Alpha & Omega by Candi Gomez
Summary:

When Joe chases down a pickpocket, he gets a surprise -and a chance to save the Eagle from leukemia.

Little does the KNT know what changes await them.


Categories: Gatchaman Characters: Goon, Jinpei, Joe Asakura, Jun, Ken Washio, Original Character, Ryu Nakanishi
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Epic, Hurt/Comfort
Story Warnings: Adult Situations, Mature Content, Mild Adult Situations, Mild Language, Sexual Situations, Violence
Timeframe: Other, Sequel
Universe: Alternate Universe, Tenuously Canon
Challenges: None
Series: Eagle's Cousin: Gatchaman
Chapters: 25 Completed: No Word count: 26345 Read: 39497 Published: 10/24/2008 Updated: 06/22/2010

1. Thief! by Candi Gomez

2. Who!?! by Candi Gomez

3. Suspicions by Candi Gomez

4. Instincts by Candi Gomez

5. Security Protocol by Candi Gomez

6. Reaction by Candi Gomez

7. Relative by Candi Gomez

8. Morning by Candi Gomez

9. Confirmation by Candi Gomez

10. Kassandra by Candi Gomez

11. Ken by Candi Gomez

12. Jun by Candi Gomez

13. Meeting by Candi Gomez

14. Reassigned by Candi Gomez

15. Learning by Candi Gomez

16. New Beginnings by Candi Gomez

17. Vohnyer by Candi Gomez

18. Alien Friendships by Candi Gomez

19. Again!?! by Candi Gomez

20. Get Even by Candi Gomez

21. Working on it by Candi Gomez

22. Infomining by Candi Gomez

23. No Going Back by Candi Gomez

24. Report by Candi Gomez

25. Understanding by Candi Gomez

Thief! by Candi Gomez

Joe stepped out of the auto store and noticed the unusually large crowd gathered by the window of the small appliance store across the street. Eyes narrowing behind his sunglasses, he remembered the new large-screen TV the employees had put in the window during the grand opening yesterday. He went over and pushed his way to the front of the crowd.

 

Some kind of news broadcast. A thought hit him. I hope they didn't...

 

On the screen were Kamo and Ken, the latter in full Gatchaman rig. Joe groaned to himself.

 

"..and so," Kamo was saying, "We ask your help in finding a bone marrow donor for Gatchaman, who has contracted leukemia in the service of this planet.”

 

Joe mentally groaned again. They SAID they weren't going to go public with that! That they hey didn't want the remaining Galactor factions to get any ideas! I should have known…

 

"You do not need to do anything special: please do not write the ISO or the Science Ninjas. Simply go to your local hospital or blood bank, state your purpose, and you will be tested for donation suitability and compatibility. Most places will do appointments as well as walk-ins.

 

"Copies of all results will be sent to the ISO's Medical branch. From there, a search for a compatible donor for the Eagle."

 

"And remember, when you donate, that you aren't just helping me. You're also helping everyone that needs new bone marrow to fight disease," Ken added, standing straight with his wings flowing around him. All stern-but-sympathetic, brave in the grip of a deadly disease, he just dripped with noble martyrdom.

 

Joe rolled his eyes as he worked his way to the edge of the crowd. Why is he such a... Then he felt the slightest twitch at his pocket. 

 

Spinning, Joe almost managed to grab the tall thief that had picked his pocket. He lunged away, but Joe was right on top of him. The pickpocket dodged like a rabbit and took off. Joe sprinted after him. 

 

Why that #$%*) @!?$$$~!!! When I get my hands on him--!

 

The guy ducked into an alley. Turning the corner, Joe saw him vault up a pile of boxes and over a wall into the next street. Hot on his heels, Joe followed.

 

Further obstacles over the next ten minutes, coupled with the thief's apparent ability to think two steps ahead, caused Joe's anger partially replaced by amazement. 'Course, being able to pick my pocket and then get away from me says this creep's good. But that doesn't mean this guy's not going down!

 

Ahead, the thief paused for a brief second, glancing left to right. Condor cranked up the cyborg speed another two notches the instant he saw the pickpocket stop and tackled him to the ground.

 

Joe grabbed his wallet back, and got surprise number one. Despite being almost the same height as him, the thief was a woman -with a strong left hook.

 

After knocking her flat, her sunglasses fell off -and gave Joe surprise number two. 

 

Looking up at him was a younger and slightly more delicate version of a face he knew all too well, right down to the sky-blue eyes, brown hair and sweet face.  

Who!?! by Candi Gomez

Joe's jaw almost fell to the ground. How...? Ken doesn't have any family! What's going on!?! Galactor…? 

 The woman -no, girl- was watching him levelly, seeming to know that trying to scram again was (currently) futile. 

What's with this guy? she thought. He chases me through some of the worst obstacles in town to get his wallet back -how DID he keep up with me, anyway- but instead of hauling me to the cops when he gets me, he stands there in some kind of shock. Unobtrusively, she looked closer at him. I don't believe it; he's not even breathing hard! 

 

Joe moved; grabbing the collar of her black leather jacket, he hauled her to her feet and slammed her into a wall. "Who. Are. You."

 

She glared. "Black Ivory." He doesn’t ‘feel’ dangerous, but why take chances?

 

"That's not a name."

 

"F#($ you."

 

Joe slapped her across the face. "Listen good, kid. I've got an adopted brother who I thought was the last one of his family. But here you show up, wearing an almost exact copy of his face! Now WHO ARE YOU!" 

 

Her eyes widened. "You're lying." But…I can ‘tell’…he’s not…

 

"No." Joe reached into his wallet and pulled out a picture. It was of him and Ken and had been taken over six years ago, shortly after he won a very difficult cross-country race in Australia. He showed it to her.

 

"Oh..."

 

"My name's Joe Asakura. Who ARE you and where do you live?"

 

"Emiko. The streets are my home. Why do you think I was picking pockets?"

 

Joe glared. "Where are your parents?"

 

Her eyes narrowed. "My mother was a 'call girl'.” Shoving it in his face, “In case you don't know, that's a high-class prostitute." She grinned evilly at the shock on his face. "She died when I was ten. And my father could have been any of several ‘partners’." Emiko smirked. "I hated her. I won't use her name."

 

Joe shook his head. D^@>. What has this kid been through? “How old are you now?" 

 

"Sixteen. I ran away six years ago, after I recognized the 'dad' in the foster home to be one of her 'frequent customers'." Her face hardened. "Why am I telling you all this, anyway?" Why do I feel like I can trust him…Like Trev…She blocked that thought.

 

It was Joe's turn to smirk. "I guess you just decided to trust me as family." The glare that Emiko gave him proved once again that 'if looks could kill' is a figurative phrase. "Do you want to meet him?" The Condor could see the war going on behind Emiko's eyes. C’me on kid. For your own good, as well as Ken’s.

 

She looked away from him, around at their surroundings. "This...could well be the key...to a new life…a safe life…"

 

"You also may be able to save Ken's life."

 

"What do you mean...Ken's the guy in the picture? Save his life?"

 

"Come on. I'll explain as we go." 

End Notes:
Emiko's a low-level empath. A range of about two-three feet (it fluctuates) and she can't turn it off or entirely supress it. It colors how she sees the people in her world.
Suspicions by Candi Gomez

"Nice car," commented Emiko as they approached the ISO building.  It was the first thing she had said since the alley.

 

Arching an eyebrow, Joe said, "Kind of late to be saying that."

 

Emiko gave him a glare that almost made Condor rank.  "Excuse me for not wanting another &^$% pasting."

 

"I clobbered you because you swiped my wallet.  As long as you behave -IF you know the meaning of the word- we'll get along fine."  He cursed and pulled the car hard left into the ISO parking lot.  "Here we are."

 

"I know what it means to behave.  And why are we at a &%#@ ISO &^%!!@ installation?"

 

"It has a hospital unit.  And behaving includes cleaning up your language once we step inside."

 

"Why are we }**& here?"

 

Joe kept his temper with an effort.  Shedoesn'tknowshedoesn'tknowshedoesn't- "Ken was the ward of Dr. Kozaburo Nambu for most of his life.  His father died in a plane crash when he was four and his mother of leukemia when he was eight.  Dr. Nambu helped him get a job as an ISO pilot and he gets benefits as a bonus." Ken can tell her the real story if he wants after –if-  she gets clearance.

 

"Come on, inside." They started walking towards the building.

"Whaddaminute...Leukemia's cancer, right?"

Joe nodded, frowning.  "Right."

"A tendency to get cancer's inheritable, right?"

"Right." "It's curable by a bone marrow transfusion, but with no family he's having a **** of a time getting a $%#@ donor.  Right?"

"Again, right."

They reached the doors and went in.

"And YOU figure that I might be a long-lost relative or something that might be a match.  Right?"

Joe used his security clearance to get them past the guard at the desk before answering, "And again, right."

"I take it you've been tested?"

 

"Yes.  Thanks for cleaning up your language."

 

"Hmmmph."  She cocked her head, then looked up and down the hallway.  They stopped at another  door.  Joe used his passcard to get them through the first of the three security doors leading to the hospital wing.  They were given a preliminary scanning, then permitted to pass. 

 

Emiko said nothing as they crossed to the second.

 

The hallway between the second and third door was somewhat longer, allowing for a more detailed scan, supposedly without the occupants knowing it.

 

"When he'd get it?''

 

"About 6 months, a year ago.  They're having trouble controlling it."

 

"He needs to get married."

 

Joe glared, but Emiko wasn't the least bit fazed.

 

"He's Gatchaman, isn't he?"

 

Joe whirled and gave her the full strength, make-Galactors-flee-in-terror, give-the-goons-permanent-nightmares Condor glare.

 

"You're not saying no," smirked Emiko, "and from your reaction I'd say it's a yes."

End Notes:
Emiko's not stupid, and she's been thru a lot worse than a mere Condor glare.
Instincts by Candi Gomez

Joe glared at Emiko, barely restraining himself.  He knew that if he slammed her into the wall or something , they'd have as many guards charge in as there had been escape routes for Katze and Gel Sadra.  Instead he asked, in a very restrained manner, "How did you know that?"

 

"Instinct, this place, the ISO job, and that stupid broadcast," she replied.

 

"Nani?" 

 

Emiko shrugged.  "I was right behind your right shoulder when they broadcast whatzhizname and Gatchaman asking for bone marrow.  Then after you catch me, you get around to telling me about Ken's having leukemia.  We come here, to an ISO facility, and you tell me that Ken works for the ISO.  My gut, instinct, whatever, tells me that he's probably a LOT higher up than you're telling me.  Add all that to this place's security."

 

"That doesn't add up to Gatchaman."

 

"My gut says it does. And don’t tell me I’m remembering wrong. I’ve got a photographic memory."

 

Joe looked at her with his cold, interrogating stare [last used on Ken to (try to) get him to admit the Hypershoot's effect on him].

 

"My instincts kept me alive for six years on the streets.  Listening to them has saved me from being raped, killed, exploited, and a whole lot of other things.  Before that, my gut told me when the guy my mother was "inviting" in would be trouble and to get the h*** out of there.

 

"I'm alive and intact because I've LISTENED to my instincts!"

 

Joe found he really couldn't argue.  How many times had him and the rest of the team avoided danger or found out what the Galactor had been up to because they'd listened to that gut feeling that says, “Watch out!”

 

"We'll sort it out later," he finally growled. "Meanwhile, no matter WHO he is, there is a very sick man in there that you might be able to save."

 

The third door opened.

Security Protocol by Candi Gomez

Joe growled, low.  "Behave, and let me do the talking."

 

Emiko shrugged.  "Whatever.  The only reason I'm putting up with this is the hope of a second chance at life."

 

"How you find time to hope on the streets, anyway?"

 

"Hopes and dreams are sometimes the only thing that can keep you going.  Jerk."

 

Joe's eyes narrowed.  Before things got messy, a security guard at the desk outside the door spoke up.

 

"Miss, will you please put the two switchblades, four knives, seven lockpicks, three tension tools, and-"

 

"-a partridge in a pear tree," she growled, emptying her pockets.  The guard looked at her, then did one heck of a double-take.

 

"She looks like-"

 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I ran into her on the street.  Let me handle this."  The Condor gave the guard a half-strength glare (more than enough to make him think of wetting his pants.)

 

"Um...OK, sir, G-2."  The guard saluted.

 

The look Joe gave him should have turned him and the wall behind him into plasma.  Slamming the guy into the wall, he growled, low:  "You f ****** son-of-a-b***!  NEVER address us by our agent codes in front of anyone who doesn't have the clearance!"

 

"But-"

 

"And you make sure that everyone present HAS clearance before you start mouthing off!"

 

"Y-yes, sir!"

 

"I will report this to your supervisor."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Although I'd like better to thrash you into the #@$ ground."

 

Joe let him him go.  Turning to Emiko, he said, "We'll have to stop by the security chief's office before we go upstairs.  And don't you go spilling your guts about what he said."

 

Emiko nodded.  "$#@*& twerp deserves it."  She paused.  "Even if I didn't hear anything."

 

He shot her a puzzled look.  Emiko grinned and winked.  Joe got it and smiled.

 

When they were out of earshot of the guard, she commented, "Do you have any idea how many places have been robbed because of loose-lipped security personnel?"

 

"You mean, how many you've robbed because of security flapping their gums?"

 

Her lips quirked.  "Something like that."

 

Joe snorted.  "By the way, I will need your full name to give to the supervisor.  Red tape and all that."

 

Emiko moaned.  "But I don't have to like it -or red tape!"

 

Joe grinned.  "I know just how you feel.  I can’t stand beauracracy.  You know what I'd like to do?"

 

"What?"

 

Joe grinned.  "Solve the ‘problems of beauracracy’ with a proper application of missles and high explosives."

 

Emiko barked a laugh.

 

Joe glanced to the left.  "Here's the office.  Follow me."
Reaction by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:
Joe thinks Ken was a moron. There's gonna be repercussions.

"Your last name's a bird!?!"

 

"Sure," Emiko said, unruffled by Joe's surprised -and loud- comment.

 

"Emiko Kujaku," said the security officer as he wrote it down.  "What kind of bird is it?"

 

"Peacock," replied Emiko.

 

The officer raised his eyebrows.  "Your mother married a guy named Peacock?"

 

Joe cut off her reply.  "Where's her pass?"

 

"Here.  Miss Kujaku, listen close.  It's low level if you're by yourself and good for today only.  When your security level is established, we can issue you a permanent one."

 

"Thank you…sir."

 

-------------------------------------------

 

"Thanks for the save.  I do NOT want explain to every Twit, Dope, and Harpy that comes along that Kujaku is my maternal grandparents' last name."

 

Joe did a double-take blink.  "Maternal grand-- Waitaminute..."

 

"What?"

 

"Now that I think of it...Your 'street talk' seems sort of... forced, at times. When you let your guard down, your speech is pretty..."

 

Emiko gave him a LOOK.  "If you must know, my grandma didn't die till I was almost nine and she insisted I talk properly...among other things."

 

"Among other things...like behaving?  And seven years living with the rats hasn't been able to erase it?"

 

Emiko gave him another LOOK, which he met.  After glaring for a few minutes, she broke it off and asked, "So where's my 'double' hanging out?"

 

Joe pretended to check out a map on the wall.  "One floor down, and we'll be close."

 

She looked at the map herself.  "There's some stairs right around the corner."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

"There's the room," Joe murmured.

 

Emiko nodded and took a deep breath.

 

"Wait here by the door.  I'll go see what's going on."

 

"The other three members could be in there?"

 

"Or our 'boss' Kamo.  He's a nice guy; don't worry about it."

 

Emiko leaned against the wall next to the door.  "Whenever you're ready."

 

Joe nodded himself, opened the door, and went in, "forgetting" to close it.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

"Hey, Joe!"  The Condor was tackled by four feet eleven inches of Swallow.

 

"Joe!  What a surprise!" Kamo, sitting by the bed, sounded a little fake.  Understandable, if you remembered that news announcement earlier.

 

"Hi, Joe," grinned Ryu from a chair against the wall.  "Join the party!"

 

Jun smiled tremulously from her seat on the other side of the bed.

 

"Joe..." Ken carefully got out of bed and came over to the gunner.

 

POW!

 

"Ken, WHATEVER possessed you and Kamo to air that asinine, foolheaded, sickening, bunch of malarky earlier!  I thought it was decided to keep your leukemia under wraps so the remaining Galactor don't get any ideas!”

 

"Joe-"

 

"Your examination yesterday didn't show any reason for this idiotic, bullheaded, STUPID-"

 

"JOE!"

 

"-so-called news-"

 

WHAM!

 

Ken rubbed his fist, then looked steadily Joe.

 

"We decided the benefits outweighed the risks, Asakura," said Kamo.  "Ken needs that healthy bone marrow ASAP."

 

Joe, recovered, shook his head.  "You used to be able to knock me over with that punch.  But I barely felt that. And not because of Rafael. Good thing I just may have the answer to that right outside that door."

 

From all:  "WHAT!?!?!"

 

"Emiko Kujaku."

 

From outside:  "Come in?"

 

"Yep."

 

Emiko appeared in the doorway.

 

Five pairs of eyes widened.

 

Five jaws dropped.
End Notes:
The news broadcast is in chapter one, "Thief!" "Rafael" refers to the Professor who made Joe a cyborg.
Relative by Candi Gomez

Ken whirled on Joe, changed his mind, and looked back at Emiko.  "Who the h*** are you?"

 

Emiko smirked.  "And Joe was complaining about my language.  I'm Emiko Kujaku, sixteen-year-old orphan and street rat."

 

Kamo recovered himself and sat back down.  "Where'd you find her?"

 

Joe shrugged.  "Ran into her on the street right after that inane broadcast." 

Emiko shot him a sharp look.  A level gaze out of the corner of his eye told her not to comment.

 

Jun said, "We should check both her blood type and her DNA."

 

Kamo nodded and pulled out a computer-notepad.  "Young lady, I'll need some information on your family-"

 

"Don't expect any info on whoever my father was.  My mother was a call girl, so he could have been anybody."

 

Jinpei asked, "A call girl?"

 

"Prostitute," said Joe.

 

"My goodness!" gasped Jun.

 

"She died when I was ten.  I recognized the 'dad' in the foster family I was sent to as one of her 'frequent customers.' "

 

Kamo cleared his throat.  "Well, your mother's and any other relatives names will still be useful."

 

Emiko shrugged.  "Fine.  My mother's name was Nari Kujaku.  My maternal grandmother's name was Tamaka Watanabe Kujaku; she died when I was

about nine.  My grandfather's name was Masahiro Kujaku.  That's as far back as I know."

 

"Hmmm...there.  I'll check these names against Ken's bloodline.  Any brother or sisters?"

 

"No."

 

Kamo  raised his eyebrows at the abruptness of her reply.  "Very well.  Is that all you can remember?"

 

"Aahhh...Grandma once mentioned having an older sister she'd lost track of.  Kiku or Kiko, I think."

 

"Hmmm...Fine.”

