1. Chapter 1 by TransmuteJun
2. Chapter 2 by TransmuteJun
3. Chapter 3 by TransmuteJun
4. Chapter 4 by TransmuteJun
5. Chapter 5 by TransmuteJun
6. Chapter 6 by TransmuteJun
7. Chapter 7 by TransmuteJun
Joe Asakura slouched in the too-small seat, his six foot two inch frame uncomfortably folded in an entirely unnatural fashion. He desperately longed to stand up; to lean against the wall in his traditional pose with arms and ankles crossed, but the Condor knew that if he were to attempt such a thing he would receive a stern reprimand from the one person in the world who could actually instill fear in his heart.
The object of the Condor’s apprehension sat only three feet away, apparently unaware of the feelings of resentment being directed toward him. Or perhaps he was aware, but completely unperturbed. Kozaburo Nambu appeared completely at ease, working on a small laptop computer, his standard vest and tie as crisp as ever, although for once the Doctor had forgone his usual suit jacket.
Joe grimaced to himself, wondering what had happened. At first, he had actually believed that this would be fun…
“Team, you’re going to be getting some time off.” Dr. Nambu had announced, just that morning. “I’m taking you all to the city of Las Vegas.”
“Really?” Joe’s eyebrows had shot up in excitement at the prospect of visiting the metropolis known as ‘Sin City’. He had only turned twenty-one years of age in the last few months, and the prospect of sowing some wild oats in a place known for that kind of opportunity was too appealing to pass up.
“What’s the catch?” Jinpei had asked suspiciously. The Swallow still bore a mild animosity toward the Doctor for the team’s supposed vacation in Hontworl, which eventually had led to a mission to stop the Van Allen Belt from crashing into the Earth.
“No catch.” Nambu had smiled thinly. “You are all free to enjoy yourselves as you wish. When you’re not attending the conference, that is.”
“Conference?” Ken’s ears had perked up. Joe had groaned and rolled his eyes. Only Ken Washio would get excited about some boring old conference.
“Perhaps this one won’t be so bad.” Ryu had whispered wistfully, a vain hope written all over his face.
“Yes.” the Doctor had replied. “This is the International Conference on Indium Phosphide Semiconductors in Photonic Systems and Opto-Electronic Devices. A most fascinating subject, to be sure.” Nambu’s eyes had gleamed with excitement as he had spoken.
Everyone else’s eyes had glazed over after the first three words, save for the Eagle. Gatchaman had been doing his best to feign interest in something that even he found less than appealing. And so it was to Ken that Dr. Nambu had directed his next words.
“You will all be accompanying me as I attend the conference, including performing the usual guard duty while I speak.” the Doctor had informed the Science Ninja Team. “Immediately after the conference, we will return to Utoland.”
“So, when are we going to be getting time off?” Jun had asked curiously.
“Our flight leaves in two hours.” Nambu had stated. “You will have the afternoon and evening to yourselves, along with the time before my presentation at the conference tomorrow.”
Joe had perked up somewhat at that. Even one evening in Las Vegas might be something exciting. All he had to do was make the most of the short amount of time he had.
“Something to drink, Sir?”
Joe’s mind was brought back to his current reality as he stared up at the woman old enough to be his mother. Her once-crisp uniform was beginning to lose its sharp edges, and her face bore the unmistakable signs of strain and exhaustion.
But once his brain registered what he had been asked, Joe perked up.
“You got any beer?” he asked hopefully.
“I hardly think this is the time or the place, Mr. Asakura.” came Kozaburo Nambu’s reproving voice from behind Joe’s chair. The Condor slumped back into his seat, scowling at the reprimand.
“Okay, just a Coke.” he mumbled to the flight attendant.
“Two for me!” grinned Ryu, in the seat next to him.
“Oh, no!” Jinpei moaned. “If you have two drinks, you’ll be stepping over me to get to the bathroom! No way are you having two drinks!”
“You’re the one who insisted on having the aisle seat.” Ryu reminded him. “That’s the price you pay for it.”
“I really wanted the window.” Jinpei grumbled. “But Joe wouldn’t let me have it.”
“Damn straight.” Joe grunted. “I’m not going to sit on the aisle, letting some idiot stewardess roll over my toes with that drink cart every three minutes.”
Too late, the Condor realized that the flight attendant was still standing there, pouring their drinks into flimsy plastic cups filled with ice. She glared as she passed Joe his Coke, then tossed a silver bag of peanuts in his direction. The snack landed smack in the middle of the Condor’s drink, splashing sticky-sweet soda all over his jeans.
“Sorry, Sir.” she said automatically, but from her expression it was clear that this had been no accident. Joe could almost respect her for that, except that he could already feel the cold liquid seeping through his pants to his legs.
“Thanks, Ma’am!” Ryu offered, oblivious to Joe’s discomfort. Jinpei had a Coke as well, and Joe picked his dripping peanut bag out of his own soda. At least he could drink what little was left of his soda. The Condor reclined his chair, intending to lean back with his cup.
“Please raise your seat, Joe.” Nambu ordered. “I have difficulty working on my computer when your chair is reclined.”
Great. He had to sit straight up in wet jeans to drink a half-full cup of Coke. This wasn’t easy at the best of times, but with Ryu’s bulk spilling out of the middle seat and into his own, the small seat space he had been allotted seemed more cramped than ever.
Damn, why couldn’t Hakase have bought them first class tickets? If they couldn’t be paid for their work, it was the least he could have done.
“Hey, Onechan, tight seats, aren’t they?” Jinpei asked, turning his head to gawk at the Swan sitting behind him, “Of course, I guess you don’t mind, since you’re all squished up next to Aniki.”
“Shut up, Jinpei!” Jun hissed. Joe grinned to himself. At least he wasn’t the only miserable one on this flight.
“Love birds… isn’t that what you are?” Jinpei teased. The Swallow had made a career out of never knowing when to quit. “Aniki and Onechan, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S…”
“That’s enough, Jinpei!” Nambu barked. Joe was relieved not to hear that tone directed at him, for once.
“Perhaps you should be reading up on indium phosphide photonic systems.” Ken suggested. The Swallow blanched, and quickly turned around, re-settling himself in his seat. Absentmindedly, he poked at Ryu’s arm.
“You’re in my space, Ryu!” he complained.
“These seats aren’t built for someone of my ‘stature’.” Ryu replied calmly.
“That’s because your ‘stature’ could fit three normal people!” Jinpei retorted. “Get out of my seat!”
“All right, all right!” Ryu sighed, pushing more of his generous form into Joe’s personal space.
“Watch it, Ryu!” Joe cried, as the Owl’s elbow knocked the remains of the Condor’s drink onto his lap.
“Sorry, Joe.” Ryu mumbled, passing his superior some napkins. “I just wish they’d let us fly the God Phoenix out here.”
“You and me both.” grumbled Joe, vainly attempting to mop up the new series of wet spots soaking through his jeans.
Jun sighed as Jinpei turned away. She was glad that her little brother was no longer teasing her, but that feeling was overwhelmed by the frustration she was experiencing with Ken’s behavior. The Eagle was sitting next to her, and it still seemed as if he were a million miles away. Ken actually appeared to be more interested in reading the in-flight magazine than in talking to her. Jun knew the magazine couldn’t be that fascinating, because he had already reached the end and was now reading it from the beginning, again. When she had accidentally bumped arms with the Eagle, he had practically hit the ceiling.
Ken was making it quite clear that he had no interest at all in being close to her.
It was truly frustrating. Jun had hoped that some time off might allow the Eagle to relax, and get away from his role as Gatchaman, for once. But instead, it looked as if Ken would remain stiff and tense, despite the opportunity he had been offered.
At least there was one good thing to come out of this. Hakase had given permission for her to get a new dress for tonight, especially given that they only had one evening to themselves. If they were going to have a night on the town, Jun wanted to make the most of it and look the best she possibly could. Somehow she was able to get Hakase to agree, with the suggestion that maybe the rest of the team would be interested in some new clothes too. After a moment of thoughtful consideration, Hakase had handed over his credit card, remarking how the morale of entire team might benefit from it.
The guys hadn’t been interested in the offer of new attire, but the Swan had jumped at the chance. She was already looking forward to spending the rest of the afternoon in the Las Vegas boutiques.
The impact of the Eagle’s threat had apparently already been lost on the Swallow. Jinpei was practically kneeling on his seat, looking over at Ken and Jun with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“Yes, Jinpei?” Ken sighed, looking up from his in-flight magazine.
“Are you going to take Onechan out to dinner?” the boy asked. “Somewhere nice! There are supposed to be lots of cool places in Vegas to go out!”
Ken glanced nervously at Jun before burying his nose again in his magazine.
“Uh… I don’t think so…” he mumbled from behind the wrinkled pages. “We’ll all just go out together…”
Jun blanched, ready to strike out at Jinpei when the Swallow spoke again.
“See, Onechan? I told you!” he laughed in an irritating fashion. “You need to learn how to cook! If you can’t cook, a girl as ugly as you are will never catch a man!”
Jun blushed a fiery red. Normally she would have smacked the boy hard for such an insult, but she suddenly found her eyes stinging with unshed tears, and all she could manage was a vague swat at Jinpei’s tousled head as he disappeared behind the seat.
The Swan fell back into her seat, her cheeks burning, desperately swiping at her eyes with the back of her hand, hoping that Ken didn’t see what she was doing.
Damn it! Ken had picked the worst possible time to finally pay attention to her. She should have known that the White Shadow would take note of everything.
“What is it, Ken?” she asked, attempting to put a cheery smile on her face, and failing miserably.
“Are you okay?” he asked. There was only genuine concern in his deep blue eyes.
“I…” Jun’s lower lip began trembling, making it difficult for her to get out any more words.
Hesitating briefly, Ken attempted to put his arm around the clearly upset Swan. The movement was awkward, and far from natural, but that only made Jun appreciate the gesture all the more. She looked shyly up at Ken, giving him a watery smile.
A series of loud smooching noises came from the seat in front of them. In the small gap created by the Owl’s reclined chair, the Swallow’s pointed nose and one brown eye peeked out. A series of high-pitched giggles followed the rude noises.
Ken immediately pulled away from Jun, the magazine once again his primary source of interest.
Suddenly, the Swallow’s giggles were interrupted by a high-pitched yowl of pain from the boy.
“Watch it, Ryu! That’s my foot!”
“Sorry, Jinpei.” the Owl grinned sheepishly. “I need to get out.”
“I told you not to have that second Coke!” Jinpei howled.
Jun smiled to herself. Perhaps there was some justice in the world, after all.
After what seemed like hours later to Joe, the plane finally landed and parked at the gate. Stiff from sitting in the same position for so long, he was thoroughly irritated by Jinpei’s constant harassing of Jun and Ryu’s bulk constantly encroaching his space, not to mention the now-rigid jeans he was wearing. The Condor growled at the Swallow and Owl to get up and move out.
“I can’t, Joe!” Jinpei snapped back. “Can’t you see the aisle is full?”
“Make them move.” Joe demanded; he really didn’t think he could sit for one second longer.
Jinpei stood facing the aisle, his back to Joe; he wasn’t even attempting file into the queue.
