The Return From Hell

Oh man, this is ancient. I must've written this one around 1988 or so. It was intended originally for a shared universe in which Katse would return as a villain to a new set of heroes, but none of the rest of the universe ever got written. Still, because it's an introduction, it stands on its own. This takes the premise that Katse does not have regenerative powers, which is unlike pretty much any other Katse story I've written. So consider it an AU from other Alarafic.

The Return From Hell

Before thought returned, there was pain, agonizing burning all across his body, and horrible heat. As his consciousness slowly surfaced, he wondered if this was Hell. Wouldn't it be funny, if the Christians were right all along? What a joke. He'd be laughing for all eternity, burning... No, he wouldn't, it hurt too much.

There were strange animal whimpers coming from somewhere. Even before he could think clearly again, he realized it was his own voice making those sounds. That surprised him. Could dead people talk? Well, if they could hurt, maybe they could moan, too.

Why hadn't it been oblivion? Why did it have to be pain? Was this Hell? He had never believed in an afterlife... Or was he somehow alive?

He tried to open his eyes, and couldn't. His face was resting against something that was so hot, so painful... Maybe he could turn over. He tried-- and screamed at the renewed agony the effort cost him-- but he was successful. His back fell against the burning surface, and he realized as he cried out that he had just stupidly ensured that more of his body would fry. The parts that hadn't been burned didn't hurt any less...

No point in dwelling on the pain. Was he alive or was he dead? If he still lived, he could still hope for release... He forced his eyes open. The left one didn't seem to want to respond, but the right opened successfully-- and he saw purple darkness.

Did that mean he was dead? Panicking, he twisted his head-- and the purple fell away, stroking across his face like cloth. Only his mask, after all. Now he could see-- and a vision of hellfire opened before him, glowing red rocks and steam. It was almost like a comic book interpretation of Hell. He began to laugh, or sob, but the pain was too great, so he began to scream, but he was too tired, and the darkness closed over him.

It was not cool when he awoke, but it was cooler than it had been. He couldn't remember for several minutes why it was so hot or why he hurt so much, and he began to whimper. Again he opened his good eye.

Now he could see rocks. He remembered his fevered thoughts about Hell before. How ridiculous. There wasn't any such thing as Hell. Or an afterlife. Death was oblivion, therefore if he still thought, he must be alive. But there was a way to fix that. He realized now where he had to be-- he was lying on a ledge above the magma pit. By turning his head, he could see it below. It was duller and much more viscous than before, but quite sufficient to kill him. All it would take would be one last effrot, and then all pain would be gone.

Turning his head away from the pit, his eye encountered the sky above, dark and starlit with no clouds-- a typical night sky at Cross Karakoram. A wave of self-pity swept over him-- he would never see another dawn. He would--

--Wait a minute. What other dawn? It had been close to sunset, but not yet evening, when he'd been told the Earth had only 30 minutes left...

The Earth. Was. Not. Destroyed.

His first sensation was of a relief so profound he nearly wept. He hadn't caused the Earth's destruction, then! Somehow it had been saved--

--but not him. He had not been saved.

The Earth lived, but Berg Katse would never again walk its surface. Never be remembered by its denizens. And when he died-- as he knew would inevitably be soon-- it would be total oblivion. There would be no one in the world to remember that Berg Katse had once been among them, or care.

No! He couldn't die, not with that legacy! He could not fall into the darkness believing that 30 years had come to nothing...

...but it did not appear he would be given a choice.

And he hurt so much. It was going to end anyway. Wouldn't it be better to end it now?

The darkness closed in on him again before he could decide.

When next he opened his eye, there was light above him, and the heat in the pit had almost gone down to bearable levels. Or maybe it had faded entirely, and the heat he still felt was the pain of his burns and feverish thirst. Wasn't death supposed to be cold? His body still felt like it was on fire from the burns he'd received. If dying was supposed to be cold, he rather wished it would hurry up and produce the effect.

