Ken pushed open the familiar glass door of his favorite hangout, the Snack J, and ambled over to his well-worn seat at the bar. Normally, the place was buzzing with the murmur of customers and the constant bickering of his teammates, Jun and Jinpei. This morning, however, was different.
The bar was dark and quiet, except for the crackle of the ice maker dumping fresh ice into the bin.
Where is everyone? He thought to himself. He lifted his wrist to check if it had gone off and he was unaware of it. *Were we called in?*
Suddenly he heard the padding of feet in the back stairway, and then Jun and Jinpei burst into the room.
"Ken? What are you doing here this early?" Jun seemed puzzled.
Ken scratched his head, confused. "Aren't I usually here in the morning? I was hoping for some breakfast..." He shrugged.
Jun scowled at her kid brother. "Jinpei! You were supposed to tell Ken..."
The little Swallow cowered. "Sorry, Sis. I forgot."
The young girl redirected her attention to her only customer. "I'm sorry, Ken. Since things have been quiet lately, we're headed out. I have some Pop Tarts in the pantry, if you want them..." She touched her index finger to her lips as she thought for a minute. "...And I think there may be some cereal, too."
Ken hopped off of his seat to get himself a bite to eat in the kitchen, and Jun followed him.
"So where are you guys going?" Ken asked nonchalantly.
Jun stood on her tiptoes, and reached up into the pantry, pulling down a box of Pop Tarts. "I'm going back to the Snow White orphanage to teach some self-defense classes. Jinpei is going to be a deck hand on Ryu's charter boat. He already has plans to spend the money he makes on a motorized scooter. Silly boy...he's going to terrorize the neighborhood with that thing."
Ken tried to sound unconcerned as he grunted a response, but the truth was, he was really going to miss them while they were gone. He had always spent a large portion of his down time hanging out and bumming meals from them. Now what was he going to do?
"Ryu's here! I'm leaving!" Jinpei called from the bar. "Tell everyone at the orphanage I said, ‘Hi!' Bye Ken...bye, Sis!"
"Have a good trip, Jun!" Ryu called out.
Jun and Ken responded, as Ken crammed down a Pop Tart and some juice.
Jun watched Ken hurrying through his breakfast, feeling badly that she had to leave. It was so unfair that she had made prior arrangements, and now she was finally alone with the object of her affections.
"Ken, I hate to leave you here, but I have to get to the orphanage by noon. Can you lock up for me?"
"Sure thing, Jun." Ken swallowed. "Have a good time." He paused and looked at her. She looked so pretty. He hadn't really stopped to notice before, but somehow she seemed different, older, more like a...woman.
But this was no ordinary woman. She had beautiful long, dark locks draping her delicate shoulders. She gazed longingly at him through carefully curled lashes as she picked up her small duffel bag. Her tiny pink lips were pursed as though she was deep in thought. And beyond all of this, she could kick ass and take names.
She was perfect for him.
But he had to fight his feelings for her as long as they were at war with Galactor. Besides, ninjas were never allowed to give in to their feelings. It made them weak.
He followed her into the bar and watched her stroll out the front door, climb onto her motorcycle and ride away.
He felt empty inside. "Goodbye, Jun." He mumbled to himself, and then turned back to clean up in the kitchen.