Kaorin had to admit that the room was nice. It was spacious, comfortable, loaded down with amenities, and had some sort of fancy screen built into the wall that gave the impression of looking out a window over Tokyo. When she opened the "window," sounds and a little air even began to waft into the room. The claustrophobia she'd been feeling was slowly wearing off.
But other things would not be blown away by some air jets and speakers…
Miss Sakaki, an international criminal? That just…how? Why? True, she had some good points, but that couldn't justify what she'd heard Mistress Neko-chan-sama had done in her career. But, then…well, certainly…the media could be quite sensationalist. Maybe they'd made a lot of it up, even! Or tacked things other people had done onto her! Yes, yes, that HAD to be it.
"I'll go find her, and she can tell me I'm right!" she said to the air, balling her hand into a fist and staring off into the sky. "Miss Sakaki!"
She bolted out of her room, and began to move down the red-rock corridors of the base. Various employees were meandering about, doing their jobs; Kaorin was glad to see that the staff did not consist entirely of Miss Sakaki, Shatner, and Chiyo-clones. There were countless, normal-looking people, too. Though there seemed to also always be a Chiyo about. Not only did they wear the old, high school uniform, but a little beret in the same color as the skirt, with Mistress Neko-chan-sama's emblem on the front. At one point, two walked by, talking about goodness-knows what and giggling in the process.
After a time, Kaorin came to a door labeled "Commander Centre." She pressed a small button next to it, and was surprised to find it hiss open. She walked in, and found herself in a massive room, like something out of that peculiar "Evangelion" show. There was a large, central command podium, but it was empty. She walked further in, looking around. At the front of the main bride were a trio of command stations, all helmed by a person. Osaka was currently leaning over one of their shoulders. It was so warm, Kaorin wondered how she could stand to still wear her scarf.
"Now, be careful," the bridge bunny said to her. "hit those the wrong way and it would send out a powerful radio signal. The whole world would know where we are."
"How'd that be bad?"
"Haha, well…ah…you really don't know?"
"Nah. Ah mean, seems like this place is kinda hard to order a pizza from, y'know?"
"Well, our kitchen is well-stocked enough that we can just make it here."
"Aw, but you ain't lived until you've had it from Yushiro's. It's this little place in Tokyo…"
"Ah, excuse me," Kaorin said, walking up to the two of them. "Have either off you seen Miss Sa…ah…Mistress Neko-chan-sama?"
"Nope," the bridge bunny replied. "She's only here for really big events or plans. Place pretty much runs itself, otherwise."
"Do you have any idea where I might find her?"
"Sorry, she could be just about anywhere."
"Oh." She nodded. "Well, I'll keep looking."
"GOOD LORD, BE CAREFUL!" Another bridge bunny suddenly screamed, as Osaka leaned over a shiny, red button. "That's the self destruct!"
"Oop, good thing ah didn't touch it then, huh?"
A little worried for her life, Kaorin hastily left the control room.
William Shatner felt human again. He was back in his little vest and tight jeans, and had his sword hanging from his back. It felt so odd without that reassuring weight there. He had to admit, when he and Kimura had first started fighting, he thought the old man might have had a chance, all because he lacked his sword.
He turned to see Chiyo-san rushing up behind him (or would bouncing be a more appropriate term?). She was wearing, unbelievably, an even shorter skirt that before, fishnet socks, and a baby-t that read "I Want to Have Your Abortion." He chuckled a bit.
"How the hell do I get to this dining room? I refuse to ask one of those creepy little…little ME things."
"Yeah, I hate those little creeps."
"No shit." He shook his head. "Anyway, I'm going there now. Just follow me."
"Sure." She winked. "It's a nice view, after all. Seriously, do you wear those pants, or paint them on in the morning?"
"Jesus, man, it's a compliment, chill."
"Oh." He nodded. "Well, ah…"
He started to walk along, disturbingly conscious of the fact that Chiyo-san could well be staring at his ass. He'd always thought of Chiyo in her scary, perpetually-10-year-old clone form. So to meet the real thing, and realize she was a year older than him and a complete babe, to boot…it was almost too much to take in.
"So you used to work in Gotham?" she asked.
"Where'd you hear that?"
"I dunno. I talked to a lot of the staff today. Some broad in a lab coat."
"Well, that narrows it down," he said sarcastically.
"They all as cold as they look?"
"Must get lonely."
"I got magazines."
"Not the same, is it." He nearly jumped into the air when he felt a hand grip his backside rather firmly. "What're you doing after dinner…"
She leaned in close, her lips brushing against his ear: "The correct answer is "why, you, Chiyo.""
She let him go, and while he stood there, shocked, she walked on ahead of him.
"So, what was Gotham like? Ever run into the Bat?"
She stopped when he didn't respond. She turned and saw him standing there, too flabbergasted to speak. She turned around and chuckled. She was GOOD.