Except that he didn't really want to die anymore. Not here. He could see sunlight above him, and he desperately did not want his death to come here, while he was trapped in the depths of the pit. This was the pit Sosai had made by leaving, just as Sosai had left an empty hole in his life by abandoning him. The pit symbolized Sosai's rejection of him, and it seemed to his fevered brain that if he could just get out of this pit, it would be his revenge for what Sosai had done to him. This was the death Sosai had meant for him-- he'd thought he was choosing his own death when he leapt, but no, Sosai had made him do that. If he could get out, it would be to take back the manner of his death into his own hands, to free himself of Sosai completely before he died. He was part of the human world, too; he'd been born on this Earth, belonged to it as much as he had to Sosai, and that was where his dying allegiance lay. If he could not survive, at least his life would end out there.

But first he had to get out of this infernal pit.

He took inventory. He couldn't seem to feel the pain much anymore. Logically, he knew that was the result of shock endorphins produced by his brain, but he'd never been very logical, and it seemed to him that the cessation of pain was the result of his decision. Half his face had gone numb, and his scalp on that side also-- he could not even feel the faint, barely noticeable sensation of hair on his left scalp. His chest was numb, his back hurt-- which he hoped was because it wasn't as badly hurt as the chest. Further down--

His legs were not terribly injured. Everything else was numb. He didn't want to think about what that meant. He tried to lift his head, to see himself-- and the pain came rushing back. What was worse, he'd been successful, and seen the burned ruin of his body through the tattered fragments of cloth that remained clinging to it. He had seen his hands-- ruined, like claws-- and the combination was too much. He began to scream.

The sound reverberated, echoed in the pit, until, after he'd stopped, he could still hear his screams for several seconds. He began to sob, but couldn't maintain that for very long, either, with the dehydrated, cracked condition of his mouth. At this point, he would have sold his soul for a glass of water.

Maybe he should forget about escaping. He was ruined, burnt, finished. Shouldn't he die as quickly as possible?

No! He wouldn't, couldn't let Sosai win. Out of spite, if nothing else, he had to live long enough to get out of here. Even though Sosai was long gone, and would never know nor care where or how his agent had died...

He brought his hands to his face, ignoring the pain and horror, forcing himself to look at them. The skin was burnt almost off, and the muscles were damaged, but it wasn't quite as bad as he'd thought. He flexed them carefully, acutely aware of the pain it caused him, but knowing he would need them to achieve his goal. When he wanted to be, Berg Katse could be extremely singleminded, shutting out even pain in order to reach a goal. It made no difference that the goal was useless, worthless and insane. He had never had a goal that wasn't.

Levering himself up, clenching his teeth to keep from screaming but screaming anyway, he forced himself to stand on the ledge. His boots, made of tougher material than the rest of his costume, had protected his legs to some degree. But he'd fallen directly on his hands, pressing them with his own weight into the burning rock. The pit was ragged and rocky, providing plenty of hand and footholds. If he'd been unhurt, it would have been pathetically easy. As it was, it was just barely possible, he gauged.

Leaning against the wall, he began to climb, using his legs as much as he possibly could and his hands only when necessary. He was dizzy, and terribly thirsty, and the rock scraped agonizingly against his burns as he climbed. Several times, the pain made him want to just let go, let himself fall to the bottom and into oblivion. But he was practiced at surviving despite pain and despair. Step after step, hand over hand, he climbed up, over what had been the roof of his base, and reached the top of the pit, where he pulled himself over the side and collapsed on the ground.

By now it was noon. A chill breeze blew across his body. The coolness was almost welcome after the heat in the pit, but it bit into him like a drill through his tortured nerves. He got on hands and knees and crawled forward, wondering if perhaps he could find water, a radio, perhaps he could survive...

No. False hope. Already he could feel the darkness gnawing at the edges of his mind, and this time he knew it would be final. But he had reached the surface, after all-- he was once more in the human world. He was not content to die, but as it appeared there was no choice, he was resigned to it, and at least he would die free...

He tried to get up, to stand one last time. Even the sparse greenery, oblique sunlight and melted snow that formed Cross Karakoram's autumn scenery looked beautiful to him, and he wanted to fill his mind with it, to see nothing until the end but the beauty of this world he had not destroyed... But the darkness was spinning around him, swallowing the world, and he fell into the cold emptiness for what he knew would be the last time.

