Nambu settled into the chair in front of the small view screen .
" We pulled some of that Whisker metal out of Joe. I want to scan the Mole mecha before you guys destroy it. I want to see if the entire mecha is Whisker or is Galactor just tipping their missiles with it." Nambu stated in his calm, teaching voice.
" Hai, Hakase." Ken stated.
Ryu pulled the God Phoenix out of it's bay and into the beautiful ocean. The team could spend hours watching the fish parade by. Nambu noticed the looks on their faces and smiled. Nambu could now see why they occasionally got very distracted when doing underwater patrols. The sun was harsh, by comparison, when they broke through the waves.
The team noticed the black smoke in the distance and instantly hardened into their KNT personas.
" Jun, can you get me an exact location of the mole?" Ken asked.
" 141.32 degrees East Longitude. 36.79 degrees North Latitude."
" Ryu. Can you bring us up behind it?"
" Sure can Ken."
Nambu noticed how the God Phoenix seemed to be as light as a butterfly under Ryu's control.
" Hakase. Please get your scan ready. You probably have no more than 20 seconds before the mole notices us."
" Thank-you, Ken."
Nambu noticed how the command tone disappeared from Ken's voice when speaking to him. Nambu appreciated that giving of respect. Even though he had every right to use it, in this situation. They finally saw the burning refinery. Thankfully, the mole's head was down. Nambu let loose with five different scans at once. The data they generated would help the ISO immensely. Nambu was given 13 seconds before they were spotted.
As the mole turned around, Jinpei decided to address Katse.
" Hello, you pointy eared freak. I'm here to kick your ass in the name of my ani, Joe."
Jun was quick with the swat to his helmet.
" Watch your language, Jinpei."
" That is perfectly ok, Jun. He is just venting." Nambu said. He had known for a long time that Jinpei's language was just as bad as Joe's. Considering what Jinpei could do, swearing was minor.
" There is the Science Team Ninja. Should I destroy them, Lord Katse? " the Mole Commander asked.
( No I want you to invite them to dinner.) Katse thought.
" Yes. Please make them part of all this flaming mess." Katse said as he indicated the destruction on the view screen.
The Mole Commander knelt down between the mecha's drivers and quietly gave them their orders. The Commander turned around, bowed to Katse and gestured towards the screen.
(This better be good.) Katse thought.
The Mole Tank hadn't moved in over 30 seconds. It was crouched over looking over it's left shoulder.
" Why hasn't it moved,Ken." Ryu asked. His fingers ready to move the God Phoenix.
" I don't know. But they are up to something, Ryu. Jun. You got anything?"
" No. It's readings haven't changed."
" It's stuck." Jinpei laughed.
" No, it's not...Evasive maneuvers!" Ken shouted.
Ryu brought the God Phoenix down under the arc of the flaming oil tank that the mole had pitched over it's left shoulder. Ryu brought the God Phoenix around and buzzed it's head. Ken, Jun and Jinpei picked themselves off the floor and belted themselves into their seats. Nambu wanted to comment about how he taught them to buckle up during battle but thought the better of it when he looked at their faces.
" I think we pissed them off. Keep it up Commander." Katse said through a smile.
For the next minute the Mole Tank kept pitching flaming debris at the God Phoenix and Ryu kept dodging it.
" Let's bird missile it and go home." Ryu suggested.
Ken was quietly thinking. Nambu watched Ken mentally drop into his own space. Nambu realized this is what Jinpei referred to as " Ken putting a shield up around himself".
" We need to lead it away from the remains of the oil refinery then blow it up. Somewhere open. No people."
" Ok. Where Ken?" Ryu asked.
" Over that hill is a huge soybean field. If the farmer isn't working that would do." Jun suggested.
" Ok, Ryu. Get the Mole Tank to chase you. Then head for that field."
" Hai! Ken." Ryu answered with a smile on his face. He just loved buzzing Katse's mecha.
" Here they come again. Get another piece of debris ready. Bounce it off their nose." Katse said.
The crew found a nice piece of pipe and got ready to toss it at the God Phoenix.
Ryu flew right under the pipe and came up inside the arms of the Mole Tank. Before the Mole could bear hug the Phoenix, Ryu flew straight up and over it's head.
Anyone not in a seat on the command center of the Mole hit the floor. A general " What the hell? " rang around the room.