 

Emiko snorted. “Don’t expect to find anything about ‘mom’ having kids. She reported all pregnancies as ending in miscarriage or death. Except for when I was born, she was right.”

 

“What? Why?” asked Ryu.

 

“Later,” said Kamo. “We’ll have you tested for compatibility. With mitochondrial DNA as well as the standard test."

 

"And then you're going to have some dinner and a bath," said Jun.  "And NO ONE'S going to bother you until you've slept yourself out!"
End Notes:
I'm assuming that some of Rat...Red Impulse's blood and/or tissue is still in storage for the tests.
Morning by Candi Gomez

"Gooooood morning!" said Ryu cheerfully.  Then he noticed Emiko sitting at the cafeteria table with Jun.

 

Emiko smiled.  "Come on.  I don't bite."  The smile changed  to a smirk.  "Usually."

 

"Uhh..it's not you...I mean...it is you... I mean...you're kind of pretty!"

 

"MOOOORRRRRNNNIINNNNGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  yelled Jinpei, bounding in like a kangaroo.  He bounced up to Emiko.

 

"Wow!  You sure look a lot nicer in clean clothes an' stuff!"

 

"Jinpei, act your age.  We need to go shopping for you, Emiko," sniffed Jun.  "You can't borrow other women's clothes forever."

 

"These are guy's clothes.  I'm almost six foot.  There aren't any women here in MY size!"

 

"Hmmph.  Sit down and eat, Jinpei."

 

A low whistle came from the door.  Joe strolled in and plopped his tray down.

 

"You sure don't look like that street rat I picked up yesterday."

 

Emiko rolled her eyes.  "And you don't look like the ragtag racer I ran from- I mean into."  Her grin was devilish.

 

"What does she mean, Aniki?"

 

"Nothing."

 

Emiko gave him a thoughtful look.

 

Ken was the last to get to the breakfast table.  Jun plunked his plate in front of him as soon as he sat down.

 

"Ken, I know the chemo makes you nauseous and all, but you should try to eat something," she said.  "You haven't been eating enough to satisfy a bird...I mean a mouse!"

 

Everybody cracked up.

 

"Hey, Oneechan, are you gonna make him YOUR bird?"

 

Thwap!

 

"Oneechan!"

 

Ken shrugged, then noticed Emiko and managed a smile.

 

"You look even more like me properly cleaned up."

 

"KEN!" gasped Jun.

 

"Yeah, and one similarity is that you're BOTH too thin!" grunted Ryu.  "You both need to eat."  The Owl set the example, filling his plate again and shoveling it down.

 

As they finished, a tech appeared in the doorway and hesitated.  Ken motioned her in.

 

"What's up?"

 

"Kamo would like to see you all -including Miss Kujaku- as soon as you're ready, Gatchaman-- oops."

 

Ken's eyes narrowed.  The tech gulped.

 

"Cool it, G-1.  I twigged that on my way in yesterday."  Emiko gave a sardonic grin.  "Joe just about took my head off when I mentioned it."
Confirmation by Candi Gomez

What d'you mean your gut?"  gawped an incredulous Jinpei.

 

"Sounds like a hyper-active survival instinct," commented Jun.

 

"Well, discussion on it will have to wait."  Ken wiped his mouth.  "Kamo's waiting."

 

"You ate almost your whole plate, Ken!  Good going!" cheered Ryu.

 

Ken rolled his eyes.

 

They dumped their dishes in the receiver and headed out.  Emiko dropped back until she was even with Joe.

 

"Why won't you tell them how we really 'ran into each other'?" she asked.  "For heavens' sake I was-"

 

Joe cut her off with a slice of his hand.  "One, there's enough going on right now without me turning you in.  Two, if these guys ever hear about anyone being able to sneak up on me like that, I will NEVER hear the end of it.  Got it?"

 

Emiko snickered.  "Blackmail points?"

 

"Why you..."

 

"Hurry up, slowpokes!" called Jinpei.

 

Kamo looked up as they came in.  "Sit down," he said, motioning to the chairs in front of him.

 

Joe and Emiko eschewed the chairs in favor of leaning against the wall. The other four sat down.

 

"Well, the DNA tests aren't back yet –neither are the compatibility test, by the way-, but I have been able to look into Emiko's 'family  tree'.  Apparently, her maternal grandmother did have an older sister, Kiku Watanabe.   Kiku's married name was Washio.  Her son was  Kentaro Washio."

 

"My father," said Ken softly.

 

"Way cool!"  cheered Jinpei.

 

"That would make you guys like second cousins or something," said Ryu.

 

Joe grunted.

 

Jun said, "Well, it's good that Ken has some family."

 

“And while she’s was right that there were no official birth record of a child born to Nari Kujaku, there was a birth announcement place in the local newspaper by Tamaka Watanabe Kujaku sixteen years and three months ago.”

 

“Grandma’s way of trying to establish some basis for my existence.” Emiko’s voice was flat.

 

"I also did some other checking," said Kamo sternly.  "You've been arrested eight times in the past six years!"

 

"Sure, but I wasn't convicted of anything," Emiko replied, unperturbed. “And the last of those was two and a half years ago.”

 

"And why wouldn’t you be convicted?" Kamo asked.

 

"I've always been taller than other kids, but until I went through some changes in the past year, I looked all cute and pretty.  All I'd have to do is give the cops or the judge a sweet look with my big blue eyes and give them a fast, genuine sounding line.  The cops wouldn't press charges or the judge would let me off scot free."

 

"Changes?" asked Jun.

 

"I gained a good 4-6 inches in the past year, eighteen months.  I became lean and lanky instead of cuddly, and my facial structure became much more androgynous.  I've been mistaken for or able to pass as a male at times recently."

 

"When I first saw her, I thought she was a guy," put in Joe.

 

"And you weren't put in a foster home?!" asked Ken.

 

Emiko shrugged.  "I'm real good at conning people."

 

Ken groaned.

 

Kamo looked at the file on his desk again.  Well, they are mostly shoplifting charges, with one petty larceny-"

 

"For flavor," Emiko smirked.

 

Kamo shot her a quelling look (that didn't work). "-and they will be wiped off your record in two years anyway.  Speaking of which-" Kamo paused and gave her a stern look "-you are going to have to do something about that."

 

" 'Bout what, Kamo?" yawned Ryu.

 

Joe gave Ken a sympathetic look.

 

"What else is there, Mr. Kamo?" asked Jun.

Kassandra by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:
This is not suitable for children.  This material contains child rape/abuse.  If you continue to read, it is your own choice. And YES, I KNOW how long it normally takes to get certain test results back! I’m throwing in a little futuristic sci-fi –a la Star Trek here.  Please continue if you accept the responsibilities. 

>>  <  denotes a flashback  * * denotes thought  {  } sending telepathy(Kazzie)

 [ ] receiving/reading empathy (Emiko)

"Next," said Kamo, "there's the matter of your scholastic record."

 

Emiko:  Uh-oh.

 

"You ran away from a foster home five weeks after your apparent tenth birthday-"

 

I don't need my rep ruined! Or my business pried into.  "I ran away because the guy was one of 'momma's' frequent clients, and he especially liked little girls."

 

Joe and Ken choked.  Ryu gasped; Jinpei sputtered; Jun was struck dumb.

 

"And nobody believed me when I told them, since he was such a 'fine upstanding man.' That's the first and last time I ever tried that!"

 

Kamo frowned.  "Where is he now?"

 

Emiko shrugged.  "He met with an unfortunate accident. His brakes failed."  With help from some brake fluid watered down with dishsoap.

 

"It's a good thing he IS dead!" snapped Ken.  Gutterrat or not, she IS my only living family!  That is, maybe...

 

 

Joe's eyes narrowed.  Unfortunate accident, my foot!

 

"Well, getting back on subject, you were given several tests shortly before you were placed there-"

 

"So?  A bunch of beauracratic gobbledygook," said Emiko carelessly.

 

"Miss Kujaku, you have a 158 I.Q.! You were skilled with computers and scored above COLLEGE students in history, geography, reading, and-" Kamo looked at the papers again "-manual skills!? And with no history of ever having been to school!"

 

Oh great!  "So?  Being a brain didn't help me survive on the streets!"  Emiko snapped. It did, but he doesn’t need to know that. If these guys knew some of the stunts I really pulled…

 

"Plus you were enrolled in a dojo from age three to nine!"

 

Joe:  A dojo?  That explains a few things!

 

Emiko rolled her eyes.  "That was Grandma's idea."

 

Ken was astonished.  "You're as smart and probably as able as the best of us!  No wonder you twigged that I was Gatchaman!"

 

"SHE WHAT!"  yelled Kamo.

 

"Uhhh..."

 

"Well-"

 

"You see-"

 

"The short version is Joe told me Ken worked for the ISO and that he was the late Dr. Nambu's ward.  When I added that to this place’s security and your news broadcast-" she shrugged "-my gut told me that Ken was Gatchaman."

 

"Your GUT!"  Kamo had calmed down, but not by much.

 

"She seems to have a hyper-developed survival instinct or something."  Jinpei had to get in his two cents.

 

Kamo began turning an interesting shade of red, but managed to get it under control.

 

"We'll discuss this -gut reaction- later.  Meanwhile, our third subject."  Kamo leaned across the desk.  "Kassandra."

 

Emiko's face went white.

 

 

 

>>She was four and a half years old#There was another strange man in the kitchen BIG surprise# but he wasn't having sex her mother#It was raping her SISTER!<<

 

>> KAZZIE!!!!<<

 

>>Take the knife, stab, stab again, don't listen to him scream...# YES! He's running, out the door!...# Go to Kazzie, get her out of the house, go to Grandma's...!<

 

 

"...Emiko!  EMIKO!"  SLAP!

 

Gasp.  "K-Ken?"

 

"What happened?!  Kamo said that name-"

 

Emiko shook her head.  "D-don't..It's okay. I'm all-"

 

"With an awful memory surfacing like that!? You're not all right!" Joe snarled.

 

"Aw-?  What are you talking about?"  Crap!

 

Joe looked about ready to blow a fuse.  "I've HAD my share of trouble!  And I SURE know it when I see it in someone else!"

 

"Everyone, calm down!" snapped Jun.  Turning to Kamo, "Who is this -person- you mentioned?"

 

Kamo:  "Emiko's fraternal twin."

 

Ken:  "Say what!?"

 

Kamo:  "Here are the documents to prove it:  the newspaper birth announcements, neighbor statements taken after her mother’s death, Tamaka Watanabe Kujaku’s repeated complaints to child welfare-"

 

Ryu whistled.

 

"And some police reports."

 

Emiko sprang forward.  "Where the H*** do you think you get the right to pry in my life!"

 

Joe promptly shoved her into  a seat.  "Sit down and shut up."

 

Emiko looked ready to mouth off -or worse- again.  But the last time I went up against Asakura over there, I got pasted...And this is one time when it would NOT be a good idea to fight.  She stayed put. Besides, they’re being jerks, but they don’t MEAN any harm…*grumble*

 

Kamo continued.  "First report is from about eleven and a half ago.  Apparently you caught one of your mother's boyfriend's-"

 

"JOHNS, DIMBULB!"

 

"-raping your sister."

 

"WHAT!!!!!!!!!" came from five throats.

 

"And you, Emiko, though only four and a half, stabbed him no less than five times, got your sister out of the house and to your grandmother's, who took her to the hospital.  The guy nearly bled to death and was sentenced to six years."

 

Jinpei looked at her with a kind of respect.  "You've definitely got the Washio spirit."

 

Ryu:  "Why Jinpei, that sounds almost poetic."

 

Whap!

 

 

Ryu:  "Jinpei!"

 

"But if they're twins-" Jun began with a sick look on her face.

 

Emiko nodded, her eyes closed, her face full of pain.  Just remembering...hurts...no, worse…’feeling’ her hurt...and the effing courts...!

 

"EMIKO!"

 

She jumped and looked at Ken.  "You're not phasing out again, are you?" he asked.

 

"According to the file, Ms. Kujaku couldn't be charged with anything; she'd stepped out, for groceries she said."

 

Emiko struggled silently, than decided to give them a piece of her closely-guarded past.  She spoke in a flat tone, trying to keep most of the dark memories distant.

 

"Stepped out...she LET it happen.  HE paid her for Kazzie.

 

"It hadn't started there, and it certainly didn’t end.  After that...I made sure neither Kazzie or I was anywhere in the vicinity when she brought her JOHNS-" she glared at Kamo "-in.  But Grandma was in the hospital a lot…couldn’t do much, especially those last couple of years before she died...Kazzie and I slept wherever we could, as long as it wasn't in that apartment. But, sometimes…too often, we had to go back. SHE would even send hired flunkies after us. And it could be a long time before we managed to escape again.

 

"Mother dearest," Emiko's voice was saturated with sarcasm, "always made sure that everything looked good for the official people, of course."

 

"There's a few others, but it's this last that concerns me," Kamo went on.  "There was a fire one night, shortly after your tenth birthday..."

 

 

 

>>Kazzie!<<

 

Kazzie: >>{Emiko!}<<

 

Kazzie: >>{Mother!  Mother's been shot!}<<

 

Emiko: >>[Good riddance!  Guess she ticked off one too many of her clients, eh?]<<

 

Kazzie: >>{NO!  It was this guy over here!  The blond one!}<<

 

Wmiko: >>[Who...] Hey!  LET KAZZIE GO!<<

 

Kazzie: >>Let Emiko Go!  No!  Don't tie her!  Don't gag-!<<

 

 

Blond guy: >> >What are you doing to her?  I said bring both girls!< <<

 

Goon: >> >Sosai-sama said to bring the one that looks the most like you, and the one you have looks like a minature copy!  This one stays here while the building burns!< <<

 

>>NOOOO!!!!!!!!<<

 

 

I never knew for sure…was that Kazzie or the blond man?

 

 

 

"...the building was found burnt to ashes.  Forensics determined that Ms. Kujaku..."

 

 

Emiko: >>*hack hack*  Have to get out!<<

 

Kazzie: >>Emiko!  {EMI!}<<

 

Blond: >> >Please!  Let me have both my children!< <<

 

>>Who's that?  *kaff* Trevor...<<

 

Blond: >> >PLEASE! LET ME HAVE MY OTHER DAUGHTER!< <<

 

Trevor: >> >Don't worry, Emiko, I'll get you out.< <<

 

 

 

"...Emiko was pulled from the flames by Trevor Derune.  She was half-dead from smoke inhalation..."

 

 

Trevor: >>An explosion!  The heaters…? The building!<<

 

Goon: >> >We must go now, master!  He demands!< <<

 

Blond guy: >> >MY CHILD!< <<

 

Kazzie: >>{EEEMMMMIIIIII!!!!!!!}<<

 

Emiko: >>*kaff* *hack hak* ...kazzie...<<

 

 

 

 

"...no sign of Kassandra was ever found."

 

"Emiko?"

 

"Kazzie..." she whispered.

 

She turned to look at Ken, barely aware of her tears, conscious only of finding some release for the pain.  "Kazzie was kidnapped...I was left to die.  The man who took her wanted me too, but someone wouldn't let him.  Trevor was my friend; he helped me survive on the streets."

 

She's open now, Ken!  Get her to talk!  "What happened to him?"

 

"He's…was a drug dealer. I was a courier…and.... But he…Trevor started sampling his…merchandise. He died last year. Od’d. Heroin.”

 

More pain. But…courier?  And...?  Ken asked instead, "Do you have any idea who the man was?"

 

"He kept begging someone to let him have both his daughters.  There were others... they made sure I was left in the apartment.  Kazzie looked like a smaller version of the first man."

 

"Your father, then?"

 

"Maybe."  It was a barely-heard whisper. "But with her record..."

 

We'll have to look into that...  "And what is a courier? And...?"

 

"Couriers transport the drugs between locations.  And the other's none of your business."

 

"Drugs?" asked Joe.

 

Emiko's eyes snapped.  "Didn't I just say he was a drug dealer?"

 

"You were involved in the drug scene!?!" yelled Ken.

 

"Look, smartmouth!  When you're hungry and cold, pride goes out the window.  Burglary is cheap. There are two main ways on the streets to get enough money:  sell sex or sell drugs.  And I'd had enough of selling sex!"

 

"Emiko."  Jun spoke softly.  "You don't have to answer this question now.  You can answer later or not at all.  Have you...Were you...?"

 

"Raped?"  Emiko looked at the ceiling.  Great.  I might have known this would come up.  Well, might as well tell the truth; all they really need me for is a donor.  I can always leave later.

 

Ken look at Emiko, at the possible cousin Joe had found.  Was she raped?  If she was, so help me...NO ONE deserves that.  I'm pretty sure she is related to me; she looks so much like me and after all, we found her.  It's up to me to take care of her.

 

"There have been people…starting with some of the johns and continuing through just last week.  The johns…we avoided as much as we could. We would go to Grandma’s when we could. And when we couldn’t…the streets were our place.  That's where I first met Trevor, incidentally.  He helped us, taught us to survive...

 

"With his help, I somehow managed to avoid a lot of predators.  Then when I was eleven, but tall enough to be thought fourteen, I was cornered by one slimeball.  I used the switchblade Trev gave me...stabbed him...wound up slitting his throat.

 

"After that, anyone who tried to rape me...well.  I had the height, strength, and skill to do it. And…I have a…talent…for being able to tell who’s dangerous…at short range, anyway. I would warn off some, but if they tried to force me..."  She gave a short, bitter laugh.  "That was when the cops were having a fit over the 'throat slashing killer'.  They were in hysterics because of the lack of a pattern.  But there was one; that of the sexual predator getting his." Emiko lapsed into silence, suddenly drained by the emotional rollercoaster and unsure how to proceed.

 

"Last week?" prompted Joe, remembering something he’d read in the newspaper.

 

"Got caught picking someone's pocket.  Guy said he'd turn me over to the police after having 'a little fun.'  After killing him, I starved for almost a week before taking that risk again."  She looked over at Joe.  "That was part of the reason I was so nasty with you.  But except for clobbering me for picking your pocket, you've been rather a gentleman."  She smiled.  "Of course, showing that picture of Ken helped me to behave.  Not that I couldn't take care of myself."

 

Jinpei whooped.  "She managed to pick your pocket, Aniki?"

 

"That's how you met her?"  asked Ken.

 

Ryu chuckled.  "You managed to filch something from the Condor without him noticing?"

 

Jun shook her head.  "Don't be so sure you can take the Condor.  He's the strongest and toughest of us all."

 

Emiko frowned.

 

Kamo spoke up.  "You are going to both a medical doctor and a psychatrist as soon as possible.  You need to learn how to function in real society."

 

Joe snorted.  "Some real society.  Five young adults who forfeited their childhoods to training and defending the world.  Just as Emiko and her sister forfeited their childhood to abuse and the streets."

 

Kamo frowned.  "There are always sacrifices to be made..."

 

Joe shook his head.  "I'm not arguing that.  I'm just saying that none of us are by any definition members of the "real" society you mentioned."

 

Jinpei and Ryu sniggered behind their hands.

 

Ken turned to Emiko.  "Don't worry.  We'll take care of you.  You'll never have to live on the streets again."