At dinner, Miss Sakaki sat at one end of a long table, and Shatner at the other. Yomi was to Sakaki's immediate right, her head bowed and arms crossed. She was obviously still pretty pissed. Tomo was across from Yomi, jabbering a million questions a second about how the place had been built and how big it was and whatever else sprung to her mind. Sakaki took it all in stride, managed to keep the questions straight, and answered them. Next to Yomi was Osaka, who sat across from Kagura. Osaka was busy spacing out watching the fish swim by a large, thick window built into the dining room. Next to them were Kaorin and Chiyo, who was to Shatner's left. If anyone noticed her smirking, or saw how tense he was, they didn't say so.
"I hope you all like vegetables," Sakaki said, smiling warmly. "I gave up meat years ago."
"Come now, there's always manflesh," Yomi quipped, not looking up. "I mean, you might as well do SOMETHING with them after you've SLAUGHTERED them!"
"Now wait a minute!" Kaorin snapped, leaping to her feet. She hadn't managed to find Sakaki, and now was the time to test her theory. "You know how unforgiving the media is, Yomi! Maybe…"
"Well," Sakaki said, "while they can be, I must admit that…ESSENTIALLY everything they've said I've done, I have."
ANGUISH! Pain! The sort of crushing torture she had not felt since Kimura appeared at the first year sports festival folk dance, and his constant badgering when she was in his homeroom! Kaorin slumped into her chair, and stared dead-eyed into a platter of leaves soaked in some sort of (obviously) dairy-free dressing.
"And we're supposed to be accepting of that," Yomi snarled.
"Eventually, you will adapt."
"Like HELL I will, you HYPOCRITE!" Yomi leapt to her feet, slamming her palms against the tabletop. "I don't know WHO you are, but the Sakaki I went to high school with wouldn't have hurt ANYTHING living, human or animal."
"Humans ARE animals, actually," she replied, her voice so calm as to be enraging.
"You KNOW what I mean…"
"Yomz," Chiyo said, looking up from the salad she'd been shoving around her plate. "Don't insult the psychopath in her own, underground base. Not good for the skin, among other parts of the body."
"The darling child has a point, my DEAR Yomi," Sakaki said, sending a chill up and down all spines present. Her voice was still calm, but it had definitely taken on a dark, menacing edge.
"Call me 'darling child' again, my dear Mistress Neko-chan-sama, and you will discover just how much power the Mizuhara clan wields," Chiyo hissed after a moment, somehow managing to sound just as dark as their host. "No family gets as rich as mine without dabbling in…questionable morality. And my daddy taught me everything he knew about business. The light side…and the dark."
"You certainly TALK big, Chiyo-san," Sakaki said. "But what could you really do down here?"
"I could show you…"
There was a long, unpleasant pause as the two studied one another, smirking and chuckling slightly. Yomi sank into her seat again, while everyone tried to look at everything but the two, competing women, who seemed to be doing their best to blow one another's heads apart via pure glare power.
"Ooh, a starin' contest!" Osaka suddenly said. "But ya didn't start it proper, and no one's timin' it. And ya didn't say if it's one of those ones where ya can also lose if you laugh, even without blinkin'. Ya gotta do these things right…"
There was a momentary pause, as Sakaki broke her gaze away from Chiyo's and looked at Osaka. Everyone tensed, holding their breath. Osaka just kept grinning in that same, silly way of hers.
And then Sakaki burst out laughing.
"Ah, it would seem I lose!" She wiped a tear of mirth from her eye. "Oh, Osaka, I have missed you so."
"Well, it's nice to see you again, too, Miss Sakaki."
"Come, now, let us all eat and try to remember happier days, at least for now." She smiled at them all. "Chef made her special dressing for the evening, it's quite delectable."
"I hope it's low fat, for Yomi's sake!" Tomo said, her mouth full of food.
"WHAT was that!" Yomi growled, pointing her rather sharp knife at her inescapable companion.
"I can guarantee you all, it's QUITE healthy," Sakaki replied, stifling a chuckle at the old, familiar, love-hate relationship.
The rest of the meal was rather like a Thanksgiving dinner, where the relatives who hate each other just don't speak to one another, and everyone else talks in excess to try and cover up that painfully obvious fact. Though, to be fair, Tomo would talk in excess no matter what. But even Kagura, who seemed to only serve the purpose of being "less crazy Tomo," like a character on a TV show or something, was fairly active. She talked about how the old school was, her favorite students, how Mister Kimura hadn't changed in the least…
"Funny story, actually," Sakaki said, as the plates were cleared away by Chiyos in little butler uniforms. "It would seem Mister Kimura was a spy."
