Party Animals by ElectricWhite
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Image by Lunulet
“Thanks for coming.” Jun said as she fumbled with the key to the Snack J’s back door, “I know helping me clean out the fridge is the last thing any of you feel like doing right now.”

“Don’t mention it.” Ryu replied, “You’d do the same for us.”

The Science Ninja Team had been away for a little over a month, thanks to an especially difficult spell from Galactor. And that meant, at the very least, there was a lot of spoiled food in the kitchen.

“Maybe you should just serve what you got.” Jinpei said with a giggle, “It’s not like anybody’d tell the difference from your regular cooking!”

That comment was ignored.

“Strange how quiet it is.” Ken observed.

“Now that you mention it,” Joe added, “it seems kind of like this part of town has been abandoned.”

Jun finally got the door open. Then a strong stench hit the fivesome, but it wasn’t the smell of rotten food. Rather, it was the ageing stink of animal filth and damp fur.

As soon as Jun stepped through the door, Ken pushed ahead of her and led the others down the corridor. The litter on the floor grew deeper as they made their way to the front of the building, and they began hearing faint strains of house music and tiny voices cheering and yelling conversations over the rest of the noise.

The team stepped into the restaurant area and stopped, gawking at what they saw. The windows had been blacked out, and disco lights flashed while Chihuahua-sized rats dressed as henchmen and Devil Stars crowded the floor. There was even a Conga line snaking its way through the hopping rodent mass. Once the scene registered, Jun let out a shriek.

Without hesitating, Joe pulled out his handgun and emptied it into the bouncing rat carpet. The remaining vermin let out a shriek and abandoned the floor within seconds.

“This is a nightmare!” Jun cried, “Nobody will EVER come here if they know about this huge infestation!”

“These aren’t your garden-variety rats.” Ryu replied.

“No, they’re not.” Ken said as he picked up a goon-costumed carcass by the tail, “And I’m sure Hakase’ll want a look at these.”

* * * * *

Dr. Nambu and the Science Ninja Team stood before a window that allowed them to view a lab alive with activity – assorted scientists dissected and analyzed the tissue of each of the dead rats brought back from the Snack J.

“Apparently the local officials had received reports of these ‘GalactorRats’, but discounted them as pranks from drug addicts and juvenile delinquents, even though professional exterminators claimed their methods were totally ineffective.” Nambu said.

“So what do we do about them?” Ken asked, “They can’t be doing anybody any good.”

“The entire ISO agreed that the only reasonable course is to exterminate them.” the doctor answered, “Even as we speak, scientists are working on a poison that will effect only this specific variety of rat.”

* * * * *

Curiosity had gotten the better of them, so Ken, Joe, and Jun snuck back into the infested area a few days after the poisoned bait had been planted. They crept in through the back of the Snack J, wearing Bird Style just in case.

Strains of music wafted back to them as they moved forward.

“Maybe it’s on some sort of automatic loop.” Ken said hopefully.

They stepped into the front of the building and gawked at what they saw: a psychedelic light show flashed and swirled against the walls while swaying rats in goon and Devil Star costumes waved glow-sticks. Several rodents staggered their way over to the team.

Jun jumped up onto the bar before any rat could get to her. Joe found himself frantically trying to kick the rats away, only to have them cling tighter to his ankles. And Ken stared down at his feet, stunned, as a couple of goon-rats hugged his ankles and looked up at him with drug-induced love in their eyes.

* * * * *

Dr. Nambu’s eyes were fixed on one of Jinpei’s handmade cages as Ken carefully set it upon the desk. Inside the cage was a Devil Star rat, languidly lying there and letting out an occasional giggle.

“It looks like those geniuses gave the rats ecstacy.” Joe snorted.

Nambu lifted the lid and peered inside. “Are they all –?”

“Stoned out of their skulls?” Ken finished, “It looks like it.”

Before he could react, the Devil Star rat leapt out of the cage and clamored up the doctor’s sleeve. She grabbed his face and held on. Finally, she rested her head against his cheek, let out a contented sigh, and stroked his moustache.

“I’ll let the scientists know.” Nambu replied.

* * * * *

Ken, Jun, and Joe couldn’t get out of the Snack J fast enough after the second attempt to exterminate the GalactorRats.

“I’ve seen lots of terrible things,” Jun sputtered after she stopped running away from the Snack J’s back door, “but this –“ Tears streamed down her cheeks as she doubled over with uncontrollable sobs.

Ken came up to her and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I know.” was all he could say as he shook.

“God, I’m not gonna be able to sleep for a month!” Joe added.

“Report!” Nambu’s voice demanded over their bracelets.

“They’re still alive.” Ken answered as he swallowed down the urge to vomit.

“What are they doing?”

“Stuff even Katse would shy away from!” Joe replied.

“Bring back some specimens for examination.”

“He’s kidding, right?” Joe muttered.

* * * * *

Joe leaned against the wall even though he couldn’t assume his usual brooding pose. His arms and legs were bandaged from the wounds he’d received from the GalactorRats that somehow managed to bite and tear through his Bird Style. In addition to that pain, he was also sore from all the antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial shots the ISO doctors gave him to ensure he didn’t contract an especially nasty disease from the vermin.

The rest of the team had gathered around Dr. Nambu’s desk as they watched a monitor on the wall. They saw a live feed from a room normally used whenever scientists handled potentially explosive materials. In the center of the room was a table. Upon the table was a cage made from the strongest alloys currently known to mankind. And inside this cage were four rats, two dressed as goons and the others dressed as Devil Stars. They let out bone-chilling shrieks as they tried to gnaw and tear apart the bars.

“Things have taken a dire turn.” Nambu said as he turned from the screen to face the team, “It will be catastrophic if the infestation spreads, especially now that the rodents are in this state.”

“But what can we do?” Ken asked, “Nothing seems to kill them.”

“We haven’t tried Bird Missiles yet.” Ryu said. The group around the desk gave Joe a quick glance, expecting him to make a comment. He gave them a look that said You know what I think about it.

“Hey, something’s happening!” Jinpei cried, pointing at the monitor.

The rats were on their backs. Their legs were straight up in the air. A scientist had entered the room and poked the rats with a pencil. “They seem to be dead.” he said, “In fact, rigor mortis has already set in!”

“I wonder if the others have met the same fate.” Dr. Nambu mused.

“Right!” Ken cried, “Let’s go, gang!”

“Hell no.” Joe fixed Ken with a gaze that only hinted at his foul mood.

“Uh,” Ken said after a moment’s hesitation, “on second thought, maybe we should send in a couple of drones.”

The images the drones sent back revealed the same results – there wasn’t a living GalactorRat to be found.

“It will take several days of cleanup,” Dr. Nambu said without taking his eyes away from the monitor, “but I believe that area of town is safe for human habitation.”

“I wonder what killed them.” Jun said as they continued looking at the carcass-strewn ground displayed on the screen.

“I kind of remember some sort of old saying...” Ryu said, “something about partying hard and dying young...”

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