The natives of the village of Cross Karakoram had all informed Harry Palmer, in no uncertain terms, that the explosions in the mountains were the work of the demons, who deserved whatever they got, and that he shouldn't offer mercy to them. His wife Susan, an ISO seismologist, told him that as the Cross Karakoram mountains seemed to be the center of the disturbances in the earth's crust, the natives' "demons" were likely to be Galactors, who also deserved whatever they got. It didn't matter. Dr. Palmer was a doctor, first and foremost, and if there were people hurt, he wanted to help them.

Along the ride up in his jeep, however, he found no one to help. Many corpses, some days old, others dating to the time of the explosion yesterday, but not a single person alive. He reached the ruined, blasted region at the top of the mountain and could find no one, not even corpses, there. He was beginning to believe the whole trip had been a monumental waste of time when he saw a half-naked woman sprawled face down on the grass.

He ran to her. Half a head of very long blond hair obscured a good portion of her body, but he could see through the hair that she'd been burnt. He rolled her over carefully to check for more damage-- and realized that "she" was in fact male, although by now maybe his first guess was closer to the mark, considering the state of the man's anatomy. Poor bastard. He was horribly and uniformly burned from collarbone to groin, with lighter burns on the front upper legs and worse burns on half the face-- in fact, the left half of the man's face was nothing but a huge burn that extended over a good portion of his scalp as well. The other half of the face indicated that the man might have been beautiful once, in an effeminate way. That was gone forever, now. It was a miracle, considering the severity of the burns, that the man still breathed, even as weakly as he did.

Harry thought quickly. The Cross Karakoram doctors had made it quite evident that they weren't treating anyone from up on the mountain, and anyway, this man needed much more than a small mountain village's hospital could provide. In fact, he needed more than most hospitals could provide-- but Sandler Burn Clinic in England, now... Harry was an associate of the clinic, having had worked there more than once. They were pioneers in the treatment of burn victims. If there was anywhere in the world that could save this poor man, Sandler was it.

He radioed his wife. "Will you be all right if I take the plane for a day or two? Found this poor bugger up here with the nastiest case of third-degree burns I've seen on a living man, and if he's to stay a living man I've got to get him to Sandler."

"Is he wearing green?" Susan Palmer asked.

"Uh-- no, he isn't wearing much of anything actually, it mostly got burnt away. He's got on a pair of red boots, if that helps. Why?"

"Galactors wear green," his wife replied, "and if this man is one of them you'd best leave him there to his fate. Those murdering bastards don't deserve a moment of your time."

"You wouldn't say that if you could see this poor devil. My God, if he were Satan himself he wouldn't deserve this kind of injury. And he's not wearing green. Besides, he looks too girlish to be a mobster. Even if he was a Galactor, he'd probably have been the cook or something."

"Well-- all right," Susan said reluctantly. "Actually, the quakes are over; I'm pretty much finished here. Why don't we both go back? Then you can detour to Sandler, and I can get back to the lab and analyze this data."

"Good idea. We can do that. I'll be down in half an hour."

Harry's John Doe had the constitution of a horse, despite the slender, fragile-looking body; it was 5 hours by plane to England, and another one from the airport to the clinic, but the man still lived. Harry hung around as the Sandler people rushed the mystery man into intensive care-- now that he'd come this far, he wanted to see how it all came out.

A Dr. Deiros told Harry about a new technique they'd not yet tried on a human subject, of grafting cloned skin, and Harry agreed with him that their John Doe made the perfect test subject-- it was evident that he would die without the treatment, and there was no family to object. Before the treatment could be used, of course, they needed to keep the man alive long enough to grow the cloned skin grafts-- and it was while he was in intensive care that they realized Harry had been part right the first time. "He" was actually a hermaphrodite, possessing within his/her body a set of dormant but apparently functional female organs. It was a case unheard-of in medical science, a body designed to phase back and forth between male and female.

