Sneakily, stealthily, like a tall blonde nutcase in the night, Berg Katse snuck into the computer room of the ISO and stuck a disk into the mainframe. A few buttons pushed and the virus was downloading...
Berg Katse - otherwise known as Katchen Bergman the Cuckoo to those ISO employees too blindingly stupid to realize the six foot four inch blonde with the psychotic grin looked an awful lot like the six foot four inch world dominator with the psychotic grin - snored like a bellows. Like a steam train. Like a rumbling bull. Like a computer with a busted fan. Like a dishwasher. Like a mutant.
Stopping snoring for a moment, for which the people in the rooms on either side of her were grateful, she rolled over and started to snore again. Several boots hit the walls from the other side and there were screams for her to shut up, but she ignored them.
It was so nice to sleep in in the morning... to not worry about Sosai X sending goons to keep her on her toes by charging at her with spiked clubs at three in the morning. To not have to worry about waking up to anyone banging open the door and charging in to leap at her with a blood curdling yell.
Gatchaman banged open the door and charged in, leaping at her with a blood curdling yell.
With a not unsurprising shriek, Katse rolled off the bed onto the floor and scurried into a corner, her oversized ‘do not disturb, already disturbed’ T-shirt bunched up around her waist so that she was flashing her Snoopy underwear to the world.
Ken landed on her bed in full BirdStyle and hopped to the floor. "Oh, did I scare you?"
"Is this how you always wake up your teammates??" she screeched, belatedly realizing she was flashing him and pulling down her shirt.
"Of course. It’s Monday."
Katse decided not to try and decipher that. "Don’t you know better than to knock before you enter a woman’s room?"
He looked blank. "You’re a woman?"
Katse did a quick check. "Yes!"
"Oh." He shrugged. "Hadn’t noticed. We need you."
"What for?" she yawned. ‘It’s my day off."
"There’s some kind of virus in the computers. We have to check for break-ins. It was done right in the computer lab."
The mutant hid her smirk. "What kind of virus?"
Ken went over to her computer monitor and turned it on. The screen was completely blank, with a single message written in cursive script in the centre of the screen.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.
"You gotta admit," Ken said. "Whoever did this is pretty good at haiku."
What is coffee?
What a silly fool you are.
Here, have lemonade.
"You know, we seriously have to think about automating less around here," Joe muttered as he read the message on the coffee dispenser, then watched it actually produce lemonade. Without a cup, of course.
"Swan, dear," he bellowed down the hall. "They’re out of coffee!"
"GET ME COFFEE OR DIE!"
Joe just laughed. "Go ahead and try!" At eight and a half months pregnant, Jun was about as wide as a house and as maneuverable as a whale in a kiddy pool. As long as she stayed away from his weapons... There was the sound of a rifle cocking.
Joe bolted down the hall. Coming to the corner, he sprinted around it as the wall where his head had been exploded into a hail of little plaster bits. An alarm sounded over her shrieks.
Has something gone wrong?
The unity has left now.
Release the wild dogs.
Ah, marriage... it was everything his father told him it would be.
Half a dozen slavering hounds who looked like they came straight from hell galloped snarling down the hall outside the KNT’s quarters.
Jinpei’s eyes snapped open. Puppies??
With a yawn, Katse wandered into the computer lab behind Ken, everything tinted an annoying brown from the visor that made up her yellow and brown BirdStyle. She’d always hated those colours, but asking for a purple BirdStyle might have been a bit much. Besides, being the Cuckoo was bad enough. She didn’t want to be called the Peacock.
Ken went over to Nambu, standing with his technician, his wings swirling around his legs. Was the man never out of BirdStyle? She’d joined the KNT to learn who they really were, but she’d yet to see them out of BirdStyle even once, which was a frightening prospect when she looked at the Swan.
After seven months with the KNT, she was beginning to think that she’d made a mistake trying to infiltrate them. She hadn’t learned anything useful. Apparently, the Eagle was the only member with a security clearance - something to do with a Condor, a bet and an issue of the Utoland Enquirer - so she didn’t know any national secrets, and learning about the Swallow’s hidden cockroach collection wasn’t going to help her in the long run. She had to work long hours - and actually work, not order goons to do everything for her, which she had noted meant the resultant quality went up - and she wasn’t allowed to shoot anyone when she was irritable, though the Condor ignored that rule. Plus, she was paid minimum wage, which actually was a pay increase. Most of her salary in Galactor went into bribing her own officers not to kill her, and her collection of beanie babies.
Nambu was reading a printout as she came up. "Morning, doc!" she called, slapping him on the back hard enough to knock his glasses off. "Oops," she said, stepping on them. "Did you need those?"
Nambu squinted at her. "Ryu?"
Blissfully happy with married life and the idea of having a woman in his life who was bearing his child, ensuring the continuation of his family line that was so desperately important to him, Joe bolted into the wardroom, diving over the couch as the door exploded behind him. Ducking the flying shrapnel, he crawled under the main table towards the door on the other side.
Jun appeared in the door, armed with a grenade launcher and an irritated look.
"Oh, Joooeeee..." she sang. "Where areeee youuuu??"