Having had enough, Joe quickly stood up, forgetting that, unlike on the God Phoenix, there was an overhead bin above his position.
“Damn it!” he shouted as his head made contact with the hard plastic. Jinpei and Ryu quickly turned around to see the Condor rubbing his head, his eyes emitting a glare that would have sent every last Galactor goon running back to wherever it was they had come from.
Jinpei quickly darted into the aisle, with Ryu right behind him.
Head still aching, Joe got himself into the aisle and quickly grabbed his bag from the overhead bin. Ken was next to him, doing the same.
“Great trip so far, huh, Joe?” Ken asked warily.
“What are you complaining about? At least you got to sit with Jun!” Joe retorted as they made their way down the aisle.
As the Condor and the Eagle reached the cabin door to make their exit, they passed the flight attendant, who was standing at the front galley. A wry smile crept across her face as Joe walked by.
“I hope you had a pleasant flight, Sir.” she said, her voice as sweet as the soda that had splashed onto the Condor’s jeans. “Buh-bye.”
Outside the gate, the six travelers met up and walked down to the baggage claim area. As they went out the door, Jinpei could see a long black limousine waiting for them.
“Oh, cool! We get to ride to the hotel in a limo?” he asked, eyes wide.
No one answered, for at that moment Director Anderson walked up to the group, accompanied by a sizeable security contingent.
“Good afternoon, Dr. Nambu, Team.” he greeted them. “I trust you had a good flight.”
“Hello, Director Anderson. Yes, yes we did. Very good.” Nambu responded, as he stole a glance at the five teenagers.
“Excellent.” the Director replied, then seeing the limousine he added, “It seems we’re all ready to go.”
Jinpei was prepared to bolt to the limo, but stopped when Nambu turned his attention to his charges.
“I hope you all have an enjoyable afternoon and evening.” he bade them. “I will see you in the conference room tomorrow afternoon, at one pm sharp.”
“What? Aren’t we going with you?” the Swallow asked, startled at this revelation. His eyes darted in the direction of the limousine.
“No. There’s only enough room for Director Anderson, his entourage, and me. You’ll have to take a taxi.” Nambu informed the team.
Jinpei was crestfallen; Joe was just even more irritated.
The five ninjas waited until the limo departed before making way for their own transportation.
As they walked over to the taxi stand, a beautiful buxom blonde wearing a white halter top, too-tight blue miniskirt with matching leather bolero jacket, and black stiletto heels rushed up to Joe’s side and pushed a pink paper into his hand. Joe scrutinized it briefly, as he did the blonde, then turned it over to read the flyer.
A mischievous smile crept across Joe’s face.
“Looks like my luck is finally changing!” he muttered to himself.
“What was that?” Ryu asked.
Joe smiled wickedly at Ryu. “Come here and I’ll show you.”
Ryu slid over to the Condor and took the paper from Joe’s hand. As he read it, a smile crept across the Owl’s face.
Unfortunately, Jinpei had witnessed the entire exchange.
“Are you in?” the Condor quietly asked the Owl.
“Hell, yeah! With a name like ‘Pink Treasures’ how could I not?”
“In for what?” the Swallow questioned as he ran over and tried to read the paper in Ryu’s hands. Confusion spread across his face as he tried to understand the flyer he was reading.
“What’s a ‘gentlemen’s club’?” he asked, perplexed.
“It’s a club for adult entertainment.” Ryu tried to subtly explain, while Joe blurted out, “It’s a strip joint.”
Shocked, Ryu responded, “Joe! Don’t you think he’s kind of young….”
“Oh, come on, Ryu. In a couple of years he’s going to be looking at those magazines you keep under your bed. He might as well know what a gentlemen’s club is now.”
But the conversation that transpired was lost on the Swallow, as Jinpei had started to shout, “Entertainment? Like an amusement park? I want to go! Come on Joe! Can I? Pleeaasseeeee??”
Joe rolled his eyes. Jinpei was not part of the plan. But then it occurred to the Condor that the Swallow was too young and wouldn’t be admitted to the club anyway. What a great way to get back at the kid for all the years of torment he had put Joe through…
“Ssh! Not so loud!” Joe ordered, then with exasperation in his voice added, “Fine, you’re in. Just keep your mouth shut. If Ken finds out, he’ll tell Nambu and none of us will be going!”
A broad smile appeared across the young Swallow’s face.
“Ok, so what’s the plan?” Ryu whispered as a mischievous smirk spread across the Condor’s lips.
“Joe! Ryu! Jinpei! Let’s go!” Ken’s voice came from the taxi stand, Jun standing next to him. “We’re next!”
It wasn’t until a cab pulled up that the Eagle realized all five of them, plus their bags, wouldn’t fit in one taxi.
“I guess we’ll have to take two…” Ken announced, then falling into Commander mode, added, “Jun, Joe, you two come with me. Ryu and Jinpei, you take the next one.”
“You know, we are on vacation, as short as it may be…” Jun reminded him haughtily, as she added, “I think I would like to go straight to the shops to find my dress. Joe, would you like to come with me? It seems you could use a new pair of pants…”
The Eagle caught the Condor as he looked down at his stained jeans, slightly embarrassed. Ken tried not to laugh as he realized just where some of the stains resided on Joe’s pants…
The Condor reluctantly agreed to join the Swan, leaving Ken to ride with Ryu and Jinpei down the Strip to the hotel. Joe and Jun had also left their luggage with the other three, rather than take it with them to the shops.
The taxi pulled away, and out of the corner of his eye Ken looked out the window, stealing a glance at the Swan as she walked away with the Condor. On the plane she had seemed so distressed by Jinpei’s teasing, and Ken’s heart had gone out to her. He liked Jun, more than the others thought he did, but knew that a relationship of the kind she wanted between them would never work; at least, not as long as he was Gatchaman. Unbeknownst to everyone, there were times when he longed to forget about his duty and just hold her in his arms. Unfortunately, he knew that that couldn’t happen as long as they were both members of the Science Ninja Team, and, as the Eagle, it was his responsibility to ensure that it never did happen. Ken sighed, turning his attention to the flashy casinos passing by.
As they rode down the Strip, all three ninjas were taken with the bright lights of the city and all of the excitement it had to offer. Though Jinpei’s eyes were wide with wonder and awe, Ken suddenly felt awkward and out-of-place. The glitz, glamour, and scantily-clad women are more Joe’s scene than mine, Ken thought, as he leaned back in the cab and hoped they would arrive at the hotel soon.
“Aniki! Look!” Jinpei suddenly yelled out and started shaking Ken’s shoulder. “I want to go there! Can we go there first? Huh, can we?” he pleaded as he leaned forward in the seat and pointed to a casino in the shape of a castle.
Ken looked at the Swallow quizzically, then responded, “Excalibur? Sure, Jinpei. Whatever you say…”
“Did you hear that, Ryu? We’re going to go gambling!” Jinpei relayed to the Owl excitedly.
“Actually, we’re going to go gambling.” Ryu corrected him. “You’re going to have to find something else to do.”
Jinpei stared at his friend with a blank expression on his face.
“You have to be twenty-one to gamble. You’re only twelve. You’re too young – you won’t even be allowed on the gaming room floor.” Ryu informed him.
“WHAT? What do you mean I’m too young? Aniki…” Jinpei whined as he looked from the Owl to the Eagle.
“It doesn’t matter, anyway.” Ken responded curtly. “Need I remind both of you that we’re on assignment, here?”
Ignoring his Commander, Jinpei suddenly had another thought and continued.
“Wait, I have my special ISO ID… I can do anything with that!”
“I don’t think that’s going to help you here, Jinpei.” Ken responded reprovingly.
“Why not? It allows me to do anything you guys do, including driving!” the Swallow tried to reason.
“You can try it, but I don’t think it’s going to work…” Ryu replied back.
Without offering any additional help, Ken added, “Nope. I think you’re going to have to deal with the limitations all twelve-year-olds contend with.”
Sobered and sullen, the Swallow sat back and remained uncharacteristically quiet for the rest of the ride.
Despite his initial annoyance at having to take a separate vehicle, Joe gave a slight smile as he got into the taxi. It was hardly the most luxurious mode of transportation, but it was far more comfortable than the cramped airplane had been. Sighing blissfully, he stretched out his legs as he settled himself into the far seat.
“Move over, Joe.” Jun urged him, gently pushing his legs aside with her own. “I need to sit too!”
Obligingly, Joe moved just enough so that Jun could put her feet on the floor, but the Condor was clearly not going to accommodate her request any further.
Jun apparently had her mind on other things.
“What’s the best place to go shopping on the strip?” she asked the driver.
“Do you want to buy, or do you want to window shop?” he asked.
“Both.” she grinned.
“How are you going to pay for this stuff, anyhow?” Joe asked curiously.
“Hakase gave me his credit card.” Jun exclaimed gleefully, waving the platinum Visa under Joe’s nose. “Sky’s the limit!”
“Well, in that case, I’ll take you to the WynnEsplanade.” chuckled the taxi driver. “You can definitely give that card a workout there.”
The car pulled away from the curb, and Jun looked thoughtfully at Joe.
“How did you get such a mess on your pants?” she asked. “Were you guys having a food fight or something?”
“Next time, you try sitting next to Ryu.” Joe rolled his eyes. “If he wasn’t crowding Jinpei, he was crowding me. His elbow must have knocked my drink at least three times.”
“Oh.” Jun smiled slightly. “I guess I should be grateful, then. Tell you what, when we get to the hotel, I’ll rinse them out for you, so you can wear them tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Junie!” Joe grinned, planting a quick kiss on her cheek. The Condor hadn’t been looking forward to wearing a sticky Birdstyle at the conference the following day.
“At least someone appreciates me.” Jun replied ruefully, looking down at her hands in her lap.
“What’s wrong?” Joe asked, concerned as he sensed a change in the Swan’s mood.
“Just… you know.” Jun turned her head to stare out of the window at the passing scenery, to avoid looking at her companion.
“It’s Ken, isn’t it?” the Condor remarked. “He’s still ignoring you.”
The Swan’s silence only confirmed what Joe already knew.
A light bulb suddenly turned on in Joe’s head. He and Ryu wanted to visit Pink Treasures. But there was no way the stodgy Eagle would ever approve. The Condor needed a distraction.
“He’ll come around.” Joe promised Jun. “You’ll see. We’ll get you an outfit guaranteed to knock his socks off tonight. When he sees you, he won’t be able to take his eyes off of you.”
“Really?” Jun turned back to Joe, her eyes shining with hope.
“Really.” Joe nodded reassuringly. He was doing Jun a favor. Ken too. And if it worked out the way he wanted it to, he and Ryu would be enjoying themselves as well.
It was win/win all around.
The taxi pulled up to the guest entrance, and a doorman ran up to greet its passengers.
“Welcome to the Paris Hotel!” the uniformed man declared.
“Wow…” Jinpei was amazed. “This is awesome! At least Hakase picked a cool place to stay!”
“It is pretty amazing…” Ryu gawked.
“It looks nice.” Ken mumbled, shuffling his feet.
“What do you mean, nice?” Jinpei demanded. “It’s beautiful! You know, Paris is supposed to be a romantic place. Maybe you should take Jun to dinner here, Aniki!”
