What a way to return from her holiday.
She glanced appreciatively at the debris thrown over the rough area she had chosen for landing, identifying at least three new species of mollusk and two sulfur-based life forms from an ocean vent. But, she had no time to waste. Her message for Nambu and the KNT was critical.
The hurricane reached Category Five as she walked, keeping low, adjusting her body to provide no wind-resistance. The door to the undersea complex was buried in debris, but it took her only a few moments to shift enough rocks that the winds were channeled past the door so they would carry away the debris and free the door, which proved to be bent.
The guard on the other side of the speaker system was uncooperative, to say the least. He claimed the electronics for the lock were fried. Well, they were a bit toasted, but nothing that the toy she'd developed over lunch hour yesterday, and brought along on her key chain, couldn't deal with. She flexed her perfect muscles, all 5'4" of them in a lithe, 20 year-old Caucasian frame, and once again shifted debris to cause the hurricane winds, now Category Six, to do the heavy work of opening the jammed door.
Once inside, she shoved the door closed and locked it, then ran her fingers through her short, wavy brown hair, complete with purple streak, so that it would dry into its natural perfection.
She was met by Ken, who paused at the intersection and looked at her longingly. She nodded politely -- the man was taken, and they both knew it. She would not stoop to taking him from Jun, especially not after she had managed to get them together.
"I, I thought you were dead, Cricket!"
"Dead? No. Just took me a while to climb down from that mountain."
Jun herself arrived with towels, leading her into the warmth of the base, and mentioning that she had a pint of Rum'n'Raisin ice cream, made to Cricket's recipe, locked away in the base freezer. Jun had been making it regularly for the past month, and it had been a huge success at the Snack.
Ryu met her in the break room and enveloped her in a huge hug. "That diet you put me on? I lost 20 pounds in two weeks, and feel great." "Glad to hear it, Big Guy!"
She looked around Ryu to see Jinpei, holding a game control and anxiously waiting for her attention. "Sorry, Jinpei, can't play now, but I've got something new for you." She handed him the CD-ROM containing an advance copy of Action-97, the most anticipated game since her earlier Action-96.
Then, finally, she turned to Joe, and watched appreciatively as he drowned in her blue-green eyes. She stepped close and they held each other; she heard his memories of nights and days spent alone together. "Maybe when this is done,..." he whispered. "Definitely," she replied.
Joe let her go, and she led the team down the corridor to Nambu's office. He looked up, unsurprised, as she put the data disk on his desk. "I'll analyze it immediately."
"Okay, Dad. I'll be in the break room." She led the team back to their break room, where she took the recorder she had played as a child from her pocket, and led them in several rousing songs, ranging from Mozart to Def Lepard, Rush, Sting, and Joplin, with the Chronos Quartet and Men of the Deeps for variety. They were interrupted by Nambu's arrival; he was frowning. "I can't quite make out the details, but it looks bad."
Cricket took the sheaf of papers he handed her, glanced through them, making notes in the margin in Forkner shorthand, and made her pronouncement: "They're building a new base at Magnetic North. It will affect the currents of the Earth's core, and seriously disrupt the Mantle Project. It comes online in five hours."
Ryu looked worried. "We can't launch, Hakase. The winds are too strong."
Nambu looked at Cricket. She nodded seriously. "I'll fly it."
Nambu sighed. This daughter was all he had left from his first family, the prototype for the KNT. Born prematurely when her mother had crashed in the Amazon, he still had hopes that her twin sister had survived.
The team stood around her and saluted, then they all dashed to the hangar.
The ride out of the base was rough, but she managed it without sweating, and without spilling her decaffeinated Earl Gray tea. She then initiated the Hintori effect, with the modification she had made last time she had visited, and they arrived at Magnetic North in thirty minutes. Once there, she woke the rest of the team with her patented smelling salts, and Ken looked at the screens and scowled. "There's no way we can get inside."
"Leave it to me." She held out her hands, and the team deposited Birdrang, cable gun, yo-yo, and bolas. Smiling, she curved her arm in front of her face -- "Bird Go!" The brilliant rainbow light left behind the image of a merlin -- small, maneuverable, and determined. The rest of the team saluted as she went to the airlock and leapt down, easily free-falling the 1000 feet. The seals at her landing site tried to snuggle up to her, but she gently walked through them.
The demolition of the base was actually quite easy -- the green goons fought as pathetically as usual -- she only had to jump above five feet maybe a dozen times -- and the Captain de Jour, dressed as a sea lamprey, led her right to the escape hatch. She dashed ahead of him to grab Berge Katse. He cursed as she wrapped him with her patented holding tape and planted a mini-nuke (specially designed to leave no radio-active residue) in the most appropriate spot.
The rest of the team cheered as she led Katse and the captain onto the Phoenix. Katse was so intimidated that he blurted out the location of Sosai's energy source, and an awful secret -- it was keyed so that no one over 21 had the appropriate strontium-90 ratio in their bones to get close enough to destroy it.
Leaving the rest of the team to take Katse and the captain back to Crescent Coral, she took Ken's plane to the South Pole, making modifications enroute to allow it to withstand the extreme cold. The lock to the energy source proved a bit tricky, but a strand of hair from the genetically-altered patch on her forehead -- the bit that grew in purple -- solved that problem. Then she used another mini-nuke to destroy Sosai's energy source.
Once back at the base, after 38 hours with no sleep (including the reconnaissance mission that preceded this narration), she took a quick shower and nap, waking to find Joe at her side. They had a tickle fight, then Joe repeated his offer of marriage. This time, she accepted, and they had another tickle fight. She was the only woman who could make Joe giggle more than twice; this time, she settled for four times.
Cricket and Joe walked into the break room to discover a celebration -- Ken had taken the advice she'd given him just before leaving the Phoenix, and Jun had accepted. "Please, Cricket, you must be my Maid of Honour!"
Laughing, she agreed, then went back to her day job of technical writing and being secretary to her father. She hoped she and Joe would have lots of kids.
Thanks to Ninja-Sam Winchester for the mini-beta, and to Catherine and Holly Reese-Lay for pointing out that it needed censoring. And special thanks to Emby Quinn and Missy Wilson for the Gatchaman Mary Sue Litmus test. Without it, imagine the worst.
Updated Feb. 14, 2005