Halfway into an air vent, Joe didn’t bother to answer.
"Joooeeee...." She stalked through the ward room. "Come here, Joe..." She frowned, not seeing him. "Need a trap," she muttered. "Gotta use bait." She cleared her throat. "I’m naked, Joe. And I’m really really horny."
"Really?" came from the air vent.
Picking her way through the ruins, Jun went over to the great gaping hole that used to be the wall to see no sign of the Condor except a feather fluttering down an air shaft.
How exceptionally rude
Let’s all take a nap.
"Is that gas?" Katse asked.
Gently, the base snored. Guards at their posts, scientists in their labs. Jinpei curled up with a pack of rabid hellhounds, Joe with a rabid wife. Nambu drooled on Katse, Ken drooled on himself. Ryu, who’d already been asleep, continued to do so.
The phone rang.
Nobody answered it.
More time passed.
Somebody woke up.
Unfortunately, it was Katse.
*At last! At last! The world will be mine!*
Giggling somewhat insanely, Katse ran for the main control room, tripping over Ken on the way, and sat herself down in front of the main computer. "I’m gonna download every secret the ISO has! Sosai will be soooo proud!"
Gleefully, she started typing.
Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.
The computer was right. No one did.
Yawning, Joe opened his eyes to see his beautiful, sexy, pregnant wife lying in his arms and smiled, kissing her forehead even though her helmet was still on.
She stirred, waking, and smiled back at him lovingly.
"Hi, love of my life," he murmured to her.
"Hi, handsome," she whispered. "How about you be a real dear and get me some coffee?"
Katse - secretly sulking and trying to hide it - Ken, Jinpei, Ryu and Nambu looked up as Joe bolted into the computer room, diving over a chair as Jun appeared in the door with a flame thrower.
"DIE, YOU MISERABLE PIG!"
Wisely, everyone joined Joe behind the chair.
"What did you do, Joe??" Ken gasped.
Joe shrugged. "Make a note. Never laugh at a pregnant woman." He peered around the chair at her. "God, she turns me on."
"You’re sick, Joe."
Flame gushed over their heads, igniting the wall behind them.
Everyone winced as the alarm sounded.
Can’t you play nice for awhile?
No supper for you!
The doors slammed shut.
Everyone waited for the flame thrower, now that Jun basically had them in a toaster oven.
Peering around the corner, they saw the Swan grimacing at them. "Hon?" Joe asked. "Babe? What’s wrong?"
"Other than the fact that she’s out of ammo?" Ken bitched from somewhere behind him.
"Jun, I want you to put down the gun," Nambu said very sternly, talking angrily to a plant.
"What happened to him?" Ryu asked.
"His glasses got broke."
"Lovely." Ryu banged his head on the chair. "He would be our only doctor."
The other ninjas and nut looked at him. "What are you talking about?"
He pointed at Jun, who was now lying on the ground, whimpering. "Our lovely Swan is in labour."
"Does anyone want to go out there?"
"Look at her, she’s in serious pain."
"Poor Onechan. I’ll help you!"
"She’s got my skinning knife, kid."
"Okay, maybe later."
"Cuckoo, you’re a woman, aren’t you?"
"Go help her!"
"That’s a direct order."
"Because that woman scares me and for me, that’s saying a lot."
Ken cursed, peering around the chair at the writhing Jun. "We can’t just leave her there!"
"Yes we can."
"Joe! You’re her husband! Do something!"
Joe raised an eyebrow. "Like what?"
"Be supportive! Hold her hand!"
"And let her crush it? I don’t THINK so!"
"You got two choices, Condor. Go out there and face her, or I’ll hold you down for Jinpei and his nutcrackers."
Joe, cursing, crawled out. "Honey?" he called sweetly. "You’re not gonna maim me or anything, are you?"
She turned big green eyes up to him. "Oh, Joe, it hurts so much."
He knelt beside her, patting her helmet. "I know, babe."
"Not really," she sniffed. "You can’t imagine the pain."
"Sure I can. Just take deep breaths and try not to think about it."
"No," she sobbed. "It hurts SO much!"
He rolled his eyes. "Look, it can’t hurt that much. You’re a ninja. What’s a little pain?"
She showed him.
"How’s Joe doing?" Ken asked.
Ryu sighed. "He won’t come out of the fetal position."
"Wow, Aniki, he’s really crying." Jinpei grinned. "I never knew Onechan had it in her."
"I guess Swan didn’t want any more kids," Katse muttered, now crouched between Jun’s legs, wondering how she always got saddled with this sort of assignment. "The Shiratori Gelding Grip. I gotta remember that one."
Ken winced, kneeling with Jun’s head in his lap. "Can you NOT remind me of that? I’m trying to forget."
Jun whimpered, bearing down. "Don’t do that," Katse told her. "You’re not supposed to yet."
"Well, that’s not very lady-like."
"Shut up, Jinpei. Try to help Joe." Ken looked down at his chief explosives expert. "Jun, try to breathe, okay?"
"I AM breathing."
Katse rolled her eyes. "Yeah, well if you don’t sound like an idiot, you’re not doing it right."
Jun whimpered. "I want Joe."