“Uh… I think we should all just go to dinner together.” Ken replied quickly.
“But I really think you should.” Jinpei insisted. He enjoyed teasing his Onechan, but deep down, the boy knew that she and Aniki were perfect for each other. If only Aniki could see it!
“I’m going to take the bags up to the rooms.” Ken said, moving off with the porter as fast as possible toward the check-in counter. “You guys can check out the rest of the hotel.”
“Have fun!” the Eagle called to Jinpei and Ryu as he rushed away.
“Let’s see what this place has to offer.” Ryu said, pulling Jinpei in the opposite direction. The Swallow sighed. He knew that Ryu was trying to be a peacemaker, but he didn’t appreciate that particular aspect of his friend’s personality at the moment. Still, the prospect of checking out this place was too good to pass up.
Almost immediately, Jinpei saw the casino. Like most Las Vegas hotels, it was hard to miss, taking up the vast majority of the ground floor. Dazzling sunlight streamed in through large windows, combining with the bright flashing illumination from the many gaming machines.
The Swallow walked forward, almost magnetically drawn to the numerous slot machines.
“Those look so cool!” he said, his jaw hitting the floor. “Just like video games…”
“Except, you can lose a lot more than a couple of dollars at these video games!” Ryu pointed out.
“Look at that one with Zorro…” Jinpei drooled, barely hearing what the Owl had said. “It’s only a penny…”
Ryu walked up to examine the machine. “Uh, Jinpei, it’s got thirty different pay lines. And then you need to play the bonus line to get to the good games. So it’s going to cost you at least sixty cents a turn. But don’t forget, you’re too young to gamble…”
“So what? I’m a special case, remember? And it’s only sixty cents? I can do that!”
The Swallow bounded over, pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and inserted it into the machine. He pressed the buttons, watching the digital wheels spin before his eyes.
“Hey, look, it’s Zorro!” he jumped excitedly. “I win!”
“Uh… I think you need at least four Zorros to win.” Ryu replied. “You only have three.”
“Oh.” Jinpei was confused for a moment. “I’ll just try again!” He eagerly pressed the button.
“Look at those letters, Ryu!” he yelped. “It’s spelling ‘Z-O-R-R-O’! I think that wins!”
“Don’t get so excited, Jinpei.” Ryu grinned. “It only has one R. I don’t think that wins.”
“Damn it! I was so close!” Jinpei complained.
About one minute later, the Swallow down to twenty cents from his original five dollars, there was a tap on his shoulder.
“What?” Jinpei turned around, clearly annoyed, only to face a burly man in a security guard’s uniform.
“Excuse me, Sir.” the man said in a condescending tone. “Do you realize that you are required to be twenty-one years of age to gamble in the state of Nevada?”
“So I’ve heard.” Jinpei shrugged, turning back to his game.
The tap came on his shoulder again, this time a little more firmly.
“What now?” the Swallow moaned.
“Do you have any identification, Sir?” the guard asked, clearly not amused by the boy’s attitude.
“As a matter of fact, I do.” Jinpei smirked, pulling out his special-issue ISO ID card and thrusting it in an offhanded manner at the guard. He returned to his game, contemplating pulling out another five dollar bill.
“Excuse me.” the guard stopped him, physically pulling Jinpei away from the machine.
“What is your problem?” Jinpei cried, clearly exasperated by this entire process.
“This identification clearly states that you are only twelve years of age, Kid.” the guard smirked. “Far too young to gamble. You’d better get yourself and your superior attitude out of here now, before I throw you out on your skinny ass.”
“But that’s a special-issue ISO ID!” Jinpei declared, puffing out his chest and pounding on it with his fist in an exaggerated show of pride. “It allows me to do anything I want!”
“Not at the Paris Hotel, it doesn’t.” the guard grinned, yanking the Swallow away from the gaming area.
“Wait, Officer Johnson!” Ryu interjected, reading the guard’s nametag. “I was the one gambling. Jinpei didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Oh.” the guard appeared nonplussed for a moment, then recovered himself. “Are you sure about that? It looked like he was the one putting the coins in the machine.”
The Owl pleaded his case. “No, Sir. It really was me. Jinpei was just watching.”
“If you say so.” the guard responded pointedly. “But he’s still not even allowed to be in the casino underage. He can walk through on the marked paths, but that’s it. No stopping or loitering.”
“I didn’t realize that.” Ryu apologized. “I’m sorry. We’ll just go, then.”
The Owl dragged the Swallow out of there by his ear, Officer Johnson watching with an amused grin as they departed.
“Just look at all of these stores, Joe!” Jun exclaimed happily. She was wandering around the Wynn Esplanade in a pleasant daze. She couldn’t take her eyes off the dazzle of the
Oscar de la Renta boutique, the Chanel store, or the Manolo Blahniks shoe salon.
“Too many, if you ask me.” Joe grumbled. How many of these places were they going to visit, anyhow?
Joe’s eyes darted up and down the line of boutiques, but his heart nearly stopped when he saw a sign at the far end proclaiming the Penske/Wynn Ferrari-Maserati showroom. Without thinking, Joe’s feet started moving him in the direction of the dealership.
“Joe, where are you going?” the Swan called to the distracted Condor, “I’d like to go into Dior.”
“Now?” he asked, bemused.
“Of course now. Let’s go!” the Swan replied not realizing the sacrifice the Condor was making on her behalf.
Joe took one last longing look in the direction of the Ferrari showroom, then turned and followed Jun solemnly into Dior. He had promised to help her find an outfit that would drive the Eagle crazy, and in turn it would allow him to get his entertainment for the night.
“Oh… look at all of those beautiful clothes…” Jun sighed as they walked through the store, reaching out to reverently touch a skirt hanging from a nearby rack. “What do you think I should get?”
“Something hot.” Joe answered quickly. “Something to make Ken sit up and take notice.”
“Like what?” Jun appeared bewildered.
“I don’t know… just try some stuff on.” Joe shrugged. These things looked pretty dull just hanging on racks. Girl clothes always looked better with girls in them. Of course, girls always looked better without their clothes. The Condor’s mind drifted off to his plans for the evening as he settled into a chair outside of the dressing area.
“What do you think, Joe?” Jun asked, walking out of a changing room and turning in front of him. The dress she wore was white, with small yellow flowers, and it flowed in a full skirt down to her ankles.
“Don’t think so.” Joe replied. “Reminds me of something my Sicilian grandmother would wear.”
“You remember your grandmother?”
“No, but that’s beside the point. Ken’s not going to notice you in that. What else have you got?”
After a few more thumbs down from the Condor, Joe wondered if Jun had any idea of what she was looking for, and was actually beginning to contemplate asking a sales clerk for help, just so they wouldn’t have to spend the entire day there. Jun came out of the changing room again, her face resigned.
“This is the last one, Joe.” she sighed. “I guess we’ll just have to go somewhere else…”
“No, Jun, that’s it!” Joe said excitedly. “That will open Ken’s eyes!”
The dress the Swan wore was above the knee, although not as short as her usual Birdstyle miniskirt. It smoothed over her form like it was molded to her, accentuating her lush curves, and skimming over her hips in a way that briefly made Joe wonder what it would be like to hold her there. The dress was sleeveless, with thin straps over her shoulders, and a low neckline displaying an enticing view of the Swan’s soft cleavage. The dress’ emerald color was accentuated with a deep royal blue, highlighting Jun’s eyes and the delicate blush creeping across her cheeks.
“Really?” she asked, suddenly shy. “You don’t think it’s too…” the Swan searched for the appropriate word.
“It’s hot.” Joe finished for her. “Ken will love it.”
“Okay.” Jun flashed Joe a brilliant smile, and for just a second, the Condor forgot about the girls at Pink Treasures, as he was faced with the blinding loveliness of the girl standing before him.
“Now what about you?” Jun said thoughtfully, wandering among the men’s clothes. “Might as well get you a shirt too, since Hakase’s paying.”
“Whatever.” Joe shrugged. He just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
“Here, try these on!” Jun ordered, tossing three shirts and a few pairs of pants at the Condor.
Five minutes later, Joe had not only broken the speed record for quick changes in the Dior dressing room, but he was in the process of purchasing his first new clothing in three years. Jun had selected a navy blue shirt and khakis for him that she declared would have the women ‘falling at his feet’. Joe smirked to himself. It wasn’t his feet he wanted the ladies falling on.
And if everything went his way, tonight he would experience it firsthand.
Joe and Jun made it to the Paris Hotel with just over an hour to spare before dinner. Ken had contacted the pair to inform them of the group’s dinner plans just as the Condor and Swan were leaving the Dior store. Though there had been some debate, it had been decided that they would dine at Le Village Buffet at the Paris Hotel. Jun had had other ideas, but since it was Ryu who had insisted on going to the buffet, she reluctantly agreed.
Joe and Jun split in the lobby, Jun rushing off to shower and change, since she had such a short amount of time to get ready. Joe, on the other hand, realized that he had plenty of time for a shower and shave before dinner, so he walked over to the casino floor.
Just as he settled down at a video poker game, a waitress came up to him, carrying a tray of drinks and glasses.
“Drink, sir?” she asked.
Free of the Eagle and Hakase’s watchful eyes, the Condor smiled.
“Don’t mind if I do!” Joe responded and gave his best flirty Sicilian smile to the barmaid, who blushed slightly as she handed him his glass.
“Luck be a lady tonight!” he said, lifting the glass to her in toast.
The waitress let out a small giggle and walked away, leaving Joe to turn his attention to the poker machine.
After he inserted a dollar into the slot, Joe pushed the Deal button. He came up with two fives: two of a kind. Keeping the fives, he hit for three more cards. When the machine showed the new cards, Joe had a third five. Three of a kind. The Condor grinned to himself. Not bad! A win right from the start.
Joe stayed at the machine for fifteen more minutes and was up by fifty dollars. When he noticed the time, he threw five dollars into the machine and pushed the Deal button. A flush in the diamonds suit. Smirking to himself and reveling about how he had just paid for his entry into Pink Treasures, and maybe even a drink, he took his printout and cashed in.
At the designated time, Ken, Ryu, and Jinpei met outside the elevator bank in the downstairs lobby of the hotel.
“Where are Jun and Joe?” Ken asked, looking at his watch. He hated it when the Condor was late. The Swan, on the other hand, was almost always on time.
“Jun’s still getting ready. She said something about tonight being special and she had to look just right. Girls…” Jinpei replied in an exasperated tone, rolling his eyes.
“I haven’t seen Joe all afternoon.” Ryu threw in.
At just that moment, the elevator doors opened and Joe came striding out, hands in the pockets of his new khaki pants, a noncommittal expression on his face.
“And where have you been since you and Jun got back?” Ken asked accusingly.
Joe glared at the Eagle.
“You’re not my mother, Ken. You don’t need to know where I am every second of the day.” he responded, irritated. Then he added, “We’re in Vegas. Where do you think I was?”
“You’ve been gambling since you got back from shopping? Joe, I really don’t think that’s proper….” Ken began to lecture, but the Condor cut him off.
“Ken, give it a rest. We’re in Vegas, on what Hakase considers a vacation. Just because you can’t let go of your duty doesn’t mean that I can’t. Geez, you really need to let loose and have a little fun. I have, and it’s been profitable so far!”
