JOSOUSHUMISHA NINJA TAI GATCHAMAN Lori McDonald
(from an idea by Jacque Koh)
"NO! NEVER! UH UH! NO CHANCE, NO WAY, NO HOW!"
"But it’s the only-"
"NOT IN THIS LIFE! NO WAY IN HELL! FIND SOME OTHER FLUNKY! GET RYU TO DO IT!"
"But Ryu could never pull it off. YOU can!"
"I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO INSULTED IN MY LIFE!"
Nambu winced, his ears hurting from the Sicilian’s unending screams. They’d been going on for over an hour now. "So, you want Ken to go in there with no backup?"
"YES!" A pause. "Send Jun instead of me."
At least he’d stopped screaming. "No. Galactor has seen her too many times. She’d stand out too much."
"AND I WON’T?!"
Back to the screaming. "Joe... a few minutes in surgery-"
"YOU COME ANYWHERE NEAR ME WITH ANYTHING RESEMBLING A KNIFE AND I’LL BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF!"
Nambu tensed. "Joe, I’m ordering you-"
"BIG FUCKING DEAL!"
Over by the window, Ken rolled his eyes, sitting between Ryu and Jun, with Jinpei on Jun’s other side. They’d all stopped snickering several minutes- and lots of Sicilian death threats- ago. "I would have thought you’d like an assignment in a girls’ school."
Nambu scowled at a sudden memory. "You certainly indicated a liking for them when you were fifteen."
"That was different," Joe groused. "I didn’t have to wear women’s clothing."
"Yes. Apparently wearing nothing was far less embarrassing for you."
Joe sneered at him. Ryu and Jun glanced at one another while Jinpei started sniggering.
Ken rolled his eyes again. "Joe, it’s final. The Utoland boys’ military school may be a front for a Galactor training camp. We can’t get in there, but we can get into its sister school next door. Which means we have to pretend we’re girls."
"NO FUCKING W-"
Ken continued as if he hadn’t spoken. "Jun is too noticeable. So are Ryu and Jinpei. That leaves us. And if I am going in there in a skirt and pumps, then you are going in there in a skirt and pumps."
"NOT IN THIS -"
"And if you don’t feel you can pretend to be a woman, I’ll have absolutely no compunction against taking this birdrang right now and making you one. Have I made myself clear?"
Ryu and Jinpei started inching away from him.
Joe hesitated, then turned away. "Fine. But you’re a dead man right after, Washio."
"That’s Ms Washio to you, buster."
"Now, this is lip gloss." Jun set the little circular container on the table. "It’s for your lips. And this is lipstick, also for your lips. And here’s some chapstick, and a nice gloss."
Ken blinked at the assembled materiel. "I have to use all this?"
"Yes. It’s all for the natural look."
He shuddered. "The what?"
"The natural look. Like you’re not wearing makeup at all."
A slow confusion began to trickle into him. "Then why bother?"
"Because otherwise you won’t look good."
His eyes started to cross.
The door opened and Joe stomped in.
"Hi, Joe," Jun called.
He didn’t answer, stomping across the room.
Reaching the closet, he threw it open and started digging for a clean shirt, the one he was wearing wrinkled and dirty. Finding nothing but women’s clothing in place of his usual attire, he slammed it again.
"Joe, are you all right?"
Ken glanced up from the multitude of lip material, afraid to ask what he was supposed to do for eyes. "Joe just had his surgery to make his voice sound like a woman’s, didn’t you, Joe?"
Joe flashed them both the finger.
Jun giggled. "Oh, lord. From a bass to a what? Come on, Joe, tell us."
He glared at her, shaking his head vehemently.
"Aw, come on, Joe," Ken grinned. "You can tell me. I’m next anyway."
Joe mouthed death threats.
"Joe," Ken said sternly. "It can’t be that bad. What octave did they make you?"
"Soprano," he squeaked. "Okay??!"
"Oh my!" Jun gasped.
Dressing was... different.
Joe glared at the clothes, wishing he were anywhere but where he was, and afraid to swear like he wanted to. The last time he’d opened his mouth, Ryu had laughed himself into convulsions, and now Jinpei was following him around with a tape recorder. Ken’s new voice wasn’t much different from his old one, just a little smoother and more feminine. What did he do to deserve sounding like Minnie Mouse? Jeez, he’d think the doctor who performed the procedure would know better considering how many times he’d toilet papered his office. It was like he had a grudge or something.
Women’s clothes belonged on women... and the occasional good looking Queen. Snarling silently to himself, he dug through the silks and cottons they’d been presented with. He hated this assignment. Staking out a sewage plant from the inside would be preferable. He should know, he’d done that.
I really gotta stop pissing off superiour officers, he thought ruefully.
Across the table, Ken was standing with his arms outstretched, Jun helping him into a girdle. "You need one, Ken," she was telling him. "You won’t have hips otherwise." She laced the back up loosely.
"Will it be uncomfortable?" he asked dubiously.
"Nah." Bracing her knee against his back, she pulled on the strings, and Ken’s eyes almost popped out of his head. He was almost blue when she tied off the strings. "You’ll be in far too much pain to be uncomfortable," she assured him, slapping his back.
Ken started to turn purple. "I think my balls just popped off."
Joe swallowed a laugh.
"All right, Joe, you’re next."
"Can’t I just be a really ugly woman?" he protested.
"Got it!" Jinpei cheered. "Come on, Ryu, let’s go play this in the mess hall!"
Joe sighed. If only they’d let him bring his gun.
Finally, they were ready. Dressed, makeuped, shaved, wigged and perfumed. They’d gone out to the taxi to the applause and whistles of most of the men working at the ISO - and how they’d found out, Ken really wanted to know - and gotten into the taxi, their trunks and suitcases strapped to the top.
How do women carry so much stuff? Ken wondered, his mind still reeling from all the lessons on colour coordination, hair sprays, makeup and clothes he’d gotten. Jun had even taught them how to walk. Which unfortunately Jinpei got on tape. It was on its fifth showing in the mess hall when Joe broke in with the bazooka and blew the VCR to atoms. Along with most of the back wall. Then proceeded to chase Jinpei swinging it. He might have caught him if he hadn’t been in heels at the time. Nambu’s orders. They had to learn to walk in them.
Dressed in a blue, knee length dress with white lace at the throat and wrist and sensible, slender blue shoes, Ken wore a wig that made his normally shoulder length brown hair reach in a braid almost to his waist. He had on a light gold chain and hose, as well as a bracelet cunningly designed to hide his communicator. He also wore a jacket the same blue as the dress, with the emblem of the school over one breast. The breasts themselves were part of the girdle. Even he’d drawn the line at having real ones put in. Joe had thrown a fit at the idea.
Sitting up straight in the back seat with his hands folded in his lap and his legs tucked together to one side, he looked at his second. Joe slouched beside him, his dark blonde wig already listing to one side, his makeup skewed, and his legs spread wide the way he usually sat while he sulked. It was a position that didn’t quite suit the plaid skirt he wore.
"Joanne?" Ken called sweetly.
After two days of being called nothing but ‘Joanne’ so he’d get used to it - or Sweetcheeks by certain maintenance workers who could run really fast - Joe grunted a reply.