"Not yet, hon. He’s still trying to get his balls back into the shape they belong in." Katse looked down at her and away, figuring that this was NOT the feature she was going to be able to use to recognize the Swan in the future.
Jun’s eyes brimmed. "I shouldn’t have grabbed him like that, should I?"
Katse shook her head solemnly. "Nope. You had YEARS to spread the guilt over for today, but you blew it all in one move. Every time you whine about the pain of childbirth, he’ll be able to remind you about how you treated HIM like a Pez dispenser." She shook her head sadly. "Bad tactical maneuver, girl."
Jun sniffed miserably.
Ken decided based just on that to never get married.
Nambu gave precise medical instructions on childbirth to the garbage can.
Jinpei laughed at him.
Ryu went hunting ice.
A few hours after Jun went into labour, Ryu typed at the computer.
"What are you doing, Ryu?" Ken asked.
"Looking up childbirth on the internet," he responded. "I’m not sure I trust Nambu’s instructions."
"I resent that," Nambu said. "Just grab a plunger and get some good suction going."
"I knew we should have kept him out of the medical liquor supplies…"
"Got it!" Ryu crowed. "Painless childbirth in two thousand easy to read pages!"
"GIMMEE!" Jun screeched.
Ryu hit print.
Printer not ready.
Could be a fatal error.
Have a pen handy?
"Ack!" Ryu yelped. "It won’t let me print!"
"Scroll to the end," Katse yelled. "I think this puppy is coming NOW!"
Ryu started scrolling frantically.
Jun started screaming curses.
Jinpei took notes.
First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
This is not good, Ryu thought.
"I WANT THE WORLD TO DIE! I WANT EVERY LIVING THING TO TREMBLE IN AGONY!"
I gotta remember that for my next PR speech, Katse thought, up to her elbows in Swan. Ken had an expression of intense pain on his face as he tried to hold Jun’s hands without getting his fingers crushed in the process.
Joe limped over. "Babycakes?" he whimpered. "Do you still love me?"
"NO! DIE, YOU PIG!"
Joe smiled. "She loves me."
"How can you tell?" Katse asked absently.
"Pig is her pet name for me."
"I’d rethink that if I were you, Joe."
Joe crawled close, careful to keep his vulnerables well out of reach. "It won’t be much longer, sweetheart," he promised her. "Then you’ll have a son to care for and diaper and feed and potty train and everything."
She glared at him. "You’re planning to help me with that, right?"
"What? Um, right, sure I am."
Katse rolled her eyes. "Get back, Romeo, you’re blocking my light."
"No, I should be doing that. I AM her husband."
"Trust me, boy, this is a side of their wives most men don’t want to see."
"Don’t be stupid." Joe looked. "Um, I’ll just be over there…" He scurried off.
"Ewww!" Jinpei yelled. "Aniki-Joe is throwing up!"
Ken sighed. "I don’t even want to know."
More time passed.
And continued to pass.
There was a lot of screaming.
Some of it was Jun’s.
Finally, Katse looked down at the ugly little mucus-coated baby in her hands, thinking to herself that, yup, enforced sterilization was a good thing.
"It’s a girl," she said.
"A girl," Jun sighed.
"A girl!" Joe yelped. "What are you doing having a girl?? Don’t you know you’re supposed to have the boy first?!"
"What?!" Jun screeched.
"Keep looking!" Joe yelled. "There’s gotta be a boy in there somewhere!"
"I’m outta here," Katse groused, handing the baby to Ken since Jun was busily off choking her husband to death while Jinpei cheered.
"You don’t have to leave," Ken told her.
She shook her head vigorously. "OH, yes I do. You people are nuts." And she’d thought Sosai was insane.
Ken watched her go. "Farewell, Cuckoo!" he called grandly. "May you always have the wind at your back and the victory in your hands. May you always… aw, SHIT! It just pissed all over me! JUN!"
Amazed, Ken stared down into the crib. "Wow. It’s amazing. A real baby, out of our team."
"Yeah," Ryu muttered. "And it doesn’t have six arms or nothing."
"What was that?"
"Nothing. Just something I read about the side-effects of our BirdStyles once." Ryu reached into the crib to tuck the blanket up around the sleeping baby. "How’s Jun doing?"
"Fine. Just resting now."
Ken shrugged. "The doctors say the scarring is minimal and he should be able to urinate normally again in a few weeks. He’s in the same room with Jun right now so they can discuss possible baby names."
"With those two?"
"I’m trying to be nice."
"How about Jane?"
"Plain Jane. What about Bambi?"
"I’ll drop you with a deer rifle first. Rebecca?"
"Going down on a pecka," he sang. Bubbles?"
"Suggest that again and I’ll pop you. Jean?"
"Jean the latrine. Thumper?"
"I’ll thump you! What about Princess?"
"Oh, yeah, that’ll get her respect on the playground. Why not just tattoo kick me on her forehead and be done with it?"
"Fine. How about Catarina?"
"Oh, for God’s sake, stop crying!"
"That was my mom’s name…"
"I know. I figure it’s gotta be better than Bambi."
"You’re too good to me, babe."
"I know. I’m just too perfect."