Some bright boys wanted to study the effect, but somebody in charge pointed out that the male organ was damaged so badly that only a miracle would have a chance of restoring it to full function-- skin cloned from the back of the legs would not be nearly sensitive enough for the genitals-- and this phasing capacity had probably only made the patient's life miserable anyway. Instead of wasting time trying to save the male organs, why not remove them and hormonally induce the change to female? It would be far less dangerous and more humane than leaving the damaged organs in place for study purposes.

So it was done, and over the next three months Harry worked with the Sandler Clinic researchers to save the woman's life. All expenses were written off as research, since they were breaking new ground with Jane Doe's treatment. They kept her sedated to what should have been total unconsciousness, as they performed their surgeries and sewed her skin back together.

None of them could possibly have realized it, of course, but her mutant metabolism dealt with drugs far more efficiently than humans'. Katse never actually regained consciousness, but she swam close enough to it that she was aware she was in a hospital, being cut open and pried into. She relived the nightmare of being a small child in the hands of experimenters. Sometimes, in her drugged mind, it was ISO who held her, probing into the secrets of her mutant body. Sometimes it was her own Galactor, having learned what she was. And through all her nightmares, she knew that if she could somehow wake, she could stop the pain-- but she could not wake however hard she tried.

Eventually, her saviors decided she was well enough to awaken.

Katse awakened in a hospital bed.

Her nightmares, dimly remembered, told her where she was, and she shuddered in horror. Since she lived, and since only ISO or Galactor had had the technology to save her, and since Galactor was now defunct... it had to be ISO. Her worst nightmares were true-- she was a weak, helpless prisoner of the scientists who were her greatest enemies, and she began to tremble uncontrollably.

Anger at herself, for displaying such a weakness, steadied her somewhat. She was alive, after all, and thinking about that did wonders for her sense of perspective. Where there was life, there was hope-- she could escape from any situation, as long as she was alive and had her wits about her. She would not tremble, she would not show her fear.

The door opened, and she braced herself for the appearance of Nambu, but it was a man she didn't recognize who entered. "Good morning. How do you feel?"

That, actually, was something she hadn't given much thought to yet. She examined herself from the inside, and decided she felt fuzzy. Probably drugged. She was terribly weak, but there was no pain. And she was female, which meant she had Changed here-- but then, ISO already knew what she was. "How would you expect I would feel?" she asked, and was surprised at the raspiness of her own voice.

"Well, after all the work we put into mending you up, I'd hope you'd feel happy to be alive, at least," he said, smiling a medical smile. "Even if you feel awful in other respects. It's taken us three months, but here you are, back in the land of the living. How does that make you feel?"

He wasn't talking as if he knew who she was. She said cautiously, "That depends on what strings have been attached to my survival."

"Strings?" He looked surprised. "No strings. We broke new ground treating you, so we were able to write off the costs. You won't have to pay a cent. Although," he grinned, "if it turns out you're independently wealthy, a donation would be much appreciated."

She frowned. Surely ISO would know she had been one of the wealthiest people on the planet... "Where am I?"

"Sandler Burn Clinic, London, England. I found you after the explosion at Cross Karakoram and brought you here. Mind telling me who you are? Unless you like to be called `Jane Doe'..."

Not ISO. It was not ISO! These people hadn't the foggiest idea who she was. She breathed an internal sigh of relief. "Katya Montague," she told him. "As you saved my life, however, you might as well call me Kat."

He scribbled it down. "You had a feminine first name?" he asked. "Interesting. Looks like we guessed right, then."

"What do you mean?"

"Ah-- well, we know you used to be a hermaphrodite..."

She went cold. "Used to be?" An edge of hysteria tinged her voice.

"Um-- yes. You were really-- well-- badly hurt, there, and there was no guarantee we could have saved your-- uh-- male portion, so we-- well, since you were half female, after all, and since we figured you'd be happier as just one--"

"What did you do to me??"

"Well, we-- uh-- you're female now. Completely."

She wasn't aware she had levered herself to a sitting position until a sudden dizziness swept her. "STUPID BASTARDS!" she screamed. "What have you done?"

"We thought you'd be happier."