Ryu turned around behind the Mole's head and hovered over the top of it. Everyone could see he was quickly calculating a maneuver. Ryu flew out over the Mole's face and dropped till he was almost sitting on it's nose. With the hill in front of him he hit the afterburners.
Katse saw the Phoenix drop from over their head and sit on their nose.Before Katse could say or think anything the view screen was filled with fire. For the next ten seconds chaos reigned on the Mole. Katse got his bearings and shouted:
" They can't fire backwards. We just got a face full of afterburn. After them!"
There was much laughter on the bridge of the God Phoenix. Ken was slapping Ryu on the shoulder.
" That was a great move. Never saw that one coming." Ken laughed.
" Thanks everyone. Are they following us?"
" Wait. Katse is probably screaming at them. Here they come." Jun said.
The God Phoenix crested the hill and started scanning.
" No one around for miles." Jun said.
" Good. We will drop that Mole here then." Ken said.
Nambu was quietly watching his team work. They had probably forgotten he was there. He would have liked Joe to be here. The dynamic was totally different now. Not better, just different. He would love to see the entire team working together.
Katse had charged over the hill looking for the God Phoenix. It was hovering over the middle of a field of soybeans.
" Flame roasted birds over edamame. Sounds great. Kill them!" Katse ordered.
Ken stood over the red button waiting for the right moment.
" Closer. Come on." Ken whispered.
Katse saw them hovering and suddenly realized what they were doing.
" They are going to bird missile us! Dig!" Katse shouted.
Ken fired the missile just as the mole dove into the ground. The bird missile took out part of the hillside.
" Damm!" Ken shouted.
Suddenly Nambu was right behind Ryu.
" Follow it Ryu." Nambu ordered.
" But the God Phoenix can't dig. Hakase." Ryu answered very confused.
" You don't have to. Go in the hole it creates and get under it's tail. Trust me, we will fit. Do it now, Kudasai."
Ryu looked to Ken. Ken looked confused but shook his head yes.
" Strap in everyone." Ken ordered.
Ryu dove into the hole left by the mole. He gunned the engines slightly to catch up with it. He flew right under the Mole's tail. He tried not to look around at all the Earth wanting to collapse on his beautiful ship. They were traveling about five minutes when the mole slowed down.
" Shit!" Ryu screamed as he slowed down just in time to miss hitting the Mole's rear.
He didn't hear any of the soothing comments his teammates were telling him. It was just him, the Mole tank and the 5 meters that separated the two. Come on. Take me to your den. Ryu got his wish two minutes later. The mole came to a dead stop. There was a great trembling in the tunnel.
( Please no. Don't let my beautiful ship get buried.) Ryu was screaming, in his head. The falling rock bouncing off the ship did not help calm anyone. A sliver of white light pierced the blue glow surrounding the Mole. Pretty soon it was flooding the tunnel.
The Mole moved slowly moved in. The hanger for the mole mecha was enormous.
" Ryu, head for that dark corner." Ken ordered.
Nambu quietly watched the small screen in front of him. There was nothing in that corner of the hanger. He was hoping that the commotion of the mole tank would cover their descent and landing. Ryu eased the God Phoenix down without incident.
"Excellent navigating, Ryu." Nambu rose from his seat to shake Ryu's hand.
" Thank-you Hakase."
Ryu was trembling a bit. Nambu had truly pushed Ryu's comfort zone. Nambu knew that Ryu could do it even if Ryu didn't. Nambu turned to address the team.
" I hope that I have proved to you all that the God Phoenix can be squeezed into tighter spaces than you all realized."
"Hai, Hakase." the team responded.
" Good. Now how about all of you go and destroy this base. After Jun accesses the mainframe."
Jun, Jinpei and Ken turned to go, with big smiles.
" I do believe I said everyone." Nambu reiterated looking at Ryu.
" But someone needs to stay with the ship." Ken and Ryu said together.
Nambu motioned for Ken to come closer and Ryu to stand up. When they were standing together, Nambu walked behind them and Gibbs slapped both of their helmets. Nambu walked in front of them and stated:
" I'm sorry. I didn't quite hear that."
Nambu flashed both of them an evil grin. To Ryu's credit, the dawning light of the idea hit his eyes before Ken's. Jun and Jinpei were badly attempting to stifle their laughter.
