's private entourage, saying that one of Katze's uniforms had gone missing from the laundry, when the attending officer was absent for ... unavoidable reasons. Katze smiled wryly: A nasty flu had been making its way around the base, its first symptom being sudden intestinal distress of the sort usually treated with Pepto-Abysmal. She keyed a request for any information concerning this 'special assignment'. It was several minutes before the reply arrived.
='Nothing definate',= Katze translated, ='Apparently a new mecha, from Sosai X, inspired by one of your ideas. Something to do with marshmallows.'= Katze frowned at the screen. =Marshmallows?? =
Far below, deep in the bowels of Cross Karakoram, a purple-clad form bows deeply before the glowing, animated holograph that is Sosai X's 'public face'.
"You've been unusually quiet lately, Katze," Sosai X intones, "Have you prepared yourself for this latest mission?"
The form before him nods once, wattles shaking. "Excellent! I have given you my finest mecha yet; Surely this time you will succeed in bringing me the Earth. Katze, have you.. Katze? Are you ill? Have you caught that flu? You look a little pale..."
Before him, 'Katze' bows his head low, and pecks at the floor.
"Oh I see.. You're hungry. Well, perhaps you can pick up a snack on the way out.."
Up on the promenade, the real Berg Katze waited for the mission specs of the special assignment to dowload, while horrible visions danced before her mind's eye: Visions of four men with nuclear packs on their backs, of women mutating into dogs, of glowing refrigerators, and worst of all -- fifty foot tall smiling marshmallows, bent on the Earth's destruction. She thought she knew part of Sosai X's plan.
The file transfer completed, Katze looked at the itinerary on the new mecha. No description of the vehicle was given, nor any information on its weaponry. It had been built swiftly and secretly, on the orders of Sosai X himself. It was located on Deck 18, hanger 47, and it was due to lift off ... ... in ten minutes! Firing a few final commands to her attache, Katze ripped out the notebook, stuffed it in her bag, and raced for the lifts.
The lift descended.. 12..13...14... The lift began to vibrate as a deep rumble shook the pressurized air of the hanger decks. When the lift doors opened, Katze knew she was too late. The chief of her attache ran up to meet her.
"Its target site is the old Edo quarter of Tokyo city, ma'am," Brace said without preamble, "And the payload appears to be several tonnes of.. er.. you're not going to believe this.."
"Go on," Katze snapped.
"I just work here, ma'am, I don't try to understand things..."
"I know the feeling. Did anybody get a look at the mecha? How will I know how to identify it?"
"Um......Ms. Maragorm did, ma'am"
"She's in the infirmary, ma'am"
Katze paused, puzzled, "Why is she in the infirmary? And what did she say about the mecha?"
"She didn't say anything, ma'am. She was laughing too hard to speak, and then she passed out. Fell off her Nazareth," Brace gestured to the flighter craft Kai used. It was a mecha based on Maehve, from Tami no Kazi no Nausicaa, an ancient manga beloved of Kai. Katze had coerced Sosai into making it for her for her birthday. Kai had been thrilled.
"Kai passed out laughing?" Katze confirmed, puzzled all the more, "That's unusual. I know she finds most of our mecha ridiculous, and God knows they are, but.. "
"That's my thought, too, ma'am. I don't know what this thing is, but I'm getting more and more curious. 'Course that.. whateveritis, wandering around in your suit has me curious too."
"Oh good, somebody realized it wasn't me. I was beginning to wonder.." Katze said sarcastically.
"Oh, I knew it wasn't you, ma'am. Your knees don't bend that way."
"Alright, well I'm going to that thing's target site. I want to know what in hell's going on."
"Y'might as well use Nazareth, ma'am. Ms. Maragorm fetched herself a pretty good thump; she won't be around for a while yet."
Katze eyed the flighter craft and cringed.
=At least Sosai designed this thing with more safety features than the origional concept had,= Katze thought as she skimmed over the sea towards Japan. She hated flying on Nazareth. The mecha had been aptly named. The lyrics to the old song floated past Katze's mind.... Turn this crazy bird around.. Should not have got on this flight tonight... Still, Kai seemed to manage well enough, and if she could, then Katze certainly could.
She flew on towards the target site, easily recognisable by the gobs of irridescent white goop oozing off the buildings. Disembarking from the flighter, Katze paused to inspect the blob nearest to her. White, sticky, slightly shiny.. She sniffed a bit; sugary -- yep, marshmallow. She walked through the area, casting puzzled glances at the Galactor soldiers stationed there. Whatever it was they were supposed to be doing, they were having a hard time doing it: Both they and the civilians they were herding kept giggling. Giggling at what?