That got a chorus of "what!" from the table, and then the story was handed over to Shatner. Chiyo leaned back and crossed her arms, and if anyone noticed that's when he stopped being so tense, they didn't mention it. He then told his story about his battle with Kimura, right down to dragging Nyamo and Yukari along. When he was done, he grinned triumphantly at the group, but quickly sunk back into his chair when he saw the looks he was getting.
"You HURT Yukari-chan and Nyamo!" Tomo shouted.
"They were only a little…"
"I KNEW something was funny," Yomi grumbled.
"Y'mean Mister Kimura was a decent guy, after all…and ya killed him?" Osaka asked. "Dang, I'd have liked to meet him, seein' as he ain't a horrible hentai, after all. His poor wife…"
"Now, now, Osaka," Sakaki said, smiling. "To be fair, Mister Kimura attacked HIM first."
"Ah suppose…but he was just tryin' to do his job."
"Sweet Osaka…I wish I could still believe in humanity like that."
The Chiyos reappeared, then, bearing bowls of what looked to be some sort of ice cream, though everyone figured it was really some non-dairy dessert or another. Whatever it was, it tasted good enough that everyone could ignore one another by eating it. When they were done, nearly everyone got up and left rather stiffly and uncomfortably. Chiyo lingered, winked at Shatner, and sashayed out of the room. Shatner faked a yawn, then bolted out of there. This only left Kaorin and Sakaki. There was a very long, very uncomfortable silence.
"Miss Sakaki," Kaorin finally said.
"Kaori," Sakaki interrupted. She paused, then asked: "May I call you Kaori?"
"GOD YES!" she shouted, but she quickly contained herself. "I mean, if you want to, it's fine…"
"Kaori…I was so blind, all those years." Sakaki got to her feet, and slowly walked over towards Kaorin, whose heart began to beat so fast that she feared it would burst through her chest. "Only in retrospect did I realize what you couldn't say, what you so desperately wished to do. Can you ever forgive me for being so foolish?"
"It's…what…who…" What Sakaki was saying finally sunk in. Kaorin grabbed her own leg under the table and pinched it, and nearly burst into tears of joy when she felt a slight pain. "Yes."
"Come along, Kaori."
"Where are we going?"
"Well, I don't think you ever got to properly meet Mayaa. Another little slip-up of mine. I mean, if you are interested in him…he's in my personal quarters…"
"Oh my yes I'd be VERY interested please please lead the way!"
"I thought you might be."
Sakaki smiled, looped an arm through one of Kaorin's, and they left the room.
Something had gone so very, horribly, impossibly wrong. Chiyo laid on her back, staring at the smooth, red rock ceiling of Shatner's quarters, trying not to shudder or cry or just run his big, stupid sword into his chest. She'd fucked up, plain and simple. She'd made a big, huge, giant, colossal mistake.
She'd let him talk.
Normally she would just leave, or roll over and pass out, to show the men just how little she really cared. They were a tool for HER pleasure, little more than a dildo that didn't need batteries and made a LOT more noise. But he'd lit up a cigarette, and she felt a bit of a craving coming on, so accepted one.
And he talked.
And she talked back.
And, somehow, after a few hours of sex banter it became…other things. Normal things. Life, the universe, and everything. They were nearly the same age, and they'd discussed their respective childhoods, their plans, dreams, goals, and where they'd ended up. Shatner, for all his bravado, had a lot of guilt in him. His Momma – dead a good ten years, now – wouldn't approve of his life, he knew that much. But as a poor boy from Crime Alley, Gotham, he hadn't had much hope. Or did he merely tell himself that, to justify it?
Then Chiyo opened up. She'd never opened up to anyone. About her childhood fears, her peculiarity as a prodigy. High School life had been pleasant enough, but only because she'd found the right people. Then there was college…it was so different, then. The odd looks, peculiar whispers, having to prove to every goddamned bureaucrat she ran into that yes, indeed, she really was a student…
But then she learned something: she was rich and, in America, that made her a very, very good person. It did in Japan, too, but not as much as it did in America. She was a goddess, a creature who could not be touched by law or consequences. She'd embraced it, become the darling of the tabloids, even had that STUPID reality show for a year. She rebelled against her father because all her friends did. But she never rebelled enough that he'd cut the purse strings, either. She jetted across the globe, desperate to try and make some sense out of a life happening too fast…
"I love you," she had suddenly whispered, putting a hand on Shatner's taught abs.
WHAT had she said! He replied that he, too, loved her. It didn't make sense to her. She hadn't loved anyone in years. Now, out of the blue, this…this…well, little more than a HOOLIGAN walks into her life for a few hours, and she finds herself giving her heart to him. They talked so much more, until William finally drifted off to sleep, leaving Chiyo alone with her thoughts and her ceiling.
"Fuck," she whispered, reaching over Shatner and grabbing his cigarettes. This was something she DIDN'T need.