"Sorry, Hakase. The four of us will infiltrate this Galactor base. Recover some files and then eliminate this base." Ken stated with a bow.
" I have the timed explosives ready." Jun stated.
" How long are they set for?" Nambu asked.
"Twenty minutes Hakase."
" Please set them just before you leave. To give Ryu time to get us out of here." Nambu stated.
" Hai, Hakase!"
The team disappeared through the top dome. All four of them were out of the hanger in under 30 seconds.
"Well it's now or never." Nambu said quietly.
He moved his communication watch to his right wrist. He took out his bracelet and placed it on his left wrist. Nambu quickly changed into his white kimono and boots. The kimono was simple and elegant. It had three Kanji words diagonally across the back. Knowledge, Truth and Serenity. They were embroidered in black with red shadows. The same design was on the sleeve cuffs. Power on the left and Accuracy on the right. Nambu wrapped his waist with a belt that matched the kimono. Nambo took a moment to center himself.
At least, two dozen Galactor troops were repairing the mole tank. Nambu jumped to the wing and then landed softly on the floor. All the repairs were covering his exit out of the hanger. Nambu ran down a hall and under a stairwell to get his bearings. A couple of goons passed by calmly. Which told Nambu that the team hadn't been discovered yet.
The team had made it to the central control rooms. Thankfully, the hanger level of the base was a floor above the control rooms so the team could look down on Katse and the Commander talking. Ken motioned for Jun and Jinpei to move towards the computer.
Ken and Ryu watched as Jun and Jinpei flew silent as snowflakes to the floor. Jun hid behind the racks of server towers as Jinpei crawled forward enough to pop one of the panels open. Jinpei froze as a goon walked straight by him. Without noticing Jinpei or the popped panel, the goon proceeded with his patrol. The whole team released a collective breath.
" That was too close." Ryu whispered.
Ken nodded in agreement. Jinpei hooked up the cable and stayed still. Jun was at the other end downloading as much information as her tiny tape drive would hold. The signal Jinpei was waiting for was two light tugs on the cable.
Katse and the Commander were hunkered over the map table discussing their next target. The team had long ago learned to tune out any idle chit chat that Katse did.
Ken and Ryu noted the attack targets. Even if this base ceased to exist, Katse wanted to destroy those targets. Ken and Ryu's eyes were scanning the room for any threats to Jun and Jinpei. As an info gathering mission this was pretty dull. Katse and the Commander were the only two in the room. There were two goons guarding the door. This was a cakewalk.
Jun's hands started to buzz. The tape drive was full. So far, so good. Jinpei felt the cord move and quietly disconnected the cable and closed the panel. He joined Jun behind the towers. Jun planted one of the timed explosives on the back of a tower. They both flew to the top of the towers and then up to the balcony to join Ken and Ryu.
Ken was mildly shocked. They would actually get out without a fight. That is when Ryu noticed something happening at the door.
" Hey, guys." Ryu whispered.
They all heard a very muffled struggle at the door.
(Who the...) Ken thought.
The team had to keep themselves quiet when they saw who walked through the door.
Nambu was in ornate kimono carrying a dead goon. Nambu threw the goon so that he landed right in the middle of the map table. Katse and the Commander both hit the floor waiting for the Science Ninja Team to land. When nothing happened Katse cautiously moved. He looked to his Commander and saw a five pointed hira shrunken embedded in the base of his skull. The growing blood pool told Katse that the Commander was dead.
"So, which one of you kids got the new toy?" Katse asked as he slowly started getting up. "Come on speak up. Be proud, that was a great shot."
Katse got to his knees and looked up to see Dr. Nambu starring at him.
( What is Nambu doing here? Why isn't he in a suit?) Katse thought. Wanting to get control of this situation, Katse walked up to Nambu and gave a short bow.
" Dr. Nambu it's a pleasure."
" It won't be in a minute." Nambu stated with a wild grin on his face.
Katse's instinct to run was overridden by his curiosity as to what was going to happen next. He was expecting Gatchaman and his band of idiots to appear any minute. Katse always wanted to get at least a few verbal jabs in before he escaped.
" What is he doing ani?" Jinpei said.
" I don't know but let's not move yet." Ken whispered.
Katse was too busy looking for the team to notice Nambu raising his left arm to his face.