“Joe, you’ve won?” Jinpei asked, a distinct awe in his voice.
Joe smirked. “Of course I have. Would you expect anything less from me?”
Ken rolled his eyes. Why did he always have to be so insolent?
“Joe, if I give you a dollar, would play a game for me? Huh, would you? Please?” Jinpei begged.
“No.” Joe responded flatly.
“Come on, Joe! I would do it myself, but I’m not allowed.”
Ken looked at the youngest member of the team, “Jinpei, if it’s not appropriate for Joe to gamble while we’re here, there’s no way it’s appropriate for you. Trying to skirt the law by having Joe gamble for you…”
“Give me that dollar, kid.” he demanded of the Swallow, which cut off Ken’s second lecture of the day.
The Eagle watched as the Condor strode over to a video poker game, put Jinpei’s dollar in the machine, and dealt the cards. Ken thought he saw Joe’s eyes flash as they appeared, then watched as he made his choice as to which cards were to stay and which were to hit.
“Joe, what’d you get?” Jinpei yelled from next to the Eagle.
“Jinpei, quiet down!” Ken reprimanded. “The entire hotel will hear you.”
“Aww, come on, Aniki! No one’s going to hear me over the noise from the casino!”
Suddenly, the Condor’s eyes flashed again in delight as a satisfied smile crossed his face. Ken knew that he had a winning hand. The question was how much.
“Did he win? Did he get something?” Jinpei asked excitedly. Ken grabbed the Swallow’s arm to keep him from running onto the casino floor. He quickly got the message.
“Ryu, go find out for me!” Jinpei commanded the Owl.
Before Ken had a chance to tell Ryu otherwise, he was across the floor and standing next to Joe. Ken could see that Joe was annoyed and that he must have been telling Ryu to leave, as he took the receipt from the machine and walked off by himself in the direction of the cashier’s booth.
“Well?” Jinpei asked impatiently when Ryu returned.
The Owl shrugged. “I don’t know. I know he won something, but he told me to get lost before I had a chance to find out.”
Joe came back to the elevator bank, his wallet full of cash.
The Swallow ran up to him. “Come on, Joe! What happened?? How much did I win?”
“How much did you win?” Joe snorted. “You didn’t win anything, but I won eight hundred dollars!”
“But that was my dollar!” Jinpei bellowed back.
“And it was my skill that won.”
“Skill? At video poker? That wasn’t skill; that was luck!” Ken responded reprovingly.
Joe once again glared at the Eagle, who glared right back.
“Fine.” Joe growled. He looked at Jinpei as he pulled out his wallet. “Here’s a dollar. Now we’re even.”
“But Joe!” the Swallow tried to protest, then turned to Ken and whined, “Aniki… Ow! What was that for?”
Joe had ‘accidentally’ elbowed Jinpei in the back.
“Sorry.” he grunted. “Slipped… Should we see if it left a ‘pink’ mark?”
“A pink…? Ohhh, riiigghtht.” the Swallow replied, as the meaning of Joe’s comment dawned on him.
“Right, what?” Ken asked suspiciously. “What are you up to, Joe?”
“Nothing. And why do you always think I’m up to something?” Joe tried not to smirk.
Ryu cut the ensuing argument off by pointedly asking, “Can we go to dinner now? I’m starving!”
The Eagle and the Condor glared at each other once more, as Joe realized that, without a doubt, he would need to put his plan into action.
“Jun’s still missing.” Ken observed.
“Can’t she just meet us inside?” Jinpei suggested.
Ken glanced at the elevator bank, then back at the Owl and Swallow.
“Yeah, I suppose so.” he shrugged, but Ryu and Jinpei were already gone.
Realizing that Jun was not going to be arriving anytime soon, Ken reluctantly followed the others into the restaurant. Being a weeknight in the Fall, Le Village was not too crowded, and not too long after arriving the four ninjas were gathered around a table, their plates filled with food. Ken had to hand it to Ryu. The Eagle had thought that the Owl’s primary interest in the buffet was the ‘all you can eat’ aspect. But Le Village offered a large selection of gourmet dishes, many prepared at individual culinary stations. Ken smiled to himself, realizing that this was going to be a hell of a lot better than the ISO cafeteria fare.
The Eagle was just lifting a spoon of piping hot French Onion Soup to his mouth when a stir arose on the other side of the room.
Like the hotel itself, the Le Village restaurant was themed to excess, and the eating area had been designed to resemble an outdoor French café, complete with storefronts and romantic table settings. Ken looked across the cobblestone square, his jaw dropping open in surprise.
Long, shapely legs, supported by elegant spiked heels, strode confidently across the courtyard, moving at a pace neither too fast nor too slow, but one that allowed every diner to gaze upon the vision passing before their astounded eyes. An alluring emerald dress hugged the wearer’s frame, highlighting lush, sensual curves and offering a daring glimpse of tantalizing cleavage. Above it all, thick, ebony curls framed a delicate face lit up by sparkling green eyes.
Ken’s hand tilted slightly as his attention focused completely on the compelling image moving toward him, and it was only his ninja reflexes that enabled him to jump up, narrowly avoiding the scalding hot soup that he had nearly poured into his lap.
“Onechan!” Jinpei was clearly astonished.
“Wow…” Ryu was ignoring his food. It was the biggest compliment the Owl could give.
“Damn!” Joe grinned to himself. Jun was smoking. If Ken didn’t notice her now, the guy had to be gay.
But as he turned to regard the Eagle’s reaction, it was immediately clear that Gatchaman’s sexuality was not in question.
“You’re catching flies, Ken.” Joe smirked, reaching up to tap the Eagle’s dangling jaw.
Ken snapped his mouth shut angrily, only to have it fall open again as Jun approached their table.
“Don’t just stand there, pull out her chair, dumbass!” Jinpei hissed, kicking Ken in the shin. For once, the Eagle actually took the Swallow’s advice, hastily sliding the Swan’s chair away from the table.
“Onechan, wow! You sure got dolled up!” Jinpei exclaimed.
“You look great, Jun.” Ryu added, before returning his attention to his dinner.
“I think so too.” Joe commented, elbowing the Eagle meaningfully. “Don’t you, Ken?”
“Uh… yeah…” stammered Ken, the White Shadow having momentarily been rendered completely stunned. “Great.”
Jun’s face fell at what she clearly perceived as a lackluster reaction from her commanding officer.
“Oh… well, I just wanted to have a chance to dress up, like other girls do.” she mumbled.
“It was worth it.” Joe assured her, but his frustration mounted again. Jun had gone all out, and Ken was starting to sink back into his reserved shell once more. The Condor knew that if he wanted his plan to work, he had to add fuel to the fire.
“Drinks, Mademoiselle et Messieurs?”
Everyone looked up to see a waiter holding a pad, waiting expectantly for their orders.
“I’ll have a Coke!” Jinpei replied eagerly.
“Me too.” mumbled Ryu through his full mouth.
“Diet for me.” Jun added.
“That’s hardly appropriate, Joe.” growled the Eagle.
“Fine.” the Condor rolled his eyes. “Cokes for everyone, then, with a Diet for the lady. Sheesh, I can’t ever get a night off!”
Ken returned to his soup, doing his best not to stare at the Swan’s décolletage as she sat next to him. After a few moments of awkward silence, Jun stood up.
“I guess I’ll go and get something to eat, then.” she said.
“You should get some crepes, Jun; they’re great!” Joe offered. “Let me show you.”
The Swan smiled gratefully at the Condor, letting him lead her away to the appropriate cooking station. She cast a sad, sidelong glance back at the Eagle, who now appeared to be completely engrossed in a plate of Salade Nicoise. But once she had left, Ken’s eyes followed her across the room.
“You know, you really should be paying more attention to Jun.” Ryu commented lazily as he spooned Coquille St. Jacques into his mouth. “Looking like that, she’s turning a lot of heads.”
“Jun would never seriously consider…”
“I don’t know, Aniki! That guy looks pretty interested!” Jinpei pointed toward the chef with whom Jun was conversing at the crepes station.
The Eagle buried his face in his dinner again, failing miserably to appear unaffected by the others’ comments.
After ensuring that Jun was well taken care of, Joe was making his way back to the table, when he saw their waiter out of the corner of his eye. The Condor approached the man, pulling him aside.
“I think one of the gentlemen at our table isn’t enjoying the ‘true spirit’ of Las Vegas.” Joe grinned slyly. “I don’t suppose you could add a healthy dose of rum to his drink, and that of the lady?”
“Monsieur, I’m not sure such a thing is…”
The waiter’s protest stopped quickly as the Condor shoved a one hundred dollar bill into his hand.
“Keep them filled, all night.” he instructed, and the waiter nodded eagerly.
“Of course, Monsieur.”
Joe passed by another food station, stopping briefly there before intercepting Jun. The two ninjas returned to the table.
“That cook at the crepes station was so nice.” the Swan gushed. “He gave me extra mushrooms and cheese.”
“Wow, all he gave me was a dirty look when I asked for seconds!” Ryu commented.
“Which cook?” Ken asked suspiciously, turning to see the same tall French chef flashing a dazzling smile in the Swan’s direction.
“Oh, I forgot to get my salad!” Jun exclaimed. “Pierre was preparing that as well.” The Swan rose to return to the food station.
“I’ll go with you!” Ken offered, pushing his chair back hastily. Jun smiled brilliantly at the Eagle, and the pair went off.
“Maybe there’s hope for him yet.” Ryu smirked.
“Don’t count on it.” Joe replied grimly. “Ken needs more of a push.” The Condor produced a small bottle from his pants pocket and began sprinkling a fine powder over the Eagle’s steak.
“What’s that?” Jinpei asked curiously.
“Just a little something I ‘borrowed’ from one of the cooking stations.” Joe smirked. “You remember that Ken doesn’t like hot spices?”
The Swallow’s eyes grew wide with amusement.
“Joe…” he said in an awed hush.
The Condor’s eyes sparkled gleefully, and Ryu’s grin was wide enough to split his face in two.
Their drinks arrived, and Joe indicated that it was the two absent diners who should receive the ‘special’ order. The waiter winked at the Condor as he walked away.
“What was that all about, Joe?” Ryu asked suspiciously.
“You want to go to Pink Treasures tonight, don’t you?” Joe replied. When the Owl nodded, he continued. “We can’t do that if Ken is breathing down our necks. But if he and Jun are otherwise ‘occupied’…”
Ryu and Jinpei smiled broadly as they caught the Condor’s drift.
“They just need a little liquid courage.” the Owl said knowingly.
“It’s not like you wouldn’t be doing them a favor.” the Swallow added encouragingly.
“I agree.” Ryu nodded heartily.
“Then, don’t act as if anything unusual is going on.” Joe warned the mischievous pair. “Just let nature take its course.”
The Swallow and the Owl nodded vigorously.
“Look! Pierre gave me extra croutons!” Jun crowed, returning to her seat. “And he told me that if I come back, he’ll make me a ‘special’ dessert.”
“I don’t think his desserts are that great.” Ken scowled.
“You’re just saying that because he didn’t have time to make you a crepe.” Jun retorted.