"Hmm?" the bridge bunny perked up as he heard footsteps behind him. The night shift made him jumpy, though there was no good reason for it. He wasn't even there for security purposes; the automated systems would handle anyone who somehow managed to get in. How they would, well, he wasn't sure. They'd kept very, very close tabs on all excavations, in case any of them were secretly spies trying to get to them. And the radar systems were rather excellent. That was his purpose; watch the radar, make sure nothing other than the usual traffic went by. Anything funny, he would report. So far, nothing.
After a good minute of silence, he allowed himself to relax, and went back to his radar scope. Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. He sighed, shook his head, and went back to his radar.
He was dead before he could demand to know who was grabbing his head.
"Hnng?" Kaorin moaned, as she felt Sakaki move her arms aside. Her eyes slowly opened, and adjusted the dim lighting in time to see Sakaki tying her robe. "What is it, Fuyu-chan?"
"One of my lackeys is dead," she replied calmly.
"What!" Kaorin sat up quickly, and was glad that the base was kept warm. She noticed Mayaa staring, and, though he was just a cat, she still found herself compelled to pull the covers up over her chest.
"Oh, it was an accident, judging by the report. Fell from the main bridge to one of the lower areas."
"But how could…"
"Someone smelled his water bottle." She smiled. "It's funny just how many liquors LOOK like water."
"You know, leader stuff. Have to make the appearance, reassure the men, et cetera. I'll be back soon, Kaori-chan. Get back to sleep, I'm sure you're tired. I mean, you used up a LOT of energy…"
"Don't underestimate me," she replied, chuckling.
Even so, when Sakaki left, she laid back down and was soon snoring quietly.
"Whoa, Osaka, what's with the getup!" Tomo demanded, as she entered the dining room for breakfast.
"Whadda ya mean, Tomo?" Osaka asked, tilting her head to one side.
"You're…wearing a suit." She frowned. "A man's suit."
"Nah, it's a ladie's. I'm just wearin' a tie with it," she replied, adjusting the rather high collar of her blouse. "See, I was thinkin'…the clothes don't make the man, but MAYBE they make the woman. So ah bought me some ties a year ago, started wearin' 'em to work, sometimes."
"Have they helped?"
"Well, someone said between the short hair and the tie, I look a lot like one of the managers."
"Ah…" Yomi said, sitting down. "I…ah…don't think they meant it made you look more responsible, they just meant…"
"See, I don't think I've ever seen you in pants before, though," Tomo said, cutting Yomi off.
"Ah wore pants in high school," Osaka countered.
"Yeah, maybe, like…three times, or something."
"Really, Tomo," Yomi said, pulling her chair in. "If you were as preoccupied with yourself as much as you were with other people, you might have done better in school."
"What was that? I couldn't hear you over your jiggling."
"Please, don't start before I've gotten some coffee in me," Kagura mumbled, walking into the room and stifling a yawn.
"Good morning, everyone!" Kaorin said, a rather obvious foil to Kagura.
"Well, YOU'RE…ah…chipper," Yomi said. She didn't add "which is terribly unusual," though she wanted to.
"You think so?" She shrugged, and practically skipped to her chair, humming to herself as she did.
Chiyo was just behind her, and she shrugged: "What, am I the only one who can tell when someone's gotten laid?"
Kaorin had been sipping at a glass of water as Chiyo said this, and she began to choke. Everyone else looked over at her, shocked. Then they looked back at Chiyo.
"Well it was sort of obvious." She dropped into her seat. "So who was it? One of the bridge bunnies?"
"Kakkaa…" was all she managed to say. Osaka stood and began to pat her repeatedly on the back.
"No, no they're not your speed, are they." A wicked grin crossed her face. "I think I know who. Let me see if I can describe them. Tall…long, black h…"
"Morning," Shatner said, entering the room. Chiyo clammed up, though no one was sure why.
"See, Nyamo!" a new, familiar voice said. "If you'd just drank more, like me, you'd be used to hangovers, and this wouldn't be bothering you, right now."
"Miss Yukari!" Tomo said, her head snapping around towards the door. Sure enough, their old English and gym teachers were walking into the room, the latter definitely looking the worse for wear.
"That's not something to be proud of…" Nyamo mumbled, sitting and grasping her temples. Still looking down, and squeezing her eyes shut, she said: "Good morning, girls. It's been ages. Well, except you, Kagura. But the rest of you. Hi."
"I'm impressed, Yukari-chan!" Tomo said, slapping her old teacher on the back. "I'd have figured your looks would have gone by now!"
"Well, you're like…what, fifty?"
"You thought I was forty when I taught you!"
"Please stop yelling…" Nyamo mumbled, but no one heard her.
"Hey, hey, but you weren't!" Tomo was still slapping her on the back. "Still, only three more years until el droopo! Best bag yourself a man now!"
"What!" Fire flashed in Yukari's eyes, and she began to pull on Tomo's cheeks. "What makes you think I'm still single, huh! What, do you think I'm undesirable or something!"