 

Emiko suddenly smiled brilliantly.  "Thanks. The street life is too rough."  No way I'm going to tell them how many people I killed as a drug enforcer, or that were rapists –or how many are furious with me.  I have to get out before I'm killed.

Ken:  Why do I have the feeling that's an understatement?  I wonder how many people she's really killed?  But then, how many have I?

 Suddenly there was a knock at the door. "Come in," said Kamo." 

t was the lady tech again.  "The DNA and compatibility tests are in."  She handed Kamo a file folder, than left.

Kamo looked through it, Jun leaning over his shoulder.  Both raised their eyebrows.

"Well?" demanded Joe. “The DNA and mitochondrial DNA results are positive. Ken and Emiko are definitely related.”

“WOOOHOOOO!!!”

“Jinpei!”

“Sorry, Onechan.”

"And not only compatible," answered Kamo, "but more compatible than some siblings."

"YAAAAYYYYY!!!"

Ken by Candi Gomez

Three months later

 

 

The doctor finished examining Emiko.  "Well, you're looking pretty healthy.  Your calcium and iron levels are up, and you've gained a good 20 pounds.  Even your bones are denser and more elastic."

 

"Yeah, yeah.  So what the verdict?"  Emiko said.

 

"Given your current, and vastly improved, state of health, I'd say we can draw the bone marrow for the transplant sometime this week."

 

"Great!"

 

The doctor shook her head. “Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone return to full health as quicly as you.” She shrugged. "Anyway, you know the transplant doesn't guarantee a return to health.”

 

"Yeah, I've been reading up.  But it's a better chance than he has now."

 

---------------

 

As Emiko left the doctor's office, Ken emerged from the one down hall.

 

"My verdict is that the bone marrow can be drawn in a week.  What's yours?"

 

He shoved his hands in his pockets.  "They can start the process for transplanting anytime."

 

Emiko arched her eyebrows.  "You sound more excited than a graveyard."

 

"Ha ha."

 

"So, what's bothering you?"

 

Ken minutely examined a painting of a cat on the wall.  "Sometimes you feel like you're expected to do something -and you don't want to.  But someone could get hurt if you don't."

 

Emiko clued in.  "You're not talking about the transplant."

 

Ken nodded.

 

"Well, I can't cook, but I can make my grandma's recipie for killer hot chocolate.  Want to go to my room for some?"

 

Ken managed a weak smile and nodded.

 

-----

 

"It's Jun."

 

Emiko nearly spilled her cocoa.  "Say what!?!"

 

"I've known her for forever.  We grew up together, trained together, fought together."

 

"And?"

 

"Well, sometime during the first war -or maybe before- the others kept "encouraging" us to get together."

 

"You’re asking for my advice on romance?!"

 

"No...not really.  It's just...it's expected for us to marry."

 

"And you don't want to marry Jun."

 

"No.  I'm not gay or anything like that...And…I’ve done what’s ‘expected’ most of my life. It's just...Jun's sweet, and I care for her and all, but she's just not the one.  But with the wars and all, the only other females I've had any prolonged contact with was Dr. Pandora and you."

 

"Bummer."

 

Ken cocked his head.  "You know, you've let down your guard a lot."

 

"Chalk it up to a good psych and wanting to ditch the nightmares."

 

"Ummm...."

 

"There's less of them."

 

Ken shifted nervously.  "I never talked about stuff like this with the team.  I mean, we never did.  If we had, though, maybe Joe wouldn't have gotten so sick during the first war; maybe I would have noticed something in time."

 

Emiko rolled her eyes. Not the time to ask…NOT the time… “Sooooo…tell her the truth.” She snorted at his look. “As you just pointed out, telling something early can cause less harm than holding back. If Trev had told me he was sampling his wares, as it were, maybe I could have done something. Or maybe not. But I’ll never know, since I never had the chance.”

 

Ken shrugged. “Well…”

 

“Uh-uh. I am not telling her for you. I’m willing to be a sounding board, but you do your own dirty work.”

 

HOW did she…guess I was too obvious. “I’ll think about it.” He stood and handed her the mug. “See you later.”

 

Emiko frowned as the door closed. Think I better talk to Jun. Ask her how she feels about Ken. After that…hoo boy. Might want to take cover, depending.

End Notes:

I am NOT gay-bashing. I am just making a point that in this story Ken is not gay.

Blood relationships has little to do with Emiko's empathic ability.  Familiarity, friendship, and the other person's own level of telepathic and/or empathic ability, including the ability to put shields up and their strength, has far more to do with her ability to "read" someone.  But she can get a general reading up at some level off of anyone who doesn't have a strong natural shield.

Jun by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:

with Salairawn as annoited beta reader, contributer, and general helper  :-)

Thanks to Sal for helping me over the bumps.  :-)

"Uhhmm...well."  Jun blushed.  "To tell you the truth...I love him more than anything!"

 

Emiko nodded and gave a smile she didn't feel.

 

"It's weird.  Why can I tell you this and not someone who's on the team?  I mean, I've known them for forever."

 

Emiko rolled her eyes.  "One, you're the only female on the ninja team.  Two, there's such a thing as being too close."

 

"Oh?  Well, that's true."

 

Three, putting people at ease is an innate ‘talent’ of mine… "Think about it. You know the guys so well that you know how they'll react in any situation, right?"

 

"Right.  Well, except for Jinpei lately.  Sometimes I don't know just what he'll be up to."

 

Emiko gave a genuine smile.  "He's what, fifteen?  He's just growing up."

 

"Sixteen," Jun replied.  "Everyone's getting older..."  She trailed off, looking into the distance.

 

Great.  I'll bet she's worried about her ‘clock’.  "And you want to have children?"

 

"Oh, yes.  I happened to see the most beautiful crib in Zears when we were getting you some more clothes a couple weeks back.  It had white whickerwork and the softest blue cushion lining it, and it came with an adorable set of sheets, the fuzziest blanket, and three of the cutest little toys!"  Jun was becoming ecstatic.

 

Emiko groaned inwardly again.  And her dream guy is Ken, who doesn't love her...Great.  We've got a real soap opera going here.

 

Jun put down her mug.  "Thanks so much for the hot cocoa...and for letting me talk with you."

 

Shrugging her shoulders, Emiko said, "It's all right."

 

"No, really.  I think one reason I can talk to you is because I KNOW you won't gossip around."  With a smile, Jun left.

 

-----

 

As soon as Emiko was sure Jun had left her room and was out of auditory range, she let out a string of extremely creative swearing.  She started with Japanese, moving on through several others, and finished with German.  Exhausted, she dropped on the couch.

 

Great.  How can I deal with this? She pulled herself upright.  I think I preferred street problems instead.  Than her eyes narrowed at a sudden thought.  Joe knows them both better than I do.  Maybe he can see a way through this mess.

 

-----

 

Ken came up to her as she left her room.  "I've got everything scheduled.  The wheel starts rolling in four days; that's when they'll do the first bone marrow draw."

 

Emiko nodded and looked away.

 

"Hey. Is something wrong? If that's too soon I can reschedule."

 

"No. It's not that." She looked back at him. "Are you sure you don't love Jun?"

 

Ken sighed. "Well, we tried it during the breaks between the first and second Galactor wars, but I just don't feel as strongly as I thought I did. I do like her, but I'm not interested in a romantic relationship with her." He frowned and shrugged. "There's too much past between us."

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"Oh, it's all right.  Anyway, I'm going to practice in the simulator for a while.  Want to come?"

 

"Nah.  After my last score..." She made a face.

 

Ken grinned. "Just thought I'd ask. I'll see ya later."

 

-----

 

Emiko decided to just look for Joe before announcing she wanted to find him; she had a pretty good idea of where to start looking anyway.  But she wandered the halls of ISO for awhile, thinking of what to say, before looking there.

 

She found Joe in the garage, of course, working under his new car.

 

"Hey, metalhead."  Emiko tapped Joe's foot.  She'd been told he was a cyborg a few days after joining them, and had surprised them all by saying, essentially, "Who cares?"

 

Joe growled from underneath the car.  "What do you want, gutterrat?"

 

"You won't believe what I just got done discussing with Ken, then Jun, then Ken again."

 

"And what would that be?"

 

"Jun's head over heels in love with Ken."

 

"That's old news."

 

"But Ken told me, with the excuse that he can’t talk to anyone on the team ‘cause they’re too close, that he doesn't love her."

 

Joe shoved himself out from under the car and gave Emiko a full Condor glare.  "Ken tell you this himself?"

 

"Mmm-hmm.  Ken cares for Jun; he just doesn't want to marry her. Too much past between them, he says."

 

Joe knew more swear words in more languages than Emiko.  It took him longer to finish.

 

"Kuso!  We've been shoving them together all these years...And now Ken decides she's his sister..."

 

"A real soap opera.  So, how does Ken let Jun down without having her clobber him or something?  And I don't think he JUST decided."

 

"Jun won't do that."  Joe rubbed his jaw, then stuck a shuriken in his mouth.  "There's also Jinpei to consider.  He's been the worst about pushing them together.  And what do you mean by that last?"

 

Emiko rolled her eyes.  "Ken told me that he and Jun gave it a try after the first war.  Apparently it didn't click for him.  But it VERY apparently clicked for Jun."

 

"What'd Jun have to say?"

 

"She's talking about cribs and wanting kids."

 

Joe stared in disbelief, then rolled his eyes.

 

"Great."

 

"Understatement."
Meeting by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:
Alex Vohnyer and Emiko belong to me. 

Vohnyer is 57.  He's sponsored the KNT thru the ISO for nearly 15 years.

 -----------------------------------------------Thanks to Sal, who beta reads for me (and contributes on occasion)

"What's up?"

 

Joe and Emiko exchanged a quick glance as Ryu approached.

 

"Nothing," said Joe.

 

Emiko nodded. "Just chatting."

 

Ryu scratched his head.  "You're sure being nice, Emi."

 

Blue eyes narrowed.  "Do NOT call me Emi.  Only Kazzie called me that.  And what business is it of yours if I choose to take off some armor?"

 

"Um...none?"

 

"Knock it off, street trash," Joe growled.  "He didn't mean anything."

 

Emiko gave Joe a glare on par with the Condor's own and stalked out.

 

"What's with her?" Ryu asked.

 

"Bad day.  What're you doing here?"

 

"Have you heard about the UN meeting tomorrow?  Kamo thinks that they might try to disband us."

 

"It's about time."

 

Ryu blinked.

 

"We've fought or trained to fight all our lives.  It's time we got a break.  So, why didn't Kamo tell us?"

 

"Well, Jinpei thinks he doesn't want us to know.  That you or Ken might go over and have a few words with them.   Jun's afraid that if Ken does find out, the strain might be really bad for him -I mean, his leukemia." He swallowed. “And she’s worried that they might try to find a way to stop all funding –including retirement benefits.”

 

G-2 considered.  "Great.  And that means I'll probably have to sit on Ken to keep him here."

 

"Says who?" said a female voice.

 

Joe glared.  "I thought you left, Emi?"

 

"DON'T call me that!  And I knew Ryu had something interesting to say, so when I stormed out, I didn't storm very far.  What d'yu think of that, chip-brain?"

 

Joe growled.  Emiko growled right back.  They glared at each other until Emiko looked away.

 

"I'LL go sit on my dear cousin," she said.  "You can do whatever."

 

Joe considered, then shrugged.  "Why not?  I'll go have a look at this 'meeting'.  Ryu, you coming or do you want to help Emi?"

 

"I'll just-"

 

"DON'T call me EMI!"

 

"-get something to eat."  Ryu made a fast exit.

 

Joe left the garage as well, ignoring the "daggers of death" look Emiko was giving him.

 

-----

 

Next day

 

The ISO sat in council with several of the Institute's sponsors.

 

"Since Sosai is gone and Galactor is finally destroyed, there is no more need for the Science Ninjas," the speaker was saying.  "Therefore, they will be disbanded."

 

"Excuse me, sir," objected one of the, if not oldest, certainly wealthiest, sponsors.  "Just because that alien's gone doesn't necessarily mean that we're safe from further attacks from space."

 

"We calculate the chances of another alien showing up on Earth's doorstep to be very unlikely.  The probabilities-"

 

"Forget probabilities!  Real life is rarely comparable to statistics and I'm not one of the most successful business men on the planet because I ignored that!"

 

"Well, we no longer have the money to fund any aspect of the KNT."

 

The sponsor blew a cloud of smoke from his pipe.  "Is money the main problem?"

 

"Well, actually, yes."

 

Alex Vohnyer knocked the ashes out of his pipe.  "Then with your permission, I will take over full sponsorship of the Kagaku Ninja Tai.  Earth cannot be left open to another alien threat."

 

"But, sir!"  the speaker protested.

 

The other sponsors in the room gasped in shock.

 

"And with your further permission, I will begin recruitment for the next generation of Science Ninjas."

End Notes:
Vohnyer knows something he ain't sharing.
Reassigned by Candi Gomez

One dignitary stood up. 

 

"Mr. Vohnyer, I represent the kingdom of Monarinsu.  Are you going to take over complete funding?"

 

"Do you mean, will others still be allowed to contribute funds?"  Vonhyer replied.

 

"Yes sir."

 

"Anyone who wishes to contribute to the KNT may.  And I understand your interest.  I remember what service the team did for the Queen and her country during the first war."

 

"Well, Monsieur Vohnyer," said the French representative, "if you are willing to undertake this grand operation, I see no reason to oppose you."

 

"Agreed," said lead dignitary Ehglebert, secretly relieved, with Nambu gone, to have the whole matter of the KNT out of his hands. "All in favor-"

 

"Now just HOLD ON a minute!"  roared a voice from the shadows in the ceiling.  As the representatives looked around in surprise, Joe, diving like his namesake, hit the floor of the assembly room dead-center.

 

"We've fought our whole lives for this planet!  First you discuss throwing us away, then you decide to turn us over to some namby-pamby spoiled rich kid for his personal collection!  And on top of THAT, you pampered half-brained idiots plan to give him authority to enlarge his toy box for more tin soldiers!"

 

"Now look here," said Ehglebert, "you just can't barge in here and-"  He gulped, staring at the feather quivering in the desk in front of him.

 

Vohnyer calmly interrupted: "Gentlemen, please."  He stepped down and walked towards Joe.

 

"Condor, I promise you and your team this:  no more stolen childhoods."

 

The remark put Joe off balance.  Recovering himself, he crossed his arms and gave Vohnyer a "prove-it" look.

 

"Saving details for later, the broad plan is that I will begin world-wide testing of physical and mental qualities as soon as I get permission from this council. Within two years, recruitment and training of qualifying candidates will begin."  Vohnyer firmly faced Joe as he addressed both him and the council.  "However, all participants must be of an age to pass their 16th birthday by three days before the final recruitment date.  Although, there will be a preference for orphans."

 

"After recruitment, time will be spent in training and weeding out those who are not Ninja material."  Vohnyer turned and looked Joe directly in the eye.  "For that, I will need the KNT's help, for who will know better what makes a Ninja?"  Breaking contact, he continued to address the room.

 

"After the final choices for the second-generation KNT are made, the ones who are not picked will be given appropriate jobs, some as support personnel for the team.  They will also be available in case some replacements are needed quickly.  The five to ten who make it to the top will begin training in earnest."

 

"One thing will always remain constant:  no children.  I mean no insult to G-4, but there will be no more children fighting, no more stolen youth."  Vohnyer paused in front of Joe again, piercing him with a firm but gentle gaze.

 

Joe scowled.  Ehglebert grabbed his chance.

 

"All in favor of both proposals, say 'Aye'!"

 

The vote was unanimous. 
End Notes:
Joe is NOT going to forget this.
Learning by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:
Emiko's actually a few weeks older than Jinpei. But he's not the definite youngest anymore, and there's some resentment. And Emiko's used to fighting back, not peace talks.

In the rec room at an ISO building/base:

 

"B-3."

 

"Miss, Eagle. G-3."

 

"Miss. A-4."

 

"Aaargh! Hit!" Emiko glowered at her cousin over the gameboards.

 

Unperturbed, Ken continued: "A-3."

 

"Blast! My destroyer!" she fumed. "That's the fifth game in a row you've won!"

 

Ken smirked. "You really need to work on your strategy. That's what got you fried in the flying sim this morning."

 

"You snuck up on me!"

 

"You know to watch out for that."

 

"So why don't you give me some lessons, Ace?"

 

"Heya!" came a cheerful yell from the door.

 

"Heya yourself, Jinpei," Emiko snapped.

 

"Knock it off, Emiko," Ken said shortly. The order got him a black glare that he let bounce off his back.

 

The Swallow flopped down on the couch and flipped on the TV. "Jun an' Ryu will be here in a minute. Then they're going to get dinner." He grinned over the back of the couch. "A LOT of dinner, especially since Emi-" Jinpei ignored her yell "-eats nearly as much as Owl does."

 

"DON'T call me Emi!"

 

"By the way, EMI, how do you stay so thin with your appetite?"

 

"Weird metabolism," she snapped. "Not that it's any of YOUR business!"

 

"Hey, I'm supposed to know what's going on with my Ken-aniki, aren't I?"

 

Ken rolled his eyes and started up. "Jinpei-"

 

"I oughta flatten smug little face of yours!" growled Emiko.

 

Ken snapped: "Emiko!"

 

Jinpei's and Emiko's return volleys were cut off by the arrival of G-3 and G-5.

 

"Hello!" beamed Ryu. "Umm...did we interrupt something?"

 

"No," Ken replied. "It was just ending. Right?" His stern glare at Jinpei and Emiko was met with sullen faces.

 

Ryu blinked.  "Oh.  Well, Jun and I are going to get dinner.  Anyone want to come with?"

 

Emiko spoke up.  "I'll come.  What are we getting?"

 

Jun shrugged.  "Oh, mostly Japanese, a little American, and some Italian for Joe."

 

"Where is he, anyway?" Ken wondered. "I haven't seen him since last night."

 

Ryu, Jun, and Jinpei quickly exchanged guilty glances. Emiko quickly got Ken's attention on her, shrugging and saying, "Probably at the track or messing with his car. You know him -certainly better than I do."

 

Ken grimaced and nodded agreement. "You're probably right. He'll show up when he wants to."

 

"Good!" Jinpei exclaimed. "Now hurry up and get something to eat!"

 

***********************************

 

Joe stormed down the halls of the UN building. Alex Vohnyer was right behind.

 

"Mind explaining the storm clouds?" Vohnyer asked lightly.

 

Joe spun around. "Look," he snapped, jabbing a finger in Vohnyer's face. "Do you really know what you're getting into?"

 

"Getting into?"

 

"Sponsoring us!"

 

"No one can see the future."

 

"You took over all of our primary funding--including medical! Do you have any idea what you're getting yourself and us into by doing that?!"

 

"You mean the matters of your being a cyborg and the Eagle having leukemia?"  At Joe's expression, he smiled serenely and lit his pipe. "I have had top-level security clearance in nearly all matters since before the first Galactor War.  There are many who would, quite seriously, kill for what I know." He paused to take a puff; his tobacco smelled of cinnamon.