"Happier?" Her own words came back to haunt her. "I'd've been happier, born as a human..." Born, yes, but not made, she thought. Not now. I've been a mutant for 30 years-- how dare they take away half of me! "Bakamono! Ane! Schweinhund! You've castrated me!" "But you're a woman now," he explained, with an infuriatingly patient "humor-the-patient" look on his face. "You have a full sex. It's not the same--"

"It is the same!" she screamed. "I was raised as a male as much as a female. How would you feel about being castrated?" Trying to shock a reaction out of him, she slipped into crudity. "If I cut off your dick, you can still get fucked by other guys, but does that mean you'll be better off if I do it? Maybe I will, and then you'll know-- shimatta..." The energy went out of her like a popped balloon, and she sagged back against the pillows.

"You were-- exclusively male in your, um, sexual encounters?"

"No," she rasped exhaustedly. "That's not the point--"

"Well, you see? You can continue to, um, make love in one of the fashions you're used to, at least. It's not the same as castrating a normal man. You have the opportunity to be a fully functional female now. Besides, it's done-- can't change it now. And you would never have been sexually capable as a male anyway."

"That's a lie. If you could save the rest of me..." She had no strength to keep talking.

"I think you're overwrought," he said. "Coming up from 3 months' sedation can do that. Why don't I come back when you're feeling better?" He left.

Tears blurred the vision of her one good eye. "Sure," she said bitterly. "I'm just hysterical. Like a woman..."

Rage welled, and gave her the strength to sit up again. She reached to the bedside for a cup, grasped it in feeble fingers, and hurled it weakly to the end of the bed, as she shouted in Japanese, half-sobbing, "Kuso! Kisamatachi wa watashi o horonde ita zo--!!" Shit! You bastards have ruined me!

But as she fell back onto the pillows, she was not quite positive which of the bastards she'd met in her life had been the "kisamatachi" she'd been speaking to, which of the people she'd known had destroyed her.

When she awakened, she felt no less weak, but considerably more rational.

So. She had been castrated, she was not a male anymore. Raised with the male attitudes toward castration, she had overreacted; losing one sex, losing both sexes would have been a small price to pay for life. She lived, and if that life was confined to female, so be it.

Weakly she lifted her hands to her face, where she could see them, carefully so as not to dislodge the IV they'd put in her arm. They were horrible. Dark ridged scars rippled all over them, and they were misproportioned, too thin and bony by far. She had lost a good deal of muscle. Her one eye burned with tears of self-pity-- she had had such graceful, dextrous hands... Now it would be a miracle if she could write a sentence, or shoot a gun. There was very little sensation left in them-- she rubbed them on the blanket that covered her body, and felt only a rough pressure, as if they were numbed by cold. But they would not come back to normal if she warmed them-- they were burned, and would be that way forever.

Her hands, her maleness-- was life really worth such a price? And what else had she sacrificed?

There was no mirror in the room, but she knew she had lost her left eye. Bringing one hand to her face, she carefully ran it across her skin. Her hand couldn't really feel the contact, but half her face could-- and half couldn't. And when she reached her hand up to her head-- no hair at all.

Good God! Had she anything left at all?

She struggled to a sitting position, yanked out the IV, pulled down the blankets, and pulled open her hospital gown. Her breasts were covered with bands of discoloration, where the skin grafts had been grown together when she was male, to expand and become distorted as her female breasts swelled. The rest of her torso was covered with heavy jagged scars, that stopped short at a massive piece of scar tissue just above her sex, where her maleness had been. Her legs were scarred as badly on the upper halves, untouched on the lower where her boots had protected her. The undersides of her arms were almost as bad as her hands, but the upper sides of her arms were mostly unhurt.

She closed the gown and fumbled the ties closed with numb fingers, sick at heart. Though she had believed as a child that there was something terribly wrong with her, though as an adult she had hidden her face and body paranoically, she had always been vain about her looks. Male or female, her body had always been beautiful... but not any more. She could never let anyone see her ugliness.

And she didn't even know yet what the facial damage looked like.

She fell back against the pillows. Was it truly worth it to live, ruined as she was? After all, Galactor was defunct, Sosai was gone-- the meaning of her life was shattered. Really, was there any point to staying alive?