"Yeah, she was married for three whole years," Nyamo groaned.
"Oh, you just HAD to bring that up!" Yukari hollered, leaning in close to her friend. "She thinks she's SO special because her marriage has LASTED! Well it just means I'm free! FREE, unlike you with your husband and three kids and nicer car because he's a manager at a big company and…and…"
She sank into her seat then, and began pounding a fist against the table so hard that the empty plates began to jump and the water began to ripple in the glasses.
"What was I supposed to do!" she moaned. "He said video games were for children! I couldn't live with a man so narrow-minded!"
"What IS all this noise?" Sakaki said, smiling and walking into the room. "Ah! Yukari-sensei, Kurosawa-sensei! I'm glad to see you are fully recovered."
"Almost," Nyamo moaned.
"Well, then, you'll all be present for this most auspicious day."
"Why, what's going on?"
"One of my greatest plans comes to fruition." As she sat, Chiyo-clones in butler suits started putting food on the plates. She very calmly began to eat, even as she said: "Today, most of the human race perishes."
Everyone slowly looked at her where she sat, chewing her food as though she'd just mentioned there was going to be a spot of rain later on. Shatner looked down at his lap, ashamed.
"You want to run that one by me again, Sakaki?" Kagura said, frowning.
"If the virus works as I intend, the human population will be whittled down to one hundred, perhaps two hundred million."
"Sakaki…" Tomo whispered. "This is…this is some kind of joke, right?"
"Oh, no, I guarantee you, I quite mean it. Not my plan, to be honest. I took it from a fellow super-villain. I always felt whittling it down to only ten thousand was a bit of overkill, though, which was his…"
"You're not kidding," Yomi said. "My God, you're really serious!"
"Quite so. I have missiles loaded with my virus ready to launch at my command. They will hit the biggest world capitols, as well as major food supplies."
"You really are a monster." Yomi grabbed her knife from next to her plate. She leapt to her feet, tears in her eyes. "Give me one good reason not to…"
"Because the missiles launch, even if I am not here to give the order." She looked up, and smirked in that same, chilling manner she had at Chiyo the night before. "Because if you kill me, then I cannot have some of the cure sent to your husband and little girl."
Yomi dropped the knife, and then fell into her chair.
"You bitch," she whispered. "You…you fucking bitch…"
"Well done, Sakaki," Chiyo said, clapping in a slow, condescending manner. "You've officially out-crazied my great-grandpa, and he was, hands down, the craziest Mihama. But see, he just wanted to be the shadowy puppet master of the world. That's pretty fucking different from making it a ghost town."
"I am trying to SAVE the world. Nature needs to take a breather from us. I am merely providing a vaccine against the viral human race."
"Except, of course, for those you deem worthy," Nyamo said, managing to straighten up. She sneered. "What happened to the young woman who wanted a cute stamp book?"
"She grew up and saw the blight around her." Sakaki raised her eyebrows slightly. "She realized it is time that sacrifices were made. Yes, I admit that I am playing God, somewhat. But, why should you care, sensei? God is on your side, this time."
"Fucking bitch…" Yomi mumbled, grabbing her knees as she bowed her head.
"No one's eating," Sakaki said. "It's quite…"
"How can you be so calm?" Tomo asked, looking a little deflated. "How can you be so blasé about destroying billions of lives?"
"It is easy, if you think of it as a war. Which, frankly, is what it is. Man versus nature. But nature couldn't do the job on her own. She tried…new diseases, more and more natural disasters…but nature is slow. Men are quick, harsh, thorough. Nature needed a human to help her. And she got one."
"Miss Sakaki, you ain't very nice no more, do you know that?" Osaka asked.
"No, I suppose I'm not. But, idealists must put aside such petty human concerns like 'nice' and 'bad.'"
"Bill, you're REALLY going to support this!" Chiyo demanded, looking at Shatner.
"Well…I mean…" he stammered. "She IS on our side…"
"Wow." She stood. "I'll be in my room if anyone needs me."
"Oh, no, no, no, no," Sakaki said. "Not at this point. Too risky. Everyone stays close."
"Stop me," she hissed.
"Only you can stop yourself."
"What the HELL are you babbling about, you psycho!"
Suddenly, Chiyo felt a hand tugging on her skirt. She looked down, to see one of her clones standing there, smiling. Then its pigtails spun around, and small gun turrets poked out of the ends.
"Mistress Neko-chan-sama would prefer it if you remained here," she said, and topped it off with a highly-inappropriate giggle.
"Well, look at that," Chiyo said, slowly sitting back down. "Utility pigtails. Very clever."
"Thank you." Sakaki grinned. "Now, let's hurry. We want to finish eating before launch."