 

He continued: "I have people who are probably some of the best cybernetic experts in the world working for me, although I'll leave it to you to decide which ones you actually want to work with." (Joe caught the slight stress on "want.") "And as for Ken, I am also the founder and main funder of an excellent hospital with a magnificent cancer treatment department. I understand a bone marrow donor's already been found?" Joe nodded, momentarily too startled to say anything. "I've already tried to hire Kamo, but his contract with the ISO wouldn't let him leave them."

 

Joe was –almost- overwhelmed. This guy is starting to really annoy me. Then he had a thought that made him grin savagely.

 

"Has anyone told you just who the donor is?"

 

"Come to think of it, no. Kamo just told me one had been found."

 

Joe's grin widened. "Well, your money's responsible for her, too. She's Ken's second cousin."

 

Vohnyer nearly dropped his pipe. "A cousin!?"

 

Joe watched with satisfaction as Vohnyer's calm pipe-puffing turned to a shocked gasp.

 

************************************************************

 

"Well, let's see," said Jun as they finished loading the bags into Ryu's car.  "We've got everything except the sushi."

 

"I can't believe they didn't have any decent apples at any of those stores," Emiko groused.

 

Jun continued.  "There's an open-air market a few streets over.  We can get the sushi there and-" she smiled "-they have some fruit stands."

 

"Good."  Emiko climbed into the backseat.  Jun rode shotgun.

 

************************************************

 

The market was almost deserted.  They got the sushi and the apples quickly. Emiko was thrilled at the quality and bought a good two dozen.

 

"Nice to know that somewhere in this city has decent fruit," she muttered, slicing into one.

 

They reached the car and put the sushi and apples in the back seat. There was a scraping on the gravel behind them.

 

A gravely voice ordered, "Turn around."

 

Turning around slowly, they saw three fairly large guys, two with handguns and the third with a AKA semiautomatic.  The one with the semi continued, sneering,  "I'll just take your cash and no one 'ill get hurt."

 

"Don't worry," Emiko snorted.  "These three have never been able to hit the broad side of a skyscraper.  Plus those Saturday night specials of theirs haven't worked properly in about six months.  Can't believe they haven't replaced those yet."

 

The three were visibly startled.  "H-h-hey!" started one of the handgun holders.

 

"H-how did-" stammered the other.

 

"Shut up!" snapped the AKA holder.  "She's just bluffing!"

 

"Oh-ho, Snipes?  You're so stupid, you didn't even wear a mask!"  Emiko snarled.  "Now, none of you haven't forgotten Black Ivory, have you?" The two with the handguns visibly blanched.

 

"N-no," squeaked Snipes.

 

Emiko strode over and lifted him by the collar.  His five foot six didn't compare well with her nearly six foot.

 

"Listen, slimeball, I may be cleaned up and look a bit different, but I'm still very capable of slitting your throat.  Now I don't want to hear from you again.  AND-" she paused "-I don't want to here of you bothering my two friends here, either.  And that includes anyone they may be with.  Got it?"

 

"Got it!" the three chorused.

 

Emiko dropped Snipes.  All that remained were three puffs of dust and a small breeze.

 

******************************************************

 

Jun and Ryu were still cracking up by the time they got back.

 

"Oh, man," gasped Ryu.  "The look on those guys faces-"

 

"I haven't seen anything like that since we won the war!"  added Jun.

 

"Freaking out the goons, eh?"  Emiko asked. "I didn't mean to show you up."

 

Ryu waved her off. "No big deal. Besides, this is more your turf anyway."

 

Jun nodded.  "But Emiko, would you have really cut-"

 

"Yes."

 

Jun turned to look back as she entered the rec room.  "But...you're just…

a civilian..."

 

"The streets are a battleground in their own right."

 

Ryu and Jun glanced at each other as they deposited their loads on the table. Then they saw the furious look on Ken's face.

 

"Why wasn't I told about the UN meeting today?" Gatchaman asked softly.
End Notes:

As to where Emiko got her spending money, officially Ken gives her an allowance.  Unofficially, don't ask.  And Emiko has met -and clobbered- those three goons before.

New Beginnings by Candi Gomez

Emiko's gaze swung over to Jinpei -on the couch and looking nervous- then at the TV.

 

"News announcement?" she asked.

 

"Yes," Ken bit off.  "Apparently, Joe put in quite an appearance."

 

And here I thought Ken was the showman.

 

 

"Ken, it was for your own good," Jun implored.  "We didn't want the stress to make your condition worse, and-"

 

"Make it worse!?"

 

"I'll dish out the sushi," piped Jinpei.

 

"Never mind the sushi!  Why wasn't I told?"  Ken demanded.

 

"Because, as Jun just said, you might get stressed out –even though you are anyway," snapped Emiko.  "I personally promised Joe that I'd sit on you to keep you from going."

 

"So did I," said Ryu.

 

"What!?" Ken yelled.

 

"We all agreed," Jun said, putting out plates.  "Attending the UN meeting would have been too stressful.  Now sit down.  You need to eat."

 

"Don't nag me!"

 

Emiko cocked her head.  "Sounds likes Joe's coming.  From his walk, I'd say he's pretty mad."

 

"Big surprise, after that meeting," answered Jinpei as he finished serving the sushi.  "He was right there when the UN reps kicked us off the budget." Then he blinked.  "How'd you hear him? You’re no ninja."

 

Emiko shrugged.  Like I'm telling the truth.  "Survival."

 

Exasperated, Ken began:  "Emiko, you're not living on the streets now-"

 

"-that frikgin', blasted...if I could just get my hands on a bird missile..." Jinpei scrambled out of the Condor's way as Joe stomped in and flung himself down on the couch.

 

Ken opened his mouth.

 

"Say one word...," Joe snarled.

 

Jinpei brought him his dinner, while Jun quickly guided Ken to a chair and handed him the plate she had prepared.

 

The team ate for a few minutes in silence.  Then Emiko looked at Joe.

 

"So, Condor," she asked, "are those ungrateful twerps going to pay for the treatment Ken needs?"

 

Joe growled.  "No."

 

"What?!" gasped the team.

 

Emiko's eyes narrowed.  "I've thrashed people for less..."

 

Joe looked up, his expression unreadable.  "Vohnyer's going to pay for it."

 

Everyone looked stunned.  Then Ken rallied and asked, "Who's Vahnyer? Does he have any idea what he's getting into?"

 

Jinpei piped up, "He's the rich guy who's taking over funding, right?"

 

Joe glared.  "How'd you-?"

 

"The UN meeting was newscast," Ryu answered.

 

"Yeah," agreed Jinpei.  "Ken was too ticked off about the KNT's being disbanded to catch Vohnyer's details."

 

Joe snarled and slammed his fist into the arm of the sofa.  "Anyway, he's taking over everything to do with us.  He's got top clearance and knows about your leukemia, my being a cyborg...everything.  I checked after I shook him off.  The only person he didn't know about was Emiko."

 

Jun giggled nervously.  "Then he hasn't checked the files closely for three months, has he?

 

"Obviously not," grinned Jinpei.

 

"Which is kind of weird, if he's that interested," Ken mused.  Then he straightened and glared.  "Joe, why didn't you let anybody tell me about the UN meeting?"

 

Joe swallowed.  "That's none of your business."

 

Ken growled, "I'm the team leader.  Anything affecting the team is my business!"

 

"You don't want the UN to think you're playing for sympathy, anyway," Joe said.

 

"Sympathy!" Ken cried, stunned.

 

"Sure," Emiko agreed.  "The mighty hero, dying from a fatal disease, appears before the government heads who used him while they needed him, then cast him aside like garbage when the need was over... of course there'd be those who'd think that you were playing for sympathy!"  She stood up and started collecting the empty plates.

 

Ken was speechless with indignation.  Ryu tried to change the subject.

 

"Emiko, what did you mean when you said you've pounded people for less?" he asked.

 

Emiko shrugged.  "Exactly that.  When I was on the streets and some slime threatened me, Kazzie, or Trev too closely, I beat 'em up or slit their throats or otherwise took care of them.  You know, it's not that hard to kill somebody without getting blood all over yours-"

 

"You JUST slit throats?!" Ken interrupted.

 

"Sure," Emiko replied, shrugging.

 

"Why?  You're a civilian."

 

"And what was I supposed to do, let my sister be raped?  She was my SISTER.  And Trev may have been a drug dealer and a sleaze in most people's eyes, but he helped protect me and Kazzie when he could. He was the closest thing we had to a brother."

 

Further discussion was interrupted by a soft knock on the door.  Grateful for any distraction, Jun opened it.

 

A messenger handed her an envelope, saluted, and left.  Jun unsealed the envelope and read the contents, than looked up.

 

"It's from Alex Vohnyer," she said.  "He wants to meet with us."

Vohnyer by Candi Gomez

 Ken led the way down the hall of the office building. Behind him were Jun, Jinpei, and Ryu. Joe and Emiko brought up the rear.

 Kamo had explained that the funding for the KNT wouldn't be cut off for another three months –enough time to draw and store bone marrow. Ken’s treatment would not be done at an ISO facility, though, but at the hospital that Alex Vohnyer sponsored, so that Ken would not have to undergo a risky transport in the middle of his treatment. He also expressed regret that he would not be able to come with them, but assured them that Vohnyer was one of the few people who could truly be trusted to have Earth’s best interests in mind.

Still, even though it had been almost two weeks, none of them were happy about the change.  Even the fancy private jet that had brought them here to Vahnyer’s Arizona headquarters had failed to impress any of them.

 Jun had made some phone calls to friends in the ISO after they received the message from Vohnyer. Apparently Vohnyer had not been exaggerating about his clearance –if anything, he had understated it. A girlfriend in the classified records department had even told her that he had requested copies of all reports going back to the beginning of the first Galactor war –and the request had been granted. Apparently, transportation was still being worked out; the delivery location hadn’t been given yet. There was scuttlebutt that the UN might just hand over the originals.

When Ken demanded why he had not known about Vohnyer, Kamo explained that the millionaire preferred to keep in the background.  This attitude had preserved much of his business empire from direct attack from the Galactors’ forces. All this –and Vohnyer’s amazing calm when faced with the Condor’s temper- had seriously knocked the team equilibrium for a loop.

Emiko was privately wondering why everyone in the ISO and UN seemed to be so cooperative. Her personal opinion was that there was considerable self-interest involved, and Vohnyer was somehow exploiting that.

They entered the waiting area; Ken approached the secretary.

“Ken Owashi and party to see Alex Vohnyer.”

"Yes, sir. He’s expecting you. Go right in.”

-----

Vohnyer came from behind his desk as they entered.

“Welcome, Science Ninjas.” He bowed slightly, held out his hand. Ken bowed more deeply, shook hands.

“For the record, Emiko is NOT a Ninja,” said Ken. Nor will be, said his tone.

Vohnyer nodded. “I must say, I was surprised to hear about her. I barely had time to get what records Kamo had before this meeting.”

“So what are your plans?” Ken asked.

“What I stated at the UN meeting. However, if any of you are just plain sick of the whole war-and-battle business, I’m perfectly willing to pension you off and let you live as you like, although I may consult with you every so often.” He raised his hand. “I don’t need any answers now. It’s just something for you to think about.”

The intercom buzzed.  “Vohnyer here.”

The receptionist’s voice came over the line.  “The ATV is here, sir.”

Ken’s eyes narrowed.  “ATV?”

“Yes,” said Vohnyer.  “What I have to show you is housed in a special location back in the mountains.  It is especially top secret, and I don’t dare discuss it here.  Plus, seeing is believing, right?  And unless you see this, you won’t believe.”

-----

Vohnyer acted as his own driver, leaving all of his staff behind.  It was nearly a 4 1/2-hour trip and even Aggie’s and Hootie’s almost legendary patience was worn thin by the end of it.  During that entire ride, Vahnyer did not seem in the least concerned that his cranky passenger list included five ninjas and one ex-street rat with a thing for knives.  He had had the wisdom to bring supplies.

Vohnyer stopped.  Even though he had not turned off the engine, it seemed their journey was done; the road ended in a sheer cliff with boulders scattered about at the base.

“Stay in the car,” Vohnyer said.  He pulled out a remote control. At the pushing of the green and yellow buttons, followed by a eight-digit number code, a door in the cliff face slowly began to raise up. Vohnyer drove in.   

End Notes:
"Emiko is NOT a ninja," said Ken.  Yes, that's going to be a major sticking point in the future.
Alien Friendships by Candi Gomez

"So what is this place?” asked Jinpei.

 "This is a secret base I built over 20 years ago, after my father died in a mountain-climbing accident.  Shortly after that tragic event, I found a small space ship, too small to sustain a living crew, but apparently designed to perform several kinds of tasks.  It seems that some advanced civilization was using the ship to perform experiments or suchlike and the poor thing got knocked off course.”

"Poor thing?” snorted Emiko.

“Yes,” Vohnyer said.  “Here, down in the lab where we’re going, is the ’pilot’ of that little ship.  Apparently one of the ways the civilization in question saved money and supplies for regular crew was to have an ‘AI’ do the piloting and other tasks on what should have been a routine mission.  Apparently the poor ship got knocked out of course by some explosion or other, apparently resulting from some kind of multi-ship-to-ship battle.  Unfortunately, warfare seems not to be confined to our planet.”

Joe growled.  “And just how’d you know all this?”

“The AI has the ability to learn,” answered Vohnyer.  “including English and other languages.  And apparently the experiments that she was performing were for her original maker and a colleague of his.  Plus, they were for a generally routine round of duties. Instead of programming her from scratch when she was first commissioned, they did a info dump from a primary source. The ‘younger’ refers to this ‘parent’ with a string of sounds that we interpret as Cynthia, since I and the scientists and other staff can’t pronounce the original language that well.  And,” he continued as he slid his card through the door lock, “since we can’t pronounce the AI pilot’s designation at all, we call her Cyndy, since she is the original system’s ‘daughter’, so to speak.  Apparently the original designer tends to give at least some of his AI units female designations, starting with this Cynthia, who was apparently the first AI he ever made.”

“Wait just a minute!” snapped Ken.  “You mean to say that you’ve had this…this…alien thing for how long and you’ve never told anyone at the ISO about it?  How can you possibly have done that and not be a traitor!?!”

Vohnyer coolly preceded toward the matching set of doors at the other end of the hallway.  “At the time I first found Cyndy, almost no one really knew of the danger that Galactor presented.  Although I learned, once I got the necessary clearance just a half-dozen years before the wars started, that the concept of the Science Ninjas had already been given permission to precede, not many outside the ISO took Galactor seriously.  Plus, too many departments at the ISO were sloppy about protecting intel in those early years.  And the few ISO reps I did talk to refused to take me seriously. My parents had both been major flying saucer/UFO…er, enthusiasts, and apparently they dismissed my tale as more of the same.

“Before you ask,” he raised his hand, “I never got the chance to talk to Dr. Nambu about it at that time, or later.  The only time I met him when I could talk to him one-on-one was at the annual ISO get-together at Christmas, and that’s scarcely the time to be talking about little alien spaceships packed with a lot of data.

“Besides,” Vohnyer shrugged, “the knowledge crammed in that little computer brain has gone a long way towards restoring the fortune that my parents frittered away on chasing shadows and playing games all around the world.  I always made sure to give the ISO first bidding rights and a discount, especially on the really unusual stuff.  To be honest, though, there’s nothing in that particular pile of…whatever she’s made of…that equals the tech of your bird styles.” He swiped his card through the slot on the door.

“Hello, Vohnyer,” said a gentle voice.  “How’re you doing today?  Are these the visitors you said you’d bring?”

End Notes:
Vahnyer is simply exercising salvage rights.  Although some may not see his use of "Cyndy's" data as all that ethical.
Again!?! by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:

The team's received a briefing, which is summed up in their comments at the beginning of the chapter. Emiko and Ken get into it for the first time, and Vohnyer tell them the truth about their new headquarters.

“Sooo let me get this straight, Cyndy,” said Joe. “You were copied from a master –or mistress-  computer?”

“And it was easier to do a straight dump,” continued Jun, “and the…memory crystals involved have an absolutely enormous storage space, so it was practical…”

“And the guys who made you are fighting a major war? In between stars and stuff?” added Jinpei.

“And there’s a chance it may come here?” groaned Ryu.

“And that’s why Vohnyer doesn’t want  Gatchaman disbanded!” finished Ken.

“Precisely.” Vohnyer refilled his pipe.

“Why didn’t you just tell the UN!?!” snapped Ken.

Emiko snorted. “You really think they’re in any mood to listen? The Galactor are squished, and –do you have any other proof than Cyndy, Vohnyer?”

“Not much. There’s some hints that an advance scout for the Segitu –the ‘bad guys’- is  on Earth, but my people haven’t been able to nail down who, where, or even if.”

“So to convince those stuff-shirted jerks would mean revealing your hole card. Not a good thing. And not necessary when you’ve got the cash to do the job yourself.” Emiko shrugged. “I see where you’re coming from.”

“Well, I don’t !” snapped  Ken. “A threat to the world-”

Emiko: “Possible threat-“

“You can’t  keep this from the UN and ISO!”

“He can and he has,” snarled Emiko. “And you’re not thinking. Those bureaucrats won’t want to listen. Everything’s fine right now, and that’s all they want to see.”

“You don’t understand the big picture-“

“I understand selfishness!”

Three of the ninjas were watching open-mouthed. Joe, fighting down his laughter, stepped between the cousins. “That’s enough!” he bellowed.

They both glared at him.

“We’re not ISO or UN employees now, Ken. We work for Vohnyer.  Unless we find a really good reason, we should follow his orders.” Ken’s jaw dropped. “And Emiko, not all people are self-centered –just a lot of them.”

Emiko glowered for a moment, than grinned.

“Joe has a point, Ken,” said Jun. “Besides, if you go to them about all this-“

“They’ll think the chemo’s fried your brain,” said Jinpei.

If looks could kill… Ken moved his gaze to Vohnyer. “Where are our quarters?”

Cyndy spoke up. “Third level up. Maps on screens along the halls; help you find your way anywhere. There’s also a full hospital wing; that’s where the transplant will be done.”

“Are there kitchens in our quarters?” asked Ryu.

“Yes, and there’s also a central cafeteria. But be careful if you go more than two levels down.”

Joe: “Why?”

Vohnyer grinned. “Two reasons I built here are the fairly solid geology, and the extensive cave system. Amazing what you can do with money and advanced technology. Cyndy has data on an amazing hydroponics system, just for starters. Give us another two-three years, this’ll be a completely self-sufficient miniature city, if need be.”

End Notes:

I know. If need be? Yes, it's foreshadowing -four years in advance!

Next chapter: Marie Vohnyer and Emiko's infonetwork.

Get Even by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:

Thanks to TransmuteJun for her detailed editing, and Felis for looking it over! :-)

The title comes from the saying, "Don't get mad. Get even."

Joe and Emiko were sparring.  

Defend yourself,” Joe instructed. “Your fighting style is all attack!”

“Works for me.” Emiko launched herself at him –and landed on her rear.