"SIT LIKE A LADY!" Ken screamed.
Joe sat up, yanked his wig back into position and glared at him. "Happy now, Kelly?" he growled in his new, lovely, dulcet tones.
"Immensely," he purred with a smile.
The Utoland Military School for Girls was a complex of dormitories and classrooms set on an estate on the outskirts of the city right next to the Utoland Military School for Boys, separated only by a single chain link fence.
"Well, that’s convenient," Joe muttered, looking out the window at it. "I wonder where the unwed mother daycare is."
"Not if I can help it," he muttered.
Apparently, the school had a tradition of meeting new students who came to the school. Either that or it was lunchtime. The taxi came up to the main building and pulled to a stop in front of a huge group of young women in identical dark blue dresses.
"Get your tongue back in your mouth, Joanne," Ken muttered.
Joe kept staring. "Kelly, I have a confession. I think I’m a lesbian."
"Nambu will be so proud. Now get out of the damn car!"
The two ninjas climbed out. The students looked them over curiously. Joe leaned over to Ken. "Why are they wearing the same clothes?" he whispered.
"I think it’s some kind of school uniform. We’ll probably have to wear the same thing."
Joe stared at him. "Then why did we bother to pack??"
A tall, robust woman wearing her hair in a bun came up to them, her face stern, her chest larger than those of some horses. "I am Captain Ilsa Pettagrewmafor of the Utoland Military School for Girls. I will be your principal. What are your names?"
"Kelly Anderson," Ken said automatically.
"And you?" she demanded of Joe.
The Captain drew herself up even larger than before. "Ladies do not use nicknames."
"Lucky I’m not a lady then, eh?"
Her backhand moved remarkably quickly.
"We at the Utoland Military School for Girls don’t believe in sparing the rod or the child," she boomed. "Isn’t that right, girls?"
"Yes, Mrs. Pettagrewmafor," three hundred some-odd girls choroused.
"Now," she repeated. "What is your name?"
"Can I get back to you on that?" Joe whimpered from somewhere near the vicinity of the ground.
The first problem - other than the fact that he was working with Joe, which meant nothing would go right - was the fact that they weren’t sharing the same room. Ken looked around at the tiny room he’d been issued. It contained two bunkbeds on separate walls, two closets, two dressers with four drawers each and two desks, all of which they were apparently supposed to share.
Ken sighed as he laid his suitcase down on the only unused bed and started to unpack. He was also supposed to change into a uniform which lay on the pillow and report to his first class, which appeared to be home economics. Military history came right after that. Apparently, they believed in giving their students a well rounded education here.
He sighed and glanced at himself in the mirror on the door. With the wig and makeup, his face had softened into what he supposed could pass for a pretty enough woman. His big blue eyes seemed even bigger now. He sighed again and went back to his bed, hoping his roommates would be the quiet types. He had a lot of work to do. Still, they’d most likely be sweet, gentle girls. Studious, he decided. Definitely studious.
The door banged open and three women with long blonde hair and the bodies of playboy models ran in, giggling as they started stripping off their uniforms, breasts bouncing as they put on tight bikinis and bathing suits. With a few rapid, Swedish-sounding hellos to him, they all swept out again, clutching their towels.
Frozen where he’d been standing, Ken remembered to breathe after a few minutes and went back to his unpacking. Maybe studious had been the wrong word.
It wasn’t fair.
I can’t believe I’ve been here ten minutes and I’ve got detention already.
Detention in the school, apparently, consisted of hard labour. Dressed in his new - why me? - uniform with a smock over it - God, I look like some kind of ugly mutant chick! - Joe knelt on hands and knees and scrubbed the old floor of the gym showers with a toothbrush.
I hate this, I hate this, I hate this... I better get the chance to murder Galactors or I’m gonna kill somebody.
Time passed - apparently no one cared if he missed classes, himself included - and the floor became as shiny as his eternal neatness obsession could get it. Satisfied, he tossed the toothbrush into the bucket. "There."
The doors opened and fifty girls from the grade 5 class poured in, giggling and spreading mud as they went. They surged into the showers and out again, leaving mud and soap scum everywhere.
Just like clockwork, the captain came in.
"Joanne!" she thundered. "This is disgraceful, do it again!"
Somehow, Joe had been expecting that.
"Hello, my name iz Hilga. I am vrom Sveden. Zeez are my sisters, Heidi and Morga. We do evewythingk togethah. And vhat is your name?"
"Kinky. I mean Ken! I mean Kelly.
Joe stomped into his room.
And tripped over the garbage piled in the middle of it.
"Who the HELL left this CRAP here??" he yelled.
A shadow fell over him, belonging to a woman who looked to be about the same size as the God Phoenix, or to at least weigh as much.
"You got a PROBLEM with that, SHORTY?"
"In my office again already, Ms Daring?" the captain sighed.
"Yeah." Joe grinned, trying not to wring his hands together too noticeably. "I’d like to request a room change."
"Look, I said I was sorry! How was I to know you’d been roomed with the Swedish nude team?? I just wanted to get away from Psycho Bitch!"
Ken sighed, headed down the hallway with his books held to his chest, reminiscing...
"They were so blonde..."
"Yeah, yeah." Joe rolled his eyes. "Remind me to tell Jun to dye her hair. Look-" He leaned close. "I think this is a waste of time. I haven’t seen a single boy since we got here!"
"Joanne! Thinking impure thoughts!" Joe wasn’t sure who was yelling until the principal grabbed him by the ear and yanked him around. "We’ll clean that dirty mind out for you right away. To the kitchens!"
"But - but - but - but - but..."
Apparently, cleaning one’s mind involved much scraping of potatoes.
"Now, class, today we are going to have a pop quiz on current events..."
Ken sat near the window, tapping his pencil against the desk as he looked out across the field, filled with marching schoolgirls - apparently they did march here - and into the yard of the school next door. There were only a few classes marching, none looking any different from the girls on his side save for appearance. There was no sign of Galactor at all, though he supposed he’d have to get closer. If only they could have enrolled there, but they didn’t accept incoming students in the middle of term. Only the girls’ school did. He’d have to think of ways to get over there. Perhaps sneaking over at night, though he didn’t want to be too obvious. Maybe there were shared classes between the schools. Or co-ed dances and the like.
"Ms Anderson! Will you pay attention?!"
Ken’s head - after a brief moment spent remembering that he was Ms Anderson - snapped forward. "Yes?"
The teacher, a thin woman who somewhat resembled a crane with glasses, pursed her lips at him. "I asked you a question, Ms Anderson. What is the only illegal military group sanctioned by the UN?"
Ken stared at her blankly, aware of everyone’s eyes on him. "Uh... the Mousketeers...?"
Giggles sounded as the teacher’s face became even longer. "WRONG! The CORRECT answer, Ms Anderson, WHICH you would know if you had ANY knowledge of current events, is Kagaku Ninja Tai. The only team in history sanctioned by the UN which, at its inception, was composed entirely of minors."
Ken banged his head on his desk.
