Gatchaman Does The West Edmonton Mall by Kimyou na Gaijin
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From: "Kimyou na Gaijin"

You and your evil influences, Julieann! Bah, I tell you! Bah!

Standard disclaimer: Tatsunoko owns Gatchaman and anything related to it. WEM is its own. Nobody sue me, I'm already broke.

Part 4: Ryu

I couldn't help thinking, all through the takeoff, flight and landing at Edmonton International Airport, about how the Phoenix would have made the trip much faster. The poor old girl had gotten a big dose of backwash from the junebug's sudden movement and the explosion the Bird Missile had caused; I would rather have stayed behind and fixed her myself, but I guess Hakase didn't want us anywhere near the ISO while they tried to smooth things over. I suppose I couldn't blame him, but it didn't keep me from worrying about everything.

Joe and Jinpei had been, from the very beginning, fairly cranky and restless -- Joe had missed the mecha, after all, and Jinpei wasn't the type to sit quietly for any length of time; Ken and Jun both looked tired, despite them having managed to get some sleep. How they'd slept through Joe's and Jinpei's roughhousing, I have no idea.

Joe had expressed his doubts about Edmonton, saying that it couldn't possibly be a major city if there weren't people to speak of, and once we'd disembarked from our plane, it looked for a moment like he was right. The airport wasn't very crowded, not like we were used to seeing; people stood quietly in lines with their baggage, either alone or with companions, and although the airport employees worked fairly efficiently as far as I could tell, the entire atmosphere was extremely laid back. It seemed like the only stress to be found, aside from us, was in the face of the occasional late passenger pulling his bags behind him. This was definitely no wartime country.

"See, what'd I tell you? Boring," Joe declared as we retrieved our luggage from the conveyor belts. "If the rest of the city is like this, I'll go nuts."

I saw Jinpei open his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by Jun's elbow jabbing him in the ribs.

"I don't know," I said. "I'm looking forward to some peace and quiet for a change." Joe favored me with a glare. "Should we rent a car?"

"Damned right we're renting a car," Joe snapped. "I am *not* going without wheels for two weeks!"

Ken rubbed at his face. "Let's just find an information booth and see what we're going to do here." He looked terrible. I looked over at Jun and saw she was thinking the same thing. Good old Ken, always worrying about civilians and consequences. I couldn't think of anyone who needed a vacation more.

I looked around. "Over there," I said, pointing to a dark-colored booth near the money exchange counter and parking lot doors.

"Excuse me," Jun said to the booth's attendant upon reaching it. "This is our first time here, and we were wondering where to go from the airport and what there is to do."

The blonde gave us a dazzling smile. "Oh, how nice! Welcome to Edmonton!" she said cheerfully. "Where're you from? Must have been a long flight for you all to look so tired." She reached beneath the counter and pulled out a map of the entire city. "Who's going to be driving here?"

Joe stepped forward, wearing his hey-babe smile. "I am, actually."

The attendant's smile warmed a trifle. "Oh, good. Okay, from here you can take a shuttle to downtown Edmonton -- there are lots of car rental places in that area. You can go pretty much anywhere in the city from there, and there are some decent hotels there, too."

"Anything interesting to see?" mumbled Jinpei, trying to stretch on his toes to see the map.

"Well, most visitors usually go to West Edmonton Mall," she replied.

"A mall? What's so special about a mall?" asked Joe, wrinkling his nose.

My eyebrows raised at the grin that came over her face. "Biggest mall in the world," she announced proudly. What she said next gave us all a severe case of dangling jaw syndrome. "Indoor amusement park; indoor waterpark with waterslides, wave pool and bungee tower; ice skating rink; about four or five different theater venues; at least eight hundred stores; hotel with regular and theme rooms; miniature golf course; dolphin shows -- "

"Dolphin shows!" exclaimed Jinpei. Uh-oh.

Ken was blinking. He definitely looked alert now. "You've got to be kidding." His unspoken plea of '*Please* tell me you're kidding' was obvious.

The attendant shook her head, making ringlets bounce. "No, sir, I'm most definitely not kidding. It's all there, and they keep adding more to it." She paused. "Would you like directions?"

Jinpei was bouncing up and down. "Yeah, yeah! Oh, pleeeeeeeease, Aniki Ken, let's go there! Pleeeeeeeease!"

I groaned to myself at the thought of chasing Jinpei around in that place. My stomach growled, distracting me from my dire thoughts. "Any place to eat in there?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, of course!" laughed the attendant. "There are a number of food courts in the mall. After all, doing all that walking sure whets the appetite."

Ken rubbed at his temple, trying to ignore Jinpei's tugging on his arm. The gesture reminded me of Hakase. "Any idea of the costs?"

She shrugged. "It varies, really. There's something for everyone there."

"Anikiiii! *Pleeeeeease!* I want to see the dolphins!" Jinpei was almost pulling Ken's arm out of the socket.

We exchanged glances. To judge from the others' expressions, Ken was already worrying about the team getting split up, Joe was thinking about how many girls he could meet, Jun was thinking about shopping, and Jinpei was thinking about, well, dolphins. If we didn't go, Jinpei would never let us hear the end of it, and I, for one, wasn't up to *that*. On the other hand, if we did go, finding him in the mall would keep us busy for at least two weeks. Damned if we did and damned if we didn't.

I saw Ken reach the same conclusion. "All right," he sighed to the attendant. Jinpei's cheering nearly deafened every bystander within a 50 foot radius. "Where do we go from downtown?"

The blonde smiled and beckoned Joe closer, pointing to the map. He leaned over the counter eagerly; I didn't think it was for the directions, though, but she didn't seem to notice, and if she did she was probably used to it. "Okay, there's a car rental place at this address -- " she scribbled it down on a small piece of paper and gave it to him " -- and from there, you follow Stony Plain Road, heading west . . . "

I had the sinking sensation this trip was going to feel a lot longer than two weeks.
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