“Does it-?” Joe braced himself as Emiko jumped up, faster than he’d expected. This time he tossed her over his shoulder, just hard enough to knock the wind out of her. “Hold it,” he said as she scrambled up.

Emiko glared as he studied her.

“You really don’t care if you get hurt, do you?”

“I can take it.”

What!? “But you don’t have to. Not anymore. You’re not on the streets.”

“He’s right.” Jun, with Jinpei, came over from where’d they’d been practicing. “And defending yourself can make you a better offensive fighter. Ask Condor.”

Joe glared at her, not liking the reference to his KNT fighting style.

“You don’t take so many injuries,” Jun continued, “so you can keep up your offensive longer and more effectively.”

What are you guys talking about?!” snapped Ken. He stomped over, his exercises with Ryu forgotten. “It’s not like she’s ever going into battle.”

“The principles still apply,” snapped Joe.

Ken growled, than glared at Emiko. “You shouldn’t even be down here. They only took the bone marrow yesterday!”

“I’ve been cleared. They checked me out after the harvest when they put my necklace back on,, yesterday evening, and this morning.”

“It’s not like Joe’s being really hard on her, anyway,” said Jinpei.

“Ken,” Jun said gently,  “I know the transplant procedure starts tonight. These doctors have done this procedure many times. Everything will be fine.” She didn’t mention that Ken’s disease was a far cry from standard leukemia; she wanted to encourage him.

“Besides, we’ve got your backup right here!” snickered Jinpei.

Ken jumped as if stung. “What?” His tone was dangerous.

A deathly silence fell.

“Sorry,” Jinpei whispered. “Bad joke.”

Ken boiled internally, the stresses of the past few months coming to a head. “She,” he said empathically, “is not a member of our team. She will not ever be a member of our team.” He turned to Emiko. “You,” his words ice, “are a terrible fighter. You do not have what it takes to be a Science Ninja. And you never will.”

Jun looked shocked, Jinpei stunned, and Ryu worried. Joe felt the anger rising in his throat. From the narrow-eyed look Emiko was giving Ken, he surmised she was furious, as well.

Ken walked over and picked up his water bottle. How dare they imply I can’t do my job! I’m stronger than my mother. “I have to report to the transfusion center soon. I probably won’t see you again before then.” He walked out, leaving the others motionless behind him.

Jun’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. She hadn’t seen Ken this distant since he had been trying to hide his Hypershoot illness from the rest of the Team. What was he trying to hide now?

Joe struggled to find something to say. But Emiko beat him to it.

“Will you teach me about defense moves?”

 

  

“Eagle under glass,” snickered Jinpei,. “Call the restaurant.”

“Now, Jinpei,” said Jun. “That’s not nice.”

Ryu looked worriedly through the glass into the sterile hospital room. “So right now, he has no defense against germs?”

“Not much,” said Jun. “He’s receiving heavy radiation to destroy his defective bone marrow. Once that’s done, they’ll inject Emiko’s. And then all we can do is pray. For months.”

Joe growled. “He’d better survive. He owes Emiko one h--- of an apology.”

“She’s not a puppy, Joe” said Ryu, very quietly.

“Where is she?” Jinpei asked. “We were supposed to play Call of Duty this morning, but she never showed.”

“She’s down in Records,” said Joe. “The ISO records finally finished arriving. Emiko wanted to see them, and apparently Vohnyer had no trouble giving her clearance.” He shook his head in disgust. “The ISO have handed everything and anything ever connected to the Science Ninja Team over to Vohnyer. They really don’t want to be reminded of us or Galactor.”

“But –why would Emiko want to see old files?” asked Ryu.

Joe frowned.

“Let’s go ask her.” Jun strode out of the room.

 

  

“Emiko?” said Vohnyer. He looked down from the catwalk into the area where some of the ISO’s old computers were being hooked up. “She’s in one of the rooms-“ he gestured “-where the paper records are stored.” He snorted. “They sent those over first, so they’re actually organized. Anyway, there’s a table, desks, and chairs in there so that the files can be looked at without moving them around too much. She’s been in there all morning.”

Joe strode over to the door and swiped his keycard.

Emiko was leaning over a table. She had the contents of an accordion file spread across the surface. Another waited for her attention.

Jun gasped. “Why –that’s the Centipede mecha file!”

“Why are you interested in something that old?” asked Jinpei. “It’s not even important now.”

Emiko didn’t even flinch. “I’m reading up on the history of the Science Ninja Team. The original reports are very interesting; they tell what things were like without a history book gloss.” She looked up. “How come I can’t access the files on the second and third Galactor wars?”

Vohnyer looked startled. Ignoring the last question he asked, “Why are you interested in these back files? I presume that if you were simply interested in history, you’d be content with the available accounts.”

“I want to see what it takes to make a Science Ninja.”

  

 

After being filled in regarding Ken’s comments the day before, Vohnyer looked concerned.

“I can see where you’d like to prove him wrong, but you’re under his guardianship until you’re eighteen. You can’t-“

Actually-” grinned Joe.

“What?”

“Well, the treatments for his leukemia are going to keep him out of the loop for awhile, right?”

“Months, at least. If it takes and if nothing else kills him.”

“Right. Ken knew he wouldn’t be able to take care of Emiko properly.”

“I am not a baby!” Emiko said hotly.

 “I know that,” Joe grinned. “But you’d better behave anyway, because I’m your boss until Ken recovers. Or you’re eighteen.”

Emiko stared at him, then threw back her head and crowed with laughter.

“But, Joe.” Jun’s worry was evident. “Ken will be furious.”

“Have I ever cared about making him mad? Especially when I could prove him wrong at the same time?” Joe’s grin was gone, the glare of the Condor revealed. “Just because Emiko isn’t on the team doesn’t mean she can’t show Ken he’s wrong. And I’m right behind her on that!”

Vohnyer smiled slowly. “Well, it’s not like I can stop you. But officially, she’s not training for the KNT. And I’d be careful about how and when you tell Ken.” He checked his watch and sighed. “I don’t suppose you’re willing to put that project on pause for a bit, though? My son and granddaughter are coming to lunch, and I’d like you to meet them.” He thought, Those self-indulgent children need to see those who truly sacrificed, whether or not they know who they are. And excluding Emiko isn’t worth the excuses.

Here?” gasped Jun.

“Upstairs. In the mansion that’s the only obvious part of this base.” He grimaced. “I do have to warn you, though, her father spoils her outrageously. And she acts accordingly.”

  

 

Alan Vohnyer was a blah-everyman-looking kind of guy. However, Marie Vohnyer was a lovely young lady, a dark brunette with deep blue eyes. But her beauty stopped at skin level.

“Grannnnndaaad, you didn’t tell me that there’d be other…people.”

“Here, Marie, sit at my right, and Alan, you can sit at hers. Joe, please sit at my left and the rest of you can arrange yourself as you wish.”

Jun took charge, concerned that Jinpei not sit across from Marie or Alan or next to Emiko. (The spinach incident was still very much in her mind.) The order ran: Joe, Emiko, Jun, and Jinpei, with Ryu occupying the end opposite Vohnyer.

“So,” Emiko asked Marie as the salads were served, “when did you turn eighteen?”

“Eight- I’m sixteen!” She smiled shyly. “You really think I look…adult?”

Emiko nodded. “Oh, yes. You’ve got that look, of one who’s seen life and found nothing too much for them.”

“It must be natural to me, then. Maybe it’s because my mother died when I was born.”

“My mother didn’t die till I was ten. Your childhood must have been very difficult; such grief can be difficult for one so young.”

“It must have been marvelous having your mother with you.”

“It made my life interesting.”

Joe couldn’t believe his ears. He knew very well that Emiko’s viciously abusive mother had made her life far more than ‘interesting’.

“But you do have your father,” Emiko went on. “What is that like?”

“What do you mean?” asked Marie.

“My father left my mother before I was born. I never knew him.”

“Oh, you poor thing!” Tears welled in Marie’s eyes. “How cruel some people can be! He must have been one of those creatures who are more concerned with…sleeping around than supporting a family. Your poor mother!”

Jinpei choked. Jun elbowed him.

“Sorry,” Jinpei wheezed. “I shouldn’t have swallowed that bite so fast.” He was trying desperately not to laugh –or gag. He knew Emiko’s mother had been a prostitute.

Alan Vohnyer kept quiet through the meal, and most conversation was patchy. But Marie and Emiko talked and talked. Emiko complimented, empathized, and sympathized, and Marie fed on it like it was candy. But Joe, Jun, and Alex Vohnyer noticed something.

Emiko gave up very little truthful information. While what she said were not outright lies, it suffered heavily from editing and padding. But while what Marie said was essentially useless, it was also voluminous. With surprisingly little effort, Emiko got Marie’s knowledge (loosely such), beliefs, and opinions on just about any subject that came up.

At the end of the meal, Alex Vohnyer shook his son’s hand, hugged his granddaughter, and accompanied them out of the building. After a few minutes, he returned and stared at Emiko.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Practice.”

“Practice.”

“Yup.”

“Where’d you learn that?”

“On the streets.”

“Come again?”

“Prime elements of a good con,” explained Emiko. “Empathize, sympathize, complement, and make them think they’re tons smarter than you. Getting them to feel sorry for you isn’t always needed, but a bonus if you do. Didn’t always use it on the streets, and I haven’t done it for awhile –haven’t really wanted to- but I did want to see if I still had it. Apparently I do, although I wouldn’t consider a spoiled snob –no offense-“

“None taken.”

“-a spoiled snob with a superiority complex a difficult target. She probably thinks we’ll be best friends forever after this.” Emiko snorted. “The twit.”

The ninjas were giving Emiko some very suspicious looks.

“Well…” Vohnyer refilled his pipe. “She does need a long overdue spanking, and her father certainly won’t do it. But I do need to ask you to not pull any shenanigans.”

“I’ll leave her alone.” For now. She smiled pleasantly.

Looks about as innocent as a fox in a henhouse, thought Vohnyer.

“She’ll behave,” said Joe, his words backed by a menacing glare. “Right?”

Emiko grimaced. “Yes, Joe.”

 

  

Vohnyer looked up at the knock on his office door.

“Come in.”

Emiko slipped in. “Where’s your secretary?”

“Dian? There’s nothing to do around here right now. Seemed like a good excuse for a paid day off.” He leaned back and reached for his pipe. “But what are you doing here?’

Emiko closed the door and strode to the desk. “I want to help. I’m still in contact with the grapevine of the streets.”

Vohnyer quirked an eyebrow. “And?”

“The Segitu agent that might be on Earth. Tapping in the vine might find out what’s up with that. But I have to do it. Send an ‘official’ agent in there and you might as well be talking to concrete.”

“And you don’t want anyone else to know about this.”

“Jun would go into ‘protective’ mode and Joe’d completely spaz.”

Vohnyer tapped his pipe against his mouth thoughtfully. “Tomorrow we –except for Ken- are going back to Utoland for a week.”

“A week.”

“And then back here.” His eyes narrowed. “What if you get in trouble?”

“Plan A: avoid trouble. Plan B: get my tail out of it ASAP and get back to base.”

“Black op.”

“Pardon?”

“I don’t know what you’re up to until you get back. You land in trouble, you take the flak.” Vohnyer took a puff at his pipe, then began tapping at his computer. Leaning back, he continued, “Your keycard will allow you access to any tools or weapons you think you’ll need. Officially, that permission goes back to when you and the others first received them.

“You’ll have the week in Utoland. That’s it. Any questions?”

Emiko shook her head. “What about you?”

“Why?”

“I want to.”

Vohnyer leaned forward. “You want to? Because it’s right?”

Emiko shook her head. “No. You’re a good guy. Finding information on this Segitu will help you. Good guys should be helped.”

Vohnyer leaned back. “I thought so. You have, at best, minimal concept of right and wrong. Your actions or lack thereof depend on your interests and what you need or want.” And not getting booted out of here would rank high on your interest list.

Emiko cocked her head. “True. Partially.” At his gesture, she continued: “What I do also depends on those I trust. I will be loyal to them, but not blindly. Breaking my trust is the worst thing anyone can do to me.

“My grandmother tried to teach me right and wrong, but I don’t understand it. I understand what I know. What I experience. Abstractions of right and wrong, good and evil…I don’t get it.”

Vohnyer looked for a long moment at this young woman who had been denied one of the most basic of choices. Finally he said, “I hope we can help you learn to understand.”

Emiko looked startled, than shrugged and left.

Vohnyer sat there for a long time, thinking about the potential and menace that lurked in this child.

End Notes:
Emiko has a photographic memory, so she only needs to read those files once.
Working on it by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures is a real book, authored by John & Caitlin Matthews and published by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. in 2005. Trust me, it’s not the kind of book you want Katze to get ahold of. On the other hand, if you have it, you’ll never have trouble thinking up another mech for fanfic.

Thanks to TransmuteJun for her help and to The Home of the White Shadow site for when I needed to check things quick! http://www.chronicsite.com/gatchaman/

Oh, and the KNT and Kamo belong to their owners, and the Encyclopedia belongs to its owners.

Tuesday afternoon 

Vohnyer was going through some computer files when his intercom beeped.

This wasn’t his normal secretary/executive intercom, but a visual and audio system that extended through the entire base, independent of the phone system and allowing him private contact with the different departments. He tapped the answer key.

“Sir, Weapons here. Emiko has been accommodated per your request.”

“Good. And my special request?”

“While allowing her enough freedom of choice so she would not become suspicious, we did manage to convince her to accept some of the items you desired her to have, without revealing your request.”

“And?”

“Your choices contain the requested trackers, tracers, and transmitters that you required. We have forwarded the specs and set frequencies to Monitoring.”

“Good.” Another light lit up on the panel. “Thank you. Note what she preferred and prepare possible replacement items accordingly.”

“Thank you, sir. We will do that.” The voice clicked off. Vohnyer pressed the next key.

“Communications. Emiko’s been here. Most of the gear she requested had already been bugged, so that wasn’t a problem. We took notes on what she liked.”

“Good work. Thanks.”

“Bye.” Click.

Vohnyer smirked. There was no way he was just going to take Emiko’s word that she’d behave; she was far too sneaky for that. This way he could keep track of her, and possibly find out something useful, no matter where her actual loyalties lay.

  

The base personnel made sure their doors were closed tight; some of the more nervous locked them as well. Word was out that a cranky Condor was in the building.

Joe was not just cranky. What was Vohnyer thinking? Giving clearance to see classified files to a kid who was running around on the streets three months ago? Did he realized the danger he was putting everyone in? Galactor wouldn’t care that this KNT information was old; just that she had it…And then we’d have to rescue… He pounded on Vohnyer’s office door.

“Come in.”

Joe slammed the door behind himself. “What’s the deal with giving Emiko clearance at the drop of a hat?”

Vohnyer quirked an eyebrow and proceeded to fill his pipe. “I asked Ken about what clearance she should have. He said he didn’t really care.” He paused to take a carven lighter out. “Would you like change those parameters?”

“If she asks for clearance for anything again, I want to hear about it. Before you approve it!”

“So…from this point on, I need to get your approval for any clearance she applies for?” Mentally he smirked. From this point on, indeed.

Joe glared. “Exactly. And anything else she might come up with.”

“Very well.” Vohnyer puffed his pipe. “What do you think of the alloy used in my office doors?”

“What!?”

“You hit them with a fair amount of strength, but they’re not damaged at all. One of the things the Cyndy AI gave us. Not bad, eh?”

Joe gave Vohnyer the glare normally reserved for Galactor captains. He gave in way too easily. And then changed the subject.

Vohnyer pulled out an envelope and slid it across the desk. “This is from Kamo. The ISO and UN want to do one more interview with the KNT before…”

“Before entirely closing us out?”

Vohnyer smiled grimly. “Something like that. It’ll be one of those good-wishes, no-bad-feelings, everything’s okay type of performances. They also made my getting the last of the KNT records conditional on you and your friends doing it.”

Joe glowered. “Have you replied yet?”

“I told Kamo that there’s no way the Eagle can show. He called me back later and said that’d be acceptable as long as the rest of you appeared; he’s waiting to be called back. Between that and some business I have, we’ll be in Utoland a week or so.”

The Condor looked over the letter. “I have to ask the others.”

“Very well.”

 -----------------

Vohnyer’s ‘special’ intercom beeped at him.

“Vohnyer.”

“The KNT and Emiko have gathered in the Condor’s living quarters instead of their common area. Would you like me to activate surveillance in that area?”

“No need. I know what they’re discussing.” And I can guess the outcome anyway.   

Jinpei glared at Kamo’s letter. “Do we have to do this?”

Jun sighed. “There are a lot of people who are furious with the ISO and UN for just –shutting us down like that. This media appearance might be necessary to keep things peaceful.”

“Even if it’s a lie?” snapped Jinpei.

“Jun. Did you check on whether the ISO is withholding records?” asked Joe.

“Yes. And yes, they are. Including some about your cybernetics. It’s going to be harder for Vohnyer’s specialists to help you without them.”

“Oh, that’s low,” growled Ryu.

“What about you?” Jun turned to the corner where Emiko leaned against the wall.

“I’m not the one appearing on camera. Besides Kamo and a few others, no one knows specifically who I am or how I’m connected to the KNT. And I’m happy to keep it that way.” She shrugged. “I’d like to go to Utoland, though. It’s kinda boring here.” At Joe’s glare, Emiko added, “And I’ll try to keep out of trouble. That shouldn’t be too hard as long as I stay well away from my old haunts.”

Jinpei grinned. “Cool! I can show you some of the neat stuff I bet you never got to see!”

“If we have time,” Jun admonished him.

“Hey, Emiko, don’t you at least want to look at this letter?” Ryu asked. He grinned. “I mean, don’t you want to know what you’re missing?”

Emiko rolled her eyes. She leaned over Jun to check out the letter. “Looks like a bunch of officialese.” There was a soft round of laughter at that. “What’s wrong, Jun?”

“Wrong?!”

Emiko straightened. “You’re upset about something. Don’t deny it. I can tell you’re hurting. What’s wrong?”

Jun’s eyes looked suspiciously bright. “I’m fine, really.”

“Onechan?” Jinpei came over and sat next to his sister. “Are you okay?”

Joe and Ryu looked at Jun worriedly. She was definitely upset about something.

“I-I-“ Jun swallowed. “I went to see Ken today.”

“As in go into his isolation ward, with all the universal precaution stuff?” asked Jinpei, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.

“Yes, with the gown and mask and…” Jun took a deep breath. “I wanted to tell him…to let him know…to…finally say I love him, to him.”

Joe and Emiko exchanged a glance. Uh-oh.

“And?” Ryu asked gently.

“He yelled at me! He said he didn’t need me or want me and that I should get my own life and –I didn’t hear all of it. I  just had to get out of there!” She was crying in earnest now.

Jinpei did his best to comfort her while Ryu made soothing noises and patted her hand. Joe and Emiko made appropriate noises and left; neither could stay when they felt so guilty.

Ken had confided in Emiko a short time before how he really felt about Jun, and she had let Joe know. Both knew Jun was desperately in love with the Eagle. But in the upheaval and reassignment of the KNT, both had forgotten about the matter.