" Bird Go!" Nambu boomed. Katse ducked and covered his eyes against the swirling colors.
The team were too shocked to say or do anything.
Katse felt himself lifted and thrown onto the map table next to the dead guard. Katse saw Nambu's eyes full of rage behind a black tinted beak. As bad as Nambu felt, he was quietly thanking himself for transmuting twenty times earlier. Nambu jumped on top of the table and kicked off the dead goon. Katse had a very murderous Red Crowned Crane standing over him.
Katse had to admit it was a elegant birdstyle. Katse wondered how just three colors could frame a body so beautifully. Each leg was drenched in black from the crest of his hips to the bottom of his boots. The middle third of each wing had fluttering black feathers. Black wrapped his neck and tapered over his ears. Ending, finally, in a long, pointed crystalline black beak. Most of the birdstyle was in a snow white. His forehead sported a deep blood red spot. Nambu's birdstyle had a double wing layer. Actually, it was a cape with a second layer of fabric feathers over it. Each feather was separate. So his birdstyle could ruffle.
Katse watched as Nambu's face dropped the mask of the controlled scientists, mentor, and public face of the KNT. What took it's place was primal, protective and dark. Katse was too fascinated to realize he should run. Regular humans intrigued Katse. Katse was human, genetically. His emotions were a roller coaster on bad days and settled to a simmering tea kettle on good days. He was envious of his men being able to have true happiness and peace. He watched Nambu to see what he would do next.
Nambu watched as Katse's face changed to one of a curious child.
(How screwed up mentally are you, Katse? That you would stay and study me rather than run?) Nambu thought.
The team watched as the two men just stared at each other. It seemed like an eternity but it was only two minutes since Hakase had entered the room. Jinpei looked like he wanted to speak but Ryu pinched his lips together and shook his head no. Ken turned his head and shrugged his shoulders. Jun was the only one that kept her eye on her timer. Eighteen minutes till the bomb took out this room and two others.
" Do you know how many people you have killed?" Nambu growled.
Katse's eyes rolled up in his head as if he were reading a spread sheet.
" 967,213 I do believe."
Nambu was impressed. The ISO and UN were, at least, keeping the death tolls correct.
" How many more bodies do you need before you stop?"
Nambu sounded a bit calmer. The team was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
" Just 5. The rest of the Science Ninja Team, Gatchaman and you." Katse said with a smirk.
"You know we are not that stupid. Once we are gone you are going to destroy everything. You know we will fight till the last person on Earth. So Katse," Nambu narrowed his gaze and spat the next words out. "it comes down to who wants Earth more. You or us. I'm putting my money on us."
" Dear Dr. Nambu I was created and chosen by Sosai X to give him this planet. He shall get it. I'm being practical. One can not disappoint one's God. You and your flock of birdies are the only thing that is in my way. So just give up now and I will let your other four live."
Katse expected Nambu's expression to show something with that statement. Katse saw nothing so he continued.
" I would have liked to have all six of you alive to train my rather inept troops. Sorry my Commander was a bit too trigger happy. Don't worry. My men will fear the Condor name till the end of their days. I think he would approve. "
" Sixteen minutes. Hurry up Hakase." Jun whispered.
The team was waiting for his response.
Nambu's head tilted back with his eyes closed. His head rolled between his shoulders and gave his wings a mighty shake. Katse instantly froze in fear. The team could not see inside Nambu's wings. Katse wished he couldn't either. Nambu had two Bird's head Tachi, one for each wing.
Nambu lowered the blades till Katse could feel them lightly caressing his torso.
" You were the cause of me having to take five akachan and turn them into killing machines."
Katse's mind was all over the map. He couldn't think straight. Anything he said would just make things worst.
" You did it. Why blame me?"
Nambu let out a scream of rage. The team all cringed reflectively. None of them had ever heard such a sound come out of Hakase's mouth. It rightly scared all of them, especially Katse. Nambu dragged the two swords across Katse's body. They weren't deep cuts but he was bleeding. Katse let out a strangled whine.
" Silence!" Nambu ordered.
Ken got a hold of himself and started watching the door. Somebody had to hear that. The goons had to be coming. Ryu motioned for them to fly down and cover the door. Ken just wanted to sit still for now.
" I have 5 time bombs on my hands. They will never be normal. If I kill you now I can, maybe, let them have a somewhat normal life."