Katze walked a little further. She figured she must be getting close to ground zero; the marshmallow globs were fresher, and closer together. This conclusion was confirmed when she caught sight of the Science Ninja Team. Ducking behind an overturned car, Katze surveyed their reactions with bafflement.
The Swan had her hands clapped over the eyes of the Swallow, and looked like she was about to faint. The Eagle was staring aghast at the sky, while the Owl and the Condor rolled about on the ground, hooting with laughter. The Eagle was screaming choice phrases about Katze's impropriety, upbringing and general standards of taste. What on *earth* could have brought that on?
And then she saw it!
Katze's mouth fell open, her eyes becoming organic Frisbees as the gigantic cylindrical mecha flew over head, spouting gobs of white goop from its rounded end. =And I was expecting the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man???= Katze thought, when thought was finally possible. Sosai had to have gotten the marshmallow idea off of Katze's having watched the double-feature at the Grande the other week... But where had he gotten the idea for the.. the... mecha??
Katze collapsed against a wall, holding her head in her hands. Unbeknownst to the Ninja Team (or to anybody else, for that matter), Katze always tried to keep a hand in on Sosai X's ideas -- they ended up a lot less ludicrous that way. Katze had often wondered if s/he were being paranoid in hir dedication to this task, wondered if Sosai's ideas left alone would really be all that bad.
Evidently! Worst of all, everyone would think this was HIR idea! =And no amount of screaming 'I had nothing to do with it' will convince them, either,= she thought bitterly.
Certainly not. The mecha landed (sending up clouds of brown smoke to curl around its base, making it look even ruder), and the captain disembarked to give a standard Galactor wannabe-victory speech to the people of the city. (It was a private joke with Katze and hir aides, that whomever wrote the speeches for Galactor captains did so with two lists and a D12 -- roll and write.) Behind him was the tall, purple-clad, feather-faced "Berg Katze". Katze drew her gun and tried to get a clear shot.
She was thrown to the side by a concerned bystander, as an enormous glob of marshmallow goop slid off the building behind her and landed squarely where she had been crouched. Katze cursed inwardly, seeing her chance vanish. She watched as the Ninja Team sprang forward, cutting a swath through the Galactor soldiers, who were up to their usual level of incompetance. The captain on this mission, together with the imposter, vanished into the mecha.
Sliding cautiously around the wreckage, Katze surveyed the soldiers, civilians and debris. When she spotted several Women Assassins, she rejoiced: In her bag was a Devil Star mask -- she could slip into their ranks and be inside the mecha in a flash.
The interior of the mecha was a truly laughable mess. Whomever had designed it (it didn't seem to be anyone Katze knew) must have done so on either a really tight schedule, two hours of sleep, or both. =Both,= Katze decided, =NOBODY could do this bad of a job deliberately.= Passing the torpedo bays, she picked her way through puddles of marshmallow glop. =If it had been me designing this, this stuff would be plastique... At least that way I could make gang-bang jokes.=
When she spotted the Swan, Katze slid into the shadows to follow. The Swan was on her way to report the location of the mecha's uranium core. Uranium? This didn't jive with the smoke Katze had seen pouring out of the thing earlier, but perhaps the smoke wasn't exhaust as she had first thought. It might have been purely for effect. If *that* was the case then she *definately* wanted to know who had designed the thing, so that she could execute them for humiliating the name of Galactor!
Emerging from a corridor into the trashed bridge, Katze realized she had much more humiliation to worry about than just Galactor's! There, crumpled up against a control bank, was the imposter! The Eagle stood over him, fists still clenched from the beating. Katze drew her gun: If the Eagle tried to do what he always tried to do...!
"Now, Katze!" The Eagle cried, "Let's see what you're all about!"
A panel, knocked loose by the fighting, chose that exact moment to fall, clouting Katze solidly on the head. She staggered, dazed, and collapsed to the floor, her head spinning. Her vision cleared in time to see the Eagle rip the mask away from the imposter's face.
The Ninja Team stared in shock. Katze cringed.
"It can't be!" =No...=
"He's ... he's....!" =Nooo!!=
"He's a giant chicken!!" the Swallow cried.
"Yeah but we knew that..."