“I don’t need a crepe.” the Eagle muttered. “I have a delicious steak, right here.” Grimly, he picked up his knife and fork, cutting off a piece of his filet mignon and putting it into his mouth.
The Swallow, the Condor, and the Owl watched attentively, and they weren’t disappointed. The Eagle’s face turned bright red, and he immediately began gasping and choking.
“Water!” he croaked, as Joe shoved a drink into his hands.
“Here you go!” the Condor said helpfully, smirking as he watched Ken gulp down the rum and Coke in a single swallow.
“More!” he gasped, and Jun took pity on him.
“You can have my drink, Ken.” she offered. “I can get another one.”
Gratefully nodding, Ken quaffed the second spiked drink, and his color began to return to normal.
“What happened, Aniki?” Jinpei asked, his face a mask of artful innocence.
“They put too much pepper on my steak!” Ken complained.
“I’m sure it was an honest mistake.” Jun soothed him. “If you want, I’ll ask Pierre to get you another one.”
“No.” Ken shook his head vigorously, his eyes beginning to glaze over. “I have plenty of food.” The Eagle swayed slightly, his gaze lingering on the Swan’s cleavage.
“It’s working!” Jinpei whispered gleefully to Ryu. “But, wasn’t that kind of fast?”
“What do you expect?” Ryu shrugged. “I don’t think Ken’s ever had alcohol before.”
As the dinner progressed, it became more and more evident that Ken was decidedly tipsy. Drink after drink appeared, and Joe found himself giving another hundred dollars to the waiter. But it was well worth it. The Eagle was definitely becoming less and less concerned with what everyone else was doing.
The only one who did not notice Ken’s unusual behavior was the Swan, but then she appeared to be somewhat giddy herself.
“So, what do you guys want to do after dinner?” she asked, her words slightly slurred.
“Excalibur!” Jinpei said excitedly. “I hear they have a cool knight show where they hit each other with lances! And Aniki promised to take me there!”
“I think the Blue Man Group would be fun.” Joe drawled. The Condor was leaning casually back in his chair, observing the Eagle’s ‘relaxed’ demeanor with an amused smile.
“I want to see Elvis!” Ken blurted.
“Elvis?” Ryu was confused.
“I love Elvis.” Ken confessed. “I listen to his songs sometimes, on my mail runs.”
“Elvis?” Ryu repeated in disbelief.
“Somehow I don’t see you shaking your hips and singing Heartbreak Hotel, Ken.” the Condor smirked.
“I think you’d look great in that sequined jumpsuit, Aniki!” Jinpei howled.
“I love Elvis too!” Jun broke in excitedly. “What’s your favorite song, Ken?”
Encouraged, the Eagle began a loud, somewhat off-key, rendition of ‘Love Me Tender’, oblivious to the hoots and guffaws of the Swallow and the Owl.
“Okay, Elvis, I think it’s time to go.” Joe laughed. His plan had been a complete success! Now he just had to get Ken and Jun off in a room together, and they would be ‘occupied’ for the rest of the night.
Ken stood obligingly, swaying a bit until Ryu rushed over to support him as they exited the restaurant. Jun appeared to be fine, but as she walked her hips swung in an exaggerated fashion and the Eagle’s eyes fixed on them in a kind of hypnotic trance.
“We’ll have to see if we can find an Elvis show.” she giggled, looking back at Ken and blowing him a small kiss.
Joe grimaced. That wasn’t quite what he had had in mind. In the condition these two were in, they needed constant supervision if they were going to be out in public.
“No we don’t!” Ken declared, pulling away from Ryu. “He’s here! Look! It’s Elvis!”
“Well, of course Elvis is here. This is Veg….” Joe started to comment, but abruptly stopped as the Eagle had broken free of the Owl’s grip.
“Ken! Come back here!” Ryu yelled after him, but the inebriated Eagle refused to listen.
“Elvis! I can’t believe you’re here! It really is you, isn’t it? The King, in the flesh!”
Jinpei walked over to Joe and whispered, “Joe, what exactly was in those drinks?”
“Just some rum, I swear!” Joe responded adamantly, then ran over to Ken and the shell-shocked Elvis impersonator, who was now cornered between the wall and Ken in an alcove of the hotel lobby. Joe reached them just in time to hear Elvis say in his drawl, “Well, sure, son, but you do know that I’m not really the King, right?”
“Oh, no…” Joe thought to himself, “What did Ken say?”
“Uh, sorry, sir.” Joe apologized to the impersonator, “My friend here is taking the whole Vegas experience a little too seriously… We’ll be going now.” Joe finished, and tried to take Ken by the arm.
“No!” Ken yelled out, wrenching his arm free from Joe, and nearly falling over in the process. “Joe, don’t you get it? This is Elvis. He’ll prove it. Sing something! Please?”
Joe smirked mischievously. He knew that he should be concerned that Ken might go too far and sidetrack his plans for the night, but the Condor couldn’t help but revel in the fact that he had finally succeeded in getting his commanding officer to act so un-Eagle-like. In a way, it was just the icing on the cake. Or, more appropriately, the sequins on the jumpsuit.
“Come on, sing a song for me.” Ken insisted. By this time, Jun had sashayed over to see what the commotion was. Elvis smiled when he saw the vision that stood next to the crazed fan.
“Is this your girlfriend, son?” Elvis drawled again.
Ken didn’t say anything.
“’Cuz I’d love to sing a song for her. What would you like to hear, little lady?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Jun blushed. “Surprise me.”
Elvis glanced at Ken and smiled.
“Ok, how about this?Please don't ask me what's on my mind
While Elvis was singing, Ken started doing his own Elvis impersonation, pretending to play guitar and shaking his hips. Jun seemed to love every moment of the Eagle’s performance, as she clapped and cheered the entire time.
Jinpei nearly rolled on the floor with laughter as he witnessed this and he had to hold onto Ryu for support. The Owl stood in complete disbelief of what he was seeing. Joe would have thought that this had topped everything, save for the fact he had his head buried in his hand, completely mortified at the performance of the Eagle and Swan.
None of this was part of his plan.
But then Joe had an idea to salvage his evening.
“That was great, Elvis!” he said hurriedly, then whispered to Ryu and Jinpei, “Keep Ken, Jun and Elvis here. I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” Jinpei asked, slightly panicked.
But the Condor was already rushing down the hall and didn’t pay any attention to the Swallow.
Joe returned a few minutes later to a completely harried Elvis, who had had about enough of the Eagle’s constant harassment, all of which had been met by the giddy schoolgirl giggles of the Swan.
“Good thing you’re back…” Ryu grumbled to Joe.
“What’d I miss?”
“I think Elvis is about ready to strangle Ken with his scarf...” Ryu dryly commented, as Joe picked up on the last pieces of the Elvis/Ken conversation.
“…You’re a lucky man to have such a lovely woman in your life.” Joe heard Elvis remark.
Ken staggered as he turned to Jun.
“Yeah, I am pretty lucky. Maybe one day I’ll even marry her!” he slurred.
“Oh, Ken!” Jun exclaimed. “I knew you would!”
A mischievous grin spread across Joe’s face like wildfire. This was working out better than he thought! He couldn’t have planned it any better if he had tried.
“Hey, Ken…” the Condor called. “I have an idea… You’re attracted to Jun, right?”
“Uhhh, yeah. Sure….” Ken replied in an unconvinced tone.
Close enough… the Condor thought.
“And, Jun, we all know you love Ken.”
“Most definitely.” she smiled, a slight slur in her speech.
Joe continued. “And you both love Elvis, right?”
“Yes!” Ken and Jun responded in unison.
“What are you getting at, son?” Elvis asked as the looks on Ryu and Jinpei’s faces reflected the same question.
Joe’s grin grew wide as he spoke to Ken and Jun. “Well, how would you two like to be married by Elvis, right here and right now?”
“Oh, Ken!” the Swan squealed, as she threw her arms around him.
“Married? Here? Now?” Ken questioned, then without abandon, added, “Sure. What the hell? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?”
Ryu and Jinpei’s eyes went wide with shock. Had they heard right? Had Ken just agreed to marry Jun?
Turning to the fake King, Joe asked, “Well, Elvis?”
“I’m not a minister, son…”
Joe reached into his pocket and nonchalantly slid a hundred dollar bill into the man’s hand.
“Call me Father Presley…” he responded as he pocketed the money.
“Joe, they can’t marry. They don’t have a marriage license….” Ryu informed the Condor. Joe shot a glare at the Owl. Why did he have to pick now to become a genius?
Joe slid his hand into the back pocket of his khakis and took out a pink flyer.
“Here you go, Elvis. A bona fide Las Vegas marriage license.”
Elvis opened the flyer and smiled.
“Yep, that’ll do.” he drawled, “Will the lucky couple please step forward?”
Jun grabbed Ken’s hand and pulled him closer to the impersonator.
“Here we are!” she gushed.
“Ok, little lady.” Elvis addressed Jun. “Tell me, do you take this hunka-hunka burnin’ love to be your husband?”
Jun gazed into Ken’s glassy eyes.
“I do.” she slurred passionately.
Elvis then turned to Ken.
“Don’t be cruel now, son. Do you take this woman to be your wife?”
“Love me tender, I do” Ken slurred back.
“May I have the rings, please?” Elvis asked.
“Rings? We don’t have any rings.” Jun replied, crestfallen.
Joe put his hand in his pocket.
“Actually, we do.” he grinned as pulled out two gold wedding bands.
“Joe!” Ryu whispered astonished. “Where’d you get those?”
Joe didn’t respond, but instead gave the rings to Elvis, who then gave one to Jun and one to Ken.
“Do you have anything you would like to say to each other?” he asked, looking at Ken.
“Uhhh…” Ken stammered. “With this ring I thee wed… Like a shadow dancing in the sky, like a wing in the sky, my comrade and I.”
Elvis shot a confused look at Joe, who could do nothing but shake his head.
“OK… And how about you, little lady?”
Jun reflected for a minute, before taking her comrade by the hand.
“I can’t help falling in love with you, Ken. With this ring, I thee wed… You’re mine, Eagle!”
Elvis gave Joe another sideways glance.
“Pet name…” the Condor quickly explained.
“By the power vested in me by, uh, Ben Franklin, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the… Oh, nevermind.” Elvis concluded as Jun had already grabbed Ken by the collar with both hands and planted a passionate kiss on him.
“Thanks, Elvis.” Joe said, finally releasing the entertainer from his misery.
“Thank you. Thank you very much.” the impersonator drawled before taking off down the corridor with his ill-gotten gains, not looking back.
“Now what, Joe? If we don’t go soon, we’re going to miss the girls!” Ryu complained.
“Relax, Ryu. We’ll be there soon enough.”
Ryu looked at Joe skeptically.
“Honestly, do I need to spell everything out to you?” the Condor growled. “Think about it…What comes after the wedding?”
“The reception!” the Owl answered excitedly.
“The honeymoon!” Jinpei cut in enthusiastically.
“Oh.” said Ryu, scratching his head. Then the Owl’s face suddenly lit up. “Ohhhhhh!”