The women stood silently in the back of the control room, most of them in shock or just stewing. Kaorin had been silent the whole time, staring at the floor. Or maybe it was THROUGH the floor. Either way, she was barely there. They were all trying to think, not that it was terribly easy to do so with all the shouting from the staff, as they prepared to launch the missiles and their deadly cargo.
"T minus ten minutes and counting," a voice bellowed over a loudspeaker.
"Launch window is clear," a bridge bunny said. "The weather's on our side."
"Of course it is," Sakaki said, smiling. She sat in a chair stroking Mayaa, who was nestled on her lap, staring out as if he understood what was going on. "She knows what we are doing for her."
"Air traffic normal," another staffer said.
"Aw, no, mah hay fever…" Osaka said, before letting out a tiny sneeze. Despite how miniscule it was, she ended up stumbling a bit from the force of it.
"All frequencies clear. Nothing aside from the usual military chatter."
"All rockets are functioning and green, we are ready."
"T-minus nine minutes and counting."
"Opening silo doors."
"Pumps are functional…rocket fuel mixing."
"All launch pads are clear of personnel."
"Blast doors are sealed."
"Sick bay reports all staff ready."
"Emergency crews ready."
"All silo doors open."
"T-minus eight minutes and counting."
"Excellent." She turned to face her old classmates and teachers. "You will have your pick of mates in the new world. We will create a race based on equality, unity, and care for mother earth."
"And the worship of Mistress Neko-chan-sama, of course," Chiyo-san quipped.
"Oh, no. I will help form this world's philosophy, and then retire from it. I will go to a nice cottage in a forest…yes…"
That was when the alarms went off.
"What is going on!" Sakaki demanded, spinning so fast that Mayaa got spooked, and leapt off her lap.
"It's…it's…intruders, ma'am! They're…they're coming down the silos!"
"That's impossible, we're miles from nowhere!" Her eyes went wide. "Someone tipped them off…"
"Jesus Christ, look at that!" Someone shouted, as security monitors came to life. "It's…it's fucking EVERYBODY!"
Truly, it was. Uniformed troops bearing heavy weaponry were repelling down cords, while men in ninja gear slipped from shadow to shadow. Men who looked like plain-old police officers were close behind, and a few people could have sworn their saw a giant, bat-shaped silhouette. Most absurd was a man who parachuted into a silo, hanging from a British flag parachute, wearing a tuxedo.
"What the devil is all this!" Sakaki spun and desperately, staring at everyone at once. "Who did this! How! Launch the missiles, now! Burn them to a crisp before they can…"
"Warning, self destruct sequence has been activated. Thirty minutes to total destruction."
Everyone looked to see Osaka leaning against a control panel, sniffling and dabbing at her nose with a little, pink hanky with frilly ends. She looked back at everyone, confused, and then looked at the glowing, red button under her hand.
"Aw no…" She blushed. "This is mah fault, inn't it?"
"Mistress, we can't launch the missiles in self-destruct mode, and the blast doors are opening…"
"I know how the system works, you fool, I DESIGNED it!" She clenched her hands into fists so tight that her fingernails punctured the flesh of her palms. "Sound the evacuation order, open all escape pod doors! This will be but a minor setback!"
She spun on the group.
"Just follow the staff, they will lead you to the pods. Osaka!"
"You'll come with me!"
"Fuyu-chan…" Kaorin stepped forward. "Fuyu-chan, please."
"You wish to come?"
"You will follow me, despite my ideals?"
"I'll embrace them, if I have to."
"Well." Her rage melted away, and a gentle smile touched her lips. She reached up, and pressed a large hand to Kaorin's cheek. She leaned in close, and whispered in her ear: "Come along, then. You can help me deal with Osaka as proof of your loyalty."
"They're in! My God, they're all in the base!"
On the monitors, policemen and spies and ninja and masked heroes were taking down staffer after staffer. Little Chiyos were firing with their machine-gun pigtails, while others launched theirs off as little missiles, which did a fair amount of damage when they hit their mark. Others would pile up on targets, hugging them and giggling as their pigtails began to spin wildly. They would flash, beep, and detonated.
"Kamikaze Chiyos?" Kagura said. "Ok, this is officially fucked up, I want out!"
"Kaorin, Osaka, William, come with me!" Sakaki shouted.
"Are you kidding!" Shatner demanded. "The fucking BAT is out there! You do not pay me enough to deal with his crazy ass!"
"We could always use lunatic bishonen guards at Mihama Industries," Chiyo said, angry at herself for how hopeful her tone sounded.
"What about fraternization policies?" he asked, taking her by the shoulders.
"Nothing applies to me that I don't want to have apply to me."
In a rather sickening, upsetting, and just plain weird display, the two embraced and shared a long, passionate kiss. Sakaki's jaw dropped.