She didn't know-- but she still feared death terribly. Right now she didn't want to think about the ruination of her life. She had to regain her strength, get out of this bed and away from the doctors who knew her secret, her new hideousness, who had destroyed half of what she was. The notion of vengeance crystallized in her mind, and she smiled what would have been a half-smile, if she'd had more than half a mouth to work with. If for no other reason, she would live long enough to punish these people for what they'd done to her.

Later, Harry came in to talk to her again.

Katse had quickly recognized that she would need the doctors' help to regain her mobility, and she kept her temper under complete control. She told him she had been born an experimental subject of Galactor-- which was true-- and that a month before the accident, they'd kidnapped her from her life and brought her to Cross Karakoram to study, which wasn't. In her life in the world, she claimed, she'd been on the board of directors of a large corporation, and she was eager to get back and regain control of her holdings. She'd accepted what he'd said, after the shock wore off-- she really was better off as a woman, especially since that was the identity the world knew her under-- and she wanted to regain the ability to walk and help herself as soon as possible.

He fell for her story, and quickly set up therapy sessions for her. Berg Katse as quickly decided that if she ever ran into a shortage of qualified torturers, she could always hire motion-repatterning therapists. When she was not actually in therapy, she recognized that the pain was necessary to achieve her goal of independence as quickly as possible. As soon as a session began, however, all her resolutions went out the window, and she begged them to stop, which had no effect whatsoever. Smiling cheerily, they told her the pain was because she had lost all muscle tone and flexibility, and as she regained it, therapy would cease to hurt her. She longed to put several bloody holes in their smiling faces.

Several times it appeared hopeless. Would she ever have the strength to walk again, to go back out into the world? Considering how badly she was damaged, did she even want to?

Was it even worth the effort, to stay alive?

But hatred and pride kept her going when softer emotions would have failed her. One day she sat in front of the mirror she'd demanded, for half an hour, staring at her ruined burned face and wondering if she wanted to die-- but hatred and pride would not let her.

"Makenu," she whispered into the mirror, the familiar words she had called to Gatchaman so many times... "Watashi wa makenu!" No, I am not defeated! She clenched her hands into fists. "Kesshite makenu..." and slammed them down on the table. "Nidoto makenu!!" I will never be defeated. Never again!!

After that, she finally began to show some improvement. Her therapists had been right-- Katse became considerably more enthusiastic about therapy as it started to be less painful and exhausting, and more of an exhilarating exercise. Every session brought her closer to her goal of freedom. It was a small goal, compared to past glories, but it was achievable and it kept her from going completely mad. She stopped debating with herself whether she really wanted to live or not so often, and began to think about the future. Cautiously-- if she looked too far into the future, she would once more be overwhelmed by the uselessness of her existence. But her first short-term goal was almost within her grasp. What came after that?

Plastic surgery, she decided with very little debate. Galactor science could have restored her fully, made her better than she'd been, as a cyborg-- but Galactor was destroyed, amd those scientists within Galactor that would have survived would no doubt hold no particular love for Berg Katse. Even if she could find someone left with the skill to do it, she couldn't trust them. So that was out, and ISO had never been an option, even if they'd had the technology, which she doubted-- but that still left her with choices. There were plastic surgeons in America and France that could, if not return her to her former beauty, at least make her cease to be hideously ugly. Not even disguise work could deal with what she was now, but if she could get her ruined face reconstructed, and remove the scars, her skill at disguise could repair anything else.

And then what?

Carefully she did not think about that.

When she could walk unaided and write her pseudonym, the doctors pronounced her well enough to go and get the plastic surgery she'd told them she wanted. She could not run yet-- the destruction of her left ear had disturbed her sense of balance-- nor was she strong enough to hold and shoot anything of higher caliber than a .22, and that with difficulty. Plus, her depth perception had vanished when she lost her left eye, making her a lousy shot. But she would regain those skills, she vowed to herself. She refused to be helpless.