“That’s right.” Joe grinned. Then turning to the newlyweds, whose lips were still locked in a passionate embrace, the Condor called, “Come on, Mr. and Mrs. Washio. Time to get this show on the road…”
A few minutes later, the five ninjas were standing outside of Jun and Jinpei’s room. The Swan was giggling and refused to take her hands off of the Eagle the entire time.
“Give me your room card, Jinpei.” Joe ordered.
“What? Why our room? Why not put them in Ken’s?” the Swallow griped.
“Because yours is the room number I gave the concierge. And, if we want to go out tonight, we don’t have time to move things around. We need to get these two settled and otherwise occupied soon.” Joe responded.
“And where am I going to sleep tonight?” Jinpei demanded.
“Who’s going to be sleeping tonight?” Joe smirked, while Ryu nodded vigorously.
Joe took the card key from Jinpei’s hand.
“Congratulations and best wishes. Enjoy your honeymoon.” he bade the newlyweds as he opened the hotel room door and pushed Ken and Jun in. Once the door closed and Joe heard the click of the lock behind them, the Condor, Owl, and Swallow took off for their night on the town.
“One more quick stop, and then we’re on our way…” Joe grinned in anticipation.
A taxi pulled up at Pink Treasures, and three passengers got out of the yellow cab. The first was a tall, ruggedly handsome man, impeccably dressed in a stylish navy shirt and khaki trousers. The next was a male of generous build, wearing a worn-looking green shirt with a yellow number 5 on it, and somewhat unfashionable brown pants. The third man was of short stature, wearing a trench coat and glasses. His bushy mane of hair was perfectly matched by the equally untamed mustache on his face. He reached out to push the sliding glasses back up the bridge of his nose.
“Aw, man, why did I have to wear Hakase’s spare glasses?” Jinpei complained.
“Because there’s no way in hell you’d ever pass for twenty-one.” Joe hissed. “Now keep quiet, and let me do the talking!” The Condor was already regretting attempting to smuggle Jinpei into the club. But Joe knew that the Swallow bore grudges badly, and if he and Ryu left Jinpei behind, the boy would alert Dr. Nambu of their escapade in about three seconds flat.
Casually, Joe strolled over to the velvet rope in front of the club, and the bouncer grinned toothily at him.
“Welcome to Pink Treasures, Sir.” the burly man moved to re-fasten the rope behind the Condor, but Ryu pushed forward.
“Hey!” he protested loudly.
The Condor rolled his eyes. These doofuses were going to ruin his image.
“My cousins came into town, and I’m showing them the sights.” the Condor ‘explained’. “And of course, this place has the best ‘sights’ in Las Vegas.”
“You’ve got that right.” the bouncer laughed. He looked over the young men, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously when he saw Jinpei.
“I don’t suppose the three of you have any ID…” he drawled.
“Yeah, as a matter of fact, we do.” Joe replied smoothly, passing the man his and Ryu’s driver’s licenses, accompanied by another hundred dollar bill.
“Excellent…” grinned the bounder, opening the rope to let Ryu and Jinpei inside. The Condor took back the two licenses and hurried into the club, eager to escape the notice of the overly-attentive greeter.
After paying the admission fee, the three ninjas sauntered into the club. The Swallow grinned broadly, more thrilled by the adventure of sneaking into the club than the actual ‘entertainment’ on display.
Joe smirked as he casually surveyed the scene. Two naked women were dancing on a stage, clearly displaying what they had to offer to the appreciative crowd. In one corner, a long-legged blonde wearing only a leather bustier was entertaining a pair of men with a lap dance, while in another, a woman in a revealing evening gown was carefully removing one long satin glove.
“Hey, her gloves are just like Onechan’s!” Jinpei remarked, as his eyes lit upon this last ‘entertainer’. “But her skirt’s not as short…”
“Nobody’s skirt is as short as Jun’s.” Ryu responded.
“Wanna bet?” Joe smirked, cocking his thumb at another girl who was flashing her ‘assets’ at a group of enthralled Japanese businessmen. The Owl’s mouth dropped to the floor.
“I stand corrected.” Ryu gasped.
“That’s not the only thing ‘standing’, I’ll bet.” Joe laughed, pulling his companions aside to an empty table. The Owl and the Swallow followed compliantly, eager to take in the show.
As they walked to the table, Jinpei’s eyes moved about, darting back and forth as he examined more closely the ‘pink treasures’ on display. Eventually, a look of understanding dawned on the youth’s face
“Wow…” he breathed, “I thought Maria-Chan in the shower was something…”
“Congratulations on being one step closer to manhood.” Joe smirked, enjoying being the provider of the Swallow’s ‘education’. “But you ain’t seen nothing yet, Kid.”
“What can I get you?” asked a buxom waitress, her breasts overflowing from the skimpy halter top she wore.
“I think you’ve already gotten it for me.” remarked Joe, his eyes lingering on the feminine wiles presented to his eyes. The waitress simpered before the Condor, fluttering her eyelashes.
“Uh…” the Owl was suddenly speechless.
“Coke!” Jinpei squeaked, his eyes wide.
“And two beers.” Joe added, pushing a twenty dollar bill inside the waitress’ décolletage with a single finger. He slowly removed the digit, and the woman shivered as he brushed her sensitive skin.
“I’ll be right back, Sir.” she purred, as the Condor’s gaze raked her admiringly.
“How do you do that, Joe?” the Owl was clearly impressed.
“I’m taking notes!” Jinpei added, causing the Condor to laugh appreciatively.
“You could do worse, Kid.” he smirked.
When the waitress returned, she placed Ryu and Jinpei’s drinks on the table, then knelt down on the floor, running her fingers lightly along Joe’s thigh as she passed him the drink with her other hand.
“Are you enjoying your visit to Pink Treasures, Sir?” she asked breathily.
“Definitely.” Joe smirked. “Camshaft is going into overdrive.”
“Cam shaft?” the Swallow was confused, but the Owl understood the Condor’s meaning immediately.
“You call ‘it’ Cam Shaft?” he repeated, amazed.
“Yeah, Camshaft… Except it's one word. Though I do like the way it sounds as two...” Joe reflected on this for a moment, then turned to the waitress and added, “I’m a great driver, in more ways than one.”
The Condor winked and the waitress cooed appreciatively as she slowly raised herself back to a standing position.
“If there’s anything else you need, don’t hesitate to let me know.” she simpered.
“You’re in my sights.” Joe promised her.
Shortly after the waitress had left, the blonde in the leather bustier approached their table. Only Joe noticed, as Ryu and Jinpei were too preoccupied with the stage show in front of them.
“I don’t suppose any of you gentlemen would care for some ‘special’ entertainment?” she asked in a sultry voice.
“Depends what you’ve got to offer.” Joe raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
“More than you could imagine.” she whispered huskily, her hands caressing the insides of her thighs.
“I have a very good imagination.” countered the Condor.
“Then let me fulfill your fantasies.” the blonde purred.
Joe glanced over at Ryu and Jinpei. The Owl and the Swallow appeared to be completely enthralled with the onstage dancers.
“I suppose I could let you try…” he drawled, letting the curvaceous dancer lead him off to an empty corner of the room.
Jun awoke to sunlight streaming in the window, slowly remembering that she was in Las Vegas at the Paris Hotel as early-morning awareness came to her. She took a deep breath and smiled at the thought, and as she lay there, she became aware of the softness of the bed and the sheets. Are they Egyptian cotton? she wondered as her arm caressed the material.
She had had the strangest dream last night, but now all the details of it escaped her. Not thinking much of it, Jun lazily moved her right arm above her head on the pillow. She realized that something didn’t feel quite right, as if there was an unfamiliar weight on it. She moved her arm a little further and accidentally hit her hand on the headboard. An unfamiliar ‘clunk’ greeted her ears as something felt like it hit one of her fingers.
Slightly startled and confused by this, Jun opened her eyes and suddenly realized that there was nothing between her skin and the sheets. Am I…naked? she wondered to herself, stunned by this revelation. Then, just as suddenly, another thought occurred to her…. How did she get to bed last night? The last thing she remembered was leaving the restaurant with Ken, Joe, Ryu, and Jinpei.
Jun started to get out of bed, but felt a tug on the blanket as she tried to throw it off her. “What is going on here?” she asked herself. As she brought her right hand in front of her, something shiny caught her eye. Her emerald eyes widened in shock when she saw the culprit and realized what it was. Mortified, she quickly turned her head to the other side of the bed and saw Ken sleeping next to her, his right hand laying next to his head on the pillow. On his third finger was a matching gold band. Jun stared in disbelief as a scream escaped from her lips.
Ken woke with a start.
“Huh? What’s going on? Is it Galactor again?” he asked, instinctively bringing his wrist to his mouth.
Awareness quickly settled in as Ken sat up. He then saw Jun sitting in bed next to him, the top sheet draped around her, just barely covering the top of her chest.
“Jun? Jun, what are you doing in my bed?” he asked, shocked.
“I don’t think this is only your bed, Ken.” she informed him.
Confused, Ken responded, “What are you talking about?”
Jun held up her right hand. “You have one just like it on yours…”
Ken looked from the wedding band on Jun’s finger to the one on his.
“I’ll kill them….” he threatened as he started to get out of the bed, but then stopped as the coolness of the room hit his bare skin.
Jun finished Ken’s unspoken thought for him.
“Yes… And neither one of us is dressed….”
Ken could do nothing but stare at Jun in disbelief.
“What on earth happened?” Ken demanded, as the full-effect of his hangover hit him and he put a hand up to his aching head.
Jun looked at him. “You don’t remember?” she asked.
“No. Do you remember anything?”
“No, not really. I remember eating dinner last night. And for some reason I have an Elvis Presley song in my head…”
“Which one?” Ken asked pointedly.
“All Shook Up. Why?”
“Because I have the same one in my head!”
At a loss for words, Jun looked at the small round table in the corner. On it was a tray with an empty champagne bottle, two champagne flutes, and a couple of left-over strawberries. There was a note on the tray that said “To The Newlyweds. Congratulations on your nuptials. The Staff of the Paris Hotel.”
“Ken?” Jun questioned her voice now full of concern. “Um, if you and I are supposedly married, and we both woke up in the same bed together, and neither one of us is dressed... You don’t think we…” she trailed off, her eyes widening as she spied various articles of discarded clothing strewn across the floor.
Ken’s eyes widened.
“No!” he vehemently denied. Then thinking about it for a moment, he added, “Oh G-d… We didn’t, did we?”
“I-I don’t know.” Jun answered, her lip trembling. Why did Ken have to make it sound like it would be such a horrible thing if they had?
Her head spinning, not only from the hangover she had but also from the conversation being held, Jun wrapped the top sheet more tightly around herself and got out of bed.
“I’m going in for a shower.” she announced as she walked to the bathroom.
Ken just sat on the bed, his head in his hands, and muttered something about there being fifty ways to de-feather a Condor… He wasn’t sure how, but the Eagle was certain that Joe had to be behind this. Joe was always behind things like this.
But then, this was somewhat more spectacular than the schemes Joe usually pulled on him.