"Par for the course, isn't it!" she grumbled. "You are lucky you've served me well this long, William. I will not destroy you. Go…have your happiness! But when I strike…"
"Yeah, yeah, I won't be immune, I know." He put an arm around Chiyo's waist, and looked at the others. "Come on, you psychopaths, I'll show you how to get to the escape pods!"
"Bah-bah, guys! I'll see y'all later!" Osaka called, waving.
"Osaka, I don't think…" Yomi began.
"Ah, ah'll be fine, Yomi. You go on ahead with Mister Shatner. We should all get together in a week or so, talk about what a funny time this all was."
"Osaka…" Tomo said.
"See you all later."
"Go!" Sakaki shouted.
The others finally ran, knowing they would never see Osaka alive, again. And not one of them even remembered that her name was, in fact, Ayumu Kasuga.
"In, in, in!" Shatner shouted, hustling the ladies into an escape pod. "Look, we can only fit five people per pod! When you're in, hit the red button, the rest is automatic. They're submersibles, and are going to wash up in various places along the coastline of the main islands. Got it?"
"Yes," Yomi, Tomo, Kagura, Nyamo, and Yukari said.
"See you all in Tokyo," Chiyo-san said.
"Hold it!" a voice shouted, and they spun to see one of the police officers standing nearby, holding a gun at them. He was middle-aged, had short, dark hair, and a rather cheap, gray suit.
"Oh, NOW what!" Shatner demanded.
"I'm Sergeant Joh Kinyoobi, Okinawa Police! You're all under arrest."
"No, wait," a dark, grumbling voice said from…well, no one was quite sure. But Shatner knew it, and it filled him with a mortal dread. "Those women are most of the hostages we were told about."
"But the man…"
"We've got bigger problems than some bumbling thug, right now, Sergeant. Neko-chan-sama is the one we want."
"She has our friend, Osaka," Yomi said. "Please, you have to…"
"We'll do all we can."
Joh ran off. If the Bat had left, no one was sure.
"Why do you think he let you go?" Chiyo asked, as they got into their pod.
"I…I dunno." He squeezed her waist a bit. "Maybe he's a sucker for young love."
"Alright, but just be sure you don't fuck up in the future," Chiyo said. "You're too pretty to have the Batman thrashing you around."
Sakaki was in the lead, running to her personal escape submarine. Kaorin was keeping pace, as was Mayaa. They could hear Osaka running behind, miraculously keeping up.
"Miss…Sakaki……is it…much…further?" she gasped.
"Not long now," she growled.
"G-good. Is there…a…water cooler…anywhere? Ah'm…parched…"
'You can have all the water you want when I eject you into the ocean!' she thought, chuckling to herself.
After a moment, she came to a huge, metal door with a series of scanners next to it. She gave her thumbprint, a voiceprint, and even a retina scan. Finally, the door began to slide up, vanishing into the rock. Behind it was a small dock, where a little, yellow submarine sat, ready to go.
"There," she said, turning. "Now, we can…"
She gasped, right before Osaka fired the large, silver revolver she was gripping in one hand. There was tremendous pain as her right knee blew to pieces, completely severing the bottom half of the leg from her body. She screamed and went down, landing hard on her side. Kaorin yelled in horror, and knelt next to her.
"Fuyu-chan!" She immediately tore off a trouser leg to make a tourniquet.
"Osaka, you FOOL, what are you doing!" Sakaki gasped. "Where did you get that gun!"
"Stop calling me OSAKA!" she shouted, leveling the run right at Sakaki's face. Sakaki couldn't be sure, but she thought that her old friend's accent had vanished. "It's Ayumu Kasuga! Is it that hard to remember a girl's REAL name!"
"What's going on!" Kaorin screamed.
"Isn't it obvious?" Ayumu cocked an eyebrow. "I'M the one who tipped off the authorities. I killed that worker last night, so I could send out the signal. I hit the destruct sequence on PURPOSE. I'm AGENT Kasuga, Japanese Intelligence. Undercover personality squad, like Agent Kimura."
"WHAT!" Sakaki said through clenched teeth. "But…but…"
"I was a little fool? Yes…yes, I was innocent and naïve. But then I left our quaint, sheltered, harmless little high school world." With her free hand, she grabbed at the knot of her necktie. "I entered a big, scary world. One full of cruel eyes and vicious stares and strange people. But still I remained sweet, naïve, INNOCENT Osaka. Bumbling through life, focused on nothing, no drive, no goals. I was a nobody, a face in the crowd.
"So imagine my shock — EVERYONE'S shock — when the VERY popular, VERY handsome, and VERY rich Shiro Igawa asked me out. And then again, and again. Little Osaka was so happy, so overjoyed." She yanked on the knot, and tore the tie off. "Someone loved her, cared for her, didn't care that she wasn't as smart, or competitive, or driven, or pretty. There was something about her he liked.