And Jun was paying the price. Although her pain was ultimately Ken’s fault, both Joe and Emiko felt they could have –should have- done more. What exactly, they didn’t know, but something.

  

Wednesday, Utoland City, Vohnyer’s Penthouse

 

Kamo joyfully shook Joe’s hand and pounded Ryu on the back. “Good to see you again! I miss having you guys around.”

Jun hugged him. “Us too! Although I’ll bet you don’t miss Jinpei’s pranks.”

“True. Although the spinach incident was really something.”

“Emiko helped me on that!”

“Hey!” yelped the other guilty party. “You said you wouldn’t tell!” Emiko glowered at the Swallow.

“It’s not like we didn’t guess,” Ryu pointed out. “Good as Jinpei is, he couldn’t have pulled off the bucket and the salad dressing by himself.”

Emiko’s reply was lost in the general laughter.

“Kamo, do they have any interviews today?” Vohnyer asked.

“No, but starting tomorrow…” Kamo shook his head. “It’s going to be late nights and early mornings for the next four or five days.”

There was a general groan from the team.

Emily grinned to herself. This is great! They’ll be too busy to worry about what I’m up to! Jinpei dashed over and grabbed her arm.

“Well, we’d better make the most of today! I’m gonna show you what being a kid’s all about!”

Just a minute,” said Vohnyer. He motioned to a keypad/cardscanner by the door. “I get charged $5,000 per false alarm after the first two, so I’d better show all of you how the alarm system works. Then you can go in and out as you wish. You’ve all got your bankcards for your expense accounts?”

  

Emiko dropped in bed, exhausted. The day had been a whirlwind of arcades, a movie, Ryu’s old marina (where the Owl had taken them all out on a boat), the old racetrack, and the amusement park. Lunch had been at the docks and dinner at a restaurant called the “Snack J.” Apparently Jun owned and had even used to run the place herself, but had leased it out when the attacks of the last Galactor war had become too much.

It’d been great, though, especially that trip to the bookstore. Reading had always been a matter of necessity before; only recently had she learned it could be fun. And now she had four books of her own.

Emiko reached into the bag and grabbed. The book she pulled out was The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures. It was thick, but also had a cool picture of a dragon on the cover. She settled down to read.

  

Thursday, 2300 hours

The KNT entered the apartment, exhausted. Jun, Ryu, and Jinpei went straight to bed, but Joe paused to knock at Emiko’s door.

“WHAT?” She flung the door open, holding her long bathrobe tightly around her.

“Just making sure you’re here and okay,” Joe said.

“Oh.” She yawned. “Catch you in the morning, okay?”

“Okay. Goodnight.”

Emiko closed and locked her door. Then she yanked the bathrobe off, followed by her dirty street clothes. At least she’d had time to pull off her boots before Joe had knocked; those would have given her away. I need to time this better. And maybe use that voice-activated thing Vohnyer’s geek suggested… Yawning, she headed for the shower.

  

Friday, 1900 hours

“…and the Kagaku Ninja Tai are entering the United Nations building, where dignitaries from around the world are gathered to celebrate their accomplishments. Alexander Vohnyer and Saburo Kamo…”

Emiko shook her head as she overheard the car radio. And none of the team know what I’m up to…she thought as she turned down a well-remembered alleyway. Tossing and catching her throwing knife, she reflected, I hope I can get this finished tonight…This place isn’t nearly as appealing as I used… She paused for a moment, then threw the knife. A loud squeee announced that it had hit its target. I hate rats. Retrieving her blade, she moved on.

After a few more twists and turns, she saw her goal: An old wooden door, all but hidden in the side of an old warehouse. It didn’t look like much, but she was one of the few who knew that it housed not only an illegal bar, but was also the center for many other illicit undertakings.

Emiko sheathed her knife, straightened her gloves, and knocked.

A small panel slid open. “Who’s there?”

“Black Ivory.”

A pudgy eye narrowed suspiciously. “How’s I know it’s you?”

“’Cause I’ll break down the door and geld you if I’m not inside in ten seconds.”

The panel slid shut, and the door swung open. The grossly obese man behind it waved her past. “Come on in! It’s been a while! Where’ve you been?”

Emiko turned and gave him a stare like ice. The man’s jowls trembled.

“That’s none of your business, Snake. Where the boss?”

“Same place as always. He’s been looking for you.”

“Good thing I want to talk to him, then.”

  

The tiny transmitter in Vohnyer’s ear beeped. He glanced around the ballroom and stepped behind a large modern sculpture.

“Go.”

“Subject has apparently made a contact. Following recording procedure.”

“Good. Out.”

  

“Hey, Moray. Snake says you’ve been looking for me.“

“Of course. Please, sit down.”

“Very well.”

“I know you’ve had it hard since your precious Trev died.” The smile on his chubby face was fake level-1 benign. “I was thinking of offering you a place in my…“ He trailed off at the cold smirk on her face.

“Trev died over a year ago, and you’re just making this offer.” Emiko shook her head. “I’m a freelancer, and happy to stay that way. I’m certainly doing well enough for myself.” Too bad I can’t tell this scumbag how well.

“Well, yes, but I thought…” He ran his hand nervously over his balding pate.

“Thinking requires brains.” She flicked the throwing knife out of its hidden sheath, tossing it up and down. “And it also takes brains to trick someone. Now, obviously I’ve got something you want. So why don’t you just quit shoveling the s--- and spill?”

“Well, I don’t-“

“Remember what I did to Rhino when he tried to attack Trev?”

Moray’s bottle tan went white.

“I see you do.” She sheathed the knife. “I’m listening.”

Moray swallowed. “Okay. Look, I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but someone’s recruiting. Big time. Whoever they are, they’re keeping it very low-key. But anyone who can provide them manpower gets a cash bonus. And anyone who can provide them skilled workers gets an even bigger one.” He paused and took a drink from the tumbler on the desk. “And everyone who knows you knows that the security system doesn’t exist that Black Ivory can’t get past.”

“That’s something of an exaggeration.”

“Not much of one. Anyway, I’m a little short these days, and I could really used the dough.”

Emiko shook her head. You’ve been short as long as I’ve known you. It’s just catching up with you. “I’m not signing up for your benefit.”

Moray gasped. “Please…”

“I want to talk to this contact of yours, maybe sign up on my own behalf. Could you arrange for us to meet?”

Moray gulped. “Well…”

This should make it worth your while.” She slid the wallet onto his desk. “There’s a thousand there, if you want to count it. Keep the wallet as a present.”

He smelled it. “Real leather. Gucci?”

“The best.”

“You must be working some deal.”

“Was.”

“Right.” Moray rubbed his nose. “I’ll be talking to the guy day after tomorrow, bout seven. Can you be here?”

“Certainly.” Emiko grinned, but there was only ice behind it. “And you won’t double cross me.”

 “Of course I won’t.”

“Because you remember what happened to Shiv. Did the cops ever find all the pieces?”

Moray turned green. “I-I d-don’t… th-think so.”

“Just remember that I have a long memory.” Emiko rose and sheathed the knife. “See you.” She strode out.

Moray, trembling, picked up the wallet. Twenty fifties made a thousand, just like Black Ivory had said. She did play fair, when you didn’t tick her off.

Double cross her? I’m not that crazy!

  

Friday, Vohnyer’s penthouse, 2300 hours

 

Tonight Emiko’s door stood slightly ajar. Joe knocked gently on it.

“Come in.” Emiko was sitting at the desk, in pajamas, reading her Element Encyclopedia.

“You should be asleep.” Joe glared at her.

She glanced at the clock. “You’re right! I guess I got lost in my book.” She stood and stretched.

“And your clothes do not belong on the floor.” Joe scooped them up and dumped them in the laundry bin. Emiko made a face at him. At his glare, she grumbled, “All right.”

Joe paused for a moment. Had her clothes smelled, just a little, of alcohol? “Did you get in Vohnyer’s wines?”

Emiko made a face. “Nope. Can’t drink it. Alcohol makes me throw up.”

Probably just remembering from the party tonight. “Good night.”

“Night.” The one time I get sloppy…
Infomining by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:

Emiko and Jun take care of Vohnyer's spy gear.

Emiko sits in on a Galactor recruiting session and gets a heck of a shock.

Saturday, 1000 hours, Jun’s bedroom

 

“Knock, knock, Jun. Where are the guys?”

“Out and about. Starting with the race track, I think.” Jun smiled at Emiko. “Come on in.”

Emiko came over to the small desk and leaned against the wall.

“Passable imitation of Joe, there,” Jun laughed.

Emiko glared, then noticed the exercise bag on the floor next her chair. “What with the electronics?”

Jun glared at the bag. “I found these –cameras and microphones- in my room the night we got here. Things have been so crazy, I haven’t had a chance to discuss them with Vohnyer. He’s lucky they weren’t active when I found them!” She noticed Emiko’s face. “What-?”

“Just. a. minute.” Emiko dodged out, returning in a moment with a plastic bag containing similar components to those Jun had found. “Found these in my room. Same night. They weren’t active either.”

“Why of all the-! You found them!?”

“I always check for bugs. Force of habit. Did you find any in your room back-“

“-at the base?  Yes, but I was worried about Ken-“

“-slipped your mind.” Emiko shook her head. “Thought I was being watched because of the whole street rat business-“

“You’re not a street rat. Remember that.” Jun glared at her. “Now why would-“

“I get the feeling Vohnyer doesn’t trust anyone. He doesn’t strike me as the type to get his kicks out of a Peeping Tom gig. Take it from one who knows.”

Jun pursed her lips. “Well, there’s one thing we can do. Want to help me check the boys’ rooms?”

  

Saturday, 1108, Jun’s bedroom

 

“Everyone was bugged!” Jun was three ways from furious. “That certainly fits the ‘lack of trust’ theory!”

“Joe’s going to break something,” said Emiko. “Probably Vohnyer’s head.”

Jun looked worried. “Yes he will. And then what?”

“If Vohnyer’s dead, Joe gets a murder rap, otherwise an assault charge. Alan Vohnyer might be running the show for awhile, and he’s got heart trouble. Plus it’s pretty obvious that the number of people knowing about Cyndy and all probably number…” She caught the look on Jun’s face. “What?”

“That was a rhetorical question. But I do have an idea.”

“And?”

“We pick one of these, one camera or microphone, put it on his desk on his office, and hide the rest for evidence in case he tries this again.”

“So he doesn’t know who knows what. Nice. Suggestion?”

“What?”

“One camera, one microphone, from different rooms. That way Vohnyer gets the entire housecleaning message.”

Jun grinned. “Nice. And we clean out all our living quarters as soon as we get back to base.” She frowned. “One thing? How do you know Alan Vohnyer has heart trouble?”

“Internet. He was in the hospital yesterday for severe arrhythmia.”

  

Saturday, 1300 hours, Vohnyer’s office

 

Vohnyer entered his office, smoking his pipe and thinking about the reception to be held for the KNT at the Hilton that night and his son’s close call. Lost in thought, he had already pulled his chair out when he saw them.

One each of the hidden microphones and cameras lay on his desk. On his computer he’d left Notepad open. There was an addition.

            Don’t do this again. EVER.

Another window was open his office security program. A lot of data was missing for the day.

Vohnyer sat down hard. It was a long while before he could move.

  Saturday, 2000 hours 

Emiko strode along the street, headed to another site where she hoped to pick up information. Moray may have been easy to handle, but she trusted him about as much as a raven trusts a raccoon. She wanted another source of information, and she thought she knew where to find it.

If these ‘recruiters’ are looking for manpower, why not among the transients? The wars displaced a lot of people. They wander here and there, looking for work, and the hostels and flophouses where the transients gather would be perfect for someone looking for groups of workers. Especially since they wouldn’t have to pay that head-hunting fee. But first… At the apparently derelict apartment building, she went down the stairs to the sunken patio and rang the bell.

A hidden speaker snapped, “Who is it?”

“Black Ivory. Need your help.”

“Black Ivory!?” A panel beside the door slid back. “Really?! Put your hand in the usual place…”

Emiko pulled off her left glove and put her hand on the scanner. A red light on it blinked twice and turned green.

“Uh huh…come in.” The door opened into a short hallway. Replacing her glove, Emiko waited until the light above the farther door turned green, then went through into a room absolutely cluttered with electronics and weapons of every imaginable type.

“Only person to use their left hand on that, you know?” came the light tenor from her left.

Emiko frowned.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got the scramblers up; nothing going out but static. Someone certainly loaded you down with enough bugs to scramble a mech’s circuits!” The slender twenty-ish man beamed at her.

“Yeah. I’m trying to play nice with the guy, Max. Me and a friend already put a scare in him today, but I need something so I can have some privacy at times. And I need to know exactly what I’m packing. This guy’s too sneaky to settle for a tracer and radio in a cell phone.”

His brown eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he picked a scanner and walked over. Grinning down at her, he said, “Now spread all the gear you even think is suspicious, and everything you don’t, out on the table.”

Emiko made a face but did as instructed.

“Shouldn’t you be wearing glasses and a lab coat?” she asked after a moment.

“Shouldn’t you be wearing a suit and sunglasses instead of leather and denim? Oh, and that cotton shirt.”

“Ha ha.”

He slowly passed the scanner over the items. As he finished, he looked at her. “How do you pack so much hardware?”

“Practice.”

He shrugged. “Well, this throwing knife and this cell phone are clean, as are those shuriken and the knife you pulled out of your boot. And of course, your old higonokami that Trev gave you. Did I tell you that he ordered that special?”“About a million times.”“The rest of it though…I’d say the guy who supplied you is either a control freak or really suspicious.”“I can ‘lose’ the other two large knives. What have you got for the other cell phone and the smaller blades?”“Bad idea. One large knife has a tracker and the other’s got a voice transmitter. But I can rig them up the same as the cell phone and small blades, so they only tell what you want them to. I can even include a remote control so you can really mess with whoever’s listening.”“I need a recording of ‘bar ambiance’ included in that.”“With or without a fight?”   Saturday, 2135 hours That took longer than I expected, thought Emiko, but it’s worth it. Cheaper than I anticipated. Vohnyer’s probably going nuts that I’m pulling cash out instead of using the card. Serves him right. I’m sure Max copied the info off that card when I wasn’t looking. He’ll use it once, as usual, through enough levels to confound…just about anyone, and erase the info. Vohnyer knew I was headed into that ‘type’ of environment…There it is.The ‘boarding house’ lay on a side street. Only the carved and broken wooden pillars gave hint of the majesty once enjoyed by this rotting hulk with its peeling cream paint. It was a well-known haunt for the homeless and the wandering, a place where, for a few yen, a poor traveller could sleep out of the rain. Since some of the tenants kept odd hours, Emiko wasn’t surprised to see a light shining in the ‘office’ window. She climbed the stairs.Knock knock.

“Go ‘way,” growled an angry male voice. “ ‘e’re full.”

“Is that you, Mik? When’d you become manager?”

The door swung open. “Black Ivory? Come in!” As she entered, the pasty-faced male continued, “Old Drum, he bit it, I just kinda moved in. Nobody objected. I was helping him, before, and I know where to send the cash and everything. Nobody really seems to care. What ya doing here? Not for nothing, not for what nobody worries about.”

“Shut. Up.”

Mik shut up.

“I’ve heard someone’s recruiting. Tell me what you know.”

“They come through here, every couple of weeks. Promise good pay, room and board. Most go with them.”

“They take everyone?”

“Healthy, young, strong, yeah. Old and sick, not so much. Sometimes, the olders convince them.”

“Skills?”

“That’s usually it. These people, recruiting, want manpower, but not always just manpower. Skilled manpower.”

“Why are you still here?” Emiko looked around the dirty apartment; a roach scuttled across the floor. “You could’ve done better than this.”

“I’m not what they want. I’d just be bottom of the heap, nothing. Useless, not good. Probably get killed. Better here. Be my own master.”

“What makes you think you’d get killed?”

“Heard them talking, two, three trips ago. One complaining, bunch of olders going that time. Other one said, they’d ‘dispose’ of those who ‘didn’t pull their weight’. Not going. I’m not a fool.”

That’s a matter of opinion. “Is the only place they come?”

“No, I’ve heard they go to all the places like this, some one week, some the next. I keep contact with other landlords, I know.”

“Very well.” Vohnyer should be able to get an agent into the recruiting ring if he picks the right person for the job. Won’t be me. Emiko pulled out some yen notes and passed them to Mik. “Here. 5000 yen for answering my questions. And another 5000 for keeping your mouth shut. Open it, and I’ll be back.”

A scrabbling and squeaking came from the back of the room. A big black rat was there, sitting back on its haunches and looking right at them.

Mik never saw Black Ivory move. One moment she was just standing there, the next there was a thin hiss through the air and the rat was impaled on a thin blade of metal.

Retrieving her knife, all Emiko said before she left that dirty, dingy apartment was: “I hate rats.”

Gulping, Mik thought, That rat won’t be me!

  

Saturday, 2215 hours

 

Joe heard the shower shutting down in Emiko’s room as he paused by the door. Gently tapping the door, he called, “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she called back through the door. “I just had a bad dream. Took a shower to relax.”

“You can ask if you need anything.”

“I know. I’m going to bed. Good night.”

“Good night.”

Emiko didn’t consider what she had just said a lie as such. She did have bad dreams; full-scale nightmares, in fact. The state of exhaustion she was currently in, after having pushed so hard to get back before the KNT, would hopefully keep the dreams at bay. She collapsed in bed and pulled up the covers.

  

Sunday, 1850 hours

 

“I’m here, Moray.”

“Black Ivory, you made it how wonderful…” Emiko held up her hand.

“The meeting, Moray.”

“Ah, yes. That’s downstairs, in the ‘halfway’ bar. You remember?”

“Not as crappy as the one up here, not as fancy as the ‘executive’ one even farther down.” Emiko flicked out a wallet long enough for Moray to see it, then slipped it into hiding again. “Can we go?”

“Of course, of course. This way. I’ll take you on the elevator myself.”

  

Downstairs wasn’t as full as she’d expected. A mere couple dozen people were scattered across the tables in a room meant to hold at least ten times their number. Emiko suspected that these recruits had more skills then the transients being recruited from the flophouses. Quality making up for quantity.

Moray sat her at a table in the back, away from the others. Thanks to the current seating arrangement, this didn’t look particularly odd; neither did the fact she was sitting alone.

“I have to get the ball rolling,” he said. “But once the recruiter and his assistants have the floor, I usually come back here to sit.” He wiped his face and neck with his handkerchief. “Is this…acceptable?”

“I’ll tell you when I leave.” Emiko’s eyes narrowed.

Moray swallowed. “Very well.” He looked at his watch. “It’s almost time.”

Emiko watched him leave. It was fairly obvious that something –something other than her and her reputation- was scaring him. What could it be?

A waiter came over with a drink. “Mr. Moray has informed the staff that you do not drink alcohol. Please accept this soda and appetizer with his compliments.”

Emiko refrained from rolling her eyes. “Fine.” The waiter placed the drink on the table, bowed, and left.