While in the shower, Jun tried to remember the events of the previous evening. As the hot water ran over her body, and the steam penetrated the fogginess of her mind, snippets of memories came back to her. The buffet table; an Elvis impersonator; Joe giving rings to Elvis; Joe, Ryu, and Jinpei escorting her and Ken back to the room; champagne on ice waiting for them; Ken leaning his head toward her; a kiss; Ken’s hands on Jun’s body; Jun’s hands on Ken’s body….
Jun stood in stunned silence as she remembered the final events of the night. It was true; it had happened. Ken and Jun had made love to each other. And it had been wonderful.
Ken was so preoccupied with how he was going get back at Joe, that he didn't even hear Jun when she announced that she was going to take a shower. Still deep in thought, and not being very astute due to his hangover, the Eagle went into the bathroom. Absentmindedly, he took his communicator off and put it on the sink, then, without realizing the shower was running, he opened the shower stall door. In front of him, in all her natural glory, stood the Swan.
The steam and warm massaging water had made Jun much less irritated with Ken then she had been, and the soothing qualities of the shower had brought out her ‘natural instincts’. Jun turned slowly, her eyes widening when she caught sight of her unexpected visitor. Smiling, she beckoned Ken into the shower, and although he initially hesitated, his own natural instincts quickly kicked in and he stepped inside.
“I’m glad you decided to join me.” Jun said in a sultry voice, slowly entwining her arms around Ken’s neck.
“The pleasure is all mine.” the Eagle smiled, bending his head down and capturing the Swan’s mouth with his. Their bodies pressed together, the warm water from the shower enveloping them in a steamy rain.
Jun felt Ken’s arousal pressed against her stomach, and a sudden need to have him within her flared up; she lifted her right leg, wrapping it tightly around the Eagle’s hip.
Ken was lost in his exploration of the Swan’s lush form as the events of the previous evening came back to him. But just as they had with the Swan, the memories only revealed themselves in snippets. After a few minutes, Ken also recalled the most climactic moment of the night.
The Eagle had already decided on his next course of action when his bracelet suddenly chimed.
“Uh, Ken…. It’s Joe… We have a situation here….”
“Well, Joe was right about one thing,” Jinpei groaned.
“What’s that, Jinpei?” Ryu asked.
“We didn’t get any sleep!” the Swallow scowled, swatting the Condor hard on the side of the head. Joe returned the boy’s ‘affectionate gesture’ by pushing him off of the bench all three ninjas were sitting on. Jinpei hit the cold stone floor with a thump.
“Hey!” he whined, but his complaint fell on deaf ears.
“Do you really think Ken can get us out of here?” Ryu asked concerned.
“He’d better,” Joe replied tersely, “because if he doesn’t, Hakase’s going to kill us.”
“Especially after his glasses got broken.” Jinpei moaned. “He’s never going to let me off base again!”
“Don’t they feed you in this place?” Ryu asked worriedly. “I’m hungry! Isn’t this ‘cruel and unusual punishment’?”
“For the last time, Ryu, would you shut up about…”
The Condor’s menacing words were cut off by the arrival of a guard.
“I think you boys are being a little too loud.” the guard smirked. “After all, fellows in as much hot water as you are don’t need any more trouble.”
“I’m innocent!” Jinpei proclaimed, rushing toward the bars of the cell. “They’re older! They corrupted me! I’m just a kid! I don’t belong here!”
“Funny, that’s not what you said last night, when you illegally entered an age-restricted establishment.” the guard laughed. He moved on, and the three ninjas could hear him walking down the corridor, his keys jingling.
“Arrested!” Ryu moaned. “We’re never going to live this down!”
Two young people approached the desk officer, worried expressions on their faces.
“I’m looking for Joe Asakura?” the young man asked politely. His earnest blue eyes fixed themselves on the police officer. The man in the blue uniform turned to access his computer files.
“Asakura… yes, he’s in Cell Two, with his ‘partners’.” the policeman replied.
“We need to have him, and his friends, released right away.” the young woman pleaded, her eyes wide. “It’s very important.”
“Not as important as upholding the law.” the officer chuckled. “It seems that Mr. Asakura and his friend, Mr. Nakanishi, assisted a minor in gaining unauthorized access to a gentleman’s club last night. During a standard inspection, our undercover officers discovered Mr. Nakanishi serving alcohol to the minor in question. Mr. Asakura was found engaged in… questionable… activities with one of the club’s dancers.”
“Questionable?” the young man was confused.
“Prostitution is not legal in Clark County.” the officer replied. “Mr. Asakura’s activities with the young woman went somewhat… beyond… the confines of a ‘lap dance’.”
The young woman’s face turned a bright red.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Miss, I didn’t mean to upset you.” the officer rushed to soothe the girl in the number three shirt.
Another guard entered the room, playing with a ring of keys.
“Those guys in Cell Two are at it again!” the guard laughed. “Now the big one is complaining that he’s hungry.” The guard turned, catching sight of the two visitors.
“Hey!” he exclaimed. “Your shirts are just like…” An awed expression began to form on his face.
“Look at them, Bill!” the guard poked the desk officer. “They’re numbers 1 and 3! And two of the guys in the cell are 4 and 5!”
“Yeah, so?” the desk sergeant asked, clearly not impressed.
“I heard about these guys!” the guard insisted. “They’re in the paper!”
The young man and the young woman looked nervously at each other and began to shuffle their feet on the floor.
“So?” the desk officer asked, his curiosity apparently piqued. “Who are they?”
“They’re the new act at the MGM!” the guard revealed excitedly. “They’re the Partridge Family!”
“Really?” the desk officer studied his visitors a little more closely.
“Just call me Lori!” smiled the girl prettily.
“I guess that makes me Keith.” the young man muttered. But the two police officers didn’t notice. They were paying too much attention to ‘Lori’.
“I’ve always had a thing for Lori Partridge.” the guard admitted. The desk officer nodded vigorously.
“It’s wonderful to meet you.” ‘Lori’ cooed. “I hope you can help me with my problem.”
“What’s that?” the officers asked, hanging on the young woman’s every word.
“I’m going to get fired!” she said tearfully. “If my friends aren’t back in time for rehearsal, the entire act will be cancelled!”
“Cancelled?” the guard was aghast. “We can’t have that! I have tickets to see you next Saturday!”
“I’d love to see you there.” the girl replied regretfully. “But if we’re not at rehearsal in twenty minutes…”
“Get those guys out of there!” the guard poked the desk officer. “This young lady needs to get to rehearsal!”
“But they were booked…”
“Who cares?” the guard insisted. “It’s just misdemeanors, isn’t it?”
“Well, uh…” the desk officer appeared to be reconsidering. “I guess it wouldn’t be too difficult to erase their records…”
“I would be soooo grateful.” ‘Lori’ gushed.
“Consider it done!” the desk officer said, clicking his mouse and entering a few keystrokes. “Your friends are free to go!”
“Thank you soooo much!”
“My pleasure, Miss Partridge.” the desk officer grinned in what he thought was a charming manner, as the guard rushed off to collect the other members of the ‘band’.
‘Keith’ leaned on the wall, shaking his head in disgust.
The guard exited with a shamefaced Condor, Swallow and Owl in tow.
“You guys are lucky Miss Partridge pleaded on your behalf!” the policeman lectured them. “Why if it hadn’t been for her…”
“Wait a minute…” the desk officer appeared confused. “I get that she’s Lori, and he’s Keith.” he said, pointing at the Swan and the Eagle. “And I guess he’s Chris, and he’s Danny.” he continued, pointing at the Swallow and the Owl.
“But who’s he?” the desk officer looked pointedly at the Condor.
“He’s Shirley.” ‘Keith’ said quickly. “Drag act. You’re going to love it.”
The officers laughed loudly.
“I’m really looking forward to this show!” the guard exclaimed.
Outside the police station, the five ninjas stopped.
Before Ken was able to open his mouth, Joe asked dismayed, “Shirley? You made me Shirley? What about Reuben, huh? If I need to point it out to you, at least he was a guy!”
“Quiet, Joe!” the Eagle snapped back. “You’re in enough trouble. Which Partridge member you are is the least of your worries!”
Joe quickly settled down as Jinpei asked in a small voice, “You’re not going to tell Hakase, are you, Aniki?”
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do, yet.” Ken replied tersely as he turned toward the street to wave down a cab.
Once in a cab, Ken prepared to broach the other subject at large. He stared at Joe for a while, who, once he had noticed the unmistakable glare of the Eagle’s eyes, finally coarsely asked, “What?”
Ken didn’t say a word, but rather held up his right hand, palm facing in, his expression clearly annoyed.
Ryu and Jinpei tried to slip even farther back into their seats.
“Ohhh…” Joe replied, then tried to cover his guilt by adding, “Congratulations! We never thought it would happen, but it did! Jun, you must be so happy!”
Now it was Jun’s turn to stare.
“Happy? Happy, Joe?” her voice raised an octave with each word. “Am I happy that I’m married and don’t even remember all of what happened? Do you really think that is what a girl dreams of all her life for her nuptials?”
“Well, uh…” Joe stammered, “But you married the man of your dreams!”
“It’s not like you would ever have caught him any other way!” the Swallow pointed out.
“You’re not helping, Jinpei!” Ryu growled, sending a swift kick into the boy’s shin.
The Swan huffed as she crossed her arms and looked out the window, her eyes closed and head tilted back.
“What happened, Joe?” Ken snarled. The Condor realized that the Eagle wouldn’t give up until he had an answer.
Joe retold the events of the evening, minus the parts where he had bribed the waiter and Elvis.
“So this is for real?” Jun asked, looking back from the window to Joe.
“You’re wearing rings, aren’t you?” Joe said in response.
Ryu and Jinpei tried to sit as still as statues, lest they be questioned.
“I don’t believe you, Joe. Of all the hair-brained things you’ve ever done! How could you let us do this?” Ken reprimanded, sounding more like the Eagle than he had in the past twelve hours.
“I, uh…” the Condor stammered as the taxi pulled up to the hotel. Before the car had come to a complete stop, Joe opened the door and got out, followed by the all-too-quiet Swallow and Owl.
Joe looked his watch.
“Well, I see we have a couple of hours before Hakase’s speech.” he began as he stretched and pretended to yawn. “I think I’m going to go upstairs and get some sleep.”
“Joe! Don’t you dare!” the Eagle yelled after him, but it was too late. The Condor had already disappeared through the open doors of the Paris Hotel.
Ryu and Jinpei tried to quietly skulk off.
“Hold it, you two.” Jun called. “And where do you think you’re going??”
“Uhhh, to get some food? We’re starved!” the Owl replied as he and Jinpei took off in the direction of the restaurants.
Ken walked through the main lobby and back towards the elevator bank.
As Jun followed him, she asked, “Where are you going, Ken?”
“Upstairs to our… I mean your…room. I smell a rat, and for once it’s not Katse!”
In Jun and Jinpei’s room, Ken began searching in earnest.
“What are you looking for?” the Swan curiously asked.
“Proof.” the Eagle replied succinctly, then elaborated, “Proof that this marriage is neither legal nor binding.”
Jun looked at him quizzically.
“We couldn’t have been legally married without a marriage license.” Ken explained as he rifled through a dresser drawer. “There’s got to be one around here somewhere…”
“A marriage license?” Jun repeated, then she gasped as another memory came back to her.
“Ken!” she called out. “I remember! There was a marriage license! It was pink!”