"Now, Ms Anderson, you will have ready for me, BY the end of the week, a full report on the activities and impact of the Kagaku Ninja Tai on Utoland society. IS that understood?"
"Yes, ma’am," he whimpered, already seeing the F.
"You got assigned to do WHAT?" Joe sniggered.
"Write a report on us," Ken replied glumly, brushing at his wig halfheartedly. "I can’t do that!"
Joe raised an eyebrow from where he lay in his bed with his arms folded under his head. "What are you complaining about? You’ll blow them away."
"That’s just it." Ken tossed the brush down, sighing in his pale blue cotton nightie with ruffles. To Joe’s mind, he looked like an idiot. He just wore an oversized shirt to bed. "I know too much. I’ll be so paranoid about saying too much I know I’m going to fail."
Joe rolled his eyes. "Who cares? We’re not really in school. It doesn’t matter if we fail. You already have your high school diploma."
"I’ve never failed anything in my life. I don’t want to start now."
Joe just rolled over. "Go to sleep, stupid."
The lights went out. "Good night, Joe."
"Good night, Ken," he growled. "Good night, Kelly. Good night, Joanne. Good night, Billy Bob."
"Shit, don’t be so defensive!"
"Look, I’ve been scraping vegetables all day, okay? I’m tired."
Ken sighed. "Fine. Sleep a few hours. But I want you awake at 3 to do a recon next door."
"Right." He yawned. "If we get caught, we’ll just tell them we’re looking to get laid. That should keep me scraping taters until I’m 90."
"Go to sleep, Joe."
They both dozed off, then woke abruptly at the sound of a faint scraping at the window. Both men froze, barely breathing, Joe wishing he had his gun, Ken concentrating only on remaining still.
The window jiggled a bit, then opened, and they watched through slitted eyes as a shadowy form slipped through, tensing to move.
It hit the dresser and cursed quietly.
"Shh," came from out the window in a desperate whisper. "You’ll wake them!"
"I will not!" the shadow whispered, and moved with exaggerated caution farther into the room.
Oh, joy, Joe thought. We’ve finally meet the neighbours, and they’re on a panty raid.
"Oh, wow," the boy whispered, staring at Ken. "Look at this total babe!"
"Where!" Another one stuck his head in the window. "Wow!"
"Shh! Keep it down!"
"Yeah, yeah. What about the other one?"
The boy looked. "Eew... what a dog."
Joe thought about killing him. Lots.
Ken sighed, sitting under a tree near the fence into the boys’ school, nibbling delicately at a cucumber sandwich on a china plate in his lap.
I have got to get in there somehow! he thought, dabbing at his lips with a linen napkin.
Joe slouched over, dropped down beside him, grabbed the sandwich out of his hand and crammed it into his mouth. Ken glared at him but decided not to push it. "They finally let you out, did they?"
Joe nodded, chewing. "They ran out of potatoes."
"I can’t believe you went with those panty raiders!"
"Hey! You said we had to get over to the boys’ school."
"Maybe if you’d offered to GO to the boys’ school," Ken retorted dryly. "Instead of asking to help with the raid."
"You have no sense of fun."
"Neither does the Captain," Ken muttered.
His second shuddered. "Don’t remind me." He leaned back against the tree. "Oh well. No harm done."
Ken glared at him. "Are you kidding?? They stole all my underwear!"
"So?" Joe frowned. "What are you wearing now?"
Ken looked at him meaningfully. "Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not in the room with those blondes anymore."
"...that’s disgusting! And funny."
Ken rolled his eyes. "I hate you, Joe."
"I hate you too, Ken."
"Hey! Get out of my underwear drawer!"
"Tough, Joe! We have to share! Especially since it’s your fault I lost mine and I’ve got gym class next."
"Uh, Joe.... why is all your underwear the see-through thong type?"
"No panty lines, okay??"
"Whatever you say, Joe."
Joe sat grousing in his class, snarling at the board, hating every minute of it, except for the redhead with the cleavage sitting beside him.
"Joanne! Keep your knees together!"
Joe slammed his legs together, almost narding himself in the process. The redhead didn’t notice, reading her textbook and breathing, almost popping her buttons as she did. Joe swallowed. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
A shadow fell over him and he winced, expecting potato duty again, if not something worse, but it was a pimply faced girl with glasses, beaming at him over her clipboard.
"Hi, Joanne? Um, my name is Rachel? And I’m the school club organizer?"
Did she think everything was a question? "Yeah?" Joe asked suspiciously.
"Um, have you joined a club yet? Because everyone is required to have one? And I haven’t gotten you down yet?"
Joe rolled his eyes. The last thing he wanted was to be in a club too. "Put me down for whatever you want. I really don’t care."
She started bouncing. "Really? That’s great? Because we really needed a new soloist?" She started hurrying away as though afraid he’d change his mind.
Joe frowned. "Soloist in what?"
She glanced back briefly at the door. "Um, in the choir?"
"Well, Joanne. I see we’ll be spending more time together in the kitchen, won’t we?" The Captain smiled, stepping around in front of him. "You really must enjoy scrubbing those potatoes."
"Look, Joe! I’m a cheerleader!"
Joe glanced up at his commander and roommate, dressed in a short cheerleading outfit and carrying pompoms. "Of course you are."
Ken shook the pompoms at him. "Neat, huh?"
"Go away, Ken. You scare me."
Ken’s eyes rolled. "Grow up, you idiot. There are games every week at the boys’ school. This school provides the cheerleaders. I can get in this way without anyone the wiser."
"You wear that skirt any shorter and they’ll be wise to a lot more than just our mission."
"How could they?"
Joe grinned. "You’ve never seen a cheerleader perform, have you?"
"Oh, no reason. I gotta go. Choir practice." He hurried out the door, leaving Ken mouthing choir practice? behind him. At the end of the hall was a pay phone. Joe dug out a quarter and called the Snack J. "Jinpei?"
"Hello. Who’s this?"
"The one who’s gonna kill you for those tape recordings you made unless you do me a favour."
"Oh, hi, Joe! What do you want?"
Joe leaned into the receiver conspiratorially. "I want you to come to the Utoland Military Boys’ school for their basketball game on Saturday, and bring your camcorder."
"Don’t worry," he smirked. "You’ll know."
How sick the sound
Like yanking wings off beeeeessss...
And tossing turds
And fleecing nerds
And narding guys like theeeee..."
"JOANNE! That is NOT the way the song is supposed to be SUNG!"
The Choir Mistress drew herself up indignantly. "If you did not have the finest soprano I have heard since they outlawed the castration of boy singers, I would have you sent to the kitchens in shame."
She slammed her conductor’s wand down on her stand. "Flippancy will NOT be tolerated!" She took a deep breath. "Now, since you apparently will not take Amazing Grace seriously, we will start with a simpler song. Turn to page two of your songbook and begin. And remember, you are a lady. Sing with the grace of one. And begin-"
"Who is it, who is it, who is it??
Just a short and geeky guy who wears white wings..."
Finally. He was in the boys’ school. Ken looked around discretely at the oak walls, the ornamental tapestries and suits of traditional armour in alcoves. Centuries of tradition steeped these walls and it sickened him to think that Galactor had sullied it. Not for much longer though. He swore on his title of Gatchaman that the Galactors would be stopped. For now though...