She studied the snack, stuffed red peppers, then looked –without seeming to- at the other tables. Odd. Every one of those plates and baskets contains a dish guaranteed to make the eater thirsty. I know alcohol messes with judgment and decision-making, but surely they don’t want them too drunk –that could make a mess that’s not worth the effort! Very cautiously, she took a small sip of her drink. That tingle…that’s not the soda…sharp, subtly metallic, slightly floral…familiar. It took all her self-control not to jump. That’s that drug...the one Trev called Power’s Partner! Increases susceptibility and belief, decreases concern and worry about consequences… Emiko took another surreptitious look around. Yeah, it could easily be hidden in any of those drinks they’re serving. And these guys are guaranteed to drink it too, with this food on the table.

Now I forgive Trev for insisting I take the stuff until I became immune to it. Better take it easy, though…and get a sample.

Emiko’s thoughts were interrupted by Moray ascending the small stage at the other end of the room. Stopping at the podium, he cleared his throat. “Attention, please. The recruiters are ready to speak to you. They are here to help you find new lives where your skills will be valued. And…” Moray continued on for about ten minutes with one of the most boring speeches ever. He then handed the podium over to someone who was introduced as Dorlson, the head recruiter, who proceeded to launch into another speech that was, if possible, worse than Moray’s.

Not being a total dunderhead, Emiko had realized that at some point she might have to bring back samples of something or other for Vohnyer’s scientists to analyze. She had small two containers for liquids, and two for solids. While Moray and Dorlson talked and talked, she managed to secretly transfer some of the soda and small pieces of the peppers to the appropriate containers. Secreting them back in the lining her jacket, behind the pockets, she turned her attention the podium.

He’s going on and on about the wonderful opportunities they’ll have…saying the same thing three or four different ways. The only way this makes any sense is that they’re making sure that the drug is through and through their systems. Oh boy.

Dorlson proclaimed, “And in conclusion-“

Said for the fifth time.

“I would like to introduce a young woman whose life has been changed by serving the mighty force known as Galactor!”

Oh, NOW they say it! Of course, everyone’s too doped to the ears to care. And mighty force my foot!

“This young woman was a poor abused child when the first great leader of Galactor, Berg Katze, took pity on her and brought her into his home.”

Yeah, yeah, pull the other one.

“And she is here to tell you, herself, how serving Galactor has changed her life over the past six years!”

Yeah, yea…wait, six?

“Welcome, Kassandra, the Kat! Heir to Berg Katze, the greatest leader Galactor ever had!”

KAZZIE!?!

End Notes:

A Higonokami (肥後守?) is a type of folding pocketknife native to Japan. The knife has no locking system, but is a friction folder, using the friction of the swivel and/or the pressure of the user's hand on a protruding tang to prevent the knife from folding during use.

No Going Back by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:

Made-up drug/chemical alert!

Many, many thanks to Transmute Jun for her marvelous beta reading and contributions!

Sunday, 1930 hours

It was fortunate that everyone’s attention was on the stage, and Kassandra’s attention was on Dorlson as she thanked him for introducing her. Emiko had gone as white as a sheet. Fortunately, no one noticed before she was able to pull herself together. She quickly reached for the remote in her pocket, replacing the transmission with interference, as though some heavy electronics had been turned on nearby.

Moray, fortunately for him, didn’t show up until Emiko had reclaimed her composure and finished with the remote.

“You wouldn’t believe the mess in the kitchen, Iv, I mean,- ow! Okay, Ivory!- these cooks Dorlson brings in think they have the right to tromp all over my waiters and-“

“Quiet!!” Emiko hissed.

Moray quieted.

The story Kassandra told was a familiar one to Emiko, the same one of the hell she and Kazzie had lived through for ten years. But there was one huge difference; never, at any time, did Kassandra mention that she had had a sister. Not even when she reached the part of the final night they’d been together, when Galactor had killed their mother and stolen Kazzie.

That was to be expected, Emiko supposed. As far as Kazzie knew, Emiko had died that night, tied and trapped by the Galactor goons in a burning house. She would have died if Trev hadn’t saved her. Emiko remembered the severing of their ‘twin link’ that night; at the time, she’d been terrified and confused as to why it’d happened. After the little she’d read about Sosai, though…Anyway, why would Kazzie want to relive the pain of remembering someone she thought was dead?

Emiko’s attention was brought back to the present as Kassandra said, “…the name of Galactor has become one of failure. We need a new name, a fresh name, to reflect the might of the victorious rather than the shame of near-constant defeat!”

“What’s the name?” Emiko whispered.

“They only tell those who join,” Moray whispered back.

“Listen to me, see my triumph, feel my heart. For…”

Emiko lost track for a moment. For she could sense what Kassandra was doing. Kassandra was expanding her telepathic powers to the audience, entering and manipulating their minds.

And that darn drug, makes it even easier

“This is why I sit back here,” Moray whispered. “That creepy feeling she starts giving off!”

“You aren’t affected?”

“It seems to slide right over me. You too, apparently.”

Emiko had learned very young how to keep Kazzie’s mind at bay. It was bad enough being abused; it was almost worse to ‘hear’ Kazzie broadcasting her own terror and pain. Her own abilities seemed to help, somehow.

On the other hand, she didn’t think Moray had any mental shielding worth a paper bag; best guess was they were leaving him alone because they wanted him where he was. For now.

“Come, and join those who will own the world!”

Kazzie believes this crap. She really believes this crap! Oh, no…

With this and who-know-what else going on, Vohnyer’s going to have to be careful who he sends in there!

  

Sunday, 2010 hours

Belowground the ‘bar’ Moray ran had waiting rooms and offices–rather a lot of them. People waited there for their shipments, to hear a transaction was final, to make deals with others. And they liked their privacy. But sometimes Moray, or someone else, wanted a record of what the ‘clients’ were up to.

Finding where the video feed cord came through the wall, Emiko cut out a slightly larger hole behind the camera. Carefully, she looped the footage from a waiting room where a single recruit had been sitting for some time. She had studied the various candidates –and their levels of alcohol and drug-induced inebriation - as they signed up -one and all- and were herded to ‘orientation’. Hopefully, there they had been told the new name for the Galactor. And that she’d picked a good one to question.

Carefully she bypassed the lock on the waiting room door. Moray, you are such an idiot, not having cameras in the halls… Emiko didn’t expect him to show. Black Ivory had slipped him the wallet with the two grand in it possibly enough to keep him in silk handkerchiefs for a month- and Moray had retired upstairs, sweating like a pig and apparently exhausted.

Replacing the lock panel, -and pointedly keeping personal matters at bay- she carefully slipped through the door, closing it gently behind her. Everything now hinged on what she remembered about the drug whose street name was “Power’s Partner” and what the recruit had been told.

Most people didn’t realize that ‘powers’ stayed in the system for at least twelve hours, even after a small dose. It was meant to be that way; Trev had ordered his chemists to make it that way. During that time, the person was extremely suggestible and unafraid of any consequences of what they did or said. The human lab rats had said it was like being in a dream. Even when they didn’t fall asleep.

More to the point, and not so well known, the consumers of ‘powers’, unless carefully primed, would answer any questions truthfully –at least, as they knew the truth. And priming took a lot longer than the 20 minutes or so that orientation had lasted; a couple hours, at least. She walked over to the recruit and crouched down in from of them.

“Hello.”

The young man looked at her through bleary eyes. “’Lo.”

“What’s your name?” The alcohol’s hitting him pretty hard.

“Kazuhiro.”

“Are you a recruit?”

“Yes.”

“For who?”

“Galac- No. New name.”

Emiko sat back on her heels. He did know the name. Now the problem was getting it out of him without leading him. She could guess what it was, but Kazuhiro had to tell her.

“You work for Galactor now.”

“N-no. Not…not the right name. Something else…”

“What is the right name?”

“Can’t tell.”

“Why?”

“You’re not…not Galactor.”

“Yes I am.” Emiko mentally sighed. A blatant lie, yes, but he probably won’t remember it.

“You don’t…look like Galactor.”

“I’m an agent. I look for information for my superiors.”

“Oh.”

“Who do you work for?”

“Galactor. No…not right name.”

“What is the right name?”

“Can’t tell…”

“Yes you can.”

“Right. Y’r agent. Name…name of Galactor…right name….” Kazuhiro furrowed his brow, thinking hard.

“What is it?”

“Segitu.” Crap. 

Sunday, 2040 hours, Vohnyer’s penthouse

 

Joe hurried into the living room. “Jun, have you seen Emiko?”

“No. She’s not in her room, or you wouldn’t be asking…have you asked Ryu or Jinpei?”

“We came up together about ten minutes after you did.”

Jun crooked her finger against her chin thoughtfully. “In that case, let’s ask Vohnyer.”

“Vohnyer?!”

“Call it a hunch.”

  

Vohnyer read the e-mail again. It was from his son’s doctor, short and to the point. Alan Vohnyer was getting worse. Not just the arrhythmia, but the other problems as well. No amount of money could buy a treatment that didn’t exist.

Cyndy… The little AI had been of no help there. While she had a fair amount of medical knowledge in storage, most of it dealt with treating battle injuries. Apparently forty years of interstellar war had placed researching the treatment of heart problems low on the list of priorities. Cyndy also insisted that, in such cases as Alan’s, the doctors would call in some kind of specialist. Fair enough. But she consistently translated the name for these specialists as ‘magic-healers’. Magic. Like something out of Lord of the Rings. Yet Cyndy was very firm in declaring that magic did exist, that it was simply a form of energy, that it required specialists, by birth and/or training, to deal with all its myriad expressions, and that in some areas –particularly telepathy and telekinesis- it overlapped with science. Frankly, Vohnyer wondered if someone had been storing their fantasy library on Cyndy’s ‘mother’ computer.

The Condor barged into Vohnyer’s office. The doors, being wood instead of alien alloy, cracked.

The Swan, hot on Condor’s heels, spoke first. “Where’s Emiko?”

Vohnyer, tired and emotionally strained, said the first thing that came to mind, “Out. Looking for information.” The glares from Condor and Swan surprised him for a moment; then he realized what he’d said.

Condor grabbed Vohnyer by his collar and dragged him half across the desk. “Where?

“Joe!” Swan cried.

The Condor glared.

“He can talk better if you put him down.”

Joe wrestled Vohnyer around until he was sitting in one of his own visitors’ chairs. The Condor towered over Vohnyer. “Where is she?”

“Exactly? I don’t know.” Joe’s fist tightened in his collar. “Before you asked me about her clearance, she asked me if she could use her street contacts to get a lead on the Segitu.” Vohnyer knew that he’d better tell the entire truth if he didn’t want to end up a shuriken pin-cushion. “Since that was before the point you asked me, I hair-split my reasoning. Split it further in that I authorized her to have whatever she needed, weapons-wise especially, figuring that way, she’d be fine.

“According to the security system, she’s been out every night. Last night she just barely beat us back.” Vohnyer swallowed. “Some of her equipment has tracers in it. I have a hand-held that can follow the signals.”

Joe let go. His face was expressionless as he remembered…

Emiko in a bathrobe, but with traces of mud on her pant cuffs.Tossed clothing, smelling slightly of alcohol.

“I’m going to bed.” After having taken a shower. When she should have been home and asleep for hours.

Joe swore silently. The clues had been there, but he’d ignored them.

“Give me the tracer.”

Vohnyer stood –slowly-, walked over, and pulled a small black device from the middle drawer on his desk and handed it to Joe.

“Jun, while I’m gone, have a discussion with this guy about hiding things from us. Call in Ryu and Jinpei if you need to.”

“I’ll include trying to trick us, too –just in case.” She smiled at Vohnyer, but there was little pleasant about it. “After all, we don’t want him to do this again, right? Ever?

  

Sunday, 2100 hours

Emiko kept a tight hold on her emotions as she hurried through the night. After restoring the camera and lock to their original state, she had turned off the remote, enabling Vohnyer’s devices again. Since she was headed back to the penthouse, it wasn’t a big deal.

Running late…hurry hurry hurry. She came to a large area that had once been a park, but now only a torn-down jungle gym and a few flickering streetlights remained.

Cutting through the run-down park, her luck ran out.

First Emiko saw the shadows ahead move. Then more detached themselves from around and behind her. One…two…ten in all. She paused, weighing her options.

“Black Ivory, is it?” said a shape to her left. It moved into the uncertain light from a streetlamp, showing itself to be a short but powerful-looking male with a fierce scar down his left arm. “You’ve got quite the cred around here.”

Emiko remained silent, attentive to the sound of the others circling. The sounds stopped, and a quick glance around showed that they formed a loose circle around her, forming a fairly effective trap.

Not that she intended to stay in it.

Scar-arm apparently didn’t like her silence. “Hey, you listenin’ to me!?” He waved the pipe he was holding threateningly.

“What do you want?” Emiko deliberately kept her voice low. No point in aggravating these guys; she’d bet that at least half of them were strung out on something, and liable to blow at the least excuse.

Scar-arm laughed nastily. “I’m the toughest guy around but I keep hearing about a little girl that’s supposed to be tougher.”

Blast it. Another ‘gotta prove my manhood’. Emiko took another quick look around. This is a bit more than the usual problem, though. “So you want a face-off?”

Scar-arm laughed again. “I’m not that stupid. You don’t fight fair-“

And you’re Superman?

“-and you’re clever.”

“Keeps me alive.”

“These guys wanna run with my gang. They help me bring you down and give me the credit, and they get what they want.”

“News for you. People always talk. Eventually.”

“Not this time.” He tapped the pipe against his leg.

Emiko figured he’d use the pipe as some kind of signaler. And she was ready, blades in both hands, when one of the goons charged her from behind. The others charging in…were a bit harder to handle.

  

Joe stopped his car. The tracker said that Emiko should be right near here –and there was one heck of a fight going on up that hill.

  

Four down, six to go.

Emiko turned, ducked, and came up with her blades from below. Five down. But she’d taken some blows, and was tiring fast.

Suddenly, three of her remaining attackers seemed to withdraw. This allowed her to get her knife into another one –and Scar-arm to catch her across the right shoulder blade with his pipe. It was a sliding blow, but it hurt, causing her to drop that knife. Emiko twisted around as her attacker raised the pipe for another blow and jammed her other knife in his chest.

“But I…disabled you…” Scar-arm gasped as he fell.

“I’m left-handed, you creep.” Emiko spun and saw the last three attackers lying on the ground. Then she knew she was in big trouble.

“Car. Now,” said Joe.

  

Sunday, 2110 hours

 

“Off with the jacket.” Joe pulled an icepack and gauze rolls out of the car’s first aid kit.

Emiko did as she was told, throwing her coat into the front seat of the car.

“Hold still.” Using the gauze, he bound the icepack across her back where’d she’d been hit by the pipe. Once satisfied it would hold, he pointed to the front passenger seat. “In.”

Once again, Emiko complied, buckling herself in and leaning slightly forward.

Joe got in the driver’s side. “I’ll have Jun take a better look at that when we get back.” He started the car and pulled into the road.

Emiko remained silent. I’m in big trouble, and if there’s one thing I learned from my mother she thought acidly …silence is safe.

Joe was furious, but also worried about Emiko’s silence. Had she been hurt worse than she let on? Her upbringing…yeah, she wouldn’t show if she were hurt. Just like Ken never would. Just like he never would. “You’re lucky Vohnyer spilled.”

That got her attention.

“What the h--- were you thinking?!”

Reflexively, Emiko curled into herself. So scared

Joe was startled. What-? Then he realized. She’s afraid. Blast it… I forgot about what her mother did. He drove quietly for awhile, pushing his anger aside as he tried to think of ways to get her to calm down. Suddenly he thought of something.

“You’re going to stay.” The statement was rewarded by Emiko straightening up somewhat in surprise. Joe continued: “Even if you hadn’t been a match for Ken, you would have stayed. And if you did this crazy info-gathering trip because you thought we wouldn’t let you…that was stupid. You may not be a Kagaku Ninja, but you are a member of our family.”

Emiko thought about that for a bit. She straightened up further, then leaned forward again as the icepack contacted the seat. Her voice cracking slightly, she asked: “How can I be family? Ken’s the only one I’m related to, and I think he’s only… he’s only being responsible.” There was a definite bitterness in that last word.

“Jun and Jinpei aren’t blood related.”

Her jaw dropped. “But he calls her... onechan.”

“And Jinpei calls me and Ken aniki. Family’s not just about blood. It’s just as much about heart –even more, sometimes.”

Emiko looked out the window. After a long few minutes she said softly, as though thinking out loud, “I think –I think I understand.”

I hope, Joe thought. “Are you hurt anywhere other than that shoulder?”

“Took some hits.” Emiko grimaced. “Nothing too bad. But that shoulder’s going to hurt for a day or… hurt for awhile.”

“You’re still getting checked out. Now, three things: One, did you even learn anything during our training sessions? What was with all of that offensive crap? If you’d used those defensive techniques I tried to show you, you’d have come out of that one in a lot better shape.”

Emiko curled into her seat again. He was right, but blasted it if she was going to let him know that.

“Two: did you even learn anything useful during this four-day nonsense?” Joe was still not happy about being tricked.

 “Yes, actually. None of it good. Galactor is majorly recruiting and-”

“Great. Save it for when we’re all present. Then you’ll only have to say it once. Believe me, multiple debriefs are a royal pain in the-“

“And what was the other thing? You mentioned three.”

“If you ever, ever pull a stunt like this again, I will personally rake you over the coals myself! Understood?” Joe turned his head and glared at her.

“What, sneaking out, going undercover, or not fighting defensively?”

“All three.” Joe growled.

“Yes, sir,” she replied meekly. This time, though, Emiko’s exhaustion and pain had ebbed enough that she could tell his anger held a concern for her.

It wasn’t something she was used to.

End Notes:

Joe impresses me as the type to make sure an injured companion is treated, then yell at them for being stupid or reckless.

For the record, Ken impresses me as a yell-then-treat type.

Report by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:

Made-up drug/chemical alert! Made-up science words alert!

Many, many thanks to Transmute Jun for her marvelous beta reading and contributions!

Sunday, 2130 hours

Joe noticed Emiko yawning as he punched the security code on Vohnyer’s penthouse. “Just a little longer,” he grinned. “By the way, if Vohnyer gives you a hard time, you are allowed to argue with him.”

Emiko gave a small smile, followed by another yawn. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t… I am tired.

Jun ran over as they entered. “Emiko! Thank goodness! What happened?”

“She was in the middle of a fight when I found her,” Joe answered. “Could you take a look at her shoulder?”

“Of course. Vohnyer’s still up. We came to an agreement about keeping secrets. I didn’t even have to get the others up!” Jun grinned slyly. “Why don’t you go talk to him while I see to Emiko?”

“Did you come to an agreement about privacy, too?” Emiko asked just as slyly.

“Oh yes.” Jun’s grin was quite wicked.

Joe looked back and forth between them. Then, with no explanation in the offing, he gave them both a look and strode off to Vohnyer’s office. Emiko he could handle, but Emiko and Jun… he shuddered at the very thought. At least he trusted Jun’s judgment.