"Turns out, it was her very anonymity that made her tempting." She ripped open her high collar, tearing off the top few buttons and opening it to reveal a jagged, pink scar stretching across her throat. "No one would miss little Osaka, right? Of course not. Who was she? Nobody."
"Oh, my God…" Kaorin whispered.
"He cut deep enough to kill Osaka, but not deep enough to kill Ayumu Kasuga. Not deep enough to kill ME." She paused, holding back tears. "I couldn't be Osaka, anymore. Now I knew REAL pain, and suffering. I knew torment and horror. And I vowed to make sure no one ever experienced such things ever again. Not when I could help it, anyway. And that's all you're trying to cause, Miss Sakaki. Pain, suffering, torment, and horror. That will not stand."
She pulled back the hammer, mostly for dramatic effect. If she'd known it would give Kaorin enough time to leap in front of the bullet, she never would have done it. But it happened, and the slug tore through her chest, leaving a gaping hole in her heart. It was a useless sacrifice. The slug — powered as it was by a magnum charge — passed through Sakaki, too, piercing her chest.
The two women gasped for breath. Ayumu wanted to feel bad about Kaorin, but really couldn't. Their blood mingled in an expanding pool.
"Fuyu-chan…" Kaorin groaned. "Fuyu…good…goodbye…I…love…"
"Kaori…" Sakaki's head lolled to one side. Mayaa came into her field of vision, and she managed a smile. "Goodbye…my…dear Mayaa. One…last pet…before I…"
But as she reached out her hand to stroke the Iriomote cat's head, he opened his jaws wide, and bit her hand.
Ayumu had never seen such sadness on the face of a corpse, before.
She bent down, slowly, and opened her arms. Mayaa looked over at her for a moment, and then jumped into her hands. She rose, and looked out at the submarine.
"C'mon, little fellah," she whispered. "Let's get you away from all this craziness."
"Ayumu!" an English-accented voice called.
"Huh?" she spun, and saw the man in the tuxedo running towards her, a gun in his hand. But as he saw the corpses on the floor, he skittered to a halt. "Hmm…would seem you've already handled it."
"Yes, I have."
"She was a friend, wasn't she?"
"People like us can't have friends, James, not really. You know that."
"I suppose not." He glanced over at the sub, and smiled. "Hey, have you ever…"
"Yes, I've made love on a sub. And in space. And on a boat, in a car, on a rooftop…all the places you have, James." She grinned at him. "Don't think you have a monopoly on peculiar locations."
"No, I don't want to do it again." She forced herself not to look at the bodies. "I'm just…not in the mood.
"Kimura-san?" a voice said. "Kimura-san."
"Hmm?" Kimura's eyes slowly opened, and he saw a young man in a lab coat leaning over him. "Ah, yes, Doctor Tenma?"
"I know it's not normal visiting hours, but you have a guest."
"Send her in."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." He sat up, and felt pain shoot through his torso. He was lucky that Shatner fellow was a swordsman. A gunman never would have had his aim thrown off by kickback, and fired into the wrong side of the chest. "I'll be fine."
There was a pause, as Tenma walked out of the room. A moment later, Ayumu Kasuga walked in, bowing as she did.
"Senior Kimura, I have come to express my deepest apologies for…"
"It is alright, Agent Kasuga, I read the report." He smiled at her, like a normal person smiles, as she looked up. "It couldn't be helped."
"If I had just fired…"
"We all make mistakes, Agent Kasuga." He gestured towards a nearby chair. "Please, sit down."
"Thank you, Senior Kimura."
"It's…it's not like she KNEW, anyway. And it's not like I knew her as well as I would had I raised her properly." He hung his head, some. "And while she was my daughter, they were both close friends of yours. If anything, I should be apologizing to you for failing to apprehend Shatner, and forcing you into this mission."
"Well, let's not get caught in some big loop, then."
"A fine idea."
There was a long pause, as Kasuga looked at her lap.
"I don't know if I can continue, after this," she said.
"You're going to think that many times in your career, Young Kasuga." Kimura reached out slowly with a hand and placed it on top of one of hers. "But then you'll see something wrong, somewhere. Some crime, some evil…and you'll be sucked right back in. People like you and I are doomed to do this until we're killed in duty, or just too damn old to do it, anymore."
"I see." She sighed. "This sucks."
"It does. And it never gets any better."
"What do I do, then?"
"Well…" he shrugged. "Maybe we can't isolate ourselves as much as we think. Maybe we have to force ourselves to be more a part of the real world. Tell me…have you told those friends of yours that you're alive?"
"Go, then. Do it." He nodded. "Go and hold them close and realize, even if you do die, even if it does pain them all…that your death will at least be less terrifying if you know there's someone there to care that you're dead."
"I see." She rose, and bowed. "Thank you, Kimura-sensei."
"Of course, Agent Kasuga." He smiled. "Now…go."