The second half time started and Ken pranced out with the girls, shaking his butt and his pompoms both.
"Give me a "U"" Shake the booty.
"Give me a "T"" Check the cameras.
"Give me an "O"" See where Joe is as backup.
"Give me a "L"" Stay in formation. Swivel the hips. Pretend you have any.
"Give me an "A"" Swing the hair. Check for obvious Galactor agents. Nope.
"Give me a "N"" Kick high. Do the cartwheel. Pray the cup holds everything flat, and that I can still urinate normally after today.
"Give me a "D"" Was that JINPEI?????
"Got it?" Joe asked.
"Yup," Jinpei giggled, focusing in with the zoom lens on the camcorder.
Joe tossed a handful of popcorn into his mouth. "Good. I love the cinema."
Cautiously, Ken crept down the hall, looking for the principal’s office. Surely there would be some sort of clue as to where Galactor was in there. Behind him in the gym, his fellow cheerleaders jumped around madly as the boys played. As far as they were concerned, he was looking for a bathroom. It didn’t leave him much time.
There was the sound of footsteps up ahead. Afraid of being caught, Ken ducked into one of the side rooms, holding the door almost closed so that he could peek out and see a security guard walk past. His eyes narrowed. There was something odd about the way he looked around.
Ken was just about to follow him when a hand fell onto his shoulder and he was spun backwards and tossed onto a bed. Stunned, he looked up.
"Well, well, well," leered a student a good six and a half feet tall. "Looks like the boys didn’t forget my birthday after all."
Jinpei was on his way home, under pain of death if he let anything happen to that film. Joe wanted to be there personally when they spliced it into the ISO security monitors for all of Crescent Coral. With a nice little Polaroid handy to get a picture of Ken’s face when he saw it. He planned to use it for his Christmas cards.
Quietly, Joe crept down the hallway after Ken. He’d seen the room he’d hidden in, then hid himself when the guard went by. He looked fishy, but Ken didn’t reappear like he’d expected. Worried, Joe went towards the door.
The door exploded outwards, slamming against the opposite wall, a stunned looking young man with it. "waS iT sOmeThiNg I sAid?" he whimpered and collapsed.
Ken came out of the room, readjusting his blouse.
"What happened?" Joe asked.
Ken looked at him indignantly. "He tried to feel me up! That PRICK actually tried to put his hand down my shirt!"
"Aw, poor baby. Did he disturb your socks?"
Ken gave him a look of pure venom.
"What’s going on here?!"
Both ninjas turned guiltily to see the guard glaring at them. "What did you do to that boy?" he demanded.
Joe was trying desperately to think of an answer when Ken abruptly burst out crying.
"He jumped me!" he wailed. It was interesting to watch. The last time he cried was when he made onion soup. Or was it before they incorporated the Kevlar cups in their uniforms and he got drop kicked in combat? Joe couldn’t remember. "He tried to feel me up!" Ken sobbed. "It was horrible."
"So you threw him through a door," the guard noted dubiously.
"She’s stronger than she looks," Joe said helpfully.
"I think she’d have to be."
"Well, at least we found the principal’s office," Joe muttered, sitting with his arms crossed and an annoyed expression on his face.
Locked in with him while the principal was called from the game, Ken smiled. "Don’t frown on good fortune, Joe." Standing, he went to boot the computer, and was soon wandering happily through the files, downloading information onto floppy disks.
"Find anything yet?" Joe asked while he watched the door.
"Not really... oh wait, here’s a floor plan. It might be useful."
"Does it say Here Be Galactors with a great big X?"
"No. I doubt they’d actually do that twice."
Joe squinted. "I think someone’s coming." Quickly, Ken powered down the machine, shoved a half dozen computer disks into Joe’s protesting cleavage and was sitting beside him quietly when the door opened and the principal came in.
The man walked over to the desk and sat down. In an attempt to determine whether he was a Galactor, Joe tried to imagine him wearing a fish head. It was remarkably easy. Bingo, he signed to Ken.
Don’t be so sure just yet, was the reply. These guys aren’t stupid enough to be obvious around strangers.
The principal folded his hands on the desk and regarded them both. "I heard what you did. Quite impressive. Have you ever considered a career in the Devil Stars?"
"So we’re gonna be Devil Stars." Joe frowned, sitting cross legged on his bed. "That’s NOT exactly my big career goal, you know."
Halfway into a sweater, Ken’s answer was somewhat muffled. "It’s perfect. We’ll know exactly where the training base is."
"But I HATE wearing fur! Makes me itch."
Ken’s head reappeared, his wig askew. "I don’t want to know how you found that out, Joe."
Ken obediently pulled on his skirt and readjusted his wig before touching up his makeup. They were back in their room after meeting with the principal of the boys’ school, waiting for whoever would come to meet with them. Joe had been sulking the entire time.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Ken went to open it and the Captain came in.
"So," she boomed. "Our newest students wish to be Devil Stars." She grinned at Joe. "I knew you had it in you."
Both goddamned schools belong to Galactor! Joe signed to Ken as they followed the principal.
I know. My God, this goes farther than I ever dreamed.
Yeah, ain’t it great?
What do you mean?
I means I get to kick this fucking bitch’s butt and get a medal for it too. You know how much I wanted to do that when we were in high school??
Your restraint is admirable, Joe.
You got that right!
The Captain led them down into the basement of the school, past the heater to a large water tank. Opening the door in the side, she revealed a hatch which she opened to show a ladder leading down. "Follow me," she ordered.
I’ll go first, Ken signed.
Great. Just don’t look up my skirt.
Why the hell would I- The rest was unreadable as Ken hurried down the ladder. Wishing he had his cable gun, Joe followed.
Below the school were the corridors of a Galactor base, and both ninjas tried to look suitably impressed as they were led deeper inside, past green suited goons who gave Joe barely a glance, but kept whistling and trying to make dates with Ken. He giggled lots and kneed a few of the more persistent one.
Ain’t it nice to be popular?
Shut up, Joe.
They were led to a section off limits to male personnel, where Devil Stars in full regalia and many of their fellow students lounged around.
There must be five or six hundred women here! It’s an army!
Hey, aren’t those the Swedish sextoys you were rooming with?
What? Oh, no!
Yummy. I think I’ll deal with them first.
In your dreams..
Well, from the moaning every night, I guess they’re already in yours.
"Welcome to Devil Star territory," the principal told them. "None of the regular troops will bother you here, and in fact, we regularly geld any man who comes in here."
Both Ken and Joe stood a little straighter.
"Oh, really?" Joe squeaked, even higher than normal.
She gestured at the other girls. "Here, you will be trained. Only the finest of our students go on to be Devil Stars, but their fate is a glorious one.
Yeah, to get butt kicked by us, Joe signed.
"For they are the ones who fight the Kagaku Ninja Tai. Girls!" She clapped her hands. "Assemble for the oath."
"The what?" Ken wondered aloud.
"The oath of the Devil Stars," she told them regally as the girls crowded around into giggling ranks that fell silent once she raised her hand. She dropped it and they started to speak at once.