Under another pseudonym, and this time as a paying customer, she had a Hollywood plastic surgeon remove the scars and rebuild her face. There were limits to what could be done, of course. Faint pink scar lines ran in a network of traceries across her body, covering everywhere that the former scars had. Her hands had some sensation restored to them, but they were still somewhat misshapen and so covered with scar lines as to look bicolored. They were still hideous, she thought, and resolved never to be without gloves. Her face had almost been fully repaired-- it was somewhat different from what she'd had, with a smaller nose, thinner lips, but there were no scars. However, nothing could be done about her missing eye-- she had not even an eyelid to cover it. They fitted her with a glass one, but it made her look wall-eyed. Also, nothing could be done about her left ear-- it was gone forever-- or half her scalp, which would be permanently hairless and covered with scar lines.

With a wig, dark glasses and gloves, as well as a subtle makeup job, she could look beautiful once more. But it wouldn't stand up to intimate inspection-- and the scars from the removal of her male sex were easily detected by touch. Anyone she slept with would discover just how badly damaged she was. And she couldn't permit that. That meant that sex for her-- even as a woman-- was a thing of the past.

Was it still a small price to pay for life?

If she were still leader of Galactor-- if she were ruler of the world-- it would not be a problem. Galactor had had the science to restore her fully, in all ways. But she was not.

Could she be again?

She thought about that. Galactor was gone. Sosai X's brainchild, it had shattered into dust when he left. But there were other organizations in the world-- small, yes, but Galactor had once been small too...

That was a concept worth exploring. The only dream she'd ever had, the only thing she knew how to want, was to rule the world. Terrorism was all she knew how to do. She could see now why Galactor had failed so often-- Sosai had been intrinsically stupid, and she'd been a trusting child, assuming he had to know what he was doing. All the plans that had failed, that she'd thought were so wonderful at the time-- they were all devised by Sosai X. Everything that had succeeded had been her plans, the devious subterfuges she was so good at, but all of Galactor's open attacks, giant mecha, etc-- everything that had failed-- had been Sosai's. And stupid. She had known better! She had wanted to lay off the Mantle Project, hoping to get the fruits of the project for nothing-- and Sosai had called her a fool, and bribed her with the promise of being promoted to his rank. How could she ever have thought Sosai would let her become his equal in Galactor? He had made her a genius, but he had never let her use her intellect.

Well, that could change. At 31, she was finally adult, free of her dependence on even her creator, though it had taken death and rebirth to do it. And she was young. 31 was young. If it took her 15 years to build a new organization to Galactor's level, as it had taken herself and her predecessors to build Galactor in the first place, she would only be 46 when she achieved world rule-- not quite as early as she'd hoped, but with half her life ahead of her, still. Then she could have herself made into an immortal, beautiful, superhuman cyborg, and rule forever, eternally young and strong. And it would all be hers-- there would be no Sosai to call her a fool, or to give her orders. She would be the supreme authority.

And there would be no Science Ninja Team to stand in her way. They thought her dead-- and by the time they learned otherwise, they would be older, past their prime as ninjas-- too late to stop her.

First she disposed of her doctors, as she'd promised herself. Then she set her plan into motion.

When Northern Ireland had nationalized after WWIII, the IRA had ceased to have a reason to exist. This presented a problem for many people. The rulers of terrorist organizations, who fed their power on death and destruction and the misguided idealism of underlings-- the naturally violent, who needed an outlet to kill and destroy-- the children of terrorism, who had never known any other life-- where did they go when their cause was achieved?

Dr. Catherine Moreau had the answer. An educated, brilliant woman who spoke English with enough of a European accent to reassure them that she was not a Brit, she had once held great power in Galactor as Berg Katse's second-in-command. She had the wealth and knowhow to build an organization to be reckoned with, if they were daring enough to accept her vision. Why settle for one pitiful cause, when there was a world out there, ripe for the taking? Did they had vision enough to see themselves ruling the Earth?

They did. At least, the men who had once ruled the organization did, and the others would follow their lead, as always. Of course, Cat Moreau was a woman, intrinsically weak and unsuited to rule, but as soon as her usefulness was ended, they could phase her out of the business end of things. Meanwhile, they could accept her as a partner.

What none of them knew was that Cat Moreau had played this game before, knew their intentions, and had the same intentions toward them. In the end, it would all be hers.

Was it not the destiny she was born for, after all?

She could not believe otherwise...