  

Sunday, 2200 hours, Vohnyer’s office

 

“This could have waited till tomorrow,” said Joe.

Freshly showered and bandaged, Emiko shook her head. “I just want to get this over with. That way I can just zone out tomorrow.” Shove aside the personal stuff for now…

“This’d better be worth getting me out of bed,” Jinpei groused.

“Yeah,” said Ryu.

“Galactor’s recruiting,” snapped Joe. “Big time.”

Vohnyer knocked the ash out of his pipe. Jun noted that he was wearing a different outfit from when she had talked with him earlier. “If you don’t mind, Emiko,” he said, “we’ll record this.”

Emiko shrugged. “Go ahead.”

When Vohnyer pulled out the voice recorder, Jun held out her hand. Grimacing, Vohnyer meekly handed it to her.  After examining it for a moment, Jun set it down, and turned it on. After stating date, time, location, and reason for the meeting, she signaled to Emiko to start.

After covering her first meeting with Moray and her discussion with Mik –and completely avoiding the subject of Max and his tech lab- she got to the events of that night.

“The food may or not have been drugged, but the drinks definitely were.” Emiko pulled out the four containers. “I brought two samples of each of what I was served. All the food I saw was salty, spicy, or otherwise thirst-inducing.”

Jun noticed that one of the food containers was cracked, rather badly. “Not exactly optimal conditions for tests.”

“We might be able to learn something,” said Vohnyer. “I’ll see what my scientists can get. Meanwhile, there’re some plastic boxes in that cabinet over there. And I have a small refrigerator.”

Jun quickly got the samples packed away. Then something occurred to her. “Emiko. You didn’t drink any of that, did you?”

“Little. That’s how I noticed it in the first place. Doesn’t matter, though. I’m immune to its effects.”

“What!?!” This came from all five throats.

“I worked for a guy called Trev. Drug runner. He made a ton of cash. About two years back, he hired chemists to develop a drug that would act as a combination ‘truth drug’ and hypnotic. What they came up with was a drug that increased suggestibility and belief and decreased concern and worry about consequences and the future. Unless the person who takes it is carefully primed –which takes at least two or three hours- they’ll tell the truth. At least, what they know the truth to be.”

“Say what?” asked Jinpei.

“If someone’s shown a shiny green stone, and told it’s an emerald, then that’s what they’ll call it with this stuff in them. Even if someone else was smart enough to know it was a fake. Anyway… the stuff stays in the system at least twelve hours. And once the user falls asleep, that’s it. They are out until the stuff finishes breaking down in their system. Alcohol can enhance the effects, but the drinker falls asleep sooner.”

“Which is great if you’re transporting new recruits to a secret facility,” Jinpei said thoughtfully.

“The bad part is that continued use, or too large a dose, is very toxic. There aren’t too many who can take the dosages needed for immunity.” Only one person, in fact.

“You wouldn’t have any idea of the formula for it?” Vohnyer asked.

“Actually…” Emiko tapped her head. “Photographic memory, right? Trev had me memorize the formula and process, then destroyed all the written and computer records. He didn’t want anyone else getting ahold of it. I mean, the guy named it ‘Power’s Partner’. His partner. Not that destroying everything worked. Some of the chemists had their own copies of the data, and the formula hit the streets inside of six months. If it weren’t so darn complicated to make, the cops would probably see more of it.”

Ryu winced. “I guess we should be glad Galactor didn’t get ahold of it earlier.”

Emiko picked up a clipboard and pad of legal-sized paper from the desk and perched herself on the edge. “Give me a few minutes.” After about ten minutes she handed the clipboard to Jun. “That’s what I’ve got.”

Jun looked it over. “This is complicated. Why would a Noshen constant be used in a Krelson formula?”

“Don’t ask me. That-“ she tapped the clipboard with her pen, “-is my equivalent of a computer printout. I can give you the information, but I can’t tell anything more about it.”

Joe frowned.

“I’m serious. It would be like giving me a book on how to build a motorbike from scratch. I could repeat it back to you word-for-word, but I couldn’t do it.”

“It’s not that.” Joe chewed on a shuriken. “I’m wondering if they dose all their hires with this wacky juice.”

“That would make it hard to get an agent in there,” said Vohnyer thoughtfully. “G-3, when we get back, would you mind consulting with my scientists about ways to deal with this? If nothing else, we’ll probably wind up having to do damage control at some point.”

Everyone winced.

“Emiko,” said Jun. “These last couple pages? Why did you set them off with these thick lines on top?”

“Those two page contain an extra set of steps. It throws a nice aphrodisiac into the mix. It also makes it more toxic.”

Vohnyer cleared his throat.  “So what happened after you identified the contaminated drink?”

“Moray stepped up to the podium and gave a really bad speech for about ten minutes-“ Jun bopped Jinpei as he snickered “-and then he introduced the head recruiter, name of Dorlson, who rambled on for another twenty-five to thirty minutes. The only reason I could see for such repetitive, long-winded nonsense was to make sure that the ‘powers’ drug was totally through their systems. Then they introduced the next speaker-“ I can do this “-who they called the Kat. And Berg Katze’s heir.”

This resulted in several minutes of swearing, exclamations, shocked comments, ‘no ways!’ and a feather shuriken in the wall. After everyone had –sort of- calmed down, Emiko continued.

“She-“

“She?” growled Joe. “You sure?”

Jun shushed him. “Go on.”

Emiko stared curiously at them. “Explanation later, I hope? Anyway, she-“ stay calm “-was about five foot nothing of blond purple-suited female, and I’ll bet she wouldn’t be 100 pounds soaking wet. The Kat told of an abusive childhood and how wonderful her life had been since Galactor took her in. And how nice Berg Katze was. I was kind of surprised that the KNT weren’t mentioned as the horrible enemy or something.” Hold it in. “And I’ll lay even odds that she’s never been on the receiving end of a mecha attack.”

Assorted noises indicated agreement.

“The worst part is that she’s some kind of telepath. I could feel her powers working on those drunk and doped recruits. I’d guess that what the ‘powers’ and the speeches start, she finishes.”

Vohnyer’s eyes narrowed, but Joe beat him to it. “And you weren’t affected?”

Emiko snorted. “I’ve run into some telepaths before. Especially in the two-year break between the first and second Galactor wars. A lot of ex-G’s were running around then. Some spoke of weird experiments being done, including mind stuff. And a very few of them actually were telepaths. Trev hired some as protection against that kind of influence, and we both learned how to keep them out of our minds.” All true, actually. Hold it together. “This Kat is pretty strong, though. The diffuse ‘cloud’ she put out today I could turn aside, but I have no idea what her effect would be if she were to focus her powers specifically on me.” Never mind that if she did that, there’s no way she’d not know me! Breathe… “If that Cyndy has data on telepathic protection, I’d suggest getting started on producing it.”

“If Emiko was affected, I don’t think she’d have left Moray’s place on her own,” Ryu pointed out. “She’d have gone with the recruits. After all, no one except Moray knew she was a spy, and even he didn’t know why. There’d be no reason to hit her with anything more than the other recruits.”

“Speaking of which, I observed the recruits being herded off to orientation. Because I know the effects of the drug, I knew that once they were ‘oriented’, I might be able to get something useful off of them, like the ‘new name’ of Galactor that the Kat had been going on about that only initiates got to hear.” Calm down.

Vohnyer sat up straight. “New name?”

“It’s a doozy, too. But-“ Emiko frowned. “I remember something Moray told me. The meeting used his waiters, but the cooks were brought in by Dorlson. I don’t know if that’s important-“

“It could be,” said Joe.

“-anyway, Moray has lots of little waiting rooms and offices for his various ‘businesses’. One of the recruits locked himself in a room by himself. So I climbed to where the cable for the camera for that room went through the wall –Moray has crappy construction- and looped the feed. Then I bypassed the lock-“

“Wait. You what?!” snapped Vohnyer.

“I know security systems. So I went in-“ hold it together “-and had a talk with the fellow. He was still under the influence of ‘powers’ and the hardest part was not leading his answers. He was also sleepy from the alcohol. But I got the new name from him. Not much else, though. I was running late, and the transport was due to leave shortly. So I put the lock and camera right and bugged out. Incidentally, paying Moray for the intro ran to a total of $3000 and two Gucci wallets.” Hold it together!

Vohnyer sighed. “I don’t want an expense report. Was the name-?”

Emiko nodded. “Segitu. I don’t know if there’s an actual agent, but there must have been some contact with Cyndy’s aliens at some point.”

Vohnyer swore softly. The KNT looked grim.

Yawning, Emiko stood. “I need to get to bed.” Calm, calm…

“What?” squawked Jinpei. “You didn’t finish!”

“What’s to finish? On the way back I stupidly took a shortcut instead of going the long way, nearly got my head handed to me by some wannabe toughs, and got my tail pulled out by Joe.” She realized something. “Crap. Galactor knows who Joe is… If it gets around that I know the Condor…”

Joe smirked. “Those guys never saw what hit them. You took care of the rest. Seven, on your own. Not bad. But you’re capable of better.”

“Anyway, I’m tired. Night.”

“One more thing.” Joe’s glare was severe. “You’re grounded. You are not going anywhere outside the penthouse by yourself until we leave for base. Understood?”

Emiko glared. Gritting her teeth, she growled, “Understood,” and stomped out.

Jun raised an eyebrow, then turned to Vohnyer. “I want to make sure the whole team is clear on every agreement we have with you. About the surveillance in our living quarters…”

Understanding by Candi Gomez
Author's Notes:
Many, many thanks to Transmute Jun for her marvelous beta reading and contributions!

Monday, 0900 hours

“Did Emiko sneak out again?”

No, Joe, she didn’t,” said Jun. “She’s in the garden. And breakfast will be ready in about an hour.”

“You’re not cooking?!” Joe drew away in mock horror.

“Ha ha. Jinpei is.” Jun handed Joe a box of Kleenex and a plastic bag. “She looked pretty upset when she went outside. Don’t yell at her until she calms down.”

“I wasn’t-“ Joe was about to say he hadn’t been looking for Emiko; he’d just wanted to know where she was. But the news about Emiko’s mood changed his mind about finding her. “I won’t.”

“Good.”

  

Joe found Emiko on a bench in the far corner of the garden. He wasn’t trying to sneak up on her, but all of the KNT moved silently out of habit. So she didn’t notice him coming. Not, he thought, that she would have noticed a whole Galactor platoon at the moment.

Emiko was crying, deep, bone-racking soundless sobs. Balled up tight, head on knees, arms around legs, she wept. She had been deeply hurt.

“Em?” Joe said gently.

She jumped. “J-joe?”

“What’s wrong?”

She shook her head, unable to speak.

Joe sat down beside her and handed her some Kleenex. He waited until she had called down some. “Want to talk about it?”

Emiko took a deep breath. “You-“ she swallowed. “You were serious last night about me staying?”

“You’re staying, no matter what.”

“Even though…I didn’t report everything.”

He had suspected as much, but by now he also knew that the only way to find out what had been withheld was for Emiko to voluntarily reveal it herself. “Like what?”

“One, I found out Vohnyer had had bugs planted in my gear. I went to a freelance tech to get some countermeasures. Before I went to see that little twit Mik.”

Joe smirked. He certainly had no problem if Emiko wanted to deceive Vohnyer, especially if she came clean about it with him. “And paid for it out of his cash, I bet. What else?”

“Remember hearing about Kazzie?”

Joe thought for a moment. “Kassandra. Your twin sister. She was kidnapped when you were ten. By the same scumballs who tried burn you alive.”

“They were Galactor. Kazzie’s the Kat.”

Joe spent a moment scraping his jaw off the pavement. “You sure?”

“I’m sure. I know her mind, Joe. We had a… link that was severed when she was kidnapped. I don’t know how. But everyone’s mind is different, more unique than anything else. And impossible to copy. And that’s part of how I kept her out. Because I’d learned to keep her out when we were kids. I-“ Emiko began crying again.

Joe handed her more tissues and scooped the used ones into the bag. Outwardly, he was calm, but inwardly his mind was reeling with the implications of what Emiko had just told him. She was a smart kid, and should have been able to put it together for herself, but he wondered if she had actually done so. Perhaps she was just too emotionally involved in the situation. Heck, she was dealing with a pretty tough time right now as it was.But that didn’t stop Joe from considering Emiko’s startling revelation. Her twin sister Kazzie was Berg Katse’s heir. What exactly did ‘heir’ mean? Two other Galactor leaders had come after Katse, but neither of them had ever, as far as Joe knew, been referred to as Katse’s ‘heir’. Did that mean that Katse was actually related to Kazzie? That they shared a blood tie? And what about Emiko? If she was Kazzie’s twin, then she would also be… Joe’s head spun with these thoughts. He realized that Emiko had been speaking further, and that he had missed some of what she had said.

 “Anyway,” Emiko choked, “there’s something else. Something that no one would know or care enough to copy –not under current conditions. My necklace. Our necklaces.”

Joe frowned. Everyone had gotten an earful about that necklace when the doctors had wanted Emiko to take it off for the bone marrow removal. Apparently it had been a last gift from her grandmother, two oriental dragons facing each other with a yin/yang symbol between them, all done in silver. The chain looked silver, too, but was a much tougher alloy, and was soldered closed. It seemed that the twins’ mother made a habit of taking away their grandmother’s gifts. Sealing a chain too short to go over the head had been Grandma’s way of preventing that. Joe and Jun had finally gotten Emiko to agree to the necklace’s temporary removal, on the condition that the necklace would be soldered back on as soon as possible. Which it had been.

“Kazzie has an identical necklace in gold. I could barely see it. I won’t swear the Kat’s was identical –I was too far back for that- but after sensing her mind, I’m sure it must be.” Emiko exhaled noisily. “That sounds ridiculous, I know.” She moaned. “But it doesn’t change that my sister is working for Galactor. Why would you want me to stay now?”

“My parents worked for Galactor.”

It was Emiko’s turn to pick up her jaw.

“They were killed when I was eight because they tried to leave the organization. My dad was some kind of captain or something. I joined the KNT to get revenge.”

“Did you?”

“Well, Berg Katze committed suicide, Gel Sadra was killed by Galactor after betraying them, and Egobossler was killed by Sosai. And Sosai was blown to bits, finally.”

“How’d you get out of that, anyway?”

“Classified.” Joe was glad to see Emiko’s irritated look; it meant she wasn’t focusing so much on her own pain. “In any case, we’re aren’t going to throw you out for something you can’t help. But… did she see you?”

Emiko shook her head. “I was seated at the back. And don’t forget, I told you all a few months ago how my appearance has changed in the past year. I don’t look like she’d expect. And my necklace was hidden under my shirt. And she apparently didn’t notice me turning aside her telepathic tinkering; if she had, I think I’d have had someone wanting to ‘talk’ to me by the time the meeting was over!” Emiko took a deep breath. “And don’t forget the most important thing… she thinks I’m dead.”

“I’m kind of surprised you didn’t approach her.”

“I… thought about it. But I’d promised I’d get that information, and I keep my promises… One of the things they knew on the streets, I always keep my promises. And I… my feelings are so screwed up, and going into a place or something messed up like that, it’s just dangerous. And she’s Galactor… I don’t think she has any idea what happens outside the organization… And if she’s anything like she was as a kid, she may not care.”

“Not care?”

“She’s always been self-centered. And well, when we were still linked, it was like… we were crossing a bridge without rails. In our minds, I mean. And I was able to keep my balance okay –some times better than others, but she was always getting too close to the edge. It was like… our ‘twin’ link was a rope or stick, and my mind used it to keep her mind away from the drop. But that link was severed the night she disappeared.”

“During the fire?”

Emiko thought hard, hand fisted to her face, chewing slightly at her left thumb. “No. A couple hours after that. I’d been burned, and breathed some smoke… I was hurting and the link broke… like a knife on the edge of my mind. I passed out… fell asleep right after that. The knife felt like blue flame… that doesn’t make any sense.”

Joe’s eyes narrowed. “It does. Sosai X’s initial form resembled a blue flame. If he was messing in your sister’s mind and severed your twin link-“

“I might sense him, it…” Emiko shivered. “To be touched by that thing… thank the ancestors it didn’t want to bother with me! But Kazzie…” Her blue eyes widened in shock. “She must have been in major contact with that monster! Katze’s heir! I- she-” her shoulders shaking “-she’ll never leave! Not if she’s still there and Sosai’s gone!”

“It sounds like Sosai and Katze might have realized that you two were the offspring of one of Galactor’s ‘experiments’. They wanted Kazzie, but didn’t think you were worth it. Their loss.” There was a slight smirk in Joe’s voice. Growing serious, he continued: “I wonder if Sosai was the one who declared Kazzie heir. That would explain why the Galactor are putting a kid in charge. And as for Gel Sadra and Egobossler… X recruited them after he decided to destroy the earth. They weren’t ‘heirs’, they were commanders being manipulated for X’s purposes. It doesn’t explain why he didn’t just age Kazzie the way he did Gel Sadra, though.” Joe frowned, than shrugged. “It’ll do now for a theory, anyway.”

“Everyone on the streets knows that Galactor never lets its children go,” said Emiko sadly. “Once they learned of us, the clock was ticking. I’m only free because they think I’m dead. But why was Kazzie, of all people, picked as Katze’s heir?”

Blond purple-clad female. Joe could only draw one –painful- conclusion. “The KNT saw Berg Katze without the mask a few times.”

“So?”

“Maybe… the Kat is Katze’s daughter.”

“No.”

Joe blinked.

“NO. It’s too- it’s impossible. I’m Eagle’s Blood. And Kazzie’s my twin sister, whatever’s happened. What you’re saying is that she- that we- are both Gatchaman and Berg- No. It can’t happen.” She looked away. “It- Sosai picked her for another reason. Some other reason.” Any other reason, her voice said.

Joe could see the door slamming shut in her mind. He remembered how hard it had been for himself, when he’d learned the truth about his parents. She’s not ready to accept this now. Another thought struck him. And Ken may never accept it. And Emiko… She was betrayed –tortured- by the one person, who, above all, should have protected her. If Ken were to turn on Emiko on top of what her mother did- Joe couldn’t finish the thought.

Right now, Emiko was like an injured nestling, healing and recovering her strength. But cat, eagle, or both, she had the disposition of a predator. She seemed to be making a determined effort to stay away from that dangerous cliff’s edge that fell into darkness, but the circumstances of her life had pushed far too close to it. Until Emiko was much farther from that edge, anything that might push her closer had to be cautiously approached.

“What if you came face to face with the Kat someday?” Joe finally asked.

Emiko was startled. “I –don’t know. I-“ She shook her head. “One thing I do know; I won’t betray you or the rest of the ninjas. I promise I won’t. And I keep my promises.”

“Do you want to tell the others?”

“I –don’t know. Don’t know that, either. Can I –think about it?”

“If you think about it and don’t just push it aside.”

“I won’t. Secrets like this –they can bite, at the worst possible time.”

They heard Jun’s voice, calling. “Guys, breakfast is ready!”

“C’mon,” said Joe.
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