"WE SWEAR TO BE DEVIL STARS," they all said. Ken and Joe struggled to keep up.
"TO SERVE GALACTOR EVEN THOUGH THE STUPID GITS DON’T DESERVE US, AND MOST COULDN’T TIE THEIR SHOES WITHOUT US."
Ken tried not to smile. Joe failed.
"TO WEAR THE SACRED UNIFORM THOUGH IT ITCHES AND THE FUR MAKES US SNEEZE-
"TO BOW TO THE GIANT CHICKEN AND THE IDIOT WHO LOOKS LIKE A DOBERMAN ON SPEED MAY-HE-NEVER-HEAR-US-SAY-THIS-"
Giant Chicken? Ken wondered.
Good description of Katse! Joe mused.
"AND TO BATTLE THE KAGAKU NINJA TAI!
"TO DEFEAT THE SWALLOW, SINCE IT’S DAMNED EMBERASSING TO BE BEATEN BY A SHRIMPY FIVE YEAR OLD."
"TO HUMBLE THE OWL, WHICH SHOULD BE EASY, HE’S SUCH A TUB OF LARD. WATCH OUT HE DOESN’T SIT ON YOU.
"TO MAKE FUN OF THE SWAN BECAUSE AT LEAST WE DON’T HAVE TO WEAR THE SEXIST MINISKIRT AND CARRY A YOYO. MAYBE WE CAN RECRUIT HER."
"TO TAKE THE CONDOR ALIVE BECAUSE DAMN IT, WE NEED A NEW SEX SLAVE."
Joe looked like he was reconsidering his battle plan.
"AND TO GELD THE EAGLE."
"OH GLORY BE TO GALACTOR, GOSH IT’S SO MUCH FUN!"
"Amen!" Joe yelled.
"How’s she doing?"
"Okay, I think. I guess the excitement just got to be too much for her. Cool oath, by the way!"
"Thank you. We like it."
"I especially like the bit about the Condor as a sex slave."
"Yes, it’s very popular. As principal though, I get him first."
"Oh... um, er, I see. I kinda thought those Swedish girls looked deserving enough."
"How thoughtful of you."
Ken moaned, opening his eyes to find himself lying on a couch in the main room. Joe grinned at him, kneeling next to the Captain.
"What happened?" Ken groaned, sitting up.
"You were overwhelmed by the Oath, hon," Joe told him with a leer. "Guess what, we’re now Devil Stars!"
"Not quite," the Captain informed them. "First you have to prove yourselves."
Back in their room, Joe raged at his commander.
"WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU LET ME KILL THEM ALL!"
"Well," Ken pointed out. "For one, there were about three hundred of them."
"LIKE THAT’S EVER STOPPED ME BEFORE!"
Ken winced, wishing that an angry Joe didn’t have to be such as LOUD Joe. "Could you keep it down? They might hear you."
"SHUT UP!!!" he screamed.
Joe gaped at him a moment, then clapped his jaw shut and turned away. "You could have just asked."
Feeling a headache coming on, Ken lay down. "Look, Joe. I talked to Hakase. He wants us to stay undercover. If they’ve infiltrated both schools, they may have infiltrated more. If we just blow up these buildings, we may not get them all."
Joe looked stubborn. "I’m tired of being a woman."
"So am I. These hose are giving me a rash. But we have to obey orders."
Joe sulked, then nodded. "Fine. So what next?"
Ken shrugged. "Wait for our indoctrination. Until then, classes, homework, the spring dance, studying..."
"WAIT a minute! Back up the truck! What dance?"
Ken looked innocent. "Haven’t you seen the signs?"
"Hell, no! I’ve usually got my nose buried in a bucket of potatoes, remember?"
"There’s a spring dance tomorrow night. Formal. Attendance is mandatory."
"And I suppose we have to look for dates now?"
"Shouldn’t be too hard. I’ve got three invites so far."
"Why are you looking at me that way, Joe?"
Joe stormed into the room, slammed the door, and started swearing at the top of his lungs.
"Having trouble finding a date?" Ken asked, barely glancing up from his report on Gatchaman.
"What’s wrong with me?!" Joe snapped, gesturing at himself. "Give me one good reason why I can’t find a date with the average teenage boy."
"Because you’re really a psychotic man?"
"They don’t know that!"
Ken frowned. "I hate to tell you this, Joe. But the psychotic is still kinda obvious."
Joe snorted, crossing his arms and turning away. Ken rolled his eyes. "Look, what technique did you try?"
"I used my usual charm."
"Pinning someone up against the wall and telling them to go out with you or die isn’t really a good way to make a first impression, Joe."
"Hey, it works on me."
"That’s because you’re easy," Ken muttered.
"What was that?"
"Nothing." Ken rolled over. "Don’t worry. Hakase has arranged ISO operatives to be our dates. That way we don’t have to worry."
"About what? Someone sticking their tongue in our mouths?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
"Damn," Joe muttered. "I was looking forward to beating some punk up."
As dusk fell, gentlemen began to arrive, from the school next door or in taxis and limos, come to escort the ladies to the ball in the grand ballroom of the boys’ school. They were exquisitely dressed in suit or uniform, many students, some older men as well, for a lady is not disturbed by the age of her companion, and the older some coot is, the more cash they’ve got.
As they arrived, the ladies began to come down the stairs, beautifully attired in rich gowns and jewels, their hair in elaborate designs. Photographers from the society pages snapped their pictures as they laughed and greeted their dates.
Suddenly, all conversation ceased as eyes turned admiringly or enviously up to the top of the great stairs to the second floor.
A vision of loveliness stood there, dressed all in white. Her gown followed the lines of her perfect body, cupping her breasts with only a hint of cleavage, leaving her arms bare to where long, satin gloves started. The gown hugged her body to the hips, where it swept out and trailed behind her, shimmering slightly with her every perfect breath. Her hair was up, wisps brushing loose to trail against her cheeks and bare shoulders. Only a touch of makeup was on her face and lips, leaving the blue of her eyes, clear and deep as the sky or a garden pool.
"My God," one of the reporters whispered, enchanted by her as men stepped forward, forgetting their dates. Almost tentatively, as if afraid she would disappear, pictures began to be taken, and hearts broke as she started down the stairs.
"Get outta my way!" Coming down the stairs, a blue gowned harpy with a snarl on her face pushed past the angel, shoving her into the banister and stomping down to the main floor. Reaching the bottom, she glared at her horrified audience.
"How’s the eye?" Ken asked, gently wiping at it with a damp rag.
"Fucking hurts. I can’t believe they attacked me!"
"And I can’t believe you drop kicked the whole lot of them into the duck pond." Ken giggled. "That’ll get you points in the Devil Stars for sure."
Joe grinned. "I certainly hope so." He stood. "Leave it. Let’s get this over with."
Together, the two left the bathroom and were immediately surrounded by men, some still with watercress or duck feathers stuck to their suits. All clamouring around Ken.
"Um... help?" he whimpered, backing away and seriously considering running. Joe started to see red. Especially when he got shoved into a corner and ignored.
"Do you mind not manhandling my date?"