“Pink?” Ken asked confused.
“Yes, pink. I remember Joe giving a pink paper to the Elvis impersonator and saying it was a Las Vegas marriage license!”
“How could it be pink? Even in Vegas, I don’t think an official legal government document would be printed on pink paper…” the Eagle mused. Then he looked directly at the Swan as a new thought came to his mind.
“You remember Joe giving that Elvis guy a pink piece of paper?”
Jun looked at him derisively - didn’t she just say that?
“Yes.” she answered instead
“Do you remember signing it?” Ken asked, his blue eyes piercing into her emerald ones.
“N-no, I don’t.”
“Then this marriage is a sham!” the Eagle concluded, then quickly added, “I’m going to kill him!”
A sly grin spread across the Swan’s face.
“No, wait. I have a better idea…” she teased.
Two hours later, Joe’s bracelet chimed.
“Joe, where are you?” the Swallow’s frantic voice called to him.
The Condor’s eyes snapped open as he looked at the bedside clock: 1:20 pm.
“Oh, crap!” Joe yelled out in a panic as he realized that he really had fallen asleep when he had returned to his room, and that his presence had been required in the conference room twenty minutes ago.
Joe jumped out of bed. He threw on his trousers, Number 2 t-shirt, and shoes, then quickly ran his fingers through his hair and bolted out the hotel room door. He ran to the elevator and pressed the ‘Down’ button, but it seemed to take forever to reach his floor. Joe quickly surveyed the hall and saw a stairwell door at the end of the corridor. Deciding that the stairs would be faster anyway, he ran to them. As the Condor quickly descended the deserted staircase, he brought his left arm in front of his face and gave the familiar “Bird Go!” command. Within seconds, Joe was in Birdstyle. He didn’t have time to dwell on this, though, as the Condor’s mind was racing with the thoughts of the lecture he was bound to receive from both Ken and Nambu, along with every furious glare that Ken would throw his way for being late.
As Joe ran down the hall to the conference room, he saw a couple bellhops looking at him, a surprised expression on their faces. “Yes, the legendary Condor Joe, live and in-person!” he smugly thought to himself.
Finally, Joe arrived at the mahogany double doors of the conference room and, without thought to the fact that the conference was already in session, barged in without stopping. Once in the room, Joe came to an immediate halt. He could see Dr. Nambu standing behind a podium on a raised platform, a Powerpoint presentation on display on the screen behind him, presenting his conference paper on – whatever the hell his speech was about.
Surprised by the disruption, Dr. Nambu abruptly stopped his discussion and the delegates, room attendants, and speakers turned to see what the ruckus was. A hushed silence fell over the room as the Condor was greeted with shocked silence. After a moment, the delegates’ whispered voices were heard.
“Is someone trying to impersonate one of the Science Ninja Team?”
Nambu stared pointedly at the Condor, fury rising in his eyes, as Ken gave off his most vicious glare.
“Wait! I know what this is!” one of the delegates finally yelled out. “A buddy of mine is a cop in Clark County. He said that last night a couple members of that new Partridge Family show were arrested….”
“Oh! I know which show you’re talking about! “I Think I Love You – A Tribute to the Partridge Family”!” another delegate had called out.
“Yes! That’s the one!” the first delegate continued. “He said that he met the cast members and that Shirley was being played by a drag queen!’
Laughter filled the conference room as Joe stood there, completely perplexed. What the hell were these people talking about? What did Ken’s lame story to the cops about him playing Shirley have to do with the conference? And why was everyone laughing at the Condor? Didn’t they realize that he could kill them all with a flick of his wrist if he wanted to?
Joe looked at Ken, whose expression had gone from the Glare of Death to… was that stifled laughter?
Joe started to make his way to the front of the room, but quickly stopped as he felt a breeze on his legs. How could that be? he wondered; his Birdstyle always protected him from that. And now that he thought about it, why did his mantle feel so much lighter? Unless…
“Oh, no…” the Condor audibly moaned as he looked down at his Birdstyle. Except he wasn’t in his Birdstyle – he was dressed as the Swan!
“What the hell?” the shocked Condor yelled out.
At the same time, one of the delegates yelled out, “Nambu, you had us going there! And here we thought that one of the Science Ninja Team was really missing. Meanwhile, it turns out that you’re just in on the promotion of this show! Pretend to have a team member be missing, then have someone else show up impersonating him! And what a twist by having them show up in drag, just like in the show! What a great ploy by the Partridge Family marketing team!”
“And you, Kozaburo!” added another delegate. “What a wonderful way to liven up the conference!” A delighted roar arose from the conference attendees.
Two burly hotel security guards came up behind the Condor, each taking him by an arm.
“Ok, son. Time to go. You’ve had your fun. Save it for when you play Shirley in the show.” one of the guards instructed him.
“No, damn it!” Joe yelled back. “I’m Condor Joe; I’m supposed to be here!”
The second guard turned to Joe.
“Surely you jest?” he asked.
“No. And don’t call me Shirley.” the Condor growled.
By this time, Gatchaman had made his way through the room. Joe could see that Ken was trying to maintain his formidable Commander demeanor, but was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
“It’s ok, boys. Let him go. I’ll take care of things from here.” the Eagle ordered of the guards.
“Ok, Gatchaman.” the first guard responded as both guards let go of Joe’s arms and left the room.
Ken looked to the side of the platform, where the rest of the team was standing and signaled Jun, in her own Swan Birdstyle, to come to him as Nambu tried to restore order in the room.
When the Swan joined the Eagle and the Condor, Ken led his subordinates out of the room, instructing, “Ryu and Jinpei can guard Hakase for now. If anything happens, we’ll be right outside the door.”
“What the hell is going on here, Ken? Why the hell am I in Jun’s Birdstyle?” Joe demanded once they were in the hall.
“I don’t know. You’re wearing your bracelet, aren’t you?” Ken smugly replied.
Joe glared at the Eagle.
“What did you do?” he demanded.
“Me? I didn’t do anything. The Swan on the other hand… Well, let’s just say she believes in payback. And payback’s a bitch, isn’t it?” Ken smirked.
Joe looked incredulously at the Eagle and the Swan.
“Yes, Joe, we know all about your little scheme…” Ken continued as he pulled a pink flyer from the belt of his Birdstyle. “I do believe this is a bona fide Las Vegas marriage license, isn’t it?”
Ken unfolded the paper and regarded it. “Hmmm, and I wonder which ‘Pink Treasure’ issued it to you?”
Joe turned to the Swan, mortified at his downfall. How could a trip that started out so badly, go so well, only to end up an utter disaster?
“Jun…” he said, though it sounded more like a plea.
The Swan grinned.
“Yes, Joe?” she replied sweetly.
“How what, Joe? How did we find out? Or how did you end up in a Swan Birdstyle?” she teased. Jun reflected for a moment, then added, “Oh, I don’t know. Nothing a screwdriver and some ninja training couldn’t handle.” she concluded.
Joe’s mouth opened, but nothing came out.
“You really should be careful where you get you marriage licenses from, Joe. Most government agencies don’t issue legal documents on pink paper.” Ken started. “Once we figured that out, well, the rest was the Swan’s idea.”
Jun giggled as she picked up the explanation.
“Lucky for me, I know you sleep like a log. So today, when you were sleeping off your sexcapade and Jailhouse Rock from last night, I snuck into your room and ‘borrowed’ your bracelet. You see, all of our bracelets work on carrier waves, a combination of frequency and amplitude modulation, and phase, which react with the chemical make-up of our uniforms. Each one of our bracelets is set to a slightly different phase, which is how we change into our individual Birdstyles. It’s very intricate and this is one of the reasons why no one can replicate it. Anyway, all I had to do was reconfigure your phase length to mine and viola! You’re also a Swan.”
“But… But I was wearing my uniform!” Joe stammered.
“Oh, yes. That…” the Swan continued devilishly. “You see, the shirt you’re wearing looks like your Number 2 shirt, but it’s really a just a replica. There are hundreds of them in the stores… All I had to do was run to the local store and pick one up. Then I took my spare shirt and attached it to the interior of the fake Number 2. When you transmuted, it was all Swan all the way…”
Joe, rendered speechless, looked from Jun to Ken, who both stood with roguish grins on their faces.
At that moment, the conference room door opened and Nambu stepped out.
“Joe,” he said; his demeanor and tone made the Condor cringe, “I don’t know what happened, why you’re in Swan Birdstyle, or why you chose to nearly ruin my presentation, nor do I care to know right now. But I want you to transform into your proper Birdstyle and report back here immediately.”
The Condor gulped.
“Yes, Hakase.” he quietly replied. Joe started to walk down the hall in disgrace, then sprinted back to the stairwell and to his room to retrieve his proper Number 2 t-shirt.
As the gunman walked off, Nambu turned to Ken.
“Let me know when the Condor is back.” he informed the Eagle as he opened the door to the room and went back in.
“Do you think we went too far, Ken?” the Swan asked, concerned.
“After what Joe did to us? No way.” he grinned at her.
Five minutes later, Joe was back at the conference room door in his familiar Condor attire. Ken went in and motioned for Nambu to come out; Nambu in turn motioned for the Owl and Swallow to follow him.
Nambu’s charges stood around him as he reprimanded, “I do not know what occurred, who was directly involved, or what the meaning of Joe’s appearance was a few minutes ago was. But, I will certainly find out later.” Nambu paused and gave a hard stare to the Condor. “However, until that time, since my presentation is complete and I will be spending the remainder of the day participating in sessions as a delegate, I do not need the protection of the entire Science Ninja Team. You are dismissed from duty and may enjoy the few hours we have left until our flight back to Utoland tonight.”
Five relieved faces looked back at the doctor.
“Dismissed.” he concluded and the team started to walk off. Quickly he added, “Except for you, Joe.”
Joe stopped dead in his tracks as the other four turned to look at the doctor.
“I said I didn’t need the entire Science Ninja Team. I didn’t say that I didn’t need any of the team.” Nambu elaborated, then added, “Joe, I want you to stay here and remain on-duty. I’m sure you will enjoy the last presentations of the day – they’re both in reference to the technology behind Indium Phosphide Integrated Photonic Circuits that monolithically integrate two or more functions and the benefits of fiber optic deployment. Subject matter that I’m sure you’ll be most interested in.”
The Condor’s eyes had once again glazed over after the third word. All he knew was that he was in for a very long afternoon.
As he watched the backs of the other members of the Science Ninja Team walk away, their shoulders shaking with silent laughter, Joe heard the quiet strains of the muzak being piped throughout the hotel. He groaned as he realized that the current selection was the ultimate Las Vegas showtune and the one that he only wished would have summed up his trip.
‘Viva Las Vegas’ the Condor muttered as he stoically opened the door and reentered the conference room.
At least it wasn’t ‘I Think I Love You’.
At this point, that was the only thing the Condor had left to be grateful for.
This fic was written in response to the Romance Challenge on Gatchamania. The request was:
After a successful mission the Team go for a wild night out in Vegas and its a very eventful night out on the town, but the next morning unexpectedly the Swan and the Eagle wake up in each others arms naked and married and in a hotel room.
You can see that we got very silly with this one! Hope you enjoyed the result!