According to the "official" profiles, here are our hobbies: Jun writes poetry in her spare time and Jinpei alternates between playing video games and the violin (thankfully, he doesn't--the flute was bad enough). Ryu sings karaoke and cooks gourmet meals. As for Joe and me: "The Gatchaman and his second in command spend their spare time honing their already considerable skills at martial arts and shooting, and like to relax by getting close to nature." I guess that's accurate, if the nature I enjoy happens to be six thousand feet above ground. I supposedly have a collection of old swords.
The question of money was both easy and difficult to address. The ISO's stance, which I completely agree with, is that our paychecks are nobody's business. Since we aren't being funded by taxpayer dollars, but rather from money covertly supplied by the governments of several countries, we can get away with not disclosing numbers. None of us are truly hurting for money--food (at ISO facilities) and medical care come free, and our property is paid for. Our cover jobs tend to make spending money tight, though, and the taxes on my private airfield have me living from paycheck to paycheck. If I actually had that collection of old swords, I would have sold them off to pay bills.
Where the fun begins is in describing our friends and our love lives. According to the tabloids, Joe, our Sicilian ladies man, prefers blondes with sweet dispositions. Ryu likes the "girl next door" type. Jinpei is only just discovering girls. As for Jun... her fans have taken the initiative and want to know if she and I are a couple. If not, why? Has she considered Joe? What about Ryu? I don't know how she stands it.
And then there's me. The general consensus is that I maintain chaste fantasies of girls in filmy dresses running in graceful slow motion through fields of flowers. Other than that, I am said to be nervous and awkward around women and know nothing whatsoever about relationships.
These are all pretty white lies. Jinpei is still getting over Maria-chan, the pretty girl he rescued and had to leave behind because she was too much of a target. Jun has male friends, but to my knowledge, she keeps things from getting serious. We don't really discuss it. Ryu would happily date any girl with a pulse--okay, that's harsh, but I get tired of his complaining about how he can't score. Joe has neither a harem nor a preference for hair color, but when he falls for a girl, he falls hard, and the results aren't pretty. It's not that he annoys us by singing the virtues of his lady love; it's just when the inevitable breakup comes, you don't want to be anywhere near him. On mission, he's fine, but off-mission, his temper is on a hair trigger you can trip by virtue of breathing too loudly. Or he doesn't say a word, but the black cloud over his head will envelop you without warning and slowly and painfully strangle you to death.
Two girls Joe fell for were killed because they were involved with Gallactor, but the others were driven away simply because our lifestyle isn't given to the care and feeding of healthy relationships. There are too many secrets, too many lies and too many questions: Why did you back out of our date? Why can 't you meet me? What's going on? Why won't you tell me? Are you seeing someone else? Don't you love me anymore? It goes on and on until one of them says to hell with it, and then the rest of the team gets to dodge that temper and that black cloud.
I prefer to play the chaste, ignorant hero role for all it's worth: Women are my blind spot. My Achilles heel. The public thinks I have a tender side they can relate to, and Gallactor thinks I have a vulnerable spot they can exploit. I can easily assess a girl who's trying too hard--is she just a cape-chaser, or does she have a more sinister agenda? I didn't get this job by being a poor judge of character, or by not understanding psychology. I've seen all too well the angst that's going on around me, and I simply don't have time for it. Maybe someday, but not now.
Not that it's always easy.
I'm in the garage area at the track during qualifications for one of Joe's races, and we're in the shade, taking refuge from the ninety degree heat. Joe has just finished his run, and his car sits with its hood raised, heat wrinkling the air above the engine. He's pulling off his helmet and getting ready to change out of his fire suit, and I'm waiting with a two-liter bottle of ice water. Our last mission had ended two days ago, and this is the first I'd seen of him since.
As he puts down his helmet, he glances at me and says, "Well?"
"I saw Boronbo's daughter," he says. "Have you asked her out?"
"No," I say. "Why?"
"Why?" He snorts. "Are you blind?"
"No." I shrug and hand him his ice water. He drinks half and pours the rest over his head, then wipes his face and hair with a towel.
"And you're not going to, are you? Why not?"
Again, I shrug. "She's not my type."
"What is your type?" Then he waves a hand at me. "Chie, never mind. I don't get you. What a waste...." He walks off, shaking his head.
Now I even have Joe believing my press releases.
Rumi Boronbo, the girl in question, had been held hostage by Gallactor in order to force her father to hand over highly sensitive information. I'd found her quite by accident, but got her away from her captors relatively unharmed. And no, I'm not blind, but neither was she. Nor was she stupid, and she was a lot tougher than most women (she'd been wrapped up to hide her face, and when I first saw her, I considered her a threat and kicked her--I'll wear that embarrassment until I die). Once rescued, she batted those huge doe eyes at me, flipped that pretty auburn hair, slipped her arms around my chest in a way that raised the room temperature about fifteen degrees, and asked me to take my helmet off. A few more minutes, and she would have been leading the Gatchaman around by the nose. I would have done anything for her, including blowing my cover. Not the kind of thing you'd want to do to someone you've just grown fond of. Gallactor had already kidnapped her once.
When I turned away from her, she just looked thoughtful, figuring things out. Later, when I escorted Rumi and her father home, watching from the next train car, she knew I was watching. She gave me a secret smile and a little shove, and she let me go.
Even now, I have fantasies about her that may start with filmy dresses and fields of flowers, but certainly don't end there.