Horrified, the men looked up to see a man in his fourties come up, wearing a suit and tie, a vicious scar down his face. Ken’s jaw dropped, recognizing him as he pushed his way over to him and gallantly offered his arm. "Masaki?!"
He smiled. "Forgotten I was your date already, my dear? I’ll have to make sure you don’t do that again." He led him away.
Over in the corner, Joe started chuckling. He couldn’t imagine any worse date than the second in command of the Red Impulse fighter squadron. Hakase had a sense of humour after all.
A hand fell on his shoulder. "Hi, gorgeous. Miss me?"
Joe turned and looked up, into the face of Red Impulse himself.
"Why the HELL did they send YOU???"
RI grinned. "We volunteered. Did you think we’d actually miss seeing the Eagle and the Condor in drag?"
Joe gave him the look of Death, which, as usual, RI just laughed at. "Why don’t you date Ken instead?" he snapped.
"Because that’s too twisted even for me."
RI took his arm. "Come on, we’ll be late."
Joe yanked it away. "Touch me again and I’ll geld you!"
"Aw, does this mean no slow dancing?"
"Only if it gets me close enough to kill you."
The grand ballroom of the boys’ school was richly paneled in oak, with grand staircases leading up to balconies on the second floor and chandeliers of crystal on the ceiling. Ken scanned the entrances and exits as he was spun around, examining the roof as he was dipped over Masaki’s knee, then flung to the end of his grasp, yanked back, twirled again and brought back close.
Cheek to cheek with him while they tangoed, Ken regarded the pilot. "You’re taking this awfully seriously," he commented.
"Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a date?"
"I- really don’t think I want to know."
Over by the punch bowl, Kentaro Washio watched his son dancing with his second while crowds of horny young men watched, and downed a cup of punch.
"Have another," Joe said, pouring for him.
How could this have happened? he wondered. How could any man look so good as a woman?
"Oops, empty again? Let me get that for you..."
He was gorgeous, he was graceful. If Kentaro hadn’t known he was Gatchaman, he’d be drooling after him himself. He looks so much like his mother...
"Here ya go, have some more..."
Maybe, he thinks. Maybe it’s my fault for not being around when he was growing up.
"And some more..."
Maybe it’s the lack of a real father figure in his life.
Nambu is such a panty waist, after all...
Maybe, he decided right before he passed out. I should have actually diapered him as a baby to make sure.
Joe watched gleefully as Red Impulse hit the floor. "Aw, too much punch?" he cooed.
"I aLwaYs wAn’Ed a DaUGhtEr," the man mumbled.
Halfway into the dance, Ken fled into the powder room, Joe on his heels. Together, they crowded around one of the far mirrors, away from the girls so they could talk. "Where’s Red Impulse?" Ken asked as he touched up his blush. "I haven’t seen him in a while. Is he scouting?"
"Nah. He got drunk and passed out so I tossed him in the dumpster out back."
Ken gaped at him. "What did you do that for?"
Joe frowned in confusion. "Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with men when they get soused on you?"
Ken rolled his eyes. "You’re impossible, Joe."
"Yeah yeah yeah." He made a face at himself in the mirror.
"Now, Joanne. Keep that up and your face will freeze that way."
Both ninjas turned to see the Captain coming towards them, looking hideous in a powder blue ballgown. Remembering the oath, Joe shuddered.
"Are you ready for your initiation?" she asked, holding out two guns with silencers on them.
"What do you want us to do?" Ken asked worriedly.
"Prove your loyalty to Galactor by killing your dates."
Joe grabbed his and cocked it. "Do you want a straight shot to the crotch or can I make him suffer?"
"We can’t kill them!"
"Why not?? They’re dedicated to ISO. They know they might have to sacrifice themselves for the good of the mission. It’s their duty!"
"I’m not shooting Masaki!"
"Ken, he felt you up."
"You... saw that?"
"The whole ballroom saw that. It’ll probably hit the news tomorrow."
"Okay, okay. Just a flesh wound, mind you!"
Masaki was dancing with one of the Swedish triplets when Ken tapped him on the shoulder. "Can I talk to you outside?"
"Just a minute..."
"Coming, dear." He headed for the door.
Ken regarded the blushing girl. "He feel you up too?"
She nodded. "I hav nevah been zo embarrassed. Glad zat you are killink him."
"Uh, right..." Ken headed off.
"Can I ‘ave ‘his balls when you are vinished?"
Ken followed Masaki out the door and down around the corner, where he promptly grabbed him. Ken kneed him in the crotch. "Get a grip!"
"Sorry," Masaki squeaked from the ground. "Force of habit."
"No wonder you can’t get a date." He helped him stand. "Look, I’ve been given an assignment. I’m supposed to murder you to get in the Devil Stars."
Masaki pulled open his coat and Ken stared. Layered inside were dozens of little explosives to create ‘bulletholes’ and appropriately placed bags of blood. "Where you wanna hit me?"
"You... come prepared."
"We’ve been to spring dances before."
Joe stomped out to the dumpster with the usual grin on his face that he reserved for killing Galactors, the gun at his side. I’ve been waiting years for this, he thought as he flipped open the top and filled the inside with about three clips worth of ammo. Then he actually looked in.
"K’so! He got away!"
"Did you kill him?" the Captain asked.
Ken nodded demurely. "Yes, ma’am. I put the body into the trunk of a limo. The owners should be quite surprised when they get home."
She beamed proudly. "That’s my girl! And so lovely too." She cupped her chin, examining her. "I think your first assignment will be to seduce and capture the Condor."
"Don’t worry, dear, according to our agents, he’s quite a good lay."
Ken blanched some more.
Standing on the balcony, the Captain looked over the ballroom below. "I wonder how Joanne is doing. I have high hopes for her."
"Oh, I’m sure she’ll fulfill her mission perfectly," Ken muttered, praying that Joe remember which mission he’d been given first. Red Impulse was a prick, but he deserved better than to be perforated by the Condor. Okay, maybe he did deserve it, but the paperwork if Joe killed him would be a royal bitch.
Suddenly, the doors to the kitchen banged open and everyone gaped at the red suited, red nosed figure who stood there, brandishing twin machine guns.
"DIE, GALACTOR!" Red Impulse yelled.
Oh, shit... Ken thought. Joe, why didn’t you shoot him?!
"Take him!" the Captain yelled.
Immediately, partygoers, both male and female, began ripping off their outfits, revealing the greens and purples of both goons and Devil Stars. They grabbed guns that had been stored in the food and under furniture and surrounded the drunken pilot, disarming him.
"Take him below!"
Ken raced down the stairs as Red Impulse was dragged away, meeting Joe coming up. "What happened??" he demanded.
"He was gone when I got there!" Joe’s face was a mask of rage. "This is all going to hell too damn fast!"
"I know." Ken sighed. "We’ll have to go to BirdStyle and save him."
"NO! Not with THIS voice! I’d never live it down!"
Ken cracked him in the throat with his elbow.
"Ow..." Joe managed, and started, realizing his voice was a bass again. "ALL RIGHT!"
He ran down the stairs, meeting a skinny boy in a tux at the bottom. "Ms Joanne?" he whimpered, holding out a wilted rose. "I’ve been watching you all night and you’re so beautiful. Will you dance with me?"