Katze fell to the floor, clutching her head, =No, no, no! I am NOT a chicken! Are you people blind?? Are you idiots?? WHEN have I EVER had WATTLES in the past????= Even now the Science Ninjas were reporting their victory, and the unmasking of "Berg Katze" to their superiors. Even now, that stuck-up Nambu was beginning to laugh.
A strange hissing sound interrupted them all. Katze recognised it as heralding the arrival of Sosai X.
"You are very foolish, Gatchaman," the holographic projection intoned, "I shall never permit my beloved Katze to fall into your hands. Soon I shall destroy this worthless machinery, and with it I shall destroy you!" Diabolical laughter rang out, echoing over the hissing sound that indicated that the self-destruct mechanism, built into every Galactor mecha, had been activated. Realizing she had no convenient escape craft on this flight, Katze pulled herself to her feet and raced down the corridors. Her head still throbbed, but her only thought was to get out of the mecha and onto Nazareth before the thing blew. No pun intended.
She succeeded with only seconds to spare. The mecha exploded, sending enormous gobs of marshmallow stuff everywhere. It would have been truly priceless had not it also been sending radiation from its damaged uranium core. Katze, struggling with the flighter craft, buffetted by the wake of the God Phoenix, scoured by radiation and dodging flying bits of marshmallow... This was NOT going down as a good day. Her hands, gripping the flight bars of Nazareth, slipped as hir arms buckled. S/he felt hirself Changing, hir mutant body struggling to overcome the radiation damage. The wind ripped away hir scream of pain, as s/he Changed yet again, back to female. S/he had taken a heavy dose.
It took all of the strength she had left to get back to Cross Karakoram. She couldn't control her consumed musculature enough to land Nazareth properly, crashing instead headlong into the landing bay. Brace was there in an instant, slipping an I.V. into her veins, getting both her and Kai's flighter into decontamination when he saw the Giger readings. Once there, once certain that she was safe, Katze passed out.
She awoke in her bed, her own blankets tucked around her, the I.V. positioned within easy reach. Sitting up, she examined herself carefully. The muscles had regained much of their normal mass, and her bones were regeneratng nicely. Picking up a mirror, she decided she looked almost human again, the essentials consumed to facilitate Change replenished by her phenominal system, using the nutrients provided by the I.V. Awake, it was time to replace the drip feed with good, old-fashioned food -- lots of it! Her mutant metabolism would digest and process the food almost as fast as she could eat it, when she was in this serious of condition. She would eat to regain her strength -- she would need it when she went to confront Sosai X!
Deep within the bowels of Cross Karakoram, the voice of Sosai X echoes off the walls. A lithe, slim figure slinks carefully along the hallways, listening.
Sosai X glowers down at the pathetic figure cowering before him. He does not notice the slender blonde slipping around the corner, her mouth agape.
"...Again! Again you have allowed yourself to be caught and unmasked! Again I have had to rescue your sorry hide! I am beginning to be sorry I ever created you! And why didn't you *tell* me your mutation had progressed that far?! I could have done something! Have you gone bird-brained as well as bird-bodied?? I must have done something to deserve this.... Good idea -- a servant to be my hands and feet on Earth: Bad idea -- Berg Katze!"
"I beg your pardon?" a soft voice inquires. X turns to stare at the newcomer.
"Katze! How many times have I told you never to interrupt me when I am yelling at you! Now go away!" He turns back to the feathered mess on the floor, "Now as I was saying, Katze, you are the most frus........................*" He glances back at the blonde woman.
"You thought that was me?" a dangerously soft voice inquires.
"You thought that was *ME*???" a decidedly male note has joined the female voice, ringing paradoxically. Sosai X cringes, realizing he has made a collosal error.
"Now, don't be too hasty.. This isn't what it looks like..."
"Now now.. uh.. your blood pressure.."
"My *blood pressure*?? My *IMAGE*!! Everybody thinks *I* made that monstrosity!!!" The eyes of the woman take on a decidedly demonic aspect.
"Now.. Katze.... don't you think you're overreacting?"
These are definately the wrong words to say to a radiation-sick, battered and embarrassed mutant. The woman spits a capsule into her hand.
"I am NOT over-reacting! The world thinks I'm a CHICKEN!"
Pull back shot, revealing small mushroom cloud ascending the peaks of the Himalayas. Cue voice-over -- "And Sosai X knows that any time soon/ His little antzy Katze, goes... Ka-Boom!"