Katse realized that Nambu was not only yelling at him but at the ISO? Or whoever made him create the KNT. Nambu said five. Condor wasn't dead. Great, another problem.
" Have you ever watched the light of life slowly flicker to embers in someone's eyes? Huh, Katse. "
Katse was afraid to speak. He just shook his head no. He hated getting yelled at like this. The only one who Katse allowed to treat him this way was Sosai.
" Of course you wouldn't. What would you care? I've seen you sacrifice thousands of men for nothing more than canon fodder."
"I have not!!!" Katse screamed. " Sosai's order's."
Nambu starred at Katse with pure contempt. Katse was losing it. Stress always had a tendency to trigger him.
"Did you not give the orders?" growled Nambu.
Nambu saw Katse's eyes change. For an instant, Katse's eyes teared up. But then a cold, manic look took over.
" They know what they were hired for Nambu! They are willing to die to achieve Galactor's goal!" Katse screamed.
"What do they mean to you?" Nambu quietly stated.
Katse went blank.
"I though so. They are nothing but parts of the machine. If one part breaks, toss it aside and get another one."
"That's about right." Katse proudly stated.
The team was watching the door. Ryu and Jinpei signaled that they had heard something. Four figures floated silently to the floor. Jinpei crouched down and peeked around the door. Three goons were thirty yards away listening. Jinpei held up three fingers of his left hand. Ken turned towards Nambu and willed him not to make a sound. He didn't want to say it. The team was convinced that Nambu and Katse were in their own world now. So any quiet attempt at communication would not be heard anyway. Jun pointed at her timer. Fourteen minutes to go.
Nambu was studying Katse's face. He wanted to make the next statement crush or at least confuse Katse.
" You won't understand this but I'll tell you it anyway. I have accepted the fact that my flock, as you call them, will hate me once this war is over. That is my punishment for doing what I have done and allowed to be done to them. I refused to allow myself to think of them as just weapons to be used. No matter who told me to."
Jinpei motioned that the goons were turning around. The team breathed a sigh of relief.
" I didn't..." Katse squeaked.
"Shut up and listen!" Nambu bellowed.
(Good going Hakase.) thought Jinpei. As he saw the goons turn back and head for them. The team got ready to fight.
" I have worried and wept over my team. That makes me a stronger, better leader than you will ever be."
The goons were now ten yards away.
" I'm keeping my humanity alive as a shield to protect theirs. My efforts will, hopefully, allow them to rebuild themselves emotionally. There will be a life for them after Galactor."
The room went from almost dead still to utter chaos in under ten seconds. The three goons looked in the room to find a big Crane hovering over a bleeding Katse. One of the goons asked:
This was enough to penetrate the attentions of both Katse and Nambu. They both turned to see the three guards in the door and the KNT hugging the wall. Katse screamed:
"Kill them all!!"
The confusion on the goons faces told Katse they hadn't seen the team yet. Before Katse could say anymore, the team jumped the three goons. To an outsider, the ninjas were deadly. The team knew they were fighting blind. Just as the goons appeared the entire team was focused on Hakase and his words. They were all letting their minds run and the result was blinding them for a moment.
The three goons saw through all the hype and bravado of the Science Ninja Team. They were just kids with deadly toys and skills. The tears in all of their eyes wouldn't let them be any more. The entire way to defeat the KNT lived and died in the minds of the goons.
The team took out their pain on the goons and left their tears with the three dead bodies.
"Hakase! Twelve minutes!" Jun screamed.
Katse saw his chance to run. He kicked straight up. He wanted to see Nambu writhing in pain on the floor. Nambu felt Katse start to move and jumped straight up missing the kick. Nambu saw the fury in Katse's face, as he momentarily hung over him. Katse turned and flew off the table.
" Oh no you don't!" screamed Nambu.
Katse turned and saw only two blades and Nambu's face twisted in rage. He reached his escape panel and it closed behind him. Then he noticed a sharp pain on the top right of his head. Katse could feel the change starting. His last thought was:
( Not here please. Not now.) Then Katse's vision faded to black.
" Let's move. Set the charges behind me." Nambu ordered as he picked up the top left side of Katse's head dress and started for the door.
" Katse's a blond."
Nambu stated as he bit down on the ear and lead the team to the hanger bay with two blades leading the way.