"OUT OF MY WAY!"
The boy turned white at the sound of his voice. "Never mind..."
Ken followed him across the now empty ballroom, everyone having gone below with Red Impulse. He stripped as he ran, shucking off his shoes, kicking off the trailing skirt and - thank God - getting the godawful girdle off. Below he wore his regular civvies, his shirt tucked into his back pocket, and yanked it on while wiping off his makeup and ditching the wig. Joe was doing the same, and together they yelled "Bird Go!" and raced down the stairs after the Galactors, wings trailing behind them.
There was only one goon guarding the entrance. Joe was through him without breaking stride, Ken following. "Joe," he called. "Remember the backup plan for this. We remain stealthy and silent and let no one see us."
Joe reached a catwalk over a massive meeting area filled with Galactors and dove over the side, straight into the mass of Devil Stars directly below.
"Or you could just surrender yourself for the sake of sex," Ken managed. "Joe, you MORON!"
At least, from the look of him, he was a happy moron.
Kentaro woke up with a throbbing headache to find himself chained to a wall, his feet dangling a foot above the floor. A scream sounded from the next room.
Wincing, Kentaro took in the bare walls surrounding him, and tested his shackles. They were too strong.
A long wail sounded.
That sounds like Joe, he realized.
The wail was replaced by panting gasps and groans.
Damn them, they’re torturing him! I have to save him!
"A little to the left, ladies," the Condor said.
No, apparently I have to kill him myself.
"Nambu Hakase, Nambu Hakase, come in!"
Nambu turned towards the communicator, Ryu, Jun and Jinpei waiting nervously behind him. "Report, Gatchaman."
"We’ve got serious problems here, Hakase. The Galactors have captured both Red Impulse and Joe." The three ninjas behind him gasped.
Nambu was horrified. Those two were consummate professionals! "How?" he managed in a strangled voice.
"Uh, I’d rather not say..."
It must have been something horrible. "Are they still alive?"
"I think so. I need the others."
Nambu turned and nodded and they ran out of the room. "They’re on their way."
"Thank you, Hakase. Eagle out." He signed off.
Nambu went to sit worriedly at his desk. His ward and his best friend, both prisoners. How could this have happened? Whatever caused it, it had to be worse than anything he could imagine.
He was right.
Meanwhile, Joe was quite happily lying tied spread-eagled to a bed, while the Swedish bombshells pawed delightfully at his suit. It was the best mission he’d ever been on.
"Ve must get theese suit ovv," one of them decided.
"Oh, yeah," Joe agreed. "Ve must, ve must."
The girls giggled together. It was like listening to stereo. Joe licked his lips. From what he could see through the door, there was a lineup outside.
"Girls!" Suddenly, the Captain barged in. "What have I told you?!"
The three girls stood up sheepishly. "You get him virst."
"That’s right," she growled. "Now out!" They fled.
Maybe this wasn’t such a great mission after all. Joe eyed her warily. "What are you going to do?"
She smirked and unzipped her suit. "Fill you with passion until you spill all the secrets of the Ninja Tai."
Uh oh... "Never!"
Ken waited for the others on the roof, watching from the shadows as they alighted silently.
"Glad to see you," he told them and filled them in.
"He surrendered himself?" Jun asked once he was done.
"Technically he dove off a catwalk straight into them and yelled ‘Here I am, babes, let’s party!’" She sighed. "Why does he keep doing that?"
Ryu sighed glumly. "Because he’s a far braver man than I."
Lady Woofman arrived home at nine, having left the party early. "Oh, Jeeves," she declared as she stepped out of the back. "I left something in the trunk. "Would you get it for me?"
"Of course, ma’am." He went to open the back and found himself staring at a fourty year old man in a tux who was soaked in blood. "Who are you?" he blurted.
He grinned at him. "Your boss’ date."
The chauffeur sighed. "Of course, sir." And he thought the three goats and the pool boy were weird.
The Ninja Tai slipped into the complex. "We have to move fast," Ken whispered. "Jun, Ryu, set explosives. Jinpei, get into the database and download everything you can. I’ll look for Joe and Red Impulse. And hurry, people. We’re running out of time."
Kentaro hung in his chains, wishing for one thing. Not that he hadn’t been captured, not that there wasn’t a war which required him to be away from his family. Not even that he’d bothered to get up that morning.
No. Kentaro Washio wished that he didn’t always have to take a leak so bad when he was hung over.
"So, tell me, what is the location of your secret base?"
"Crescent Coral? Oh, about 40 degrees south-southwest of the Bermuda triangle, at the edge of the Gimpman crevasse."
"And how many floors does it have?"
"About ninety. Can I get another one of those foot rubs?"
"In a minute. Have a grape."
Quietly, Ken descended the stairs, trying not to trip over his dress. He was back in the Kelly get-up, hoping no one noticed how his wig was slightly askew and that he couldn’t find his lipstick. He would have worn Jun’s, but hers clashed horribly with his skin tones and tended to explode anyway.
Below, celebrations were going on at news of the Condor’s capture. Everyone was celebrating his fall - especially the women - and rumour was that Katse himself was coming to collect him.
Joe, you idiot, he thought, making his way down the corridor, smiling at the men he passed. They all drooled when he saw him, reinforcing his long held belief that sex had to be bad if it engendered this kind of reaction. Look what it did to Joe.
One of the Swedish bombshells came dashing around the corner, saw him and bounced up. Ken barely kept his tongue in his mouth. Okay, so maybe sex wasn’t such a bad thing.
"Did ju hear?" she squeaked, bouncing up and down in front of him excitedly in a way that made his head spin. "The Condor haz cracked!"
Ken dragged his eyes up to her face. "What??"
"He’z tellink us everyting! It’z wonderful!"
Drugs, torture... Ken’s mind reeled at all the horrible things that could be being done to his second. Oh, God, Joe! I’ve got to save you!
"How’d you get him to talk?" he asked quietly, needing to know if Joe would need immediate medical attention to survive.
She giggled. "Ze Captain talked vit him. Uzed the Spot."
"The Spot?" Ken wondered aloud.
"Yez. Touch a man right here wiz ze right pressure." She poked him in the chest. "And he iz like zilly putty in ze hands. I mus’ tell otherz!" She giggled and ran off.
Eyes wide, Ken tumbled over backwards.
He came to with the sensation of lips against his own, blowing air - and a tongue - into his mouth.
"Quick! Give her mouth-to-mouth recussitation!"
"I wanna do it!"
"My turn next!"
"Uh, guys, you may not have noticed, but she never stopped breathing."
"Quick! Pull her dress open! She, like, needs room to breathe!"
"Gimme a sec. I need to put in new film..."
"What is going on here! Oh, my!"
"Um, er, that is..."
"We’re trying to get her breathing again!"
"Again?? From the look of it, she never stopped!"
"We can explain!"
"Don’t bother, nitwit. Just shove over and lemme at her."
A new mouth locked over his and Ken sat up with a start, face red, finding himself lying on the floor surrounded by Goons, all looking somewhat disappointed that he’d woken up. Looking down at himself, he saw his bodice was still in place, but his dress had been pulled up to knee height, exposing his blue Gatchaman boots. Luckily, none of the morons seemed to have recognized them yet. Ken flipped the dress back down and swallowed, wondering exactly how he was supposed to handle this and whether he’d stand out too much if he killed the whole lot of them.
"Feeling better?" a familiar voice leered.
Startled, Ken looked beside him to see Berg Katse grinning at him. He KISSED me?? Immediately, his heart stopped. "I - I - I - I - I-" Running out of air, he keeled over.
Ever the opportunist, Katse took full advantage.
Dizzy, Joe lay on the bed, the Captain snuggled up to his side, tracing her fingers lovingly over his chest. Even through the BirdStyle he could feel them. "Anything else to tell me."
"Nambu wears Depends," Joe said automatically. "Jinpei eats bugs. Jun can’t cook but she can grow a mean marijuana plant. Ryu is addicted to hohos and likes to line dance. Ken was Playboy’s March centerfold."
She blinked. "He was?"
"Yeah," he sighed happily. "He needed the cash. They named the spread "Little’uns."
Sneakily, the Great Swallow Jinpei crept through the base, heading for the main control room. It was empty. From what he’d heard everyone had run off to see Berg Katse who’d come for the Condor and was now proposing to some Devil Star in training. Grinning, he headed into the room and started downloading files.
"Onechan," he whispered into his bracelet. "I’m downloading the files now. How are you doing?"
"I’m setting explosives in the Devil Star quarters. Already have the goons’ primed. Just let me get this last locker open..." There was a creaking sound. "Oh, my!"
"Onechan?" he asked, frightened.
"It’s... nothing.... Oh my oh my..."
"Um... I’ll be there in a couple minutes, Jin. I think this is gonna take longer than I thought."
Jinpei blinked. Sometimes he just didn’t understand her.
In Berg Katse’s private quarters when he was visiting the schools - tastefully decorated in purples and magentas with a painting on the wall that looked suspiciously like the original Mona Lisa - Owashi no Ken gaped at his arch enemy and bane of the world.
"You want to MARRY me??"
Berg grinned. "Yup."
His mind reeled. "But why??"
The wide grin grew wider. "Haven’t you looked in a mirror lately?"
There was something somewhat rude about being wanted just for ones looks. Lucky for Jun no one ever noticed what she looked like. Ken backed away. "But - you don’t know anything about me."
"So? You don’t know anything about me either."
Bet you know less about me than I do about you, Ken thought, getting a chair between himself and the advancing dictator. "I gotta think about this..."
"What’s to think about? You marry me, come back to my headquarters with me and have dozens of my kids. We’ll have both boys and girls. In fact, I can guarantee we have both boys and girls."
Ken’s eyes widened. Galactor Headquarters? They’d been trying to find that place for ages! He could stop the war in one blow. He’d be a hero, just like his long-dead father. "All right, I’ll do it!"
"Great!" Katse embraced him and slapped his butt. "One thing though." He pulled back to look at him. "How do you feel about giant blue chickens?"
Meanwhile, the long-dead father, who wasn’t much of a father, or much at being dead, sighed in his bonds. "This sucks," he said eloquently, planning a great escape that unfortunately required him not to be chained up and hung over to carry out. All he needed was a really big gun and a Tylenol, but there was none to be seen.
Just then, the door opened and the Owl came in, sorting through his bombs.
"Ahem," Kentaro said.
The Owl ignored him, setting one of the bombs against the wall and priming it.
"I said ‘ahem’."
Still he ignored him, headed for the door.
Ryu tensed and he sighed, turning to look at him. "Sumimasen. I didn’t see you there."
Sensing that was a lie, Kentaro glared at him. "Get me down!"
"Do I have to?"
Where did Nambu get these kids?? "Yes!"
"Oh, all right," Ryu mumbled, going over to unchain him. "Boy, are the others gonna be pissed with me."
March, Jun thought, huddled as she was in a corner of the devil star locker room with a magazine opened to the middle, was a wonderful month.
Wearied by her efforts, the Captain headed for the door, nodding at the Swedish bombshells. "He’s all yours, girls!"
"All right!" Joe whooped.
Turning, she stared at him. "Aren’t you tired?"
"Good point." She wandered out to make her report as three giggling blondes took her place.
"Now it iz our turn to play!"
"Oh, yeah," Joe purred.
Suddenly, the door banged open and both Red Impulse and the Owl came in, firing over the screaming girls’ heads as they bolted, taking out the Captain when she stuck her head back in.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING??" Joe screamed.
"BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE RESCUED!"
There was, apparently, one flaw with Ken’s plan...
"NO! I don’t wanna!"
"Come on! Celibacy before marriage is overrated!"
"Eek! Get away from there with that!"
"Aw, where’s your sense of fun??"
Terrified, Ken had his back against the wall, his butt on the dresser as he tried to push Katse away with both legs. The megalomaniac was pushing towards him, arms outstretched, lips puckered. Saving the world couldn’t be worth this.
"Look, maybe this was a mistake!" he babbled.
"Nope, uh uh, you said yes, I’m gonna hold you to that!" Leering, Katse stepped back and with a grand sweeping gesture pulled off all of his costume except for the mask.
Ken took one look, shrieked and ran.
Startled, Katse looked down at himself. "Oh yeah," he said. "I forgot I got stuck halfway through the Change this morning..."
The flight home was rather quiet, except for the sounds of the hungover Red Impulse hurling in the latrine. Behind them, the twin schools were burning nicely, all the information on their computers now on disks in Jinpei’s pouch.
Ken sat in the Commander’s chair, trying desperately to forget every single thing to happen to him in that school. Beside him, Ryu flew calmly, barrelrolling the God Phoenix every time RI sounded like he was going to vomit. The sound effects from the latrine were quite gratifying. Behind them both, Joe lounged in his chair, daydreaming of Swedish bombshells and poking himself in the chest, unsuccessfully trying to find the Spot, though he did locate a good ten different Galactor tracking buttons. Too bad they’d planted twelve of them. Jinpei played Mortal Kombat on his computer and Jun huddled in her seat, staring at a magazine she’d confiscated.
"What’s that, Onechan?"
"Nothing," she squeaked. "Leave me alone."
] "Gee, ask a simple question..."
Ryu glanced at his commander. "Think we caught Katse in the explosion?" he asked.
Ken’s eyes were wide. "Don’t talk to me about Katse. Not ever."
Ryu sighed. "Okay." Hearing RI start to puke, he rolled the ship and grinned at the curses. All in all, it was a good day.
The screen beeped and Nambu came on. "Team, we have another undercover mission for you."
"No," Ken whimpered. "Not again!"
"Are there any blondes involved?" Joe asked.
Jun ignored him entirely while Jinpei kept playing, leaving only Ryu to focus on him. "What is it, Hakase?" he asked. "I’d love to be the one to go undercover."
"All right," Nambu nodded. "We’ll send you this time. You’re best qualified anyway." Ryu beamed. "The Galactors seem to have infiltrated a dairy farm."
"And you need me to pose as a farmer?" Ryu asked excitedly.
"No. A cow."